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

Monday, May 21, 2012

May 21, 1912 Circling like moths

New York:  Circling like moths . . .

Mahmud writes a brief entry for today: "In the morning and afternoon the Master delivered addresses at two public meetings. One consisted of admonitions from the Abhá Beauty, and the other, owing to His impending journey to Boston, was a farewell address to the friends, promising them a speedy return.
This afternoon many of the believers' children came to visit. He embraced them all with the utmost kindness and affection. He exhorted the friends to provide Bahá'í education and spirituality for these newborn trees of the Garden of Favor. To witness such meetings is a real joy. With great devotion, the young and old circled around `Abdu'l-Bahá like moths."  

It must have been hard to have Him leave--even though He was coming back! 
Juliet Thompson 
Now, here's Juliet's account of this day: "On 21 May, Mrs Tatum had a reception for the Master. The people who were there were of the fashionable world, with a sprinkling of artists and writers. Mrs Sheridan was pouring tea.
Mrs Tatum's house is beautiful. The impression you get is of space and light. A white staircase winds up through a very wide hall, from which, on each side, rooms open--living rooms, dining room, library. All these were soon crowded.
    The first friend I caught sight of was Louis Potter. He came running up to me, exclaiming: "Oh august Juliet!" and attached himself at once to Lua and me. Suddenly, there was a stir among the people, and 'Abdu'l-Bahá was in our midst. He walked over to a yellow couch which curved along the big half-moon of the bay window and sat down on it.
     I think I must tell you how He looked there. His surroundings were all white and yellow. Sunlight streamed in. The shadows on His face were transparent; His profile, against the blue sky through the polished glass of the windowpane, outlined in light.
     "Come, Louis," I said to Louis Potter, "let's go to the Master."
Louis had never seen Him before, but he skipped forward like a buoyant faun, his head tipped to one side, his hands outstretched.
     "Ah-h-h!" he said. It was a little cry from his soul, as though he were just coming home, and was so glad.  And the Master too said: "Ah-h-h!" His arms wide open, welcoming Louis home.

[Louis Potter is the artist who designed the second medallion of Abdu'l-Baha--which will be made in Philadelphia, in November.  Wish we had his memoirs! AP]

Back to Juliet: 
     Percy Grant arrived. As soon as he appeared, big and imposing, in the room, the Master rose almost eagerly, smiling and holding out His hand.
     "Ah! Dr Grant!" He said.
     They stood for what seemed to me minutes, their hands clasped, Percy, with beautiful deference, bowing his head, a gentle, almost tender look on his face. One of the Persians translated the Master's greeting to him but spoke so low that I could not catch the words. Then Percy sat down on the curving window seat so that he faced the Master.
      Soon there was another stir in the room. A small, rather plain middle-aged woman with the most astonishing eyes--very clear, very violet--stood in the doorway, almost timidly, and the Master at once sent Dr Faríd to her to ask her to come and sit by Him. This was Sarah Graham Mulhall.
     He spoke a few words to her and she rose and went out, returning after some time with a tray and a pot of tea and two cups on it. The tray was placed on a stool between the Master and Miss Mulhall and they drank their tea together.

Juliet in later years (photo/design provided by Rhonda  Palmer)
([Juliet's] Footnote. 1947. Miss Mulhall's father and brother, who were physicians, had come to New York from England to study the effects of drugs on the body and mind. Both died mysteriously. Miss Mulhall's only training had been in music. She was a very gentle, retiring woman and knew nothing of the ways of business or organization or medicine, or anything that would have equipped her for the evidently dangerous work of her father and brother. But something inside her, against which she fought, urged her to continue it. She was in the midst of this inward conflict when Mrs Tatum telephoned her and asked her to come to meet the Master. At first Miss Mulhall declined, saying that she really couldn't go anywhere, she was too absorbed in her own problems, she couldn't face a crowd of people. But later she thought: Perhaps 'Abdu'l-Bahá is a Prophet, as Mrs Tatum believes, and He might help me in making my decision.
     The Master, when He called her to Him in Mrs Tatum's house, asked if she would do something for Him. Would she brew some tea for Him with her own hands and drink it with Him? And while they drank tea and talked, He Himself brought up her problem.
     He told her she must do the work she had in mind; she would rise very high in it and become "a great Counsellor"; God would always protect her and all the Celestial Beings of the Supreme Concourse would rally to her assistance.
     She did become a Great Counsellor. After years of wonderful work, Governor Smith, Al Smith, made her Adviser and First Commissioner of Narcotics for New York State. One night she herself led a raid against one of the chief centres of the drug ring--a ring of very rich, prominent men, some of them "pillars" of St. Patrick's, some "pillars" of St. John's Cathedral. Rounding them up in their centre, an apartment on Park Avenue, she, with the help of her squad of police, locked them in; then telephoned to the governor. He took the next train to New York and upheld Miss Mulhall's determination to bring them all to trial. Then he went to Cardinal Hayes and Bishop Manning. Cardinal Hayes said: "These men are the worst type of criminals. I agree with you that they must be punished." Bishop Manning said: "You can't touch myparishioners. They are the builders of St. John's Cathedral." He threatened Miss Mulhall. "If you ruin them, I will destroy your office." Which he did, ultimately, for of course every one of the men was found guilty and sent to Fort Leavenworth. After Lehman was elected Governor, the Narcotics Commission was abolished. But in the meantime Miss Mulhall had done a tremendous work. Her book, Opium, the Demon Flower, has become world famous.)

 [Back to 1912 entry]  Then I caught sight of little "Fergie."His real name I don't want to mention because of what I am going to tell. He is a noted newspaper man who writes visionary books on economics. Percy Grant calls him "my prophet." His face is pale and pinched and suffering and he wears a thick chestnut wig. I went up to him and asked: "Wouldn't you like to meet the Master?" "I think not," he drawled, "I really have nothing to say to Him."
     And now the Master began to speak to the whole roomful of people.
     He was very happy, He said, to be with us. "Think of the contrast!" For years He had been imprisoned in a fortress, His associates criminals. Now He found Himself in spacious homes, "associating," He said, "with you."
     His talk gradually shaped itself to some definite point, which, however, He kept for the very end. I wondered what could be coming. When it came it was like a thunderclap.
     "Think of it," He said. "Two kings were dethroned in order that I might be freed. This is naught but pure destiny."
     I glanced at Percy Grant and saw that he was deeply stirred. He had been listening, still with that tender deference, his head slightly tipped to one side, but at these last startling words of the Master's, in a flash the placidity of his face broke up, something burned through and his eyes sparked.
     "And now," ended the Master, suddenly rising to His feet, strong and incredibly majestic, "you here in America must work with Me for the peace of the world and the oneness of mankind."
     And with this He left us, the room seeming strangely empty after He had gone."

Strangely empty. . . . Of course--after such a presence had filled it! 

Juliet's descriptions remind us of how human the people were who intersected with the Master. How would we be in His presence? Or friends of ours, if we took them to see Him? 

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