Baha’u’llah is a cure for conspiracy theories. He regularly tells his followers to eliminate their idle fancies and vain imaginings. Those two terms serve as umbrella concepts that incorporate an awful lot of mental baggage. Conspiracy theories, which are theories based in fear and on disinformation, are a good example of modern-day vain imaginings. These theories have reality only in the minds of their believers.
The other day, during a conversation with a relative, I discovered that this person believes in conspiracy theories – that democracy is discredited due to a deep state conspiracy secretly working behind the scenes, and that Donald Trump is the only one going to do something about it. Now, these ideas originate in the US, and I live in rural New Zealand, located far from the world’s dramas; but even so, these ideas have global reach. Many of my neighbours believe in conspiracy theories. Some have come to them through their alternative political views. Others have come to them through what’s called the ‘wellness pipeline’, where a person who holds to natural healing principles is gradually convinced by views that are dangerously absurd.
When I found out what my relative now considers to be a good thing, I was profoundly dismayed. Our fathers both fought in the Second World War. In other words, they made a huge sacrifice to protect democracy against fascism. I naturally assumed that this shared family history was inviolable, that it constituted a belief in regular elections and the rule of law. I was wrong. And this has shown me, in the political context, the destructive power of vain imaginings. I have usually thought about vain imaginings in the religious context, where people deny the latest Manifestation of God; but here, the mental baggage consists of destructive fantasies about overturning the peace, established through sacrifice over centuries, we enjoy today. I was shocked that someone who has benefited from these advantages throughout life could so casually throw democracy away.
And for what? For a ‘strongman’ who is proven, beyond question, to be incapable of any sincerity whatsoever? The concept of the ‘strongman’ is one of the central tenets of fascism – the idea being that democracy is replaced by the rule of a strongman, whose vision of reality and of the future becomes the destiny of the state. (A short rundown of the principal tenets of fascism can be found in this excellent video.)
Here is the sobering thing for me: the world certainly is in turmoil, and many competing voices are raised that claim to speak the truth for the good of all. I see my relative coming to conclusions about which person to trust, and I see me doing the same thing. On what basis do I come to my conclusions? Answer: Baha’u’llah. He is the one who has taught me how to assess what is going on in the world and how best to respond to it. But it didn’t have to be that way. It is only due to the grace of God that I hold on to Baha’u’llah. I wonder how I might have seen things if I did not have his wisdom to rely on. I think there’s a good chance that I too would have believed the conspiracy theories. Why? Because of fear, and the need to grasp at anything that would bring reassurance. I have Baha’u’llah to explain to me what is happening in the world, and to reassure me that he is in charge and everything will turn out okay. If I did not have that, I might well have fallen for the strongman option too. I have much to be grateful to Baha’u’llah for. Baha’u’llah is my strongman.