As the former age passes, many individuals are searching for the direction which their own lives should take. Central to Bahá'í thinking is the belief that spiritual life is the true reality. Only through personal transformation can each of us achieve true happiness. While we are in this world we should be developing spiritual qualities which we will need in all the worlds of God. Bahá'u'lláh, the Founder of the Bahá'í Faith, wrote:
"Wert thou to attain to but a dewdrop of the crystal waters of divine knowledge, thou wouldst readily realize that true life is not the life of the flesh but the life of the spirit .... "
Spiritual development requires spiritual methods. The new age is a time of increased spiritual consciousness, and requires inner effort rather than outward ritual. It is through meditation that we open up the channel to our inner being, and through prayer that we open up the channel to the Creator.
"How great the multitude of truths which the garment of words can never contain!"
"Nothing is fixed, nothing final; everything continually changing because human reason is progressing along new roads of investigation and arriving at new conclusions every day."
Central to the new age is the idea that mankind continues to develop and to outgrow old ideas. This new age can be seen as the coming of age of mankind, as humanity outgrows many aspects of the former civilisations. In this expanding human consciousness, the borders of truth and understanding are continually being pushed back. Truth can never be the property of any one person or group. This becomes more apparent as change becomes more rapid.
All of the major religions, and many other lesser-known ones, such as the aboriginal, Native American and other tribal beliefs, can be seen as expressions of the same divine purpose. Each was given to humankind at a particular time and place and therefore there are differences in certain social aspects of their teaching. Over the centuries, people have emphasised the differences. We need to look again at the religions with spiritual eyes, to look at their inner reality and not their outward form, and see that their essential features show their unity of purpose:
"Truth is one in all religions, and by means of it the unity of the world can be realized .... If only men would search out truth, they would find themselves united."
"The Earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens."
This implies an organic union of all human cultures. Every nation and tribal group will take its rightful place in the human family, and every part of the human race will be nurtured and encouraged. This universal human body will only function harmoniously if every limb and every organ is respected, and if all the constituent parts are working together.
The Bahá'í Faith has an administration which is spiritually-based. Because this is a dynamic whole developed from the individual characteristics of its constituent parts, it does not suffer from problems such as centralisation and over-organisation, which affect many other movements. As the universe is ordered, yet infinitely varied, so the Bahá'í community is ordered yet varied, with freedom of initiative and self-expression as its very basis. As it continues to organically develop, it welcomes and encourages people of different temperaments and lifestyles. There are already many Bahá'ís who are from the minority peoples such as the Romanies, Australian aborigines, and Native American tribes. This variety is cherished. The lack of competing groups or parties within the Bahá'í community means that old-fashioned conflict politics are no longer necessary. Rather, an organically-evolving unit, reflecting the oneness and wholeness of humanity, is the conscious goal of the Bahá'í community. It is this which is the distinguishing feature of the Bahá'í Faith as the religion for the new age.
Approved by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United Kingdom,
27, Rutland Gate, London SW7 1PD.
All quotations are from the Bahá'í writings.