The Struggle to Be Fully Human 1
During his [‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s] travels in Europe and America, he relentlessly promoted the idea of a human race that is distinct from the animal kingdom, defining both intellectual and spiritual capacities as fundamentally different than natural instincts. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá didn’t deny humankind’s nearly unlimited capacity for self-interest, but he rejected the reductionist view of human beings that considers our nature as consisting of little else.
“Man is in the highest degree of materiality, and at the beginning of spirituality,” he would often argue. “That is to say, he is the end of imperfection and the beginning of perfection. He is at the last degree of darkness, and at the beginning of light . . . he is the sum of all the degrees of imperfection, and . . . he possesses the degrees of perfection.” Human beings, he said, are capable of both the most degraded behavior, and the most saintly. “Not in any other of the species in the world of existence,” he added, “is there such a difference, contrast, contradiction and opposition as in the species of man.”
At Stanford University on October 8, 1912, and again two days later at the Open Forum in San Francisco, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had defined humanity based on the qualities that differentiate us from animals — abstract thought, scientific advancement, the impulse for discovery, the capacity to struggle in the face of adversity, and moral reasoning among them. Yet these intellectual endowments, he frequently told audiences, must ultimately serve higher spiritual faculties such as justice, love, compassion, and generosity.
Saturday, November 16, 1912 2
After morning prayers and meditation, the Master spoke of the afflictions and persecutions of the believers in the East and their perseverance and steadfastness in the Cause of God. He spoke graciously of the family of Hadrát Samandarí and other old Persian friends. Later, at a gathering of the friends, He spoke these words:
“The holy Manifestations endured great afflictions and persecutions and at every moment accepted torment and oppression. Christ suffered violent persecutions, accepting the suffering of the Cross and the most glorious martyrdom. The results of these persecutions were eleven disciples who were truly blessed souls. They became luminous and heavenly; they became the cause of the enlightenment of the people of the world.
“I hope that you, too, may reach such a station, that it will be said that you are the fruit of the revelation of Bahá’u’lláh; that it will be said, ‘It is these people who are the aim of this new revelation; they are the jewels of existence; they are illumined, divine, spiritual and heavenly.’ If someone asks what Bahá’u’lláh has done, they will be told, ‘He has educated these people.’”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá then spoke about the divine laws and religions:
“Divine religions consist of two parts. One aspect is that of spiritual laws which constitute the foundation of all divine religions. They are immutable and unalterable. The second aspect consists of social laws and relates to material affairs, and changes according to the exigencies of the time.”
To a new group He said:
“Gracious God! Although people see with their own eyes that in the dispensation of Christ the eleven disciples were ordinary men who, because of their faith in Him, found eternal life and shone from the horizon of perpetual honor; and that the Jews, with all their worldly honor, became contemptible; and that Caiaphas, the greatest enemy of Christ, was, together with his whole family, obliterated from the face of the earth while a simple fisherman, because of his belief in Christ, became the great Peter, yet, despite all this, still they take no heed.”
In the afternoon meeting His address on the reality of God and the victory of the Manifestations of God threw the entire audience into an extraordinary state of excitement and attraction, especially the friends from New Jersey, who with Mr [William] Hoar, after the meeting went to the Master’s room and became the recipients of His grace and special bestowals.
Talk at 309 West Seventy-eighth Street, New York 3
Wherever the mention of Bahá’u’lláh rises up, that is the paradise of Abhá. Wherever purified, severed and illumined souls are found, that is the paradise of Bahá. Ṭihrán is the paradise of Bahá’u’lláh, for souls are found there you cannot call human; they are angels. In reality, the Bahá’í friends in that city are of the heavenly host. Whenever I think of them, I become happy.
The Blessed Perfection suffered innumerable ordeals and calamities, but during His lifetime He trained in all regions many souls who were peerless. The purpose of the appearance of the Manifestations of God is the training of the people. That is the only result of Their mission, the real outcome. The outcome of the whole life of Jesus was the training of eleven disciples and two women. Why did He suffer troubles, ordeals and calamities? For the training of these few followers. That was the result of His life. The product of the life of Christ was not the churches but the illumined souls of those who believed in Him. Afterward, they spread His teachings.
It is my hope that you all may become the product of the life of Bahá’u’lláh and the outcomes of His heavenly training. When the people ask you, “What has Bahá’u’lláh accomplished?” say to them, “He has created these; He has trained us.”
’Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912-2012: Calling America to Its Spiritual Destiny
Striving to become “… the fruit of the revelation of Bahá’u’lláh”
Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America
Curated by Anne Perry
- Sockett, Robert. “The Struggle to Be Fully Human.” 239 Days in America, 16 Nov. 2012, https://239days.com/2012/11/16/the-struggle-to-be-fully-human/. ↩
- ’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#section238 ↩
- 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, 437. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/32#317807173 ↩