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

Thursday, February 21, 2013

February 20, 1913 Overwhelmed by His sanctity

Oh! I am a few hours late on this one. I wish I had Mahmúd's daily diary, translated!

Anyway--here's what Earl Redman writes about February 20 and early March:

'Abdu’l-Bahá gave another talk on 20 February. At its conclusion, Horace Holley’s young daughter, whom the Master had last seen at Thonon two years previously, ran up and was happily lifted up into His arms. The moment reminded ‘Abdu’l-Bahá of His own son, Husayn, who had died as a child. 
            The hectic pace was wearing on ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and by the 26th He was suffering from a severe cold. The illness kept Him in Paris and unable to travel, but it did not stop Him from speaking with the endless visitors..
            Edward G. Browne and his wife visited the Master on 9 March. Other visitors included the Iranian Minister, Alma Knobloch, the ‘pioneer teacher’ to Germany and other German friends who had come to beg the Master to visit their country. But it was only towards the end of March that he was well enough to travel.
            ‘Abdu'l-Bahá had invited Friedrich and Annemarie Schweizer, who lived in Zuffenahusen, near Stuttgart, to meet Him in Paris.
         Both were very anxious to meet the Master and prayed that their hearts would be purified. They arrived in the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá with Lady Blomfield and she stepped forward first, bending her knees before the Master. Friedrich stated flatly, ‘That I cannot do—kneel down before a man!’ But when the Schweizers entered, ‘the first one to kneel down was Friedrich, so greatly was he overwhelmed by the majesty and glory of His sanctity.’

Don't you wish we could kneel before the Master? 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Paris, continued; Spirit must be invited

Earl Redman writes: 

At one of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s talks, Doris Pascal (later Holley) was in the audience and it was an eye-opening experience for her:

I was spiritually asleep at the time, but while I was listening to the Master’s talk I felt as if Jesus were speaking and I thought that the Master was saying what Jesus would have said. When the meeting was over, instead of following the Master out of the room as the others in the audience had done, I remained in my chair. The Master soon returned. To my natural astonishment He walked straight up to me and kissed me on the forehead.

Stanwood Cobb was also in Paris in the spring of 1913:

I was one of the staff at Porter Sargent’s Travel School for Boys. On my first visit He inquired about the school and asked me what I taught. I told Him I taught English, Latin, algebra and geometry. He gazed intently at me with His luminous eyes and said, ‘Do you teach the spiritual things?’
The question embarrassed me. I did not know how to explain to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá that the necessity of preparing the boys for college-entrance exams dominated the nature of the curriculum. So I simply answered: ‘No, there is not time for that’.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá made no comment on this answer, But He did not need to. Out of my own mouth I had condemned myself and modern education . . . But ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s question and His silent response indicated that from His viewpoint spiritual things should come first . . .
‘Abdu’l-Bahá kindly invited me to bring Porter Sargent and the pupils to see Him. Mr Sargent gladly accepted the invitation, and four of the boys did. The others had excuses, like those people in the Bible who were invited to the wedding feast but did not go. One boy had to buy a pair of shoes; another had planned to take afternoon tea at a restaurant where a gypsy orchestra furnished music, et cetera. How many of life’s important opportunities thus pass us by, through our own unperceptiveness or neglect!
I was deeply interested and concerned to see what impression ‘Abdu’l-Bahá would make on the owner of the school. Porter Sargent . . . was a confirmed and positive atheist . . . In one intimate discussion with me on the nature of existence . . . he had outlined to me his concept of life and the universe. ‘What do you think of it?’ he asked me . . .
  ‘It is splendid!’ I said. ‘But it only covers half of existence’.
‘What is the other half?’
But this other half did not exist for Porter Sargent . . . So when the golden opportunity came of an interview with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, I had great hopes . . .
And so, when we came out . . . after a half-hour conference with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, I eagerly asked, ‘Well, what do you think of Him?’
I have never forgotten my shattering disappointment at the answer: ‘He’s a dear, kind, tired old man’.
 I was chagrined. But this experience taught me two spiritual lessons. The first was that skeptism must solve its own problems, in it’s own way. The second truth . . . was that Spirit never forces itself upon the individual. It must be invited.

Two interesting stories.  Don't you WISH you were in Paris right now, in 1913?  And where are Mahmud's accounts?  We need them to be translated and published! 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Days passing, in Paris Overwhelmed by His sanctity

'Abdu'l-Bahá is still in Paris, in 1913. Earl Redman writes: 

As the days passed, more and more Persian and Egyptian Bahá’ís arrived and filled the apartment. Day after day, more seekers came to see the Master. The constant meetings took their toll on ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s health. He noted that earlier in the journey, He had been able to get up at night and take care of His correspondence, but now He could not, so it remained unanswered.
            He did get out to some public meetings. A banquet at the Hôtel Moderne was held by the Esperantists on 12 February. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá addressed the meeting that night and the following evening spoke to the Theosophists. On 17 February he spoke at three meetings during the day and then visited Pasteur Monnier’s Theological Seminary that evening. He also visited Versailles and a children’s home, where he deplored the contrast between ‘the many magnificent buildings kept solely for entertainment, while the poor were abandoned to such misery and wretchedness’.
            The Paris Bahá’í community, unlike those in London and Stuttgart, where the Master was to go next, had relatively few native believers. The Master spoke of the ‘dismal materialism overshadowing Paris’. Years later, after the First World War, he said of his visit, ‘in Paris no one would mention the name of God. I used to speak about God to many people and they would ask me to take another topic’.
            There was, of course, the unparalleled Hippolyte Dreyfus-Barney with his American wife Laura, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá addressed several meetings at their home, as well as in the homes of other Americans such as Edwin Scott, the painter, and Edith Sanderson. But there were also a number of other devoted French believers, and many were interested. Charles Mason Remey wrote later about one of these:

During Abdul-Baha’s visits in Paris, souls became attracted to the Cause, and the principles of his teachings became known and produced an effect upon many. Then out from these people there arose a few who recognized the Covenant of God and realized that in Abdul-Baha was the living spiritual Center of this new life in the world. Madame Chéron was of these few. The spiritual atmosphere of her home was to the hungry and seeking soul as an oasis in the desert to the tired traveller seeking refreshment and rest.
During the weeks prior to the outbreak of the war, which George Latimer and I spent in Paris, we went often to the apartment of Madame Chéron, overlooking the Seine. At times when surrounded by discouragements we went there to talk about The Center of the Covenant and thus revive our spiritual forces; and at other times we went there to meet groups of friends and seekers whom our kind hostess had gathered to hear the wonderful story of the The Cause of God.

I wish I had photos and more information about each one of the people mentioned!