The object of life to a Baha'i is to promote the oneness of mankind; Our aim is to produce a world civilization which in turn will react on the character of the individual.
- Shoghi Effendi (Remarks by Shoghi Effendi, recorded by Ruhiyyih Khanum, ‘The Priceless Pearl’)
I remember in the course of a conversation Shoghi Effendi had with a former teacher of his at the American University in Beirut, how beautifully he answered this man's question as to what was the purpose of life to a Bahá'í. The Guardian answered that the object of life to a Bahá'í was to promote the oneness of mankind. He then went on to point out that Bahá'u'lláh had appeared at a time when His Message could and should be directed to the whole world and not merely to individuals; that salvation today was through world salvation, world change, world reform of society and that the world civilization resulting from this would in turn reflect upon the individuals composing it and lead to their redemption and reformation.
Over and over Shoghi Effendi made it clear in his writings and talks that the two processes must go on together -- reform of society, reform of personal character. There was never any doubt that individual regeneration, as he wrote to a non-Bahá'í in 1926, was the "sure and enduring foundation on which a reconstructed society" would develop and prosper. But how could one create a pattern for future society, even a tiny embryo of the future World Commonwealth of Bahá'u'lláh, if all around its fringes it was still interwoven with the fabric of that society which was dying out, must die out, to make way for the new?
- Ruhiyyih Khanum (‘The Guardian of the Baha'i Faith’)