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As preordained by the Fountain-head of Creation, the temple of the world hath been fashioned after the image and likeness of the human body. In fact each mirroreth forth the image of the other, wert thou but to observe with discerning eyes. By this is meant that even as the human body in this world, which is outwardly composed of different limbs and organs, is in reality a closely integrated, coherent entity, similarly the structure of the physical world is like unto a single being whose limbs and members are inseparably linked together. Were one to observe with an eye that discovereth the realities of all things, it would become clear that the greatest relationship that bindeth the world of being together lieth in the range of created things themselves, and that co-operation, mutual aid and reciprocity are essential characteristics in the unified body of the world of being, inasmuch as all created things are closely related together and each is influenced by the other or deriveth benefit therefrom, either directly or indirectly. – Abdu’l-Baha, from a tablet to an individual Baha’i.
Think about that for a moment. Look down at your own body and contemplate what Abdu’l-Baha might have meant when he said “…the structure of the physical world is like unto a single being…”
We tend to think of the physical world as an inanimate object, a big ball of rock and dirt that we walk on. But this new, organic vision of our planet, as an interdependent, reciprocal “world of being,” has enormous implications for how we treat our Earth. If the globe itself is a closely integrated, coherent entity, then it has life. If the Earth is alive, in a meta-physical way, then we have the responsibility to treat her just as we would any other living creature—with respect and kindness.
This new understanding of our planet, sometimes called the Gaia Hypothesis or the biosphere theory, sees the globe as one complex, self-regulating system, which maintains the balanced conditions necessary for life in all its forms by creating ways for every organism to symbiotically interact and mutually benefit. The Gaia hypothesis, named after the ancient Greek goddess of the Earth, was formulated in the early 1970s by the British chemist James Lovelock and the American evolutionary theorist and microbiologist Lynn Margulis.
But long before that “discovery,” the Baha’i writings—especially one remarkable scientific treatise authored in 1910 by Abdu’l-Baha and sent to the well-known Swiss scientist Auguste-Henri Forel—put forth this advanced concept of a unified, living, ecologically-balanced and interconnected universe:
Now concerning nature, it is but the essential properties and the necessary relations inherent in the realities of things. And though these infinite realities are diverse in their character yet they are in the utmost harmony and closely connected together – Abdu’l-Baha, Tablet to Auguste Forel, p. 20.
Reflect upon the inner realities of the universe, the secret wisdoms involved, the enigmas, the inter-relationships, the rules that govern all. For every part of the universe is connected with every other part by ties that are very powerful and admit of no imbalance, nor any slackening whatever. – Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p, 157.
…the cohesive and attractive forces in all things lead to the appearance of fruitful results and effects, while estrangement and alienation of things lead to disturbance and annihilation. Through affinity and attraction all living things like plants, animals and men come into existence, while division and discord bring about decomposition and destruction. – Ibid., p. 290.
This powerful reality, which has enormously influenced modern ecology and its understanding of the cycle of life, determines the way Baha’is relate to the world and its peoples:
The principles of the oneness of the world of humanity must be proclaimed, understood and put into practice, so that all the nations and religions may again remember the long-forgotten fact – that they are all the progeny of primordial humanity, Adam, and the denizens of one land. Are they not breathing one air? Is not the same sun shining upon all? – Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, pp. 177-178.
Not until humanity recognizes its essential oneness, the Baha’i teachings say, can we address and solve our global challenges. The underlying cause of every one those challenges—disunity—can only be cured by unity:
Reflect ye as to other than human forms of life and be ye admonished thereby: those clouds that drift apart cannot produce the bounty of the rain, and are soon lost; a flock of sheep, once scattered, falleth prey to the wolf, and birds that fly alone will be caught fast in the claws of the hawk. What greater demonstration could there be that unity leadeth to flourishing life, while dissension and withdrawing from the others, will lead only to misery; for these are the sure ways to bitter disappointment and ruin.
The holy Manifestations of God were sent down to make visible the oneness of humanity. For this did They endure unnumbered ills and tribulations, that a community from amongst mankind’s divergent peoples could gather within the shadow of the Word of God and live as one, and could, with delight and grace, demonstrate on earth the unity of humankind. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 278.