We can try to understand the concept of "an ever-advancing civilization" by thinking of two movements. The first movement is the movement of each individual through a sequence of steps that steadily increases our knowledge, our spiritual insights and our skills to serve others. This first movement is also the struggle that each one of us has to improve our own character, to fight our inner spiritual battles and to overcome the "insistent self". Within the Baha'i community the instrument that is used to assist with this first movement is known as the training institute.
The Universal House of Justice in its letter of 28 December 2010 - third paragraph, which is the subject of this blog - makes reference to the training institute and states that this is a "system" and an "instrument of limitless potentialities". While it is natural that Baha'is and their friends and coworkers will go through these sequence of courses systematically, there are also many aspects of this same system that are of benefit to any person or any organization concerned with the betterment of their communities. Many non-profit organizations, government agencies or non-governmental organizations, and civil society organizations can benefit by reflecting on principles in this series. And indeed there are today hundreds or thousands of young people who use the fifth Book in this series on spiritual empowerment of junior youth to animate such groups, a program and an activity which is not directly concerned with religious instruction.
The second movement is the advancement of the society from one stage of development to the next. The whole human society is moving in an organic way towards its ultimate destiny. But it is hard to think of the whole human race in an analytic sense, and it is easier to divide the world into smaller units for the purpose of analysis and possible action. For its own purpose the Baha'i community has divided the world into some 17000 clusters of communities. Each cluster represents a geographical construct of manageable size, and maybe anywhere along "a rich and dynamic continuum" of progress.
Initially the community defined what came to be known as "four broad stages" along the path of its development. A cluster was designated as D if there were no Baha'is living within it. Where one person moved in, or some lived there but there was no consciousness yet of a movement, it was designated as C. As the training institute took hold and became vigorous it was designated as B. And finally where all the elements were in place for launching an intensive program of growth it was designated as A. But the important thing to realize is that these designations refer to the conditions and potentials of a cluster, and they should not be seen as a grade, or a judgment about the people of that cluster. The next thing to realize is that comparison between the clusters is not helpful since each cluster has to travel along its own path of development. Yet another principle is that these are not static designations, but dynamic in time, and like all living organic systems there are periods of up and down, of wakefulness and sleepiness, of crisis and victory.
Now consider the case of a group of people in a village, or even an urban neighborhood. Assume that non of them are Baha'is or indeed that they have all different religious beliefs. It is natural that in addition to their individual progress, that they would be interested in the progress of the community as a whole. Would it be helpful to them to come together periodically and first define their goal, express their vision of what their ideal community will look like, and find a way to assess and analyze where they are and how they should move towards their goal? Would an analysis somewhat similar to the "four broad stages" of development be useful to them?
The following questions are suggested by the study of this paragraph:
1. The “system thus created” is a reference to the presence of the training institute in a cluster. Enumerate some of the “limitless potentialities” of this system.
2. Give one definition of a cluster.
3. What are the “four broad stages along the path” of a cluster’s development?
4. What propels the “second movement” which is “the movement of a population”?
5. The “ongoing process” of the development of a cluster is seen “in terms of a rich and dynamic continuum”. What are the characteristics of a developing cluster after it has become an A cluster, and after it has “launched” it Intensive Program of Growth?
In this and previous blogs I have posed a few questions to help in the study of this material. Therefore you should feel quiet comfortable to post comments on this page, either in response to the above questions or on the general topics covered in each paragraph of the Plan.
The Writings of Baha'u'llah impart such an immense sense of hopefulness. He wrote: "A new life is, in this age, stirring within all the peoples of the earth; and yet none hath discovered its cause or perceived its motive"[Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, page 196]