November 23, 2009

The Lesser Peace and the Most Great Peace – by Ali Nakhjavani

(Transcript of a talk as part of six talks given during a week-long course in February of 2004 on the “World Order of Baha'u'llah”. The event was sponsored by the NSA of Italy. The notes also include questions raised by the participants and Mr. Nakhjavani’s answers. This text, excluding the quotations section, was published in 2005 under the title "Towards World Order". A chapter on “The Covenant” was added in the 2007 edition.)

In order to place this subject in its proper context it would be useful to have a general understanding of the twin processes, frequently expounded in the writings of Shoghi Effendi, of disintegration and integration, as they unfold in the world today.

I feel it would be helpful to look at the parable of the Lord of the Vineyard, as given by Jesus Christ. "A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time. And at the season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent another servant: and they beat him also, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty. And again he sent a third: and they wounded him also, and cast him out. Then said the Lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him. But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours. So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the Lord of the vineyard do unto them? He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others." (New Testament, Luke 20:9-16)

Here are a few comments:

(1) According to "God Passes By" the Lord of the Vineyard is a reference to Bahá'u'lláh. (2) The Son is obviously a reference to Jesus Christ and the parable shows that Christ anticipated His own martyrdom. (3) The servants sent by the Lord are God's Prophets. We note that there is not only succession but progression in the degree of the authority they wield. (4) The Father dismisses the tenants who are obviously the religious and secular leaders, and He gives the Vineyard to 'others'.

This final point leads us to our subject, namely that the appearance of Bahá'u'lláh carries with it the dismantling of the old order and the establishment of a new system for the management of the Vineyard. In other words, we see here the two processes of integration and disintegration. These twin processes are also envisaged in the New Testament, as we read in the Revelation of St. John: "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away"- (New Testament, Revelation 21:1)

We find this theme embedded in the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh Himself. For example He says on the one hand: "The time for the destruction of the world and its people hath arrived"- (PDC p.1), or: "From two ranks of men power hath been seized: kings and ecclesiastics"- (PDC p.19). At the same time He says: "The whole earth is now in a state of pregnancy. The day is approaching when it will have yielded its noblest fruits"- (PDC p.3). He then joins the two processes together in one sentence, saying: "Soon will the present day order be rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead"- (WOB p.161).

We find 'Abdu'l-Bahá also referring to these two processes in His Writings: "The ills from which the world now suffers will multiply; the gloom which envelops it will deepen"-(WOB p.30). This is counter-balanced by: "The world of humanity will be wholly transformed and the merciful bounties become manifest"-(SWAB p.282).

Shoghi Effendi gives us his description of the two processes in the following words: "A two-fold process... can be distinguished, each tending, in its own way and with an accelerated momentum, to bring to a climax the forces that are transforming the face of our planet. The first is essentially an integrating process, while the second is fundamentally disruptive. The former, as it steadily evolves, unfolds a System which may well serve as a pattern for that world polity towards which a strangely-disordered world is continually advancing; while the latter, as its disintegrating influence deepens, tends to tear down, with increasing violence, the antiquated barriers that seek to block humanity's progress towards its destined goal. The constructive process stands associated with the nascent Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, and is the harbinger of the New World Order that Faith must erelong establish. The destructive forces that characterize the other should be identified with a civilization that has refused to answer to the expectation of a new age, and is consequently falling into chaos and decline."- (WOB p.170)

It may be useful to form a mental image in our minds of these two processes which obviously have their starting point in the year 1844. At the beginning, the two processes are seen to move along what appears to be parallel lines, one above the other. The higher line, which is the Faith, exerts its influence on the lower one, which, in turn quite often reacts, consciously or unconsciously, in opposition. As this movement proceeds and the interaction intensifies we see the two lines diverging away from each other: the Faith in an upward flight and the world in a downward fall. In this connection the prophetic words of Shoghi Effendi are of utmost significance: "The Champion builders of Bahá'u'lláh's rising World Order must scale nobler heights of heroism, as humanity plunges into greater depths of despair, degradation, dissension and distress. Let them forge ahead into the future serenely confident that the hour of their mightiest exertions and the supreme opportunity for their greatest exploits must coincide with the apocalyptic upheaval marking the lowest ebb in mankind's fast-declining fortunes"- (CF p.58.) The interaction has not stopped. We witness it under our very eyes at this time in history.

The letters of Shoghi Effendi point to a new phenomenon. They show that almost imperceptibly a third line between the two that I have just described has been set in motion and is in steady progress. This new line is a positive one, and has come into existence as an indirect impact of the Faith of God on the minds and hearts of men. This new line represents the forces which are in harmony with the spirit of the age, while its protagonists are unconscious of the true source of this constructive process.

This thought is clearly explained by Shoghi Effendi: "The principle of the Oneness of Mankind...finds its earliest manifestations in the efforts consciously exerted and the modest beginnings already achieved by the declared adherents of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh who...are forging ahead to establish His Kingdom on this earth. It has its indirect manifestations in the gradual diffusion of the spirit of world solidarity which is spontaneously arising out of the welter of a disorganized society."(WOB pp.43-44)

Shoghi Effendi also saw in the creation of the 'League of Nations', after the first World War, a welcome by-product of this positive development. He wrote: "And yet while the shadows are continually deepening, might we not claim that gleams of hope, flashing intermittently on the international horizon, appear at times to relieve the darkness that encircles humanity? Would it be untrue to maintain that in a world of unsettled faith and disturbed thought, a world of steadily mounting armaments, of unquenchable hatreds and rivalries, the progress, however fitful, of the forces working in harmony with the spirit of the age can already be discerned? Though the great outcry raised by post-war nationalism is growing louder and more insistent every day, the League of Nations is as yet in its embryonic state, and the storm clouds that are gathering may for a time totally eclipse its powers and obliterate its machinery, yet the direction in which the institution itself is operating is most significant...A general pact on security has been the central purpose towards which these efforts have, ever since the League was born, tended to converge...For the first time in the history of humanity the system of collective security, foreshadowed by Bahá'u'lláh and explained by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, has been seriously envisaged, discussed and tested."- (WOB pp.191-2)

Writing on the same theme, Shoghi Effendi describes the condition of the world as having been; "contracted and transformed into a single highly complex organism by the marvellous progress achieved in the realm of physical science- [and] by the world wide expansion of commerce and industry"- (WOB p.47). He further points out that by virtue of the "celestial potency which the Spirit of Bahá'u'lláh has breathed" into the world, "an increasing number of thoughtful men not only consider world peace as an approaching possibility, but as the necessary outcome of the forces now operating in the world"- (WOB p.47)

As you know the League of Nations was replaced after the Second World War by the United Nations. Ever since its inception over half a century ago, it has been evolving positively in its spirit, fair judgement and efficiency. There is no doubt that this middle process, brought into being with the inception of the Faith, will eventually lead to the Lesser Peace.

Shoghi Effendi has given us this definition of the Lesser Peace: [This gradual process...] must, as Bahá'u'lláh has Himself anticipated, lead at first to the establishment of that Lesser Peace which the nations of the earth, as yet unconscious of His Revelation and yet unwittingly enforcing the general principles which He has enunciated, will themselves establish"- (PDC p.128). The Guardian further amplifies his own statement when he anticipates gradual steps in this process. These steps he identifies as: "The political unification of the Eastern and Western Hemispheres, the emergence of a world government and the establishment of the Lesser Peace as (anticipated) the prophet Isaiah"- (CF p.33). He further adds that this step involves "the reconstruction of mankind, as the result of the universal recognition of its oneness and wholeness."- (PDC p.128)

The Words of Bahá'u'lláh on the subject of the Lesser Peace, as quoted by Shoghi Effendi in his writings, addressing the Kings and rulers of the earth, are as follows: "Now that ye have refused the Most Great Peace hold ye fast unto this, the Lesser Peace, that haply ye may in some degree better your own condition and that of your dependants... Be reconciled among yourselves, that ye may need no more armaments save in a measure to safeguard your territories and dominions... Be united, O concourse of the sovereigns of the world, for thereby will the tempest of discord be stilled amongst you, and your peoples find rest. Should any one among you take up arms against another, rise ye all against him, for this is naught but manifest justice" – (WOB p.162 and p.192). In another Tablet He writes: "The time must come...when the imperative necessity for the holding of a vast, an all-embracing assemblage of men will be universally realized. The rulers and kings of the earth must needs attend it, and, participating in its deliberations, must consider such ways and means as will lay the foundations of the world's Great Peace among men...Should any king take up arms against another, all should unitedly arise and prevent him."- (WOB p.162 and p.192)

It is now important to focus our attention on the Most Great Peace and its features, Shoghi Effendi has given us the following definition: "The Most Great Peace... as conceived by Bahá'u'lláh—a peace that must inevitably follow as the practical consequence of the spiritualization of the world and the fusion of all its races, creeds, classes and nations—can rest on no other basis, and can be preserved through no other agency, except the divinely appointed ordinances that are implicit in the World Order that stands associated with His Holy Name"- (WOB pp.162-163). Shoghi Effendi further considered the following words addressed to Queen Victoria by Bahá'u'lláh to refer to the Most Great Peace and not to the Lesser Peace: "That which the Lord hath ordained as the sovereign remedy and mightiest instrument for the healing of the world is the union of all its peoples in one universal cause, one common faith. This can in no wise be achieved except through the power of a skilled, an all-powerful and inspired Physician. This, verily, is the truth, and all else naught but error..."- (WOB pp.163). In another Tablet Bahá'u'lláh refers to the unity of all mankind. According to Shoghi Effendi Bahá'u'lláh had in mind the Most Great Peace: "It beseemeth all men in this Day to take firm hold on the Most Great Name, and to establish the unity of all mankind. There is no place to flee to, no refuge that any one can seek, except Him"- (WOB pp.163)

In the original texts the words for the Lesser Peace are 'Sulh-i-Asghar' and the words for the Most Great Peace 'Sulh-i-A'zam'. In the original texts we find a third term used quite frequently, namely 'Sulh-i-Akbar'. This is translated in various ways, at times as 'the Lesser Peace', at others as 'the Greater Peace', 'the Great Peace' or even sometimes as 'the Most Great Peace'. It is most interesting that the beloved Guardian in his capacity as interpreter of the Writings, has sometimes translated 'Sulh-i-Akbar' as the 'Lesser Peace' and the same word as the 'Most Great Peace', depending on the context. When one reads these carefully it becomes quite clear that whenever reference is made merely to reduction of armaments, the need for consultation among nations or the principle of collective security, Shoghi Effendi's translation is always the "Lesser Peace." However, when the context goes beyond political unification and deals with unity in all its aspects, including unity of race and of religion, the translation becomes the "Most Great Peace."

A careful reader will not find it difficult to conclude that 'Sulh-i-Akbar' is a stage between the "Lesser" and the "Most Great Peace"—that is between the "Asghar" and the "A'zam". In my humble opinion the three stages can be capsulated in the following terms used by him: "political unification", as the Lesser Peace; "spiritualization of the masses", as the intermediate stage; and the "fusion of races, creeds, classes and nations" as the Most Great Peace.

Suffice it to say at this point that it is clear to me that the Super-state with all its attendant institutions, described by Shoghi Effendi in 'The Goal of The New World Order', pages 40-41, is a reference to this intermediate stage, namely 'Sulh-i-Akbar'. While the features of the Bahá'í World Commonwealth, minutely and movingly described by Shoghi Effendi in 'The Unfoldment of World Civilization', pages 203-204, are clear references to the 'Sulh-i-A'zam', namely the Most Great Peace.

It is interesting in this connection to note that in his description of the world's Super-state, the first world body mentioned is the "International Executive", while in his illuminating description of the Most Great Peace, the "World Executive" takes second place and the word "Legislature" first place. We could assume that the reason could well be that during the intermediary stage of 'Sulh-i-Akbar', the spirit of the peace is certainly Bahá'í in its essence, but the outward form has to continue for a time to be the external structure of the old world.

As you are aware, in the world today the Executive Branch of government is usually, and even invariably, the leading entity and represents the Headship of the State. In the Bahá'í concept of World Order, as I understand it, the hierarchy is different. Headship is vested, not in the Executive, but in the Legislative Branch. That seems to be the reason why in Shoghi Effendi's description of the Bahá'í World Commonwealth of the future, the first and primary entity, is the "world legislature".

When we examine the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá on this subject we find a similar pattern. A typical example is His Tablet of "The Seven Candles". This Tablet was revealed in the year 1906. This date is important because 'Abdu'l-Bahá refers in this Tablet to: "this century" in connection with one of the Candles, namely the one on the "unity of nations", and it is clear that He was referring to the twentieth century.

The Seven Candles, as given by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, are: (1) Unity in the political realm; (2) Unity of thought in world undertakings; (3) Unity in freedom; (4) Unity in religion; (5) Unity of nations; (6) Unity of races; and (7) Unity of language. Five of the seven candles, beyond any doubt, are preliminary steps towards the Lesser Peace, whereas the fourth and sixth, namely the unity of religions and of races, refers to forms of unity that can be achieved only when the spiritualization of the masses has taken place.

The first candle for example, which is "Unity in the Political Realm", has certainly been realized through the establishment of the United Nations. The third, being the "Unity in Freedom", is surely a clear hint at the approaching end of colonization, as it continued to exist during the first half of the century. The fifth, namely "Unity of Nations" represents the spirit of world consciousness, expressed in the recognition that we are all, in the words of 'Abdu'l-Bahá about this candle, "citizens of one common fatherland"— a consciousness which was fully realized during the twentieth century. The remaining two candles, i.e. the second and the seventh, namely 'Unity of Thought in World Undertakings' and 'Unity of Language' are obvious to us all and need no elaboration in this discussion.

As Bahá'ís we have yet many challenges ahead of us to systematize our consolidation work through our institutes and study circles and to extend our teaching work through greater proclamation, more intense teaching activity and closer adherence to living a Bahá'í way of life, collectively and individually. We should likewise open the doors of our homes and our community to seekers, sympathizers, and new friends of the Faith. Such activities are bound to generate waves of spiritual influence which will accelerate the constructive processes of integration pursued by well meaning leaders of thought and men of good will everywhere, as they move forward towards finding solutions to their economic, social and political problems, problems that impede from time to time their advancement towards the goal set for them by the Blessed Beauty, when in His Tablets He established the minimum requirements of the Lesser Peace.

To summarise what I have said, and to project our thoughts into the future, perhaps we could suggest the following scenario: the world, its social fabric, its political configurations, its economic structure, and its moral standards, will continue to deteriorate and will bring the current civilization to its lowest ebb. While, we as Bahá'ís, on the one hand, continue to expand the scope of our Faith, to consolidate its foundations, to diffuse its light throughout the planet, and to proclaim its life-giving message to the masses, and while, on the other hand, the harmonizing forces which are activated and supported by the spirit of Bahá'u'lláh's Message continue to develop, to strike their roots into the soil of human consciousness and eventually lead humanity to the universal prosperity generated by the Lesser Peace, we can well imagine that, later rather than sooner, the two integrative and parallel lines, namely the Faith of God and its constructive worldly counterpart, will merge into one, single, organically united and divinely propelled process which will lead to the Most Great Peace and prepare the way for the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth during the Golden Age of God's Holy Faith. In order to understand, perhaps with greater clarity, the different stages in the attainment of universal peace, so well defined by the progression implied in the adjectives qualifying the word "peace", namely the Lesser, the Great or Greater, and the Most Great, corresponding to the words in the original text, namely Asghar, Akbar, and A'zam, it may be useful for us to look at Shoghi Effendi's stages of the development of the Faith on the national level as it unfolds in different countries of the world.

As you know, Shoghi Effendi outlined seven stages for the onward march of the Faith in each country. I will mention the first four stages first. As you know they are: obscurity, repression, emancipation, and recognition. Stage one, which is obscurity, is clearly over throughout the world, as the House of Justice has also said. The Bahá'í community in Iran, as well as in a number of countries in the Muslim East, is at stage two, which is repression. Stage three, namely emancipation, is when the religious authorities in a country, as happened in Egypt, officially announce that since the Bahá'í Faith has laws and principles at variance with the canonical law of Islam, it can only be considered as an independent entity, not as a branch of the Muhammadan Faith. Stage four, namely recognition, is when the government in authority recognizes the Faith in accordance with its own legal system: this is when the Bahá'í community is given a status as a religious organization empowered to perform officially certain rites related to personal status, such as marriage. So far, this has been the highest form of recognition in any given country, as it represents the possession of a status equal to that enjoyed by other recognized religious communities. One or another of the first four stages could well be bypassed and has indeed been bypassed depending on the prevailing circumstances in any given country.

As to the last three stages, the fifth is the official acceptance of the Faith as the "State religion" of a nation- (ADJ p.12). The sixth stage is when there is a merger between the civil system of government administration and the national institutions of the Bahá'í Administrative Order. This sixth stage has been described by Shoghi Effendi as the emergence of the "Bahá'í State"-(ADJ p.12). The seventh stage is when the "Bahá'í State" of a given country joins hands with other Bahá'í states to form together the first Bahá'í Commonwealth of the future – a Commonwealth which will represent the initial stages of the Most Great Peace and will operate in accordance with the Laws and Principles enunciated by Bahá'u'lláh. As you can well realize, Bahá'ís in no single country have gone beyond stage four. This means that all national Bahá'í communities are developing slowly and sometimes painfully through the first four stages.

Moving from stage four to stage five will require the input and guidance of the Universal House of Justice, when circumstances permit, at their own appointed time. This is why Bahá'u'lláh has written: "All matters of state should be referred to the House of Justice"- (TB p.129). We can confidently conclude that, at the national level, stage six, namely, when the Faith is recognized as a "State religion", and stage seven, namely, when the "Bahá'í State" emerges, correspond on the international level to the Great or Greater Peace— Sulh-i-Akbar, followed by the next stage, namely the Most Great Peace, Sulh-i-A'zam. We firmly believe, as Bahá'ís, that the last two, and indeed the last three stages are all part of the all-embracing, all-encompassing, Major Plan of God.

Questions related:

Q. Shoghi Effendi has written that the years ahead may well be pregnant with events of unimaginable magnitude and ordeals more severe than what has transpired in the past. Are we "in the years ahead"? Should we be afraid?

A. The word "pregnant" implies a process. I have no doubt that we are in the so-called period of "the years ahead", but why should we be afraid? We should place our trust in Him, live the Bahá'í life, and face the future with full confidence. Faith is not enough, we should also have trust in Him. If we have doubts we should arise and prove to ourselves the reality of His assistance. In one of his letters to the American believers Shoghi Effendi said: "There is no time to lose...The stage is set. The firm and irrevocable Promise is given. God's own Plan has been set in motion...The powers of heaven and earth mysteriously assist in its execution...Let the doubter arise, and himself verify the truth of such assertions." (TDH p. 28)

Q. What is "the Most Great Justice"?

A. I think this is a reference to the institutions of the House of Justice on its three levels: universal, national and local.

Q. Is entry by troops important to the Lesser Peace?

A. I don't see it that way. Entry by troops is an internal process in the development of the teaching work. The House of Justice wishes us to prepare ourselves through the institutes, study circles, devotional meetings and children's classes to open our doors for the troops to come in and be adequately and systematically deepened in the Cause. Shoghi Effendi's writings indicate that this stage of entry by troops will prove to be a prelude to the conversion of the masses.

The Lesser Peace however, is the result of the efforts of leaders in the political world uniting at last to establish what we could call a secular political peace among the nations.

Q. Do we know when the Lesser Peace will come about? Why did we think it would be by the year 2000?

A. When Shoghi Effendi was asked when exactly the Lesser Peace will be established, he wrote back saying that we did not know the exact time. The speculation about the year 2000 stems from the fifth candle of unity which is "unity of nations" and, as you recall, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, in that Tablet states that it is "a unity which in this century will be securely established" (WOB p. 39) As this Tablet was revealed in 1906 it is obvious that this century meant the 20th century, especially as the recipient was one of the friends in the British Isles. The point that was missed was that the stage of "unity of nations" is clearly defined by 'Abdu'l-Bahá Himself in the same Tablet. It is when "the peoples of the world will regard themselves as citizens of one common fatherland." (WOB p. 39) This is a reference to an awareness in the peoples of the world that the world is really one world, and the planet the home of the human race. This consciousness is of course an important step towards the Lesser Peace, but not the Lesser Peace itself.

Q. What is the relationship between the seven stages of the evolution of the Faith and the seven candles of unity?

A. These are two processes. One is related to the internal development of the Faith within the setting of the world surrounding it, and the other is a description of the various aspects of the universal peace anticipated in the Writings.

Q. When the Faith becomes the official established religion of a country will independent investigation of truth continue to be upheld?

A. The principle of independent investigation of truth is an overarching principle which overshadows the entire Dispensation. The Báb tells us that God's method for the spread of His religion at any given time was never meant to be through force and coercion. (SWAB p. 77)

Q. What is the meaning of Shoghi Effendi's statement in his "Unfoldment": "The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh should be viewed as marking the last and highest stage in this stupendous evolution of man's collective life on this planet"?

A. Shoghi Effendi has likened the process of world federalism to the stages which lead the American Republic to become a unified community of federated states. Describing the latter process he describes the federal system created in the United States as an event which proclaimed the coming of age of the American people. He goes on to state: "Within the territorial limits of this nation, this consummation may be viewed as the culmination of the process of human government. The diversified and loosely related elements of a divided community were brought together, unified and incorporated into one coherent system. Though this entity may continue gaining in cohesive power, though the unity already achieved may be further consolidated, though the civilization to which that unity could alone have given birth may expand and flourish, yet the machinery essential to such an unfoldment may be said to have been, in its essential structure, erected, and the impulse required to guide and sustain it may be regarded as having been fundamentally imparted. No stage above and beyond this consummation of national unity can, within the geographical limits of that nation, be imagined, though the highest destiny of its people as a constituent element in a still larger entity that will embrace the whole of mankind, may still remain unfulfilled. Considered as an isolated unit, however, this process of integration may be said to have reached its highest and final consummation." (WOB p.165)

As with the geographical limits of one nation, so it will be within the geographical limits of the planet. It is in this vein that the following words of Shoghi Effendi referring to the emergence of a world community should be understood... "The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh...should be viewed ... as marking the last and highest stage in this stupendous evolution of man's collective life on this planet. The emergence of a world community, the consciousness of world citizenship, the founding of a world civilization and culture... should, by their very nature, be regarded, as far as this planetary life is concerned, as the furthermost limits in the organization of human society, though man, as an individual will, nay must indeed as a result of such a consummation, continue indefinitely to progress and develop." (WOB p. 163)

Q. Bahá'u'lláh says: "Should any one among you take up arms against another, rise ye [i.e. Sovereigns of the world] against him for this is naught but manifest justice." (WOB p.40) Is there such an option under the Most Great Peace?

A. If we read the antecedent to this sentence in the original, it becomes clear that this guidance regarding the principle of collective security is written in the context of the Lesser Peace. It appears highly unlikely that such a situation will arise under the Most Great Peace. If it does, however, the instruction of Bahá'u'lláh will certainly be immediately enforced.

Q. Where does the line of disintegration lead to and will it finally disappear?

A. I spoke about the two opposite and diverging lines of integration and disintegration. The former symbolizing the growth and consolidation of the Faith and the second representing the deterioration and decline of human society. What we should remember is that according to Bahá'u'lláh we are approaching the stage of humanity's maturity. This maturity has been described by Shoghi Effendi in these words: "That mystic, all pervasive, yet indefinable change which we associate with the stage of maturity, inevitable in the life of the individual and the development of the fruit, must... have its counterpart in the evolution of the organization of human society.... Such a stage of maturity in the process of human government must, for all time, if we would faithfully recognize the tremendous claim advanced by Bahá'u'lláh, remain identified with the Revelation of which He was the Bearer." (WOB p. 164)

"To take but one instance. How confident were the assertions made in the days preceding the unification of the states of the North American continent regarding the insuperable barriers that stood in the way of their ultimate federation? ... Could anything less than the fire of a civil war with all its violence and vicissitudes -- a war that nearly rent the great American Republic -- have welded the states, not only into a Union of independent units, but into a Nation, in spite of all the ethnic differences that characterized its component parts?... That nothing short of the fire of a severe ordeal, unparalleled in its intensity can fuse and weld the discordant entities that constitute the elements of present day civilization, into the integral components of the world commonwealth of the future, is a truth which future events will increasingly demonstrate." (WOB pp. 45-46)

As we saw in the quotations above universal suffering is a prerequisite for universal spiritual awareness. To the observations quoted above from the pen of Shoghi Effendi I feel I should add the following momentous pronouncement by him. "The process of disintegration must inexorably continue and its corrosive influence must penetrate deeper and deeper into the very core of a crumbling age. Much suffering will still be required ere the contending nations, creeds, classes and races of mankind are fused in the crucible of universal affliction... Adversities unimaginably appalling undreamed of crises and upheavals, war, famine and pestilence, might well combine to engrave in the soul of an unheeding generation those truths and principles which it has disdained to recognize and follow. (WOB p. 193)

According to a Tablet revealed by 'Abdu'l-Bahá the line of disintegration propelling the world towards godlessness will sink to such a point that it will lead to universal chaos and confusion -- a chaotic condition that the world would be unwilling to bear. This stage will lead the world to turn to religion and to realize the importance of turning to God. That would be the time when the Bahá'í youth of today will have the unique opportunity to proclaim and teach the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh, as a far greater receptivity for His message would prevail in the hearts of men everywhere. It is quite possible, in my view, that at such a time, the stage of mass conversion anticipated in the writings of Shoghi Effendi would occur and, which will result in a sudden "thousandfold" increase in the "numerical strength as well as the material power and the spiritual authority of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh". (CF p. 117)

Q. When does the Bahá'í community move from the state of "recognition" to the stage of "State Religion" in any given country?

A. Shoghi Effendi refers to the "majority" of the population of the country (WOB p. 7) He does not define how large a majority this should be. As it is a matter of "State" when such a situation arises, it should be referred to the Universal House of Justice.

Q. When in a certain country a "Bahá'í State" is established will non-Bahá'ís have the right to vote, and/or occupy positions in the administration of the State?

A. All I can say is that this issue has not been dealt with in the Writings of our Faith, and, therefore, should be referred to the Universal House of Justice, in accordance with His statement already mentioned before: "All matters of State should be referred to the House of Justice". (TB p. 27)

Q. In addition to the United Nations, which you have mentioned, what do you think of such organizations as the European Union, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund?

A. All these manifestations of humanity's awareness of its own universal solidarity, and as 'Abdu'l-Bahá has predicted in His second "candle of unity", humanity was moving steadily towards "unity of thought in world undertakings". (WOB p.39) The examples you cite are few among many examples of efforts to create projects, promoting the welfare of all classes, races and nations comprising the world community. For example WHO, UNESCO, UNICEF, The Red Cross, and the various agencies which are operating today to protect the environment, to research the oceans, to explore the solar system, to promote the positive values of globalization, to eradicate illiteracy etc... Such world undertakings did not exist in the past, but these ideals are being earnestly and successfully pursued for the first time, on a global scale, from the early beginnings of the 20th century. This is why 'Abdu'l-Bahá called it the "Century of Light".

Furthermore, we see Bahá'u'lláh exhorting, and indeed giving a special mission to the rulers of the entire Western Hemisphere, addressing them as leaders of one geographical unit. Does this not imply a process of solidarity of the components parts of this unit? Many efforts have already been made towards this objective, although they have met with setbacks and reverses. Shoghi Effendi, following Bahá'u'lláh's lead, likewise refers to the Eastern Hemisphere, as a counterpart to the Western Hemisphere (CF p.33), and specifically mentions the prospect of the political unification of the two Hemispheres, as a stage towards the establishment of world peace. Shoghi Effendi has described for us the stages of humanity's social evolution towards its maturity, in the following inspired words:

"The long ages of infancy and childhood, through which the human race had to pass, have receded into the background. Humanity is now experiencing the commotions invariably associated with the most turbulent stage of its evolution, the stage of adolescence, when the impetuosity of youth and its vehemence reach their climax, and must gradually be superseded by the calmness, the wisdom, and the maturity that characterize the stage of manhood. Then will the human race reach that stature of ripeness which will enable it to acquire all the powers and capacities upon which its ultimate development must depend.

Unification of the whole of mankind is the hall-mark of the stage which human society is now approaching. Unity of family, of tribe, of city-state, and nation have been successively attempted and fully established. World unity is the goal towards which a harassed humanity is striving. Nation-building has come to an end. The anarchy inherent in state sovereignty is moving towards a climax. A world, growing to maturity, must abandon this fetish, recognize the oneness and wholeness of human relationships, and establish once for all the machinery that can best incarnate this fundamental principle of its life." (WOB p.202)