To a certain extent, The Ascent of Society is a more concise and focused version of The Arc of Ascent. The publishers and I felt that this revision was warranted for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, The Arc of Ascent was a bit more ponderous and indirect than it needed to be, though I think the additional matter worthwhile. But for the average reader, we felt there needed to be a more direct emphatic treatment of the important distinction between the Baháí vision of the Lesser Peace and the more certain components of the Most Great Peace when the Word Order of Baháulláh will constitute a unique and unequaled form of government for Planet Earth.
Without attempting to discuss in detail what the book provides in this regard, at least two points are worth noting to convey the central theme of the work. The first and foremost aim of the work is to demonstrate the uniqueness of the global polity as designed by Baháulláh and as explicated so eloquently by Shoghi Effendi in The World Order of Baháulláh. One of the most salient passages in this regard is the following:
The Bahá’í Commonwealth of the future, of which this vast Administrative Order is the sole framework, is, both in theory and practice, not only unique in the entire history of political institutions, but can find no parallel in the annals of any of the world’s recognized religious systems. No form of democratic government; no system of autocracy or of dictatorship, whether monarchical or republican; no intermediary scheme of a purely aristocratic order; nor even any of the recognized types of theocracy, whether it be the Hebrew Commonwealth, or the various Christian ecclesiastical organizations, or the Imamate or the Caliphate in Islam — none of these can be identified or be said to conform with the Administrative Order which the master-hand of its perfect Architect has fashioned. (152)
His discussion about the special features and unique structures that will characterize the Baháí Commonwealth of the Golden Age of the Baháí Era portrays in detail how the most salient components of the major forms of government will be incorporated into the World Order of Baháulláh and how that long-awaited world polity will provide a denouement to the present tempests that engulf our lives.
A second particularly important part of this presentation for meas I once again approached the amazingly detailed discussion by the Guardian of the present conditions of society and the interim turmoil that must needs cleanse society of its present detrimental and destructive tendenciesis Shoghi Effendis portrayal of the components of that government that will take shape during the Lesser Peace. In this description, the Guardian observes such an interim government will most likely be comprised of four parts: a world legislature, a world executive, and world tribunal, and an international force.
What I try to make clear in my discussion of this intermediary stage of the evolution of world government is that whereas many readers infer this to be the paradigm of the Baháí World Commonwealth, the Guardian clearly states that he is speculating about what the most likely components of the government that will be formed during the Lesser Peace. And at the crux of this distinction for me was the discover in my research of a passage where the Guardian states that when the Baháí state will be established, the International Tribunal (sometimes alluded to as the Universal Court of Arbitration) will be merged in the Universal House of Justice (quoted in The Arc of Ascent, p. 259).
At the heart of this work, then, is what I trust is a readable assemblage of pertinent passages from the authoritative Baháí texts delineating the path that the peoples of the world will in time take to arrive, not at an end-time, but rather at the beginning of an age, a cycle, that will endure no less than five hundred thousand years and that will bring about an ever-advancing civilization capable of becoming an ever-more refined expression of the Kingdom of God expressed in material form.