Chapter 8   Chapter 10

Chapter Nine

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. 168-69.

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 West.

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 follows:

Aug. 16th - 24thGreenacre, Eliot, ME.5 Addresses
Aug. 25th - 30thBoston & Maiden, MA.4
Sept. 1st - 10thMontreal, Canada5
Sept. 16th - 19thChicago, Ill.1
Sept. 20th - 22ndMinneapolis & St. Paul, MN.2
Sept. 24thDenver, CO.2
Oct. 1st - 15thSan Francisco, Oakland, Palo Alto, CA4
Oct. 18thLos Angeles, CA (no accurate record at hand). He was there 2 days and at least.3
Oct. 25th & 26thSacramento, CA2
Oct. 31stChicago, Ill.1
Nov. 5thCincinnati, Ohio1
Nov. 6th - 12th Washington, D. C.10
Nov. 15th - Dec. 5thNew York City13

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 - 19thNew York City13 Addresses
April 20th - 25thWashington, D. C.13
Apr. 30th - May 5thChicago, Ill.15
May 6thCleveland, Ohio2
May 7thPittsburgh, Pa1
May 11th - 20thNew York City & vicinity7
May 23rd - 24thBoston & vicinity3
May 26th - June 8thNew York & vicinity7
June 9thPhiladelphia2
June 11th - July 15thNew York & vicinity20
July 23rd - 25thBoston & vicinity3
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 record.)

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 summer's work.

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[26] 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 sorrowing.

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 strength.

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 hardships.

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 eternal life."

"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 mysteries."

"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 angels."

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 Power."[27]

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 tangibilities.

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 the verities.

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 such.

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 14th, 1912

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."[28]

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 before you."

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 spoken word.

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."[29]

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 question."[30]

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 unflagging.

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." [31]

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 Bahá'u'lláh's Words.

"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 ." [32]

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