The psychoanalyst and philosopher Charles Baudouin founded the International Institute of Psychagogy and Psychotherapy. Baudouin was a great believer in a world where the national spirit is transcended by the human spirit.
“…towards the middle of the nineteenth century, Asia gave birth to a great religious movement – a movement signalized for its spiritual purity, one which has had thousands of martyrs, one which Tolstoy has described. H. Dreyfus, the French historian of this movement, says that it is not “a new religion,” but “religion renewed,” and that it provides “the only possible basis for a mutual understanding between religion and free thought.” Above all, we are impressed by the fact that, in our own time, such a manifestation can occur, and that the new faith should have undergone a development far more extensive than that undergone in the same space of time nearly two thousand years ago, by budding Christianity.
At the present time, the majority of the inhabitants of Persia have, to a varying extent, accepted the Babist faith. In the great towns of Europe, America, and Asia, there are active centers for the propaganda of the liberal ideas and the doctrine of human community, which form the foundations of Baha’ist teaching.
We shall not grasp the full significance of this tendency until we pass from the description of Baha’ism as a theory to that of Baha’ism as a practice, for the core of religion is not metaphysics, but morality. The Baha’ist ethical code is dominated by the law of love taught by Jesus and by all the prophets. In the thousand and one details of practical life, this law is subject to manifold interpretations. That of Bahá’u’lláh is unquestionably one of the most comprehensive of these, one of the most exalted, one of the most satisfactory to the modern mind….
That is why Bahá’u’lláh is a severe critic of the patriotism which plays so large a part in the national life of our day. Love of our native land is legitimate, but this love must not be exclusive. A man should love his country more than he loves his house (this is the dogma held by every patriot); but Bahá’u’lláh adds that he should love the divine world more than he loves his country. From this standpoint, patriotism is seen to be an intermediate stage on the road of renunciation, an incomplete and hybrid religion, something we have to get beyond. Throughout his life Bahá’u’lláh regarded the ideal universal peace as one of the most important of his aims….
Bahá’u’lláh is in this respect enunciating a novel and fruitful idea. There is a better way of dealing with social evils than by trying to cure them after they have come to pass. We should try to prevent them by removing their causes, which act on the individual, and especially on the child. Nothing can be more plastic than the nature of the child. The government’s first duty must be to provide for the careful and efficient education of children, remembering that education is something more than instruction. This will be an enormous step towards the solution of the social problem, and to take such a step will be the first task of the House of Justice. “It is ordained upon every father to rear his son or his daughter by means of the sciences, the arts, and all the commandments; and if any one should neglect to do so, then the members of the council, should the offender be a wealthy man, must levy from him the sum necessary for the education of his child. When the neglectful parent is poor, the cost of the necessary education must be borne by the council, which will provide a refuge for the unfortunate.”
The House of Justice, likewise, must prepare the way for the establishment of universal peace, doing this by organizing courts of arbitration and by influencing the governments. Long before the Esperantists had begun their campaign, and more than twenty years before Nicholas II had summoned the first Hague congress, Bahá’u’lláh was insisting on the need for a universal language and courts of arbitration. He returns to these matters again and again…
While adopting and developing the Christian law of love, Bahá’u’lláh rejected the Christian principle of asceticism. He discountenanced the machinations which were a nightmare of the Middle Ages, and whose evil effects persist even in our own days….
Baha’ism, then, is an ethical system, a system of social morality. But it would be a mistake to regard Baha’ist teaching as a collection of abstract rules imposed from without. Baha’ism is permeated with a sane and noble mysticism; nothing could be more firmly rooted in the inner life, more benignly spiritual; nothing could speak more intimately to the soul, in low tones, and as if from within…
Such is the new voice that sounds to us from Asia such is the new dawn in the East. We should give them our close attention; we should abandon our customary mood of disdainful superiority. Doubtless, Bahá’u’lláh’s teaching is not definitive. The Persian prophet does not offer it to us as such. Nor can we Europeans assimilate all of it; for modern science leads us to make certain claims in matters of thought-claims we cannot relinquish, claims we should not try to forego. But even though Bahá’u’lláh’s precepts (like those of the Gospels) may not fully satisfy all these intellectual demands, they are rarely in conflict with our scientific outlooks. If they are to become our own spiritual food, they must be supplemented, they must be relived by the religious spirits of Europe, must be rethought by minds schooled in the Western mode of thought. But, in its existing form, Baha’ist teaching may serve, amid our present chaos, to open for us a road leading to solace and to comfort; may restore our confidence in the spiritual destiny of man. It reveals to us how the human mind is in travail; it gives us an inkling of the fact that the greatest happenings of the day are not the ones we were inclined to regard as the most momentous, not the ones which are making the loudest noise.”
Excerpts from Contemporary Studies, Part 111, page 131. Allen & Unwin, London 1924.