And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. – Isaiah 2:3–4
When you move the letter “s” in “sword,” you get “words.”
We’ve all spoken or heard words that hurt or ease, incite or calm, elucidate or obfuscate, inspire or depress, confirm or deny, and have the power to engender love or hate. Our words can be swords or ploughshares—either weapons or creative tools that benefit humanity.
In these times we utter trillions of words every day. Without a doubt, words, in any language, can inflame or bring peace to millions of us.
Before writing there was speech, before speech there was language, before language there were grunts and hand motions. Communication of any kind, from body motions to neurolinguistics to the art of persuasion, have all been part of the human experience for tens of thousands of years.
Today we see a veritable flood of words on television, in videos and in films. We hear them in conversation and speeches, on radio talk shows and in music lyrics. We read, read, read—in books, essays,reports, blogs, magazines; in myriad ways. The types of human communication can’t be counted, nor limited.
The power of words has become much more obvious over past decades. From advertisements, to simple directions that elucidate or muddle, to the spiritual effects of Rumi’s poetry on the heart and mind, words are much more powerful today than swords were previously. Today words, once used to create war and subjugation, can now end them. The growing spheres of civil discourse, mediation, arbitration, and diplomacy all lead to peace between peoples and nations. Written binding treaties now create new relationships, particularly economic, that never existed in past ages.
Millions of people of all backgrounds, regardless of their thought processes, education levels, and viewpoints share words of wisdom and tolerance publicly. They even share secrets. Take Daniel Ellsberg’s release of the Pentagon Papers in 1971, Edward Snowden’s turnover of thousands of classified NSA documents in 2013, and this year, the new bombshell, the Panama Papers—all expose the previously unknown, behind-the-scenes words and actions that have effects on tens of millions of peoples and billions of dollars.
Sometimes it seems as if we have no more secrets. Now an enormous number of “how-to” books exist, describing once-secret or little-known processes. Have you ever looked at a few of the thousands of short explanatory videos on the Internet? The “Dummy” series of books has taken the mystery out of hundreds of processes. We’re increasingly ensconced in the age of transparency and openness, beating our swords into words.
That’s not surprising, nor should it be. Why? Baha’is believe this explosion of words and the knowledge they represent are caused by the advent of a new revelation from God. Inaugurated in 1844 by the Bab, and fulfilled in 1863 by Baha’u’llah, these prophetic words announced the revelation’s enormous impact on the sum total of human learning:
Knowledge is twenty and seven letters. All that the prophets have revealed are two letters thereof. No man thus far hath known more than these two letters. But when the Qa’im [the new prophet] shall arise, He will cause the remaining twenty and five letters to be made manifest. – The Bab, quoted by Shoghi Effendi in The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 125.
Words have power, from Rumi and Hafiz on our hearts, to the wise sound bites of presidents and popes on our views and beliefs. No words, though, have more potency than those of the prophets and messengers, those perfect beings who appear in every age and lead humanity to new religious awakenings. The prophet of God reveals the essence and meaning of all words when he releases the regenerative power of the word of God contained in the new teachings and scriptures of a great world Faith.
The Baha’i teachings say that has happened again.
Next: The Power of the Prophet’s Words