Superstition, Tradition, Mystery, and Confusion 1
CLOUDS HAD GATHERED above Manhattan as the sun dropped to the horizon, and they were expecting rain, but it was still a sweltering 79˚F when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá arrived at the Church of the Ascension at Fifth Avenue and 10th Street in New York, just before 8 p.m. on Sunday, June 2, 1912.
“I suppose nobody is satisfied with all that background of superstition, tradition, mystery and confusion of thought,” Dr. Percy Stickney Grant said, the Rector of the Church, “which in many religions is regarded as the necessary beginning of belief.”
Every Sunday evening at this time, Grant held his “People’s Forum,” an open discussion with a guest speaker that got down to brass tacks on practical issues that mattered to New Yorkers. Back on May 12 Grant had invited ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to return to the Church of the Ascension — where he had given his first American public address on April 14 — to converse with the audience attending this evening’s Forum.
After Grant’s introduction, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke for a few minutes…
Talk at Church of the Ascension, Fifth Avenue and Tenth Street, New York 2
In the western world material civilization has attained the highest point of development, but divine civilization was founded in the land of the East. The East must acquire material civilization from the West, and the West must receive spiritual civilization from the East. This will establish a mutual bond. When these two come together, the world of humanity will present a glorious aspect, and extraordinary progress will be achieved. This is clear and evident; no proof is needed. The degree of material civilization in the Occident cannot be denied; nor can anyone fail to confirm the spiritual civilization of the Orient, for all the divine foundations of human uplift have appeared in the East. This, likewise, is clear and evident. Therefore, you must assist the East in order that it may attain material progress. The East must, likewise, promulgate the principles of spiritual civilization in the western world. By this commingling and union the human race will attain the highest degree of prosperity and development.
New York, Philadelphia, New York 3
On Sunday, June 2, the New York Times announced, in a special report from Montclair, New Jersey, “BAHA TO LIVE ON MONTCLAIR. FAMOUS PERSIAN RELIGIOUS LEADER TAKES A HOUSE THERE.”
The report continued:
“Abdul Baha, … head of the Bahaists, who number 14,000,000 throughout the world, will make his home in Montclair, The Persian prophet … has taken the house at 11 Bradford Place … and will live there after June 15.”
“Abdul Baha recently spoke in Unity Church here, and was so impressed by the reception he received and by the physical aspects of the town that he expressed a desire to take up his abode in the town …”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá returned to the Church of the Ascension that evening, and after a brief walk, answered questions submitted on slips of paper from the audience …
Sunday, June 2, 1912 4
At a large and beautiful gathering at the Church of the Ascension, many were honored with the bounty of hearing the addresses and explanations of the Master and were thus turned towards the Kingdom of God. This was the second time this church was graced by Him around Whom all names revolve. He said:
“At the time of my arrival at the church I was in no condition to speak; but when I stood before this great gathering I found the atmosphere of the church filled with the Holy Spirit and so a state of wonderful happiness and joy came over me.”
He began His address by saying:
“In the terminology of the Holy Books, the church is a symbol of the Covenant, in other words it is a gathering place for different peoples and races so that it may become a sign and token of the true Temple and the Divine Law.”
It was an exposition about the Cause of God as the collective center, the manifestation of the Prophets and the coming of Bahá’u’lláh.
Through the pastor, Dr Grant, some in the audience requested permission to ask some questions, which was granted. Everyone who wished wrote a question on a piece of paper and submitted it through an usher. Through an interpreter, the questions were translated and the answers given to the inquirers. Oh, that the Eastern friends could have been in these churches and gatherings in the West to see with their own eyes the beauty and glory of their Master! They would have rejoiced in perceiving that which no spoken or written words can adequately describe.
’Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912-2012: Calling America to It’s Spiritual Destiny
Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America
Curated by Anne Perry
- Menon, Jonathan. “Superstition, Tradition, Mystery, and Confusion.” 239 Days in America, 3 June 2012, https://239days.com/2012/06/02/superstition-tradition-mystery-and-confusion/. ↩
- 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, 165-166. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/12#102518045. ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 85. ↩
- ’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=4#section70. ↩