Seventeenth Reflection

All created things are captives of nature and subject to its laws. They cannot transgress the control of these laws in one detail or particular. The infinite starry worlds and heavenly bodies are nature’s obedient subjects. The earth and its myriad organisms, all minerals, plants and animals are thralls of its dominion. But man through the exercise of his scientific, intellectual power can rise out of this condition, can modify, change and control nature according to his own wishes and uses. Science, so to speak, is the breaker of the laws of nature. Consider, for example, that man according to natural law should dwell upon the surface of the earth. By overcoming this law and restriction, however, he sails in ships over the ocean, mounts to the zenith in airplanes and sinks to the depths of the sea in submarines. This is against the fiat of nature and a violation of her sovereignty and dominion… He takes the sword from nature’s hand and uses it upon nature’s head. According to natural law night is a period of darkness and obscurity, but man by utilizing the power of electricity, by wielding this electric sword overcomes the darkness and dispels the gloom. (Promulgation of Universal Peace However, for ‘Abdu’l-Baha this liberation from external nature by itself is not sufficient for realization of true freedom. In fact, unlike some positivistic modern theories which equate freedom with scientific and instrumental rationality, ‘Abdu’l-Baha argues that scientific progress can only lead to true freedom when it is accompanied by human liberation from internal nature as well. While emancipation from external nature takes place through science and technology, liberation from internal nature takes place through emancipation from the principle of struggle for existence. In other words, humans must live a life which is determined by the laws of the republic of spirit, and not by the laws of the coercion, brutishness and jungle. If humans regulate their social and cultural life on the basis of the struggle for existence and the survival of the fittest, humans are reduced to beasts of nature. Such culture is a perpetual culture of war, mutual destruction, and death. It is only when humans are born as a spiritual being, that they can become free. True freedom, therefore, requires a life that is oriented to universal love, communication, and universal peace. True liberty requires liberation from both external nature and internal nature. It may be assumed that ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s idea of freedom as liberation from bondage of nature represents a negative judgment against nature. The truth is the opposite. The natural law of the struggle for existence is praisewirthy at the level of nature itself. The apparent dominance of violence in the realm of nature is in reality another expression of divine wisdom. The consequence of the rule of the struggle for existence at the level of nature is realization of ecological balance, natural beauty, and preservation of diversity of life in the planet. Problem arises when humans who are endowed with intellect act in accordance with that same natural law. Humans do not act on the basis of regulated instincts and restrained desires. Their reason creates nuclear weapon, and human unrestrained consumption leads to depletion and destruction of the environment. If humans live in accordance with the law of struggle for existence the result is not ecological balance. Instead it leads to destruction of humans and the planet. That is why, in the life of humans the natural law-which is sacred and good at the level of nature-must be replaced by the law of spirit and morality. Liberation from external nature is a necessary but not sufficient condition for true liberty. Devoid of liberation from internal nature, scientific advancement can actually lead to militarism, destruction of the environment, and destruction of humans. That is why, true liberty requires emancipation from the beastly culture. Internal freedom, therefore, leads to a science that protects the environment and is respectful of nature as well. 2. Struggle for Existence as Prejudice

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