Who was `Abdu'l-Bahá, and why did He come to the West?


Saturday, April 30, 2011

April 29, 1912

"Today I received two books in the mail:  Where Shadows Live: Alice Pike Barney and Her Friends and Wild Heart: A Life, Natalie Clifford Barney and the Decadence of Literary Paris.  They will help me understand Alice, Laura, and Natalie better, as well as their relationship to the Faith and to `Abdu'l-Bahá.  Natalie, the most bohemian of the three, is famous for her salons in Paris, and perhaps did not relate to her mother's and sister's interest in the Faith. But her life still seems fascinating. . . .


[En route to and arrival in Chicago]

Can you imagine taking a train trip with `Abdu'l-Bahá from Washington D.C. to Chicago? Today (in 1912) the train was still en route; it will arrive in the evening, as described below. It's interesting to think about Chicago being the site where the first mention of the Faith was uttered in 1892--and the first community was developed. Also it is interesting how `Abdu'l-Bahá summarizes the time spent in Washington D.C.  He will visit both cities three different times on this journey. 

Mahmud notes, on April 29: 

"In the morning the Master again praised the beauty and fertility of the countryside; a more fertile land had never before been seen. He had breakfast in the dining car. Today He spoke mostly about the days of the Blessed Beauty and had Him constantly in mind.
"The train reached Chicago at night. The city was so bright with lights it was as if it were the Feast of Lights. When the friends saw the Master at the train station, they were filled with excitement, crying out `Alláh-u-Abhá' and `Yá `Abdu'l-Bahá', their voices resounding throughout the station.
"The Master went to the Plaza Hotel. After a brief rest, He was visited by some of the Bahá'ís, to whom He said: 'You have a good city. The call of God was first raised in this city. I hope that in Chicago the Cause of God will progress greatly and that it may be illumined by the light of the Kingdom just as it is brightened by electricity.
'In Washington we always had audiences of one to two thousand in large meetings. Day and night I had no rest. A close friendship was created between the black and white people. Many came to the Faith. Even those who are not believers drew much closer. Notwithstanding all this, I like Chicago more because the call of Bahá'u'lláh was first raised in this city. I hope you will be assisted to do great service and to live together in the utmost love and harmony.'
"When the believers begged for protection from tests and trials, `Abdu'l-Bahá said to them:
'The severest tests were in Persia where properties were pillaged and the friends were martyred. They had not a moment's security. In short, I had a great desire to see you. If I hadn't this desire, the assistance of Bahá'u'lláh would not have encompassed me. It is His assistance that has brought me here, for, at the time of leaving Alexandria, when I boarded the ship, I was not well at all.'
"Some newspaper reporters telephoned, asking permission to interview the Master. He agreed that they could interview Him the following morning. After dinner, He looked out at the park and, gazing at the scenery before Him, said, `This building commands a good view; most of the parks, streets and the city's lights can be seen.'"
Allan Ward reports a headline from the April 29 Chicago Daily News: "BAHAIST CHIEF MISSING." Apparently around 170 Baha'is were gathered at the Baha'i convention, expecting to see Him on the 29th, but He went from the train to the hotel and would meet them the following day. One senses the great drama around His presence. . . .
There is little mention of the Ridvan period, and of course, the Guardian had not yet come into his own, and the holy day observances were not systematized.  Without cell phones or email, how did the friends let each other know what was happening? Hard to imagine all the details of the network of communication.  But we do know that He was excited to be in Chicago. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Louis Gregory in Washington D.C.

Before I "get on" the train bound for Chicago, I must pick up the thread of the story of Louis Gregory in Washington D.C.  This is one of the greatest stories of the Master's journey in America, surely. But first, a little preface about my own connection to Louis Gregory. 




A few months ago, I had the privilege of having Gayle Morrison as a houseguest. We had marvelous talks, and she helped inspire us (my husband and I) to work on a documentary film about the journey.  So, we are now in the process--without a budget, without "official" encouragement, but with a hope in our hearts to carry this out. People such as Gayle are absolutely necessary--as muses, mentors, collaborators, researchers, friends. 


Years ago, in 1980, when I read Gayle's book, To Move the World: Louis G. Gregory and the Advancement of Racial Unity in America, I was fascinated by its story.  In fact, it was the only book in my whole life that I began reading for the second time after I finished it. After I finished the second reading, and I can so clearly and distinctly remember this moment, I got down (literally) on my knees and asked God to make me more like Louis Gregory. At the time I was living in a very small apartment in Philadelphia and was quite poor; my husband was a student at UPenn and I had a job at minimum wage.  I was also missing Green Acre terribly, as I had lived near it for the previous four years. 


While I was on my knees, the phone rang. It was Dick Grover, Green Acre's director. He wanted to know if I could write a play about Louis Gregory and present it that summer! Stunned by both the timing and the content of his call, I immediately said yes.  My next thought was, how will I be able to afford to go up there? His next statement was, "And we'll pay your way."


Mysterious are the ways of the spirit! I went to Green Acre that summer after writing the play, which was taken directly from material in Gayle's book. I had a group of willing volunteers to act in it, but they balked when I tried to teach them the Black National Anthem to sing at the end. I pleaded, and finally they agreed to try it, and it was after that song that we received a standing ovation at the end of the play. Victory!  


Since then, I've thought about Louis Gregory's role at Green Acre, visited his cottage (before it was torn down), gone to his grave (twice as part of the black men's gatherings on the last day, where the public joins them to experience a sea of beauty, song, and drumming), and of course prayed for his assistance in many things.  He and Louisa (and how important it is to mention his wife, a white woman from England) had a union brought about by the Master Himself!  This is dramatized by Mike and Karen Sadar Watt, and I also have a script I've used with two actors relating the story. 


My own preparation for embracing the cause of race unity comes from having liberal parents during the Civil Rights Movement. In 1958, the Little Rock schools were shut down because of strife over 9 black students being integrated into Central High School. My mother, on the school board there, was harshly criticized for her stance on integration; my father marched in Selma; we all participated in various marches and protests.  Becoming a Baha'i for me was a direct outcome of years of awareness of the importance of racial unity and justice. . . . 


So, reading about Louis Gregory a few years later was a thrilling thing! I am still amazed at his capacity to deflect the prejudice of his time and to inspire us with his knowledge and constancy! 


With that as a personal background to the story, let me take up his Washington story. 


By the way, there is a website you might wish to go to for a succinct summary of Gregory's life: 
 http://bahaiheoresheroines.blogspot.com/2010/05/louis-gregory-first-hand-of-cause-of.html


Here is Harlan Ober's telling of the story (versions of which can be found in Mahmud's Diary, To Move the World, Agnes Parsons' Diary, The Diary of Juliet Thompson, and so forth), from the website above; 


"During the visit of 'Abdu'l-Baha in the United States in 1912 a luncheon in His honor was given in Washington by Mirza Ali-Kuli Khan and Madame Khan, who were both Baha'is. Khan was at that time charge d'affaires of the Persian Legation in the capital city. Many noted people were invited, some of whom were members of the official and social life of Washington, as well as a few Baha’is. Just an hour before the luncheon 'Abdu'l-Baha sent word to Louis Gregory that he might come to Him for the promised conference. Louis arrived at the appointed time, and the conference went on and on; 'Abdu'l-Baha seemed to want to prolong it. When luncheon was announced, 'Abdu'l-Baha led the way and all followed Him into the dining room, except Louis. All were seated when suddenly 'Abdu'l-Baha stood up, looked all around, and then said to Mirza Khan, Where is Mr. Gregory? Bring Mr. Gregory! There was nothing for Mirza Khan to do but find Mr. Gregory, who fortunately had not yet left the house, but was quietly waiting for a chance to do so. Finally Mr. Gregory came into the room with Mirza Khan. 'Abdu'l-Baha, Who was really the Host (as He was wherever He was), had by this time rearranged the place setting and made room for Mr. Gregory, giving him the seat of honor at His right. He stated He was very pleased to have Mr. Gregory there, and then, in the most natural way as if nothing unusual had happened, proceeded to give a talk on the oneness of mankind."


This occurred on April 23, 1912. 


Gayle Morrison notes that Juliet's account "testifies to the ease with which 'Abdu'l-Baha defied convention, as if it did not in fact exist. . . . Gently yet unmistakably, 'Abdu'l-Baha had assaulted the customs of a city that had been scandalized only a decade earlier by President Roosevelt's dinner invitation to Booker T. Washington.  Moreover, as a friend who helped Madame Khan with the luncheon recalled, the place setting that 'Abdu'l-Baha had rearranged so carefully had been made according to the strict demands of Washington protocol.  Thus, with one stroke 'Abdu'l-Baha had swept aside both segregation by race and categorization by social rank." (53)


Whew. I think we cannot grasp the full implication of this from our 2011 vantage point. Nor can we "feel" what Louis must have experienced, having patiently put up with so many things that were hurtful.  Of course, there had been theoretical talk of unity and the hope of human "brotherhood," but 'Abdu'l-Baha showed the way of actual unity.  Beyond that--He showed how we can HONOR people of color and "create" for them a place of respect and privilege, which is certainly deserved. 


The analogy of the pupil of the eye (being the darkest part of the eye but letting in the most light) that He wrote in at least two tablets (one of which was addressed to Sarah Farmer) helps us to SEE the beauty that exists in persons of color and sometimes favor them, thus creating the balance so sorely needed in our world.  We can practice this every day, realizing the potency of 'Abdu'l-Baha's example. . . . 


Words cannot convey the profundity of this lesson--and I haven't even described other aspects of it, such as Louis Gregory's connection to Howard University and 'Abdu'l-Baha's talk there on the same day as the luncheon. "When the racial elements of the American nation unite in actual fellowship and accord, the lights of the oneness of humanity will shine," He said.


This theme would continue in Chicago in three major speeches, including a session of the NAACP. Louis had gone to Chicago, but would during most of 'Abdu'l-Baha's journey be in Washington, where he would see the Master twice more.


Gayle Morrison comments on how Louis Gregory listened and learned from 'Abdu'l-Baha's talks to "find the point of contact" with an audience. (Think of it, we can do this too!)  Regarding race, Gayle notes that "rather than intensify a natural preoccupation with oppression, 'Abdu'l-Baha sought to foster confidence in the power to effect change. For blacks . . . this meant, on the one hand, development of a sense of own's own beauty and worth, and on the other hand, reinforcement of the good qualities of whites through praise and appreciation.  It also meant taking a larger view, broadening one's perspectives both historically and internationally" (57–58).


Can we imagine the first century of the Faith without the "noble minded, golden hearted" Louis Gregory? OR 'Abdu'l-Baha's journey without this particular story, set in our nation's capitol? 


May we all reflect on the wisdom of the Master and do our part to continue the important evolution of  true affection and unity among the races. . . . 


(See Gayle's thoughtful comments under "comments.")

April 28, 1912

Departure for Chicago; Assurance of a condition beyond "the world of words"

`Abdu'l-Bahá left for Chicago (and then would travel to Cleveland and Pittsburg before returning to Washington D.C. on May 8).  I have the feeling that not only was it special to have the Parsons' home a kind of "home base," but that He had made so many connections in Washington that He looked forward to coming back. His conversations, as noted below by Mahmud, assured some of the friends that "all created things are interlinked" and that when hearts are connected, "bodily separation is not important; this condition is beyond the world of words and above all description."

Ah, for a dose of that at the current time! In this world where things are moving so quickly, it seems that we rarely have time for losing ourselves in the sea of oneness.  Yet it is fully possible, in any moment!  I must pray for that. 

For now, I'm going to include Mahmud's diary entry and then go  to bed. I hope that tomorrow I can pick up the thread of Louis Gregory in D.C.--as I am guilty of not yet tackling that essential subject. 

Sunday, April 28, 1912
[Washington DC, en route to Chicago]
The Master prepared to leave for Chicago. Among those who came to see Him was the ambassador of Great Britain [a note clarifies that it was Edward Alfred Mitchell, not the ambassador but an employee of the British Embassy in Washington--AP], who was very humble and reverent while in His presence. Many friends, believers and seekers were with `Abdu'l-Bahá until His departure at 5:30 p.m. As He was leaving He said to Mrs Parsons:
This was the springtime; we had good meetings at your home; I shall never forget them. I shall pray for divine confirmation for you that you may be assisted both materially and spiritually. This material world has an outward appearance, as it has also an inner reality. All created things are interlinked in a chain leading to spirituality and ultimately ending in abstract realities. I hope that these spiritual links will become stronger day by day and that this communication of hearts, which is termed inspiration, will continue. When this connection exists, bodily separation is not important; this condition is beyond the world of words and above all description.
To others He said, `I hope these meetings of ours will bring forth everlasting results. The greatest of all benefits is the oneness of humanity and universal peace.'
Some friends came to the railway station to see `Abdu'l-Bahá off and to gaze once more at the Master's beautiful countenance [Agnes Parsons, Dr. Farid, Turkish ambassador and his son, Ali Kuli Khan and Florence Breed Khan, Mirza Sohrab, Charles Mason Remey, Mrs. Belmont, and Leona Barnitz--AP]. Some were to accompany Him to Chicago. Among them was Mrs Moss, a stenographer, who had requested a Persian name and was given the name Marzieh Khánum.
After crossing the Potomac River, the train entered the state of Virginia, which is exceedingly fertile and green. The scenery on both sides was charming, with a verdant expanse of land as far as the eye could see. `Abdu'l-Bahá praised the scenery and said it was most beautiful but His face showed signs of an inner sorrow. After a few minutes He said, `Whenever I see such scenes, I feel great sorrow, for the Blessed Beauty liked verdure and greenery very much. God shall never pardon those who imprisoned Him in that place.' 
The conversation then turned to the train. The Master praised the sleeping car room, the cleanliness of the compartments and the electric lights in them; however, owing to the speed of the train, the Master was not able to sleep.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

April 27, 1912

Today I received an unexpected gift: a map of `Abdu'l-Bahá's travels created by Tom Viator, who was in our Wilmette Institute course on `Abdu'l-Bahá a year or so ago.  Now that prayer channels are open and the work on the anniversary has begun, I am learning to anticipate daily confirmations!

Today, in 1912, was the last day `Abdu'l-Bahá was in Washington D.C. (for now). Mahmud's diary entry is distinctive in at least two ways: One, he speaks of himself in the "I" voice, which seems rare, and mentions that he recites a poem. This helps us to realize his role as a traveling companion to `Abdu'l-Bahá, not just as a chronicler. Two, he uses effusive adjectives (magnificent, most blessed, most great) at the end, so we know that the last night in D.C. was quite spectacular. The East-West connection is again emphasized, the fact that `Abdu'l-Bahá offered distinctive messages to various people (a judge, Admiral Peary, a bishop, relatives of President Taft . . . ] is noted. We can imagine the excitement but also the dismay of those who didn't want to see Him leave their midst.



Here's Mahmud's entry:


Saturday, April 27, 1912
[Washington DC]
Mrs Parsons offered the Master a sum of money but He said that she should distribute it among the poor. No matter how much she supplicated, He would not accept it, saying, `If we had not had the money necessary for the expenses of the voyage, we would have accepted your offer.'
The Treasurer of the United States had lunch with the Master. This gentleman was very happy and smiling as he bade farewell to the Master. Later, the Master went to the home of an official to say goodbye. The man embraced Him, weeping with joy. When I saw the smile of the Treasurer and the tears of the official, I recited this poem: `The smiles and tears of the lovers are from another world.'
The Bahá'í meetings and the outstanding qualities of the Master have received such acclaim that today, out of jealousy, some narrow-minded Christian clergymen spoke out against the Cause.
Since this was the last night of the Master's stay in the this city, Mrs Parsons held an elegant reception for dignitaries and city officials in honor of `Abdu'l-Bahá and on behalf of the Orient-Occident Unity Society. Three hundred people in formal attire assembled in the spacious rooms, which were beautifully decorated with flowers and ornaments. When the Master came downstairs, each guest, man and woman alike, approached Him with the utmost reverence to shake His hand. They introduced one another and paid Him their respects. The guests then went into the dining room to partake of the repast prepared for them, including beverages, cakes, ice cream and coffee.
     After they had eaten the guests were ushered into the music hall while the Master sat in another room to receive those who wished to see Him. He answered all their questions. To a Washington judge He said: `It is possible to establish among the powers of the whole world the unity which is found among the states of the United States of America.' To some doctors He stated, `I hope that you will raise the standard of universal peace.' To a mathematician He said, `I hope that you will try to teach the truth and principles of divine religions to different nations just as you are teaching mathematics to different persons in your school.' To Admiral Peary, the explorer of the North Pole, He said, `I hope you will discover the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.' The Master spoke to a bishop, saying, `My hope is that you will abandon harmful imitations, spread the truth of the teachings of Christ and remove all those dogmas that are against science and reality.' To the chargé d'affaires of Switzerland, the Master described His sojourn in that country. To some relatives of the President of the United States [William Howard Taft] He spoke about divine civilization. To a member of Congress, He said, `Just as you are exerting yourself for the good of America, so must you expend your energy for the benefit of all the nations of the world.' He also spoke to the head of the United States Patent Office and the General Consul, the President of the Peace Congress and other well-known personages.
When this magnificent meeting ended, the guests came to `Abdu'l-Bahá one by one to shake His hand and to say goodbye. The night was one of the most blessed nights and that meeting one of the most great and important meetings.

_______



Juliet has her own version of that day.  She specifies the Treasurer's name (Lee McClung), and says that he had been one of the "idols" of her early adolescence. The year before she had seen him and he had made fun of her conversion, but there he was in the audience at a meeting with `Abdu'l-Bahá! 

Several other dramatic things occurred for Juliet in Washington.  One was that the Master asked if she wanted to paint Him there, and she agreed to it. (She had learned that just before He arrived in NY, Mrs. Gibbons had received a tablet in which He said, "On my arrival in America Miss Thompson shall paint a wonderful portrait of Me.") She tried to paint Him at Agnes' house, but the light was "weak" and she despaired at the thought of using the wallpaper (with tiny bunches of flowers on it) as a background for His head, so she asked if He would pose in NY instead.  He consented "freely and sweetly." 

Juliet also had a potent talk with the Master, in which He told her, through and interpreter, that He had met many people who had been affected by her. "You are not eloquent, you are not fluent, but your heart teaches. . . . You will be confirmed. A great bounty will descend upon you. You will become eloquent. Your tongue will be loosed. Teach, always teach. The confirmations of the Holy Spirit descend upon those who teach constantly.  Never feel fear. The Holy Spirit will give you the words to say. . . ." Surely this was an astonishing interchange--one we might all envy.  Juliet comments, "How can I ever feel fear again when I have to mount the dreaded platform?"

So--what fears do we have that we can shed because of the promise of divine assistance?  How can we ever realize that `Abdu'l-Bahá can be as intimate with us now as He was with those early believers so privileged to be beside Him? 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

April 26, 1912

Today (in 2011) I received a book from Amazon: Alice Pike Barney Memorial Collection.  It's a beautiful book about her life and art, with a large number of prints of her paintings.  Lovely to see a portrait of Mirza Abul-Fadl there, and of course several of Laura. . . . I don't think the book mentions the Faith, but it may. Certainly Alice's connections with the Smithsonian and with the theatre and art worlds she frequented form the focal point, with mention of Laura's travels and French husband.

Back to 1912:  Reading Juliet's diary entry for May 7, I see she has described so many things about the days in Washington D.C.  It is great to have her eye for detail and her passion balance the more factual accounts by Mahmud, who has the terrible task of being a sort of official scribe and historian. Juliet's accounts are more fluid and free.  And then, of course, there are the accounts by Agnes!  I feel as if I can't keep pace with the journey in all its aspects.  The believers in 1912 must have had a hard time, too!

But I will pick up Juliet's descriptions in this posting, going back to a few days earlier. . . .

The Diary of Juliet Thompson, May 7:  "Washington was beautiful, the banners of the spring floating out everywhere. Trees along the street in full leaf. Flowering bushes and tulip beds in the parks and in the grass plots in front of houses. The Japanese cherry trees behind the White House, a long row of coral-pink clouds.

"The day I arrived, 23 April, I met the Master at luncheon at the Persian Embassy, where Khán is now acting as minister.  The table was strewn with rose petals, as the Master's table always is in 'Akká, and Persian dishes were served. [I wonder what color the petals were? AP]

"A coloured man, Louis Gregory, was present and the Master gave a wonderful talk on race prejudice which, however, I will not quote here since it has been kept.  And besides, I am longing to catch up with these days, when I am feeling with all my capacity for feeling, when the gates of my heart are flung wide open and fire sweeping through, burning up my heart, when I am seeing through tears the Manifest Glory of the Beloved. I really don't want to write about Washington. This heart was not awakened then.

"But He said a lovely thing at Khán's table which I must keep. Mrs Parsons was at the luncheon. Before she became a Bahá'í she had been a Christian Scientist, and now she brought up the question of mental suggestion as a cure for physical disease. The Master replied that some illnesses, such as consumption and insanity, developed from spiritual causes--grief, for example--and that these could be healed by the spirit. But Mrs Parsons persisted. Could not extreme physical cases, like broken bones, also be healed by the spirit?

"A large bowl of salad had been placed before the Master, Who sat at the head of the table, Florence Khánum on His right. [Florence Breed Khan, Ali Kuli Khan's wife. AP]

"'If all the spirits in the air,' He laughed, 'were to congregate together, they could not create a salad! Nevertheless, the spirit of man is powerful. For the spirit of man can soar in the firmament of knowledge, can discover realities, can confer life, can receive the Divine Glad-Tidings. Is not this greater,' and He laughed again, 'than making a salad?'

'One more lovely thing. The servants were late bringing in the dessert and Florence apologized; whereupon little Rahím [her son], standing beside her, spoke up.

"'Even the King of Persia has to wait, doesn't He, mother?'

"'Rahím dear,' explained Florence, ''Abdu'l-Bahá is King of the whole world.'

"'Oh,' said Rahím, very much abashed, 'I forgot."

__________
"After the luncheon, Florence and Khán held a large reception, to which a number of very distinguished people came, among them Díyá Páshá, the Turkish Minister, and his whole family, Duke Lita and his wife, Admiral Peary, and Alexander Graham Bell.

"Between the end of lunch and this reception the Master went upstairs to rest and to give a few private interviews. When He reappeared among us, the two living rooms were already crowded. He walked quickly to the open folding doors and standing there at the centre, with a strikingly free and simple bearing, immediately began to speak. His words too were simple and of a captivating sweetness, a startling clarity.

"Díyá Páshá stood next to me, his eyes riveted on the Master. When the Master had finished speaking, the old diplomat (who is a fierce Muslim) turned to me. "This is irrefutable. This is pure logic," he said.

"A few months before, at the request of his daughter-in-law, an American girl and a dear friend of mine, I had given Díyá Páshá the Message. I had had to give it in French, as he doesn't understand English, and, my French being rusty by now, I'm afraid I didn't do it very well: he looked so sceptical, almost contemptuous the whole time I was speaking. But when I said that through the Bahá'í Teaching I had become a Muslim, and convinced him of this by the reverent way I spoke of Muhammad, I really touched Díyá Páshá. He rose from the table, where we were at lunch, left the room, and returned with a precious and very old volume of the Qur'án on illuminated parchment and with a hand-tooled cover. 'No Christian eye but yours,' he said, 'has ever looked upon this."

__________
"To return to the Persian Embassy. A delicious thing happened when the Master greeted Peary, who has just succeeded in publicly disgracing Captain Cook and proving himself, and not Captain Cook, the discoverer of the North Pole. At that moment, in the Embassy, he looked like a blown-up balloon.

"I was standing beside the Master when Khán brought the Admiral over and introduced him.

"The Master spoke charmingly to him and congratulated him on his discovery. Then, with the utmost sweetness, added these surprising words: For a very long time the world had been much concerned about the North Pole, where it was and what was to be found there. Now he, Admiral Peary, had discovered it and that nothing was to found there; and so, in forever relieving the public mind, he had rendered a great service.

"I shall never forget Peary's nonplussed face. The balloon collapsed!"

__________
"Immediately after the Khán's reception, Mrs Parsons too had a large one for the Master, to which Díyá Páshá came with Him. I saw them, to my great delight, enter the hall together hand in hand.

Mrs Parsons house has real distinction. It is Georgian in style and in it has a very long white ballroom with, at one end, an unusually high mantel--the mantel, as well as the ceiling and panelled walls, delicately carved with garlands. At the windows hang thin silk curtains the colour of jonquil leaves.

Here, after this first reception, the Master spoke daily in the afternoon and the whole fashionable world flocked to hear Him. Scientists too, and even politicians came!

In front of the mantel, a platform had been placed for the Master and every day it was banked with fresh roses, American Beauties. [But what color? AP]

"Into this room of conventional elegance, packed with conventional people, imagine the Master striding with His free step: walking first to one of the many windows and, while He looked out into the light, talking with His matchless ease to the people. Turning from the window, striding back and forth with a step so vibrant it shook you. Piercing our souls with those strange eyes, uplifting them, glory streaming upon them. Talking, talking, moving to and fro incessantly. Pushing back His turban, revealing that Christ-like forehead; pushing it forward again almost down to His eyebrows, which gave Him a peculiar majesty. Charging, filling the room with magnetic currents, with a mysterious energy. Once He burst in, a child on His shoulder. For a moment He held her, caressing her. Then He sat her down among the roses."

__________
"On Thursday, 25 April, the Master dined at the Turkish Embassy and I was privileged to be there.

"Never have I seen such a beautiful table. Hundreds of roses lay the whole length of it, piled, melting into each other, sweeping up from the head and the foot of the table to a great mound in the centre, where the Master sat, faced by Díyá Páshá. Florence Khánum and Carey, Madame Díyá Bey (Díyá Páshá's daughter-in-law), the American wives of Oriental diplomats, were placed on either side of the Master and I sat next to Carey.

"There are times when the Master looks colossal, when His Holiness shines like the sun. That night He wore the usual white, with a honey-coloured 'abá. Díyá Páshá, opposite Him, watched Him with eyes full of tears, his keen old hawk's face strangely softened.

"The Master gave a great address on the civilizations built on the basic Teachings of the Prophets; then He spoke of this dinner as "a wonderful occasion". "The East and the West," He said, "are met in perfect love tonight." There was something so poignant in His words, so flame-creating, that for a moment I was overcome.

"Later He spoke of the deep significance of the international marriages represented there: Díyá Bey's and Carey's, 'Alí-Qulí Khán's and Florence's. Carey made me very happy by saying: "Juliet told me long ago of Your Teachings, when I was only fifteen years old." What fruit that seed had borne, sown in a child!
Díyá Páshá made a thrilling speech. Rising and turning a lover's face to the Master, he called Him 'the Light of the world, the Unique One of the age, Who had come to spread His glory and perfection amongst us.'

"'I am not worthy of this,' said the Master, very simply. Always a great power is released from the Master's divine humility.

"As I bade Díyá Páshá goodnight, looking at me through a mist of tears, he said: 'Truly, He is a Saint.'"

As you can see, I could not bear to shorten these entries. And I have had to go back and embellish the events of the last few days, through Juliet's description.

And there is the whole matter of Louis Gregory to discuss. Am I equal to this task?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

April 25, 1912

Washington D.C.   Dignitaries . . .  Effusive remarks about the Master . . .  Unity of East and West
Today Duane Troxel sent me the book by Elbert Hubbard, "Hollyhocks and Golden Glow," which has a chapter on the Master. Published in 1912, it is effusive (and sometimes inaccurate).  I'll quote a bit from it: 
"This man is the modern Messiah. He comes to the Western world on a distinct mission, and no one who meets him can doubt his sincerity. The message he brings is the unification of the East and West in the bonds of brotherly love, mutual aid, reciprocity and an understanding which means peace on earth and good-will toward men. It presages a worldwide upspringing of vital religion. . . . 
Elbert Hubbard
"America has never produced a religious leader with the zeal and health and insight  and patience and intellectual reach of this man Abdul Baha-save with one exception, and that was a woman. [One wonders whom he refers to here.  Perhaps Mary Baker Eddy? AP]. . . . The man is regal in his way of living and in his mental attitude. He travels with a retinue of servants, secretaries and followers, all caftan-robed. Evidently, he is well supplied with money. He has everything he needs and wants. Wherever he goes he rides in automobiles and stops at the best hotels. He is in touch with big people, and meets all classes and kinds of people on an equality. Let him visit any bank, factory, office-building, church, and everything is laid aside and eyes bulge and ears listen until he takes his departure.  [Don't you love this reference to eyes bulging? AP] When he went to Washington and swept through the Capitol, even the Supreme Court of the United States saw fit to adjourn; the House the same; and the Senate--for a while, at least--forgot matters of investigation. [Fallacies: This is where Allan Ward got his information, which he then published erroneously in 239 Days—AP]

". . . He has the ambition, the faith, and the heart of youth. He looks at things with the innocence of a man who sees them absolutely for the first time. He is reverential, respectful, filled with a great and holy zeal. And this zeal takes the form of a message of unification to the world. There is no doubt, among thinking people, that this man represents, in great degree, the growing and evolving spirit of our times. Aside from his religious zeal, the fact still re-mains that the nations are getting together in a way that they never have before in history . . . The divine fire of this man's spirituality is bound to illuminate the dark corners of our imaginations and open up to us a spiritual realm which we would do well to go in and possess.
So here is health and happiness and long life to Abdul Baha, the servant of God ! We can not but echo back to him the love, the good-will and the high and holy faith which he brings to us."


There is an Arts and Crafts Movement exhibit (about Gustav Stickley) at the Dallas Museum of Art right now. I'll have to go back and see what mentions it might have about Hubbard, who was part of that movement. 

Today, in 1912, according to Mahmud, "There was a special meeting for the Theosophists in the morning. The Master spoke on the distinction and superiority of human beings to the rest of creation, the various faculties of the soul, the unity of God, the need for spiritual progress and divine civilization. There were many guests and after the Master's talk some went into a private room to ask Him personal questions. Another meeting was held in the afternoon at the Master's residence. As with the other meetings, it was attended by the public. The living room on the ground floor was filled to capacity. `Abdu'l-Bahá spoke on the importance and necessity of spiritual teachings and their renewal in every age. He also discussed the principles of this great Cause. After the talk, many received permission to ask Him questions in an adjoining room. Most of them first apologized, aware that He was extremely tired, but said that just being in His presence was for them their greatest joy and that to listen to Him was a source of happiness and honor.
"Today the Master said to Mrs Parsons: 'Such a traveler and guest is the cause of much bother. You need to leave the house and run away. The usual guest in a city meets certain people at specific times but you have had to host the public from morning until evening.' 

"In the evening the Turkish Ambassador, his honor Díyá Páshá, invited the Master to a royal feast. Most of us were also invited, as were many dignitaries, all of whom were dressed in formal attire. The Master gave a short talk at the table with the utmost majesty and beauty on the subject of the influence of the words of the Manifestations of God and their all-conquering power. The Ambassador then read from a prepared statement written in praise of the Master and presented it to Him:
'The light of His honor's quality and knowledge in this new land and new world is now shining upon all peoples, showering them with His encouragement and enlightenment. He has suffered and sacrificed everything for the purpose of disseminating good qualities for humanity. He has now honored us by His presence. His Honor, `Abdu'l-Bahá, is unique in our age and is highly esteemed and treasured by all of us. With prayer to the Lord of the worlds, I wish Him a long life and good health.  Díyá Páshá'
Turkish Ambassador




"When the Ambassador completed his statement, the Master spoke:
'This night is a very blessed night, worthy of the utmost praise and joy for many reasons. First, praise be to God, we are in a country which is famous for its prosperity and freedom. Second, we are in a house which is connected to the great Ottoman Power. Third, we are the guests of His Excellency the Ambassador who shines like the sun in the world of morality. Fourth, this meeting provides a tangible demonstration of the love and unity that is possible between the East and the West.
'His Excellency the Ambassador is from the East, while his wife is an American. Similarly, His Excellency the Ambassador of Persia is from the nobility of the Orient, while his wife is also an American. This is a proof that the Orient and Occident can meet, love and unite. The greatest wish of people of thought and broad vision and sound understanding is the oneness and unity of humanity. . . .  I thank His Excellency the Ambassador who brought about this meeting of people of different nationalities in his home. Such meetings, in truth, deserve much praise and commendation.'
"At the close of the meeting the Ambassador again arose to show his respect and appreciation. He accompanied the Master to His carriage with the utmost humility and esteem.
"During these days, many dignitaries and important people visited the Master. Even President [Theodore] Roosevelt came, with humility and respect, especially to see the Master."
President Roosevelt!  He chose Portsmouth, NH, across the river from Green Acre, as the place where the 1905 peace treaty between Japan and Russia took place and later would receive a Nobel peace prize for his role in the treaty. To think of him coming to meet `Abdu'l-Bahá!
I know I have other threads to pick up, but will have to save them for another day.  Louis Gregory is close upon the horizon. . . . And I can't bear to think that I'm ignoring possible accounts of or about Agnes, Juliet, Alice, Ali KK, and others. . . . This journey is immense and eye-opening [bulging?]. My eyes would be bulging more right now if I didn't need to sleep. . . .  

Monday, April 25, 2011

April 24, 1912

Today I spent most of the day rehearsing and preparing for a Ridvan pageant at the Dallas Baha'i Center. It was intensive--hanging banners, moving plants, practicing dance, drama, and music pieces. . . . We had a dose of realizing the SOURCE of the Revelation that `Abdu'l-Bahá exemplified.  Roses, nightingales, a new spirit--can we ever realize all that they mean for this Day? 

My blog will be rather brief, but note the Alexander Graham Bell reference! 

Still in Washington, D.C., Mahmud notes: "In the morning `Abdu'l-Bahá went to a Bahá'í children's conference. As He entered the hall, the children sang songs in praise of `Abdu'l-Bahá in unison, accompanied by the piano. When the Master saw the children, He said, `Praise be to God. These children, like flowers, are in a state of utmost purity, freshness and delicacy!' After He spoke and recited prayers for the children, the Master kissed and embraced each child and gave them some sweets. The immensity of His love and affection for the children was clearly obvious.
"A second meeting was held that evening at the home of Mr and Mrs Andrew J. Dyer, a mixed race couple. Those present were in such unity and love that the Master remarked:
'Before I arrived, I felt too tired to speak at this meeting but at the sight of such genuine love and attraction between the white and the black friends, I was so moved that I spoke with great love and likened this union of different colored races to a string of gleaming pearls and rubies.'
"After He spoke and showered His love on each one, He left in His carriage for a third meeting.`Abdu'l-Bahá was so filled with joy and happiness and His voice resonated so loudly that even the people walking along the street could hear Him:
'O Bahá'u'lláh! What hast Thou done? O Bahá'u'lláh! May my life be sacrificed for Thee! O Bahá'u'lláh! May my soul be offered up for Thy sake! How full were Thy days with trials and tribulations! How severe the ordeals Thou didst endure! How solid the foundation Thou hast finally laid, and how glorious the banner Thou didst hoist!'
"`Abdu'l-Bahá continued in this manner until the carriage reached the home of Mr [Alexander Graham] Bell. This great individual is the inventor of the telephone and the head of a scientific society. The day before, this venerable and inventive old gentleman had visited the Master and invited Him to attend the meeting of the scientific society. When the Master entered, all rose and each in turn shook His hand. Those who had met the Master previously introduced Him to the others with the greatest respect and honor. After the Master was seated, discussion of scientific issues continued. Each spoke of his experiences and discussed his discoveries. After several people had spoken, Mr Bell asked Ali Kuli Khan, the Persian ambassador, to relate the history of the Faith. Then Mr Bell thanked the Master for coming to his home and asked Him to address the guests.
"The Master began His talk by praising their good manners and praiseworthy qualities. He then spoke of the importance and the results of science, the greatness of this age and the interdependence of society, and paid a glorious tribute to the new Dispensation. Mr Bell was extremely delighted and rose to thank the Master for His talk. The hearts of those present were so moved that when the next member arose to give his talk, he could only say, `The talk of the Master from the East was so wonderful that I find myself inadequate to say anything' and sat down. A few others spoke briefly and the meeting ended.
"Mr Bell invited the Master and his guests to go into the dining hall. It was midnight, and as it is customary for people in the West to eat late at night before going to bed, the table was spread with bread, meat, candies, cookies, fruit and beverages. Although the Master had not yet had dinner, He spoke through Mr Bell to his wife and daughter. Mrs Bell is deaf and mute and communicates through sign language. Sign language is similar to writing, with lines, points and stops, just as in telegraph technology, and is now so well developed that people can speak easily with the deaf.
"As is well known, Mr Bell's main purpose was to invent an instrument that would enable the deaf to communicate. Out of his deep love for his wife, he devoted himself to this day and night and in the end invented the telephone. But this did not fulfill his intended purpose. The Master said:
'Yes, most of the great inventions were made in a similar way. For instance, the search for alchemy has brought into being thousands of useful medicines and the desire of finding a direct route to India from Europe became the cause of the discovery of America.'" 
That is how Mahmud ends his diary for that day. Perhaps he was tired, as I am now. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Commemorative Medallions from 1912


Metal Commemorative medallions

#1 (The Greatest Name and date 1912 flanking the Master's image)

I wonder how many of these medallions were made and how many people have them today? 

                                                
This medallion was created by Theodore Spicer-Simson, an English sculptor living in Washington, D.C. in 1912. He met Abdu'l-Baha at the home of Alexander Graham Bell and was commissioned by Agnes Parsons to made the medallion. See my post on May 24 to read the whole story. 

#2 Medallion made by Louis Potter 

Roger Dahl of the U.S. National Baha'i Archives writes: "It came in a nice little case. The Circle of the Friends of the Medallion was formed by Robert Hewitt Jr. and Charles deKay, with the plan to produce two medallions a year. It was fairly short lived, producing 12 medals between 1909 and 1915. The `Abdu’l-Bahá medallion was designed by sculptor Louis Potter so I have the medallion in our Works of Art Collection. Apparently the Circle was the model for the more successful Society of Medalists."
On the Medal Collectors of America website <http://www.medalcollectors.org/Guides/CoF/CoF.html> I found another image of the medallion!  I can't quite make out the words at the bottom under the word "Abdu'l-Baha." There is another image next to it, presumably the back side, with the words "Peace, Love, Unity." The only information is that it was number 7 of the 12, manufactured in November 1912 at Joseph K. Davison & Son, Philadelphia, subject: Abdu'l-Baha, Persian Reformer, size 76 x 51 mm.  Louis Potter was the designer, and he did not design any of the other medallions. 
The website also mentions: "The Medals were issued in diecut pages bound in tan cloth books making the set a bookshelf collection. From published membership lists it can be surmised that no more than 500 of any of medals were issued. Allan Newman’s number twelve is the scarcest. Victor Brenner’s number four, Motherhood, is the most popular. Paul Manship’s number eleven is the most expensive (sought after by art galleries). Members of the Bahai religion seek issue number seven, of Abdul Baha, since their religion did not sanction portraits."  [An interesting misconception re. the image of the Master.]

So, now a question: who commissioned this work? Surely someone knows something more about the history of the medallion!  Perhaps someone will be inspired to create one for 2012!  

When I was trying to figure out the origin of the medallions, Rob Stockman responded: "I am under the impression that Elbert Hubbard and the Roycrofters might be involved. He was a major figure in the arts and crafts movement and wrote an article about `Abdu'l-Bahá that was effusive of praise for Him, but also inaccurate. Hubbard, for example, says `Abdu'l-Bahá visited the White House and spoke before Congress. It turns out Ali Kuli Khan was working on both of those things, but they didn’t happen. You can google him and the Roycrofters to find out more about them, though I don’t think a Bahá'í connection will come out that way. The Roycrofters produced a beautiful book about `Abdu'l-Bahá."

So, now I have some more sleuthing to do!!!!

There's also, apparently, a round medallion!  So--I am still on a quest to discover all that there is to know about the various medallions produced in or around 1912 of `Abdu'l-Bahá.  Lucky are the ones who own one of these treasures! 



Saturday, April 23, 2011

April 23, 1912


Washington D.C.:  Unity of East and West / Race Unity—two important threads

I want to write today about Ali Kuli Khan. I confess I’ve had a crush on him for years and find the romance and marriage between him and Florence Breed of great interest (the first Persian-American marriage in the Bahá'í community).  I’ve always been spellbound by the writing and talks of Marzieh Gail (their daughter) and once introduced her at Green Acre.  Sally Eiler [now Cordova] helped me to craft the introduction, and Marzieh commented on its beauty. In 2005, when I was steeped in research about the Japanese-Russo War and the Peace Treaty of 1905, I was fascinated by the fact that Ali Kuli Khan was at Green Acre on the day the Japanese delegates visited, invited by Sarah Farmer, a known peace activist. Khan wrote to Florence that it was the most important day in Green Acre history—and there have been so many important days!  He was 26 in 1905 and so handsome!


The Master with Ali Kuli Khan and Florence Breed Khan
What amazes me about him is a story I just read in Amy Renshaw’s Voyage of Love: `Abdu'l-Bahá in North America.  Here’s a paraphrased and condensed version: Khan had grown up in Tehran; he was bright and studious and a talented poet. For a short time he found work as an interpreter, but when that job ended, he couldn’t find another. He became friends with one of Iran’s princes and would party—play music, dance, sing, recite poems, tell stories, drink alcohol and smoke hashish, even though they were Muslim.  His brother became a Bahá'í  and taught some of his friends, who stopped attending Khan’s parties. Khan decided to attend Bahá'í  meetings to find fault with them and persuade his friends to abandon it. He eventually began to change his mind and experienced a “resurrection from the dead.”  Immediately, he wanted to work for `Abdu'l-Bahá as a translator but didn’t have the money to make the journey to Akka. So, he dressed as a dervish, a poor wanderer who traveled on foot. He went with two friends; they walked through valleys and mountains, sleeping outside. They planned to go through India but found Persians were no longer allowed to enter India, so they headed back to Tehran. He attended many Bahá'í  meetings and told stories of his days as a dervish.  One night, during a blizzard, he impulsively convinced his friends to leave again for Akka. With ten men, he headed out without luggage or supplies.  They reached Rasht and asked for passports to Russia but were denied, as Khan’s relatives had sent a telegram saying the young men should be sent home.  But Khan convinced the Governor (who was secretly a Bahá'í ) that he would be useful to `Abdu'l-Bahá in Akka as a translator. The governor relented; Khan proceeded alone. 

He sailed across the Caspian Sea to Baku, with only about a dollar and the clothes he was wearing. There followed a few weeks of almost unbelievable hardship, but finally he arrived in Haifa, where he knelt and kissed the ground.  It was 1899, four years after he became a Bahá'í.  When he went to the house to meet `Abdu'l-Bahá, his heart “pumping wildly,” he fell to the floor upon entering.  A few minutes later `Abdu'l-Bahá  sent for him, welcomed him, and noted he had suffered much and that He needed him. “You with your knowledge of English, are one of those souls promised me by Baha’u’llah.” Then He handed Khan some letters; Khan saw they were in Arabic and panicked, as he had not studied Arabic.  `Abdu'l-Bahá  smiled and put some candy into his hand, saying, “Go, and eat this candy. Rest assured, the Blessed Perfection will enable you to translate the Arabic into English. Rest assured that as time goes on you will be assisted to translate from the Arabic much more easily than from the Persian.”

Khan was filled with an “indescribable new power.” For more than a year he was with `Abdu'l-Bahá  every day, translating letters using reed pens from Japan.  Then `Abdu'l-Bahá  asked him to go to the United States to translate for Mirza Abu’l-Fadl. Khan was so distressed at the thought of leaving `Abdu'l-Bahá that he wept and beat his head against the wall.  The Master said that he would be doing a great service in America, adding,  “I will be with you at all times. You must go forth now and give to others the bounties that have been given you here.”

He left in 1901, stopping in Paris and London before reaching the United States.  In Boston he visited the Breed family and taught the daughter, Florence, about the Faith. A year later they were married.  `Abdu'l-Bahá  was very pleased and said, “This is an evidence that the East and West can be united and harmonized.” (Story from Journey of Love 49–55) I imagine he spent much time at Green Acre when Mirza Abu’l-Fadl was there (1901–1904). 

This is the story of the eloquent, cultured Chargé d’Affaires of the Persian Legation serving in Washington D.C.  in 1912 when `Abdu'l-Bahá  came to visit. Can you imagine his profound excitement to help host the Master there?  Of course he was in NY when the ship arrived on April 11. What a different journey (from D.C. to NY) that must have been from the one he made from Teheran to Akka as a young, impoverished man!  And what a reunion he must have had with the Master! 

According to Robert Stockman, Khan was “able to host important receptions for `Abdu'l-Bahá in the Persian Legation (the equivalent of an embassy) and invite many prominent diplomats to meet Him. Khan was also able to obtain an invitation for `Abdu'l-Bahá to visit the White House, but President Taft’s plans changed and the visit never occurred. He also helped arrange for `Abdu'l-Bahá to be invited to speak to the United States Congress, but the invitation arrived too late to be carried out. (From the forthcoming book `Abdu'l-Bahá in America by Robert Stockman)

Along with the East-West connection, race unity was emphasized in Washington D.C. Stockman also notes that  “The talks were more varied in subject that those in New York, but race unity was an important theme because of the many talks to predominantly African-American audiences. Newspaper articles about His visit totaled at least twenty-one. Because local Bahá'ís had some excellent contacts with government officials and the socially prominent, `Abdu'l-Bahá met senators, Congressmen, a Supreme Court justice, an Italian duke, the Turkish ambassador, the Treasurer of the United States, the inventor Alexander Graham Bell, labor leader Samuel Gompers, and Admiral Robert Peary (who had led an expedition to reach the North Pole).[He also sat briefly for a portrait by the well known portrait artist, F. Carl Smith.” (From the forthcoming book `Abdu'l-Bahá in America by Robert Stockman)

On April 23, Mahmud notes: Today the Master went to Howard University, an educational institution for blacks. The hosts (mostly black with a few whites) had made special arrangements so that when the Master arrived He was welcomed by music from a band while the audience applauded with excitement and exuberance. It is difficult to describe the scene adequately. The president of the university was very cordial and introduced `Abdu'l-Bahá as the Prophet of Peace and the harbinger of unity and salvation. Then the Master rose from His seat and spoke on the subject of the harmony between blacks and whites and the unity of humankind.  The audience repeatedly applauded Him during the talk, delighted at His words. At the conclusion, the president of the university thanked `Abdu'l-Bahá on behalf of all those gathered. As He left the auditorium, group after group formed two lines, one on each side, all showing their highest respect by bowing and waving their hats and handkerchiefs in farewell to the beloved Master.

“`Abdu'l-Bahá had lunch at the home of Ali Kuli Khan. Several believers were present, including ourselves. There was a public meeting in the afternoon at the same house. The majority attending the meeting were ladies from high society. At this meeting the Master spoke about the education and improvement of women and the promotion of unity and peace in the world of humanity. After the meeting several new people arrived and sat for a brief time in the Master's presence. They so enjoyed His company they did not want to leave.

In the evening, close to bedtime, when the Master was alone and extremely tired from the day's activities, He prayed, praising and thanking the Blessed Beauty. On one occasion He said: ‘We must offer thanks to the Blessed Beauty because it is His help that has stirred the people; it is His grace that has changed the hearts. The assistance of the Abhá Kingdom has transformed a drop into a mighty ocean. The aid of the Most High has turned a gnat into an eagle, has invested an ant with the power of a Solomon and has caused the debased one to become a source of eternal honor.'

"A third meeting was held this evening in a black church. All those present paid Him the highest respect and were delighted to hear about the new teachings. The Master's talk, they felt, gave them honor and would cause them to progress. As is customary at churches, there was a collection and the Master made a contribution."

Think of the "contributions" the Master made that day to the lives He touched. Oh—to be there! 

Friday, April 22, 2011

April 22, 1912

Washington D.C.  
I am reading Agnes Parson's diary now and want to pick up the thread of the arts.  `Abdu'l-Bahá spoke at "Studio Hall" yesterday (in 1912) morning.  A confusion exists, as the diary says that Studio Hall was in the home and gallery owned by Alice Barney-Hemnick, "Studio House," which was donated to the Smithsonian Institute in 1960. But D.C. Baha'is tell me these were two separates places.  In any event, He did visit "Studio House" and must have found Alice an interesting person!  Alice, says Agnes, created roles for herself in various theatrical productions, with elaborate costumes. I'm sure I would have loved her!  She was the mother of Laura Dreyfus-Barney, the compiler and translator of Some Answered Questions, who studied art in Paris and married the first French Bahá'í.  ah, this was the day of courageous and sometimes eccentric early Bahá'ís. I would have fit in so well in that era!  When we visited the Smithsonian museums last year we saw a beautiful portrait of Alice (second painting, below). 

In 1912 the weekly Bahá'í "Sunday School" was held at her home and studio, and it was at that regular meeting that `Abdu'l-Bahá spoke. ah, the mingling of art and spirit! 
Agnes notes that later that day she arranged for `Abdu'l-Bahá to see Mrs. [Florence Fleming] Noyes dance, "in order that He might say whether, from the ethical standpoint, there was any value to her work." He was amused by this, saying, "I've done almost everything, but I've never watched dancing." After seeing her dance, He said it was very good and blessed her work. (DAP 16)
Agnes also asked `Abdu'l-Bahá about Mr. F.D. Millet, an artist beloved in both Europe and America who had died in the Titanic disaster. `Abdu'l-Bahá said, "Where one has been devoted to his work in life--art, or whatever it may be, it is regarded as worship and he is undoubtedly surrounded by the mercy of God."
I sense in Agnes' questions guidance about the role of the arts in terms of the spiritual life--and confirmations on the part of `Abdu'l-Bahá.  Surely He saw and enjoyed creativity in what He encountered, and we can take this as an affirmation. Yet He also warned against "sensationalism."  At dinner on the 22nd when the subject of the play "The Terrible Meek" came up, `Abdu'l-Bahá said, "If, instead of making it sensational, he had taken certain incidents in the life of Christ, the play would have had great value." Then, He "touched on the salient points in the life of Christ in a most wonderful manner." (DAP 27) On that same occasion, a Mrs. Randolph played the piano for `Abdu'l-Bahá and He spoke of the healing power of music. Agnes also put on a Persian costume (I think designed by Alice, who had a reputation as a flamboyant dresser), and He laughed and shouted: "Mrs. Hemmick! The costume has many bright colors." Juliet was there, too, having arrived from NY. 
Oh, to be there! 
Mahmud notes that on the 22nd, "A meeting was held with the Bahá'ís. When the Master arrived, the friends greeted Him with poems and songs written in His praise. He spoke about the events during His long travels, the union of peoples from the East and the West, the greatness of this century and the appearance of the Greatest Name. He concluded the meeting by chanting a beautiful and moving prayer. The friends rushed to His side; one shaking His hand, another holding onto the hem of His robe and yet another with tears of joy and in the utmost happiness. When the Master left the gathering, the friends lined up in two rows as He passed through their midst. He approached His automobile and again the friends rushed towards Him like moths circling around the candle of the Covenant.
"In the afternoon, the Master spoke at another gathering about the sinking of the Titanic. He prayed for the souls of the passengers and expressed His condolences to their survivors. In the evening, Mrs Parsons held a dinner in His honor to which all the friends were invited.  At the table, `Abdu'l-Bahá said:
'Consider the confirmations of the Blessed Beauty, what He has done, how He has brought us to the house of such a personage, who in the utmost love has prepared such a feast in our honor. The power and influence of the Word of God have united the East and the West! How perfect are His heavenly favors and how all-embracing His divine bounties!'"
I am grateful that multiple accounts of these meetings exist, so that we get various perspectives! 
`Abdu'l-Bahá ends His talk with this statement:  "There is evidence that the Bahá'ís are spreading the blessings of unity and progressive development throughout the world under the direction of divine guidance and purpose, while other movements which are only temporary in their activities and accomplishments have no real, universal significance." (PUP 44)
And here we are in 2011, still doing so. . . .