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

Thursday, January 3, 2013

January 1, 1913 The stirring of a deeper spirit

Earl Redman writes: 

"The 1 January 1913 issue of The Christian Commonwealth contained several pages about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, including the whole talk He had given to the Jewish congregation at Temple Emmanu-El in San Francisco in October 1912. Like many other publications, the writer began with a pen-portrait:

Even the Western stranger coming into the Master’s presence for the first time acknowledges an emotion akin to awe, and after a few minutes speech with him, feels the stirring of a deeper spirit of devotion than the ordinary amenities of social intercourse are calculated to arouse. For ‘Abdul Baha, whose mission of peace and universal brotherhood is like the coming of the four winds into the valley of dry bones, in Ezekiel’s vision is much more than a picturesque Eastern figure in the romantic setting of Western civilisation. He is a prophet. A venerable figure, of rather less than medium stature, clothed in long, flowing Persian garments, his white beard lying upon his breast, silver-grey plaited hair falling over his shoulders, dark, brooding, pitiful eyes that yet light up when a smile or singular gentleness and sweetness passes across his face, and a low mellow voice whose tones are charged with a strange solemnity – that is the Master as the stranger sees him. But to the Bahais he is the ‘Servant of God’, the symbol of the unity of religions and races which it is his mission to promote. Although nearly seventy years of age, he has undertaken this tour of the Western world to proclaim his message of universal peace, and to recall the nations from their armed madness to the forgotten simplicities of the spirit. For nine months he travelled in America, crossing the continent from coast to coast, from east to west, addressing large audiences in churches, synagogues, temples, halls, drawing-rooms, hotels, and in some of the universities. Wherever he spoke, it was at the invitation of the heads of the institution or movement which organised the meetings. He was a guest at the National Conference of Peace Societies held recently. The subject of his discourses everywhere was the same – an exposition of the teachings of Baha’o’llah, the source of the present-day Bahai faith . . .
‘Abdul Baha rose to receive me with a gentle courtesy and a murmured Persian sentence, which his interpreter, Mirza Ahmad Sohrab, explained meant that the Master was pleased to welcome a representative of The Christian Commonwealth, which had done much to promote the progress of his mission. The stir and movement beyond the threshold of the room where ‘Abdul Baha held his audience seemed to die away, and the familiar roar of London’s traffic through which I had passed a little earlier receded into immense distance as we talked . . .
In America, he said, many societies are organised, whose purpose is the furtherance of universal peace. He has spoken before many of these organisations ‘and they have harkened to my addresses with the greatest interest. And now I have returned to Europe. I observe that, praise be to God, in this capital a conference of peace is sitting . . . Therefore I hope that the rays of universal peace may radiate from this great metropolis to all parts of the world, and that the noble nation of England and its just Government, like the people of America, will strive their utmost in promoting the principles of international peace and brotherhood…
            In answer to a question regarding the Master’s impressions of America, he said that material civilisation had advanced greatly, and he hoped that divine civilisation would be likewise established. The American universities were carrying on a most profitable and encouraging work, and he spoke of Dr Jordan, the head of the Stanford University, in Oakland, whose guest they had been, as ‘as a very wise and erudite man, whose mind is full of thoughts of peace’."

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