Monica Stewart ‘Unity’
In this age where politicians seem determined to divide the peoples of the East and the West through the promotion of fruitless conflict in places such as Afghanistan. Iraq and Libya I find it moving to read the words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá on the union of East and West.
‘Exert yourselves with heart and soul so that, perchance, through your efforts the light of universal peace may shine and this darkness of estrangement and enmity may be dispelled from amongst men, that all men may become as one family and consort together in love and kindness, that the East may assist the West and the West give help to the East, for all are the inhabitants of one planet, the people of one original native land and the flocks of one Shepherd’.
5 December 1912 Talk on Day of Departure On Board Steamship Celtic, New York
Kaleidoscope Sunrise by Caroline Street
‘Abdu’l-Bahá contrasts our present unbalanced material civilisation with that of a civilisation which balances the spiritual and material.
‘And among the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh is that although material civilization is one of the means for the progress of the world of mankind, yet until it becomes combined with divine civilization the desired result, which is the felicity of mankind, will not be attained. Consider! These battleships that reduce a city to ruins within the space of an hour are the result of material civilization; likewise the Krupp guns, the Mauser rifles, dynamite, submarines, torpedo boats, armed aircraft and bombing aeroplanes—all these weapons of war are malignant fruits of material civilization. Had material civilization been combined with divine civilization, these fiery weapons would never have been invented. Nay, rather human energy would have been wholly devoted to useful inventions and concentrated on praiseworthy discoveries. Material civilization is like a globe of glass. Divine civilization is the light itself, and the glass without the light is dark. Material civilization is like the body. No matter how infinitely graceful, elegant and beautiful it may be, it is dead. Divine civilization is like the spirit, and the body gets its life from the spirit, otherwise it becomes a corpse. It has thus been made evident that the world of mankind is in need of the breaths of the Holy Spirit. Without the spirit the world of mankind is lifeless, and without this light the world of mankind is in utter darkness’.
FOUNDATIONS OF WORLD UNITY
The Four Riders of the Apocalypse by Albrecht Durer
In 1912 in Boston, Massachusetts ‘Abdu’l-Bahá highlighted the immorality of war and international politics.
“A man who kills another man is punished by execution, but a military genius who kills one hundred thousand of his fellow creatures is immortalized as a hero. One man steals a small sum of money and is imprisoned as a thief. Another pillages a whole country and is honored as a patriot and conqueror. A single falsehood brings reproach and censure, but the wiles of politicians and diplomats excite the admiration and praise of a nation. Consider the ignorance and inconsistency of mankind. How darkened and savage are the instincts of humanity!”
The Promulgation of Universal Peace
It seems to me that humanity’s development is out of kilter. We have made many impressive advances in science and technology in the last one hundred and fifty years yet our spiritual development lags far behind. Sometimes our use of technology brings to mind the image of a loaded gun in the hands of a toddler. `Abdu’l-Bahá writes eloquently about the need for spiritual and material progress to be harmonised.
Now this luminous age has come, bringing with it wonderful civilization and material progress. Men’s intellects have widened, their perceptions grown, but alas, in spite of all this, fresh blood is being spilt day by day. Look at the present Turco-Italian war; consider for a moment the fate of these unhappy people! How many have been killed during this sad time? How many homes are ruined, wives desolate, and children orphans! And what is to be gained in exchange for all this anguish and heartache? Only a corner of the earth! This all shows that material progress alone does not tend to uplift man. On the contrary, the more he becomes immersed in material progress, the more does his spirituality become obscured. In times gone by progress on the material plane was not so rapid, neither was there bloodshed in such profusion. In ancient warfare there were no cannons, no guns, no dynamite, no shells, no torpedo boats, no battleships, no submarines. Now, owing to material civilization, we have all these inventions, and war goes from bad to worse! Europe itself has become like one immense arsenal, full of explosives, and may God prevent its ignition—for, should this happen, the whole world would be involved. I want to make you understand that material progress and spiritual progress are two very different things, and that only if material progress goes hand in hand with spirituality can any real progress come about
This passage seems especially relevant today. Despite our scientific prowess we appear to be engaged in a growing number of futile military interventions- serving only to increase the sum of human suffering. Why not put that energy to more positive use?