Breaking Ground at Grosse Point 1
Early this morning, May 1, 1912, they had begun to assemble on this piece of land in the village of Wilmette. The Master had arrived at 1 p.m. First he took a private moment to console Mrs. Corinne True, whose son, Davis, had passed away the night before. Mrs. True had invested more than five years of her life in finding a site for the temple, and in raising the funds necessary to buy the land. Today, in spite of her recent loss, she was here to see things through. Then ‘Abdu’l-Bahá walked under the large tent where three hundred people sat on chairs in concentric circles, between nine equally spaced aisles. He strode to the center and began to talk about this unique religious institution.
“Thousands,” he said, “will be built in the East and in the West.” 2 But they were more than just places to pray. They would become the central edifices in a complex of institutions devoted to social, humanitarian, educational, and scientific pursuits. Together, they would offer a new model of faith dedicated to the service of humankind. They would become “one of the most vital institutions in the world.” 3
On Wednesday, May 1, the day ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was to lay the foundation stone for the first Bahá’í House of Worship in the Western Hemisphere, weather forecasters in the Chicago Daily News predicted unsettled conditions “and probably occasional showers to-night.” A marquee tent had been set up on the Temple site, with three hundred chairs arranged in nine sections separated by aisles leading to a central open area. A special entryway had been prepared for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s carriage in the middle of the eastern side of the tract. He arrived, instead, by taxi and entered on the northern side. Pacing back and forth before the filled chairs and two hundred additional person who were standing, He spoke of the importance of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár. 4
Talk at Public Meeting Concluding Convention of Bahá’í Temple Unity, Drill Hall, Masonic Temple, Chicago, Illinois, 30 April 1912
[T]he original purpose of temples and houses of worship is simply that of unity—places of meeting where various peoples, different races and souls of every capacity may come together in order that love and agreement should be manifest between them. That is why Bahá’u’lláh has commanded that a place of worship be built for all the religionists of the world; that all religions, races and sects may come together within its universal shelter; that the proclamation of the oneness of mankind shall go forth from its open courts of holiness—the announcement that humanity is the servant of God and that all are submerged in the ocean of His mercy. It is the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár. The world of existence may be likened to this temple and place of worship. For just as the external world is a place where the people of all races and colors, varying faiths, denominations and conditions come together—just as they are submerged in the same sea of divine favors—so, likewise, all may meet under the dome of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár and adore the one God in the same spirit of truth; for the ages of darkness have passed away, and the century of light has come. Ignorant prejudices are being dispelled, and the light of unity is shining. The differences existing between nations and peoples will soon be annulled, and the fundamentals of the divine religions, which are no other than the oneness and solidarity of the human race, are being established. For thousands of years the human race has been at war. It is enough. Now let mankind, for a time at least, consort in amity and peace. Enmity and hatred have ruled. Let the world, for a period, exercise love. For thousands of years the nations have denied each other, considering each other as infidel and inferior. It is sufficient. We must now realize that we are the servants of one God, that we turn to one beneficent Father, live under one divine law, seek one reality and have one desire. Thus may we live in the utmost friendship and love, and in return the favors and bounties of God shall surround us; the world of humanity will be reformed; mankind, enjoy a new life; eternal light will illumine, and heavenly moralities become manifest. 5
Talk at Dedication of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár Grounds, Wilmette, Illinois
The power which has gathered you here today notwithstanding the cold and windy weather is, indeed, mighty and wonderful. It is the power of God, the divine favor of Bahá’u’lláh which has drawn you together. We praise God that through His constraining love human souls are assembled and associated in this way.
Thousands of Mashriqu’l-Adhkárs, dawning points of praise and mention of God for all religionists will be built in the East and in the West, but this, being the first one erected in the Occident, has great importance. In the future there will be many here and elsewhere—in Asia, Europe, even in Africa, New Zealand and Australia—but this edifice in Chicago is of especial significance. It has the same importance as the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár in ‘Ishqábád, Caucasus, Russia, the first one built there. In Persia there are many; some are houses which have been utilized for the purpose, others are homes entirely devoted to the divine Cause, and in some places temporary structures have been erected. In all the cities of Persia there are Mashriqu’l-Adhkárs, but the great dawning point was founded in ‘Ishqábád. It possesses superlative importance because it was the first Mashriqu’l-Adhkár built. All the Bahá’í friends agreed and contributed their utmost assistance and effort. The Afnán devoted his wealth, gave all he had to it. From such a mighty and combined effort a beautiful edifice arose. Notwithstanding their contributions to that building, they have assisted the fund here in Chicago as well. The Mashriqu’l-Adhkár in ‘Ishqábád is almost completed. It is centrally located, nine avenues leading into it, nine gardens, nine fountains; all the arrangement and construction is according to the principle and proportion of the number nine. It is like a beautiful bouquet. Imagine a very lofty, imposing edifice surrounded completely by gardens of variegated flowers, with nine avenues leading through them, nine fountains and pools of water. Such is its matchless, beautiful design. Now they are building a hospital, a school for orphans, a home for cripples, a hospice and a large dispensary. God willing, when it is fully completed, it will be a paradise.
I hope the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár in Chicago will be like this. Endeavor to have the grounds circular in shape. If possible, adjust and exchange the plots in order to make the dimensions and boundaries circular. The Mashriqu’l-Adhkár cannot be triangular in shape. It must be in the form of a circle. 6
Wednesday, May 1, 1912
In the morning ‘Abdu’l-Bahá looked at some buildings from His balcony and enjoyed the lovely view of the park. He spoke to us, until visitors arrived, about the early days of the Most Great Prison and the sufferings of the Blessed Beauty. He sent several telegrams today to the assemblies of the East, sharing with them the glad tidings of the assistance of Bahá’u’lláh.
He spoke with the friends for a time and bestowed upon them His love. About an hour later He went to the proposed site of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár located outside the city, where property had been purchased for the construction of this great building. By the time He arrived the friends had already assembled and had pitched a large tent for the meeting.
’ Abdu’l-Bahá first drove around the site, inspecting its boundaries, and then entered the tent. The friends stood all about Him, their eyes intently fixed on His luminous face. It was in these circumstances that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave His talk on the power of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh to unite the people of the East and the West beneath the shadow of the Word of God. He also spoke about the Mashriqu’l-Adhkárs of ‘Ishqábád and America. He then went to the spot where He was to lay the cornerstone with His own hands. Miss Holmes presented Him with a golden trowel especially prepared for the occasion. He took it in His hand and dug the earth for the foundation stone. Then the delegates from the American assemblies, followed by representatives of the Eastern friends, each took the trowel and continued digging the foundation. Among them were Mihtar Ardishír Bahrám Surúsh representing the Bahá’ís of Pársí background, Siyyid Asadu’lláh representing the Bahá’ís of Muslim origin, Zia Bagdadi representing the Arabian friends and Ghodsieh (Qudsíyyih) Khánum Ashraf representing the Bahá’í women of the East. When the digging was completed, the Master set the stone in place with His own hand.78 He then showered His love and affection on the friends and left the site. Most of the friends remained and had lunch inside the tent.
There was a reception at the Plaza Hotel later that afternoon at which the Master spoke on divine civilization and spiritual qualities.79 Both before and after the meeting friends and inquirers requested interviews and asked Him questions on several subjects. 7
- Sockett, Robert. “Breaking Ground at Grosse Point.” 239 Days in America, May 1, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/05/01/dont-call-it-a-church/. ↩
- Effendi, Shoghi. God Passes By. 1944. Reprint, Wilmette, IL: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1970, 351.https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/shoghi-effendi/god-passes-by/1#337700484. ↩
- Baháʾuʾlláh. The Kitáb-i-Aqdas: The Most Holy Book. Haifa: Baháʾi World Centre, 1992, 190-191. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/bahaullah/kitab-i-aqdas/13#371279610. ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 51. ↩
- 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, 65-66. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/4#281413700. ↩
- 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, 71-72. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/4#181680280. ↩
- ’Abdu’l-Bahá, and Mirza Mahmud-i-Zarqani. 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=3#section38. ↩