There are some discrepancies between Mahmud’s account and those of PUP and Allan Ward re. May 4 and 5. Mahmud’s account dated May 4 says that the talks at the Plymouth Congregational Church and the All-Souls Church occurred on that Saturday; both PUP and Ward say they occurred on Sunday the 5th—more likely for church services anyway. Also, Mahmud calls the 4th the “last night” in Chicago, but then says He left on the morning of the 6th. He has no mention of `Abdu'l-Bahá's talk to the Theosophical Society at Northwestern University, which is mentioned as occurring on the 4th in Ward’s book and is printed as such in PUP. The talk ends with one of the prayers for gatherings Baha’is are familiar with—“We are as plants, and Thy bounty is as the rain. . . .”
It is likely that Mahmud was exhausted and perhaps forgot to record the event(s) on the 4th and confused them with those of the 5th—perhaps looking back at his notes after a whirlwind time in Chicago. In any event, I think we can all imagine the enormous challenging of recording the details of this journey.
A sentence stands out for me in the following account: “The effect of His words was so deep and far-reaching that it is beyond description. . . .” Yet this man, day after day, tried to describe what was indescribable. I’ve put some other things in bold in this particular account.
“As `Abdu'l-Bahá's stay in Chicago was drawing to a close, there were numerous meetings and receptions. In the morning some clergymen visited Him in His hotel room. . . . He then went to the Plymouth Congregational Church, which was magnificent and most beautifully decorated. Its rector, Dr [Joseph A.] Milburn, had seen the Master several times and was greatly attracted to Him. After the customary service, the rector introduced `Abdu'l-Bahá . . . as the Herald of Peace and the Son of God, `Abbás Effendi.
|Plymouth Congregational Church|
(now First Baptist)
|Photo by Charles Nolley|
As the Master approached the pulpit, the congregation rose to their feet, and although they were in church, they greeted Him with prolonged applause and cheers of joy. `Abdu'l-Bahá called them to order then spoke about the manifestation of the center of illumination and the Sun of Truth which appears at different times at different points of the zodiac, thus illustrating the renewal of religions and the unity of the Messengers and the Holy Books. At the end of His talk He chanted a prayer in Persian in a melodious voice.
The hearts of the listeners were so attracted that the church seemed to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The people crowded around `Abdu'l-Bahá to the extent such that it became difficult for the Master and His companions to leave. Groups of people surrounded Him to shake His hand and to ask for His blessing. The most surprising thing about these meetings was that although most of the people had never before heard of the Bahá'í teachings, they were so attracted and fascinated that they would follow the Master in their cars from one meeting to another. . . .”
Imagine spontaneously running into the Master and then spending your day following Him around the city!
Then, there’s a rather funny story, perhaps related to `Abdu'l-Bahá's intuitive sense, though it does not claim to be about that:
“`Abdu'l-Bahá had lunch at the home of Dr Forde and after meeting with a few people, He left for the hotel, saying, `Let us walk for a while, and then take the tram.' Our host and some of us suggested that the distance was great and pointed out that Mr Forde's car was available. At our insistence, `Abdu'l-Bahá rode in the car but as it twice punctured its tires, He took the tram.”
Then, Mahmud provides a long section about questions people asked `Abdu'l-Bahá at the hotel, after His arrival. One person asked him about the future affairs of Asia and the countries in the East, and at the end of that answer `Abdu'l-Bahá said, “Today, whichever nation raises the standard of the oneness of humanity and comes under the shelter of this divine power will ultimately lead the whole world.” Do you suppose He was referring to the United States?
Then, Mahmud notes, “After answering these questions, `Abdu'l-Bahá went with Mrs [Corinne] True and other friends to a Chicago cemetery to offer prayers for the departed.” The note in the book mentions that Corinne’s son Davis had died shortly after His arrival in Chicago (and, of course, we know that she lost other sons--and her husband). Can you imagine the great grief she was experiencing, even as the Temple grounds were being dedicated? Surely the personal loss and comingled victory of having the Master visit the Temple ground was a great case of crisis and victory. The Master must have been such a balm to her spirit. . . .
I must read the book about her! Here's the George Ronald description of it: