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A Creative Power

Since nonviolence is a creative rather than destructive power, therefore it allows individuals and communities who draw upon it to prosper spiritually relative to those that are ignorant of it. Until now, the power of nonviolence has not been fully appreciated by the majority of humankind. Hence people consider it extraordinary--almost miraculous--that the Bahá'í Faith nonviolently withstood the concerted and violent efforts of the Persian and Ottoman Empires to destroy it, or that Gandhi obtained independence for his native land without armies. It is perhaps a sign of the times that people consider it surprising that nonviolent, creative, energies can overcome the destructive furies of violence.

Gandhi believed that nonviolent methods are inherently more powerful than violence:

The fact is that non-violence does not work in the same way as violence. It works in the opposite way. An armed man naturally relies upon his arms. A man who is intentionally unarmed relies upon the Unseen Force called God by poets, but called the Unknown by scientists. But that which is unknown is not necessarily non-existent. God is the Force among all forces known and unknown. Non-violence without reliance upon that Force is poor stuff to be thrown in the dust.[13]
Non-violence is an active force of the highest order. It is soul force or the power of Godhead within us. Imperfect man cannot grasp the whole of that Essence--he would not be able to bear its full blaze, but even an infinitesimal fraction of of it, when it becomes active within us, can work wonders. The sun in the heavens fills the whole universe with its life-giving warmth. But if one went too near it, it would consume him to ashes. Even so it is with Godhead. We become Godlike to the extent we realize non-violence; but we can never become wholly God.[14]

This idea that what Gandhi calls ``soul force'' can produce apparently incredible results is a constant theme in the Bahá'í writings. Bahá'u'lláh writes concerning the nonviolent response of the Bahá'ís towards their oppressors:

Gracious God! This people need no weapons of destruction, inasmuch as they have girded themselves to reconstruct the world. Their hosts are the hosts of goodly deeds, and their arms the arms of upright conduct, and their commander the fear of God. Blessed that one that judgeth with fairness. By the righteousness of God! Such hath been the patience, the calm, the resignation of contentment of this people that they have become the exponents of justice, and so great hath been their forbearance, that they have suffered themselves to be killed rather than kill, and this notwithstanding that these whom the world hath wronged have endured tribulations the like of which the history of the world hath never recorded, nor the eyes of any nation witnessed. What is it that could have induced them to reconcile themselves to these grievous trials, and to refuse to put forth a hand to repel them? What could have caused such resignation and serenity? The true cause is to be found in the ban which the Pen of Glory hath, day and night, chosen to impose, and in Our assumption of the reins of authority, through the power and might of Him Who is the Lord of all mankind.[15]
`Abdu'l-Bahá implies that the use of nonviolent methods is not as difficult as it may appear to be:
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 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.[16]
Esslemont further explains the apparently paradoxical power of nonviolence:
The soundness of Bahá'u'lláh's nonresistance policy has already been proved by results. For every believer martyred in Persia, the Bahá'í faith has received a hundred new believers into its fold, and the glad and dauntless way in which these martyrs cast the crowns of their lives at the feet of their Lord has furnished to the world the clearest proof that they had found a new life for which death has no terrors, a life of ineffable fullness and joy, compared with which the pleasures of earth are but as dust in the balance, and the most fiendish physical tortures but trifles light as air.[17]

next up previous contents
Next: Nonviolent Power Structures Up: The Power of Nonviolence Previous: A Cohesive Force   Contents

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