- Baha’is believe in the power of prayer and you’ll find Baha’is and their friends, throughout the world, getting together to pray. This is often referred to as a ‘devotional gathering’ or ‘devotional meeting’, and they happen in diverse settings, whether in cities or villages.
At this year’s Association for Baha’is Studies conference, I was part of a seminar in which the participants were asked to read Journey to Earthland by Paul Raskin. It is a small and, in my opinion after reading it, a very important book for anyone currently living on planet Earth to read.
After finishing Journey to Earthland, I immediately re-read two letters from Shoghi Effendi in The World Order of Baha’u’llah: “The Goal of a New World Order” and “The Unfoldment of World Civilization.” I was struck by the accordance between these letters and Journey to Earthland, which I’d like to explore further here.
First, something that jumped out at me was the strong language that Shoghi Effendi used to describe the main topic also central to Journey to Earthland, namely, the transition to a planetary civilization with its implication of the oneness of humankind. Shoghi Effendi described it as “the cornerstone” 1 and the “pivot round which all the teachings of Baha’u’llah revolve.” 2 In addition, he said it was the “sine qua non of loyalty to His Cause.” 3 Of course, since I don’t know Latin, I had to look up sine qua non, and found that it means “an essential condition, something that is absolutely necessary.” Cornerstone, pivot and absolutely essential! Wow!
Much like in “The Goal of a New World Order”, Journey to Earthland outlines the major evolutions of human history and describes a transition underway which we are all living through: “The Planetary Phase of Human Civilization”, a single “country” named “Earthland”. One could not fail to be struck by the similarities between this concept and name given to it, and the far-sighted words of Baha’u’llah penned a century and a half earlier: “the Earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens”!
Raskin provides three alternative scenarios that could play out as this new future unfolds: “Conventional Worlds” (incremental adjustment), “Barbarization” (calamitous discontinuity), and “Great Transitions” (progressive transformation). While one would have to read the book to understand the many nuances involved in each scenario, at a high level, these three scenarios bring to my mind this statement made by the Universal House of Justice in The Promise of World Peace: “Whether peace is to be reached only after unimaginable horrors precipitated by humanity’s stubborn clinging to old patterns of behaviour, or is to be embraced now by an act of consultative will, is the choice before all who inhabit the earth.” 4
There were two concepts mentioned in Journey to Earthland that I found particularly interesting as far as the Baha’i community of today is concerned. The first is the idea of a “Global Citizens Movement” which plays a key role in empowering the more optimistic “Great Transitions” scenario. Raskin describes this movement as “prodding befogged and irresolute governments into acting” and calling for “planetary social democracy.” He describes how this movement enables a transition of values away from the “prevailing pre-transition ethos – consumerism, individualism, and anthropocentrism” to “quality of life, human solidarity, and ecocentrism.” What struck me is that a key potential piece of this “Global Citizens Movement” described in the book already exists in every country on earth and it is actively engaged in much of the work called for in the book: the worldwide Baha’i community!
The other idea is concerning spirituality and religion. In the positive scenario of “Great Transitions”, Raskin describes how “the old religions were transmogrifying and reinventing themselves as the strong bearers of planetary values that they have become. The Great Transition was in no small measure a struggle for the soul of the church, mosque, temple and synagogue.” It is striking how, from a Baha’i perspective, this is exactly the point! All the so-called “old religions” are in fact the chapters of the same Book, and they have literally been helping to prepare humanity for this Day we live in now. That a new chapter of this ever-unfolding story of humankind would have to be written is baked into the very storyline of those previous chapters (religions), and now a new chapter has, is and must be written! This call for the world’s religions to evolve to meet the needs of an emerging planetary civilization brings to mind the Message of the Universal House of Justice to the World’s Religious Leaders in 2002.
Reading these works also led me to re-read the letter from the Universal House of Justice dated 18 January 2019 on the subject of establishing World Peace. In this letter, the House of Justice quotes Abdu’l-Baha, who said: “our desire for peace is not derived merely from the intellect: It is a matter of religious belief and one of the eternal foundations of the Faith of God.” It goes on to say, “Today the benefits of universal peace are recognized amongst the people, and likewise the harmful effects of war are clear and manifest to all. But in this matter, knowledge alone is far from sufficient: A power of implementation is needed to establish it throughout the world.” And then, the House of Justice provides the framework for this implementation, again bringing to my mind the “Global Citizens Movement” discussed by Raskin and the need for a change of heart and perspective among the peoples of the world: “The devoted efforts that you and your like-minded collaborators are making to build communities founded on spiritual principles, to apply those principles for the betterment of your societies, and to offer the insights arising—these are the surest ways you can hasten the fulfillment of the promise of world peace.”
I hope many readers of this article will get a chance to read Journey to Earthland and the other works referenced above. If you have, I would love to read your thoughts and reactions. Please share them in the comments!
- Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 36
- Ibid. p.42
- Ibid. p.37
- The Universal House of Justice, The Promise of World Peace, paragraph 2
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