Our Daily Bread: Candles in the Wind

“The Seven Candles of Unity,” found in `Abdu’l-Bahá’s authoritative writings, was one of his approaches to foretelling the future progress of the world toward unity.

The most noteworthy—and controversial—of the seven is the fifth candle, of which `Abdu’l-Bahá’ says:

… is the unity of nations—a unity which in this century will be securely established, causing all the peoples of the world to regard themselves as citizens of one common fatherland.

Selections from the Writings of `Abdu’l-Bahá’, pg. 32

Because of prophecies such as this one which `Abdu’l-Bahá’ was fond of repeating, Bahá’ís expected world peace to be “securely established” in the 20th Century. This expectation was confirmed and encouraged by Shoghi Effendi and the Universal House of Justice. If any Bahá’ís believed otherwise, I didn’t hear of it.

Now that we find ourselves a decade into the new millennium, world peace and unity seem as remote as ever—no surprise for those among us not graced by divine foresight.

Let’s have a look at those candles, and see if we can hold them up to the winds of change.

Unity of Politics & Action

First, let’s look at the first two candles of unity.

  1. Unity in the political realm … the early glimmerings of which can now be discerned
  2. Unity of thought in world undertakings … the consummation of which will erelong be witnessed

It is interesting that `Abdu’l-Bahá’ seems to have expected these first two candles to be on the verge of realization, but of course, they are both cold and dark a century after the prophecy was made. If either candle bears the slightest flicker, it would have to be the latter, as some efforts toward common action have been made among groups of nations, but we’re a long way from unity. We can’t even cooperate enough to stop bands of Somali pirates!

Universal Freedom

“Unity in freedom” is in as much danger as ever, as slave labor is becoming more mainstream in the new international marketplace. Sex slavery in particular is thriving.

Any progress in lighting the first and second candles is likely to take the oxygen from this third candle. Cooperation between governments is likely to come into direct conflict with progress in civil liberties and human rights, as international cooperation depends upon compromise.

Unification of Religion

This one gets my vote for the most comical candle. `Abdu’l-Bahá’ doesn’t speak here of harmony or tolerance; no—he speaks of unity. This can only mean conversion.

Eventually, “all nations and kindreds” will be converted to the Bahá’í Faith:

“all nations and kindreds will be gathered together under the shadow of this Divine Banner, which is no other than the Lordly Branch itself, … Religious and sectarian antagonism, … will be eliminated. All men will adhere to one religion, will have one common faith, …”

Some Answered Questions, pg. 65

Bahá’ís refer to this great world conversion as “entry by troops.”

Did `Abdu’l-Bahá’ mean that the world would convert to his religion in the 20th Century? It would be difficult enough to achieve harmony and tolerance among the world’s religions, but to foretell the conversion of all the world’s peoples to one faith—particularly such an obscure one—is to overtax the imagination.

One World Nation

Back to the big kahuna:

The fifth candle is the unity of nations—a unity which in this century will be securely established, causing all the peoples of the world to regard themselves as citizens of one common fatherland.

Shoghi Effendi, `Abdu’l-Bahá’s authorized—and purportedly unerring—interpreter, confirmed this prophecy by bringing it to the Bahá’í world’s attention:

“This is the stage which the world is now approaching, the stage of world unity, which, as `Abdu’l-Bahá’ assures us, will, in this century, be securely established.”

—The Promised Day Is Come: Religion and Social Evolution (1941)

And again:

The fifth candle is the unity of nations—a unity which in this century will be securely established, causing all the peoples of the world to regard themselves as citizens of one common fatherland.

—World Order of Bahá’u’lláh: Seven Lights of Unity (1931)

As a world, are we even close to this ideal? If anything, nations have fragmented and multiplied. Political convergence, which would be necessary for the first candle, seems as remote as ever. Strife among the peoples of the world has led more to talk of ideological warfare and irreconcilable cultural divides with failures at nation building in Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. How can one even speak of unity?

This candle which was promised to be “securely established” in the 20th Century, but it has not even appeared momentarily. It would be absurd to claim that the unity of nations is “securely established.”

This was not an isolated case. `Abdu’l-Bahá’ was found to make similar prophecies on other occasions:

“[The permanent peace] will be established in this century … It will be universal in the twentieth century. All nations will be forced into it … the nations will be forced to come to peace and to agree to the abolition of war … By international agreement they will lay down their arms and the great era of peace will be ushered in.”

—`Abdu’l-Bahá’, “A Compilation on Peace” compiled by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice


This one is going to take awhile yet:

The sixth candle is unity of races, making of all that dwell on earth peoples and kindreds of one race.


The seventh candle is unity of language, i.e., the choice of a universal tongue in which all peoples will be instructed and converse.

This one’s gonna be a piece of cake. It may be the one candle that can actually hold a flame.

God help us

How sure was `Abdu’l-Bahá’ of all this? Here’s his answer:

Each and every one of these will inevitably come to pass, inasmuch as the power of the Kingdom of God will aid and assist in their realization.

So there you have it. This is no mere vision; this is the will of God. It’s got to happen.

One comment on “Our Daily Bread: Candles in the Wind

  1. Dale Husband says:

    Then the whole issue of Abdu’l-Baha being infallible is debunked. Well done!

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