‘Abdu’l-Bahá Returns to the City 1
‘SOMETIME AFTER MIDNIGHT, THE glow of Manhattan appeared over the eastern horizon. The train carrying ‘Abdu’l-Bahá on the final leg of his long trip back east slowed as it approached the city limits of Jersey City, and finally stopped at the Pennsylvania Railroad Terminal on the western shore of the Hudson River. The passengers disembarked and boarded the 23rd Street Ferry, which pulled away from the ferry terminal, turned against the Hudson’s current, and pushed north for four miles along the middle of the channel. Off to starboard the towers of lower Manhattan pricked the night sky with a thousand points of light.
Juliet Thompson stood at the end of the pier at the West 23rd Street Ferry terminal in Manhattan, tracking the chain of lights that embossed the small steamship on its dark watery approach. She made out Dr. Fareed, the translator, standing on deck, and, next to him, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá seated on a deck chair. He stood, stepped into the ship’s bright cabin, and, a few minutes after 1 a.m., walked down the gangplank to meet her. …
From the ferry terminal ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s automobile went north, although we don’t know the route. They may have set out east along West 23rd Street toward Broadway, and then north through the glowing canyons of the boulevard past the theatres, through brightly lit Times Square, around the statue of Columbus at the corner of the black expanse of Central Park, and then up past the Hotel Ansonia into the Upper West Side. Or the driver may have turned left out of the ferry terminal, skirted the dark flowing Hudson on 13th and then 12th Avenue, skipped inland at West 59th Street around the locomotives parked at the south end of the New York Central & Hudson River Railway, and then up West End Avenue to Mrs. Champney’s house on West 78th Street, where ‘Abdu’l-Bahá would again take up residence for his final three weeks in America.
Final Days in America: New York City 2
From November 12 until December 5 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá stayed in New York and could be said to have conducted a month-long deepening class on every aspect of the Faith. Although invitations to speak poured in, He now refused most of them, for He preferred instead to visit the homes of the friends or to have them come to His house. Day and night, in this last face-to-face effort, he prepared them, as part of the army of God, for the things they must do, for the sacrifices they must make, for the spirituality they must attain, for the lessons they must learn, for the total integration and oneness thy must achieve, and for the service they would be called upon to render to their fellowmen in the path of Bahá’u’lláh.
To know the events of these days fully would be to know the weaving in and out of each human experience, as each person emerged from all his past experiences, entered Abdu’l-Bahá’s presence, and went again into the world. To see how the fabric of the new World Order was being woven, in that rented house on Riverside Drive, those thousands of threads, along with their effects on other lives, would have to be followed from beginning to end.
Tuesday, November 12, 1912 3
Early in the morning, Mrs Champain, the owner of the house, and her relatives came to see ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and to receive His blessings. They were at a loss to know in what language they could express their gratitude for the fact that their home had become the residence of the Master and the point of adoration for His lovers. The house is located on Riverside Drive near the Hudson River. Each morning and evening the Master walks in the gardens on the banks of the river.
As there is a war raging between the Balkan states and Turkey, it is the main topic in all the newspapers and people look upon these visitors in their Persian garments with eyes full of prejudice. We have even been refused accommodation in some of the large hotels because they thought we were Turks. The Master remarked, ‘Observe how much enmity and hatred prejudices have produced among various parties and peoples and what suffering and hardship have been caused by them.’ But whenever those who feel enmity towards us have been informed of the Cause of God and entered ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s presence, they become humble and are honored to meet Him.
’Abdu’l-Bahá had been repeatedly asked by some of the New York Bahá’ís to see some of the wealthy people who wanted Him to visit them in their homes, but each time He said:
“I deal with the poor and visit them, not the rich. I love all, especially the poor. All sorts of people come here and I meet them all with sincere love, with heart and soul. Yet I have no intention of visiting the homes of the rich.”
On another occasion, a famous man, Mr Andrew Carnegie, humbly requested an interview with the Master. Although he was one of the millionaires of America, his request was granted and is recorded in one of His writings.
In the afternoon was the usual weekly meeting of the Bahá’í women at the home of Mrs [Grace] Krug. When the Master arrived, Mrs Krug was reciting a prayer. When she finished, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke:
“He is God!
“This is the assemblage of my daughters in the home of my daughter, Mrs Krug. Therefore I am very happy with this gathering. It is a good gathering, very illumined. It is a spiritual assembly, a heavenly assemblage, the glances of favor surround this meeting and the Supreme Concourse looks down upon it. They heard the prayer that you read and it made them joyous. They thank Bahá’u’lláh saying, ‘We thank Thee, O Bahá’u’lláh, that these maidservants are attracted to Thee and are turned to Thy Kingdom. They have no purpose but Thy Will; they wish for no station but that of service to Thy Cause.’
“O Bahá’u’lláh! Assist these noble maidservants; make these worldly daughters heavenly; inspire their hearts and gladden their souls.
“O Bahá’u’lláh! Make these bodies as light-giving candles, these beings the envy of flower gardens and fill their souls with a melody which will enrapture the Supreme Concourse and make them dance for joy. Make each of them a brilliant star so that the world of existence may be illumined with their light.
“O Bahá’u’lláh! Give them heavenly power, bestow on them the inspiration of the Kingdom and vouchsafe to them divine assistance so that they may be enabled to render service unto Thee.
“Thou are the Compassionate, the Merciful and the Lord of Bounty and Favor.”
There was a gathering in the evening at the home of Mr [Edward] Kinney which was attended mostly by black people. At the meeting the Master likened the faith of Mr [Arthur] Dodge to that of Peter and expressed His admiration for that sincere and true servant who was so firm in the Covenant. The Master showed similar kindness to Mr [Hooper] Harris who was permitted to speak to the public gathering before the Master’s address. The Master’s talk was a confirmation of Mr Harris’s speech, an explanation of the prophecies of the Book of Daniel concerning the Most Great Manifestation and the statement in the New Testament about the Promised One.
9 November 1912, Talk at Bahá’í Banquet, Rauscher’s Hall, Washington, D. C. 4
O Lord! Confirm and aid this assemblage. Confirm these souls through the breaths of Thy Holy Spirit. Enlighten the eyes by the vision of these radiant lights, and make the ears joyful through the anthems of Thy call to service. O God! Verily, we have gathered here in the fragrance of Thy love. We have turned to Thy Kingdom. We seek naught save Thee and desire nothing save Thy good pleasure. O God! Let this food be Thy manna from heaven, and grant that this assemblage may be a concourse of Thy supreme ones. May they be the quickening cause of love to humanity and the source of illumination to the human race. May they be the instruments of Thy guidance upon earth. Verily, Thou art powerful. Thou art the Bestower. Thou art the Forgiver, and Thou art the Almighty.
’Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912-2012: Calling America to Its Spiritual Destiny
The Master’s host receives His blessing
Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America
Curated by Anne Perry
- Menon, Jonathan. “‘Abdu’l-Bahá Returns to the City.” 239 Days in America, 12 Nov. 2012, https://239days.com/2012/11/12/abdul-baha-returns-to-the-city/. ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 185-186. ↩
- ’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#section234 ↩
- 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, 419. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/31#533139068 ↩