Let this century be the sun of previous centuries the effulgences of which shall last forever, so that in times to come they shall glorify the twentieth century, saying the twentieth century was the century of lights, the twentieth century was the century of life, the twentieth century was the century of international peace, the twentieth century was the century of divine bestowals and the twentieth century has left traces which shall last forever.
(Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith – Abdu’l-Bahá Section, p. 233)
The above quotation from our beloved Master succinctly describes our duty to distil from the twentieth century all lessons of wisdom and to use this learning to further ourselves and our kindred on an ever advancing path towards light, life, international peace, and divine bestowals.
Upon first glance it may seem ironic to label the twentieth century as one of “light.” The historic happenings of these one hundred years have successively contributed to a perpetual sentiment of distrust and disillusionment. Government betrayal and abuse of power were at a zenith during this time. Beyond the cataclysmic catastrophes that spurred two worldwide collisions, the history of this century is littered with examples of people growing inherently more difficult to appease. The pacifying tactics of previous years no longer had the desired effect and people clearly hungered for more than what “the facade of structure” could offer.
Yet, as unfortunate as this growing distrust may seem, it indicates that a new spiritual force has been released into our world. This spirit has enhanced many aspects of human ability. Our intellect, motivation and technological ability reached heights that we had never known. Granted many of these abilities were directed in a destructive direction (i.e. weapons and biochemical warfare) the achievements in science, art and social reality are rather amazing; they outshine the combined efforts of the previous centuries in their results and contributions. We can see this century as one of “life” by acknowledging the miraculous achievements in medical science. The discovery of vaccines and cures have allowed for a quality of life surpassing that of previous ages. We can certainly accept this century as one of “international peace” by studying the exceptional example of political figures moving in a direction of establishing international organizations to assist in maintaining basic world peace. Even if these efforts sometimes seem futile, the exceptional promise lies in our collective understanding of the yearning to have a secure world, not just a secure homeland.
The material, intellectual and social advancements of this century, if viewed with this perspective, could lead one to believe that it is no slight coincidence that only some fifty-six years earlier a new religion (the Bábí Dispensation) had been proclaimed in the East. A religion that ushered in the advent of a more brilliant and radiant Star (the Bahá’í Dispensation) that fulfilled all the prophetic cycles of old; and the light of which shone brightly in the East, eventually spread itself to the West and then on to enlighten all regions of the globe.
There will no doubt be lasting effects from the twentieth century that will surely have a direct influence on the political, social and interpersonal relationships that develop from now on, progressing until we have reached the age of Divine Civilization.