Portals To Freedom
By HOWARD COLBY IVES
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
This edition was first published in 1937
ISBN 0 85398 013 6 (paper)
Printed in Great Britain by
Billing Sons Ltd, Worcester
To SHOGHI EFFENDI
The Grandson of ABDU'L-BAHA
By Him Appointed
Guardian of the Baha'i Faith
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction ............... 13
Chapter One -- Retrospect. Spiritual Bankruptcy. A Dawning
Hope. The Golden Silence. .... 18
Chapter Two -- The Glance that saved the World. A Divine
Sincerity. The Masterly Teaching Method. 34
Chapter Three -- True Wealth, Power and Freedom. The
Table of 'Abdu'l-Baha. Very Great Things.
"Are you interested in Renunciation?" . . 50
Chapter Four -- The Attraction of Perfection. The Boys
from the Bowery. A Black Rose and a
Black Sweet. .......... 60
Chapter Five -- A Leaf in the Breeze of the Will of God.
"My Throne is My Mat." Inscription in
"The Seven Valleys." ....... 69
Chapter Six -- The Reality and Essence of Brotherhood.
"Cannot you serve him Once?" True
Brotherhood due to the Breaths of the Holy
Spirit. "O, you should have Seen Him!" . 80
Chapter Seven -- An Eternal Bond. The Wedding. The need
for Reformation of Laws pertaining to Divorce.
The Laws of Baha'u'llah. Four
Kinds of Love. The Children of the New
Day. ............. 92
Chapter Eight -- "The Most Perfect Gentleman I have ever
known." The Master Teacher. The Spiritual
Warrior. A Fable. "It behooves you
to manifest Light." The Gift. The First
Tablet. ............ 114
Chapter Nine -- The American Itinerary. The Power of
the Spirit. "Her Highness the Cow." True
Greatness. The Divine Teaching Method. 132
Chapter Ten -- The Universe of Baha'u'llah. The Evolution
of Man. The Glory of Self-sacrifice. 149
Chapter Eleven -- Instruction in the Way of Life. What is
Authority? The Science of the Love of
God. ............. 167
Chapter Twelve -- The New World Order. A Divine Civilization.
The Kingdom of God on Earth. . 175
Chapter Thirteen -- Some Divine Characteristics. The Humility
of Servitude. The Station of True Manhood. ............. 192
Chapter Fourteen -- 'Abdu'l-Baha's Last Words in America.
Seven Distinctive Characteristics of the
Teachings. Evidences of the New World
Order. ............ 211
Chapter Fifteen -- By their Fruits shall ye know them. Four
Tablets. ............ 229
Chapter Sixteen -- Conclusion. ........... 250
ABDU'L-BAHA, WASHINGTON, D.C., 1912
Portals To Freedom was first published before many of
the current translations of Baha'i writings were available.
Some of the quotations used in this book were taken
from earlier renditions of these works, as for example,
The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys, The Hidden
Words and others. Also several quotations were taken
from a compilation, Baha'i Scriptures, much of which
has been retranslated and revised into a newer work
called Baha'i World Faith. For an accurate rendition of
the Baha'i Writings, these current editions should be
used as references.
"I ask Thee, O Ruler of Existence and King of Creation,
to transmute the brass of existence into gold by the elixir
of Thy Revelation and Wisdom: then reveal unto men
by a comprehensive Book that which will enrich them
by Thy Riches."
WHAT is that mystery underlying human life
which gives to events and to persons the power
of mutation, of transformation? If one had never before
seen a seed, nor heard of its latent life, how difficult to
believe that only the cold earth, the warm sun, the
descending showers and the gardener's care were needed
to cause its miraculous transformation into the growing
form, the budding beauty, the intoxicating fragrance of
Or who can understand the reason why a chance
perusal of a book, the presence of a friend or the meeting
with a stranger often alters a determined course of action,
profoundly affects our attitude toward life, and, not
seldom, so nearly reaches the roots of being and the
springs of action that never after is life quite the same?
It is as if some super-Luther Burbank had, by that
seemingly chance event, grafted into the branch of
our crab-apple being the bud of the Tree of Knowledge,
or into the bramble of the wilderness of human
thought the rose of paradise.
To this mystery of mysteries the philosophy of the
schoolmen offers no adequate explanation. We only know
that it is a common experience of us all. The effort towards
the description of this catalysis is the essence of
all poetry; the abortive attempt to explain it is at the root
of all philosophy, while the experience of it is the one
cause underlying the transformation of human life and
character. All history is its witness and every saint its
In offering to the reader this inadequate account of one
such experience my only excuse is its totality, its all-
inclusiveness, its grandeur. It is unique not because it is
rare, since every contact of man with his fellow men
demonstrates it, but because of its supremacy over other
transforming contacts. One might liken it to the difference
in effect between touching a cold clod and the
grasping of a galvanic battery: or the meeting with a
debased criminal and the meeting with an Abraham
To those who met 'Abdu'l-Baha in the summer of
1912, when He spent eight months in this country, such
comparisons will seem highly inadequate. While to many
that meeting did not convey more than a contact with
personified dignity, beauty, wisdom and selflessness, and
so led them, at least, to higher altitudes of thought and
life, to hundreds of others that meeting was the door to
undreamed-of worlds; to a new, a boundless, an eternal
We realize the difficulties faced in attempting to bring
to the reader a quarter of a century later, the atmosphere
created by this meeting for those who had the
eyes to see, the ears to hear and minds to comprehend,
even slightly, the new and divine world opened before
the eager and courageous feet. In fact to do so with any
degree of accurate completeness is all but impossible. To
those bred in the Christian tradition one might ask what
would be the probable effect upon them if they could
have been among the audience when the Sermon on the
Mount was spoken, or if one of them, like John, could
have reclined upon the breast of the Master. Without
daring to suggest that the comparison is parallel, my own
experience, when brought into close association with
'Abdu'l-Baha, was so overwhelming, so fraught with sensations
suggesting an entrance into a new and super-mundane
world, that I can think of no other comparison
I do not propose in relating these experiences to minimize
my own reaction to this great experience by presenting
it with even the slightest suggestion of materialistic
or pseudo-scientific explanations. It is my work to report
as faithfully as possible what I saw and heard and experienced
during these meetings and conversations. If at times
the recounting flavors of a fancy bordering on the
fantastic I may comfort myself with reflection on the
possible terms applied to Peter, James and John, the fishermen,
when they attempted to describe to their fellow
laborers the effect which the Master's Presence had upon
them. What epithets must the former lovers and associates
of Mary Magdalene have applied to her!
To me, a man of middle age, a Unitarian Clergyman,
a student since youth of religions and philosophies, the
experience had a disturbing quality somewhat cataclysmic.
Why should this man be able so to upset all my preconceived
notions and conceptions of values by His mere
presence? Was it that He seemed to exude from His very
being an atmosphere of love and understanding such as I
had never dreamed? Was it the resonant voice, modulated
to a music which caught the heart? Was it the aura
of happiness touched at times with a sadness implying the
bearing of the burden of all the sin and sorrow of the
world, which always surrounded Him? Was it the commingled
majesty and humility of His every gesture and
word, which was perhaps His most obvious characteristic?
How can one answer such questions? Those who saw and
heard 'Abdu'l-Baha during those memorable months will
share with me the sense of the inadequacy of words to
communicate the incommunicable.
At the time I met 'Abdu'l-Baha, in the Spring of 1912,
He was sixty-eight years of age. Of these, twelve years
had been spent in exile with His spiritual as well as physical
Father, Baha'u'llah, in Baghdad, Constantinople and
Adrianople. Then forty years, to a day, in the Turkish
prison-fortress of Akka, ten miles from Mt. Carmel, on
the coast of Palestine. Because of their staunch adherence
to their faith in Baha'u'llah as the Manifestation of God,
'Abdu'l-Baha with about seventy others had sacrificed all
that they had, preferring imprisonment and inward freedom
with Him to outward freedom and spiritual bondage
without Him. With the overthrow of the tyrannous reign
of Abdu'l Hamid, by the Young Turk Party in 1908,
this long exile and imprisonment ended and that Voice
and Presence was free to prove to the world what He had
so completely demonstrated, that "The only prison is the
prison of self."
To what marvellous inner life of the spirit could be
ascribed, I asked myself, the fact that this man, born of
a long line of Persian nobility; accustomed to every luxury
until his eighth year; followed by a half-century of exile,
torture and prison life, could emerge into the modem
world of Paris, London and New York and dominate
every experience with a calm control of circumstance; a
clarifying exposure of superficialities; a joyous love for
all humanity which never condemned but with forgiveness
It is with the hope that, to a degree, the following pages
may approach an answer to this question that they are
offered to the reader.
RETROSPECT. SPIRITUAL BANKRUPTCY. A
DAWNING HOPE. THE GOLDEN SILENCE.
"O friend! The heart is a store of divine mysteries, make
it not a receptacle for mortal thoughts, and consume not
the capital of thy precious life by occupying thyself with
this evanescent world. Thou art of the world of Holiness,
attach not thy heart unto the earth. Thou art a denizen of
the Court of Nearness, choose not an earthly home."
Seven Valleys: Baha'u'llah.
MY life divides itself, in retrospect, sharply in two.
The years before I met 'Abdu'l-Baha look to me
now much as the ten-year-old child might be imagined to
regard his matrix life, assuming him capable of that keen
vision. The comparison is apt, also, from another angle;
for, just as a child of ten has still before him experiences
of vast and unimagined heights and depths, splendor and
shadow, so I, the twenty-five year old youth of the spirit,
look back, indeed, upon the forty-six years of gestation,
recognizing the fact of that necessity if birth were to
occur, but beyond that fact knowing little or nothing of
the trivial causes which could lead to such effects. How
much less, then, is it possible to estimate the future of the
twice-born soul throughout unimaginable ages of life in
all the worlds of God. If the wood in which the earthly
sap flows briskly still is capable of such a flame, how
great the conflagration when, freed from the laws of the
world of nature, the fire kindled from the Sinaitic Tree
becomes ablaze! Truly, birth of the body is a great event
but, compared with the second birth, the first is only a
The Fall and Winter of 1911-12 is a period marked in
my memory as months of great unhappiness. Life, in
all that composed its deepest values, seemed to have left me
high and dry on the banks of its swiftly-flowing stream.
Outwardly all was well but that inward voice that adds,
"All is well indeed," was silent. I know of no greater
disappointment, no more terrible depression than that
which comes to the sincere soul who, seeking God, finds
For many years I had found myself unable to accept
the conventional connotations of such words as God,
Faith, Heaven, Hell, Prayer, Christ, Eternal Life, and
others of so-called religious significance. In very early
manhood I had come to grips with the goblins of superstition
masquerading as churchly creeds and had cast them
out, but no satisfying, spirit-lifting convictions had come
to take their places. Perhaps for ten years my thought life
was frankly and positively agnostic. But these were great
years nevertheless, for they were portals to freedom. But,
alas, that freedom had failed to bring peace. I began to
suspect that freedom without a guide and teacher fell
little short of anarchy. True, I still had the teachings and
life of Jesus of Nazareth, and never had I faded in love
for them. But I failed wofully in the practice of them.
And even a casual glance at the lives around me and
the civilization men called "Christian," convinced me that so
far as any practical parallel between words and deeds
were concerned there were few, if any, Christians in
the world, and certainly no expressions of social, economic
and national life worthy of such a name. Besides this
objective fact, impossible to evade or deny, I was confronted
by the even greater difficulty of the confused
thought life created by years of scientific, philosophical
and theological study and reading. In all these cross currents
of human speculation my frail skiff had all it could
do to keep afloat and the struggling oarsman little hope
of finding his desired haven by following any one of them.
One day I found in the library of a village rector, where
we were spending a summer's vacation, a volume of the
works of William Ellery Channing. His sermon on the
occasion of the ordination of Jared Sparks in Baltimore
in 1844 opened a new horizon. Perhaps one could be free
and yet have a guide freely chosen! Thus began a period
of about fifteen years of so-called liberal study, thought
and preaching which, on the whole, cannot be said to have
been fruitless years for work was sincerely done and
doubtless, necessary lessons learned. But measured by
those inner standards which from boyhood had subconsciously
been cultivated, these were barren years.
Was this to be the fruit of mystic dreams, of Godward
yearnings, of passionate longings to aid just a little
in the uplift of sorrowing humanity around me? To
preach once a week; duly to make my parish round of
calls on elderly spinsters and the sick to whom my visits
were simply what I was paid to give; to build churches
to hold a handful of people; never to forget the collection,
for which lapse of memory my treasurer was always
scolding me, and to fill in odd hours with reading of the
latest modem philosophy in order to pass it on to my
unsuspecting congregation with appropriate annotations,
-did this round of living contain the germs of that
"Truth for which man ought to die"? Was it my own
fault that I had missed the point and was I a fool in that
I could not adjust myself to that definition of success
which found its goal in a wealthy congregation, the
whispered, "That was a mighty fine sermon," the
annually increasing salary?
Well, anyway, suffice it to say I was desperately unhappy.
I had tried the orthodox scheme; I had tried to
sail the uncharted sea of-"I don't know"; I had tried the
"Liberal Faith" and I found myself approaching spiritual
bankruptcy. A balancing of Life's books showed me in
debt to God and Man. It had not yet begun to dawn upon
me that to be recreant to either was to be in arrears with
both, and that spiritual insolvency is assured when freedom
of the mind is assumed to mean liberty to follow
every will-o-the-wisp of human philosophy.
It was in October of 1911 when there came to me
those first stirrings of influences which were to change
the course of my life. I picked up a copy of Everybody's
Magazine from a casual bookstall and found therein a
rather complete article concerning 'Abdu'l-Baha and His
projected visit to America. I shall never forget the thrill
this somewhat commonplace story gave me-commonplace,
I mean, in comparison with the reality of that
story as future months were to unfold it to me. Again
I heard the inner voice which since very early youth has
come to me again and again: "Come along up." I read
and re-read the story. Here was a Man who had indeed
found a Truth for which He was not only willing to die
but had died, a living death covering almost sixty years of
torture, banishment and imprisonment, and who had seen
many thousands of His followers willingly and joyfully
face a martyr's death. And above all-O happy marvel!-
here was a man who placed money where it belonged,
beneath His feet. He never took up a collection!
I read and re-read that glorious and tragic story and
filed it in my voluminous twenty-five volume scrap-book.
There may have been a vague purpose in my mind of
making that story the background of a sermon some day.
To such human uses do we often put the skyey glimpses
God vouchsafes us. Which is well; or would be if those
celestial visions found utterance in our lives as well as
through our lips.
It may have been an indication of my spiritual unrest
and sense of frustration that had prompted me some
months before to organize in Jersey City what we called
The Brotherhood Church. It had no affiliation with my
regular denominational work. No salary was attached to
its service. It tried to be in fact what its name indicated:
a group of brothers of the spirit aiming to express their
highest ideals in service to struggling humanity. Our
meetings were held in a large Masonic Hall every Sunday
evening, since my suburban church held services only in
the morning. How little one can estimate the great results
that may flow from even slight efforts undertaken
in a sincere spirit of service. It is hardly too much to say
that had not this Church of Brotherhood (as 'Abdu'l-Baha
later called it) been inaugurated and carried on
for a few brief months, the Sun of Reality might not
have risen for me for many years, if ever, upon this little
For one of the members of the Board of Trustees was
a man whom I had grown to respect and love deeply.
His health was none too good and he suffered, at intervals
all too short, from blinding headaches, indicating a
pathological condition which, a few months later, carried
him from this world. His nature was one of the humblest
and sweetest I have ever known. None was too lowly or
too poor to be denied his understanding love; none too
casual an acquaintance to make him hesitate to seek to
find and touch with healing art, the hidden springs of
sorrow and distress which all conceal. His tact seemed
never failing and his faith in human greatness boundless.
He had no money, or little, to give. He had more, the
key of universal love which unlocks every heart.
This friend, Mr. Clarence Moore, came to me one Sunday
evening just before the service was to begin and
handed me some notes, saying: "I am not feeling well
enough to stay this evening for I am very tired with some
work I have been doing and in connection with which I
want to ask your assistance." "How can I help?" I said.
"Well," he responded, "you know I have been to some
extent interested in a world-wide movement which seems
to have great spiritual and social significance. Friends of
mine have found in it much of value and inspiration which
so far have seemed too high and deep for me to fathom
and explore. It occurred to me that your knowledge and
experience in such matters might assist me to a more just
appreciation. So, this afternoon I attended one of the
meetings of this group in New York and made some
rather full notes with the idea of submitting them to you
for your criticism and opinion."+F1
I was dubious. There was no connection in my mind
between this request and the magazine article I had lately
read, and I hesitated more than a little. Oriental cults,
Eastern philosophies, and the queer, supposedly idealistic
movements of which there are so many, had never appealed
to me. But, of course, I thanked him and on my
way home in the train that night I studied his notes carefully.
Interesting, I thought, heart-stirring a little, but that
was about all except that I looked forward to further discussion
of them with my friend.
Within a few days the mail brought to me an invitation
to attend a "Baha'i Meeting" in New York at which a
woman from London, England, was to speak. At once I
connected this with my friend and his notes. He had evidently
given my name to someone and with this result.
I was disturbed. I had no desire to be drawn into any
movement or interest which might distract my attention
from my legitimate work. I was on the point of throwing
+F1 I came to know much later that this was just his characteristically
+F1humble and tactful way of enlisting my attention. He had long loved
+F1the teachings and his daily life was their application.
the card into the waste paper basket. Only the thought
of Clarence, his selfless service, his friendship and love,
deterred me. I could not refuse his request that I investigate.
So I went although it entailed an evening wasted, as
I thought, and a mid-night return to my home which, in
my then state of health, was a not inconsiderable hardship.
How slight the occasion upon which often hang
great and vital issues! Suppose that I had refused to go!
Nay, suppose that Clarence had allowed his physical
weakness, his need of rest that Sunday afternoon, to
weigh too heavily against his desire to serve; if the material
had overbalanced the spiritual in his mind that day I
probably would not be writing these words twenty-five
years later. Indeed, Sir Launfal to the contrary notwithstanding,
Heaven is not given away. God cannot be had
for the asking unless with that asking goes all that one has.
I do not remember much of what happened at the
meeting-my first Baha'i meeting. There were readings
of beautiful prayers, and I had a slight feeling of regret
that they had to use a book. The friend from London
talked, but nothing of what she said remains. No hymns,
none of the religious trappings I had been accustomed to:
but there was a spirit that attracted my heart. So when
the meeting was over I asked the speaker if she could
recommend someone who would come over to Jersey
City and tell the story to my people. She introduced me
to the chairman of the meeting, Mr. Mountfort Mills, who,
within a week or two, did give a talk in the Brotherhood
Church. I remember his subject was The Divine Springtime.
One of my people sitting in front of me, for I sat in
the audience during the address, seemed enthralled. She
turned to me as we all rose to leave and said in a hushed
voice: "There, indeed, is a man!" Her succeeding remarks
indicated her meaning: A feeling of awe for the speaker
and his subject. "If we could only be sure it were all true,"
Then began a period of about three months upon which
I now look back as the most remarkable of my life. The
Divine Voice calling from on high seemed constantly ringing
in my ears. Not that I was at all convinced of the
truth underlying what I heard on every hand. In fact I
did not understand half of what most of these people
talked about. Sometimes I was definitely repelled and
would try to put it all out of my mind. But it was no use.
My heart was in a turmoil and yet incredibly attracted.
The chairman, who had given the address in the Brotherhood
Church, devoted much time to me, why I was at a
loss to understand. At his home I met several of the
Baha'i friends. And here I received my first copy of The
Seven Valleys by Baha'u'llah. I read it on my way home
that night and it stirred me beyond measure. Not one
word in ten did I understand but doors seemed to be opening
before me. It was like a leit motif from a heavenly
opus of which the theme could not be guessed. Certain
passages struck my heart like paeans from angelic choirs.
Even The Hidden Words, by Baha'u'llah, given me a
few days before, did not approach the core of my being
as did this.
I began going over almost weekly to meetings in New
York. I met more of the "friends" as I heard them designated.
They certainly expressed a type of friendship new
to me. I bought all the books I could find and read, read,
read constantly. I could hardly think of anything else. It
reflected in my sermons so that my people remarked and
spoke of it. Always I had written my sermons, rather
priding myself on style and ratiocination. Suddenly that
all dropped away. I found myself going into the pulpit
with only the preparation of prayer and meditation. And
what a new meaning began to attach itself to this word
prayer! I had always prayed after a fashion, but since
religion had become a "profession," public prayer-pulpit
prayer-had to a great extent displaced personal devotions.
I began vaguely to understand what communion
But I was not happy. Strange to say I was more unhappy
than ever. It seemed as though the very roots of
my being were rent asunder. Perhaps, I thought, when
'Abdu'l-Baha arrives He will be able to calm my restless
soul. Certainly none of the proponents of His cause could
do it. I had tried them all.
One day I was walking with Mountfort near his home
on West End Ave. It was in February and the winter
winds were chill. We walked briskly talking of the ever
enthralling subject, 'Abdu'l-Baha's approaching visit;
what He looked like; what effect His meeting had on
souls; stories of contacts with Him in Akka and Paris.
Impulsively I said:
"When 'Abdu'l-Baha arrives I would like very much
to have a talk with Him alone, without even an interpreter."
He smiled sympathetically but remarked:
"I fear you couldn't get very far without an interpreter,
for 'Abdu'l-Baha speaks little English and you, I imagine,
I would not be dissuaded. "If He at all approaches in
spiritual discernment what I hear and read of Him," I
said, "we would get closer together, and I might have a
better chance of understanding, even if no words were
spoken. I am very tired of words," I concluded rather
This was about six weeks before 'Abdu'l-Baha came,
two months perhaps. We never referred to the subject
again nor did Mountfort speak of my wish to anyone, as
he afterwards assured me.
Finally the day arrived. I did not go to the steamship
wharf to meet Him but I did make an effort to get at
least a glimpse of Him at a gathering specially arranged
for Him at the home of Baha'i friends. A glimpse was all
I succeeded in getting. The press of eager friends and
curious ones was so great that it was difficult even to get
inside the doors. I have only the memory of an impressive
silence most unusual at such functions. In all that crowded
mass of folk, so wedged together that tea drinking was
almost an impossibility, though the attempt was made,
there was little or no speech. A whispered word; a remark
implying awe or love, was all. I strove to get where
I could at least see Him. All but impossible. At last I
managed to press forward where I could peep over a
shoulder and so got my first glimpse of 'Abdu'l-Baha. He
was seated. A cream colored fez upon His head from
under which white hair flowed almost to His shoulders.
His robe, what little I could see of it, was oriental, almost
white. But these were incidentals to which I could pay
little attention. The impressive thing, and what I have
never forgotten, was an indefinable aspect of majesty
combined with an exquisite courtesy. He was just in the
moment of accepting a cup of tea from the hostess. Such
gentleness, such love emanated from Him as I had never
seen. I was not emotionally disturbed. Remember that at
that time I had no conviction, almost, I might say, little
or no interest in what I came later to understand by the
term His "Station." I was an onlooker at a scene concerning
the significance of which I was totally ignorant. Yes,
ignorant. What matter that I had read and prayed! My
mind was attracted and my heart, but inner doors were
shut-and locked. No wonder that I was unhappy. But
within my soul was an urge, a longing, that would not be
stilled nor thwarted. What was it that these people around
me had which gave to their eyes such illumination, to
their hearts such gladness? What connotation did the word
"wonderful" have to them that so often it was upon their
lips? I did not know, but I wanted to know as I think I
had never known the want of anything before.
The measure of that desire and the determination to
discover may be indicated in that the very next morning,
early, I was at the Hotel Ansonia where the friends had
reserved rooms for Him-a beautiful suite which 'Abdu'l-Baha
used only a few days, removing to a simple apartment,
and refusing with kindly dignity the urgent offer
of the friends to meet any expense. He said that it was
not the part of wisdom.
So before nine o'clock in the morning I was there,
which meant, since I lived some distance from New York,
an early start indeed. Already the large reception room
was well filled. Evidently others also were conscious of
a similar urge. I wondered if they too felt, as I, a burning
in the breast.
I remember as if it were yesterday the scene and my
impressions. I did not want to talk to anyone. In fact I
would not. I withdrew to the window overlooking Broadway
and turned my back upon them all. Below me
stretched the great city but I saw it not. What was it all
about? Why was I here? What did I expect from the
coming interview: indeed how did I know there was to
be any interview at all? I had no appointment. Plainly all
these other folk had come expecting to see and talk with
Him. Why should I expect any attention from such an
So I was somewhat withdrawn from the others when
my attention was attracted by a rustling throughout the
room. A door was opening far across from me and a
group was emerging and 'Abdu'l-Baha appeared saying
farewell. None had any eyes save for Him. Again I had
the impression of a unique dignity and courtesy and love.
The morning sunlight flooded the room to center on His
robe. His fez was slightly tilted and as I gazed. His hand,
with a gesture evidently characteristic, raised and, touching,
restored it to its proper place. His eyes met mine as
my fascinated glance was on Him. He smiled and, with a
gesture which no word but "lordly" can describe. He
beckoned me. Startled gives no hint of my sensations.
Something incredible had happened. Why to me, a
stranger unknown, unheard of, should He raise that
friendly hand? I glanced around. Surely it was to someone
else that gesture was addressed, those eyes were smiling!
But there was no one near and again I looked and again
He beckoned and such understanding love enveloped me
that even at that distance and with a heart still cold a thrill
ran through me as if a breeze from a divine morning had
touched my brow!
Slowly I obeyed that imperative command and, as I
approached the door where still He stood, He motioned
others away and stretched His hand to me as if He had
always known me. And, as our right hands met, with His
left He indicated that all should leave the room, and He
drew me in and closed the door. I remember how surprised
the interpreter looked when he too was included
in this general dismissal. But I had little thought then for
anything but this incredible happening. I was absolutely
alone with 'Abdu'l-Baha. The halting desire expressed
weeks ago was fulfilled the very moment that our eyes
Still holding my hand 'Abdu'l-Baha walked across the
room towards where, in the window, two chairs were
waiting. Even then the majesty of His tread impressed
me and I felt like a child led by His father, a more than
earthly father, to a comforting conference. His hand still
held mine and frequently His grasp tightened and held
more closely. And then, for the first time. He spoke, and
in my own tongue: Softly came the assurance that I was
His very dear son.
What there was in these simple words that carried such
conviction to my heart I cannot say. Or was it the tone
of voice and the atmosphere pervading the room, filled
with spiritual vibrations beyond anything I had ever
known, that melted my heart almost to tears? I only know
that a sense of verity invaded me. Here at last was my
Father. What earthly paternal relationship could equal
this? A new and exquisite emotion all but mastered me.
My throat swelled. My eyes filled. I could not have spoken
had life depended on a word. I followed those masterly
feet like a little child.
Then we sat in the two chairs by the window: knee to
knee, eye to eye. At last He looked right into me. It was
the first time since our eyes had met with His first beckoning
gesture that this had happened. And now nothing
intervened between us and He looked at me. He looked
at me! It seemed as though never before had anyone
really seen me. I felt a sense of gladness that I at last was
at home, and that one who knew me utterly, my Father,
in truth, was alone with me.
As He looked such play of thought found reflection in
His face, that if He had talked an hour not nearly so much
could have been said. A little surprise, perhaps, followed
swiftly by such sympathy, such understanding, such overwhelming
love-it was as if His very being opened to
receive me. With that the heart within me melted and the
tears flowed. I did not weep, in any ordinary sense. There
was no breaking up of feature. It was as if a long-pent
stream was at last undammed. Unheeded, as I looked at
Him, they flowed.
He put His two thumbs to my eyes while He wiped
the tears from my face; admonishing me not to cry, that
one must always be happy. And He laughed. Such a
ringing, boyish laugh. It was as though He had discovered
the most delightful joke imaginable: a divine joke which
only He could appreciate.
I could not speak. We both sat perfectly silent for
what seemed a long while, and gradually a great peace
came to me. Then 'Abdu'l-Baha placed His hand upon
my breast saying that it was the heart that speaks. Again
silence: a long, heart-enthralling silence. No word further
was spoken, and all the time I was with Him not one
single sound came from me. But no word was necessary
from me to Him. I knew that, even then, and how I
thanked God it was so.
Suddenly He leaped from His chair with another
laugh as though consumed with a heavenly joy. Turning,
He took me under the elbows and lifted me to my feet
and swept me into his arms. Such a hug! No mere embrace!
My very ribs cracked. He kissed me on both
cheeks, laid His arm across my shoulders and led me to
That is all. But life has never been quite the same since.
THE GLANCE THAT SAVED THE WORLD. A
DIVINE SINCERITY. THE MASTERLY TEACHING
"The authorized Interpreter and Exemplar of Baha'u'llah's
teachings was His eldest son 'Abdu'l-Baha
(Servant of Baha) who was appointed by His Father
as the Center to whom all Baha'is, should turn for instruction
TO estimate, even to imagine, the possibilities of the
human soul is beyond man's thinking. "I am man's
mystery and he is My mystery." And 'Abdu'l-Baha says
that no man can know himself since it is impossible to
look at oneself from without. Because of this, and because
men commonly tend to accept a lower estimate of
their own capacities rather than a higher, a certain
heroism is essential to high attainment. This is true, of
course, when the goal is a material one. It is not generally
realized that it is much more true when the plane of seeking
is spiritual. To accept the dictum that nothing is too
good to be true, and nothing is too high to be attained,
requires a willingness to run counter to the accepted
standards of men, who, as a rule, measure their ambitions
by a quite different standard.
After meeting 'Abdu'l-Baha life, as I have intimated,
assumed a very different aspect. But in what that difference
consisted I could not then determine, and after
these twenty-five years I cannot now fully determine, except
that a goal had emerged from the mists surrounding
worthy of supreme struggle and sacrifice. I began to see,
dimly indeed but clearly enough to give me hope, that
even if I could not know myself, I knew with certainty
that heights far beyond ever before dreamed attainable
lay before me and could be reached. This was all I knew
but it was much. I remember saving to myself over and
over: "At last the desire of my soul is in sight." I gazed
at 'Abdu'l-Baha with a mixture of hope and despair. The
world and I in turmoil and here was peace. He sat or
stood, walked or talked in a world of His own, yet with
beckoning hands to all who yearned and strove. It seemed
to me that He stood at the heart of a whirlwind in a place
of supreme quiet, or at the hypothetical perfectly still
center of a rapidly revolving flywheel. I looked at this
stillness, this quietude, this immeasurable calm in 'Abdu'l-Baha
and it filled me with a restless longing akin to despair.
Is it any wonder I was unhappy? For I was desperately
unhappy. Was I not in the outer circle of that raging
tornado? And to attain that Center of stillness meant the
traversing of the storm. But to know there was a Center:
nay, to see One sitting calmly there, was a knowledge, a
glimpse, never before attained. And so, another divine
paradox: in my misery of doubting hope lay the first hint
of divine assurance I had ever known. I remembered another
arresting phrase in the Seven Valleys and said to
myself: "Though I search for a hundred thousand years
for the Beauty of the Friend I shall never despair for He
will assuredly direct me into His way."
Not long after that great first experience with 'Abdu'l-Baha
I was again talking with Him. It was in the beautiful
home of Mr. and Mrs. Kinney, a family of the friends
who seemed to feel that the gift of all which they possessed
was too little to express their adoring love. Entering
their home the roar of the city, the elegance and luxury
of Riverside Drive, the poverty and wealth of our modern
civilization all seemed to merge into a unity of nothingness
and one entered an atmosphere of Reality. Those
heavenly souls who thus demonstrated beyond any words
their self-dedication had a direct influence upon my
hesitating feet of which they could have had no suspicion.
My heart throughout all worlds shall be filled with thankfulness
In this home I had become a constant habitue. I could
not keep away. One day 'Abdu'l-Baha, the interpreter and
I were alone in one of the smaller reception rooms on the
ground floor. 'Abdu'l-Baha had been speaking of some
Christian doctrine and His interpretation of the words of
Christ was so different from the accepted one that I
could not restrain an expression of remonstrance.
I remember speaking with some heat:
"How is it possible to be so sure?" I asked. "No one
can say with certainty what Jesus meant after all these
centuries of misinterpretation and strife."
He intimated that it was quite possible.
It is indicative of my spiritual turmoil and my blindness
to His station, that instead of His serenity and tone
of authority impressing me as warranted it drove me to
actual impatience. "That I cannot believe." I exclaimed.
I shall never forget the glance of outraged dignity the
interpreter cast upon me. It was as though he would say:
"Who are you to contradict or even to question 'Abdu'l-Baha!"
But not so did Abdu'l-Bah? look at me. How I thank
God that it was not! He looked at me a long moment
before He spoke. His calm, beautiful eyes searched my
soul with such love and understanding that all my momentary
heat evaporated. He smiled as winningly as a lover
smiles upon his beloved, and the arms of His spirit seemed
to embrace me as He said softly that I should try my way
and He would try His.
It was as though a cool hand had been laid upon a
fevered brow; as though a cup of nectar had been held to
parched lips; as though a key had unlocked my hard-bolted,
crusted and rusted heart. The tears started and my
voice trembled, "I'm sorry," I murmured.
Often since that day have I pondered on the tragic
possibilities of the effect of an expression of the face. I
have even thought I should like to write a book on The
Glance that Saved the World, taking as a theme the way
Jesus must have looked upon Peter after the three-fold
denial. What could that glance have carried to the fear-
stricken, doubting, angry Peter? Surely not the self-
righteous, dignified look in the eyes of the interpreter for
'Abdu'l-Baha. As surely it must have been something in
the nature of the expression of all-embracing love, forgiveness
and understanding with which "'Abdu'l-Baha
calmed and soothed and assured my heart.
Upon that glance which Jesus cast upon Peter as he
went to the Cross probably hung the destinies of Christianity.
Had it not been one of forgiveness and love Peter
would not have gone out and "wept bitterly." Neither, in
all probability, would he have died a martyr to the
Cause of Him whom he denied in that moment of angry
fear. Is it too much to go one step further and assert that
the destinies of the world hung upon that moment of
time when the eyes of Peter and His Master met and he
read therein not what his soul knew he deserved but
what God's mercy conferred as a bounty on His part.
Of one thing I am sure: upon that glance of 'Abdu'l-Baha,
upon that moment in which He turned upon me
the searchlight of His inner being, hung my destiny
throughout all the ages of immortal life. And not only my
own destiny, which, after all is of slight importance compared
to the hope of the world, but the destiny of the
uncounted millions who throughout the coming generations
of men are interwoven with mine. For any thoughtful
mind looking back upon so many as three-score years,
must be amazed, if not horrified, by the consideration of
the effect of a single careless gesture, word or a facial
expression. Like a pebble cast into a calm pool the ripples
from that little deed spread and spread to infinity. And,
as they spread, they touch the ripples from tens, scores,
thousands of others' deeds, expressions, gestures, thoughts;
each affected by each until one becomes conscious of the
vast responsibility each soul takes upon itself by the mere
fact of acting his part, living his life through one little
moment of time. He sees himself a king affecting for
better or worse every soul in the world, sooner or later,
by the very breath he draws, the thoughts of his inmost
heart. Baha'u'llah says somewhere that he who quickens
one soul in this Day it is as if he quickened every soul in
the world. Is not this His meaning?
In all of my many opportunities of meeting, of listening
to and talking with 'Abdu'l-Baha I was impressed, and
constantly more deeply impressed, with His method of
teaching souls. That is the word. He did not attempt to
reach the mind alone. He sought the soul, the reality of
every one He met. Oh, He could be logical, even scientific
in His presentation of an argument, as He demonstrated
constantly in the many addresses I have heard Him give
and the many more I have read. But it was not the logic
of the schoolman, not the science of the class room. His
lightest word. His slightest association with a soul was
shot through with an illuminating radiance which lifted
the hearer to a higher plane of consciousness. Our hearts
burned within us when He spoke. And He never argued,
of course. Nor did He press a point. He left one free.
There was never an assumption of authority, rather He
was ever the personification of humility. He taught "as
if offering a gift to a king." He never told me what I
should do, beyond suggesting that what I was doing was
right. Nor did He ever tell me what I should believe. He
made Truth and Love so beautiful and royal that the heart
perforce did reverence. He showed me by His voice,
manner, bearing, smile, how I should be, knowing that out
of the pure soil of being the good fruit of deeds and words
would surely spring.
There was a strange, awe-inspiring mingling of humility
and majesty, relaxation and power in His slightest word
or gesture which made me long to understand its source.
What made Him so different, so immeasurably superior
to any other man I had ever met?
It was to be expected that the spiritual turmoil in which
my life was now submerged should have a deep effect
upon the duties of my ministry. My ideals began to change
almost from the moment of my first contact with 'Abdu'l-Baha.
I remember that the dearly loved young wife of
one of the members of my church was suddenly taken ill
about this time. I had then been under this divine influence
only a few weeks. I was not a Baha'i. I did not
accept Baha'u'llah as the Manifestation of God. I knew
very little of what I heard spoken of as the "station" of
'Abdu'l-Baha. But I was enthralled with the vision of a
spiritual beauty, a hope of spiritual attainment which drew
me as with cords of steel. I read the Hidden Words, the
Seven Valleys, the Book of Assurance, the beautiful
prayers, constantly. So when this friend came to me as
his minister and with tears asked me to pray for the
recovery of his wife, saying that his physician held out
little hope, that she was daily growing weaker and that
his only hope was in the goodness of God, I instinctively
turned to the healing prayers in the Baha'i prayer book.
Together we nine times repeated:
"Thy Name is my healing, 0 my God, and remembrance
of Thee is my remedy. Nearness co Thee is my
hope, and love for Thee is my companion. Thy mercy
to me is my healing and my succour in both this world
and the world to come. Thou, verily, art the All-
Bountiful, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise." Baha'u'llah.
The husband knew nothing, or very little, of the Baha'i
Cause. I certainly had made no effort to explain the teachings
to him. It was all too new to me to permit of that.
I marvelled at the time, or immediately after, at my
temerity and at his unhesitating and grateful acceptance
of the prayers. Perhaps it was with his tongue in his cheek
though he was distraught enough to grasp at any hope.
Of that I can know nothing, but I do know that his wife's
recovery dated from that hour and she was soon well.
I speak of this only as an illustration of the new relationships
with souls that began at this time. When Christ said
to His fisher disciples: "Follow Me and I will make you
fishers of men," He must have meant that "following" to
be a matter of spiritual consciousness out of which flows
loving deeds. As though He would say: "Be like Me and
men will love you as they love Me, and you will be able
to serve men as I have served you." At any rate that is
what 'Abdu'l-Baha was constantly showing me, that the
only way I could teach men the Way of Life was by
walking therein myself. "I am the Way."
I asked 'Abdu'l-Baha one day: "Why should I believe
He looked long and searchingly as it seemed into my
very soul. The silence deepened. He did not answer. In
that silence I had time to consider why I had asked the
question, and dimly I began to see that only I myself
could supply the reason. After all, why should I believe
in anyone or anything except as a means, an incentive, a
dynamic for the securing of a fuller, deeper, more perfect
life? Does the cabinet-maker's apprentice ask himself why
he should believe in the master wood-worker? He wants
to know how to make these raw materials into things of
beauty and usefulness. He must believe in anyone who
can show him how to do that, providing he first has faith in
his own capacity. I had the stuff of life. Was Baha'u'llah
the Master Workman? If He were I knew that I would
follow, even though through blood and tears. But how
could I know?
I wondered why 'Abdu'l-Baha kept silence so long.
Yet was it silence? That stillness held more than words.
At last He spoke. He said that the work of a Christian
minister is most important. When you preach, or pray,
or teach your people your heart must be filled with love
for them and love for God. And you must be sincere,-
He spoke in Persian, the interpreter translating fluently
and beautifully. But no one could interpret that Divine
Voice. He spoke, indeed, as never mere man spake. One
listened entranced and understood inwardly even before
the interpreter opened his mouth. It was as though the
English skimmed the surface: the voice, the eyes, the smile
of 'Abdu'l-Baha taught the heart to probe the depths.
He continued, to the effect that:
One can never be sincere enough until his heart is
entirely severed from attachment to the things of this
world. One should not preach love and have a loveless
heart, nor preach purity and harbor impure thoughts.
Nor preach peace and be at inward strife.
He paused and added with a son of humorous sadness:
that He had known ministers who did this. My guilty
conscience acquiesced. So had I.
It was not until many months later that I realized that
He had answered my question. Certainly I was brought
nearer to faith in Baha'u'llah as Life's Master Workman.
Surely this was a glorious hint as to how the stuff of life
could be made into things of beauty and worth. Just for
an instant I touched the Garment of His Majesty. But
only for an instant. The doors swung quickly to again and
left me out. These days and weeks of alternating light
and darkness, hope and despair were black indeed. Yet,
strange to say, I gloried in the depths. They were at least
real. For the first time I realized the value, the imperative
need, of spiritual suffering. The throes of parturition must
always precede birth.
I remember as though it were yesterday another illustration
of 'Abdu'l-Baha's divine technique. I was not at
all well that summer. A relapse was threatening a return
of a condition which had necessitated a major operation
the year before. My nervous condition made me consider
breaking the habit of smoking which had been with me
all my adult life. I had always prided myself on the ability
to break the habit at any time. In fact I had several times
cut off the use of tobacco for a period of many months.
But this time to my surprise and chagrin I found my nerves
and will in such a condition that after two or three days
the craving became too much for me.
Finally it occurred to me to ask the assistance of
'Abdu'l-Baha. I had read His beautiful Tablet beginning:
"0 ye pure friends of God!" in which He glorified personal
cleanliness and urged the avoidance of anything
tending towards habits of self-indulgence. "Surely," I
said to myself, "He will tell me how to overcome this
So, when I next saw Him I told Him all about it. It
was like a child confessing to His mother, and my voice
trailed away to embarrassed silence after only the fewest
of words. But He understood, indeed much better than I
did. Again I was conscious of an embracing, understanding
love as He regarded me. After a moment He asked
quietly, how much I smoked.
I told him.
He said He did not think that would hurt me, that the
men in the Orient smoked all the time, that their hair and
beards and clothing became saturated, and often very
offensive. But that I did not do this, and at my age and
having been accustomed to it for so many years He did
not think that I should let it trouble me at all. His gentle
eyes and smile seemed to hold a twinkle that recalled my
impression of His enjoyment of a divine joke.
I was somewhat overwhelmed. Not a dissertation on
the evils of habit; not an explanation of the bad effects on
health; not a summoning of my will power to overcome
desire, rather a Charter of Freedom did He present to me.
I did not understand but it was a great relief for somehow
I knew that this was wise advice. So immediately
that inner conflict was stilled and I enjoyed my smoke
with no smitings of conscience. But two days after this
conversation I found the desire for tobacco had entirely
left me and I did not smoke again for seven years.
Love is the Portal to Freedom. This great truth began
to dawn upon me.
Not only freedom to the one who loves but freedom
also to the one upon whom this divine love is bestowed.
I have mentioned several times the impression He always
made upon me of an all-embracing love. How rarely we
receive such an impression from those around us, even
from our nearest and dearest, we all know. All our human
love seems based upon self, and even its highest expression
is limited to one or to a very few. Not so was the love
which radiated from 'Abdu'l-Baha. Like the sun it poured
upon all alike and, like it, also warmed and gave new life
to all it touched.
In my experience in the Christian ministry I had been
accustomed often to speak of the Love of God. All
through my life since, as a boy of fifteen I had experienced
the thrilling gift of "conversion," so-called (in which,
literally, the heavens had opened, a great light shone and
a Voice from the world unseen called me to renunciation
and the life of the spirit), I had heard and spoken much
of the Love of God. I now realized that I had never before
even known what the words meant.
About this time I first heard the now familiar story of
'Abdu'l-Baha's answer to one who asked Him why it was
that those who came from His presence possessed a shining
face. He said, with that sublime smile and humble
gesture of the hands which once seen may never be forgotten,
that if it were so it must be because He saw in
every face the face of His Heavenly Father."
Ponder this answer. Deeply search the depths of these
simple words, for here may be discerned the meaning of
the "Love of God" and the cause of Its transforming
power. One may readily understand why the lover's face
should glow with heavenly radiance. Surely one's whole
being would be transformed once the Lamp of Cosmic
love were ignited in the heart. But why should It cause
the face of the seeker, the estranged, the sinful, upon
whom the love is turned, also to become radiant?
We find the answer in another of 'Abdu'l-Baha's comprehensive,
"Dost thou desire to love God? Love thy fellow men,
for in them ye see the image and likeness of God."
But it requires the penetrating eye of a more than
personal, individual, limited, love to see God's Face in
the face of saint and sinner alike. Must it not require, to
some degree at least, that all-embracing love which Christ
showered upon all alike, to enable us to see the Face of
our Heavenly Father reflected in the faces of our brother
men? This must be what our Lord meant when He said:
"A new commandment I give unto you that ye love
one another as I have loved you."
A new commandment indeed, and how basely neglected
let the condition of our pseudo-Christian civilization bear
About this time I was present at an interview sought
by a Unitarian clergyman, who was preparing an article
on the Baha'i Cause for the North American Review.
Here again I saw this universal, cosmic love illustrated.
This minister was quite advanced in age. He has since
passed from this world and now, we may hope, has a
clearer vision of the Reality of Love and Truth than he
seemed to have discovered here. It was incredible to me,
even then, that any soul could be so impervious to the
influence emanating from 'Abdu'l-Baha. The Master sat
quite silent throughout the interview, listening with unwearied
attention to the long hypothetical questions of
the reverend doctor. They related entirely to the history
of the Baha'i Cause; its early dissensions; its relation to
the Muhammaden priesthood and teachings. 'Abdu'l-Baha
answered mainly in monosyllables. He never flagged in
interest but it seemed to be more an interest in the questioner
than in his questions. He sat perfectly relaxed. His
hands in His lap with palms upward, as was characteristic
of Him. He looked at the interviewer with that indescribable
expression of understanding love which never
failed. His face was radiant with an inner flame.
The doctor talked on and on. I grew more and more
impatient. I was ashamed of and for him. Why did not
'Abdu'l-Baha recognize the superficial nature underlying
all these questions? Could He not see that their object was
only to gain substantiation for a critically adverse magazine
article for the writing of which a substantial check
might be anticipated? Why was not the interview cut
short and the talker dismissed? But if others in the group
grew impatient 'Abdu'l-Baha did not. He encouraged the
doctor to express himself fully. If the speaker flagged for
a moment 'Abdu'l-Baha spoke briefly in reply to a question
and then waited courteously for him to continue.
At last the reverend doctor paused. There was silence
for a moment and then that softly resonant voice filled
the room. Sentence by sentence the interpreter translated.
He spoke of "His Holiness Christ," of His love for all
men, strong even unto the Cross; of the high station of the
Christian ministry "to which you, my dear son, have been
called"; of the need that men called to this station should
"characterize themselves with the characteristics of God"
in order that their people should be attracted to the divine
life, for none can resist the expression in one's life of the
attributes of God. It is a key which unlocks every heart.
He spoke, too, of the coming Kingdom of God on earth
for which Christ had told us to pray and which, in accordance
with His promise, Baha'u'llah, the Father, had
come to this world to establish.
Within five minutes His questioner had become
humble, for the moment, at least, a disciple at His feet.
He seemed to have been transported to another world,
as indeed we all were. His face shone faintly as though
he had received an inner illumination. Then 'Abdu'l-Baha
rose. We all rose with Him in body as we had risen with
Him in spirit. He lovingly embraced the doctor and led
him towards the door. At the threshold He paused. His
eyes had lighted upon a large bunch of American Beauty
roses which one of the friends had brought to Him that
morning. There were at least two dozen of them, perhaps
three. There were so many and their stems so long that
they had been placed in an earthenware umbrella stand.
We all had noticed their beauty and fragrance.
No sooner had 'Abdu'l-Baha's eyes lighted upon them
than He laughed aloud; His boyish hearty laughter rang
through the room. He stooped, gathered the whole bunch
in His arms, straightened and placed them all in the
arms of His visitor. Never shall I forget that round,
bespectacled, grey head above that immense bunch of
lovely flowers. So surprised, so radiant, so humble, so
transformed. Ah! 'Abdu'l-Baha knew how to teach the
Love of God!
TRUE WEALTH, POWER AND FREEDOM.
THE TABLE OF ABDU'L-BAHA. VERY GREAT
THINGS. "ARE YOU INTERESTED IN
"O God! Illumine the eyes and the hearts of Thy servants
with the Light of Thy Knowledge, that they may know
of this: the Highest Station and Glorious Horizon, that
they may not be withheld by false voices from beholding
the effulgence of the Light of Thy Oneness, nor prevented
from turning unto the horizon of Renunciation."
THE home to which I have before referred, where
'Abdu'l-Baha spent most of His time during His
stay in New York, was the rendezvous of all the friends,
and at all times, day or night, there they could be found
clustering like bees around the celestial flower garden.
One beautiful Spring day I dropped in there drawn by the
One cannot help making the attempt toward analyzing
the reason for this attraction, futile though it may be.
Would it be possible for the moth to determine why it
hovers around the candle, even though its wings be
singed? Or for one to say why the cold earth of Spring
responds with beauty and abundance to the bounty
of the sun? To man, however, is given intelligence denied
to bee and soil. The miner knows why he toils for gold
or precious stones. The diver knows why he braves the
depths to seek the pearl. They bear in their minds the
vision of the good things of life represented by the treasure
they seek. The imagination of the lonely prospector
is stirred by the dream of the vast fortune which his
probing pick may at any moment uncover. The wealth
of sea and mine and market-place represent to men
power, leisure, freedom; and these they ardently desire.
Yet here in this Man I saw personified such power, such
leisure, such freedom as no material wealth ever confers
upon its possessor. None of the outward appurtenances
of material wealth did He possess. All His life had been
spent in prison and exile. He bore still upon His body
the marks of man's cruelty, yet there were no signs of
His ever having been other than free, and evidently it was
a freedom which no earthly wealth ever bestows. And
He seemed never to be hurried. Amidst the rushing turmoil
of New York He walked as calmly as if on a lofty
plateau, far removed from the tumult and the shouting.
Yet He never stood aloof. Always His interest in people
and events was keen, especially in people. Souls was the
term He always used. He was ever at the service of any
or all who needed Him. From five o'clock in the morning
frequently until long after midnight He was actively
engaged in service, yet no evidence of haste or stress ever
could be seen in Him. "Nothing is too much trouble
when one loves," He had been heard to say, "and there
is always time."
Is it any wonder that we were attracted? But for me
the attraction was not enough. I was like the prospector
drawn by visions of wealth to seek its fabulous source.
Just a sip of that celestial wine had caused to spring up
in my heart a passionate desire to seek the Holy Grail.
It was mid-afternoon when I arrived at the house, for
I had purposely timed my arrival so that it should not be
at the luncheon hour, for hospitable as were the souls of
these dedicated ones, and however flexible their dining
table, I knew the size of their household and the great
number of probably uninvited, but always welcome,
guests. There were many bees. But I had not counted on
the irregularity of 'Abdu'l-Baha's meal times and now,
at half-past three or four o'clock in the afternoon I heard,
as I softly ascended the stairway, the unmistakable sounds
of a large group busy in the dining room. The last thing
I desired was to walk in upon such a gathering unexpectedly,
so I very quietly crept through the upper hall
and through the drawing room into a little alcove as far
from the dining room as I could get. I am very sure that
no one saw me. But I had no sooner picked up a magazine
and settled myself to wait patiently until the meal
should be over, than 'Abdu'l-Baha's ringing, challenging
voice pealed like a bell through the large rooms. He
called my name: "Mr. Ives, Mr. Ives, come, come." There
could be no hesitation when He summoned, but as I rose
and walked slowly back into the long dining room, set
T-shape to the drawing room, I was amazed, wondering
how He could have known so surely and so quickly that
I was there. There had been no opportunity for Him to
have been told, and, anyhow I had let myself in at the
unlocked door and, as I have said, no one had seen me
ascend the stairs. Yet here I was evidently an expected,
if not an invited guest. Even a place was there for me,
at any rate I have no remembrance of any of the usual
fuss of "setting a place." 'Abdu'l-Baha embraced me and
set me at His right hand.
It is most difficult to describe at all adequately such an
experience in such a Presence without becoming rhapsodical.
There were perhaps thirty people at the table and
such joyous exultation was on every face that the whole
room seemed strangely vibrant. 'Abdu'l-Baha served me
with His own hands most bountifully, urging me to eat,
eat, be happy. He himself did not eat but paced regally
around the table, talking, smiling, serving. He told stories
of the East, His hands gesturing with that graceful,
rhythmic, upward motion so characteristic and so indescribable.
I had no desire for food, at least not for the
food on my plate, but 'Abdu'l-Baha was insistent, repeating
that I must eat; that it was good food, good food. And
His laughter seemed to add a divine significance to the
words. A phrase I had read somewhere in the writings
came into my mind: "The cup of significances passed by
the Hand of the Divine Servant." What was this food
served at the table of 'Abdu'l-Baha? Of course I must eat.
And I did.
It was not many days after that when there occurred
one of the most poignantly remembered incidents. Ever
since I had first read a sentence in the "Prayer for Inspiration"
it had rung in my mind with insistent questioning.
"Prevent me not from turning to the Horizon of
renunciation." What has renunciation to do with inspiration?
I wondered. Why should I pray for the gift of
renunciation? Renounce the world? That was an ascetic
concept. It smacked of papacy and the monkish cell.
What had this modern world to do with renunciation?
Yet across the ages came a Voice. "If a man love father
or mother, wife or child more than Me he is not worthy
of Me." My mind rebelled but my heart responded. I
thank God for that. I resolved that I must know more
of this matter.
So one cold Spring day, a strong east wind blowing,
I made a special journey to ask 'Abdu'l-Baha about
renunciation. I found the house at Ninety-sixth Street
almost deserted. It seemed that 'Abdu'l-Baha was spending
a day or two at the home of one of the friends on
Seventy-eighth Street and so I walked there and found
Him on the point of returning to the home I had just left.
But I was too intent on my mission to allow difficulties
to interfere. I sought one of the Persian friends and, pointing
to the passage in the little volume I carried in my
pocket, I asked him if he would request 'Abdu'l-Baha to
speak to me for a few moments on this subject, and I read
it to him so that there should be no mistake: "Prevent me
not from turning to the Horizon of renunciation."
Returning, he handed me the book saying that 'Abdu'l-Baha
requested that I walk with Him back to Ninety-
sixth Street and He would talk with me on the way.
I recall that there was quite a little procession of us,
a dozen or so, mostly composed of the Persian friends
but a few others; Lua Getsinger was one, I remember.
The east wind was penetrating. I buttoned my coat closely
with a little shiver. But 'Abdu'l-Baha strode along with
his aba (cloak) floating in the wind. He looked at me as
we walked together at the head of the little group, with a
slightly quizzical glance: He said that I seemed cold, a
slightly amused glance accompanying the words, and I
unaccountably felt a little disturbed. Why should I not
feel cold? Could one be expected to live even above the
weather? But this slight remark was indicative. Always
His slightest word affected me as a summons. "Come up
higher!" He seemed to say.
As we walked a few paces ahead of the others He
talked at length about Horizons. Of how the Sun of
Reality, like the physical sun, rose at different points, the
Sun of Moses at one point, the Sun of Jesus at another,
the Sun of Muhammad, the Sun of Baha'u'llah at still
others. But always the same Sun though the rising points
varied greatly. Always we must look for the light of the
Sun, He said, and not keep our eyes so firmly fixed on its
last point of rising that we fail to see its glory when it rises
in the new Spiritual Springtime. Once or twice He
stopped and, with His stick, drew on the sidewalk an
imaginary horizon and indicated the rising points of the
sun. A strange sight it must have been to the casual
I was greatly disappointed. I had heard Him speak on
this subject and had read about it in "Some Answered
Questions." It was not of horizons I wanted to hear, but
of renunciation. And I was deeply depressed also because
I felt that He should have known my desire for light on
this subject, and responded to my longing even if I had
not been so explicit in my request; but I had been most
explicit. As we approached our destination He became
silent. My disappointment had long since merged into a
great content. Was it not enough to be with Him What,
after all, could He tell me about renunciation that was
not already in my own heart Perhaps the way to learn
about it was by doing, and I might begin by giving up
the longing to have Him talk to me about it. Truly, as
the outer silence deepened, my heart burned within me as
He talked with me on the way.
We came at last to the steps leading up to the entrance
door. 'Abdu'l-Baha paused with one foot resting on the
lower step while the little group slowly passed Him and
entered the house. 'Abdu'l-Baha made as if to follow, but
instead He fumed and, looking down at me from the little
elevation of the step, with that subtle meaning in eyes and
voice which seemed to accompany His slightest word,
and which to me was always so unfathomable and so
alluring: He said that I must always remember that this
is a day of great things, very great things.
I was speechless. It was not for me to answer. I did
not have the faintest inkling of what lay behind the words,
the resonant voice, that penetrating glance. Then He
turned and again made as if to ascend but again He
paused and turned His now luminous face towards me.
My foot was raised to follow but as He turned, I, of
course, paused also and hung uncertainly between rest
He repeated, saying to me so impressively, so earnestly,
that I must never forget this, that this is a day for very
What could He mean? What deep significance lay
behind these simple words? Why should He speak so to
me? Had it anything to do with that still alluring thought
Again 'Abdu'l-Baha turned to ascend and I made to
follow; but for the third time He paused and, turning, as
it seemed, the full light of His spirit upon me. He said
again, but this time in what seemed like a voice of thunder,
with literally flashing eyes and emphatically raised hand:
that I should remember His words that This is a Day for
very great things-VERY GREAT THINGS. These
last three words rang out like a trumpet call. The long,
deserted city block seemed to echo them. I was overwhelmed.
I seemed to dwindle, almost to shrivel, where
I stood, as that beautifully dominant figure, that commanding
and appealing voice, surrounded me like a sea,
and blotted out for the moment, at least, all the petty
world and my petty self with it. Who and what was I
to be summoned to accomplish great things, very great things?
I did not even know what things were great in
this world awry with misbegotten emphases.
After what seemed a very long moment, in which His
burning eyes probed my soul. He gently smiled. The
great moment had passed. He was again the courteous,
kindly, humble host, the Father whom I thought I knew.
He touched His fez+F1 so that it stood at what I called
the humorous angle, and a slightly quizzical smile was
around His mouth as He rapidly ascended the steps
and entered the open door. I followed closely. We passed
through the few steps of the hall to the stairs. I remember
the wondering, slightly envious glances that followed me
as I followed 'Abdu'l-Baha up the stairs. The upper hall
was empty and 'Abdu'l-Baha swept through it and up
another flight to His room, a large front room on the
third floor. And still I followed. I have often marvelled
since at my temerity. Had I known more or felt less I
never should have dared. It is said that fools rush in where
angels fear to tread. Perhaps that is the way that fools are
cured of their folly.
We came to the door of 'Abdu'l-Baha's room. He had
not invited me there, nor had He looked once behind Him
to see that I was following, and it was with much inward
trepidation that I paused at the threshold as He entered
the room. Would He be displeased? Had I overstepped
the hounds of the respect due 'Abdu'l-Baha? Had I been
lacking in due humility? But my heart was humility itself
-He must know that. He swung the door wide and turning
beckoned me in.
Again I was alone with 'Abdu'l-Baha. There was the
bed in which He slept, the chair in which He sat. The
late afternoon sunlight lay palely across the floor, but I
saw nothing. I was conscious only of Him and that I
was alone with Him. The room was very still. No sound
came from the street nor from the lower rooms. The
silence deepened as He regarded me with that loving, all-
+F1 Head covering.
embracing, all-understanding look which always melted
my heart. A deep content and happiness flooded my being.
A little flame seemed lit within my breast. And then
'Abdu'l-Baha spoke: He simply asked me if I were interested
Nothing could have been more unexpected. I had entirely
forgotten the question which had so engrossed my
thoughts an hour since. Or was it that in that hour during
which the word renunciation had not been mentioned,
all that I wished or needed to know about it had been
vouchsafed me? I had no words to answer His question.
Was I interested? I could not say I was and I would not
say I was not. I stood before Him silent while His whole
Being seemed to reach out to embrace me. Then His arm
was around me and He led me to the door. I left His
Presence with my soul treading the heights. I felt as
though I had been admitted, for the moment at least, into
the ranks of the martyrs. And it was a goodly fellowship
indeed. During all the long years of renunciation that followed,
the memory of that walk with Him; my disappointment
that He had not understood; His ringing
challenge: This is a Day for very great things: my following
Him up those long stairs without even knowing
whether He wished me to or not, and then the question
wrapped in that sublime love: Are you interested in
renunciation? has risen before me, a comforting and inspiring
challenge. Indeed I was interested and my interest
has never flashed from that day to this. But I never
dreamed that renunciation could be so glorious.
THE ATTRACTION OF PERFECTION. THE
BOYS FROM THE BOWERY. A BLACK ROSE
AND A BLACK SWEET.
"And finally there emerges, though on a plane of its
own and in a category entirely apart from the one occupied
by the two Figures (the Bab and Baha'u'llah)
that preceded Him, the vibrant, the magnetic personality
of 'Abdu'l-Baha, reflecting to a degree that no man,
however exalted his station, can hope to rival, the glory
and power with which They who are the Manifestations
of God are alone endowed."
DURING one of the talks given by 'Abdu'l-Baha to
a comparatively small group of the more intimate
friends, I sat beside Him on a small sofa. For most of
the hour, while He talked and answered questions, He held
my hand in His or rested it lightly upon my knee. There
flowed from Him to me during that marvelous contact a
constant stream of power. The remembrance of this experience
has brought to me through the years, at higher
moments of insight, thoughts difficult to express. "Words+F1
+F1 Seven Valleys by Baha'u'llah
cannot step into that Court." When 'Abdu'l-Baha says
that "there is a Power in this Cause far transcending the
ken of men and angels," what does He mean in terms
applicable to our everyday human experience, if not that
the World of Reality is a World of such Power as this
world has never known? When mankind learns how to
become a channel for that Power, as He always was and
is, instead of attempting to mop it up for one's own exclusive
use, then indeed "this world will become a garden
and a paradise." Certainly I felt that transcendent power
flowing from Him to me; and Mr. Mountfort Mills once
told me that he had the same experience when sitting
close to 'Abdu'l-Baha during an automobile ride. He said
it was like being charged by a divine battery.
I speak of this only because it is another illustration of
the effect 'Abdu'l-Baha's presence always had on me. I
could not be near Him without surges of almost irresistible
emotion sweeping through me. Sometimes the effects of
this emotion were apparent, but not always. I once spoke
of this to 'Abdu'l-Baha, apologetically referring to my
"childish weakness." He said that such tears were the
pearls of the heart.
It is not unusual for deep emotions to be stirred when
the eye is satisfied by a noble picture, a glorious sunset,
or a peach orchard in full bloom. Or when the ear is
entranced by the genius of a Beethoven, a Bach, a Mendelssohn.
To the eye or ear trained to detect subtle
harmonies of color, composition and tone, a chord is
struck by transcendent beauty which stirs the depths.
How much more must this be true when the eye, the ear,
the heart are filled with the vision of human perfection.
Here in 'Abdu'l-Baha I saw that for which all my life
I had longed,-perfection in word and deed,-a beauty
which no line or tone could ever depict; a harmony which
resounded to my inner ear like a mighty symphony; a
reposeful power such as is hinted at in the Moses of
Michael Angelo, or the Thinker of Rodin. In 'Abdu'l-Baha
it was not a hint I got, it was the perfection of all
that the hungry heart desired. I have heard of instances
in the Orient of believers who entered His presence for
the first time being swept by such irresistible tides of
emotion that they would seem to dissolve in tears. I cannot
wonder. Here I saw and felt and heard a simplicity
merging into power; a humility which sat His brow like
a kingly crown; a purity which never famished, and,
above all. Truth personified-the very Spirit of Truth
enshrined in a human temple. It was utter satisfaction to
my soul simply to be near Him.
Perhaps there was also a reason for my emotion in the
despair lying ever deep within; for to me it could never
be enough merely to contemplate such perfection. A voice
continually cried within me: "You must never rest until
you have clothed yourself in the attributes of God." I
seemed to hear in every word He spoke the words of Jesus:
"You must be perfect even as your Father in heaven
is perfect." These had always been more or less only
words to me. I began now dimly to hope that they might
really mean exactly what they said. And this became certainty
when I read for the first of many times these wonderful
words from Baha'u'llah's Tablet to the Pope: +F3
+F3 Baha'i Scriptures, p. 403.
"If ye believe in Me ye shall experience that which has
been promised you, and I will make you the friends of
my soul in the realm of My Greatness, and the companions
of My Perfection in the Kingdom of My Might
Under the influence of such tremendous thoughts as
these I one day asked 'Abdu'l-Baha how it could ever be
possible for me, deep in the mass of weak and selfish
humanity, ever to hope to attain when the goal was so
high and great. He said that it is to be accomplished little
by little; little by little. And I thought to myself, I have
all eternity for this journey from self to God. The thing
to do is to get started.
Towards the latter part of April, late one Sunday
afternoon, I was again at the home where so many wonderful
hours had been spent. It had become almost a habit,
when the service at my church was over and dinner dispatched,
to hasten in to New York and spend the rest of
the day and evening at this home. Sometimes I would have
an opportunity to speak to 'Abdu'l-Baha, but usually I
must be content with a glimpse of Him, or with listening
to Him while He spoke to a small group. This particular
afternoon, however, was destined to be a red-letter day.
I was standing alone at one of the windows looking out
upon the street, when I was startled by seeing a large
group of boys come rushing up the steps. There seemed
twenty or thirty of them. And they were not what one
would call representatives of the cultured class. In fact,
they were a noisy and not too well-dressed lot of urchins,
but spruce and clean as if for an event. They came up
the steps with a stamping of feet and loud talk, and I heard
them being ushered in and up the stairs.
I turned to Mrs. Kinney, who was standing near.
"What is the meaning of all this?" I asked.
"Oh, this is really the most surprising thing," she exclaimed,
"I asked them to come today, but I hardly expected
that they would."
It seemed that a few days before 'Abdu'l-Baha had
gone to the Bowery Mission to speak to several hundred
of New York's wretched poor. As usual, with Hun went
a large group of the Persian and American friends, and
it made a unique spectacle as this party of Orientals in
flowing robes and strange head-gear made its way through
the East Side. Not unnaturally, a number of boys gathered
in their train and soon they became a little too vocal in
their expression. As I remember, even some venturesome
ones called names and threw sticks. As my Hostess told
the story, she said: "I could not bear to hear 'Abdu'l-Baha
so treated and dropped behind the others for a
moment to speak to them. In a few words, I told them
Who He was; that He was a very Holy Man who
had spent many years in exile and prison because of His love
for Truth and for men, and that now He was on His way
to speak to the poor men at the Bowery Mission."
"Can't we go too?" one who seemed to be the leader
asked. I think that would be impossible, she told them,
but if you come to my home next Sunday, and she gave
them the address, I will arrange for you to see Him. So
here they were. We followed them up the stairs and into
'Abdu'l-Baha's own room. I was just in time to see the
last half dozen of the group entering the room.
'Abdu'l-Baha was standing at the door and He greeted
each boy as he came in; sometimes with a handclasp,
sometimes with an arm around a shoulder, but always
with such smiles and laughter it almost seemed that He
was a boy with them. Certainly there was no suggestion
of stiffness on their part, or awkwardness in their unaccustomed
surroundings. Among the last to enter the room
was a colored lad of about thirteen years. He was quite
dark and, being the only boy of his race among them,
he evidently feared that he might not be welcome. When
'Abdu'l-Baha saw him His face lighted up with a heavenly
smile. He raised His hand with a gesture of princely welcome
and exclaimed in a loud voice so that none could
fail to hear; that here was a black rose.
The room fell into instant silence. The black face became
illumined with a happiness and love hardly of this
world. The other boys looked at him with new eyes. I
venture to say that he had been called a black-many
things, but never before a black rose.
This significant incident had given to the whole occasion
a new complexion. The atmosphere of the room
seemed now charged with subtle vibrations felt by every
soul. The boys, while losing nothing of their ease and
simplicity, were graver and more intent upon 'Abdu'l-Baha,
and I caught them glancing again and again at the
colored boy with very thoughtful eyes. To the few of the
friends in the room the scene brought visions of a new
world in which every soul would be recognized and
treated as a child of God. I thought: What would happen
to New York if these boys could carry away such a keen
remembrance of this experience that throughout their
lives, whenever they encountered any representatives of
the many races and colors to be found in that great city,
they would think of them and treat them as "different
colored flowers in the Garden of God." The freedom
from just this one prejudice in the minds and hearts of
this score or more of souls would unquestionably bring
happiness and freedom from rancor to thousands of hearts.
How simple and easy to be kind, I thought, and how
hardly we learn.
When His visitors had arrived, 'Abdu'l-Baha had sent
out for some candy and now it appeared, a great five-
pound box of expensive mixed chocolates. It was unwrapped
and 'Abdu'l-Baha walked with it around the
circle of boys, dipping His hand into the box and placing
a large handful in the hands of each, with a word and
smile for everyone. He then returned to the table at
which He had been sitting, and laying down the box,
which now had only a few pieces in it. He picked from
it a long chocolate nougat; it was very black. He looked
at it a moment and then around at the group of boys who
were watching Him intently and expectantly. Without
a word. He walked across the room to where the colored
boy was sitting, and, still without speaking, but with a
humorously piercing glance that swept the group, laid
the chocolate against the black cheek. His face was
radiant as He laid His arm around the shoulder of the
boy and that radiance seemed to fill the room. No words
were necessary to convey His meaning, and there could
be no doubt that all the boys caught it.
You see, He seemed to say, that he is not only a black
flower, but also a black sweet. You eat black chocolates
and find them good: perhaps you would find this black
brother of yours good also if you once taste his sweetness.
Again that awed hush fell upon the room. Again the
boys all looked with real wonder at the colored boy as if
they had never seen him before, which indeed was true.
And as for the boy himself, upon whom all eyes were now
fixed, he seemed perfectly unconscious of all but 'Abdu'l-Baha.
Upon Him his eyes were fastened with an adoring,
blissful look such as I had never seen upon any face. For
the moment he was transformed. The reality of his being
had been brought to the surface and the angel he really
I left the house with many deep thoughts crowding
my heart. Who was this Man? Why did He have such
power over souls? He made no pretensions of goodness.
He did not preach; oh, never! Not even by the faintest
implication did He ever intimate that one should be otherwise
than what he was: yet somehow He showed us
worlds of beauty and grandeur which tore our hearts with
longing to attain, and made us loathe the round of so-
called life to which we were bound. I did not know what
to think of it all, but I did know, even then, that I loved
Him as I had never dreamed of love. I did not believe as
those around me did. Indeed, I hardly ever thought of
what their many words concerning His "station" sought
to convey. I was not interested in that at all, it seems.
But I certainly did believe that He held a secret of life
which I would give my life to discover for myself.
I spent myself in prayer that night. I felt that I had
never really prayed before. I am not given to what is called
occult, or mystic experiences, but as I prayed that night
there were surely Presences in the room. I heard rustlings
and little whisperings. A new and wonderful world
opened before me from that night.
A LEAF IN THE BREEZE OF THE WILL OF GOD.
"MY THRONE IS MY MAT." INSCRIPTION IN
THE SEVEN VALLEYS. THE POWER OF THE
WORD OF GOD.
"Every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God
is endowed with such potency as can instil new life into
every human frame, if ye be of them that comprehend
this truth. All the wondrous works ye behold in this
world have been manifested through the operation of His
supreme and most exalted Will, His wondrous and inflexible
purpose." (Gleanings From The Writings
of Baha'u'llah, p. 141.)
WE should count time by heart throbs." When
I recall that all so far recounted occurred
within the first three weeks after my meeting with
'Abdu'l-Baha it seems incredible. In those few days life
had taken on an entirely new meaning. I felt like a spiritual
Columbus exploring the uncharted oceans of God. New
lands had been discovered upon which I hardly had
courage to set foot. Heights and depths of inner experience
had been touched of which heretofore I had never
dreamed. Truly, many times I had "packed eternity into
an hour, or Stretched an hour to eternity."
One day about the first of May of that momentous year
I asked 'Abdu'l-Baha if He could arrange to speak to my
congregation at the Brotherhood Church. He considered
a moment, then said smilingly: God willing. This was to
me a new way of responding to such a request. A ripple
of wonderment crossed my mind as to how many engagements
for public speakers would be made in our modern
world if both parties referred the decision to the will of
God before its ratification. How could I arrange the
necessary preliminaries on such an uncertainty? How was
I to know whether God was willing or not? 'Abdu'l-Baha
noticed my hesitation and waited courteously for me to
speak. Rather haltingly I said: "It will be necessary for
me to know the date a few days in advance in order to
be able to make the necessary public announcements."
He asked me how long before I would need to know?
"A week or ten days would be sufficient, I think."
He said I should ask Him then.
And so a week later I asked Him if Sunday evening,
May 19th, would be convenient for Him. He said: Very
good, and so it was arranged.
This incident gave me renewed food for thought. I got
a little glimpse of the Source of the Master's mingled
relaxation and power. He was never tense or hurried;
never at a loss for word or act. He seldom used the first
person singular. I have heard Him in His public talks refer
to 'Abdu'l-Baha as if that person were entirely distinct
from the speaker. Any reference to the ego. He once remarked
to a small group of the New York friends, any
use of "I," "Me," "Mine," will in the future be considered
The phrase "God willing" was constantly upon His
lips. If one could ask a leaf in the clutch of Autumn winds
whither it was going, would it not answer, if it could, "I
know and care not. I go where God's breezes blow me."
In truth 'Abdu'l-Baha was a "leaf in the breeze of the Will
of God." Unquestionably this was one of the reasons for
that atmosphere of majesty which always attended Him,
and which no one entering His presence could fail to
note. How natural to be kinglike when One is under the
immediate inspiration and guidance of the King of kings!
The gestures, posture, gait of the Master were ever kinglike.
Mr. Mills, the friend to whose influence and tactfulness
I am most indebted for my deepening interest, and who
had been the cause of my first meeting 'Abdu'l-Baha, once
remarked to me that he had seen only two men of whom
it could truthfully be said that 'He walks like a king.'
One was King Edward VII, the other was 'Abdu'l-Baha.
Yet while the former had been trained from infancy to
expect deference, obedience, humility from millions of
subjects, whose allegiance is now transferred to his grandson,
the latter from the age of seven years had been trained
in the glorious school of Martyrdom. Not His had been
a home in palaces and rest upon beds of ease. Rather, His
had been the portion of a prisoner and an exile. His bed
the floor of the prison morgue, which he chose as the only
place in the fortress where He could be alone and pray,
His resting place too often the stocks and chains. Yet at
any moment He could have been free to return to the life
of wealth and ease to which He had been born, would He
but renounce His allegiance to Truth and the Glory of
God (Baha'u'llah) reflected in the earthly Temple of
"My throne is My mat," He said, "My glorious crown
is my servitude towards God. My dominion is my
humility, my submissiveness, my lowliness, my abasement,
my supplication and my beseeching unto God-this is
that permanent reign which no one is able to dispute,
gainsay or usurp." +F1
He lived to see many thousands die as martyrs for the
Truth for which He had sacrificed His life, and millions
of the living render to him "an homage which kings might
envy and emperors sigh for in vain." No wonder He walked
like a king, rather like a King of kings.
1 think it was in connection with the plans for His
approaching visit to the Brotherhood Church that He said
+F1 Tablets of 'Abdu'l-Baha, vol. Ill, p. 515.
to me one day: that He had noticed that many ministers
and public speakers prepare their addresses in advance,
often committing them to memory and speaking the same
words to many different audiences. He paused and looked
at me a little humourously, a little sadly, and added: that
He wondered how they can be sure of what God wants
them to say until they look into the faces of their people.
Again had a few simple words been like a searchlight
turned upon the inner recesses of my heart. The Master
continued-saying that there is no higher function than
that of a minister of His Holiness the Christ, for his is the
joy and duty to bring God near to the lives and hearts of
men. He added that He would pray for me.
He often said that He would pray for me, and I heard
Him use these words to many others. What must it have
meant to the continent of America to have had the prayers
of the Servant of God rising for its people! His interest
in. His unbounded love for, the souls of men of every
degree never flagged or failed. I remember once when I
was alone with Him and the interpreter, and He had been
talking for some time on deeply spiritual things, while I,
silent, was filled beyond utterance with many thoughts,
that He urged me to speak, saying I should tell Him all
that was in my heart; that I must always be sure that
my joys were His joys, and my sorrows. His sorrows.
I give His words but no phrasing could convey the
heavenly smile, the deep glowing eyes, the gentle tone
that conveyed far more than the words.
It was about this time that I, one day, asked the Master
if He would write a few words of dedication in the copy
of Baha'u'llah's Seven Valleys which the translator
had given to me and which I treasured much. I have before
referred to the deep impression which this little book
made upon me from my very first reading. Since then I
had gone through it many times, and phrases, sentences,
whole paragraphs had become familiar to me: outwardly
familiar, that is, but the deeper meanings, the elusive,
spiritual, mystic beauty of the Words and the thoughts
they aroused, stirred an inner depth heretofore untroubled.
My heart, too, had become "fascinated by the
zephyr of assurance wafted upon the garden of my innate
heart from the Sheba of the Merciful." I, also, had found
"all the existent beings bewildered in search of the
Friend," I too was intent on attaining the "Goal of the
Beloved," and "at every step I found the assistance of
the Invisible surrounding me and the ardor of my search
increasing." That "the steed of the Valley of Love is
pain," I had faintly discerned, and with this discovery had
also come a faint but blissful certainty that: "Happy is the
head that is dropped in the dust in the path of His love."
But, alas, not to me had been given the faintest indication
of the meaning of the divine words describing the
further experience of the traveller on the road
"from self to God." What was the reality of the
experience briefly hinted at as "drinking from the Cup of Abstraction";
of "hearing with divine ears and gazing on the
mysteries of the Eternal One with God-like eyes"; of
"stepping into the Retreat of the Friend and becoming
an intimate in the Pavilion of the Beloved," and of this
promise: "He (the traveler) will stretch forth the Hand
of the True One from the bosom of omnipotence and
show forth the mysteries of Power"? What was this divine
world of the Spirit from which Baha'u'llah sought to
draw the veil? A world so vast, so beautiful, so unimaginable
to our poor earth-blinded eyes and minds that even
He could find no words to make it more than faintly
discernible, for at times "the pen broke and the paper was
torn." Or "the ink gave no result but blackness."
Is it any wonder that my very soul was torn with an
agonized determination to probe such depths of this mystery
as my poor capacity would permit? I was "quaffing
the seven seas but the thirst of my heart was not allayed."
Still I was crying: "Is there yet any more?" And so, moved
by the urgency of such thoughts and aspirations, I turned
to 'Abdu'l-Baha with a certain conviction that He would
understand and know that I was, at least, not one of the
army of autograph seekers.
He was standing amidst a group of the friends when
I approached Him but He turned to me with that courteous
simplicity which never failed, and motioned for me
to speak. I handed Him the little book, and, through the
interpreter, made my request, adding something of my
hope to understand more and more of its hidden meanings.
He smiled rather more gravely than was His wont and
looked deeply into my eyes for a long moment before
He signified His assent.
The next day He handed me the little volume without
a word. Turning to the fly-leaf I found several lines written
in the beautiful copper-plate Persian characters and
signed by Him. It was accompanied by no English version
so I hurriedly sought the interpreter and asked if he
would write the translation on the opposite page.
"Very glad to do so," he answered and started to put
the book in his pocket, giving no hint as to when I should
recover it. But this suited my impatient soul not at all.
"There are only a few lines," I suggested, "can you not
write the English of it for me now? It will take but a
moment." And so it was done. We found a little writing
desk in a retired spot and in a few moments I had the
precious book again. And this is what I read:
"O my Lord! Confirm this revered personage, that he
may attain the Essential Purpose; travel in these Seven
Valleys; enter the silent chamber of realities and significances,
and enter the Kingdom of Mysteries.
Verily, Thou art the Confirmer, the Helper, the Kind."
(signed) 'Abdu'l-Baha Abbas.
Again He had shown an understanding of my inmost
heart. What this prayer for my attainment to the "Essential
Purpose" has meant to me through all these years no
words can depict. Here, indeed, "the ink gives no result
A few days before the Sunday when 'Abdu'l-Baha was
to speak in the Brotherhood Church I was riding in the
trolley car on my way to Newark, on some business connected
with the building of my church edifice. As usual
I had with me one of the books pertaining to the Baha'i
Faith which had come to occupy my every thought. On
this occasion I was reading the volume. Some Answered
Questions, in which 'Abdu'l-Baha discusses some of the
most vital matters pertaining to the spiritual life, mainly
from the standpoint of the Christian tradition. Sitting
beside me in the car was a young woman whose eyes, I
noted, were straying interestedly toward the book I was
reading. Obligingly I moved the book slightly toward
her and so together we read those marvellously illuminating
explanations for the hour-and-a-half ride to Newark.
No word was spoken but I could feel that she was deeply
stirred. When we reached the city and I closed the volume
she said: "I think that is the most wonderful book I ever
saw. Won't you tell me, please, who is the author?" So I
told her of 'Abdu'l-Baha; of His long years of exile and
imprisonment for the sake of His love of Truth; of His
visit to America and that He was to speak in my church
in Jersey City the following Sunday evening. She said:
"I will surely be there." She was there. I saw her in the
audience and spoke to her after the meeting. I have often
wondered since whether that spark became a flame.
Perhaps it may be helpful at this time to speak of the
effects which the mere reading of these divine Words has
produced in my own life, and the lives of many others to
whom I have been privileged to introduce this new
Revelation of the Eternal Logos. Over and over again I
have seen hearts illumined and lives transformed by
merely reading a few passages from The Hidden Words,
or the Tablet to the Pope, or The Book of Certitude, or
the Surat-'l-Hykl, or, in fact, from any of the books
opened at random. Through these Words, indeed, "Flows
the River of Divine Knowledge and bursts the Fire of
the Consummate Wisdom of the Eternal." For something
like five years after meeting the Master I literally
read nothing else. I crossed the continent twice during
those years and carried with me a satchel filled with these
books and typed copies of Tablets, which I studied constantly
on the train and elsewhere. I became soaked in the
"Oceans of Divine Utterance." To this one fact alone, accompanied
with constant prayer, may be ascribed whatever
slight progress may have been made in the Pathway
of Eternal Life. The heavenly Significances, these "pearls
hidden in the depths of the Ocean of His Verses," have
opened portals to a freedom of mind and spirit such as no
writings of human genius have ever bestowed. That there
is a Power flowing from these Words capable of bestowing
"a new life of faith" there has to me been abundant
I remember a sincere soul of great capacity saying to
me during the early days of her immersion in this Ocean
of Revelation: "I defy anyone to study these Words with
sincerity and prayerful selflessness for even such a short
period as two weeks and not be assured that Baha'u'llah
speaks with more than human tongue."
In seeking the reason for this power I found it in Baha'u'llah's
own explanation. In the Book of Certitude He
says that in the meeting with the Manifestation the Meeting
with God is attained; that after the departure from
this world this Meeting is assured through the meeting
with His disciples, or "Family," and that after their departure
this Meeting is only possible through the inspired
Words He left to the world for the guidance and illumination
of these who turn to Him.
I probed deeper, seeking practical understanding. What
could this "Meeting with God" mean in terms of human
living? I thought to myself: When I read Emerson or
Browning sympathetically and understandingly do I not
"meet" these great souls in the realm of their world? If
that meeting brings to the reader such new, high and
lofty thoughts, such soaring ideals, such a change of viewpoint
and such pure resolves-what must be the effect
upon the aspiring soul when it "meets" the Holy Spirit
of God through reverent perusal of the Words of His
Manifestation! I began to experience a little, at least, of
the divine meaning underlying such phrases as: "You
must soar in the atmosphere of My Knowledge"; "Become
intoxicated with the wine of My Verses"; "Attain
to My Supreme Paradise, the station of revelation and
vision before the Throne of My Grandeur."
Not to the casual reader is this "meeting" vouchsafed.
One must hold his breath and dive-dive deep, if the pearls
of those depths are sought. But to those who, leaving all
their earthly garments behind, take that selfless plunge,
abandoning all else save Him, such a new and heavenly
world is revealed that all verbal portrayal is beggared.
A single letter of these divine words is indeed, as Baha'u'llah
has said, "greater than the creation of the heavens
and the earth, for they quicken the dead in the valley of
self and desire by the spirit of faith."
THE REALITY AND ESSENCE OF BROTHERHOOD.
CANNOT YOU SERVE HIM ONCE?
TRUE BROTHERHOOD DUE TO THE BREATHS
OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. "O YOU SHOULD HAVE
"The Prophets of God have established the principles of
human brotherhood. The spiritual brotherhood, which is
enkindled and established through the breaths of the Holy
Spirit, unites nations and removes the cause of warfare
and strife. It transforms mankind into one great family
and establishes the foundations of the oneness of humanity.
Therefore we must investigate the foundation reality
of this heavenly fraternity."
See Promulgation of Universal Peace. Vol. I, pp. 140-41.
ON the nineteenth of May, 1912, 'Abdu'l-Baha spoke
on Brotherhood in the Brotherhood Church in
Jersey City. At that time I was the unsalaried minister
of that body of men and women come together spontaneously
in the endeavor to foster the spirit of brotherhood
and service. Only five weeks had elapsed since my first
meeting with the Master. The 23rd of May, only four
days later, marked the birthday of Him Who addressed
us. The same day was also the 68th anniversary of the
announcement by the youthful Persian Prophet, the Bab,
Who declared that within nineteen years from that date
there should appear "Him Whom God should Manifest."
The Bab was also one of this long line of earthly Manifestations
of the Supreme One, but He said that He was
not worthy to be mentioned in the Presence of Him
Whose Divine Word was destined to sway mankind for
thousands of years to come.
As I look back over the twenty-five years that have
passed since that evening it stirs the imagination to consider
what would have happened if the five or six hundred
souls there gathered to hear speak the very son of Baha'u'llah,
the Glory of God, to announce the coming of
whom that divine youth, the Bab, had sacrificed his life;
at whose feet this son, at the age of seven years, had fallen
in adoration, now stood before them. If we, brought up
in the Christian tradition, could have realized that this
very man Who since birth had lived with, been taught by,
exiled and imprisoned with, the One for Whose coming
Christ had besought us to pray and watch; if we could
have recognized in Him the first citizen of that Kingdom
of God on earth, and if we also had had the faith and
courage to leave all and follow Him as did those sincere
souls almost two thousand years ago under exactly similar
conditions, consider the possible effect upon those lives
and the thousands of lives they were destined to affect
during the twenty-five years that have passed since then.
Also, how blind and deaf we were. No wonder that
Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Blessed indeed were those in
that audience, and there were some, whose eyes were
open to perceive that Glory and whose ears were attuned
to hear the music of that Divine Voice. Why this writer
should have been one of those alert enough to appreciate,
even a little, this supreme light, and to follow, however
haltingly, those divine feet, he has never understood. It is
ever the pure bounty of God. But how thankful he is that
it is so. Indeed "souls are perturbed as they make mention
of Him, for minds cannot grasp Him nor hearts
contain Him." +F1
It was an impressive, even to me a thrilling sight when
the majestic figure of the Master strode up the aisle of the
Brotherhood Church leading the little company of believers
from various parts of the world. As memory now
takes its backward look I realize how little I understood
at that time the full significance of that memorable scene.
Here, in a setting of Western civilization, almost two
thousand years from the dawn of Christian teaching, stood
One whose Life and Word were the very embodiment of
the essence of the message of good-will to all peoples
which those nations which bear His name had seemingly
forgotten. Here stood the living proof of the falsity of the
assumption that East and West can never meet. Here was
martyrdom for Truth and Love speaking lovingly and
humbly to souls engrossed with self and who knew it
not. Here stood the embodied spirit of Holiness again
uttering the eternal message of Brotherhood. Here was
resurrection and life again calling to those dead in the
+F1 Hidden Words by Baha'u'llah
tombs of self and desire to come forth, and we recognized
not His voice.
But to all such thoughts I, like most of the audience,
was a stranger. Yet there was in that hall that evening an
atmosphere of spiritual reality foreign to its past. It bore
upon me almost unbearably and was reflected in the faces
of many turned upon me as I rose to preface the talk
of the Master with a few words of introduction. I can
still see before me the rapt face of Lua Getsinger, one of
the first of American believers in the divine revelation of
Baha'u'llah, as her unwavering gaze dwelt upon 'Abdu'l-Baha,
and the faces of many others in the audience bore
similar evidence to the unaccustomed atmosphere of holiness
invading their souls.
'Abdu'l-Baha sat in the place of honor immediately
behind the pulpit. Beside him sat the interpreter, who, as
I spoke, translated rapidly and softly to 'Abdu'l-Baha the
essence of my words. I stood at one side of the platform
so not to be in front of the Master and able to turn towards
Him at times. One of my keenest remembrances of the
evening is that of His attentive, smiling face while the interpreter
murmured his rendering. I spoke of His forty
years in the fortress of Akka, that indescribably filthy
penal colony of the Turkish empire; of His sixty years
of exile and suffering; of the living proof He afforded
that the only bondage is that of the spirit; of the evidence
His presence with us that evening furnished of true spiritual
brotherhood and unity. I remember particularly turning
to Him apologetically as I made the personal reference
to the fact that whereas other Easterners came to America
exploiting its people in the name of oriental mysticism,
His message bore the living imprint of self-sacrificing love.
He gave while others grasped. He manifested what others
mouthed. And more clearly still do I see before me that
calmly smiling face, the glowing eyes, the understanding
gaze with which He returned my glance.
Then 'Abdu'l-Baha rose to speak. The interpreter stood
beside Him, a little behind. +F2 "Because this is called the
Church of Brotherhood I wish to speak upon the Brotherhood
of Mankind." As that beautifully resonant voice
rang through the room, accenting with an emphasis I
had never before heard the word Brotherhood, shame
crept into my heart. Surely this Man recognized connotations
to that word which I, who had named the church,
had never known. Who was I to stress this word? What
had I ever done besides talk to prove my faith in it as a
principle of life? Had I ever suffered a pang as its exponent?
But this man had lived a long life in which
brotherhood to all mankind had been a ruling motive.
Prison nor chains; toil nor privation; hatred nor contumely
had been able to turn Him from his appointed
task of its exemplification, or to lessen the ardor of His
proof that it was a possible goal for the race of Man.
To Him all races, colors, creeds were as one. To Him
prejudice for or against a soul because of outward wealth
or poverty, sin or virtue, was unknown. He was at every
moment what in one of His divine Tablets He has told
us we all must be, a "thrall of mankind."
As I write there is brought to memory a story told by
Lua Getsinger, she who then sat in the audience before
me. In the very early days of the knowledge of the Cause
+F2 See Promulgation of Univ. Peace, pp. 125-28, Vol. I.
of Baha'u'llah in America Mrs. Getsinger was in Akka
having made the pilgrimage to the prison city to see the
Master. She was with Him one day when he said to her,
that He was too busy today to call upon a friend of His
who was very ill and poor and He wished her to go in His
place. Take him food and care for him as I have been
doing. He concluded. He told her where this man was to
be found and she went gladly, proud that 'Abdu'l-Baha
should trust her with this mission.
She returned quickly. "Master," she exclaimed, "surely
you cannot realize to what a terrible place you sent me.
I almost fainted from the awful stench, the filthy rooms,
the degrading condition of that man and his house. I fled
lest I contract some terrible disease."
Sadly and sternly 'Abdu'l-Baha regarded her. "Dost
thou desire to serve God," He said, "serve thy fellow man
for in him dost thou see the image and likeness of God."
He told her to go back to this man's house. If it is filthy
she should clean it; if this brother of yours is dirty, bathe
him; if he is hungry, feed him. Do not return until this is
done. Many times had He done this for him and cannot
she serve him once?
This was He who was speaking in my Church of
He spoke of the contrast between physical and spiritual
brotherhood, pointing out that the latter was the only
real and lasting relationship. "This divine fellowship," He
said, "owes its existence to the breaths of the Holy Spirit.
Spiritual brotherhood is like the light while the souls of
mankind are as lanterns. These incandescent lamps,"
pointing to the electric lights illuminating the hall, "are
many but the light is one." He spoke of the influence
Baha'u'llah exerted in bringing amity and friendship
into some of the warring and antagonistic peoples and
religions of the Orient.
"He breathed such a spirit into those countries," he
said, "that various peoples and warring tribes were
blended into unity. Their bestowals and susceptibilities;
their purposes and desires became one to such a degree
that they sacrificed themselves for one another, forfeiting
name, possessions and comfort. This is eternal, spiritual
fellowship, heavenly and divine brotherhood which defies
This was, indeed, a new type of brotherhood. Not a
fraternal partnership, so to speak, which had as its objective
a mutual sharing of the good things of the world more
easily attained and more safely held by reason of this
partnership. But rather a re-birth of man through a new
baptism of the Holy Spirit, who by this rebirth found
themselves actually conscious of a heavenly, spiritual,
divine kinship which transcended any earthly relationship
as the music of the spheres transcended earth's discordance.
And as I gazed at the Master as I faced Him from
the audience, it was not so difficult to imagine a world
transformed by the spirit of divine brotherhood. For He
Himself was that spirit incarnate. His flowing Aba.
His creamlike fez. His silvery hair and beard, all set Him
apart from the Westerners, to whom He spake. But His
smile which seemed to embrace us with an overflowing
comradeship; His eyes which flashed about the room as
if seeking out each individual; His gestures which combined
such authority and humility; such wisdom and
humor, all conveyed to me, at least, a true human brotherhood
which could never be content with plenty while
the least of these little ones had less than enough, and yet
still less content until all had that divine plenty only to be
bestowed through the breaths of the Holy Spirit, that is,
by contact with the Manifestation of God. He closed
with the following words, as recorded in the first volume
of The 'Promulgation of Universal Peace:
"Trust in the favor of God. Look not at your own
capacities, for the divine bestowals can transform a drop
into an ocean; it can make a tiny seed a lofty tree.
Verily divine bestowals are like the sea and we are like
the fishes in that sea. The fishes must not look at themselves.
They must behold the ocean which is vast and
wonderful. Provision for the sustenance of all is in this
ocean, therefore the divine bounties encompass all and
love eternal shines upon all."
It was one of the briefest of 'Abdu'l-Baha's public
talks. The latter part, as recorded in The Promulgation of
Universal Peace, was in answer to a question from the
audience, which was a departure from the usual custom.
I had requested of the Master that He speak rather
longer than was His wont as I had the universal obsession
that the worth of an address was in proportion to its
length. That He spoke so briefly was undoubtedly with
the endeavor to illustrate to me that a very few words,
inspired by the Holy Spirit and aglow with wisdom celestial,
were vastly more powerful than all the volumes of
man-made sermons ever printed.
That I should have had the temerity to make such a
request of Him again illustrates how far removed I still
was from recognition of His static ii; nay from any true
understanding of spiritual reality. I, even now, only dimly
realize it and I suspect that the vast majority of my fellow
men share with me this abysmal ignorance. Baha'u'llah
has said that compared to the wonders and glories of the
spiritual universe the material universe is comparable to
"the pupil of the eye of a dead ant." And I had requested
this Man, to Whom that universe of the spirit was as an
open book, to make His talk of a length suitable to my
own desires. And He had in fifteen minutes said more,
and shown forth more, and loved more of the true
Brotherhood, the heavenly and divine Brotherhood, which
could transform this world into a paradise, than I had ever
How blind and deaf we are! And what a fearful price
the world is paying for this imperviousness to that "Light
which lighteth every man who cometh into the world!"
On May 24th, five days after He spoke in the Brotherhood
Church, 'Abdu'l-Baha addressed the assembled ministers
at the annual May Meeting of the Unitarian Fellowship
in Boston. Present were the representatives of the
Unitarian Faith in America, an intellectual group holding,
probably, the most "advanced" opinions in religious
thought in the country. Yet He spoke to deaf ears. "A
very interesting old gentleman," several remarked to me
afterwards, "but he told us nothing new."
This was typical of most of the audiences He addressed.
Truly, "having ears we heard not." I would suggest that
the reader of these words again peruse that Boston address
as found in the first volume of The Promulgation of Universal
Peace, page 138, as I have just done, and determine
for himself whether anything "new " is to be found there.
"The divine Prophets have revealed and founded religion."
'Abdu'l-Baha said. This may not be new in the sense that
this teaching had never been formulated, but to this Boston
audience which had unanimously, not to say enthusiastically,
rejected all belief in a revealed religion it was
fundamentally new because the Speaker was actually the
physical son of the latest of these divine Prophets who had
lived and taught, suffered and died during the lifetime of
some of His listeners. 'Abdu'l-Baha's whole address was
directed to calling attention to the fact that the tree of
religion grows old and withers like any tree, and that
unless a new Tree is planted from the seed of the old,
true religion perishes from the earth. His audience was
composed of men and women whose lives were dedicated
to an attempt to revive this withered and dying tree,
and they were watering it, not with the "water of certitude"
which flows only from the Lips of the divine
Revelator Himself, but with man-made theories and
theologies which, as their own experience should have
taught them, they are forced to renounce almost as soon
as accepted. "Nothing new!" Had they known how this
News was destined to revolutionize the world of thought
and action; how it was to arouse in mankind a new
passion for unity and brotherhood; how it was destined to be the
moving spirit behind all efforts towards the abolition of
war, poverty, disease and crime; how men's hearts would
be aroused to a new life by the breaths of Its Holy
Spirit; how all human life would take on a new meaning,
significance and power. His hearers would have transcribed
His divine Words "with a pen of diamond on a
page of gold."
To me 'Abdu'l-Baha's talk in the Brotherhood Church
and the address before the Unitarian Conference in Boston
marked a new phase in my spiritual journey from self to
God. I had heard several of His public addresses before
but never had I been near enough to Him to mark closely
His demeanor. For it was not only His words, not nearly
so much His accents and voice which now impressed me.
There lay in His eyes a living flame which seemed to
ignite a smouldering spark within me. Perhaps I can express
my meaning best by relating an incident.
At one of the meetings at the home of the friends to
whom I have often referred where the Master spent much
of His time in New York, there was present a lady who
was not, and never became an avowed believer. But her
heart was pure. She loved Christ and strove to follow His
divine teachings. The large double rooms were filled with
the friends and attracted souls. A lane had been left open
stretching the full length of both rooms, and, as the Master
spoke, He strode up and down the rooms while the interpreter
stood near me translating fluently. This lady sat
enthralled. When 'Abdu'l-Baha came striding towards us
with that indescribable grace and majesty. His hands
gesturing rhythmically with an upward, inspiring significance
which I have seen in no other speaker, and His
eyes glowing with an inner light illumining every feature,
she was overcome with emotion.
Several months afterwards I was talking with a close
friend of this soul and she asked me about 'Abdu'l-Baha,
whom she had never seen. "He must be a very wonderful
man from what -- says," she remarked, mentioning the
name of the woman, "she tried to tell me about him and
could hardly speak for tears. I said to her: 'Why, my
dear, what was there so wonderful about this man?' All
she could say was: 'Oh, you should have seen Him. You
should have seen Him!"
Indeed to have seen Him was enough providing that
the spark ignited in the soul was fanned to flame by meditation
and selfless prayer. Never can I be thankful enough
that I became ignited with this Flame. It was about this
time, seven weeks after meeting 'Abdu'l-Baha, that I
began to say a little hymn to myself: "If every drop of
my blood had a million tongues and every tongue sang
praises throughout eternity sufficient thanksgiving could
not be uttered."
Marriage Under the World Order of Baha'u'llah
AN ETERNAL BOND. THE WEDDING. THE
NEED FOR REFORMATION OF LAWS PERTAINING
TO DIVORCE. THE LAWS OF BAHA'U'LLAH.
FOUR KINDS OF LOVE. THE CHILDREN
OF THE NEW DAY.
"It is therefore evident that in the world of humanity
the greatest king and sovereign is love. If love were
extinguished, the power of attraction dispelled, the
affinity of human hearts destroyed, the phenomena of
human life would disappear."
See Promulgation of Universal Peace, Vol. 2, pp. 249-51.
IN tracing the development of the institution of marriage
it is interesting to note that the progressive steps,
from the promiscuity of the earliest history of mankind
to the more or less monogamous ordinance now in vogue
in most civilized countries, have been in direct ratio to the
ethical and spiritual development of the race. Moreover
this development has paralleled the appearance and teachings
of the great Prophets and Messengers of God to
What little is known of the matrimonial relations and
customs of the various peoples before the coming of
Moses, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad indicates much
looser and more unethical relations than obtained after
One might reasonably expect, therefore, that the revelation
of Baha'u'llah and its exemplification by 'Abdu'l-Baha,
in dealing with this subject, would lay down laws
and prescribe regulations founded upon eternal spiritual
principles and adapted to the needs of a world civilization
far in advance of any hitherto practiced.
For the teachings of Baha'u'llah deal primarily with
the Reality of man, and his station as an immortal and
eternal being in an infinite universe governed and supported
by immutable laws based upon righteousness and
Marriage, then, under the Baha'i regime, is an eternal
bond. It allows for only one real marriage, and this union
continues throughout all the worlds of God.
This assumption makes necessary an entirely new
regulation of both marriage and divorce. For, since man
is still in the age of immaturity, and is still influenced by
desire and passion, many mistakes will be made in the
selection of a mate, and these mistakes must be rectified
as quickly and as simply as possible.
For two souls to live together under an enforced union
in which harmony, cooperation, happiness and true
eternal love have become impossible, is a defiance of a basic
law in the Baha'i revelation, the Law of Unity. It is not
only desirable but allowable that such false union be dissolved.
This necessity will probably be extremely rare as
the race comes more and more under the influence of the
whole range of the Divine Teachings. For once man
realizes the supreme joy of true physical and spiritual
union he will be content with nothing less. Moreover,
Baha'u'llah has framed such safeguarding laws, and
'Abdu'l-Baha has explained them so fully, that public
opinion will tend more and more to enforce their obedience
as experience proves their efficacy in securing and
perpetuating human happiness.
When 'Abdu'l-Baha was in this country in 1912 He
took occasion more than once to emphasize the sacredness
of the marriage bond, and to illustrate by precept
and example the attitude incumbent upon the Baha'is in
The most notable of these occasions was the wedding
ceremony on July 17th 1912 in which Harlan Ober and
Grace Robarts were united by 'Abdu'l-Baha Himself in
accordance with the law of Baha'u'llah.
'Abdu'l-Baha suggested that I should assist Him by
performing the necessary legal ceremony in order: "That
all should be done in accordance with the law of the land."
It is not an easy task to present to minds obsessed with
the conception of this world and its affairs as complete in
itself rather than as an ante-room to a larger, freer life,
a scene in which the dominant note was Eternity; the very
atmosphere charged with an expansive freedom and
As my eyes took in that long, beautifully furnished
room, speaking of all that related to our modern culture,
yet holding within its walls representatives of Paris;
Berlin; London; Tihran and Ghom, Persia; Bombay,
India; Baku, Russia; and Haifa, Palestine; quite a number
of representatives of the black race, and about one hundred
of my own countrymen, a conviction was borne in
upon me that I was taking part in a truly epoch-making
For here was, to all intents and purposes, a gathering
of representatives of the whole world, and of every degree
of poverty and affluence; of culture and its lack; of
every range of spiritual capacity.
Here indeed the East and West were gathered together
to witness a prefigurement, a symbol, a prognosis of a
fundamental detail of the coming social order under the
World Plan of Baha'u'llah, the Kingdom of God upon
Dominating the scene was the white-robed figure of
the Master. From the age of seven He has been addressed
and spoken of by this title. Baha'u'llah Himself indicated
his wish that so He should be addressed.
His right to the title did not rest upon any assumption
by Himself of authority or precedence. His whole bearing
was ever that of humility and gentle deference. Yet
in every home He entered He was the host, in every
gathering the center; in every discussion the arbiter; to
every problem the answer.
Nor was it so because He wished or willed it so to be.
On the contrary when He was asked to act as honorary
chairman of the New York Baha'i Assembly, (one of the
72 incipient Houses of Justice in this country which,
in the future will form the units of community government
under the Plan of Baha'u'llah), He calmly and decisively
replied that " 'Abdu'l-Baha is a servant."
Nevertheless one could not be in His Presence more
than a few moments without realizing that His every act,
tone, gesture, word was so imbued with wisdom, courage,
and tranquil certitude, combined with such humble consideration
of His interlocutor, that conclusive Truth was
conveyed to every beholder and listener. As 'Abdu'l-Baha
has said referring to Baha'u'llah when confronting
His deniers and opposers: "How can darkness assert itself
in the Presence of Light? Can a fly attack an eagle? Or
the shadow defy the sun?"
And so, in this gathering of souls believing in a new
era of human consciousness; a new epoch in which that
consciousness should merge into the divine, we looked to
Him as to the Master of our destinies, as the One Leader
who, in this time of ancient superstitions and modern
follies, knew the way out of the human labyrinth into the
glorious freedom of the children of God.
I sat very near Him, and, naturally, my every faculty,
eye, ear, mind and heart were centered upon that radiant
Personality. Nor was I alone in this. There was but One
worthy of attention when He was present; but One
After the simple wedding ceremony and the bride and
groom had resumed their seats, 'Abdu'l-Baha rose. His
cream-colored Aba fell in graceful folds to His feet. Upon
His head he wore a tarboosh, or fez, of the same color,
beneath which His long white hair fell almost to His
shoulders. Most impressive of all His impressive aspects
were His eyes. Blue they were but so changing with His
mood! Now gentle and appealing, now commanding, now
flashing with hidden fires, now holding a deep, tranquil
lambent repose as though gazing upon scenes of glory far
His brow above those wide-set eyes was like an ivory
dome. His neatly clipped beard, snowy white, touched
His breast, but around His mouth no straggling hairs
obscured the mobile lips.
He spoke through an interpreter, as was His custom,
not so much because He could not use English, as that
it was wise to guard against possible mis-quotation. Every
word He uttered while in America was transcribed as it
fell from His lips by a Persian secretary, in that language,
and also by an American stenographer as the interpreter
followed. So that in future ages, when the thousands of
writings and addresses of Baha'u'llah and 'Abdu'l-Baha
are translated and codified, there may never be any question
as to the actual words and their connotation.
He swept the room with a glance at once enfolding and
abstracted. He raised His hands, palm upwards, level with
His waist. His eyes closed and He chanted a prayer for
the souls united by Him and by me. By Him that morning
according to the Laws of the New World Order in which
the spirit of man is to be trained to function harmoniously
with its brief material environment; by me this evening as
the representative of the passing regime in which ancient
superstitions and outworn shibboleths often tinge the most
sacred observances, yet which, being customary, are to
be observed "lest offense be given to any soul."
This prayer of 'Abdu'l-Baha, chanted in tones to me
unequalled in all experience, mellifluous (honey-like), is
the nearest descriptive word, but how inadequate, is the
keenest of all my memories of that evening.
In spite of the fact that the language was Persian, and
so, of course, unfamiliar to me, the impression I received
was that of understanding.
So vivid was this that the interpreter's translation came
as a shock. What need to translate language addressed to
the spirit? A flash of comprehension came to me. Perhaps
here was the explanation of the incident recorded of that
far-off Day of Pentecost when each listener to the words
of the disciples heard his own tongue.
There is a story told of an illiterate miner who made a
long journey on foot to meet 'Abdu'l-Baha when He was
in San Francisco, which further illustrates the same spiritual
phenomenon. This man, though uneducated, had great
spiritual capacity. He attended a meeting at which
'Abdu'l-Baha spoke. He seemed enthralled as the measured,
bell-like tones fell from the Master's lips. When the
interpreter took up the passage in English this miner
started as if awakening. "Why does that man interrupt?"
He whispered. Then again 'Abdu'l-Baha spoke, and again
the visitor was lost in attention. Again the interpreter
translated as the speaker paused. At this the miner's indignation
was aroused. "Why do they let that man interrupt?
He should be put out."
"He is the official interpreter," one sitting beside him
explained. "He translates the Persian into English."
"Was He speaking in Persian?" was the naive answer,
"Why anyone could understand that."
As for me: my heart was certainly moved far more
by the chanting Voice and the flowing, musical periods,
than by the interpreter's version of the wedding prayer,
beautiful as it is.
"Glory be unto Thee, O my God! Verily this Thy
servant and this Thy maid-servant have gathered under
the shadow of Thy Mercy and they are united through
Thy Favor and Generosity. 0 Lord! Assist them in this
Thy world and Thy Kingdom, and destine for them
every good through Thy bounty and Grace.
"Cause them to become the signs of harmony and
unity until the end of time. Verily Thou art the Omnipotent,
the Omnipresent and the Almighty!"
As intimated (p. 93), marriage under the World Order
of Baha'u'llah is based upon a far nobler conception of
Man's destiny than ever before. This is because under the
1900 years of Christian teaching the spiritual capacity of
the race has developed to a point where such conception
of Man's station is at least comprehensible.
The object of the coming of the Manifestations of God
is none other than the raising of man's consciousness to a
higher level. This is one of the meanings of "Heaven" as
used by the prophets of God.+F1 It is that state of consciousness
to which the teachings of the eternal Christ spirit, no
+F1 See Book of Certitude by Baha'u'llah
matter under what name He rises upon the horizon of
history, exalts the spirit of the true believer.
It is essential, then, that under each new dispensation
the eternal principles, reiterated by each Messenger of
God, should be so clarified and explained that they will
apply effectively to the problems of the new day. So when
Jesus appeared He abrogated the Mosaic Law regarding
divorce, which, while perfectly adapted to the nomadic
life of the Hebrews and to their background of centuries
of slavery under Egypt, had become subject to such abuse
under the changed conditions of the Roman environment,
and the sacerdotalism of the Pharisee and priest, as to
become a mockery.
It is plain that at this time the same observance of the
letter of Christ's teachings on this subject prevails, and
total neglect of the spirit. In America, supposedly a Christian
social order, the marriage bond is regarded with less
sacredness than in any other country in the world. In
1930, the latest census, there was one divorce to every
six marriages. And who can number the infringements
of the wedding vow; the hatreds in the home; the broken
family circles, which never reached the divorce court?
Plainly this is an intolerable condition. If it were to continue
unchecked it might well result in a complete breaking
down of family life and the utter destruction of the
institution of marriage. Indeed this social breakdown has
already begun in Russia, and is threatened in one or two
other countries. And what is becoming known as "free
love" and "companionate marriage" is obtaining recognition
in some of our own educational institutions and
actually taught as the only solution of the spreading
This problem is so momentous, its solution so fraught
with danger or safety to the destinies of the race, that this
servant of the Glory of God has gathered all the available
information possible on the subject and presents the actual
wording of Baha'u'llah and 'Abdu'l-Baha, in order that
the reader may judge for himself whether, if and when
these Divine Laws become operative, a happier social
order would result.
In the first place it must constantly be borne in mind
that Baha'u'llah envisages a world unity; a world order.
It assumes, moreover, the close association of man with
God, and presumes the assistance of the Supreme World,
the Holy Spirit, in the establishment of this Order.
Thus, in the conception of the Kingdom of God on
earth, Baha'u'llah sees as accomplished the unity of all
races and peoples; the abolition of all prejudice; an inherent
and passionate love for Truth, no matter from what
source it comes, and the spread of basic education in these
laws to all peoples.
Thus He has generalized broadly, encompassing the
problems of East and West; of North and South, leaving
to the International House of Justice the application of
these principles as special and individual problems arise.
If the reader will bear this in mind, and make every
effort to disabuse himself of the very natural prejudices he
may have entertained, it will be much easier for him to
appreciate the wisdom of Baha'u'llah's Plan for a New
This is not an easy task to set oneself, for man naturally
tends to accept as fixed the conventions and usages obtaining
at that moment of History in which he has happened
to appear upon the planet. But to do this is to disregard all
the records of the past, which indicate most clearly the
inevitable mutation or abolition of all human institutions,
and the general tendency, throughout the ages, to simplify,
purify and ennoble them. The destiny of the race is
very high, and even the Laws of Baha'u'llah are not
proposed as final. The next thousand or ten thousand
years will witness still further advances by mankind along
the path to the divine perfection to which all the Prophets
of God have summoned him. "Ye must be perfect, even
as your Father in Heaven is perfect."
At this stage in the development of the race the Laws
promulgated by Baha'u'llah assuredly seem to meet most
adequately the needs of men taken as a whole. To those
who study the writings of Baha'u'llah, paying due attention
to the claim of majestic authority involved, these
sublime Words calling man to participate in a social order
far higher than that ever envisaged in the past, can hardly
fail to stimulate a dawning hope, revive a failing courage
and again set ablaze the fire of the love of God in cooling
Bearing all this in mind let us endeavor to approach the
subject of marriage relations, as taught by Baha'u'llah,
with the thoughtful consideration, if not reverence, due
any teacher who, for the sake of the Message which He
was convinced He bore for men, suffering every indignity,
humiliation and torture which the ingenuity of two cruel
rulers and their peoples, the Shah of Persia and the Sultan
of Turkey, could over a period of forty years, inflict
That the reader may receive an idea of the claim put
forth by Baha'u'llah regarding the Source of His authority
and the objectives towards which He urges
humanity, the following paragraph is quoted from His
writings lately translated by His great-grandson, Shoghi
Effendi, the first Guardian of the Baha'i Faith.
"The first duty prescribed by God for His servants
is the recognition of Him Who is the Day-Spring of His
Revelation and the Fountain of His Laws, Who representeth
the Godhead in both the Kingdom of His Cause
and the world of creation. . . . They whom God hath
endued with insight will readily recognize that the precepts
laid down by God constitute the highest means for
the maintenance of order in the world and the security
of its peoples. He that turneth away from them is accounted
among the abject and foolish. We verily have
commanded you to refuse the dictates of your evil passions
and corrupt desires, and not to transgress the bounds
which the Pen of the Most High hath fixed, for these are
the breath of life unto all created beings. The seas of
Divine Wisdom and divine utterance have risen under the
breath of the breeze of the All-Merciful. Hasten to drink
your fill, 0 men of understanding." +F2
+F2 Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 331
Regarding marriage the following is a summary of the
ordinances prescribed by the "Pen of the Most High" for
the guidance of the race for the coming thousand or thousands
of years. Again the reader's attention should be
called to the fact that the Lawgiver envisages not one
nation or religion or group but the whole world.
Baha'u'llah enjoined marriage upon all and monogamy
is assumed as the only means of content and happiness.
He condemned the attitude of certain religious groups in
various credal systems which forbade marriage to their
priesthood. "It is My Command," He said, "that ye raise
up children who will mention Me among My servants."
He directed that marriage should depend first upon the
consent of both parties concerned and also upon the consent
of the parents of both, as "He desires love and affection
and unity to exist between all the servants of God,
and lest hatred and detestation come between them."
A dowry is recommended paid by the man to the
woman, and He designates the amount, which is quite
small. The object, evidently, being to avoid the sense of
absolute dependence of the wife upon the husband. This
is especially important in oriental countries.
In case of disagreement between man and wife, if any
agitation or aversion arise, he must not divorce her, but
be patient one year, "perhaps the fragrance of love may
emanate from them." If, however, at the expiration of
that time "no fragrance of love be diffused," divorce is
'Abdu'l-Baha, in a Tablet to the Baha'is of America,
wrote as follows:
"The friends (Baha'is) must strictly refrain from
divorce unless something arises which compels them to
separate because of their aversion to each other; in that
case, with the knowledge of the Spiritual Assembly (the
local governing body) they may decide to separate. They
must then be patient and wait one complete year. If during
that time harmony is not re-established between them,
then their divorce may be realized. . . . The foundation
of the Kingdom of God is based upon harmony and
love, oneness, relationship and union, not upon differences,
especially between husband and wife. If one of
these two become the cause of divorce that one will
unquestionably fall into great difficulties, will become the
victim of formidable calamities and experience deep
Baha'u'llah exhorts men not to follow their material
self, for it is an instigator to transgression and foul actions,
but rather to follow the Ruler of all things Who commandeth
them to practice virtue and righteousness. It is
such constant references to a Supreme Law, coupled with
a sympathetic consideration of human weakness, which
makes the study of His Writings so enthralling. One looks
in vain into the statute books of past and present for any
such atmosphere of commingled authority and love. The
Mosaic Law conveys no hint of such. It is as if the Sermon
on the Mount were reduced to a code and laid upon men
with gentle hands. In this fact lies the assurance not only
of its divine origin but of its ultimate acceptance by the
+F3 Quoted from Baha'u'llah and the New Era
world. For when the heart of man is appealed to as well
as his reason he is perforce enlisted on the side of the Law
proposed. As an illustration of this appeal Baha'u'llah
urges upon the husband, when undertaking an extended
absence from his wife, to acquaint her with particulars of
his movements and an appointed time for his return. "If
he fulfills his promise he will be of those who fulfill the
commands of his Lord, and will be recorded by the Pen
of Command as being of those who do right." If a real
excuse prevents his return he must inform his wife and
strive to return. If this is not done she must wait nine
months, at the expiration of which time she is free to
choose another husband. "But if she is patient it is better,
for God loves those who are patient."
If during those nine months of waiting news is received
from the husband she must adopt kindness and favor, for
He wisheth peace to exist among His servants. "Beware
lest ye create obstinacy in your midst."
Picture the courts of the future where such an atmosphere
obtains. If the reader is inclined to doubt that such
should ever be possible far be it from me to cast aspersions.
None could possibly be a greater doubter than I.
Yet I have come to see in the Divine Words of Baha'u'llah
not only beauty and wisdom but an indwelling
potency to sway the human heart and will. The fact that
several millions of the world's peoples have already subscribed
to His Teachings and Laws, often at the cost of
property and life, may be accounted as, at least, some
slight reason to hope that at some not far distant day an
influential minority of sane men will accept and put in
practice these divine precepts.
Regarding the provision concerning the consent of the
parents of both parties to the marriage, 'Abdu'l-Baha once
wrote to an inquirer that this consent was to be obtained
after a mutual satisfactory arrangement had been arrived
at by the contracting parties. Before that the parents had
no right of interference. This abrogates the practice usual
in the Orient by which the parents arrange the marriage,
often without the consent or wish of the persons most
interested. He further says that as a result of these provisions
the strained relations between relatives-in-law which
have become proverbial in Christian and Muhammedan
countries, are almost unknown among the Baha'is, and
divorce is also a rare occurrence. +F4
Many have been the utterances and writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha
on this subject. Following are some of the most
"In this most Merciful Age the ignorant prejudices are
entirely removed. The Baha'i engagement is the perfect
communication and the entire consent of both parties.
However, they must show forth the utmost attention and
become informed of one another's character, and the firm
covenant between them must become an eternal bond,
and their intention must be everlasting affinity, friendship,
unity and life.
"The bridegroom must, before the bridesmen and few
others, say: 'Verily, we are content with the Will of God.'
And the bride must rejoin: 'Verily, we are satisfied with
the desire of God.' This is Baha'i matrimony.
'Abdu'l-Baha's Tablets, p. 325.
+F4 Baha'u'llah and the New Era
"Regarding the question of matrimony: know that the
command of marriage is eternal. It will never be changed
or altered. This is a Divine Creation and there is not the
slightest possibility that change or alteration shall affect
this Divine Creation (marriage).
'Abdu'l-Baha's Tablets, p. 474.
"Among the majority of the people of the world
marriage consists of physical relationship, and the union
and relationship is but temporary, for at the end physical
separation is destined and ordained. But the marriage of
the people of Baha must consist of both physical and
spiritual relationship, for both of them are quickened by
the wine of one cup, are attracted by One Peerless
Countenance, vivified by one life and illumined by one
Light. This is the spiritual relationship and everlasting
"Likewise in the physical world they are bound together
with strong and unbreakable ties. When relationship,
union and concord exist between the two from a
physical and spiritual standpoint, that is a real union and
is, therefore, everlasting. But if the union is merely from
a physical point of view it is unquestionably temporary,
and in the end separation is inevitable.
"Consequently when the people of Baha desire to enter
the sacred union of matrimony, eternal connection, ideal
relationship, spiritual and physical association of thoughts
and conceptions of life must exist between them, so that
in all the grades of existence, and in all the worlds of
God this union may continue forever and ever. For this
Union is a splendor of the Light of the Love of God
"Likewise if the souls become real believers in God
they will find themselves ushered into this exalted state
of relationship, become manifestoes of the Love of the
Merciful, and exhilarated by the cup of the Love of God.
Undoubtedly that union and relationship is eternal.
"The souls who sacrifice self, become detached from
the imperfections of the realm of man, and free from the
bondage of this ephemeral world, assuredly the splendors
of the rays of Divine Union shall shine in their hearts,
and they shall find ideal relationship and happiness in the
(Signed) 'Abdu'l-Baha Abbas.
In the first two of the above selections it will be noted
that the emphasis is upon the eternality of the true marriage
union. In the third quotation a careful reading will
disclose the three ways in which this unending union may
be achieved, (a) When two souls on the altars of whose
hearts bums the fire of the love of God, find that light
reflected in each other and that flame, commingled, becomes
one fire. (b) When two souls having become united
in physical union afterwards become illumined by the
Eternal Love, that union also becomes eternal. 'Abdu'l-Baha
once wrote concerning a believer who had married
a non-believer, or was about to marry: "This marriage is
permissible, but Miss -- must exert herself day and
night so that she may guide her husband. She must not
rest until she makes him her spiritual as well as physical
partner in life."
(c) The last paragraph relates to those souls who never
in this world find their true spiritual mate, and remain
deprived throughout this transitory life of that great joy.
To such He says: "If you become detached from this
ephemeral world and the imperfections of the realms of
man, assuredly the splendors of Divine Union will shine
in your heart and you find ideal relationship and happiness
in the Eternal Paradise."
Speaking of the reality of love 'Abdu'l-Baha said:
"There are but four kinds of Love:
(a) The love of God for His Creation, the reflection
of Himself in the mirror of creation. Through one ray
of this Love all other love exists.
(b) The Love of God for His children. His servants.
Through this love man is endowed with physical existence,
until through the Breaths of the Holy Spirit-this
same Love-he receives eternal life and becomes the image
of the Living God. This love is the origin of all the
love in the world of creation.
(c) "The love of man for God. This is attraction to
the Divine World, entrance into the Kingdom of God,
receiving the Bounties of God, illumination with the
Lights of the Kingdom. This love is the origin of all
philanthropy; this love causes the heart of man to reflect
the rays of the Sun of Reality.
(d) "The love of man for man. The love which
exists between the believers in God is prompted by the
ideal of the unity of spirits. This love is attained
through the knowledge of God, so that men see the
Divine Love reflected in the heart. Each sees in the
other the Beauty of God reflected in the soul, and, finding
this point of similarity, they are attracted to one another
in love. This love will make all men the waves of one
sea, the stars of one heaven, the fruits of one tree.
"But the love which sometimes exists between friends
is not true love, because it is subject to transmutation. As
the breeze blows the slender trees yield. If the wind is in
the East the tree leans toward the West, and if the wind
turns to the West the tree leans towards the East. This
kind of love is originated by the accidental conditions of
life. This is not love, it is merely acquaintanceship: it
is subject to change. . . . . +F5
It seems impossible to read these divine Words without
an inner conviction growing in the heart that Man, in this
dispensation, is being ushered into a new and hitherto unrealized
world: the world of Reality; the world of the Spirit.
No imagination can compass the world of man,
the coming social Order, when it becomes impregnated
with this Spirit, when it becomes illumined, as it surely
will, by this supreme Sun.
And when we have seen in the very life of 'Abdu'l-Baha
this Light manifested, when before our eyes we have
witnessed the power and beauty of such ideals fully expressed,
and are told in Words of matchless beauty and
wisdom that such a life may be approximated by all who
submit themselves to the Rays of the Supreme Love, how
the heart is stirred to realize this experience, and the will
summoned to assist, to one's fullest capacity, in bringing
about this Kingdom of Love upon the earth!
'Abdu'l-Baha's many references to the children of the
New Day invites the mind to a most enthralling consideration.
+F5 Wisdom of 'Abdu'l-Baha, pp. 167-68
His allusions to such children, especially when
born of such heavenly union as already described, are
many and beautiful. Taken in connection with the foregoing
excerpts on marriage, and its eternal bond, they
give a faint indication of what human society may be
when the World Order of Baha'u'llah is established.
Space can be given to only two or three citations.
"These children are neither oriental nor occidental,
neither Asiatic nor American, neither European nor
African; but they are children of the Kingdom; their
home is Heaven and their resort is the Kingdom of Abha."
Tablets of 'Abdu'l-Baha, Vol. 3, p. 647.
"The newly born Babe of that Day excels the wisest and
most venerable men of this time, and the lowliest and
most unlearned of that period shall surpass in understanding
the most erudite and accomplished divines of this age."
The Bab to His disciples.
Dawn Breakers, p. 94.
"It is incumbent upon thee to nurture thy children
from the breast of the Love of God, to urge them towards
spiritual matters, to turn unto God and acquire
good manners, best characteristics and praiseworthy
virtues and qualities in the world of humanity; and to
study sciences with the utmost diligence; so that they
may become spiritual, heavenly and attracted to the
fragrances of sanctity from childhood and be reared in a
religious, spiritual and heavenly training."
A Child's Prayer. +F6
"O my Lord! O my Lord! I am a child of tender years;
nourish me from the breast of Thy Mercy, train me in
the bosom of Thy Love. Educate me in the school of
Thy Guidance and develop me under the shadow of
Thy Bounty. Deliver me from darkness; make me a
brilliant light. Free me from unhappiness; make me a
flower of Thy Rose-Garden. Suffer me to become the
servant of Thy Threshold and confer upon me the
disposition and nature of the righteous ones. Make me a
cause of bounty to the human world and crown my
head with the diadem of Eternal Life!
Verily Thou are the Powerful, the Mighty, the Seer,
+F6 From the Baha'i Prayerbook.-'Abdu'l-Baha Section.
In Dublin, N. H. With 'Abdu'l-Baha
"THE MOST PERFECT GENTLEMAN I HAVE
EVER KNOWN." THE MASTER TEACHER.
THE SPIRITUAL WARRIOR. A FABLE. "IT
BEHOOVES YOU TO MANIFEST LIGHT." THE
GIFT. THE FIRST TABLET.
"We have come here for work and Service, not for enjoyment
of air and scenery."
'Abdu'l-Baha in Dublin, N. H.
IN August of that year in which a New World opened,
an invitation came to me to be the guest of 'Abdu'l-Baha
in Dublin, N. H.
One of the Washington friends, at whose home in that
city 'Abdu'l-Baha had visited and spoken several times,
had offered Him the use of a large farmhouse on her
lovely estate in Dublin. As this house, however, was pretty
well filled with the large party of Persian and American
friends who accompanied Him, He had taken a room in
the Dublin Inn and it was there He entertained me, over
the week-end of August 9, 1912.
Dublin is a beautiful mountain Summer resort where
gathers each year a colony of wealthy intellectuals from
Washington, D. C. and from various large centers.
'Abdu'l-Baha's stay in that place for a period of three
weeks offers another evidence of His unique power of
adaptation to every environment; His dominant humility
in every group, which, while seeming to follow He really
led, and His manifest all-embracing knowledge.
Picture, if you can, this Oriental, fresh from more than
fifty years of exile and prison life, suddenly placed in an
environment representing the proudest culture of the
Western world. Nothing in His life, one would reasonably
presume, had offered a preparation for such a
Not to His youth had been given years of academic and
scholastic training. Not to His young manhood had been
supplied those subtle associations during His formative
years. Not upon His advancing age had been bestowed
the comforts and leisure which invite the mind's expanse.
Quite the contrary, as I have endeavored to portray,
His life had been a constant submission to every form of
hardship and deprivation, when considered from a material
standpoint alone. Dungeons and chains had been
His lot. Torture not seldom; confinement in the stocks,
or any indignity which heartless jailers might design, His
portion. The Bible and the Koran His only books.
How, then, can it be explained that in this environment
He not only mingled with these highest products of
wealth and culture with no slightest embarrassment to
them or to Him, but He literally outshone them in their
No matter what subject was brought up He was perfectly
at home in its discussion, yet always with an undercurrent
of modesty and loving consideration for the opinions
of others. I have before spoken of His unfailing
courtesy. It was really more than what that term usually
connotes to the Western mind. The same Persian word
is used for both reverence and courtesy. He "saw the
Face of His Heavenly Father in every face" and reverenced
the soul behind it. How could one be discourteous
if such an attitude was held towards everyone!
The husband of 'Abdu'l-Baha's hostess in Dublin, who,
while never becoming an avowed believer, had many opportunities
of meeting and talking with the Master, when
asked to sum up his impressions of Him, responded, after
a little consideration: "I think He is the most perfect
gentleman I have ever known."
Consider. This was the verdict of a man of inherited
wealth; of wide and profound culture; accustomed to
judge men by delicate standards, and to whom the word
'gentleman' connoted all which he held most admirable.
And the term was applied by him to a man who, it is not
improbable, had never in His long life of imprisonment
ever heard the word as relating to him.
One may, perhaps, get a glimpse, if he considers deeply
this rather portentous fact of what Baha'u'llah means
when He says: "The root of all knowledge is the knowledge
of God." And again: "Knowledge is one point: the
ignorant have multiplied it." It may be true, as He has
many times reiterated, that the only true Life is that of the
spirit, and that when one lives and moves and thinks constantly
upon the spiritual plane, all things, both great and
small, are done with perfectness.
Certainly, in my many contacts with this Master of Life,
I never knew Him to fail in manifesting the highest qualities
of conduct, whether in the realm of material action
or in intellectual or spiritual teaching.
I remember a luncheon party in Dublin, to which came
a number of these Summer residents to meet 'Abdu'l-Baha.
There were present a famous scientist, two well known
artists, a physician of note, and all of the fifteen
or twenty people present had a background of more than
one generation of wealth or culture. Could it be possible
to imagine a more glaring contrast with the life 'Abdu'l-Baha
The hostess, who had visited the Master in Akka while
he was still a prisoner there, and whose life had become
transformed through her spiritual contact with Him, has
spoken to me of this gathering several times. Naturally,
she was somewhat concerned that her friends whom she
had known for years in the social life of Washington,
Baltimore and New York, should know the Master, to
a degree at least, as she had known Him, but there was
trepidation in her soul. For these men and women were
not of a religious trend of thought. In fact several of them
were frankly agnostic, and all were uninterested in that
phase of life.
She wanted her party to be a success, of course, but
more she wished these friends to get a glimpse, if only a
glimpse, of that World of Reality into which 'Abdu'l-Baha
had ushered her. She wondered, she has told me, how
'Abdu'l-Baha would handle the situation, for she knew
that she would not have the responsibility for its handling.
'Abdu'l-Baha was always the Host, His the dominating
I was present at that gathering, but little of its true significance
penetrated my consciousness. I have but the
memory of a typical luncheon party where had gathered
a group of society's intelligentsia to meet a noteworthy
It is a perpetual wonder to me, as I recall to memory
those months, during which, all unrecognized by me, the
portals to spiritual freedom were slowly swinging wide,
how little I understood what was really happening. I see
now what a tremendous task it is to open the eyes of the
blind. No wonder our Lord Christ marveled that those
to whom He spake and upon whom He smiled, having
eyes and ears and hearts, saw not, nor heard nor understood.
No wonder that tradition has handed down to us
the confusion of thought which must have afflicted those
to whom came the revelations of the miracle of bestowed
spiritual sight. To them, and even to us, too often physical
sight was the great blessing; the loss of it the great tragedy;
its restoration the great miracle. But to Jesus, and to all
true Seers, physical sight is blindness compared to the
Sight of the Spirit. 'Abdu'l-Baha calls it seeing by "The
Light Divine" and says:
"Seek with all your hearts for this Heavenly Light, so
that you may be able to understand the Realities, that
you may know the secret things of God, that the hidden
ways may be made plain before your eyes. By the help of
this effulgent Light all the spiritual interpretations of the
Holy Writings have been made plain, the hidden things of
God's universe have become manifest, and we have been
able to comprehend the Divine purposes for man."+F1
Truly a miracle of miracles it is that earth-blinded eyes
ever open to the World of Reality.
Most of those present at this luncheon party knew a
little of 'Abdu'l-Baha's life history, and, presumably, were
expecting a dissertation from Him on the Baha'i Cause.
The hostess had suggested to the Master that He speak to
them on the subject of Immortality. However, as the meal
progressed, and no more than the usual commonplaces
of polite society were mentioned, the hostess made an
opening, as she thought, for 'Abdu'l-Baha to speak on
His response to this was to ask if He might tell them
a story, and he related one of the Oriental tales, of which
He had a great store and at its conclusion all laughed
The ice was broken. Others added stories of which the
Master's anecdote had reminded them. Then 'Abdu'l-Baha,
His face beaming with happiness, told another
+F1 Wisdom of 'Abdu'l-Baha, p. 62-63.
story, and another. His laughter rang through the room.
He said that the Orientals, had many such stories illustrating
different phases of life. Many of them are extremely
humorous. It is good to laugh. Laughter is a
spiritual relaxation. When they were in prison, He said,
and under the utmost deprivation and difficulties, each of
them at the close of the day would relate the most
ludicrous event which had happened. Sometimes it was
a little difficult to find one but always they would laugh
until the tears would roll down their cheeks. Happiness,
He said, is never dependent upon material surroundings,
otherwise how sad those years would have been. As it was
they were always in the utmost state of joy and happiness.
That was the nearest approach He came to any reference
to Himself or to the Divine Teachings. But over
that group before the gathering dispersed, hovered a hush
and reverence which no learned dissertation would have
caused in them.
After the guests had gone, and 'Abdu'l-Baha was leaving
for His hotel, He came close to His hostess and asked
her, with a little wistful smile, almost, she was used to say,
like a child seeking approbation, if she were pleased with
She was never able to speak of this conclusion to the
event without deep emotion.
'Abdu'l-Baha was to speak in the Unitarian church that
Sunday morning, but He had intimated that He would
talk with me before the time for the service, so, about
half-past-nine I was awaiting Him in one of the spacious
private parlors of the Inn.
The events of that day are among my clearest remembrances
connected with the Master. At that time, about
four months after my first meeting with Him, and seven
months after first hearing of this world-wide movement,
I was still, it seemed, almost as far away as ever from any
true understanding of what it was all about. I was perpetually
tossing in the turbulent Sea of Spirit: at brief
moments caught in the upthrust of that surging ocean of
Truth, and for an instant dazzled by the Light of the Sun
of Reality. But only for a moment; then dropped again
into the trough of the sea and shut from that Light. Each
time the illumination came I clung to it and said within
my heart: "This time I will not let Thee go." And each
time, when the darkness closed around, my agonized heart
averred: "The Light is gone forever. It was but a dream
born of vain hopes."
I have before spoken of this inward turmoil. I speak of
it again trusting that other struggling souls may find in
the analysis of my experience a suggestion for a similar
analysis of their own. For this servant is fully assured that
every aspiring soul must fight over much the same
ground. And the fight is never over, "There is no surcease
in this War." For every battle won opens a wider field of
combat against the never-sleeping foe of Self and the
contingent +F2 world.
I often, in those days of early recognition of this fact,
likened this warfare to the great war of nations even
then rumbling in the Balkans. For, just as the soldier, when
+F2 In the Baha'i terminology it means the world around us, pressing
+F2 upon us, contracting us and so distracting our attention that we are
+F2apt to leave God out of our reckoning.
the zero hour strikes, plunges over his breastwork, and,
through hail of shot and shell, dashes against the enemy,
and, having gained what ground he can, digs in and
sticks, never retreating, never abandoning ground once
gained; so the spiritual warrior fortifies each step, each
yard of ground, never looking back. Also he never forgets
that far ahead lies the enemy's chief stronghold, his
base of supplies, his capital city, the city of self and desire,
attachment to this world, Not until that stronghold is
completely overthrown, and the "strongly fortified fortress"
of God's Will and His Desire attained, can any
permanent and honorable Peace be secured. And again
he never forgets that there is a Commander in Chief directing
the War, and that the "Hosts of the Supreme
Concourse" are assisting him. Hence he knows that final
victory is assured.
During those early and terrible days of this fighting I
was at times tempted to retreat. It was not easy to face
the supercilious comments of my ministerial associates;
the adverse criticisms of my family and friends; the cooling
good-will of the influential members of my congregation.
One of my clergymen associates asked me one day:
"Are you still Baha'-ing around?" While a member of my
own family told me I was a pathological case, and needed
Why I did not retreat I cannot tell. Partly, I suppose, it
was because I did not realize whither the Path was leading.
If all that the following five or seven years were to
hold, if I advanced, had been revealed to me at that time,
I greatly doubt if my courage would have sufficed to
On the other hand, the glimpses I had at times of the
very Glory of God; the possibilities of human attainment
for the first time revealed; the happiness unspeakable that,
if only for brief moments, swept over me, repaid for all
the ground abandoned. I was "in the Grip of God." When
in the depths, and darkness again closed around, it was so
unbearable that I, perforce, must find the Light again. I
could not have retreated had I wished.
Some time later, to aid a friend in the throes of a similar
struggle I concocted a little fable illustrating this.
Once on a rime a traveler was lost in a dense wilderness.
It seemed that for endless ages he had wandered forlorn.
No path there was; no sun by which to get his bearings.
The briers tore his flesh, the pitiless wind and rain poured down
their wrath. He had no home.
Then suddenly, when hope was gone, he came out upon a mountain
side overlooking a lovely valley, in which was set a heavenly
palace, the very Home of his dreams.
With joy unspeakable he rushed to enter.
But hardly had his foot stepped within its precincts when a heavy
hand grasped him by the neck and-back he was again in that
But now he was not without hope. He had seen his home.
And with a courage unknown before he set upon his search.
He was more careful now. He watched for signs of the Path.
And strove to pierce the overhanging gloom for gleams of light.
And, after weary search, again he saw his home.
He was more careful now. He did not rush to enter.
He noted how it lay. He oriented by the sun.
And softly his reverent feet bore him within.
But, alas, again the heavy hand tore him from that loved home and
back again he was in that vast wilderness.
But now his heart was not at all cast down.
He had his bearings! And with great joy set upon his search again.
And now he marked the trees so he could find the path again.
The sky grew clearer overhead and gleams of sun assisted.
And soon, much sooner than before, he found his home again, and
This time he felt more calm and assured.
This time he felt no fear of grasping hand.
And when it came and grasped, and he was back in that foul wilderness
of worldly things,
He hastened with sure feet upon his search.
The Sun shone brightly now. The songs of birds entranced his ear.
And now he beat a Path. He tore away the impeding underbrush.
For well he knew that he would often have to tread his way back
and forth, while in this world.
But he had found his home, and when the roar of men confused,
And darkness came, he hastened back from self to God.
That Sunday with 'Abdu'l-Baha in Dublin was one of
my days of Light. He came into the room where I awaited
Him and embraced me, asking if I were well and happy.
We must always be happy. He said, for it is impossible to
live in the Spiritual World and be sad. God desires happiness
for all His creatures. For man especially is this joy
ordained for he has the capacity to understand Reality.
The world of the spirit is open to him as it is not to the
kingdoms of Nature below him. It is through the power
of this spirit-energy that he is able to conquer Nature and
bend its forces to his will. God has sent His Messengers
all through the ages to aid men in this conquest. I cannot
recall the exact words, of course, but His point of view
and the atmosphere of Truth created is indelibly impressed
upon my consciousness.
It was during this conversation that I asked Him again,
as I often had, why I should believe in Baha'u'llah as
the latest and most universal of these Messengers.
He looked at me long and searchingly. His smile
broadened. Again He seemed to be enjoying a heavenly
situation which was not without its humorous side. Then
He was lovingly grave again. After a somewhat lengthy
silence He said that it was not given to everyone to speak
often of His Holiness Christ to men. He said that I must
thank God daily for this great bounty, for men have
entirely forgotten the pure teachings of this "Essence of
Severance." He remarked that His Holiness Baha'u'llah
speaks of this in the Book of Certitude and that I should
study it carefully. In that book is explained how these
stars of the Heaven of Christ's Revelation have fallen
to the earth of worldly desires. On their tongues the mention
of God has often become an empty Name; in their
midst His Holy Word a dead letter. This condition is
that to which Christ refers. He said, when He speaks of
"the oppression or affliction of the Last Days." What
greater affliction could be imagined than that under which
the self-appointed spiritual leaders are themselves in
Praise be to God that you are seeking Light. It behooves
you to manifest Light; to express in word and deed the
pure teachings of His Holiness the Christ. To the proud
we must be humble; He said, to the humble, compassionate;
to the ignorant ones be as a student before his
+F3 See Book of Certitude by Baha'u'llah, pp. 29-31.
master; to the sinful ones be as the greatest sinner of all.
To the poor be a benefactor; to the orphan, a father; to
the aged, a son. Take guidance, not from leaders of
sectarian theology but from the Sermon on the Mount.
Seek no earthly reward, nay, rather, accept calamities in
His service as His first disciples did. +F4
He smiled at me with such heavenly radiance that I sat
enthralled and overcome with an emotion indescribable.
Then he fell silent and His eyes closed. I thought He was
weary, as doubtless He was for His constant activity gave
Him little rest. But it was plain to me later that He must
have been praying for me.
I, too, was still. How could I speak! I was in a World far
removed from my habitual consciousness. It even, for
those blissful moments, seemed possible to do as He commanded.
Certainly I knew that that was what I should do,
and for the first time a glimmer of the conviction came
to me that I could never rest until I should approach this
station to which He called me, if not in this world then
in some other.
He opened His eyes after a while, smiled again, and said
that all who truly seek find; that the door to the World of
Reality was never closed to those who patiently knock.
This is the Day of attainment.
The very atmosphere of that conventional hotel room
seemed impregnated with the Holy Spirit. We sat in
silence for some time and then a message came that it was
+F4 Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 285.
time to go to the church. He embraced me again and
For a little while I sat alone trying to adjust myself
again to my surroundings, for I had truly been transported
to another world.
Then some friends came to ask me to accompany them
to the church to hear the Master's talk.
What His subject was I do not recall, nor does a single
word of His address remain with me. My memory is all
of the quiet New England church; the crowded pews,
and 'Abdu'l-Baha on the platform. His cream-colored
robe; His white hair and beard; His radiant smile and
courteous demeanor. And His gestures! Never a dogmatic
downward stroke of the hand; never an upraised warning
finger; never the assumption ' of teacher to the taught.
But always the encouraging upward swing of hands, as
though He would actually lift us up with them. And His
voice! Like a resonant bell of finest timbre; never loud
but of such penetrating quality that the walls of the room
seemed to vibrate with its music.
I do remember, however, that what He said impressed
me with the force of the impact of Divine Truth. There
was not a question in my mind of the authority with
which He spake. Truly, not as the scribes!
I recall that as I left the church and joined some of the
New York friends who were among the audience, I said
to one of them:
"At last I know. Never again will I doubt or question."
Alas, I spoke too soon. Many months too soon. My
scholastic training had gone too deep. The habits of a lifetime
of depending upon book learning, which, as Baha'u'llah
says, has: "Like a gloomy dust enveloped the
world,"+F5 were not to be so quickly broken.
That evening I felt that I must speak to 'Abdu'l-Baha
once more. My heart was too full of thankfulness to let
me rest without the effort to express it to Him. So I
watched for Him to come back to the Inn after His day
was ended. It was quite late when at last I saw Him slowly
ascending the stairs to His room.
I can hardly believe now that I had the temerity to
follow. He had entered the room when I reached it, and
had closed the door. What gave me courage to knock I
do not know; but knock I did, and He opened the door
Himself. I did not know what to say. He beckoned me
in and looked at me gravely. I stammered: "Will you
please pray with me?"
He motioned, and I knelt while He put His hands upon
my head and chanted, in Persian, a brief prayer. It was all
over within three minutes. But those moments brought to
me a peace I had never known.
Before I leave the recital of the Dublin experience I
will relate an incident to which I was not a witness but
was told me by one who saw it. It seems that she was
occupying a room in the Inn at the same time that 'Abdu'l-Baha
was there. She was dressing and happening to glance
out of the window she saw 'Abdu'l-Baha pacing up and
down dictating to His secretary. An old man, wretchedly
+F5 From the Seven Valleys of Baha'u'llah.
clothed, passed the Inn as she watched. 'Abdu'l-Baha sent
His secretary to call him back.
The Master stepped up to him and took his hand, smiling
into his face as though greeting a welcome friend.
The man was very ragged and dirty. His trousers particularly
were filthy and barely covered his limbs. 'Abdu'l-Baha
talked with him a few moments. His face a smiling
benediction. He seemed to be trying to cheer the old man
and finally there did appear the trace of a smile, but it
was rather bleak. 'Abdu'l-Baha's eyes swept the pitiable
figure, and then He laughed gently: He said something
to the effect that the old man's trousers were not very
serviceable and that we must remedy that lack.
It was very early in the morning and the street deserted.
My friend, watching, saw 'Abdu'l-Baha step into the
shadow of the porch and He seemed to be fumbling under
His Aba at the waist. Then He stooped. His trousers
dropped to the ground. He gathered his robe about Him
and turning handed the trousers to the old man. "May
God go with you," He said, and turned to the secretary
as if nothing unusual had happened. I wonder what that
man thought as he went his way. I like to think that this
glimpse into a world in which someone cared enough for
him to give him his own garb rather than that he should
need, marked an epoch in his life, and transformed the
"brass of this world into gold by the alchemy of the
spirit," as Baha'u'llah says.
During the prison life in Akka 'Abdu'l-Baha often gave
His bed to those who had none, and He always refused
to own more than one coat.
"Why should I have two," He said, "when there are
so many who have none?"
I mention these things in this connection to show that
'Abdu'l-Baha did not tell others the way of Life without
walking therein Himself. In this incident I saw reflected
indeed His advice to me in the parlor of the Inn that
A few days after leaving Dublin I wrote 'Abdu'l-Baha
thanking Him for His courtesy and kindness. And soon
there came His first Tablet+F6 to me, in answer to my letter,
which I had not thought required an answer.
It was dated August 26, 1917. I quote it in full, for the
universal viewpoint from which all His words were written
robs them of any personal limitation.
"O thou, my revered friend:
Your letter imparted the utmost rejoicing, for its contents
evidenced attraction to the Kingdom of God and
enkindlement with the Fire of the Love of God!
A hundred thousand ministers have come and gone:
they left behind no trace nor fruit, nor were their lives
To be fruitless in the world of humanity is the manifest
loss. A wise person will not attach his heart to
ephemeral things: nay, rather, will he continually seek
immortal life and strive to obtain eternal happiness.
Now, praise be to God that thou hast turned thy face
towards the Kingdom, and art aspiring to receive Divine
Bestowals from the Realm of Might.
I have become hopeful, and prayed that thou mayest
attain to another Bounty; seek another Life; ask for
another World; draw nearer unto God; become informed
of the Mysteries of the Kingdom; attain to Life Eternal
and become encircled with the Glory Everlasting.
Upon thee be the Glory of the Most Glorious!"
(signed) 'Abdu'l-Baha Abbas.
Written from Maiden, Mass.
I well remember the feelings with which I read this. It
was to me then simply a beautiful letter, couched in
Oriental imagery. That the last paragraph contained an
actual summons to enter another World; to become truly
informed of Mysteries hitherto unknown; to be, in very
truth and as a personal experience, encircled with the
Glory Everlasting and enter, while on this little planet,
into a new and higher Life, so free, so vast, so joyous that
only the word "eternal" would apply: all this did not
dawn upon me for years.
It has become, however, increasingly apparent to me as
the years have passed, that to the Writer these words expressed
the station in which He constantly lived, and
that the great objective of His life work was to summon
men to as close an approximation of that station as their
capacity would permit.
THE AMERICAN ITINERARY. THE POWER OF
THE SPIRIT. TRUE GREATNESS. THE DIVINE
"He is truly wise whom the world and all that is therein
have not deterred from recognizing the light of this Day,
who will not allow men's idle talk to cause him to swerve
from the way of righteousness. He is indeed as one dead
who, at the wondrous dawn of this Revelation, hath
failed to be quickened by its soul-stirring breeze. He is indeed
a captive who hath not recognized the Supreme Redeemer,
but hath suffered his soul to be bound, distressed
and helpless, in the fetters of desires."
Gleanings from the writings of Baha'u'llah, pp. 168-69.
DURING the rest of that summer I was much occupied
with work which carried me to various parts
of the Eastern states while 'Abdu'l-Baha was absent from
that part of the country, making His memorable trip
throughout the West.
In this interval of three months from the time of my
visit to Dublin and my next meeting with the Master in
New York on November 15th, 'Abdu'l-Baha had covered
an itinerary and addressed audiences which, considering
His age. His historical background and the large number
of the friends who followed Him from place to place,
has few parallels in history.
From the time I left His Presence in Dublin, N. H.,
His itinerary was as follows:
Aug. 16th.-24th. Greenacre, Eliot, Me. 5 Addresses
Aug. 25th.-30th. Boston Maiden, Mass. 4 Addresses
Sept. 1st.-10th. Montreal, Canada 5 Addresses
Sept. 16th.-19th. Chicago, Ill. 1 Addresses
Sept. 20th.-22nd Minneapolis St. Paul, Minn. 2 Addresses
Sept. 24th. Denver, Colo. 2 Addresses
Oct. 1st.-15th. San Fran., Oakland, Palo Alto, Cal. 4 Addresses
Oct. 18th. Los Angeles, Cal. (no accurate record at hand). He was there 2 days and at least 3 Addresses
Oct. 25th. 26th Sacramento, Cal 2 Addresses
Oct. 31st. Chicago, Ill. 1 Addresses
Nov. 5th. Cincinnati, O. 1 Addresses
Nov. 6th.-12th. Washington, D. C. 10 Addresses
Nov. 15th.- Dec. 5th. New York City 13 Addresses
Making a total of fifty-three addresses, besides, probably
scores of personal interviews and informal talks to
small groups of friends.
From the time of His arrival in this country and His
Dublin sojourn, His itinerary and Talks were as follows:
April 11 th.-19th. New York City 13 Addresses
April 20th.-25th Washington, D.C. 13 Addresses
Apr. 30th.- May 5th. 1 Chicago, Ill. 15 Addresses
May 6th. Cleveland, O. 2 Addresses
May 7th. Pittsburgh, Pa. 1 Addresses
May 11th. - 20th. New York City and vicinity 7 Addresses
May 23rd. - 24th Boston vicinity 3 Addresses
May 26th. - June 8th. New York and vicinity 7 Addresses
June 9th Philadelphia 2 Addresses
June 11th. - July 15th. New York vicinity 20 Addresses
July 23rd. - 25th Boston vicinity 3 Addresses
August 5th. - 6th Dublin, N.H. 2 Addresses
(To my personal knowledge 'Abdu'l-Baha made several
more addresses in Dublin than are recorded in the volumes
of His Talks published under the title The Promulgation
of Universal Peace. But that is the official record.)
It is not simply the interest that attaches to the fact that
this man, in his sixty-ninth year, was able to accomplish
this rather remarkable feat of physical and intellectual
endurance which prompts this catalogue of his Summer's
There is a deeper significance to be discerned by those
who attended him during his journeyings, or even by those
who have read this chronicle carefully and sympathetically.
During this very Summer, the poet and sage,
Rabindranath Tagore, had been under contract to deliver
a series of lectures in America. After covering a part of
his proposed itinerary, which was not nearly as extensive
as that of 'Abdu'l-Baha's, his strength and nerves were
exhausted and he cancelled his contract and returned to
+F1 He made 5 addresses on May 2nd and 3 on May 5th.
India. He said he could not bear the materialistic vibrations
of America. It needs also to be disclosed that while
Tagore's contract called for a sizable financial remuneration,
'Abdu'l-Baha had no contract, other than the
Covenant of selfless Servitude made with Baha'u'llah in
the sanctuary of His heart, and, furthermore, so far from
demanding or expecting any financial reward, He consistently
refused the slightest remuneration, and even
when entertained by solicitous and generous hosts He was
punctilious in seeing to it that gifts to both host and servants
of the household far outweighed what He received.
Also He emphasized the spiritual capacity of the American
people which Tagore decried. When He stayed at
hotels his "rips" to servants who waited on Him were
often so generous as to excite astonishment. But even this
does not at all cover what He gave. In several instances
that have come to my personal knowledge His spiritual
influence upon chambermaids and porters was such that
one of them said to one of those accompanying the Master:
"This is sacred money. I shall never spend it upon
Is comment necessary? Whence came the Power of
body, mind and Spirit which enabled this Man, unused to
Western bustle, competition and nervous strain; all His
long life subject to persecution, imprisonment and
hatred; cast suddenly into an environment for which he
could have had no preparation, so to master every situation
with which He was confronted? I have shown how this
mastery extended to the details of the society of culture
and luxury, but it was no less noticeable, no less victorious,
when in contact with the humble and sorrowing.
How is it possible to ignore such conquering majesty!
How can one refrain from searching with passionate
intensity for the secret of His power! To me, after all
these years of study and prayer in my search for this key,
there can be only one answer, the answer given by
'Abdu'l-Baha himself, and even more convincingly by the
Blessed Perfection, (Baha'u'llah). Ponder carefully the
"Although the body was weak and not fitted to undergo
the vicissitudes of crossing the Atlantic, yet love
assisted us and we came here. At certain times the spirit
must assist the body. We cannot accomplish really great
things through physical force alone; the spirit must fortify
our bodily strength.
For example: the body of man may be able to withstand
the ordeals of imprisonment for ten or fifteen
years under temperate conditions of climate and restful
During our imprisonment at Akka means of comfort
were lacking, troubles and persecutions of all kinds surrounded
us, yet notwithstanding such distressful conditions
we were able to endure these trials for forty years.
What was the reason? The Spirit was strengthening and
resuscitating the body constantly. We lived through this
long, difficult period in the utmost love and servitude.
The spirit must assist the body under certain conditions
which surround us, because the body of itself cannot
endure the extreme of such hardships.
In proportion as the human body is weak the spirit of
man is strong. It is a supernatural power which transcends
all contingent beings. It has immortal life which nothing
can destroy or pervert. . . How powerful is the spirit of
man, while his body is so weak1 ... Therefore it is divinely
intended that the spiritual susceptibilities of man should
gain precedence and overrule his physical forces. In this
way he becomes fitted to dominate the human world by
his nobility, and stand forth fearless and free, endowed
with the attributes of eternal life.**
"The human body is in need of material force, but the
spirit has need of the Holy Spirit. .. If it is aided by
the bounty of the Holy Spirit it will attain great power;
it will discover realities; it will be informed of the
"The power of the Holy Spirit is here for all."
"The captive of the Holy Spirit is exempt from every
"The teachings of His Holiness Baha'u'llah are the
breaths of the Holy Spirit which create man anew."
-Words of 'Abdu'l-Baha.
"There is a Power in this Cause far, far transcending
the ken of men and angels."
These few excerpts from the hundreds which might
be cited will give a slight conception of the Source of
'Abdu'l-Baha's Power to dominate every situation with
which He was confronted.
Even His physical condition was reinforced constantly
by this Divine Power. On one occasion after a particularly
exhausting day He was returning late at night from a
gathering at which He had spoken with much energy and
effectiveness. In the automobile he showed great weariness.
He relaxed and gradually sank into almost a comatose
condition. The friends who were with Him were greatly
alarmed. On arriving at their destination He had to be
almost carried into the house and to His room. Within
fifteen minutes, while the friends were gathered in great
anxiety in the lower rooms, His voice was heard resounding
with even more than its usual energy and power
calling for His secretary, and He appeared at the top of
the stairs His usual dominant, smiling, forceful self.
"Blessed is he who was attracted by My Melodies and
rent the coverings by My Power." +F2
To "'Abdu'l-Baha I had written once or twice during
the Summer for my mind and heart gave me no rest. I
carried with me on my travels through the Eastern States
a small satchel devoted entirely to the books and typewritten
Tablets of Baha'u'llah and 'Abdu'l-Baha (of
which, by the way, there is a very large available quantity
besides many volumes not yet translated into English)
and I, literally, read nothing else, not even newspapers,
during all those months. From this fact may be gathered
a faint indication of my mental and spiritual perturbation.
It seemed as though the focal center of my life had
+F2 Baha'u'llah: Tablet to Christians.
suddenly shifted, and all my interests were revolving
around a new and most disturbing axis.
When my church activities were resumed in the Fall I
found it impossible to secure the financial support necessary
to continue the work of the Brotherhood Church,
and it was my letter to 'Abdu'l-Baha telling Him of this
and also of my intense and growing interest in the teachings
of Baha'u'llah, which brought to me His second
Tablet. It was evidently written on His way from Washington
to New York and translated and forwarded to me
from New York by His secretary immediately upon His
arrival. It was as follows:
"0 thou spiritual friend! Thy letter was received.
I was made very sad on account of the event of the closing
of the Church of Brotherhood. But when I was in
those pans I remarked to you that you should not place
your confidence in those souls. They say many things but
do not fulfil them.
You stated that *my first assistant is a philosopher.'
It is true that philosophy in this age consists in the fact that
man is out of touch with God; he is out of touch with the
Kingdom of God; he is out of touch with spiritual susceptibilities;
he is out of touch with the Holy Spirit, and
out of touch with the ideal verities. To wit: he may be
an agnostic and a captive of the tangibilities.
In reality her highness the Cow enjoys this attribute
and quality. The Cow is naturally a denier of God, a
denier of the Kingdom, a denier of spiritualities and a
denier of the heavenly verities. She has attained to these
virtues without labor. Therefore she is the philosopher
Our philosophers of this age after twenty years of
study and reflection in the universities attain to the
station of the Cow. They know only the senses as the
Therefore her highness the Cow is the great philosopher,
for she has been a philosopher from the beginning
of her life and not after the hard mental labor of
I have mentioned the fact to you that these promises
are unstable. You should not put your trust in a soul who
is without God.
In brief: be thou not unhappy. This event has happened
so that thou mayest become freed from all other occupations,
day and night thou mayest call the people to the
Kingdom; spread the teachings of Baha'u'llah; inaugurate
the Era of the New Life; promulgate the Reality, and be
sanctified and purified from all save God. It is my hope
that thou mayest become as such.
Crown thy head with this diadem of the Kingdom
whose brilliant jewels have such illumining power that
they shall shine upon centuries and cycles.
Ere long I shall reach New York and meet again my
beloved friend. Upon thee be Baha El Abha! (The
Glory of the Most Glorious.)"
(signed) 'Abdu'l-Baha Abbas.
Translated: New York, November 14th, 1912.
The receipt of this Tablet left upon my mind two distinct
and oddly contrasting impressions. The obvious one,
of course, was its wit. It was my first personal encounter
with 'Abdu'l-Baha's wisely humorous attitude towards
the accidents of life. I have already spoken of his ready
laughter, especially when speaking of deeply serious
things. The ordinary difficulties of daily experience which
affect most of us with sentiments of gravity, sadness or
repugnance seemed to inspire Him to amusement.
I remember that when I met Him for the first time
after the long Summer's separation almost His first words
were to ask if her highness the Cow were not a noble
philosopher? And the smile and hearty laughter accompanying
the words seemed to sum up the fundamental
absurdity involved in most of "the gloomy dust arising
from men of limitation enveloping the world." +F3
The second impression was gathered from the closing
words of the Tablet with its command of severance,
mastering and promulgating the teachings of Baha'u'llah
all over the continent, and its assurance of divine and
universal results through centuries and cycles.
It was these words, with their emphasis upon a station
of such loftiness that nothing less than centuries and cycles
could circumscribe its power of illumination, which gave
to me the first glimmer of realization of the sort of greatness
to which 'Abdu'l-Baha referred when He said to me,
as I have related, that This is a Day for Very Great
We have quite naturally assumed that those men are
great who have attained positions of prominence and
power in the affairs of the world, either in the field of
+F3 Seven Valleys. Baha'u'llah.
affairs or in the realm of the intellect. When asked to
name the great ones of history: if we admire power we
at once think of Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Cyrus the
Great, Alexander. If we admire intellect we think of
Plato, Aristotle, Herbert Spencer, Einstein.
That is to say, we judge men by our own standards:
and it necessarily follows that only those who are greatest
among men are able to judge truly what constitutes real
greatness, for their standards are the highest, and they
alone live up to those standards and exemplify their
How few there were during the first two centuries of
the Christian era who recognized the dazzling brilliancy
of the Sun of Reality in Jesus the Christ! Who would
ever have associated the word "Great" with the humble
fisher-folk who followed Him! Yet where are kings and
empires now whose power then topped all the world!
And where those humble ones!
So when that truly Great One spoke to me of this Day
in which Very Great Things were to be accomplished
His vision embraced the future centuries in which the
humblest of the servants of the Glory of God (Baha'u'llah)
should shine resplendent in the Heavens of the
Universe of His Revelation. What though the path to
this greatness led through the scorn of men of low standards,
of worldly comparisons; through every criticism and
ignominy, even to martyrdom in that path, would it not
be privilege enough to be associated with those who in
former dispensations trod its way and found that Source
of joy which is "the spring of all the gladness of the
Truly he who would be great must be the servant of
all; "the thralls of mankind." "Rejoice and be exceedingly
glad for so persecuted they the Prophets before you."
I remember it was during the following Winter, after
'Abdu'l-Baha's return to the Holy Land, that one day as
I was standing on the comer of Broadway and one of the
down-town streets of New York, a sudden realization of
this true greatness and of the fundamental futility and
falsity of all earthly standards, swept over me and I said
aloud, in the words of Emerson, but with a very different
meaning to the words, forgetful of the crowded street:
"Good-bye, proud world, I'm going Home."
It was the ability of 'Abdu'l-Baha to disclose their own
capacity to those souls who, sincerely seeking the way of
life asked of Him direction to the Path of its attainment,
which made him the supreme Teacher and set their feet
upon the straight and narrow road. He never descended
to the plane of the questioner except when He recognized
his lack of capacity at that time for higher understanding.
To such He spoke in terms conducive to his
happiness on the plane occupied at the time. To a mother
who anxiously inquired of Him how she should treat a
difficult child. He said that she should make him happy
and make him free. And this sums up the attitude he
invariably assumed in dealing with a seeking soul.
Men are wandering the wilderness of Time and Place;
caught in the net of circumstance; befooled by the illusions
of sense. They are not aware of this, and that
ignorance constitutes the tragedy of life. Nevertheless
they long above all else to escape that wilderness in which
they wander so forlorn. Under the pressure of this instinctive
yearning they experiment with every path which
offers the slightest hope of freedom. To the vast majority,
that escape seems easiest along the path of what they call
pleasure. To others fame and power beckon, saying: "follow
me and I will give you in the adulation of the world
that respite from self for which you long."
To still others the refuge lies in the realms of intellect.
In extending the barriers of nature; in probing into the
microscopic universe; in breaking down the atom and
bombarding the electron; in sweeping inter-stellar space
with powerful and ever more powerful telescopes,-all
are seeking, though they know it not, for Him Who is
in their very heart of hearts, "closer than their own
identity." Inherently, fundamentally, essentially, inescapably
dissatisfied with all the contingent world can
offer they yet seek to find within its scope that answer
to their questing soul and mind without which they can
never find rest. They know instinctively that they must
escape the self and so they seek, in flying from it to
the world around them, the refuge from its grasp for
which they yearn. Their longing is for an eternal
Home, for knowledge and love of God, but they know
But 'Abdu'l-Baha knew it, as all the Leaders of the
Race have known it. They know what lies deep in the
heart of man. So He knew what lay hidden in the innermost
heart of the questioner. Hence He answered the
unspoken, not the spoken word.
When this marvellous technique of teaching began to
dawn upon me I recognized for the first time the truly
sublime function of any soul aspiring to lead another soul
in the Way of Truth. I began to see why the Master of
this technique seemed to evade many of my questions,
speaking instead of the great opportunities of service and
love in the very spot which I then occupied.
How our schools and universities would be filled with
the exultant joy of eager students advancing in this Path
if their boards of trustees, presidents and teachers had even
the slightest glimmer of this technique of teaching! The
full recognition of just one fundamental fact is all that is
necessary: that every soul in the world is "bewildered in
search of the Friend." +F4
They do not want answers to their individual, personal
and particular questions, though they think they do. They
desire one thing only: that basic Truth which will make
them independent of all the man-made book-learning
which, like a "gloomy dust rises from men of limitation"
and has enveloped them and all the world.
They want the Sunlight of the World of Reality.
They can see the Path for themselves once free from the
darkness of the contingent world and the "prison of self."
In that glorious effulgence every question is its own answer;
Heaven is found in the reaching hand; God becomes
the very ear with which man hears the answer to all his
+F4 Seven Valleys: Baha'u'llah.
queries. For when we speak of "God," we speak of Truth,
Wisdom, the Way of joyful and successful Life, the
"Abode of Peace." Eternal Life, the World of Reality,
for all these are synonyms of God, and to attain this
knowledge should be the object of all education.
It was 'Abdu'l-Baha's positive knowledge of this Truth
which enabled Him to reach the hidden divine Self lying
deep beneath the piled-up rubbish of the contingent world
harvested by the outer mind and the fruitless energy of
the functioning body. "It is my hope," He once said to
me and often to others, "that thou mayest arise to such a
station that no longer shalt thou need to question." +F5
Our first personal contact with the Master after His
return to New York was at a meeting of the friends in
the studio of Miss Juliet Thompson in W. 10th St., where
she painted the immortal portrait of 'Abdu'l-Baha. I had
become a constant attendant at the meetings of a study
class held there every Friday evening, and it is largely
due to these contacts that my interest was kept unflagging.
'Abdu'l-Baha's theme that evening was two-fold. First,
the manifest power and majesty of Baha'u'llah, in that
in spite of his rigorous incarceration He dominated prison
walls and governors and jailers. And secondly: His conclusive
demonstration that the teachings of Baha'u'llah
contained many things never revealed by the preceding
Prophets of God.
In the prison city of Akka near Mt. Carmel, Baha'u'llah
was incarcerated for 28 years, after His 12 years
+F5 Promulgation of Universal Peace, Vol. 11, p. 453.
of exile, and His Son, 'Abdu'l-Baha for exactly 40 years.
Yet from that prison Baha'u'llah wrote to the Shah of
Persia and to that unspeakable tyrant, Abdu'l-Hamid,
"severely arraigning them for their oppression of their
subjects and their misuse of power."
"Consider how marvellous it was for a prisoner under
the eye and control of the Turks to arraign so boldly
and severely the very king responsible for his imprisonment.
What power is this! What greatness! Nowhere in
history can the record of such happening be found."
"Although a prisoner in a fortress He paid no heed to
these kings, regarded not their power of life and death,
but on the contrary addressed them in plain and fearless
It is impossible to describe the majesty of 'Abdu'l-Baha
as He uttered these words. His face was illumined with
a radiance not of this world. His being seemed possessed
with that very Power of which He spoke. It was
His custom, often, to pace up and down while the measured
cadences of His voice filled the room, and sentence
by sentence, His words were translated by the interpreter.
In this instance, however, the room being not overlarge,
and crowded to its utmost capacity by the friends, there
was little space for movement where He stood. Nevertheless
His spiritual vitality seemed to overflow the room
+F6 Ibid., p. 427.
and it was as if (so it seemed to me, at least) He were
striding its every part, searching deeply each heart. It
was as if He were saying: This is that Power of which
Christ spoke. The legions of angels for which He refused
to call were summoned by Baha'u'llah, for the Time
foretold by Christ had come, and the King of kings had
mounted His Throne.
The second subject to which He addressed Himself
related to those teachings which Baha'u'llah enunciated
which were absolutely new, and could be found in
no revelation of past dispensations. I will not attempt
to recapitulate the essence of His words. Sufficient to
say that He itemized nine points in the Revelation of
Baha'u'llah which were new. "This," He said, "is in
answer to those who ask: 'what is there in the teachings
of Baha'u'llah which has not been heard before'?"
His closing words expressed the power which arises
"Pray that my enemies become multiplied," He quoted
from Baha'u'llah's Words-"They are My heralds. Pray
that their number be increased and that they may cry out
more loudly. The more they abuse me and the greater
their agitation, the more potent and mighty will be the
efficacy of the Cause of God. And eventually the gloomy
darkness of the outer world will pass away and the light
of Reality will shine until the whole earth will be effulgent
with its glory ." +F7
+F7 Promulgation of Universal Peace, Vol. ii" p. 431.
Address In the Great Northern Hotel
THE UNIVERSE OF BAHA'U'LLAH. THE
EVOLUTION OF MAN. THE GLORY OF
"I have offered up My soul and My body as a sacrifice
for God, the Lord of all worlds. I speak naught except at
His bidding, and follow naught, through the power of
God and His might, except His truth. He, verily, shall
recompense the truthful."
Gleanings from the Writing of Baha'u'llah p. 126.
THE great assemblage gathered at the banquet in the
Great Northern Hotel on the evening of November
29th marked the culmination or 'Abdu'l-Baha's public
addresses in this country. Memory brings to mind no
other occasion charged with such significances. Here
were gathered together upwards of about 600 souls. The
magnificent banquet hall was filled to its utmost capacity.
All degrees of wealth and poverty; of culture and its lack;
representatives of the white, yellow, black and brown
races, as well as of many nations of the East and West,
The object of this meeting was as universal as the
audience. It was not to advance any personal or political
ambition; not in the interest of any social or financial
group, nor any religious organization. This fact alone
suffices to mark it as unique: but when we consider
'Abdu'l-Baha's own definition of its objectives it is recognized
that its exceptional nature is more than excelled
by their grandeur.
"This meeting of yours tonight is a universal
gathering, it is heavenly and divine in purpose
because it serves the oneness of the world of humanity
and promotes International Peace. It is devoted to the
solidarity and brotherhood of the human race, the spiritual
welfare of mankind, unity of religious teaching with the
principles of science and reason. It promotes love and fraternity
among all mankind, seeks to abolish and destroy
barriers which separate the human family, proclaims the
equality of man and woman, instills divine precepts and
morals, illumines and quickens minds with heavenly perception,
attracts the infinite bestowals of God, removes
racial, national and religious prejudices and establishes
die foundation of the heavenly kingdom in the hearts
of all nations and peoples." +F1
It is difficult to assign to any one summation of the
Baha'i Faith the reason for its acceptance. Yet it is not too
+F1 Promulgation of Universal Peace, Vol. 11, p. 443.
much to say that for me, at the stage of understanding to
which I had at that time attained, it seemed that no
rational mind could refuse at least its eager, instant and alert investigation.
Surely no one could deny the worthfulness
of these objectives.
But the picture presented by this summary is not complete
without including in it the personality and life-
history of Him who spoke.
For here stood the living representative, the very incarnation
of the ideals He presented so calmly. There
was not one of these lofty expressions which He failed
to exemplify in every word, thought, deed of His daily
life. I state this, not because of that which I have read concerning
His life of service from His eighth year; not
because even his enemies and persecutors have united in
unwilling admission of His love for them and all souls
irrespective of their attitude towards Him and the Faith
He loved, but I state it from my own intense scrutiny
during many personal contacts with that sublime
Those who have read this chronicle with care, seeking
to pierce the poor words that the underlying spirit may
be revealed, will understand my meaning. "The condition
of spiritual insight can penetrate this meaning, not
controversy nor conflict." +F2 No more could one imagine
'Abdu'l-Baha descending to the plane of personal prejudice,
animosity towards any living creature, avoidance
of any rational argument, or moving and speaking under
any other guidance than the indwelling, all-enclosing
+F2 Seven Valleys -- Baha'u'llah
Holy Spirit, than one could imagine the sun ceasing its
shining. That which He was He caught. That which He
taught He lived. Is it any wonder that that assemblage
may be truly regarded as so unique in character as to have
few, if any, parallels in history?
There is another feature of this address which impressed
me deeply at the time. There was no mention whatever
of the Baha'i Faith as such, nor of himself nor of Baha'u'llah.
It is as if He would say: Here are the ideals and
purposes for which I stand. If you find them worthful
perhaps you will wish to investigate whence comes the
Power which has brought them within the last sixty years
before the attention of mankind which, during all the
period of recorded history, has been negligent, opposed
and scornful of every one of them. It will be time enough
for you to investigate the doctrine, the philosophy, the
spiritual dynamic back of the teachings, after you have
approved and sought to live the life I present to you. "He
that doeth the works shall know of the doctrine."
Often have I been asked the question: "Why are you
a believer in the teachings of Baha'u'llah? " Perhaps the
above summary of the outward teachings, and the descriptions
of my contacts with the Teacher, will assist the
reader to answer that question. But also, perhaps, a more
explicit answer is required. That answer is to be found in
the universal demand of the normal human being for a
basic Truth upon which he may found his life.
I am not a believer because of any preconceived explanation
of this fundamental Truth based upon the ideas
of those around me, as, for instance, the Christian is such
because he was brought up under its teachings, or the
Muhammcdan is such because he was born where those
principles are prevalent, and so with all other followers
of the various theologies of the world. I am first of all,
humanly speaking, a rational being. I have a mind which
requires intellectual satisfactions. I have found in the
teachings of Baha'u'llah and 'Abdu'l-Baha much more
satisfactory explanations of the meaning, the origin and
the destiny of life, than I have elsewhere found. I have
no hesitation whatever in asserting that if tomorrow a
better, more satisfying, more illuminating philosophy, a
more spiritual dynamic should be presented to me, I would
accept it without hesitation.
But, and this it seems to me, is conclusive as to the
reason for its acceptance. The teachings of Baha'u'llah
comprise a veritable Universe of wisdom. It is no more
possible to define Its limits than for even an Einstein to
define the limits of the material universe.
I remember many years ago we entertained a friend at
our home who was curious to know why we had so enthusiastically
accepted the Baha'i Faith. She was a young
woman of great gifts. An artist and sculptor; a cultured
mind, a wide experience and a seeking soul characterized
her. She remarked, after we had been conversing for some
time: "But how is one to decide between the many various
beliefs of humanity? I have, for instance, a Jewish
friend who is just as certain that his faith comprises all
that mind or heart could need as you are of the Baha'i
faith. And I have another friend who is an ardent Christian
Scientist. She cannot understand why every human
being should not believe as she does. And of course many
of my friends are sincere Christians, both Catholic and
Protestant, who are equally certain that the tenets of their
faith hold all that is necessary to life here and hereafter.
The Buddhist, the Muhammedan, the Theosophist are
equally certain. Who then is to decide'"
We answered: "How thankful we should be that souls
in every faith are found sincerely seeking and following
Truth, for Truth is one. But I wonder if you have found
many among your friends who believe in and follow with
all their hearts the teachings and example of the founders
of all the faiths. Does your Catholic friend, for example,
fully sympathize with, and sincerely love, his Protestant
brother? Does your Christian Science friend accept the
teachings of her Jewish friend? Can you imagine the
Buddhist believer accepting and loving the Christian
Scientist, the Muhammedan and the Jew, as equal participators
in the Fountain of Universal Truth?
Without hesitation she answered: "Of course not. No
one could possibly do that."
"And yet," we said to her gently, "that is exactly what
the Baha'i teachings require. No one can lay the slightest
claim to that title who does not accept all the Prophets
as Mouthpieces of the One God. Their basic teachings
are identical. The laws promulgated by Them differ
superficially since their function is to guide men to a
higher civilization, and the needs of the time demand
specific applications of those eternal principles. Consequently
to accept one of these Manifestations of the Infinite
Wisdom and Power is to accept all: to reject One
is to reject all. That is what Baha'u'llah means by belief
in "the Oneness and Singleness of God."
This illustrates what I mean by a conclusive reason for
the rational, logical mind's acceptance of Baha'u'llah's
teachings. The Circle He draws is so inclusive that no
creature is omitted; no question unanswered; no problem
unsolved; no perplexity unclarified. And this is not because
these intellectual, social, economic and religious
problems are minimized, but because they are simplified:
reduced to their essentials and so ordered and classified
that any high-school youth may regulate his life thereby.
To illustrate: Our materialistic theory of evolution
begins with the primordial cell and ends with man. This
leaves a vast field absolutely untouched. The whole realm
of the emotional, ethical, moral and spiritual man becomes
a sort of No Man's Land. Is it any wonder that tornados
of controversy have raged over this field? Baha'u'llah
teaches that God and His creation are co-eternal: since
there could nor he imagined a Creator ante-dating a
creation; a king without a kingdom; a general without an
army. This undercuts, you see, the endless discussions as
to man's origin and the beginnings of life. Whether one
accepts it or not it cannot be denied that it is basic.
'Abdu'l-Baha was once asked which is the most important
component in man's, evolution, heredity or environment.
He answered that both are important, but in considering
the question of evolution one must always remember
that Man's true Father is God. Here we have a foundation
for our reasoning than which no more fundamental
one may be conceived It does not exclude any intellectual
or materialistic (if there is such a thing) explanation of the
origin of Man, but it includes the whole field which our
savants leave out. It does not negate the former but it
gives to it a radiant simplicity, a clarifying emotion, without
which endless strife and contention ensue. And again,
there is nothing in this hypothesis contrary to our most
advanced scientific thinking:
"Some call it evolution and others call It God."
Here, by the way, is another illustration of Baha'u'llah's
simplifying fundamentals. He urges man towards
freedom from the entangling, confusing, strife-producing
slavery to definitive words, the "Sea of Names" He calls
it. He directs attention to the Reality underlying all our
futile attempts to characterize it and limit it.
'Abdu'l-Baha, speaking on the subject of Economics,
has said: "All economic problems may be solved by the
application of the Science of the Love of God." That
is to say: if the Rule called golden and treated as if it
were leaden (Worse: for lead has its uses but so far as
one may determine, the Golden Rule has been laid on a
shelf whose dust is seldom disturbed.)-if that Rule were
actually applied to the world's economic problems, which
if not solved bid fair to destroy us, and the love of God,
the sort of love which makes a home life happy, were used
as a scientific measurement to regulate our international
and national affairs; to settle all relations between labor
and capital, between rich and poor: to regulate all coinage
and commerce, can there be any doubt that the results
would be far more conducive to human welfare than our
present policies have produced?
Again: Baha'u'llah asserted the principle that the
human race is essentially of one stock and that the conception
of "The Oneness of Humanity" is essential to
modern civilization. 'Abdu'l-Baha in the course of His
many talks on this subject has shown conclusively that
all the races spring from one root-race, and that the
superficial differences of color, physiognomy, etc., are
due to the age-long influences of climate and food following
on successive migrations of the root-race. Here
again, not only are we in absolute accord with the most
modern discoveries of anthropologists and ethnologists,
but, taken as a corollary to the above principles, we have
a scientific basis for approach to the problem presented
by the so-called "under-privileged," "backward," "subject"
individuals and peoples which, once thoroughly
understood and practically applied as a scientific discovery,
would immediately inaugurate an international
policy which in one generation could result only in the
automatic disintegration of racial, national, color,
economic and religious prejudice with their attendant
horrors of lynchings, pogroms, expatriations, armed
frontiers: together with their only slightly lesser evils
such as tariffs, money monopolies, cornering of markets,
"colonial expansion" and a legion of similar devils.
We could illustrate indefinitely but this is sufficient to
explain my point, which is that the teachings of Baha'u'llah
are simple, definite, easily understood by the normal
mind, undeniable by the most scientific mind, workable
and practical in the settlement of all modem questions,
and so universal as to be applicable by any individual
I have gone into the matter at some length because an
understanding of this is essential to an answer to the question
so often asked: "What is there in these teachings
which I, or any other thoughtful man, may consider
worthful enough to adopt?" The Revelation of Baha'u'llah
envisages an entirely new World Order based on
essential and eternal principles which, when applied, will
result in a peace, prosperity and happiness never before
secured. They have a spiritual or religious foundation, of
course, but these terms are used with a connotation absolutely
new and in accord with all scientific investigations
and human experience.
The closing words of this brief address at the banquet
in the Great Northern Hotel emphasizes this fundamental
criterion of values:
"This meeting is verily the noblest and most worthy of
all meetings in the world because of these underlying
spiritual and universal purposes. Such a banquet and
assemblage command the sincere devotion of all present
and invite the downpouring of the blessings of God. . . .
Be ye confident and steadfast; your services are confirmed
by the powers of heaven, for your intentions are lofty,
your purposes pure and worthy. God is the helper of
those souls whose efforts and endeavors are devoted to
the good and betterment of all mankind."+F3
Six days later I attended a meeting at which 'Abdu'l-Baha
spoke on "The Mystery of Sacrifice." Ever since my
+F3 Promulgation of Universal Peace, Vol. 11, p. 444.
first acquaintance with the Baha'i teachings this aspect of
them had unaccountably moved my interest, as is evidenced
by my questioning of the Master in the early
stages of this interest concerning renunciation. (See
Why this should be so I cannot determine even now,
for to most of those who surrounded the Master at the
time the emphasis seemed to be on the joy and happiness
attending the New Birth. But to me the throes of parturition
were too apparent, too agonizing, too demanding to
evade notice. The cutting of the umbilical cord which
bound me to the matrix of this world exacted such concentrated
attention that little time was left, little opportunity
afforded, for any true estimate of the world into
which I was being ushered.
Perhaps my intense interest in the subject of self-
sacrifice was founded in the clear realization, long experienced,
that selfishness, egotism, pride in one's accomplishments
(however limited), personal standards of
values, were the great deterrents of both spiritual and
material progress and peace. There was no question that
those around me as well as myself, to say nothing of the
underlying spirit motivating the statesmen, business
leaders, courts of law and social usage, were all obsessed
by this animal-self -psychology. The theologians seemed
no less under its sway. Their emphasis truly was upon
sacrifice but it was Someone Else's Sacrifice and that
seemed altogether too easy a way out, to say nothing of
its inherent dishonesty and Utter irrationality,
And yet that sacrifice is a principle underlying all life
is plain to any thoughtful observer. The relation between
food and the eater is usually considered from the standpoint
of the eater alone. But surely if the food could be
consulted its attitude would be quite other. It has two
possibilities for a standard of judgment. It could be either
that of resentment at the loss of its station of animal or
vegetable, or it could be one of exultation over its change
from the station of animal and vegetable matter to the
station of the human organism, and the possibility offered
it of becoming a working part of the muscle, nerve and
brain of man. We look upon the world of Nature and see
it as the battleground between the weak and the strong.
But it is just as possible to view it as the field of sacrifice
wherein lower or weaker forms of life become transformed
into higher and stronger ones through its self-
sacrifice. In fact it is quite possible that one of the causes
back of the slow evolution of species is this very principle
So when 'Abdu'l-Baha opened His address with these
words: "This evening I wish to speak to you concerning
the mystery of sacrifice," +F4 my deepest attention became
riveted. After pointing out that the accepted explanation
of the Sacrifice of Christ is pure superstition for it appeals
neither to common sense nor reason, He went on to
explain the true meaning of the word, dividing it into
First: that Christ's sacrifice consisted in the willing
abdication of all this world has to offer, including life
itself, in order that He might lead men into the path of
+F4 Promulgation of Universal Peace, Vol. 11, pp.444-448
"Had He desired to save His own life, and were He
without wish to offer Himself in sacrifice. He would not
have been able to guide a single soul. This is one of the
meanings of sacrifice."
A second meaning lies in the true explanation of His
saying that "He who eats of My body shall live eternally."
There is no question that the physical body of
Christ was born of Mary, but the Reality of Christ, the
perfections of Christ came from heaven."
Consequently He meant that if any man partake of
these perfections and sacrificed the perfections of the
material world for the divine perfections he would enter
into the heavenly world in which Christ Himself lived,
and would necessarily escape the limitations of the mortal
The third meaning: "A seed sacrifices itself to the
tree that will come out of it. Outwardly the seed is lost
but the same seed which is sacrificed will be embodied in
the tree, its branches, blossoms and fruits. If the identity
of chat seed had not been sacrificed to the tree no branches,
blossoms or fruits would have been forthcoming."
"Christ outwardly disappeared, but the bounties, divine
qualities and perfections of Christ became manifest in the
Christian community which Christ founded through
"The fourth significance of sacrifice is the principle that
a reality sacrifices its own characteristics. Man must
sever himself from the world of nature and its laws, for
the material world is the world of corruption and death.
It is the world of evil and darkness, of animalism and
ferocity, bloodthirstiness and avarice and ambition, of
self-worship, egotism and passion. Man must strip himself
of these tendencies which are peculiar to the outer and
material world of existence."
"On the other hand, man must acquire heavenly qualities
and divine attributes. He must become the image
and likeness of God; must become the manifestor of the
love of God, the light of guidance, the tree of life and
the depository of the bounties of God.
"That is to say man must sacrifice the qualities and
attributes of the world of nature for the qualities and
attributes of the world of God."
May I ask the reader to note the ascending scale of
these definitions, and the final emphasis upon the individual's
responsibility if he is to achieve this final station of
perfection. Here is no dependence on another's sacrifice.
The call is to you and me to abandon, at whatever cost,
the world of the animal the beastly, the material man,
in order that we may enter this world of Reality, unsubject
to the laws of time, place and decay. And how
logical! How simple it is all made. Could anything be
more beautiful, more winning, than His illustration of
the sacrifice of the iron to the fire.
"Observe the qualities of the iron, ..... it is solid, it is
black, it is cold. When the same iron absorbs
heat from the fire it sacrifices its attributes of coldness
for the attribute of heat which is a quality of the fire;
so that in iron there remains no solidity, no darkness or
cold. It becomes illumined and transformed having sacrificed
its qualities to the qualities and attributes of the
fire. Likewise man when separated and severed from the
attributes of the world of nature sacrifices the qualities
and exigencies of that mortal realm and manifests the
perfections of the Kingdom, just as the qualities of the
iron disappeared and the qualities of the fire appeared in
their place." "Consequently every perfect person, every
illumined, heavenly individual stands in the station of
sacrifice . . . May the divine light become manifest
upon your faces, the fragrance of holiness refresh your
nostrils and the Breath of the Holy Spirit quicken you
with eternal Life " +F5
As these closing words fell upon my ears it seemed for
the first time in the long years of search and struggle that
a sure and attainable Goal was in sight. Is it possible to
imagine any price one would not pay for this attainment?
For the goal is nothing less than perfection.
And here something must be interpolated as to the
meaning of "perfection" in the Baha'i terminology. It
must never be overlooked that the substratum underlying
all "'Abdu'l-Baha's statements is logical and scientific.
+F5 Promulgation of Universal Peace, Vol. II, p447-48
Nothing is ever stated (at least this is true in principle)
that is not susceptible of proof. In using this word "perfection,"
for instance, the principle of relativity is recognized.
Jesus' statement that: "There is none good save
God," is understood as a scientific axiom: That is, perfection
is seen as impossible except to the Unconditioned,
the "Self-subsistent," all other perfection is relative. We
speak of a perfect rose. We do not mean that a more
beautiful, more satisfying one cannot be imagined, but
simply that so far as our experience goes that rose, at
that particular moment, strikes us as the most beautiful
one, the most perfect one, we have ever seen. Nor do
we when we speak of the rose as occupying that position
contrast this perfection, or include it, with or in any
category comprehending other objects than the rose, or
even any other than that particular color, or type of rose.
We may in the next moment speak of a perfect sunset, or
a perfect baby, or a perfect action, but always with the
same reservation of relativity.
So when we speak of a perfect man. We do not mean,
nor could we possibly ever mean, no matter to what
heights of nobility he may have attained, that he could
not be more noble, more "perfect." We simply mean that
the heights to which he has attained, compared to the
average standards of human behavior, are more nearly our
ideal than we have heretofore met.
So then it resolves itself into a question of personal and
individual standards, or units of measurement. The
gangster's ideal of perfection would be quite other than
Abraham Lincoln's. Each soul must create, or absorb, an
ideal of perfection which is at once within reach and
satisfying to himself.
The difference between the Baha'i ideal and any heretofore
presented lies in the fact that the Baha'i program
includes group perfection. It involves the postulate of
man as a gregarious, a social, a cosmopolitan, an international,
a world being. A perfect man, then, under this
category, must simply have attributes which will, if extended
to a sufficient number of individuals, result in a
World Order the goal of which is the elimination of those
factors which have in the past, and still have, resultants
tending cowards relative imperfections both in the individual
In the use of the word "perfection," (see bottom of
page 63) I mean that for the first time the ideals held for
many years as a Christian believer, of approximating my
rules of conduct to those laid down and exemplified by
the Christ, came within the purview of possibility, of
probability-nay, of certainty. I said to myself: "If it
should take a hundred thousand years, in this life or in
some other, it can be done and must be done."
At that time the "World Order" of Baha'u'llah had
not been elaborated, although it had been visioned
implicitly in the writings of Baha'u'llah, and since been
elaborated and explained by 'Abdu'l-Baha. But it was even
then plain to any clear thinking person that such perfections
of individual attainment needed only sufficient extension
of acceptance and approximation to make the present
world disorder of war, crime, poverty and confusion if not
impossible at least much decreased. In fact the words of
Baha'u'llah and of 'Abdu'l-Baha are filled with glowing
descriptions of world conditions when these ideals are put
"This world shall become as a garden and a paradise."
"This mound of earth shall become the mound of heaven."
Perhaps it was the clear explication of the results accruing
to one attaining the "station of sacrifice" which
stirred me most deeply. Freedom from the lower, the
animal, the selfish, the egoistic self! What a Goal to hold
before the mind. And no longer was it a vague, illusory
goal. It had become, for that moment of clear insight at
least, a goal in sight, an attainable goal.
Moreover the very word "sacrifice" had become
alluring. No longer did it connote suffering, deprivation.
It was clearly seen as the exchange of something less
worthful for something infinitely more worthful. It had
become not a giving up of desirables but the acquisition
of desirables. Instead of a doubtful proposition in which
the profit was intangible and uncertain, it had assumed
the proportions of a clear-cut business proposition. I was
in the market for pearls. I had now my eye on the Pearl
of Greatest Price.
INSTRUCTION IN THE WAY OF LIFE. WHAT
IS AUTHORITY? THE SCIENCE OF THE LOVE
"The Ancient Beauty hath consented to be bound with
chains that mankind may be released from bondage,
and hath accepted to be made a prisoner within this
most mighty stronghold that the whole world may attain
unto true liberty. He hath drained to its dregs the cup
of sorrow that all peoples of the earth may attain unto
abiding joy, and be filled with gladness." +F1
As the day drew near which should mark the close
or 'Abdu'l-Baha's visit in America the thought of
His departure and the consequent end of the possibility
of speaking to Him, of even a few words with Him, even
of the privilege, inestimable it had grown to seem to me,
of watching Him as He spoke or moved, or sat silent
while others spoke, became increasingly insupportable.
I fear that the first five days of December, 1912, my home
and church people saw little of me. Wherever He was
+F1 Gleanings from the writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 99.
there was I if by any juggling of hours and duties it could
possibly be managed. The only occasion I missed was
His address before the Theosophical Society the evening
before He sailed, which fell on a night when I was unavoidably
busy elsewhere. But for the rest, day and night,
I haunted the home at 780 West End Ave. where 'Abdu'l-Baha
spent those last days with the friends to whom I
have often referred in this narrative, who had placed all
that they had at His disposal during His stay in the
One of the occasions which stand out most vividly in
my memory was on the afternoon of Dec. 2nd when the
Master in the presence of a group of the friends, spoke
to us words so enthralling, so simple, so impressive and
stimulating to the highest in man's nature, that I can find
no parallel save in the last Words of Jesus to His disciples.
I confidently leave it to the reader whether this comparison
is justified. He spoke very briefly: about 300
words as they are recorded in the collection of His addresses
in this country. I shall quote them in full. They are
worth it. But no record of the Words themselves, moving
and uplifting as they are, could possibly convey the
majesty, the gentleness, the humility, the love which
animated them. I sat very close to Him and it seemed
there flowed from Him to me a veritable stream of spiritual
energy which at times was overpowering. After a
few words to the effect that since these were His last days
with us He wished to give us His "last instructions and
exhortations" and that these "were none other than the
teachings of Baha'u'llah," He continued:
"You must manifest complete love and affection towards
all mankind. Do not exalt yourselves above others
but consider all as your equals, recognizing them as the
servants of one God. Know that God is compassionate
towards all, therefore love all from the depths of your
hearts, prefer all religionists to yourselves, be filled with
love for every race and be kind cowards the people of all
nationalities. Never speak disparagingly of others but
praise without distinction. Pollute not your tongues by
speaking evil of another. Recognize your enemies as your
friends and consider those who wish you evil as the
wishers of good. You must not see evil as evil and then
compromise with your opinion, for to treat in a smooth,
kindly way one whom you consider evil or an enemy is
hypocrisy and this is not worthy nor allowable. No! You
must consider your enemies as your friends, look upon
your evil-wishers as your well-wishers and treat them accordingly.
Act in such a way that your heart may be free
from hatred. Let not your heart be offended with any one.
If some one commits an error and wrong towards you,
you must instantly forgive him. Do not complain of
others. Refrain from reprimanding them and if you wish
to give admonition or advice let it be offered in such a
way that it will not burden the heart of the hearer. Turn
all your thoughts towards bringing joy to hearts.
Beware! Beware! Lest ye offend any heart. Assist the
world of humanity as much as possible. Be the source of
consolation to every sad one, assist every weak one, be
helpful to every indigent one. be the cause of glorification
to every lowly one and shelter those who are overshadowed
In brief, let each of you be as a lamp shining forth
with the virtues of the world of humanity. Be trustworthy,
sincere, affectionate and replete with chastity.
Be illumined, be spiritual, be divine, be glorious, be
quickened of God. Be a Baha'i." +F2
In these days of unfaith when the world of intellect is
obsessed with delusions of its own infallibility, when
science has abrogated all dependence upon other than its
own findings; when the very word "Authority," as the
source of any truth, is anathema even to the most thoughtful
and spiritual amongst them, Words such as these shine
like the sun rising upon a very dark world.
If it may be allowable to question these "ignorant ones
whom men call savants," to quote Baha'u'llah's own
words, I would like one or all of them to submit a definition
of "Authority." Do they absolve themselves from all
dependence upon it or only from that form of authority
which deals with matters relating to what the five senses
may apprehend? Do they accept Aristotle and Newton
and Hegel and Spencer and Einstein as "authorities" in
their fields but refuse to accept Moses and Buddha and
Jesus and Muhammad and Baha'u'llah and 'Abdu'l-Baha
as Authorities in theirs? Do they postulate before they
begin to think they think that there are no such things in
man's experience as wife and child and friend and home
where love and self-sacrifice are assumed as integral parts
of man's nature? Do they cancel out all aspiration, all love
of beauty and truth, all heroism and remorse?
+F2 Promulgation of Universal Peace, vol. II, pp.448-49
"Ah, but you go too fast," I hear one remonstrate.
"We do not accept any of these men of whom you speak
as "authorities" in their chosen field. If we should, gone
would be all progress, all invention, all hope for further
truth. We accept such as "authorities" only until they
have been disproven as such. When Einstein and
Minkowski, for instance, published their revolutionary
ideas which changed all our notions regarding space and
time, and a little later Rutherford introduced ideas equally
changing our fundamental conceptions of matter, we did
not accept them as "authorities." Quite the contrary.
They were pounced upon and subjected to the piercing
inquiry of every scientist in the world. It was only after
this, and even then subject to the reservation of future
discovery, that they were hailed as provisional authorities.
A new factor may be introduced at any moment entirely
altering the foundation upon which their structure of
hypothesis is reared. That is why we refuse to accept in
the realm of the unmaterial what we cannot accept in the
realm of the senses."
If I have not quoted you accurately yet it seems to
me that this is what you must say, for it is the status to
which the scientific thinker is reduced. And I would
farther ask him, then, if by any chance he actually believes
that the modem thinker along spiritual and nonmaterial
lines takes any different attitude towards what
he calls revealed Truth? Certainly the Baha'i does not.
The first principle under which the consistent Baha'i
thinker acts is "The independent investigation of truth."
This is definitely urged, I had almost said commanded, by
Baha'u'llah. 'Abdu'l-Baha, in explaining this fundamental
"Religion must conform to science and reason, otherwise
it is superstition. God has created man in order that
he may perceive the verity of existence and endowed him
with mind and reason to discover truth. Therefore
scientific knowledge and religious belief must be conformable
to the analysis of this divine faculty in man."
"If religion is opposed to reason and science faith is
impossible, and when faith and confidence in the divine
religion are not manifest in the heart there can be no
And yet again:
"God has bestowed upon man the gift of mind in
order that he may weigh every fact or truth presented
to him and adjudge it to be reasonable." And finally,
though such citations could be multiplied almost indefinitely:
"It were better to have no religion than a
religion which did Doc conform to reason."
That is to say the modem religious thinker's definitions
of "authority" conform in every respect to the scientist's
own definitions. Nothing is accepted until passed through
the alembic of man's reason. The only difference lies in
the fact that the Baha'i (which term simply connotes
a true seeker after Light and who loves the Light from
whatever Lamp it shines) extends the limits of his search
for truth to include not only the resources of the senses
but the equally, if not superior, important spheres of the
emotions, the ideals, the aspirations and longings of the
human soul and spirit.
I have long inwardly fretted against the assumption of
the self-styled "intellectuals" that the field of "science"
was bounded solely by the realm of sense impression.
Why should not the word science include the whole field
of man's experience? Someone has said that nothing may
be proved that is worthy of proof. If anyone should suggest
to you or to me that our love for wife or child has
no existence because it cannot be subjected to proof by
the microscope I think we might reasonably consider that
an insulting remark had been made. Yet as a matter of
fact Love is just as susceptible of "proof as is the law
of gravitation, which, by the way, our modem scientists
are now proceeding to cast doubt upon. But they do not
dare to cast doubt on the phenomenon of Love and its
various manifestations in the racial experience of man, for
it is susceptible of the proof offered by the total field of
So when I unhesitatingly accept such words as are
quoted here as "authoritative" in matters dealing with
the ideal and satisfactory life it is only after they have
passed the bar of my reason and judgment. Surely these
adjurations are not unreasonable. The mind will find some
difficulty in denying their simple rationality. Nor could
the emotions, the "heart," reject them as puerile and unsatisfying.
Nor could experience as we know it personally,
or through racial history, deny their success when applied
to the affairs of men; else Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus,
Emerson, and a host of their ilk are foolish chasers of the
If, then, the authorities in the field of material science
are such only in the accepted sense that they are subject
to the challenge of individual reason and the Baha'i (any
sincere and unprejudiced seeker after Truth) defines his
authority in the same terms; if both hold such authorities
as subject to displacement by a higher Truth if it should
be presented, and if the field covered by one of these
"Authorities" is far wider than the other, far more satisfying
to the whole nature of man, far more remunerative
in terms of actual living, it would seem to me that not only
have we reason to designate both as operating within the
realms of "science" but that that which covers the widest
realm must be the greatest, the most fundamental of all
THE CENTER OF THE COVENANT. THE NEW
WORLD ORDER. A DIVINE CIVILIZATION.
THE KINGDOM OF GOD ON EARTH.
"The world's equilibrium hath been upset through the
vibrating influence of this most great, this new World
Order. Mankind's ordered life hath been revolutionized
through the agency of this unique, this wondrous System
the like of which mortal eyes have never witnessed."
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 136.)
On the evening of the same day, December 2nd,
'Abdu'l-Baha spoke to a large group of the friends
in the same home referred to in the previous chapter.
His theme covered the spiritual teachings peculiar to the
Revelation of Baha'u'llah. It is essential to the complete
understanding of the reader of the influences which have
exerted such a revolutionary effect upon the life of the
writer that the words of 'Abdu'l-Baha on this subject
should be elaborated a bit.
And here I must digress a little to explain why I have
forced myself to write so frankly of the personal and
intimate things which, had I followed my own inclinations,
would have been locked deep within my heart.
There is only one reason. For many years I have striven
to evade the responsibility which this obligation has laid
upon me, and which, under the repeated urging of friends
I can no longer do. The reason is this:
Humanity is one. No individual is without a spiritual,
as well as a physical relationship with every other individual.
The hopes, longings, aspirations of one are those
of each and all. The depths and heights; the agonies and
joys; the victories and defeats vary in intensity with each
individual according to the capacity and courage of each,
but all travel much the same path and all fight over much
the same ground.
If, then, one of these units in the struggling, aspiring
mass has found the Path to the "Abode of Peace"; has
won battles, if not the whole campaign, in this universal
Field, and, knowing that so many of his world-wide
brothers are still "bewildered in search of the Friend";
still so unnecessarily and despairingly involved in a dying
civilization to whom a new courage and hope and energy
might be conveyed by a knowledge of the Way out of
the wilderness found by one who has fought over the
very ground upon which they are more or less aimlessly
and hopelessly fighting, should not the history of that campaign
be recounted that other souls, bewildered and
saddened as I was, might. God willing, be ever so little
assisted in meeting and overcoming the same army of
spiritual enemies? It seems to me that this is a responsibility
which may not be evaded. Hence this history.
This chapter is devoted to a summary of the Teachings
of Baha'u'llah as given by 'Abdu'l-Baha on that
memorable evening. +F1
He began by saying that he would mention some of
the teachings which are peculiar to Baha'u'llah's teachings:
saying that in addition to those he is about to mention
there are many others which are to be found in the
books. Tablets and Epistles written by Baha'u'llah such
as the Hidden Words, Glad Tidings, Words of Paradise,
Tablet of the World and the Aqdas, or Most Holy Law,
which cannot be found in any of the past books or epistles
of other prophets.
"A fundamental teachings of Baha'u'll?h," He began,
"is the oneness of the World of Humanity. Addressing
mankind He said:
"Ye are all leaves of one tree and the fruits of one
branch."... "By this it is meant that the world of humanity
is like a tree, the nations and peoples are the different
limbs or branches of that tree and the individual human
creatures are as the fruits and blossoms thereof* In all the
religious teachings of the past the human world has been
represented as divided into two pans, one the "people of
the Book" (followers of some particular Prophet) or the
pure tree, and the other the people of infidelity and error,
or the evil tree. . . . " Baha'u'llah in His teachings has
submerged all mankind in the sea of Divine Generosity.
Some are asleep, they need to be awakened. Some are
+F1 Promulgation of Universal Peace, vol. II, pp.449-53
ailing, they need to be healed. Some are immature as
children, they need to be trained. But all are recipients
of the bounty and bestowals of God."
I submit to the reader whether or not the application
of this principle to the problems of international statesmanship,
commerce and religion would or would not conduce
to the happiness and prosperity of mankind.
I suggest that the reader, if he questions the scientific
accuracy of the statement (i.e., the implied assertion that
all races and colors have the same capacity for mental and
spiritual advancement; that all are affected by the same
handicaps and freed by the same method), consult some
recognized up-to-date ethnologist on the matter.
"Another new principle," 'Abdu'l-Baha went on, "is the
injunction to investigate Truth; that is to say, no man
should blindly follow his ancestors and forefathers. Nay,
each must see with his own eyes, hear with his own ears
and investigate the truth himself in order that he may
follow the truth instead of blind acquiescence and imitation
of ancestral beliefs." +F2
In the previous chapter I have pointed out how deeply
this affects the traditional connotations of the word
"Authority" but consider how it also affects the connotations
+F2 Ibid., p. 450
mankind has throughout historical times associated
with the words "Religion," "Law," "Government," "Education,"
in fact there is hardly a single angle of our social,
economic, or religious life which is not dominated
by what somebody in the remote past has had to say on
the matter. We are ruled in law by the precedents laid
down either by Roman or Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence.
The very phraseology in which our legal documents are
couched smacks of the dust of courtrooms of a thousand
years ago or more. We are ruled in educational fields by
precedents established when students and teachers alike
were living under conditions, and motivated by ideals, as
different from those of today as could well be imagined.
But why continue? The facts are pikestaffian. And
this monstrous slavery under which we attempt to carry
on in a world of radio-airplane-Soviet newness is not confined
to the so-called thoughtless mob. It is true that for
some centuries yet the vast majority of mankind will be
content to follow rather than lead. As James Truslow
Adams remarks: "Within any appreciable period of time
to expect it ('the vast herd') to reason like John Dewey
is as irrational as to expect it to carve like Phidias or paint
like Rembrandt. It will be guided by its desires and emotions."
But when this subordination of one mind to another,
which functioned possibly 2,000 years ago, extends
to the intellectual, educational, governmental, religious
and legal leaders of the race it behooves us to consider
carefully what kind of ground lies at the bottom of the
precipice towards which we are all rushing so madly.
How hard is the ground? How destructive will be the
certain smashup of a civilization which insists on being
guided by superstition rather than by reason?
How simply, nobly, scientifically Baha'u'llah places
His finger on the crucial spot!
"0 Son of Spirit! The best beloved of all things in My
sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest
Me, and neglect it not that 1 may confide in thee. By its
aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through
the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge
and not through the knowledge of thy neighbour.
Ponder this in thy heart; how it behoveth thee to be.
Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My
loving-kindness. Set it then before thine eyes." +F3
Again I ask the reader to consider what effect would in
all likelihood be produced upon civilization if the leaders
of world thought could suddenly become convinced that
the Author of this sublime paragraph was one of the
long line of divinely inspired Prophets Who has appeared
in the world at this time to act as the Leader of the race in
the establishment of a New World Order, and one of
whose fundamental precepts directs each individual's attention
to his own responsibility. Consider how the application
of this one principle would effect the immediate
overthrow of the abuses in the fields of Religion, Law,
Education and Government. Backed by the emotional
impulse of the Love of God (love of the new Messiah
enshrined within the earthly Temple of the "Glory of
God"), it is impossible to predict the beauty and joy of
the civilization which, within the space of two or three
generations, would be established.
+F3 Hidden Words: Baha'u'llah
"His Holiness Baha'u'llah has announced that the
foundation of all religions is one; that oneness is Truth
and Truth is oneness which does not admit of plurality."
"He sets forth the principle for this day that religion
must be the cause of unity, harmony and agreement
among mankind. If it be the cause of discord and hostility,
if it leads to separation and creates conflict, the
absence of religion would be preferable in the world."
furthermore He proclaims that religion must be in
accord with science and reason. If it does not so conform
it is superstition."
It is unnecessary to enlarge upon the wisdom and common
sense of these principles or to speak of the practical
results accruing from their application. Surely they are
"Again Baha'u'llah establishes the equality of man
and woman. This is peculiar to the teachings of Baha'u'llah,
for all other religions have placed man above
In commenting upon this I simply point out that this
principle as enunciated by the Founder of the Baha'i
Faith was laid down as early as 1853 and in a country,
Persia, which from time immemorial had placed women
on a level with the animal and denied them even the possession
of a soul. It was about 1848 that there arose in
Persia a woman who could well be styled the first woman
suffragist. Qurratu'l-Ayn (Consolation of the eyes).
She was the only woman among the eighteen disciples of
the Bab, the divine forerunner of Bah'u'llah.
"She threw aside the veil," says 'Abdu'l-Baha, "carried
on controversies with the most learned men, and in every
meeting she vanquished them. She was stoned in the
streets, exiled from town to town, threatened with death,
but she never failed in her determination to work for the
freedom of her sisters. She bore persecution with the
greatest heroism and even in prison gained converts. To
a Persian minister, in whose house she was imprisoned,
she said: *You can kill me as soon as you like but you
cannot stop the emancipation of women.* At last she was
strangled and her body thrown into an empty well and
stones piled upon it. Preparing for her execution she put
on her choicest robes as if she were going to a bridal
So speaks 'Abdu'l-Baha of this heroic leader of women
who gave her life for the liberation of her sex at a time
when Susan B. Anthony, Frances Willard and others had
not yet begun the campaign.
"A new religious principle is that prejudice and
fanaticism whether sectarian, denominational, patriotic
or political are destructive to the foundation of human
solidarity. Therefore man should release himself from
such bonds in order that the oneness of the world of
humanity may become manifest." +F4
The cancer at the heart of world society is prejudice.
It affects every relation in life from "other-side-of-the-
tracks" snobbery to racial and religious antagonisms resulting
in lynchings, pogroms and massacres like that of
St. Bartholomew and the centuries long persecution of
the Armenians. I do not ask the reader to believe that
such a cancer may at once be eradicated, but only to ask
himself whether it might not have a fair chance of extermination
if an influential minority of world leaders,
who would necessarily carry with them the mass of their
followers, became convinced (after scientific investigation)
of the "Authority" of the promulgator of this principle.
"Universal Peace," 'Abdu'l-Baha went on, "is assured
by Baha'u'llah as a fundamental accomplishment of
the Religion of God; that peace shall prevail among
nations, governments and peoples; among religions, races
and all conditions of mankind. This is one of the special
characteristics of the Word of God revealed in this Manifestation."
+F4 Promulgation of Universal Peace, Vol. II, p. 450
This is what Baha'u'llah calls "The Most Great
Peace." Note that it implies not the mere cessation of
warfare. It goes to the root of the matter and envisages
the whole composite life of the individual, the society in
which he functions and the emotions which are the mainsprings
"Baha'u'llah declares that all mankind should attain
knowledge and acquire an education."
Again I would point out that this principle found utterance
at a time when education in all parts of the world
was assumed to be the prerogative only of a certain class.
Its acquirement was denied the millions of children and
adults alike whose station in life cut them off from those
privileges of intellectual attainments which are the source
of power. It was rightfully discerned that if the underdogs
should be allowed the same access to the sources of
this power which their rulers possessed their writhings
might displace the mighty from their seats. It is an interesting
coincidence, to say the least, that with this commanding
edict from Baha'u'llah began the first emergence
of what is known as free education of "the common
people." And with it the first hopeful efforts towards
their freedom in every field of human activity.
" Baha'u'llah has set forth the solution and provided
the remedy for the economic question."
"He has ordained and established the House of Justice
which is endowed with a political as well as a religious
function, the consummate union and blending of Church
and State. This institution is under the protecting power
of Baha'u'llah Himself. A universal or international
House of Justice shall also be organized whose rulings
shall be in accordance with the commands and teachings
of Baha'u'llah, and that which the universal House of
Justice ordains shall be obeyed by all mankind. This
international House of Justice shall be appointed and
organized from the (local and national) Houses of Justice
of the whole world, and all the world shall come under
That is to say: Baha'u'llah has planned and ordained
a type of world organization which bears an analogous
relation to the Federal Government of the United States
in that it envisages a Federation of the nations of the world
under a central "House of Justice." There is this important
and far-reaching difference, however, the Plan of
Baha'u'llah involves that this governing head shall have
a religious as well as a political function. This startles the
minds of those who associate "religion" with the history
of the abuses growing out of the warfare between Muhammedans
and Christians; between Catholics and Protestants,
and the only lesser strife between the countless
sects in all religions.
+F5 Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 451
But when it is understood that this State Religion formulated
by Baha'u'llah is predicated upon world unity
in the spheres of social, economic and educational activities
as well as of religion; when one realizes that "the
rulings of the House of Justice shall be in accordance
with the commands and teachings of Baha'u'llah" which
abolish prejudice, bigotry and contention, it is seen that
the objections to such a union tend to disappear.
To draw a parallel let us assume that at the time of the
Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. a constitution had been
drawn up for the government of the Holy Roman Empire
based upon the Sermon on the Mount, the thirteenth
chapter of 1st Corinthians; the twelfth chapter of
Romans, the Epistles of John and a few scattering paragraphs
of similar high ethical import from the Old Testament.
Let us suppose further that included in that constitution
had been the principle that the prophets of all
other religions were of equal authority with Christ and
Moses; that Zoroaster and Krishna and Buddha were accepted
as of equal authority with the Christ, and that all
their followers were included among the participants of
the benefits accruing to this unity of peoples and religions
under the Holy Roman Empire. And still further let us
suppose that Christ Himself had left a written constitution
to the above effect and had appointed under His own
hand and seal a certain one of His disciples as the first
head of the governing council of the Empire, together
with a definite program for the selection of his successors,
the tenure of these incumbents to be determined by a
Cabinet, or Council elected by popular suffrage by all
the peoples of the then known world.-If your imagination
is active enough to suppose all this your honest
judgment will follow that the history of religion for the
last nineteen hundred years would have been vastly different.
Yet all that I have ventured to put as a supposition in
the case of Christianity, falls short of the facts underlying
the establishment of the Baha'i World Religion. This, I
think, will be demonstrated later in this chapter.
The last one of the distinguishing characteristics of the
Revelation of Baha'u'llah which 'Abdu'l-Baha elaborated
that evening is one which is not usually emphasized:
yet it is of the utmost importance. ''Abdu'l-Baha called it
"the most great characteristic" of the teachings of Baha'u'll?h.
"It is the ordination and appointment of the Center
of the Covenant. By this appointment and provision He
has safeguarded and protected the religion of God against
differences and schisms, making it impossible for anyone
to create a new sect or faction of belief. To insure unity
and agreement He has entered into a Covenant with all
the people of the world designating the interpreter and
explainer of His teachings so that no one may interpret
or explain the religion of God according to his own view
or opinion and thus create a sect founded upon his individual
understanding of the divine words." +F6
+F6 Ibid., p. 451
That is to say: Baha'u'llah in His Will and Testament
named His own Son, 'Abdu'l-Baha, as the sole interpreter
of the meaning and implications of His teachings.
"He did this," He said, "not because he is My son
but because he is the purest channel in the world for the
dissemination of the Water of Life."
To make the picture complete it is necessary to include
in this explanation a reference to the Will and Testament
which 'Abdu'l-Baha left when He passed from this
world in 1921. In that Will He appointed His grandson,
Shoghi Effendi, then a youth of 25, as Guardian of the
Cause of God and the Head of the first House of Justice.
One of the prime functions of the Guardian is to decide
without question as to the meanings and implications of
the teachings of Baha'u'llah.
Now let us use our most vivid imagination again. Let
us suppose that Peter, instead of being a fisher-disciple
of Jesus', had been his own son, had been under His care
and instruction since infancy. Let us watch Jesus as He
grew to old age writing innumerable books, and epistles
and holding countless conversations with His followers
who had grown before His passing to a host numbering
in the hundreds of thousands, and had seen thousands of
believers die as martyrs in His Cause, in spite of the fact
that He was in exile and prison for the last forty years of
And let us finally postulate that Peter, His son, lived
for twenty-nine years after the passing of Jesus (remembering
that Jesus had left the appointment of this son as
the only interpreter of His Words) and that those years
had been spent in writing books, thousands of letters
answering every conceivable question that could arise as
to the meaning of the teachings of Jesus, and finally that
Peter had spent some ten years traveling throughout the
known world, meeting not scorn and persecution but
honor and respect from all classes of people. Then, as
has been said, before his own passing at the age of seventy-
seven years, appointing his grandson to act as the Guardian
of the purity of Jesus' teachings.
I think you will agree with me that not only would the
history of the Christian Church have been more free
from the schisms which have rent it asunder, but that
The Holy Roman Empire would have been a power for
unity and peace, acting ever for the welfare and happiness
of the race, for do not forget that its constitution
would have been based solely on the Words of the
Prophets of God, culminating in the Sermon on the
Mount and that no discrimination was allowable between
the followers of any one of these Mouthpieces of the
I have followed this hypothetical analogy at some
length for it seems to me the best form in which to present
vividly the World Order planned and ordained by
Baha'u'llah, explained, exemplified and fully set forth by
'Abdu'l-Baha and which is now being actively brought
into functioning power by Shoghi Effendi.
There is still one highly important feature of the Plan
of Baha'u'llah which needs emphasis. He has ordained
in His Law that throughout the world there shall be built
Temples for the worship of the one God, in which all
mankind shall be welcomed, without regard to the Name
under which they have chosen to be enrolled. These
Temples consist of ten buildings; a central one built after
a prescribed plan, having nine sides, nine entrances, nine
paths radiating from these entrances leading to the nine
other buildings surrounding the central House of Worship.
These nine buildings are to represent and typify the
various means by which the Love of God flows forth in
manifestation of the love of man for man. For instance
a hospital, an institution of learning, a home for the aged,
an institution for the care and instruction of the blind, a
home for orphaned children, a laboratory for scientific
research, an institution for the care and instruction of the
deaf and dumb and sub-normal unfortunates, and a building
containing lecture halls and class rooms for the dissemination
of the principles and objectives of pure religion,
for this is not within the functions of the House
of Worship itself. Within those holy walls the words of
man are never heard. No sermons or ritual observances
are there observed. Nothing but the Words of God uttered
by His Prophets are there chanted. And furthermore
it is prescribed that no salary is attached to the
services of any spiritual teacher.
And included among the nine buildings surrounding
the central One is a Hotel, or Hospice for the entertainment
of travelers. Here visitors are welcomed, cared for
gratis temporarily and served in any way their need dictates.
Two of these Houses of Worship are already in
existence: one in Ishkabad, Russia, completed some years
ago, the other (the central building only) in Wilmette,
Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.
In this group of buildings we see typified for the first
time in human history what Jesus described as the summing
up of all the Law and all the Prophetic teachings-
the Love of God expressed in love for man. Is it any
wonder that He described the fulfillment of His prophhetic
Words as "The Kingdom of God on Earth!"
"The Administrative Order, which ever since ''Abdu'l-Baha's
ascension has evolved and is taking shape under
our very eyes in no fewer than forty countries of the
world, may be considered as the framework of the Will
(''Abdu'l-Bah?'s Will) itself, the inviolable stronghold
wherein this new-born child is being nurtured and developed.
This Administrative Order, as it expands and
consolidates itself, will no doubt manifest the potentialities
and reveal the full implications of this momentous Document-
this most remarkable expression of the Will of One
of the most remarkable Figures of the Dispensation of
Baha'u'llah. It will, as its component pans, its organic
institutions, begin to function with efficiency and vigor,
assert its claim and demonstrate its capacity to be regarded
not only as the nucleus but the very pattern of the New
World Order destined to embrace in the fullness of time
the whole of mankind." +F7
"So firm and mighty is this Covenant that from the
beginning of time until the present day no religious dispensation
hath produced its like." 'Abdu'l-Baha. +F8
+F7 Dispensation of Baha'u'llah, p. 52, Shoghi Effendi
+F8 Ibid., p.54
SOME DIVINE CHARACTERISTICS. THE
HUMILITY OF SERVITUDE. THE STATION
OF TRUE MANHOOD.
"The life of man is divine, eternal; not mortal and sensual.
The sublimity of man is his attainment to the knowledge
of God. The happiness of man is in the fragrance of the
love of God. This is the highest pinnacle of attainment
in the human world."
'Abdu'l-Baha. Promulgation of
Universal Peace, v. 2. p. 180
During the last three days before 'Abdu'l-Baha
left this country I haunted His presence. Those
early December days brought a chill to my heart as well
as to my body. Although, even then, I had not arrived at
the point where I could say from my heart that I accepted
the fundamental Baha'i teachings relative to the divine
station of Baha'u'llah and His place in the long line
of prophetic Revelators, yet there could be no doubt
in my mind of the station of 'Abdu'l-Baha.
What mattered if the station I ascribed was not in
terms exactly parallel to those used by the friends around
Him. It sufficed me that I saw in Him the perfect man,
and that I would gladly have sacrificed all that I had, or
ever could have, to approach that perfectness.
It was not simply that He had never failed me in a
response to the circumstances and conditions of daily life
which left nothing to be desired from the standpoint of
wisdom, humility, courage, gentleness and courtesy. If
that were all it would mean that I was assuming to my
own judgment an expert dogmatism. Who was I to determine
whether He were wise or not? Could I, in my
ignorance, know anything about it? Could I judge, to
any appreciable degree. His station except to compare
Him with myself and any others I had ever known?
From that viewpoint there could be no doubt. Incomparably
was He superior. He stood out from mankind
as a Mont Blanc upon a plain.
But there was something else which those who have
carefully read this chronicle must have marked, but
which elusively evades descriptive words. Yet must one
try, for it is this very elusive something which does much
to explain His power.
One of these fascinating and provocative characteristics
was His ready laughter when alluding to subjects
usually approached with extreme gravity. For instance:
On the last day in New York I had my final personal interview
with Him. I was saying good-bye and my heart
was sad. Haltingly, I expressed this sorrow that He was
leaving the country and that, in all probability, I should
never see Him again. We were standing. It was actually
the last good-bye. "'Abdu'l-Baha laid His arm across my
shoulders and walked with me to the door, saying that I
should be with Him in all the worlds of God. And then
He laughed-a hearty, ringing laugh-and I: my eyes
blinded with tears.-"Why does He laugh?" I thought.
Nevertheless, these words, and even more, the tone in
which they were uttered, and His joyous laughter, have
been an illuminating light upon my path through all these
Another characteristic always apparent was His silence.
In the world of social and intellectual intercourse
to which I was accustomed silence was almost unforgivable.
From the collegiate with his, or her, "line," to
the lawyer, doctor, minister, statesman-a ready answer,
a witty bon mot, a wise remark, a knowing smile was
stock-in-trade. They all had their "line," and it was upon
their readiness or unreadiness to meet every occasion verbally
that their reputation largely rested.
How differently 'Abdu'l-Baha met the questioner, the
conversationalist, the occasion:. To the questioner He responded
first with silence-an outward silence. His encouragement
always was that the other should speak and H
e listen. There was never that eager tenseness, that
restlessness so often met showing most plainly that the
listener has the pat answer ready the moment he should
have a chance to utter it.
I have heard certain people described as "good listeners,"
but never had I imagined such a "listener" as
Abdul' -- Baha. It was more than a sympathetic absorption
of what the ear received. It was as though the two individualities
became one; as if He so closely identified Himself
with the one speaking that a merging of spirits occurred
which made a verbal response almost unnecessary,
superfluous. As I write, the words of Baha'u'llah recur
to me: "When the sincere servant calls to Me in prayer I
become the very ear with which He heareth My reply."+F1
That was just it! 'Abdu'l-Baha seemed to listen with
You see what I mean by saying that I am trying to describe
the indescribable. All this may sound to the reader
as quite fantastic. Others may not have received this impression
in their contacts with Him, but this invariable
characteristic of 'Abdu'l-Baha is one of my most vivid
remembrances and has been the subject of much meditation.
And when, under His encouraging sympathy, the interviewer
became emptied of his words, there followed a
brief interval of silence. There was no instant and complete
outpouring of explanation and advice. He sometimes
closed His eyes a moment as if He sought guidance
from above himself; sometimes sat and searched the questioner's
soul with a loving, comprehending smile that
melted the heart.
And when He finally spoke, and that modulated,
resonant voice of music came, the words were so unexpected,
often, so seemingly foreign to the subject, that
the questioner was at first somewhat bewildered, but always,
+F1 Seven Valleys -- Baha'u'llah.
with me at least, this was followed by a calmness,
an understanding which went much deeper than the mind.
Still another characteristic from the many which crowd
the memory:-His penetrating insight into the very heart
of every subject under discussion. Sometimes this was
shown by a story in which wit and wisdom were so inextricably
mingled that one was often at a loss to know
whether he should laugh, or weep, or stand in awe.
When He was at Lake Mohonk, where He spoke to
the members of the Inter-National Peace Conference,
'Abdu'l-Baha was walking with a group of the friends one
morning when they came upon a party of young people.
After a few words of greeting He said: that He would
tell them an oriental story: Once the rats and mice held
an important conference the subject of which was how
to make peace with the cat. After a long and heated discussion
it was decided that the best thing to do would be
to tie a bell around the neck of the cat so that the rats
and mice would be warned of his movements and have
time to get out of his way.
This seemed an excellent plan until the question arose
as to who should undertake the dangerous job of belling
the cat. None of the rats liked the idea and the mice
thought they were altogether too weak. So the conference
broke up in confusion.
Everyone laughed, 'Abdu'l-Baha with them. After a
short pause He added that that is much like these Peace
Conferences. Many words, but no one is likely to approach
the question of who will bell the Czar of Russia,
the Emperor of Germany, the President of France and
the Emperor of Japan.
Faces were now more grave. 'Abdu'l-Baha laughed
again: There is a Divine Club, He said, which shall
break their power in pieces.
In the light of world events during the twenty-five
years since 'Abdu'l-Baha told that story to a youthful,
happy group fresh from listening to the eloquent appeals
for world peace voiced by well-meaning but impotent
ones; the distractedly weak discussing how to bell the
war-cat. His keen penetration into the very heart of the
difficulty, and His laughing summing up of the situation
in a little ancient fable, the characteristic of which I spoke
is demonstrated but only to a slight degree.
Two years later the world war broke. Some of those
very youngsters who laughed with Him so lightheartedly
doubtless left their bodies in Flanders; the German
war-lord fled his empire, his dreams become a nightmare;
the torrent flooding the world carried thrones to
ruin like disintegrating dwellings in a spring freshet. The
Divine Club, indeed!
On one of these final days, while waiting for the friends
to gather, I was talking with one of the Persian friends,
Mahmud, while the Master was busied with a small group
nearby. As ever, my mind was preoccupied with watching
Him. His gestures. His smile. His radiant personality
were a constant fascination.
"May I ask," Mahmud was saying, "whether you speak
from your pulpit about the Cause of Baha'u'llah at
all?" "Yes," I answered, "not as often as I might wish,
but I quote frequently from the Writings in illustration
of my subject."
"When you quote do you mention the Author?"
"Certainly," I said, in some surprise, "I naturally give
He said, "It must require some courage, does that not
"I had not thought of the matter in that light. Why
should it require courage to speak of truth without regard
to its source? We are not living in the middle ages."
Mahmud stepped over to where 'Abdu'l-Baha was sitting
and said a few words in Persian to Him. The Master
smiled over at me with that indescribably penetrating
glance of which I have often spoken. He remarked that
it took a great deal of courage.
This was on the afternoon of Dec. 3d in the Park
Avenue home of a woman whose life for years had
been dedicated to service in spite of the, at times, somewhat
violent opposition of her influential husband, who had
even gone so far as to have her examined by alienists, but
who, some years later, became a devoted adherent to the
cause of Baha'u'llah. The large drawing room was filled
when the Master spoke to us. The words were few but
pregnant, dealing again with those qualities which must
characterize the believers.
"I offer supplication to the Kingdom of Abha and
seek extraordinary blessings and confirmations on your
behalf in order that your tongues may become fluent,
your hearts like clear mirrors flooded with the rays of
the Sun of Truth, your thoughts expanded, your comprehensions
more vivid and that you may progress in the
plane of human perfections.
"Until man acquires perfections himself he will not
be able to teach perfections to others. Unless man attains
life himself he cannot convey life to others. Unless he
finds light he cannot reflect light. We must therefore
endeavor ourselves to attain to the perfections of the
world of humanity, lay hold of everlasting life and seek the
divine spirit in order that we may thereby be enabled to
confer life upon others, be enabled to breathe life into
As these words are written we recall a conversation with
one of the editors of a well-known and "influential"
Christian magazine. He has written and lectured much
on world conditions and is an eloquent disciple of the
cause of international peace. In this interview, which I
had sought because of one of his books lately read, I mentioned
the Baha'i House of Worship whose impressive
dome was almost within sight of where we sac. Instantly
his demeanor changed.
"If you are speaking of Baha'ism," he said, "I have
nothing more to say."
"Have you investigated its teachings?" I asked, much
surprised at this strange attitude.
"No, I haven't and I have no desire to do so," he answered.
And without waiting for a reply, he continued:
"That may be prejudice, and I am frank to admit that
I am prejudiced."
+F2 Promulgation of Universal Peace, vol. II, pp. 453-54
"How can we ever attain to world peace unless we are
freed from prejudice?" I said, rising to take my leave, for
the interview was plainly at an end, "surely we can free
ourselves from that incubus."
"Never," he said, smilingly but with great vigor,
"never can we be free from prejudice: it is ineradicable
in human nature."
I speak of this incident, unimportant in itself, to illustrate
the unanswerable wisdom of 'Abdu'l-Baha's words
just quoted. He is not holding before us an unattainable
or indefinite ideal. He is pointing out a simple and demonstrable
fact. And in the light of that fact we see at
once why so little real progress is made towards universal
peace and unity in religion by the wordy adherents of
these ideals. How plainly does prejudice, self-interest and
narrow vision underlie their words! How can the hearts
clouded by such mists reflect the Sun of Truth? How can
they breathe life into others when there is no sincere, self-
sacrificing desire on their pan to acquire life?
On the evening of the same day 'Abdu'l-Baha spoke
briefly again to a group of Baha'i friends of the subject
which, on these last days seemed very close to His heart
and lips-the station to which those who had accepted
the teachings of Baha'u'llah were called and expected to
attain by the very fact that they had accepted them.
I remember, in this connection, a story told me by one
of the friends present at a meeting of the executive committee
of the New York Spiritual Assembly. 'Abdu'l-Baha
had been asked to be present. After listening to
their deliberations for a half-hour or so He calmly arose
At the door He paused a moment and surveyed the
faces turned towards Him. After a moment of silence
He said, that He had been told that this was a meeting of
the executive committee. "Yes, Master," said the Chairman.
Then why do you not execute.
Always was His emphasis upon deeds: and deeds of
such quality and purity as seemed, to those who listened,
unattainable. Nevertheless there was no lowering of
the standard. And He set the example. There was no
doubt of that. Like the true Leader He never called
upon His followers to go where He had not blazed the
"I have proclaimed unto you the glad-tidings of the
kingdom of God and explained the wishes of the Blessed
Perfection. I have set forth that which is conducive to
human progress and shown you the humility of servitude." +F3
I have selected these latter words for emphasis because
they indicate what seems to me to be the very heart of
First: His invariable example. Second: His "humility
+F3 Promulgation of Universal Peace, Vol. 11, p.456, the
of servitude." This spirit of servitude was His distinguishing
characteristic. The very title given Him by
Baha'u'llah, 'Abdu'l-Baha, and by which He wished always
to be known and addressed, "The Servant of
Glory," was indicative of the essential nature of this
quality as it related to the Baha'i teaching. He was once
asked to act as honorary chairman of the National Spiritual
Assembly. "'Abdu'l-Baha is a servant," He responded
"I am 'Abdu'l-Baha and no more. I am not pleased with
whosoever praises me by any other tide. I am the servant
of the Blessed Perfection, and I hope that this Servitude
of mine will become acceptable. Whosoever mentions any
other name save this will not please me at all. 'Abdu'l-Baha
and no more. No person must praise me except by this
And again: "The mystery of mysteries of these words,
texts and lines, is servitude to the Holy Presence of the
Beauty of Abha, and effacement, evanescence and perfect
dispersion before the Blessed Threshold. This is my brilliant
diadem and my glorious crown. With this I will
be glorified in the heavenly kingdom and the kingdom of
this world. And with it I will approach unto the Beauty
among the nearest ones to God, and no one is allowed to
interpret other than this."
'Abdu'l-Baha says that the "conditions of existence are
limited to servitude, Prophethood and Deity."+F4 That is
+F4 Some Answered Questions, p. 267
to say: since man is incapable of attainment either to the
station of the Divine Essence or of Prophethood
(except in those unique instances of the anointed Ones, which
occur, roughly speaking about every thousand years) the
only possible station to which he may aspire is that of
In spite of the fact that Jesus proclaimed much the
same truth this is practically an entirely new conception,
originating with the teaching of Baha'u'llah and exemplified
in every deed and word of His majestic Son.
It is important, then, that this word and its implications
be examined. What does 'Abdu'l-Baha mean by Servitude?
What possible ground can he have for asserting,
as He does by implication, that unless man in this day attains
that station he forfeits the right to be called man at
When Jesus said: "He that would be greatest among
you let him be the servant of all:" "The meek shall inherit
the earth." And when He washed His disciple's
feet-what did He mean? What was He trying to convey?
Exactly what 'Abdu'l-Baha means when He made the
statements I have quoted above. And it is very simple
and demonstrable truth.
"The station of man is high. This is a great and
blessed Day, and that which has been hidden in man is
and shall be disclosed. The station of man is great if he
holds to Reality and Truth, and if he be firm and steadfast
in the Commands. The true man appeareth before the
Merciful One like unto the heavens; his sight and hearing
are the sun and moon; his bright and shining qualities
are the stars; his station is the highest one; his traces are
the educators of existence." +F5
And again He says: "Man is not to be called man until
he be imbued with the attributes of the Merciful." +F6
Now, as though a wide window opened to a breeze
from the world of explanation and understanding,
'Abdu'l-Baha's glorification of the station of Servitude becomes
clear, or at least clearer than was possible without
this new, yet eternally old, definition of Man. For Servitude,
to 'Abdu'l-Baha, was-is-the Path, the only possible
Path to that Greatness. And this, I believe, is just
the greatness to which Jesus referred, the greatness of true
Manhood. One of the distinguishing marks of the revelation
of Baha'u'llah is His practical explanation of Jesus'
Words and the inclusion of their obedience in His theophany.
"The humility of servitude" to 'Abdu'l-Baha was His
"Brilliant diadem and glorious crown." Why? Certainly
not because He wished to be honored and glorified above
others. That would be far from humility. No! Only
because He thus, and thus only, could show others the
Path to Greatness.
+F5 The Kitab-i-Ahd
+F6 Words of Wisdom, Baha'u'llah
Speaking broadly, there are three possible basic relations
between men: Strife, Cooperation and Service.
Whether these relations are demonstrated in the fields of
home life; commerce; education; government, or anywhere
else, these three motivating impulses may be seen.
Usually all three of them are present, each striving for
supremacy, though often quite unconsciously. Sometimes
only one or two are active.
Take the average home life for example. There we
find, let us say, a father, a mother, three or four children
and a housemaid. There is strife always to be found, even
in the most idealistic home. Not an outward strife always,
though differences do often arise, but always an
inner commotion due to the necessary effort towards
unity. Then, of course there is cooperation for this is
the basis of any family life, without which it would disintegrate
rapidly. Finally we see service typified by the
housemaid, but active in every member in varying degrees.
Let us imagine that rare article: a perfect maid servant,
a purely hypothetical character, admittedly, but admirable
for the purpose of illustration. She is efficient,
cooks the most delectable dishes; she is good natured, always
cheerful and happy; she is obedient, never asserts
herself, never contradicts; she is wise with a homely common
sense which penetrates to the heart of a problem,
whether it relates to the "master's" fondness for coffee of
a certain strength, the "mistress' " liking for breakfast in
bed combined with an early engagement at a committee
meeting, or little Johnnie's embarrassment over a raid on
the pantry resulting in tummy-agony which must be hidden
from mother. This wisdom may even be so far
embracing that it involves a study of the current news and
market reports so that father and mother unconsciously
talk things over with her when a club paper is to be prepared
or a large purchase made.
I have sometimes amused myself with picturing the
daily life of such a family. Is there any question which
one of its members would be the ruling power? Which
the greatest, the most indispensable one of its members?
Can one not imagine the consternation in that household
if "Bridget" or "Mary" should announce a severing of
Take another illustration: A corner grocery which
has for its motto-and lives up to it every instant-"Service
First." Service before profit; service before clockwatching;
service before any personal consideration
whatever. After all, preposterous as such an hypothetical
grocery store may be, that is just what a food store should
be. Does not the comfort, even in isolated cases perhaps,
the very life of the community it serves depend upon it?
If the desire for profit overbalances, the result is debased
and unhealthy food. The law has stringent penalties for
such infraction, but such laws would be unnecessary if
the spirit of true service ruled. But our imaginary-our
utterly preposterous ideal store IS ruled by that spirit. No
self-sacrifice is too great for its owner and employees to
insure that perfect service is rendered with its only objective
the health, happiness and welfare of its community.
Can one not easily picture the inevitable result? That
store would be the Ruler of that community. Its fame
would spread over the land; its business would prosper
beyond any imaginings; its owner and managers might
be consulted by statesmen. It would be GREAT.
But let us allow our imaginations further rioting. Let
us suppose that in addition to this spirit of service the
proprietor was possessed of a wisdom and love based
upon the Sermon on the Mount. The mere suggestion
of such a possibility is sufficient. Such a man would come
to be possessed of a Power rivaling and surpassing that
of a king.
If the reader is not by this time so bored by this fantastic
picture that he throws the book down in disgust,
let him in imagination apply this principle to the field of
education, in which teachers, students, principals, ft al,
are motivated by a like spirit; to the field of general commerce;
of government, of international relations. Would
not the happiness, prosperity, efficiency and general welfare
of the race be immeasurably advanced?
But the important thing to observe is that this picture
involves the appearance on this planet of a type of man
quite new in world experience. But let it be also noted
that while such a man is new in actual experience he is
not new in the picturings of such men as Confucius,
Buddha, Zoroaster, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Such
men have always held these ideals before mankind. But
in the teachings of Baha'u'llah, and in the life and example
of 'Abdu'l-Baha, these ideals are for the first time
brought to the forefront and made the basis of a New
Man is called today to the attainment of that station to
which he was destined from the "Beginning which has no
beginning." In the very Words of Baha'u'llah: "We
have created whomsoever is in the heaven and upon the
earth after the nature of God. And he who advanceth
to this Face (His Revelation) will appear in the
condition wherein he was created." +F7
This, then, is why 'Abdu'l-Baha so exalted the station
of Servitude. This is why He intimated that man accepting
any station lower than this, any putting of self before
service to others, qualifies himself as of the animal,
the bestial nature, and places himself outside the pale of
real manhood. It is because the definition of Man is
altered. That which has been hinted in the past as a possible
goal is now a requisite. Man's dreams, his highest
dreams, must now be realized. And the path to that realization
is the path of Service; its Goal the attainment to
the station of pure Servitude.
"The sweetness of servitude is the food of my spirit."
These words of the Master indicates the source of His
power. His was a vastly higher quality of service than
even that of my fanciful imagination in the hypothetical
cases mentioned above. It went far deeper; it rose to far
greater heights. It was a quality inherent in His deepest
being, and manifested itself in every look, gesture, deed, I
had almost said in every breath He drew. The following
+F7 Surat'l Hykl-
prayer unequivocally expresses the divine station ascribed
in His heart to this quality of Servitude. Can any one
reading it, with eyes from which the veil of self has fallen,
fail to glimpse the glory to which manhood may rise when
once the Truth it hides from our blind, self-clouded eyes
is clearly seen?
He is the All-Glorious
"O God, my God! Lowly and tearful, I raise my suppliant
hands to Thee and cover my face in the dust of
that Threshold of Thine, exalted above the knowledge of
the learned, and the praise of all that glorify Thee.
Graciously look upon Thy servant, humble and lowly
at Thy door, with the glances of the eye of Thy mercy,
and immerse him in the Ocean of Thine eternal grace.
Lord! He is a poor and lowly servant of Thine, enthralled
and imploring Thee, captive in Thy hand, praying
fervently to Thee, trusting in Thee, in tears before
Thy face, calling to Thee, and beseeching Thee, saying:
O Lord, my God! Give me Thy grace to serve Thy
loved ones, strengthen me in my servitude to Thee, illumine
my brow with the light of adoration in Thy
court of holiness, and of prayer to Thy Kingdom of
grandeur. Help me to be selfless at the heavenly entrance
of Thy gate, and aid me to be detached from all things
within Thy holy precincts. Lord! Give me to" drink
from the chalice of selflessness; with its robe clothe me,
and in its ocean immerse me. Make me as dust in the pathway
of Thy loved ones, and grant that I may offer up my
soul for the earth ennobled by the footsteps of Thy
chosen ones in Thy path, 0 Lord of Glory in the
With this prayer doth Thy servant call Thee, at dawntide
and in the night season Fulfill his heart's desire, 0
Lord! Illumine his heart, gladden his bosom, kindle his
light, that he may serve Thy Cause and Thy servants
Thou art the Bestower, the Pitiful, the Most Bountiful,
the Gracious, the Merciful, the Compassionate!"
ABDU'L-BAHA'S LAST WORDS IN AMERICA.
SEVEN DISTINCTIVE CHARACTERISTICS OF
THE TEACHINGS. EVIDENCES OF THE NEW
"Every "Christ" came to the world of mankind. Therefore
we must investigate the foundation of divine religion,
discover its reality, re-establish it and spread its message
throughout the world so that it may become the source
of illumination and enlightenment to mankind, the spiritually
dead become alive, the spiritually blind receive sight,
and those who are inattentive to God become awakened."
THE morning of December 5, 1912, witnessed a remarkable
scene in one of the saloon cabins of the
S. S. Celtic as she lay in the slip in New York harbor, yet
how few realized its significance.
Here was a great modem steamship about to leave for
Naples. As I went up the gang-plank I found myself in
the midst of that indeterminate, indescribable rushing
about; the bustling confusion of a departing liner. Friends
saying a last good-bye; laughter with wet eyes; petty-officers
bellowing orders; whistles from passing ferry
boats; uniforms, business suits, rumbling baggage trunks,
women, children-and the wintry sun bright over all.
I caught sight of several of my friends and joined them
on their way to the large saloon cabin which seemed to
have been given over to the farewell scene. Here the atmosphere
was very different. True, the noises of the
world without penetrated but were silenced by the serenity
of another world. Here was 'Abdu'l-Baha, His face a
mosaic of beauty. His cream-colored robe fell to His
feet. His fez slightly tipped, as I had grown accustomed
to seeing it at times. In fact the position of that headdress
seemed to me often indicative of His mood-humorous,
slightly tipped; welcoming, a backward slant;
grave and serious, firmly on His crown of silvery hair;
authoritative and commanding, slightly over His dome
like brow. These may be fanciful differentiations but
much of my time during my many meetings with Him
had been spent in silent watchfulness of that compelling
figure, and many must have noted, as had I, that
one of His most characteristic movements was the involuntarily
lifted hand adjusting the fez to a new angle.
My memory recalls the scene as though yesterday my
eyes beheld it. The large, low-ceiled saloon was crowded.
At least one hundred, possibly more of the friends were
there. The Persians who had accompanied Him to this
country surrounded Him-more correctly speaking,
were grouped behind Him. Indicative of the Oriental
attitude toward the Master was the noticeable fact that
never, under any circumstances, would one of them
dream of standing in front of Him, or even beside Him,
unless summoned or delivering a message. When walking
always were they in the rear. Even when accompanied
by only one, and conversing with Him, that one always
walked an appreciable few inches behind Him. When
speaking with Him they rarely raised their eyes to His
face. In His presence they stood as before a king. How
different the Western believer's attitude! Our boasted
democracy has its windy aspects under any circumstances,
but when in the presence of spiritual majesty
humility is freedom.
Few of us found seats. The chairs and lounges were
limited and we were many. The interpreter, who had
long been His secretary and was now returning with
Him, stood a pace behind Him. And then He spoke. For
the last time, in this world, that beloved voice resounded
in my ears. I have often mentioned the quality of that
voice. Never shall it be forgotten by those who truly
heard it. It had a bell-like resonance unapproached by
any other. It seemed to carry with it the music of another
world. Almost one could imagine an accompaniment of
"This is my last meeting with you. These are my
final words of exhortation. I have repeatedly summoned
you to the cause of the unity of the world of humanity,
announcing that all mankind are the servants of the same
God. Therefore you must manifest the greatest kindness
and love towards the nations of the world, setting aside
fanaticism, abandoning religious, national and racial
prejudice. .... Therefore if anyone offends another
he offends God. God loves all equally. As this is true
should the sheep quarrel amongst themselves? They
should manifest gratitude and thankfulness to God, and
the best way to thank God is to love one another.
Beware lest ye offend any heart, lest ye speak against
anyone in his absence, lest ye estrange yourselves from
the servants of God. Direct your whole effort towards
the happiness of those who are despondent, bestow food
upon the hungry, clothe the needy and glorify the humble.
Be a helper to every helpless one and manifest kindness to
your fellow-creatures in order that ye may attain the
good-pleasure of God. This is conducive to the illumination
of the world of humanity and eternal felicity for
yourselves. I seek from God everlasting glory on your
behalf; therefore this is my prayer and exhortation."
After a reference to the war then being carried on in
the Balkans, and the arresting sentence; in the light of
what occurred two years later: "A world-enkindling
fire is astir in the Balkans," He continued:-
"As to you: your efforts must be lofty. Exert yourselves
with heart and soul so that through your efforts
the light of universal peace may shine; that all men may
become as one family; that the East may assist the West
and the West give help to the East.
Consider how the Prophets who have been sent, the
great souls who have appeared and the sages who have
arisen among men, have exhorted mankind to unity and
love. This has been the goal of their guidance and message.
Consider the heedlessness of the world, for, notwithstanding
the efforts and sufferings of the prophets of God,
the nations are still engaged in hostility and fighting.
How heedless and ignorant are the people of the world!
How gross the darkness which envelops them! Although
they are the children of a compassionate God, they continue
to act in opposition to His will and pleasure. God
blesses and protects their homes; they rage, sack and
destroy each other's homes. Consider their ignorance and
Your duties are of another kind. for you are informed
of the mysteries of God. Your eyes are illumined, your
ears are quickened with hearing. You must look towards
each other and then towards mankind with the utmost
love and kindness. You have no excuse to bring before
God if you fail to live according to His command, for
you are informed of that which constitutes the good-
pleasure of God. You have heard His commandments
and precepts. You must, therefore, be kind to all men; you
muse even treat your enemies as your friends. You must
consider your evil-wishers as your well-wishers. Those
who are not agreeable towards you must be regarded
as those who are congenial and pleasant; so that,
perchance, this darkness of disagreement and conflict may
disappear from amongst men and the light of the divine
may shine forth; so that the Orient may be illumined
and the Occident be filled with fragrance; nay, so that
the Ease and the West may embrace each other in love
and deal with each other in sympathy and affection.
Until man reaches this high station the world of
humanity shall not find rest, and eternal felicity shall
not be attained. But if man lives up to these divine Commandments,
this world of earth shall be transformed into
the world of heaven and this material sphere shall be
converted into a Paradise of Glory.
It is my hope that you may become successful in
this high calling, so that like brilliant lamps you may
cast light upon this world of humanity and quicken and
stir the body of existence like unto a spirit of life,
This is eternal glory. This is everlasting felicity. This
is immortal Life. This is heavenly attainment. This is
being created in the image and likeness of God.
And unto this I call you, praying God to strengthen
and bless you." +F1
Such ideas and ideals have been expressed by all the
noble ones of the past and present but at this great crisis
in the history of mankind their implications are entirely
(1) They are not only exhortations; they are Commands.
Note the recurrence of the word "must."
(2) They are characterized by their completeness (I
here refer to the full and exhaustive revelations of Baha'u'llah
and their practical exemplification by 'Abdu'l-Baha)
and their definite application to the needs of the hour.
(3) Never in the history of mankind has the mind of
the average man been so matured and prepared to listen
to, and to act upon them, nor so generally aware of the
pressing, immediate need of their application.
(4) For at least 1300 years such ideals and commands
have not found utterance through human lips by One
Who not only spoke them but lived them.
+F1 Promulgation of Universal Peace, Vol. 11, pp. 464^-67.
(5) These Commands are addressed not to a select
group, not to one nation or race, but to all peoples and individuals
throughout the world, and the call is to form an
entirely new WORLD order, a new type of International
Civilization founded upon these Divine Revelations-for
such is the unequivocal claim.-This World Order having
been explicitly outlined, and directions given for its
practical working, in the voluminous writings and detailed
explanations of Baha'u'llah and 'Abdu'l-Baha.
In order that the reader may have before him a picture
of what this New World Order envisages, I quote a
few words from The Goal of the New World Order
written by Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha'i
Faith, in 1931. He quotes from Baha'u'llah's Tablet to
Queen Victoria, written about 1866, as follows:
"O kings of the earth! We see you adding every year
unto your expenditures and laying the burden thereof on
the people whom ye rule; verily this is naught but
grievous injustice. Fear the sighs and tears of this
Wronged One, and burden not your peoples beyond that
which they can endure ... Be reconciled among your
selves, that ye may need armaments no more save in a
measure to safeguard your territories and domains. Be
united, 0 concourse of the sovereigns of the world, for
thereby will the tempest of discord be stilled amongst
you and your peoples find rest. Should anyone among
you take up arms against another, rise ye all against him,
for this is naught but manifest justice."
And Shoghi Effendi comments as follows:
"What else could these weighty words signify if they
did not point to the inevitable curtailment of unfettered
national sovereignty as an indispensable preliminary to
the formation of the future Commonwealth of all the
nations of the world? Some form of a world Super-State
must needs be evolved, in whose favor all the nations of
the world will have willingly ceded every claim to make
war. certain rights to impose taxation and all rights to
maintain armaments, except for purposes of maintaining
internal order within their respective dominions. Such a
state will have to include within its orbit an International
Executive adequate to enforce supreme and unchallengeable
authority on every recalcitrant member of the
Commonwealth; a World Parliament whose members shall
be elected by the people in their respective countries and
whose election shall be confirmed by their respective
governments; and a Supreme Tribunal whose judgement
will have a binding effect even in such cases where the
parties concerned did not voluntarily agree to submit
their case to its consideration. A world community in
which all economic barriers will have been permanently
demolished and the interdependence of Capital and
Labor definitely recognized; in which the clamor of
religious fanaticism and strife will have been forever
stilled; in which the flame of racial animosity will have
been finally extinguished; in which a single code of international
law-the product of the considered judgment
of the world's federated representatives-shall have as its
sanction the instant and coercive intervention of the combined
forces of the federated units; and, finally, a world
community in which the fury of a capricious and militant
nationalism will have been transmuted into an abiding
consciousness of world citizenship-such indeed, appears,
in its broadest outline, the Order anticipated by Baha'u'llah,
an Order that shall come to be regarded as the
fairest fruit of a slowly maturing age." +F2
(6) During the 93 years since the Message was announced
by the Bab, and in the 74 years since the public
announcement of His Mission and station by Baha'u'llah,
and-more noticeably-during the sixteen years
since the establishment of the function of Guardianship
and the inauguration by Shoghi Effendi of the administrative
framework of the New World Order, the several
millions of enrolled believers in all the countries of the
world have been organized into a coherent, steadfast,
self-sacrificing army which unreservedly accepts these
commands as of divine origin and is prepared to obey
The attention of the thoughtful ones amongst statesmen,
scientists and laymen has been noticeably aroused
by this unprecedented phenomenon. Year by year this
accelerated motion is increasing. There is therefore
plainly to be seen growing up in the midst of a world of
unrest, confusion and strife; a world of uncertainties and
planless effort, the actual appearance of a new type of
manhood; a new conception of government and citizenship;
+F2 Goal of the New World Order, pp. 20-21.
a new vision of the practical possibilities of human
life upon this planet.
(7) To whatever cause it may be ascribed it is becoming
increasingly apparent that many, if not all, of the
teachings of Baha'u'llah are being accepted by the
broader minds, the wiser statesmen of the world, irrespective
of their knowledge of the life, or the acceptance of
the station of their Originator.
The reader may desire, and is entitled to, a proof of the
last assertion. Any complete quotations from men universally
accepted as more or less qualified to speak intelligently
of world affairs would require a large volume.
The quotations given are only meant to be indicative of
a trend of modem thought which any wide reading will
"Cooperation muse be the leading thought. Not one
country only but the world must be organized into one
commonwealth. National armaments must disappear and
only a sufficient police force remain to keep order. Those
countries in which women are most active in public
affairs are democratic and peace-loving."
Arthur Henderson, President of the Disarmament
Conference at a dinner given by the
Women's Organizations of the Consultative
Here two of the commands of Baha'u'llah are supported.
Almost the exact wording of Baha'u'llah's command
is used regarding the method to be followed in disarming.
Also Baha'u'llah's Words regarding the station
of Women in this Day are acknowledged as wise.
"The liberal scientific research-man's eternal search
for truth in its vase, ever-changing forms-cannot be
too highly encouraged and praised."
Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden.
From his address- at the Spring Festival,
This may seem a commonplace to the reader: but when
it is remembered that when Baha'u'llah first voiced the
Command that the "Independent investigation of Truth"
is the first requisite in a divine civilization, such an idea
was generally unacceptable. When I was a boy an energetic
controversy waged for some years over whether
Darwin's theory of the Origin of Species could possibly
be accepted since it seemed to contradict the story of
man's origin as given in Genesis. And I seem to remember
that even today a certain State in this enlightened
country of ours still has a statute quite rigidity enforced,
which is based not upon whether the theory of evolution
has an element of truth, but upon whether it can be justified
by a prejudiced and ignorant interpretation of words
written some thousands of years ago. Galileo, Roger
Bacon, Copernicus lived not so long ago and we still have
with us the Index Expurgatorius.
It is an unquestioned fact that prior to the middle
of the 19th Century the final decision as to what constituted
Truth was almost exclusively in the hands of ecclesiastics,
and the pursuit of science untrammeled was
difficulty to say the least. Not until Baha'u'llah issued
His Commands relative to the oneness of science and religion
did the freedom of the mind attain its birth. Coincidence
if you like, but there it is.
"The present time is not an economic revolution but
a spiritual revolution. We, the people of today, are
passing through the most momentous and far-reaching
changes that have taken place since the beginning of
recorded history. Science has made us the undisputed
masters of all the forces of Nature. There is enough
grain to feed everybody. There is enough wool to clothe
everybody. There is enough stone and mortar to house
everybody. And yet the picture all around us is one
of vast hopelessness and despair.
Something therefore must be wrong with the picture!
That is what we say. Would it not perhaps be a little
fairer to confess: "Something is wrong with ourselves?'
'To have or to be!' I shall submit that terrific sentence
to all who have eyes to see and ears to hear and that true
spiritual courage that is the basis of all permanent progress."
Hendrick Van Loon. "To Have or to Be."
"It may be that, without freedom from one's self, all
other freedom is vain.. . . Perhaps in the deeper realization
of our inevitable brotherhood, perhaps in our increased
awareness of values other than material, there
may be the germs of a lasting faith by means of which
the diverse peoples of this nation may be united in a
common purpose. . .. We need a unifying faith by means
of which some part of the responsibilities that we are
now carrying may be lifted from us, in the light of which
our way may be made clearer before us."
Margaret Cary Madeira. Atlantic Monthly.
"No system of human relationships can succeed if
operated in the attitude and with the intention of mutual
Any system will succeed if operated in the spirit of
mutual service; indeed, in this spirit the need of systems
Jas. H. Cousins. The Young Builder.
"In all these spheres-the economic, the racial, the
international, which in many places overlap-there are
signs that the golden age is dawning. It will not come
automatically. It will come, as reforms have always come,
because some heroic souls count not their lives dear
in order that they may translate from the ideal to the
actual those truths by which Jesus Christ lived and for
which He died."
D. G. W. Stafford, of University Temple,
Seattle, at the Institute of World Affairs.
"Not only in relation to our physical needs but in
relation also to our mental needs does our new interrelated
civilization play a vital pan. Spiritually we cannot
go back to the water-tight divisions, to the narrow
loyalties, to the little sectarianisms which characterized
the old way of life.
A new and wider trail has been blazed; and while
there will undoubtedly be an occasional loss of direction,
as there is at the present moment, the trend toward a
world economy and a planetary consciousness is too
definitely under way to be permanently reversed.
Raymond B. Fosdick. Scientific American.
It would be possible to continue such quotations almost
indefinitely, and to cap each one with the definite
command of Baha'u'llah; but surely any unprejudiced
mind, after even a cursory study of the writings of Baha'u'llah
and 'Abdu'l-Baha, will .find innumerable examples
of the fulfillment of their commands in the daily press,
current magazines, the announcements from laboratory,
national council chambers, the work rooms of inventor,
and mechanic; "Whether we look or whether we listen"
we see and hear on every hand the fulfillment of Their
Words, the obedience to Their Commands.
While 'Abdu'l-Baha was in this country He said to one
who mourned the conditions prevailing throughout the
world, then in far less distress than now, that we should
not be disturbed, that whatever may occur in the future
we must know always that nothing happens that does not
forward the Kingdom of Baha'u'llah. His Will is supreme.
Speaking in Montclair, N.J., June 23, 1912, 'Abdu'l-Baha
"None of the Prophets of God were famous men but
they were unique in spiritual power. Love is the eternal
sovereignty. Love is the divine power. By it all the
kings of the earth are overthrown and conquered. What
evidence of this could be greater than the accomplishment
of Baha'u'llah? He appeared in the East and was
exiled. He was sent to the prison of Akka in Palestine.
Two powerful despotic kings arose against Him. During
His exile and imprisonment He wrote Tablets of authority
to the Kings and rulers of the world, announcing His
spiritual sovereignty, establishing the religion of God,
upraising the heavenly banners of the Cause of God." +F1
Again speaking at a dinner in Washington, D.C, April
22, 1912, only ten days after His arrival in this country,
"Today in this meeting we have an evidence of how
Baha'u'llah through the power of the Love of God has
exercised a wonderful spiritual influence throughout the
world. From the remotest pans of Persia and the Orient
He has caused men to come to this table to meet with the
people of the West in the utmost love, affection and
harmony. Behold how the power of Baha'u'llah has
brought the East and the West .together. And 'Abdu'l-Baha
is standing, serving you. There is neither rod nor
blow, whip nor sword; but the power of the Love of
God has accomplished this." +F2
+F1 Promulgation of Universal Peace, Vol. I, p. 206.
+F2 Ibid., p. 40.
The point I am endeavoring to make is this: That
Baha'u'llah lays claim to a Divine Power which over
rules men and nations; that this Power is the power of the
Love of God; that everything that is happening in this
world today is evidence of that overruling Power; that
investigation of the Commands and foresight of Baha'u'llah
and His Exemplar compared with the events
transpiring in the world since 1853 will bear testimony
to the effectiveness of that Power, and finally, that there
is unmistakable evidence on every hand; in every quarter
of the globe; amongst every type of mind and every activity,
that world opinion is moving with accelerated motion
into line with a world order exactly corresponding to
the plan outlined by Baha'u'llah, promulgated and exemplified
by 'Abdu'l-Baha, and now, at this very moment,
being organized, administrated and operated by His
grandson, Shoghi Effendi, from the international center
at Haifa, Palestine.
What, then, is the complete picture of the situation? It
is beyond the bounds of the human mind to give this
picture in its fullness, and beyond the limits of this book
even to portray so much of it as is within these bounds.
But enough has been pointed out to allow for a brief and
graphic picture of its essential elements.
We see a small group numbering several millions of
souls, scattered in all parts of the world, composed of
every nation, race and creed, without reservation accepting Baha'u'llah as the Supreme Law-giver for the world
organization of a new order of civilization, and ready to
sacrifice all, even to life itself in His service. Balancing
this, and working in complete harmony with it, we see
the League of Nations gradually coming into line with
these Laws; we see world opinion coming to a realization
that such laws are indispensable if any true civilization
is to exist, and we see the framework of that new order
actually growing rapidly before our very eyes under the
administration of Shoghi Effendi. Let him who reads investigate
with open mind and ask himself whether such a
movement may with wisdom be neglected.
To return to the scene on the S. S. Celtic. When
'Abdu'l-Baha had finished His brief talk He requested all
present to come to Him that He might take their hands in
a parting expression of His love. How impressive that
scene, how filled with a significance beyond words to express,
how fragrant with an atmosphere of a world far
removed from the sordid world around us, may only be
We slowly passed in front of Him. To each He gave a
handful of the flowers massed near Him-of which, by-
the-way, none remained when He had finished-and to
each He spoke a few words of love and encouragement.
When my own turn came I again forgot all but His near
ness and the overwhelming fact that never again in this
world would I see Him, or hear that beloved voice. I
impulsively dropped to a knee, raised His hand with mine
and placed it upon my head. Never shall I forget the
relaxation of that arm and hand. It made no move of
itself. It was a dead weight in my clasp. But His face
was illumined with transcendent light.
Here was my final, indelible impression of that supreme
humility, evanescence, servitude and love which
ever characterized His slightest act, and which never
The friends gathered on the wharf looked up at the
figure of their Master as the ship slowly moved into the
river. 'Abdu'l-Baha stood at the rail. His white hair and
beard moved by the breeze. His erect, majestic figure outlined
clearly. In His hand I noticed the rosary which was
His constant companion. His lips were moving. I could
easily read those lips. "Allah'u' Abha!" "Allah'u' Abha!"
"God the Most Glorious!" "God the Most Glorious!"
BY THEIR FRUITS SHALL YE KNOW THEM.
"If ye believe in Me I will make you the friends of
My soul in the Realm of My Greatness and the companions
of My Perfection in the Kingdom of My Might
IT WAS about two or three months after 'Abdu'l-Baha
had left America that I came into the realization,
a conviction which has never since wavered for an
instant, of the respective stations of the Bab, as the "First
Point" of Light on the horizon of the New Day; of Baha'u'llah,
"The Glory of God," as the "Manifestation of the
Lights of the Essence in the Mirror of Names and Attributes,"
and of His Son, 'Abdu'l-Baha' as the Center of
His Covenant, the divinely appointed exemplar, the perfect
Man, whose mission it was to manifest the beauty of
holiness in the station of perfect servitude to God and
man-"I am the servant of the servants of God."
Strangely enough this conviction was the direct outcome
of spiritual service. It became overwhelmingly apparent
that for the first time in my ministry I was able,
in a deeply transforming manner, to assist souls struggling
in the grasp of temptation, sorrow, perplexity of
mind and confused with all the intricate problems of life
A spiritual intuition seemed to have been born-undoubtedly
derived from the sublime Words upon which
my spirit had been feeding for many months, and still
more from the personal teachings and example of 'Abdu'l-Baha,
that gave to those words that poignancy-which
attracted and melted hearts. I suppose the old terminology
might have used the term: "the gift of the Holy Spirit"
to describe this marvelous happening. All that I know is
that it was an entirely new and very humbling experience.
The teachings and example of 'Abdu'l-Baha colored
and influenced all relations with my kind. I saw even my
weak attempts to adapt the teachings I had received to
the needs of individual souls result so effectually that I
was filled with a sensation of mingled awe and joy so new,
so overwhelming, that I was carried as if on a torrent of
absolute conviction into such an atmosphere of certitude
that every vestige of my former doubts and uncertainties
vanished as if they had never been. A Voice whispered
across the ages in my deepest soul: "Men do not gather
grapes of thorns, nor figs from thistles." When one sees
with his own eyes human souls awakened, hearts touched
with a divine afflatus, lives deeply affected, sorrow transformed
into content, inward strife and turbulence calmed,
by the Words taken from the prayers and explanations
of these Divine Ones, and applied like a soothing ointment
to the wounds of the soul, to doubt the Spirit from
which" they emanated would have been to doubt all the
prophets of the past; would have been to cast discredit
on the Sermon on the Mount and on all Christian tradition.
"If this is not of God," I said to myself, "then there
is no foundation for faith in God. I would rather be
wrong with this great Faith than seemingly right with all
the doubters and cavillers in the world." From the very
depths of my being there came the cry as uttered by the
firm believers of old: "My Lord and my God!"
Moreover, in my own life such a new orientation occurred
that all events and circumstances; all thoughts and
expressions; all people and conversations acquired a new
significance and a new purport. It seemed as though there
gradually took shape, underlying the smallest as well as
the more important events of daily life, a something solid,
an assurance of it all being well in spite of outward seeming,
which transformed the world. "He had set my feet
upon a rock and established my going."
I remember that one of the members of my family
greeted me one morning, as I entered the room, with the
surprised ejaculation: "Well, what's the good news?"
I suppose my face and bearing was that of one who had
just received the announcement of exceeding good
The meaning of the Words which I had so often quoted
in the more or less perfunctory manner of the theologian
came to me with a novel and striking significance: "Behold
I bring you glad tidings of great joy!" And the
words of Baha'u'llah expressing this same source of
supreme happiness: "This is that which is the spring of
all the gladness of the world."
But it was undoubtedly the receipt of a third Tablet
from the Master which completed my subjugation. I
quote it simply with the prefatory remark that all communications
from 'Abdu'l-Baha are universal and may be
read by any soul and applied to himself if he fulfills the
conditions of the sincere seeker.
"0 thou my heavenly son:
Thy letter was received. It was a rose-garden from
which the sweet fragrances of the love of God were
inhaled. It indicated that you have held a meeting with
the utmost joy and fragrance.
Your aim is the diffusion of the light of guidance;
the resurrection of the dead hearts, the promotion of the
oneness of the world of humanity and the elucidation of
Truth. Unquestionably you will become confirmed therein
and assisted by the invisible powers.
I have prayed on thy behalf that thou mayest become
the minister of the Temple of the Kingdom and the
herald of the Lord of Hosts; that thou mayest build a
monastery in heaven and lay the foundation of a convent
in the Universe of the Placeless; in all thy affairs that
thou mayest become inspired by the Breaths of the Holy
Spirit, and that thou mayest become so illumined that
the eyes of all the ministers be dazzled by thy brilliancy,
and may long to attain to thy station.
Thou an always in my memory. I shall never forget
the days of our meeting.
Endeavor as much as thou canst that thou mayest
master the Principles of Baha'u'llah, promulgate them
all over that continent, create love and unity between
the believers, guiding the people, awakening the heedless
ones and resurrecting the dead.
Convey on my behalf the utmost longing to all the
friends of God.
Upon thee be the Glory of the Most Glorious."
(Signed) 'Abdu'l-Baha Abbas.
Aside from the apparent fact that this letter was a call,
a summons, a Trumpet-peal from a higher realm to
advance-to "come along up," the meaning, the inner significance,
of some of the phrases used eluded me completely
at the time and still remain only dimly apprehended.
"Assisted by the Invisible Powers"-"Minister of the
Temple of the Kingdom"-"A monastery in heaven"-
and a "convent in the Universe of the Placeless"-what
could such strange phrases mean?
As the years have passed and more and more thoroughly
I have become impregnated with the Divine Utterances
of Baha'u'llah and 'Abdu'l-Baha' a meaning has emerged,
elusive yet definite; vague yet alluring beyond words in
its appeal to the spirit. What if the orchestra is veiled
behind its screen of divine roses, is the music less entrancing,
or the certainty that there is an orchestra there less
convincing because of that?
In order that the reader may inhale the perfume from
those roses and, perchance, hear with the inner ear the
strains from that hidden orchestra, let me quote two passages
from the Words of 'Abdu'l-Baha'.
On April 30th, 1912, He spoke in Chicago, at a meeting
of the Baha'i Temple Unity Convention. From this
"Among the institutes of the Holy Books is that of
the foundation of the Divine Temple. This is conducive
to unity and fellowship among men. The real Temple is
the very Law of God, for to that all humanity must
resort, and that is the Point of Unity for all mankind.
That is the Collective Center. That is the cause of accord
and unity of the hearts. That is the cause of the solidarity
of the human race. That is the source of eternal Life.
Temples are the symbols of that uniting force, in order
that when people gather there in a given edifice of God,
in the House and Temple of God, they may recall the
fact that the Law has been revealed for them and that
the Law is to unite them. That just as this edifice was
founded for the unification of mankind, the Law preceding
and creating this Temple was issued therefore."
Again: 'Abdu'l-Baha wrote to an American believer
who had asked regarding her membership in a Christian
"Know thou: in the day of the Manifestation of
Christ many souls became portionless and deprived because
they were members of the Holy of Holies in
Jerusalem. Because of that membership (standing for
exclusiveness and prejudice) they became veiled from
His Brilliant Beauty. Therefore turn thy face to the
Church of God, which consists of divine instructions and
merciful exhortations.+F1 For what similarity is there between
the church of stone and cement, and the Celestial
Holy of Holies? Endeavor that thou mayest enter this
Church of God. Although thou hast given oath to attend
the (material) church, yet thy spirit is under the
Covenant and Testament of the spiritual, divine Temple.
Thou shouldest protect this. The reality of Christ is the
Words of the Holy Spirit. If thou art able, take a portion
Does not a new significance attend the words of John
the divine, as he attempted to portray in symbolic words
the coming of the Kingdom upon earth? "And I saw no
temple therein; for the Lord God Almighty is the Temple
of it." "And the City had no need of the sun for the
Glory of God did lighten it."
(Let it be remembered that the literal translation of
the title "Baha'u'llah" is "the Glory of God.")
To be a "minister" of the Temple of this Kingdom,
then, is simply to be an adherent and promulgator of the
Law of Unity and Love laid down as compulsory upon
all sincere believers in the One God; to be assisted by the
"Invisible Powers" is to be surrounded by those eternal
forces which ever support the courageous warriors for
Truth; to build a "Monastery in Heaven" and a "Convent
in the Universe of the Placeless" is to build such spiritual
fortresses of detachment and severance for the souls of
+F1 Italics are mine.
men that "while living upon the earth they may truly
be in heaven."
To be such a minister is the prerogative of every believer
in the Words of God and the sincere follower of
His Light. What a glorious world this "mound of earth"
will be when all men attain even to a glimmer of this
Two months later a fourth Tablet was received which
again opened Portals to Freedom into a world of increasing
Light and Beauty.
"0 thou my respected son:
The letter that thou hast written with the utmost love
became the cause of perfect happiness. Truly, I say, thou
art striving with heart and soul, to obtain the good
pleasure of God. It is assured that this blessed intention
will have great effect. The good intention is like an
ignited candle whose rays are cast to all parts. Now, praise
be to God, that thou hast manifested the utmost effort
so that thou mayest light a candle of guidance in that
region, plant a tree of the utmost freshness and delicacy
in the garden of the world of humanity;, call the people
to the divine Kingdom; become the means of the progress
of intellects and souls; gather the lost sheep under the
protection of the Real Shepherd; cause the awakening
of the sleepy ones; bestow health upon those who are
spiritually sick; enlarge the sphere of human minds; refine
the moral fiber of the people and direct the wandering
birds to the rose-garden of Reality.
Rest thou assured that the Eternal Outpouring shall
descend upon thee, and the Confirmations of His Holiness
Baha'u'llah shall encircle thee.
Convey to all the believers the wonderful Abha
Upon thee be the Glory of the Most Glorious."
(Signed) 'Abdu'l-Baha Abbas
March 31st, 1914
Again a Call! Again a summons to dwell and work in a
There are three of these Commands-for as such I have
always understood and accepted them-which particularly
impressed me at the time, and which ever since
have been a subconscious influence upon my meditations
and activities. They are these: "Become the means of the
progress of intellects and souls." "Enlarge the sphere of
human minds." "Refine the moral fibre of the people."
It needs but the most cursory observation of average
humanity to realize the static nature of its mind, its
cumbrousness, its inability to move out of its chosen or
enforced rut. The mental and spiritual "Sphere" in which
most of us function is a very narrow one. Our horizon is
limited by our personal interests. True, the student and
philosopher go beyond this and pigeon-hole their knowledge
and pride themselves upon their "liberality" of view,
but when it comes to action their horizon also is limited by
personal considerations. I do not forget the saints and
heroes of all time who have placed Truth above self,
family and life. But neither do I forget that the portion of
such has ever been the stake, the dungeon and the Cross.
And, alas, it would seem that neither do "the simple ones
whom men call savants" (as Baha'u'llah so trenchantly
observes) forget it either. They follow Truth just so far
as "her ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths
are peace," but hesitate when the finger of scorn points
or possessions are threatened, or family deserts.
Far be it from me to criticize or cavil at this fundamental
quality of a nature common to us all. I simply
point out this incontrovertible fact and that this attitude,
according to the dictum of all the great and holy ones of
the ages, is due to ignorance. Ignorance of the true nature
of Life; ignorance of its infinite horizons; ignorance of
its origins in the unimaginably distant past as well as of
its equally unimaginable glorious future in "all the worlds
It is this to which 'Abdu'l-Baha refers when He calls
one to "Become the means of the progress of intellects and
souls," and "to enlarge the sphere of human minds."
As to His summons to "refine the moral fibre of the
people": surely none may doubt the average flaccidity
of that fibre. Our estimates of any moral issue are almost
invariably decided by its personal reaction. If we test our
sense of justice, for instance, by Baha'u'llah's definition:
"Wert thou to observe justice choose for others that
which thou choosest for thyself," +F2 how many of us would
+F2 Words of Wisdom, Baha'u'llah.
measure up? From the automobile driver in an accident
whose first instinct is to blame the other party, to the
judge on the bench whose decisions are apt to be colored
by its political results, all are tarred by the same brush.
And again the reason is to be found in the limited sphere
of the mind. Those who do so are simply short-sighted.
Their horizon is too narrow, too limited by immediate
considerations, to see clearly the inevitable results. It is
these results which have plainly been written on the
pages of all history, the cumulative effects of which have
now thrown the world into disastrous confusion and
Surely if ever there were a greater need than this, that
the moral fibre of the people be refined to a point where it
shall be cleansed from those elements foreign to man's
higher and divine nature, and He "stand forth pure and
unsullied by the dross of selfishness" it would be difficult
The most impressive of the Tablets received from
'Abdu'l-Baha came to me just about the time of the outbreak
of the World War, early in August of 1914. It is as follows:
"O thou respected personage:
Thy letter was received. Its perusal imparted to me
great hopefulness, for from its contents it became manifest
that through the ejects of thy entrance into the
Divine Kingdom thou art progressing day by day.
When this progress shall become perpetual and continual,
then thou shall find the Most Great Center in
the Universe of God, and shall clearly behold the Confirmations
of the Holy Spirit. Thou shalt be baptized
in the Fountain of Life and shalt be freed from all the
laws of the world of nature.
Thou shalt become illumined, merciful, heavenly-a
radiant candle in the world of humanity.
Endeavor as much as possible to liberate thyself
wholly from human susceptibilities-so that the powers
of the Kingdom may gain control over thy heart and
thy spirit-to such a degree that although thou art living
on the face of the earth, yet thou mayest truly be in
heaven; that although outwardly thou an composed of
material elements, yet spiritually thou mayest become
composed of heavenly elements.
This is the everlasting glory of man! This is the
eternal sublimity in the world of existence! This is the
never-ending Life! This is the Spirit incarnated in the
heart of humanity!
Upon thee be the Glory of the Most Glorious."
(Signed) 'Abdu'l-Baha Abbas
Home of 'Abdu'l-Baha,
July 16th, 1914.
It seems impossible to imagine a higher mandate, a more
provocative appeal, a more stimulating and suggestive
contrast to ordinary ideals or modes of thought. There
is a galvanic quality to such phrases as "Find the Most
Great Center in the Universe of God," "Be freed from
all the laws of the world of nature," and "Liberate thyself
wholly from human susceptibilities." And what shall
be said regarding the hope emphatically proffered that
under certain conditions it is possible that the "Powers of
the Kingdom," those higher Laws and their active exponents
of a Celestial World, may so "gain control" of
one's being that he may actually become composed of
different and holy elements, and may walk this world
outwardly its denizen but inwardly guided and motivated
by influences and powers emanating from a far higher
and more real world.
It is possible that the reader may consider such ideas
as fantastic. Nor should that be an incomprehensible attitude
unless he has some knowledge of the lives and
teachings of Baha'u'llah and His Son, and-I may emphatically
add-the lives and martyrdoms of thousands of
their followers and lovers.
As for myself: I have seen with my own eyes a Life
so far above the sort of life lived by the ordinary man
that any comparison based on its activation by ordinary
motives is incredible. 'Abdu'l-Baha certainly revolved
around a "Center" vastly different from the ego-
centeredness of mankind. He, while outwardly clothed
in man's habiliments, inwardly was palpably clothed with
the "characteristics of God." So plainly was He free
from "all the laws of the world of nature" and liberated
from captivity to "human susceptibilities" that one could
not be in the same room with Him and not feel the atmosphere
of a higher, calmer, nobler world radiating from
What, then, shall be our reaction when He calls us to
join Him in that World of the Spirit? One of only three
attitudes seems to be possible: (a) He was a visionary,
an impractical idealist and not to be taken seriously.
(b) He was unique in type and capabilities and spoke
and acted from a background of wisdom and capacity
unattainable by other men. (c) He was a Herald of a
World of Reality of which this phenomenal world is like
an upside-down reflection; a Summoner to all men to
leave the seeming and live on the plane of the Real; an
Exemplar to humanity that such an utter alteration of
orientation is not only possible but imperative if any measure
of happiness, tranquillity, wisdom and prosperity is
to be attained.
Let us examine each of these possibilities, for there are
no others and we must decide on one of them, unless we
are willing to dodge the issue entirely and refuse to think.
(a) 'Abdu'l-Baha's whole life contradicted this assumption
that He was a visionary, an impractical idealist.
When He addressed the student body at Leiand Stanford
University He was introduced by its president, David
Starr Jordan, in these words: " 'Abdu'l-Baha will surely
unite the East and the West for He treads the mystical
way with practical feet." He was a successful business
man and was often consulted by other men, not believers
by the way, as to the conduct of their businesses. One
of His outstanding characteristics was a calm judgment
in all material affairs; a poise in dealing with men and
occasions of all kinds unrivaled by the most astute of
captains of industry. He has been known to go into the
kitchen and prepare a meal for His guests. He never failed
in such small attentions as seeing that the room where
His visitors were entertained contained every possible
comfort, though He paid no attention to His own
In short, the slightest investigation into the facts will
force the conclusion that our first hypothesis is untenable.
(b) That He was possessed of powers more than
human and therefore we could not be expected to be like
Him. This is the easy explanation. It is the "alibi" so often
used by those who demand an excuse for the discrepancy
between their ideals and actions. The modem term for
this kind of thing is "rationalizing."
The difficulty of accepting it is that by its acceptance
we automatically reject the teachings and example of all
the great souls of the past and present. To those bred in
the Christian tradition it means the placing of the Christ
in the category of an unapproachable perfection and pay
no regard to His constant reiteration of the necessity for
"walking in His way," "loving one another as I have
loved you," "taking up one's cross daily and following
Me." It is also to disregard the philosophies of the noblest
of mankind who make no claims to divine authority.
Such men as Socrates, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius,
Emerson, and countless others whose lives have proven
the possibility of approximating deeds to words.
And worst of all results from such a decision, or so it
seems to the writer at least, is the degrading corollary
that man's progress has ceased; that the present condition
of the world, which is due to man's disregard of, and
unbelief in, any such world as 'Abdu'l-Baha intimates in
the above Tablet, is the normal and unchangeable condition.
It means that the "laws of the world of nature" are
irrevocable; that it is man's proper state for him "to be
read in tooth and claw with raven"; that there is no destiny
beyond the grave and consequently no higher world of
activity to which to prepare.
No! To me this is an unthinkable, a monstrous conclusion.
Let us examine without prejudice the third hypothesis,
namely, that Baha'u'llah came into the world into the world as the latest
of the long line of Revealers of the Divine Will for the
express purpose of opening to men the world of Reality;
to focus the attention of men upon a type of life, a sphere
of activity which heretofore has remained more or less
in the background of men's effective energies, and that
His Son, 'Abdu'l-Baha, is the living proof of man's ability
to live and move and work in that World of Reality and
thus build in actuality that Kingdom on earth which
Jesus told us to expect and for which He commanded
us to petition.
To this writer such an hypothesis is not only satisfying
but supremely rational and understandable. That there is
such a sphere of action; (which is what is meant by the
term "World") is abundantly demonstrated not only by
the peaks of humanity but in varying degrees by every
human soul. Man's selfishness ("that strange disease" as
'Abdu'l-Baha designates it) has heretofore clouded that
World, but within the last half-century more and more
Its Light has shone. Our Red Cross society, our International
Peace organizations, The League of Nations,
Even our community chests, are demonstrating
its existence and influential power.
Baha'u'llah has simply called all men to make that
sphere of action the realm of which they shall constantly
and consciously move, speak and act. In effect He says
to us; "You have tried it in a small degree, why not extend
it to embrace every detail of life?"
In order that this may be accomplished, is it not plain
that guidance is necessary? This complex world is very
sick. It is dieing from lack of a skilled physician. Its disease
is so complicated, so affecting every part and organ, and
the attending physicians-the statesman, moralists, and
idealists-so ignorant of the underlying causes, that eminent
dissolution is impending. Shall we come to the
despairing conclusion that there is no wise Physician?
Shall we supinely acquiesce that this dissolution is assured,
and stand with watch in hand at the bedside of the
dying patient awaiting the inevitable hour? Or shall we,
possibly as a last desperate resort, if our faithless souls so
wish to call it, turn to One who at least lays claim to
ability to diagnose and prescribe? One who declares over
and over again in Words of matchless power and eloquence
His Divine Power to heal? From many such I
That which the Lord hath ordained as the sovereign
remedy and mightiest instrument for the healing of all the
world is the union of all its peoples in one universal
Cause, one common Faith. This can in no wise be
achieved except through the power of a skilled and all-
powerful and inspired Physician. This, verily, is the truth,
and all else is not but error."
Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 255.+F3
+F3 Promulgation of Universal Peace, Vol. I, p. 246.
And 'Abdu'l-Baha says:
"The body of the human world is sick. Its remedy
and healing will be the oneness of the kingdom of
humanity. Its life is 'The Most Great Peace.' Its illumination
and quickening is love. Its happiness is the attainment
of spiritual perfections. It is my hope that through the
bounties and favors of the Blessed Perfection (one of
the titles of Baha'u'llah) we may find a new life, acquire
a new power and attain to a wonderful and supreme
source of energy so that the *Most Great Peace' of divine
intention shall be established upon the foundation of the
unity of the world of men with God."
And not only does Baha'u'llah claim the ability to
diagnose and heal, but also the Supreme Authority to
command, to lead, to conquer.
"O kings of the earth! The Most Great Law hath been
revealed in this spot, this scene of transcendent splendor.
Every hidden thing hath been brought to light, by virtue
of the Will of the Supreme Ordainer, He who hath
ushered in the Last Hour, and every irrevocable decree
"Ye are but vassals, 0 kings of the earth! He who
is the King of kings hath appeared, arrayed in His most
wondrous Glory, and is summoning you unto Himself,
the Help in peril, the Self-Subsisting."
Baha'u'llah to the rulers.
Gleanings from the writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 21.
Never in all the history of the Prophets of the past
have such tremendous affirmations been made, such Divine
Authority been claimed, such power demonstrated. And
let us not forget that for forty years this sublime One bore
the persecutions and tortures of cruel kings and priests;
that He lived to see thousands of His devoted believers
suffer the same fate, even unto death; that throughout all
of this long period never did He cease proclaiming His
Divine Mission with an inflexible determination and an
unconquerable Majesty which humbled in the end even
His worst enemies. Let those who have shed one drop of
blood in upholding their ideal of Truth be the first
To those who see "with the eye of God," who possess
that spiritual vision without which we are as "those who
having eyes see not," is revealed that World of Reality
whose "Most Great Center" is the Manifestation of God
in this great Day of His Revelation.
We have been revolving around such limited centers,
such petty interests, that our horizons have been circumscribed
to such an extent that it is all but impossible for
us to conceive a "Most Great Center" attaining to which
we view the "Universe of God" spread before our wondering
eyes, and scan a "Supreme Horizon" including all
the sons of men; in the Light of which, the Glory of which, all
problems are solved, all flames of strife extinguished
in that unity and love which is the basis of the Laws of the
Nevertheless, the Christs of the ages, the Guides and
Leaders of mankind, have ever insisted on the reality, the
supremacy of this Divine World. Let such as are men of
courage and action obey and follow them!
In September of 1916, when the World War was at
its height, and communication between the Orient and
Occident was difficult, I received a postal-card from the
secretary of "'Abdu'l-Baha, containing His final Tablet to
me. It was not signed by Him and the original has not
yet come to my hand, so I transcribe the postal-card as
I received it so that the record may be complete.
June 22d, 1916.
"My dear brother in the Cause of humanity:
The reports of your services, your travels and lectures
are most stimulating to the friends in the Holy Land
and conducive to the happiness of the heart of "'Abdu'l-Baha.
He loves you and prays for your spiritual success
and prosperity. He has revealed a wonderful Tablet in
your name, the translation of which is the following:
0 thou speaker in the Temple of the Kingdom!
Praise be to God that most of the time thou
art traveling, going from city to city raising the
melody of the Kingdom in meetings and churches,
and announcing the glad-tidings of Heaven.
It is recorded in the Gospel that John the
Baptist was crying in the wilderness: "Prepare ye
the way of the Lord, make His Paths straight,
for the Kingdom of God is ac hand."
He was crying in the wilderness, but thou art
crying m populous cities. Although the ministers
have brilliant crowns on their heads, yet it is
my hope that thou mayest crown thy head with
the diadem of the Kingdom-such a diadem
whose brilliant jewels may illuminate the dark
passages of future centuries and cycles.
God says in His great Book, Qur'an, "He
especializes with His Mercy whomsoever He
willeth." That is. God distinguished! with His
favor and bestowal a number of souls and marks
them with His own seal of approval. A similar
statement is revealed in the Gospel: "Many are
called but few are chosen." Now, praise be to
God that thou art one of those "few."
Appreciate thou the value of this bounty, and
occupy thy time as much as thou canst in the diffusion of the
diffusion of the fragrances of God."
Upon thee be greetings and praise.
(Signed) 'Abdu'l-Baha Abbas.
"The holy Manifestations of God come into the world
to dispel the darkness of the animal, or physical, nature
of man, to purify him from his imperfections, in order
that his heavenly and spiritual nature may become
quickened, his divine qualities awakened, his perfections
visible, his potential powers revealed and all the virtues
of the world of humanity latent within him may come
SO here is the story. Not what it should be as an attempt
towards the portrayal of what, to me, has
seemed the perfect life, but so far as the influence which
that Life has had upon my own, it has been unreserved.
For eight months that Figure moved before me. In spite
of the 25 years that have elapsed, still is it distinct and
vital. Memory has pictures which words may never paint.
However sadly incomplete and inadequate the endeavor
to portray that Life may be, it has been a great happiness
to make the attempt. I lay it before the reader with sincere
humility and love.
How could such a picture be complete? The brief span
of years which we dare to speak of as "life" is so confused
with details foreign to the true issues involved that when
there enters upon this scene One who lives with calm
assurance in a World in which confusion is unknown,
yet who understands the turmoil of men's hearts and
knows the remedy, how could it be possible for one still
in that anarchy of thought and action adequately to portray
Him who brings illumination? How draw the picture
graphically? How make others see and hear as He did?
To me there is only one way in which that Life may
even feebly be understood. An assumption must be made
and a clear-cut conviction arrived at. This may be simply
stated. It is this:
The world of phenomena, the "contingent world," the
world as ordinarily accepted, is not the real world. The
life we live from day to day with its monotonous round
of eating and drinking; its sleeping and waking hours;
its routine of work, play, study, birth and death; its varieties
of poverty and wealth, of learned and ignorant, of
powerful and weak-all this is a mask hiding the face of
Reality. The endless attempts to solve the riddle clothed
in high-sounding titles-Philosophy, Education, Science,
Statesmanship-are all a species of groping in the dark.
Life does not "begin at 40," it begins in God. We do
not "live on 24 hours a day"; "In Him we live and move
and have our being," and ages of preparation precede
this little "life," and ages to come are its fulfillment.
Scholasticism provides no answer to the demands of
men for a satisfaction of those primal needs of the spirit.
Religion, as generally understood-being, as it is, a mixture
of tradition, social convention, and more or less correct
estimates of the immediate problems confronting the
people, and all savored with a salt which has lost its savor-
provides no satisfaction to the hungry souls of men. In
all this confusion of thought and action no rock is found
upon which man may plant his spiritual feet and be confident
in his treading.
If this is not the real world where is it? What is it?
How find it? As I have intimated, the answer is plain
enough to those who are not entirely "submerged in the
sea of materialism." Most of mankind may be likened to
a man lost in a London fog so that the well-known way
to his own door is blotted out. The fog which blinds our
spiritual vision is composed of the "selfish disorders, intellectual
maladies, spiritual sicknesses, imperfections and
vices" which surround us and hold us in thralldom. The
Prophets of God, the Will and Love of God enshrined in
the temple of man, have brought the Light of the Sun
of Reality which alone can dissipate the fog, place man
upon the right path and free him from that thralldom.
The Eternal Christ coming to the aid of distracted
humanity about once in every thousand years alone is the
Portal to Freedom. Ever to the keen of vision, the quick
of hearing, the possessors of heart. His Divine Voice calling
to enter. His loving hands pointing and assisting, have
Again, in this Day in which we live our little span of
years, has the latest of these "Sign-Posts" to the Path declared
His Mission and issued His Call.
It was my inestimable privilege to watch and talk with,
for a period of eight months, the Son of Baha'u'llah, the
Center of His Covenant, the perfect exemplar of His
Word and Life; the One by whom "He hath caused to
appear the traces of the Glory of His Kingdom upon the
Here I saw a man who, outwardly, like myself, lived in
the world of confusion, yet, inwardly, beyond the possibility
of doubt, lived and worked in that higher and
real world. All His concepts, all His motives, all His
actions, derived their springs from that "World of
Light." And, which is to me a most inspiring and encouraging
fact. He took it for granted that you and I, the
ordinary run-of-the-mill humanity, could enter into and
live and move in that world if we would.
To those who have read this chronicle with the "eye
of heart" some glimmer of conviction may have come
that such a world is open to them, such a life may be
approximated for themselves, such a portal may be entered
by their feet, such a freedom be attained. It is with
this hope that my story has been told.
January 7, 1937.