Chapter 10   Chapter 12

Chapter Eleven

Instruction In The Way Of Life. What Is Authority? The Science Of The Love Of God.

The Ancient Beauty hath consented to be bound with chains that mankind may be released from its bondage, and hath accepted to be made a prisoner within this most mighty Stronghold that the whole world may attain unto true liberty. He hath drained to its dregs the cup of sorrow, that all the peoples of the earth may attain unto abiding joy, and be filled with gladness.

Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 99

As the day drew near which should mark the close or Abdu'l-Bahá's visit in America the thought of His departure and the consequent end of the possibility of speaking to Him, of even a few words with Him, even of the privilege, inestimable it had grown to seem to me, of watching Him as He spoke or moved, or sat silent while others spoke, became increasingly insupportable. I fear that the first five days of December, 1912, my home and church people saw little of me. Wherever He was there was I if by any juggling of hours and duties it could possibly be managed. The only occasion I missed was His address before the Theosophical Society the evening before He sailed, which fell on a night when I was unavoidably busy elsewhere. But for the rest, day and night, I haunted the home at 780 West End Ave. where Abdu'l-Bahá spent those last days with the friends to whom I have often referred in this narrative, who had placed all that they had at His disposal during His stay in the country.

One of the occasions which stand out most vividly in my memory was on the afternoon of Dec. 2nd when the Master in the presence of a group of the friends, spoke to us words so enthralling, so simple, so impressive and stimulating to the highest in man's nature, that I can find no parallel save in the last Words of Jesus to His disciples. I confidently leave it to the reader whether this comparison is justified. He spoke very briefly: about 300 words as they are recorded in the collection of His addresses in this country. I shall quote them in full. They are worth it. But no record of the Words themselves, moving and uplifting as they are, could possibly convey the majesty, the gentleness, the humility, the love which animated them. I sat very close to Him and it seemed there flowed from Him to me a veritable stream of spiritual energy which at times was overpowering. After a few words to the effect that since these were His last days with us He wished to give us His "last instructions and exhortations" and that these "were none other than the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh," He continued:

"You must manifest complete love and affection towards all mankind. Do not exalt yourselves above others but consider all as your equals, recognizing them as the servants of one God. Know that God is compassionate towards all, therefore love all from the depths of your hearts, prefer all religionists to yourselves, be filled with love for every race and be kind cowards the people of all nationalities. Never speak disparagingly of others but praise without distinction. Pollute not your tongues by speaking evil of another. Recognize your enemies as your friends and consider those who wish you evil as the wishers of good. You must not see evil as evil and then compromise with your opinion, for to treat in a smooth, kindly way one whom you consider evil or an enemy is hypocrisy and this is not worthy nor allowable. No! You must consider your enemies as your friends, look upon your evil-wishers as your well-wishers and treat them accordingly. Act in such a way that your heart may be free from hatred. Let not your heart be offended with any one. If some one commits an error and wrong towards you, you must instantly forgive him. Do not complain of others. Refrain from reprimanding them and if you wish to give admonition or advice let it be offered in such a way that it will not burden the heart of the hearer. Turn all your thoughts towards bringing joy to hearts. Beware! Beware! Lest ye offend any heart. Assist the world of humanity as much as possible. Be the source of consolation to every sad one, assist every weak one, be helpful to every indigent one, be the cause of glorification to every lowly one and shelter those who are overshadowed with fear.

In brief, let each of you be as a lamp shining forth with the virtues of the world of humanity. Be trustworthy, sincere, affectionate and replete with chastity. Be illumined, be spiritual, be divine, be glorious, be quickened of God. Be a Bahá'í."[41]

In these days of unfaith when the world of intellect is obsessed with delusions of its own infallibility, when science has abrogated all dependence upon other than its own findings; when the very word "Authority," as the source of any truth, is anathema even to the most thoughtful and spiritual amongst them, Words such as these shine like the sun rising upon a very dark world.

If it may be allowable to question these "ignorant ones whom men call savants," to quote Bahá'u'lláh's own words, I would like one or all of them to submit a definition of "Authority." Do they absolve themselves from all dependence upon it or only from that form of authority which deals with matters relating to what the five senses may apprehend? Do they accept Aristotle and Newton and Hegel and Spencer and Einstein as "authorities" in their fields but refuse to accept Moses and Buddha and Jesus and Muhammad and Bahá'u'lláh and Abdu'l-Bahá as Authorities in theirs? Do they postulate before they begin to think they think that there are no such things in man's experience as wife and child and friend and home where love and self-sacrifice are assumed as integral parts of man's nature? Do they cancel out all aspiration, all love of beauty and truth, all heroism and remorse?

"Ah, but you go too fast," I hear one remonstrate. "We do not accept any of these men of whom you speak as "authorities" in their chosen field. If we should, gone would be all progress, all invention, all hope for further truth. We accept such as "authorities" only until they have been disproven as such. When Einstein and Minkowski, for instance, published their revolutionary ideas which changed all our notions regarding space and time, and a little later Rutherford introduced ideas equally changing our fundamental conceptions of matter, we did not accept them as "authorities." Quite the contrary. They were pounced upon and subjected to the piercing inquiry of every scientist in the world. It was only after this, and even then subject to the reservation of future discovery, that they were hailed as provisional authorities. A new factor may be introduced at any moment entirely altering the foundation upon which their structure of hypothesis is reared. That is why we refuse to accept in the realm of the immaterial what we cannot accept in the realm of the senses."

If I have not quoted you accurately yet it seems to me that this is what you must say, for it is the status to which the scientific thinker is reduced. And I would farther ask him, then, if by any chance he actually believes that the modem thinker along spiritual and nonmaterial lines takes any different attitude towards what he calk revealed Truth? Certainly the Bahá'í does not.

The first principle under which the consistent Bahá'í thinker acts is "The independent investigation of truth" This is definitely urged, I had almost said commanded, by Bahá'u'lláh. Abdu'l-Bahá, in explaining this fundamental tenet says:

"Religion must conform to science and reason; otherwise, it is superstition. God has created man in order that he may perceive the verity of existence and endowed him with mind or reason to discover truth. Therefore, scientific knowledge and religious belief must be conformable to the analysis of this divine faculty in man." [42]

And again:

"If religion is opposed to reason and science, faith is impossible; and when faith and confidence in the divine religion are not manifest in the heart, there can be no spiritual attainment." [43]

And yet again:

"God has bestowed the gift of mind upon man in order that he may weigh every fact or truth presented to him and adjudge whether it be reasonable." And finally, though such citations could be multiplied almost indefinitely: "It were better to have no religion than a religion which did not conform to reason."

That is to say the modem religious thinker's definitions of "authority" conform in every respect to the scientist's own definitions. Nothing is accepted until passed through the alembic of man's reason. The only difference lies in the fact that the Bahá'í (which term simply connotes a true seeker after Light and who loves the Light from whatever Lamp it shines) extends the limits of his search for truth to include not only the resources of the senses but the equally, if not superior, important spheres of the emotions, the ideals, the aspirations and longings of the human soul and spirit.

I have long inwardly fretted against the assumption of the self-styled "intellectuals" that the field of "science" was bounded solely by the realm of sense impression. Why should not the word science include the whole field of man's experience? Someone has said that nothing may be proved that is worthy of proof. If anyone should suggest to you or to me that our love for wife or child has no existence because it cannot be subjected to proof by the microscope I think we might reasonably consider that an insulting remark had been made. Yet as a matter of fact Love is just as susceptible of "proof as is the law of gravitation, which, by the way, our modem scientists are now proceeding to cast doubt upon. But they do not dare to cast doubt on the phenomenon of Love and its various manifestations in the racial experience of man, for it is susceptible of the proof offered by the total field of that experience.

So when I unhesitatingly accept such words as are quoted here as "authoritative" in matters dealing with the ideal and satisfactory life it is only after they have passed the bar of my reason and judgment. Surely these adjurations are not unreasonable. The mind will find some difficulty in denying their simple rationality. Nor could the emotions, the "heart," reject them as puerile and unsatisfying. Nor could experience as we know it personally, or through racial history, deny their success when applied to the affairs of men; else Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Emerson, and a host of their ilk are foolish chasers of the wind.

If, then, the authorities in the field of material science are such only in the accepted sense that they are subject to the challenge of individual reason and the Bahá'í (any sincere and unprejudiced seeker after Truth) defines his authority in the same terms; if both hold such authorities as subject to displacement by a higher Truth if it should be presented, and if the field covered by one of these "Authorities" is far wider than the other, far more satisfying to the whole nature of man, far more remunerative in terms of actual living, it would seem to me that not only have we reason to designate both as operating within the realms of "science" but that that which covers the widest realm must be the greatest, the most fundamental of all "sciences."

Chapter 10   Chapter 12

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