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

Thursday, January 3, 2013

December 31, 1912 "Fraught with pathos"

I am late with my posts, as we were in Scotland FILMING for a possible sequel and attending a special arts retreat (as well as celebrating Hogmanay--New Year's--by dancing to a live band and watching one of the world's most spectacular fireworks display) and then traveling for almost 23 hours. Pretty good excuse, eh?  But thrust back INTO a centenary year by going to Europe, I am firmly committed to following the journey through 1913/2013. 

Earl Redman writes: 

Thomas Kelly Cheyne
"On 31 December, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá went to Oxford to gave a talk at Manchester College, where clergymen were trained. He first visited Dr T. K. Cheyne, who had organized the talk but who was in poor health; the Master went to his home in North Oxford.  The following year Cheyne would publish his book on the Faith, The Reconciliation of Races and Religions. The meeting was, as described by Lady Blomfield,

Many of her books are still available
fraught with pathos. It seemed almost too intimate to describe, and our very hearts were touched, as we looked on, and realized something of the sacred emotions of that day.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá embraced the Doctor with loving grace, and praised his courageous steadfastness in his life’s work, always striving against increasing weakness, and lessening bodily health. Through those veiling clouds the light of the mind and spirit shone with a radiant persistence. The beautiful loving care of the devoted wife for her gifted, invalid husband touched the heart of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. With tears in His kind eyes He spoke of them to Mrs Thornburgh-Cropper and myself on our way back to London: ‘She is an angelic woman, an example to all in her unselfish love. Yes, she is a perfect woman. An angel’.  This lady was Elizabeth Gibson Cheyne, the very specially gifted poetess.[i]

The two men talked and Cheyne showed the Master what he had written about the Faith. ‘His attitude of belief and attentiveness so moved the Master that He, several times, kissed him on the head and face, and kept caressing His head’. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá called Dr Cheyne His ‘spiritual philosopher’.[ii]
            At Manchester College the Principal, Dr J. Estlin Carpenter, introduced ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to the student clergymen with an eloquent tribute to His life and work. The Master then gave a talk on the place of science in our lives and about the supernatural. Interestingly, there were no questions afterwards.
[i] Blomfield, The Chosen Highway, pp. 168–9. [ii] Star of the West, vol. IV, no. 17 (19 January 1914), p. 286.

 Both of the Cheynes seem exceptional--and I need to study more about them.  Of them, 

Stephen N. Lambden writes: <http://www.hurqalya.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/baha'i%20encyclopedia/thomas_kelly_cheyne.htm>

"A one time fellow of the British Academy, the London born Thomas Kelly Cheyne, D.Litt. D.D. (= TKC., 1841-1915) was, without doubt, the most eminent western academic to become a Bahā'ī during the ministry of `Abd al-Bahā (1892-1921). Oxford educated (BA 1862) and one who studied for a while under the great Old Testament scholar and orientalist Heinrich Ewald (1803-75) at the University of Göttingen, he was ordained an Anglican priest in 1865 (later he was canon of Rochester). Between 1870 and 1871 TKC lectured on Hebrew and divinity at the University of Oxford where he lived most of his life. Between 1885 and 1908 he was Oxford University's prestigious `Oriel Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture'. Influenced early on by German radical criticism, TKC was an important pioneer of the "higher criticism" of the Bible in the English-speaking world. His major works within the field of Old Testament Studies, his specialist field, include articles in the 9th edition of the Encyclopedia Britanica, the Expositor and several others periodicals and number such books as The Prophecies of Isaiah (2 Vols., 1880-81), Job and Solomon (1887) and The Origin and Contents of the Psalter (1891; the Bampton Lectures for 1889). With J. S. Black he co-edited the monumental Encyclopædia Biblica (4 Vols., London, 1899-1903) -- which contains numerous entries by him, many influenced by the so-called Jerahmeelite theory (for a summary see Charles, 549-50).

TKC was the first person whom `Abdu'l-Bahā met on his arrival in Oxford on December 31, 1912. The encounter was "fraught with pathos" (Blomfield, 168). Impressed with TKC's ardent devotion and intense scholarly activity despite disabilities, `Abdu'l-Bahā several times lovingly kissed and caressed his head. The angelic qualities of the Biblical scholar's wife and carer in infirmity, the poetess Elizabeth Gibson Cheyne, were very greatly praised by the Master (Zarqani cited Balyuzi, 353). During this period `Abdu'l-Bahā' accorded TKC the epithet Ruḥānī ("Spiritual"), subsequently addressed him as "my spiritual philosopher" (SW IV:16 [Per. 3-4]). He reckoned him unique among professors in entering the "world of the Kingdom" (ibid). In a letter to the Manchester Bahā 'ī Mr. Craven dated Jan. 31st 1914 TKC wrote, "Allah-u-Abhā! Dear Bahā'ī brother..Why I am a Bahā'ī is a large question, but the perfection of the character of Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha is perhaps the chief reason.." (`9' Beginning.. 8-9). Partially indirectly supervised by `Abdu'l-Bahā, his work The Reconciliation of Races and Religions was published in London in 1914 (xx+260 pp.). It largely consists of Bābī- Bahā'ī biographical and historical notes and, among other things, was, "designed to contribute to the cause of universal peace" (Preface vii). TKC's becoming a Bahā'ī did not completely overrule his church membership or, in fact, his supportive and open attitude towards other spiritual pathways (i.e. The Society of Friends).

After becoming a Bahā'ī and though in very poor health, he continued to write several works of Biblical scholarship championing a North-Arabian/ Jerahmeelite theory (i.e. Fresh Voyages on Unfrequented Waters) becoming further "renowned for his extreme and unconventional views" (Bowden, 30). Uninformed by Bahā'ī Biblical exegesis and in large measure the eccentric products of his philological genius, they were generally very badly received. His Bahā'ī status was largely ignored or played down though his thirst for knowledge, his kindly, gargantuan scholarly spirit was much respected. Doubtless referring to his championing of liberal academic insights in biblical studies and related fields as well as to his Bahā'ī activity and writing (rather than simply to his increasingly eccentric biblical scholarship) `Abdu'l-Bahā in a scriptural Tablet or letter to TKC wrote, "It is.. my hope that in the future the East and the West may become conscious that thou wert a divine philosopher and a herald of the Kingdom" (cited Balyuzi, 354)."

Elizabeth Gibson Cheyne - Bibliography.htm  The first wife of TKC was Frances E. Godfrey (1844-1907), the third daughter of the Revd D. R. Godfrey, fellow of Queen's College, Oxford, and rector of Stow, Norfolk, whom he married on 31st January 1882. His second wife was the poetess Elizabeth Gibson Cheyne (1869-1931) daughter of John Pattinson Gibson (a chemist of Hexham) whom he married (aged 69) on August 28th [19th] 1911 about four years after the death of his first wife. Elizabeth Gibson was the sister of the `War Poet' Wilfred Wilson Gibson (b. Hexham 1878-1962): see URL:http://www.firstworldwar.com/poetsandprose/gibson.htm. Both of T.K. Cheyne's marriages were childless.

Works by Gibson, Elizabeth [Cheyne]:

1899 The Evangel of joy. [Prose]. London: Grant Richards, 1899. 12pp. [Print run of 600 copies] Oxford in Bodlean Lib. Bodleian BOD Bookstack 26520 f.102. Copy in University of Texas at Austin Library Harry Ransom.

1902 A Christmas Garland, verses. London: Elkin Mathews, in Bodlean Lib. Bodleian BOD Bookstack 14770 f.261. 13cm.

1902 The burden of love. [verse]. London: Elkin Mathews, 1902. 60pp. Vigo cabinet ser. 10. In Bod. Library = Bodleian BOD Bookstack 28001 f.18. Copy in Cambridge Univ. Library; University of Toronto , call number = PR6005 H474 B8. PR 6005 .H474B8 ROBA. The Vigo cabinet series, no. 10. + Copies in 7 or more USA Libraries, e.g. SUNY at Buffalo; Princeton Univ. Lib, etc.

1903 The Well by the Way [prose]. London: Simple Life Press, ser. 7. 12pp. ? Copy in Bod. Lib. Bodleian BOD Bookstack 26520 f.61.Copies inNew York Pub. Library - Research; SUNY at Buffalo; University of Texas at Austin Library (Harry Ransom); Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru National Library (Wales).
1904 Leaves of Life. London: Thomas Laurie. In 2 USA Libraies: SUNY at Buffalo + Univ. of Texas at Austin (Harry Ranson).

1904 A flock of dreams. London: Elkin Mathews, 1904. Vigo cabinet ser. 22., Copy in Bod. Lib. Bodleian BOD Bookstack 28001 f.85 . Copy in Cambridge Univ. Lib. and three USA Libraries = Univ. of Chicago; Princeton Univ. Library; Univ. California at San Diego.

1904 From a Cloister. London: Elkin Mathews Vigo cabinet ser. 19. Bodleian BOD Bookstack 28001 f.85.

1905 Love's fugitives. London: Elkin Mathews, Vigo cabinet ser. 25. Oxford Bodleian BOD Bookstack 28001 f.185; Cambridge Univ. Library + Copies in 3 USA Libraries = SUNY at Buffalo; University of Chicago: Princeton University; Copy in Univ. Stellenbosch, J.S. Gericke Library (Matieland South Africa).

1905 Shadows. verse. London: Elkin Mathews, 1905. Vigo cabinet ser. 31. Bodleian BOD Bookstack 28001 f.122. Copies in Cambridge Univ. Library and at least 3 USA Libraries = Univ. Chicago; Princeton Univ. Library; Univ. California at San Diego.

1906 A little book of saints [verse]. London: A. C. Fifield, Simple Life Press.1906. Devotional verse, Bodleian BOD Bookstack 14770 f.284. Copy in Univ. of Texas at Austin (Harry Ransom).

1906 Flowers from Upland and Valley [Prose] London: Simple Life Press [self pub?] Brochure ser. 3. Bodleian BOD Bookstack 3835 f.130.

???? A Christmas Garland. London: Elkin Mathews.

1907 From the shadow : a book of poems. Cranleigh, Surrey: Samurai Press, 1907. viii, 9-63, [1] pp. 20 cm. Bound in blue paper over boards; stamped in black on front cover; olive green cloth shelfback; off-white dust jacket. (Yale Univ. Lib. Cat.); Oxford Univ. Library = Bodleian BOD Bookstack 28001 e.670 + in at least 10 USA Libraries as listed by World Cat.

1907 By Many Streams, A Book of Poems by Elizabeth Gibson, Cranleigh: Samurai Press, 1907. 52pp. [to W. W. G] Bodleian BOD Bookstack 28001 e.618. Copies in around 10 USA Libraries = Univ. of Michegan Library. SUNY at Buffalo. Illinois Wesleyan Univ. Yale Univ. Library., etc.

1908 [4?] A book of Reverie. London, etc.. : John Lane, Bodleian BOD Bookstack 27001 f.33

1908 The day's journey. Cranleigh, Surrey: Samurai Press. 1908. Copies in Bodleian BOD Bookstack 28001 e.669; Univ. of Michegan Library; SUNY Buffalo; Southern Illinois Univ. at Edwardsville; Smith's College; etc.

1908 A Pilgrim's staff. Cranleigh, Surrey: Samurai Press. 1908. Copies in Bodleian BOD Bookstack 28001 e.672 ; Univ. of Windsor, Leddy Library (Canada); Univ. of Michegan Library; SUNY Buffalo; National Library of Ireland, Dublin, etc..

1908 In the starlight, verse. Cranleigh: Samurai Press.Bodleian BOD Bookstack 28001 e.671; Bodleian BOD Bookstack 28001 e.9772

1909 The Welling of Waters. Hexham: E. Gibson, 1909. Copies in New York Public Library - Research; University of Texas at Austin Library, Harry Ransom.

1910 Blossoms of Peace. Hexham: E. Gibson, 1910. Copies in New York Pub. Library - Research; Columbia Univ. Libraries; University of Texas at Austin Library, Harry Ransom.

1910 The son of man is come, verse. Oxford: Mrs. Cheyne. Bodleian BOD Bookstack 28001 e.9772 + Copies in at least 4 USA Univ. Libraries = Univ. Chicago; Yale Univ. Library, Harvard Univ. Library; University of Texas at Austin Library, Harry Ransom.

1910[4] (??) Unto us a Son is Given. Oxford: Mrs Cheyne. Copy in Univ. of Chicago Library + Univ. of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom.

1910 The Fruits of the Valley. Hexham: E. Gibson, 1910. Copy in New York Public Library; Columbia Univ. Library; Univ. of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom.
1911[ or 1915?] The way of the Lord. Oxford: Mrs Chyene (Self Published?), 1911. A copy exists in Cambridge and Oxford Univ. Libraries. + Yale Univ. Library.

1912 The voice of one crying, arranged in cycles by Mrs. Elizabeth Gibson Cheyne. London: Adam & Charles Black. 1912. Hbk. Bound in blue-green cloth over boards; stamped in blind and gold on cover and spine; black endpapers. Copy in Bodleian BOD Bookstack 1419 e.1936. and Brit. Library. Copy in British Library. + Oxford., Cambridge, SUNY (Buffalo), Harvard College Library; Univ. of Illinois.

1912 Cheyne, Elizabeth. The Voice of One Crying ... Arranged in cycles by T. K. C. [i.e. Thomas Kelly Cheyne.]. London : Adam & Charles Black, 1912. (128 pp.)

1913 The Beloved City, He Gave me Rest. Oxford: Mrs Cheyne, Oakthorpe Road, 1913. Copes in 3 USA Libraries: NYPL-Research; Hard. Univ. Harvard College Library; Univ. Texas at Austin

1914 The man with the mirror. London: Adam & Charles Black, 1914. Oxford Univ. Library = Bodleian BOD Bookstack 27001 e.363

1914 Oxford [poems] Oxford: Mrs Cheyne {Enterprise Printing Works]. For a description see Colbeck 1987 page 289 No. 48. World Cat says `no known copy'!

1914 Litanies. Oxford: ?? Copy in Bodlean Lib. : Bodleian BOD Bookstack 28001 e.1347

1914 Vigils. [poems]. Oxford: Mrs Cheyne, 1914. No known copy (see World Cat.)
1914 A Rosary (and other poems) Oxford: Mrs Cheyne, 1914.

1914 The Return Home. Oxford: Mrs. Cheyne, Oakthorpe Road, 1914. Copies , for example, in Univ. North Carolina; New York Public Library - Research; Harvard Univ. - Harvard College Library.

1915 The lover of life (and other poems) Oxford: Mrs Cheyne, 1915.

1915 I am the Resurrection and the Life. verse. 8pp. (?) London: the author. Copy in Bodlean: BOD Bookstack 14770 e.551 Devotional verse, theology... Copy in Univ. of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom. Several Copies in American Univ. Libraries, e.g. Harvard; Chicago; New York Public Library, etc.
1915 London. London : Mrs Gibson Cheyne, 1915.

1915 Resurrection. London : Mrs Gibson Cheyne, 1915.

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