The Secret of Divine Civilization and the Development of Iran
nothing… A superficial culture, unsupported by a cultivated morality, is as "a confused medley of dreams,"… The peoples of Europe have not advanced to the higher planes of moral civilization, as their opinions and behavior clearly demonstrate. Notice, for example, how the supreme desire of European governments and peoples today is to conquer and crush one another… and night and day they are all straining every nerve to pile up more weapons of war, and to pay for this their wretched people must sacrifice most of whatever they are able to earn by their sweat and toil. How many thousands have given up their work in useful industries and are laboring day and night to produce new and deadlier weapons which would spill out the blood of the race more copiously than before. 21 In other words, the discourse of The Secret on the third attribute of the true cleric is not only a refutation of the culture of clerical supremacy, it is also a categorical critique of the negative aspects of the Western civilization. While some aspects of the Western modernity are moral and praiseworthy, other aspects of it belong to barbarism and not true civilization. Consequently, instead of blind imitation of the West, both Iran and the West should move towards the requirements of true modernity and civilization. These discussions demonstrate the fact that both the clerical culture of intolerance, and the Western culture of militarism are in reality two different expressions of the same underlying logic of prejudice which reduces human beings to the level of the beasts. In his other writings, ‘Abdu’l-Baha identifies the underlying cause of violence as prejudice. Furthermore, he equates the culture of prejudice with the culture of struggle for existence: In every period war has been waged in one country or another and that war was due to either religious prejudice, racial prejudice, political prejudice or patriotic prejudice. It has therefore been ascertained and proved that all prejudices are destructive of the human edifice. As long as these prejudices persist, the struggle for existence must remain dominant, and bloodthirstiness and rapacity continue. Therefore, even as was the case in the past, the world of humanity cannot be saved from the darkness of nature and cannot attain illumination except through the abandonment of prejudices and the acquisition of the morals of the Kingdom. 22 Therefore, according to ‘Abdu’l-Baha, it is unfortunate that the discussion of civilization and development has turned into a conflict between the East and Islam, on the one hand, and Western modernity, on the other. However, the real discourse is the conflict between the culture of reason and human nobility versus the culture of prejudice and oppression. Both Eastern Akhundism and Western militarist nationalism are reflections of the culture of prejudice and oppression, and both are opposed to true modernity and civilization, namely the culture of rationality and universal morality. Fourth Attribute: Obeying the commandments of Lord The Secret interprets the fourth attribute as the necessity of religion for social order, and the true nature of religion. ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s discourse on the fourth attribute offers two major arguments to prove that the culture of clerical supremacy is the true enemy of religion. His first argument indicates that the opposition of the culture of clerical fanaticism with reason, civilization, science and freedom gradually convinces people that religion contradicts reason and human dignity, and therefore, they turn to materialism and atheism. When the clerics criticize the anti-religious character of the Western
21 Ibid, pp. 60-61. 22 ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha . Haifa: Baha’i World Center, 1978, p. 299.
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