One Spark Will Set Aflame the Whole World 1
“ON THE THIRTEENTH OF May,” Juliet Thompson writes, “a meeting of the Peace Conference took place at the Hotel Astor. It was an enormous meeting with thousands present. The Master was the Guest of Honour and the first speaker.” “The Master sat at the centre on the high stage, Dr [Percy Stickney] Grant on his right, Rabbi [Stephen Samuel] Wise on His left.” …
‘Abdu’l-Bahá began his talk by describing how Moses, Jesus Christ, Muhammad, and Bahá’u’lláh had all founded religions that welded together previously antagonistic groups. Religious teachings seem to disagree, he said, only because their followers cling to superstitions and imitate the past without understanding it. “Religion and reality are one and not multiple.” 2
New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts 3
On Monday, May 13, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was to appear at a meeting of the New York Peace Society. Juliet Thompson wrote, in an undated diary entry:
The Master was really too ill to have gone to this Conference, He had been in bed all morning, suffering from complete exhaustion, and had high temperature. I was with Him all morning, While I was sitting beside Him I asked: “Must You go to the Hotel Astor when You are so ill?” “I work by the confirmations of the Holy Spirit,” He answered. “I do not work by hygienic laws. I I did,” He laughed, “I would get nothing done.”
Talk at Reception by New York Peace Society, Hotel Astor, New York 4
Although I felt indisposed this afternoon, yet because I attach great importance to this assembly and was longing to see your faces, I have come. The expression of kindly feelings and the spirit of hospitality manifested by the former speakers are most grateful. I am thankful for the susceptibilities of your hearts, for it is an evidence that your greatest desire is the establishment of international peace. You are lovers of the oneness of humanity, seekers after the good pleasure of the Lord, investigators of the foundations of the divine religions.
Today there is no greater glory for man than that of service in the cause of the Most Great Peace. Peace is light, whereas war is darkness. Peace is life; war is death. Peace is guidance; war is error. Peace is the foundation of God; war is a satanic institution. Peace is the illumination of the world of humanity; war is the destroyer of human foundations. When we consider outcomes in the world of existence, we find that peace and fellowship are factors of upbuilding and betterment, whereas war and strife are the causes of destruction and disintegration. All created things are expressions of the affinity and cohesion of elementary substances, and nonexistence is the absence of their attraction and agreement. Various elements unite harmoniously in composition, but when these elements become discordant, repelling each other, decomposition and nonexistence result. Everything partakes of this nature and is subject to this principle, for the creative foundation in all its degrees and kingdoms is an expression or outcome of love. Consider the restlessness and agitation of the human world today because of war. Peace is health and construction; war is disease and dissolution. When the banner of truth is raised, peace becomes the cause of the welfare and advancement of the human world. In all cycles and ages war has been a factor of derangement and discomfort, whereas peace and brotherhood have brought security and consideration of human interests.
Monday, May 13, 1912 5
From morning until the afternoon there was a constant stream of visitors and friends. Then the Master went to another meeting of the New York Peace Society. The moment He entered the spacious hall of the Hotel Astor, the audience broke into such hearty cheers that the very walls of the building echoed. There were some two thousand people in the audience and when Mírzá Valíyu’lláh Khán-i-Varqá and I wished to enter, there was no room. However, the Persian fezes we wore were like crowns of honor and signs of respect. Whoever saw us knew at once that we were the servants of His threshold and assisted us to pass through the crowd until we reached ‘Abdu’l-Bahá so that we could record His words.
Many people welcomed ‘Abdu’l-Bahá with beautiful flowers of varying hues. The beauty of this great peace congress and the eloquence of all the speakers are tributes to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.
Mrs [Anna Garland] Spencer introduced ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, describing Him as the Prophet of the East and the Messenger of Peace. Dr Grant spoke of the calamities that had befallen the Master and His imprisonment for the sake of establishing peace among the peoples of the world. The Consul General of Persia [Mr Topakyan] referred to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as the Beauty of God and the Glory of the East. Professor Jackson, who had visited Persia, said that peace, prosperity and security would only be attained through this blessed Cause. The president of the society [Dr Stephen S. Wise] then gave an explanation of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s name and welcomed Him most warmly. The Master stood and a great excitement rippled through the audience. Although the Master was tired owing to His many speaking engagements and the difficulties of the journey, and His voice was hoarse, He delivered an incomparable speech. First He thanked the audience for its great love and kindness. He then spoke about the problems associated with peace, giving an explanation of some of the verses and commandments of Bahá’u’lláh regarding unity and the oneness of humanity. The audience was deeply moved. Every eye beheld that gathering as a court of power and majesty where all, like poets, praised in the most beautiful words and verses the Temple of Servitude. Verily, no desire remained unmet for us, the servants of His threshold. We witnessed with our own eyes the victory and confirmation of the Abhá Kingdom. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá repeatedly said, ‘Although I say always that I am ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, a servant of God, still people refer to me as a messenger and a prophet. It would be better if they would not attribute such titles to me.’
In the evening there was a meeting at ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s residence with people from India and Japan. He spoke to them in detail, saying:
“India had a great civilization in former times. That civilization spread from that part of Asia to Syria and Egypt; from Syria it was extended to Greece from whence it found its way to Arabia and Spain. Again, from Spain it spread over most of Europe. The world of man, however, has not yet reached its maturity. The time will come when this material civilization will be infused with divine civilization. Universal peace will be realized and people will become angelic. That will be the time of the world’s maturity.”
’Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912-2012: Calling America to It’s Spiritual Destiny
- Jones, Caitlin Shayda. “One Spark Will Set Aflame the Whole World.” 239 Days in America, May 13, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/05/13/one-spark-will-set-aflame-the-whole-world/. ↩
- “From these facts and premises we may conclude that the establishing of the divine religions is for peace, not for war and the shedding of blood. Inasmuch as all are founded upon one reality which is love and unity, the wars and dissensions which have characterized the history of religion have been due to imitations and superstitions which arise afterward. Religion is reality, and reality is one. The fundamentals of the religion of God are, therefore, one in reality. There is neither difference nor change in the fundamentals. Variance is caused by blind imitations, prejudices and adherence to forms which appear later; and inasmuch as these differ, discord and strife result. If the religions of the world would forsake these causes of difficulty and seek the fundamentals, all would agree, and strife and dissension would pass away; for religion and reality are one and not multiple.”
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, 117-118. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/8#338027932 ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 67. ↩
- 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, 123. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/8#380056591 ↩
- ’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#section50. ↩