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

Thursday, June 30, 2011

June 29, 1912 UNITY FEAST

Oh! I am late with my post because we've been filming--and on such an important day on the journey! Wonders have befallen us--and hard work--and teaching!  More on that in a separate post. But now--

Montclair--West Englewood: Unity Feast!  A thrilling joy . . . 

Mahmud writes: "As the Master had previously invited the friends in New York to a Unity Feast in Englewood, He prepared to leave Montclair in the morning. Although most Americans do not awaken until after sunrise, some friends and their children were waiting an hour before dawn to see Him and to receive His blessings. Then another group arrived and received His bestowals.
     `Abdu'l-Bahá left Montclair at half past eight in the morning, passed through New York, and after changing trams four times and passing twice by the river, He reached Englewood. Tired from the journey and the warm weather, having traveled from morning to noon, He briefly rested at the home of Mr [Roy] Wilhelm. Meanwhile, the friends began to arrive from the surrounding areas and gathered on the lawn adjoining the house. The meeting was arranged in a circle under the trees, with almost two hundred people seated at the table and being served by the Bahá'ís. Everyone enjoyed the delicacies and was extremely happy.
     The green lawn under the shade trees was strewn with flowers so that it seemed as if an embroidered carpet had been spread, every design indicative of the power of the Covenant of the Ancient Beauty. To see the Master walking in this green, flower-covered garden, with a gentle breeze blowing, the purity of the air, the cleanliness of the surroundings and the rejoicing of the friends, was most pleasing; all seemed to vie with one another to please the Master.
When `Abdu'l-Bahá entered the circle, He delivered a very eloquent address on the greatness of the Cause, the influence of the Word of God, the importance of the meetings of the friends and the need for unity among the friends of God. He counseled them to be truthful and faithful. Afterwards He strolled in the rose garden. `Abdu'l-Bahá gave His permission for His photograph to be taken and was photographed in two groups. In one He is seated in the garden with His Persian servants standing around Him and in the other He is seen with the friends, some of whom are seated while others are standing.
A minister and another important personage came to visit `Abdu'l-Bahá. He invited them into Mr Wilhelm's house and spoke with them until dinner was ready. He later left the house to take a brief stroll. When the friends were seated at the table, He took vials of attar of rose in His hand and anointed, perfumed and blessed them all, one by one. He thus made them the anointed of the Court of Servitude and the recipients of the spirit of devotion to the Threshold of God, for the bounties of the Holy Spirit had descended and the favors of God encompassed all. Standing in the center of this assemblage of lovers, He spoke to them in a voice that was sweeter than honey then returned to Mr Wilhelm's house.
     That the friends were ecstatic today need not be stated, since their Host was the Beloved of the Covenant; their meeting was an assembly of love and amity, and the surroundings were green and verdant with trees in full bloom perfuming the air. There was a pilaf, a very delicious Persian dish that had been prepared for the occasion, sherbet, a Persian drink and many sweets. Everyone was happy at the unity of the gathering. The Master said:
This meeting will be productive of great results. It will be the cause of attracting a new bounty. This day in which we have come together is a new day, and this hour a new hour. These meetings will be mentioned in the future and their results will be everlasting in all the divine worlds.
There were two more meetings: one in the afternoon and the other in the evening in Englewood for some of the friends who were not able to take part in the first meeting. They took their seats in the garden adjoining Mr Wilhelm's house, sitting on chairs and benches in rows. After a short walk, `Abdu'l-Bahá joined the visitors, sat down among them and requested the chanting of a prayer. He then spoke eloquently, encouraging the friends to spread the fragrances of God. As He was about to leave, one of the seekers asked Him, `What are the new teachings of this Cause that are not to be found in the other great religions?' The Master stood in the center of the garden and summoned all to come near. They came and stood in two rows. The Master walked between the rows and spoke. His explanation was so magnificent that everyone was astonished. During His discourse a carriage and automobile passed near by. As they neared the gathering and saw `Abdu'l-Bahá, the carriage passengers stopped, alighted and they, too, heard His speech and were attracted to the teachings.
      The Master described, one by one, the teachings of the Manifestation: the unity of humankind, universal peace, association with all religions, forgiveness of enemies, the prohibition of cursing foes, the equality of rights of men and women, the establishment of the House of Justice and the International Tribunal, compulsory education for both boys and girls, the prohibition of wars between nations and governments, and the harm of all forms of prejudice, be they racial, religious, sectarian, patriotic, political and so on. He spoke on these teachings extensively and in detail. At the end, He asked the audience whether these principles had been brought by past religious dispensations and recorded in their books. They all responded `No'. The inquirer was so overwhelmed that he clapped his hands in delight, expressing his joy and gratitude.
     Because it was a moonlit night, this talk was given in the garden, so it was not recorded but these explanations can be found in `Abdu'l-Bahá's other addresses. After the meeting, He remarked, `If these persons were to be confronted with the question, what new teachings did Christ bring other than changing the laws of the Sabbath and divorce, they would be utterly confounded.'
     `Abdu'l-Bahá stayed in Englewood for the night."

And Juliet writes: "Almost a week passed before we saw our Lord again. Then, on the twenty-ninth of June, we met Him at West Englewood. He was giving a feast for all the believers in the grounds around Roy Wilhelm's house, the "Feast of Unity" He called it.
     I went with dear Silvia Gannett. We walked from the little station, past the grove where the tables were set--a grove of tall pine trees--and on to the house in which He was, He Whose Presence filled our eyes with light and without Whom our days had been very dim and lifeless.
     Ah, there He was again! Sitting in a corner of the porch! I sped across the lawn, forgetting Silvia, forgetting everything. He looked down at me with grave eyes, and I saw a fathomless welcome in them.
     For a while we sat with Him on the porch. Then He led us down into the grove. There He seated Himself on the ground at the foot of a pine tree and called two believers to His right and left. One was Mrs Krug in her very elegant clothes, the other a poor and shabby old woman. But both faces, the wrinkled one and the smooth, pretty one, were beautiful with the same radiance. I shall never forget that old woman's shining blue eyes.
     The great words He spoke to us then have been preserved. I will not repeat them. Besides I remember them too imperfectly. But He said one thing which woke my whole being: "This is a New Day; a New Hour."
     By the time He had finished, the feast was ready, but just as it was announced a storm blew up--a strange, sudden storm, without warning. There was a tremendous crash of thunder; through the treetops we could see black clouds boiling up, and big drops of rain splashed on the tables.
     The Master rose calmly and, followed by the Persians, walked out to the road, then to the end of it where there is a crossroad. A single chair had been left there and, as I watched from a distance, I saw the Master take it and sit down, while the Persians ranged themselves behind Him. I saw Him lift His face to the sky. He had gone a long way from the house; thunder still crashed and the clouds rolled frighteningly low, but He continued to sit perfectly motionless, that sacred, powerful face upturned to the sky. Then came a strong, rushing wind; the clouds began to race away; blue patches appeared above and the sun shone out. And then the Master rose and walked back into the grove. This I witnessed.
     Later, as we sat at the tables, two hundred and fifty of us, He anointed us all with attar of rose. I was not at a table but sitting under a tree with Marjorie Morten and Silvia. The Master swept toward us in His long white robes, forever the Divine Shepherd.
     "Friends here?" He smiled, "Friends?"In His voice was a thrilling joy. With a look that shook my heart, so full was it with the musk of His Love, He rubbed my face hard with the attar of rose.
     He passed among all the tables with His little vial of perfume (which Grace Robarts swears was almost as full at the end as in the beginning) anointing the forehead of every one there, touching and caressing all our blind faces with His tingling fingers.
     Then He disappeared for hours."

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

June 28, 1912

Newark; Montclair: The breaths of the Holy Spirit

Mahmud writes: “`Abdu'l-Bahá returned to Montclair today and was in the best of health and happiness. He was engaged all morning explaining religion, dispensing the glad tidings of the Most Great Manifestation and expounding on the veils that envelop the people. Group after group came to Him, and each left with the utmost devotion and humility.
     In the afternoon, at the request of Mr Edsall and other friends, `Abdu'l-Bahá went to the park to rest for awhile. He said, as He left the tram at the entrance of the park, `What great changes have occurred! What waves have swept over us and brought us here! Let us see what waves are still to come.'
A gazebo was set on a small rise in the center of the park. There the Master sat on a bench, inviting Mr Edsall, his son-in-law and us to sit near Him. He stated, `The Committee of Union and Progress in Constantinople is very good but both internal and external enemies are laying plans to imprison me again on my return to the Holy Land.' When we said that it might have been better had He remained in Egypt, He replied:
     My beginning and my end, the place from which I start and the place to which I return is the Holy Threshold. What I have is from that Threshold and to it I shall return. Had it not been for His aid and assistance, would these people sitting on your right and left have any concern about you and me? We must be just and speak the truth. Who are we that we should be showered with these favors? Compare the position of Persia with that of America.
Later He spoke about certain verses in the Qur'án, saying:
     In reality these verses are the most convincing proof of the all-sufficing greatness and nobility of the Prophet of God [Muhammad], Who, triumphant and powerful, yet sets forth God's address to Him with the words: `Thou didst not understand, ere this, what "the Book" was, nor what the faith was'[Qur'án 83:52]. And, `Unless we had confirmed thee, thou hadst certainly been very near inclining unto them [the unbelievers] a little. They would have taken thee for a friend' [Qur'án 17:73-4]. All such verses are proofs of the truth and greatness of Muhammad. An imposter does not express weakness and ignorance when in a state of power and majesty. However, the people of desire interpret these verses otherwise.
     Again, He said:  Once I said to Mírzá Muhammad Qulí, `Do you remember the days in Baghdád when we had not even fifteen paras to have a hot bath? We must now appreciate the favors of the Blessed Beauty and, in thankfulness, gird up our loins to serve Him. He has guided, assisted and made us victorious in this world as well as in His Kingdom.'
     The Master spoke at length about the withdrawal of the Blessed Beauty from Baghdád. He told of the prayers of the friends of God who recited, `Yá Alláh-ul-Mustagháth', the receipt of the news of the bequest of Áqá Abu'l-Qásim-i-Hamadání, their eventual tracing of Bahá'u'lláh to the place in Sulaymáníyyih where He had taken abode, and then their dispatching a petition to the Blessed Beauty for His return.
     The Master then got up and went towards the hotel. When He entered it, two wealthy ladies, guests at the hotel, were seated in the lobby. As soon as they saw Him they requested permission to be introduced to Him. The Master returned to the lobby a littler later and took a seat near them. They asked His purpose and He related to them a brief history of the Cause, something of the prison of `Akká and the spread of the fragrances of God. They remarked that He appeared to be very wealthy. He replied, `My riches are of the Kingdom and not of this world.' They said that the signs of wealth were very evident. The Master then said, `Although I have nothing, yet I am richer than all the world.' Then He spoke about true wealth and the transient nature of worldly affairs, citing passages from the Bible. During this discourse an elegant couple passed by and, hearing `Abdu'l-Bahá's voice, stopped to listen to His explanations. The two ladies and the couple were so astonished and charmed that the believers were spellbound by their transformation. The ladies gave their names and addresses to Mr Edsall so that they might meet with the friends and be counted among the people of Bahá.
     What can I say? Every morning and evening hearts are fascinated and souls attracted to the Abhá Kingdom by `Abdu'l-Bahá. This is accomplished even though He had neither rest nor relaxation. He used to say, `If my happiness and spirituality could come to the fore and my mind be at rest, then you would see how hearts could be attracted and souls set ablaze.'
     When He returned home, He found a multitude waiting for Him. The gathering was even larger than before, with both new and old friends coming from New York, Newark and Montclair. As it was the last evening of the Master's stay, the hearts were especially attracted and the minds full of a unique spirit. He spoke on the need for the breaths of the Holy Spirit in the material world and about the education of humanity through divine power.”

Monday, June 27, 2011

June 27, 1912

Calvin, Carlos, Tim w/ Sony HD
ah! What a day we've had, shooting footage of trains in Colorado. Day One: success! And tomorrow, a chance to shoot costumed people on a car at the depot. Ok, back to: 

Montclair -- Newark: Fire of the Love of God; mysteries

Mahmud wrote: "To some people visiting the Master for the first time, He spoke about Christ's words to His disciples:

`Whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven' [Matt. 16:19]. The Christians have not understood its meaning. They imagine that it means the redemption of sins through the Christian leaders. The intention of Christ was to permit His disciples to elaborate or abrogate the laws of the Torah, as He had altered only two, those of the Sabbath and divorce. But, alas! The spiritual leaders of the Christians did not grasp His meaning, so that when the Greeks and Romans became Christians, some of the idolatrous customs were incorporated into Christianity. For example, the adornment of churches with images, self-mortification, 

abstinence, monks' habits, the lighting of candles in church, the ringing of the bell in the steeple and others. These are all from idolaters.

Another group came into `Abdu'l-Bahá's presence asking about the mysteries of Sufism and reincarnation. Receiving satisfactory answers, they left happy and pleased.
In the afternoon in Newark, near Montclair, both new and old friends gathered at the home of Mrs Kerry. The Master spoke to them on the life of the spirit and its effect on the world of humanity and set aglow the fire of the love of God in their hearts. He then went to the Military Park and Gardens, which is the best public place in the town. His walk with His companions presented a magnificent sight. Attired in our Persian kuláhs and Eastern dress, and accompanying the Master and the several American men and women who followed Him with great reverence and humility, we formed a unique scene. All eyes turned towards the dignity, beauty and glory of `Abdu'l-Bahá and to that gathering of the East and West.
The Master then went to Mr Harris's home where the friends had gathered before dinner. The Master urged and encouraged the friends to associate with love and unity with all the peoples and nations of the world. After dinner, because it was late and the distance was great, He rested there for the night."

Can you imagine the joy that Mr. Harris must have had in hosting the Master? 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

June 26, 1912

I will post this now, as I am not sure I will have internet connection later today, in the back roads of southwest Colorado. But I hope to add more, later. 
Montclair: Serving with Heart and Soul; Spiritual Music
Mahmud wrote: "The Master was invited to breakfast at Mr Edsall's home. When He returned home, He found a number of Bahá'í women, who had come from New York, wearing aprons and cleaning the house. These elegant ladies were washing dishes, sweeping, dusting the furniture and arranging the carpets. They did this with such love and zeal that it is beyond description. `Abdu'l-Bahá said:
See what the power of the Blessed Beauty does! What might and sway, what bounty and favor is this! He has inspired these persons to serve with such sincerity and love! They are washing dishes and sweeping the room. They are serving with heart and soul.
He bestowed great favor on one of the ladies by inquiring about her husband, Dr Cork, a prominent physician in New York. She said to the Master, `From the moment He met you, he has not only ceased his opposition but is now helping me to serve the Cause.'
Later `Abdu'l-Bahá narrated the story of the conquest of Islam in Persia and spoke about the prohibition of the drinking of wine in the Qur'án. He said:
When the Muslims arrested the leader of the Zoroastrians and flogged him for drinking wine, under the whip he cried, `O Muhammad of Arabia, what have you done! What an influence you have shown!' Now they must say, `O Bahá'u'lláh, what have you done! With what power You have made the proud ones the captives of love and have united the East with the West!'
At a meeting at His home that afternoon, the Master answered many questions. Among His pronouncements was the prohibition of self-mortification. He directed that the health and strength of the body be preserved, saying that the more the physical body improves, the more it is capable of making spiritual progress.
In the evening the drawing room and adjacent rooms were filled with people. Because the friends opened the gathering with singing and playing the piano in praise of the Master, He spoke about spiritual music which can enrapture the spirit and influence spirituality."

This last thought is wondrous! 

Hats and costumes

For some weeks, my friend Laurie and I have been obsessed with making costumes and embellishing and refurbishing hats in the 1912 period style.

Not that I have any particular plans for them, aside from a play at Green Acre for August 2012. It's just about general readiness for the anniversary year.

Tim and I are working on a documentary film project--but we are not doing re-enactments per se, only shadowy figures looking period-esque in various backgrounds.

So--having found and purchased various fabrics, trims, and embellishments and having hired Laurie to sew some specific outfits, and having cut out and made twenty or so skirts, jackets, and so forth--I feel in partial readiness for whatever comes along.

We have brought a number of costumes to Colorado, hoping to find some willing participants to wear them at the various locations. And of course there are props--parasols, fans, handkerchiefs, tablecloths--all to give a sense of authenticity!

The funny thing was making the little black fez-caps for Persian members of Abdu'l-Baha's entourage--and cutting them out in various sizes, then using a glue gun to assemble them.  But will I find anyone to wear them?  And then, do you pair them with a western suit or an eastern robe-type garment? And then there are ties--so out came the fabric and glue gun again.

Now is this a pointless obsession, or will it bear useful fruit?

June 25, 1912

While we are in Albuquerque en route to film the sites in Colorado that 
`Abdu'l-Bahá visited, He (in 1912) is still in Montclair.  

Montclair: Spiritual Health

Mahmud writes:  "In the morning `Abdu'l-Bahá said to us:
After the Ascension of Bahá'u'lláh I did everything within my power to promote the Cause of God. I clung to spiritual methods and rendered such servitude at the Threshold of God so that the divine Cause might advance throughout the world. And my correspondence was so heavy that, at the time of the death of an American maidservant of God, my letters to her were counted and numbered sixty-seven; so you can imagine the situation!
When asked about His health at a gathering of the friends, He replied:
Bodily health is not important. What is more important is spiritual health which gives eternal pleasure and has everlasting effect. The more the body is cared for, the worse it becomes. Thus denial is preferable for the body. I took only a cup of milk today and I feel much better. Why should man undergo so much trouble and hardship merely for the purpose of eating?
In the afternoon He gave detailed answers to questions relating to His talks at Green Acre. He then spoke on the blind imitations and prejudices of people."

This last thought is quite a mystery--as He has not yet gone to Green Acre!  Is Mahmud saying He anticipates what He will speak on?  Or that he (Mahmud) is looking back to the theme of the talks (to come) at Green Acre, perhaps on the investigation of Reality? 

Friday, June 24, 2011

June 24, 1912

Montclair: More on spiritual happiness

Mahmud wrote:   "After morning prayers of thanksgiving, the Master, with some of these servants, went to the market to purchase food and utensils. `Abdu'l-Bahá Himself supervised the affairs of the kitchen. During this journey He often cooked and prepared the meals, especially when there were special guests. When there were no guests, He would not permit us to go to the trouble of preparing special meals but instead was satisfied with a piece of bread and some cheese. With all this, His glory and majesty caused many to bow humbly before Him. In fact, it was seldom that many did not sit at His table both mornings and evenings to receive the blessings and honor of His presence. After returning from the market and completing His chores in the kitchen, He spoke of the development of Europe:
The material progress of Europe is approaching its zenith. Everything that reaches its zenith undoubtedly begins to decline. I hope that spiritual progress will be bestowed on them and that they will be protected.
It is obvious that whatever is growing, like a tree, is in the process of development. When we were going from Tihrán to Baghdád, there was not a friend to be found on the way but as the tree of the Cause of God was in its infancy and growing, it was apparent that the divine Cause would surround the East and the West and the reign of Násiri'd-Din Sháh would come to naught. Observe what has become of his sovereignty and consider where we are.
In the afternoon the hall of the building was full of people. Many were standing in adjacent rooms to hear `Abdu'l-Bahá. He began by saying:
It is not the place that should be looked at but the illumined faces and hearts of the friends. In Baghdád there was a small room, about one-third the size of this one, in which a number of the believers were living -- but under the shade of the kindness of Bahá'u'lláh and they were very happy."

ah, we must work on illumining our hearts so that our faces will show this. . . . 

I am only partly in Montclair--as we are preparing for a trip to Colorado to get the first footage for our documentary on the Master in America!  So--not only do I need to think across time but across distance, as He doesn't make the trip to Colorado until September. Such is my existential reality. . . . 

So exciting . . . but we are so tired.  I may have a sketchy blog during the travel days. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

June 23, 1912

Montclair, NJ:  Spiritual Happiness

Mahmud wrote: "In the morning `Abdu'l-Bahá spoke about the followers of Yahyá, saying: These people are following their false imaginings. . . . 
The Master then gave various accounts of their vain imaginings and the mischief they caused in both the spiritual and material affairs of Persia. He also spoke about their malicious calumnies against the sincere and trustworthy Bahá'ís of the East and the West. He ended His talk with an exposition on the erroneous notion prevailing among some religious leaders that science is opposed to religion, a belief that leads people to false dogmas and to adhere to vain imaginings.
In the afternoon the Master gave an exposition on the words of Christ: `He that desireth to follow Me, must bear his own cross.' He then mentioned the martyrs of this great Cause and, referring to `Abdu'l-Vahháb-i-Shírází, said:
Before he left the prison to go to the altar of divine sacrifice, he came first and placed his head on Bahá'u'lláh's feet and kissed them. Having embraced all the friends, he hastened to the plain of sacrifice, dancing and snapping his fingers in ecstasy. [For details on 'Abdu'l-Vahhab, see King of Glory, pp. 94–98]
     As the Master recounted this event, His voice became so resonant and powerful that it caused the friends to tremble, and then His mood changed. His body dancing and His fingers snapping, He made such ecstatic cries it seemed that the scene of martyrdom had been reenacted before our very eyes. [see description in yesterday's post, by Juliet Thompson. ]  Afterwards, He said: `Compare the condition and firmness of the martyrs of this Revelation with those of the disciples of Christ, taking into account the station attained. How great is the difference between this Day and the past. How far the one is from the other.'
     Friends and seekers gathered in the evening. `Abdu'l-Bahá's response to Mr Edsall's father-in-law was very inspiring and impressive."   [See talk in PUP, 210–13]

Here’s an excerpt from His talk:This is the day of Bahá'u'lláh, the age of the Blessed Perfection, the cycle of the Greatest Name. If you do not smile now, for what time will you await and what greater happiness could you expect? This is the springtime of manifestation. The vernal shower has descended from the cloud of divine mercy; the life-giving breeze of the Holy Spirit is wafting the perfume of blossoms. From field and meadow rises a fragrant breath of thanksgiving like pure incense ascending to the throne of God. The world has become a new world; souls are quickened, spirits renewed, refreshed. Truly it is a time for happiness. . . .    
     Everywhere we hear the call of the spiritual world; in everything we behold the works of God. The church bells are pealing in memory of Jesus Christ although more than nineteen hundred years have passed since He lived upon the earth. This is through the power of the spirit. No material power could do this. Yet people in their blindness deny Christ, seeking to perpetuate their names in worldly deeds. Everyone wishes to be remembered. Through earthly and material accomplishments one will hardly be remembered nine years, while the memory and glory of Christ continue after nineteen hundred have passed. For His name is eternal and His glory everlasting. Therefore, man should hear with attentive ear the call of the spiritual world, seeking first the Kingdom of God and its perfections. This is eternal life; this is everlasting remembrance.”
Mahmud, also on June 23, relates: “After morning prayers of thanksgiving, the Master, with some of these servants, went to the market to purchase food and utensils. `Abdu'l-Bahá Himself supervised the affairs of the kitchen. During this journey He often cooked and prepared the meals, especially when there were special guests. When there were no guests, He would not permit us to go to the trouble of preparing special meals but instead was satisfied with a piece of bread and some cheese. With all this, His glory and majesty caused many to bow humbly before Him. In fact, it was seldom that many did not sit at His table both mornings and evenings to receive the blessings and honor of His presence. After returning from the market and completing His chores in the kitchen, He spoke of the development of Europe:
     The material progress of Europe is approaching its zenith. Everything that reaches its zenith undoubtedly begins to decline. I hope that spiritual progress will be bestowed on them and that they will be protected.
      It is obvious that whatever is growing, like a tree, is in the process of development. When we were going from Tihrán to Baghdád, there was not a friend to be found on the way but as the tree of the Cause of God was in its infancy and growing, it was apparent that the divine Cause would surround the East and the West and the reign of Násiri'd-Din Sháh would come to naught. Observe what has become of his sovereignty and consider where we are.
In the afternoon the hall of the building was full of people. Many were standing in adjacent rooms to hear `Abdu'l-Bahá. He began by saying:
     It is not the place that should be looked at but the illumined faces and hearts of the friends. In Baghdád there was a small room, about one-third the size of this one, in which a number of the believers were living -- but under the shade of the kindness of Bahá'u'lláh and they were very happy.”

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

June 22, 1912


Mahmud reported: "In the morning `Abdu'l-Bahá spoke to the Bahá'ís and seekers of Montclair about the difference between the kingdom of the Manifestation of God and the kingdom of the material world. In the afternoon many believers from near and far were honored to visit Him. He spoke about some spiritual matters and counseled the friends that it is forbidden to interfere in political matters and that they should obey the laws of their country. Later, several friends arrived with the minister of the Unity Church, who invited the Master for a ride that they might receive His love and bestowals. Today a courier arrived with a special invitation from the Society of the Annual American Celebration [Independence Day, the 4th of July]. However, the Master did not promise to attend and deferred the matter depending on His schedule."

Juliet's tale of meeting the Master at Montclair (written on 23 June) is quite a different story:  It had nearly killed Lua not to be taken to Montclair with Him. Two days later she said to me: "Let's go to see Him, Julie."

"How can we, Lua? He didn't invite us," I answered. "He bade us goodbye for nine days."

"Oh but you have an excuse, those proofs of Mrs Kasebier's pictures. You really should show them to Him, Julie."

And she whirled Georgie Ralston and me off to Montclair with her.

We were punished of course, and our first punishment was that lunch was unusually late (so that instead of arriving after, as we had planned, we arrived just in time for it). And this was agonizing,for there weren't enough seats at the table, and the Master wouldn't sit down to eat. One of us had to occupy His chair, while He Himself waited on us, carrying all the courses around and around that table. I couldn't get over my mortification.

At the end He came in with the fruit, a glass bowl full of golden peaches. Without turning His head--His face was set straight before Him--He sent a piercing glance from the corner of His eye toward Lua and me. Such a majestic, stern glance, like a sword-thrust.

After lunch, and this was our second punishment, He banished the three of us--Georgie, Lua, and me--leading us to a small back porch and abandoning us there. But before very long He returned and asked us to take a walk with Him.

We came back from our walk by way of the front porch. Some people were gathered there and Lua, Georgie, and I sat down with them while the Master went upstairs to rest. He joined us, however, very soon and, striding up and down, began to talk to us. As He walked His Power shook us; His intoxicating exhilaration, pouring into me, filled me up with new life.

His eyes--those eyes of light, which seem to be always looking into heaven and when for an instant they glance toward earth, veer away at once, back to heaven--were brilliantly restless. His whole Being was restless with the same strange Force I had felt on that memorable day, the nineteenth of June. It was as though the lightning of His Spirit could scarcely endure to be harnessed to the body. He was almost out of the body. But soon He took a seat and rested quietly.

I showed Him the proofs of the pictures, then spoke of Mrs Kasebier--who had seen Him only once, when she photographed Him. "She said she would like to live near You, my Lord."

He laughed. "She doesn't want to live near Me. She only wants a good time!" Then He grew serious. "To live near Me," He said, "one must have My aims and objects. Do you remember the rich young man who wanted to live near Christ, and when he learned what it cost to live near Him--that it meant to give away all his possessions and take up a cross and follow Christ--then," the Master laughed, "he fled away!"

"Among the disciples of the Báb," He continued, "were two: His amanuensis and a firm believer. On the eve of the Báb's martyrdom the firm believer prayed: 'Oh let me die with You!' The amanuensis said: 'What shall I do?'

"'What shall I do?'" mocked the Master. "'What do you want me to do?' The disciple died with the Báb, his head on the breast of the Báb, and their bodies were mingled in death. The other died in prison anyway, but think of the difference in their stations!

"There was another martyr," continued the Master after a moment, "Mírzá 'Abdu'lláh of Shíráz." Then He told us that Mírzá 'Abdu'lláh had been in the Presence of Bahá'u'lláh only once, "but he so loved the Blessed Beauty" that he could not resist following Him to Tihrán, though Bahá'u'lláh had commanded him to remain in Shíráz with his old parents. "Still," said the Master, His tone exultant, "he followed!"

Mírzá 'Abdu'lláh reached Tihrán in the midst of that bloodiest of massacres resulting from the attempt on the Sháh's life by two fanatical Bábís. Bahá'u'lláh had been cast into a dungeon. There, in that foul cellar He sat, weighted down by "The Devil's Chain", eleven disciples sitting with Him, bound by the same chain. In it were set iron collars which were fastened around the neck by iron pins. Every day a disciple was slaughtered and none knew when his turn would come. The first intimation he had of his immediate death was when the jailer took out the iron pin from his collar.

Mírzá 'Abdu'lláh entered TihránBahá'u'lláh resided." "We will take you to Him," said the guard. And some men took 'Abdu'lláh to the dungeon and chained him to Bahá'u'lláh.

"So," the Master said, "he found his Beloved again!"

One day the jailer came into the dungeon and took out the pin from Mírzá 'Abdu'lláh's collar.

"Then," said the Master, "Mírzá 'Abdu'lláh stepped joyfully forward. First, he kissed the feet of the Blessed Beauty, and then . . ."

The Master's whole aspect suddenly changed. It was as though the spirit of the martyr had entered into Him. With that God-like head erect, snapping His fingers high in the air, beating out a drum-like rhythm with His foot till we could hardly endure the vibrations set up, He triumphantly sang "The Martyr's Song."

"I have come again, I have come again,
By way of Shíráz I have come again!
With the wine cup in My hand!
Such is the madness of Love!"

"And thus," ended 'Abdu'l-Bahá, "singing and dancing he went to his death, and a hundred executioners fell on him! And later his parents came to Bahá'u'lláh, praising God that their son had given his life in the Path of God."

This was what the Cause meant then. This was what it meant to "live near Him"! Another realm opened to me, the realm of Divine Tragedy.

The Master sank back into His chair. Tears swelled in my eyes, blurring everything. When they cleared I saw a still stranger look on His face. His eyes were unmistakably fixed on the Invisible. They were filled with delight and as brilliant as jewels. A smile of exultation played on His lips. So low that it sounded like an echo He hummed the Martyr's Song.

"See," He exclaimed, "the effect that the death of a martyr has in the world. It has changed My condition." After a moment's silence, He asked: "What is it, Juliet, you are pondering so deeply?"

"I was thinking, my Lord, of the look on Your face when You said Your condition had been changed. And that I had seen a flash of the joy of God when someone dies happily for His Cause."

"There was one name," the Master answered, "that always brought joy to the face of Bahá'u'lláh. His expression would change at the mention of it. That name was Mary of Magdala."

[And of course we know that Juliet wrote a book called I, Mary Magdalene.  I wonder if she got the idea at that moment. . . . ]

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

June 21, 1912

 'Abdu'l-Bahá in Montclair

Mahmud writes: "The Master went to a house rented for Him in Montclair. Since the weather in New York was hot and humid at this time, the Montclair friends had begged Him to visit. Mr Edsall's relatives were elated and grateful for the beloved Master's visit. This servant told the Eastern friends that there was a possibility that `Abdu'l-Bahá would remain there to rest from His arduous journey and overcome His fatigue, which would alleviate the many troubles and hardships of the past.
     That night the Master spoke of the Blessed Beauty's stay in Baghdád and of His Declaration, about His teaching and educating the servants of God."

Juliet writes: "On 21 June, the Master left for Montclair to stay nine days. I was with Him all day till He went. I had lunched with Him nearly every day that week. Lua, Mrs Hinkle-Smith, Valíyu'lláh Khán, and I bade Him goodbye on the steps of His house."

Monday, June 20, 2011

June 20, 1912

Two Questions:  

Is anyone going to the Souvenir Picnic in NJ this weekend and could take photos or videotape for us?

Is anyone near Glenwood Springs or Denver, Colorado, and could meet us to get some "historic" photos (i.e. in costume) on Wed. June 29 (GS) and Fri./Sat. July 1-2 (Den)? We especially need Persian men!

New York: Preparation for Monclair; Physical / Mental Health; 

It is interesting how Mahmud's account of Juliet's painting (below) is so brief and objective, so different than her own.  This underlines how varied the experiences of individuals intersecting with 

`Abdu'l-Bahá was. But it may also signalize how the Persian men may have had a challenge seeing how important the Western women were to the Cause and to His journey. 
`Abdu'l-Bahá seems to have such a special regard for everyone--and He took the women seriously.

Mahmud writes: "As `Abdu'l-Bahá is to go to Montclair tomorrow, He bade farewell to the friends. Today He admonished and encouraged the friends, exhorting them to love and unity and to refrain from differences and disagreements. Then, at the request of Miss Juliet Thompson, He went to a photography studio where several photographs were taken. As she is an artist herself, she drew `Abdu'l-Bahá's likeness with her own hands in a few days.
Many people were present in the afternoon. `Abdu'l-Bahá spoke with a minister about the prosperity of humankind and the oneness of the world of humanity.
Mrs Smith, a member of one of the distinguished families in Philadelphia, had recently embraced the Cause and had requested a Persian name. She was given the name 

Tábandih [Light-giver] by the Master. As she had a headache, He prescribed some medication for her, saying:
You must always be happy. You must associate with joyous and happy people and be adorned with divine morals. Happiness has a direct influence in preserving our health while being upset causes illness. The basis of eternal happiness is spirituality and divine virtue, which is not followed by sorrow. But physical happiness is subject to a thousand changes and vicissitudes.
Have you heard the story of the emperor who looked into the mirror and became very sad and despondent? He said, `Oh! What a healthy and vigorous body I had but how worn it has become now! What a handsome face I had but how ugly it has become now! What graceful stature I had but how bent my body has become with age!' Thus he spoke one by one of the physical conditions of his youth and expressed his sadness at their loss. Such is the end of the physical happiness.
Another friend asked about tribulations and unexpected accidents. `Abdu'l-Bahá replied:
The chain of creation is interwoven in a natural law and divine order. Everything is interlinked. A link cannot be broken without affecting that natural order. Everything that happens is in conformity with this order and is based on consummate wisdom. Because it is decreed by God that every plant that grows must wither, all flourishing vegetation must fade away, every combination must disperse and all compositions must disintegrate. These are the necessary consequences of that universal law and of all relationships and is interpreted as divine decree.
In every meeting `Abdu'l-Bahá gives this kind of philosophical explanation to complex problems, thus illuminating the hearts."

Interesting, about health and about how everything is interlinked. We live in a time when stress seems unavoidable--and of course more and more people face various maladies. Joy as remedy--how to remember that when faced with pain? 

Juliet writes: "The next day, 20 June, we went to Mrs Kasebier's--Lua, Mrs Hinkle-Smith, and I--in the car with the Master.  I shall never forget the Master's beauty in the strange cold light of her studio, a green, underwater sort of light, in which He looked shining and chiselled, like the statue of a god. But the pictures are dark shadows of Him."

I must find out more about Mrs. Kasebier--who, I assume, is the photographer to whom Mahmud refers.

(If only we could identify all the photos taken--when and where. Duane Troxel is working on this--it's an enormous project.)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

JUNE 19, 1912 ***

New York: "City of the Covenant" 

What a significant day! There are various accounts. Eliane Lacroix-Hopson in 'Abdu'l-Bahá in New York writes: 


      June 19th was an historic day for the Bahá'ís of New York. On that day, 'Abdu'l-Bahá named their city the "City of the Covenant." Also, He spoke of the Tablet of the Branch* revealed by Bahá'u'lláh in Andrianople, and proclaimed His own station as the "Center of the Covenant."
      What a highly dramatic, almost terrifying moment in history! The Son of Bahá'u'lláh, the Prophet of God for our time, suddenly lifting the veil of His humanity, appearing in the Glory of the Power of the Covenant, the Power of Creation! It happened with the swiftness and blinding energy of a bolt of lightning, transporting its two witnesses, Juliet Thompson and Lua Getsinger**, into a spiritual whirling of exaltation and fright. Juliet had been called to work on His portrait on that day. She describes a sense of "peculiar power… in the Master's steps while coming down from His room… a fearful majesty… strange flashing of the eyes…" evoking an Old Testament Figure. Later as He was sitting for His portrait, Juliet recalled the following events . . .  [But I will let Juliet tell this part of the story in her own words AP]
*In the Bahá'í Writings, Bahá'u'lláh referred to Himself as a Tree, (The Tree of Life), His children as "Branches" and "Leaves." 'Abdu'l-Bahá is entitled "The Greatest Branch."
**Lua Getsinger was one of the first Bahá'í pilgrims to Akka in 1898. 'Abdu'l-Bahá had chosen her for her passionate and irresistible nature to be a "Banner" and inspired her to teach "day and night." Though sick, until her death in Cairo 18 years later at the age of 45, she never spared herself and was given the title of "Mother-teacher of the American Bahá'í Community" by Shoghi Effendi, besides the title of "Herald of the Covenant" given by the Master.
Bahá'í News April 1976.
      In the afternoon of that day, He sent Lua down to the waiting people to "proclaim the Covenant," then a little later, He followed her and spoke on the Station of the Center of the Covenant, "but not as He had done to Lua and me."       
In confirmation of His explanations, the Master had the Tablet of the Branch read to the friends so they could hear these mighty words of Bahá'u'lláh: "Whosoever turns to Him hath surely turned to God and whosoever turneth away from Him hath turned away from my Beauty, denied My Proof and is of those who transgress." 
On that same day a copy of the book, "The Brilliant Proof," written by Mírzá 'Abu'l Fadl was received. It was in answer to Reverend P. Easton's virulent criticism of the Faith in London and his letter to America, warning people of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's dangerous influence. The Master was very pleased with the book and ordered its translation to be published in this country. 
      This Mighty Day ended like an ordinary day, with more visitors requesting an interview."
Juliet's portrait

Juliet's account is by far the most dramatic, with a focus on her own experience and the portrait she painted:

The Beloved Master's portrait is finished. He sat for me six times, but I really did it in the three half hours He had promised me; for the sixth time, when He posed in His own room on the top floor, I didn't put on a single stroke. I was looking at the portrait wondering what I could find to do, when He suddenly rose from his chair and said: "It is finished." The fifth time He sat, Miss Souley-Campbell came in with a drawing she had done from a photograph to ask if He would sign it for her and if she might add a few touches from life. This meant that He had to change His pose, so of course I couldn't paint that day. And the fourth time (the nineteenth of June)--who could have painted then?

I had just begun to work, Lua in the room sitting on a couch nearby, when the Master smiled at me; then turning to Lua said in Persian: "This makes me sleepy. What shall I do?"

"Tell the Master, Lua, that if He would like to take a nap, I can work while He sleeps."

But I found that I could not. What I saw then was too sacred, too formidable. He sat still as a statue, His eyes closed, infinite peace on that chiselled face, a God-like calm and grandeur in His erect head.

Suddenly, with a great flash like lightning He opened His eyes and the room seemed to rock like a ship in a storm with the Power released. The Master was blazing. "The veils of glory", "the thousand veils", had shrivelled away in that Flame and we were exposed to the Glory itself.

Lua and I sat shaking and sobbing.

Then He spoke to Lua. I caught the words, "Munádíy-i 'Ahd." (Herald of the Covenant.

Lua started forward, her hand to her breast.

"Man?" (I?) she exclaimed.

"Call one of the Persians. You must understand this."

Never shall I forget that moment, the flashing eyes of 'Abdu'l-Bahá the reverberations of His Voice, the Power that still rocked the room. God of lightning and thunder! I thought.

"I appoint you, Lua, the Herald of the Covenant. And I AM THE COVENANT, appointed by Bahá'u'lláh. And no one can refute His Word. This is the Testament of Bahá'u'lláh. You will find it in the Holy Book of Aqdas. Go forth and proclaim, 'This is THE COVENANT OF GOD in your midst.'"

A great joy had lifted Lua up. Her eyes were full of light. She looked like a winged angel. "Oh recreate me," she cried, "that I may do this work for Thee!"

By now I was sobbing uncontrollably.

"Julie too," said Lua, not even in such a moment forgetful of me, "wants to be recreated."

But the Master had shrouded Himself with His veils again, the "thousand veils". He sat before us now in His dear humanity: very, very human, very simple.

"Don't cry, Juliet," He said. "This is no time for tears. Through tears you cannot see to paint."

I tried hard to hold back my tears and to work, but painting that day was at an end for me.

The Master smiled lovingly.

"Juliet is one of My favourites because she speaks the truth to me. See how I love the truth, Juliet. You spoke one word of truth to Me and see how I have praised it!"

I looked up to smile in answer, and in gratitude, then was overwhelmed again by that awful convulsive sobbing.

At this the Master began to laugh and, as He laughed and laughed, the strangest thing happened. It was as if at each outburst He wrapped Himself in more veils, so that now He looked completelyhumanwithout a trace left of His superhuman majesty. Never had I seen Him like this before and I never did afterward.

"I am going to tell you something funny," He said, adding in English, "a joke".

"Oh tell it!" we begged; and now I was in a sort of hysteria, laughing and crying at the same time.

"No. Not now. Paint."

But of course I couldn't paint.

Later, walking up and down, He laughed again.

"I am thinking of My joke," He explained.

"Tell it!" we pleaded.

"No, I cannot, for every time I try to tell it I laugh so I cannot speak."

We got down on our knees, able at last to enter into His play, and begged Him, "Please, please tell us." We were laughing on our knees.

"No. Not now. After lunch."

But, alas, after lunch He went upstairs to His room, and we never heard the Master's joke.

Perhaps, there wasn't any joke. Perhaps He had just found it necessary, after that mighty Declaration, to bring us down to earth again. He had revealed to us "The Apex of Immortality." He had lifted us to a height from which we could see it. Now He, our loving Shepherd, had carried us in His own arms back to our little valley and put us where we belonged.
In the early morning of 19 June, before the Master had called me to paint Him, He had spoken to the people in the English basement. On His way down the stairs from His room He passed Lua and me, where we stood in the third-floor hall. We saw, and felt, as He walked down the upper flight, a peculiar power in His step--as though some terrific Force had possession of Him; a Force too strong to be caged in the body, sparking through, almost escaping His body, able to sunder it. I cannot begin to describe that indomitable step, its fearful majesty, or the strange flashing of His eyes. The sublime language of the Old Testament, words such as these: "Who is this that cometh from Bozrah . . . that treadeth the wine-press in His fury?" faintly express what I saw as I watched the Master descending those stairs. Unsmiling, He passes Lua and me. Then He looked back, still unsmiling.

"Juliet is one of My favorites," He said.   [Wouldn't you love to be one of the Master's favorites?]
In the afternoon of that same day He sent Lua down to the waiting people to "proclaim the Covenant"; then a little later followed her and spoke Himself on the station of the Centre of the Covenant, but not as He had done to Lua and me. The blazing Reality of it He had revealed in His own Person to us. To them He spoke guardedly, even deleting afterwards from our notes some of the things He had said.

Still later that afternoon the Master had promised to sit for a photograph. I had made the appointment myself with Mrs Kasebier, a very wonderful photographer, to bring the Master to her studio, but some people prevented His getting off in time. When they left, He sent for me.

"I am ashamed," He said (while I nearly died at that word "ashamed" from Him), "but I will go tomorrow. I had planned to leave for Montclair tomorrow but I will stay until Friday for your sake."

"I can't bear, my Lord," I said, "to have You delay Your trip to the country for this."

"No, I wish it," He answered.

"I have a confession to make, my Lord," I said. "I have been to Dr Grant's house. It happened in this way: he asked if I would be the bearer of his photograph to You and would I stop at the Rectory for it on my way up to You. Then he invited me to come to breakfast. That invitation I declined, but I could think of no excuse for refusing to stop for the picture. So I did go. But I stayed only five or ten minutes and his mother was with us all the time."

"Good, good," said the Master. "Going to his house was not good, but since you have confessed it, Juliet, I am very much pleased. When I look into your heart," He added, smiling, "I find it just like that mirror--it is so pure."

(Oh, please understand me, when I repeat such things it is only because they are His words to me. I keep them just to remind myself of something potential He sees in me which I must grow up to. I am not reminding myself of His praise, for it really isn't praise but stimulation. If He had been blaming me, I would repeat His blame too.

He then spoke of my teaching. "Your breath is effective," He said. "You are now in the Kingdom of Abhá with Me, as I wished you to be."

[A mystery, this. Perhaps we can experience being in the Kingdom with Him as well--on this plane and the next.  "Even as meeting Him face to face. . . ."]