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

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

November 6, 1912 This manifest light . . .

Washington, DC: the union of East and West; 
Mahmud writes: "In the morning `Abdu'l-Bahá addressed an assemblage of friends concerning the spread of the Cause of God in both the East and the West and the union of the various sects and denominations under the shadow of the Word of God. He stated:
Soon after the ascension of the Blessed Beauty I wrote:
Erelong ye shall see the banner of the Covenant
Hoisted over the world.
And again:
    Shed splendors on the East,
    In the West scatter perfumes,
    Invest the Slav with life.
    Carry light unto the world. [see updated translation, SWAB, 270]
Some of the ignorant scorned us, saying, `How can the East and the West be illumined with the light of the Cause and the whole world be perfumed by the sweet fragrance of the Word of God?' Now behold how this great union has come about and how the hearts of the people of the East and the West have been enlightened with this manifest light. The Blessed Tree has taken firm root in the earth and the signs of its greatness have encompassed all regions.
He then gave an account of the appearance of the Manifestations of God. `Outwardly', He said,
the holy Manifestations of God were completely humiliated and despised. They were mocked by all. But in a short space of time the penetrative influence of their words filled the hearts and the sun of their greatness and majesty illumined the world.
As news of the situation in the Balkans reached us, the tenor of the Master's speech inclined towards explanations of the verses of the Manifest Book. [probably a reference to Surih of Kings revealed by Baha'u'llah.] At a public meeting at Mrs Parsons's home, He held the book in His hands and explained Bahá'u'lláh's admonition to Sultán `Abdu'l-Azíz [of Turkey, one of kings addressed in Surih of Kings] and the prophecies about the change of circumstances in Adrianople, asserting that these prophecies were certain to be fulfilled. He also explained the prophecies about the change of circumstances in Tihrán and the uprising of its inhabitants, saying that the fulfillment of those prophecies was a clear proof of the vastness of knowledge and the penetrating influence of the Word of God. [see note 350 in Mahmud for summary of history of dynasties.]
In the evening He spoke on the spread of the Cause of God despite imprisonment by the enemies and the supremacy of the divine Word notwithstanding endless afflictions and troubles. He said:
 Bahá'u'lláh, without earthly power and worldly means, laid the foundations for eternal glory and promoted divine teachings. Notwithstanding that all earthly powers and antagonistic peoples and religions arose against Him in order to thwart His efforts and executed twenty thousand of His followers, yet with divine power and heavenly majesty He made His Cause to be all-conquering and His blessed Word to have pervasive influence. And today we see diverse groups from different countries and of various nationalities have found sincere love and true unity within the refuge of His laws and teachings."

Agnes Parsons' diary picks up here. She had mentioned, on Oct. 24, that she had gotten a telegram from the Master saying He would be back in DC around Nov. 10th. She responded, inviting Him to stay at their house, but He answered saying it was best for all of them (the entourage) to stay together.  There is a note that He stayed in a rented house at 1901 Elizabeth Street, NW.

Juliet's diary (from May 7) describes the Parsons' home:  "Mrs. Parsons' house has real distinction. It is Georgian in style and in it has a very long white ballroom with, at one end, an unusually high mantel--the mantel, as well as the ceiling and paneled walls, delicately carved with garlands. At the windows hang think silk curtains the color of jonquil leaves.
     "Here, after this first reception [at the Persian embassy], the Master spoke daily in the afternoon and the whole fashionable world flocked to hear Him. Scientists too, and even politicians came!
     "In front of the mantel, a platform had been placed for the Master and every day it was banked with fresh roses, American Beauties.
     "Into this room of conventional elegance, packed with conventional people, imagine the Master striding with His free step: walking first to one of the many windows and, while He looked out into the light, talking with His matchless ease to the people. Turning from the window, striding back and forth with a step so vibrant it shook you. Piercing our souls with those strange eyes, uplifting them, glory streaming upon them. Talking, talking, moving to and fro incessantly. Pushing back His turban, revealing that Christ-like forehead; pushing it forward again almost down to His eyebrows, which gave Him a peculiar majesty. Charging, filling the room with magnetic currents, with a mysterious energy. Once He burst in, a child on His shoulder. For a moment He held her, caressing her. Then He sat her down among the roses."

So--this return to the Parsons' home is significant.

But Agnes' description of November 6th is quite different than Mahmud's. She writes about how she arrived at the station before 6:30 a.m. (when He was to arrive) but Edward Getsinger said that the train was an hour and 45 min. late. She took Ghodsia Khanom (who lived in DC) with her to have breakfast in the station.  The station master let all of those who had gathered go through to meet the train, and it was nearly 9:00 when 'Abdu'l-Bahá arrived, "looking tired after the long and wonderful trip through the country. He asked everyone to come to His house, & I took Him in the carriage accompanied by Dr. Fareed & Mirza Mahmud."  She then describes how He rested and they returned at 3 pm to go for a drive, which included visiting an ill woman who was black.  At 8 pm, she says, they were off again to Dr. Van Schaick's Universalist Church, where 'Abdu'l-Bahá spoke "most beautifully at a quarter past eight."

So--was there a public meeting at the Parsons' home?  Perhaps Mahmud has his dates mixed up again. In any event, it is evident that there is a lot of excitement generated with His return to DC.

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