The Secret of Divine Civilization and the Development of Iran
are an impregnable proof against assault—would such laws, insuring the integrity of the members of society and their equality before the law, inhibit their prosperity and success? Or if by using one’s perceptive faculties, one can draw analogies from present circumstances and the conclusions arrived at by collective experience, and can envisage as coming realities situations now only potential, would it be unreasonable to take such present measures as would guarantee our future security? Would it seem shortsighted…if we were to…increase the wealth of our people? Would it spell perdition for our subjects if the provincial and district governors were relieved of their present absolute authority, whereby they function exactly as they please, and were instead limited to equity and truth…? If bribery and corruption, known today by the pleasant names of gifts and favors, were forever excluded, would this threaten the foundations of justice? 10 Third Layer: Modernity and Religion If we remember the theory of the coincidence of system problems, we realize that although the development of Iran requires the movement towards political democracy and social justice, yet the precondition of the victory of democracy and economic justice is the successful resolution of the question of church-state relation. Both Baha’u’llah and ‘Abdu’l-Baha were keenly aware of the imperative primacy of solving the relation between state and religion in Iran. They both emphasized the fact that the main prerequisite of political and social democracy in Iran is the emancipation of Iranians from the bondage of clerical despotism, and the consequent institutionalization of the separation of church and state. It is for this reason that the central theme of the Secret is the critique of the culture of emulation/following of the clerics, and the encouragement of Iranians to embrace a culture of rationalism and autonomous thinking as the foundation of true civilization and modernity in Iran. A culture of clerical supremacy is characterized by various features that include emulation of the clerics, inequality of the rights of the people on the basis of attributes like religious belief and gender, dominance of the clerics in social and political decision making, prejudice especially religious prejudice, traditionalism, and all kinds of violence, censorship, discrimination and insults against people who dare to think and believe differently. It is evident that these characteristics are contrary to the norms of progress, civilization, democracy, freedom, and human rights. That is why all novel and creative ideas are vehemently opposed by akhunds, and it is only later on when these clerics note that their opposition to those ideas seriously alienate people from them, that they reluctantly accept them. In all cases, this clerical culture of traditionalism tries to prevent society from progress towards freedom and equality. The Secret is written by the command of Baha’u’llah. In fact, the message of The Secret is the same message that is contained in this statement of Baha’u’llah, written six years before the writing of the Secret: “From two ranks amongst men power hath been seized: kings and ecclesiastics.” 11 Baha’u’llah is here affirming that the future of Iran and the world is one in which there is no room for either political or religious forms of despotism. However, not only Baha’u’llah speaks of the inseparable character of these two forms of despotism-political and clerical-, his writings emphasize the sociological primacy of the battle against religious despotism. That is why the early writings of Baha’u’llah, written between 1853 and 1865, are all centered on a categorical rejection of the culture of blind following of the clerics
10 Ibid, pp. 14-15. 11 Baha’u’llah, quoted in Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day Is Come . Wilmette: Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1980, p. 20.
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