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

Saturday, September 1, 2012

September 1, 1912 May--and more!

Montreal:   a momentous day!
I would like to pick up the thread of May Maxwell as catalyst and magnet for the Master's visit to Montreal.  In the blog related to Montreal linked under resources (see right column), Jack McLean writes: "It was no doubt the presence of the Maxwell family, particularly the illustrious May Bolles Maxwell, that drew Him there. In one of the tablets, Abdul-Bahá had described Mrs. Maxwell as a “. . . pearl, a real Baháí pure in heart and attracted in soul. The second tablet to Canada contains this reference to this luminary of early western Baháí history:One pearl is better than a thousand wildernesses of sand, especially this pearl of great price, which is endowed with divine blessing. Erelong thousands of other pearls will be born from it. When that pearl associates and becomes the intimate of the pebbles, they also all change into pearls.(February 21, 1917, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 95). The word pearl was no stranger to Abdul-Bahás vocabulary. Sometimes it served as metonym for the Baháí Faith itself. Its most famous allusion was to Shoghi Effendi. But in the above passage, a more personal relationship is indicated: spiritual intimacy and transformation. In Montreal, May Maxwell was the magnet and catalyst for both." 

Mahmud reports: "This was a momentous day. From the pulpit of the Unitarian Church, the voice of the Center of the Covenant was broadcast afar. As He prepared to leave for the church, He asked me to sit by Him in the carriage. I said that there was room on the other seat. He replied, `Come and sit here. When I see someone who is ambitious and selfish, I observe these formalities merely for his correction. Otherwise, everyone may sit wherever he wishes. These things are entirely unimportant.' When the carriage arrived, the pastor, who had been waiting at the entrance, came forward, took the Master's arm with the utmost reverence and courtesy, led him to the pulpit and offered Him his own chair. After the music, the pastor stood and read verses from the Book of Isaiah which allude to the appearance of a promised one from the East. Everyone listened with rapt attention to these verses and felt that they had been specifically written for this day.

In introducing the Master, the pastor said:
We are honored today with the presence of the Prophet of Peace whose message is the Message of God. God has raised Him to exterminate war and bloodshed. His presence in this church is the cause of eternal honor and the fulfillment of our long-cherished hopes and desires. He is the sign of love among the people and the promoter of oneness and brotherhood among the sons of men. His object is to free people from the shackles of imitation and to unfurl the banner of the oneness of humanity. He is the temple of kindness, the possessor of the greatest news, the inspirer of the new thoughts and the expounder of the happiness of this great cycle. Although He has suffered violence and affliction for many years and has seen persecutions, His spiritual power is still flowing like the water of life. Although His body has felt the cross, yet His spirit, which is life-giving, has not been crucified. He has journeyed by land and sea to come to these western countries. We extend Him a sincere welcome and offer the incense of gratitude for His teachings which are the cause of the recovery of hearts and are the source of eternal blessings and happiness. Now His Holiness `Abdu'l-Bahá will speak to you."
A beautiful introduction--yes? 
Mahmud continues: "The Master rose and, pacing the stage, gave the following address:
God the Almighty has created all humanity from dust, from the same elements. All are descended from one race and all are created to live on the same earth, under the canopy of the same heaven. As members of humanity He created them sharing the same susceptibilities. As created by Him all are one, without discrimination. He provides for all; He trains all; He protects all; He is kind to all. He has left no difference in His bounties and favors to men. He raised prophets and sent divine teachings. These teachings unite all and generate love in human hearts. He has proclaimed the unity of the world of man. He deprecates all obstacles to unity and commends everything that is conducive to harmony and unity. He admonishes all to establish unity at all levels. All the Prophets of God were raised up to deliver the message of love and unity to the sons of men. All the Books of God were revealed to establish fellowship and union. All the Prophets of God were the servants of truth. All their teachings were the essence of truth. Truth is one; it does not accept multiplicity. Therefore, the foundation of truth of all the religions of God is one.
Yet, alas, blind imitations, which have nothing to do with this truth, have crept in. As these vain practices vary, contention, warfare and bloodshed became rampant and strife prevailed. These are the destroyers of the divine foundation. Men kill one another like beasts and bring desolation to one another's families. God has created man for love. He made love the illumination of the world of man. Love is the cause of the unity of creation. All the prophets were promulgators of love. Man, however, arose against the decree of God and acted contrary to the divine will. For this reason, since the beginning of present history, man has never experienced harmony. Bloodshed and massacre have been rampant among them. The hearts have been suspicious of one another. Man has acted against God's good pleasure. All the wars and massacres of the past have been induced either by religious or racial prejudices or by political and patriotic bias which have made this world a place of constant agony for the sons of man.
These prejudices were intense in the Orient, for there was no freedom.
The gloom of blind imitations had darkened the entire Orient and all the nations and religions were on terms of extreme hostility and at war with each other. At such a time Bahá'u'lláh appeared and proclaimed the oneness of the world of man, saying that all men are created by God and all the religions are under the shadow of the mercy of God. God is kind to all; He loves all. All the prophets loved one another. The holy books confirm one another. Why then should there be strife and contention among men? When all are the creatures of one God, and like sheep all are under the protection of one shepherd who helps each one, why should not the sheep live in perfect harmony with one another? If one has gone astray, the others must bring it back and guide it. At the most, if a person is ignorant, he must be informed; if he is imperfect, he must be made perfect; if he is sick, he must be cured; if he is blind, he must be healed and not be made a target of enmity and hatred.
Second, Bahá'u'lláh proclaimed that religion must be the means of love and fellowship. If religion is the cause of hatred, it has no meaning. Irreligion is preferable to such a religion, for it produces enmity and hatred. That which produces enmity is odious to God and that which brings forth love and harmony is acceptable to Him and praised by Him. If religion becomes the cause of bloodshed and rapacity, it is not religion. Irreligion is better than that. Religion is like a remedy. If the remedy produces sickness, it is better not to have it at all. Thus if religion is the cause of warfare and massacre, irreligion is preferable.
Third, religion must be in accord with reason and science. If religion is not consistent with science and reason, it is superstition. God has given us reason so that we may comprehend the realities of things and become lovers of truth. If religion is inconsistent with science and reason, it cannot produce confidence. When confidence is not generated, it is but superstition. Religious issues must therefore conform with reason and science so that hearts may derive assurance, and happiness may prevail.
Fourth, all prejudices -- religious, racial, patriotic and political -- are destroyers of the human edifice. The religion of God is but one for all. All religions are founded on truth. Abraham summoned the people to reality; Moses proclaimed reality; Christ founded reality; and Muhammad promoted reality. All the prophets were the servants of reality. All were founders and enforcers of reality. Religious prejudice, therefore, is vain and false, for it negates the truth.
As to racial prejudice: all humanity is one progeny. All are servants of one God. All are of one essence. There is no plurality in race because all are the sons of Adam. Plurality in race is an unfounded belief. Before God there is no England, France, Turkey or Persia. All these people are regarded as one before God. God did not made these divisions. They are made by man; hence, they are false and contrary to reality. Everyone has two eyes, two ears, one head and two feet. There is no racial prejudice among animals, no such prejudice among pigeons. A pigeon of the East will mingle with a pigeon of the West harmoniously. A sheep of the West will not say to a sheep of the East: `You are of the East and I am of the West.' Instead they mix together. If a pigeon comes from the East, it will mix with the pigeons of the West. It will not say, `I am of the East while you are of the West.' Is it worthy of man to entertain an attitude which animals do not allow?
Patriotic prejudice prevails although the whole earth is one globe, one country. God has made no divisions in it. He has created all as one. Before Him there are no differences. How can man lay down divisions which God has not created? Europe is one continent. We have created imaginary lines. We fix a boundary and say that on this side of the river is France and on that side Germany, although the river exists for both sides. What idle fancy is this? What ignorance! A thing not purposed by God is made by man, through his own imagination, a cause of bloodshed and strife. Hence, all these prejudices have no valid basis and are odious before God. God has created love, amity and affection which He has desired for His servants. Enmity is reprobated by Him, while love and harmony are accepted in His presence.
Fifth, one of the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh is that every human being must acquire knowledge, so that misunderstandings which are rampant among the people of different nations may be removed. All differences are begotten of misunderstandings. If these are removed, all humanity will become united. Misunderstandings can be removed only when knowledge is universally diffused. It is incumbent on every father to educate his children. If the father is incapable, the community must help so that knowledge may prevail and misunderstandings disappear.
Sixth, Bahá'u'lláh proclaimed the equality of the sexes, because women were not free. Men and women belong to the human race and are the servants of the same God. Before God there is no difference of gender. Whosoever has a purer heart and performs a better deed is nearer to God, irrespective of sex. The differences that exist at the present time are due only to the various degrees of education because women have not had the same opportunity as men. If women were given the same education, they would become equal in all degrees because both are human beings and share the same faculties and in this God has created no differences.
Seventh, a universal language is necessary. A language should be adopted which can be acquired by all. Every person will have to learn two languages -- one, his own, and the other, universal, so that all persons will have a means of communication. This will cause the removal of misunderstandings among the various nations. All worship one God and all are the servants of the one God. Differences occur when people cannot understand one another. When they can talk in the same language, differences due to misunderstandings will melt away, while love and harmony will have their sway. The East and the West will then join hands and unite with each other in bonds of union.
Eighth, the world is in sore need of universal peace. As long as universal peace is not established, the world will find no rest. The nations and powers will be forced to form a Supreme Tribunal to which all differences will be referred for decision. As the differences of individuals are settled in the courts of law, so must the differences of nations and peoples be settled, so that they may not lead to wars as at the present time. Fifty years ago Bahá'u'lláh sent epistles to the ruling monarchs of the time. All these teachings were recorded in the Tablets to the Kings and Rulers and to others and were printed and published forty years ago in India, so that prejudices between men might vanish. All those who adopted His teachings have lived in perfect harmony and love. If one goes to their meetings, one sees Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians and Muslims associated together with utmost love and amity. All their talk and effort are concentrated on the removal of misunderstandings among nations.
When I came to America, I found the people noble and high-minded and the government just. I pray to God that this just government and this respected nation may be the cause of proclaiming universal peace and the oneness of humanity. May it become the means of uniting all the nations of the world. May it light a lamp which will give light to the world -- the lamp of the oneness of humanity. My hope is that you will all be instrumental in raising aloft the standard of universal peace, that is, that the American nation and government will further the cause of international peace and thus bring security to the whole world. They would win thereby the good-pleasure of God and divine favors would surround the East and the West.
O Thou kind Lord! These people have turned to Thee in prayer. With utmost humility and sincerity they have raised their voices to Thy Kingdom to beg Thy forgiveness. O God! Make this assemblage noble and these persons holy. Enkindle the lights of guidance, illumine the hearts, bring joy to the souls, admit them into Thy Kingdom and enable them to attain felicity in both worlds.
O God! We are abased, glorify us; we are poor, make us rich from the treasury of Thy Kingdom; we are sick, grant us health; we are weak, give us power. O God, guide us to Thy good-pleasure and make us free from self and desire. O God, make us firm in Thy love and assist us to be kind to all creatures. Help us to render service to humanity so that we may serve all Thy servants, love all Thy creatures, be kind to all mankind. O God, verily Thou art the Powerful, the Merciful, the Forgiving and the Omnipotent.
The Master's address on the unity of humanity and the oneness of the Manifestations of God, together with an explanation of the new teachings, was so enthusiastically received by the audience that it is difficult to describe adequately, especially the effect of the prayer He chanted. As well as the local residents, some Turks and Arabs came to the church to pay their respects to the Master.
A wonderful change came over the hearts of the people of the city and a new excitement was felt in the public meetings. One person asserted that the only religion which was worthy to be acknowledged today was the Bahá'í religion while another thanked God that he was granted life to hear the great message.
In the afternoon a number of people of different nationalities, having obtained permission by telephone, came to visit the Master. Some of the Turks became so attracted to Him that they were continually to be found in His presence, both day and night.
This evening a great multitude assembled to hear `Abdu'l-Bahá. He unfolded the mysteries of the evolution of humanity, the divine civilization and the new birth so impressively and with such majesty that His taj fell from His head and His hair tumbled down. He continued to speak in this state for more than half an hour and at last He passed through the crowd to His room. The longing souls in that meeting did not let the Master rest. Out of respect for the people's wishes, He came out into the crowd and again spoke on spiritual subjects, including the immortality of the spirit, His words diffusing joy and happiness to all.
As He left for His room, some asked for a private interview with Him. Everyone had a request to make and expressed his sincerity and humility and each received His bounties. One of the ladies said that her young son places the Master's picture in front of him and cries out, `O Thou, my Beloved.' The Master replied, `It is a proof of your own love.'
Later the Master said to us, `Tomorrow we should move to a hotel. A traveler should stay in a hotel.' Mr and Mrs Maxwell tried their utmost to dissuade Him but did not succeed."

Can you not feel this excitement? I sense that the Master has been building up to this outpouring, and Montreal became the recipient of so much! 


  1. Dear Anne, thank you so much for your daily posts. I read them everyday. Today's posting from Montreal was awesome! I really enjoy this Blog of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá's travels to the West, and appreciate your service to multitudes of friends around the world. With loving greetings,
    David (Canadian pioneer in Vanuatu)

  2. It is so great to know that people far afield are reading the posts! Wow. Think of how the Master connects us!