The Bahá'í Faith - Religion Reborn for a New Era
By Roxanne Lalonde and Stephen Fuqua circa 1997 (updated May, 2006)
Originally written for a publication called the Global Spirituality Report in 1997, this piece by Roxanne Lalonde and Stephen Fuqua is an introduction to the Bahá’í Faith written in the context of spiritual and religious renewal for the current state of humanity’s development.
“What hath God wrought?” On May 23, 1844, Samuel Morse ushered in a new era in human history with this question. Morse couldn’t have known how significant these words, quoted from the Old Testament Book of Numbers (Numbers 23:23), would be. In time, his invention — and the many others it would spawn — would bring humanity closer together than anyone ever thought possible. Uniting the world with a brilliant web of interconnectivity, his was not the only force at work that day. A force far greater was also being released thousands of miles away in a society that had descended from past glory into one of the most decadent and corrupted cultures on the planet at that time.
On May 23, 1844, in the trading center of Shiraz, Persia, a young merchant named Sayyid ‘Ali Muhammad declared Himself to be the Báb, the Gate to the Promised One of God, the Herald for the fulfillment of ancient prophesies arising from diverse religious traditions around the world. And thus were born the seedlings for what would soon be revealed as the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, the Glory of God, today’s Messenger of God, whose rejuvenating spirit, whose revitalizing breath, whose very life-giving essence, has brought new hope and a new vision to the world of humanity.
The Báb’s declaration was not unanticipated. In many parts of the world in the early to mid-19th century, followers of diverse religious traditions were seeking just such an Announcement. Many people at that time were infused with feelings of expectation and imminent divine revelation. Christians were seeking the Return of Christ. Moslems were seeking the promised Qá’ím. Contemporary Mormons find their inspiration in the teachings of Joseph Smith, who himself was inspired by the Divine Energy radiating at that time. There were also other individuals and groups like the German Templars, the Seventh-Day Adventists, and the Jehovah Witnesses who felt powerful spiritual vibrations during that time. This spiritual rejuvenation was also felt and expressed by those outside conventional religious circles. The works of the Romantic poets and painters embodied a spirit of rebirth that uplifted the hearts and souls of all they encountered.
Bahá’u’lláh’s Mission and Message was and is world-embracing. Long before air travel and global telecommunications led to characterizations of the planet as a “global village,” Bahá’u’lláh wrote: “The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.” A century before contemporary thinkers and visionaries began expressing notions of mass consciousness and spiritual rejuvenation, Bahá’u’lláh was astounding his contemporaries with statements like the following:
“The world’s equilibrium hath been upset through the vibrating influence of this most great, this new World Order. Mankind’s ordered life hath been revolutionized through the agency of this unique, this wondrous System, the like of which mortal eyes have never witnessed.”
Immerse yourselves in the ocean of My words, that ye may unravel its secrets, and discover all the pearls of wisdom that lie hid in its depths. Take heed that ye do not vacillate in your determination to embrace the truth of this Cause — a Cause through which the potentialities of the might of God have been revealed, and His sovereignty established. With faces beaming with joy, hasten ye unto Him. This is the changeless Faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future. Let him that seeketh, attain it; and as to him that hath refused to seek it — verily, God is Self-Sufficient, above any need of His creatures.
Say: This is the infallible Balance which the Hand of God is holding, in which all who are in the heavens and all who are on the earth are weighed, and their fate determined, if ye be of them that believe and recognize this truth. Say: Through it the poor have been enriched, the learned enlightened, and the seekers enabled to ascend unto the presence of God. Beware, lest ye make it a cause of dissension amongst you. Be ye as firmly settled as the immovable mountain in the Cause of your Lord, the Mighty, the Loving.”
~Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 136-37
Bahá’u’lláh’s writings provide unwavering guidance to lead humanity both collectively and individually to a rejuvenated relationship with our Creator. Those writings embody principles designed to establish the reconciliation of all rivalries, to abolish all forms of prejudice, and to unify the human species once and for all. Rather than replacing or renouncing previous divine Revelations, Bahá’u’lláh’s mission is a fulfillment of their prophecies that for centuries have pointed humanity towards its long-awaited and long-sought era of peace.
Specific principles upheld by Bahá’ís the world-over — advocated by Bahá’u’llah Himself — include:
- the oneness of mankind;
- universal peace upheld by a world federation;
- the duty of each individual to investigate the nature of reality for himself;
- the common foundation of religions;
- the harmony and balance of science and religion;
- equality of women and men;
- elimination of all forms of prejudice;
- spiritual solutions to the world’s economic problems;
- and a universal auxiliary language, among others.
These are not the only issues of social importance that Bahá’ís hold dear and strive to disseminate about the globe. They are also not the only aspects of the Bahá’í Faith — for Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings are first and foremost spiritual in nature, not physical. It is from spiritual understandings that these progressive physical stances are derived.
These issues will hardly be new to most readers — we have been inundated with ideas along these lines for decades now. Bahá’ís believe that the spirit of these teachings has itself spread across the world — an enervating spirit that has uplifted humanity without humanity knowing the source. While they may seem old hat to some, Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings were revolutionary in the mid-to-late eighteenth century Persia; indeed, they were revolutionary no matter what region of the world you place them at this time.