August 9, 2010

Material vs. Divine Civilizations -- from an interview between ‘Abdu’l-Baha and a San Francisco news reporter in 1912

Correspondent: Are you pleased with the United States?

‘Abdu’l-Baha: The continent of America is most progressive. The means of instructions are prepared; the educational institutions are thoroughly equipped and the pupils are being systematically trained and educated. The wealth is on an upward tendency. Its government is democratic. Its advancement is unceasing. Its nation is hospitable. Its people are loyal, energetic and noble. Its inhabitants are free and the lovers of liberty. Its men are civilized and its women are cultured, refined and idealistic. On the other hand, all these advantages are on the material plane, and I observe the majority of the people are submerged in the sea of materialism and agnosticism. The natural civilization is well-nigh perfect; but it is in need of the civilization of heaven -- Divine civilization.

Correspondent: What do you mean by "Divine civilization"?

‘Abdu’l-Baha: Divine civilization is the light. Material civilization is the lamp. Material civilization is the body; in itself it is not sufficient, and humanity from every standpoint stands in sore need of divine civilization. Natural civilization insures material welfare and prosperity; Divine civilization vouchsafes to man ideal virtues. Material civilization serves the physical world; Divine civilization serves the world of morality. Divine civilization is a symposium of the perfections of the world of humanity. Divine civilization is the improvement of the ethical life of a nation. Divine civilization is the discovery of the reality of phenomena. Divine civilization is the spiritual philosophy. Divine civilization is the knowledge of God with rational and intellectual evidences. Divine civilization is Eternal Life. Divine civilization is the immortality of the soul. Divine civilization is the Breath of the Holy Spirit. Divine civilization is heavenly wisdom. Divine civilization is the reality of all the Teachings of the ancient prophets. Divine civilization is Universal Peace and the oneness of the world of humanity. The Holy manifestations of God have been the founders of Divine civilization, the first Teachers of mankind, and the spreaders of the fragrances of holiness and sanctity amongst the children of men. (Star of the West, vol. IV, no. 12, October 16, 1913) (To see the entire interview, please visit Talks of 'Abdu'l-Baha.)