Chapter 8 Chapter 10
The American Itinerary. The Power Of The Spirit. True Greatness. The Divine Teaching Method.
He is truly wise whom the world and all that is therein have
not deterred from recognizing the light of this Day, who will not allow men's
idle talk to cause him to swerve from the way of righteousness. He is indeed as
one dead who, at the wondrous dawn of this Revelation, hath failed to be
quickened by its soul-stirring breeze. He is indeed a captive who hath not
recognized the Supreme Redeemer, but hath suffered his soul to be bound,
distressed and helpless, in the fetters of desires.
Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, pp.
During the rest of that summer I was much occupied with work which
carried me to various parts of the Eastern states while Abdu'l-Bahá was
absent from that part of the country, making His memorable trip throughout the
In this interval of three months from the time of my visit to Dublin and my
next meeting with the Master in New York on November 15th, Abdu'l-Bahá
had covered an itinerary and addressed audiences which, considering His age.
His historical background and the large number of the friends who followed Him
from place to place, has few parallels in history.
From the time I left His Presence in Dublin, N. H., His itinerary was as
|Aug. 16th - 24th||Greenacre, Eliot, ME.||5 Addresses|
|Aug. 25th - 30th||Boston & Maiden, MA.||4|
|Sept. 1st - 10th||Montreal, Canada||5|
|Sept. 16th - 19th||Chicago, Ill.||1|
|Sept. 20th - 22nd||Minneapolis & St. Paul, MN.||2|
|Sept. 24th||Denver, CO.||2|
|Oct. 1st - 15th||San Francisco, Oakland, Palo Alto, CA||4|
|Oct. 18th||Los Angeles, CA (no accurate record at hand). He was there 2 days and at least.||3|
|Oct. 25th & 26th||Sacramento, CA||2|
|Oct. 31st||Chicago, Ill.||1|
|Nov. 5th||Cincinnati, Ohio||1|
|Nov. 6th - 12th ||Washington, D. C.||10|
|Nov. 15th - Dec. 5th||New York City||13|
Making a total of fifty-three addresses, besides, probably scores of personal
interviews and informal talks to small groups of friends.
From the time of His arrival in this country and His Dublin sojourn, His
itinerary and Talks were as follows:
|April 11th - 19th||New York City||13 Addresses|
|April 20th - 25th||Washington, D. C.||13|
|Apr. 30th - May 5th||Chicago, Ill.||15|
|May 6th||Cleveland, Ohio||2|
|May 7th||Pittsburgh, Pa||1|
|May 11th - 20th||New York City & vicinity||7|
|May 23rd - 24th||Boston & vicinity||3|
|May 26th - June 8th||New York & vicinity||7|
|June 11th - July 15th||New York & vicinity||20|
|July 23rd - 25th||Boston & vicinity||3|
|Aug. 5th - 6th.||Dublin, N. H.||2|
(To my personal knowledge Abdu'l-Bahá made several more addresses in
Dublin than are recorded in the volumes of His Talks published under the title
The Promulgation of Universal Peace. But that is the official
It is not simply the interest that attaches to the fact that this man, in his
sixty-ninth year, was able to accomplish this rather remarkable feat of
physical and intellectual endurance which prompts this catalogue of his
There is a deeper significance to be discerned by those who attended him during
his journeyings, or even by those who have read this chronicle carefully and
sympathetically. During this very summer, the poet and sage, Rabindranath
Tagore, had been under contract to deliver a series of lectures in America.
After covering a pan of his proposed itinerary, which was not nearly as
extensive as that of Abdu'l-Bahá's, his strength and nerves were
exhausted and he cancelled his contract and returned to India. He said he could
not bear the materialistic vibrations of America It needs also to be disclosed that while Tagore's
contract called for a sizable financial remuneration, Abdu'l-Bahá had no
contract, other than the Covenant of selfless Servitude made with
Bahá'u'lláh in the sanctuary of His heart, and, furthermore, so
far from demanding or expecting any financial reward, He consistently refused
the slightest remuneration, and even when entertained by solicitous and
generous hosts He was punctilious in seeing to it that gifts to both host and
servants of the household far outweighed what He received. Also He emphasized
the spiritual capacity of the American people which Tagore decried. When He
stayed at hotels his "tips" to servants who waited on Him were often so
generous as to excite astonishment. But even this does not at all cover what He
gave. In several instances that have come to my personal knowledge His
spiritual influence upon chambermaids and porters was such that one of them
said to one of those accompanying the Master: "This is sacred money. I shall
never spend it upon myself."
Is comment necessary? Whence came the Power of body, mind and Spirit which
enabled this Man, unused to Western bustle, competition and nervous strain; all
His long life subject to persecution, imprisonment and hatred; cast suddenly
into an environment for which he could have had no preparation, so to master
every situation with which He was confronted? I have shown how this mastery
extended to the details of the society of culture and luxury, but it was no
less noticeable, no less victorious, when in contact with the humble and
How is it possible to ignore such conquering majesty! How can one refrain from
searching with passionate intensity for the secret of His power! To me, after
all these years of study and prayer in my search for this key, there can be
only one answer, the answer given by Abdu'l-Bahá himself, and even more
convincingly by the Blessed Perfection, (Bahá'u'lláh). Ponder
carefully the following quotations:
"Although the body was weak and not fitted to undergo the vicissitudes of
crossing the Atlantic, yet love assisted us and we came here. At certain times
the spirit must assist the body. We cannot accomplish really great things
through physical force alone; the spirit must fortify our bodily
For example: the body of man may be able to withstand the ordeals of
imprisonment for ten or fifteen years under temperate conditions of climate and
restful physical routine.
During our imprisonment at `Akká means of comfort were lacking,
troubles and persecutions of all kinds surrounded us, yet notwithstanding such
distressful conditions we were able to endure these trials for forty years.
What was the reason? The Spirit was strengthening and resuscitating the body
constantly. We lived through this long, difficult period in the utmost love and
servitude. The spirit must assist the body under certain conditions which
surround us, because the body of itself cannot endure the extreme of such
In proportion as the human body is weak the spirit of man is strong. It is a
supernatural power which transcends all contingent beings. It has immortal life
which nothing can destroy or pervert.... How powerful is the spirit of man,
while his body is so weak! ... Therefore it is divinely intended that the
spiritual susceptibilities of man should gain precedence and overrule his
physical forces. In this way he becomes fitted to dominate the human world by
his nobility, and stand forth fearless and free, endowed with the attributes of
"The human body is in need of material force, but the spirit has need of the
Holy Spirit... If it is aided by the bounty of the Holy Spirit it will attain
great power; it will discover realities; it will be informed of the
"The power of the Holy Spirit is here for all."
"The captive of the Holy Spirit is exempt from every captivity."
"The teachings of His Holiness Bahá'u'lláh are the breaths
of the Holy Spirit which create man anew."--Words of Abdu'l-Bahá
"There is a Power in this Cause far, far transcending the ken of men and
These few excerpts from the hundreds which might be cited will give a slight
conception of the Source of Abdu'l-Bahá's Power to dominate every
situation with which He was confronted.
Even His physical condition was reinforced constantly by this Divine Power. On
one occasion after a particularly exhausting day He was returning late at night
from a gathering at which He had spoken with much energy and effectiveness. In
the automobile he showed great weariness. He relaxed and gradually sank into
almost a comatose condition. The friends who were with Him were greatly
alarmed. On arriving at their destination He had to be almost carried into the
house and to His room. Within fifteen minutes, while the friends were gathered
in great anxiety in the lower rooms, His voice was heard resounding with even
more than its usual energy and power calling for His secretary, and He appeared
at the top of the stairs His usual dominant, smiling, forceful self.
"Blessed is he who was attracted by My Melodies and rent the coverings by My
To Abdu'l-Bahá I had written once or twice during the summer for
my mind and heart gave me no rest. I carried with me on my travels through the
Eastern States a small satchel devoted entirely to the books and typewritten
Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh and Abdu'l-Bahá (of which, by the
way, there is a very large available quantity besides many volumes not yet
translated into English) and I, literally, read nothing else, not even
newspapers, during all those months. From this fact may be gathered a faint
indication of my mental and spiritual perturbation.
It seemed as though the focal center of my life had suddenly shifted, and all
my interests were revolving around a new and most disturbing axis.
When my church activities were resumed in the fall I found it impossible to
secure the financial support necessary to continue the work of the Brotherhood
Church, and it was my letter to Abdu'l-Bahá telling Him of this and also
of my intense and growing interest in the teachings of
Bahá'u'lláh, which brought to me His second Tablet. It was
evidently written on His way from Washington to New York and translated and
forwarded to me from New York by His secretary immediately upon His arrival. It
was as follows:
"O thou spiritual friend! Thy letter was received. I was made very sad on
account of the event of the closing of the Church of Brotherhood. But when I
was in those pans I remarked to you that you should not place your confidence
in those souls. They say many things but do not fulfill them.
You stated that my first assistant is a philosopher. It is true that
philosophy in this age consists in the fact that man is out of touch with God;
he is out of touch with the Kingdom of God; he is out of touch with spiritual
susceptibilities; he is out of touch with the Holy Spirit, and out of touch
with the ideal verities. To wit: he may be an agnostic and a captive of the
In reality her highness the Cow enjoys this attribute and quality. The Cow
is naturally a denier of God, a denier of the Kingdom, a denier of
spiritualities and a denier of the heavenly verities. She has attained to these
virtues without labor. Therefore she is the philosopher emeritus.
Our philosophers of this age after twenty years of study and reflection in
the universities attain to the station of the Cow. They know only the senses as
Therefore her highness the Cow is the great philosopher, for she has been a
philosopher from the beginning of her life and not after the hard mental labor
of twenty years.
I have mentioned the fact to you that these promises arc unstable. You
should not put your trust in a soul who is without God.
In brief: be thou not unhappy. This event has happened so that thou mayest
become freed from all other occupations, day and night thou mayest call the
people to the Kingdom; spread the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh;
inaugurate the Era of the New Life; promulgate the Reality, and be sanctified
and purified from all save God. It is my hope that thou mayest become as
Crown thy head with this diadem of the Kingdom whose brilliant jewels have
such illumining power that they shall shine upon centuries and cycles.
Ere long I shall reach New York and meet again my beloved friend. Upon thee
be Bahá El Abhá! (The Glory of the Most Glorious.)"
(signed) Abdu'l-Bahá Abbas
Translated: New York, November
The receipt of this Tablet left upon my mind two distinct and oddly contrasting
impressions. The obvious one, of course, was its wit. It was my first personal
encounter with Abdu'l-Bahá's wisely humorous attitude towards the
accidents of life. I have already spoken of his ready laughter, especially when
speaking of deeply serious things. The ordinary difficulties of daily
experience which affect most of us with sentiments of gravity, sadness or
repugnance seemed to inspire Him to amusement.
I remember that when I met Him for the first time after the long summer's
separation almost His first words were to ask if her highness the Cow were not
a noble philosopher? And the smile and hearty laughter accompanying the words
seemed to sum up the fundamental absurdity involved in most of "the gloomy dust
arising from men of limitation enveloping the world."
The second impression was gathered from the closing words of the Tablet with
its command of severance, mastering and promulgating the teachings of
Bahá'u'lláh all over the continent, and its assurance of divine
and universal results through centuries and cycles.
It was these words, with their emphasis upon a station of such loftiness that
nothing less than centuries and cycles could circumscribe its power of
illumination, which gave to me the first glimmer of realization of the sort of
greatness to which Abdu'l-Bahá referred when He said to me, as I have
related, that This is a Day for Very Great Things.
We have quite naturally assumed that those men are great who have
attained positions of prominence and power in the affairs of the world, either
in the field of affairs or in the realm of the intellect. When asked to name
the great ones of history: if we admire power we at once think of Julius
Caesar, Napoleon, Cyrus the Great, Alexander. If we admire intellect we think
of Plato, Aristotle, Herbert Spencer, Einstein.
That is to say, we judge men by our own standards: and it necessarily follows
that only those who are greatest among men are able to judge truly what
constitutes real greatness, for their standards are the highest, and they alone
live up to those standards and exemplify their greatness.
How few there were during the first two centuries of the Christian era who
recognized the dazzling brilliancy of the Sun of Reality in Jesus the Christ!
Who would ever have associated the word "Great" with the humble fisher-folk who
followed Him! Yet where are kings and empires now whose power then topped all
the world! And where those humble ones!
So when that truly Great One spoke to me of this Day in which Very Great Things
were to be accomplished His vision embraced the future centuries in which the
humblest of the servants of the Glory of God (Bahá'u'lláh) should
shine resplendent in the Heavens of the Universe of His Revelation. What though
the path to this greatness led through the scorn of men of low standards, of
worldly comparisons; through every criticism and ignominy, even to martyrdom in
that path, would it not be privilege enough to be associated with those who in
former dispensations trod its way and found that Source of joy which is "the
spring of all the gladness of the world"?
Truly he who would be great must be the servant of all; "the thralls of
mankind." "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad for so persecuted they the Prophets
I remember it was during the following winter, after Abdu'l-Bahá's
return to the Holy Land, that one day as I was standing on the comer of
Broadway and one of the down-town streets of New York, a sudden realization of
this true greatness and of the fundamental futility and falsity of all earthly
standards, swept over me and I said aloud, in the words of Emerson, but with a
very different meaning to the words, forgetful of the crowded street:
"Good-bye, proud world, I'm going Home."
It was the ability of Abdu'l-Bahá to disclose their own capacity
to those souls who, sincerely seeking the way of life asked of Him direction to
the Path of its attainment, which made him the supreme Teacher and set their
feet upon the straight and narrow road. He never descended to the plane of the
questioner except when He recognized his lack of capacity at that time for
higher understanding. To such He spoke in terms conducive to his happiness on
the plane occupied at the time. To a mother who anxiously inquired of Him how
she should treat a difficult child. He said that she should make him happy and
make him free. And this sums up the attitude he invariably assumed in dealing
with a seeking soul.
Men are wandering the wilderness of Time and Place; caught in the net of
circumstance; befooled by the illusions of sense. They are not aware of this,
and that ignorance constitutes the tragedy of life. Nevertheless they long
above all else to escape that wilderness in which they wander so forlorn. Under
the pressure of this instinctive yearning they experiment with every path which
offers the slightest hope of freedom. To the vast majority, that escape seems
easiest along the path of what they call pleasure. To others fame and power
beckon, saying: "follow me and I will give you in the adulation of the world
that respite from self for which you long."
To still others the refuge lies in the realms of intellect. In extending the
barriers of nature; in probing into the microscopic universe; in breaking down
the atom and bombarding the electron; in sweeping inter-stellar space with
powerful and ever more powerful telescopes,--all are seeking, though they know
it not, for Him Who is in their very heart of hearts, "closer than their own
identity." Inherently, fundamentally, essentially, inescapably dissatisfied
with all the contingent world can offer they yet seek to find within its scope
that answer to their questing soul and mind without which they can never find
rest. They know instinctively that they must escape the self and so they seek,
in flying from it to the world around them, the refuge from its grasp for which
they yearn. Their longing is for an eternal Home, for knowledge and love of
God, but they know this not.
But Abdu'l-Bahá knew it, as all the Leaders of the Race have known it.
They know what lies deep in the heart of man. So He knew what lay hidden in the
innermost heart of the questioner. Hence He answered the unspoken, not the
When this marvelous technique of teaching began to dawn upon me I recognized
for the first time the truly sublime function of any soul aspiring to lead
another soul in the Way of Truth. I began to see why the Master of this
technique seemed to evade many of my questions, speaking instead of the great
opportunities of service and love in the very spot which I then occupied.
How our schools and universities would be filled with the exultant joy of eager
students advancing in this Path if their boards of trustees, presidents and
teachers had even the slightest glimmer of this technique of teaching! The full
recognition of just one fundamental fact is all that is necessary: that every
soul in the world is "bewildered in search of the Friend."
They do not want answers to their individual, personal and particular
questions, though they think they do. They desire one thing only: that basic
Truth which will make them independent of all the man-made book-learning which,
like a "gloomy dust rises from men of limitation" and has enveloped them and
all the world.
They want the Sunlight of the World of Reality. They can see the Path for
themselves once free from the darkness of the contingent world and the "prison
of self." In that glorious effulgence every question is its own answer; Heaven
is found in the reaching hand; God becomes the very ear with which man hears
the answer to all his queries. For when we speak of "God," we speak of Truth,
Wisdom, the Way of joyful and successful Life, the "Abode of Peace." Eternal
Life, the World of Reality, for all these are synonyms of God, and to attain
this knowledge should be the object of all education.
It was Abdu'l-Bahá's positive knowledge of this Truth which enabled Him
to reach the hidden divine Self lying deep beneath the piled-up rubbish of the
contingent world harvested by the outer mind and the fruitless energy of the
functioning body. "It is my hope," He once said to me and often to others,
"that thou mayest arise to such a station that no longer shalt thou need to
Our first personal contact with the Master after His return to New York was at
a meeting of the friends in the studio of Miss Juliet Thompson in W. 10th St.,
where she painted the immortal portrait of Abdu'l-Bahá. I had become a
constant attendant at the meetings of a study class held there every Friday
evening, and it is largely due to these contacts that my interest was kept
Abdu'l-Bahá's theme that evening was two-fold. First, the manifest power
and majesty of Bahá'u'lláh, in that in spite of his rigorous
incarceration He dominated prison walls and governors and jailers. And
secondly: His conclusive demonstration that the teachings of
Bahá'u'lláh contained many things never revealed by the preceding
Prophets of God.
In the prison city of `Akká near Mt. Carmel, Bahá'u'lláh
was incarcerated for 28 years, after His 12 years of exile, and His Son,
Abdu'l-Bahá for exactly 40 years. Yet from that prison
Bahá'u'lláh wrote to the Shah of Persia and to that unspeakable
tyrant, Abdu'l-Hamid, "severely arraigning them for their oppression of their
subjects and their misuse of power."
Consider how marvelous it was for a prisoner under the eye and control of
the Turks to arraign so boldly and severely the very king responsible for His
imprisonment. What power is this! What greatness! Nowhere in history can the
record of such happening be found.... Although a prisoner in a fortress He paid
no heed to these kings, regarded not their power of life and death, but on the
contrary addressed them in plain and fearless language." 
It is impossible to describe the majesty of Abdu'l-Bahá as He
uttered these words. His face was illumined with a radiance not of this world.
His being seemed possessed with that very Power of which He spoke. It was His
custom, often, to pace up and down while the measured cadences of His voice
filled the room, and sentence by sentence, His words were translated by the
interpreter. In this instance, however, the room being not overlarge, and
crowded to its utmost capacity by the friends, there was little space for
movement where He stood. Nevertheless His spiritual vitality seemed to overflow
the room and it was as if (so it seemed to me, at least) He were striding its
every part, searching deeply each heart. It was as if He were saying: This is
that Power of which Christ spoke. The legions of angels for which He refused to
call were summoned by Bahá'u'lláh, for the Time foretold by
Christ had come, and the King of kings had mounted His Throne.
The second subject to which He addressed Himself related to those teachings
which Bahá'u'lláh enunciated which were absolutely new, and could
be found in no revelation of past dispensations. I will not attempt to
recapitulate the essence of His words. Sufficient to say that He itemized nine
points in the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh which were new. "This,"
He said, "is in answer to those who ask: `what is there in the teachings of
Bahá'u'lláh which has not been heard before'?"
His closing words expressed the power which arises through persecution.
"Pray that my enemies become multiplied," He quoted from
"They are My heralds. Pray that their number be increased and that they may
cry out more loudly. The more they abuse me and the greater their agitation,
the more potent and mighty will be the efficacy of the Cause of God. And
eventually the gloomy darkness of the outer world will pass away and the light
of Reality will shine until the whole earth will be effulgent with its glory ."
Chapter 8 Chapter 10