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

Thursday, November 29, 2012

November 30, 1912 Treasuries of the heart

New York: clinging to His robe . . . gifts . . . excitement and joy beyond description
Mahmud writes: "Some of the believers agreed among themselves to go to `Abdu'l-Bahá and cling to His robe until He accepted their gifts. They came and begged He accept their offerings. The Master called them, saying:
I am most grateful for your services; in truth you have served me. You have extended hospitality. Night and day you have been ready to serve and to diffuse the divine fragrances. I shall never forget your services, for you have no purpose but the will of God and you desire no station but entry into the Kingdom of God. Now you have brought presents for the members of my family. They are most acceptable and excellent but better than all these are the gifts of the love of God which remain preserved in the treasuries of the heart. These gifts are evanescent but those are eternal; these jewels must be kept in boxes and vaults and they will eventually perish but those jewels remain in the treasuries of the heart and will remain throughout the world of God for eternity. Thus I will take to them your love, which is the greatest of all gifts. In our house they do not wear diamond rings nor do they keep rubies. That house is sanctified above such adornments.
I, however, have accepted your gifts; but I entrust them to you for you sell and send the proceeds to the fund for the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár in Chicago.
When the friends continued to plead with Him, He said: `I want to take from you a present which will endure in the eternal world and a jewel which belongs to the treasuries of the heart. This is better.'
No matter how much the friends supplicated and pleaded, He would not accept their gifts and instead asked them all to contribute towards the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár fund. He did this everywhere He traveled.
Mrs Goodall and Mrs Cooper asked the Master, as He had not accepted their gifts -- which would have drawn blessings and confirmations upon them -- to give them permission to render Him some service on His travels. They even wrote letters to some of His companions, asking them to intercede on their behalf that they might render a service and share the Master's travel expenses. However, He would not accept their offer and refused all entreaties.
There was a public meeting at the home of Mrs Kinney. `Abdu'l-Bahá spoke about love, loyalty, unity, the amity of the believers, spreading the Word of God, the promotion of universal peace and the brotherhood of humanity. The excitement and joy of the believers were beyond description."

What a lesson here! When I look at the piles of clothes I own or the jewelry I make/buy/own, and compare them to the poor, pitiful jewels of my heart, I sigh. I'm afraid we humans often favor the evanescent over the eternal. 
This image of clinging to His robe, begging Him to take things, and then being excited and joyful beyond description--well, the days are laden with a kind of passion that is rare.  Five more days--oh, my. 

November 29, 1912 Peace of the heart; joy of the spirit

New York: Attainment of peace and joy; the most acceptable gift
Mahmud writes: "At the request of Mrs Emery, the Master moved to her home. The time of His departure was drawing near. On reaching the house, He said, `Today I must rest for I am extremely tired.' Nevertheless, the friends and seekers continued to come to visit Him at the homes of Mrs Emery and Mrs Kinney. One of His discourses today was this:
One of the bounties of religion and faith is the attainment of peace of the heart and soul and the joy of spirit and conscience. This station can only be gained through faith and understanding. Peace of mind is the soul's delight, as it is the means of acquiring that extraordinary state in which man finds happiness in times of affliction and tranquillity in trouble. In spite of poverty he acquires a sense of affluence and in a state of riches and power he offers help and protection to the weak because the well-assured soul is like a tree which has strong roots and is not shaken by any event. This cannot be attained except through complete faith and understanding. How many are the people who have all means of comfort, luxury, security and wealth and every means of enjoyment and good living, yet they have no peace of mind and are ever anxious and uneasy! If outwardly they are happy one day, they become depressed and anxious the next. If they find physical rest at one moment, they face suffering and misfortune the next, until the time comes to leave this world, then they will do so with utmost regret and distress.
But those who have faith in God act according to the divine teachings; even though they need a little food to survive, they will pass their lives in the utmost happiness and joy. This is one of the bounties of religion; this is eternal happiness, life everlasting and real affluence. Without this all riches lead to woe and all power and strength are the cause of hardship and affliction. Therefore, offer praise unto God that you are endowed with this imperishable wealth and have attained this supreme blessing.
Today some of the friends offered money to the Master but He would not accept it despite their pleading. Instead He told them, `Distribute it among the poor on my behalf. It will be as though I have given it to them. But the most acceptable gift to me is the unity of the believers, service to the Cause of God, diffusion of the divine fragrances and adherence to the counsels of the Abhá Beauty.'
The believers were saddened because He did not accept their gifts. However, since these were the last days of His visit and He was about to leave, the New York Bahá'ís collected several gifts for the women of the holy household and for the Greatest Holy Leaf."

I wonder who Mrs. Emery is. So much to learn about the cast of characters in 1912!  

Aa far as experiencing the bounties, for any of us this probably waxes and wanes. And who among us continuously gives the "gift" of unity, service, diffusion of the divine fragrances, adherence?  How much we need to change our orientation to realize the profundity of this kind of "gift-giving." Well, this journey can only help us. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

November 28, 1912 Streams of visitors

New York: from dawn to nightfall, streams of visitors; joy to the sad, hope to the hopeless 
Mahmud writes: "Several friends came at dawn to the Master's residence, begging admission into His presence and saying that watching Him at prayer would be its own spiritual lesson. We were astounded to see how eager they were, proof that the power of the Word of God has dispelled old habits and opened the gates of bounty such that at so an early hour these souls had taken leave of their comfortable beds and sought refuge at the majestic gate of the Center of the Covenant.
These were the last few remaining days of the Master's sojourn in America as He planned to leave for England soon. At dawn and in the evening a stream of believers and prominent people, in a spiritual and prayerful attitude, came into His presence. They came to offer supplications, to turn to the Eternal Face, to look upon the Dawning Place of the Divine Covenant and to cling to the mantle of His grace and favor. At every moment the cries and ardor of His lovers increased and the fire of love in their breasts glowed more fiercely. There was not a moment's rest day or night for the Master. He was either delivering addresses at various public and private gatherings or talking to a friend in His private room. He gave joy to every sad one, hope to the hopeless and was a flame of fire to the heedless while guiding those who strive onto the right path.
Today the Master's public address concerned the spiritual capacity of the Americans. He said:
Although they are engrossed in material civilization and physical pursuits, still, unlike people in some European countries, they are not wholly devoid of spiritual susceptibilities. They are seekers and desire to investigate reality. They wish for peace and tranquillity and they desire fellowship and love among humanity.
In the evening He expressed His happiness at the spirituality and services of the friends in their efforts to diffuse the fragrances of God."

Would you have sought Him at dawn, day-time, or evening? Or all three?  It's good to know that "we" are not devoid of spiritual susceptibilities, that we desire to investigate reality.  Yet we need to attract seekers, to cull those qualities out in others--as He did!

"Last remaining days"--the departure is in sight. No wonder the ardor is increasing. I'm trying to get a picture of the various scenes that surrounded Him, at all hours. Wave upon wave of visitors, and He giving to all. Wish we had more accounts of those who visited and received hope, joy, and guidance!
In 1921 on this day, He died.  There was a glorious funeral procession--with so many gathered!   Today, in 2012, we observe His ascension, celebrate His life.  And know that He is always with us! 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

November 27, 1912 Two civilizations entwined

New York: spiritual and material civilizations becoming entwined; the well-being of the world; beaming souls
Mahmud writes: "In the morning the Master gave several talks to the Bahá'ís, one of which was the following:
The purpose of the divine Manifestations has been the education of holy souls. Some have imagined that their purpose was to found temples and churches or to establish a new nation or to gain personal fame and that for these considerations they accepted severe degradation and became targets for the arrow of fate. These are idle fancies because those holy Beings knew well that the dominion of God existed when there was no trace of them and that it shall continue to exist when no trace of them remains. Thus fame or oblivion, honor or degradation are one and the same to those Gems of existence. Indeed, their ultimate desire is selfless devotion to the one true God and absolute nothingness in His court. Their only motive has been the education of blessed souls and sanctified beings who are the foundation of divine education and promoters of the most great guidance and the supreme favor.
The people of Bahá must endeavor day and night to promulgate this lofty purpose. They must endeavor and strive strenuously to educate themselves and other sanctified souls. They must awaken the peoples and nations of the world and free them from dogmas and imitations. They must pass beyond the world of names and fix their gaze on realities and inner meanings.
At the end of the meeting some friends gave Him written petitions asking for spiritual assistance. He said, `We have received so many letters that there is no time to read them; how, then, is it possible to answer them?'
In the afternoon again the friends and seekers arrived in groups. The Master's talk mainly concerned the need for both a spiritual and a material civilization. `The coming of age and maturity of man', He said, `will appear when these two civilizations become entwined.'
The Master spoke to a leader of the socialists on economic issues, the brotherhood of humanity and the Bahá'í teachings. The man was overwhelmed to hear such solutions to questions upon which the well-being of the world depend.
The Master spoke to a group of women about education, training, virtues and the rights of women. In brief, every day and night, to a greater and greater extent, the faces shone with the fire of the love of God and the souls beamed with the radiance of the beauty of the Beloved."
That sounds like a good title for a book:  The Entwining of Spiritual and Material Civilization or, When Material and Spiritual Civilization become Entwined.  We live it, somewhat, this entwining--choosing the way the spirit in the midst of a keenly developed material civilization. Yet when the balance shifts, when there is a universal coalition, surely things will be very different!  I wonder what all the Master could see as far as how things would be different? 

Monday, November 26, 2012

November 26, 1912 REAL love!

New York: Real love, beyond outward love; firmness; incessant bounty; divine gardener
Mahmud writes: "In the morning, after revealing Tablets and granting interviews, the Master joined the gathering of the friends with these words:
I always derive great pleasure from being with you. I shall always remember these gatherings. I shall never forget them. If I cannot see each one of you individually every day that should not undermine our real love. See how much work I have to do! It is more than a week since I received this letter from my sister, the Greatest Holy Leaf [Bahíyyih Khánum], and other members of the household, but I have not had the opportunity to open it yet. I was looking for another letter when I came upon this unopened letter. Then I heard that you were waiting here and I came downstairs to see you because I have no time to see you individually. In spite of this, if anyone has an urgent matter I will see them privately, even if only for a few minutes. Had I time I would always be with you. My happiness lies in seeing you, for in your faces are apparent the glad tidings of the Abhá Kingdom and in your hearts heavenly love and attraction. If outwardly we fail to meet, it does not weaken our real love. God willing, you shall all be assisted and immersed in the sea of bounty and the favor of Bahá'u'lláh.
In the afternoon at a meeting of the friends, the Master turned towards Mrs Krug and said:
A believer in Bahá'u'lláh is he who is firm in the Covenant. He who is firm in the divine Covenant is a believer, a servant of the believers, a seeker of Bahá'í harmony and unity and a promoter of fellowship and amity among the friends of God. Is it possible that one can accept a book and refuse to accept him who teaches it? Is it possible to accept the sun and to reject its rays? He who rejects the rays is a rejector of the sun, too.
Furthermore, many say, `We have no need of divine Manifestations; we ourselves have direct communication with God.' They do not know that the divine Manifestations are the bright rays of the Sun of Truth and a means of educating the realities of man. Therefore, he who rejects the bounty of the Sun of Truth and thinks himself not in need of it is like the one who says he is not in need of God and rejects both God and reality, in spite of the fact that all creation is receiving incessant bounty from God and is dependent on Him, as the body is dependent upon the soul.
In the evening the Master spoke to the gathering on man's ability to understand the reality of certain things using his intelligence because man's intelligence is the discoverer of reality. For instance, through the process of reasoning, intelligence can comprehend the existence of God and understand that this magnificent universe cannot exist without a Creator. These works are not without a Maker and this garden of creation cannot exist without a Gardener."

Nine days left. They must have all felt the impending pangs of separation--and there He was consoling them.  We who are envious of those who actually met Him can surely rejoice in the "real love" that is always there! 

Universally, it seems, when people know about 'Abdu'l-Bahá they have a resonation with Him.  Our Prophet figures are so sublime, but the Master seems so tangible. He is still there for us if we need a personal interview--to console, to advice, to inspire.  So perhaps a question is how can we let His love show through us a little more? The world can only be bettered!

A prayer*:
'Abdu'l-Bahá, grant us personal meetings with You; give us a clearer understanding of the grandeur of the Covenant; let Your love illumine our hearts and shine out to others. . . . 

May all those who hosted You, who served You, who met You, continue to enjoy the real love of which You speak. May we be connected to this everlasting circle of those who are drawn to Your presence and may we receive assistance from those who loved You who have flown to the next world, that we might befittingly recollect Your days here, learn from them and help transform this nation and this world. . . . 


*I am inclined, sometimes, to make up prayers! 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

November 25, 1912 Transported; Breathing a new spirit

New York: transports of joy, reverence and respect, a new spirit
Mahmud writes: "Some of the friends came to `Abdu'l-Bahá's residence early this morning, asking that they be admitted into His presence during His prayers so they could be blessed and their souls cleansed. As soon as they reached Him they fell into transports of joy, awe-struck at the august spirit of that moment.
Later a Christian minister came into His presence in the utmost humility and, weeping, held the Master's `abá in his hands and begged that his wife and children be healed. The Master showered him with kindness, consoled him and prayed for him. Although the minister was not a Bahá'í, he showed the reverence and respect to `Abdu'l-Bahá that is usually reserved for Christ.
The Master's fame, grandeur and holiness has spread so far that in every city of the United States of America prominent people become in His presence like humble servants, while knowledgeable and well-known scholars refer to Him as the Prophet of the East and the Messenger of Peace, even though He has always forbidden the use of such terms for Himself in writing or speech. He always explains to them His servitude to the Threshold of the Abhá Beauty.
As the multitude grew, and the Master could not easily see everyone individually, He went downstairs to apologize for not being able to see them owing to the volume of His work, His preoccupation with other matters and His fatigue and frailty. He prayed for all and inspired and encouraged the friends to put all their energy into propagating and spreading the fragrances of God.
In the afternoon, the Master was invited to two meetings. The first was at the Women's Club of New York where He spoke on the education of women, their acquisition of good morals and the equality of their rights. The audience was interested and excited and everyone came to shake His hand, begging confirmation that they might better serve and acquire human perfections.
The Master then went to Mrs Cochran's home where most of the visitors were newcomers who had not previously been in `Abdu'l-Bahá's presence. He appealed to them to abandon harmful prejudices and to acquire heavenly virtues and eternal perfections through spiritual power. The address appeared to breathe a new spirit into all those present."

Transports of joy!  This is what we might wish for, instead of the newest electronic gadget on Thanksgiving sales.  But that is what the Master's journey offers as we embark on it, here and there: transports of joy.  

On this Day of the Covenant (after sundown in 2012), it seems particularly significant that we should be thinking of 'Abdu'l-Bahá with joy!  We are actually doing a screening in Dallas of part of our film. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

November 24, 1912 The Grandeur of the Covenant

New York: Reparation, service, the grandeur of the Covenant 

Luminous Journey, alternate banquet scene
Mahmud writes: "A gathering of black Bahá'ís was held at the home of Mrs Kinney. They had been invited by the New York Bahá'ís to attend the banquet of the Covenant but when the proprietor of the hotel heard about it, he was not pleased. The more the friends endeavored to persuade him, the more vehement was his refusal. He said, `If the people see that one colored person has entered my hotel, no respectable person will ever set foot in it and my business will go to the winds.' Such is the depth of prejudice between blacks and whites. Since it was impossible to invite the black Bahá'ís to the banquet, the friends arranged today's feast for their black brothers. Many white women came forward to serve their black guests, showering them with love. The Master approved of this meeting very much and He said:
Today you have carried out the laws of the Blessed Beauty and have truly acted according to the teachings of the Supreme Pen. Behold what an influence and effect the words of Bahá'u'lláh have had upon the hearts, that hating and shunning have been forgotten and that prejudices have been obliterated to such an extent that you arose to serve one another with great sincerity.
The Master's words made a great impression. The meeting embodied the grandeur of the Covenant and demonstrated the power and influence of the Cause in uniting, in sincerity and love, two races of humanity.
In the afternoon the children who had earlier seen the Master on the way from school, had been so attracted and had asked to see Him, came to visit Him. He spoke to them with deep affection and kindness, asking about their health and welfare. To each He gave candies and flowers and then sprinkled them with attar of rose. He then gave them kindly counsels and encouraged them to acquire knowledge, science, good morals and sincerity, saying:
I hope that you will be educated as you ought to be and that each of you will become the pride of your family. May God assist you to acquire divine knowledge in the school of the world of humanity. I shall pray for you and beg assistance for you. Truly, the hearts of the children are very pure. This was why Christ said, `Be ye like children.' Praise be to God who created you illumined children. Praise be to the Lord who hath created His creatures perfectly. God has created you as human beings so that you may daily acquire better morals and human virtues. You must obey your parents so that they may be pleased with you, and so that God will be pleased with you, and that you may become the children of the Kingdom and mirror forth the words of Christ.
Although these young visitors were children, they took their leave in an attitude of sincerity, reverence and attraction that astonished all.
This evening `Abdu'l-Bahá spoke at a public meeting of the friends on the underlying unity of creation and the oneness of humanity. His sweet words and explanations attracted the hearts and souls, as in other meetings, leaving them much attached to the Center of the Covenant."

This reparation of the banquet situation brings tears to my eyes! I am filled with thanksgiving for the Master's wisdom. How easy it would have been just to have forgotten those dear African Americans who could not attend the banquet! And how I wish we had their names and those of women who served them! This was before the civil rights movement--and it must have been quite a feeling to cook for and serve those who were treated so poorly at that time--or to be served by those one "normally" served! ah, I wish we had a diary account from someone on either side of that equation! Or a photograph of the banquet. Bless the Kinneys for hosting it!

Don't you love the phrase "the grandeur of the Covenant"?  If we could only rise up to embody that grandeur!  Oh--we can! 

Friday, November 23, 2012

November 23, 1912 A Source of awakening

New York: A banquet for a King
Mahmúd writes: "The friends arranged a banquet in commemoration of the Day of the Covenant and the journey of the beloved of all hearts. Today many came to the Master with bouquets of flowers in their hands. The banquet was held in the ballroom of New York's Grand Northern Hotel. The hall was decorated similarly to that in Washington with festoons, banners, ornaments and exquisite screens, with the Greatest Name suspended above all on the stage in its customary calligraphy.
In the center of the ballroom were two rectangular tables, between which was another large table exquisitely set. Around these tables on both sides were placed small circular tables bedecked with colorful flowers, a variety of sweets and crystal glassware. The electric lighting reflected the glassware and caused the whole room to shine brilliantly. More than three hundred guests, formally attired, attended. Several friends and specifically Miss Lany Lead served at the banquet.
When the Master appeared, all rose from their seats and with smiling faces cried out, `Alláh-u-Abhá!' Many of the hotel guests saw the banquet and were astonished to see the grandeur of the Master and the sincerity and enthusiasm of the friends. After the Master took His seat, Mr Hoar, on behalf of the Bahá'ís, read an address of welcome expressing obedience and firmness in the Covenant. The Master rose and responded with an address about the divine teachings and the oneness of humanity. He then walked around the tables and perfumed the heads and faces of the friends with attar of rose. When He returned to His chair, the friends, accompanied by the piano, sang songs of praise to Him.
Later the Master spoke about the wars and massacres of the nations and the need for the teachings of the Greatest Name. He encouraged all towards peace, harmony and sincere love for all the people of the world.  After His talk, the Consul General, Mr Topakyan, and others gave short speeches praising `Abdu'l-Bahá.
This evening's banquet was so grand that the hotel staff were curious to know about the Cause. They came to see the Master to ask about the banquet and why so many distinguished Americans were praising and glorifying a person from the East. Indeed, it was a banquet for a king and a source of awakening to every person of insight.
Two photographs were taken with a good quality glass and special lighting. Although the photographs do not show the entire group, they tell much about the banquet."


What a stunning occasion!  So beautiful, elegant, formal.  Don't you wish we all had a place there?  To arrive with flowers and place them in the hand of the Master.  And what an example--to have a social occasion be a "source of awakening to every person of insight."  

Of course, it signaled the end of His time there--so there must have been a poignant rapture.  But what Mahmud does not tell us here is that the African-American guests could not attend the banquet. The hotel proprietor was adamant--and the more the Baha'is tried to convince him that diversity was important for them, the more he stood firm.  So, the following night another banquet was held at the Kinney home--and the white friends served the dark friends.  It is this scene that we have beautifully captured for our film. When Abdu'l-Baha says it was an example of the "grandeur of the Covenant" we know then that something was missing for the banquet held at the Great Northern Hotel. . . . 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

November 22, 1912 Endless bounties

New York: Outpouring of bounties; harmfulness of prejudice . . . 
Mahmud writes: "The Master spent the morning until noon at His residence. In the afternoon He went to a gathering at the home of Mrs Krug. The meeting with such eager friends was very enjoyable. A feature of the afternoon was the visit from a Christian minister. He was a just and fair-minded man who visited with the Master before the meeting in a separate room. His first question to the Master was, `What are the new teachings in this Cause?' The Master replied, `The fundamental principles of all religions are one. They are unchangeable and do not differ. This is what Christ meant when He said, "I am not come to destroy the law of the Torah but to promote it."'
The minister: `Yes, I understand. Do you mean that at the beginning the followers of all the religions were pure and undefiled but grew polluted and negligent?'
The Master: `If there is no change or alteration, then there is no renewal. Not until night falls will a new day dawn. If the religion of Moses had not changed, Christ would not have appeared.'
The minister: `Thank you, I understand this well. Now tell me, will there be another cycle after this Bahá'í cycle.'
The Master: `The sovereignty of God has no beginning and no end and the outpouring of His bounties is endless.'
The minister said, with relief, `Now my doubts are wholly removed with nothing left but certainty.'
He was so sincere and humble that the Master was pleased with him and said, `I wanted to give detailed answers to each of your questions but you quickly realized the outcome of each answer right from the beginning. Thus must a person have aptitude and a pure motive.'
Appearing at the meeting, the Master held the minister's hand and praised him very highly as an example of justice. To the friends He said: `Beware, beware lest you follow your prejudices and selfish interests. You must always be just in all matters and investigate the truth.'
This evening in similar language the Master vividly described the harmfulness of prejudice, alienation and disunity and the advantages of love and friendship, concluding with strong appeals to the friends to propagate the guidance given by God and to associate in a spirit of love and kindness with all denominations and the servants of God."

These final-ish thoughts seem to be clearer and more succinct on the part of the Master.  We can think about how to remove our own doubts and embrace all of the current guidance, to eliminate our own prejudices and associate in a spirit of love--all this is more powerful than we can imagine, we who practice our faith imperfectly.  Yet, over and over, He told us and showed us. Perhaps our passion for Him will yet evoke our highest faith and action. . . . 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

November 21, 1912

New York: New York reflections; a gathering at the Kinney's 
Mahmúd writes: "The Master was occupied revealing Tablets to the friends until about noon when the crowd downstairs became too large. He appeared in this gathering of eager souls, greeting and extending His kindness to all, saying: `I have been busy since early morning and am tired. I do not feel like speaking at all and wish to go out for a walk.' After a short talk in which He encouraged the friends to establish love and harmony among themselves and to make every effort in the Cause of God, He walked to Broadway and then to Central Park. He was not pleased with the dense population and the height of the buildings, saying: `These are injurious to the public's health. This population should be in two cities, the buildings should be lower and the streets should be tree-lined as they are in Washington. How can these two places compare?'
Indeed, the condition of New York City is strange and its population so large that in addition to surface streets, there are three railway lines running the entire length of the city; one underground, another on the surface and a third above the streets on bridges about two stories high. These railway lines are continuously filled with people and are their mode of transportation. On some of the streets, automobiles and carriages have to stop for some 10 to 15 minutes because of the congestion until the traffic officers give them permission to continue.
At the Kinney home
Most buildings are from 17 to 18 stories high and each floor has some 20 to 30 apartments, most of which have bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, bathrooms with hot and cold running water and many comforts.
There was a large gathering this evening at Mr and Mrs Kinney's attended by both old and new friends. The Master's talk was mainly admonitions to the friends about love and unity among themselves and the propagation of the divine Cause. The hearts and souls were ignited by the fire of the love of God and their tongues praised the Beloved."

An interesting entry--and Mahmud conveys the dissatisfaction the Master felt re. certain aspects of NY. After being in DC several times this past year, I can readily see how the comparison was dramatic. 

Yet still--the audiences, the love, the admonitions, the ignited fires. It doesn't stop, even when the Master is tired. . . . 

Two weeks left. I wonder if His ticket is purchased, if the clock is ticking or if it is all a mystery how long He will stay in their midst. . . . One thing is certain: He is always in ours, could we perceive that. But oh, the thought of His leaving these shores. . . . 

Another Inspired Letter of Light

Here's another beautiful reflection on this year and on the sublime personage of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, a constant source of inspiration and guidance. . . . May we all wake up more fully to the thoughts and ideas expressed in this missive.


November 22, 2012

To the American Bahá'í community
for the Feast of Qawl

Dearly loved Friends,

As our joyous celebration of this centennial year of His epoch-making American sojourn swiftly draws to a close, we will, during the Bahá'í month that begins with this Feast, be observing two Holy Days intimately connected with the life and mission of 'Abdu'l-Bahá-namely, the Day of the Covenant, celebrated on November 26, and the anniversary of His Ascension, commemorated in the early morning hours of November 28.

Against this rich backdrop of events, we feel moved to share with you a few selections from one of the beloved Guardian Shoghi Effendi's most significant letters, "The Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh," which-though written in 1934 and addressed to the Bahá'ís of the West-elucidates for all believers for all time the distinctive stations of the Central Figures of our Faith, including the Master:

"An attempt I strongly feel should now be made to clarify our minds regarding the station occupied by 'Abdu'l-Bahá and the significance of His position in this holy Dispensation. It would be indeed difficult for us, who stand so close to such a tremendous figure and are drawn by the mysterious power of so magnetic a personality, to obtain a clear and exact understanding of the role and character of One Who, not only in the Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh but in the entire field of religious history, fulfills a unique function. Though moving in a sphere of His own and holding a rank radically different from that of the Author and the Forerunner of the Bahá'í Revelation, He, by virtue of the station ordained for Him through the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh, forms together with them what may be termed the Three Central Figures of a Faith that stands unapproached in the world's spiritual history. He towers, in conjunction with them, above the destinies of this infant Faith of God from a level to which no individual or body ministering to its needs after Him, and for no less a period than a full thousand years, can ever hope to rise. . . .

"He is, and should for all time be regarded, first and foremost, as the Center and Pivot of Bahá'u'lláh's peerless and all-enfolding Covenant, His most exalted handiwork, the stainless Mirror of His light, the perfect Exemplar of His teachings, the unerring Interpreter of His Word, the embodiment of every Bahá'í ideal, the incarnation of every Bahá'í virtue, the Most Mighty Branch sprung from the Ancient Root, the Limb of the Law of God, the Being 'round Whom all names revolve,' the Mainspring of the Oneness of Humanity, the Ensign of the Most Great Peace, the Moon of the Central Orb of this most holy Dispensation-styles and titles that are implicit and find their truest, their highest and fairest expression in the magic name 'Abdu'l-Bahá. He is, above and beyond these appellations, the 'Mystery of God'-an expression by which Bahá'u'lláh Himself has chosen to designate Him, and which, while it does not by any means justify us to assign to Him the station of Prophethood, indicates how in the person of 'Abdu'l-Bahá the incompatible characteristics of a human nature and superhuman knowledge and perfection have been blended and are completely harmonized. . . .

"'I affirm,' is 'Abdu'l-Bahá's own written comment on the Tablet of the Branch, 'that the true meaning, the real significance, the innermost secret of these verses, of these very words, is my own servitude to the sacred Threshold of the Abhá Beauty, my complete self-effacement, my utter nothingness before Him. This is my resplendent crown, my most precious adorning. On this I pride myself in the kingdom of earth and heaven. Therein I glory among the company of the well-favored!' . . .

"'My name is 'Abdu'l-Bahá. My qualification is 'Abdu'l-Bahá. My reality is 'Abdu'l-Bahá. My praise is 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Thraldom to the Blessed Perfection is my glorious and refulgent diadem, and servitude to all the human race my perpetual religion. . . . No name, no title, no mention, no commendation have I, nor will ever have, except 'Abdu'l-Bahá. This is my longing. This is my greatest yearning. This is my eternal life. This is my everlasting glory.'"

We hope these powerful passages will, throughout a month so closely associated with His memory, serve to remind us all of the majesty, the greatness, the unique and transcendent nature of the Figure Who visited these shores a scant hundred years ago, will inspire a renewed gratitude in our hearts for His assiduous and loving labors on our behalf, and will fan to flame the fire of our determination to advance the teaching work of the Five Year Plan-the surest way the abundant seeds He planted during His stay can be brought to full and glorious fruition.

With loving Bahá'í greetings,


Kenneth E. Bowers

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

November 20, 1912 The highest degree of love and union

New York: Burning away the veils . . . 
Mahmud writes: "The Master again called some of the friends and asked them to show kindness and love to Mr MacNutt and to be patient with him. Some of His words were these:
You must all arise in unison to serve the Cause of God. You must work hand in hand to teach the Cause and know that the confirmations of Bahá'u'lláh will descend upon you. My hope is that New York will excel all other cities because at the beginning it had precedence over them. God willing, it shall be so again. The favors of the Kingdom of God are great, the attention and bounties of the Blessed Beauty are fixed upon you and His hidden hosts are assisting you. Arise in this arena and you shall see what will transpire.
I am but one of His servants. After the ascension of the Blessed Beauty, the Ottoman people and government arose against me as did enemies of the area from different nations and religions. In such a state everyone was attacking me from outside and even my brothers from inside opposed me. But in a short time the enemies were frustrated and brought low so that some of them cried, `Would to God that Bahá'u'lláh had not ascended because this Cause has become even greater, its fame has spread to more places, and its support has become stronger.' Therefore, we must arise in servitude so that His confirmations may surround us from all sides. Undoubtedly whenever you arise to serve and proclaim the Cause you shall be assisted and shall attain success. Rest assured.
In the afternoon the friends gathered at the home of Mr Harris, each one eager and delighted to see the Master and to listen to His words. While He was leaving His residence, some school children saw the Master and rushed towards Him. They asked, `Who is this man who looks like Christ?' Miss Juliet Thompson spoke to them outside the house about the Cause and the life of `Abdu'l-Bahá. They asked to meet Him and they were invited to come to Mr Kinney's home, where `Abdu'l-Bahá spent most of His days, the following Sunday.
Both private and public meetings were held in that home. The first to third floors were filled with people, some even standing on the stairs. From this day forward a spirit of steadfastness in the Covenant of God, unity and faithfulness appeared among the friends as the Master burnt away the veils and the hearts of the believers attained the highest degree of love and union. This was the Master's purpose in staying so long in New York. Furthermore, many wonderful friends became humble and sincere in His presence.
He spoke this evening to a large gathering about the influence of the Cause and the victory of the Supreme Word over the nations and powers of the world."

Crisis has turned to victory. This is the denoument--the turning point, the signal of the end. 

Howard has become a favored son again.  The highest degree of love and union--well, we need to do what the Master says to experience that, I would imagine!

Juliet writes:

"On 20 November, the Master spent the morning in my little room. Once more His Glory shone in my room; His Life was diffused in it. It is a sanctuary now to me, like a chapel in our house.

He had brought Mrs Champney with Him and Mr MacNutt and, during the morning, Mr MacNutt, who was standing behind the Master very humbly, lifted the hem of His 'abá to his lips.

Mamma brought the Master some soup which she had prepared especially for Him.

"I was just wishing for soup," He said sweetly. "You, Mrs Thompson, have the reality of love."

Mamma then showed Him Papa's picture and He kissed it.

After a while He left us and was absent for some time. When He came back He said: "I have been in every room in your house."

And when He bade us goodbye, as He swung down the stairs with His powerful step, His voice rang out: "This house is blessed."

After He had gone I sat in the chair He had sat in and wrote an appeal to Percy Grant: "I tried to reach you by phone this morning to tell you the Master is soon returning to Haifa and that He wishes to take His portrait with Him." (Percy had been exhibiting it in the chapel of his Parish House.) "And to ask if some time tomorrow I could come for it. I want to thank you too for your hospitality to the Master's picture and for your beautiful reference to it last Sunday, of which I have heard.

"You have given to many an opportunity to see at least a portrayal, if a very weak one, of a dear face which I doubt if most of us will see again. He is going back into dangerous conditions. Dear Percy, will you let Him go without saying goodbye to Him? Only the other day he was speaking of you."

To this I received a very stiff answer, merely asking the date of the Master's sailing and His address."
Can you imagine 'Abdu'l-Bahá blessing our houses? 

Monday, November 19, 2012

November 19, 1912 Utmost happiness, but also problems

New York: 
Mahmud writes: "The Master spent the day at the home of Mrs Krug in the utmost happiness. A number of the believers and His companions were also very happy to witness the Master's joy, the influence of the Cause of God and the power of the Covenant of God.
In the afternoon, at a public meeting attended chiefly by women, `Abdu'l-Bahá spoke on the equality of the rights of women and their education and progress through the Manifestation of this supreme age. He encouraged them to acquire the perfections and virtues of the world of humanity.
Later, at the home of Mr and Mrs Kinney, He asked Mr Harris to speak at the meeting of the friends.
As Mr MacNutt's apparent equivocation and lack of firmness seemed to be causing his degradation in the eyes of the friends, he came to the Master and implored Him to recommend him to them. The Master replied, `The remedy depends upon your sincere repentance and your open denouncement of the violators in the meetings of the friends.' In compliance, Mr MacNutt rose and gave an account of his journey to Chicago and his meeting with Kheiralla. Some felt that he spoke ambiguously. The Master asked him to explain his actions in plain words so that the friends might be satisfied and this blemish on his character be removed. Again he testified in clear terms of his faith in the Covenant and his rejection of the Covenant-breakers. The Master went to the podium and expressed His pleasure at Mr Harris's talk and for Mr MacNutt's words of repentance. The Master then went upstairs and called Mr Hoar, Mr Harris, Mr Dodge and other friends to Him and asked them to embrace Mr MacNutt and exhorted them to have the utmost love and unity among themselves. He encouraged and inspired them to spread the divine word and to diffuse the fragrances of God. He told them that they must sacrifice all other affairs for the accomplishment of this great affair.
Despite this, the Master and the friends, in their inmost hearts, were saddened by Mr MacNutt's earlier actions. Some felt that he was not trying hard enough to show his humility and firmness in the Covenant. After the Master's departure from America, Mr MacNutt went to California and other regions of America. The believers stayed away from him. He wrote many letters of repentance to `Abdu'l-Bahá, who sent him many encouraging and kind words."

Amidst joy, there is this sadness.  It seems it was a sign, a warning, a clear call for the rest of us to be  faithful. I hope that Howard has received full forgiveness and is consorting with steadfast ones! 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

November 18, 1912 A great rush of visitors

New York: Final days, a great rush of visitors, vision of a Temple; US as peace maker in world
Mahmud writes: "In the morning the Master was occupied revealing Tablets in answer to letters from the believers. He permitted some friends and newcomers to interview Him in His own room. When the visitors grew too numerous, He appeared in the gathering and showered love and kindness upon all.
Whenever the Master became tired, He would go alone to the nearby gardens along the bank of the river to rest. He said, `When I am alone, I do not talk, my mind is not busy and I can rest a little. But when I am not alone I must speak; I perspire and feel exhausted.'
     These were the final days of His stay in America and there was a great rush of visitors. There was not one moment when people were not present.
In the afternoon, while talking to a group of the friends, `Abdu'l-Bahá suddenly said: `We wish to build a House of Worship on that side of the water.' Later He said: `This city shall become good when the call of "Yá Bahá'u'l-Abhá" shall reach the highest heaven from it. If the believers arise as they should erelong the word of God will envelop all these regions.' He also added, `As the United States of America is far and free from the arena of the prevailing political turmoil, this government and country can prevent war between the nations and bring about peace and harmony among them.'
The Master was invited by the poet Mr Moxey and Mrs Moxey for supper. The hosts were among the devoted friends of `Abdu'l-Bahá and they were eloquent in their praise of Him. During the Master's previous visit to New York Mr Moxey had written a book of poetry, describing the demeanor, majesty and power of the Master. Mrs Moxey, who was a famous musician, opened the gathering by playing the piano and singing a melodious song of praise in His honor. The Master began His address with these words:
I praise God that I am with you. Such an assembly would be utterly impossible to hold through worldly power and outward means because you are Westerners and we are Easterners. There was nothing to connect us. We had neither patriotic, racial, commercial nor political connections with you. But Bahá'u'lláh removed all these estrangements and prejudices and invited all to divine love. He joined all under the shade of the blessed Word. Hence, we are united and assembled here in such love. This love is the greatest of all means, as all other means and ties are limited; but harmony that comes about through the love of God is infinite and everlasting.

These impressive words transformed the hearts. After the meeting several of the friends and His companions were honored to have supper with Him. Everyone was grateful and showed great devotion in that home."

I must find out more about the Moxeys.  What a lovely and powerful quote, above! And to feel that infinite and everlasting love. . . .

Juliet, no doubt, is in turmoil about His approaching departure--and the flurry of activity surely includes some people coming from various places to see Him. I wish we could glimpse it all!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

November 17, 1912 Our turn to serve

New York: Gratitude, closures, no further desire, our turn to serve . . . 
Mahmud writes: "Early in the morning `Abdu'l-Bahá voiced His thankfulness to the Abhá Kingdom, saying:
Praise be to God! His divine help and assistance have enveloped us and the confirmations of the Abhá Kingdom have surrounded us. The Cause of God has reached every ear and the divine fragrances have spread throughout all regions. The East and the West are illumined with the light of the most great guidance. The foundation of the Cause of God is firmly and securely established. The friends of the Blessed Beauty have risen in faithfulness and occupied themselves in proclaiming the Word of God. The foundation of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár is laid. I have no further desire. I wish to reach Haifa and to settle again in the Holy Land. It is now your turn to serve, to render your servitude to the holy threshold. Occupy yourselves day and night in the diffusion of the divine fragrances. All confirmations encircle those who are engaged in rendering services to the court of oneness. Nothing avails except servitude to the Blessed Beauty. If, after the ascension of the Blessed Beauty, I had not risen in servitude to Him, these confirmations would not have descended.
After a short pause, He continued:
Had there not been this servitude, constancy and confirmation the affairs would have fallen into the hands of the ambitious and the standard of the Cause would have fallen forever. Unseemly matters would have ensued. The story of Yahyá would have been repeated. Had it not been for the firmness and power of the Ancient Beauty, the mainstay of the Cause would have fallen apart. Nothing would have been witnessed but the propagation of selfish desires and, apart from these, nothing would have remained but some words and phrases.
Today He mentioned the passing of Áqá Ridá Ghánad Muhájir [See Memorials of the Faithful] and spoke about the greatness of his station, saying, `I must go myself to the Holy Land to build his effulgent tomb with my own hands and read there a prayer of visitation.'
From morning until the afternoon every room of the Master's residence was full of people. All were recipients of His everlasting bounties and bathed in the surging waves of the love of God.
This evening the Master spoke to a gathering of the friends regarding the maturity and perfection of the world and gave an account of Bahá'u'lláh. He concluded His address with the chanting of a prayer in a melodious voice, immersing the hearts in a sea of ecstasy and rapture. Many new people attended the meeting and were impressed and moved by the blessings of `Abdu'l-Bahá. They remained in His presence until He left, expressing their sincerity and reverence."

There is also a note in Mahmud's Diary that He spoke at the Genealogical Hall, 252 West Fifty-Eighth Street (see PUP 437–42]

Every word of this entry seems imbued with significance--the sense of wisdom and closure, an intuitive grasp that the purpose of the trip had been realized, a clarification about the relationship of servitude to confirmations, how we are to take up the work shown to us by the Master. . . The profundity of this is striking. 

Listening to a piece of music right now that infuses the east and the west, I am in a state beyond words.  An understanding of the end of this journey co-mingles with the grief of His departure.  And yet, He has never departed, never will depart from our midst. 

Where we are unified, there He is!  And where He is, our hearts can be in a state of ecstasy and rapture. What is better than that?

The music ended. . . . ah, to spread the fragrances everywhere. . . .  And don't you want to bathe in the surging waves of the love of God?  What language! What meaning!  What bounties surround us, could we perceive them! 

Friday, November 16, 2012

November 16, 1912 Extraordinary state of excitement & attraction

New York: afflictions and persecutions; believers as the fruit of the Manifestation; 
extraordinary state of excitement and attraction

Mahmud writes: "After morning prayers and meditation, the Master spoke of the afflictions and persecutions of the believers in the East and their perseverance and steadfastness in the Cause of God. He spoke graciously of the family of Hadrát Samandarí and other old Persian friends. Later, at a gathering of the friends, He spoke these words:
The holy Manifestations endured great afflictions and persecutions and at every moment accepted torment and oppression. Christ suffered violent persecutions, accepting the suffering of the Cross and the most glorious martyrdom. The results of these persecutions were eleven disciples who were truly blessed souls. They became luminous and heavenly; they became the cause of the enlightenment of the people of the world.
I hope that you, too, may reach such a station, that it will be said that you are the fruit of the revelation of Bahá'u'lláh; that it will be said, `It is these people who are the aim of this new revelation; they are the jewels of existence; they are illumined, divine, spiritual and heavenly.' If someone asks what Bahá'u'lláh has done, they will be told, `He has educated these people.'
`Abdu'l-Bahá then spoke about the divine laws and religions:
Divine religions consist of two parts. One aspect is that of spiritual laws which constitute the foundation of all divine religions. They are immutable and unalterable. The second aspect consists of social laws and relates to material affairs, and changes according to the exigencies of the time.
To a new group He said:
Gracious God! Although people see with their own eyes that in the dispensation of Christ the eleven disciples were ordinary men who, because of their faith in Him, found eternal life and shone from the horizon of perpetual honor; and that the Jews, with all their worldly honor, became contemptible; and that Caiaphas, the greatest enemy of Christ, was, together with his whole family, obliterated from the face of the earth while a simple fisherman, because of his belief in Christ, became the great Peter, yet, despite all this, still they take no heed.
In the afternoon meeting His address on the reality of God and the victory of the Manifestations of God threw the entire audience into an extraordinary state of excitement and attraction, especially the friends from New Jersey, who with Mr Hoar, after the meeting went to the Master's room and became the recipients of His grace and special bestowals."
To think of ourselves as "fruits of the Revelation"--as educated by Baha'u'llah Himself--as the jewels of existence--wow!  We need to connect with this state of "extraordinary  excitement and attraction" to merit such distinction. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

November 15, 1912 "Throwing bombs"

New York: Education and training; firmness; Divine Knowledge Club; date of the Promised One
Mahmud writes: "Mr Wilhelm and other friends heard these words from `Abdu'l-Bahá:
Education and training are the most important issues in the world of existence. Without an educator, little progress can be made in material affairs, still less in spiritual affairs and divine morals. How can humanity find composure and eternal happiness without an educator? Apart from the human world observe the rest of creation, how each and every created things is in need of training by an educator. Without education they will not attain perfection. For instance, this flower cannot by itself reach this perfection and attain this charm, color and loveliness. Thus, there are two great blessings in the world of existence: one is innate capacity which is bestowed by the Creator; and the other, acquired perfections which depend upon training by a teacher and educator.
at MacNutt home (earlier on journey)
The Master went downstairs to join the assembled friends. Among His words were these: `The whole world is like a physical body and the power of Bahá'u'lláh may be regarded as the main artery in the body of existence.'
Today He called on Mr MacNutt and spoke to him in strong terms about his relationship with the Covenant-breakers and showed him a letter Mr MacNutt had written to Chicago offering help to and praising Dr Nutt, a friend of Kheiralla. The Master asked, `Is this your writing?' Mr MacNutt replied, `Yes, but my intention was something else.' He tried to give a different angle to his purpose but could not. The Master was saddened about Mr MacNutt but His purpose was to admonish and warn him against his own conduct.
In the afternoon, after seeing Mr Topakyan, the Persian Consul General, and other prominent people, the Master went to a meeting of the Divine Knowledge Club, whose members are mostly women. The president of the club is an educated woman who claims divine knowledge and heavenly inspiration through Bahá'u'lláh. Spiritualists, astrologers and Christian Scientists frequent her club meetings. She spoke with closed eyes, as if she were sleeping and receiving inspiration. She appeared to be in a trance and in a state of total absorption. Because she is known among the Bahá'ís for her sincerity and is a supporter of the Cause of God, the Master was very kind to her.
Today, at this lady's request, the Master went to a meeting of her club and delivered an address concerning the circumstances of the time and the different seasons in the contingent world. He said:
The day of the Manifestation of God is the divine and spiritual springtime when the trees of human souls become green and flourishing, new beauty and freshness are brought to the gardens of the hearts and new inspiration and fresh bounties are bestowed.
His talk commanded their complete attention and all bowed their heads in humility and respect. On the way home, He remarked, `Observe what idle fancies and vain imaginings are still prevalent in America!' The Master's guidance on removing the superstitions and vain imaginings of these people is as follows:
Man explains things in two ways. One explanation originates from his personal feelings, thoughts and understanding. This cannot stand as proof or criterion for all and does not satisfy the hearts. The other is a statement supported by proofs. It produces significant results and promulgates momentous matters which are necessary to the world of man. It is like the explanations and proofs of the Bahá'ís, who invite all to the oneness of humanity and to universal peace. This explanation has proofs and is effective.
The Master continued with a story of the Jewish rabbis:
In Jerusalem every now and then they broadcast a promise giving a specific time based on the holy scriptures and say that on such a date the Promised One will appear to deliver the Jews. They say, `We have derived these from the holy texts.' But when that time and day approach they cast a doubt over their promise and give another. Thus they keep the Jews under the influence of their wish and desires and deprive them of the truth. Now they refer to the time of Daniel [Dan. 12:12] and hold out a promise that the Promised One will appear in the year 1335 [AH, i. e. 1963].
There was a public meeting in the evening at the home of Miss Juliet Thompson. The Master spoke about the greatness of this cycle, the victory of the Cause and the influence and importance of the teachings and laws of Bahá'u'lláh. His talk was delivered in such awe-inspiring tones that the minds were dazzled and the hearts captivated by the grandeur and majesty of the Center of the Covenant. Both before and after the meeting many people were honored to visit with Him in a separate room."

Juliet writes: 

On 15 November, the Master came to our house (48 West Tenth Street) and gave a most wonderful talk in the front room on the first floor to a great crowd of people who filled both the front and back rooms and the hall. I brought George up from the basement and stood him on a chair, so that he could see the Master. He thought the Master was God and was frightened.

Driving down to us with Mrs Champney, our Lord had said: "The time has come for Me to throw bombs!" And He threw them in His talk that night.

"I have spoken," He said, "in the various Christian churches and in the synagogues, and in no assembly  hasthere been a dissenting voice. All have listened and all have conceded that the Teachings of Bahá'u'lláh are superlative in character, acknowledging that they constitute the very essence or spirit of this age and that there is no better pathway to the attainment of its ideals. Not a single voice has been raised in objection. At most there have been some who have refused to acknowledge the Mission of Bahá'u'lláh, although even these have admitted that He was a great teacher, a most powerful soul, a very great man. Some who could find no other pretext have said: 'These Teachings are not new; they are old and familiar; we have heard them before.' Therefore, I will speak to you upon the distinctive characteristics of the Manifestation of Bahá'u'lláh and prove that from every standpoint His Cause is distinguished from all others."

And in this address, which was one of His most powerful, the Master certainly proved it. The address was taken down and will be printed.

I am not sure who George was, but Juliet certainly has a dramatic way of documenting events.  Right now I sit across from Tim, who is editing the NY section of our film and on a section about Juliet!  We visited the outside of her home on April 11, 2012.  Wish we had been there in 1912!