April 8, 2017

Materialistic and spiritual “pathways” in the world of humanity; Teachings of Baha’u’llah

June 9, 1912
Baptist Temple,
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

I have the utmost pleasure this evening in being present. Truly this is an assembly gathered together in the utmost condition of spirituality. I perceive the fragrance of spiritual susceptibilities of the Kingdom among you -- devotion to God, sincere intention and spiritually. Glad Tidings!

From the beginning of the creation of Adam up to our day, there have been in the world of humanity two pathways, one the natural or materialistic pathway, the other the religious pathway.

The pathway of nature is the pathway of the animal realm. The animal acts in accordance with the requirements of nature -- it can do whatsoever it may desire. Whatsoever its proclivities may be, it can gratify them -- it is a captive of nature. The animal cannot deviate one hair's breadth from the natural pathway. It is utterly minus spiritual susceptibilities, it is utterly ignorant of the Divine Religion, it is utterly uninformed of the Kingdom of God. The animal has no part in the power of ideation or conscious intelligence; it is a captive of sense perceptions; deprived of that which is beyond the plane of the senses. That which the eye of the animal sees, the ear hears, the nostrils sense and the taste detects, that which it can feel by the sense of touch these are the five senses to which the animal is captive and subject. The result of these sensations are acceptable to him. But that which is beyond the sensibilities, that which is from the conscious pathway to the Kingdom of God, the spiritual susceptibilities, the Divine Religion, of these the animal is completely unaware, for the animal is utterly a captive of nature.

One of the strangest things witnessed is that the materialists are proud of their natural proclivities. They state, that which is sensible or tangible is worthy of credence, but that which is not within the realm of the sense perceptions is unreasonable. By their own statements they are captives of the senses. Of the spiritual world they are uninformed: of the Divine Kingdom they are unaware; of the Divine bestowal they are unconscious. If this be a virtue, the animal has attained to a superlative degree, for the animal is absolutely unaware of and not at all in touch with the spiritual realm.

The animal, too, would totally deny the existence of that which is beyond the senses. If we grant that to be subject to the senses is a virtue, then the animal is the most virtuous, for the animal is entirely bereft of that which lies beyond, entirely uninformed of the Kingdom God; whereas God has deposited within the human creature a colossus of power whereby he can rule the world of nature.

Consider how all the phenomenal beings are captives of nature! This tremendous sun, the center of our solar systems is a captive of nature. These immense stars and planets, the great mountains, this globe the earth, the mineral the vegetable and all other kingdoms beneath the human are captives of nature, except man. Other phenomenal beings cannot deviate one hair's breadth from natural law. The sun with all its glory and greatness, millions of miles from this earth of ours, cannot deviate in the least degree from the law of nature; it cannot wander one inch from its orbit; it is a captive of the materialistic law of nature.

But man is the ruler of nature. Consider: According to the law of nature man should remain upon the earth. But man transcends this law and soars aloft in airships, dives in submarines and sails upon the surface of the ocean. Man has been able to harness the tremendous energy of electricity and imprison it in a small lamp. He can communicate from the East to the West in a moment. He is able to confine the voice in the phonograph. He is a dweller upon the earth, yet he penetrates the mysteries of the distant stars. He discovers the realities latent within the bosom of the earth, uncovers treasures and reveals secrets and mysteries of the phenomenal world, which, according to nature, should be the unfathomable and latent secrets. According to natural law they should remain hidden, but man through an ideal, invisible power can discover these realities and bring them forth from the invisible plane to the visible. This is contrary to nature's law.

Therefore, it becomes evident that man is ruler over the province of nature. Nature is not advancing whereas man is progressing. Nature has no consciousness whereas man is endowed with it. Nature has no volition, it does things perforce whereas man possesses volition. Nature is incapable of discovering mysteries or realities whereas man is empowered to do so. Nature is not in touch with the realm of God whereas man is in tune there with. Nature is uninformed of God but man is conscious of God. Man can acquire virtues whereas nature is bereft of them. Man can voluntarily discontinue vices whereas nature cannot. It is evident that man is more noble, superior to nature; that in him there is ideal power surpassing nature.

Man has consciousness and volition whereas nature is devoid; man is endowed with memory which nature lacks; man is endowed with the power of intelligence whereas nature is bereft; man is empowered with ideal attributes and virtues whereof nature is utterly deprived. Hence man is nobler than nature because of the ideal force latent and manifest in him.

How strange then it seems that man, notwithstanding his endowment with these ideal powers, will descend to a level beneath him and adore that which is very inferior to his station. God has created such a holy spirit within him that he is the most noble of all contingent beings. In ignoring these virtues, he becomes a captive of matter, considers matter as a god and denies that which lies beyond the natural plane. Is this virtue? This in its fullest truth is animalistic, for the animal realizes nothing but the natural. In fact, the animal is the greater philosopher because it is utterly ignorant of the Kingdom of God, possesses no spiritual susceptibilities and is uninformed of the Heavenly World. In short this is the pathway of nature.

The second pathway is that of religion, which is the pathway of the Divine realm. It involves the acquisition of praiseworthy attributes in the world of humanity, heavenly radiance and commendable actions. This pathway is conducive to the progress and uplift of the world. It is the source of the illumination of the world of humanity; the cause of human training and ethical improvement. It is the magnet which attracts the love of God, because of the knowledge of God it bestows. This is the foundation of the Holy Manifestations of God, for they are in reality the foundation of the Divine Religion of Oneness. There is no change or transformation in this pathway. It is the cause of human betterment, the acquisition of heavenly virtues, and illumination of human kind.

But alas! that humanity is submerged so utterly in imitations, although the Reality of Divine Religion is ever the same. Most regrettable is it that superstitions have obscured the Reality, so that the world has become darkened and the illumination of Religion is not apparent. This darkness is conducive to differences because dogmas and rites are various and have become the cause of discord between the religious systems whereas Religion is for the unification of mankind. Religion is the cause of love amongst men, the cause of amity, the cause of the acquisition of praiseworthy qualities, but people have become submerged in the sea of imitation, and holding to these counterfeits, are utterly negligent of the Reality which unifies and are bereft of the radiance of Religion. They are holding to superstitions which are a heritage from their fathers and ancestors. To the extent that these imitations have caused darkness, they have taken away the light of Religion. That which was meant to be conducive of life has become conducive of death; that which was an evidence of knowledge has become a proof of ignorance; that which was a factor in the sublimity of human nature has proved to be a cause of its degradation. Therefore, the realm of the religionist has gradually disappeared and become darkened and the world of the materialist has daily advanced. For that which the former held to was no other than counterfeit or imitation, while holiness and sacred Reality of Religion was neglected and discarded.

When the sun sets, it is the time for bats to fly. They soar because they are birds of the night. As the light of Religion became darkened, the materialistic birds began to fly. They are the bats of night. As the sun of religion sets it is their time for activity. The world has been darkened and clouds have spread over it.

His Holiness Baha’u’llah has appeared from the eastern horizon. Like unto a sun He has come into the world. He has reflected the Reality of Divine Religion and dispelled the darkness of imitation, He has laid down the foundation for new Teachings, and thereby resuscitated the earth.

The first teaching of Baha’u’llah is the investigation of Reality. Man must investigate Reality himself, forsaking imitation. As the nations of the world are pursuing certain imitations and imitations are various, the differences have been productive of strife and warfare. So long as these imitations remain, the oneness of the world of humanity is impossible. Therefore we must investigate the Reality in order that through Its Light this darkness may be dispelled. For Reality is One Reality. It does not accept multiplicity or division. If all the nations of the world investigate Reality, they will agree and 'become united.

Many people and sects in Persia have investigated the Reality. They have become united and agreed and now live in a state of utmost unity and accord, agreement and love; there is no longer the least trace of strife or disagreement amongst them.

Consider! The Jews were expecting the appearance of the Messiah, looking forward to it with heart and soul. But because they were submerged in imitation, they did not believe in His Holiness Jesus Christ when He appeared, and finally arose against Him, even to the point of persecution. Had they investigated Reality, they would have accepted their promised Messiah. These blind imitations fill the world with darkness, cause warfare and become the cause of rancor and hatred. Therefore, we must investigate Realty in order to extricate ourselves from all these conditions. Thus may our faces become illumined and may we find the pathway to the Kingdom of God.

The second teaching of Baha’u’llah concerns the unity of mankind. All mankind is one family and all are the servants of God. God has created all; all are the children of God; God provides for all; God rears and nurtures all; God is kind to all. Why should we be unkind? This is the policy of God, the lights of which have shown up the whole world; His sun is shining upon all; His clouds send down rain upon all; His breezes refresh all. Therefore, it becomes evident that humankind without exception is sheltered beneath His protection. At most some are imperfect, they must be perfected; some are ignorant, they must be taught; some are ill, they must be treated; some are asleep, they must be awakened. The child must not be oppressed because he is a child, he must be educated; the patient must not be neglected because he is sick, nay rather one must entertain compassion for him, he must be healed. This makes it evident that the animosity which exists between the religious systems must be dispelled, and conditions of love and amity be entertained by them all.

The third teaching of Baha’u’llah is that Religion must be the cause of amity, the cause of unification and the nearness of God to man. If Religion be the cause of animosity and warfare, then surely non religion is better than religion, and an irreligious man is better than one who is religious. Nay, on the contrary Religion must be the cause of love, a bond to unify all humanity, a message from God.

The fourth teaching of Baha’u’llah is that Religion must correspond with science. For God has endowed man with mind or reason whereby he is required to determine the verity of propositions. If religious questions be contrary to the standards of science, they are no other than pure superstition and imagination. For the opposite of knowledge is ignorance. Unquestionably religion must agree with science. It must be reasonable in order that it may instill man with confidence. If a question be contrary to reason and science, it is impossible for man to attain confidence; he will always be vacillating.

Everything that nurtures prejudice, whether that prejudice be religious, sectarian, patriotic or political, is a destroyer of the firm foundation of humanity. Prejudice is the destroyer of human happiness, no matter what form it assumes. Until existing prejudices pass away it is impossible for the world of humanity to advance. Everywhere we witness religious, racial, sectarian, patriotic or political bias or partisanship.

For six thousand years the world of humanity has been restless and the cause of its restlessness is prejudice. As long as prejudice remains, warfare will continue, animosity and hatred will prevail. Therefore, if we seek to establish peace we must cast aside all these prejudices for otherwise it is impossible to find agreement and composure.

Fifth: Among the teachings of Baha’u’llah are principles which concern the readjustment of livelihood, that is to say, certain regulations are revealed which insure the welfare and well-being of all humanity. Just as the rich man enjoys his rest and his pleasures surrounded by luxuries, the poor man must likewise have a home be provided with sustenance, and not be in want. In order that all human kind may be at ease, the readjustment of the economic situation is necessary and of the utmost importance; until this is effected, happiness is impossible.

Sixth: The equalization of rights. All are equal in the estimation of God; their rights are one and there is no distinction for any soul; all are protected beneath the justice of God.

Seventh: The same education for all mankind is a necessity. All the standards of education in schools must be the same, that is to say the same curriculum should be followed and the basis of ethics should be one.

Eighth: The oneness of language, namely that a universal language shall be adopted which shall be taught by all the schools and academies of the world. A committee appointed by national bodies of learning shall elect a suitable language to be used as a means of international communication, and that language shall be taught in all the schools of the world in order that everyone shall need but two languages, his national tongue and the universal language. All will acquire the international language. This is one of the great factors in the unification of man.

Among the principles of Baha’u’llah is one which concerns the equality of men and women; that men and women are all the progeny of Adam. For female and the male gender are not particularized to humanity. Gender also exists in the vegetable and animal kingdoms, but without distinction or preference. Consider that in the vegetable kingdom there is no preference whatsoever between male and female; there is complete equality. Likewise in the animal kingdom, between male and the female there is no preference whatever; all are beneath the protection of God. Man is the noblest of creatures. Is it becoming that he should observe such distinction? Unquestionably it is not. The lack of progress and development by women has been due to the lack of equal education. If women had been educated equally with men, there is no doubt that they would be the peers of men, and that the capacities of the men would be acquired by them. The happiness of mankind will be realized when women advance equally with men. Then will it be complete. The happiness of mankind will be realized when women advance equally with men. Then will it be complete.

The ninth principle which He set forth is that the world of humanity cannot truly advance through mere physical powers and intellectual attainments. Nay rather, in order that the world may really and wonderfully advance, the protection of the Holy Spirit is needed; the Divine Father must assist the human world to attain maturity. The human body is in need of material force, but the spirit has need of the Holy Spirit. Were it not for the protection of the Holy Spirit the human world would be extinguished.

His Holiness Jesus Christ declared "Let the dead bury the dead." This statement of His Holiness indicates “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit," and it becomes manifest that the human spirit which is not protected beneath the Holy Spirit is dead. It is clear that the human spirit is in need of the resuscitation of the Holy Spirit, otherwise though materially advanced, man cannot attain frill and complete progress. 
- 'Abdu'l-Baha (Star of the West, vol. 5, no. 7, July 13, 1914)