The Eighth Basic Baha’i Principle is:
“Universal Compulsory Education.”
The ninth foundation stone, the Topaz, the glory of the sun, is symbolical of the light of knowledge and the glory of wisdom, which universal education will establish in the world when the golden Topaz, the light of the teachings of Baha’u’llah, is understood and lived.
Education is one of the most important factors in the evolution of humanity. Only one department of life is more potent, and that is religion. In epochs characterized by religious zeal and piety, religion and education work hand in hand. Together they constitute a single unifying, inspirational, guiding force which coordinates all human thought and expression within a traditionally accepted pattern. In such periods education serves what is in reality its most basic purpose, the training of character. Education not change characters, which are all different, but it assist them to develop to their utmost capacity.
“The Prophets also acknowledge this opinion, to wit: That education hath a great effect upon the human race, but they declare that minds and comprehension’s are originally different. And this matter is self-evident; it cannot be refuted. we see that certain children of the same age, nativity and from the same household, under the tutor ship of one teacher, differ in their minds and comprehension’s. No matter how much the shell is polished, it can never become the radiant pearl. The balance stone will not become the world illumining gem…. That is to say, training doth not change the Human substance, but it produces a marvelous effect. By this effective power all that is registered, in latency, of virtues and capacities in the human reality will be revealed. It is for this reason that, in this new cycle, education and training are recorded in the Books of God as obligatory and not voluntary.” – Abdu’ Baha
Modern civilization has been stirred to its depths by this new principle. Compulsory education for children, and the extension of education facilities for adults, have become a new primary policy of government. Nations which deliberately seek to restrict the independence of mind and spirit among their citizens, by that very policy have aroused revolution within and suspicion and fear outside their boundaries. Baha’u’llah had two great world aims, to build up a spiritually regenerate humanity, and to establish a functionally united world. To both of these aims education is intrinsic.
Baha’u’llah gave great prominence to education in delineating the structure of the future World Society. It is chiefly through educative influences that we must build up an ideology and loyalty consecrated to the goal of world peace. Only through education of youth and adult can the adverse and chaotic elements which now compose human society be guided and fused into that dynamically functioning world unity which we now have come to believe is the keystone of the arch of human progress.
“Man is the supreme Talisman. Lack of a proper education hath, however, deprived him of that which he doth inherently possess.” – Baha’u’llah
Literacy is only the barest foundations for education, not education itself. First and foremost, as a means towards world unity and world-federation, youth must be trained in wider and nobler values than at present. The loyalties to family, tribe, clan, and nation which have gradually evolved in human society are not enough to satisfy the wider horizons and needs of today. There must be a new and more universal loyalty to mankind itself as a whole, a “one -world” zeal and dedication. Loves of family, of clan, of nation are praiseworthy and will continue to hold their legitimate place in the social pattern. But unless and until a greater love is bred in humans, love of one’s world, a United Nations can not successfully function.
Conversely, it may be stated that no system of education in the future will satisfactorily spiritualize its curriculum until it is able to harmonize religion with science. Baha’u’llah made it one of the major principles of the New World Order. He envisaged, this harmonization taking place, and the spiritual factors of human existence being taught in a scientific way.
A deep respect for law will be engendered in each citizen by inculcation of spiritual values. In fact, law it-self rests ultimately upon spiritual foundations. Had we no spiritual training we should be unaware of Justices, Mercy and Wisdom. Our juvenile delinquency problem, our divorce problem, our crime problem, all witness the lack of stress in spiritual character building in our educational systems. Through education by such spiritual training, a character would be formed more capable of meeting the strains and temptations of life. Becoming more resolute in enterprise, more fertile in creative imagination, more responsible to the calls of duty, more worthy and capable as a true citizen of world democracy.
We must promote worldly, by every means within our power, the material as well as spiritual enlightenment of the youth. The means for the education of children, to provide the best means for their progress and development, is incumbent upon the world of mankind. It becomes not only progress towards world unity, but is the brightest outlook for the future generations of children. They shall possess a common knowledge of all things, illiteracy shall disappear, moral and spiritual worthiness strengthened, and oneness achieved through the education of all.