No two men can be found who may be said to be outwardly and inwardly united. The evidences of discord and malice are apparent everywhere, though all were made for harmony and union. The Great Being saith: O well-beloved ones! The tabernacle of unity hath been raised; regard ye not one another as strangers. Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch.
(Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh – page 163)
Let all be set free from the multiple identities that were born of passion and desire, and in the oneness of their love for God find a new way of life.
(From Selected Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá – page 76)
The reason I gave recently for my being triggered to step back somewhat from blogging was the increased demand on my time. This was mostly from a particular project – the preparation of a series of eight workshops for a Bahá’í summer school. I thought it might be worth posting the material on this blog to see if it proves useful to others. Here is the fifth post of eight. I will be posting them on Mondays and Thursdays over four weeks. Century of Light is a key text published by the Bahá’í World Centre designed to help us understand the challenges we face in the world today. If you prefer you can download this in PDF version (5 Unity the implications). I find I have learned a huge amount both from preparing these materials and from walking with others in the workshop along a path of intense exploration over a period of days.
Whole Group Session (Slide Presentation)
Unity: Methods of Implementation
Given that (page 22) ‘the development of the whole range of human potentialities will be the fruit of the interaction between universal spiritual values, on the one hand, and, on the other, material advances that were even then still undreamed of,’ what should we be doing? This will hopefully become clearer after reading the following.
Page 24: [‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s] hearers were summoned to become the loving and confident agents of a great civilising process, whose pivot is recognition of the oneness of the human race.
. . . . It is equally clear, however, that the wide range of expression and understanding among them did not prevent them or their fellow believers from contributing to building a collective unity that was the chief attraction of the Cause.
Page 41: For unity to exist among human beings – at even the simplest level – two fundamental conditions must pertain. Those involved must first of all be in some agreement about the nature of reality as it affects their relationships with one another and with the phenomenal world. They must, secondly, give assent to some recognized and authoritative means by which decisions will be taken that affect their association with one another and that determine their collective goals.
. . . . . Unity is a phenomenon of creative power, whose existence becomes apparent through the effects that collective action produces and whose absence is betrayed by the impotence of such efforts.
Page 51: Deliberation on this vast conception was to lead Shoghi Effendi to provide the Bahá’í world with a coherent description of the future that has since permitted three generations of believers to articulate for governments, media and the general public in every part of the world the perspective in which the Bahá’í Faith pursues its work: [my bullet points]
The unity of the human race, as envisaged by Bahá’u’lláh, implies the establishment of a world commonwealth:
- in which all nations, races, creeds and classes are closely and permanently united, and
- in which the autonomy of its state members and the personal freedom and initiative of the individuals that compose them are definitely and completely safeguarded.
This commonwealth must, as far as we can visualize it,
- consist of a world legislature, whose members will, as the trustees of the whole of mankind,
- ultimately control the entire resources of all the component nations, and
- will enact such laws as shall be required to regulate the life, satisfy the needs and adjust the relationships of all races and peoples.
- A world executive, backed by an international Force, will
- carry out the decisions arrived at, and
- apply the laws enacted by, this world legislature, and
- will safeguard the organic unity of the whole commonwealth.
- A world tribunal will adjudicate and deliver its compulsory and final verdict in all and any disputes that may arise between the various elements constituting this universal system….
- The economic resources of the world will be organised,
- its sources of raw materials will be tapped and fully utilised,
- its markets will be coordinated and developed, and
- the distribution of its products will be equitably regulated.
Page 55: Unlike the Dispensations of the past, the Revelation of God to this age has given birth, Shoghi Effendi said, to “a living organism”, whose laws and institutions constitute “the essentials of a Divine Economy“, “a pattern for future society“, and “the one agency for the unification of the world, and the proclamation of the reign of righteousness and justice upon the earth”.
. . . . [Spiritual Assemblies are forerunners of local and national ‘Houses of Justice,’ the Guardian explained.] As such, they were integral parts of an Administrative Order that will, in time, “assert its claim and demonstrate its capacity to be regarded not only as the nucleus but the very pattern of the New World Order destined to embrace in the fullness of time the whole of mankind”.
. . . . For the vast majority of believers . . . great messages from the Guardian’s pen, such as “The Goal of a New World Order” and “The Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh”, threw brilliant light on precisely the issue that most concerned them, the relationship between spiritual truth and social development, inspiring in them a determination to play their part in laying the foundations of humanity’s future.
Page 129: “Unity in freedom” has today, of course, become a universal aspiration of the Earth’s inhabitants. Among the chief developments giving substance to it, the Master may well have had in mind the dramatic extinction of colonialism and the consequent rise of self- determination as a dominant feature of national identity at century’s end.
Whatever threats still hang over humanity’s future, the world has been transformed by the events of the twentieth century.
. . . . . On 22-26 May 2000, representatives of over one thousand non-governmental organisations assembled in New York at the invitation of Kofi Annan, the United Nations Secretary-General. In the statement that emerged from this meeting, spokespersons of civil society committed their organisations to the ideal that: “…we are one human family, in all our diversity, living on one common homeland and sharing a just, sustainable and peaceful world, guided by universal principles of democracy….”
Page 130: [Re: Millenium Summit] Nothing so dramatically illustrates the difference between the world of 1900 and that of 2000 than the text of the Summit Resolution, signed by all the participants, and referred by them to the United Nations General Assembly:
“We solemnly reaffirm, on this historic occasion, that the United Nations is the indispensable common house of the entire human family, through which we will seek to realise our universal aspirations for peace, cooperation and development. We therefore pledge our unstinting support for these common objectives, and our determination to achieve them.”
(End of Presentation: any questions?)
As we have agreed that memorising is a valuable way to internalise important quotations and can help us in moments of quiet reflection, can we take a few moments now to begin to reflect upon a quotation we have memorised.
Change of Method: For each group discussion the group should choose a facilitator. It would be best to change the facilitator for each piece of group work over the series of workshops but the group will remain the same. During the consultation, the facilitator’s role is to keep track of the time, to ensure that:
- everyone contributes something,
- no one keeps repeating the same point, and
- no one makes excessively long contributions.
All group members need to keep their own record of the main points for using in the role play at the end of the group consultation. The notes should be easy to use in a conversation. Both groups will use the same material.
Unity: Implications & Immediate Impact
Page 7: He came to it resolved to proclaim to responsive and heedless alike the establishment on earth of that promised reign of universal peace and justice that had sustained human hope throughout the centuries. Its foundation, He declared, would be the unification, in this “century of light”, of the world’s people:
. . . . . Hence the unity of all mankind can in this day be achieved. Verily this is none other but one of the wonders of this wondrous age, this glorious century.
Page 9: ‘My meaning is that the beloved of the Lord must regard every ill-wisher as a well-wisher…. That is, they must associate with a foe as befitteth a friend, and deal with an oppressor as beseemeth a kind companion. They should not gaze upon the faults and transgressions of their foes, nor pay heed to their enmity, inequity or oppression.
‘. . . . . He hath brought the whole creation under the purview of His gracious utterance, and hath enjoined upon us to show forth love and affection, wisdom and compassion, faithfulness and unity towards all, without any discrimination.’
Page 24: . . . . . Unity is a phenomenon of creative power, whose existence becomes apparent through the effects that collective action produces and whose absence is betrayed by the impotence of such efforts.
Page 131: Despite the historic importance of the meetings and the fact that the greater portion of humanity’s political, civil and religious leadership took part, the Millennium Summit made little impression on the public mind in most countries. . . . This sharp disjunction between an event that could legitimately claim to mark a major turning-point in human history, on the one hand, and the lack of enthusiasm or even interest it aroused among populations who were its supposed beneficiaries, on the other, was perhaps the most striking feature of the millennium observations. . . . .
Those who long to believe the visionary statements of world leaders struggle at the same time in the grip of two phenomena that undermine such confidence. The first has already been considered at some length in these pages. The collapse of society’s moral foundations has left the greater part of humankind floundering without reference points in a world that grows daily more threatening and unpredictable. To suggest that the process has nearly reached its end would be merely to raise false hopes.
Page 132: The second of the two developments undermining faith in the future was the focus of some of the Millennium Summit’s most anguished debates. The information revolution set off in the closing decade of the century by the invention of the World Wide Web transformed irreversibly much of human activity. The process of “globalisation” that had been following a long rising curve over a period of several centuries was galvanised by new powers beyond the imaginations of most people.
Pages 133-34: The benefits to many millions of persons are obvious and impressive.
- Cost effectiveness resulting from the coordination of formerly competing operations tends to bring goods and services within the reach of populations who could not previously have hoped to enjoy them.
- Enormous increases in the funds available for research and development expand the variety and quality of such benefits.
- Something of a levelling effect in the distribution of employment opportunities can be seen in the ease with which business operations can shift their base from one part of the world to another.
The abandonment of barriers to transnational trade reduces still further the cost of goods to consumers. It is not difficult to appreciate, from a Bahá’í perspective, the potentiality of such transformations for laying the foundations of the global society envisioned in Bahá’u’lláh’s Writings.
Far from inspiring optimism about the future, however, globalisation is seen by large and growing numbers of people around the world as the principal threat to that future.
- The violence of the riots set off by the meetings of the World Trade Organisation, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund during the last two years testifies to the depth of the fear and resentment that the rise of globalisation has provoked.
- Media coverage of these unexpected outbursts focused public attention on protests
- against gross disparities in the distribution of benefits and opportunities, which globalisation is seen as only increasing, and
- on warnings that, if effective controls are not speedily imposed, the consequences will be catastrophic in social and political, as well as in economic and environmental, terms.
Such concerns appear well-founded. Economic statistics alone reveal a picture of current global conditions that is profoundly disturbing. The ever-widening gulf between the one fifth of the world’s population living in the highest income countries and the one fifth living in the lowest income countries tells a grim story. According to the 1999 Human Development Report published by the United Nations Development Programme, this gap represented, in 1990, a ratio of sixty to one. That is to say, one segment of humankind was enjoying access to sixty percent of the world’s wealth, while another, equally large, population struggled merely to survive on barely one percent of that wealth. By 1997, in the wake of globalisation’s rapid advance, the gulf had widened in only seven years to a ratio of seventy-four to one. Even this appalling fact does not take into account the steady impoverishment of the majority of the remaining billions of human beings trapped in the relentlessly narrowing isthmus between these two extremes. Far from being brought under control, the crisis is clearly accelerating. The implications for humanity’s future, in terms of privation and despair engulfing more than two thirds of the Earth’s population, helped to account for the apathy that met the Millennium Summit’s celebration of achievements that were, by every reasonable criteria, truly historic.
From Universal House of Justice letter to Bahá’ís of Iran (2 March 2013):
The rejection of deeply ingrained prejudices and a growing sense of world citizenship are among the signs of this heightened awareness. Yet, however promising the rise in collective consciousness may be, it should be seen as only the first step of a process that will take decades—nay, centuries—to unfold. For the principle of the oneness of humankind, as proclaimed by Bahá’u’lláh, asks not merely for cooperation among people and nations. It calls for a complete reconceptualization of the relationships that sustain society.
- The idea of unity should be powerfully appealing. What obstacles are there, do we think to its acceptance and implementation?
- In what ways is globalisation a mixed blessing and how does this affect the work of those seeking to convey the value and reality of humanity’s essential oneness?