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

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

June 22, 1912


Mahmud reported: "In the morning `Abdu'l-Bahá spoke to the Bahá'ís and seekers of Montclair about the difference between the kingdom of the Manifestation of God and the kingdom of the material world. In the afternoon many believers from near and far were honored to visit Him. He spoke about some spiritual matters and counseled the friends that it is forbidden to interfere in political matters and that they should obey the laws of their country. Later, several friends arrived with the minister of the Unity Church, who invited the Master for a ride that they might receive His love and bestowals. Today a courier arrived with a special invitation from the Society of the Annual American Celebration [Independence Day, the 4th of July]. However, the Master did not promise to attend and deferred the matter depending on His schedule."

Juliet's tale of meeting the Master at Montclair (written on 23 June) is quite a different story:  It had nearly killed Lua not to be taken to Montclair with Him. Two days later she said to me: "Let's go to see Him, Julie."

"How can we, Lua? He didn't invite us," I answered. "He bade us goodbye for nine days."

"Oh but you have an excuse, those proofs of Mrs Kasebier's pictures. You really should show them to Him, Julie."

And she whirled Georgie Ralston and me off to Montclair with her.

We were punished of course, and our first punishment was that lunch was unusually late (so that instead of arriving after, as we had planned, we arrived just in time for it). And this was agonizing,for there weren't enough seats at the table, and the Master wouldn't sit down to eat. One of us had to occupy His chair, while He Himself waited on us, carrying all the courses around and around that table. I couldn't get over my mortification.

At the end He came in with the fruit, a glass bowl full of golden peaches. Without turning His head--His face was set straight before Him--He sent a piercing glance from the corner of His eye toward Lua and me. Such a majestic, stern glance, like a sword-thrust.

After lunch, and this was our second punishment, He banished the three of us--Georgie, Lua, and me--leading us to a small back porch and abandoning us there. But before very long He returned and asked us to take a walk with Him.

We came back from our walk by way of the front porch. Some people were gathered there and Lua, Georgie, and I sat down with them while the Master went upstairs to rest. He joined us, however, very soon and, striding up and down, began to talk to us. As He walked His Power shook us; His intoxicating exhilaration, pouring into me, filled me up with new life.

His eyes--those eyes of light, which seem to be always looking into heaven and when for an instant they glance toward earth, veer away at once, back to heaven--were brilliantly restless. His whole Being was restless with the same strange Force I had felt on that memorable day, the nineteenth of June. It was as though the lightning of His Spirit could scarcely endure to be harnessed to the body. He was almost out of the body. But soon He took a seat and rested quietly.

I showed Him the proofs of the pictures, then spoke of Mrs Kasebier--who had seen Him only once, when she photographed Him. "She said she would like to live near You, my Lord."

He laughed. "She doesn't want to live near Me. She only wants a good time!" Then He grew serious. "To live near Me," He said, "one must have My aims and objects. Do you remember the rich young man who wanted to live near Christ, and when he learned what it cost to live near Him--that it meant to give away all his possessions and take up a cross and follow Christ--then," the Master laughed, "he fled away!"

"Among the disciples of the Báb," He continued, "were two: His amanuensis and a firm believer. On the eve of the Báb's martyrdom the firm believer prayed: 'Oh let me die with You!' The amanuensis said: 'What shall I do?'

"'What shall I do?'" mocked the Master. "'What do you want me to do?' The disciple died with the Báb, his head on the breast of the Báb, and their bodies were mingled in death. The other died in prison anyway, but think of the difference in their stations!

"There was another martyr," continued the Master after a moment, "Mírzá 'Abdu'lláh of Shíráz." Then He told us that Mírzá 'Abdu'lláh had been in the Presence of Bahá'u'lláh only once, "but he so loved the Blessed Beauty" that he could not resist following Him to Tihrán, though Bahá'u'lláh had commanded him to remain in Shíráz with his old parents. "Still," said the Master, His tone exultant, "he followed!"

Mírzá 'Abdu'lláh reached Tihrán in the midst of that bloodiest of massacres resulting from the attempt on the Sháh's life by two fanatical Bábís. Bahá'u'lláh had been cast into a dungeon. There, in that foul cellar He sat, weighted down by "The Devil's Chain", eleven disciples sitting with Him, bound by the same chain. In it were set iron collars which were fastened around the neck by iron pins. Every day a disciple was slaughtered and none knew when his turn would come. The first intimation he had of his immediate death was when the jailer took out the iron pin from his collar.

Mírzá 'Abdu'lláh entered TihránBahá'u'lláh resided." "We will take you to Him," said the guard. And some men took 'Abdu'lláh to the dungeon and chained him to Bahá'u'lláh.

"So," the Master said, "he found his Beloved again!"

One day the jailer came into the dungeon and took out the pin from Mírzá 'Abdu'lláh's collar.

"Then," said the Master, "Mírzá 'Abdu'lláh stepped joyfully forward. First, he kissed the feet of the Blessed Beauty, and then . . ."

The Master's whole aspect suddenly changed. It was as though the spirit of the martyr had entered into Him. With that God-like head erect, snapping His fingers high in the air, beating out a drum-like rhythm with His foot till we could hardly endure the vibrations set up, He triumphantly sang "The Martyr's Song."

"I have come again, I have come again,
By way of Shíráz I have come again!
With the wine cup in My hand!
Such is the madness of Love!"

"And thus," ended 'Abdu'l-Bahá, "singing and dancing he went to his death, and a hundred executioners fell on him! And later his parents came to Bahá'u'lláh, praising God that their son had given his life in the Path of God."

This was what the Cause meant then. This was what it meant to "live near Him"! Another realm opened to me, the realm of Divine Tragedy.

The Master sank back into His chair. Tears swelled in my eyes, blurring everything. When they cleared I saw a still stranger look on His face. His eyes were unmistakably fixed on the Invisible. They were filled with delight and as brilliant as jewels. A smile of exultation played on His lips. So low that it sounded like an echo He hummed the Martyr's Song.

"See," He exclaimed, "the effect that the death of a martyr has in the world. It has changed My condition." After a moment's silence, He asked: "What is it, Juliet, you are pondering so deeply?"

"I was thinking, my Lord, of the look on Your face when You said Your condition had been changed. And that I had seen a flash of the joy of God when someone dies happily for His Cause."

"There was one name," the Master answered, "that always brought joy to the face of Bahá'u'lláh. His expression would change at the mention of it. That name was Mary of Magdala."

[And of course we know that Juliet wrote a book called I, Mary Magdalene.  I wonder if she got the idea at that moment. . . . ]

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