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

Sunday, January 27, 2013

January 27, 1913 An astonishing visitor

Earl Redman writes: 

On 27 January the Persian Minister visited ‘Abdu’l-Bahá even though the Master had a fever and was not sleeping well, and two days later ‘a visitor was announced whose presence there was most astonishing’. This was Rashíd Páshá, formerly the Válí of Beirut, who had been very hostile towards ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in ‘Akká.
            Describing this episode later, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said of Rashíd Páshá that he ‘must have been bad even before Adam and Eve’.  He had used any excuse to extort money for those under his dominion. He also acted as a spy for the Sultan, sending in ugly fabrications about honest citizens in order to enrich himself through bribery or extortion. At one time, a secretary of the Turkish Embassy in Paris met Madame Jackson, a devoted Bahá’í, who told him about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s unjust incarceration in ‘Akká. The secretary happened to be a relative of Rashíd Páshá and also fond of money, so he told Madame Jackson that it would require £3,000 to free ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. She said that she was willing to pay the sum if ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was freed. The secretary reported this to Rashíd Páshá, who immediately began scheming.
             Meanwhile, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá learned of this from the Mutasarrif of ‘Akká, who explained to Him the whole story. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá immediately cabled Madame Jackson: ‘Beware! Beware! lest you pay one cent for my freedom. In prison I am feeling happy!’ When Rashíd Páshá heard of this, he was furious, having expected to make some easy money. Thinking that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá couldn’t possibly wish to remain in prison any longer than necessary, he had his secretary write the Master a letter saying that he was anxious to see Him freed. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá did not reply. Another was sent saying that a petition was being drawn up requesting the Sultan to grant ‘Abdu’l-Bahá His freedom. Again ‘Abdu’l-Bahá did not answer. There followed another letter saying that the petition was ready to be mailed. Still‘ Abdu’l-Bahá did not answer. Yet another letter was sent saying that the Governor had read the petition and ordered that it not be sent. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá remained silent.
             As a last resort, Rashíd Páshá sent his son to persuade ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. When the son arrived in ‘Akká, the Mutasarrif hosted a lavish dinner to which he also invited ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. After dinner, the son tried to convince the Master to accept His freedom and said, ‘I am sorry to see you in prison’. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá replied, ‘Here I am happy’. The next day, as the son prepared to return to his father, he bade farewell to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá saying, ‘I hope, my Effendi, that I shall  see you next time in Haifa’. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá ‘waved the matter aside’.
            When Rashíd Páshá heard his son’s report, he felt humiliated. Everyone else in Syria trembled in fear of him and his decrees were law. One word from him to the Sultan would bring the Sultán’s wrath down upon anyone, regardless of position or power. But he couldn’t forget the £3,000.
            Finally, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá called the Mutasarrif to His house and bluntly told him:
Do not make any more intrigues; you shall fail in all your secret machinations. There is a destined period for my imprisonment. Before the coming of that time, even the kings of the earth cannot take me out of this prison, but when the appointed moment arrives, all the emperors of the world cannot hold me a prisoner in Acca. I shall then go out. Rest thou assured of this.
The Mutasarrif realized that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was not to be moved and wrote that Rashíd Páshá should abandon his hope of gaining the money.
            Now that Rashíd Páshá’s power was gone, he was very reverential and contrite and the Master received him warmly, returned his visit that very evening. Rashíd Páshá  made several more visits.
Astonishing, indeed!  Transformation is possible. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

January 21 +, 1913 Paris!

Earl Redman writes: 

In Paris, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá moved into an apartment at 30 Rue St. Didier, rented for Him by Hippolyte Dreyfus-Barney. During His first few days in the city and indeed for much of His time there, the Master was not well. He gave relatively few public talks, but continued to meet His many visitors, particularly prominent Persians and once-high members of the defunct Ottoman Empire, as well as many Bahá’ís who had made the journey from Persia and Egypt in order to meet Him. It was during this visit that the well-known photograph was taken of the Master 
with a group of these friends at the Eiffel Tower. [End]

It is amazing to think of those days in Paris, with all of the rich Baha'i history there. Laura must have been there, with Hippolyte. If only we had many accounts!  I am looking forward to learning more.  And going there someday, to think about the journey of the Master, not just famous museums. 
Abdu'l-Baha with Hippolyte Dreyfus behind him

To summarize Laura Dreyfus-Barney's connection, Earl Redman writes: 
            Laura Barney was an American, daughter of painter Alice Barney and sister of the notorious Natalie. Laura found the Faith in Paris. On her return to America, she was mocked in a Washington gossip magazine, but convinced her mother of the truth of the Faith. Though she was away from Paris between 1901 and 1906, Laura made several trips to see ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the Holy Land. In 1905, she travelled with Hippolyte Dreyfus and Madame Lachenay to Iran at the request of the Master, the first Western Bahá’ís to do so. They visited Tabriz, Maku and Ashqabad, where the first Bahá’í House of Worship had been built. During Laura’s many visits to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, she compiled what became the book Some Answered Questions. She, like her future husband, became fluent in Persian
Portrait of Hippolyte Dreyfus by Alice Pike Barney

Hippolyte Dreyfus
            Laura and Hippolyte were married in 1911 and spent much of the rest of the year travelling with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Europe. They also were with the Master in Washington, DC and in London and Paris in 1913.

Monday, January 21, 2013

January 21, 1913 Departure; a love-laden smile

Earl Redman writes: 

Finally, came ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s last day in London, 21 January 1913. Everyone was ready to leave for the railway station – except ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Who was busy writing. One of His secretaries reminded Him of the time and the train, but He simply said, ‘There are things of more importance than trains’, and continued to write. Then abruptly, a man carrying a large garland of fragrant white flowers rushed in and bowed deeply before the Master, saying, ‘In the name of the disciples of Zoroaster, The Pure One, I hail Thee as the Promised Sháh Bahrám!’ The man then placed the garland of flowers around ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and anointed all present with rose-scented oil. When this amazing ceremony concluded, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá carefully removed the flowers and departed for the train.[i]
             ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had gone. Lady Blomfield wrote:
We stood bereft of His presence.
            Of the friends who gathered round Him at the train, one had been a constant visitor, a charming Eastern potentate, dignified and picturesque in his jewelled turban. He was an example of earthly kingship, one of the many other great personages of the world, all of whom, absent and present, were so small, so insignificant, when compared with the Ambassador of the Most High, as He stood, clad in a simple garment, speaking courteous words of farewell, smiling that love-laden smile which comforted all hearts.

[i] Blomfield, The Chosen Highway, pp. 173–4.

Moving, indeed.  And this is from 'Abdu'l-Bahá in London: 

The Farewell
    ON the last morning of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's stay in London many friends gathered both at Cadogan Gardens and at the station to bid him farewell. An impressive and interesting ceremony was performed at the house by a Zoroastrian (a physician), who sent an elaborate telegram to some Pársís in Bombay, saying: "The Torch of Truth has been lighted again in the East and the West by 'Abdu'l-Bahá." Instructed by his brethren, this follower of one of the most ancient religions in the world had brought with him a sacred oil of a rare perfume, with which he annointed the head and breast of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, afterwards touching the hands of all present. He then placed around 'Abdu'l-Bahá's neck and shoulders an exquisite garland of rose-buds and lilies.
    The last glimpse which the friends had at Victoria Station was that of the venerable face and form standing at the window, gazing out with a look of benevolence and wonderful tenderness on those he was leaving.  (113)

Also, these are words He had spoken after His arrival on the earlier trip, Sept. 1911:

    The magnet of your love brought me to this country. My hope is that the Divine Light may shine here, and that the Heavenly Star of Bahá'u'lláh may strengthen you, so that you may be the cause of the oneness of humanity, that you may help to make the darkness of superstition and prejudice disappear and unite all creeds and nations.
    This is a brilliant century. Eyes are now open to the beauty of the oneness of humanity, of love and of brotherhood. The darkness of suppression will disappear and the light of unity will shine. We cannot bring love and unity to pass merely by talking of it. Knowledge is not enough. Wealth, science, education are good, we know: but we must also work and study to bring to maturity the fruit of knowledge.
    Knowledge is the first step; resolve, the second step; action, its fulfillment, is the third step. To construct a building one must first of all make a plan, then one must have the power (money), then one can build. A society of Unity is formed, that is good--but meetings and discussions are not enough. In Egypt these meetings take place but there is only talk and no result. These meetings here in London are good, the knowledge and the intention are good, but how can there be a result without action? Today the force for Unity is the Holy Spirit of Bahá'u'lláh. He manifested this spirit of Unity. Bahá'u'lláh brings East and West together. Go back, search history, you will not find a precedent for this.  (54–55)
Because I have not studied all of the days in London, I am loathe to leave the story here. I hope there will be time to come back to this important place of the Master's visit.  Don't you wish you could see the Master wearing the garland of rosebuds and lilies? (Among other things.) 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

January 20, 1913 Nearing the end in London

There is a lull here; I wish we had Mahmúd's diary for Europe translated and published!  What is 'Abdu'l-Bahá doing in London today, in 1913?

All I know is that it is an eventful day, no doubt. Perhaps there are stories uncovered that I don't know about.

Actually, I have just discovered the online edition of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in London. I have the book, but haven't studied it.  Now a new world is opening up!  I will put an excerpts below.

Here's the link: http://bahai-library.com/abdulbaha_abdulbaha_london

Visit to the Lord Mayor  (p. 109–110)
    At the express wish of the Lord Mayor, 'Abdu'l-Bahá paid him a visit early one morning at the Mansion House. The talk turned chiefly upon the social conditions of great cities, and 'Abdu'l-Bahá said that London was the best regulated city he had seen.
    He said: "Every man walking in the street is free as if he were in his own kingdom. There is a 

    Compare:--"My Name is 'Abdu'l-Bahá. My Reality is 'Abdu'l-Bahá: and Service to all the human race is my perpetual Religion.... 'Abdu'l-Bahá is the Banner of the Most Great Peace ...The Herald of the Kingdom is he, so that he may awaken the people of the East and the West. The Voice of Friendship, of Truth, and of Reconciliation is he, quickening all regions. No name, no title will he ever have, except 'Abdu'l-Bahá. This is my longing. This is my Supreme height. O ye friends of God! 'Abdu'l-Bahá is the manifestation of Service, and not Christ. The Servant of humanity is he, and not a chief. Summon ye the people to the station of Service of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and not his Christhood." (From a letter sent to the friends in New York, January 1st, 1907.) 
great spiritual light in London. The effort made for justice is real and in this country the law is the same for the poor as for the rich." He took great interest in hearing of the care that is taken of prisoners as they leave jail, and spoke of the land being happy where the magistrates are as fathers to the people.
    Before 'Abdu'l-Bahá left London, he went to an East-end hospital to visit there a young writer lying seriously ill, who was very anxious to see him. 

Some Personal Characteristics
    There is a note in 'Abdu'l-Bahá's character that has not been emphasized, and with which no idea of him is complete. The impressive dignity which distinguishes his presence and bearing is occasionally lighted by a delicate and tactful humour, which is as unaffected as it is infectious and delightful.
    On his last afternoon in London, a reporter called to ask him of his future plans, finding him surrounded by a number of friends who had called to bid him good-bye. When, in answer to this query, 'Abdu'l-Bahá told in perfect English of his intention to visit Paris and go from there to Alexandria, the press representative evinced surprise at his faultless pronunciation. Thereupon 'Abdu'l-Bahá proceeded to march with a free stride up and down the flower-scented drawing room, his Oriental garb contrasting strangely with his modern surroundings; and, to the amusement of the assembly, uttered a string of elaborate English words, laughingly ending, "Very difficult English words I speak!" Then, a moment later, with the swift transition of one who knows both how to be grave and gay, he showed himself terribly in earnest.
    He had left orders that none were to be turned away, but one who had twice vainly sought his presence, and was, through some oversight, prevented from seeing him, wrote a heartbreaking letter showing that he thought himself rebuffed. It was translated by the Persian interpreter. 'Abdu'l-Bahá at once put on his coat, and, turning towards the door, said, with an expression of unspeakable sadness, "A friend of mine has been martyred, and I am very grieved. I go out alone." and he swept down the steps. One could then see how well the title of "Master" became him.
    Another phase of his character which none who saw him could ever forget was his attitude towards children who were brought to him. Many of his talks were given as he sat with his arm encircling one of them.
    He invariably admonished the parents thus: "Give this child a good education; make every effort that it may have the best you can afford, so that it may be enabled to enjoy the advantage of this glorious age. Do all you can to encourage spirituality in them."
    One who sought the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá realized the father-like sympathy which is his. 

Speaking of his and others' love for 'Abdu'l-Bahá the reply was: "I know that you love me, I can see that it is so. I will pray for you that you may be firm and serve in the Cause, becoming a true servant to Bahá'u'lláh. Though I go away I will always be present with you all." These words were spoken with the greatest loving sympathy and understanding of difficulties; during the moments of this little talk 'Abdu'l-Bahá held and stroked the speaker's hands, and at the end took his head and with a gentle touch drew it to him kissing the forehead of the young man, who felt that he had found a father and a friend. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

January 17, 1913 Surrey

Earl Redman writes: 
On the 17th, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá visited the Woking Mosque in Surrey, one of only two mosques in England at that time, where He spoke on the unity of religion. After lunching with Muslim and Christian notables, the Master was ready to speak to the people. The mosque was not large enough for the numbers who came so He spoke in a court outside. [i]
            That evening ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was talking with Gabrielle Enthoven and told her, ‘I will give you a play. It shall be called the Drama of the Kingdom’. He then spoke without notes or pause, except for translation. The play describes the world and its people when the Herald of the Kingdom appears and blows His trumpet:

The curtain rises. The stage is crowded with men and women. All are asleep. At the sound of the trumpet they begin to wake.
Suddenly the music breaks forth. The people hear and wonder. They rise and question one another, saying: ‘What is this? Whence comes the music?’ Some return to their occupations, unheeding. First a few talk together, then one ceases his work, and proceeds to make enquiries. A merchant, leaving his stall, comes to ask the meaning of the eager group. A soldier, who is practising arms, withdraws from his comrades and joins those who are wondering.

People from all walks of life hear the music and act in one of two ways:

First those who, having heard the music of the Coming of the Promised One, frown and shrug their shoulders, returning to their work, scoffing and disbelieving. The second type are those who hear the music, strain their ears to catch the meaning of the Message, and their eyes to discern the Mystery.

The people who hear the music are ecstatic, but those who do not demand to know where the proof is, cry ‘But we await the signs’. One person arises and explains that the signs aren’t material ones but spiritual signs and that they must use spiritual eyes to see them. Instead of real earthquakes, unrest and the darkening of the sun and moon, all the signs actually foretell the ‘humiliation of those whom the world considers great’. Then a grand procession of all the rulers, kings, and priests passes by covered with fine clothes and jewels, yet all unhappy. When one falls, the others ignore him. 
            The scene then changes to a sumptuous banquet hall with tables covered with delicious foods. Around the tables sit many people, all poor and with torn clothes, but exceedingly happy. An Oracle announces that ‘The Kingdom of God is like a feast! Remember what Christ said! Here we see the Kingdom! The greatest and the worldly wise are not here, but the poor are here’.
            Then comes temptation; a man with a sack of gold enters, but is ignored. He is followed by other people: a gifted teacher who used to be ignorant; then a man who had been blind, but can now see; a man once deaf, but who can now hear the beautiful music. Again, a person arises and asks, ‘You know the cause of these miracles? It is the Heavenly food!’ Then the poor who have eaten the Heavenly food are crowned with crowns of the Kingdom.
            The last scene of the play shows several believers being judged by those who do not believe.  The prosecutor says they will die, but they simply cry, ‘O God, make me ready!’ Two die this way and only a beautiful girl dressed in white with a heavenly crown remains. She is offered riches by the king, but she is not tempted, saying, ‘Can you say there is not sun, when you have seen the light? I have seen the sun. You are blind. Awake! The sun is shining! Awake!’ The king then offers her marriage and jewels, but again she refuses, saying of the jewels, ‘These to me are so many pebbles. The jewels I treasure are the jewels of the Knowledge of God’. Then the prosecutor threatens:

‘We shall imprison you’.
‘I am ready’
‘We shall beat you’.
‘I am ready’.
You shall be killed’.
“Is that true? Do you mean it? Good news! Good news! For then shall I be free. Now I am in chains. These bonds shall be broken. Kill me!’

After her death, people enter in awe and watch as lights appear and shine upwards from their bodies. ‘These are the spirits of those martyred ones, freed from their bodies. Now they enjoy eternal liberty. See, they ascend to the Kingdom’.  [end of account]

[i] Balyuzi, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 370. 
I remember years ago reading the outline for this play, and rehearsing and putting on a version with a group of people.  Where or for whom we did it, I do not recall. 

I wonder who Gabrielle Enthoven was and what prompted the Master to "give" her this play.

Anyway, much is happening during these days in England.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

January 16, 1913 London; the MOST important work

Earl Redman writes: 

Back in London the next day, Lady Blomfield showed ‘Abdu’l-Bahá a statement she had written about the Bahá’í Faith and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London that she hoped, because of her high-level connections, to show to King George V. The Master, after praising the effort, advised her not to carry out her plan because it might be misunderstood by some. Besides, He had come to visit the poor and had little interest in visiting the rich and powerful.
            Later He gave a talk to the Bahá’ís gathered at 97 Cadogan Gardens. It was a unique talk that focused on two points: (1) the great diversity of people entering the Faith and the difficulty of administering such a diverse group, and consequently (2) what should happen at Bahá’í meetings. It is here that the Master states that we must abandon the important for the most important.

The Cause has become very great. Many souls are entering it – souls with different mentalities and degrees of understanding. Complex difficulties constantly rise before us. The administration of the Cause has become most difficult. Conflicting thought and theories attack the Cause from every side. Now consider to what extent the believers of God must become firm and soul-sacrificing. Every one of the friends must become the essence of essences; each one must become a brilliant lamp. People all around the world are entering the Cause; people of various tribes and nations and religions and sects. It is most difficult to administer to such heterogeneous elements. Wisdom and Divine insight are necessary. Firmness and steadfastness are needed at such a crucial period of the Cause. All the meetings must be for teaching the Cause and spreading the Message, and suffering the souls to enter into the Kingdom of Baha’o’llah. Look at me. All my thoughts are centered around the proclamation of the Kingdom. I have a Lamp in my hand searching throughout the lands and seas to find souls who can become heralds of the Cause. Day and night I am engaged in this work. Any other deliberations in the meetings are futile and fruitless. Convey the Message! Attract the hearts! Sow the seeds! Teach the Cause to those who do not know.  
. . . I enter all meetings, all churches, so that the Cause may be spread. When the Most Important work is before our sight, we must let go the Important one.
            If the meetings or Spiritual Assembly has any other occupation, the time is spent in futility. All the deliberations, all consultation, all the talks and addresses must revolve around one focal center, and that is: Teach the Cause! Teach! Teach! Convey the Message! Awaken the souls! Now is the time of laying the foundation. Now must we gather brick, stone, wood, iron, and other building materials! Now is not the time of decoration. We must strive day and night and think and work. What can I say that may become effective? What can I do that may bring results? What can I write that may bring forth fruits? Nothing else will be useful, today. The interests of such a Glorious Cause will not advance without such undivided attention. While we are carrying this load we cannot carry any other load!  {end of account}

Of course the talk is familiar to many of us--but the context of the talk is wonderful to visualize and understand. He spoke these words to specific people, at a specific time--and yet the message is so clear and important for us now--or at any time during the coming centuries! He must have been extremely inspired that day. . . . 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

January 15, 1913 Bristol; correlation between Denver & Clifton

At Clifton Guest House, 1911
Earl Redman writes:

‘Abdu’l-Bahá returned to the Clifton Guest House in Bristol on 15 January, this time accompanied by the Persian Ambassador, Dúst-Muhammad Khán. At a meeting that evening with many outstanding people in attendance, Mírzá Mahmúd was struck by the sight of the Ambassador, whose tears flowed down his face as he watched people of all walks of life bowing and curtseying. ‘That moved me so much that I was greatly affected, and wept and rejoiced too’, wrote Mahmúd:

In Britain, at large gatherings, I had noticed time and again the same reaction from men of his standing . . . who kept saying: ‘What great glory God conferred upon us . . . what a Sun of grandeur and felicity rose from the horizon of the East, but alas, alas, we did not heed it . . ‘. [i]

In the evening, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá met a group at the Guest House. Interspersed in the crowd, ‘Here and there was seen a scarlet fez which denoted the presence of eastern students, some of whom He had met there in 1911’. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá greeted them by raising His palms to His forehead, then told them that He had ‘come to Clifton this time via Las Angeles and Chicago’. Although the Master began His talk seated, He was soon on His feet ‘occasionally walking to and fro, and sometimes emphasizing a fact with upraised hand or standing still with eyes closed and his silver voice low’.[ii]
            In the Clifton Chronicle and Directory of 22 January it was reported that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá told Wellesley Tudor-Pole that of all the places He had visited in Europe and America, He found the climate to be the most pleasant in Denver and Clifton. He also complimented the people of Clifton and encouraged them to ‘become the means of creating good fellowship between the children of men. May they relinquish those blind dogmas which have created strife in the world of humanity. May they become instrumental in putting into practice the Heavenly teaching’.[iii]

[i] Balyuzi, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 370.
[ii] Star of the West, vol. 1V, no. 1 (21 March 1913), p. 4.
[iii] The Clifton Chronicle and Directory, 22 January 1913, in United Kingdom Bahá’í Archives. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

January 13 and 14, 1913 Spellbound

Be prepared for a great story ahead! 

Earl Redman writes in 'Abdu'l-Bahá in Their Midst: 

Fog enveloped London on the 13th and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá took advantage of the gloomy weather to speak about ‘the darkness of superstitions and imitations which cloud the Sun of Truth’. 

On the 14th, the Master spoke in the East End of London at a Congregational Church, leaving the congregation ‘spell-bound by the power which spread like an atmosphere from another, higher world’.
            At some point during His stay in London, a man came to the door asking for the lady of the house. When Lady Blomfield asked if he wanted to see her, he responded, saying ‘I have walked thirty miles for that purpose’. Lady Blomfield invited the man, who she described as ‘an ordinary tramp’, and gave him some refreshment. Then the man began his story:

‘I was not always as you see me now, a disreputable, hopeless object. My father is a country rector, and I had the advantage of being at public school. Of the various causes which led me to my arrival at the Thames embankment as my only home, I need not speak to you.
‘Last evening I had decided to put an end to my futile, hateful life, useless to God and man!
‘Whilst taking what I had intended should be my last walk, I saw “a Face” in the window of a newspaper shop. I stood looking at the face as if rooted to the spot. He seemed to speak to me and call me to him!’
‘Let me see that paper, please’, I asked. It was the face of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.
‘I read that he is here, in this house. I said to myself, “If there is in existence on earth that personage, I shall take up again the burden of my life.”
‘I set off on my quest. I have come here to find him. Tell me, is he here? Will he see me? Even me?’

Lady Blomfield assured the man: ‘Of course he will see you. Come to Him’, then went and knocked on the Master’s door. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá opened the door Himself and went directly to the poor man as though He had been expecting him.

‘Welcome! Most welcome! I am very much pleased that thou has come. Be seated’.
The pathetic man trembled and sank on to a low chair by the Master’s feet, as though unable to utter a word.
The other guests, meanwhile, looked on wonderingly to see the attention transferred to the strange-looking new arrival, who seemed to be so overburdened with hopeless misery.
‘Be happy! Be happy!’ said ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, holding one of the poor hands, stroking tenderly the dishevelled, bowed head.
Smiling that wonderful smile of loving compassion, the Master continued:
‘Do not be filled with grief when humiliation overtaketh thee’.
‘The bounty and power of God is without limit for each and every soul in the world’.
‘Seek for spiritual joy and knowledge, then, though thou walk upon this earth, thou wilt be dwelling within the divine realm’.
‘Though thou be poor, thou mayest be rich in the Kingdom of God’.

As ‘Abdu’l-Bahá continued to pour out His love and compassion, the man slowly brightened and, when he finally arose to leave, he had ‘a new look . . . on his face, a new erectness in his carriage, a firm purpose in his steps’. As he left, he told Lady Blomfield that he had found everything he had hoped for and now planned to go work in the fields until he had enough to start a small business. With that, he departed, saying finally, ‘As He says “Poverty is unimportant, work is worship.”’ {end}
Isn't it a great story!  Would we (could we?) walk 30 miles? Do we know the bounty and power of God is without limit? Are we dwelling in the divine realm? Isn't it amazing how people were drawn to Him, then--and now? Oh, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, help us draw those who are ready and in need of the Faith to it now. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

January 11, 1913 Westminster

Photo from U.S. Baha'i Archives
Earl Redman writes in 'Abdu'-Bahá in Their Midst:

‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke at Caxton Hall, Westminster, on 11 January. Two distinguished Persians who were present were greatly impressed ‘at the powers which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had at His command, and at the appreciation and devotion displayed by the Westerners all around them’. After the talk, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá walked back to His apartment, but had no respite as it quickly filled up with people. The Master told them the story of how Bahá’u’lláh had been imprisoned and all His worldly goods pillaged. He told how His Father had been threatened with death but saved, stories described by those who heard Him as ‘the most thrilling incidents’.
            The next day, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá attended a dinner party at the home of Sir Richard and Lady Stapley, after which the Master gave a talk. Following the talk, many people asked questions, including ‘whether unruly children should receive corporal punishment. His answer was very clear: not even the animal should be beaten’.  [End of account]

So many good stories grace these days in Europe. And there must be so many more! 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

January 9, 1913 "Edinburgh has great capability"

7 Charlotte Square
Earl Redman writes in Abdu'l-Bahá in Their Midst:

Next day, 9 January, a stream of visitors and enquirers made their way to the manse in Charlotte Square’. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spent the entire morning answering their questions, and in the afternoon spoke to a large meeting on women’s rights, attended both by suffragettes and those who opposed votes for women. Speaking on the principle of the equality of men and women, the Master ‘stressed the necessity of education for women, but also the importance of motherhood. He encouraged women to train themselves by studying every kind of science, art and social service. “Fit yourselves for responsibility, you will inevitably have it thrust upon you,”’ He said. Although He was very tired, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá then went to the headquarters of the Theosophical Society to give an address.
Theosophical Society
Photos by Joseph Sheppherd
            After the meeting, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá met privately with individuals and groups. One group He met with was the Pagan family. Miss J. M. Pagan, a sister of E. C. H. Pagan, remembered ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s happy, friendly manner. When she, her mother, her six sisters and several grandchildren met with the Master, He laughed heartily at the long procession. When the group had literally encircled ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, He told Miss Pagan’s mother that He hoped she would have as many descendants as Father Abraham.
            ‘Abdu’l-Bahá left Edinburgh the following day. As they were about to leave, the Master asked to see the maids. When they were all gathered, He said, ‘For the last few days you have served me. I am very pleased with you. I will never forget you. I will pray for you that you may become confirmed and assisted and that your heads be crowned with the diadems of eternal glory’.  He gave each a guinea and they were so overwhelmed that they had tears in their eyes.*
            Two cars then took the party to the station, where they met Mr Page, the Secretary of the Esperanto Society, the general secretary of the Theosophical Society, a Persian student and two ministers plus several ladies and gentlemen. The train left shortly before 11 o’clock and Ahmad Sohrab remembered see the waving hands and handkerchiefs of those still on the platform.
            As the train headed south, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá told the story of a competition between Chinese and Roman artists:

The king appointed a large hall where both of them could paint. The Chinese asked for a curtain to be hung in the middle of the Hall – so that their competitor may not see what they are doing. The Chinese artists worked for 6 months day and night but the Roman artists did not work and everybody thought they are going to lose. Just one day before the King’s coming to give the award, the Roman artists set to work and polished the wall like a mirror. The King’s ministers and courtiers came. First they saw the Chinese paintings. They were marvellous and beautiful. The curtain then was put aside so they could see also the Roman works. The wall polished by the Roman Artists was so transparent that the Chinese paintings on the opposite wall were entirely reflected therein.
The award went to the Romans. Now, may your heart be as pure and as transparent so that the pictures and images of the Kingdom of Abhá may be reflected therein. 

Marion Jack
‘Abdu’l-Bahá and His party arrived back in London at 7 p.m. where Marion Jack and several other friends were there to meet them. From the station, they took a taxi to Lady Blomfield’s house at 97 Cadogan Gardens where others were waiting for them. After only a few minutes, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said they should move to a hotel and have the meetings there. Lady Blomfield, her daughters and Miss Platt pleaded, the latter on her knees, until ‘Abdu’l-Bahá consented to stay.
            While still on the train, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had said that it was important that Bahá’í teachers should go to Edinburgh as soon as possible to capitalize on the interest following the Master’s visit. Alice Buckton was suggested since she was familiar with speaking to Church people. When Miss Buckton and Annet Schepel arrived the next day, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá told her, ‘Thou must go to Scotland. The people are immensely interested. Edinburgh has great capability. There are many people who are interested. You must go there and teach in churches, in societies, everywhere. We have scattered good seeds in that soil; now souls who can water this cultivation must go there’.   [End, Earl's account]


* I have a monologue on one of the maids--Josie McFadden. She may be a fictitious person. (Does anyone know who wrote the monologue? ) 

I am very sad about 'Abdu'l-Bahá leaving Edinburgh. It is akin to the feeling I had when He left Montreal, as it is the only place in Scotland He visited--and the friends there are very proud of the visit. Much was accomplished; the stories are rich; the places are vibrant--and still there! We took footage and photos. It was a remarkable sojourn--in 1913--and then, for us, in 2012–13.  

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

January 8, 1913 The Glory of the Lord revealed

 Still in Edinburgh, 'Abdu'l-Bahá continues His extensive talks and activities.  Earl Redman, in 'Abdu'l-Bahá in Their Midst, writes:

On 8 January, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá continued to receive visitors. One medical student, a ‘Mohamadan Hindu’, asked Him to perform a marriage between him and a ‘Scotch lassie’.  Unfortunately, it was discovered that it would take ten days to get a licence from the city Registrar, making it impossible for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to do so since He was to leave in just three days.
            The newspapers had reported the meeting of the previous evening, and were looking forward to the next one, to be held that afternoon at the Rainy Hall, part of New College, the Divinity Faculty of Edinburgh University. One of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s common themes was the futility of war. The Edinburgh Evening Dispatch wrote: ‘He is endeavouring to do what Foreign Secretaries, and Peace Conferences, and Ambassadorial Conversations have been striving to do with cannon on their backs . . . it would be well to listen attentively to what this Persian has to say. His coming is at least opportune, when Europe is full of armed men with murder in their eyes’.
            During His talk at Rainy Hall on 8 January, the Master said, just nineteen months before the outbreak of the world war:

What is this native land, this fatherland that we glory over so much? We live but a few years on the surface of the earth; afterwards it becomes our eternal cemetery, as is has been the cemetery of all men and women that have lived since Adam. In the circumstances, is patriotic prejudice worth all the division it has caused? 

After ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s presentation, Reverend A. B. Robb thanked Him, saying:

We have been in the habit of sending missionaries from the West to the East to preach the Gospel. Today we have a missionary from the East to preach the old Gospel in a new and original way. After all, it is not the words which have impressed us so much as the life. He has a right to speak, for He has spent forty years of His life in prison for the sake of the truth which was revealed to Him.

            Miss E. C. H. Pagan remembered ‘Abdu’l-Bahá saying that ‘the Federation of Europe would actually come about in the present century . . . Little did we then think from what terrible suffering this Federation would begin to emerge’.   This prediction came 39 years before the first step was taken in the formation of the European Common Market in 1951, later to develop into the European Union.
            Later, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá went to St Giles Cathedral for a charity performance of Handel’s Messiah. When the group entered the Cathedral, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá took His seat in the front row of the gallery looking down on the rest of the audience. Ahmad Sohrab wrote:

All the eyes involuntarily turned to Him with wonder and respect. Then the chorus with delightfully trained voices raised the exultant tone ‘And the Glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it’. Was not this a wonderful prophecy which had they wisdom and perception they could see the Glory of the Lord revealed before their own eyes!
[end of Redman's account]
Men students at the art school,
around that time

He also visited the Arts School, part of New College. 
Photos provided by Hari Docherty
Women students at the art school
around that time

Don't you wish you could have experienced this day, in its own multi-faceted glory? 

Monday, January 7, 2013

January 7, 1913 Panoramic view

Earl Redman writes (in 'Abdu'l-Bahá in Our Midst):

Photos from collection
of Hari Docherty
On the morning of 7 January ‘Abdu’l-Bahá visited the Outlook Tower, which had a panoramic view of Edinburgh. He was met by the Outlook Tower Society President Sir Patrick Geddes, who escorted ‘Abdu’l-Bahá up the five flights of stairs to the top of the tower. After they had admired the view of the city, Geddes showed ‘Abdu’l-Bahá the ‘Camera Oscura’ which projected an image of the city down onto a large table top. Geddes, along with his nephew, Sir Frank Meres, later developed a design in the 1920s for a Bahá’í temple they hoped, futilely as it worked out, would be built in Allahabad, India.
             After viewing the various displays and galleries in the Outlook Tower, the Master had a drive down Edinburgh’s famous Royal Mile, past Holyrood Palace and on to Arthur’s Seat. He then met some of the foreign students at Edinburgh University, who had come from Japan, India and Egypt. ‘Dear and honoured Sir’, said Dr Whyte as he introduced the Master, ‘I have had many meetings in this house, but never have I seen such a meeting. It reminds me of what St Paul said, “God hath made of one blood all nations of men . . .”’. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá then spoke to the students on the oneness of religion.
            That evening, the Freemasons’ Hall, newly rebuilt and ‘one of the largest and most beautiful public buildings in the city’, was the site of the Master’s first public address in Scotland, hosted by the Edinburgh Esperanto Society. ‘That evening it was packed, leaving standing room only. A crown of three hundred, failing to gain admission, remained outside’. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke about the need for an international language; his talk was later published in Star of the West with the Esperanto translation. As usual, the Master made his audience laugh, sweetening a serious subject with a touch of his ineffable humour:

There were two friends who did not know each other’s language. one of them got sick; the other one called upon him, but he could not express his sympathy, so by making a sign he asked him, ‘How are you?’ By making another sign, the sick man answer, ‘I am almost dying’, and the friend . . . thinking that he had told him that he was feeling much better, said, ‘Thanks be to God’. By such incidents you realize that the best thing in this world is to be able to make yourself understood by your friends, and also to understand them . . .

But after the meeting, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was exhausted. George S. Stewart commented, ‘he was a very weary man. I saw him at Dr Whyte’s just after the meeting. He was lying back in an arm-chair, while his personal attendant massaged his legs. He was an exhausted man’.
Graham Pole
            ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s schedule was brutal for His much-abused physical body. In Edinburgh Lady Blomfield saw the spiritual power that could overcome physical exhaustion. Before He addressed another gathering two days later, the Master looked very tired. ‘He remained seated in silence for a few moments after Mr Graham Pole had reverently introduced Him. Then, seeming to gather strength, He arose, and with voice and manner of joyous animation, and eyes aglow, He paced the platform with a vigorous tread, and spoke with words of great power’. 
            Lady Blomfield also witnessed a similar remarkable recovery in London one day, when the Master arrived home very tired after a long day.
We were sad at heart that he should be so fatigued, and bewailed the many steps to be ascended to the flat. Suddenly, to our amazement, the Master ran up the stairs to the top very quickly without stopping.
He looked down at us as we walked up after Him, saying with a bright smile, from which all traces of fatigue had vanished: ‘You are all very old! I am very young!’
Seeing me full of wonder, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said:
‘Through the power of Bahá’u’lláh all things can be done. I have just used that power’.
That was the only time we had ever seen him use that power for Himself, and I feel that he did so then to cheer and comfort us, as we were really sad concerning his fatigue.   [End of Redman's account]

Wouldn't it be great if we relied on the power of Baha'u'llah more often? What an Example! 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

January 6, 1913 Edinburgh!

Charlotte Square Photo: Hari Docherty

 Earl Redman writes (in 'Abdu'l-Bahá in Our Midst):

‘Abdu’l-Bahá planned to visit Edinburgh, and on 1 January the Bahá’ís of Edinburgh sent a schedule they had devised for Him. Ahmad Sohrab wrote in his diary, ‘The plan of Edinburgh is presented to the Master. He says I have not been there yet, and they have already planned what I must do in every hour. Then He jokes with them about these . . . customs, and date-fixing of this so far ahead . . ‘. 
Alexander Whyte
            At 8 a.m. on 6 January, Ahmad Sohrab, Mírzá Mahmúd, Hájí Amín and Siyyid Asadu’lláh-i-Qumí left for the station, followed by the Master. Lotfullah Hakím (who later was elected to the first Universal House of Justice) joined the party at the station. The train left at 10 o’clock and at about 5 p.m. pulled into the Waverley Station in Edinburgh. [A local historian told us it was probably Princess Station, which is no longer there. AP] The group was met by Jane Whyte, Isabel Fraser (who had come up from London to help) and several other friends. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá stayed at the home of Mrs Whyte and her distinguished husband, Dr Alexander Whyte, Moderator of the General Assembly Free Church of Scotland and principal of the Divinity Faculty of Edinburgh University, who were instrumental in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s visiting Edinburgh.

Medallion of Rev. Whyte
Jane Elizabeth Whyte, formerly Jane Barbour, may have been the first Scottish Bahá’í. She was married to Reverend Alexander Whyte, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland, professor of New Testament literature and principal at New College, Edinburgh. Jane was a good friend of Mrs Thornburgh-Cropper and in March 1906 they had visited ‘Abdu’l-Bahá for two brief days in ‘Akká. On her return, she wrote:

The pilgrim to ‘Akká is asked many questions on his return. Is this a prophet? A manifestation of divinity . . . Is it enough of Divinity to see love made perfect through suffering a life-long patience, a faith which no exile or imprisonment can dim, a love which no treachery can alter, a hope which rises a pure clear flame after being drenched with the world’s indifference through a lifetime? If that is not Divinity enough for this world, what is? . . . What greater sign can you ask than the power to flood this old world with love and aspiration, with patience and courage? . . . His life, as the prisoner of the Sultán, was in continual danger by any sudden pressure from Constantinople and at that time it was not considered wise that visitors from the west should be too much in evidence. So it came that we could not have the farewell conversation we had promised ourselves. Instead I left a letter for him. In due time an answer came . . .

In ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s reply to her letter, He called Jane a ‘captive of the love of God’ and an ‘honoured lady’. She had written, ‘I am a Christian’. The Master responded with, ‘O would that all were truly Christian! It is easy to be a Christian on the tongue, but hard to be a true one’. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote that ‘the unity of truth, through the power of God, will make these illusory differences to vanish away’. At the end of this Tablet, ‘Abdu'l-Bahá listed the seven candles of unity: unity in the political realm, unity of thought in world undertakings, freedom, unity in religion, unity of the nations, unity of the races, and unity of language. These would all, He stated, ‘inevitably come to pass’.[iii]
            Upon her return from ‘Akká, Jane Whyte spread the Bahá’í teachings to her family and friends. She was able to see ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London in 1911, and wrote to Him the following year saying, ‘If the time should come for him to visit Edinburgh, the Outlook Tower Society will welcome him warmly’.[iv] He accepted her invitation.

*     *     *
Photo: Hari Docherty
‘Abdu’l-Bahá would have preferred to stay at a hotel, but Mrs Whyte was insistent that He stay in her home at 7 Charlotte Square, so ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and His interpreter Ahmad Sohrab stayed in the Whytes’ home while the others in His party were accommodated in a nearby hotel. One Edinburgh resident remembered the three who stayed in the hotel:

His company consisted of three people, and they were entertained in a hotel within a stone’s throw of the house where he was . . . the most personal attendant was called, in translation, the ‘Lion of God’ [Asadu’lláh], an old man, picturesque in appearance and of a most attractive spirit, whose after-dinner stories were a great delight. There was a young man, an interpreter, who was not of the inner company, I think, and who had a more or less permanent home in London (Lotfullah Hakim). Then there was a very handsome, cultured man, who was a poet of some distinction, according to the interpreter, and whose talk, even in translation, was deeply interesting, spiritually discerning and beautifully expressed [Mírzá Mahmúd].
At 8.30 on the morning after their arrival, Ahmad Sohrab heard a bell:

When I went down to the Library I saw principal Whyte with the members of the family standing on one side and all the maids which were seven I think, standing on the other side, each having a hymn book in the hand. Mrs Whyte gave me one of these books and she went to the organ. All of us [sang] the songs and afterward Rev. Whyte prayed while all of them knelt down. It was a very new experience to me. Of course this is their daily custom for the Master and the servants to pray to God every morning before starting their daily labors. This is a very lovely custom and affords one a few moments whereby to commune with his Creator. After the prayer we had breakfast and I carried up Our Beloved’s tea to his room.

Some of the Edinburgh Bahá’ís were worried about how ‘Abdu’l-Bahá would handle the cold of a Scottish winter. Surprisingly to the locals, when the Master arrived in Edinburgh, the city experienced four days of sunny weather with mild temperatures. Even so, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was not well-dressed for the climate and did suffer from the cold. He did not mention it to anyone, but one of His attendants informed Mrs Whyte and she took Him out and ‘a forenoon was spent in providing for His greater comfort – to the interest and admiration of several shopkeepers unaccustomed to oriental dress and speech’.   [The story we heard in Scotland: He went out to shop for woolen underwear in a department store. Endearing, eh? AP]
            The Whytes had managed to publicize ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s coming with an article in a local newspaper on 13 December, and articles in two different papers on 3 January, so when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá arrived, the reporters were there to ensure that His visit was well reported.
            After dinner with the Whytes, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá met with the Secretary of the Esperanto Society, the general Secretary of the Theosophical Society, several professors and many clergymen with their wives. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá then spoke about his trip from Alexandria to New York and how some had insisted that he sail on the Titanic instead of the older and smaller Cedric. He talked about his address to the Jews at Temple El-Emmanuel in San Francisco, which ‘created a tremendous effect, because most of these people are very devoted Christians’, wrote Ahmad Sohrab, adding that ‘An old scotch song was sung after the Master’s address which was very sweet and effective. The Master bade them good bye and went to his room’.
Florence Altass met the Master in Edinburgh and recalled:  Of course when I saw Him I knew who He was. Oh, you couldn’t mistake Him. And that heavenly smile! It was a perpetual smile, and yet it wasn’t, if you can imagine; it looked as though He smiled at everyone, and yet the smile seemed always to be there. And His eyes looked as if they were looking through you. He had the most gentle voice; I’ve never heard a voice like it . . . He embraced a good many people; He didn’t me, He just shook hands. Several of us He just shook hands with. When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá shook hands with me, He seemed to transmit something to me, and I’ve never been the same since.
There was an interpreter – who spoilt the whole show! It wasn’t that His voice didn’t suit me, it was that although ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke in Persian, you understood; you knew what He was saying, somehow. One was so enamoured of His voice that one sort of felt what He was saying.
[End of Redman's account]   See also:  http://www.travelstothewest.org/

When we were there, last week!
Having just BEEN in Edinburgh, and having GONE to the house at 7 Charlotte Square, I can imagine all of this more fully!   Our photos are from a collection by Hari Docherty, unless noted. 
Tim, climbing a hill to take footage
Photo: Joseph Sheppherd