The Lesson of the Titanic 1
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who had been offered tickets on the Titanic, had spoken about the tragedy in Washington just as the Senate hearings began. “Although such an event is indeed regrettable,” he said, “we must realize that everything which happens is due to some wisdom.” He was consoled, he noted, “by the realization that the worlds of God are infinite . . .”
Like Senator [Isidor] Rayner, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá perceived a deeper meaning in the Titanic disaster. “We are living in a day of reliance upon material conditions,” he stated. “Men imagine that the great size and strength of a ship, the perfection of machinery or the skill of a navigator will ensure safety, but these disasters sometimes take place that men may know that God is the real Protector.”
Yet ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was also pragmatic. “Let no one imagine that these words imply that man should not be thorough and careful in his undertakings,” he said. “[H]e must provide and surround himself with all that scientific skill can produce. He must be deliberate, thoughtful and thorough in his purposes, build the best ship and provide the most experienced captain; yet, withal, let him rely upon God and consider God as the one Keeper.”
Friday, July 5, 1912 2
Some Tablets were revealed for friends in California, consoling them because of their separation from Him since He was not traveling to that state at the present time. Most of the friends on the West Coast of America had not yet had the honor to see Him. When they learned of His intention, they were saddened and sent telegrams begging Him to visit their state.
Today, at the invitation of Juliet Thompson, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá went to a museum near His house. On the first floor there were statues, figures of animals and a collection of relics of early American civilization. On observing these objects, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said, ‘From these things it appears that America had a great civilization in ancient times.’
In the evening, He spoke to a large number of friends and seekers at His home about detachment from physical desires and the attainment of everlasting life. Everyone was delighted.
5 July 1912, Talk at 309 West Seventy-eighth Street, New York 3
Consider to what a remarkable extent the spirituality of people has been overcome by materialism so that spiritual susceptibility seems to have vanished, divine civilization become decadent, and guidance and knowledge of God no longer remain. All are submerged in the sea of materialism. Although some attend churches and temples of worship and devotion, it is in accordance with the traditions and imitations of their fathers and not for the investigation of reality. For it is evident they have not found reality and are not engaged in its adoration. They are holding to certain imitations which have descended to them from their fathers and ancestors. They have become accustomed to passing a certain length of time in temple worship and conforming to imitations and ceremonies. The proof of this is that the son of every Jewish father becomes a Jew and not a Christian; the son of every Muslim becomes a follower of Islám; the son of every Christian proves to be a Christian; the son of every Zoroastrian is a Zoroastrian, etc. Therefore, religious faith and belief is merely a remnant of blind imitations which have descended through fathers and ancestors. Because this man’s father was a Jew, he considers himself a Jew. Not that he has investigated reality and proved satisfactorily to himself that Judaism is right—nay, rather, he is aware that his forefathers have followed this course; therefore, he has held to it himself.
The purpose of this is to explain that the darkness of imitations encompasses the world. Every nation is holding to its traditional religious forms. The light of reality is obscured. Were these various nations to investigate reality, there is no doubt they would attain to it. As reality is one, all nations would then become as one nation. So long as they adhere to various imitations and are deprived of reality, strife and warfare will continue and rancor and sedition prevail. If they investigate reality, neither enmity nor rancor will remain, and they will attain to the utmost concord among themselves.
’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
- Sockett, Robert. “The Lesson of the Titanic.” 239 Days in America, 5 July 2012, https://239days.com/2012/07/05/the-lesson-of-the-titanic/. ↩
- ’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=5#section103 ↩
- 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, 221. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/16#695281489 ↩