Cosmopolitan History (Part One)
Yesterday we discussed a great peace conference called for by the the "Great Being." We noted that His all-embracing, ongoing gathering of humankind for peace should be seen as the consummation of politics, indeed, as the goal of all of the Great Being's teachings. This event marks, in a well known catch phrase, the end of history. It is surely the beginning of History as well, the arrival of the Kingdom of the One True God on earth. We concluded yesterday a series of essays begun last January in which we correlated each of the Great Being statements in the Lawh-i-Maqsud with at least one of the twelve principles that `Abdu'l-Baha returned to again and again in His talks and letters. The peace convention mandated by the Great Being seemed so momentous that I felt moved to begin a new series about the end of history that would look back to Kant and forward to the talks of the Master.
That there is an end to history is hardly news for Baha'is. Sufficient for us is the fact that Baha'u'llah called for it. His "Great Being" statements, as we have seen, are markers underlining His most urgent and crucial social teachings, all of which find their perfection in global peace. Yet today non-religious people when they hear the expression the "end of history" think of materialists like Hegel and Marx. These are drying tributaries of a living river whose source is Immanuel Kant and his ideas about peace. In his peace essays Kant brilliantly envisioned the unification of religious and scientific thought traditions in the act of forming a constitutional peace.
I have already discussed the "Sketch of a Permanent Peace" at length. The Sketch, in a characteristically roundabout way, sets the tone of any future Constitutional Peace. The constitutions of the
"A favorite idea of Professor Kant's is that the ultimate purpose of the human race is to achieve the most perfect civic constitution, and he wishes that a philosophical historian might undertake to give us a history of humanity from this point of view, and to show to what extent humanity in various ages has approached or drawn away from this final purpose and what remains to be done in order to reach it." (Kant, Immanuel, Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View, from Ernst Behler, Ed., Immanuel Kant, Philosophical Writings, Continuum, New York, 1986, n., p. 249)
I suspect that the philosophical historian (in modern terminology we would say "scientific historian") called for by Kant is `Abdu'l-Baha Himself. His talks, along with an entire body of literature updating and reapplying them, will one day serve as the cosmopolitan, scientific history of the times. In upcoming essays I hope to demonstrate how this is so.