Out of the more than 200 talks ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave while in America, dozens were at universities and to academic and higher thought groups. Education was the centerpiece of these talks and numerous other talks He gave at churches, Bahá’í homes and conferences.
While education has a special place in the Bahá’í writings and universal education is considered compulsory for all, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explained it is most importantly the foundation of spiritual growth in humanity.
In a talk given in September 1912 in Minnesota, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said, “Man undeveloped by education is savage, animalistic, and brutal. Laws and regulations, schools, colleges and universities have for their purpose the training of man and his uplift from the dark borderland of the animal kingdom.”
In the same talk, He further explained the importance and types of education:
But education is of various kinds. There is a training and development of the physical body which ensures strength and growth. There is intellectual education or mental training for which schools and colleges are founded. The third kind of education is that of the spirit. Through the breaths of the Holy Spirit man is uplifted into the world of moralities and illumined by the lights of divine bestowals. The moral world is only attained through the effulgence of the Sun of Reality and the quickening life of the divine spirit. For this reason the holy Manifestations of God appear in the human world.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá often spoke about the need for balance between the body, mind and soul and how education is a common thread for the training and growth of these faculties. He also contrasted how education sets us apart from animals and how it can make nations superior in how they treat their citizens: “It is clearly evident that while man possesses powers in common with the animal, he is distinguished from the animal by intellectual attainment, spiritual perception, the acquisition of virtues, capacity to receive the bestowals of Divinity, lordly bounty and emanations of heavenly mercy. This is the adornment of man, his honor and sublimity. Humanity must strive toward this supreme station.”
The Messengers of God are called Divine Educators and Teachers as they bring spiritual education to humanity. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá often gave examples of the transformation brought about by these Messengers to humanity through Spiritual Education:
Consider the wonderful effect of spiritual education and training. By it the fisherman Peter was transformed into the greatest of teachers. Spiritual education made the disciples radiant lamps in the darkness of the world and caused the Christians of the first and second centuries to become renowned everywhere for their virtues. Even philosophers bore testimony to this.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá often praised America and Europe for their material and social advancements but in an interview with a Minnesota newspaper He said, “It is now the time in the history of the world, for us to strive and give an impetus to the advancement and development of inner forces — that is to say, we must arise to service in the world of morality, for human morals are in need of readjustment.”
Promulgation of Universal Peace
Photo by Paul Aziz Netherwood, www.nineteenmonths.com