The Collapse of the Long Peace 1
[On February 8, 1904] the Imperial Japanese Navy under Admiral Togo launched a surprise attack on Russia’s Far East Fleet at Port Arthur, in Manchuria, three hours before declaring war. The Czar was shocked at such behavior, and sent armies across the Trans-Siberian Railway to reassert his power. The war raged on land and sea for more than a year, sending more than 150,000 men to their deaths. Finally, the upstart Japanese smashed Russia’s mighty Baltic Fleet at the Tsushima Straits, south of Vladivostok, in the early morning hours of May 28, 1905. 2
Shortly afterwards in ‘Akká, a group of European visitors asked ‘Abdu’l-Bahá if Russia could have avoided the calamitous war. Yes, they could have, he said. Russia’s peace initiative at The Hague had generated substantial goodwill, but they had failed to leverage it. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá took out a world map and described the Russian frontiers, the movements of the naval battle groups, and the roles of the ships in each, pointing out how Russia could have retreated while buying time to coordinate international pressure on Japan for a ceasefire. He proceeded to explain to his visitors how a comprehensive peace plan could have been put in place.
New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts 3
After prayer and tea ‘Abdu’l-Bahá took the ferry to New Jersey and then caught a train for Montclair. The Reverend Edgar S. Wiers introduced Him to the congregation of Unity Church, saying:
“We need some great impelling message of peace … class is set against class. The employer and the employee, the capitalist and wage earner confront each other with hatred … Our own attitude of the white race toward the negro … and the red men … is anything but that which is indicated in our religion or any religion … We need some great word that will bring us to … brotherhood, unity and love.
“ … Just when we need the message of spiritual truth … this new religion has appeared… One of the successions of men who has brought forward this religion — Abdul-Baha will speak to us now … 4
Talk at Unity Church, Montclair, New Jersey 5
It is a self-evident fact that phenomenal existence can never grasp nor comprehend the ancient and essential Reality. Utter weakness cannot understand absolute strength. When we view the world of creation, we discover differences in degree which make it impossible for the lower to comprehend the higher. For example, the mineral kingdom, no matter how much it may advance, can never comprehend the phenomena of the vegetable kingdom. Whatever development the vegetable may attain, it can have no message from nor come in touch with the kingdom of the animal. However perfect may be the growth of a tree, it cannot realize the sensation of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch; these are beyond its limitation. Although it is the possessor of existence in the world of creation, a tree, nevertheless, has no knowledge of the superior degree of the animal kingdom. Likewise, no matter how great the advancement of the animal, it can have no idea of the human plane, no knowledge of intellect and spirit. Difference in degree is an obstacle to this comprehension. A lower degree cannot comprehend a higher although all are in the same world of creation—whether mineral, vegetable or animal. Degree is the barrier and limitation. In the human plane of existence we can say we have knowledge of a vegetable, its qualities and product; but the vegetable has no knowledge or comprehension whatever of us. No matter how near perfection this rose may advance in its own sphere, it can never possess hearing and sight. Inasmuch as in the creational world, which is phenomenal, difference of degree is an obstacle or hindrance to comprehension, how can the human being, which is a created exigency, comprehend the ancient divine Reality, which is essential? This is impossible because the reality of Divinity is sanctified beyond the comprehension of the created being, man.
Furthermore, that which man can grasp is finite to man, and man to it is as infinite. Is it possible then for the reality of Divinity to be finite and the human creature infinite? On the contrary, the reverse is true; the human is finite while the essence of Divinity is infinite. Whatever comes within the sphere of human comprehension must be limited and finite. As the essence of Divinity transcends the comprehension of man, therefore God brings forth certain Manifestations of the divine Reality upon Whom He bestows heavenly effulgences in order that They may be intermediaries between humanity and Himself. These holy Manifestations or Prophets of God are as mirrors which have acquired illumination from the Sun of Truth, but the Sun does not descend from its high zenith and does not effect entrance within the mirror. In truth, this mirror has attained complete polish and purity until the utmost capacity of reflection has been developed in it; therefore, the Sun of Reality with its fullest effulgence and splendor is revealed therein. These mirrors are earthly, whereas the reality of Divinity is in its highest apogee. Although its lights are shining and its heat is manifest in them, although these mirrors are telling their story of its effulgence, the Sun, nevertheless, remains in its own lofty station; it does not descend; it does not effect entrance, because it is holy and sanctified.
Sunday, May 12, 1912 6
In the morning, after prayers, the Master had tea and remarked that ‘Although we have not had sufficient rest yet we have to go to Montclair today to speak at the Unity Church there.’
He left with His companions, took a ferry for New Jersey and later boarded a train for Montclair. After an hour’s journey, we arrived at the home of Mr [Charles] Edsall, through whom the rector of the church had invited the Master. After greeting the friends, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá went to the church where the rector, Dr Edgar S. Wiers, was waiting for Him at the entrance. He took the Master’s hand most reverently and accompanied Him to the pulpit, as well as showing us to our seats. After the service, he introduced the ‘Great Mystery of God’ saying, ‘Today we shall read from the New Gospel, that is, from the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh instead of the Bible.’ The minister then read a few selections from previously translated Tablets and said:
“A few years ago a monument was erected in Genoa, Italy. Its purpose was to commemorate the memory of a Protestant martyred by the Catholics through religious prejudice. On the statue was engraved these wise words, ‘The greatest achievements of the last centuries have been the elimination of religious prejudice and the extension of human thought.’ But now I say that these words have not been fully realized and prejudice continues to hold its sway to a degree.
“Now there comes a matchless Cause which does away with all prejudices. It is the new teaching of the Bahá’í Faith, which has stirred the religions of the world and has sacrificed some twenty thousand persons to root out prejudice. The East has always been the dawning-point of divine religions. That land is the mother of all religions. The West is in extreme need of such peace because of its excessive armaments and its many wars.
“Although it has spread only recently to the West, the Bahá’í Cause will erelong encompass the entire hemisphere. And now from the leader of this mighty Cause you will hear an important message. It is truly our good fortune that this holy man is journeying in many parts of the world and has now come to this church to deliver the news of the great peace to us. I am greatly honored to introduce His Holiness ‘Abdu’l-Bahá ‘Abbás and to say that He is one of the great prophets of the world and one of the chosen ones of God.
After this introduction the Master stood up and the entire congregation, out of respect, immediately rose and remained standing until He bade them be seated with a wave of His hand. He spoke in a melodious and eloquent voice, beginning His speech by discussing the oneness of God and His Holy Manifestations and concluding with the statement that in every age the Sun of Truth appears within a sign of the zodiac. At the end He chanted a very touching prayer. As at every such meeting, the effect of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s talk had to be seen, for it is difficult to describe.
As ‘Abdu’l-Bahá left the church, many surrounded Him and shook His hand, each one attracted, each heart full of eagerness, each soul inclined towards the Master and every eye turned towards Him, each supplicating and yearning for the confirmations of the Kingdom. Not one mind was bereft of eagerness and no heart failed to be immersed in the sea of joy.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá returned to Mr Edsall’s home where several Bahá’ís and seekers had gathered, including the minister and his wife, to have lunch with Him. All were overjoyed to be with Him. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was exceedingly happy and the gathering became the envy of heaven.
After lunch and a little rest, another group came to visit ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and another meeting was held with eagerness and excitement. The Master spoke with animation, encouraging the friends and guiding the true seekers. Before He left, the minister brought out the church’s guest book, requesting that the Master write a prayer in His own hand. He do so at once:
“He is God! O Lord! O Pure One! Thanks be to Thee that, traversing mountains and deserts and crossing the great ocean we were enabled to reach this country and utter Thy Name and manifest Thy signs in these regions. Even in this church we have raised our voice to Thy Kingdom like unto Elijah. O God! Attract the members of this church to Thy beauty, protect and shield them in Thine own shelter and bless them.
Time passed so happily that the Master promised the friends in Montclair a second visit. He then returned to New York.
In the evening ‘Abdu’l-Bahá went to the Grace Methodist Church in New York to speak to the public meeting of the Peace Forum. He spoke on the purpose of the Prophets of God, the peace and unity of humankind and the coming of Bahá’u’lláh who would establish and promote these divinely-ordained teachings. His talk ignited such a fire in the listeners’ hearts that all became as moths with scorched wings. In this meeting, too, the members of the audience, with one accord, stood when the Master appeared before them, which seemed extraordinary to everyone. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave this address …
’Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912-2012: Calling America to It’s Spiritual Destiny
- Menon, Jonathan. “The Collapse of the Long Peace.” 239 Days in America, May 12, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/05/12/russias-pearl-harbor/. ↩
- Liulevicius, Vejas Gabriel. “The Causes of the Russo-Japanese War: From Imperialism to War.” The Great Courses Daily (blog), November 2, 2020. https://www.thegreatcoursesdaily.com/the-causes-of-the-russo-japanese-war-from-imperialism-to-war/. ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 66. ↩
- ’Abdu’l-Bahá, and Edgar S. Wiers. “Abdul-Baha at Unity Church, Montclair New Jersey (Rev. Edgar S. Wiers, Pastor), Sunday, May 12, 1912, 11 A. M.” Star of the West, 3, no. 7 (July 13, 1912), 12-13. ↩
- 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, 113-115. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/7#650792604 ↩
- ’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#section49. ↩