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Chapter Five

A Leaf In The Breeze Of The Will Of God. My Throne Is My Mat. Inscription In The Seven Valleys. The Power Of The Word Of God.

"Every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God is endowed with such potency as can instill new life into every human frame, if ye be of them that comprehend this truth. All the wondrous works ye behold in this world have been manifested through the operation of His supreme and most exalted Will, His wondrous and inflexible Purpose."

Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 141

"We should count time by heart throbs." When I recall that all so far recounted occurred within the first three weeks after my meeting with Abdu'l-Bahá it seems incredible. In those few days life had taken on an entirely new meaning. I felt like a spiritual Columbus exploring the uncharted oceans of God. New lands had been discovered upon which I hardly had courage to set foot. Heights and depths of inner experience had been touched of which heretofore I had never dreamed. Truly, many times I had "packed eternity into an hour, or stretched an hour to eternity."

One day about the first of May of that momentous year I asked Abdu'l-Bahá if He could arrange to speak to my congregation at the Brotherhood Church. He considered a moment, then said smilingly: God willing. This was to me a new way of responding to such a request. A ripple of wonderment crossed my mind as to how many engagements for public speakers would be made in our modem world if both parties referred the decision to the will of God before its ratification. How could I arrange the necessary preliminaries on such an uncertainty? How was I to know whether God was willing or not? Abdu'l-Bahá noticed my hesitation and waited courteously for me to speak. Rather haltingly I said: "It will be necessary for me to know the date a few days in advance in order to be able to make the necessary public announcements."

He asked me how long before I would need to know?

"A week or ten days would be sufficient, I think."

He said I should ask Him then.

And so a week later I asked Him if Sunday evening, May 19th, would be convenient for Him. He said: Very good, and so it was arranged.

This incident gave me renewed food for thought. I got a little glimpse of the Source of the Master's mingled relaxation and power. He was never tense or hurried; never at a loss for word or act. He seldom used the first person singular. I have heard Him in His public talks refer to Abdu'l-Bahá as if that person were entirely distinct from the speaker. Any reference to the ego. He once remarked to a small group of the New York friends, any use of "I," "Me," "Mine," will in the future be considered as profanity.

The phrase "God willing" was constantly upon His lips. If one could ask a leaf in the clutch of autumn winds whither it was going, would it not answer, if it could, "I know and care not. I go where God's breezes blow me." In truth Abdu'l-Bahá was a "leaf in the breeze of the Will of God." Unquestionably this was one of the reasons for that atmosphere of majesty which always attended Him, and which no one entering His presence could fail to note. How natural to be kinglike when One is under the immediate inspiration and guidance of the King of kings! The gestures, posture, gait of the Master were ever king-like.

Mr. Mills, the friend to whose influence and tactfulness I am most indebted for my deepening interest, and who had been the cause of my first meeting Abdu'l-Bahá, once remarked to me that he had seen only two men of whom it could truthfully be said that `He walks like a king.' One was King Edward VII, the other was Abdu'l-Bahá. Yet while the former had been trained from infancy to expect deference, obedience, humility from millions of subjects, whose allegiance is now transferred to his grandson, the latter from the age of seven years had been trained in the glorious school of Martyrdom. Not His had been a home in palaces and rest upon beds of ease. Rather, His had been the portion of a prisoner and an exile. His bed the floor of the prison morgue, which he chose as the only place in the fortress where He could be alone and pray, His resting place too often the stocks and chains. Yet at any moment He could have been free to return to the life of wealth and ease to which He had been born, would He but renounce His allegiance to Truth and the Glory of God (Bahá'u'lláh) reflected in the earthly Temple of His Father.

My throne is my mat! My glorious crown in my servitude toward God! My standard is the commemoration of my Lord! My hosts are the knowledge of my Master! My sword is the guidance of God! My dominion is my humility, my submissiveness, my lowliness, my abasement, my supplication and my beseeching unto God - this is that permanent reign which no one is able to dispute, gainsay or usurp![9]

He lived to see many thousands die as martyrs for the Truth for which He had sacrificed His life, and millions of the living render to him "an homage which kings might envy and emperors sigh for in vain." No wonder He walked like a king, rather like a King of kings.

I think it was in connection with the plans for His approaching visit to the Brotherhood Church that He said to me one day: that He had noticed that many ministers and public speakers prepare their addresses in advance, often committing them to memory and speaking the same words to many different audiences. He paused and looked at me a little humourously, a little sadly, and added: that He wondered how they can be sure of what God wants them to say until they look into the faces of their people.

Again had a few simple words been like a searchlight turned upon the inner recesses of my heart. The Master continued--saying that there is no higher function than that of a minister of His Holiness the Christ, for his is the joy and duty to bring God near to the lives and hearts of men. He added that He would pray for me.

He often said that He would pray for me, and I heard Him use these words to many others. What must it have meant to the continent of America to have had the prayers of the Servant of God rising for its people! His interest in. His unbounded love for, the souls of men of every degree never flagged or failed. I remember once when I was alone with Him and the interpreter, and He had been talking for some time on deeply spiritual things, while I, silent, was filled beyond utterance with many thoughts, that He urged me to speak, saying I should tell Him all that was in my heart; that I must always be sure that my joys were His joys, and my sorrows. His sorrows.

I give His words but no phrasing could convey the heavenly smile, the deep glowing eyes, the gentle tone that conveyed far more than the words.

It was about this time that I, one day, asked the Master if He would write a few words of dedication in the copy of Bahá'u'lláh's Seven Valleys which the translator had given to me and which I treasured much. I have before referred to the deep impression which this little book made upon me from my very first reading. Since then I had gone through it many times, and phrases, sentences, whole paragraphs had become familiar to me: outwardly familiar, that is, but the deeper meanings, the elusive, spiritual, mystic beauty of the Words and the thoughts they aroused, stirred an inner depth heretofore untroubled. My heart, too, had become "fascinated by the zephyr of assurance wafted upon the garden of my innate heart from the Sheba of the Merciful." I, also, had found "all the existent beings bewildered in search of the Friend," I too was intent on attaining the "Goal of the Beloved," and "at every step I found the assistance of the Invisible surrounding me and the ardor of my search increasing." That "the steed of the Valley of Love is pain," I had faintly discerned, and with this discovery had also come a faint but blissful certainty that: "Happy is the head that is dropped in the dust in the path of His love."

But, alas, not to me had been given the faintest indication of the meaning of the divine words describing the further experience of the traveler on the road "from self to God." What was the reality of the experience briefly hinted at as "drinking from the Cup of Abstraction"; of "hearing with divine ears and gazing on the mysteries of the Eternal One with God-like eyes"; of "stepping into the Retreat of the Friend and becoming an intimate in the Pavilion of the Beloved," and of this promise: "He (the traveler) will stretch forth the Hand of the True One from the bosom of omnipotence and show forth the mysteries of Power"? What was this divine world of the Spirit from which Bahá'u'lláh sought to draw the veil? A world so vast, so beautiful, so unimaginable to our poor earth-blinded eyes and minds that even He could find no words to make it more than faintly discernible, for at times "the pen broke and the paper was torn." Or "the ink gave no result but blackness."

Is it any wonder that my very soul was torn with an agonized determination to probe such depths of this mystery as my poor capacity would permit? I was "quaffing the seven seas but the thirst of my heart was not allayed." Still I was crying: "Is there yet any more? " And so, moved by the urgency of such thoughts and aspirations, I fumed to Abdu'l-Bahá with a certain conviction that He would understand and know that I was, at least, not one of the army of autograph seekers.

He was standing amidst a group of the friends when I approached Him but He turned to me with that courteous simplicity which never failed, and motioned for me to speak. I handed Him the little book, and, through the interpreter, made my request, adding something of my hope to understand more and more of its hidden meanings. He smiled rather more gravely than was His wont and looked deeply into my eyes for a long moment before He signified His assent.

The next day He handed me the little volume without a word. Turning to the flyleaf I found several lines written in the beautiful copperplate Persian characters and signed by Him. It was accompanied by no English version so I hurriedly sought the interpreter and asked if he would write the translation on the opposite page.

"Very glad to do so," he answered and started to put the book in his pocket, giving no hint as to when I should recover it. But this suited my impatient soul not at all. "There are only a few lines," I suggested, "can you not write the English of it for me now? It will take but a moment." And so it was done. We found a little writing desk in a retired spot and in a few moments I had the precious book again. And this is what I read:

"O my Lord! Confirm this revered personage, that he may attain the Essential Purpose; travel in these Seven Valleys; enter the silent chamber of realities and significances, and enter the Kingdom of Mysteries.

Verily, Thou art the Confirmer, the Helper, the Kind."

(signed) Abdu'l-Bahá Abbas

Again He had shown an understanding of my inmost heart. What this prayer for my attainment to the "Essential Purpose" has meant to me through all these years no words can depict. Here, indeed, "the ink gives no result but blackness."

A few days before the Sunday when Abdu'l-Bahá was to speak in the Brotherhood Church I was riding in the trolley car on my way to Newark, on some business connected with the building of my church edifice. As usual I had with me one of the books pertaining to the Bahá'í Faith which had come to occupy my every thought. On this occasion I was reading the volume. Some Answered Questions, in which Abdu'l-Bahá discusses some of the most vital matters pertaining to the spiritual life, mainly from the standpoint of the Christian tradition. Sitting beside me in the car was a young woman whose eyes, I noted, were straying interestedly toward the book I was reading. Obligingly I moved the book slightly toward her and so together we read those marvelously illuminating explanations for the hour-and-a-half ride to Newark. No word was spoken but I could feel that she was deeply stirred. When we reached the city and I closed the volume she said: "I think that is the most wonderful book I ever saw. Won't you tell me, please, who is the author?" So I told her of Abdu'l-Bahá; of His long years of exile and imprisonment for the sake of His love of Truth; of His visit to America and that He was to speak in my church in Jersey City the following Sunday evening. She said: "I will surely be there." She was there. I saw her in the audience and spoke to her after the meeting. I have often wondered since whether that spark became a flame.

Perhaps it may be helpful at this time to speak of the effects which the mere reading of these divine Words has produced in my own life, and the lives of many others to whom I have been privileged to introduce this new Revelation of the Eternal Logos. Over and over again I have seen hearts illumined and lives transformed by merely reading a few passages from The Hidden Words, or the Tablet to the Pope, or The Book of Certitude, or the Súratu'l-Haykal, or, in fact, from any of the books opened at random. Through these Words, indeed, "Flows the River of Divine Knowledge and bursts the Fire of the Consummate Wisdom of the Eternal." For something like five years after meeting the Master I literally read nothing else. I crossed the continent twice during those years and carried with me a satchel filled with these books and typed copies of Tablets, which I studied constantly on the train and elsewhere. I became soaked in the "Oceans of Divine Utterance." To this one fact alone, accompanied with constant prayer, may be ascribed whatever slight progress may have been made in the Pathway of Eternal Life. The heavenly Significances, these "pearls hidden in the depths of the Ocean of His Verses," have opened portals to a freedom of mind and spirit such as no writings of human genius have ever bestowed. That there is a Power flowing from these Words capable of bestowing "a new life of faith" there has to me been abundant proof.

I remember a sincere soul of great capacity saying to me during the early days of her immersion in this Ocean of Revelation: "I defy anyone to study these Words with sincerity and prayerful selflessness for even such a short period as two weeks and not be assured that Bahá'u'lláh speaks with more than human tongue."

In seeking the reason for this power I found it in Bahá'u'lláh's own explanation. In the Book of Certitude He says that in the meeting with the Manifestation the Meeting with God is attained; that after the departure from this world this Meeting is assured through the meeting with His disciples, or "Family," and that after their departure this Meeting is only possible through the inspired Words He left to the world for the guidance and illumination of these who turn to Him.

I probed deeper, seeking practical understanding. What could this "Meeting with God" mean in terms of human living? I thought to myself: When I read Emerson or Browning sympathetically and understandingly do I not "meet" these great souls in the realm of their world? If that meeting brings to the reader such new, high and lofty thoughts, such soaring ideals, such a change of viewpoint and such pure resolves--what must be the effect upon the aspiring soul when it "meets" the Holy Spirit of God through reverent perusal of the Words of His Manifestation! I began to experience a little, at least, of the divine meaning underlying such phrases as: "You must soar in the atmosphere of My Knowledge"; "Become intoxicated with the wine of My Verses"; "Attain to My Supreme Paradise, the station of revelation and vision before the Throne of My Grandeur."

Not to the casual reader is this "meeting" vouchsafed. One must hold his breath and dive--dive deep, if the pearls of those depths are sought. But to those who, leaving all their earthly garments behind, take that selfless plunge, abandoning all else save Him, such a new and heavenly world is revealed that all verbal portrayal is beggared. A single letter of these divine words is indeed, as Bahá'u'lláh has said, "greater than the creation of the heavens and the earth, for they quicken the dead in the valley of self and desire by the spirit of faith."

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