This series is a “for educational purposes only” presentation of information from the book, America’s Sacred Calling: Building a New Spiritual Reality (2010) by John Fitzgerald Medina. Medina writes:
“When one considers the egregious [conspicuous, flagrant] level of abuse, corruption, and exploitation prevalent in the world today, it becomes quite clear that it is impossible to build a well-functioning world order on the defective foundation of global capitalism. As stated in the Baha’i publication, Century of Light, Western civilization has erected a capitalist-based global system that is “morally and intellectually bankrupt.” [page 135] Fortunately, the Baha’i Faith is not alone in recognizing this. Indeed, as detailed in my first book, Faith, Physics, and Psychology: Rethinking Society and the Human Spirit, a diversity of movements from various fields of study (including economics, psychology, physics, religious studies, history, medicine, education, sociology, political science, and others) have started to challenge the underlying ideologies, theories, and philosophies of Western civilization. Within this context, capitalism itself, the golden idol of many modern people, has come under intense scrutiny and criticism.
“The various movements that are challenging the Western paradigm are based on worldviews that are radically different from the Cartesian-Newtonian worldview. Like the Baha’i perspective, these movements maintain that, before we can resolve the major social, economic, political, and environmental problems facing us, we must leave behind the false, materialistic, Cartesian-Newtonian view of reality. Also, like the Baha’i Faith, such movements assert that we need to adopt a holistic view of reality that is capable of recognizing the oneness of humanity and the oneness of the cosmos and of integrating science and religion, as well as acknowledging the unity of mind, body, and spirit. Along these lines, Theodore Roszak, a well-known advocate of the holistic paradigm, asserts,
“It is as [Ernst Friedrich] Schumacher [a Rhodes Scholar in economics, and a highly respected holistic advocate] tells us: “When the available ‘spiritual space’ is not filled by some higher motivations, then it will necessarily be filled by something lower – by the small, mean, calculating attitude to life which is rationalized in the economic calculus.” If that is so, then we need a nobler economics that is not afraid to discuss spirit and conscience, moral purpose and the meaning of life, an economics that aims to educate and elevate people, not merely to measure their low-grade behavior.” [see: Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, page 9.]
“In short, any global order that aspires to honor the exalted nature of the human soul must be able to integrate the spiritual and the sacred with the material and the secular. This is something that the capitalist paradigm, almost by definition, cannot achieve. Thus, it has planted the seeds of its own ultimate destruction because it is virtually incapable of truly edifying and inspiring the human soul – the real source of power for any sustainable economic system. [bold type is mine]
“Since spiritual transformation and material transformation must go together, it is essential for individuals to remain cognizant of the economic, political, social, and environmental state of the world. People of faith must also be directly engaged in helping to transform the world rather than retreating into comfortable “spiritual enclaves.” Baha’u’llah states, “Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements.” [see: Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, (2005) no 106.1]
“In essence, a faith without physical deeds is dead. According to the Baha’i Faith, some of the noblest of all human beings are those who have been educated, trained, and spiritually inspired for a life of service to humanity. Along these lines, ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s following statement regarding the importance of service is highly pertinent to the discussion in this chapter regarding the plight of many who are currently being held in the claws of tyranny and oppression:
“Without action nothing in the material world can be accomplished…. It is not through lip-service only that the elect of God have attained to holiness, but by patient lives of active service they have brought light into the world…. Therefore strive that your actions day by day may be beautiful prayers. Turn towards God, and seek always to do that which is right and noble. Enrich the poor, raise the fallen, comfort the sorrowful, bring healing to the sick, reassure the fearful, rescue the oppressed, bring hope to the hopeless, shelter the destitute!… If we strive to do all this, then are we true Baha’is, but if we neglect it, we are not followers of the Light, and we have no right to the name.” [see: Paris Talks, (2006) no. 26.5]
“Related to the discussion above, the Baha’i teachings assert that humanity is involved in an evolutionary process that is inevitably moving humankind toward maturity and away from destructive ways of thinking and acting. This, however, does not mean that individuals should sit idly by and just wait for the process to take its natural evolutionary course. Indeed, this process seems to be an interactive, mutually reinforcing, synergistic progression – the more that individuals strive for spiritual transformation and the more that individuals strive to implement spiritual virtues and deeds in the material world, the grater the evolutionary shifts for the overall society. Conversely, any positive shifts in the overall society help people to make further internal changes as individuals.
“Many holistic advocates believe that we are already beginning to experience a paradigm shift toward holism and away from the Cartesian-Newtonian worldview (and its capitalistic system). Similar to the Baha’i perspective, such holistic advocates believe that humanity is presently undergoing an evolutionary jump toward holism as a result of major leaps in human spiritual consciousness. Indeed, Baha’is and holistic advocates both believe that the paradigm shift toward a holistic view of reality is not coerced, but rather, it is a natural process of spiritual transformation that is moving humanity from its adolescent stage of development to its stage of maturity (the coming of age of humanity). Along these lines, The Baha’i publication Century of Light states:
“And for a Baha’i the ultimate issues are spiritual. The Cause [Baha’i Faith]is not a political party nor an ideology, much less an engine for political agitation against this or that social wrong. The process of transformation it has set in motion advances by inducing a fundamental change of consciousness, and the challenge it poses to everyone who would serve it is to free oneself from attachment to inherited assumptions and preferences that are irreconcilable with the Will of God for humanity’s coming of age. Paradoxically, even the distress caused by prevailing conditions that violate one’s conscience aids in this process of spiritual liberation. In the final analysis, such disillusionment drives a Baha’i to confront a truth emphasized over and over again in the Writings of the Faith: “He hath chosen out of the whole world the hearts of His servants and made them each a seat for the revelation of His glory. Wherefore, sanctify them from every defilement, that the things for which they were created may be engraven upon them.” [see: Century of Light, page 136]
“Thus as agents of spiritual and material transformation we all have the responsibility to purify ourselves from “every defilement” and “to free” ourselves “from attachment to inherited assumptions and preferences that are irreconcilable with the Will of God for humanity’s coming of age.” The sentiments expressed in the quote above bring us full circle to the concept of responsibility that we discussed at the beginning of this chapter – according to the Baha’i writings, the American Baha’is in particular have a “staggering responsibility” to cleanse themselves from the “faults, habits, and tendencies which they have inherited from their own nation” and then to help eradicate “such evil tendencies” from the lives of their fellow American citizens. Indeed, the Baha’i writings emphasize that America will not manifest its exalted destiny until this “staggering responsibility” is fulfilled. It is my hope that this chapter has made it plainly evident that, capitalism, a manifestation of the materialistic Cartesian-Newtonian worldview, is an “evil tendency” that must be acknowledged and properly redressed so that America can assume its exalted destiny as the nation that “will lead all nations spiritually” as prophesied by ‘Abdu’l-Baha.” [see: in Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, (1965) page 35] (all of the above from pages 202-205 of Medina’s book)
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