EXPANSION = VICTORY AND CRISES
We are living in the 168th year of the Bahá'í Era - therefore with some stretch of imagination we could say that everyone in this age is already a Bahá'í. This reminds me that long ago when I lived in Adelaide I met an Aboriginal Australian in the city centre.
I told him that according to our beliefs, all of humanity is from the same original stock, therefore we are all brothers and sisters. He obviously wanted to test this: he called out to people passing by:
"Brother! Sister! Mother!" Everyone ignored him. "You see, no one is responding!" "Yes, that is the trouble. They don't know it yet. We need to make them realise that we are all one family!"
If we see the world as having to go a long way before it becomes Bahá'í, if we feel that the gap itself is chasm, that cannot be bridged, if all we see is the declining moral standards, the work of the mischief makers, both within and without, than the task will become a hopeless task a vague wish rather than a practical reality.
If we wait for God to tenderise the hearts of humanity, we might be waiting forever. In each period of the Bahá'í Era there were people who were sufficiently prepared by God to accept His latest message, and it is my observation, that each generation had its own limit beyond which it lacked the capacity to understand.
Although we were only in existence for one and a half centuries, we already tend to view ourselves as an established religious system with its traditions and a culture that is recognisable world wide. Yet we have seen immense changes in my own lifetime: e.g. the establishment of the Universal House of Justice itself, followed by the establishment of the International Teaching Centre and the Continental Boards of Councillors, saw the falling of the Iron Curtain and with that the Berlin wall, opening up new areas to the Faith we previously did not see as possible.
And if the Universal House of Justice is right, and they are always right, we will see entry by troops in all countries including in Australia and in Western Europe.
I was lucky enough to have first hand experience with this process for brief periods in its embryonic form in Australia, and I saw and took part in this process while I pioneered in Hungary, especially among the Gypsies.
The Universal House of Justice has been talking about Entry by troops and expansion since its beginnings and indeed it was happening more or less continuously in some part of the world. At one time it was in Africa, than in the seventies it happened in the South of the USA, than we heard of declaration of larger groups in Malaysia, in the islands of the South Pacific and in the North east and North West of Australia.
Australia is the place where I spent most of my time, and because some of the friends wherever I resided saw me as a delegate type, I was more often than not at the National Convention. Although there were hundreds of Aborigines coming into the Faith, if you asked 90% of the delegates they would denied that Australia was having entry by troops, perhaps because it was not what they regarded as Australians who were entering the Faith and it was not happening in their area.
If you look at religion, if you look at the full, unembellished history of any given period becomes a story of lights and shadows, not only of glorious victories and mundane workdays, even failures and mistakes made.
“Should prosperity befall thee, rejoice not, and should abasement come upon thee grieve not, for both shall pass away and be no more.” - Bahá'u'lláh says in the Hidden Words.
In the beginning of every Revelation adversities have prevailed, which later on have been turned into great prosperity.
(Cited in Shoghi Effendi, “The Advent of Divine Justice” (Wilmette: Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1984), p. 82)
In my experience, and I have been experienced this as well as cycles of victory and crises for almost two and a half years while in Hungary, this also happens in the beginning of each epoch within the history of the Faith. The joy of new believers coming into the Faith in significant numbers is soon dampened by the scepticism of one’s fellow believers, who have great difficulties in accepting the newly welcomed ones as proper Bahá'ís “How can they be Bahá'í when they know practically nothing about it?”
The initial enthusiasm of the new believers themselves also tend to fade and once enthusiastic spiritual assemblies are often worn down by the very magnitude and lack of preparedness for their task often results in disunity
“Know ye that trials and tribulations have, from time immemorial, been the lot of the chosen Ones of God and His beloved, and such of His servants as are detached from all else but Him,
O My friend! Many a hound pursueth this gazelle of the desert of oneness; many a talon claweth at this thrush of the eternal garden. Pitiless ravens do lie in wait for this bird of the heavens of God, and the huntsman of envy stalketh this deer of the meadow of love.
(“The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys” (Wilmette: Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1986), p. 20; p. 41)
Trials and sufferings, Baha’u’llah has repeatedly warned us in His Tablets, are even as the oil that feeds the lamp. The Cause cannot reveal its full splendour unless and until it encounters and successfully overcomes the very obstacles that every now and then stand in its way, and for some time appear to threaten its very foundations. Such obstacles, tests and trials are indeed blessings in disguise, and as such are bound to help in promoting the Faith.
(31 July 1935 to an individual believer)
(FROM THE PROMISE OF WORLD PEACE)
"The primary question to be resolved is how the present world, with its entrenched pattern of conflict, can change to a world in which harmony and co-operation will prevail.World order can be founded only on an unshakeable consciousness of the oneness of mankind, a spiritual truth which all the human sciences confirm. Anthropology, physiology, psychology, recognise only the human species, albeit infinitely varied in the secondary aspects of life. Recognition of this truth requires abandonment of prejudice - prejudice of every kind - race, class, colour, creed, nation, sex, degree of material civilization, everything which enables people to consider themselves superior to others.”