239 Days in America, Day 43: May 23, 1912 | Boston

“Free” Religion? 1

‘ABDU’L-BAHÁ LOOKED OUT upon an audience of 1,000 Unitarian ministers and 2,000 guests on the evening of May 22, 1912, in the largest church in the New England region. Religion, he told them, was fundamentally dead. “The essential realities, which the Prophets labored so hard to establish in human hearts and minds, while undergoing ordeals and suffering tortures of persecution, have now well nigh vanished.”

It was the eighty-seventh anniversary celebration of the American Unitarian Association, a week-long event held at Tremont Temple in Boston.

New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts 2

Great numbers of people flocked to see Him in Boston on Thursday, May 23. In the early afternoon He visited the Greek-Syrian Relief Society, where a reception featuring Eastern dishes was held. Before leaving He made a contribution to the agency. From there He drove with a university professor to Worcester. From there He drove with a university professor to Worcester. Along the way He commented on the greenness of the region and mentioned how much Bahá’u’lláh had enjoyed such scenes. Several times He asked the driver to stop, and the rest of the party stood and waited as He viewed the area.

At the University in Worcester He spoke to a special assembly including a thousand students and faculty members. The President provided Him with a car for traveling on to Cambridge to the one of Mrs. [Alice Ives] Francis W. Breed, where a large number of friends had gathered to celebrate ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s sixty-eight birthday.

Thursday, May 23, 1912 3

Many Bahá’ís and non-Bahá’ís came group by group to visit the Master. His bestowals and favors revived their souls and brought joy to their hearts. In but five minutes one of the journalists was so impressed that he accepted the Cause and decided to write and publish articles on the Faith. As he left the gathering, he wept at the feet of the Beloved and most reverently supplicated to be confirmed in dedicating the rest of his life in service to the Cause.

At noon ‘Abdu’l-Bahá visited the house maintained for the poor of Syria and Greece [the Greek-Syrian Relief Society]. Members of this association had prepared lunch for Him with great care. The lady who was the president of the association had been busy making preparations for His reception. In one of the large rooms there was a table laden with various Eastern dishes. The Master was given the seat of honor to the right of the hostess, which, according to Western etiquette, is a sign of respect. Many association members were also present. Among the Master’s comments at the table was this: ‘Happy are you who are engaged in serving the poor. My greatest happiness is this, that I may be counted among the poor.’

After lunch the Master gave an elegant address about poverty and detachment, filling the hearts of all those present with hope and delight. All, both young and old, expressed their heartfelt gratitude.

Upon leaving the meeting, He gave ten pounds for the poor. Later, sitting in Professor Blacks’s home surrounded by admirers, He showered kindness upon all. The professor accompanied the Master to the town of Worcester, located about 50 miles from Boston.

Passing through green and verdant plains and breathing the invigorating and pleasant air, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke sorrowfully in remembrance of the Blessed Beauty and the Greatest Name, saying: ‘Would that the Blessed Beauty could have come to these regions! He loved such scenery very much.’ Whenever He saw the green and fragrant countryside, He asked the driver to stop. At one place, near the shore of a lake, the greenness of the landscape, the translucence of the water and the purity of the air so pleased Him that He instructed the driver to stop for awhile. The entire group stood and waited. No one dared say anything about the delay.

The Master spoke of the Blessed Beauty in mournful terms, which deeply moved us all. In two hours we reached Worcester. The Master accepted the professor’s invitation to rest for awhile in his home. After tea ‘Abdu’l-Bahá went to the meeting at the university (most likely Clark University), which had been arranged especially for His visit. More than one thousand students and faculty had assembled. Professor (President?) [Granville Stanley?] Hall thanked ‘Abdu’l-Bahá for coming to the meeting.

The Master spoke on the value and importance of science. The hearts of those present were attracted and their souls enkindled with the fire of love to such a degree that they soared in the heaven of knowledge, their minds indelibly engraved with the words of the Master.

After His address, some distinguished individuals and seekers were invited to a magnificent reception prepared for the Master. As the chancellor (president?) of the university had himself invited ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, he himself served the Master. A number of Japanese, Chinese and Turkish students came into His presence and greatly appreciated His words.

When it was time to leave, the Master took both the president’s hands in His and said:

I am very pleased with you and delighted to see your university. You are, indeed, serving the world of humanity and expending your life for mankind. Above all, I wish for you the blessings of the Kingdom and desire that you will be a cause of the spread of sciences and arts. I will pray on your behalf that God may make you a standard of guidance and that the love of God may shine upon your heart. I have seen a great love and affection in you, as well as in the professors and scholars. I shall never forget this meeting, and I shall always remember and mention your services.

Later He returned to Boston in the automobile especially provided for Him by the chancellor. The Master went directly to the home of Mrs Alice Breed. As that evening was the commemoration of the Declaration of the Báb as well as the birthday of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Bahá’ís, with the utmost happiness and joy, had arranged a magnificent feast. When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá arrived, He rested for awhile and then joined the gathering of the friends, illuminating the meeting with His presence. With joyful and shining faces, all eyes were directed towards the Master. The freshness and verdure of that gathering was like a flower garden and was proof that the Tree of the Cause of God has been firmly rooted in American soil and that it has produced leaves and blossoms of the utmost beauty.

The Master spoke briefly about the greenery of the surrounding countryside, the magnificence of the city of Boston, as well as the university. He then gave an account of the life of the Báb that gladdened the hearts and cheered the souls.

Tea, drinks and sweets were served in another room. Mrs Breed brought before the Master a birthday cake with 68 candles, representing His age. At her request, He lit the first candle and then each of the friends in turn lit a candle, each person like a moth burning with the fire of love. When the cake was cut, each guest took a slice as a sacred relic. Mrs Breed, indeed, lit the candle of servitude and steadfastness that evening and, in doing so, became the recipient of bounty from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s presence. 4

Talk at Home of Mr. and Mrs. Francis W. Breed , 367 Harvard Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 5

Scientific knowledge is the highest attainment upon the human plane, for science is the discoverer of realities. It is of two kinds: material and spiritual. Material science is the investigation of natural phenomena; divine science is the discovery and realization of spiritual verities. The world of humanity must acquire both. A bird has two wings; it cannot fly with one. Material and spiritual science are the two wings of human uplift and attainment. Both are necessary—one the natural, the other supernatural; one material, the other divine. By the divine we mean the discovery of the mysteries of God, the comprehension of spiritual realities, the wisdom of God, inner significances of the heavenly religions and foundation of the law.

This is 23 May, the anniversary of the message and Declaration of the Báb. It is a blessed day and the dawn of manifestation, for the appearance of the Báb was the early light of the true morn, whereas the manifestation of the Blessed Beauty, Bahá’u’lláh, was the shining forth of the sun. Therefore, it is a blessed day, the inception of the heavenly bounty, the beginning of the divine effulgence. On this day in 1844 the Báb was sent forth heralding and proclaiming the Kingdom of God, announcing the glad tidings of the coming of Bahá’u’lláh and withstanding the opposition of the whole Persian nation.

’Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912-2012: Calling America to It’s Spiritual Destiny

Mahmud: May 23 – A visiting journalist accepts the Cause


  1. Sockett, Robert. “‘Free’ Religion?” 239 Days in America, 23 May 2012, https://239days.com/2012/05/23/free-religion/.
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 71-72.
  3. ’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#section60.
  4. Gail, Marzieh. Arches of the Years. Oxford England: George Ronald, 1991, 89. https://archive.org/details/archesofyears0000gail/page/88/mode/2up.
  5. 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, 138. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/10#939611165.

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