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

Friday, August 31, 2012

August 31, 1912 Montreal whirlwind

Montreal; no time for rest! 
Mahmud writes: "In the morning, the pastor of the Unitarian Church came with several others to visit `Abdu'l-Bahá. The Master discussed with them the elimination of religious superstitions and prejudices, which are contrary to science and common sense and which are obstacles to the attainment of the foundation of truth of the divine religions.
A newspaper reporter was then announced. He had come to interview the Master about His life and the history of the Cause. `Abdu'l-Bahá gave a detailed account, which was recorded by the reporter.
The Master went to the dinner table. Mr Maxwell had come from the customs house and said that when the inspector opened the first suitcase and saw a picture of the Master, he asked, `Is this the picture of the prophet of Persia?' When he received an affirmative reply, the inspector said, `There is no need to inspect these goods' and released all the luggage.
Some of the newspapers accounts about the visit of the Master are full of reverence and praise.
In the afternoon, at the invitation of Mr Maxwell, the Master went for ride in the town. While in the carriage He remarked:
Every city in which the remembrance of God is raised is a divine city. `Akká was a despised city but when it became the center of the mention of God and the dawning place of His Light, it illumined the world.
When He saw some of the college buildings, `Abdu'l-Bahá said:
As only material education is imparted and only natural philosophy is taught, these universities do not produce highly talented scholars. When both the natural and the divine philosophies are expounded, they will bring forth outstanding souls and evince great advancement. The reason for the success of the Greek schools was that they combined both natural and divine philosophies.
As His carriage passed by the Unitarian Church, He said, `Tomorrow we will raise the Call of God in this place.'
The carriage reached the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Notre Dame. Everything was quiet and no one was in sight. The Master alighted and went in to see the huge building. With rapt attention, He gazed at the vast cathedral, its ornamentation and numerous statues and spoke of its grandeur and embellishments. Standing in an open space at the entrance, He addressed us saying:
Behold what eleven disciples of Christ have accomplished, how they sacrificed themselves! I exhort you to walk in their footsteps. When a person is detached, he is capable of revolutionizing the whole world. The disciples of Christ met together in consultation on top of a mountain. They pledged themselves to undergo all manner of hardships, to accept every affliction as a bounty and to consider all difficulties easy to overcome. `He who is tied to a family, let him arrange to leave it; he who is not should remain single. He should forgo his comfort and his life.' Consulting thus, they descended from the mountain and each one went a different way and never returned. It is for this reason that they were able to leave behind such achievements. After Christ, the disciples truly forgot themselves, and not merely in word. Hence, the Blessed Beauty cited:
     Either be like women and indulge in adornment and pleasure
     Or like men, come out and throw down the gauntlet. [from Persian poet Saná'í]
`Abdu'l-Bahá took His seat in the carriage again and told us:
On our way to Baghdád we had to put up with unbearable hardships. At one time a Turkish soldier of the Ottoman army appeared before us. Mírzá Yahyá, on seeing the soldier sitting on the horse with majesty and dignity, cried out with great grief and despair, `Oh! Where were we? Where are we now going? They say that all heads will bow. When shall it be?' I said to him in reply, `When the divine bounty attains perfection, persons greater than this soldier will bow their heads under the shadow of the Word of God.' Where is Mírzá Yahyá now? Let him come and see how the power of Bahá'u'lláh has so inspired humility in these Americans, who consider the Turks as nothing, that a person like Mr Maxwell, an American, is with deference serving Mírzá Ahmad [Sohrab], a Persian.
In the evening there was a well-attended meeting at `Abdu'l-Bahá's residence. He spoke, with good effect, about spiritual progress and the manifestation of divine virtues in human realities. Afterwards many requested private interviews. On receiving satisfactory answers to their questions, they expressed their heartfelt gratitude. Among them was the president of a socialist organization who invited the Master to his group. His request was granted. As it grew late in the evening and other people were waiting for private interviews, we suggested that since the Master might be weary, it would be better if the rest of those waiting came back in the morning. He replied, `No, this is the time to work. We must not think of our fatigue. Everyone is to be met.'"

I like the luggage story. Also, the exciting pace of the days in Montreal.

I have read parts of Violette Nakhjavani's book, The Maxwells of Montreal. It brings forth so much of the personal story of May and William Sutherland Maxwell.

May was present during a number of occasions in New York when 'Abdu'l-Bahá was there; her husband was in Montreal--it was around that time his own father died.  On June 13 (see blog entry) there is a marvelous story of  'Abdu'l-Bahá's description of the three hearts--May's, Lua's, and Juliet's.  This shows what a personal connection those three had (have) with Him.

May and Sutherland both were, no doubt, ecstatic about the Master's coming to Montreal. Violette quotes a letter from May, written August 22, 1912: "We have been so wonderfully happy by the glad tidings that  'Abdu'l-Bahá will visit Montreal, and we are all in the utmost joy and expectation! As soon as we hear from Thee the date of thy coming we will announce it in the paper--and prepare a public meeting--and many, many people are already in joy and hope.
     Mr. Thomas, the colored Bahá'í from Washington, has spoken here in the colored people's church--through him I also met them and gave them the Message, and Mr. Gantt, the Minister of the Church has offered his church to address the colored people. We shall do all in our power to enable the people of Montreal to receive the utmost bounty and benefit from the incomparable blessing of Thy adored Presence--and we beg for Thy help and confirmation." (p. 278–79)
Paris 1901 or 02; May Maxwell (then Bolles) sits next to Thomas Breakwell, wearing head scarf


"Investigating Reality" was a major theme of  'Abdu'l-Bahá's message to America, and I find it interesting that He describes the "Reality" of May as "Illumined." Her enkindlement was no doubt enhanced during His days in Montreal--I can "feel" it--from 100 years and some miles away. . . . 

It was helpful to GO to Montreal, just a few weeks ago, to see some of the places and breathe the Canadian air and capture the flag flying. . . . What a great blessing that Montreal was a site on the journey!


  1. Beautiful post thanks Anne for everything you are doing

    1. Thank you! It is a joy to be on this journey of love!