239 Days in America, Day 25: May 05, 1912 | Chicago

The Master and the President 1

On ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s last day in Chicago — May 5, 1912 — he spent some time in the morning with children who had gathered at the Plaza Hotel, and walked with them into the park to be photographed. Then he said that he wanted to be alone. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá left the group and paced down toward the entrance of Lincoln Park. There he stood gazing up at the sixteenth President cast in bronze…

Today, a few hours after his quiet moment alone with the President, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke to the congregation of All Souls Church. In 1905, the church, which didn’t have a building of its own, constructed the Abraham Lincoln Center, a settlement house serving “the advancement of the physical, intellectual, social, civic, moral and religious interests of humanity, irrespective of age, sex, creed, race, [or] condition of political opinion.”

‘Abdu’l-Bahá concluded his speech at All Souls with a prayer. It was about unity:

“O Thou kind Lord! Thou hast created all humanity from the same stock. Thou hast decreed that all shall belong to the same household . . . . O Thou kind Lord! Unite all. Let the religions agree and make the nations one, so that they may see each other as one family and the whole earth as one home.”

Chicago

At 11:00 A.M. [Sunday, May 5] He spoke at the Plymouth Congregational church on East 50th Street. The Reverend Joseph A. Milburn introduced Him: “‘Having heard of the teachings of this peerless qualities of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, I had made arrangements to leave for ‘Akká. Then I was informed that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Himself, was coming to America. God has today endowed us with His presence here.’” As ‘Abdu’l-Bahá came forward, the audience stood, and, even though in a church sanctuary, they burst into prolonged cheers that stopped only when He motioned them to silence. Some of the audience at this and other meetings became so attracted to Him, even though they had just met Him, that they followed Him from meeting to meeting. 2

Talk at Plymouth Congregational Church, 935 East Fiftieth Street, Chicago, Illinois

O God! O Thou Who givest! This congregation is turning to Thee, casting their glances toward Thy Kingdom and favor, longing to behold the lights of Thy face. O God! Bless this nation. Confirm this government. Reveal Thy glory unto this people and confer upon them life eternal. O God! Illumine the faces, render the hearts radiant, exhilarate the breasts, crown the heads with the diadem of Thy providence, cause them to soar in Thy pure atmosphere so they may reach the highest pinnacles of Thy splendor. Assist them in order that this world may ever find the light and effulgence of Thy presence. O God! Shelter this congregation and admonish this nation. Render them progressive in all degrees. May they become leaders in the world of humanity. May they be Thine examples among humankind. May they be manifestations of Thy grace. May they be filled with the inspiration of Thy Word. Thou art the Powerful. Thou art the Mighty. Thou art the Giver, and Thou art the Omniscient. 3

Sunday, May 5, 1912 4

As it was the last day of the Master’s stay, there was much commotion among the friends visiting the Master’s apartment. A large number of Bahá’ís and their children had gathered in the [Plaza] hotel’s salon. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá embraced and kissed each child with love and kindness. Giving them flowers and sweets, He said to them:

According to Christ you are the children of the Kingdom and according to Bahá’u’lláh, the candles of the world of man, for your hearts are in the utmost purity and your spirits are sanctified. You are not soiled with the things of this world. Your hearts are pure and clean like the mirror. Your parents must bring you up with great kindness and must educate you in morals and praiseworthy attributes so that the virtues of the world of man may be exemplified perfectly in your characters and conduct, that you may progress in all fields of endeavor, may acquire knowledge of the arts and sciences, and may become the cause of the manifestation of eternal bounties and universal advancement.

Then addressing the entire assembly, He said:

“I am going, but you must rise up to serve the Cause of God. Endeavor to keep your hearts sanctified and your intentions pure so that you may attract divine bounties. Remember, although the sun shines equally on all things, yet in the mirror its effulgence is intense, and not in the dark stone. The cause of this intensity and heat in the glass is its purity; without purity and cleanliness, these effects would never appear in it. Similarly, if rain fall on barren land, it produces nothing, but if it fall on pure fertile land, it makes it verdant and causes it to yield a harvest. This is the day in which only pure and chaste hearts can derive benefit from the eternal bounties and only pious souls can receive light from the ever-existent splendors. Praise be to God that ye believe in God, have faith in His words and are turned to His Kingdom. You have heard the voice of God and your hearts are delighted with the breezes of the Abhá paradise. Your intentions are good; your object is the will of God; and your desire is to render service to the Kingdom of God.

Therefore, you must gird up your loins with unswerving determination, you must be united among yourselves and you must not be irritated by one another. Your eyes must be turned always to the kingdom of God and not to the world of man. You must love His creation for His sake and not for your own. When you love one another for the sake of God you shall never be perturbed. No human being is perfect, every person has some flaw. If you look to your fellowman you will always be upset; but if you look to God it shall not be so, because the world of God is a world of perfection and endless mercy; therefore, you will love and show kindness to all for His sake. You must not look to the faults of others; you must look with the eye of forgiveness and pardon. The eye that regards faults sees nothing but faults and the eye that overlooks faults is fixed on the Creator of the souls. It is He Who has created all, has nurtured all, has endowed all with life and spirit and has given to all eyes and ears. Thus all are the signs of His power and for His sake we must love all, and show kindness to all, assist the poor, render help to the weak, heal the sick and educate the ignorant.

It is my desire that the union and harmony of the friends of Chicago may be an example for all the friends in America and that all creation may derive benefit from their behavior; that they may lead all. Then and only then shall the confirmations of the Abhá Kingdom and the bounties of the Sun of Reality encircle you.”

  1. Sockett, Robert. “The Master and the President.” 239 Days in America, May 5, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/05/05/the-master-and-the-president/.
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 56.
  3. 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, 96. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/5#374930584
  4. ’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=3#section42.

239 Days in America, Day 24: May 04, 1912 | Chicago

Blame It On Religion 1

IT’S NOT BEEN A month since ‘Abdu’l-Bahá arrived in America, yet he has succeeded in placing himself at the center of virtually all of the nation’s raging debates. He has championed women’s rights. He has challenged whites and blacks to work together. He has argued that, of all nations, America is uniquely capable of leading the world to peace.

He is the unlikeliest of spokesmen: a sixty-eight-year-old Middle-Easterner, recently released from forty years captivity at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, accompanied by an entourage of men wearing fezzes.

But ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has shown that he is entirely at home in America. He converses with ease in the company of scientists, philosophers, businessmen, politicians, and men of religion, whether Christian or Jew.

Racial equality. Social progress. International peace. For ‘Abdu’l-Bahá these matters are fundamentally spiritual in nature. Yet the faith he offers isn’t one of mystical contemplation, though there seems time for that too. As he noted at the temple’s cornerstone ceremony three days ago: spiritual devotion must be manifested in material action.

Chicago

On Saturday, May 4, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke to the Theosophists at Northwestern University in Evanston… 2

Talk to Theosophical Society, Northwestern University Hall, Evanston, Illinois

The spiritual blessings of God are greatest. When we were in the mineral kingdom, although we were endowed with certain gifts and powers, they were not to be compared with the blessings of the human kingdom. In the matrix of the mother we were the recipients of endowments and blessings of God, yet these were as nothing compared to the powers and graces bestowed upon us after birth into this human world. Likewise, if we are born from the matrix of this physical and phenomenal environment into the freedom and loftiness of the spiritual life and vision, we shall consider this mortal existence and its blessings as worthless by comparison.

In the spiritual world the divine bestowals are infinite, for in that realm there is neither separation nor disintegration, which characterize the world of material existence. Spiritual existence is absolute immortality, completeness and unchangeable being. Therefore, we must thank God that He has created for us both material blessings and spiritual bestowals. He has given us material gifts and spiritual graces, outer sight to view the lights of the sun and inner vision by which we may perceive the glory of God. 3

Saturday, May 4, 1912 4

As ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s stay in Chicago was drawing to a close, there were numerous meetings and receptions. In the morning some clergymen visited Him in His hotel room. At the usual daily reception, He spoke about the three kingdoms of nature and the need for comprehensive education. He then went to the Plymouth Congregational Church, which was magnificent and most beautifully decorated. Its rector, Dr [Joseph A.] Milburn, had seen the Master several times and was greatly attracted to Him. After the customary service, the rector introduced ‘Abdu’l-Bahá:

“Having heard of the teachings and the peerless qualities of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, I arranged to leave for ‘Akká. Then I was informed that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Himself, was coming to America. Now God has endowed us with a great blessing that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has graced us with His presence here.

He then went on to give a detailed history and teachings of the Cause and introduced the Master as the Herald of Peace and the Son of God, ‘Abbás Effendi.

As the Master approached the pulpit, the congregation rose to their feet, and although they were in church, they greeted Him with prolonged applause and cheers of joy. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá called them to order then spoke about the manifestation of the center of illumination and the Sun of Truth which appears at different times at different points of the zodiac, thus illustrating the renewal of religions and the unity of the Messengers and the Holy Books. At the end of His talk He chanted a prayer in Persian in a melodious voice.

The hearts of the listeners were so attracted that the church seemed to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The people crowded around ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to the extent such that it became difficult for the Master and His companions to leave. Groups of people surrounded Him to shake His hand and to ask for His blessing. The most surprising thing about these meetings was that although most of the people had never before heard of the Bahá’í teachings, they were so attracted and fascinated that they would follow the Master in their cars from one meeting to another.

’ Abdu’l-Bahá had lunch at the home of Dr Forde and after meeting with a few people, He left for the hotel, saying, ‘Let us walk for a while, and then take the tram.’ Our host and some of us suggested that the distance was great and pointed out that Mr Forde’s car was available. At our insistence, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá rode in the car but as it twice punctured its tires, He took the tram.

When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá arrived at the hotel, many people were already waiting for Him. He answered their questions, for which they were filled with gratitude. One person asked him about the future affairs of Asia and the countries in the East. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave a detailed answer:

“No progress is possible except through the power of the Holy Spirit and the Cause of God. Each of the Manifestations of God appeared amongst a nation and in a country which outwardly had no means of salvation or progress. But no sooner had those nations come under the shelter of the Cause of God than they excelled all the civilized countries of the world. Today, whichever nation raises the standard of the oneness of humanity and comes under the shelter of this divine power will ultimately lead the whole world.

Question: ‘What is the difference between the Bahá’í religion and the other religions of the world?’

“The foundation of all the religions is one and this foundation is truth. In this respect there is no difference between either the divine religions or their Founders. The subsidiary laws that pertain to the affairs of society differ. These social laws are subject to the demands of time and place, so they are modified in each age.

Question: ‘What are evil and bad qualities?’

There is no evil in the world of existence; rather, evil is the absence of goodness just as darkness is the absence of light.

Speaking of the exigencies of the material world and its creation, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said:

“It [the world of creation] calls for change and transformation. Without change there can be no composition or development. Change and transformation, decomposition and composition produce opposites. In the realm of reality, however, there are no opposites. Consider the world of the sun, which has neither darkness nor east and west. But owing to the exigencies of this world, there is night and day, light and darkness.

After answering these questions, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá went with Mrs [Corinne] True and other friends to a Chicago cemetery to offer prayers for the departed.

In the early evening ‘Abdu’l-Bahá went to the All-Souls Church. A great excitement was also created among the people of this church. His eloquent address, given in sweet and melodious tones, concerned the missions of the Divine Manifestations of God and the peace and unity of humanity. He concluded His talk with a detailed account of the Most Great Manifestation, Bahá’u’lláh, and the influence of His exalted Word.

After members of the audience came to Him to shake His hand and express their thanks and devotion, He went to the home of Dr Melborne [sic], the rector of the Congregational Church. There He gave a most impressive and eloquent talk on the benefits of peace and harmony and the harm caused by war and strife. He discussed the requisites for prosperity and the unity of humankind. It was the last night of His stay and the effect of His words was so deep and far-reaching that it is beyond description.

  1. Sockett, Robert. “Blame It On Religion.” 239 Days in America, May 4, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/05/04/a-man-of-both-faith-and-reason/.
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 55.
  3. 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, 90. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/4#018271400
  4. ’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=3#section41.

239 Days in America, Day 23: May 03, 1912 | Chicago

America Will Lead the World to Peace 1

On May 3, 1912, ‘Abdul-Bahá met with visitors in the hotel’s ballroom throughout the day. If he was impressed, he failed to comment. There were more urgent things at hand.

‘Abdul-Bahá turned his attention once again to the war taking place in Libya. He painted an apocalyptic scene: “Observe what is taking place in Tripoli: men cutting each other into pieces, bombardment from the sea, attacks from the land and the hail of dynamite from the very heaven itself.”

The subject of war and peace has occupied much of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s time. He has become a well-known voice in the international peace movement. In fact one of the reasons for his trip to America is to speak at the Lake Mohonk Conference on International Arbitration on May 14.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá believes that the American nation is singly positioned to lead the world to peace:

Because I find the American nation so capable of achievement, and the American government the fairest of Western governments, its systems superior to others, my wish and hope is that the banner of peace may be raised first on this continent, that the standard of the Most Great Peace may here be unfurled. 2

Chicago

‘Abdu’l-Bahá often walked in the morning and evening through Lincoln Park and through the zoo, taking the friends with Him and talking on the way, sometimes calling the friends to take photographs of Him. At times He picked up a stick as He walked, using it like a cane. The friends recalled how, as He stood seemingly absorbed in watching the polar bear, they tiptoed back out of camera rage as the photographer positioned himself for a profile view, without asking ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. But just as he was about to click the shutter, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá laughed and playfully hit him across the back of the neck with a light touch of the cane.

From the zoo He led the friends toward the lake, sat on a bench, motioned to the friends to do likewise, and discussed unity with them. He said,

Some of you may have observed that I have not called attention to any of your individual shortcomings, I would suggest to you , that if you shall be similarly considerate in your treatment of each other, it will be greatly conducive to the harmony of your association with each other… 3 4

Talk at Plaza Hotel, Chicago, Illinois

The Prophets of God are the first Educators. They bestow universal education upon man and cause him to rise from the lowest levels of savagery to the highest pinnacles of spiritual development. The philosophers, too, are educators along lines of intellectual training. At most, they have only been able to educate themselves and a limited number about them, to improve their own morals and, so to speak, civilize themselves; but they have been incapable of universal education. They have failed to cause an advancement for any given nation from savagery to civilization. 5

Friday, May 3, 1912

From early morning friends and inquirers visited ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in twos and threes, all profusely offering their thanks and praise for the favors they had received from Him.

Today the members of an association of Indians residing in Chicago, who had previously attended ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s receptions, arrived as one body and after obtaining His permission, read Him an address of welcome:

“From the Society of Indians Residing in Chicago to His Holiness ‘Abdu’l-Bahá ‘Abbás. In the Name of God!

We, the members of the Society of Indians Residing in Chicago welcome you to this country. The Cause that has brought your Excellency to this country is most surely a source of honor and grace to us. Asia has always been the dawning-place of religions: Muhammad, Christ, Buddha and Confucius were born in that enlightened continent; and we confidently believe that at this time, too, Asia will again usher in the universal principles of accord. The Bahá’í Cause, like the Cause of the Buddha, will be a source of uniting nations and will be a fulfillment of the teachings of our forefathers. Although Asia presently is in a state of backwardness, we console ourselves with the thought that although we are lacking in material progress, yet, concerning spirituality, we are the pride of the world.

We feel happy when we realize that through your Excellency, the means for the acquisition of Western arts and sciences will become available for those in the East and that the youth of Persia will come to these parts to acquire material knowledge and broaden their thinking and will return to their homes to benefit their brothers and sisters in the East on the road to progress.

Further, we believe that our country, India, will greatly benefit from a visit from your Excellency. The lack of unity between the Hindus and Muslims has kept them in the utmost contention and strife. As your Excellency’s teachings are very much like the teachings of our religious leaders, they will undoubtedly unite them and make these contending nations one. We are certain that you will receive the same warmth and honor in India as here in America.

We pray to God to give your Excellency long life so that you may be enabled to convey your message to all mankind.

We are, most beloved Master, your sincere friends, the members of the Society of Indians Residing in Chicago.”

More people gathered, forming a large group. The Master gave a public talk at the hotel on the gradual weakening of man’s physical and material powers and the effect on man of divine civilization and spiritual education. All were struck with the charm of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s expression and the power of His argument. They openly expressed their conviction that the true salvation of the world of humanity lay in following the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. The address by the Society of Indians and the testimony of others are examples for the fair-minded of the degree of attachment and attraction of the people, just as ‘a drop expresses oceans’.

In the evening the Bahá’ís consulted. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá sent us there and later joined us. He spoke briefly to the meeting but on the subject of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, the Master said, ‘I will not discuss this matter. It is the business of the consultative assembly.’ Later He added: ‘If I were to speak about the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, it would have to be built at once.’

In the early evening ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave a very eloquent and impressive address for the Theosophical Society, which fascinated the audience, especially the members of the society.

Some of the friends had asked whether they could take photographs of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Several photographs were therefore taken in the park across from the hotel by Mr and Mrs Killius, two of the devoted believers. In one of the photographs ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is standing with a flower in His hand. In another He is with His entourage and in the third He is standing among the believers. Although photographs of the Master had been taken in other cities, these are better and more lifelike. 6

  1. Sockett, Robert. “America Will Lead the World to Peace.” 239 Days in America, May 3, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/05/03/will-america-lead-world-to-peace/.
  2. 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, 83. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/4#683021952.
  3. Jaxon, Honore J. “A Stroll with Abdul-Baha.” Star of the West, May 17, 1912, 29.
  4. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 54-55.
  5. 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, 84-85. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/4#219087740
  6. ’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=3#section40.

239 Days in America, Day 22: May 02, 1912 | Chicago

The Trials of Corinne Knight True 1

TODAY CORINNE TRUE BURIED her last surviving son. Just yesterday she had helped ‘Abdu’l-Bahá lay the cornerstone for a new temple in Wilmette. If ever a life reflected the human quandary about the nature and meaning of suffering, that life belonged to Corinne True.

Chicago

The ballroom at the LaSalle was filled with more than a thousand women of the federated clubs whom He addressed on the equality of women. A second meeting closely followed the first, for the Bahá’í women had invited all of the women’s clubs’ representatives to a reception in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s honor in the same ballroom. Ten speakers praised Him, and then He spoke again. 2

Talk to Federation of Women’s Clubs, Hotel La Salle, Chicago, Illinois

To accept and observe a distinction which God has not intended in creation is ignorance and superstition. The fact which is to be considered, however, is that woman, having formerly been deprived, must now be allowed equal opportunities with man for education and training. There must be no difference in their education. Until the reality of equality between man and woman is fully established and attained, the highest social development of mankind is not possible. Even granted that woman is inferior to man in some degree of capacity or accomplishment, this or any other distinction would continue to be productive of discord and trouble. The only remedy is education, opportunity; for equality means equal qualification. In brief, the assumption of superiority by man will continue to be depressing to the ambition of woman, as if her attainment to equality was creationally impossible; woman’s aspiration toward advancement will be checked by it, and she will gradually become hopeless. On the contrary, we must declare that her capacity is equal, even greater than man’s. This will inspire her with hope and ambition, and her susceptibilities for advancement will continually increase. She must not be told and taught that she is weaker and inferior in capacity and qualification. If a pupil is told that his intelligence is less than his fellow pupils, it is a very great drawback and handicap to his progress. He must be encouraged to advance by the statement, “You are most capable, and if you endeavor, you will attain the highest degree.”

It is my hope that the banner of equality may be raised throughout the five continents where as yet it is not fully recognized and established. In this enlightened world of the West woman has advanced an immeasurable degree beyond the women of the Orient. And let it be known once more that until woman and man recognize and realize equality, social and political progress here or anywhere will not be possible. For the world of humanity consists of two parts or members: one is woman; the other is man. Until these two members are equal in strength, the oneness of humanity cannot be established, and the happiness and felicity of mankind will not be a reality. God willing, this is to be so. 3

Thursday, May 2, 1912

From morning until noon ‘Abdu’l-Bahá received successive waves of visitors, both friends and inquirers, in His private room. When the numbers grew too large, He went into the outer room and spoke to the visitors about unity, fellowship and the importance of overcoming hatred and enmity. He began by saying:

“The object of my undertaking such a long journey with all its inconveniences has been to bring about spiritual illumination in the Occident, for the Occident has great capacity and its people are less fettered by vain imaginings and imitations. Lofty ideals find a quick acceptance among them and today the loftiest ideal of all is devotion to the unity of mankind and universal peace.

In the afternoon there were two public meetings at the LaSalle Hotel. One was for the Federation of Women’s Clubs and the other for the Unitarian congregation. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s first talk was on education and the rights of women and in the latter He spoke about human powers and gave proofs of the existence of God. Both talks were so impressive, charming and attractive that all the friends from the East and West offered thanks and glorification to the Abhá Kingdom, with smiles on their faces that were like roses in bloom.

Back at the Plaza Hotel, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá responded to questions about the differences in capacities and talents among people, saying:

“Souls possess two types of capacity: one is derived from innate powers and the other is acquired through the education imparted by the Teacher of the world of humanity. The development of innate capacity is completely dependent on education and on man’s own exertions. In other words, innate capacity is not realized without education and exertion on the part of man and its perfection demands effort and training.”

Question: ‘How should one associate with people of bad character?’ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá replied:

“This, too, has two aspects. There are certain evils whose consequences affect the doer only and do not extend to others. Of course, with discretion and tact, we must try to warn and educate wrongdoers. They are sick; we must bring healing to them. But there are actions which are injurious to others. Association with persons who commit such deeds leads to a deterioration of morals and therefore to mingle with them is not advisable, except for persons of perfect integrity, who can also impart education. They should be exhorted to exert themselves to modify their morals and refine their behavior. The public should be protected from such harmful conduct by the institutions which administer justice. Thus, in the Tablets of the Blessed Beauty, although He commends association with people of all religions and races, He also forbids fellowship with the wicked, admonishing us to shun the people of negation and denial.”

Several learned men, scientists, engineers and government officials visited ‘Abdu’l-Bahá today. 4

  1. Sockett, Robert. “The Trials of Corinne Knight True.” 239 Days in America, May 2, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/05/02/trials-corinne-knight-true/.
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 53.
  3. 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, 76-77. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/4#607844310.
  4. ’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=3#section39.

239 Days in America, Day 21: May 01, 1912 | Chicago

Breaking Ground at Grosse Point 1

Early this morning, May 1, 1912, they had begun to assemble on this piece of land in the village of Wilmette. The Master had arrived at 1 p.m. First he took a private moment to console Mrs. Corinne True, whose son, Davis, had passed away the night before. Mrs. True had invested more than five years of her life in finding a site for the temple, and in raising the funds necessary to buy the land. Today, in spite of her recent loss, she was here to see things through. Then ‘Abdu’l-Bahá walked under the large tent where three hundred people sat on chairs in concentric circles, between nine equally spaced aisles. He strode to the center and began to talk about this unique religious institution.

“Thousands,” he said, “will be built in the East and in the West.” 2 But they were more than just places to pray. They would become the central edifices in a complex of institutions devoted to social, humanitarian, educational, and scientific pursuits. Together, they would offer a new model of faith dedicated to the service of humankind. They would become “one of the most vital institutions in the world.” 3

Chicago

On Wednesday, May 1, the day ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was to lay the foundation stone for the first Bahá’í House of Worship in the Western Hemisphere, weather forecasters in the Chicago Daily News predicted unsettled conditions “and probably occasional showers to-night.” A marquee tent had been set up on the Temple site, with three hundred chairs arranged in nine sections separated by aisles leading to a central open area. A special entryway had been prepared for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s carriage in the middle of the eastern side of the tract. He arrived, instead, by taxi and entered on the northern side. Pacing back and forth before the filled chairs and two hundred additional person who were standing, He spoke of the importance of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár. 4

Talk at Public Meeting Concluding Convention of Bahá’í Temple Unity, Drill Hall, Masonic Temple, Chicago, Illinois, 30 April 1912

[T]he original purpose of temples and houses of worship is simply that of unity—places of meeting where various peoples, different races and souls of every capacity may come together in order that love and agreement should be manifest between them. That is why Bahá’u’lláh has commanded that a place of worship be built for all the religionists of the world; that all religions, races and sects may come together within its universal shelter; that the proclamation of the oneness of mankind shall go forth from its open courts of holiness—the announcement that humanity is the servant of God and that all are submerged in the ocean of His mercy. It is the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár. The world of existence may be likened to this temple and place of worship. For just as the external world is a place where the people of all races and colors, varying faiths, denominations and conditions come together—just as they are submerged in the same sea of divine favors—so, likewise, all may meet under the dome of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár and adore the one God in the same spirit of truth; for the ages of darkness have passed away, and the century of light has come. Ignorant prejudices are being dispelled, and the light of unity is shining. The differences existing between nations and peoples will soon be annulled, and the fundamentals of the divine religions, which are no other than the oneness and solidarity of the human race, are being established. For thousands of years the human race has been at war. It is enough. Now let mankind, for a time at least, consort in amity and peace. Enmity and hatred have ruled. Let the world, for a period, exercise love. For thousands of years the nations have denied each other, considering each other as infidel and inferior. It is sufficient. We must now realize that we are the servants of one God, that we turn to one beneficent Father, live under one divine law, seek one reality and have one desire. Thus may we live in the utmost friendship and love, and in return the favors and bounties of God shall surround us; the world of humanity will be reformed; mankind, enjoy a new life; eternal light will illumine, and heavenly moralities become manifest. 5

Talk at Dedication of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár Grounds, Wilmette, Illinois

The power which has gathered you here today notwithstanding the cold and windy weather is, indeed, mighty and wonderful. It is the power of God, the divine favor of Bahá’u’lláh which has drawn you together. We praise God that through His constraining love human souls are assembled and associated in this way.

Thousands of Mashriqu’l-Adhkárs, dawning points of praise and mention of God for all religionists will be built in the East and in the West, but this, being the first one erected in the Occident, has great importance. In the future there will be many here and elsewhere—in Asia, Europe, even in Africa, New Zealand and Australia—but this edifice in Chicago is of especial significance. It has the same importance as the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár in ‘Ishqábád, Caucasus, Russia, the first one built there. In Persia there are many; some are houses which have been utilized for the purpose, others are homes entirely devoted to the divine Cause, and in some places temporary structures have been erected. In all the cities of Persia there are Mashriqu’l-Adhkárs, but the great dawning point was founded in ‘Ishqábád. It possesses superlative importance because it was the first Mashriqu’l-Adhkár built. All the Bahá’í friends agreed and contributed their utmost assistance and effort. The Afnán devoted his wealth, gave all he had to it. From such a mighty and combined effort a beautiful edifice arose. Notwithstanding their contributions to that building, they have assisted the fund here in Chicago as well. The Mashriqu’l-Adhkár in ‘Ishqábád is almost completed. It is centrally located, nine avenues leading into it, nine gardens, nine fountains; all the arrangement and construction is according to the principle and proportion of the number nine. It is like a beautiful bouquet. Imagine a very lofty, imposing edifice surrounded completely by gardens of variegated flowers, with nine avenues leading through them, nine fountains and pools of water. Such is its matchless, beautiful design. Now they are building a hospital, a school for orphans, a home for cripples, a hospice and a large dispensary. God willing, when it is fully completed, it will be a paradise.

I hope the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár in Chicago will be like this. Endeavor to have the grounds circular in shape. If possible, adjust and exchange the plots in order to make the dimensions and boundaries circular. The Mashriqu’l-Adhkár cannot be triangular in shape. It must be in the form of a circle. 6

Wednesday, May 1, 1912

In the morning ‘Abdu’l-Bahá looked at some buildings from His balcony and enjoyed the lovely view of the park. He spoke to us, until visitors arrived, about the early days of the Most Great Prison and the sufferings of the Blessed Beauty. He sent several telegrams today to the assemblies of the East, sharing with them the glad tidings of the assistance of Bahá’u’lláh.

He spoke with the friends for a time and bestowed upon them His love. About an hour later He went to the proposed site of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár located outside the city, where property had been purchased for the construction of this great building. By the time He arrived the friends had already assembled and had pitched a large tent for the meeting.

’ Abdu’l-Bahá first drove around the site, inspecting its boundaries, and then entered the tent. The friends stood all about Him, their eyes intently fixed on His luminous face. It was in these circumstances that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave His talk on the power of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh to unite the people of the East and the West beneath the shadow of the Word of God. He also spoke about the Mashriqu’l-Adhkárs of ‘Ishqábád and America. He then went to the spot where He was to lay the cornerstone with His own hands. Miss Holmes presented Him with a golden trowel especially prepared for the occasion. He took it in His hand and dug the earth for the foundation stone. Then the delegates from the American assemblies, followed by representatives of the Eastern friends, each took the trowel and continued digging the foundation. Among them were Mihtar Ardishír Bahrám Surúsh representing the Bahá’ís of Pársí background, Siyyid Asadu’lláh representing the Bahá’ís of Muslim origin, Zia Bagdadi representing the Arabian friends and Ghodsieh (Qudsíyyih) Khánum Ashraf representing the Bahá’í women of the East. When the digging was completed, the Master set the stone in place with His own hand.78 He then showered His love and affection on the friends and left the site. Most of the friends remained and had lunch inside the tent.

There was a reception at the Plaza Hotel later that afternoon at which the Master spoke on divine civilization and spiritual qualities.79 Both before and after the meeting friends and inquirers requested interviews and asked Him questions on several subjects. 7

  1. Sockett, Robert. “Breaking Ground at Grosse Point.” 239 Days in America, May 1, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/05/01/dont-call-it-a-church/.
  2. Effendi, Shoghi. God Passes By. 1944. Reprint, Wilmette, IL: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1970, 351.https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/shoghi-effendi/god-passes-by/1#337700484.
  3. Baháʾuʾlláh. The Kitáb-i-Aqdas: The Most Holy Book. Haifa: Baháʾi World Centre, 1992, 190-191. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/bahaullah/kitab-i-aqdas/13#371279610.
  4. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 51.
  5. 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, 65-66. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/4#281413700.
  6. 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, 71-72. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/4#181680280.
  7. ’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=3#section38.

239 Days in America, Day 20: April 30, 1912 | Chicago

The Fallout from a City in Flames 1

Next door to Handel Hall, at the Masonic Temple on the corner of State and Randolph Streets, another convention was underway that evening. Fifty-eight delegates from forty-three cities were about to elect nine members to the governing board of the Bahá’í Temple Unity, a national body formed to coordinate the largest project ever undertaken by the Bahá’ís in North America: the construction of an enormous house of worship north of Chicago. White fluted columns with capitals wrapped in acanthus leaves surrounded the delegates in Corinthian Hall as they cast their secret ballots.

After the first round of voting there was a tie for ninth place between Frederick Nutt, a white doctor from Chicago, and Louis Gregory 2, the black lawyer from Washington, DC. In a dramatic departure from the vicious 1912 Presidential election, which raged all around them, each man resigned in favor of the other.

Then Mr. Roy Wilhelm 3, a delegate from Ithaca, NY, stood and put forward a proposal. His motion, seconded by Dr. Homer S. Harper of Minneapolis, recommended that the convention accept Dr. Nutt’s resignation.

The delegates assented unanimously.

To have elected an African American to the governing board of a national organization of largely middle- and upper-class white Americans — and to have done so at the nadir of the Jim Crow era in 1912 — was rare in the extreme. Even the NAACP had only elected one black member to its executive committee when it had been formed in 1909.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s assault on the color line was beginning to bear fruit.

Chicago

It was a warm, springlike day on Tuesday, April 30, when Jane Addams welcomed ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to an audience that far exceeded the auditorium’s seating capacity of 750. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke on the unity of races, saying, “God is not pleased with , neither should any reasonable or intelligent man be willing to recognize inequality in the races because of this distinction [color].” 4

Talk at Hull House, Chicago, Illinois

But there is need of a superior power to overcome human prejudices, a power which nothing in the world of mankind can withstand and which will overshadow the effect of all other forces at work in human conditions. That irresistible power is the love of God. It is my hope and prayer that it may destroy the prejudice of this one point of distinction between you and unite you all permanently under its hallowed protection. Bahá’u’lláh has proclaimed the oneness of the world of humanity. He has caused various nations and divergent creeds to unite. He has declared that difference of race and color is like the variegated beauty of flowers in a garden. If you enter a garden, you will see yellow, white, blue, red flowers in profusion and beauty—each radiant within itself and although different from the others, lending its own charm to them. Racial difference in the human kingdom is similar. If all the flowers in a garden were of the same color, the effect would be monotonous and wearying to the eye.

Therefore, Bahá’u’lláh hath said that the various races of humankind lend a composite harmony and beauty of color to the whole. Let all associate, therefore, in this great human garden even as flowers grow and blend together side by side without discord or disagreement between them. 5

Tuesday, April 30, 1912

Several friends and inquirers gathered in one of the rooms of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s suite and went in two or three at a time to speak with Him through an interpreter. Each returned transformed, soaring high in the atmosphere of happiness and joy. A few newspaper reporters were announced and He addressed them:

“We believe Bahá’u’lláh to be the supreme educator of the humanity. When the gloom of contention was spread over the Orient; when the nations of the East were steeped in enmity and hatred; when its religious sects shunned one another, denouncing one another as impure, and the people were ever engaged in war and the shedding of blood, Bahá’u’lláh appeared as the sun from the horizon of the East and summoned all to fellowship and harmony. He devoted Himself to their education and upliftment. He guided people from all nations and religions, cemented different denominations and united diverse nationalities to such an extent that if you attend their meetings you cannot say who is a Jew, who is a Muslim, who is a Parsi or who is a Christian. The despotic king of Persia with the legions of his ‘ulamá [Muslim clergymen] arose against Him and inflicted the severest persecution upon Him. They imprisoned Bahá’u’lláh and killed His followers. The oppression intensified to such a degree that all those who dared obey Bahá’u’lláh would lose life and property. But with all this, they could not resist Him; His teachings spread more and more. Then His persecutors exiled Him to Baghdád, whence He was sent to Rumelia and finally to the penal city of ‘Akká. He passed away in that city. I myself was in the same prison until the declaration of liberty by the Committee of Union and Progress when all prisoners were set free.

As to the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh, they are, first, the investigation of truth. The fundamental principle of all the Prophets is Truth. Truth is one. Abraham was the promulgator of truth; Moses was the servant of truth; Christ laid down the cornerstone of truth; Muhammad was the propagator of truth; the Báb was the herald of truth; and Bahá’u’lláh was the light of truth. Truth is the foundation of all the divine religions and is one. In truth there is no dissension. Imitations are different and are a cause of dissension and division. If people investigate truth and set aside imitations, all the nations will unite, for there exists no difference in religious truth; the differences lie in imitations only.

The second principle of Bahá’u’lláh is the unity of mankind. Bahá’u’lláh proclaims that all are the servants of one God; He has created all and provides for and sustains all. All are immersed in the ocean of His mercy and God is kind to all. Why should we be unkind to one another? We must follow the polity of God. Can we conceive a better polity than that of God?

The third principle He gave us is the harmony of science and religion. Both science and religion are truth. If religion is against reality and truth it is mere superstition. Every religious tenet that conflicts with true knowledge and sound reasoning is not worthy of belief. Thus the dogmas and imitations that stand in the way of science and progress must be removed.

The fourth principle is that religion must be the cause of unity, it must connect hearts to one another. Christ and all the other divine messengers came to create unity and love. Therefore, if religion becomes the cause of differences, its nonexistence is preferable.

The fifth principle is that all religious, racial, patriotic and political prejudices are the causes of war and the destroyers of the edifice of humanity. All these must be discarded and abolished.

The sixth principle is Universal Peace. Humanity must achieve this peace. Until its light illumines the decisions of the leaders and governments of the world, humanity will find no rest.

The seventh principle is the equality of rights for men and women. The education of women must be equal to that of men so that they may advance and achieve the same status as men. Teachings of this kind are numerous. In addition to the visits of large numbers of people at the hotel both day and night, three large meetings were held, attended by almost three thousand people, all of whom were honored to see Abdu’l-Bahá. The first meeting was held at Hull House and was attended by both blacks and whites. The Master spoke on the subject of the unity and oneness of humanity; that God has given faculties and powers equally to all and that the different colors of humankind are like the various colors of the flowers of a garden, which increases the beauty and charm of the garden. His eloquent and impressive talk thrilled His listeners.”

In addition to the visits of large numbers of people at the hotel both day and night, three large meetings were held, attended by almost three thousand people, all of whom were honored to see ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The first meeting was held at Hull House and was attended by both blacks and whites.71 The Master spoke on the subject of the unity and oneness of humanity; that God has given faculties and powers equally to all and that the different colors of humankind are like the various colors of the flowers of a garden, which increases the beauty and charm of the garden. His eloquent and impressive talk thrilled His listeners.

There exists among the whites in America a marked animosity for the blacks, who are held in such low esteem that the whites do not allow them to attend their public functions and think it beneath their dignity to mix with them in some of the public buildings and hotels. One day, Dr Zia Bagdadi 6invited Mr [Louis] Gregory, a black Bahá’í, to his home. When his landlord heard about this, he gave notice to Dr Bagdadi to vacate his residence because he had had a black man in his home. Although such prejudice was intense, the influence of the Cause of God and the power of God’s Covenant is so great that in many cities in America hundreds of black and white Bahá’ís mingle together and associate with each other as brothers and sisters.

Another meeting held at Handel Hall especially to bring together the blacks and the whites. The Master offered a commentary on a verse from the Old Testament, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’: ‘By “image and likeness”‘, He said, ‘is meant human virtues and perfections and not the black or white color of the skin.’ The Master’s impressive talk transformed and deeply affected the gathering.

The Master then went to a third meeting, addressing some two thousand people at the Convention of the Bahá’í Temple Unity held at the spacious Drill Hall. The entire audience stood when the Master entered, even though not all were Bahá’ís. The friends were full of excitement and cried ‘Alláh-u-Abhá’ so loudly that the hall resounded with their voices.’After a song of praise and glorification, the Master gave a detailed and eloquent talk on the purpose of the Temple and the unification of all under one standard. He concluded His talk by chanting a prayer in Persian in a most melodious voice. Some of those attending the convention met Him outside and asked whether they could visit Him at His residence. The crowd gathered around Him until He got into His carriage. 7

  1. Menon, Jonathan. “The Fallout from a City in Flames.” 239 Days in America, April 30, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/04/30/the-fallout-from-a-city-in-flames/.
  2. Reneau, Annie. “Shining Lamp: Louis Gregory (1874-1951).” Brilliant Star, April 6, 2020. https://brilliantstarmagazine.org/articles/louis-gregory-1874-1951.
  3. Radley, Gail. “Shining Lamp: Roy Wilhelm (1875-1951).” Brilliant Star, August 1, 2019. https://brilliantstarmagazine.org/articles/shining-lamp-roy-wilhelm-1875-1951.
  4. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 48.
  5. 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, 68-69. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/4#677388614.
  6. Reneau, Annie. “Shining Lamp: Dr. Zia Mabsoot Bagdadi.” Brilliant Star, May 15, 2018. https://brilliantstarmagazine.org/articles/shining-lamp-dr.-zia-mabsoot-bagdadi.
  7. ’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=2#section37.

239 Days in America, Day 19: April 29, 1912 | Chicago

Next Stop . . . the Windy City 1

The clock at Grand Central Station reaches the noon hour. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who was expected at a quarter to ten this morning, still hasn’t arrived. The watchers remain on the platform, easing forward in anticipation each time a train thunders in, only to step back and resume their peering right and left along the endless lines of tracks that crisscross Chicago.

Like clockwork, their routine goes on all day.

Then evening creeps in. The sun has set and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is nowhere to be found. A few remain on the platform, but the reporters have all gone home, or perhaps back to the office to face their editors without having gotten the story. One of them would find a clever solution to the conundrum by filing an article under the simple headline: “BAHAIST CHIEF MISSING!”

Chicago 2

“BAHAIST CHIEF MISSING,” proclaimed the Monday, April 29, Chicago Daily News:

Where is Abdul-Baha, son of Baha’o’llah, … who was coming to Chicago today to preach the universal brotherhood of man?

Chicago Bahaists—there are said to be some 40,000,000 followers in the world—asked each other this question and failed to find an answer. In the Corinthian hall in the Masonic Temple building 170 delegates attending the Bahai convention waited for the leader of the movement.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá arrived on Monday evening, April 29, His nineteenth day in America, and drove to the Plaza Hotel next to Lincoln Park. The phone was already ringing with calls from reporter requesting interview time. “‘Tomorrow morning,’” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá told them.

April 29, 1912 Feast of Lights

Tonight (er, last night) I attended and helped with the Chicago Commemoration of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s visit. It was amazing! But I need to prepare for tomorrow (er, later today), so I won’t be able to describe it now. Suffice it to say the excitement and sublimity were palpable.

[En route to and arrival in Chicago]

Can you imagine taking a train trip with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá from Washington D.C. to Chicago? Today (in 1912) the train was still en route; it will arrive in the evening, as described below. It’s interesting to think about Chicago being the site where the first mention of the Faith was uttered in 1892–and the first community was developed. Also it is interesting how ‘Abdu’l-Bahá summarizes the time spent in Washington D.C. He will visit both cities three different times on this journey. 3

Monday, April 29, 1912

In the morning the Master again praised the beauty and fertility of the countryside; a more fertile land had never before been seen. He had breakfast in the dining car. Today He spoke mostly about the days of the Blessed Beauty and had Him constantly in mind.

The train reached Chicago at night. The city was so bright with lights it was as if it were the Feast of Lights. When the friends saw the Master at the train station, they were filled with excitement, crying out ‘Alláh-u-Abhá’ and ‘Yá ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’, their voices resounding throughout the station.

The Master went to the Plaza Hotel. After a brief rest, He was visited by some of the Bahá’ís, to whom He said:

“You have a good city. The call of God was first raised in this city. I hope that in Chicago the Cause of God will progress greatly and that it may be illumined by the light of the Kingdom just as it is brightened by electricity.

In Washington we always had audiences of one to two thousand in large meetings. Day and night I had no rest. A close friendship was created between the black and white people. Many came to the Faith. Even those who are not believers drew much closer. Notwithstanding all this, I like Chicago more because the call of Bahá’u’lláh was first raised in this city. I hope you will be assisted to do great service and to live together in the utmost love and harmony.”

When the believers begged for protection from tests and trials, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said to them:

“The severest tests were in Persia where properties were pillaged and the friends were martyred. They had not a moment’s security. In short, I had a great desire to see you. If I hadn’t this desire, the assistance of Bahá’u’lláh would not have encompassed me. It is His assistance that has brought me here, for, at the time of leaving Alexandria, when I boarded the ship, I was not well at all.

Some newspaper reporters telephoned, asking permission to interview the Master. He agreed that they could interview Him the following morning. After dinner, He looked out at the park and, gazing at the scenery before Him, said, ‘This building commands a good view; most of the parks, streets and the city’s lights can be seen.’ 4

Talk at Howard University, Washington, D.C., 23 April 1912

Now ponder this: Animals, despite the fact that they lack reason and understanding, do not make colors the cause of conflict. Why should man, who has reason, create conflict? This is wholly unworthy of him. Especially white and black are the descendants of the same Adam; they belong to one household. In origin they were one; they were the same color. Adam was of one color. Eve had one color. All humanity is descended from them. Therefore, in origin they are one. These colors developed later due to climates and regions; they have no significance whatsoever. Therefore, today I am very happy that white and black have gathered together in this meeting. I hope this coming together and harmony reaches such a degree that no distinctions shall remain between them, and they shall be together in the utmost harmony and love. 5

  1. Sockett, Robert. “Next Stop . . . the Windy City.” 239 Days in America, April 29, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/04/29/next-stop-the-windy-city/.
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 47-48.
  3. Perry, Anne. “’Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in the West . . .: April 29, 1912 Feast of Lights.” ’Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in the West . . . (blog), April 29, 2012. https://master-in-america.blogspot.com/2012/04/april-29-1912-feast-of-lights.html.
  4. Mahmud-i-Zarqani, Mirza. 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=2#section36
  5. 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, 45. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/3#814028704.

239 Days in America, Day 18: April 28, 1912 | Washington, DC

‘Abdu’l-Bahá Likes Chicago More 1

LONG BEFORE ‘ABDU’L-BAHÁ set eyes on Chicago, he had decided that this soot-covered city deserved a special place in his heart.

He left Washington from Union Station on Sunday, April 28 at 5:25 p.m., on a twenty-hour train ride along the B&O Railroad to the Windy City. He had spent seventeen days in two of America’s most impressive cities, yet he was heard to say that he “likes Chicago more.” The reason, it turned out, was quite simple. Discovering it requires us to take a trip back two decades into Chicago’s history…

At 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (Redux) 2

THE PARSONS’ HORSES CLOPPED along the driveway at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue shortly after noon on Sunday, April 28, 1912…

President Taft had invited ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to visit him at the White House at 12:30.

The horses came to a halt under the main entrance portico of the executive mansion. But before ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had a chance to dismount, a White House aide rushed out from the executive offices to make President Taft’s apologies. He had been campaigning in Boston this week in advance of the Massachusetts Republican Primary, which was coming up on Tuesday. But he had only arrived back in Washington at 4 a.m. this morning and would have to leave again for New England on the 6:35 p.m. train. Politics was an unpredictable business, and the President had to postpone.

From the White House, the carriage drove south to the Ellipse, an oval-shaped park just beneath the White House’s south lawn.

After several more interviews and a few last minute visits, the horses trotted down Massachusetts Avenue and back to Union Station, where ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and his party departed on the 5:25 p.m. train to Chicago.

“April 28, 1912 Beyond the World of Words” 3

The Master prepared to leave for Chicago. Among those who came to see Him was the ambassador of Great Britain [a note clarifies that it was Edward Alfred Mitchell [Alfred Mitchell-Innes? or Edward A. Mitchell Innes?], not the ambassador but an employee of the British Embassy in Washington—AP], who was very humble and reverent while in His presence. Many friends, believers and seekers were with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá until His departure at 5:30 p.m. As He was leaving He said to Mrs Parsons:

This was the springtime; we had good meetings at your home; I shall never forget them. I shall pray for divine confirmation for you that you may be assisted both materially and spiritually. This material world has an outward appearance, as it has also an inner reality. All created things are interlinked in a chain leading to spirituality and ultimately ending in abstract realities. I hope that these spiritual links will become stronger day by day and that this communication of hearts, which is termed inspiration, will continue. When this connection exists, bodily separation is not important; this condition is beyond the world of words and above all description.

To others He said, ‘I hope these meetings of ours will bring forth everlasting results. The greatest of all benefits is the oneness of humanity and universal peace.’

Talk at Children’s Reception, Studio Hall, 1219 Connecticut Avenue, Washington, D.C., 24 April 1912

What a wonderful meeting this is! These are the children of the Kingdom. The song we have just listened to was very beautiful in melody and words. The art of music is divine and effective. It is the food of the soul and spirit. Through the power and charm of music the spirit of man is uplifted. It has wonderful sway and effect in the hearts of children, for their hearts are pure, and melodies have great influence in them. The latent talents with which the hearts of these children are endowed will find expression through the medium of music. Therefore, you must exert yourselves to make them proficient; teach them to sing with excellence and effect. It is incumbent upon each child to know something of music, for without knowledge of this art the melodies of instrument and voice cannot be rightly enjoyed. Likewise, it is necessary that the schools teach it in order that the souls and hearts of the pupils may become vivified and exhilarated and their lives be brightened with enjoyment. 4

Sunday, April 28, 1912

The Master prepared to leave for Chicago. Among those who came to see Him was the ambassador of Great Britain, who was very humble and reverent while in His presence. Many friends, believers and seekers were with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá until His departure at 5:30 p.m. As He was leaving He said to Mrs Parsons:

“This was the springtime; we had good meetings at your home; I shall never forget them. I shall pray for divine confirmation for you that you may be assisted both materially and spiritually. This material world has an outward appearance, as it has also an inner reality. All created things are interlinked in a chain leading to spirituality and ultimately ending in abstract realities. I hope that these spiritual links will become stronger day by day and that this communication of hearts, which is termed inspiration, will continue. When this connection exists, bodily separation is not important; this condition is beyond the world of words and above all description.”

To others He said, ‘I hope these meetings of ours will bring forth everlasting results. The greatest of all benefits is the oneness of humanity and universal peace.’

Some friends came to the railway station to see ‘Abdu’l-Bahá off and to gaze once more at the Master’s beautiful countenance. Some were to accompany Him to Chicago. Among them was Mrs Moss, a stenographer, who had requested a Persian name and was given the name Marzieh Khánum.

After crossing the Potomac River, the train entered the state of Virginia, which is exceedingly fertile and green. The scenery on both sides was charming, with a verdant expanse of land as far as the eye could see. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá praised the scenery and said it was most beautiful but His face showed signs of an inner sorrow. After a few minutes He said, ‘Whenever I see such scenes, I feel great sorrow, for the Blessed Beauty liked verdure and greenery very much. God shall never pardon those who imprisoned Him in that place.

The conversation then turned to the train. The Master praised the sleeping car room, the cleanliness of the compartments and the electric lights in them; however, owing to the speed of the train, the Master was not able to sleep. 5

  1. Sockett, Robert. “‘Abdu’l-Bahá Likes Chicago More.” 239 Days in America, April 28, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/04/28/abdul-baha-likes-chicago-more-2/.
  2. Menon, Jonathan. “At 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” 239 Days in America, April 27, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/04/27/at-1600-pennsylvania-avenue/.
  3. Perry, Anne. “’Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in the West . . .: April 28, 1912 Beyond the World of Words.” ’Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in the West . . . (blog), April 28, 2012. https://master-in-america.blogspot.com/2012/04/april-28-1912-beyond-world-of-words.html.
  4. 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, 52. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/3#004219341.
  5. Mahmud-i-Zarqani, Mirza. 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=2#section35

239 Days in America, Day 17: April 27, 1912 | Washington, DC

At 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue 1

President Taft had invited ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to visit him at the White House at 12:30 [on Sunday, April 28th]. On Friday morning ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had spoken at the President’s church, All Souls Unitarian on Harvard Street. Then, on Saturday, members of the Taft family had attended an evening reception that Mrs. Parsons had held for 300 dignitaries in the capital.

William Sulzer, the Democratic Congressman from New York, had also come to the Parsons’ for a private interview with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. He was Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and said later that he felt he had just talked with the prophet Elijah, and Moses. Shortly afterward, another invitation arrived: this one came from Champ Clark (D-Missouri), the Speaker of the House of Representatives, who asked ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to address Congress the following week on his vision of world peace.

Washington D. C. 2

At the Parsons’ reception in the afternoon He [‘Abdul-Bahá] said to a Justice of the Supreme Court, “‘It is possible to establish such unity among the powers of the whole world as is found in the United States of America.’”

To some of the doctors He said, “‘I hope that you will raise the standard of the universal peace.’”

To a mathematician He said, “‘I hope that you will try to teach the truth and principles of divine relations to different nations as you are teaching mathematics to different persons in your school.’”

To Admiral Peary He said, “‘I hope that you will explore the invisibilities of the Kingdom.’”

To the Archbishop He said, “‘I hope you will throw away the injurious formalism, enforce the truth of the teaching of Christ, and remove all those dogmas that are against science and reality.’”

To a member of Congress He said, “‘As you are endeavoring for the good of America, so you must put forth your energy for the good of the whole world and all the nations.’”

“Remembering those who looked into His eyes” 3

Talk to Theosophical Society, Home of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur J. Parsons , 1700 Eighteenth Street, NW, Washington, D.C., 25 April 1912

Man has two powers; and his development, two aspects. One power is connected with the material world, and by it he is capable of material advancement. The other power is spiritual, and through its development his inner, potential nature is awakened. These powers are like two wings. Both must be developed, for flight is impossible with one wing. Praise be to God! Material advancement has been evident in the world, but there is need of spiritual advancement in like proportion. We must strive unceasingly and without rest to accomplish the development of the spiritual nature in man, and endeavor with tireless energy to advance humanity toward the nobility of its true and intended station. For the body of man is accidental; it is of no importance. The time of its disintegration will inevitably come. But the spirit of man is essential and, therefore, eternal. It is a divine bounty. It is the effulgence of the Sun of Reality and, therefore, of greater importance than the physical body. 4

Saturday, April 27, 1912

Mrs Parsons offered the Master a sum of money but He said that she should distribute it among the poor. No matter how much she supplicated, He would not accept it, saying, ‘If we had not had the money necessary for the expenses of the voyage, we would have accepted your offer.’

The Treasurer of the United States had lunch with the Master. This gentleman was very happy and smiling as he bade farewell to the Master. Later, the Master went to the home of an official to say goodbye. The man embraced Him, weeping with joy. When I saw the smile of the Treasurer and the tears of the official, I recited this poem: ‘The smiles and tears of the lovers are from another world.’

The Bahá’í meetings and the outstanding qualities of the Master have received such acclaim that today, out of jealousy, some narrow-minded Christian clergymen spoke out against the Cause.

Since this was the last night of the Master’s stay in the this city, Mrs Parsons held an elegant reception for dignitaries and city officials in honor of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and on behalf of the Orient-Occident Unity Society. Three hundred people in formal attire assembled in the spacious rooms, which were beautifully decorated with flowers and ornaments. When the Master came downstairs, each guest, man and woman alike, approached Him with the utmost reverence to shake His hand. They introduced one another and paid Him their respects. The guests then went into the dining room to partake of the repast prepared for them, including beverages, cakes, ice cream and coffee.

After they had eaten the guests were ushered into the music hall while the Master sat in another room to receive those who wished to see Him. He answered all their questions. To a Washington judge He said: ‘It is possible to establish among the powers of the whole world the unity which is found among the states of the United States of America.’ To some doctors He stated, ‘I hope that you will raise the standard of universal peace.’ To a mathematician He said, ‘I hope that you will try to teach the truth and principles of divine religions to different nations just as you are teaching mathematics to different persons in your school.’ To Admiral Peary, the explorer of the North Pole, He said, ‘I hope you will discover the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.’ The Master spoke to a bishop, saying, ‘My hope is that you will abandon harmful imitations, spread the truth of the teachings of Christ and remove all those dogmas that are against science and reality.’ To the chargé d’affaires of Switzerland, the Master described His sojourn in that country. To some relatives of the President of the United States [William Howard Taft] He spoke about divine civilization. To a member of Congress, He said, ‘Just as you are exerting yourself for the good of America, so must you expend your energy for the benefit of all the nations of the world.’ He also spoke to the head of the United States Patent Office and the General Consul, the President of the Peace Congress and other well-known personages.

When this magnificent meeting ended, the guests came to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá one by one to shake His hand and to say goodbye. The night was one of the most blessed nights and that meeting one of the most great and important meetings. 5

  1. Menon, Jonathan. “At 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” 239 Days in America, April 27, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/04/27/at-1600-pennsylvania-avenue/.
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 45-46.
  3. Van Ness, Zabine. “Remembering Those Who Looked into His Eyes: Abdul Baha’s Visits with Some Influential Dignitaries, April 11th to December 5th, 1912.” PDF, Seattle, WA, 2012, 31.https://hearttoheart.co/PDFs/Abdul-Bahaandhisvariousvisitations.pdf.
  4. 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, 60. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/3#470126563.
  5. Mahmud-i-Zarqani, Mirza. 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=2#section34

239 Days in America, Day 16: April 26, 1912 | Washington, DC

A Trip Through New York City, 1911 1

The following eight-minute film [1911 – A Trip Through New York City from the collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)]… The speed of the film has been corrected to smooth over the jerky motion commonplace in old silent movies, and a tapestry of sound has been added to produce a faithful representation of life in New York in the early century.

Washington D. C. 2

Among the visitors on Friday morning, April 26, was Lee McClung, the Secretary of the Treasury if the United States. Later ‘Abdul-Bahá addressed the ladies of President Taft’s All Saints [Souls] Unitarian Church, the room was completely filled. After the daily Parsons’ reception, He took a walk in the park. That evening He spoke to another capacity crowd, in one of the largest halls in Washington—the Continental Hall of the Daughters of the American Revolution—sharing the platform with Samuel Gompers, the president of the American Federation of Labor, Benjamin Trueblood, secretary of the American Peace Society, and A. C. Monohan [Arthur Coleman Monahan] of the United States Bureau of Education.

Abdul-Bahá, Who kept the friends in the Holy Land and Persia apprised of the activities through frequent cablegrams, cabled, “‘This day three thousand persons were interviewed in the utmost harmony.’”

“Remembering those who looked into His eyes” 3

Message to the Esperantists, Home of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur J. Parsons , 1700 Eighteenth Street, NW, Washington, D.C., 25 April 1912

Today the greatest need of the world of humanity is discontinuance of the existing misunderstandings among nations. This can be accomplished through the unity of language. Unless the unity of languages is realized, the Most Great Peace and the oneness of the human world cannot be effectively organized and established because the function of language is to portray the mysteries and secrets of human hearts. The heart is like a box, and language is the key. Only by using the key can we open the box and observe the gems it contains. Therefore, the question of an auxiliary international tongue has the utmost importance. Through this means international education and training become possible; the evidence and history of the past can be acquired. The spread of the known facts of the human world depends upon language. The explanation of divine teachings can only be through this medium. As long as diversity of tongues and lack of comprehension of other languages continue, these glorious aims cannot be realized. Therefore, the very first service to the world of man is to establish this auxiliary international means of communication. It will become the cause of the tranquillity of the human commonwealth. Through it sciences and arts will be spread among the nations, and it will prove to be the means of the progress and development of all races. We must endeavor with all our powers to establish this international auxiliary language throughout the world. It is my hope that it may be perfected through the bounties of God and that intelligent men may be selected from the various countries of the world to organize an international congress whose chief aim will be the promotion of this universal medium of speech. 4

Friday, April 26, 1912

In addition to the usual receptions at the home of Mrs Parsons, there were three public meetings: one in the morning, another in the afternoon and one in the evening. At the first gathering, at the All Saints Unitarian Church, the Master spoke on the subject of the varieties of light, the effulgence of the Sun of Reality in its original essence, and of the waiting souls with pure hearts who are like unto clear spotless mirrors, whose eyes and ears become enlightened by the appearance of the Sun of Reality. So great was the respect and devotion of the audience that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote in a cable He sent to the Orient: ‘Today three thousand persons visited with the utmost harmony.’

At every gathering, whether for Bahá’ís or non-Bahá’ís, several stenographers, as well as the Persian secretaries, were in attendance. The English translations were published soon after the address itself but the Persian originals taken down by us verbatim had to be submitted to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá for correction. Because of His heavy schedule, He had little time for this, so the originals were often delayed in their publication.

The afternoon meeting was held at the home of Mrs Parsons. The subject of the talk was the interpretation of the Old Testament statement concerning the creation of man in the image of God. At the conclusion ‘Abdu’l-Bahá took His leave of the friends, promising to return to Washington DC from Chicago. On hearing this, the friends hastened to shake hands with Him and showed great reverence and humility to Him, joyful that soon He would return to their midst. After the meeting, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá went for a stroll in a park to recuperate.

In the evening ‘Abdu’l-Bahá went to a third gathering, held in a very large building, to speak to a group of young women of the suffrage movement. This was the largest meeting held thus far and the most spacious and majestic hall. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá delivered a most impressive address which He began by saying:

“One of the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh is equality of rights for men and women. When He promulgated this principle in the Orient, the people were astonished.

One of the proofs of the advancement of women is this magnificent and imposing building and this large gathering.”

‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s talk centered on the subject of equality of men and women and the necessity of giving women the same training as men. Many praised Him, both before and after His talk. The meeting closed with a song of praise.

The chairman of the meeting, Mr Hoover from New York, introduced the Master most eloquently. When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá came to the pulpit, He was received with a standing ovation and a burst of enthusiasm. Then, with a motion of His hand, all seated themselves.

As the Master arose to give His talk, everyone began to clap so loudly that the sound echoed around the great hall. Everyone was thrilled as the beloved Master stood and the hearts of the believers were relieved of all grief and anxiety. Indeed, the appearance of the Center of God’s Covenant in these meetings is worthy of the highest praise and will undoubtedly be of the greatest benefit to all. Instead of the harsh treatment meted out to the Manifestations of God, here was the advancement and elevation of the Cause of God. To listen to the melodious, resonant voice of the Center of the Covenant in such auditoriums fills one with excitement and raises the banner of everlasting honor. The presence of the Eastern friends was sorely missed.

At the end of the meeting, people again filled the room to capacity so they could glimpse ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s beautiful face and shake His hand. 5

  1. Menon, Jonathan. “A Trip Through New York City, 1911.” 239 Days in America, April 26, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/04/26/a-great-harvest-of-results/.
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 45.
  3. Van Ness, Zabine. “Remembering Those Who Looked into His Eyes: Abdul Baha’s Visits with Some Influential Dignitaries, April 11th to December 5th, 1912.” PDF, Seattle, WA, 2012, 26.https://hearttoheart.co/PDFs/Abdul-Bahaandhisvariousvisitations.pdf.
  4. 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, 60-61. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/3#293573670.
  5. Mahmud-i-Zarqani, Mirza. 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=2#section33