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

Thursday, May 31, 2012

May 31, 1912 The material and spiritual worlds

Fanwood, New Jersey: Two talks; refreshing countryside

Fanwood Train Station (built 1874)
Mahmúd writes: "At the request of Mr [William H.] Hoar, the Master visited a sanatorium [in Fanwood, NJ], visiting with the friends and holding two meetings, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. In both meetings He proclaimed the Word of God and spoke of the teachings of the Blessed Beauty [see PUP 161–63]. Many were attracted to the Divine Voice. As the village of Fanwood is a summer resort and its fields and countryside very green and refreshing, it was very much enjoyed by the Master. But when they pleaded with Him to prolong His stay for a few days, because of the excessive heat and soot in New York, He said: `We have no time for amusement and fresh air. We must engage ourselves in service to the Threshold of Oneness.'"

He did spend the night, as there is a departure scene at the train station to come tomorrow.

Ward notes that He conducted a morning public meeting [perhaps at the sanatorium?] and presented an afternoon meeting in the Town Hall.

In the town hall talk, He spoke about the difference in the material and spiritual world, about how imitation destroys religion, and about the importance of the Prophets of God. He ends his talk with these inspiring words:
     ". . . the Prophets of God have come to unite the children of men and not to disperse them, to establish the law of love and not enmity. Consequently, we must lay aside all prejudice--whether it be religious, racial, political or patriotic; we must become the cause of the unification of the human race. Strive for universal peace, seek the means of love, and destroy the basis of disagreement so that this material world may become divine, the world of matter become the realm of the Kingdom and humanity attain to the world of perfection."

William Hoar, a Canadian, was a Disciple of Abdu'l-Baha.  I must include a post on what that means!

Fanwood was founded in 1895 around the Central Railroad of New Jersey, which passed through during the 1800s.  The old Fanwood train station, built in 1874, stands as the oldest original train station in Union County and remains the center of many community activities.  It houses the Fanwood Museum and is a meeting place for various groups.

See book on Fanwood:  <http://books.google.com/books?id=4rMQTm4PEF4C&lpg=PP1&dq=fanwood&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false>

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

May 30, 1912 Science and philosophy

New York: University of New York; influence; sons of martyrs

Apparently, today was the actual day that `Abdu'l-Bahá spoke to the Theosophical Society (see entry for May 29 and PUP talk on May 30.) Mahmud's account is off by a day again. But perhaps the following events also occurred on the 30th.

Mahmud writes: "After meeting with some of the friends and a few seekers, the Master went to a hall at the University of New York and gave an address on scientific questions and divine philosophy. His talk influenced many prominent people, all of whom were deeply moved and fascinated. Seeing the influence of the Cause in these sorts of large gatherings, the Bahá'ís offered thanks and gratitude for the confirmations of the Abhá Kingdom.
During this time the Master occupied Himself by writing Tablets in response to questions from both the Eastern and the Western friends. Today He gave an account of the lives of Varqá and Rúhu'lláh. He showed His great kindness to the sons of this martyr in the path of God, Mírzá Azíz'u'lláh Khán and Mírzá Valíyu'lláh Khán. The Master then told the friends about some of the precepts of the Cause. During these discourses, He said often: I am the interpreter of the Writings of the Blessed Beauty, as explicitly designated by the Supreme Pen. All must obey. All matters pertaining to the Faith must be referred to the authorized interpreter. In the future all must turn to the divine House of Justice."

One wonders who the "prominent people" were. And whether University of New York is actually CUNY. PUP does not reference any talk at the University of New York.  I think the Baha's of New York are not sure about this reference.

There is a marvelous new online work on Abdu'l-Baha in New York, by Hussein Ahdieh and Hillary Chapman.  See http://www.abdulbahainnewyork.org/abnyTemplate.php

One thing is clear: The Master spent more time in New York than anywhere else.  

Rob Stockman explains: "The two months divide up, in turn, into five shorter periods: May 26 through June 8; June 8-10, when He visited Philadelphia; June 11-20, when He was back in New York City; June 20-29, when He was in Montclair, Newark, and West Englewood, New Jersey; and June 30-July 23, when He was back in New York City again."

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

May 29, 1912 Intersections with Theosophists

New York: Theosophical Society; eternal happiness

Mahmúd notes: "A public meeting was held today by the Theosophical Society where `Abdu'l-Bahá spoke on matters relating to the spirit and its passage through the world of existence. [See PUP 156–60] The effect of His address was such that the president of the society said, in the presence of `Abdu'l-Bahá, that his greatest desire was to bring about a perfect harmony between the Bahá'ís and the Theosophists. The happiness of Master increased day by day through influence of the Cause of God. Whenever He was asked about His health, He said with the utmost happiness, `My health and happiness depend on the progress of the Cause of God. Nothing else merits attention. This happiness is eternal, and this life is life everlasting.'"

Annie Besant
This was not the first time Theosophists intersected with the Master.  In London, the previous year, Annie Besant (1847-1933), head of the Theosophical Society, had invited `Abdu'l-Bahá to address the society at its London headquarters, according to Rob Stockman, who describes Theosophy as "a spiritualist group interested in comparative religion and communications with 'ascended' spiritual 'masters.'"  Theosophists met `Abdu'l-Bahá at Agnes Parsons’ house at two separate meetings on the same day; they were also among diverse audiences on a number of occasions.
  In his new book, Rob Stockman relates an interesting story:  "He [the Master] went to Northwestern University in Evanston to speak to the Theosophists at University Hall.  He discoursed about death as a transformation from one form to another and about eternal life. He never mentioned reincarnation—a central Theosophical belief—but His entire talk described an alternative view of the afterlife and therefore was an implicit refutation of the belief."

Rob also says that the Theosophists were suffering from internal controversies and had a harder time than the Baha'is did in terms of accepting the oneness of humanity. 

On May 30 (tomorrow) He spoke to the Theosophists, the "third of eight He would deliver to Theosophists in the United States" and focused on international peace. He compared “the nations of the world to the members of a family” therefore “as strife and dissention destroy a family and prevent its progress, so nations are destroyed and advancement hindered.” To remedy the existing human conditions, “a divine physician is needed.” He spoke about the unity and peace brought by Jesus Christ and promised that the Holy Spirit would continually guide humanity, but did not talk about Bahá’u’lláh.

In July, according to Rob, the President of the Boston Theosophical Society invited Him to speak to the Theosophists there. "Even though He was tired, He gave them a lengthy address about the human spirit and the proofs that it is 'everlasting' and that 'we must strive to learn of it.' Mahmúd notes that 'when the meeting ended, the people ran to the door to shake hands with the Master and to express their joy and devotion.'" 

I wonder how many Theosophists there are today. . . . 

Annie Besant
Annie Besant's biography is really interesting. One source says, "In the 1890s Annie Besant became a supporter of Theosophy, a religious movement founded by Madame Blavatsky in 1875. Theosophy was based on Hindu ideas of karma and reincarnation with nirvana as the eventual aim. Annie Besant went to live in India but she remained interested in the subject of women's rights." [She was known earlier for her outspoken ideas on birth control and suffrage.] . . . President of the Theosophical Society from 1907, she wrote an enormous number of books and pamphlets on theosophy. She traveled (1926–27) in England and the United States with her protégé Jiddu Krishnamurti, whom she announced as the new Messiah. However, by 1929 the young man himself denounced all claims about himself as the World Teacher. Annie Besant died in India in 1933 at the age of 86.

On this holy day [The Ascension of Bahá'u'lláh], one wonders how the early Bahá'ís observed such anniversaries. . . . 

Monday, May 28, 2012

May 28, 1912 The capacity of souls

New York: From the Hotel to the Kinney's home; Metropolitan Temple

Mahmúd writes: "At a gathering of Bahá'ís, the Master recounted His journey to Boston, speaking on the capacity of souls and the need for divine education. Friends and inquirers were also continuously coming and going to visit Him in His room. Today He moved from the house facing the Hudson River to Mrs Kinney's home. He had instructed us to rent a house for Him because the owner of the apartment hotel considered that the movement of so many diverse people was unusual and felt that the additional work and difficulty [for the staff] was too much. There had been so many people visiting from morning to night that the hotel management had been obliged to respond to incessant inquiries. However, when the staff saw the Master's great kindness as He left the hotel they became ashamed of their conduct and begged Him to stay longer, but He did not accept."

Ward is more blunt: "On Tuesday, May 28, Abdu'l-Baha was evicted from His hotel. . . . He moved to Saffa Kinney's home at 780 West End Ave."

All sources aside from Mahmúd say that it was May 28 when the Master spoke at the Metropolitan Temple. (See post from yesterday for details and photos of the Temple.) The next day, the 29th, there was an article in the New York City American headed, "URGES ONE RELIGION FOR ALL":
     "The Metropolitan Temple was filled yesterday with a fashionable and distinguished audience greeting Abdul Baha Abbas.  Upon the platform were seated the Rev. Wesley J. Hill, former paster of the Metropolitan Templ., Church, who presided; the Rev. Rabbi Silverman and the Rev. Dr. Frederick Lynch, all of whom spoke. . . .
     Abdul Baha said that divine religions, like the waters, are in reality one. He advocated one universal religion with no racial difference." (Ward, 74–75)

Oh, Mahmúd. You give us so much. Wish the dates weren't a problem, here and there! I encourage everyone to read yesterday's post to reflect on the details of what occurred today.  Er, in 1912!
We are excited because an "intern"--Nura Adlparvar--is arriving today from New York to stay with us and help edit our film!  She's a film student from Columbia University. We are so lucky!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

May 27, 1912 Breaths of the Holy Spirit

New York: Metropolitan Temple*; focus on Peace and a reverence for the Master

* Actually, all sources besides Mahmud's say this talk occurred on the 28th, so see next day, too.
Metropolitan Temple, Seventh avenue & Fourteenth street
President-elect Taft dedicated the McKinley Memorial
Organ in 1908. The Temple burned down in 1928. 

Mahmud notes: "More than a thousand people assembled at the Metropolitan Temple in the afternoon to hear the Master. [PUP 150] Dr Hill, one of the ministers previously mentioned, stood and said: We are honored at this occasion by the presence of a distinguished guest who is the representative of universal peace. His fame has spread throughout the East and the West. Humanity has reaped great benefits from His teachings. Such an august personage deserves a genuine and sincere reception. Past ages necessitated the formation of nations but the present time requires a unity among the existing nations. I am greatly honored to introduce you to the founder and promoter of this universal peace and harmony.
Mr Frederick Lynch, the author of the book International Peace and an active member of the peace movement, stood and said:
Since the arrival of `Abdu'l-Bahá in America, I have had the honor of hearing and meeting Him several times; I have read with great interest His speeches and addresses in the newspapers. My ardent wish is that I may see here, too, the great impact of His teachings and the influence of His manifest signs. I was present at the Peace Conference at Lake Mohonk and had the pleasure of listening to the most remarkable address given there. The principles of His teachings, as given in that address, are the oneness of humanity, universal peace and the unity of religions. All His talks vibrate with the spirit of these principles and their influence is felt by all. How I welcome this dear person, whose presence has inspired the minds and hearts of the Americans! He receives inspiration from the breaths of the Holy Spirit. His spirit is infinite, unlimited and eternal. I am delighted to have been invited to this great occasion and to have the opportunity publicly to express my heartfelt testimony.
`Abdu'l-Bahá then stood and spoke on the subject of the Fatherhood of God and the oneness of humanity. The greatest proof of the majesty and power of the Covenant of God was the talk given by Rabbi Silverman, which followed the Master's talk. Previously he had been opposed to the Cause and argued against it. But from the moment he came into the presence of the Master he was transformed and became entirely humble. Rabbi Silverman said:
We have seen today the light with our own eyes. We are accustomed to seeing the sun rise from the East so we no longer regard it as a miracle. Spiritual light, too, has always shone from the East upon the West. The world is in need of this light, and we, too, are in need of this life-giving light. The fountainhead of this light has today spoken to us. This great personage, with a pure heart and chaste spirit, has attracted the hearts of the Americans and has made them His captivating lovers. His love and teachings have made a great impression upon the hearts and minds. The outward forms of religions are like shells, while the teachings and love are like unto the kernel. We need the shell so that the kernel may be protected. O people, distinguish between the shell and the kernel, the reality and the form. As stated by this respected prophet, `We must not err in distinguishing the light from the lamp.'"
Isn't it marvelous how affirmative the speakers were--how impacted they and others were by the presence and words of the Master.

I looked at an online publication by Lynch (The Problem of Peace, 1911, with introduction by Andrew Carnegie--the president of the NY Peace Society, and dedication to Albert Smiley), and it is well worth reading. See http://books.google.com/books/about/The_peace_problem.html?id=CYdJAAAAIAAJ

Andrew Carnegie
Also, see Peace Monuments related to Andrew Carnegie:  http://peace.maripo.com/m_carnegie.htm

I suppose we could think of the Peace "Monuments" related to `Abdu'l-Bahá residing in the hearts of those He touched and touches today.

I had known of Rabbi Silverman from Green Acre research, but just now discovered he was rabbi for a Temple here in Dallas (where I used to folk dance): "Joseph Silverman (b. Ohio, August 25, 1860; d. New York City, 1930) was a leading American Reform rabbi and author. He was the first American born rabbi to serve in New York City. In 1887, he married and subsequently had five children with his wife Henrietta. He received a PhD from the Hebrew Union College in 1887; he was Rabbi of Temple Emanu-El, DallasTexas, September, 1884 to June, 1885. . . ." (Wikipedia)

Unfortunately, I couldn't find an image of Lynch or Silverman online.  

Peace is such an important thread throughout the Master's journey. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

May 26, 1912 Poetry and joy; the Face of God

Boston to New York: Golden Circle, Syrians, a poet, confirmations and clear proofs, Juliet's test
Mahmúd writes: "`Abdu'l-Bahá left Boston today but before leaving He attended a meeting of the Golden Circle [al-Halqatadh-Dhahabíyyah], the largest Syrian society in America. One of the learned men, Dr Georgi, introduced the Master and praised Him in the most beautiful words. Another gentleman, a poet of the Arabic language, read, with great reverence and respect, an ode he had written in praise of the Cause of God and the Master. Then `Abdu'l-Bahá rose and delivered a most eloquent address, which made the Syrians very happy. No one could have imagined that they would have been so attracted and moved to such a degree. When `Abdu'l-Bahá stepped from the pulpit, all rushed towards Him to shake His hand. An Arabic-speaking woman struggled out of the crowd with great difficulty and threw herself at His feet, saying, `I testify that in Thee is the spirit of God and the spirit of Christ.'
The meetings in Boston pleased the Master, especially the meeting with the Syrians, which He mentioned in particular, saying: `What a meeting it was! How the confirmations of the Blessed Beauty transformed the people!'"

I wonder who the poet was or whether his poem has been preserved somewhere.  These Boston days seem particularly marked with a joyful spirit of exchange and confirmation. 
Mount Morris Baptist Church

Mahmúd continues: "This was the last meeting in Boston. He left the hotel at noon, reaching New York by 6:00 p.m. Without any rest He went directly from Mr Kinney's home to the Mount Morris Baptist Church. Standing under the arch of the church and leaning exhausted against a pillar, He addressed the meeting. He spoke of baptism and of the capacity of the soul to receive the breaths of the Holy Spirit. At the close of His talk He chanted a prayer.  That night all saw with their own eyes the spirituality and innocence of Christ and the influence of the Holy Spirit. Let no one think that these are mere words; rather they are the expressions and feelings of all those who witnessed this. My premise is this: that in all the gatherings in America, the non-Bahá'ís look upon `Abdu'l-Bahá as a Prophet of God. Even though they are not Bahá'ís, their manners and conversations with Him are the same as they might use for their own Prophet and leader. All who come into His presence are seen in this condition. They all refer to the Blessed Being as the Messenger of Peace and the Prophet of the East in their speeches and writings. Although there are a few narrow-minded clergy who burn with the fire of jealousy, a large number of just ministers in every city have accorded Him the utmost reverence. Among them is the translator of those who spoke in praise of the Master. Their words indicate the quality of the audience and societies addressed by `Abdu'l-Bahá and are a clear proof of the grandeur and power of the Greatest Branch."

Juliet Thompson has her own effusive version of the evening: "On Sunday, 26 May, the night of the Master's return from Boston, He spoke at Mr Ramsdell's (Baptist) church.
My friend, Lawrence White, who lives in Utica, had come to New York to met the Master, and he, Silvia Gannett, and I went together to the church.
     We entered, to see a breathtaking picture: That church suggests an old Jewish synagogue. Behind the chancel is a sweeping arch from which hangs a dark, massive curtain in folds straight as organ pipes. The chancel was empty that night except for the Master, sitting--almost lying--in a semicircular chair, His head thrown back, His luminous eyes uprolled. The sleeves of His bronze-coloured 'abá branched out from His shoulders like great spread wings, hiding His hands, so that I was conscious only of His head and those terribly alive eyes. There was an awful mystery about that dominance of the head. It seemed to obliterate the human form and reveal Him as the Face of God. The curtain behind Him might have concealed the Ark of the Covenant, which He, THE COVENANT, was guarding.
     Later, when He rose to speak, the Manifestation of the Glory was entirely different. He diffused a softer radiance.
     "Look at Him and see the Christ," whispered Lawrence White." (p. 296)

It must have been fascinating to see the Master in such difference guises, especially for one who is so descriptive and observant.  Juliet also had such a close personal attachment to Him and evidently suffered when He came back but was unavailable to her:

"On 22 May the Master left for Boston, returning the twenty-sixth. After His return He stayed with the Kinneys a day or so (till He moved to His new house), and then came my test! For two days He never even looked at me. My heart bled and burned. I could not endure the withdrawal of His nearness. The third day I went to the new house--309 West Seventy-Eighth Street--and there, in Lua's arms, I sobbed my heart out.
"I cry," I said, "only because I love Him," (which I fear was not exactly true) "because I have just realized how terrifically I love Him. This love burns my heart. It is beyond endurance."
    Then He sent for me to come to Him.
     With tears rolling down my cheeks I entered His Presence. He was sitting on a couch writing and did not look up--still didn't look at me! But at last He said, going straight to the point, piercing to the real cause of my trouble: "I have not seen you lately, Juliet, because of the multitude of the affairs. But I have not forgotten My promise to pose for you. Come on Saturday with your materials and I will sit."
     I thanked Him; then falling on my knees, begged Him not to banish me from His Presence. I could not endure to be separated from Him. I loved, loved Him.  [jump to rest of story]

Friday, May 25, 2012

May 25, 1912 Spiritual ecstasy; signs of progress

Boston: Unitarian ministers, editor interview, more philosophers, spiritual ecstasy, farewell gathering 

Mahmúd writes:  "Among the visitors this morning was a group of Unitarian ministers who asked many questions and who received important answers. They took their leave with great humility. Another clergyman, Rabbi Fletcher, remained for over an hour in the Master's presence, asking various questions and receiving answers. He was so grateful and enthralled that it is difficult to describe his attraction. Dr Jack, the editor of an important London journal, also came for an interview. With great fervor and interest, he wrote down the answers to his questions for his journal. Besides the visits of these interested people, the Bahá'ís, who were in spiritual ecstasy and excitement, continuously begged for admission to `Abdu'l-Bahá's presence.
At a meeting in the afternoon at the Master's residence with philosophers and learned men of Boston, one visitor asked about the immortality of the soul. In response, `Abdu'l-Bahá delivered a most unique discourse on the subject, which left everyone astonished. Those leaders of science and knowledge were captivated with the beauty of the Covenant. The talk was so impressive that the Master Himself remarked as He left the meeting: `Until now there has never been such a discourse about the immortality of the soul.' This was purely the result of His authority and power. He had had no intention of speaking on this subject but when He was questioned, He answered without hesitation.
After the meeting He went to a public park in Boston. Later that evening, in the Huntington Chambers, the Bahá'ís held a farewell gathering with over one thousand in attendance. The Master spoke on the signs of progress in the 20th century. He then chanted a prayer in such an imploring manner that tears sprang to all eyes. The meeting ended with the utmost beauty and dignity.

Interesting how Unitarians and philosophers keep intersecting with `Abdu'l-Bahá. And the rabbi and the editor. . . . With all of this activity, no wonder the Baha'is were eager to attain His presence. If only we could feel some of that generative spiritual ecstasy!

It is worth reflecting on the Master's talk at Huntington Chambers (PUP 143–46):  "I am going away from your city, but I leave my heart with you. My spirit will be here; I will not forget you. . . . I pray that you may advance continually in spiritual susceptibilities, that day by day you may grow more radiant and draw nearer to God until you become instruments in illuminating the world of humanity. . . ."

Then, in speaking about "this radiant century," He calls us to reflect on the miracles of accomplishment and enumerates many of them. This is surely an example to us now, in these complex times. Look for signs of progress, He tells us. 

He ends with this:  "In your hearts I have beheld the reflection of a great and wonderful love. The Americans have shown me uniform kindness, and I entertain a deep spiritual love for them. I am pleased with the susceptibilities of your hearts. I will pray for you, asking divine assistance, and then say farewell."

He concludes with a familiar prayer, "O my God! O my God! Verily, these servants are turning to Thee, supplicating Thy kingdom of Mercy. Verily they are attracted by Thy holiness and set aglow with the fire of Thy love. . . ."

Think of this being addressed to us, the descendants of those who heard this prayer for the first time. 

I sense that He was pleased with all that happened in Boston in those five days.  And later He will come back!  

Thursday, May 24, 2012

May 24, 1912 Surprise and astonishment

Back to Boston.  And Brookline!

Mahumd writes: "Both believers and non-Bahá'ís came in groups to visit the Master. Among them were journalists who asked various questions and received specific answers from `Abdu'l-Bahá. The Master had been invited to a conference sponsored by the Free Religious Association [also called the Unitarian conference]. He quickly left for the meeting at Ford Hall. More than a thousand people were in the audience. The subject of His talk was the unity of the teachings of the Messengers of God and the oneness of religions.
Because another lecturer had spoken just before the Master criticizing religion, `Abdu'l-Bahá's talk seemed extraordinary and produced a great effect. The former speaker, a zealous minister, had announced that a false Christ, a denier of Christ, had come to America. But when the people heard the Master's address establishing the truth of all the Prophets and especially that of Christ, they were surprised, astonished and extremely interested. Moreover, the dignity of `Abdu'l-Bahá as He left the meeting became a further cause of attracting the hearts. The members of the association, as well as the Association of Unitarians, had offered to pay the expenses of the Master's journey but the offer was not accepted.
At the end of the conference, the chairman held the Master's hand while the audience applauded. He expressed his gratitude and appreciation to the Master. As `Abdu'l-Bahá left the hall He bestowed His favors upon all.
From that conference `Abdu'l-Bahá went to Brookline, at the request of Mrs White, Mrs Jackson's sister. A banquet was held in a magnificent palace surrounded by resplendent gardens, situated on the summit of a hill and overlooking a large lake, the beauty of which is beyond description. Here a great number of visitors came to see the Master. He was pleased with the meeting and the surroundings. After a delightful talk, attracting all to Him, He returned to Boston to accept a previous invitation. After an hour's journey in an automobile especially sent for Him, He arrived at the hotel [the Boston Hotel] for a brief rest.
     He then went to the meeting which was held at the home of Mrs Nichols, who had sent an automobile for Him. A group of learned and eminent philosophers was waiting for Abdu'l-Bahá to ask Him many important questions, the comprehensive answers to which impressed and satisfied all. The discussion lasted about two hours. Their hearts were transformed by His explanations about universal peace among nations, the equality of rights of men and women and the education of women. Then, after tea, punch and sweets, the meeting ended."

It seems astonishing that often when the Master speaks a thousand people show up. There is no mention of sound systems or other practicalities--only of vast numbers of people coming to hear Him.  And the qualities of astonishment, excitement, and inspiration seem to be prevalent. This was no ordinary journey or speaking tour.  It is great to hear about the hearts of learned and eminent philosophers being transformed. So--we apparently need to become more like the Master to evoke such results today!

I don't know anything about Mrs. Jackson or Mrs. Nichols. I do know that the site of Ford Hall is now called Ashburton Place and redeveloped as a state office building.  

We went to the White mansion in Brookline, where there is a plaque commemorating Abdul-Baha's visit. A curious and rather miraculous series of events occurred there, while Tim was taking footage of the building and grounds.  I had climbed the steps up to the bench on the hill behind the house and felt a special presence there. Then, a little dog came out of nowhere and was following us around. Concerned it was lost, we started meeting some of the residents until one of them suggested we talk to the facility manager. Mary (a student serving as our PA) knocked on his door. 
He came out & found the dog's owner, then asked about our project.  He lit up when we told him--he said he had been keeping the grounds special because he knew that one day the Baha'is would come to have commemorations there. He knew a Baha'i in Florida (Cap Cornwall--also someone I know) and had heard that Abdu'l-Baha had given a talk on that spot--the bench is actually like a small amphitheatre with a raised platform, and a voice projected there is amplified and resonant. 
John Nolan
He said that we should stand there and see how it sounded, which we did. He said that Abdu'l-Baha had given that powerful quote "so great is the light of unity . . . " on that spot. He quoted it! His name is John Nolan--and I am sure he can be reached through the condominium association!  He feels that the Baha'is should partner with the current owners to preserve the mansion.  

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

May 23, 1912 The value of science

Boston and Worcester: Greek Syrian Relief Society, Clark University, refreshing scenery; birthday

In Rob Stockman's new book, he gives an overview of the next few days in Boston: "`Abdu’l-Bahá’s  [first] visit to greater Boston was relatively short—May 22-26, five days—possibly because he already had speaking engagements schedule in New York. He gave eight major talks, and His visit was covered by at least twelve newspaper articles. While He spoke before the American Unitarian Association and the Free Religious Association, two huge associations of religious liberals, He did not speak in any churches, even though He was there on Sunday morning. Considering the number of Unitarian, Congregationalist, and Episcopalian churches in Boston, this is surprising.
"Thursday, May 23 was a particularly busy day. `Abdu’l-Bahá began with a visit to the “Greek Syrian Relief Society,” an organization that assisted recent immigrants from the eastern Mediterranean. They met at Denison House*, the third settlement house founded in the United States, patterned after Chicago’s Hull House. After lunch with the society’s members, He spoke to 900 people about poverty and detachment; before He left He contributed “ten gold pounds (about $50)” to the poor. In the afternoon He had an appointment not at Harvard or Wellesley—where the earlier Asian teachers Vivekananda and Mozoomdar had been invited to speak—but at Clark University in Worcester, sixty miles west of Boston. He addressed over a thousand students and faculty about the importance of science." 

Mahmúd goes into greater detail about the impact the Master had: "Many Bahá'ís and non-Bahá'ís came group by group to visit the Master. His bestowals and favors revived their souls and brought joy to their hearts. In but five minutes one of the journalists was so impressed that he accepted the Cause and decided to write and publish articles on the Faith. As he left the gathering, he wept at the feet of the Beloved and most reverently supplicated to be confirmed in dedicating the rest of his life in service to the Cause. [I wonder if we know any more about this journalist and his articles.]
     At noon `Abdu'l-Bahá visited the house maintained for the poor of Syria and Greece [the Greek-Syrian Relief Society]. Members of this association had prepared lunch for Him with great care. The lady who was the president of the association had been busy making preparations for His reception. In one of the large rooms there was a table laden with various Eastern dishes. The Master was given the seat of honor to the right of the hostess, which, according to Western etiquette, is a sign of respect. Many association members were also present. Among the Master's comments at the table was this: `Happy are you who are engaged in serving the poor. My greatest happiness is this, that I may be counted among the poor.'
      After lunch the Master gave an elegant address about poverty and detachment, filling the hearts of all those present with hope and delight. All, both young and old, expressed their heartfelt gratitude.
Upon leaving the meeting, He gave ten pounds for the poor. Later, sitting in Professor Blacks's home surrounded by admirers, He showered kindness upon all. The professor accompanied the Master to the town of Worcester, located about 50 miles from Boston.
      Passing through green and verdant plains and breathing the invigorating and pleasant air, `Abdu'l-Bahá spoke sorrowfully in remembrance of the Blessed Beauty and the Greatest Name, saying: `Would that the Blessed Beauty could have come to these regions! He loved such scenery very much.' Whenever He saw the green and fragrant countryside, He asked the driver to stop. At one place, near the shore of a lake, the greenness of the landscape, the translucence of the water and the purity of the air so pleased Him that He instructed the driver to stop for awhile. The entire group stood and waited. No one dared say anything about the delay.
      The Master spoke of the Blessed Beauty in mournful terms, which deeply moved us all. In two hours we reached Worcester. The Master accepted the professor's invitation to rest for awhile in his home. After tea `Abdu'l-Bahá went to the meeting at the university, which had been arranged especially for His visit. More than one thousand students and faculty had assembled. Professor Hall thanked `Abdu'l-Bahá for coming to the meeting.
Clark University, Worcester
      The Master spoke on the value and importance of science. The hearts of those present were attracted and their souls enkindled with the fire of love to such a degree that they soared in the heaven of knowledge, their minds indelibly engraved with the words of the Master.
      After His address, some distinguished individuals and seekers were invited to a magnificent reception prepared for the Master. As the chancellor of the university had himself invited `Abdu'l-Bahá, he himself served the Master. A number of Japanese, Chinese and Turkish students came into His presence and greatly appreciated His words.
     When it was time to leave, the Master took both the president's hands in His and said:
I am very pleased with you and delighted to see your university. You are, indeed, serving the world of humanity and expending your life for mankind. Above all, I wish for you the blessings of the Kingdom and desire that you will be a cause of the spread of sciences and arts. I will pray on your behalf that God may make you a standard of guidance and that the love of God may shine upon your heart. I have seen a great love and affection in you, as well as in the professors and scholars. I shall never forget this meeting, and I shall always remember and mention your services."

In the evening, at Alice Ives Breed's home, there was the celebration and birthday cake described in the last post. 

It strikes me how even though science is the topic of  `Abdu'l-Bahá' talk, spirituality informs and dominates His interactions. I wonder how it would be today--when secularism is the "norm" in academic institutions. 

In any event, it has been an eventful day! 

Note: we went to Clark University to shoot for our film--the Master spoke in a grand building. 

See Clark University address and article--separate posts

*Denison House history: see http://ocp.hul.harvard.edu/immigration/denison.html

The Bostonian Society: photo archives: http://rfi.bostonhistory.org/boston/defaultmain.asp?photos

Article on Clark Talk

From The Worcester Evening Gazette–Fri, May 24, 1912–p. 8, Col. 3


Abdul Baha Abbas of the Orient Also Pleads for Science
Clothed in Oriental costume of rich colors and his head ornamented by a glossy white turban, Abbas Effendi, or Abdul Baha Abbas, head of the new Bab religion recently arisen in the Orient, spoke to an audience of 500 yesterday afternoon in Clark university. He was a man of striking and stately bearing, and made a picturesque figure as he talked in his Persian robes.

Address at Clark University

Katherine Grieg writes: "Eugenio Marcano (a member of the Worcester Spiritual Assembly) has been researching 'Abdu'l-Baha's visit there and has managed to get a copy of the transcript of the talk that the Master gave at Clark University from their archives. As far as he's aware, this hasn't been available anywhere else and it wasn't published in the papers at the time."  (contact info: worcesterbahai@yahoo.com)

I am posting it here.  Perhaps someone will want to read it in Boston tonight or tomorrow. Note that at the end of it there is a mention of human rights, unity, and why He came to America. . . .  

MAY 23, 1912
('Abdu'l-Bahá’s .remarks on this occasion were impromptu: apparently only a visit to Clark University had been planned, but upon receivina vercordial welcome from a waiting assemblage of about 500 students and faculty, He responded with a brief speech.
As was usually the case, His remarks were recorded by a secretary. These were later printed, in Persian, in star of the West magazine. The rendering into English which follows was done in May, 1971 by two of the Friends in Worcester, one of whom is a native Persian.
The Biblical quotation used by 'Abdu'l-Ba is apparently that found in Matthew 13:13, and the language of that verse in the King James Version has been used in the following text.)

Blessed audience, I am overjoyed to be with you here today.  It had been my hope to visit this University, and now that hope has been fulfilled.