Apocalyptic Thinking and Process Thinking:
A Baha'i Contribution to Religious Thought

By Moojan Momen

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #104
Centre for Bahá'í Studies: Acuto, Italy
July 9–12, 2011
(see list of papers from #104)

published in Lights of Irfan, volume 13, pages 243-270
© 2012, ‘Irfán Colloquia

    The key feature of classical religious apocalyptic thinking is that affairs are static until they are suddenly moved from one state to another by God. Thus the change in affairs is sudden and immediate and it is supernaturally directed and actioned. Human beings are passive participants in this in that although the change usually affects them they play no part in bringing the change about. The Bab and Baha'u'llah initiated a change in this type of religious thinking. They initiated the idea that religious change is a process not a jump from one state to another and that it is to be brought about through human effort and not by a magical Divine intervention.

    In this paper, this change in religious thinking will be examined in relation to Baha'i expectations of the Lesser Peace, about which there was a great deal of apocalyptic thinking in the years prior to 2000. The main features of the Lesser Peace as described in the Baha'i texts are listed and then the extent to which these have come to pass in the course of the twentieth century is considered. From this, a sequence of four stages for the fulfilment of these features is delineated. It is furthermore suggested that all of these features reached the third stage during the twentieth century. It is therefore for this reason that the Universal House of Justice was able at the close of the 20th century to confirm `Abdu'l-Bahá's description of this century as the "Century of Light".

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