CFN – As you may be aware I am a member of the international Bahá’í community. While my columns have so far focused on general topics and their connection to spiritual matters, today I thought it would be interesting to bring to your attention a connection to Cornwall. Exactly 100 years ago, on September 9, 1912, ‘Abdu’l Bahá, the successor and eldest son of the founder of the Bahá’í Faith, boarded a train in Montreal headed for Buffalo, New York – and that train came through Cornwall! ‘Abdu’l Bahá’s nine-day visit to Canada was part of an eight-month itinerary across North America that began in April 1912 and ended in December.
To commemorate this special connection between a major religious figure and North America, a number of special events are taking place this weekend in Montreal, which will be attended by many.
‘Abdu’l Baha was an extraordinary figure in human history. The fact that he came to Canada, that he spent 239 days in America, visiting as many areas as he could, speaking to individuals, groups, organizations of every kind, is in itself, an accomplishment for anyone – particularly for someone who was 68 years old and had spent some 40 years of his life as a prisoner and exile with his father. The city of Montreal responded very positively to his messages. He spoke on topics, which today, resonate with so much significance and power that I wanted to focus on his September 5, 1912 talk at St. James Methodist Church in Montreal.
He begins his talk by explaining how the bounties of God are continually being showered upon the Earth. He explains how these bounties are similar to the way the sun operates to continually shower the Earth with its rays, so too does God’s love permeate all of human life. The natural law and the spiritual law are brought into a simple explanation that anyone can understand: if the sun were to stop shining, he explains, would not life on Earth cease to exist? So, it stands to reason that if God’s love were to suddenly stop being sent to us, would we not then cease to exist?
He then speaks to the origin of religion as having always been our system of education and training from the very beginning of human existence. We have never been abandoned to our own devices, rather we have been guided by many divine beings who have given us teachings that have helped us to advance. These divine beings have appeared first to those populations that were most in need of divine intervention. Bahá’ís believe the most recent of these divine messengers is Bahá’u’lláh, ‘Abdul-Bahá’s father, who appeared in Persia (now known as Iran) in the mid-nineteenth century, but they accept the founders of all the other major world faiths as well as sharing the same common purpose. Bahá’u’lláh suffered the most degrading treatment while he lived, accepting the most grievous injuries in order to free the human race from its bondage of materialistic pursuits. However, the body of work he left behind will resonate for centuries into the future. The central message is that “All the teachings have one reality, for reality is single and does not admit multiplicity. therefore the Prophets are one, inasmuch as They reveal the one reality, the Word of God.” This Word, then serves to reorganize the pattern of human society into one where peace and justice will reign. We know we have a long way to go but it is vital that we begin to understand that there is a vision that we can gather around.
‘Abdul-Bahá then goes on to describe eleven principles as guides for reorganizing human society. I will only focus on three that I feel are burning issues for the CFN family.
The first – the foundation – is for each individual to investigate reality independently. This powerful concept, he states, helps us to overcome our limited thinking, rooted in traditions and ancestral beliefs, or hereditary forms of worship. Instead of blindly believing, we are asked to think for ourselves and to remove the veils that prevent us from understanding that “the divine teachings are ever conducive to love, unity, and fellowship.” We now know that CFN is being viewed over 1 million times a month, so perhaps those who read this might appreciate how valuable their thoughts are, and how they can contribute to elevate public interactions by sharing how they individually investigate reality. Such a powerful concept is so “right on” for the times we are living in, don’t you think?
The second principle is one that I have addressed before: the principle of the oneness of the human race, which, if we investigate reality for ourselves, is clear and evident. Scientifically proven and validated by innumerable studies, the oneness of the human race stands as the matrix within which human society can rapidly be reorganized. Each individual human being fits into that kind of thinking and each would be appreciated and helped to reach their potential. This is not mere imagination or wishful thinking, rather it is a principle that we can immediately use in our daily lives. One practical application is to start rooting out that unconscious sense of superiority we have towards others.
The third principle is that an international language must be chosen for speech, script and communication. This is definitely a pressing issue, as witnessed by the hundreds of comments submitted to CFN on the subject of language rights. Although I am bilingual in French and English and believe that it is important to have the right to keep our mother language, whatever that may be, we will all eventually have to transition to a world where we understand one another using a universal auxiliary language: with a world language comes a world culture. While it is, of course, not at all clear what that universal second language will be, even though the international language of Esperanto already exists and English currently enjoys prominence in business and science, ‘Abdul-Bahá says that with an international language “misunderstandings will be lessened, fellowship established and unity assured.” Sounds like a recipe for success, doesn’t it?
The entire talk is available here: http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/ab/PUP/pup-102.html
If you would like to know more about the 239 Days of ‘Abdul-Bahá’s trip to America please visit the following site:
Shirley Barr lives and works in Cornwall, Ontario and is a member of the international Bahá’í community.