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Love, Peace and Sustainability
Based on a contribution to the Triglav Circle
5 November 2022
The Triglav Circle, which addresses the ethical dimension of social issues, met on 5 November to consider the topic "Universal Selfless Love [Agape] as a Political Philosophy and Practice". The following is my attempt to present a Bahá'í perspective on the topic.
The Bahá’í concept of universal selfless love is very broad. The following texts can help us to define such love and its applications, including in politics. The first comes from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Son of the founder of the Bahá’í Faith:
“Know thou of a certainty that Love is the secret of God’s holy Dispensation, the manifestation of the All-Merciful, the fountain of spiritual outpourings. Love is heaven’s kindly light, the Holy Spirit’s eternal breath that vivifieth the human soul. Love is the cause of God’s revelation unto man, the vital bond inherent, in accordance with the divine creation, in the realities of things. Love is the one means that ensureth true felicity both in this world and the next. Love is the light that guideth in darkness, the living link that uniteth God with man, that assureth the progress of every illumined soul. Love is the most great law that ruleth this mighty and heavenly cycle, the unique power that bindeth together the divers elements of this material world, the supreme magnetic force that directeth the movements of the spheres in the celestial realms. Love revealeth with unfailing and limitless power the mysteries latent in the universe. Love is the spirit of life unto the adorned body of mankind, the establisher of true civilization in this mortal world, and the shedder of imperishable glory upon every high-aiming race and nation.”
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 12)
Today’s problems can largely be ascribed to the complete absence of such love in so many individuals and institutions in today’s society. This higher human potential for selfless love, ultimately love for that Unknowable Essence or Absolute Reality that we may call God, is in fact our true human purpose. By learning to love the unknown and unknowable, we learn also to love the unknown qualities and potential in ourselves, in others, and in the natural world. This is what unites us with all of humanity and with nature.
Here is one practical application of selfless love, as expressed by the Bahá’í International Community:
“When leaders consider the impact of policies before them, they will need to give thought to what so many might term the human spirit — that essential quality which seeks meaning and aspires to transcendence. These less tangible dimensions of human existence have typically been viewed as confined to the realm of personal belief and lying outside the concern of policymakers and administrators. But experience has shown that progress for all is not attainable if material advancement is divorced from spiritual and ethical advancement…. Only by ensuring that material progress is consciously connected to spiritual and social progress can the promise of a better world be fulfilled.”
(Bahá’í International Community, A Governance Befitting: Humanity and the Path Toward a Just Global Order, 21 September 2020)
The international governing body of the Bahá’í Faith, the Universal House of Justice, has recently put this into context:
“The global challenges now facing humanity are a severe test of its willingness to put aside short-term self-interest and come to terms with this stark spiritual and moral reality: there is but one, interconnected human family and it shares one precious homeland.”
(Universal House of Justice, 4 January 2022)
“It is through love for all people, and by subordinating lesser loyalties to the best interests of humankind, that the unity of the world can be realized and the infinite expressions of human diversity find their highest fulfilment…. Fostering unity, by harmonizing disparate elements and nurturing in every heart a selfless love for humankind, is the task of religion…. A heart that has embraced love for the whole of humanity will certainly be pained when confronted by the suffering that so many endure because of disunity.”
And they quote ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: “… peace must first be established among individuals, until it leadeth in the end to peace among nations. Wherefore... strive ye with all your might to create, through the power of the Word of God, genuine love, spiritual communion and durable bonds among individuals.”
(Universal House of Justice, 18 January 2019)
Love is truly the only path to peace and sustainability.
Last updated 5 November 2022