Politicking and Personalities 1
But he did have something to say about the process of selecting leaders, and the qualities of leadership. One of [Amos] Pinchot’s guests that day in Milford had asked him about the election. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá responded by discussing the way Americans elected their President.
The politicking at the conventions and the sensational press obscured a deeper debate about what kind of nation the United States should become. To what extent should The People rule? What should the role of the nation’s chief executive be?
The mass of the people, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá noted, tend to follow personalities. Indeed, the dramatic news stories during the past several months had demonstrated that the party nomination process had largely become a popularity contest. Instead, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá argued that the most suitable candidate would be the one chosen by the wisest people.
“It is evident that it is better the people elect the noble ones among them,” he said, “and then these elect the president of the republic. That is to say, the president should be the elect of the elect, because the public in general are not as well informed as they should be in regard to political affairs.”
“The affairs should be in the hands of the wise,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said. But then he clarified how the wise must act: “The wise people must be in the utmost faithfulness and sincerity of purpose, they must serve the people, and protect and safeguard their welfare.”
New Jersey: The Unity Feast 2
On Sunday morning, June 23, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá told the Bahá’ís more of the history of the Faith. As He came into the living room where the people were gathered, He said to one of the incoming friends “You are always smiling.” Mr. Frank E. Osborne replied, “surely our faces should reflect happiness in this presence.” Abdu’l-Bahá replied, “Yes! — This is the day of Bahá’ulláh; the age of the Blessed Perfection; the cycle of the Greatest Name. If you do not smile now, for what time will you await and what greater happiness could you expect?” 3
Talk at Montclair, New Jersey 4
In brief, the nations of the world are becoming united under the sovereignty of the divine Kingdom. The East and the West are embracing here in love and affection today. This is not a commercial or political unity, but unity through the love of God. We have crossed the sea to spread that love in America, to announce the call of the Kingdom, to establish the spiritual foundations of international peace. Although men may arise against the Kingdom, the dominion and sovereignty of God will be set up. It is an eternal Kingdom, a divine sovereignty. In His day Christ was called Satan, Beelzebub, but hear the bells now ringing for Him! He was the Word of God and not Satan. They mocked Him, led Him through the city upon a donkey, crowned Him with thorns, spat upon His blessed face and crucified Him, but He is now with God and in God because He was the Word and not Satan. Fifty years ago no one would touch the Christian Bible in Persia. Bahá’u’lláh came and asked, “Why?” They said, “It is not the Word of God.” He said, “You must read it with understanding of its meanings, not as those who merely recite its words.” Now Bahá’ís all over the East read the Bible and understand its spiritual teaching. Bahá’u’lláh spread the Cause of Christ and opened the book of the Christians and Jews. He removed the barriers of names. He proved that all the divine Prophets taught the same reality and that to deny One is to deny the Others, for all are in perfect oneness with God.
Diary of Juliet Thompson, 23 June 1912 5
I showed Him the proofs of the pictures, then spoke of Mrs [Gertrude] Kasebier—who had seen Him only once, when she photographed Him. “She said she would like to live near You, my Lord.”
He laughed. “She doesn’t want to live near Me. She only wants a good time!” Then He grew serious. “To live near Me,” He said, “one must have My aims and objects. Do you remember the rich young man who wanted to live near Christ, and when he learned what it cost to live near Him–that it meant to give away all his possessions and take up a cross and follow Christ–then,” the Master laughed, “he fled away!“
“Among the disciples of the Báb,” He continued, “were two: His amanuensis and a firm believer. On the eve of the Báb’s martyrdom the firm believer prayed: ‘Oh let me die with You!’ The amanuensis said: ‘What shall I do?’
“‘What shall I do?'” mocked the Master. “‘What do you want me to do?’ The disciple died with the Báb, his head on the breast of the Báb, and their bodies were mingled in death. The other died in prison anyway, but think of the difference in their stations!
Sunday, June 23, 1912
After morning prayers of thanksgiving, the Master, with some of these servants, went to the market to purchase food and utensils. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself supervised the affairs of the kitchen. During this journey He often cooked and prepared the meals, especially when there were special guests. When there were no guests, He would not permit us to go to the trouble of preparing special meals but instead was satisfied with a piece of bread and some cheese. With all this, His glory and majesty caused many to bow humbly before Him. In fact, it was seldom that many did not sit at His table both mornings and evenings to receive the blessings and honor of His presence. After returning from the market and completing His chores in the kitchen, He spoke of the development of Europe:
“The material progress of Europe is approaching its zenith. Everything that reaches its zenith undoubtedly begins to decline. I hope that spiritual progress will be bestowed on them and that they will be protected.
“It is obvious that whatever is growing, like a tree, is in the process of development. When we were going from Tihrán to Baghdád, there was not a friend to be found on the way but as the tree of the Cause of God was in its infancy and growing, it was apparent that the divine Cause would surround the East and the West and the reign of Násiri’d-Din Sháh would come to naught. Observe what has become of his sovereignty and consider where we are.”
In the afternoon the hall of the building was full of people. Many were standing in adjacent rooms to hear ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. He began by saying:
“It is not the place that should be looked at but the illumined faces and hearts of the friends. In Baghdád there was a small room, about one-third the size of this one, in which a number of the believers were living — but under the shade of the kindness of Bahá’u’lláh and they were very happy.” 6
’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. “Politicking and Personalities.” 239 Days in America, 23 June 2012, https://239days.com/2012/06/23/in-the-hands-of-the-wise/. ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 97. ↩
- 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, 210. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/15#889743033 ↩
- 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, 212. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/15#557843750 ↩
- Thompson, Juliet. The Diary of Juliet Thompson. Edited by Marzieh Gail. 1st ed. 1947. Reprint, Los Angeles: Kalimát Press, 1983, 319. https://archive.org/details/diaryofjuliettho0000thom/page/318/mode/2up. ↩
- ’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#section91 ↩