In addition to the usual receptions at the home of Mrs Parsons, there were three public meetings: one in the morning, another in the afternoon and one in the evening. At the first gathering, at the All Saints Unitarian Church, the Master spoke on the subject of the varieties of light, the effulgence of the Sun of Reality in its original essence, and of the waiting souls with pure hearts who are like unto clear spotless mirrors, whose eyes and ears become enlightened by the appearance of the Sun of Reality. So great was the respect and devotion of the audience that `Abdu'l-Bahá wrote in a cable He sent to the Orient: `Today three thousand persons visited with the utmost harmony.'
At every gathering, whether for Bahá'ís or non-Bahá'ís, several stenographers, as well as the Persian secretaries, were in attendance. The English translations were published soon after the address itself but the Persian originals taken down by us verbatim had to be submitted to `Abdu'l-Bahá for correction. Because of His heavy schedule, He had little time for this, so the originals were often delayed in their publication.
The afternoon meeting was held at the home of Mrs Parsons. The subject of the talk was the interpretation of the Old Testament statement concerning the creation of man in the image of God. At the conclusion `Abdu'l-Bahá took His leave of the friends, promising to return to Washington DC from Chicago. On hearing this, the friends hastened to shake hands with Him and showed great reverence and humility to Him, joyful that soon He would return to their midst. After the meeting, `Abdu'l-Bahá wentfor a stroll in a park to recuperate.
|DAR Building, DC|
In the evening `Abdu'l-Bahá went to a third gathering, held in a very large building, [the DAR building AP] to speak to a group of young women of the suffrage movement. This was the largest meeting held thus far and the most spacious and majestic hall. `Abdu'l-Bahá delivered a most impressive address which He began by saying:
One of the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh is equality of rights for men and women. When He promulgated this principle in the Orient, the people were astonished.
|Three of us at DAR building (film shoot)|
One of the proofs of the advancement of women is this magnificent and imposing building and this large gathering.
`Abdu'l-Bahá's talk centered on the subject of equality of men and women and the necessity of giving women the same training as men. Many praised Him, both before and after His talk. The meeting closed with a song of praise.
The chairman of the meeting, Mr Hoover from New York, introduced the Master most eloquently. When `Abdu'l-Bahá came to the pulpit, He was received with a standing ovation and a burst of enthusiasm. Then, with a motion of His hand, all seated themselves.
As the Master arose to give His talk, everyone began to clap so loudly that the sound echoed around the great hall. Everyone was thrilled as the beloved Master stood and the hearts of the believers were relieved of all grief and anxiety. Indeed, the appearance of the Center of God's Covenant in these meetings is worthy of the highest praise and will undoubtedly be of the greatest benefit to all. Instead of the harsh treatment meted out to the Manifestations of God, here was the advancement and elevation of the Cause of God. To listen to the melodious, resonant voice of the Center of the Covenant in such auditoriums fills one with excitement and raises the banner of everlasting honor. The presence of the Eastern friends was sorely missed.At the end of the meeting, people again filled the room to capacity so they could glimpse `Abdu'l-Bahá's beautiful face and shake His hand.
I received a book from Amazon: Alice Pike Barney Memorial Collection. It's a beautiful book about her life and art, with a large number of prints of her paintings. Lovely to see a portrait of Mirza Abul-Fadl there, and of course several of Laura. . . . Several mentions of the Faith. Certainly Alice's connections with the Smithsonian and with the theatre and art worlds she frequented form the focal point, with mention of Laura's travels and French husband.
Back to 1912: Reading Juliet's diary entry for May 7, I see she has described so many things about the days in Washington D.C. It is great to have her eye for detail and her passion balance the more factual accounts by Mahmud, who has the terrible task of being a sort of official scribe and historian. Juliet's accounts are more fluid and free. And then, of course, there are the accounts by Agnes! I feel as if I can't keep pace with the journey in all its aspects. The believers in 1912 must have had a hard time, too!
The Diary of Juliet Thompson, May 7: "Washington was beautiful, the banners of the spring floating out everywhere. Trees along the street in full leaf. Flowering bushes and tulip beds in the parks and in the grass plots in front of houses. The Japanese cherry trees behind the White House, a long row of coral-pink clouds.
"The day I arrived, 23 April, I met the Master at luncheon at the Persian Embassy, where Khán is now acting as minister. The table was strewn with rose petals, as the Master's table always is in 'Akká, and Persian dishes were served. [I wonder what color the petals were? AP]
"A coloured man, Louis Gregory, was present and the Master gave a wonderful talk on race prejudice which, however, I will not quote here since it has been kept. And besides, I am longing to catch up with these days, when I am feeling with all my capacity for feeling, when the gates of my heart are flung wide open and fire sweeping through, burning up my heart, when I am seeing through tears the Manifest Glory of the Beloved. I really don't want to write about Washington. This heart was not awakened then.
"But He said a lovely thing at Khán's table which I must keep. Mrs Parsons was at the luncheon. Before she became a Bahá'í she had been a Christian Scientist, and now she brought up the question of mental suggestion as a cure for physical disease. The Master replied that some illnesses, such as consumption and insanity, developed from spiritual causes--grief, for example--and that these could be healed by the spirit. But Mrs Parsons persisted. Could not extreme physical cases, like broken bones, also be healed by the spirit?
"A large bowl of salad had been placed before the Master, Who sat at the head of the table, Florence Khánum on His right. [Florence Breed Khan, Ali Kuli Khan's wife. AP]
"'If all the spirits in the air,' He laughed, 'were to congregate together, they could not create a salad! Nevertheless, the spirit of man is powerful. For the spirit of man can soar in the firmament of knowledge, can discover realities, can confer life, can receive the Divine Glad-Tidings. Is not this greater,' and He laughed again, 'than making a salad?'
'One more lovely thing. The servants were late bringing in the dessert and Florence apologized; whereupon little Rahím [her son], standing beside her, spoke up.
"'Even the King of Persia has to wait, doesn't He, mother?'
"'Rahím dear,' explained Florence, ''Abdu'l-Bahá is King of the whole world.'
"'Oh,' said Rahím, very much abashed, 'I forgot."
"Between the end of lunch and this reception the Master went upstairs to rest and to give a few private interviews. When He reappeared among us, the two living rooms were already crowded. He walked quickly to the open folding doors and standing there at the centre, with a strikingly free and simple bearing, immediately began to speak. His words too were simple and of a captivating sweetness, a startling clarity.
"Díyá Páshá stood next to me, his eyes riveted on the Master. When the Master had finished speaking, the old diplomat (who is a fierce Muslim) turned to me. "This is irrefutable. This is pure logic," he said.
"A few months before, at the request of his daughter-in-law, an American girl and a dear friend of mine, I had given Díyá Páshá the Message. I had had to give it in French, as he doesn't understand English, and, my French being rusty by now, I'm afraid I didn't do it very well: he looked so sceptical, almost contemptuous the whole time I was speaking. But when I said that through the Bahá'í Teaching I had become a Muslim, and convinced him of this by the reverent way I spoke of Muhammad, I really touched Díyá Páshá. He rose from the table, where we were at lunch, left the room, and returned with a precious and very old volume of the Qur'án on illuminated parchment and with a hand-tooled cover. 'No Christian eye but yours,' he said, 'has ever looked upon this."
"I was standing beside the Master when Khán brought the Admiral over and introduced him.
"The Master spoke charmingly to him and congratulated him on his discovery. Then, with the utmost sweetness, added these surprising words: For a very long time the world had been much concerned about the North Pole, where it was and what was to be found there. Now he, Admiral Peary, had discovered it and that nothing was to found there; and so, in forever relieving the public mind, he had rendered a great service.
"I shall never forget Peary's nonplussed face. The balloon collapsed!"
Mrs Parsons house has real distinction. It is Georgian in style and in it has a very long white ballroom with, at one end, an unusually high mantel--the mantel, as well as the ceiling and panelled walls, delicately carved with garlands. At the windows hang thin silk curtains the colour of jonquil leaves.
Here, after this first reception, the Master spoke daily in the afternoon and the whole fashionable world flocked to hear Him. Scientists too, and even politicians came!
In front of the mantel, a platform had been placed for the Master and every day it was banked with fresh roses, American Beauties. [But what color? AP]
"Into this room of conventional elegance, packed with conventional people, imagine the Master striding with His free step: walking first to one of the many windows and, while He looked out into the light, talking with His matchless ease to the people. Turning from the window, striding back and forth with a step so vibrant it shook you. Piercing our souls with those strange eyes, uplifting them, glory streaming upon them. Talking, talking, moving to and fro incessantly. Pushing back His turban, revealing that Christ-like forehead; pushing it forward again almost down to His eyebrows, which gave Him a peculiar majesty. Charging, filling the room with magnetic currents, with a mysterious energy. Once He burst in, a child on His shoulder. For a moment He held her, caressing her. Then He sat her down among the roses."
"Never have I seen such a beautiful table. Hundreds of roses lay the whole length of it, piled, melting into each other, sweeping up from the head and the foot of the table to a great mound in the centre, where the Master sat, faced by Díyá Páshá. Florence Khánum and Carey, Madame Díyá Bey (Díyá Páshá's daughter-in-law), the American wives of Oriental diplomats, were placed on either side of the Master and I sat next to Carey.
"There are times when the Master looks colossal, when His Holiness shines like the sun. That night He wore the usual white, with a honey-coloured 'abá. Díyá Páshá, opposite Him, watched Him with eyes full of tears, his keen old hawk's face strangely softened.
"The Master gave a great address on the civilizations built on the basic Teachings of the Prophets; then He spoke of this dinner as "a wonderful occasion". "The East and the West," He said, "are met in perfect love tonight." There was something so poignant in His words, so flame-creating, that for a moment I was overcome.
"Later He spoke of the deep significance of the international marriages represented there: Díyá Bey's and Carey's, 'Alí-Qulí Khán's and Florence's. Carey made me very happy by saying: "Juliet told me long ago of Your Teachings, when I was only fifteen years old." What fruit that seed had borne, sown in a child!
Díyá Páshá made a thrilling speech. Rising and turning a lover's face to the Master, he called Him 'the Light of the world, the Unique One of the age, Who had come to spread His glory and perfection amongst us.'
"'I am not worthy of this,' said the Master, very simply. Always a great power is released from the Master's divine humility.
"As I bade Díyá Páshá goodnight, looking at me through a mist of tears, he said: 'Truly, He is a Saint.'"
As you can see, I could not bear to shorten these entries. And I have had to go back and embellish the events of the last few days, through Juliet's description. And there are other accounts and other details I am not including. . . .
And there is the whole matter of Louis Gregory to discuss. Am I equal to this task?