Triumph and Tragedy in a Vast and Progressive Nation 1
‘“HAVING TRAVELED FROM COAST to coast,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá announced on Election Day in Cincinnati, “I find the United States of America vast and progressive, the government just and equitable, the nation noble and independent.”
During his eight months in America, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had engaged a vast, diverse audience of Americans in conversation about the issues they felt were central to the future of their nation. He had praised “the optimism of this great country,” and the “quick perception, intelligence and understanding,” of the American people. “They are not content to stand still. They are most energetic and progressive.” “I find religion, high ideals, broad sympathy with humanity, benevolence and kindness widespread here,” he said, “and my hope is that America will lead in the movement for universal peace.”
Final Days in America: New York City 2
On November 12 Mahmúd recorded that the newspapers were filled with accounts of the war between the Balkan States and Turkey. He added, “the people looked upon us with eyes full of prejudice whenever they saw us in the market in Persian gowns. We were even refused accommodation in large hotels as they thought we were Turks.”
Wednesday, November 13, 1912 3
The Master described for the friends His journey to California and His talks at the university and at gatherings in San Francisco. He said:
“As they were delivered in scientific terms and with rational arguments, none could deny them and not a single voice was raised in opposition. In fact, in the gatherings like that at the university where one hundred and eighty professors and teachers and eighteen hundred students were present together with other notable people, if one had spoken using religious terminology and expressing religious opinions and imitations which are wholly contrary to science and reason, none would have paid any attention; rather, they would have scorned and mocked us.
“One reason that people despair of the world of religion is this very matter of superstitions and imitations practiced by religious leaders. When intelligent and learned people see these imitations and customs as being contrary to reason and knowledge they forsake the divine religion and are not aware that these are idle fancies of the leaders and have nothing to do with divine principles. The foundations of divine religion do not negate sound reason and true science. The principles of divine religion do not contradict knowledge and insight, except for some principles and minutiae of the law which were given according to the exigencies of the time and age. Of course, the second or social laws suited to the Mosaic dispensation and useful for the Jewish people at that time are now purposeless and ineffective and seem futile, but they were pertinent and useful at the time.
“Now, praise be to God, Bahá’u’lláh has solved these difficulties. All His teachings and laws are in keeping with the spirit of this age and the needs of the people. And greatest of all is the abandonment of religious superstitions and dogmas and the conformity of spiritual matters with scientific and rational arguments.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá spent the afternoon at the home of Mr Kinney. As was His daily custom, the Master went for a walk in the morning and afternoon in the gardens along the bank of the river on Riverside Drive.
His public talk at Mr Kinney’s home concerned the immersion of the friends in the sea of bounty and favor. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá encouraged them to remain firm and constant in the Covenant of God. After the meeting another group came to visit. He also encouraged them to arise, teach and spread the fragrances of God and inspired them to render service to the world of humanity so that others might arise from among the friends, girding their loins to bring about unity and harmony among the nations.
When some of the friends requested that the verses of the holy writings and divine Tablets be translated into English, He said: ‘A committee consisting of experts in several languages is essential for the translation of the Sacred Writings.’
Several friends brought their children to Him. He took the little children in His arms and showered them with His kindness and affection. Among them was the little daughter of Mr Jones, who ran to the Master in all the meetings and did not wish to leave His side. She was always sad when she had to leave Him.
The Master spoke this evening on the importance of the friends striving to detach themselves from earthly passions and worldly desires and to remain aloof from the doubts of selfish persons who outwardly appear faithful but who are inwardly the cause of confusion to others. He gave a lengthy discourse on firmness in the Covenant of God, obedience to the Center of His Covenant, the unity of the believers, the afflictions and tribulations of the Abhá Beauty and the martyrdom of the Manifestations in order that unity and harmony might be brought to the nations of the world.
During this talk two large rooms at Mr Kinney’s were filled to capacity. At first the Master sat on a chair between the two rooms but He later arose in a majestic and dignified manner, speaking with such forceful tones that everyone was delighted and full of admiration.
9 November 1912, Talk at Home of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur J. Parsons, 1700 Eighteenth Street, NW, Washington, D. C. 4
Every composition is necessarily subject to destruction or disintegration. For instance, this flower is a composition of various elements; its decomposition is inevitable. When this composed form undergoes decomposition—in other words, when these elements separate and disintegrate—that is what we call the death of the flower. For inasmuch as it is composed of single elements, the grouping of multitudinous cellular atoms, it is subject to disintegration. This is the mortality of the flower. Similarly, the body of man is composed of various elements. This composition of the elements has been given life. When these elements disintegrate, life disappears, and that is death. Existence in the various planes, or kingdoms, implies composition; and nonexistence, or death, is decomposition.
But the inner and essential reality of man is not composed of elements and, therefore, cannot be decomposed. It is not an elemental composition subject to disintegration or death. A true and fundamental scientific principle is that an element itself never dies and cannot be destroyed for the reason that it is single and not composed. Therefore, it is not subject to decomposition.
Another evidence or proof of the indestructibility of the reality of man is that it is not affected by the changes of the physical body. These changing conditions of the bodily composition are definite and continual. At one time it is normal, at another time abnormal. Now it is weak, now strong. It suffers injury, a hand may be amputated, a limb broken, an eye destroyed, an ear deafened or some defect appear in a certain organ, but these changes do not affect the human spirit, the soul of man. If the body becomes stout or thin, decrepit or strong, the spirit or soul is unaffected thereby. If a part of the bodily organism be destroyed, even if it be dismembered completely, the soul continues to function, showing that no changes of the body affect its operation. We have seen that death and mortality are synonymous with change and disintegration. As we find the soul unaffected by this change and disintegration of the body, we, therefore, prove it to be immortal; for that which is changeable is accidental, evanescent.
’Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912-2012: Calling America to Its Spiritual Destiny
Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America
Curated by Anne Perry
- Menon, Jonathan. “Triumph and Tragedy in a Vast and Progressive Nation.” 239 Days in America, 13 Nov. 2012, https://239days.com/2012/11/13/triumph-and-tragedy-in-a-vast-and-progressive-nation/. ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 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#section235 ↩
- 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, 415-416. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/30#764695301 ↩