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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 163-166

Universal Language

Having glanced at the principal causes of war and how they may be avoided, we may now proceed to examine certain constructive proposals made by Bahá’u’lláh with a view to achieving the Most Great Peace.
The first deals with the establishment of a universal auxiliary language. Bahá’u’lláh refers to this matter in the Book of Aqdas and in many of His Tablets. Thus in the Tablet of Ishráqát He says:—
The Sixth Ishráq (Effulgence) is Concord and Union amongst men. Through the radiance of Union have the regions of the world at all times been illumined, and the greatest of all means thereunto is the understanding of one another’s writing and speech. Ere this, in Our Epistles, have We commanded the Trustees of the House of Justice, either to choose one of the existing tongues, or to originate a new one, and in like manner to adopt a common script, teaching these to the children in all the schools of the world, that the world may become even as one land and one home.
About the time when this proposal of Bahá’u’lláh was first given to the world, there was born in Poland a boy named Ludovic Zamenhof, who was destined to play a leading part in carrying it into effect. Almost from his infancy, the ideal of a universal language became a dominant motive in Zamenhof’s life, and the result of his devoted labors was the invention and widespread adoption of the language known as Esperanto, which has now stood the test of many years and 164 has proved to be a very satisfactory medium of international intercourse. It has the great advantage that it can be mastered in about a twentieth part of the time required to master such languages as English, French or German. At an Esperanto banquet given in Paris in February 1913, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said:—
Today one of the chief causes of the differences in Europe is the diversity of languages. We say this man is a German, the other is an Italian, then we meet an Englishman and then again a Frenchman. Although they belong to the same race, yet language is the greatest barrier between them. Were a universal auxiliary language in operation they would all be considered as one.

His Holiness Bahá’u’lláh wrote about this international language more than forty years ago. He says that as long as an international language is not adopted, complete union between the various sections of the world will be unrealized, for we observe that misunderstandings keep people from mutual association, and these misunderstandings will not be dispelled except through an international auxiliary language.

Generally speaking, the whole people of the Orient are not fully informed of events in the West, neither can the Westerners put themselves in sympathetic touch with the Easterners; their thoughts are enclosed in a casket—the international language will be the master key to open it. Were we in possession of a universal language, the Western books could easily be translated into that language, and the Eastern peoples be informed of their contents. In the same way the books of the East could be translated into that language for the benefit of the people in the West. The greatest means of progress towards the union of East and West will be a common language. It will make the whole world one home and become the strongest impulse for human advancement. It will upraise the standard of the oneness of humanity. It will make the earth one universal commonwealth. It will be the cause 165 of love between the children of men. It will cause good fellowship between the various races.
Now, praise be to God that Dr. Zamenhof 1 has invented the Esperanto language. It has all the potential qualities of becoming the international means of communication. All of us must be grateful and thankful to him for this noble effort; for in this way he has served his fellowmen well. With untiring effort and self-sacrifice on the part of its devotees Esperanto will become universal. Therefore every one of us must study this language and spread it as far as possible so that day by day it may receive a broader recognition, be accepted by all nations and governments of the world, and become a part of the curriculum in all the public schools. I hope that Esperanto will be adopted as the language of all the future international conferences and congresses, so that all people need acquire only two languages—one their own tongue and the other the international language. Then perfect union will be established between all the people of the world. Consider how difficult it is today to communicate with various nations. If one studies fifty languages one may yet travel through a country and not know the language. Therefore I hope that you will make the utmost effort, so that this language of Esperanto may be widely spread.
While these allusions to Esperanto are specific and encouraging, it remains true that until the House of Justice has acted on the matter in accordance with Bahá’u’lláh’s instruction the Bahá’í Faith is not committed to Esperanto nor to any other living or artificial tongue. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself said: “The love and effort put into Esperanto will not be lost, but no one person can construct a Universal Language.”—‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London, p. 95.
Which language to adopt, and whether it is to be a natural 166 or constructed one, is a decision which the nations of the world will have to make.
1. It is of interest that Zamenhof’s daughter, Lydia, became an active Bahá’í.   [ Back To Reference]