Chapter 9   Chapter 11

Chapter Ten

Address In the Great Northern HotelThe Universe Of Baháulláh. The Evolution Of Man. The Glory Of Self-Sacrifice.

"I have offered up My soul and My body as a sacrifice for God, the Lord of all worlds. I speak naught except at His bidding, and follow naught, through the power of God and His might, except His truth. He, verily, shall recompense the truthful."


The great assemblage gathered at the banquet in the Great Northern Hotel on the evening of November 29th marked the culmination or Abdu'l-Bahá's public addresses in this country. Memory brings to mind no other occasion charged with such significances. Here were gathered together upwards of about 600 souls. The magnificent banquet hall was filled to its utmost capacity. All degrees of wealth and poverty; of culture and its lack; representatives of the white, yellow, black and brown races, as well as of many nations of the East and West, were represented.

The object of this meeting was as universal as the audience. It was not to advance any personal or political ambition; not in the interest of any social or financial group, nor any religious organization. This fact alone suffices to mark it as unique: but when we consider Abdu'l-Bahá's own definition of its objectives it is recognized that its exceptional nature is more than excelled by their grandeur.

"This meeting of yours tonight is a universal gathering, it is heavenly and divine in purpose because it serves the oneness of the world of humanity and promotes International Peace. It is devoted to the solidarity and brotherhood of the human race, the spiritual welfare of mankind, unity of religious teaching with the principles of science and reason. It promotes love and fraternity among all mankind, seeks to abolish and destroy barriers which separate the human family, proclaims the equality of man and woman, instills divine precepts and morals, illumines and quickens minds with heavenly perception, attracts the infinite bestowals of God, removes racial, national and religious prejudices and establishes die foundation of the heavenly kingdom in the hearts of all nations and peoples."[34]

It is difficult to assign to any one summation of the Bahá'í Faith the reason for its acceptance. Yet it is not too much to say that for me, at the stage of understanding to which I had at that time attained, it seemed that no rational mind could refuse at least its eager, instant and alert investigation. Surely no one could deny the worthfulness of these objectives.

But the picture presented by this summary is not complete without including in it the personality and life history of Him who spoke.

For here stood the living representative, the very incarnation of the ideals He presented so calmly. There was not one of these lofty expressions which He failed to exemplify in every word, thought, deed of His daily life. I state this, not because of that which I have read concerning His life of service from His eighth year; not because even his enemies and persecutors have united in unwilling admission of His love for them and all souls irrespective of their attitude towards Him and the Faith He loved, but I state it from my own intense scrutiny during many personal contacts with that sublime Personality.

Those who have read this chronicle with care, seeking to pierce the poor words that the underlying spirit may be revealed, will understand my meaning. "The condition of spiritual insight can penetrate this meaning, not controversy nor conflict."[35] No more could one imagine Abdu'l-Bahá descending to the plane of personal prejudice, animosity towards any living creature, avoidance of any rational argument, or moving and speaking under any other guidance than the indwelling, all-enclosing Holy Spirit, than one could imagine the sun ceasing its shining. That which He was He caught. That which He taught He lived. Is it any wonder that that assemblage may be truly regarded as so unique in character as to have few, if any, parallels in history?

There is another feature of this address which impressed me deeply at the time. There was no mention whatever of the Bahá'í Faith as such, nor of himself nor of Bahá'u'lláh. It is as if He would say: Here are the ideals and purposes for which I stand. If you find them worthful perhaps you will wish to investigate whence comes the Power which has brought them within the last sixty years before the attention of mankind which, during all the period of recorded history, has been negligent, opposed and scornful of every one of them. It will be time enough for you to investigate the doctrine, the philosophy, the spiritual dynamic back of the teachings, after you have approved and sought to live the life I present to you. "He that doeth the works shall know of the doctrine."

Often have I been asked the question: "Why are you a believer in the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh? "Perhaps the above summary of the outward teachings, and the descriptions of my contacts with the Teacher, will assist the reader to answer that question. But also, perhaps, a more explicit answer is required. That answer is to be found in the universal demand of the normal human being for a basic Truth upon which he may found his life.

I am not a believer because of any preconceived explanation of this fundamental Truth based upon the ideas of those around me, as, for instance, the Christian is such because he was brought up under its teachings, or the Muhammadan is such because he was born where those principles are prevalent, and so with all other followers of the various theologies of the world. I am first of all, humanly speaking, a rational being. I have a mind which requires intellectual satisfactions. I have found in the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh and Abdu'l-Bahá much more satisfactory explanations of the meaning, the origin and the destiny of life, than I have elsewhere found. I have no hesitation whatever in asserting that if tomorrow a better, more satisfying, more illuminating philosophy, a more spiritual dynamic should be presented to me, I would accept it without hesitation.

But, and this it seems to me, is conclusive as to the reason for its acceptance. The teachings of Bahá'u'lláh comprise a veritable Universe of wisdom. It is no more possible to define Its limits than for even an Einstein to define the limits of the material universe.

I remember many years ago we entertained a friend at our home who was curious to know why we had so enthusiastically accepted the Bahá'í Faith. She was a young woman of great gifts. An artist and sculptor; a cultured mind, a wide experience and a seeking soul characterized her. She remarked, after we had been conversing for some time: "But how is one to decide between the many various beliefs of humanity? I have, for instance, a Jewish friend who is just as certain that his faith comprises all that mind or heart could need as you are of the Bahá'í faith. And I have another friend who is an ardent Christian Scientist. She cannot understand why every human being should not believe as she does. And of course many of my friends are sincere Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, who are equally certain that the tenets of their faith hold all that is necessary to life here and hereafter. The Buddhist, the Muhammadan, the Theosophist are equally certain. Who then is to decide?"

We answered: "How thankful we should be that souls in every faith are found sincerely seeking and following Truth, for Truth is one. But I wonder if you have found many among your friends who believe in and follow with all their hearts the teachings and example of the founders of all the faiths. Does your Catholic friend, for example, fully sympathize with, and sincerely love, his Protestant brother? Does your Christian Science friend accept the teachings of her Jewish friend? Can you imagine the Buddhist believer accepting and loving the Christian Scientist, the Muhammadan and the Jew, as equal participators in the Fountain of Universal Truth?

Without hesitation she answered: "Of course not. No one could possibly do that."

"And yet," we said to her gently, "that is exactly what the Bahá'í teachings require. No one can lay the slightest claim to that title who does not accept all the Prophets as Mouthpieces of the One God. Their basic teachings are identical. The laws promulgated by Them differ superficially since their function is to guide men to a higher civilization, and the needs of the time demand specific applications of those eternal principles. Consequently to accept one of these Manifestations of the Infinite Wisdom and Power is to accept all: to reject One is to reject all. That is what Bahá'u'lláh means by belief in "the Oneness and Singleness of God."

This illustrates what I mean by a conclusive reason for the rational, logical mind's acceptance of Bahá'u'lláh's teachings. The Circle He draws is so inclusive that no creature is omitted; no question unanswered; no problem unsolved; no perplexity unclarified. And this is not because these intellectual, social, economic and religious problems are minimized, but because they arc simplified: reduced to their essentials and so ordered and classified that any high-school youth may regulate his life thereby.

To illustrate: Our materialistic theory of evolution begins with the primordial cell and ends with man. This leaves a vast field absolutely untouched. The whole realm of the emotional, ethical, moral and spiritual man becomes a sort of No Man's Land. Is it any wonder that tornados of controversy have raged over this field? Bahá'u'lláh teaches that God and His creation are co-eternal: since there could nor he imagined a Creator ante-dating a creation; a king without a kingdom; a general without an army. This undercuts, you see, the endless discussions as to man's origin and the beginnings of life. Whether one accepts it or not it cannot be denied that it is basic.

Abdu'l-Bahá was once asked which is the most important component in man's, evolution, heredity or environment. He answered that both are important, bur in considering the question of evolution one must always remember that Man's true Father is God. Here we have a foundation for our reasoning than which no more fundamental one may be conceived. It does not exclude any intellectual or materialistic (if there is such a thing) explanation of the origin of Man, but it includes the whole field which our savants leave out. It does not negate the former but it gives to it a radiant simplicity, a clarifying emotion, without which endless strife and contention ensue. And again, there is nothing in this hypothesis contrary to our most advanced scientific thinking:

"Some call it evolution and others call It God."

Here, by the way, is another illustration of Bahá'u'lláh's simplifying fundamentals. He urges man towards freedom from the entangling, confusing, strife-producing slavery to definitive words, the "Sea of Names" He calls it. He directs attention to the Reality underlying all our futile attempts to characterize it and limit it.

Abdu'l-Bahá, speaking on the subject of Economics, has said: "All economic problems may be solved by the application of the Science of the Love of God." That is to say: if the Rule called golden and treated as if it were leaden (Worse: for lead has its uses but so far as one may determine, the Golden Rule has been laid on a shelf whose dust is seldom disturbed.)--if that Rule were actually applied to the world's economic problems, which if not solved bid fair to destroy us, and the love of God, the sort of love which makes a home life happy, were used as a scientific measurement to regulate our international and national affairs; to settle all relations between labor and capital, between rich and poor: to regulate all coinage and commerce, can there be any doubt that the results would be far more conducive to human welfare than our present policies have produced?

Again: Bahá'u'lláh asserted the principle that the human race is essentially of one stock and that the conception of "The Oneness of Humanity" is essential to modem civilization. Abdu'l-Bahá in the course of His many talks on this subject has shown conclusively that all the races spring from one root-race, and that the superficial differences of color, physiognomy, etc., are due to the age-long influences of climate and food following on successive migrations of the root-race. Here again, not only arc we in absolute accord with the most modem discoveries of anthropologists and ethnologists, but, taken as a corollary to the above principles, we have a scientific basis for approach to the problem presented by the so-called "under-privileged," "backward," "subject" individuals and peoples which, once thoroughly understood and practically applied as a scientific discovery, would immediately inaugurate an international policy which in one generation could result only in the automatic disintegration of racial, national, color, economic and religious prejudice with their attendant horrors of lynchings, pogroms, expatriations, armed frontiers: together with their only slightly lesser evils such as tariffs, money monopolies, cornering of markets, "colonial expansion" and a legion of similar devils.

We could illustrate indefinitely but this is sufficient to explain my point, which is that the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh are simple, definite, easily understood by the normal mind, undeniable by the most scientific mind, workable and practical in the settlement of all modem questions, and so universal as to be applicable by any individual or peoples.

I have gone into the matter at some length because an understanding of this is essential to an answer to the question so often asked: "What is there in these teachings which I, or any other thoughtful man, may consider worthful enough to adopt?" The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh envisages an entirely new World Order based on essential and eternal principles which, when applied, will result in a peace, prosperity and happiness never before secured. They have a spiritual or religious foundation, of course, but these terms are used with a connotation absolutely new and in accord with all scientific investigations and human experience.

The closing words of this brief address at the banquet in the Great Northern Hotel emphasizes this fundamental criterion of values:

"This meeting is verily the noblest and most worthy of all meetings in the world because of these underlying spiritual and universal purposes. Such a banquet and assemblage command the sincere devotion of all present and invite the downpouring of the blessings of God....Be ye confident and steadfast; your services are confirmed by the powers of heaven, for your intentions are lofty, your purposes pure and worthy. God is the helper of those souls whose efforts and endeavors are devoted to the good and betterment of all mankind."[36]

Six days later I attended a meeting at which Abdu'l-Bahá spoke on "The Mystery of Sacrifice." Ever since my first acquaintance with the Bahá'í teachings this aspect of them had unaccountably moved my interest, as is evidenced by my questioning of the Master in the early stages of this interest concerning renunciation. (See chapter 3.)

Why this should be so I cannot determine even now, for to most of those who surrounded the Master at the time the emphasis seemed to be on the joy and happiness attending the New Birth. But to me the throes of parturition were too apparent, too agonizing, too demanding to evade notice. The cutting of the umbilical cord which bound me to the matrix of this world exacted such concentrated attention that little time was left, little opportunity afforded, for any true estimate of the world into which I was being ushered.

Perhaps my intense interest in the subject of self-sacrifice was founded in the clear realization, long experienced, that selfishness, egotism, pride in one's accomplishments (however limited), personal standards of values, were the great deterrents of both spiritual and material progress and peace. There was no question that those around me as well as myself, to say nothing of the underlying spirit motivating the statesmen, business leaders, courts of law and social usage, were all obsessed by this animal-self -psychology. The theologians seemed no less under its sway. Their emphasis truly was upon sacrifice but it was Someone Else's Sacrifice and that seemed altogether too easy a way out, to say nothing of its inherent dishonesty and Utter irrationality.

And yet that sacrifice is a principle underlying all life is plain to any thoughtful observer. The relation between food and the eater is usually considered from the standpoint of the eater alone. But surely if the food could be consulted its attitude would be quite other. It has two possibilities for a standard of judgment. It could be either that of resentment at the loss of its station of animal or vegetable, or it could be one of exultation over its change from the station of animal and vegetable matter to the station of the human organism, and the possibility offered it of becoming a working part of the muscle, nerve and brain of man. We look upon the world of Nature and see it as the battleground between the weak and the strong. But it is just as possible to view it as the field of sacrifice wherein lower or weaker forms of life become transformed into higher and stronger ones through its self-sacrifice. In fact it is quite possible that one of the causes back of the slow evolution of species is this very principle of sacrifice.

So when Abdu'l-Bahá opened His address with these words: "This evening I wish to speak to you concerning the mystery of sacrifice," [37] my deepest attention became riveted. After pointing out that the accepted explanation of the Sacrifice of Christ is pure superstition for it appeals neither to common sense nor reason, He went on to explain the true meaning of the word, dividing it into four headings.

First: that Christ's sacrifice consisted in the willing abdication of all this world has to offer, including life itself, in order that He might lead men into the path of true life.

"Had He desired to save His own life, and were He without wish Co offer Himself in sacrifice. He would not have been able to guide a single soul. This is one of the meanings of sacrifice."

A second meaning lies in the true explanation of His saying that "He who eats of My body shall live eternally." There is no question that the physical body of Christ was born of Mary, but the Reality of Christ, the perfections of Christ came from heaven."[38]

Consequently He meant that if any man partake of these perfections and sacrificed the perfections of the material world for the divine perfections he would enter into the heavenly world in which Christ Himself lived, and would necessarily escape the limitations of the mortal world.

The third meaning: "A seed sacrifices itself to the ewe that will come out of it. Outwardly the seed is lost but the same seed which is sacrificed will be embodied in the tree, its branches, blossoms and fruits. If the identity of chat seed had not been sacrificed to the tree no branches, blossoms or fruits would have been forthcoming." "Christ outwardly disappeared, but the bounties, divine qualities and perfections of Christ became manifest in the Christian community which Christ founded through sacrificing Himself."

"The fourth significance of sacrifice is the principle that a reality sacrifices its own characteristics. Man must sever himself from the world of nature and its laws, for the material world is the world of corruption and death. It is the world of evil and darkness, of animalism and ferocity, bloodthirstiness and avarice and ambition, of self-worship, egotism and passion. Man must scrip himself of these tendencies which arc peculiar to the outer and material world of existence."

"On the other hand, man must acquire heavenly qualities and divine attributes. He must become the image and likeness of God; must become the manifestor of the love of God, the light of guidance, the tree of life and the depository of the bounties of God.

"That is to say man must sacrifice the qualities and attributes of the world of nature for the qualities and attributes of the world of God."[39]

May I ask the reader to note the ascending scale of these definitions, and the final emphasis upon the individual's responsibility if he is to achieve this final station of perfection. Here is no dependence on another's sacrifice. The call is to you and me to abandon, at whatever cost, the world of the animal the beastly, the material man, in order that we may enter this world of Reality, unsubject to the laws of time, place and decay. And how logical! How simple it is all made. Could anything be more beautiful, more winning, than His illustration of the sacrifice of the iron to the fire.

"Observe the qualities of the iron,... it is solid, it is black, it is cold. When the same iron absorbs heat from the fire it sacrifices its attributes of coldness for the attribute of heat which is a quality of the fire, so that in iron there remains no solidity, no darkness or cold. It becomes illumined and transformed having sacrificed its qualities to the qualities and attributes of the fire. Likewise man when separated and severed from the attributes of the world of nature sacrifices the qualities and exigencies of that mortal realm and manifests the perfections of the Kingdom, just as the qualities of the iron disappeared and the qualities of the fire appeared in their place." "Consequently every perfect person, every illumined, heavenly individual stands in the station of sacrifice . . . May the divine light become manifest upon your faces, the fragrance of holiness refresh your nostrils and the Breath of the Holy Spirit quicken you with eternal Life."[40]

As these closing words fell upon my ears it seemed for the first time m the long years of search and struggle that a sure and attainable Goal was in sight. Is it possible to imagine any price one would not pay for this attainment? For the goal is nothing less than perfection.

And here something must be interpolated as to the meaning of "perfection" in the Bahá'í terminology. It must never be overlooked that the substratum underlying all Abdu'l-Bahá's statements is logical and scientific. Nothing is ever stated (at least this is true in principle) that is not susceptible of proof. In using this word "perfection," for instance, the principle of relativity is recognized. Jesus' statement that: "There is none good save God," is understood as a scientific axiom: That is, perfection is seen as impossible except to the Unconditioned, the "Self-subsistent," all other perfection is relative. We speak of a perfect rose. We do not mean that a more beautiful, more satisfying one cannot be imagined, but simply that so far as our experience goes that rose, at that particular moment, strikes us as the most beautiful one, the most perfect one, we have ever seen. Nor do we when we speak of the rose as occupying that position contrast this perfection, or include it, with or in any category comprehending other objects than the rose, or even any other than that particular color, or type of rose. We may in the next moment speak of a perfect sunset, or a perfect baby, or a perfect action, but always with the same reservation of relativity.

So when we speak of a perfect man. We do not mean, nor could we possibly ever mean, no matter to what heights of nobility he may have attained, that he could not be more noble, more "perfect." We simply mean that the heights to which he has attained, compared to the average standards of human behavior, are more nearly our ideal than we have heretofore met.

So then it resolves itself into a question of personal and individual standards, or units of measurement. The gangster's ideal of perfection would be quite other than Abraham Lincoln's. Each soul must create, or absorb, an ideal of perfection which is at once within reach and satisfying to himself.

The difference between the Bahá'í ideal and any heretofore presented lies in the fact that the Bahá'í program includes group perfection. It involves the postulate of man as a gregarious, a social, a cosmopolitan, an international, a world being. A perfect man, then, under this category, must simply have attributes which will, if extended to a sufficient number of individuals, result in a World Order the goal of which is the elimination of those factors which have in the past, and still have, resultants tending cowards relative imperfections both in the individual and society.

In the use of the word "perfection," (see bottom of page 63) I mean that for the first time the ideals held for many years as a Christian believer, of approximating my rules of conduct to those laid down and exemplified by the Christ, came within the purview of possibility, of probability--nay, of certainty. I said to myself: "If it should take a hundred thousand years, in this life or in some other, it can be done and must be done."

At that time the "World Order" of Bahá'u'lláh had not been elaborated, although it had been visioned implicitly in the writings of Bahá'u'lláh, and since been elaborated and explained by Abdu'l-Bahá. Bur it was even then plain to any clear thinking person that such perfections of individual attainment needed only sufficient extension of acceptance and approximation to make the present world disorder of war, crime, poverty and confusion if not impossible at least much decreased. In fact the words of Bahá'u'lláh and of Abdu'l-Bahá are filled with glowing descriptions of world conditions when these ideals are put into practice.

"This world shall become as a garden and a paradise."

"This mound of earth shall become the mound of heaven."

Perhaps it was the clear explication of the results accruing to one attaining the "station of sacrifice" which stirred me most deeply. Freedom from the lower, the animal, the selfish, the egoistic self! What a Goal to hold before the mind. And no longer was it a vague, illusory goal. It had become, for that moment of clear insight at least, a goal in sight, an attainable goal.

Moreover the very word "sacrifice" had become alluring. No longer did it connote suffering, deprivation. It was clearly seen as the exchange of something less worthful for something infinitely more worthful. It had become not a giving up of desirables but the acquisition of desirables. Instead of a doubtful proposition in which the profit was intangible and uncertain, it had assumed the proportions of a clear-cut business proposition. I was in the market for pearls. I had now my eye on the Pearl of Greatest Price.

Chapter 9   Chapter 11

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