Century of light

In Century’s end, I showed that Bahais of my generation widely expected universal peace to arrive in the twentieth century. Some of the texts on which this belief was based did not refer to the twentieth century; others did refer to the twentieth century or dates in the 20th century, but were pilgrims’ notes. There may be more, but I have found five such unauthentic sources:

  • The Maxwell’s pilgrim’s notes, anticipating the Lesser Peace by 1953.
  • Esselmont’s pilgrim’s notes, in the first edition of Baha’u'llah and the New Era, anticipating universal peace by 1957. As Dan Jensen has pointed out, the 1950 edition changed the date to 1963, but it is still just a pilgrim’s note, and universal peace was also not achieved in 1963.
  • Sarah Kenny’s Haifa notes anticipating the Lesser Peace in the 20th century.
  • A report in the Montreal Star on September 11, 1912, printed in Abdu’l-Baha in Canada p. 35, saying that peace would be universal in the 20th century.
  • A talk reported in The Promulgation of Universal Peace page 126, and in Star of the West 3.8.14, calling the twentieth century the century of international peace.
{josquote}...when we ‘teach the Faith’ to someone because we need to receive psychological confirmation from their interest, this is repulsive.{/josquote}

The fusion of these unauthentic indications of a peace to be achieved in the twentieth century, with authentic statements about things to be achieved in this century, led to an end-of-century hype among the Bahais, particularly in the United States, which did our reputation no good and led to an irrational agenda of things to do by the year 2000. After 2000, the failed prophecy led to disillusion and cynicism on the one hand, and more fervent (but not more effective) efforts to attract the masses on the other. If people could be persuaded to enter the Faith in troops, groups or even small handfuls, the confirmation this would give to the faithful would outweigh the disconfirmation they had just suffered. The problem is, when we ‘teach the Faith’ to someone because we need to receive psychological confirmation from their interest, this is repulsive. What is attractive is when we share what we have, to meet the needs and interests of the other person.

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