The Baha'i Principles
By John Taylor; 2009 Dec 29, Masa'il 18, 166 BE
Today I want to talk about the Baha'i principles. What are they? Where did they come from? Baha'u'llah implicitly brought out many of what we now call BahaBaha' principles in early works like the Hidden Words. He gave them a public face when He outlined their major features in His letters to the Shah, the Sultan and the kings and queen in Europe. Some are prominent in His book of laws, the Kitab-i-Aqdas. In later Tablets written in the 1880's, such as the Ishraqat and the Leaves of Paradise, they and other social concerns are often brought out, though always as expressions of spirituality.
The one place where Baha'u'llah treats virtually all the Baha'i principles in sequence, as part of a single, coherent system, is the Tablet to Maqsud. Here He refers to the deity throughout as the "Great Being," evidently offering even the word "God" as a neutral gift to the world, a non-parochial mediator outside the Baha'i Faith, or even religion itself. He offers principle as an alternative to secularism, liberalism or any other "ism" or ideology.
Throughout His Mission, Baha'u'llah consciously concentrated on spiritual and religious concerns, carefully avoiding even mentioning the word "politics." When a position statement was bound to be taken as a political position, He delegated His Son, Abdu'l-Baha, to write about it. The most notable instance was Abdu'l-Baha's Secret of Divine Civilization, which was written right after Baha'u'llah's Kitab-i-Aqdas in the mid-1870's. It was an apology for what we now call development, imploring Iranians to reject their reactionary reflex and to understand religion, science and politics not as in opposition but as complements in the reform process. Although it is addressed to national leaders, it also emphasizes the need to lay the groundworks for peace through world federalism.
The Baha'i principles were very prominent in Abdu'l-Baha's public addresses given in Europe and America between 1911 and 1913. He emphasized that these principles are the products of both reason and faith, both being outcomes of the same divine impulse towards unification of the entire human race.
"In the investigation of a subject the right method of approach is carefully to examine its premises. Therefore, we must go back to the foundation upon which human solidarity rests -- namely, that all are the progeny of Adam, the creatures and servants of one God; that God is the Protector and Provider; that all are submerged in the sea of divine mercy and grace and God is loving toward all." (Promulgation, 228)
Finally, at the climax of His Ministry, Abdu'l-Baha repeated all the main principles together in His letter to the post-WWI Peace Commission at The Hague. In this public peace statement, He harked back to the Tablet of Maqsud, offering the Baha'i principles as neutral ground for a world government that would enlist everybody in the cause of peace. Peace, He said in essence, cannot be approached narrowly. A permanent peace requires a comprehensive approach, enlisting all the expertise, talent and faculties of humanity, including religion, science and politics. The dozen or so Baha'i principles can be a blueprint for grounding human oneness and the basis of an educational program that could remove prejudices and other obstructions to human happiness.