Society Builders

On November 28, 2023, the Universal House of Justice shared its message providing a history of our organic evolution as a community over the past hundred years.  This episode explores parts of that message addressing the 'society building' focus across four key themes: the organic evolution of initiatives, our interaction with wider society, principles for society building and the interplay between the forces of integration and disintegration at work in the world today.

What is Society Builders?

Explores the application of Baha'i principles towards society building.

Society Builders pave the way to a

better world, to a better day.

A united approach to building a new society.

Join the conversation for social transformation. Society Builders.

Society Builders with your host, Duane Varan.

Welcome to Society Builders, and thanks for

joining the conversation for Social Transformation.

Now, today's episode is an exceptional episode.

I say exceptional here, not because of its

outstanding quality, but because it's an exception to

our normal pattern of episodes, really, because we're

currently in the middle of our sequence of

episodes exploring the science of depolarization, of bringing

antagonistic groups closer together.

But we're interrupting that sequence because the

Baha'i world just received a message from

the Universal House of Justice.

Its message of November 28, 2023.

And this message is so weighty and so important

that I felt it required me to drop everything

and focus on exploring its contents immediately.

It's a seminal message that Baha'is throughout the world

will be studying intensely over the coming weeks.

So today we interrupt our previously scheduled sequence

on the Science of Depolarization to explore the

recent message of the Universal House of Justice,

exploring the treasures of wisdom that can be

discerned from our experiences as a community over

the past hundred years, and more systematically working

to apply our principles.

So this episode comes to you hot off the press,

so fasten your seatbelts and let's dive right in.

Now, we've talked about the significance of

this kind of guidance from the Universal

House of Justice in previous episodes.

Messages like this help us understand our past, and

that's not just about the events that transpire, but

about interpreting their significance and their impact.

They help us understand the future, giving us this incredibly

rare glimpse in terms of what's in store for us,

what lays for us right around the corner.

But they also help us understand the present, both

in terms of our communities, but also in better

understanding the current state of the world.

It provides a unique lens to cut through the confusion

that is so pervasive all around us, and to see

global events with a new level of clarity.

So messages like this are such a precious gift.

We're incredibly fortunate to have

access to such wisdom.

Literally, every word gives us new insight.

So naturally, it's incredibly exciting to

be the recipients of this guidance.

Now, a couple of quick disclaimers.

As I've done before, I want to remind

you that this podcast is not a reflection

of the views of any Baha'i agency.

I share my insights with you purely

as a personal initiative, and my views

have absolutely no authority whatsoever.

In fact, my understanding is clearly imperfect.

I share my views with you in this

series to help stimulate your own thinking.

You are perfectly free to accept

or reject anything I say.

My views are no more or less important

than yours, so weigh it all for yourself.

Just think of me as another person sitting

around in your study group sharing my thoughts

with you and weigh those thoughts for yourself,

as you would the contributions of anywhere else

in your consultation or in your study group.

And once again, I want to remind you that my purpose

in sharing my thoughts here with you is not to provide

a substitute for your own study of this message.

It's designed to supplement your study

and hopefully even encourage it.

Okay, with those disclaimers now let's explore.

Now, the focus of this message is primarily on

what we've achieved as a global community over the

past hundred years, across the three Divine Charters, in

focusing our service and activities, the 'Tablets of the

Divine Plan', which have guided our teaching initiatives the

Will and Testament of Abdul-Baha, which has shaped

the evolution of our Baha'i institutions, and the ' Tablet

of Carmel', which has been the guiding light in

the building of the Baha'i World Center.

The message centers on guidance provided on behalf of

Shoghi Effendi that explained that attempts to understand the

implications of the Will of Abdul-Baha would require

a century of 'actual before the treasures of

wisdom hidden within it could be revealed.

And drumroll, please.

Now that we've had that century of it actually

working, the time has come for these treasures to

now be revealed, and that's what this message provides.

Wow. Right.

This message is that unearthing

of these precious treasures.

How incredibly exciting is that?

Now, by my count, the message is comprised

of 27 pages, that's a little over 16,500

words, across 89 paragraphs, ignoring titles, of course,

that are structured across 7 key sections.

So this message is on the meatier end of the spectrum

in terms of such messages, and it's packed with insights.

And the primary narrative of the message is

devoted to sharing the story of the history

of the past hundred years, gleaning the treasures,

the lessons, learned along the way.

In a lot of ways, this reminds me of

the Guardian's contributions in writing 'God Passes By', which

is a history of the first hundred years of

our Faith from 1844 to 1944.

Now, there were substantive history books on our Faith

already written at the time, of course, but Shoghi

Effendi's work is entirely unique, not because it tells

us the story of the events that transpired, but

because it helps us interpret them, their significance in

the unfoldment of a larger narrative of the organic

evolution of our Faith.

And this is precisely what the

Universal House of Justice does.

Here they lay out a history of the first hundred

years of our formative age, from 1921, with the passing

of Abdul-Baha to 2021, of our efforts to apply

our teachings as communities in more systematic ways around those

three Charters, which I referenced earlier.

Now, you're going to be incredibly inspired when

you read all this, if you haven't already.

You're going to learn so much, and it helps

situate events in your own life with new perspective.

It helps you position activities you already participated in,

seeing them in new light, understanding the larger narrative

of what they were really all about.

And I'm sure that throughout our communities

there will be many systematic initiatives designed

to help us better study the message,

because it really is just so seminal.

So I hope you will appreciate that an attempt

to summarize all of this is well beyond the

scope of what we can achieve in today's episode.

So that's not what we're going to do.

That's not what we're going to

focus on in this particular episode.

Today's episode is not an attempt

to summarize the entire message.

Instead, today we're going to focus on the parts

of the message which specifically focus on society building.

In other words, we're exploring only one

aspect of this very weighty message.

And in all honesty, I feel

inadequate even in attempting that.

So please accept my deepest apologies here for

not being able to tackle the entire message

and for limiting today's episode in this way.

Once again, I encourage you to study

the message yourself and collectively with others.

But hopefully we can explore at least part

of that message together in this podcast.

And with these disclaimers shared, let's now dive

in to explore these parts of the message.

And specifically, we're going to explore

four themes related to society building.

Here the organic nature of our evolution as

a community, the character of our interaction with

wider society, new insights describing the process of

society building, and finally, an exploration of the

interaction between the forces of integration and disintegration.

So today we'll explore each of these four themes.

The first hundred years of the Formative Age of our

Faith - the period from 1921 to 2021 - will probably

be viewed by future historians as the 'community building

stage in our evolution as a community.

As the message clarifies, before we could meaningfully

contribute to larger society with scale, we had

to build our capacity to function as communities

capable of charting our own destinies.

Now, prior to this, in the Heroic Age, the believers

had direct access to guidance from our Central Figures.

First from the Bab, then

Baha'u'llah, and then Abdul-Baha.

So if you've been following this podcast series,

you'll remember from episodes 6 through 13, for

example, how we explored all of these exciting

ways in which the Baha'i's of Abdul-Baha's

generation contributed to society building.

But they pursued these under

Abdul-Baha's direct guidance.

Those schools for girls and boys in Iran,

the race amity initiatives of the United States,

the Baha'i villages, cultivating crops in the Holy

Land, the erection of the first Mashriqu’l-Adhkár in

Ishqabad all of these benefited directly from this

unerring, patient and continuous guidance.

But once we no longer had direct access to

this precious gift to humanity, a new process was

set in motion around those three divine charters.

We talked about setting in motion the formative age

of our faith and developing our capacity as protagonists

in our own development to function as communities making

our own decisions and navigating our own paths through

systematic action guided by experience and the higher level

of guidance first received by Shoghi Effendi and then

of the Universal House of Justice.

This is this community building

stage I was referring to.

And this system that has been

organically evolving is entirely unique.

We have no clergy or leaders directing

believers and telling them what to do.

We had to develop new patterns of community

life centered on collective action through consultation, something

truly without parallel anywhere in the world.

And there were countless challenges

in cultivating this new culture.

So while we always had the ability to apply our

teachings in the path of our own spiritual progress, learning

to do this together, collectively took some time.

And as the message clarifies, we had to

first learn to apply these principles in our

own communities before we could effectively apply them

to the challenges of wider society.

Now, don't get me wrong.

Plenty of individual Baha'i contributed

to society in remarkable ways.

And many Baha'i communities and groups of

Baha'i contributed, often experimenting with new approaches.

And there were new institutions which evolved.

Institutions at all levels global, national, local, even

Baha'i inspired organizations, a constellation of new institutions

to respond to both the opportunities and demands

of engaging with wider society.

But the point here is that our

systematic attention collectively as communities, had as

their priority this community building focus because

it was the prerequisite laying the foundation

we would need to collectively and systematically

be able to contribute to society building.

So the message carefully lays out the story

of the organic evolution of our communities towards

the stage where we were finally able to

collectively and systematically tackle the society building challenge.

In fact, one of my favorite parts of the

message articulates this in such an inspiring way.

Rather than attempt to summarize this section,

let me just read it to you.

They say Shoghi Effendiexplained to the Baha'is of

America that given the restricted size of their community

and the limited influence it wielded, they must focus

at that time on its own growth and development

as it learned to apply the teachings.

He promised, however, that the time would come

when they would be called upon to engage

their fellow citizens in a process of working

for the healing and betterment of their nation.

That time has now come.

And it has come not only for the Baha'is

of America, but for the Baha'is of the world,

as the society building power inherent in the Faith

is released in ever greater measures. Wow. Right?

The time is now.

So we engaged ever so patiently in community

building over the past hundred years, developing this

capacity for this promised age in which we

could then apply ourselves collectively to society building.

And that time has now arrived.

I mean, doesn't that just take your breath away?

And the message really helps

us understand this organic evolution.

It evolves both through experience and through

this higher level of divine guidance.

And as the message explains, with every step

forward in its organic unfoldment, the Baha'i World

develops new powers and new capacities that enable

it to take on greater challenges as it

strives to achieve Baha'u'llah's purpose for humanity.

So this, I think, is one of the main

takeaways from the message related to society building, that

we understand its place in the organic evolution of

our community, how our path moving forward is built

on the foundations of our past.

Of course, that our new focus builds on the

previous plans is something that the Universal House of

Justice has been telling us for some years now.

But this message goes into much more depth,

explaining and illustrating this and inspiring us.

It helps us situate the current opportunities,

our new focus on society building within

this organic evolution of our collective capacity.

The second theme I'd like to explore from the

message is what new insights it shares in terms

of describing our interaction with wider society.

Now, there's no question that this arena is one

where we're learning and adjusting our views rapidly.

Our community cultures are changing and

we're learning to reconceptualize how we

interact with the world around us.

Previously, I think we thought of ourselves

as being very separate from the world.

It's like we had a fortress exclusive from the

world around us, but we were very open to

inviting people to join us inside this fortress.

But there was a clear and

defined wall that separated us.

We moved in very distinct worlds.

We enjoyed fellowship with our Baha'i brothers and sisters, and

we created spaces like Firesides, where we welcomed wider society,

but on our turf and on our terms.

Now, this is an exaggeration for sure.

It wasn't this black and white.

There was plenty of gray there.

But my description here describes a certain kind

of culture where there was a very distinct

separation between us and the world around us.

Now, we know that this perspective is entirely

flawed and not consistent with our teachings.

We're evolving in better understanding a new

reality, but it's one which we're still

only getting a glimpse of.

And this message helps further clarify this.

It's an incredibly new reality that is central

to our new approach to society building.

So instead of this separation, we're learning

to see the world around us as

collaborators, partners in building a new world.

In fact, the vast majority of people engaged in

this enterprise will be from this wider society.

So don't think of the thousands in

our regional Baha'i communities, think of the

millions in the world around us.

That's the force to be mobilized

in the path of society building.

So here, the Universal House of Justice reminds us

that Bahaú'llah calls on us to act as the

leaven, a permeating and vivifying influence that could inspire

others to arise and overcome entrenched patterns of divisiveness

conflict and contest for power so that the highest

aspirations of humanity could ultimately be achieved.

We act as catalysts.

We help awaken this capacity in society.

It's not something we do FOR the world,

it's something we do together WITH the world.

And this recognizes that everyone has a role.

So our challenge is in finding sympathetic

individuals and organizations who pursue common objectives

so we can collaborate with them.

And in this collaboration, we all learn and discover.

They learn from our experiences and our

teachings, and we learn from their experiences.

This is a true partnership and a common quest.

This builds on the recent Ridvan message of the Universal

House of Justice, where they use the example of the

recent conferences held all around the world to describe a

new level of kinship, how we have become much more

open to wider society, consulting about our plans in the

company of those from wider society.

And this is very different from the past,

where we first developed our plans behind closed

doors and then interacted with society.

So this reflects this new paradigm

of kinship, of collaboration and partnership.

As the Universal House of Justice writes in

the Message, every people and every nation has

a part to play in the next stage

in the fundamental reconstruction of human society.

All have unique insights and experiences to offer

for the building of a unified world.

And it is the responsibility of the

Friends, as the bearers of Baha'u'llah's restorative

message, to assist populations to release their

latent potentialities to achieve their highest aspirations.

In this effort, the friends share this precious

message with others, strive to demonstrate the efficacy

of the Divine Remedy in the lives of

individuals and communities, and work together with all

those who appreciate and share the same values

and aspirations.

As they do so, Baha'u'llah's vision of a

unified world will offer a hopeful and clear

direction to peoples whose perception has been distorted

by the confusion prevailing in the world and

a constructive path for cooperation in the search

for solutions to longstanding social maladies.

As the spirit of the Faith increasingly permeates the

hearts to enkindle, love and reinforce the shared identity

of humanity as one people, it instills a sense

of loyal and conscientious civic responsibility.

And in place of the pursuit of

worldly power, redirects energies towards disinterested service.

In the pursuit of the common good, populations

increasingly adopt the method of consultation, action and

reflection to displace endless contest and conflict.

Individuals, communities and institutions across diverse

societies increasingly harmonize their efforts in

common purpose to overcome sectarian rivalries

and spiritual and moral qualities.

Foundational to humanity's progress and well being take

root in human character and social practice.

Wow, we have so much to offer.

But to properly actualize this all, it's something we have

to do in partnership with the world around us.

We don't own our principles.

They are there for the common good.

And as the world discovers the utility of

these principles in helping with their own ambitions,

learning to adopt, for example, our method of

consultation in their decision making.

As they increasingly interact with the Faith, they

will release their own latent potentialities, helping advance

the path to a more unified world.

The message also gives us all kinds

of exciting new contributions to our larger

understanding of the process of society building.

Again, our understanding of what society building

looks and feels like is evolving.

We don't yet have a common unity

of thought on what it all means.

We don't yet understand what a

distinctive Baha'i approach looks like.

That's something that will evolve

rapidly over the coming decades.

Now, I've talked about this in previous episodes, how

there are key constructs like Progressive Revelation which have

achieved this kind of unity of thought.

Anywhere you go in the Baha'i World, from the

jungles of the Congo to the Highlands of Papua

New Guinea, every Baha'i will share a description of

what Progressive Revelation means that is incredibly similar.

And over the course of the past 25 years,

there are new constructs in the community building arena

which share this kind of unity of thought.

So again, anywhere you go, for example,

the construct of accompaniment, just to use

one example, will have a common meaning.

But we haven't yet achieved this around

the various constructs associated with society building.

I suspect that our descriptions here would vary

wildly, and many of our concepts are still

probably shaped by secular concepts, us framing our

Baha'i work within the frameworks and approaches we

already understand, those adopted from wider society, instead

of discovering this distinctive Baha'i approach.

And this quest for this discovery is why

it's so important to look to messages like

this for clues, clues on what this approach

to society building will look and feel like.

So there are a number of treasures here in this message,

and these are treasures we want to learn from first.

The Universal House of Justice again reminds us that

development is not a process that is carried out

by one people on behalf of another.

It is people themselves, wherever they reside,

acting as protagonists in their own development.

So development is something we do with people as

equal protagonists, not something we do for them.

Another principle is that in the same way

that we see this meta narrative of the

organic evolution of our community over the past

hundred years, the same kind of organic evolution

happens in all of our society building initiatives.

Efforts start small and grow as experience accumulates.

We learn from our experiences, which

shape the evolution of our approaches.

And this idea has a number

of important dimensions to it.

First, that initiatives grow organically, but also

that they are shaped by our experiences.

It's not something we think up and

simply implement around a grand design.

It also highlights how critical it is to

try to get the process right by not

overextending ourselves, by staying true to our principles.

Rather than compromising for expediency because how we do

things is just as important as what we do.

The means by which the end is attained

is just as important as the end itself.

Much will depend upon the spirit and

manner in which our tasks are conducted.

And related to this is that process

of reflection of accessing and contributing to

insights, to knowledge, to experience.

It's something that should be available to

all, a democratization of access to knowledge.

I want to explore this theme a little further because

while I think a lot of heads will nod in

agreement with this idea, I think this is something a

lot of communities really need to work on.

In my own experience, institutions often hold such

knowledge very close to their chests and are

reluctant and suspicious in sharing it.

Some of this, I think, reflects a

fear that such knowledge might include negative

results which might discourage others.

For my part, and I'm speaking purely personally

here, I think this approach is fundamentally wrong.

The Universal House of Justice repeatedly calls on

us to be scientific in our approach.

And science is all about falsifiability, about the

ability to learn from both success and failure.

And you can't learn from failure if

you suppress all knowledge of it.

And here I'm just talking about

access to knowledge within our community.

It doesn't even grapple with the challenge

of sharing such experience with wider society,

which is also part of the process.

Now, again, this is just my personal view, but I think

we're going to have to learn to trust the process more,

to learn from what works, but also from what doesn't and

become more secure in providing open access to what we learn

from our experiences, whether good or bad.

And while we're talking about the method

of science, another key scientific principle articulated

in the message is that of replicability.

Good science is replicable.

You can retest to see whether you get similar results.

And in the same way, as programs and approaches

prove successful in one region, we should be able

to replicate that success in other regions.

And that too requires an openness

to sharing and to accompaniment.

And The Universal House of Justice highlights some

of the areas where our contributions to societal

discourse have been particularly effective the advancement of

women, the role of religion in society, the

spiritual and moral empowerment of youth, the promotion

of justice and the strengthening of social cohesion.

And here there's one reference that really

leapt out of the pages for me.

A key victory of the plans of the past 25

years was the leadership which evolved in our youth.

Youth truly moved to the vanguard,

leading our path in most initiatives.

I mean, it was truly a dramatic pattern.

And here in this message, the Universal House of

Justice says this they say the movement of youth

will be complemented worldwide by the unprecedented advancement of

women as full partners in community affairs.

So take that as a clue.

There is a mighty and powerful new pattern we'll see over the

course of the next 25 years similar to what we saw with

the rise of our youth over the past 25 years.

And this new pattern will see

this unprecedented advancement of women.

I mean, how incredibly exciting.

I don't know about you, but now that I've read

this, my eyes are suddenly open to this new reality

and I'm eager to see what this all looks like.

There's also a reference here.

Again, this is something we've seen in recent messages,

but there's a clear shout out to the incredible

role of local spiritual assemblies and their engagement with

wider society and with local leaders.

And similarly, there's a shout out again,

also emphasized in recent messages to the

intellectual life of the community.

And this relates to numerous references.

In fact, I counted 7 different sections

where the Universal House of Justice is

elaborating on the coherence construct.

So there is again further clarification that we

shouldn't pursue our work in fragmented and disjointed

and disconnected ways, but that our approach needs

to reflect a coherence that integrates across our

work in community building, social action and participation.

In the prevalent discourses of society and

that it maintains such coherence among the

three chief protagonists of the plan the

community, our institutions and the individual believer.

And of course, there are words of caution

against getting engulfed by divisive and political discourse.

And instead we need to seek to foster consensus

and unity of thought and to promote collaboration and

a common search to humanity's pressing problems.

So in all these ways, the message

is packed with insights helping us better

understand the process of society building.

The final theme I'd like to explore in

the Message that related to society building is

in the message's description of the interplay between

the forces of integration and disintegration.

On a personal level, these references felt somewhat

ominous, like there are some very, very turbulent

times in store for us all.

In fact, and again, this is just a personal reflection

here, but I found the tone of these references to

be very similar to the tone of the Guardian's writings

in the message of March 28, 1941, which was published

in book form as 'The Promised Day Has Come'.

Now, March of 1941 was an incredibly turbulent time.

It was the peak, really, of Nazi expansion.

France had already been conquered.

Great Britain was being bombed on a daily basis.

Rommel was, despite all odds conquering Africa and his

conquest of the Holy Land seemed a certainty.

So it seemed that Nazi tanks would be

rolling to the Holy Land at any minute.

And who knew what the implications for all

this would be for our World Center?

I mean, these were truly scary times.

I mean, this is the peak moment

of despair for the free world.

And at this juncture Shoghi Effendi writes: A

tempest unprecedented in its violence unpredictable in its

course, catastrophic in its immediate effects, unimaginably, glorious

in its ultimate consequences, is at present sweeping

the face of the earth.

Its driving power is remorsely,

gaining in range and momentum.

Its cleansing force, however much undetected,

is increasing with every passing day.

Humanity, gripped in the clutches of

its devastating power, is smitten by

the evidences of its resistless fury.

It can neither perceive its origin, nor

probe its significance nor discern its outcome.

Bewildered, agonized and helpless.

It watches this great and mighty wind of God

invading the remotest and fairest regions of the earth,

rocking its foundations, deranging its equilibrium, sundering its nations,

disrupting the homes of its people, wasting its cities,

driving into exile its kings, pulling down its bulwarks,

uprooting its institutions, dimming its lights, and harrowing up

the souls of its inhabitants.

And further, he writes: Dear friends, the powerful

operations of this titanic upheaval are comprehensible to

none except such as have recognized the claims

of both Baha'u'llah and the Bab.

Their followers know full well whence it comes

and what it will ultimately lead to.

Though ignorant of how far it will reach, they

clearly recognize its genesis, are aware of its direction,

acknowledge its necessity, observe confidently its mysterious processes, ardently

pray for the mitigation of its severity, intelligently labor

to assuage its fury, and anticipate with undimmed vision

the consummation of the fears and the hopes it

must necessarily engender.

Now, as a side note, this letter literally

marks the turning point of the war.

Almost immediately after this letter was

written, Rommel's fortunes changed, and he

had to reverse and retreat.

Hitler's subsequent invasion of Russia only months

later laid the foundations for his defeat.

So this is a turning point, so to speak.

But imagine yourself living at this time in

March of 1941, in these incredibly turbulent times

and receiving this guidance from the beloved Guardian.

Now, to me again, this is just a personal reflection,

but this section of the Message of the Universal House

of Justice has these kinds of tones as they describe

this interplay between the forces of integration and disintegration in

operation in the world today, calling on our ability to

read the reality of society as it responds to and

is shaped by these twin processes.

They frame this as the Baha'i world needing to

navigate the turmoil of a most perilous period in

humanity's social evolution, but assuring us that we will

follow undeviatingly the course set by providence.

Here's how they frame this dual process. They say this.

They say: A plethora of destructive forces and

events, including environmental degradation, climate change, pandemics, the

decline of religion and morals, the loss of

meaning and identity, the erosion of the concepts

of truth and reason, unbridled technology,

the exasperation of prejudices and ideological contention

pervasive corruption, political and economic upheaval, war

and genocide have left their traces in

blood and anguish on the pages of

history and the lives of billions.

At the same time, hopeful, constructive

trends can be discerned which are contributing to

that universal fermentation which Shoghi Effendi said is purging

and reshaping humanity in anticipation of the day

when the wholeness of the human race will

have been recognized and its unity established.

The diffusion of the spirit of world solidarity,

a greater consciousness of global interdependence, the embrace

of collaborative action among individuals and institutions, and

a heightened longing for justice and peace are

profoundly transforming human relationships.

And thus, the movement of the world towards

Baha'u'llah's vision advances in countless halting steps, in

occasional dramatic leaps, and with intermittent stretches where

progress stalls or is even reversed as humanity

forges the relationships that constitute the foundations of

a united and peaceful world.

Now, the integration part of that

dual process is incredibly inspiring, right?

I mean, we love reading about all these trends that

are coming together. But if you're like me, you're a

little bit daunted and scared by the disintegration part.

As the message says, none can anticipate precisely

what course the forces of disintegration are destined

to take, what violent convulsions will yet assail

humanity in this travailing age, or what obstacles

and opportunities may arise.

I mean, how scary is that, right?

And the Universal House of Justice makes it

clear here that we are not immune to

the pain and suffering the world will experience.

The turmoil in the world around us

will impact us all the same.

We may understand it, but

we'll still be experiencing it.

They use the example here of the inability

of Baha'i communities to pursue the plans during

the Second World War, for example, upheavals will

paralyze the ability of whole communities and whole

populations to fully participate.

It'll impact our financial resources.

I mean, we'll be impacted in every way.

We'll feel the pain.

And what's interesting to me is that the

language of the Universal House of Justice here

is not one of bunkering up.

We're not preppers.

We're not trying to disengage with

society as some might do. We don't fear it.

We're not trying to avoid it.

So the purpose doesn't feel like a warning so that

we can plan out how to best escape it.

Instead, it focuses on this interplay between

the force of integration and disintegration.

It's a summons for us to pull up our socks, develop

the skills we need, so we are best prepared to help

in service to our fellow brothers and sisters in the world

who will also be navigating through this turmoil.

It's a window of opportunity for us to

prepare ourselves for the tools we'll need to

help our fellow compatriots in this hour of

crisis that looms in our impending future.

How amazing is that?

There is a recognition that this process of

disintegration will lead to greater polarization, to the

recadescence of conflict among competing factions in a

cycle that will play over and over again,

and that the need for our service in

helping remedy this will be greater than ever.

And here there's a symbiotic relationship between

these forces of integration and disintegration.

As the forces of disintegration accelerate, so too,

simultaneously the forces of integration accelerate, knitting together

ever more closely the efforts of those who

are learning to translate Bahaú'llah's teachings into reality

with those in the wider society who seek

justice and peace.

And here, the Universal House of Justice

gives us some specific tools to help

us navigate through these challenging times.

First, they give us the example of the Iranian

Baha'i community, who for 40 years now have shouldered

the most intense suffering and pain as an intensely

persecuted community, but who have responded to this crisis

with unbowed courage and constructive resilience.

So here we can look to our

future hardship inspired by this example, reflecting

endurance in the face of injustices, indignities

and privation, their expressions of unswerving fortitude,

of consecrated devotion and mutual support.

These are essential lessons for how the Baha'i World

must respond to the acceleration of the destructive forces

that can be expected in the years ahead.

And the second tool they give us here is a

reminder to hold on tight to the fundamental truths.

We know for example, the fundamental truth that we

are all part of a single, unified organism.

Well this is such a big idea!

It's so crucial to how we interact

within all of our society building initiatives.

There is no us versus them.

We are all part of one human family.

And that idea is not a platitude.

It's a whole system of meaning, a

whole way of understanding the world.

It's a paradigm that is truly different

from how others understand the world.

So our path to helping others is

centered on us upholding such truths.

Because in those truths lays

the remedies to every ailment.

And again, because this idea is so

incredibly transformational and seminal, I'd like to

quote directly from the message.

They say: At its heart, the challenge

presented by the interplay of the processes

of integration and disintegration is the challenge

of holding fast to Baha'u'llah's description of reality

and to His teachings, while resisting the pull

of controversial and polarizing debates and beguiling prescriptions

that reflect futile attempts to define human identity

and social reality through limited human conceptions, materialist

philosophies and competing passions.

The All Knowing Physician hath His finger

on the pulse of mankind.

He perceiveth the disease and

prescribeth in His unerring wisdom

the remedy," Baha'u'llah states. "We can well

perceive how the whole human race is

encompassed with great, with incalculable afflictions."

Yet, He adds, "They that are intoxicated by self

conceit have interposed themselves between it and the Infallible

Physician. Witness how they have entangled all men, themselves

included, in the mesh of their devices.

If Baha'is become entangled in the delusionary notions

of contending peoples, if they emulate the values,

attitudes and practices that define a self absorbed

and self serving age, the release of those

forces necessary to redeem humanity from its plight

will be delayed and obstructed.

Rather, as the Guardian explains, the champion builders

of Baha'u'llah's rising world order must scale nobler

heights of heroism as humanity plunges into greater

depths of despair, degradation, dissension and distress.

Let them forge ahead into the future, serenely

confident that the hour of their mightiest exertions

and the supreme opportunity for their greatest exploits

must coincide with the apocalyptic upheaval marking the

lowest ebb in mankind's fast declining fortunes. Wow.

So we need to uphold the truths we know, for

example, that all humanity is one, and view everything through

this lens of these truths and not reduce our understanding

to the materialist views of our day, which reduce everything

to conflict and contests of power.

And as we get better at sharing such truths,

at applying them and acting in coherence with them,

as we grow in this capacity, we'll increasingly be

able to offer society a haven of refuge to

its members in this hour of their realized doom. Wow.

So fasten your seatbelts.

We might have some rough weather ahead, but our best

response is to prepare ourselves so we can best be

of service to humanity in its hour of need.

Well, that's all the time we

have for exploring these themes today.

Once again, remember that this is not

a summary of the entire message.

There are numerous other themes throughout the message: our

approaches to teaching, to Baha'i administration, to the evolution

of the Baha'i World Center, on the Covenant, the

process of translating Baha'u'llah's Wriitings into the arena of

action, and so much more.

It's a message packed with these treasures of insight.

Today, I've only focused on the parts of the

message which specifically addressed our society building focus.

So you'll really want to study the

message in its entirety for yourselves.

And as I mentioned at the outset, today's

episode was a break in the sequence of

episodes exploring the science of depolarization, a theme

we continue in our next episode, where I'll

interview Andrea Bartoli, who is both a scholar

and who serves as the president of the

Sant’Egidio Foundation for Peace and Dialogue, which

is a global Catholic association championing world peace.

Andrea will share amazing stories from his own work in

helping bring an end to the civil war in Mozambique.

I mean, these are incredible insights to learn from.

His stories will truly inspire you.

So thanks again for joining

the conversation for social transformation.

I look forward to seeing you

again next time on Society Builders.

Society Builders pave the way to a

better world, to a better day.

A united approach to building a new society.

There's a crisis facing humanity.

People suffer from a lack of unity.

It's time for a better path to a new society.

Join the Conversation for Social Transformation. Society Builders

Join the conversation for Social Transformation. Society Builders.

So engage with your local communities and

explore all the exciting possibilities.

We can elevate the atmosphere in which we move.

The paradigm is shifting.

It's so very uplifting.

It's a new beat, a new song, a brand

new groove. Join the conversation for Social Transformation. Society Builders. Join the

conversation for Social Transformation. Society Builders. The Baha'í Faith has

a lot to say helping people discover a better

way with discourse and social action framed by unity.

Now the time has come to lift our game

and apply the teachings of the Greatest Name and

rise to meet the glory of our destiny.

Join the conversation for social transformation

Society Builders. Join the conversation

for social transformation. Society Builders.