Talk at the Brotherhood Church

Bahá’u’lláh’s revelation is, in its essence, meant to help us fulfill our raison d’être —  that is, to know and to worship God. As He is an unknowable essence above our understanding, it is only logical that we humans must work together in order to come as close as we can to knowing Him. In other words, unity and peace become essential to our quest to fulfill the reason why we were created. Intimately intertwined and essential to unity and peace is justice, which we must strive at all times to establish.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá often spoke about peace; each address sheds light on one aspect of this essential part of our collective lives. In a talk given on 19 May 1912 in a church in New Jersey, He spoke about the importance of brotherhood in establishing peace, unity and justice. But He was not talking about a mere physical brotherhood. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá called time and again for profound changes, as is the case with this address. We can see around us many examples of brotherhoods, some of them very strong, but none able to transform the world in such a way that it is just, unifed and peaceful for all. For although a physical fellowship “ensures material happiness in the human world”, and “the stronger it becomes, the more will mankind advance and the circle of materiality be enlarged”, it is not enough to sustain a transformation of the scope called upon by Bahá’u’lláh’s revelation. The Master stated: “Material brotherhood does not prevent nor remove warfare; it does not dispel differences among mankind.”

Rather, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá called for a perfect, spiritual brotherhood to be established. It might seem like an impossibility, but He confidently referred to this spiritual brotherhood as an inevitability since we are all “intelligent beings created in the realm of evolutionary growth”, “inhabit[ing] this earthly globe under the one canopy of heaven”, and because we “all are elements of one human society subject to the necessity of agreement and cooperation”, all “waves of one sea, leaves and fruit of one tree”. While physical brotherhood is subject to separation, spiritual brotherhood is not: “spiritual alliance destroys the very foundation of war, effaces differences entirely, promulgates the oneness of humanity, revivifies mankind, causes hearts to turn to the Kingdom of God and baptizes souls with the Holy Spirit”. We do not need to look too far to see glimmerings of such a brotherhood all around us in the countless initiatives by scores of individuals around the world who are reaching out to their brethren in the name of justice.

Some quotes mentioned above immediately bring to mind an image. I had a strong image immediately pop into my head when I read the following: “Spiritual brotherhood may be likened to the light, while the souls of humankind are as lanterns. The incandescent lamps here are many, yet the light is one.” Have you seen Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince? I imagined the scene with  hundreds of wizards, standing beside a fallen Dumbledore, with their wands lit and pointing up, illuminating a very dark sky with an all-encompassing light. It feels like a very apt image for the work of those of us who are reaching out to our brethren in the name of justice, peace and unity; although the world has been darkened with earthly interests such as gross materialism and greed, if we each hold out small lights together, we can (and will!) pierce through the darkness. We only need to create a spiritual brotherhood.



Photo by Golriz Gundry, from