The Parliament of Rats 1
Once upon a time, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá narrated, the rats and mice held an important conference, the subject of which was to make peace with the cat. The cat, [William] Langland wrote, “came whenever he liked and leapt on them easily and seized them at his will, and played with them perilously and batted them about.”
“A rat of renown, most eloquent of speech,” Langland continues, “presented an excellent remedy to them all. ‘I have seen men in the city of London wearing bright necklaces around their necks, and some craftily worked collars. They go about unleashed both in warren and wasteland wherever they like, and elsewhere at other times, as I hear tell. Were there a bell on their necklace, by Jesus, it seems to me that men might know where they were and run away.’ ”
“ ‘And so,’ ” said the rat, “ ‘reason tells me to buy a bell of brass or bright silver and fasten it on a collar for our common good and hang it on the cat’s neck; then we can hear whether he rides, rests, or roams about to play. If he wishes to amuse himself, then we can appear in his presence, and if he is angry, we can be wary and shun his way.’ ”
This seemed like an excellent plan, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explained, until the question arose as to who should undertake the dangerous job of belling the cat. None of the rats liked the idea and the mice thought they were altogether too weak. So the conference broke up in confusion.
“Everyone laughed,” [Howard Colby] Ives tells, “‘Abdu’l-Bahá with them. After a short pause he added that that is much like these Peace Conferences. Many words, but no one is likely to approach the question of who will bell the Czar of Russia, the Emperor of Germany, the President of France and the Emperor of Japan.”
“Faces were now more grave,” Ives wrote.
New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts 2
On May 15 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’ walked around the beautiful grounds with a group of young people following Him. “‘It is very easy,’” He told them, “‘to come here, camp near this beautiful lake, on these charming hills, far away from everybody and deliver speeches on Universal Peace. These ideas should be spread and put in action over there, (Europe) not here in the world’s most peaceful corner.’” 3
Talk at Church of the Ascension, Fifth Avenue and Tenth Street, New York, 14 April 1912
Today the world of humanity is in need of international unity and conciliation. To establish these great fundamental principles a propelling power is needed. It is self-evident that the unity of the human world and the Most Great Peace cannot be accomplished through material means. They cannot be established through political power, for the political interests of nations are various and the policies of peoples are divergent and conflicting. They cannot be founded through racial or patriotic power, for these are human powers, selfish and weak. The very nature of racial differences and patriotic prejudices prevents the realization of this unity and agreement. Therefore, it is evidenced that the promotion of the oneness of the kingdom of humanity, which is the essence of the teachings of all the Manifestations of God, is impossible except through the divine power and breaths of the Holy Spirit. Other powers are too weak and are incapable of accomplishing this.
For man two wings are necessary. One wing is physical power and material civilization; the other is spiritual power and divine civilization. With one wing only, flight is impossible. Two wings are essential. Therefore, no matter how much material civilization advances, it cannot attain to perfection except through the uplift of spiritual civilization.
All the Prophets have come to promote divine bestowals, to found the spiritual civilization and teach the principles of morality. Therefore, we must strive with all our powers so that spiritual influences may gain the victory. For material forces have attacked mankind. The world of humanity is submerged in a sea of materialism. The rays of the Sun of Reality are seen but dimly and darkly through opaque glasses. The penetrative power of the divine bounty is not fully manifest. 4
Wednesday, May 15, 1912 5
The Master remained at Lake Mohonk. Many came into His presence and to each He taught the Cause of God, answering their questions in the way best suited to the understanding of the listener. Concerning the peace conference, He related a story:
Once I wrote to the Persian friends that if the workers of peace conferences do not apply in their own lives what they advocate, they are like those wine sellers who convene and make emphatic speeches regarding the harmfulness of wine and proposing its prohibition. But when they go out of the meeting, they begin again to sell wine and to do what they were doing in the past. Therefore it is necessary for the power of execution and effect to spiritually penetrate the body of the world.
The Master gave two addresses at this conference. At the request of the president, He wrote in detail explanations of the divine questions, which were to be published in a book recording the proceedings of the conference. A copy of the other address which He gave on the first evening was written by us.
At Lake Mohonk Conference — The Oneness of the Reality of Humankind 6
When we consider history, we find that civilization is progressing, but in this century its progress cannot be compared with that of past centuries. This is the century of light and of bounty. In the past, the unity of patriotism, the unity of nations and religions was established; but in this century, the oneness of the world of humanity is established; hence this century is greater than the past.
Sixty years ago Asia was in great turmoil of wars; England, Russia, Turkey and France went to war. There were wars in Persia, wars among the religions and wars between nations, especially in Persia on account of the existence of the different nationalities, such as Turks, Persians, Arabs and Kurds, and the various religions, namely, Mohammedan, Jewish, Christian and Zoroastrian. Among these different religions the greatest enmity and rancor were extant.
At such a time as this, His Holiness, Baha’u’llah appeared. He proclaimed the oneness of the world of humanity and the greatest peace. He wrote to all the kings and addressed epistles to all the religionists of Persia, and all the souls who accepted his platform and emulated and followed his teachings — whether Christians, Mohammedans, Jews or Zoroastrians — were united and attained the greatest amity and unity. Through those teachings, the Kurd, the Arab, the Persian and the Turk freed themselves from the prejudice of race and were people agreed to an extent which is indescribable, indeed, in such a manner, that were you to enter their meeting you could not distinguish between the Persian, the Christian, the Arab or the Turk, and you would not observe any differences of religious opinion. Among those people the utmost of love and oneness of peace now obtain, for the great teachings of Baha’o’llah make for the oneness of the world and for humanity, universal peace and arbitration. The following are a few of the principles of Baha’u’llah.
First, that all must investigate reality. It is incumbent on all nations to investigate truth. For Baha’u’llah declares that the foundations of the divine religion are one and that one is reality and reality is not multiple but indivisible. But the imitations which have come in, being different in character, have caused divisions and separations. If we forsake the imitations and revert to the original foundations of the divine religion, we shall find that the foundations are that reality which is one and not multiple.
The second principle of Baha’u’llah is the oneness of human kind. All humanity belongs to one family, inhabiting the same globe; all are beneath the providence of God, God has created all and has nurtured all and provideth for all and preserveth all. This is the policy of God. God is kind to all and why should we be unkind? Is there any policy wiser and better than God’s policy? No matter how keen the human mind may be, it cannot surpass the policy of God. The policy of God is perfect and we must follow it and not our own self-interest.
The third teaching of Baha’u’llah is that religion and science are twins. If a religious question be not in accordance with science, it is imagination. All religious matter must correspond with science, every question which meets the criterion of science shall be acceptable, and those questions which do not come to the standard of science are not to be given credence.
The fourth teaching of Baha’u’llah is that religion should be the one bond which shall unite society, which shall cement together the various peoples, which shall cause a unity among all the creeds. If religion should be productive of strife and division, if it should cause bloodshed and war and rapine, irreligion is preferable to religion. Religion was meant to be a bond of love among mankind.
The fifth principle is that racial bias, religious prejudice, patriotic prejudice, political prejudice, are the destroyers of the very foundations of the body politic. All humanity is one in kind, the surface of the earth one home, and the foundations of the divine religions one. All the wars which have taken place since the inception of human history have emanated either from religious prejudice, racial prejudice, patriotic bias or political greed and interest. As long as these prejudices last, so long will the foundations of humanity tremble. When such prejudices pass away the world will at last find peace.
The sixth principle of Baha’u’llah is equality between mankind and womankind. Woman and man are both human and both the manifestations of God’s grace. God has created man and has endowed him with knowledge and intelligence. The difference which now exists between man and woman is only a difference of education, and when woman shall receive the same education no doubt her equality with man shall become a reality. The world of humanity is composed of two organizations — the male and the female. If one organ be defective, that defect will affect the other. Until perfect strength shall obtain in both, and woman shall attain equality with man, the happiness of humanity will not be insured.
The seventh principle concerns the readjustment of the economic questions in the social body. The rich now enjoy the greatest luxury, whereas the poor are in abject misery. Certain laws must be made whereby the rich cannot become over-rich and the poor shall not starve, both rich and poor enjoying the comforts according to their respective deserts.
The eighth principle of Baha’u’llah is that philosophy sufficeth not and is not conducive to the absolute happiness of mankind. Great philosophers have been capable of educating themselves, or a few who followed them, but generally education, ethical education, they could not endow. Therefore, the world of humanity is evermore in need of the breath of the Holy Spirit. The greatest peace will not be realized without the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit of God which insures the safety of humanity, for human thoughts differ, human susceptibilities differ. You cannot make the susceptibilities of all humanity one except through the common channel of the Holy Spirit. 7
’Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912-2012: Calling America to It’s Spiritual Destiny
- Menon, Jonathan. “The Parliament of Rats.” 239 Days in America, May 15, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/05/15/the-conference-of-the-mice/. ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 67-68. ↩
- Zia Bagdadi, “Abdu’l-Bahá’ in America,” Star of the West, 19, no. 6 (Sept. 1928), 181. ↩
- 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, 11-12. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/2#616248837 ↩
- ’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#section52. ↩
- Talks of ’Abdu’l-Baha. “Talks of ’Abdu’l-Baha: At Lake Mohonk Conference—The Oneness of the Reality of Humankind,” April 25, 2012. https://centerofcovenanttalks.blogspot.com/2012/04/abdul-bahas-address-at-lake-mohonk.html. ↩
- “Report of the Eight Annual Lake Mohonk Conference on International Arbitration, May 15-17, 1912.” Mohonk Lake, NY: Lake Mohonk Conference on International Arbitration, 1912, 42-44. https://books.google.com/books?id=g2kNAAAAYAAJ&lpg=PA42&ots=EkL03bcERq&pg=PA42&hl=en#v=onepage&q&f=false. ↩