Nurturing Inherent Nobility: Insights on Human Dignity from a Bahá’í Perspective
2. Background on the Bahá’í Faith
“The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established”.
3. Dignity and Human Nature in Bahá’í Ontology
Addressing mankind, [Bahá’u’lláh] says, “Ye are all leaves of one tree and the fruits of one branch.” By this it is meant that the world of humanity is like a tree, the nations or peoples are the different limbs or branches of that tree, and the individual human creatures are as the fruits and blossoms thereof. In this way Bahá’u’lláh expressed the oneness of humankind, whereas in all religious teachings of the past the human world has been represented as divided into two parts: one known as the people of the Book of God, or the pure tree, and the other the people of infidelity and error, or the evil tree. The former were considered as belonging to the faithful, and the others to the hosts of the irreligious and infidel—one part of humanity the recipients of divine mercy, and the other the object of the wrath of their Creator. Bahá’u’lláh removed this by proclaiming the oneness of the world of humanity, and this principle is specialized in His teachings, … all are recipients of the bounty and bestowals of God.
Noble have I created thee, yet thou hast abased thyself. Rise then unto that for which thou wast created.
Every good habit, every noble quality belongs to man’s spiritual nature, whereas all his imperfections and sinful actions are born of his material nature.
“According to the words of the Old Testament God has said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”. This indicates that man is of the image and likeness of God—that is to say, the perfections of God, the divine virtues, are reflected or revealed in the human reality. Just as the light and effulgence of the sun when cast upon a polished mirror are reflected fully, gloriously, so, likewise, the qualities and attributes of Divinity are radiated from the depths of a pure human heart. This is evidence that man is the most noble of God’s creatures.”
[T]he human soul is, in its essence, one of the signs of God, a mystery among His mysteries. It is one of the mighty signs of the Almighty, the harbinger that proclaimeth the reality of all the worlds of God. Within it lieth concealed that which the world is now utterly incapable of apprehending.
O Children of Men! Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. Ponder at all times in your hearts how ye were created. Since We have created you all from one same substance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land, that from your inmost being, by your deeds and actions, the signs of oneness and the essence of detachment may be made manifest.
Liberty causeth man to overstep the bounds of propriety, and to infringe on the dignity of his station. It debaseth him to the level of extreme depravity and wickedness.
“It is not Our wish to address thee words of condemnation, out of regard for the dignity We conferred upon thee in this mortal life. We, verily, have chosen courtesy, and made it the true mark of such as are nigh unto Him”.
“All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization… Those virtues that befit his dignity are forbearance, mercy, compassion and loving-kindness towards all the peoples and kindreds of the earth”.
Man must now become imbued with new virtues and powers, new moral standards, new capacities… The gifts and blessings of the period of youth, although timely and sufficient during the adolescence of mankind, are now incapable of meeting the requirements of its maturity.
Divine Justice demands that the rights of both sexes should be equally respected since neither is superior to the other in the eyes of Heaven. Dignity before God depends, not on sex, but on purity and luminosity of heart. Human virtues belong equally to all!
When perfect justice reigns in every country of the Eastern and Western World, then will the earth become a place of beauty. The dignity and equality of every servant of God will be acknowledged; the ideal of the solidarity of the human race, the true brotherhood of man, will be realized; and the glorious light of the Sun of Truth will illumine the souls of all men.
4. Cultivating Dignity in an Institutional Context: The Bahá’í Administrative Order
“This Feast is a bringer of joy. It is the groundwork of agreement and unity. It is the key to affection and fellowship. It diffuseth the oneness of mankind…”, “The object is concord, that through this fellowship hearts may become perfectly united, and reciprocity and mutual helpfulness be established. Because the members of the world of humanity are unable to exist without being banded together, cooperation and mutual helpfulness is the basis of human society. Without the realization of these two great principles no great movement is pressed forward”.
“The fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion,” declares Bahá’u’lláh, “is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race, and to foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men… Whatsoever is raised on this foundation, the changes and chances of the world can never impair its strength, nor will the revolution of countless centuries undermine its structure”.
The first condition is absolute love and harmony amongst the members of the assembly. They must be wholly free from estrangement and must manifest in themselves the Unity of God… The second condition: They must when coming together turn their faces to the Kingdom on High and ask aid from the Realm of Glory. They must then proceed with the utmost devotion, courtesy, dignity, care and moderation to express their views. They must in every matter search out the truth and not insist upon their own opinion, for stubbornness and persistence in one’s views will lead ultimately to discord and wrangling and the truth will remain hidden.
5. The Implications of Dignity in Education and Community Building
There are some who imagine that an innate sense of human dignity will prevent man from committing evil actions and ensure his spiritual and material perfection. That is, that an individual who is characterized with natural intelligence, high resolve, and a driving zeal, will, without any consideration for the severe punishments consequent on evil acts, or for the great rewards of righteousness, instinctively refrain from inflicting harm on his fellow men and will hunger and thirst to do good. And yet, if we ponder the lessons of history, it will become evident that this very sense of honor and dignity is itself one of the bounties deriving from the instructions of the Prophets of God. We also observe in infants the signs of aggression and lawlessness, and that if a child is deprived of a teacher’s instructions, his undesirable qualities increase from one moment to the next. It is, therefore, clear that the emergence of this natural sense of human dignity and honor is the result of education.
6. The Implications of Dignity in Responding to Oppression
The proper response to oppression is neither to succumb in resignation nor to take on the characteristics of the oppressor. The victim of oppression can transcend it through an inner strength that shields the soul from bitterness and hatred and which sustains consistent, principled action.
the principle of meeting hatred and persecution with love and kindness; the principle that we can gain strength through adversity and hardship, and that we can attain higher spiritual values and goals by sacrificing lower material comforts and needs; the principle of cultivating spiritual qualities and virtues within oneself and relying on the power of personal example in order to attract and reform the hearts of others; and the principle of active service to humanity to improve the conditions of all people without regard to distinctions based on religious belief or other categories of identity.
7. Concluding Remarks
Human rights can be established in terms of social status when members of the community realize that the gift of life and conscious being obligates them to meet responsibilities owed to God, to society and to self. Mutual recognition by members of the community of the truth that their lives emanate from one and the same universal Source enables them to maintain ordered relationships in a common social body.(BIC 1947)
“in terms of the intrinsic value or worth of every human being as a member of an interdependent community—or social body. The social body frame suggests that this intrinsic value is realized as individuals develop those latent capacities upon which the well-being of the entire body depends”.
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Tavangar, T.T.; Palmer, D.A. Nurturing Inherent Nobility: Insights on Human Dignity from a Bahá’í Perspective. Religions 2023, 14, 250. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14020250
Tavangar TT, Palmer DA. Nurturing Inherent Nobility: Insights on Human Dignity from a Bahá’í Perspective. Religions. 2023; 14(2):250. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14020250Chicago/Turabian Style
Tavangar, Temily Tianmay, and David Alexander Palmer. 2023. "Nurturing Inherent Nobility: Insights on Human Dignity from a Bahá’í Perspective" Religions 14, no. 2: 250. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14020250