October 17, 2017

The Spirit of ‘Abdu’l-Baha – by Horace Holley

The divine power, in its fullness, penetrates the universe at all times, but each existent being shows for this power only to its own degree. Stone, plant, animal and man all are sustained by the one power, without which nothing could ever exist. In the same degrees that stone, plant and animal receive the power, it is received also by man, for man's physical being is the sum of all that nature contains. So long as man is content with these degrees of existence, man cannot be distinguished from nature either in origin or end; he would be considered merely as nature in the state of self-awareness, a mirror in which for a certain period nature can be seen ad known. Man is immersed in nature, though his thought is not coffined.

When we stand upon the shore of the sea, and watch the inrolling waves, it seems as though the ocean were moving and advancing upon the shore, but this motion and advancement are illusions of the eye, for each drop of the sea continues ever in the same place. It is a motion we attribute to the sea, which in the sea itself is only agitation. And thus the constant change and movement of life on the surface of nature; it is the illusion of life, not progressiveness of being. For nature as a whole lives, through the divine power, but the existence of each production of nature is merely lent and then withdrawn. The tree lives, but the leaves that are put forth by the tree wither and fall. Today we see a man, and the man shares in the common thought; but tomorrow we see another man in his place, and the actions and thoughts of the first are repeated. The continuity of men is but the continuity of leafage, not the continuousness of the tree from season to season.

But man is immersed in nature as the ship is immersed in the sea, and the force of the wind which practiced only agitation in the sea, produces true movement and progress in the ship. But the ship that is deprived of sails, and is rudderless, then shares only the agitation of the sea, the end of which vessel is destruction So man when deprived of those faculties that exist above nature, and independent of nature, lives in the agitation of nature and dies like the foam on the wave. By his thought he may perceive this, and become aware of it, but by thought it cannot he prevented or changed.

Now, as when a plant is removed into a dark place, far from the light of the sun, its forces gather dumbly into the roots, and its leaf withers, its flower fallen and its fruit is destroyed; and the plant itself, by no effort or exertion of its powers can overcome the lack of the sun; but when placed one more in the light its forces are liberated and the plant seems again to live from within; so are those faculties in man that respond to the divine. Neither will, nor thought, nor desire, which are the forces of man, can move upward from the roots of being in the darkness of nature, for man depends upon his spiritual existence, upon the life and light of the divine. Nature is the shadow of God, and in that shadow man is a plant that sleeps.

That which brings the divine light unto the dumb and deeply hidden spiritual forces of man is the Manifestation of God. Into the shadow of nature the Manifestation comes, but of that darkness he has no part, for in the Manifestation of God the spiritual faculties are perfected and mature. The divine light enters his being without shadow or interruption, and from the being of the Manifestation of God it is reflected to all the horizons. Into the darkness of the world of nature the Manifestation of God brings a clear light, as a mirror which has been lowered into a deep pit can reflect the light of the sun and thereby banish the pit's darkness. The light which the Manifestation of God mirrors forth to banish the darkness of nature in man is the Holy Spirit.

Now the Holy Spirit is a force which surpasses in energy and influence any force which man of himself can produce or imagine. As the sun is more powerful than anything upon the earth, and all the forces of the earth are but shadows or emanations of the sun, so the Holy Spirit is more powerful in the world of being than any human faculty. The Holy Spirit is a universal and divine power, which cannot be known by any faculty in its universality. Rather does it awaken and inspire all the faculties of the dormant soul, as the sun in spring time awakens and inspires the faculties that sleep in the earth.

Just as when, in winter, all the trees of the forest are locked in sleep, and none has leaves or signs of vitality, and in this condition we can judge them only by their relative size or perfection of form; but when the spring comes those that have life hidden in the root put forth leaves and buds and those that have no life remain as they were, so that then we can distinguish the living tree from the dead tree; even so during the spiritual darkness before the coming of the Manifestation of God all the souls are dormant, and we judge the value of people by their outer possessions, their personal activity or their commanding influence over the other dormant souls. But when the power of the Holy Spirit descends, then those souls that have life show forth the quality of life, and those that have no life remain in the death of nature even as they were. That is why John the Baptist cried in the wilderness -- that is, the wilderness of spiritual ignorance – “Repent ye, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!” For he would warn the souls that what they thought was life was in reality the illusion of life, and what they considered the light of existence was in reality the shadow of deprivation. Thus when Christ manifested, bringing the Holy Spirit to mankind, the souls that yearned for the reality knew the Spirit in him, and gave the Spirit entrance into their hearts while the souls that were wholly immersed in nature remained in the outer darkness that nature is.

Entering the heart wherein it is invited, the Holy Spirit brings life and light; light to discern the true spiritual Self; life that animates and inspires the spiritual faculties to conscious activity. Now the seed is small and inert and apparently dead, yet the tree is hidden within it, and when the tree comes forth it is immense and visibly living and active. And no man can discover the tree that is within the seed, hut the sun discovers it and brings it forth; and in this way the Holy Spirit discovers the soul within the body, and brings it forth into the light of the divine. This life which the soul receives through the penetrating energy of the Holy Spirit differs from the life of the body as the life of the tree differs from the life of the seed; received from outside nature, the life of the soul is not subject to nature's decrees. It is the ''new life," the "second birth the "resurrection'' which has been recorded in all the Holy Books; and because this life can be acquired only through the Holy Spirit, therefore the coming of the Manifestation of God to the world of men corresponds to the ''day of resurrection" of which tradition never quite lets go. Moreover, because all men reveal their inner, spiritual condition by their acceptance or rejection of the Holy Spirit, just as the trees reveal their degrees of vitality in the spring, the time of the Manifestation Likewise corresponds to the "day of judgment so caricatured in the common interpretation. But the spiritual "judgement'' is that which the soul renders within and upon itself, through the degrees of its knowledge or ignorance. The sun does not judge the tree, nor does God judge any man.

Now the mystery of the Manifestation of God, is this: that the Holy Spirit reveals to men their own true self, so that in heeding and obeying the Manifestation a man heeds and obeys his own spirit which desires to awake and to predominate in him; and in rejecting and persecuting those who reflect the Holy Spirit, a man rejects and persecutes his own reality.

This rejection of the Holy Spirit is due to our being content with the existence we receive as a gift from nature, without effort or thought of our own, and our lives while they endure are as the spending of a treasure we have not earned, and the wasting of a substance we cannot restore. Intent upon the shadow, and habituated to the shadow, we are repelled by the light, and relying upon the being which nature temporarily animates, we permit all our desires to stay imprisoned in this narrow cage. No death is more strait than the false life of the body, and resurrection from this death is resurrection indeed.

Now the power of the Holy Spirit is directly evidenced in the life it establishes within the seeking soul, which power has no likeness, equal or comparison; but the Holy Spirit, through a reflection and an indirect power, also predominates over the world's material destiny.

For the sun which produces leaves and buds in the living tree, likewise produces decay and consumption in the dead tree; and the Holy Spirit evokes life within the animal soul of man as well as within the spiritual, each man being aroused and stimulated according to the nature of his own predominant desire. Therefore, in the day of the Manifestation humanity is stirred by invisible forces which penetrate to its very depths. Dormant or slumbering desires awaken and inactive wills become active. Strange, unwonted movements arise among the people, spreading mysteriously like an infection, some for good and some for evil. The observer thinks that each of these movements has a personal leader who is its source and cause, but this is not so. It is the mutual recognition of like minds, and their grouping around the point of greatest influence. Thus those who are slaves suddenly receive a vision of freedom; the downtrodden arise with a new hope; the poor become dissatisfied with their poverty; the rich become dissatisfied with their wealth; the basis of society, which is habit formed by accepted standards of thought and feeling, suddenly being swept utterly away. The consequence is that those who have power, influence, wealth, position and authority begin to feel that this is threatened with destruction. The grouping of humanity for the new life and light such people consider to be anarchy, since it overflows the ancient channels of custom and denies the barriers of tradition. Thus, if power, influence, wealth and authority are a man's highest desire, he clings to it all the more frantically the more its position is undermined. During the days when their property, influence and position were secure these same people might have ruled, controlled or taught with a certain apparent benevolence, but this is turned into savage hate and violent oppression through fear of loss. Thus attachment to material things, betraying them, becomes the cause of their rejecting the Holy Spirit; and this applies to those predominant in the accepted religion, art, science and philosophy as well as those predominant in industry and other practical affairs. For the Holy Spirit to be known must be sought above all that is. To prevent the operation of the new forces, the deniers of God direct their violence against one and then another group which they consider to be the source and cause, arriving by a sure instinct at die persecution of those most imbued with the Holy Spirit, and if possible, of Him who is its center and perfect cause. Thus it was in the day of Christ; and those who understand the genius of history underneath its changing appearances can trace the same character and quality of events in the day of all the prophets and messengers.

But this rejection, increasing violence on the one hand and faith on the other, fails of its purpose from the first, being unwittingly but agents that carry out the mysterious purposes of the Divine Will.

For there appears another mystery in the coming of the Manifestation: that the Holy Spirit both creates and destroys. That which it creates is the life of the inner being; that which it destroys are the veils of attachment to outer being; it destroys the foundation of injustice, ignorance and hate, and this in reality is a divine blessing though in appearance it is hardship and punishment. Had the people in the time of Christ realized the purpose of the Holy Spirit in and through his life and teaching, its power would have expressed its predominance through construction rather than through destruction, for material things are not evil in themselves but are evil only as they attract and delude the soul from its true direction. As a small niece of iron near the compass will deflect the needle from the true Pole, so one personal desire retained within the soul diverts the soul's vision downward.

But as the Holy Spirit is brought into the world from outside the world, so is it afterward withdrawn into its own sphere. Then its influence becomes wholly secondary: that is, its spiritualizing effects are measured by the degree in which it was received consciously into the hearts of people. Even though known and accepted consciously by a very few, a certain measure of spirituality, knowledge, justice, kindliness and freedom can be observed in the world which previously did not exist. For the power of the Holy Spirit, perfect and unconditioned in itself, becomes imperfect and conditioned in its effects. Religion, which in the day of the Manifestation is a secret essence distilled in the heart, gradually becomes again a matter of outward things, prescribed thoughts and natural desires. But when religion again becomes a matter pertaining to the world of effects, then the people who had rejected its power in the world of causes willingly participate in the religion, for by now religion has become one with their own capacity and desire. Thus, since they believe in property, they strive to increase the property of the churches; since they believe in laws and prohibitions, for the sake of material stability, they strive to perfect the definitions and limitations of the creeds; since they are animated by personal ambition, they make religion subserve a vast superstructure of offices, titles, honors, functions and positions, and spend their lives mounting from one to another of these rungs of illusion; and since they delight in the intoxication of the senses, hence the elaborate rites, ceremonies, sacraments, observances and festivals of their religion, the wearing of purple and red, the chanting, the burning of incense; and since ambition is essentially competitive, hence the feuds and struggles among the different religions and creeds, poisoning the stream of love and inspiration at its very source, which is the cause of all warfare and strife in the world, as well as the cause of anarchy and atheism; for that which these people consider religion is the worship of the body, and that which they accept as from God is in reality the stupefaction of the spiritual soul. Their triumph is the darkening of the divine light and life, and their victory is in the absence of the Holy Spirit. This is that ''darkness" which Christ banished when he came, and this is that ''world'' which every Manifestation overcomes through the Divine Will.

Now consider the character of this age. It is a sea which is stirred to its depths, and the vessel of every life is tossed by a sudden and violent force. As when in the rolling of a ship, one object becoming loose falls upon and loosens another object, but the cause of the first object's movement is not itself but of the ship; so the violent impact of men in this age; those who are shaken ascribe the force to those who move against them, but the initial force, in fact, is not of man. A new life and light has penetrated the body of the world, and nothing that was can remain unchanged. A thousand conflicting winds meet over every wave; there is no escape by retirement, and there is no independent in separation. Each atom of the body of humanity thrills with a new joy or pain, a new hope or a new despair. It is as though a vase had been emptied into the air, and its essence blown to every remotest region. Whatever our interest is, it leads us to a ground of supreme conflict, whether we desire freedom or protection, justice or power, change or absence of change. This is not the result of human thought or will or desire, but the result of a universal force which thought and will and desire have received. So conventions and customs dissolve like ice in the sun; new ideals have put forth leaves and buds like gardens in spring. Among all men, this power is yet not of man; these are the effects we see, the cause is the return of the Holy Spirit whose universal reflection in the life of the world we unknowingly witness.

From the Holy Spirit, a light shining into the mind from above, came those sciences and inventions that have united the material world in this age. From the Holy Spirit, a water poured into the parched and thirsty soul, came those ideals and longings that have broken the rule of the past. Humanity is moving its tents from the desert, seeking the promised land.

Now thoughts and events are but the reflection of the Holy Spirit, its effects and its shadow, and the effects do not give the measure of the cause nor the shadow convey the essence of the light. If we turn from the effects to the cause, from the reflection to the light itself -- if we seek for the purpose of this one universal power behind its infinitude of consequences -- if we would realize the perfect expression of this power before this power is broken into the division of our myriad minds and hearts -- we shall find the purpose and perfect expression of the Holy Spirit in the life and words of ‘Abdu’l-Baha.

That is to say, ‘Abdu’l-Baha, though appearing in the image of a man, has in reality been the selfless soul and abstracted mind which the Holy Spirit established as its perfect utterance, expression and center in this age. All others are of the effects of the Holy Spirit, but ‘Abdu’l- Balm is of the source and cause. Through him, as a promise and also as a warning, the Holy Spirit has conveyed its presence and purpose to the world, and in him its predominant spiritual influence, its direct action upon the pure soul has been made utter and complete, its illumination extended to all the horizons. ‘Abdu’l-Baha has revealed the measure of God, and ‘Abdu’l- Baha has revealed the measure of man.

Therefore, though in the world of effects we see but the fulfillment of calamity and disaster, in ‘Abdu’l-Baha we witness the victory of wisdom and love. Whereas men are troubled, or ineffectively seeking something good, ‘Abdu’l-Baha stood serenely illumined behind the shadow of darkness, and was the point of absolute peace within the heart of the storm. If we would admit the Holy Spirit into our souls, we should turn to the Holy Spirit in its direct expression in the life and words of ‘Abdu’l-Baha. The world intensifies our attachment to the personal desires and changing thoughts which veil the true inner Self; ‘Abdu’l-Baha releases that attachment, burns the veils, and sets the spirit free. And this is that which Paul intended when he said "Now we see through a glass darkly, but then shall we see face to face;" for the seeing darkly is the seeing the effects of the Holy Spirit in the world, while the seeing face to face is the seeing of the Holy Spirit in its chosen vehicle and perfect, unconditioned expression. By turning to ‘Abdu’l-Baha we grow conscious of the tine purpose of our existence, and as we grow conscious of this purpose it acquires predominance over our personal thoughts and desires. "Wisdom is from above." Therefore, whoever is concerned about the establishment of peace, he sees forces in the world for and against peace a vast confusion of efforts and opinions; but in ‘Abdu’l-Baha he will find the very essence of peace, the peace maker, an ever continued inspiration to nobler acction, like a tree whose fruits are renewed as often as they are picked. Whoever is concerned about the nature of being, its origin, its expression and activity, its growth, its fulfillment and its end; he finds in the world "wisdoms" that allure and powers that flatter the self he now is; but in ‘Abdu’l-Baha he will find the Self of all the selves, whose riches can only be expressed in poverty, and whose ecstasy is proved in pain. And it is the same whether one is concerned about these matters or about industrial stability, justice, women's rights, education, the protection and care of children or the reconciliation of the religions and creeds: there is only one mirror where these matters can be witnessed in their true, universal aspect and significance, and that mirror is the heart of ‘Abdu’l-Baha. Those who can measure the world's leaders with a true spiritual measure, they will agree.

No while wisdom is essentially a state of being, and only secondarily becomes an expression of principles, and wisdom cannot be comprehended in any one principle alone but only in the meeting of all principles in their source and cause, nevertheless, with respect to the world's capacity and requirements, ‘Abdu’l-Baha in many tablets and addresses gave importance to certain definite principles which are consequently his characteristic impression upon the minds of the age.

Foremost among ‘Abdu’l-Baha's principles is that of the independent investigation of truth.

A key to this principle may be found in ‘Abdu’l-Baha's use of tile word "imitation” where we would use such words as "superstition" or "ignorance." Looking upon the minds, ‘Abdu’l-Baha perceived them as merely imitating one another and the past, like those prisoners who are chained one to another in rows. For the Christian is born a Christian, and merely reflects the prevailing tradition in which lie lives. The German or Frenchman is born to his nationality, and imitates in thought and action the necessities to which nationality has ever in the past given rise. Few people ever stand apart from their mental and moral environment and test its standards by any universal truth. What most of us consider "thought" is merely an adapting of the common thinking to our personal advantage. The savage obeys the law of the jungle, and we obey no less blindly the customs of our own day; and consequently, so far as true self-realization is concerned, we are merely that same savage reborn to a jungle of men rather than a jungle of beasts. The spiritual consequences of this only become apparent when we reflect that while none of us would intentionally commit murder, we have made governments machinery for murder on the largest scale; and while none of us would starve the orphan or oppress the widow, we willingly grow rich upon the starvations that competitive industry commits day by day. For we make our swiftly fleeting powers serve that which is also fleeting, and so at the last we have created nothing which is able to endure. True independent investigation of reality leads to the investigation of our own being, and independence of self as passion and desire is the supreme independence.

Another of ‘Abdu’l-Baha's principles is that of the oneness of mankind. All that ‘Abdu’l-Baha expressed through utterance or action, he expressed from the positive and steadfast realization that mankind, in its origin and its end, is one spiritual Man, whose atoms, so to speak, we are, and, that one ray of the divine Self, and not many selves, sustains the spirit within the many souls. Today, as we see and feel the immediate interaction of events and conditions throughout the world, and how no portion of humanity is independent of any other portion, we begin to realize some thing of the significance of this Baha’i teaching. Thus for the first time, one undeviating standard is available for the guidance of religions, governments, industries, education, science and art alike, and that standard is the promotion of the oneness of mankind. Whatever promotes unity is of the universal cause, and will prove fruitful and enduring; but whatever prevents unity is of the limited effects, and will be rejetted by the Holy Spirit whose action is predominant over all.

Another principle expressed by ‘Abdu’l-Baha is that the foundation of ala religions is one. For by "foundation" ‘Abdu’l-Baha means the manifestation of the Holy Spirit, from which all the religions originally came. The Holy Spirit is at all times one, though like the spring season it comes and goes, for the Spirit is the expression of the will of God, and God is not divided against Himself, but the people of the world are divided. It is this division of the people which causes differences in the effects of the Holy Spirit from age to age, for the Holy Spirit is perfect and complete in itself, but enters the world of humanity only according to the capacity of the time. It is an inexhaustible ocean, while the people are but small vessels that quickly overflow. Thus Moses, Christ, Mohammed, Buddha seem different beings and founders of different religions; but we see them in the mirror of the world's division and not in the light of the Holy Spirit. In that light they are one being, one essence, one cause, one power and one foundation and whatever they uttered is the reality, which we have seized and divided (interpreted) for our own gain, as the soldiers seized and divided the garments of Jesus. ‘Abdu’l-Baha has said that when representatives of all the world's religions have gathered for a sincere investigation of the foundation of religion, this will become manifest and all the secondary, man-made features of religion will utterly disappear.

‘Abdu’l-Baha himself made no distinction between Jew or Christian, Hindu or Mohammedan. To all alike his spirit gave of its inspiration, and the acceptance or rejection of his ideal of unity was not of the creed but of the soul.

A fourth principle which ‘Abdu’l-Baha enunciated was that religion must be in accord with science and reason.

Now a person who is sick is limited by that sickness both physically and mentally, and he himself cannot overcome those limitations except by attaining health. In the same way there are limitations which fall upon the understanding from sickness of soul. It is spiritual sickness which permits a man to possess a religion at all contrary to science and reason. He may not realize these limitations, but that is part of the disease. These limitations shut out the ray of the spirit, as a wall shuts out the sun. So long as he remains in this condition, the spirit shows forth only its destructive power. Thus irrational religion does not and cannot become truly predominant in human affairs. Even the fanatic does not follow out his religion in all things, but his self-interest or self-gratification is served in devious ways. Without the Holy Spirit a religion cannot awaken the souls, but the irrational religion gains influence over material affairs through being itself material.

But this principle is binding upon science no less than upon religion. ‘Abdu’l-Baha summons the man of science to spiritual religion as he summons the man of religion to an appreciation of science. If in a laboratory, by means of certain elements, an important experiment could be carried out and thereby great human benefits obtained, what would we think of the person who, though refusing to enter the laboratory, nevertheless denied the possibility of the experiment? Yet modern science for the most part takes this very attitude toward religion. For the founders of all religions have indicated the elements and principles for the development of spirituality, and the people of science deny the essence of spirituality while refusing to enter the laboratory of infinity in their own souls.

As a matter of fact, while irrational religion and materialistic science seem outwardly opposed, inwardly they are equally conditions of being that manifest the absence of the Holy Spirit. Both are plants confined in darkness, and both are ships deprived of sails. Where the Holy Spirit obtains, the very words "science" and ''religion" are left behind, for there is but one Reality, though this can be cognized by the several faculties on the several planes.

‘Abdu’l-Baha has also expressed as an organic, universal principle the equatity of men and women. Now man and woman are the dual, interacting forces produced from the one unity, life, which still controls their duality so that it cannot ever quite become separateness.

Physical separateness only the more closely binds the bodies of imagination and desire. Man in nature realizes himself by errands with woman, and woman nature realizes herself by contrast with man. Thus any extreme development in one produces an extreme development in the other, so that an equilibrium of thought and emotion is always maintained. The combative type of man tends to produce the dependent, undeveloped woman, and the dependent, undeveloped woman tends to produce the combative type of man. In the same manner, the materialistic business man tends to proudness the woman parasite, and the reverse is also true. For man in nature sees himself by reflection in woman, and woman in nature sees herself by reflection man. Thus any imperfection in one is conveyed to the other, whence it returns augmented, and so on without end. Only the power of the Holy Spirit can create the one perfect mirror of reality for these imperfect images of being; for the Holy Spirit turns will and desire upward to a body of consciousness where sex does not exist. In this age, as the spiritual reality becomes more and more evident, the negative and disastrous influences of sex -- that is, sex as the end of will and the aim of desire -- steadily diminishes; and this is the cause of the freedom of women in this age. Were we conscious of the inner significances of being, we should behold in the freedom of women one of the most obvious evidences of the presence of the Holy Spirit in human affairs, and an evidence of inestimable importance. Without the true freedom of woman there can be no end of war and ignorance and disease, for only by the freedom of woman car man likewise become free.

Another principle laid down by ‘Abdu’l-Baha is that of the solution of the economic problem. The solution of the economic problem ‘Abdu’l-Baha has declared to be a distinctive characteristic of religion in its universal aspect; for no human power or alliance of powers hitherto has been able to work a solution. 

Now by the fear that lies in poverty, either actual or prospective, the human soul is ever turned downward into nature where the predominant law is the struggle for existence; and becoming imbued with this law, and captive to it, the soul's struggles only the more heavily burdens its own chains. For the struggle for existence sets off the powers of one soul against the powers of another, and this mutual division of powers is mutual defeat. Thus in this day the sciences and inventions which shadow forth a universal order, and dumbly signify the existence of a reality whose law is cooperation, through perversion have become the greatest menace to the very existence of mankind.

"The disease which afflicts the body politic is lack of love and absence altruism," said ‘Abdu’l-Baha in New York City ten years ago. "In the hearts of men no real love is found, and the condition is such that unless their susceptibilities are awakened by some power so that unity, love and accord develop within them, there can be no healing, no relief among mankind."

A close study of this aspect of ‘Abdu’l-Baha's teaching indicates certain fundamental dements as conditional to the solution of the economic problem. One of these elements is the universal obligation of useful labor. Consider how idleness is condemned by physiologist and psychologist today, no less vigorously than by the moralist and the student of economics. Wealth does not exempt any human being from the consequences of idleness or even misdirected activity. These consequences are ill health of mind as well as body, and that disordered condition whose ultimate end is impotence or insanity. Moreover, in avoiding useful labor, the privileged classes and their parasites have deprived themselves of the very capacity for labor, while increasing that capacity in those who cannot or will not avoid work. In this condition we may see perhaps one meaning of Christ's saying: "The meek shall inherit the earth."

But ‘Abdu’l-Baha has also stated that useful labor, performed in the spirit of service and with the ideal of perfection, is accounted an act of worship and a form of prayer. Now prayer and worship, in their true signification, are not cries for assistance, nor requests for a gift, nor yet taxes paid to a spiritual overseer, but are expressions of gratitude for the supreme gift of life in the spirit that knows no death. This is the motive that ‘Abdu’l-Baha declares should actuate our daily labor. Moreover work performed with that motive is creative work, and creativeness is the nature of God, so that it is the worker who shows forth the divine image and likeness on this plane. But consider how many changes must take place in the industrial world before this creative sense can be generally expressed, and before labor is surrounded by those conditions which this conception of labor demands! Nevertheless, even this shall be; for the Holy Spirit is destroying mightily all that intervenes between man and his own reality. 

Implicit in this conception of the spiritual value of useful labor, is ‘Abdu’l-Baha's teaching that the present wage system must be extended so as to include participation in the profits of industry. For it is evident that the essential purpose of industry is not to produce goods, but to maintain life -- and maintain life on the plane of human dignity and refinement. The act of producing goods must therefore coincide in purpose and result, with the act of ennobling and freeing the producers themselves. This is impossible under present conditions, but perfectly possible when industry is managed by the social engineer in place of the financial expert.

Another fundamental element is that the voluntary sharing of wealth.

Reflect how those who possess other forms of wealth physical, mental, moral and spiritual have ever obeyed this universal and wonderful law. Thus those who share their physical strength with the weak; those who strive incessantly to increase the commonwealth of beauty and of truth; those who devote their lives to the realization of greater political justice; and, above all, those who give love to whosoever are deprived. All the love, beauty, truth, justice and science we have on earth are the result of a voluntary sharing of wealth – a divine principle whose veils grow darker and darker as we approach the lowest degree of wealth, which is gold. But were we to estimate the sum total of all the taxes paid to any government within the past fifty years, and regard this total as being wealth forcibly rather than voluntarily shared, we can perceive how disastrously extravagant material selfishness is, even on its own plane. For a fraction of that sum total, given in the spirit of unity, would have obviated most of those expenses by which taxes are consumed, while in addition increasing vastly the means of producing more wealth by all and for all. ‘Abdu’l-Baha is he who has voluntarily shared wealth in all its forms and degrees, and this spirit is silently but rapidly leavening the world.

Thus when it is more clearly realized how disastrous separateness is, particularly in the larger fields of politics and industry, we shall behold unparalleled examples of self-sacrifice among the great and the small alike; and this essential condition having been fulfilled, relief and comfort will result. For the more powerful arts and sciences are not yet in manifestation, being withheld in the treasury of the spiritual kingdom, which can never be exhausted. Meanwhile, wealth is being forced from those who will not share it, and the old world is everywhere passing away. Yet far from condemning wealth, ‘Abdu’l- Baha makes its attainment through useful labor a specific advice; but the object of its possession is the promotion of the unity of mankind. By considering wealth as a talent on the material plane, the principle becomes clear. It is not the inequality of talents or possessions which produces injustice, but the spirit of separateness, in the poor as well as the rich, in the ignorant as well as in the learned. Inequality is the essential foundation of love, for no one can stand alone.

Another principle strongly emphasized by ‘Abdu’l-Baha is the establishment of an international auxiliary language.

As the nervous system is one throughout the body, and coordinates all the organs and limbs, so the body of humanity requires one universal language and writing to be learned by all people in addition to the mother tongue, which shall serve to interpret the needs, unite the interests and consolidate the purposes; and multi-language is the paralysis of the body of mankind. Those who have concern for human welfare and progress will surely give this subject the attention it deserves.

But the principle by which ‘Abdu’l-Baha is most widely known, and for which he has been most extensively quoted, is that of universal peace. The assurance that this is the century of universal peace, the age of the elimination of warfare, the day of the most mighty moving of the spiritual waves and the full illumination of the sun of righteousness -- this assurance is ‘Abdu’l-Baha's steadfast covenant with those who follow him.

Today, the disaster of warfare is a net thrown over the whole of humanity, like the net thrown over a gladiator about to he slain. None can emerge from this net until all emerge. But the very fact that there is no escape for one save through escape for all, and the overleaping danger of the present situation, brings the consciousness of the oneness of humanity nearer day by day. Therefore this enveloping calamity is a result of the presence of the universal Holy Spirit feared as a net of death by those who view it with personal eyes, yet seen to be a garment of divine protection by those who view all things in their spiritual light.

For the effort to avoid universal warfare is binding the minds and hearts of those who have been separate during all of history's ten thousand years. It is creating the great agencies and institutions of the future humanity; it is destroying all agencies and institutions whose purpose is to keep humanity divided and enslaved. Consider how the world's two most powerful kings have lately been overthrown and their empires rent asunder; and the full toll of inveterate ambition and greed has not yet been taken.

Therefore the indifferent are becoming mindful, and the activities of all humanitarians are finding a common channel and a unified expression. But peace, perfect peace, is first of the heart, through the breaths of the Holy Spirit; consequently those among the humanitarians who are wisest, while they strive to produce concrete results and discuss all possible methods, nevertheless have for their great objective the reconciling of the hearts of men. For only that which is established in the heart can ever be established in the world, and peace will never be made real, lasting or secure until the world has recognized the power of the Holy Spirit which alone can conquer and subdue the rebellious hearts or fuse one changeless ideal upon the restless, ever divided minds. This is the Most Great Peace; this is the Peace of God.

The arch which these social principles of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, like pillars, are intended to support the structure which fulfills their purpose and directs their use -- is the principle of an international tribunal.

‘Abdu’l-Baha ever visioned the world federation wherein all men and women have part, and invokes this world federation within the progressive people of all races and nations. Its cement is an international tribunal instituted through democratic selection and given binding authority by mutual agreement and pledge. No portion of the race but will be fairly represented, therefore no portion but will be controlled by its decis ions. ‘Abdu’l-Baha has said that when this tribunal is established, any government which instigated war would be set upon by all nations and, if necessary, abolished. This is the firm basis of peace, and no agreement with reservations can be substituted for it.

It is an inherent part of all ‘Abdu’l-Baha's teaching on the subject of tribunals and political progress that the spiritual conditions for real justice have not yet been fulfilled. He regards the function of legislation as a function of illumined minds, severed from all considerations save that of justice and truth. The act of making laws he declares to be an aspect of meditation. That is, just as the poet receives his visions, or the scientist his principles, through intense meditation, so will the future legislative body arrive at its structure of civic, national or international law. Order is of the essence of the manifested universe, and that order flows through and inspires the minds that turn to it in unity and for the purpose of creating justice. Thus those who are capable of entering this unity and impersonal abstraction are to be selected by the people from their wisest men. The legislator, in fact, is placed by ‘Abdu’l-Baha in a high spiritual station, and the evident tendency on the part of our noblest clergy to turn from fruitless theological discussions in order to assist in the solving of great political and economic problems is a reflection of this teaching; for ‘Abdu’l-Baha has also declared that the universal religion of the future will have no professional clergy. 

Such, in brief, are some of the principles that characterize the teachings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha. They are those beacons he has lighted in the darkness of our world contention and strife, the vital energy he has poured into our apathetic minds and the guidance he has established for our selfish desires. They are the spirit of evolution, the genius of prophecy, the expression of man as a spiritually conscious being in the age of his maturity and strength. That these principles are the fruits of the tree of spiritual tradition is evident also in this further teaching of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, that this is the age when the Temple shall be built, reconciling not merely the religions and creeds, hut also religion and science, and science and industry; and that to assist in building the universal Temple is incumbent upon all who are responsive to the divine Will.

These principles are the ark in which whoso enters is secure, and whoso remains outside of it will perish in the rising waters of trouble that overflow the earth. Let no one confuse that which ‘Abdu’l-Baha utters with the speculations of philosophers and the dreams of poets. He speaks of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit both creates and destroys, and none can resist the power of the Supreme.

For these principles are more than so many channels of useful activity; first and last they are signs and evidences of the return of the Holy Spirit to the world of men. As when a traveler is crossing a barren and desolate land, and he suddenly comes upon a broad highway, lined with luxuriant trees, he will follow that highway to the city of refuge; so those who are traveling the world of righteous endeavor, and are weary and fainting at the oppositions encountered both without and within when they come upon one of these principles, and behold the power with which it is informed and the majestic grace with which it is offered, they will certainly investigate until they find its source and cause; and the center to which these principles lead from all the horizons of experience -- the city of refuge where these spiritual highways end -- is the luminous heart of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, that which has ever been called, and is, the City of God.
- Horace Holley  (Star of the West, vol. 13, nos. 6 & 7, September & October 1922)