A Few Thoughts on the Potential of Youth 1
I RECENTLY READ A statement, attributed to Sigmund Freud, that the period of adolescence is a “temporary mental illness.” At best, our culture, and especially our media, considers adolescence as a time of fun and frivolity. We rarely see youth as capable of contributing meaningfully to society.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá thought otherwise. During his time in the United States and Canada, he spoke frequently about the need to look beyond outer appearances, advice we should surely apply to our perceptions of young people.
When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá visited New York in 1912, he encountered a unique thirteen-year-old named Dorothy King Beecher (later Dorothy Baker). Dorothy’s grandmother took her to hear ‘Abdu’l-Bahá speak. She was not looking forward to it. She spent the duration of the trip staring at the floor of the carriage. “What if he looks at me?” she later recalled thinking. “If he speaks to me I will die!” When she arrived, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá motioned for her to sit on a footstool beside him. Without looking up at him, she sat on the stool; her eyes fixed on her little black shoes.
It may have seemed as if Dorothy was disengaged, but this proved to be far from the truth. Dorothy later recalled that once ‘Abdu’l-Bahá began speaking, she felt an “intense, overpowering urge for the harmony of united love. . .” By the end of the talk, she found herself facing ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, “elbows on her knees, chin in hands, unwilling and unable to remove her gaze from his face.”
Along with the numerous meetings in Miss Marie P. Wilson’s home, where He [‘Abdu’l-Bahá ] stayed, and the other homes to which He was invited, He spoke to the New Thought Forum for the Metaphysical Club of Boston, lectured at the Franklin Square House on women’s rights, addressed the Theosophical Society, and attend the wedding of Clarence Johnson and Ruby Breed.
Talk at the New Thought Forum, Metaphysical Club, Boston, Massachusetts 3
Therefore, we must strive with life and heart that the material and physical world may be reformed, human perception become keener, the merciful effulgence manifest and the radiance of reality shine. Then the star of love shall appear and the world of humanity become illumined. The purpose is that the world of existence is dependent for its progress upon reformation; otherwise, it will be as dead. Consider: If a new springtime failed to appear, what would be the effect upon this globe, the earth? Undoubtedly it would become desolate and life extinct. The earth has need of an annual coming of spring. It is necessary that a new bounty should be forthcoming. If it comes not, life would be effaced. In the same way the world of spirit needs new life, the world of mind necessitates new animus and development, the world of souls a new bounty, the world of morality a reformation, the world of divine effulgence ever new bestowals. Were it not for this replenishment, the life of the world would become effaced and extinguished. If this room is not ventilated and the air freshened, respiration will cease after a length of time. If no rain falls, all life organisms will perish. If new light does not come, the darkness of death will envelop the earth. If a new springtime does not arrive, life upon this globe will be obliterated.
Monday, August 25, 1912 4
The superintendent of a girls’ school in Boston came with several people to invite the Master to speak to their students. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá invited another group of friends from Boston and Green Acre who had come to visit Him to stay for lunch.
In the afternoon He went to the New Thought Forum. On the way He stopped by the home of one of the friends whose wife was ill with consumption [tuberculosis]. After comforting and consoling her, He proceeded to the meeting of the society mentioned above. When He entered, the entire audience stood in His honor. After a cordial introduction of welcome, the president of the society announced, without the Master’s prior consent, that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá would speak on the subject of ‘Captivating the Souls’. Not to embarrass the president, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke first about the conquest of the cities and towns of the physical world by the kings and then described the conquest of the dominion of the hearts and souls of men by the Manifestations of God. He concluded His talk on the influence and expansion of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh in this contingent world. He then chanted a prayer in His sweet, melodious voice.
As the Master went to the automobile, crowds of excited and joyful people lined the outside of the hall to express their gratitude, entreating Him to come the next day to speak to them again. The automobile drove through Boston and two other towns and passed several historic landmarks on the way back to Malden.
There was unusual excitement and happiness among the friends who came to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s home that evening. The Master spoke about 21 of the teachings of this Great Manifestation of God which are needed by the people of the world.
’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
- Jones, Caitlin Shayda. “A Few Thoughts on the Potential of Youth.” 239 Days in America, 25 Aug. 2012, https://239days.com/2012/08/25/a-few-thoughts-on-the-potential-of-youth/. ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 131. ↩
- 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, 279. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/20#201964743 ↩
- ’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=6#section154 ↩