Baha'u'llah prophecied climate change

Nov 2015
239
United States
#1
Emphasis added:

“In all matters moderation is desirable. If a thing is carried to excess, it will prove a source of evil. Consider the civilization of the West… An infernal engine hath been devised, and hath proved so cruel a weapon of destruction that its like none hath ever witnessed or heard… Strange and astonishing things exist in the earth but they are hidden from the minds and the understanding of men. These things are capable of changing the whole atmosphere of the earth and their contamination would prove lethal. Great God! We have observed an amazing thing. Lightning or a force similar to it is controlled by an operator and moveth at his command.” – Kalimát-I-Firdawsíyyih, written in 1890

The first paper about the climate impact of fossil fuels was written in 1896, four years after Baha'u'llah died. I have not found any indication that anyone believed that mankind could cause climate change through air pollution before that point. It still wasn't accepted by most academics or religious leaders until the end of the 20th century, and the debate is only now being settled. Yet here it is, a definite assertion that substances in the earth would be used without moderation, to produce electricity through infernal engines, and that this would in turn change the atmosphere of the earth, endangering humanity. Not just a theory, but a declaration, at a time when no one was saying so, and no evidence existed that it would be true.

Thoughts?
 
Nov 2015
239
United States
#5
That was my first thought as well. I think it could perhaps refer to either or both. I get the impression prophecies can be fulfilled multiple times, in multiple ways. I have seen this quote paired with the quote, "Split the atom's heart, and lo! within it thou wilt find a sun," suggesting that very interpretation is on point.

Granted, "An infernal engine hath been devised, and hath proved so cruel a weapon of destruction that its like none hath ever witnessed or heard," does sound like a nuclear bomb.

We could take it more literally, though. He speaks of an "infernal engine," which "hath been devised." If we take this literally, as in the engine is already devised by 1890, then it would make sense that Baha'u'llah could have been referring to the combustible engine, which had been in development in the West for some time. The only way the past tense applies to the nuclear theory is if we consider time immaterial to prophecy, but I think that is a perfectly legitimate interpretation, as other prophecies in scripture have been given in the past tense.

"Strange and astonishing things exist in the earth" lends more towards the nuclear theory, as petroleum had been discovered and commercialized by then. Still, use of petroleum could be considered strange to most of the undeveloped world at the time, and the impact of petroleum on world events would certainly astonish anyone if they knew the significance of the development at the time. Petroleum was hardly "hidden from the minds and the understanding of men" by then, unless we interpret "hidden" as referring to the amount of oil left to be discovered, and beyond our understanding in that we do not know the consequences... Still, I think this line does lend better to the nuclear theory. I concede that.

"These things are capable of changing the whole atmosphere of the earth and their contamination would prove lethal." This line could apply to either fossil fuels or nuclear energy.

"Great God! We have observed an amazing thing. Lightning or a force similar to it is controlled by an operator and moveth at his command." This is perhaps my favorite line, simply because it was the one that baffled me the most. I first interpreted it as witchcraft, because of the tone and structure! But given the context, I do think it is clear that Baha'u'llah is associating these potentially catastrophe-inducing elements with electric generation.

I used to think that the exclamation, "Great God!" was spoken out of shock or indignation, as if He were describing a weapon. But I now think He is describing the miraculous, or the good aspect, of these substances. He began by cautioning moderation, so it makes sense that if He should start with dire warnings, He should end with the balancing potential for good. After all, the supply and control of electricity has been the key development in human history for world unity (by communication networks) and prosperity (by improving living conditions), and advancement of the human race is practically contingent upon it.

I think that it is possible that this prophecy is both specific and general, referring at times to particular power sources and climate threats, and at times referring to the impacts of energy industries as a whole. It is possible that there are still discoveries ahead that could have similar ramifications. It is certainly one of the most astonishing verses in the Writings I have ever read.
 
Sep 2010
4,361
Normanton Far North Queensland
#6
"Strange and astonishing things exist in the earth" lends more towards the nuclear theory, as petroleum had been discovered and commercialized by then. Still, use of petroleum could be considered strange to most of the undeveloped world at the time, and the impact of petroleum on world events would certainly astonish anyone if they knew the significance of the development at the time. Petroleum was hardly "hidden from the minds and the understanding of men" by then, unless we interpret "hidden" as referring to the amount of oil left to be discovered, and beyond our understanding in that we do not know the consequences... Still, I think this line does lend better to the nuclear theory. I concede that.

"These things are capable of changing the whole atmosphere of the earth and their contamination would prove lethal." This line could apply to either fossil fuels or nuclear energy.

"Great God! We have observed an amazing thing. Lightning or a force similar to it is controlled by an operator and moveth at his command." This is perhaps my favorite line, simply because it was the one that baffled me the most. I first interpreted it as witchcraft, because of the tone and structure! But given the context, I do think it is clear that Baha'u'llah is associating these potentially catastrophe-inducing elements with electric generation.

I used to think that the exclamation, "Great God!" was spoken out of shock or indignation, as if He were describing a weapon. But I now think He is describing the miraculous, or the good aspect, of these substances. He began by cautioning moderation, so it makes sense that if He should start with dire warnings, He should end with the balancing potential for good. After all, the supply and control of electricity has been the key development in human history for world unity (by communication networks) and prosperity (by improving living conditions), and advancement of the human race is practically contingent upon it.

I think that it is possible that this prophecy is both specific and general, referring at times to particular power sources and climate threats, and at times referring to the impacts of energy industries as a whole. It is possible that there are still discoveries ahead that could have similar ramifications. It is certainly one of the most astonishing verses in the Writings I have ever read.
I like this one - To me the next great source of power will be magnatisim

O servant of Bahá! Be self-sacrificing in the path of God, and wing thy flight unto the heavens of the love of the Abhá Beauty, for any movement animated by love moveth from the periphery to the centre, from space to the 198 Day-Star of the universe. Perchance thou deemest this to be difficult, but I tell thee that such cannot be the case, for when the motivating and guiding power is the divine force of magnetism it is possible, by its aid, to traverse time and space easily and swiftly. Glory be upon the people of Bahá.
 
Nov 2015
239
United States
#7
I've never seen that one before. I definitely see that verse as spiritual metaphor, but I wonder if He was also speaking of literal magnetism. I haven't read through Selections of the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha yet, I'm sure there are more treasures to be seen
 
Sep 2010
4,361
Normanton Far North Queensland
#8
I've never seen that one before. I definitely see that verse as spiritual metaphor, but I wonder if He was also speaking of literal magnetism. I haven't read through Selections of the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha yet, I'm sure there are more treasures to be seen
To me always a material aspect, the Movement aspect is interesting.

Regards Tony
 
Jun 2014
1,000
Wisconsin
#9
That was my first thought as well. I think it could perhaps refer to either or both. I get the impression prophecies can be fulfilled multiple times, in multiple ways. I have seen this quote paired with the quote, "Split the atom's heart, and lo! within it thou wilt find a sun," suggesting that very interpretation is on point.
That's... Not at all a good scripture to pair with this one. For lots of reasons.

First and foremost, the quote is not from Baha'u'llah. Well, it kind of is. It's in Seven Valleys, but Baha'u'llah is merely quoting Rumi.

Secondly, the context Baha'u'llah presents it in is alongside "he seeth the ocean in every drop" making it clear that it is more a metaphor than prophecy. It MIGHT be both, I concede, but given the fact he is quoting a non-prophet that seems unlikely.

Though while I don't think Seven Valleys fits nuclear energy, I think the prophecy you site is more likely referring to nuclear energy than climate change.

"An infernal engine hath been devised, and hath proved so cruel a weapon of destruction that its like none hath ever witnessed or heard,"
My main reasoning for thinking this is NOT climate change is the "none hath ever witnessed or heard". This implies that it had not yet been discovered, since none had ever witnessed it before. The combustion engine was, as you point out, in existence at that point in time. The other problem is that mankind HAS experienced climate change in the past, humanity has actually lived through more severe climate shifts than the most dire climate models predict. The effects of climate change may be bad, but they are not exactly new.

Nuclear energy, though, is both destructive and like nothing any human had seen before.

But I do find alternate interpretations interesting, so thank you for sharing.
 
Nov 2015
279
France
#10
It MIGHT be both
None of it, and both of it. It's mystical wisdom. There is a point in mysticism where the spiritual masters have such a large, encompassing vision of reality that have visions of concealed forces within the realm of spirit or matter.
In other words, it's a vision of something that is (present time) rather than a prophecy (future time).
 

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