The Religious Need of the Time
By Charles Mason Remey
(Part I published in "The Star of the West", Vol. 13 No. 1, March 21, 1922, pp 9-14)
In this day the religious formulae of the past — superstitions, creeds and dogmas — no longer ease the conscience of the world nor bring satisfaction to the mind of the individual adherent of these systems of thought. Humanity is in need of a spiritual power and knowledge with which to meet and solve the problems and conditions of this new day and age. Hence, the general changing and unsettled condition of the religious world which is causing a large and an increasing number of progressive people to quit thinking within the prescribed limits of the religious thought of the past, and to search diligently for those universal fundamental truths of the spiritual realm of life and being, the knowledge of which truths is the religion of God.
The Bahá'í Movement offers to the world an all-inclusive, universal, spiritual teaching, so broad that people of all races and of all creeds find place therein. It is essentially a religious movement, a spiritual teaching, free from the limitations of sect and "ism," and constructive in its building upon the true faith of the individual and upon the pure teachings of the past, thus increasing love and devotion to God and creating within each soul the desire to manifest the light of these divine attributes through brotherly service to one's fellow men.
The object of the Bahá'í Revelation is the religious unification of all people. The teaching has come into the world to fulfill all divine teaching of the past. It stands as the goal toward which truth has always worked, through its appearance in the prophets sent unto various peoples of the past ages, and it is the beginning of that age of divine enlightenment and peace, the coming of which has been the theme of all revelations of the past — The Kingdom of God on earth. Thus the Bahá'í Movement establishes the universal religion which is the foundation of inter-religious, inter-racial and international brotherhood and peace. It offers to mankind a practical basis of unity, one which is in direct line with the great world needs of this age, and it is paving the way for the great universal civilization which will evolve as people of all religions, races and nations unite both spiritually and materially into one great world people.
Man, being finite, can not comprehend the essence of the Infinite God, which is beyond any and all human conception. However, through the manifestation of the Spirit of God or "The Word," that power which has spoken to the world through the prophets and chosen ones of the past, humanity learns of God, knows His attributes, and is quickened by His Spirit.
Mankind needs and seeks spiritual guidance. This divine guidance has come to humanity through the instrumentality of the Manifestations of God or the prophets or Revealers of Truth. These chosen souls have been the founders of the great religious world-movements. They have manifested the Spirit of God to the people of the world, and through them men have God and have become quickened by the life of The Kingdom.
THE ONENESS OF THE MANIFESTATIONS
Though the personalities of the prophets differed, yet the divine power which spoke through each one was the same in spirit and reality. Each prophet revealed God and the law of the divine kingdom in proportion to the needs of the age to which he ministered, and in terms and parables familiar to its people.
In their purity, all religious teachings are in perfect accord; all teach the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. Human differences, imaginations and superstitions have been the causes of religious division, dissension and disintegration, but true spirituality has ever been the source and mainspring of man's unity in religion and advancement in civilization. Each of the great world civilizations has had it conception and birth in a spiritually active religion, and the downfall of civilizations has been brought about by spiritually lifeless religions, shrouded in forms and in superstitions.
THE NEW REVELATION
As the former ages have had certain spiritual or religious needs, so this present and coming universal age, upon the threshold of which the world no stands, has its own peculiar spiritual and religious needs. The world is now ready for the spiritual unity and harmony of its people. The universal religion now comes, in order that the universal civilization may be realized.
The prophets of the past foresaw this latter-day religious need, and they also foresaw the coming of two great teachers and prophets who would minister to the whole world, and fulfill the Covenant of God in establishing the universal religion or the Kingdom upon earth.
The Hebrew prophets dwelt at length upon the coming of the "Ancient of Days," and the glory of His epoch; Jesus, the Christ, spoke many times of His second coming and the establishment of His Father's Kingdom upon earth; the prophet Mohammed taught that the Mardi would come, followed by the Manifestation of God who would establish the Kingdom; Zoroaster taught of the triumph of light over darkness, of truth over ignorance, and His followers expect the promised One whom they call Shah Bahram, to accomplish this victory; Gautama, the Buddha, foretold the coming of the great fifth Buddha, who would bring enlightenment to all the world; the Hindu holy books mention another incarnation of Krishna, or the Divine Spirit, whose mission would be universal enlightenment; while the poets and prose writers of all times have depicted the beauty and the perfection of the utopian or millennial age, to be realized when The Great World Master appeared on earth to establish God's rule among the nations. In reality all testified to One who was to come. These promises of the prophets of old are now realized in the coming of the Bahá'í Revelators and in the movement which they have established, the people of the various religions find the fulfillment of the sacred teachings of the past, and also the solution of the great latter day problem of religious unity. The Bahá'í teaching confirms and completes all religious teachings which have gone before, and offers a practical philosophy which meets the present day spiritual needs of humanity.
On May 23, 1844, there arose in Shiraz, Persia, a young man, Ali Mohammed by name, who declared Himself to be the Báb, or the forerunner of "He whom God would manifest" — a great teacher, who was soon to appear with manifest signs of divine power, through whose teachings the religious unity of all peoples would be accomplished.
Through his purity of soul and spiritual wisdom the Báb drew unto Himself many followers who in turn promulgated His doctrines with so much fervor that within a short time many believed and joined His ranks.
The Báb was met early in his career of teaching by great opposition on the part of the Mussulman clergy and, at their instigation, was placed under military surveillance. In spite of this He continued His teaching, exhorting the people to holiness and sanctity of living, in order that they might be fitted to meet the Promised One, shortly to appear, and to become as mirrors which would reflect his spiritual perfection. Thus the first two years of His ministry passed, at the end of which time, He was seized, by the order of the opposing clerical authorities, and thrust into prison.
The Báb's imprisonment lasted four years, during which time He taught His followers through letters and epistles smuggled by faithful friends past the guards of the prison. This was followed by a trial in which He was condemned to death upon the charge of heresy. With one of His followers, He suffered martyrdom in the cause of Truth in the city of Tabriz, Persia, on July 9, 1850.
The mission of the Báb being that of precursor of "He whom God would manifest," the institutions and ordinances which he established were for the time being only. With the appearance of the Promised One, the followers (Bábís), were commanded to turn their faces unto Him, when He, who was to come, would reveal His teachings, divine laws and ordinances, thus completing the foundation of the Kingdom on earth.
The Báb was not alone in being persecuted by the Mussulmans, for with His martyrdom came upon His followers troubles of the most dire nature. Over twenty thousand of these willingly gave up property, family and life rather than deny or recant their faith. As late as 1901, there were one hundred and seventy souls martyred in this Cause at one time in Persia.
During the days of the Báb's ministry, while His cause was being promulgated by His followers through out Persia, there were many believers who never met with Him in person. Among these was Bahá'u'lláh, a young man of noble family, who warmly espoused the Cause publicly upholding and teaching it in Teheran. In 1852, shortly after the Báb's martyrdom, when the persecution of the Bábís was at its height, Bahá'u'lláh, with others of the new faith, was imprisoned in Teheran, and later on with a number of the followers was sent in exile to Baghdad in Irak, Arabia.
During the exile in Baghdad, Bahá'u'lláh, through His teachings and spiritual insight, gradually brought calmness and assurance to the believers. As the movement gained strength the clerical authorities began to show fear. This led to an international arrangement made between the Turkish and Persian government by which Bahá'u'lláh with a band of the followers was ordered to a more distant exile in Constantinople. In April, 1863, on the eve of his departure from the land of Irak, Bahá'u'lláh declared Himself to be the One whose coming the Báb had foretold, "He whom God would manifest."
From Constantinople the exiles were sent to Adrianople, where they remained until 1868, when they were finally sent to the fortified town of Akka (Acre), a penal colony on the Mediterranean just north of Mt. Carmel in Syria. There, in the land of Carmel, where "the coming of the Lord" in this latter day had been foretold by the prophets, Bahá'u'lláh lived and taught; many traveling from great distances to receive instructions from Him, while others received teaching through His writings.
With the coming of Bahá'u'lláh the mission and teachings of the Báb were fulfilled and complete; so from that time on the movement became known as the Bahá'í Movement, and the believers hitherto called Babís, became known as Bahá'ís, this new name being a derivative of Baha. In the spring of 1892 the mission of Bahá'u'lláh being finished, He passed quietly from this world.
During Bahá'u'lláh's ministry His revelation was complete, yet His cause was not explained nor established in the world in general. To this end He, in His testament, as well as in various parts of His teachings, commanded His followers upon his departure to turn their faces toward His eldest son, Abbas, more widely known by this title, "`Abdu'l-Bahá," whom He had chosen as their spiritual guide: "The Center of The Covenant" of God to the people of the world, the expounder of His teachings, the one who would establish this great movement and to explain and demonstrate it before the world — the one upon whose shoulders His mantle would fall.
`Abdu'l-Bahá was born in Teheran, Persia, on the 23rd day of May, 1844, the day upon which the Báb first declared His message. During all the trials and vicissitudes of the mission of Bahá'u'lláh, `Abdu'l-Bahá was at His right hand promulgating His cause and serving His followers. He was the first of all to recognize Bahá'u'lláh as the Promised One and to voice the mighty message of the coming mission of the "Lord of the ages."
`Abdu'l-Bahá wished to be known as the servant of humanity. He sought no higher station than this, yet when one understands all that this means one realizes the combination of humility and exaltation which it implies. He made but one claim for Himself, as to His spiritual station, that of service in the path of God. He signed Himself "`Abdu'l-Bahá Abbas," which, being translated, is "Abbas, the Servant of Bahá." `Abdu'l-Bahá was acknowledged by the Bahá'ís as their spiritual leader, and the one to be emulated in the teaching of this great Faith in the world. He, through His example, brought the spiritual life of Bahá'u'lláh within the reach of His followers, the Bahá'ís. He, through His example, brought the spiritual life of Bahá'u'lláh within the reach of His followers, the Bahá'ís. He was the first fruit of the consummation of God's Latter Day promise to the world, and He was the center from which the light was radiated to the world; therefore He in His mission lived and exemplified His title of "The Center of The Covenant."
`Abdu'l-Bahá's life was one of active service to humanity. There was no element in the daily life of this world too small to receive His attention. The great motive power manifesting through Him was not of this world but was of God. He worked to serve God, yet by serving God He served mankind. From His early childhood until His 64th year He was an exile and a prisoner; yet the light of His life and teachings reached and penetrated to the far corners of the earth. For forty years `Abdu'l-Bahá was a prisoner in the fortress of Acca — held there by the Sultan of Turkey for no other reason than that His teaching was bringing enlightenment and freedom of thought to all who came within the radius of its power. With the fall of the old despotic regime of Turkish government and the establishment of a constitutional rule, which occurred in the summer of 1908, `Abdu'l-Bahá was liberated from prison, and became free to come and go as he willed. During the summer and fall of 1911 He visited England and France, where He spent some months in teaching; and in 1912 He spent eight months in America, traveling and teaching from coast to coast, visiting many cities and towns where He had friends and where there were those to listen to His explanations of religious questions and seeking that vitalizing spiritual force which so characterizes His presence.
Upon this tour, in both America and Europe, the pulpits of many Christian churches of various sects and cults, institutions of learning, and the platforms of philosophical and humanitarian movements of various types sought `Abdu'l-Bahá and welcomed His message of the Oneness of the World of Humanity. The people who heard Him were rejoiced by the spirit which He radiated, and those who came within the field of His spiritual love and power, were strengthened and inspired.
`Abdu'l-Bahá had the power of really penetrating the souls of men, of understanding the needs of each individual soul, and of ministering to them in the most beneficial manner. He was the spiritual physician of humanity. Many beautiful and touching incidents are related in the East of the way in which, through long suffering and kindness, He won the hearts of those who, because of their prejudices, formerly were His enemies. Caring for the sick and protecting the oppressed formed a large part of His daily duties. One of the titles applied to Him in the Orient was "father of the poor."
`Abdu'l-Bahá's power was that of love. In going into His presence something within one's soul seemed to respond to His soul. Thus a spiritual bond was made which was most far-reaching, for it was of the nature of divine love and always remained with one. Through His life and example, He taught people the life and the way of the Kingdom. He had a message for every one, and as one met and contacted with Him in spirit it was as if a new force were added to one's nature. The power of the love of God was brought very close to those who came in contact with `Abdu'l-Bahá.
From many countries people of different beliefs went to `Abdu'l-Bahá to receive spiritual help, and upon leaving Him returned to their various homes to share with others the joy and assurance of His spiritual message and to follow in His path of service. He was the perfect life, and as the people contacted with Him they found in Him the center of this spiritual light of this new day and age. From that center was flowing the regenerative Bahá'í spirit, which is making things anew, re-establishing religion, reviving faith in God and uniting humanity in the one universal brotherhood of God's kingdom.
On November 28th, 1921, His glorious service finished in the body, He ascended to the Kingdom of Abhá, leaving a Will and Testament — The Book of the Covenant — in which he appointed His grandson, Shoghi Effendi Rabbani guardian of the Cause and Head of the House of Justice, a body of men to be chosen from the believers because of their spiritual qualifications for wisdom and divine knowledge.
GROWTH OF THE MOVEMENT
The movement under the Báb was practically confined to the Islamic countries. During the ministry of Bahá'u'lláh the message was taken to various other countries of the Orient and under the ministration of `Abdu'l-Bahá it spread the world around. There are not only centers of Bahá'í teaching in China, Japan, Burma, India, Persia, Turkistan, Caucasia, the Turkish countries and in Egypt, but there are strong Bahá'í centers in France, Germany, England and throughout the United States and Canada. This growth has been a comparatively slow but steady one. It is not limited by religious nor racial conditions, which is proven by the many heterogeneous elements which this Cause is assimilating and fusing into one element, which is the world type of man.
The universal principles of Truth, which the Bahá'í Movement is teaching, are already clearly seen in the way in which this teaching appeals to people of all religions, races and nationalities. When a soul becomes touched by the Bahá'í Spirit he becomes a citizen of the world, quite freed from the limitations of his former environment, while his social and religious prejudices inherited from forebears and environment are changed into a desire to do something toward world brotherhood through tangible service to his fellow men. In the Bahá'í meetings — notably those in the East — one sees Christians, Jews, Moslems, Zoroastrians, Hindus and Buddhists mingling as brothers and eating at the same tables. It has been the writer's privilege to travel extensively and to attend many such reunions. He has spent much time in the Oriental countries and has seen the spiritual blending of the Orient and Occident, which process is being brought about by the love and devotion of the Bahá'ís, one for another. These people are really demonstrating the power of divine love, for with them it is so powerful as to overcome all religious and racial antipathy and is producing real brotherhood and peace.
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