Updated: Sep 2, 2022
Imagine a garden where all the flowers were the same colour. Or, if you're no gardener, being invited to an exclusive restaurant that offered just one dish. Imagine a wardrobe where all your dresses and accessories were identical. Or - to be fully gender-free - trying to find your car in a parking lot where all the cars were the same make and colour. Admit it; most of us have mislaid a car like this at some stage or another. So diversity is good. We like variety. We like choice.
Today our world is confronting a level of diversity never previously encountered. Together we represent thousands of different languages, cultures, customs and histories. That was ok in the past when we lived in different areas of the planet with clearly defined boundaties. But today, thanks to greater travel and trade, we're increasingly becoming neighbours. It's like we're all sharing the same neighbourhood. And that's where the challenges begin. But also the greater possibilities...
It really aggravates some people that we don't all see things in exactly the same way. But if we're to continue as one peaceful global community we need to allow for diversity. I will have certain views and you will have others. And that's ok.
But in our past, differences represented potential threats. Different rulers, different anthems, different national cultures.
The Bahai Faith is distinguished in that it doesn't just support diversity; it actively fosters it, teaching a way of living together that supports harmony and unity and - ultimately - our peace. Was there ever a time when that was more desperately needed?
Depending on where on our planet you live, the Creator of this existence - if you believe such a being even exists, and more and more people don't - is variously known as Yahweh, Atua, Dieu, Krishna, God, Jehovah, 'he who has no name' or any one of many others, depending on our languages.
In the past many people understood this diversity of names to mean that the religions concerned worshipped many different gods. However, it is increasingly recognised that these seemingly diverse names merely reflect a variation of language. Some religions use in the place of 'God' those words that express various divine attributes of the supreme being, such as Power, Might, Love, Forgiveness, often with different names for feminine or masculine qualities, yet they still describe that single God. One God.
This complex Creator is increasingly recognised as a vast unknowable force of indefinable nature whose influence is capable of creating vast solar systems, the size of which is beyond our mortal capacity to comprehend. This is a God who needs no feminine or masculine name, and is beyond gender.
However, due to our own limited consciousness, the very idea of a genderless limitless eternal existence daunts the human mind, so it's not surprising that we have needed to develop much simpler, often childlike, embodiments of this 'force' or 'being' that will also embody the attributes of knowledge, intelligence, attraction and love that are associated with such a Being.
So what does all this lead to? In my own personal paradigm as described in this blog, I believe that there is only one God known by different names. Humanity is one common race and our different Prophets have come to different places on the planet at different times, bringing messages inspired by our one God with the purpose of healing the diverse problems that have been unique to each age.
'The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens'. - Baha'u'llah
Humanity's great challenge in this day is to recognise the extent to which in the past we have 'anthropomorphised' this vast force that is God, and to find a new way of exploring what is meant by that great Reality which is beyond our limited human minds to comprehend.
I think that we are being called to a new way of being in this wonderful family, and that now is the time for the unification of the whole human race. 'Abdu'l-Baha describes further;
The meaning is that they must treat all humankind even as they treat their sympathizers, their fellow-believers, their loved ones and familiar friends.
Should such a torch light up the world community, ye will find that the whole earth is sending forth a fragrance, that it hath become a delightsome paradise, and the face of it the image of high heaven. Then will the whole world be one native land, its diverse peoples one single kind, the nations of both east and west one household.
- Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha - 41.
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