Human Knowledge and the Advancement of Society

By Mahmoudi, Hoda | The Journal of Baha'i Studies, March-December 2012 | Go to article overview

Human Knowledge and the Advancement of Society


Mahmoudi, Hoda, The Journal of Baha'i Studies


Music is the one incorporeal entrance into the higher world of knowledge which comprehends mankind but which mankind cannot comprehend.

-Ludwig van Beethoven

In the mid-nineteenth century, with the advent of the Báb's Dispensation-which paved the way for the anticipated dawn of the Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh-a vast profusion of knowledge beyond measure was disclosed to humankind. The knowledge imparted by Bahá'u'lláh challenges and reorients existing perceptions of the material and spiritual aspects of life and demands from individuals and social institutions responses that are appropriate to humankind's age of maturity.

An outcome of the vision this knowledge has imparted to humanity is the inclusion of principles such as the organic unity of humankind in what Shoghi Effendi characterizes as the "highest stage in the stupendous evolution of man's collective life on this planet" (World Order 163). The Bahai Faith encourages an unfettered search for truth; it explains that the role of religion is to expound and articulate "the values unfolding progressively through Divine revelation"; it views science as the "instrumentality through which the human mind explores and is able to exert its influence ever more precisely over the phenomenal world," and asserts that religion "defines goals that serve the evolutionary process," that "science assists in their attainment," and that religion and science jointly constitute the dual aspects of the ever-present goal of humankind-a "knowledge system impelling the advance of civilization" ( One Common Faith 33).

Other knowledge that has been imparted to humankind by the birth of the Bahai Faith is the condemnation of all forms of superstition and prej- udice. In 1912, in a public talk given during His travels across the United States, Abdu'l-Bahá stated the following about the blight and burden perpetuated by all forms of prejudice: "Shall we remain steeped in our fanaticisms and cling to our prejudices? Is it fitting that we should still be bound and restricted by ancient fables and superstitions of the past...?" (Promulgation 369). Another example of the knowledge enunciated in this Revelation is the equality of women and men, a principle which was not a "Western construct but a universal spiritual truth-a statement about human nature-that was promulgated by Baha u'lláh nearly 150 years ago in His native Iran" (Letter to the Believers), a goal now considered obvious worldwide even though it is far from being realized.

The Bahai Faith was introduced to humanity as a global religion, as a religion which from its inception addressed the peoples of the West as well as the East and made clear that its teachings are intended for the entire world. For over 165 years this sea of knowledge full of new ideas- including a deep and ever-present vision of the spiritual dimension of life, of the moral and spiritual principles and laws pertaining to the operation of our daily life and the purpose underlying our creation-has been placed in the hands of humanity.

This knowledge was proclaimed by the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh to the kings and rulers of the world, and it has since been carried to virtually every corner of the world by its adherents as well as by its well-wishers. In fact, from the outset of the Bahai Revelation, the dispersion of the knowledge contained in the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh has been openly and enthusiastically shared with the generality of humankind, wherever circumstances permit, because this limitless knowledge belongs to all the peoples of the world.

Acquiring knowledge and, more importantly, appreciating its application through both individual and collective effort and actions, are at the very heart of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation. In the Bahai texts, the attainment of knowledge is linked to social progress and to the spiritual and material transformation of individuals and society.

Therefore, the attitude that one adopts toward knowledge is fundamental to the formation of social reality. …

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