"Soon will the present order be rolled up."

Chapter 14
Section 1- The Legacy of the Kings

The Hapsburgs and Hohenzollerns are gone, but their legacy remains behind. And, alas, all mankind is their heirs. Tragically, it has not been only kings who have failed to respond to the needs of a new age and to its divine Spokesman. When the First World War ended, only one head of state arose to champion the kind of world which Baha'u'llah had envisioned.

Years earlier, in His announcement to the kings, Baha'u'llah had called for the formation of an international 'Tribunal" to judge between the nations. In the middle of the nineteenth century the idea seemed revolutionary.

Even more revolutionary were the features which He proposed:

"The kings and rulers of the earth must needs attend it and, participating in its deliberations, must consider such ways and means as will lay the foundations of the world's Great Peace."

The Tribunal was not to be merely a conference, a place for discussion. It was to have powers to enforce peace, powers derived from the co-operative action of all governments:

"Be united O kings of the earth ... Should any one among you take up arms against another, rise ye all against him, for this is naught but manifest justice."
During the 1919 peace conferences, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States, called for a "League of Nations" to assure the permanent peace of the world. The President's daughter showed keen interest in the new Revelation. Whether through this link; whether merely because his own ideals were so closely attuned to the spirit of the age, President Wilson called his fellow statesmen to join with him in this first modest experiment in international control.

What followed is a familiar and tragic story. Betrayed by the diplomatic ambitions of other nations, cruelly disappointed by the attitude adopted by many of his own countrymen, this "tragically unappreciated" statesman saw his dream wrecked. His own life was given in a fruitless attempt to secure the support of the United States for the newly created world body.

When the League came into existence, it lacked the "teeth" to make its decisions effective. Long before night fell on Europe in 1939, the "League of Peace" had become an international mockery.

Baha'u'llah's Tablet "to the Elected Representatives of the People in Every Land" contains ominous and very clear warnings to the successors of the monarchies:

"Regard the world as the human body which, though at its creation whole and perfect, hath been afflicted, through various causes, with grave disorders and maladies... its sickness waxed more severe, as it fell under the treatment of ignorant physicians, who gave full rein to their own desires..."

The reminder of the ruin brought by the reckless military adventures of the fallen kings fell on deaf ears. Throughout the world the only solutions advanced for the problems in which society has been steadily sinking have been political, or at best social and economic. Until very recently all suggestions that the roots of the disorder are spiritual have been treated with impatience or ridicule.

How ominous, in the age since Hiroshima, are these words of the Prisoner of 'Akka, uttered a century ago:

"A strange and wonderful instrument exists in the earth; but it is concealed from minds and souls. It is an instrument which has the power to change the atmosphere of the whole earth, and its infection causes destruction."

And finally:

"Oppression will envelop the world. And following a universal convulsion, the sun of justice will rise from the horizon of the unseen realm."

"Soon will the present-day order be rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead. Verily, thy Lord speaketh the truth, and is the Knower of things unseen."

"The Christians of the west shall lead the world to Baha'u'llah."

Chapter 14
Section 2- A New View of History

And what about us? What about them us? What about the millions of people who make up the mankind" that Baha'u'llah sought to protect from the ignorance of kings and despots? Baha'u'llah's Message is directed not only to governments but to each individual human being. How odd that our civilization which harnessed the atom, pushed space, discovered so many miraculous secrets of nature, and made so many brilliant advancements in all the sciences, should have left the spiritual realm almost totally unexplored.

How did it happen that humanity, with its gigantic resources and unequaled brilliance, missed the most important truth of all: a moral and spiritual understanding of history? The real purpose of life, the Baha'i Teachings point out, is the development of a praiseworthy character. The building of moral and ethical virtues is the true business of life for both men and nations.

Anything that advances this goal is of value and should be encouraged. Anything that hampers, delays, or prevents it, is useless and should be discarded. All life revolves around this goal. It is the reason for existence. Every event in life depends for its ultimate usefulness and value on its direct or indirect connection with this main purpose. It is worthwhile if it forwards this great theme. It is worthless if it does not.

Any philosophy which does not advance in some way this perspective of life is futile. Any person who devotes himself to something else such as acquiring wealth, seeking pleasure, luxury, chasing ambition, reputation or conquest, and thinks of that goal as having in itself an independent value and importance separate from the spiritual and moral motivation of his life having in itself an independent value separate from the spiritual and moral motivation of his life is, sooner or later, doomed to disillusionment and unhappiness. Such a person is without a real purpose in life. He will be prone to depression and self-destruction in one form or another. He will gradually destroy himself physically or morally or both, through despair or through the excessive physical pleasure by which he seeks in vain to escape his destiny.

That is the tragedy that is taking place on a planetary scale today. No one loves us. Not our mothers, our fathers, our children, our wives, our husbands, our sweethearts. No one.

Our families and friends love only the inner qualities we possess -- the kindness, generosity, compassion, tenderness, love, justice, fairness, gentleness, consideration; these are the things they love. As we increase these qualities in our lives, their love for us increases. As we lose these virtues, their love for us withers and dies away. And what is true of individuals is also true of nations or civilizations. To acquire these inward moral and ethical virtues is the real business of life, for both the individual soul and society.

Every other goal is meaningless by comparison. The world today has lost most of these virtues. It continues to lose more. Both men and nations are drifting on the tide of empty materialism. Something must reverse the current. That is why Baha'u'llah has come. That is the Mission of His Faith. The Churches can find no remedy because they have lost their Divine Physician, Christ. His Spirit left them over a century ago when He returned in the glory of the Father, Baha'u'llah, and the churches and their Leaders turned their back on Him- just as they had the first time. The same is true of each of the other great religions of the past. Had this not been the case, the clergy of the world's religions would have responded to the Message for which they claimed they had been yearning for centuries. Because the Messenger spoke directly to them, individually and collectively, as clearly as He addressed the kings.

He spoke, for example, to Pope Pius the IX. And the story of that brief encounter and its reverberations in modern history may well be the most dramatic chapter of the entire spiritual drama.

Baha'u'llah told the Pope that He, Baha'u'llah, was the Father Who had been promised by Christ, the Son. The very One the Pope was awaiting; the One in Whose Name the Pontiff held his position.

There has been only a century of silence from the church. But the seeds were sown, and let us see what took place a hundred years later.

"O Supreme Pontiff!"

Chapter 14
Section 3- Echoes from the Past

How many Christians have made a study of the now famous Pastoral Letter of Pope John XXIII, the Encylical "Pacem in Terris" (Peace on Earth)? Most Protestants perhaps couldn't have cared less. But how many Catholics are aware of its contents?

For the origins of this Encyclical, which had such far-reaching effects on the 2.000 year old Roman Catholic Church, we must turn back to the words Baha'u'llah addressed to Pope John's predecessor, Pius IX, in 1869.

Baha'u'llah told the Pontiff bluntly that the "Father" had come had come as promised by the "Son," Jesus the Christ. He, Himself, Baha'u'llah said, was that Father.

The response was less than joyful.

Perhaps that attitude was understandable a hundred years ago. Regrettable, but understandable. The world head of any religion is not likely to be stirred to his depths when his position of eminence is challenged; especially by such a seemingly preposterous claim; written from a penal colony prison by a condemned Exile.

Caiaphas didn't go into spasms of ecstasy when Christ told him He was the "Son of God." And he met Jesus face to face. Instead, he called Christ a blasphemer.

We can imagine then the reaction generated by Baha'u'llah's letter to the Pope. No one even bothered to call Him a blasphemer, although His claim was even more presumptuous than Christ's. Nor did the Curia exhibit the annoyance and alarm which had been aroused among several of the kings. Instead, a curtain of silence descended around the entire subject.

Then, in the exact year and exact month of the one hundredth anniversary of Baha'u'llah's Declaration to the world proclaiming that the sacred promise in all the holy Books had been fulfilled. Pope John XXIII issued His Encyclical Letter which "received world wide acclaim."

The praise was justified. Not only did the Encylical deal with the problems facing the world, but Pope John himself was a true lover of his fellow man, a saintly human being. In that Encyclical, the Supreme Pontiff spoke of the following subjects:

Do these ideas sound familiar?

They are one and all principles of the Baha'i Faith.

They are Teachings and Counsels which Baha'u'llah gave to the kings and religious leaders of the world over a century before the Pontiff finally spoke out, exactly one hundred years afterward. How powerfully those words of Baha'u'llah, spoken so long ago, to a Pope in Rome, now ring through the halls of history after a century: "0 Supreme Pontiff! Incline thine ear unto that which the Fashioner of moldering bones counselleth thee."

Pope John XXIII, because of his sincere love of humanity, and his wise guidance to a troubled world, received the Nobel Prize for peace. He was admired and lauded in all parts of the world by both public and press.

Yet, he had no more than echoed, faintly at that, and only after one hundred years, the Teachings of Baha'u'llah. He had done no more than to share with mankind ideals which had been denied to the world for a century by the leaders of men, both religious and secular.

What was Baha'u'llah's reward?

He was scourged, chained, banished and imprisoned for nearly half a century. He was denounced as an enemy of religion and civil order.

The most bitter and persistent of those denouncing His Teachings, whether in Persia, Turkey, or the near east, had been the clergy. The Muslim clergy indeed had taken the lead, but it is an unhappy fact that those who did most to spread these early slanders were Christians, missionaries who feared the loss of their jealously guarded flocks. Their church, however, had only to experience the delayed effects of the Revelation they had so long awaited.

"Emerge from your palace!"

Chapter 14
Section 4- More Echoes from the Same Pen

It is almost impossible to turn to any great event taking place in the religious world today without tracing its inspiration to the words which Baha'u'llah addressed so long ago to the ecclesiastics of the nineteenth century.

How many Catholics are aware of the significance of the visit of Pope Paul V1 to the United Nations? How many Christians are aware of the spiritual implications of the Pope's visit to the World Council of Churches in Switzerland? Or to Kampala, Uganda? All of these events have their "roots" in Baha'u'llah's Letter written to a Pope in Rome over a century ago.

Baha'u'llah called upon Pope Pius IX to "emerge" from his "palaces" and "speak forth the praises of thy Lord betwixt earth and heaven" Baha'u'llah urged Pope Pius to "sell the embellished ornaments" he possessed and "expend them in the path of God." Baha'u'llah was not asking the Pope to do anything He had not already done Himself in a fuller measure.

When the hour came for Baha'u'llah to carry out bidding of the Almighty, He was in the "hey-day of His life." Yet He flung aside "every consideration of earthly fame, wealth and position." Baha'u'llah was a nobleman of the Province of Nur in Persia. Baha'u'llah cast them all aside, although He knew only too well where such a decision would lead Him.

During those hours when Pope Pius IX rode the crest of popularity and sovereignty, Baha'u'llah had fallen from the highest to the lowest estate, from wealth to poverty, from freedom to imprisonment.

Baha'u'llah thanked God for such "tribulations" saying: "The throat Thou didst accustom to the touch of silk Thou hast, in the end, clasped with strong chains, and the body Thou didst ease with brocades and velvets Thou hast at last subjected to the abasement of a dungeon."

Baha'u'llah now urged the Pontiff to follow this example. He told the Pope to leave his "palace" and to assist the Father, and to "proffer" His (Baha'u'llah's) Teachings to the "people of all faiths."

In the prison city from which Baha'u'llah sent His Letter to Pius IX, He wrote:

"The Ancient Beauty (Baha'u'llah) hath consented to be bound with chains that mankind may be released from its bondage, and hath accepted to be made a prisoner within this most mighty Stronghold that the whole world may attain unto true liberty. He hath drained to its dregs the cup of sorrow, that all the peoples of the earth may attain unto abiding joy, and be filled with gladness."

Such tasks should have been the business of the Pope as well. The Pope declared himself to be the Vicar of Christ on earth. Baha'u'llah told him that the Promised One Whom he awaited had come. The returned Christ was standing before his eyes.

Baha'u'llah warned the Pope not to reject Him because His Name was different than he expected:

"O Pope . . . Beware lest any name debar thee from God... Dwellest thou in palaces whilst He Who is the King of Revelation liveth in the most desolate of abodes? Leave them unto such as desire them, and set thy face with joy and delight toward the Kingdom . . . "

Pope Pius did none of these things.

The Pope was soon to suffer the same loss of his worldly kingdom as had the secular rulers.

In those days, Pius IX was a temporal as well as a spiritual king. As with his fellow monarchs, however, he found himself caught up in the forces released by the "Day of God." Baha'u'llah had revealed His Epistle to Pius IX, King Victor Emmanuel I suddenly declared war with the Papal States. The royalist troops had entered Rome and seized it.

The following morning, as the cannonade began, the Pope ordered the white flag to be hoisted above the dome of St. Peter. The Pope shut himself up in the buildings left to him and declared himself to be "the Prisoner of the Vatican." "Rome, the 'Eternal City upon which rest twenty-five centuries of glory,' and which the Popes had ruled in unchallengeable right for ten centuries, finally became the seat of the new kingdom, and the scene of that humiliation which Baha'u'llah had anticipated and which the Prisoner of the Vatican had imposed upon himself."

The commands of God in the tablet to the Pope, however, remained to be carried out. The fall of Pius IX did not change the obligation on those who declared themselves the vicars on earth of Jesus Christ. Pope John was the first Pontiff unwittingly out the role assigned to the papacy. His successor, Pope Paul VI, has carried this response much further, and much less willingly. Paul answered Baha'u'llah's century-old "summons" to "emerge" from the Lateran "palace" and go out "amidst the peoples of the world." So far he has visited Africa, Asia, Latin America, North America and Europe, thus breaking with twenty centuries of papal tradition.

One of the most important visits of Pope Paul VI was to the United Nations headquarters in New York City. There he did "speak out" among the leaders of men. He did "exhort" them to "justice" and to be mindful of the things in the holy "Book" of God. Why is this particular event interesting to the student of Baha'u'llah's story?

For the following reasons, to give only a few:

How remarkable that in this involuntary manner a Pope had answered God's century-old "summons."

While addressing the United Nations, Pope Paul VI, like John XXIII before him, echoed the very principles which Baha'u'llah had given to the world so long ago.

It is a tragedy for us all that it took over a hundred years! It is a greater tragedy that the Pontiff, a sincere and holy man, was far too late for his words to have any effect. Only one thing could have made his address relevant. He could have repeated Baha'u'llah's words to his predecessor,

"He who is the Lord of Lords is come... He hath stored away that which He chose in the vessels of justice, and cast into the fire that which befitteth it."

The Pope's rendezvous with history, however, was not yet complete. Two other specific tasks had been appointed to his office. His predecessors had let them pass, and God would wait no longer.

Impelled as by an unseen hand, the Pontiff proceeded on the course laid out for him a hundred years earlier.

"Enter ye into wedlock, so there may appear from you those who will praise God."

Chapter 14
Section 5- O Concourse of Priests

Baha'u'llah invited the Pope to visit Him in the Holy Land.

If the Pope loved and remembered Christ, he would open his heart to Baha'u'llah.

"Reliance" on God would be the only "provision" he would need for such a journey.

It was clear that if he, the Pope, were truly waiting, truly seeking, he would not fail to investigate a claim which had the stupendous moral authority which Baha'u'llah's reputation was now giving to His words. If the Pope did not come himself, there were hundreds whom he could send.

The journey was never made. There was only silence from the Church. A century of silence.

And then one hundred years later, Pope Paul VI visited the Holy Land. Again breaking all precedent, and for reasons which were never made clear, he left Rome and visited the land to which the Messenger of God had summoned his predecessor. Paul VI was accorded a huge welcome, similar to that which had greeted Emperor Franz Josef and Kaiser William I so long before him. It was hailed as a great event in the press. A Pope had come at last to the Holy Land.

Baha'u'llah came as a Prisoner and an Exile, despised and imprisoned. The "Vicar" who sat on His throne" and held that seat of honor in the Promised One's Name, against the day of His return, was showered with praise and blessings.

It was century too late. The Promised One was longer there. Nor did Pope Paul seek to investigate the flourishing center whose Shrines and gardens covered the slope of Mount Carmel in memory of the Prisoner of 'Akka.

During the visit of Pope Paul VI to Israel, news arrived at the World Center of the Baha'i Faith announcing that the Teachings of Baha'u'llah, the Glory of the Lord, were well established all over the world. Today over 2,100 tribes, races and ethnic groups in over 130,000 different places on the planet.

This had been envisioned by Habakkuk :

"For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."

The press, television and radio were all reporting the wrong story. But that had happened before, too.

There on the side of Mount Carmel, the Vinyard of God, stood the World Seat of that "Kingdom" which the Pope and over five hundred million Catholics extolled daily in their prayers.

The "Kingdom" had come. God's Will had been "done" on earth as promised in the Lord's prayer. The Christ-promised Kingdom had appeared in the exact Spot foretold in passage after passage from the Holy Book revered by the Pope and his people. But, unhappily, neither Catholics nor Protestants were aware of it.

Surely the echo of Baha'u'llah's Voice must have reverberated through those Holy hills on the occasion of Pope Paul's visit. Like rolling thunder those Words must have resounded through Zion, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth, where they were originally uttered:

Ironically, Baha'u'llah's Letter to Pope Pius IX had repeatedly warned the Pontiff not to make the same mistake the high priests and religious leaders made in the days of Christ. Baha'u'llah wrote:

"Thou, in truth, art one of the suns of the heaven of His names. Guard thyself; lest darkness spread its veils over thee, and fold thee away from His light."

Christ Himself had warned against such a calamity. In the chapter of Matthew in which Jesus gave so many proofs of the time of His coming, He also warns that the sun shall be "darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken."

The meaning, Baha'u'llah explained, is clear. The "moons" are those religious leaders who take their light from the "Sun" of Christ. Such "moons" and "stars" fade away each morning when the Sun of a new day dawns. In like manner, when the "Sun" of Christ returns, the Sun of the past day is "darkened." If the "moon" refuses the Light of the new Sun, it too is "darkened" and sheds no light on the problems of men.

This was the meaning of Baha'u'llah's Words when He entreated such religious leaders not to turn away from Him:

"Ye are the stars of the heaven of My knowledge. My mercy desireth not that ye should fall upon the earth."

One more task remained to the itinerant and record-breaking Pope Paul.

Paul visited the World Council of Churches in Switzerland in June, 1969, thus bringing together leaders from both the catholic and Protestant Faiths. That visit took place one hundred years after Baha'u'llah had urged a Pope in Rome to do precisely that: to offer His Teachings to the other religious leaders of mankind. First "drink" of the Words yourself, Baha'u'llah had instructed Pius IX, then "proffer" them to the "peoples of all faiths."

The World Council of Protestant Churches had met before. During one of their international gatherings, the press reported that the delegates found it "impossible to reach a vote" on the subject of Christ's return. Delegates from 163 denominations from 48 countries "disagreed sharply and fundamentally" on the question of "whether the Christian hope for the establishment of God's kingdom can be fulfilled in this world or only after the second coming of Christ."

He had come, and He had gone!

For over a century and a quarter, for nearly thirteen decades, the Bab, Baha'u'llah, 'Abdu'l-Baha, and the followers of Baha'u'llah now flooding the world in over 30.000 different centers in all parts of the planet, have been telling the Christian world that Christ has already returned. He has come and He has gone, just as He the Bible that He would. Christ cautioned that although "all eyes shall see His glory," He would come "as a thief in the night." The parable He told made it clear that the divine "thief" would have come and gone! It happened over a hundred years ago! And that is why a world body of the Christian Faith spent hours debating whether they could establish Christ's Kingdom now or only after He returned. That is why a Catholic Pope broke all precedents and went to meet with them.

Tragically, they had nothing to say to one another when they met. The Pope did not, in fact, did not understand the impulse which had sent him there. And he demonstrated no awareness of the one message which could have had any relevance for his audience.

And so they all went home.

"Ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men."

Chapter 14
Section 6- Blind Leaders

Baha'u'llah has written thus of the clergy of His time:

"When We observed carefully, We discovered that Our enemies are, for the most part, the divines..."

He addressed them directly:

"How long will ye . . . level the spears of hatred at the face of Baha?...follow not your desires which have altered the face of creation."

Baha'u'llah tried to open their eyes and ears so they might hear that "new song" spoken of by Isaiah. He said:

"Purify your eyes that they may hearken unto the voice of God . . . can any one of you race with the Divine Youth in the arena of wisdom and utterance, or soar with him in the heaven of inner meaning and explanation? ...can the one possessed of wooden legs resist him whose feet God hath made of steel? Nay, by Him Who illumineth the whole of creation!"

Baha'u'llah offered an ocean of proof the religious leaders of all Faiths that He was the One they awaited. Yet many not only rejected Baha'u'llah, but they actively opposed, persecuted and tried to stamp out both Baha'u'llah and His Teachings.

Almost without exception, religious leaders have taken the lead in holding shut the door whenever their followers became interested in the Message of Baha'u'llah.

Their attacks on the Revelation and their willingness to retell slanders passed on to them by Muslim clergy carries discouraging echoes of the similar actions in the early days of Christianity by the same sort of religious opponents.

No wonder Baha'u'llah was to write to such clergymen:

O ye that are foolish yet have a name to be wise! Wherefore do ye wear the guise of the shepherd, when inwardly ye have become wolves, intent upon my flock."

It is also not surprising that Christ Himself would warn against such unseeing shepherds of His flock. Jesus said:

"Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind both shall fall into the ditch."

Yet Baha'u'llah in no way sought to degrade or belittle the importance of the world's religious leaders. Rather, He praised unreservedly those religious leaders whose actions and conduct conform to their words. He has said that:

"The guidance of men hath, at all times, been and is dependent upon these blessed souls."

Of such a sincere religious leader, whatever his religion or denomination, Baha'u'llah has also written:

"The inmates of Paradise, and the dwellers of the sacred Folds, bless him at eventide and at dawn."

Such spiritual giants, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or of any other religion are "as the spirit to the body of the world." Baha'u'llah declares and "as an eye unto the world."

It was two Christian clergymen, from the missionary field, who first introduced the Baha'i Faith to America in 1893 at the World Parliament of Religions. One wrote the paper describing the "Christ-like" sentiments of Baha'u'llah. The other read the document to the assembled audience.

Over four hundred outstanding priests of the Muslim Faith, some of them the most illustrious in the land, recognized and accepted the Bab and Baha'u'llah as the promised Messengers of God. They made great sacrifices for their faith. Many were martyred.

Clergy of all Faiths have since embraced the Teachings of Baha'u'llah, from Catholic priests to Buddhist monks. But in almost every instance they have been shunned by their former colleagues, belittled, ridiculed, persecuted, and in some instances killed.

It is too late to patch up and sew together a pathetically fragmented Christianity. Hundreds and hundreds of sects in a patchwork quilt of curious variations compete with each other for the Body of Christ. Even the hopeful signs of an ecumenical drawing together is but the unwitting results of Baha'u'llah's Message of oneness. Almost against their will the unifying forces of life drive these broken and tattered pieces before the wind toward one common destination -- unity.

And if all the multitude of Christian sects united, there would still remain Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Zoroastrians, agnostics, atheists and primitive peoples. Baha'u'llah, the Father, is reaching out an embrace to all religions and all peoples, not just to Christianity alone.

Baha'u'llah was saddened at the apathy of the Christian masses who had been given so many opportunities, yet who stood by indifferently while multitudes from other religious heritages entered the Faith of God ahead of them:

"O people of the Gospel! They who were not in the Kingdom have now entered it, whilst We behold you, in this day, tarrying at the gate . . . Open the doors of your hearts. Will ye bar the doors of your houses in My face?"

In a poetic reference to His own appearance in the East as foretold in Scripture, and His exile to the land of Jesus, where His Kingdom was established, He asks:

"O Bethlehem! This Light hath risen in the orient, and traveled towards the occident, until it reached thee in the evening of its life. Tell Me then: Do the sons recognize the Father, and acknowledge Him, or do they deny Him, even as the people aforetime denied Him [Jesus]?"

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Prisoner and the Kings by William Sears

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Joel Smith is a member of the Baha'i Faith living in the United States. Much of the material on this homepage consists of extracts from existing Baha'i publications, but also included are a number of insights and comments about prophecies which are entirely the author's own understanding and, as such, do not necessarily represent the official position of the Baha'i Faith or its teachings.