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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 199-201

The Dawn of Reconciliation

In the last half century or so, however, a change has come over the spirit of the times, a New Light of Truth has arisen which has already made the controversies of last century seem strangely out of date. Where are now the boastful materialists and dogmatic atheists who, only a few short years ago, were threatening to drive religion out of the world? And where are the preachers who so confidently consigned those who did not accept their dogmas to the fires of hell and the tortures of the damned? Echoes of their clamor we may still hear, but their day is fast declining and their doctrines are being discredited. 200 We can see now that the doctrines around which their controversies waxed most bitter were neither true science nor true religion. What scientist in the light of modern psychical research could still maintain that “brain secretes thought as the liver secretes bile”? Or that decay of the body is necessarily accompanied by decay of the soul? We now see that thought to be really free must soar to the realms of psychical and spiritual phenomena and not be confined to the material only. We realize that what we now know about nature is but as a drop in the ocean compared with what remains to be discovered. We therefore freely admit the possibility of miracles, not indeed in the sense of the breaking of nature’s laws, but as manifestations of the operation of subtle forces which are still unknown to us, as electricity and X rays were to our ancestors. On the other hand, who amongst our leading religious teachers would still declare it is necessary to salvation to believe that the world was made in six days, or that the description of the plagues in Egypt as given in the Book of Exodus is literally true, or that the sun stood still in the heavens (that is, that the earth stopped its rotation) to let Joshua pursue his enemies, or that if a man accept not the creed of St. Athanasius, “without doubt he shall perish everlastingly”? Such beliefs may still be repeated in form, but who accepts them in their literal sense and without reservation? Their hold on people’s hearts and minds has gone or is fast going. The religious world owes a debt of gratitude to the men of science who helped to tear such worn-out creeds and dogmas to tatters and allowed the truth to step forth free. But the scientific world owes an even heavier debt to the real saints and mystics who, through good report and ill, held to the vital truths of spiritual existence and demonstrated to an incredulous world that the life is more than meat and the unseen greater than the seen. these scientists and saints were like the mountain peaks which caught the first rays of the rising sun and reflected them to the lower world, but now the sun has risen and its rays are illuminating the world. In the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh we have a glorious revelation of truth which satisfies both heart and mind, in which religion and science are at one. 201 Search after Truth
Complete harmony with science is evident in the Bahá’í teachings regarding the way in which we must seek the truth. Man must cut himself free from all prejudice so that he may search after truth unhindered.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá says:—
In order to find truth we must give up our prejudices, our own small trivial notions; an open receptive mind is essential. If our chalice is full of self, there is no room in it for the water of life. The fact that we imagine ourselves to be right and everybody else wrong is the greatest of all obstacles in the path towards unity, and unity is essential if we would reach Truth, for Truth is one. …

No one truth can contradict another truth. Light is good in whatsoever lamp it is burning! A rose is beautiful in whatsoever garden it may bloom! A star has the same radiance if it shines from the East or from the West! Be free from prejudice; so will you love the Sun of Truth from whatever point in the horizon it may arise. You will realize that if the Divine Light of Truth shone in Jesus Christ, it also shone in Moses and Buddha. This is what is meant by the search after truth.

It also means that we must be willing to clear away all that we have previously learned, all that would clog our steps on the way to Truth; we must not shrink, if necessary, from beginning our education all over again. We must not allow our love for any one religion or any one personality so to blind our eyes that we become fettered by superstition. When we are freed from all these bonds, seeking with liberal minds, then shall we be able to arrive at our goal.