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

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

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