Sunday, 15 October 2017

It started two hundred years ago…

The Figure we know as Bahá’u’lláh was born in the autumn of 1817. He opened a new stage in the history of religion, by founding a Cause built on the re-affirmation of all the great religions of the past. He founded a Cause built on the idea of unity – of all human beings belonging to one great extended family. He founded a Cause to be spread through kindness and example, not through fear, violence and the exercise of power. He founded a Cause whose primary purpose is to bring the diverse populations of different parts of the planet to work together, to think of themselves as one organic whole.

Bahá’u’lláh claimed that the inspiration for His teachings was from God Himself – the “Great Being”, the “Unknowable Essence”, the creative force behind the entire universe. He claimed that He was the One promised in each of the world’s great religions. He declared that this age will be the one in which the followers of each religion will recognise the truth and wisdom in all the others:
“There can be no doubt whatever that the peoples of the world, of whatever race or religion, derive their inspiration from one heavenly Source, and are the subjects of one God. The difference between the ordinances under which they abide should be attributed to the varying requirements and exigencies of the age in which they were revealed. All of them, except a few which are the outcome of human perversity, were ordained of God, and are a reflection of His Will and Purpose.”

Born into a wealthy family in Persia, He became an early believer in the necessarily short-lived religion of the Báb, Who announced that He was preparing the way for the World Teacher about to come, and Who was executed by the authorities in 1850. Bahá’u’lláh was thrown into a dungeon, where He was chained in filthy conditions in the pitch dark. It was here that He had the intense spiritual experience which intimated to Him that He was to be the promised Messenger of God for the world: “I was but a man like others… when lo, the breezes of the All-Glorious were wafted over Me, and taught Me the knowledge of all that hath been.” Although many of His companions were led out to be executed, Bahá’u’lláh was instead banished first to Baghdad, later to Constantinople, and finally to Akká, the prison city in Palestine.

Despite the intense suffering - the imprisonments, the banishments and various attempts on His life – Bahá’u’lláh continued to teach and inspire those round Him and to proclaim the basic principles on which civilisation should be built in this new age. He taught that each individual has the right to seek out truth for themselves; that all kinds of prejudice should be abandoned; that all humankind should be seen as one people. He emphasised that women and men should be recognised as equal; that a fair economic system should be developed which is based on spiritual principles, and that a form of world government should be established. One language should be chosen or created which can be used as a means of communication between the different peoples of the world: “It behoveth the sovereigns of the world… or the ministers of the earth to take counsel together and to adopt one of the existing languages or a new one to be taught to children in schools throughout the world, and likewise one script. Thus the whole earth will come to be regarded as one country.”

Throughout the world, Bahá’ís are now celebrating the bicentenary of Bahá’u’lláh’s birth: in cities, towns and villages in virtually every country and every group of islands. But far from resting, and being satisfied with what has been achieved, the Bahá’ís know that their efforts need to be intensified – for example, to extend the numbers of classes for children, where they learn how to be happy and helpful to others, plus empowerment groups for teens and pre-teens which emphasise personal growth and service to the community. An increasing number of people who are not Bahá’ís are helping with this community-building work.

In two hundred years the Bahá’í Faith has grown from obscure beginnings to a vibrant community of several million people. Bahá’ís, of whatever background, are united in their efforts to put into practice Bahá’u’lláh’s vision of a happy and prosperous world for all. After two hundred years an important milestone has been reached, but there is still so much more to do, and so much more to be achieved.


A website has been set up which is now posting messages sent to the Bahá’ís by national and local leaders, artistic endeavours which have been started because of the bicentenary, and giving more background on the life of Bahá’u’lláh Himself. It will also include details of community events as they happen. It can be accessed at

Thursday, 5 October 2017

A breath of life to the body of mankind

On October 1st, 2017, a gunman opened fire on a concert 32 floors below his Las Vegas hotel window. He had with him a large number of weapons, and he had rigged up cameras in the corridor so that he could see when any police officers were approaching him. He killed 58 people, and injured 520 more. He had no known political affiliation, was not known to have any mental problems, and unlike so many killers, he was not known to the police. It is, however, interesting to note that the police once regarded his father as being psychopathic.

So what were his motives? Was it sheer jealousy, that other people seemed to gain happiness from life, while he could not? Was it resentment of others, or desire for revenge for some real or imagined slight or injustice? Was it some kind of desire for recognition, as a skilled man who thought he had accomplished much, but to society was a complete unknown? As a hardened gambler, he would have belief either in luck, getting him something for nothing, or in his unrecognised skills in playing with the odds. As this man did with his final act, a gambler risks a lot, but with no guarantee of success. Was it pure nihilism: his life was going nowhere, so why should other people’s lives go anywhere?

What is missing in the lives of mass killers and serial killers? Whether they act alone, or under some spurious banner, surely they must have deficiencies in their lives or in their make-up. Perhaps what is missing is compassion, or empathy, or love for their fellow human beings. Perhaps they are lacking in self-control, or in a sense of proportion. Most people accept that at one level they are just one person among millions, and many realise that our planet is itself just one among billions. Most people, therefore, do not exalt their own importance. Perhaps the mass killer has an exaggerated sense of his/her importance.

Perhaps what is missing is a personal link to God. Bahá’u’lláh said: “The vitality of men's belief in God is dying out in every land… The corrosion of ungodliness is eating into the vitals of human society.” A religion, in its true and uncorrupted form, gives a fixed point for morals. “Thou shalt not kill” and “Thou shalt not covet…” seem to have been forgotten. Religion gives a respect for the law. In the United States, it is illegal to buy or sell automatic weapons. By upgrading his weapons to convert them to automatics, the killer in Las Vegas was defying the law. Murder, by its very definition, is against the law. True religion also gives what we used to call “fear of God”, but would be better expressed as respect for divine authority. The mass killer has no fear of man. Perhaps a realisation that he will have to answer to the Ultimate is part of what is missing. Religion should also give each person a positive and constructive belief system, and it should give the individual a personal link to God. It is worth noting that the lost and bewildered youngsters who join ISIS or Al-Qaeda perform their murderous acts on behalf of some twisted leader, and not through a strong, personal relationship with God. Perhaps what is missing in their lives is any form of spiritual awareness, and particularly personal prayer – conversation with God.

Large portions of mankind have turned their backs on the whole idea of believing in God and taking guidance from religion. But Bahá’u’lláh taught that the governments of the world would come to realise that true religion is a force for stability in the world. Bahá’u’lláh’s Son, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, stated that “among the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh is that religion is a mighty bulwark…. the religion of God prevents both the manifest and the concealed crime, trains man [and] educates morals.”

One individual, in charge of a firearm, a car, a truck, explosives, acid, even a knife, can cause so much misery, and clearly needs to have a noble set of goals to aspire to rather than the hostile negativity so many seem to turn to. Here is what Bahá’u’lláh offered as a set of personal goals:

"Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbour, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face. Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer to the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge. Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men. Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression. Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all thine acts. Be a home for the stranger, a balm to the suffering, a tower of strength for the fugitive. Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be an ornament to the countenance of truth, a crown to the brow of fidelity, a pillar of the temple of righteousness, a breath of life to the body of mankind, an ensign of the hosts of justice, a luminary above the horizon of virtue, a dew to the soil of the human heart, an ark on the ocean of knowledge, a sun in the heaven of bounty, a gem on the diadem of wisdom, a shining light in the firmament of thy generation, a fruit upon the tree of humility.”

As individuals, we need to turn outwards, to others, to ensure that we have a positive effect on society. We need to be “a breath of life to the body of mankind.”