A milestone came in 1893, when the World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago, drew together the widest spectrum of speakers and participants ever assembled from the religious traditions of the world. While the representation was overwhelmingly Christian, with some 100 of the 170 speakers identified as Protestant, there were Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Confucians, Jains and Zoroastrians present on the podium.
For Bahá'ís, the Parliament has a special significance: it was the first time the Bahá'í Faith was publicly mentioned in the Western world - and it symbolized in many ways the dawning of the ideal of inter-religious harmony that Bahá'ís work for.
Knowing these future events, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (son of Bahá’u'lláh, the founder of Bahá'í) went to the U.S. in 1912 and gave a lesson in the Theosophical Society. In this lecture, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá first says that the goals of the Bahá’is and New Age Theosophists are the same:
30 May 1912
Talk at Theosophical Society
Broadway and Seventy-ninth Street, New York
“(…) As we are agreed upon them, the certainty of unity and concord between Bahá’ís and Theosophists is most hopeful. Their purposes are one, their desires one, and spiritual susceptibilities are common to both.” (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pages 156-160)Later he warns that material efforts to establish a material New World Order are impossible and only through the spiritual power it will be established.
“Therefore, a power is needed to carry out and execute what is known and admitted to be the remedy for human conditions–namely, the unification of mankind. Furthermore, it is evident that this cannot be realized through material process and means. (…) But through spiritual means and the divine power it is possible and practicable.”In an excerpt from the book “The Promulgation of Universal Peace” by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, he writes:
23 July 1912Talk at Hotel Victoria
“The Bahá’í cause covers all economic and social questions under the heading and ruling of its laws. (…) The governments will enact these laws, establishing just legislation and economics…” (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pages 238-239)
“But the Supreme Tribunal which His Holiness Bahá’u'lláh has described will fulfill this sacred task with the utmost might and power. And his plan is this: that the national assemblies of each country and nation–that is to say, their parliaments–should elect two or three persons who are the choicest men of that nation, (…) The election of these souls who are chosen by the national assembly–that is, the parliament–must be confirmed by the upper house, the congress and the cabinet and also by the president or monarch…” (Foundations of World Unity pages 28-34)