Abdu’l-Bahá Strolls in Lincoln Park 1
THINGS WERE COMING TO an end as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá contemplated the view from his window at the Plaza Hotel at the corner of North and Clark Streets, during his final few days in Chicago. He was preparing to leave America soon, on an early ship from New York after brief stops in Cincinnati and Washington, DC. Across the nation the presidential candidates were wrapping up the campaign season. Almost fifteen million Americans — almost all of them men, almost all of them white — would go to the polls next Tuesday. Even autumn was fighting for its life: the mercury dipped just below freezing overnight on Friday, November 1, and brisk northerly winds raked the leafless trees of Lincoln Park across the street from the Plaza Hotel.
During his stays in Chicago ‘Abdu’l-Bahá made a habit, every morning and evening, of taking walks across the lawns and woods of Lincoln Park, which extended northward from the hotel for a mile and half along the western shore of Lake Michigan. One morning in early May, with most of the tree branches still bare, he visited the Lincoln Park Zoo. Honoré Jaxon was there to tell the story in his sentimental, somewhat grandiose prose. “The many strange and beautiful forms of bird and animal life herein presented,” Jaxon wrote, “proved very interesting to Abdul-Baha, as he walked among them with a manner which somehow reminds one of the legends of St. Francis of Assisi.”
The Journey East: Chicago, Cincinnati, Washington, D.C., Baltimore 2
…[T]he next day, Friday, November 1, [‘Abdu’l-Bahá] continued to meet the crowds who sought Him.
He went with one man to view a private collection of ancient art and, on returning to the friends, said, “‘This man took Me to his house to show picture which are nothing more than the toys of children and they are ignorant of this marvel of divine strength.’”
Friday, November 1, 1912 3
Among those visiting ‘Abdu’l-Bahá for the first time was a man from Russia. When he was admitted into the Master’s room he began to complain about Russia. The Master said to him:
“Do not speak ill of Russia. Render good to friend and foe alike. Say that you are one with all. Be a true well-wisher of people. Give up your evil thoughts and pray for all. Be at peace and make peace with all. Do not express hatred or resentment toward anyone. Be a proclaimer of peace and say, ‘Now I feel no enmity toward anyone.’ Praise all and be mindful of the story of Christ. When everyone expressed disgust on seeing the body of a dead dog, Christ said, ‘What white teeth it has!’”
The visitor was so overwhelmed that he cried out, ‘Today I have found the way to salvation and safety.’ The Master replied, ‘If you follow these teachings you will see things greater than this.’
A minister came to see ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The Master spoke with him about the sanctity of God. When a crowd had gathered, the Master went into the hall of the hotel and continued His conversation with the minister on the same subject, explaining that God’s holiness is beyond imagination or likeness. Afterwards, after repeated invitations from a prominent man, the Master went to a private museum. This man had collected in a magnificent building specimens of antique art, pictures, drawings and other relics of past craftsmanship. When the Master returned to the hotel, He said: ‘This man took us to his house to show pictures and other objects. I was greatly surprised to find that people go to view things which are nothing more than children’s toys but they fail to examine this divine system.’
Dr Milburn, the minister of the Congregational Church, with his wife and others came to see the Master with the utmost humility. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said: ‘I have not forgotten our previous meeting or your talk in the church. There is not a shadow of a doubt that it was inspired by the Holy Spirit. It will remain for eternity in the history of this Cause.’ He then told them about the zeal and enthusiasm of the friends in California. Mrs Milburn begged Him to come to their summer home. He replied, ‘It is impossible because we must soon return to the East.’
On seeing their sincerity and interest, the Master said:
“Chicago has great capacity. I hope that the banner of the unity of mankind will be unfurled in this city and that the believers here will be united and be as the different flowers of one divine garden and become the adornment of the world of humanity, so that the dormant pulse of this country will beat vigorously.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke about receiving assistance in the Cause of God:
“My health was absolutely not up to traveling but the assistance of the Blessed Beauty helped me. All affairs advance with His aid. Without His aid, all would come to naught. When I left Syria I was ill and weak and also was not used to traveling. All were astonished. But now I am in Chicago and have other journeys ahead of me. You must continue to follow these teachings and promote universal peace and the unity of mankind so that misfortunes and calamities such as the Balkan disaster may cease and wars and massacres disappear completely. Observe: it is the children who are orphaned and families which are destroyed. The flames of the fire of war are day by day becoming more intense. You must become the cause of quenching this fire so that the light of love may enlighten the world.”
The Master addressed some socialists, saying:
“Bahá’u’lláh delivered us from all prejudices. It is prejudice that destroys the world. Every enmity, war, misunderstanding and suffering that has ever occurred in this world has been from either religious, patriotic, racial or political prejudice. Prejudice is contemptible and injurious in whatever form it may be. When these prejudices are removed from the world then will the world of humanity find salvation. We are striving for this mighty purpose. Twenty thousand persons have been sacrificed for this great Cause. With the utmost meekness they were martyred in order that these prejudices be eliminated and so that brotherhood and unity would be established. Our endeavors and self-sacrifice have been in order to unite diverse nationalities and to bring the various denominations under the shade of the one Word. Some may speak while others may even labor for good causes but they do so to obtain personal benefits and to gain a name for themselves. Even these works are of a limited nature. But Bahá’ís strive day and night for the public weal and in order to render service to humanity and to gain eternal honor.”
With a merry twinkle in His eyes, He continued:
“If the socialists succeed they would seize the world’s wealth and then divide it. But the Bahá’ís sacrifice their lives and properties. Socialist principles would annul class differences and distinctions and thus cause disorder in the system. But Bahá’u’lláh has laid down a great foundation for a system which, although it advocates the oneness of humanity and upholds the common weal, will preserve the various ranks. Every rank should perform its duties. Rights should be equal and all are the servants of one kind God. He who performs righteous acts is nearer to God and he whose efforts are more virtuous is more bountifully confirmed.”
Turning towards the ladies He said with a smile:
“I have said in America and Europe that there is only the question of votes in which women have been held back and claim equality with men. In California they even have this right. In all other respects it is men who must demand equality of rights. How many men in Europe and America work from morning until evening and whatever they save is spent on adornments and jewelry and colorful clothes and the latest fashions for their wives who spend their time in pleasure and enjoyment? In reality, these poor men are servants of their wives.
“Once a respectable gentleman came with his wife to see me. A little dust had settled on the wife’s shoes. She instantly asked her husband to clean them. As the poor man was cleaning her shoes he glanced at me. I said, ‘Madam! Do you also clean your husband’s shoes?’ She replied that she cleaned his clothes. I said, ‘No, that is not equality. You, too, must clean his shoes.’ Now then, it would be better if you occasionally stand up for the rights of men.
“One time an American woman had gone on a long trip to Europe, all in great comfort, while her poor husband was back in America, working hard and sending his earnings to her. This is the case with most of the wealthy and middle classes of the West, whereas there must be equality. A condition must be realized in which the man and woman sacrifice their rights for each other, serve each other with heart and soul and not through force and violence. This condition cannot be realized except through the power of faith. Hearts must be attracted to the divine fragrances so that each one prefers the other to himself and does not consider himself above the other.
“A Parsi Bahá’í came to ‘Akká to ask me to make honorable mention of his deceased wife. He was lamenting piteously saying, ‘That woman worked hard for forty years in my home but as I had no wealth she never had any comfort.’ To put it briefly, spiritual susceptibilities must reach this stage, they must become heavenly. Physical susceptibilities are of an animal nature and it is heavenly enlightenment which is worthy of man.”
Such detailed explanations were given daily. They were so numerous that if collected in a book, it would be a volume of immense size.
A public meeting was held in the evening at the home of Mrs True. The Master delivered an impressive address concerning the majesty of the Manifestations of the Pre-Existent Beauty, the opposition of the people of the world and the final victory and influence of the Cause and the Covenant of God.
Talk at Home of Mrs. Corinne True, 5338 Kenmore Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 4
We visited San Francisco and from there went to Los Angeles. In these places we found most devoted friends. Truly zealous and aglow with the fire of the love of God, their sole purpose is ever to serve the Kingdom of Abhá. I hope that you may serve even more faithfully and take precedence over all the other friends. May the fire of the love of God be so enkindled in Chicago that all the cities in America shall be ignited. This is my hope.
My third visit here expresses the degree of my longing to see you and the extent of my love. It was thought that I should go direct from San Francisco to New York and thence to the Orient; but impelled by excessive love, I have visited Chicago again to associate with you in fellowship and fragrance. I hope that these three visits may be most productive of future results. May you all become signs of unity; may each one be a standard of Bahá’u’lláh, each one shine as a star, each one become precious and worthy in the Kingdom of God. May you attain such a condition of spirituality that the people will be astounded, saying, “Verily, these souls are proofs in themselves of the validity of Bahá’u’lláh, for through His training they have been completely regenerated. These souls are peerless; they are truly the people of the Kingdom; they are distinguished above the people about them. This is in reality a proof of Bahá’u’lláh. Behold how educated and illumined they have become.”
’Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912-2012: Calling America to Its Spiritual Destiny
“Be at peace and make peace with all.”
Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America
Curated by Anne Perry
- Menon, Jonathan. “‘Abdu’l-Bahá Strolls in Lincoln Park.” 239 Days in America, 1 Nov. 2012, https://239days.com/2012/11/01/abdul-baha-strolls-in-lincoln-park/. ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 177. ↩
- ’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=9#section223 ↩
- 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, 383-384. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/28#050779978 ↩