‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the City of Angels 1
Thornton Chase was only sixty-five years old when he died. “No matter how long he might have remained here, he would have met nothing else but trouble,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said. “The purpose of life is to get certain results. . . If the tree bring forth its fruit young, its life is short; it is praiseworthy.” “Praise be to God!” he said, “the tree of Mr. Chase’s life brought forth fruit. . . therefore he is free.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá had not intended to voyage beyond the San Francisco Bay area, but once Chase died he changed his plans. He left for Los Angeles on Friday morning, October 18, and after a pleasant train ride arrived that evening. No sooner had he checked into the Hotel Lankershim on Broadway at 7th Street (as usual, friends had booked him into the best hotel in the city), than the customary torrent of invitations started to pour in for speaking engagements at local churches and societies. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá declined them all. “I have absolutely no time,” he said. “I have come here to visit Mr. Chase’s grave . . . I will stay here one or two days and then I must leave.”
On Saturday, October 19, after morning prayers, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, accompanied by several others, took the streetcar for the cemetery. There He went to the grave without asking its location. He chanted the Tablet of Visitation for Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb and a prayer for the departed and spoke briefly of the self-sacrifice and services rendered by Thornton Chase. When He kissed the grave, tears came to the eyes of the onlookers.
Saturday, October 19, 1912 3
After prayer and meditation, the beloved Master, accompanied by several of the friends, went to Mr Chase’s grave. The tram stopped near the cemetery, which is located a few miles from the city. The Master alighted and walked towards the grave with dignified solemnity and serenity. He went directly to the grave site without asking directions from anyone. He praised the site and the lushness of the trees and grass. He stood there for a few minutes leaning against a nearby tree. He then stood near the grave of that distinguished man and spread over it bouquets of flowers, adorning that sanctified soil with such love and affection that bystanders were astonished. Facing in the direction of the Holy Land, the Master chanted Bahá’u’lláh’s Tablet of Visitation. All stood in solemn reverence behind Him. After chanting the Tablet of Visitation, He recited a prayer in Arabic for the forgiveness of the departed soul. He then gave a short account of this faithful believer’s services, steadfastness and forbearance. Before He left, He placed His forehead on the grave and kissed it. Tears flowed from the eyes of the believers as they bowed before that sacred spot, each one longing to attain to that sublime and exalted station. The spot became an abode of lovers.
When we returned to the hotel, we found a multitude of people waiting for the Master. Some representatives of the press were also present and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke to them on various subjects. One of His statements to a newspaper reporter was this:
In the world of existence, civilization is found to be of two kinds: material civilization and spiritual civilization. Philosophers founded the former while the divine Prophets established the latter. For instance, the philosophers of Greece established a material civilization whereas Christ established a spiritual civilization. Material civilization is the cause of worldly prosperity but divine civilization is the means of eternal prosperity. If divine civilization, which is all-encompassing, is established, then material civilization will also attain perfection. When spiritual perfection is attained, then physical perfection is a certainty. Material civilization alone does not suffice and does not become the means of acquiring spiritual virtues. Rather, it leads to an increase in wars and disputes and becomes the cause of bloodshed and ruin. Despite all this, it is surprising that divine civilization has been completely forgotten and the people are constantly submerged in a sea of materialism. This is why night and day they have no peace and are engaged in war and killing. Every day there is bloodshed and ruin, suffering and distress, preparation for a universal war and the destruction of mankind.
In the afternoon He spoke to a larger crowd about the teachings of the Supreme Pen and the greatness of the Bahá’í Cause. In the course of His talk, He said:
If you desire the nearness of God, you must sever yourself from everything and become purified and sanctified from the dross of this transitory world. You must become submerged in the sea of the love of God. You must occupy your time with His mention and praise. Bahá’u’lláh alone must be the Beloved of the world. Observe: until the disciples of Christ renounced themselves they did not resuscitate the world. Thus, you must always be occupied with the mention of God and in spreading the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh.
Later some of the elite and wealthy came to see Him. They were fascinated and attracted to Him and immensely pleased to be in His presence.
At the evening meeting He spoke on the eternal benefits resulting from the gatherings of the friends, encouraged them to render service to the Cause of God and to turn themselves to the Kingdom of the Almighty Lord. At the conclusion of the meeting the Master was so exhausted that He could not even take supper. We left a little cheese and bread in His room so that He could have it if He got hungry during the night. (Often His food was as simple as this.) He usually took His meals in the dining room of the hotel but it would sometimes be brought to His room.
12 October 1912, Talk at Temple Emmanu-El, 450 Sutter Street, San Francisco, California 4
I wish you to be reasonable and just in your consideration of the following statements:
At the time when the Israelites had been dispersed by the power of the Roman Empire and the national life of the Hebrew people had been effaced by their conquerors—when the law of God had seemingly passed from them and the foundation of the religion of God was apparently destroyed—Jesus Christ appeared. When He arose among the Jews, the first thing He did was to proclaim the validity of the Manifestation of Moses. He declared that the Torah, the Old Testament, was the Book of God and that all the prophets of Israel were valid and true. He extolled the mission of Moses, and through His proclamation the name of Moses was spread throughout the world. Through Christianity the greatness of Moses became known among all nations. It is a fact that before the appearance of Christ, the name of Moses had not been heard in Persia. In India they had no knowledge of Judaism, and it was only through the Christianizing of Europe that the teachings of the Old Testament became spread in that region. Throughout Europe there was not a copy of the Old Testament. But consider this carefully and judge it aright: Through the instrumentality of Christ, through the translation of the New Testament, the little volume of the Gospel, the Old Testament, the Torah, has been translated into six hundred languages and spread everywhere in the world. The names of the Hebrew prophets became household words among the nations, who believed that the children of Israel were, verily, the chosen people of God, a holy nation under the especial blessing and protection of God, and that, therefore, the prophets who had arisen in Israel were the daysprings of revelation and brilliant stars in the heaven of the will of God.
Therefore, Christ really promulgated Judaism; for he was a Jew and not opposed to the Jews. He did not deny the Prophethood of Moses; on the contrary, He proclaimed and ratified it. He did not invalidate the Torah; He spread its teachings. That portion of the ordinances of Moses which concerned transactions and unimportant conditions underwent transformation, but the essential teachings of Moses were revoiced and confirmed by Christ without change. He left nothing unfinished or incomplete. Likewise, through the supreme efficacy and power of the Word of God He united most of the nations of the East and the West. This was accomplished at a time when these nations were opposed to each other in hostility and strife. He led them beneath the overshadowing tent of the oneness of humanity. He educated them until they became united and agreed, and through His spirit of conciliation the Roman, Greek, Chaldean and Egyptian were blended in a composite civilization. This wonderful power and extraordinary efficacy of the Word prove conclusively the validity of Christ. Consider how His heavenly sovereignty is still permanent and lasting. Verily, this is conclusive proof and manifest evidence.
’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. “‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the City of Angels.” 239 Days in America, 19 Oct. 2012, https://239days.com/2012/10/19/abdul-baha-in-the-city-of-angels/. ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 169. ↩
- ’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=8#section210 ↩
- 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, 366-367. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/27#593986573 ↩