‘Abdu’l-Bahá, aka “The Master” 1
Myron H. Phelps was one of the first Americans to meet ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. He was a wealthy New York lawyer, who had converted to Buddhism in India. Religion fascinated him, so when he heard that a new one had sprung up in Persia, and its leader lived in ‘Akká, Palestine, he made plans to visit him. After spending a month in ‘Akká, Phelps wrote the first book ever published in English about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Life and Teachings of Abbas Effendi.
First Days in America: New York City 2
“Do you think our luxury degenerate,” I [Kate Carew] ask, “as in this great hotel?”
Abdul Baha strokes his long white beard.
“Luxury has a limit. Beyond that limit it is not commendable. There is such a thing as moderation. Men must be temperate in all things.”
“Does the attention paid at present in this country to material things sadden you? Does it argue to you a lack of progress?”
“Your material civilization is very wonderful. If only you will allow divine idealism to keep pace with it there is hope for general progress.”
“Is there any way of making this life in a commercial city less crude for the young boy and girl?”
“ It would be well to get them together and say, ‘Young ladies, God has created you all human; isn’t it a pity that you should pass your energy along animalistic lines? God has created you men and women in order that you may acquire his virtues, that you may progress in all the degrees, that you may be veritable angels, holy and sanctified.’”
“There are so many temptations put in their way,” I murmur.
The Abdul Baha looks very sympathetic, but his singsong tones are relentlessly firm.
“Let them try a little of the delicacy of the spiritual world, the sweetness of its perfection and see which life is preferable…”
More about Kate Carew’s exchanges with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá can be found in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in New York by Hussein Ahdieh and Hillary Chapman.
Talk at Home of Mr. and Mrs. Marshall L. Emery, 273 West Ninetieth Street, New York
Briefly, the Blessed Perfection [Bahá’u’lláh] bore all these ordeals and calamities in order that our hearts might become enkindled and radiant, our spirits be glorified, our faults become virtues, our ignorance be transformed into knowledge; in order that we might attain the real fruits of humanity and acquire heavenly graces; in order that, although pilgrims upon earth, we should travel the road of the heavenly Kingdom, and, although needy and poor, we might receive the treasures of eternal life. For this has He borne these difficulties and sorrows.
Trust all to God. The lights of God are resplendent. The blessed Epistles are spreading. The blessed teachings are promulgated throughout the East and West. Soon you will see that the heavenly Words have established the oneness of the world of humanity. The banner of the Most Great Peace has been unfurled, and the great community is appearing. 3
Thursday, April 18, 1912
Besides the individual meetings of the friends with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, there were two public meetings held today. One was at the home of Mrs [Marshall] Emery, where He spoke about the life of the Blessed Beauty, His glory, His many afflictions and hardships and the triumph of the Cause of God despite His imprisonment by His enemies. This account brought tears to the eyes of the listeners and caused them to ponder deeply. Many asked that they might be assisted to serve the Cause.
The other meeting was held at the Bowery Mission Hall to help and assist the poor and destitute. First ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke on the subject of the station of poverty and gave the men hope for the future. His words were so penetrating that even those who were not poor became envious at ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s description of the station of poverty. The report of this meeting was publicized in many newspapers. When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá finished His talk, He said He wished to serve the poor. The chairman announced that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá would stand near the door so that they could come to Him from one side and then leave from the other. It was an impressive sight. The Master showered His kindness on each one and gave each of them some coins. Because there were about four hundred people, some said that the Master’s money would not suffice; there would not be enough for all of them. Instead, some money was left over, which was given to other destitute people and children outside the Bowery. 4
- Menon, Jonathan. “‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Aka ‘The Master.’” 239 Days in America, April 18, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/04/18/the-master/. ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 31-32. ↩
- 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, 28-29. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/2#871715772 ↩
- 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#section25 ↩