22 June 2010

'Abdu'l-Baha on Spiritual and Material Civilization

This is a good passage to think about the next time you hear a Baha'i talk about how important it is for material and spiritual development to go hand in hand. As is evident from this quotation, the idea isn't a recent innovation, probably originating in Colombia. It frames a much broader vision for how 'Abdu'l-Baha envisions the progress of humanity.

In the western world material civilization has attained the highest point of development, but divine civilization was founded in the land of the East. The East must acquire material civilization from the West, and the West must receive spiritual civilization from the East. This will establish a mutual bond. When these two come together, the world of humanity will present a glorious aspect, and extraordinary progress will be achieved. This is clear and evident; no proof is needed. The degree of material civilization in the Occident cannot be denied; nor can anyone fail to confirm the spiritual civilization of the Orient, for all the divine foundations of human uplift have appeared in the East. This, likewise, is clear and evident. Therefore, you must assist the East in order that it may attain material progress. The East must, likewise, promulgate the principles of spiritual civilization in the western world. By this commingling and union the human race will attain the highest degree of prosperity and development.

-Abdu'l Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace p.16
We could say that spiritual prosperity is found in a desire to give of oneself freely in worship to God and service to others; and that it is characterized by qualities such as love, joyfulness, reverence, and a thirst for justice. And we might say that material prosperity is found in the health and well-being of our bodies; that it is characterized by such things as the ability to eat a strong, balanced diet, possession of adequate comfortable shelter, and freedom from disease.

So often we think that we must choose between one or the other; that if we want to progress spiritually we must live an ascetic lifestyle; or that if we want to progress materially, we must set aside religion and morals. Certainly, they are different from each other. But they are not opposed. Rather, they assist in the development of the other. For example, it’s difficult to pray when hungry. Physical health is conducive to a life of worship. Conversely, spiritual qualities provide the motivation for advancing material prosperity. If I love you, I will work with you to ensure you have good food to eat and a safe place to sleep.

Spiritual and material prosperity are like a doorframe and a door. They are separate objects; and they have separate functions. But they are united by a hinge. And with that hinge the door and the doorframe work together to fulfill a broader function. Human life is divided into a material aspect and a spiritual aspect. But they are joined together and work in concert.


  1. Bahaism is not a religion. Its an espionage organization working for Israel

  2. You says there are no sects in Bahai Faith.
    Please refer www.sectofbahais.com

  3. It should be noted that the baseless claim that Baha'is are an espionage organization has never been taken seriously by the United Nations and the vast majority of nations on the planet. This charge, usually from corrupt officals and supporters of the terrorist regime in Iran, has and will continue to be seen be the world as a childish lie which only the most debased and ignorant on earth will believe.

  4. Sects in the Baha'i Faith? Only on the Internet, my dear friends. That's the only place where you actually run into them - in the virtual reality. :-)

    Espionage organization? Oh dear, to the Faith, the state of Israel is a rather new entity. Previously, Haifa, where our World Centre is located, was Turkish territory. Then it became British. Also remember that the Faith originated in Iran and now is spread to almost every country and territory in the world. There is a vast choice of countries to spy for if you wish to come up with conspiracy theories. But the fact is that we are not spying for anyone.