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Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era

  • Author:
  • J. E. Esslemont

  • Source:
  • US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1980 edition
  • Pages:
  • 286
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Pages 135-137


The teachings of Bahá’u’lláh contain two different types of reference to the question of true social order. One type is exemplified in the tablets revealed to the Kings, which deal with the problem of government as existing in the world during Bahá’u’lláh’s life on earth; the other references are to the new order to be developed within the Bahá’í community itself.
Hence arises the sharp contrast between such passages as: “The one true God, exalted be His glory, hath ever regarded, and will continue to regard, the hearts of men as His own, His exclusive possession. All else, whether pertaining to land or sea, whether riches or glory, He hath bequeathed unto the Kings and rulers of the earth”’ and “It beseemeth all men, in this Day, to take firm hold on the Most Great Name, and to establish the unity of all mankind. There is no place to flee to, no refuge that any one can seek, except Him.”—Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 206, 203.
The apparent incompatibility of these two views is removed when we observe the distinction which Bahá’u’lláh makes between the “Lesser Peace” and the “Most Great Peace.” In His 136 tablets to the Kings Bahá’u’lláh called upon them to assemble and take measures for the maintenance of political peace, the reduction of armaments and the removal of the burdens and insecurity of the poor. But His words make it perfectly clear that their failure to respond to the needs of the time would result in wars and revolutions leading to the overthrow of the old order. Therefore, on the one hand He said: “What mankind needeth in this day is obedience unto them that are in authority,” and on the other, “Those men who, having amassed the vanities and ornaments of the earth, have turned away disdainfully from God—these have lost both this world and the world to come. Ere long, will God, with the Hand of Power, strip them of their possessions, and divest them of the robe of His bounty.” “We have a fixed time for you, O peoples. If ye fail, at the appointed hour, to turn towards God, He, verily, will lay violent hold on you, and will cause grievous afflictions to assail you from every direction.” “The signs of impending convulsions and chaos can now be discerned, inasmuch as the prevailing order appeareth to be lamentably defective.” “We have pledged Ourselves to secure Thy triumph upon earth and to exalt Our Cause above all men, though no king be found who would turn his face towards Thee.” Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 207, 209, 214, 216, 248–249.
The Great Being, wishing to reveal the prerequisites of the peace and tranquillity of the world and the advancement of its peoples, hath written: The time must come when the imperative necessity for the holding of a vast, an all-embracing assemblage of men will be universally realized. The rulers and kings of the earth must needs attend it, and participating in its deliberations, must consider such ways and means as will lay the foundations of the world’s Great Peace amongst men. Such a peace demandeth that the Great Powers should resolve, for the sake of the tranquillity of the peoples of the earth, to be fully reconciled among themselves. Should any kind take up arms against another, all should unitedly arise and prevent him.—Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 249. 137 By such counsel, Bahá’u’lláh revealed the conditions under which public responsibility must be discharged in this Day of God. Appealing for international solidarity on the one hand, He no less clearly warned the rulers that continuance of strife would destroy their power. Now modern history confirms this warning, in the rise of those coercive movements which in all civilized nations have attained such destructive energy, and in the development of warfare to the degree that victory is no longer attainable by any party. “Now that ye have refused the Most Great Peace, hold ye fast unto this, the Lesser Peace, that haply ye may in some degree better your own condition and that of your dependents.” “That which the Lord hath ordained as the sovereign remedy and mightiest instrument for the healing of all the world is the union of all its peoples in one universal Cause, one common Faith. This can in no wise be achieved except through the power of a skilled, an all-powerful and inspired Physician.”—Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 254, 255.
By the Lesser Peace is meant a political unity of states, while the Most Great Peace is a unity embracing spiritual as well as political and economic factors. “Soon will the present-day order be rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead.”—Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 7.
In former ages, a government could concern itself with external matters and material affairs, but today the function of government demands a quality of leadership, of consecration and of spiritual knowledge impossible save to those who have turned to God.