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

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

December 26-30, 1912 Hearts cemented together

During the week after Christmas, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave a number of talks in His drawing room, speaking on the birth and advent of Christ and of the significance of baptism. He also walked in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. On 29 December, the Maharajah of Jhalawar, who was very devoted to the Master, visited. In the afternoon, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke at the home of Miss Annie Gamble.[i] In the evening, He spoke at the King’s Weigh House Methodist Church. The Reverend E. W. Lewis introduced the Master and explained that the Bahá’í Faith was not a new sect, and that it had not committed itself to any form of organisation; it was essentially a spiritual movement, very much on the lines of what Jesus wanted his movement to be’. When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá entered, the whole congregation stood until He was at the chancel where He began to speak animatedly and impressively, the interpreter translating as the address proceeded. The Master appeared to be quite at home, pacing backwards and forwards in the intervals between sentences. ‘I praise God’, he began, ‘that a number of reverent souls are gathered in this congregation to serve the Almighty. Their hearts are cemented together. Their faces are joyous with the glad tidings of the Kingdom of God.'"

[i] Balyuzi, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 352.

We were in London (at Heathrow) today and now are suddenly in Edinburgh--and 'Abdu'l-Bahá is arriving here on Jan. 6 (in 1912).  Time to learn this part of the history!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

December 25, 1912 Gifts on Christmas day; "Yankee ingenuity"

Earl Redman writes:

"Many people brought gifts for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá on Christmas Day. One person brought an expensive gift which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá accepted lovingly. He then handed the gift back, saying, ‘And now, you see I have accepted your beautiful present, and it has made me very happy. I thank you for it. And now I am going to give it back to you. Sell it, and give the money to the poor. The rich in England are too rich, and the poor too poor’. As the man left, he seemed to have a new understanding of the world.
            ‘Abdu’l-Bahá laughed at gifts that showed ‘Yankee ingenuity’. When one American girl heard the Master say that on His travels He had learned to wash His handkerchiefs and to sew, she quickly dashed to a nearby shop, bought a small leather sewing kit and laughingly presented it to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá saying she found it impossible to visualize a prophet sewing on His buttons.  ‘I will accept the sewing case with gratitude, and will keep it’, He said, but then added with a laugh the same words He had spoken to Emmeline Pankhurst, ‘I am not a prophet. I am a man – like you’. All laughed at that since the girl was also known as a suffragette. ‘He accepted it!’ she exclaimed, as she left overjoyed.[i]
            That night, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá visited the Salvation Army Shelter in Westminster. The shelter provided food and shelter for the homeless of London and each year provided a Christmas dinner ‘for those who have no homes and no friends, and but for the shelter would have no lodgings . . . many of the hungry men forgot to eat and listened intently’. That night there were 1,000 men present.  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s message was particularly uplifting:

"I feel tonight great joy and happiness to be in this place, because my meetings and callings have ever been mostly with the poor, and I call myself one of them. My lot has ever been with those who have not the goods of this world. When we look at the poor of humanity, we behold a world of brothers. All are the sheep of God; God is the real shepherd. The poor have ever been the cause of the freedom of the world of humanity; the poor have ever been the cause of the upbuilding of the country; the poor have ever laboured for the world’s production; the morals of the poor have ever been above those of the rich; the poor are ever nearer to the threshold of God; the humanitarianism of the poor has ever been more acceptable at the threshold of God.
Consider His Holiness Christ: He appeared in the world as one of the poor. He was born of a lowly family; all the apostles of Christ were of humble birth and His followers were of the very poorest of the community . . .
All the prophets of God were poor, His Holiness Moses was a mere shepherd . . . All the tyranny and injustice in this world comes from accumulation. The poor have ever been humble and lowly; their hearts are tender. The rich not so.
Sorrow not, grieve not. Be not unhappy because you are not wealthy. You are the brothers of Jesus Christ. Christ was poor; Baha’o’llah was poor. For forty years he was imprisoned in poverty. The great ones of the world have come from a lowly station. Be ever happy; be not sad! Trust in God and if in this world you undergo dire vicissitudes I hope that in the Kingdom of God you will have the utmost happiness.[ii]

As He left, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá left twenty golden sovereigns and many handfuls of silver with Colonel Spencer for a similar dinner on New Year’s Eve. When the Colonel announced this, the men leaped to their feet ‘and waving their knives and forks gave a rousing farewell cheer.'"

[i] ‘Christmas Day With Abdul Baha in London’, in The Christian Commonwealth, United Kingdom Bahá’í Archives.
[ii] Star of the West, vol. III, no. 18 (7 February 1913), pp. 8–9.

An equivalent of the Bowery Mission in NY!  And how fitting, on Christmas day! 

Today we are going to Scotland--amazingly--to commemorate the Master there, at a small arts conference just a week before the larger commemoration. We are so lucky to be following the journey, still! 

December 24, 1912 Dinner guest; ladies giving orders

Earl Redman writes: 

"‘Abdu’l-Bahá was a guest of Lady Blomfield for dinner on Christmas Eve. When He sat down to dinner on that night, ‘He said, playfully, that He was not hungry, but He had to come to the dinner table because Lady Blomfield was very insistent; two despotic monarchs of the East had not been able to command Him and bend His will, but the ladies of America and Europe, because they were free, gave him orders.'"

Saturday, December 22, 2012

December 21, 1912 Christmas Mystery Play

Earl Redman writes: 

On 21 December ‘Abdu’l-Bahá attended her play Eager Heart, which Lady Blomfield described as ‘a very interesting Christmas mystery play’.  Her daughter Mary played the part of Eager Heart before an audience of 1,200;[i] it was the first time the Master had attended a theatre. ‘In one of the scenes in which , despite all her longings and all the preparations she had made to receive the Messiah, Eager Heart failed to recognize the Infant Jesus and would not admit the Holy Family to her home, fatigued and hungry though they were, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was seen to be weeping’.[ii]
            Afterwards, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá met the actors in what Lady Blomfield described as ‘an arresting scene. In the Eastern setting the Messenger, in His Eastern robes, speaking to them in the beautiful Eastern words of the Divine significance of the events which had been portrayed’.[iii]             The Christian Commonwealth quoted ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as telling the actors:

The people in the play thought they were waiting for Christ; they thought they were his intimate friends. Some there were who used to cry day and night, saying ‘O Lord, hasten the day when he will manifest himself on earth’. When he came they knew him not; they persecuted him and finally killed him, for they said, ‘This is not the true Messiah whose coming is to be under special conditions’.

[i] Star of the West, vol. III, no. 19 (2 March 1913), p. 7.
[ii] Balyuzi, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 348.
[iii] Blomfield, The Chosen Highway, p. 154.

From The Chosen Highway:

At 3.30pm ‘Abdu’l-Bahá left Cadogan Gardens in Mrs Thornburgh-Cropper’s car for a performance of ‘Eager Heart’ at Church House Westminster.
church houseMiss Alice Buckton was an earnest visitor. She had written Eager Heart, a very interesting Christmas mystery play. The performance of this mystery play at the Church House, Westminster, was honoured by the presence of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. This was a memorable occasion, as it was the first time He had ever witnessed a dramatic performance. The Master wept during the scene in which the Holy Child and His parents, overcome with fatigue, and suffering from hunger, were met by the hesitation of Eager Heart to admit them to the haven of rest which she had prepared, she, of course, failing to recognize the sacred visitors.
The Master afterwards joined the group of players.
It was an arresting scent. In the Eastern setting the Messenger, in His Eastern robes, speaking to them in the beautiful Eastern words of the Divine significance of the events which had been portrayed.
Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway pp. 154–155

Thursday, December 20, 2012

December 20, 1912 Visitors flocking . . .

Earl Redman writes: 

The following day, 20 December, visitors again flocked to see ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. With Mr Lorge, a well-known English educator, He discussed America. Ahmad Sohrab wrote that he had never seen ‘Abdu’l-Bahá so enthusiastic about the wonderful possibilities of America. “Europe”, He said, “is steeped in a sea of materialism. People are either agnostics or full of religious superstition.”’ Americans, said the Master, ‘are more spiritual, they seek the knowledge of God . . . In brief, they are a nation of independent investigators’. [i]
            Later in the day, the Persian Ambassador, Mushíru’l-Mulk, came to visit the Master. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá told him about ‘winning everlasting victories which will bring unfading glory to the peoples of the East’. Dúst-Muhammad Khán, the son-in-law of Násiri’d-Din Sháh, the arch-enemy of Bahá’u’lláh, also came to speak with the Master. He was very attached to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and came as often as possible.[ii]
             That evening, it was time for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s first public talk since his arrival in London. It took place at the Westminster Palace Hotel. According to Isabel Fraser’s article in The Christian Commonwealth, it was ‘a remarkable cosmopolitan gathering’ composed of scientists, diplomats, and leaders of great movements of the day, including a number of Orientals. They had all come to listen to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá talk about a topic that was ‘agitating many of the thinking minds of to-day – the vast subject of Peace’. Sir Thomas Barclay introduced the Master by saying, ‘If I have understood Bahaism, it has a singularly good Christian ring, and I should interpret it to mean: Be a real Christian and you will be a good Bahaist. But I am merely presiding, not proselytizing. I am proud to have been asked to preside at a meeting of those who have come together to do honour to one who deserves it so richly’.[iii]
            ‘Abdu’l-Bahá then proceeded to talk about love, describing how matter was made up of ‘constellations’ of molecules, each composed of atoms held together by the law of affinity:

As in the material so in the spiritual world, love is the attracting force that welds together the constituent elements into a composite unity and holds them firm against disintegration . . . Love is the cause of the illumination of whole of humanity; discord and dissension are the cause of the destruction of the human race . . .
The foundation of all religion as taught by all the divine messengers has been love and affinity. A hundred thousand pities, alas, that the divine message has become the means of warfare and strife! In the Balkans blood has been freely and copiously shed, lives are being destroyed, houses are pillaged, cities are razed to the ground – and all this through religious prejudice . . .[iv]

The Master had referred to the conflict in the Balkans frequently during his American talks, and also spoke of it to the newspaper reporters on his arrival in London. An international conference was being held just then in London to try to negotiate a peace settlement, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá took the opportunity of mentioning this:

I am very pleased that I am living in London during these days. I supplicate that the conference may be crowned with success . . .
As the English government is a just Government, and as the British nation is a noble nation and they accomplish what they undertake, it is my hope that in this matter they will show their utmost wisdom and sagacity, so that the sun of peace may dawn on the horizon of the Balkans . . . and whenever in the future there is any difficult problem a conference may be called for its settlement, for through these various conferences all the troubles of humanity may be solved.[v]

The Master’s address was listened to ‘in tense silence’, and when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá at the end of the meeting gave the blessing, ‘a deep hush fell on the people’. After He had finished speaking, Mrs Despard, President of the Women’s Freedom League, said a few words in appreciation; she was ‘perfectly convinced’ that everyone who had heard him felt ‘deeply privileged to have had his presence here in our western isle’. Hippolyte Dreyfus and Alice Buckton also spoke.
            Alice Buckton was a London Bahá’í who had spent much time in America during the Master’s visit there. She was also a writer of poetry and plays.

[i] ibid. p. 6.
[ii] Balyuzi, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 347.
[iii] The Christian Commonwealth, p. 262, United Kingdom Bahá’í Archives. An edited version appears in Star of the West, vol. III, no. 17 (19 January 1913), pp. 5–10. The version given here is as it appeared in the newspaper.
[iv] ibid.
[v] ibid.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

December 19, 1912

Earl Redman writes:

"‘Abdu’l-Bahá . . .  met with many visitors, including a militant suffragist. A number of suffragettes came to see him during His two visits to England. One, the famous Emmeline Pankhurst, called ‘Abdu’l-Bahá a ‘prophet’, whereupon He said, ‘Oh no! I am a man, like you’. Apparently Mrs Pankhurst was ‘much cheered by her interview, for the Master told her to continue her work steadfastly, for women would very shortly take their rightful place in the world’.  He advised the militant who visited him on 19 December that women who were campaigning for the right to vote should refrain from any acts of violence in their efforts, but should ‘use the power of intelligence, with scientific accomplishments, with artistic attainments. Unseemly deeds would rather retard the realization of their cherished hope. In this age a weak person resorts to frightful measures, but an intelligent person used the superior power of intelligence and wisdom.'"

I think what is also part of this story, though not included here, is that this feminist chose to dress in men's attire--and that is one reason 'Abdu'l-Baha referred to being a "man" like her! 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

December 18, 1912 London; EG Browne . . .

Earl Redman writes:

"On December 18 'Abdu'l-Bahá gave a talk at which Edward Granville Browne, the noted Orientalist, was present.  In April 1890 'Abdu'l-Bahá had hosted Browne at Bahji when he met Baha'u'llah, one of the few Westerners to have done so and who left a memorable description of that interview. . . . After the Master's talk, Browne greeting Him with 'The last time I met you was twenty-two years ago in Acca under different environment, but now I have the pleasure of seeing you in London.' He would come to see the Master several times during this second visit to London.

"After a walk and a taxi ride through Hyde Park and Regent's Park, 'Abdu'l-Bahá met a minister from one of the churches . . . the Counsellor of the Persian Embassy . . . the president of the Esperantists of England and several Persian Baha'is, including Haji Amin . . . who had been waiting in Paris for the Master's arrival."

"Hájí Amín had had a rather confusing journey from Paris to London. He spoke neither French nor English and carried letters with names and addresses to help him reach his destination. Somehow, after leaving Paris and crossing the English Channel, he inexplicably found himself back in Paris. His second effort to reach London was successful, but ‘Abdu’l-Bahá joked that the Hájí ‘could not forsake the delights of Paris and had to hurry back there’.  
            The next day, Hájí Amín visited ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the morning. Ahmad Sohrab described what happened when Hájí Amín opened his handkerchief, in which he carried letters from Persian Bahá’ís:

What caught my eyes at first glance were two small loaves of bread and an apple which were sent from a Bahai from far off Russia. This was all this poor man could send to the Beloved with his devotion and love. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá looked at this love offering with such tenderness, with such joy and kindness in his eyes, that I shall never forget it. He ate a piece of the stale bread and gave the rest to Said Assadullah for him to serve the rest at the table.

I would like to share Edward G. Browne’s description of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá:  ('Akká, 1890):

"Seldom have I seen one whose appearance impressed me more. A tall strongly-built man holding himself straight as an arrow, with white turban and raiment, long black locks reaching almost to the shoulder, broad powerful forehead indicating a strong intellect combined with an unswerving will, eyes keen as a hawk's, and strongly-marked but pleasing features--such was my first impression of Abbas Efendi. . . . One more eloquent of speech, more ready of argument, more apt of illustration, more intimately acquainted with the sacred books of the Jews, the Christians, and the Muhammadans, could, I should think, scarcely be found even amongst the eloquent, ready, and subtle race to which he belongs. . . . About the greatness of this man and his power no one who had seen him could entertain a doubt."

Another story to share relates to Lady Blomfield. Earl Redman writes: 
"Ahmad Sohrab was very impressed with Lady Blomfield, describing her as ‘a remarkable woman, a most sincere Bahai, an active worker, and an enthusiastic speaker; really a wonderful woman.' ‘Abdu’l-Bahá added to this the following day, in calling attention to ‘how quickly the Paris and London addresses delivered last year were printed, and this was done through one woman, Lady Blomfield'. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wished to see the addresses he had delivered in America printed as well; ‘At present, he declared, they are all scattered and not collected’. When someone suggested the name of a prominent wealthy woman, he said, ‘One of these poor, sincere and honest women is more beloved by me than a thousand millionaires; just now this Lady Blomfield is dearer to me than all the queens of the world.'" 

December 17, 1912 Westminster: Caxton Hall Reception

Today (100 years ago)

A large reception was held for the ‘Abdu’l-Bahá at Caxton Hall, at that time Town Hall for the City of Westminster, much in demand as a concert hall and venue for public meetings, especially those of the suffragettes.
caxton hall, london

In the afternoon a reception was held at Caxton Hall. There was a large gathering of people. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke on various subjects paying a great tribute to the Americans and emphasizing the love and unity which exists between the two countries. Then the chairman of the meeting made some appropriate remarks and refreshments were served. The Master walked back to his apartment. No sooner had he arrived than people began to come.
Extract from letters written by Mirza Ahmad Sohrab Star of the West Volume III no. 19

I am in Seattle and haven't been able to do much research the last few days. The above information is taken from Abdu'l-Baha's Travels to the West <katholmlund@gmail.com>

Earl Redman reports that on this day a Baha'i from Belfast, Ireland arrived to see Him. It may have been Joan Waring.  'Abdu'l-Bahá warmly welcomed her and said, "You must become the cause of illumination in Ireland . . . now you must ignite four thousand lamps in one year." The lady replied hat many people were afraid of a new religion, to which He responded:

"They are like unto those souls who say: 'We don't like fresh flowers but we are satisfied with withered and decayed flowers.' Decayed flowers do not have sweet fragrance; their odor is not good; they have no freshness and charm. The fresher the flower the sweeter it is and the more charming. If old and decayed flowers were good enough then the Adamic flower would have been sufficient. Every new year needs a new flower, new fruits are necessary, fresh and gentle breezes are needed."

Marion Jack was there, and He told her: "Those souls who consider themselves as imperfect, they are the people of the Kingdom. Those persons who prefer themselves above others are egotists and worshippers of self; they are deprived of the graces of the Lord of mankind."

Redman also comments that "since His arrival, 'Abdu'l-Bahá had taken many opportunities to talk in glowing terms about his experiences in the United States and to praise the American people, and to a professor of Arabic He now said:

"The American people investigate everything. Their minds are open, their ears are listening. . . . They are a mighty nation, a noble people, They love the Reality. They are not limited. . . .They listen to every discussion with dignity, urbanity and politeness. If it is in accord with reason they will accept it, if they do not understand they ask questions."

Monday, December 17, 2012

December 15-16, 1912 Liverpool and London

On December 15, 'Abdu'l-Bahá spoke in Liverpool at Pembroke Chapel, welcomed by Rev. Donald Fraser as a herald of peace. When Rev. Fraser indicated that 'Abdu'l-Bahá should ascend the pulpit to speak, 'Abdu'l-Bahá hesitated, saying He did not like to look down upon people when He spoke. He finally ascended the stairs to the pulpit when the Rev. told Him that the people in the gallery would be higher than He and everyone would be able to hear Him better. 'Abdu'l-Bahá spoke on unity and afterwards wrote a blessing for Rev. Fraser:

"O Thou Kind Almighty, confirm Thou this servant of Thine, Mr. Fraser, in the service of Thy Kingdom. Make him illumined; make him heavenly; make him spiritual; make him divine. . . ."

On December 16 in the morning, 'Abdu'l-Bahá walked with His entourage to Lime Street Station, to take the train to London. To Elizabeth Herrick and Isabel Fraser, He said, "I am most pleased with you. You are real servants of the Covenant." Commenting on Isabel's indefatigable efforts to put newspaper articles in papers, He said, "I will never forget these services of yours. You must become like a burning torch so that you may be able to melt mountains of snow. Europe is filled with mountains which are snowcapped all the year around. May you attain to such a degree of heat that you may melt the snow. Europe is submerged in materialism.  People are not thinking of God. All their attention is turned toward matter and nature. Like unto the cows do they graze in the meadows which are overgrown with grass. They can see nothing beyond their noses. America is much better. People in that country are investigating the Reality. They are more susceptible to spiritual life."

[Hm. I wonder if He'd say the same thing now?]

London: 'Abdu'l-Bahá arrived around 1:40 pm. About 50 Baha'is met Him at the station, including Lady Blomfield and two daughters. She had brought her car for Him to ride in and took Him to her apartment at 97 Cadogan Gardens. He spoke English to them the whole way (no interpreters rode with them).  After resting a while,  'Abdu'l-Bahá met newspaper reports and later gave a talk to the Baha'is.

[Information from Earl Redman's "'Abdu'l-Bahá in Their Midst."]

Friday, December 14, 2012

December 14, 1912--and today!

Brendan Mc Namara of Ireland writes:
"Last night, at around 3 am, eight of us gathered on a lovely viewing point in Crosshaven, at the mouth of Cork harbour, at the time the SS Celtic would have passed by one hundred years ago.  On that night, as a storm raged, she kept well away from the rocky outcrops around the coastline  instead of mooring in the harbour just beyond Roche's Point, whose lighthouse continues to scan the horizon.  It was for awhile a clear night with the most extraordinary show of stars and (we felt) appropriately, quite a few shooting stars as well. The wind whipped up from the sea and the spray was milky white at the foot of the cliff below but no weather like that which prevented the Celtic coming into the harbour in December, 1912. We had a few prayers, sang 'dustam begir', laughed and joked, and felt close to that extraordinary Figure who once came this way.  It was, even at that, something quite special."

A lovely commemoration, that!  I wonder if any of the friends in England are observing the days 'Abdu'l-Bahá spend in Liverpool? 

Here's material I've gotten from the blog, Abdu'l-Baha's Travels to the West:  (Similar to Earl Redman's account, but with more, as it is the source.)

The STAR OF THE WEST, Bahai News Journal, Vol III, No 17, January 19, 1913
by Isabel Fraser

ABDUL-BAHA arrived in Liverpool from New York on the White Star liner Celtic, December 13th 1912. The boat was late and it was about nine o’clock before it docked. Miss Elizabeth Herrick, formerly of Liverpool, now of London, had gone up to Liverpool a day ahead to arrange for the addresses. M Hippolyte Dreyfus-Barney had come from Paris to meet Abdul-Baha and a group from Manchester, Liverpool, and Leeds, in all about a dozen, watched the great liner come slowly up the stream, literally out of the dark night. Suddenly we caught sight of Abdul-Baha in the ship’s bow, and as she hove to he walked slowly down the long deck till he stood quite alone, in the very center of the center deck.. All eyes on the landing stage were at once riveted upon him as he peered over the ship’s side into the rain and gloom of Liverpool. The huge modern boat made a fitting frame for the Master-symbol, as it is of this outpouring of power, designed as it is to bring brothers into closer touch, and Abdul-Baha, the Center of this dispensation, appeared standing in command.
To the little group on the landing stage it seemed ages before the first, second and third-class baggage was arranged in the customs, and the porters and reporters dashed aboard. Finally we caught sight of the Well-Beloved’s white turbaned head, and directly back of him, as they came slowly down the gang-plank, one of the Persians carried a tiny Japanese orange-tree from California. Laden with fruit, it looked like an offering from the tropics as it swayed in the gusts of the broad Mersey.
He stayed two days in Liverpool, stopping at the Adelphi hotel. During that time he made two addresses, one to the Theosophical Society on Saturday night, December 14th, 1912 and one at Pembroke Chapel, a Baptist church, Sunday evening, December 15th. He left for London the next morning.
Since leaving London a year ago, Abdul-Baha has travelled far. From here he went to Paris, and from thence travelled to Alexandria and Cairo. Last April he visited the States, going as far west as San Francisco. It was in this city that he made his famous address to the Jews, speaking on the relations between Judaism and Christianity, an address which is far-reaching not only from the Jewish but from the broad Christian standpoint.
On being asked what the Jewish attitude toward him was on that occasion, Abdul-Baha said: “Many of those present came up and shook me by the hand, and a certain Jew came to me as I was leaving the synagogue and said, ‘I am ashamed to be prejudiced any longer.’ And, again, as I was walking one day in the street another Jew came to me and said, ‘We were neglectful and heedless, and you enlivened us; we slept and you awoke us. It behooves us to remain steadfast now and look to true knowledge, and forget our 2,000-year-old differences.’”

Thursday, December 13, 2012

December 13, 1912 Arrival in Liverpool!

Earl Redman writes:
"When the steamer approached the dock at Liverpool on 13 December 1912, there were a dozen Baha'is from Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds waving handkerchiefs and welcoming 'Abdu'l-Bahá to England. The group, including Hippolyte Dreyfus-Barney, who had come from Paris, Elizabeth Herrick, Isabel Fraser, E.T. Hall, John Craven and John Downs, watched the Celtic come slowly toward the dock at 9 P.m. Isabel Fraser wrote that they 'watched the great liner come slowly up the steam literally out of the dark night. Suddenly we caught sight of Abdu'l-Baha in the ship's bow, and as she hove to he walked slowly down the long deck till he stood quite alone, in the very center of the center deck. All eyes were riveted upon him as he peered over the ship's side into the rain and gloom of Liverpool.'

"To the Baha'is on shore, it seemed to take forever before 'Abdu'l-Bahá came down the gang-plank. Before He descended, the second and third-class baggage was taken to customs. At last, the group saw His 'white turbaned head' as He came slowly down. One of the Persians carried a tiny Japanese orange tree from California. 'Laden with fruit, it looked like an offering from the tropics. . . .'

"'Abdu'l-Bahá stayed in Liverpool two days, at the Adelphia Hotel, 'the most beautiful hotel in the city.' He gave two talks while in the city, the first to the Theosophical Society and the second to the congregation at the Reverend Donald Fraser's Pembroke Chapel."

No rest at all!  He keeps on going. . . .

Monday, December 10, 2012

December 9 and 10, 1912 At sea

Still at sea. . . .  It is interesting that the very act of following 'Abdu'l-Bahá brings with it new connections and information every day!

Anne Corcoran sent me this report:

 5 December 2012 /13 Qawl 169 B.E.

Dearly loved Friends

In an unprecedented event, the UK government through its Department for Communities and Local Government initiated and hosted a reception in honour of the UK Bahá’í community to celebrate the Centenary of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s visit to Britain.

The gathering was held on Wednesday 28 November, the anniversary of the passing of the Beloved Master, at Eland House in London and attended by Government Ministers, Members of Parliament, civil servants, and some 80 believers representing the diversity of the UK community. The reception was addressed by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP and the Minister for Integration, the Rt Hon Don Foster MP, who both spoke with warmth and appreciation for the contribution Bahá’ís are making to the betterment of their local communities. The Minister for Integration also quoted passages from the Writings of the Master, emphasising their ongoing relevance to the current needs of individuals and communities in the UK and the Government’s support in working towards their realisation.  A representative of the Bahá’í community also shared some remarks about the significance of the Master’s visit to Britain and the current work of the UK Bahá’í community.

The reception at Eland House represents a significant step forward in the Bahá'í community’s relationship with the UK Government and a full report of the proceedings can be found at http://news.bahai.org/story/932.

With loving Bahá'í greetings


Kishan Manocha
Secretary of External Affairs

AND yesterday Brenden McNamara writes:
"I have just returned from the centenial event organised by the friends in Oxford to mark 'Abdu'l-Bahá's visit to that city and in particular His presentation at Manchester College. Uniquely for this side of the Atlantic, the commemoration took place in the College itself.  It was phenomenal!!  (A little earlier that the 31st of December actual date- the College is close these days at that time.)"

SO--exciting events are occuring & reports flow my way. Amazing!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

At sea, en route to England

S.S. Celtic on the rocks off Cobh, December 1928.
Photograph by the Nautical Photo Agency
Today, in 1912, 'Abdu'l-Bahá continues His voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to Liverpool, England. No doubt His thoughts are full of His recent encounters with Americans and how sad many were to say farewell to Him. But, also He must be thinking of the voyage and the encounters ahead!

Today I receive an alert about a posting on the SS Celtic on a special blog:

Brendan McNamara's Blog on Early links between the Baha'i Faith and Ireland

I am glad to have discovered this beautiful blog. Brendad writes: "For eight days ‘Abdu’l-Bahá sailed on the Celtic and thereafter everything associated with that ship could never be the same. The Celtic has, as a result of this fortuitous circumstance, found a niche in history and, in turn, created a fascinating connection between ’Abdu’l-Bahá and Ireland."
Ornate doors from S.S. Celtic, Celtic House, Ringaskiddy

And he includes the story of how double doors with stained glass panels, once belonging to the SS Celtic, ended up on a house named after the ship. (See photo.)

So now you may want to go to Brendan's blog to read the story! 

In any event, the past and present continue to co-mingle as we follow this voyage as the ship heads to the British Isles. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

December 7, 1912 A new journey!

Earl Redman writes:

"The Celtic took eight days to reach Liverpool. On 7 December the weather was as warm and pleasant as spring and the sailors were surprised because this was usually the time for storms. The Captain visited 'Abdu'l-Baha and expressed his pleasure in having him on the ship. 'Abdu'l-Baha said He would like to see a big storm and said, 'In future people will cross the Atlantic in airships; steamers will only carry freight' (this was fifteen years before the first transatlantic flight). Two days later, the sea began to get rough, as though in answer to 'Abdu'l-Baha's desire. 'Abdu'l-Baha stayed on the deck watching the growing storm. He said, 'Look at that imperial wave, how it mounts high and devours the smaller waves! It is a wonderful sight. This is the best day. I am enjoying it.'"  ('Abdu'l-Bahá in Their Midst, 273)

And thus we have the start to a new journey!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Consolation: "I am always a traveller to America"

'Abdu'l-Bahá writes:

"O thou who hast sought illumination from the light of guidance! Praise thou God that He hath directed thee to the light of truth and hath invited thee to enter the Kingdom of Abha. Thy sight hath been illumined and thy heart hath been turned into a rose garden. I pray for thee that thou mayest ever grow in faith and assurance, shine like unto a torch in the assemblies and bestow upon them the light of guidance.

"Whenever an illumined assembly of the friends of God is gathered, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, although bodily absent, is yet present in spirit and in soul. I am always a traveller to America and am assuredly associating with spiritual and illumined friends. Distance is annihilated and prevents not the close and intimate association of two souls that are closely attached in heart even though they may be in two different countries. I am therefore thy close companion, attuned and in harmony with thy soul."
 (Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 102)

Hence, we can enjoy a connection that is beyond time and place--and not be grief-stricken over His departure (er, 100 years ago). 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

December 5, 1912 Last meeting, last day; great sorrow

New York: The last day . . . 
Mahmud writes: "A great number of believers from New York and other cities came to the S. S. Celtic to bid farewell to their beloved. The tears in their eyes bespoke of their great sorrow. The sobs and lamentations of both the young and the old could be heard from afar. Although the first class lounge was quite large, it could not contain the crowd of believers. Some were sitting and others standing outside the lounge. As He moved among the friends, the Master spoke to them with words of exhortation and admonition, consoling their hearts as He bade them farewell. He guided the sorrowing ones onto the path of everlasting happiness and reminding them of the glad tidings of the Abhá Kingdom until the time came for the friends to depart. He then spoke His parting words:
He is God! This is our last day and my last meeting with you. In a few minutes our steamer will leave these shores and this is my last exhortation to you. I have repeatedly spoken to you and invited you to realize the oneness of humanity. I have impressed upon you that all human beings are the servants of the same God and God is kind to all; He provides for all and gives life to all. In the presence of God all are His servants and His bounties are equally distributed among all. We must also be kind to the people of the world and forget all religious, racial, patriotic and political prejudices. The whole earth is one globe. All nations are one family. All are the servants of one God. Therefore he who causes grief to another's heart has sinned against the Lord. God desired the joy of all hearts. He wishes that every individual may pass his life in utmost happiness and felicity and should abandon religious, racial, patriotic and political prejudices. Praise be to God! Your eyes are illumined, your ears are opened and your hearts are informed. You must not entertain these prejudices and differences. You must look to the bounty of God. He is the real Shepherd who is kind to the whole flock. When God is kind to all, is it befitting that we, who are His servants, should engage in war and conflict with one another? No, by God! We must be grateful to God and the way to express gratitude for His bounty is to love each other, show amity and affection and evince friendship and kindness toward all.
In brief, beware, lest you offend any heart or engage in backbiting. You must be friends to all and regard all as your own kith and kin. Your supreme object must always be to bring pleasure to a heart, to give food to the hungry, clothes to the naked, honor to the degraded, help to the helpless and comfort to the distressed. This is the way to win the good pleasure of God. This is that which is conducive to eternal happiness. This is the light of the world of man. As I wish eternal honor for you, so I exhort you with these words.
Behold what is happening in the Balkans! Human blood is being spilt! How many children are rendered orphans! How ruthlessly properties are looted! What a fire is aflame! God has created them to love one another but they are shedding one another's blood. God created them to help and assist one another but they are engaged in plunder and destruction. Instead of being a cause of comfort to their kind, they persecute one another. Make your motives lofty and exert with heart and soul every effort; perchance, the light of universal peace may shine forth and this gloom of estrangement be dispelled. May all human beings become one family and every individual seek the welfare of all. May the East help the West and the West assist the East, for the whole earth is one country and all its people are under the favor and protection of one Shepherd.
December 5, 1912
Behold! What persecutions have the Prophets of God suffered so that human beings may love one another and cling to the cord of love and unity. These sanctified souls ever sacrificed themselves for this aim. But behold! How ignorant is man! In spite of all these sufferings, people are warring against one another. Notwithstanding all the exhortations, they are massacring one another. What ignorance! What heedlessness! What gloom! They have a God who deals kindly and equally with all yet they move and act against His good pleasure. He is benevolent and merciful to all but they are in utmost hatred and war. He gives life to all but they bring death. He brings prosperity to the countries but they destroy one another's households. How heedless they are! Your duties are different because you have been informed of the divine mysteries and your eyes and ears are opened. You are to deal kindly with all the people of the world. You have no excuse before God. You know that the pleasure of God lies in the welfare and prosperity of all. You have hearkened unto His words of advice, His exhortations and His teachings. You must love all, even your enemies. To those who show you ill-will show them your good-will. To those who oppose you be a faithful friend. You should act according to these teachings. Perchance, the abysmal gloom of war and bloodshed may vanish; the light of God may shine forth; the East may be enlightened; the West may be filled with fragrance; the North and the South may embrace each other; and the nations of the world may associate with one another in utmost love and amity! Unless the world reaches this station, it can find no rest, no enduring happiness.
But if men act according to these holy teachings, the world of dust shall reflect the lights of the Kingdom and the earth shall become the Abhá paradise, a garden of blissful joy. I hope that each one of you will be assisted to act according to these teachings so that, like a brilliant star, you may give light to humanity and like a spirit move the body of the contingent world. This is eternal glory! This is everlasting happiness! This is the image and likeness of God and unto this I call you! I pray God that you may attain it.
When the passengers and officers of the steamer heard this address and saw the devotion of the friends, they were overwhelmed and asked themselves, `What is it? Who is this personage in whose presence the Americans stand with such reverence and humility?' Young and old alike were like moths to a candle, circling about the light of the Covenant.
One by one the friends came to `Abdu'l-Bahá to shake His hand, to take hold of the mantle of His grace and favor and to supplicate His assistance and confirmation. Then, in great sorrow, they left the ship. They stood on the wharf, weeping and overcome by emotion, their heads bowed with grief and their hands lifted towards the heavens in prayer as they gazed their last at the Center of the Covenant. As the steamer moved out to sea, their grief and sadness and the fire of their devotion knew no bounds. The throng of believers, stretching as far as the eye could see, waved farewell to the Master, now far in the distance. And He said:
Observe how the power of the Cause of God has created a tumult in the hearts and what a revolution it has produced. See how the aid and assistance of the Abhá Beauty have reached us constantly and invariably the lights of victory have shone from the supreme horizon. These have been from the promised confirmations of the Kingdom of God and the assistance of the invisible sovereignty of the Abhá Beauty, which He has promised clearly in the verse, `Verily, We behold you from Our realm of Glory, and shall aid whosoever will arise for the triumph of Our Cause with the hosts of the Concourse on high and a company of Our favored angels.'
That is all Mahmud writes. I feel as if I have been with a company of angels on this journey of light. 
And then there are Juliet's words, bringing all that Mahmud has recorded to a personal level for us: 

Juliet writes:  "He asked me to come to the Emerys' (where He had been staying for a few days) the morning of 5 December, the day of His sailing; and I was there at eight o'clock.That last morning. I stood at the door of His room, gazing in, my eyes drinking their fill, if they ever could drink their fill, of the Divine Figure as He sat, or stood, or moved about the room.
       He called me in twice. The second time He took my hand. "Remember," He said, "I am with you always. Bahá'u'lláh will be with you always."
      Carrie Kinney was there that morning and Ned, and 'Alí Qulí Khán and Florence, Edna Ballora and her husband, Harriet Magee, Mrs Parsons, and Mrs Hannen. The Master had invited Mamma too, but she had not felt well enough to go.
      "Rest assured," He said when I told Him, "that she will be healed." And He filled my arms with fruit for her.
      We drove to the boat, then followed Him up to His cabin. Many believers were crowding the cabin. Later we all went upstairs and sat in a large room with Him. Very soon He rose, and, walking up and down, delivered to us His last spoken message.
      First He described heartbreakingly the war now raging in the Balkans. Then He said: "As to you: your efforts must be lofty. Exert yourselves with heart and soul that perchance through your efforts the light of Universal Peace may shine and this darkness of estrangement and enmity may be dispelled from amongst men ...
     "You have no excuse to bring before God if you fail to live according to His Command, for you are informed of that which constitutes the good-pleasure of God ...
     "It is My hope that you may become successful in this high calling, so that like brilliant lamps you may cast light upon the world of humanity and quicken and stir the body of existence like unto a spirit of life.
      "This is eternal glory. This is everlasting felicity. This is immortal life. This is heavenly attainment. This is being created in God's image and likeness. And unto this I call you, praying to God to strengthen and bless you."
5 December 1912
Talk on Day of Departure
On Board Steamship Celtic, New York

Notes by Mariam Haney
This is my last meeting with you, for now I am on the ship ready to sail away. These are my final words Juliet writes of exhortation. I have repeatedly summoned you to the cause of the unity of the world of humanity, announcing that all mankind are the servants of the same God, that God is the creator of all; He is the Provider and Life-giver; all are equally beloved by Him and are His servants upon whom His mercy and compassion descend. Therefore, you must manifest the greatest kindness and love toward the nations of the world, setting aside fanaticism, abandoning religious, national and racial prejudice.
The earth is one native land, one home; and all mankind are the children of one Father. God has created them, and they are the recipients of His compassion. Therefore, if anyone offends another, he offends God. It is the wish of our heavenly Father that every heart should rejoice and be filled with happiness, that we should live together in felicity and joy. The obstacle to human happiness is racial or religious prejudice, the competitive struggle for existence and inhumanity toward each other.
Your eyes have been illumined, your ears are attentive, your hearts knowing. You must be free from prejudice and fanaticism, beholding no differences between the races and religions. You must look to God, for He is the real Shepherd, and all humanity are His sheep. He loves them and loves them equally. As this is true, should the sheep quarrel among themselves? They should manifest gratitude and thankfulness to God, and the best way to thank God is to love one another.
Beware lest ye offend any heart, lest ye speak against anyone in his absence, lest ye estrange yourselves from the servants of God. You must consider all His servants as your own family and relations. Direct your whole effort toward the happiness of those who are despondent, bestow food upon the hungry, clothe the needy, and glorify the humble. Be a helper to every helpless one, and manifest kindness to your fellow creatures in order that ye may attain the good pleasure of God. This is conducive to the illumination of the world of humanity and eternal felicity for yourselves. I seek from God everlasting glory in your behalf; therefore, this is my prayer and exhortation.
Consider what is happening in the Balkans. Human blood is being shed, properties are destroyed, possessions pillaged, cities and villages devastated. A world-enkindling fire is astir in the Balkans. God has created men to love each other; but instead, they kill each other with cruelty and bloodshed. God has created them that they may cooperate and mingle in accord; but instead, they ravage, plunder and destroy in the carnage of battle. God has created them to be the cause of mutual felicity and peace; but instead, discord, lamentation and anguish rise from the hearts of the innocent and afflicted.
As to you: Your efforts must be lofty. Exert yourselves with heart and soul so that, perchance, through your efforts the light of universal peace may shine and this darkness of estrangement and enmity may be dispelled from amongst men, that all men may become as one family and consort together in love and kindness, that the East may assist the West and the West give help to the East, for all are the inhabitants of one planet, the people of one original native land and the flocks of one Shepherd.
Consider how the Prophets Who have been sent, the great souls who have appeared and the sages who have arisen in the world have exhorted mankind to unity and love. This has been the essence of their mission and teaching. This has been the goal of their guidance and message. The Prophets, saints, seers and philosophers have sacrificed their lives in order to establish these principles and teachings amongst men. Consider the heedlessness of the world, for notwithstanding the efforts and sufferings of the Prophets of God, the nations and peoples are still engaged in hostility and fighting. Notwithstanding the heavenly commandments to love one another, they are still shedding each other’s blood. How heedless and ignorant are the people of the world! How gross the darkness which envelops them! Although they are the children of a compassionate God, they continue to live and act in opposition to His will and good pleasure. God is loving and kind to all men, and yet they show the utmost enmity and hatred toward each other. God is the Giver of life to them, and yet they constantly seek to destroy life. God blesses and protects their homes; they rage, sack and destroy each other’s homes. Consider their ignorance and heedlessness!
Your duty is of another kind, for you are informed of the mysteries of God. Your eyes are illumined; your ears are quickened with hearing. You must, therefore, look toward each other and then toward mankind with the utmost love and kindness. You have no excuse to bring before God if you fail to live according to His command, for you are informed of that which constitutes the good pleasure of God. You have heard His commandments and precepts. You must, therefore, be kind to all men; you must even treat your enemies as your friends. You must consider your evil-wishers as your well-wishers. Those who are not agreeable toward you must be regarded as those who are congenial and pleasant so that, perchance, this darkness of disagreement and conflict may disappear from amongst men and the light of the divine may shine forth, so that the Orient may be illumined and the Occident filled with fragrance, nay, so that the East and West may embrace each other in love and deal with one another in sympathy and affection. Until man reaches this high station, the world of humanity shall not find rest, and eternal felicity shall not be attained. But if man lives up to these divine commandments, this world of earth shall be transformed into the world of heaven, and this material sphere shall be converted into a paradise of glory. It is my hope that you may become successful in this high calling so that like brilliant lamps you may cast light upon the world of humanity and quicken and stir the body of existence like unto a spirit of life. This is eternal glory. This is everlasting felicity. This is immortal life. This is heavenly attainment. This is being created in the image and likeness of God. And unto this I call you, praying to God to strengthen and bless you.