A Modern Man from the Middle East? 1
“A side idea of Abdul’s is that things modern are just as good as things ancient,” piped the Evening Mail’s editorial page. “This makes the white-bearded and snowy-turbaned leader exactly as much at home on Broadway, in New York, as he was in the lonely cell at Acre . . . .” He is, they wrote, “the strange anomaly of an oriental mystic who believes in woman suffrage and modern development.” “He is worth his picture in the papers.”
First Days in America: New York City
When He spoke to an immense crowd at Mrs. Marjorie Morten’s home that afternoon, He stood on a staircase, His translator standing a step below Him. When the translator could not render tábistán into English, after a dead silence, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá laughed and said to him, “Summer!”2 3
Talk at Home of Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Morten, 141 East Twenty-first Street, New York
The spiritual world is like unto the phenomenal world. They are the exact counterpart of each other. Whatever objects appear in this world of existence are the outer pictures of the world of heaven. When we look upon the phenomenal world, we perceive that it is divided into four seasons; one is the season of spring, another the season of summer, another autumn and then these three seasons are followed by winter.
The appearances of the Manifestations of God are the divine springtime.
Bahá’u’lláh has come into this world. He has renewed that springtime. 4
Friday, April 12, 1912 [Saturday, April 13, 1912]
Group after group of believers from New York and the surrounding areas came to visit. There were also many seekers who were interested and desired to visit the Master. Some clergymen also visited. The Master spoke to them, saying:
Material and spiritual matters have always advanced hand in hand but at the present time the material side is predominant and the divine principles have been neglected and thrown aside and forgotten. One of the chief reasons for this growing apathy is that the ministers of religion have taught that religion is opposed to science and reason and have thus enforced imitation. You must, therefore, relate religious verities to science.
Then He added:
The appearance of the divine Manifestations is like the coming of springtime. It is self-evident that spring does not remain forever. We pray that the divine Spring may again be the cause of the rejuvenation of the garden of existence.
At the end of His talk ‘Abdu’l-Bahá discouraged everyone from war and disunity and urged all to peace and unity. The clergymen were so transformed that they remarked as with one voice, ‘We have attempted for many years to portray and promote the spiritual teachings with such pleasing and tangible proofs.’ 5
- Menon, Jonathan. “A Modern Man from the Middle East?” 239 Days in America, April 13, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/04/13/a-modern-man-from-the-middle-east/. ↩
- Diary of Juliet Thompson, National Bahá’í Archives, Wilmette, Ill., entry for Apr. 13, 1912. ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 21. ↩
- ʻAbduʼl-Bahá. The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ʻAbduʼl-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912. Edited by Howard MacNutt. 2nd ed. Wilmette, Ill: Baháʼí Publishing Trust, 1982, 10. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/2#987049026 ↩
- Mahmud-i-Zarqani, Mirza. Mahmúd’s Diary: The Diary of Mírzá Mahmúd-i-Zarqání Chronicling ’Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey to America. Edited by Shirley Macias. Translated by Mohi Sobhani. Oxford: George Ronald, 1998. https://bahai-library.com/zarqani_mahmuds_diary&chapter=2#section19 ↩