239 Days in America, Day 222: November 18, 1912 | New York

November 18, 1912: The Week Ahead 1

THIS AFTERNOON ‘ABDU’L-BAHÁ takes up J. Pierpont Morgan on an invitation to visit his vast library on the corner of Madison Avenue and 36th Street. Morgan, the tycoon owner of railroads, steelworks, and telegraph companies, runs much of modern civilization in America.

In the week ahead, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá attends a farewell dinner at the Great Northern Hotel, which, it turns out, will refuse to let any African Americans through the door; he expresses two very different opinions of America’s two richest men; and, as the decade moves on, the Great War cuts ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s home in Palestine off from the rest of the world while increasing prejudice engulfs African Americans at home.

Final Days in America: New York City 2

On November 19 the New York Times, in an article entitled “PROPHET BLESSES MORGAN,” reported:

“J. Pierpont Morgan was written down yesterday as one who had done “considerable philanthropy” when his library in East Thirty-sixth Street was visited by Abdul Baha, the Persian prophet. After the patriarch had wandered through the treasure rooms, he paused before the album long enough to write a blessing on the financier and thereto append his autograph. Beneath the Persian script his companion, Dr. Ameen Fareed, wrote this translation:

‘O, Thou Generous Lord, verily this famous personage has done considerable philanthropy, render him great and dear in Thy Kingdom, make him happy and joyous in both worlds, and confirm him in serving the Oneness, the world of humanity, and submerge him in the sea of Thy Favors.

ABDUL BAHA ABBAS’”

Monday, November 18, 1912 3

In the morning the Master was occupied revealing Tablets in answer to letters from the believers. He permitted some friends and newcomers to interview Him in His own room. When the visitors grew too numerous, He appeared in the gathering and showered love and kindness upon all.

Whenever the Master became tired, He would go alone to the nearby gardens along the bank of the river to rest. He said, ‘When I am alone, I do not talk, my mind is not busy and I can rest a little. But when I am not alone I must speak; I perspire and feel exhausted.’

These were the final days of His stay in America and there was a great rush of visitors. There was not one moment when people were not present.

In the afternoon, while talking to a group of the friends, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá suddenly said: ‘We wish to build a House of Worship on that side of the water.’ Later He said: ‘This city shall become good when the call of “Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá” shall reach the highest heaven from it. If the believers arise as they should erelong the word of God will envelop all these regions.’ He also added, ‘As the United States of America is far and free from the arena of the prevailing political turmoil, this government and country can prevent war between the nations and bring about peace and harmony among them.’

The Master was invited by the poet Mr Moxey and Mrs Moxey for supper. The hosts were among the devoted friends of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and they were eloquent in their praise of Him. During the Master’s previous visit to New York Mr Moxey had written a book of poetry, describing the demeanor, majesty and power of the Master. Mrs Moxey, who was a famous musician, opened the gathering by playing the piano and singing a melodious song of praise in His honor. The Master began His address with these words:

“I praise God that I am with you. Such an assembly would be utterly impossible to hold through worldly power and outward means because you are Westerners and we are Easterners. There was nothing to connect us. We had neither patriotic, racial, commercial nor political connections with you. But Bahá’u’lláh removed all these estrangements and prejudices and invited all to divine love. He joined all under the shade of the blessed Word. Hence, we are united and assembled here in such love. This love is the greatest of all means, as all other means and ties are limited; but harmony that comes about through the love of God is infinite and everlasting.”

These impressive words transformed the hearts. After the meeting several of the friends and His companions were honored to have supper with Him. Everyone was grateful and showed great devotion in that home.

Talk at Home of Mr. and Mrs. Frank K. Moxey, 575 Riverside Drive, New York 4

The teachings and ordinances of the divine religions are of two kinds. The first are spiritual and essential in nature—such as faith in God, faith in Christ, faith in Moses, faith in Abraham, faith in Muḥammad, the love of God and the oneness of the world of humanity. These divine principles shall be spread throughout the world. Strife and enmity shall disappear, ignorance, hatred and hostility cease and all the human race be bound together. The second kind of ordinances and teachings concern the outer conditions and transactions of the world of mankind. They are the nonessential, accidental or temporary laws of human affairs which are subject to change and transformation according to the exigencies of time and place. For instance, during the time of Moses divorce was permitted, but in the time of Christ it was made unlawful. In the Torah there are ten commandments concerning retribution for murder, which would not be possible to enforce at the present time and under existing conditions of the world. Therefore, these nonessential, temporary laws are superseded and abrogated to suit the exigencies and requirements of successive periods.

’Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912-2012: Calling America to Its Spiritual Destiny

The Master took periodic short breaks to rest in nearby gardens

Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America

Curated by Anne Perry

November 18, 1912


  1. Menon, Jonathan. “November 18, 1912: The Week Ahead.” 239 Days in America, 18 Nov. 2012, http://stagingtwo39.wpengine.com/2012/11/18/november-18-1912-the-week-ahead/.
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 186-187.
  3. ’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#section240
  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, 445. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/32#583494526

239 Days in America, Day 218: November 14, 1912 | New York

The Trial of the Century 1

ON JULY 16, 1912, at approximately 2 a.m., “Lefty Louie” Rosenberg, “Whitey” Lewis, “Dago Frank” Cirofici, and “Gyp the Blood” Horowitz loitered outside the Hotel Metropole at 147 West 43rd Street, just off Times Square. When a slightly overweight man in a black striped suit emerged from the hotel, they reached into their pockets, each took out a revolver, and they shot him dead. Their victim had barely hit the sidewalk when the four gunmen jumped into a big white car, which had been waiting for them up the block, and raced off toward Sixth Avenue.

That same evening, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had returned to Manhattan from Brooklyn to attend a wedding ceremony. Although he didn’t comment on the murder case itself, he had written about preventing crime, not by reforming laws or inventing new methods of punishing criminals, but through the education and moral development of society. …

To prevent criminal behavior, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá argued, the community should “endeavor to educate the masses,” so that “day by day knowledge and sciences would increase, the understanding would be broadened, the sensibilities developed, customs would become good, and morals normal; in one word, in all these classes of perfections there would be progress, and there would be fewer crimes.”

Final Days in America: New York City 2

On the same day [November 12] he recorded that Abdu’l-Bahá, as before, was invited to the homes of many socially prominent New Yorkers. But Abdu’l-Bahá refused, saying, “‘I have work with the poor and not with the rich. I love all with heart and soul yet I am not here to visit the homes of the rich.’” When Andrew Carnegie implored Him to come, however, He did bestow upon him the honor of His presence.

Thursday, November 14, 1912 3

After granting private interviews to some of the friends, the Master came downstairs to the gathering. Among His statements were these words:

“The most blessed moments of my life are those which I spend in the company of the friends of God. These are the best times. Therefore, I am extremely happy to be with you now. Praise be to God that your faces are illumined, your hearts and souls are rejoicing and all are turned toward the Abhá Kingdom. This is the utmost happiness for me.

“I pray to the threshold of Bahá’u’lláh that He may grant all of you eternal happiness, honor you in His Kingdom and bestow upon you everlasting life. Thus, the friends of New York may be freed from all limitations and become the cause of the enlightenment of the world of man. This is my greatest wish and Bahá’u’lláh will assuredly assist you.”

Most of the evening meetings were at the home of Mrs Kinney and while the daytime meetings were at Mrs Krug’s home. There was always a crowd of visitors at His residence and whether He was in or out, a multitude was always there waiting.

At the meeting this afternoon at Mrs Krug’s home, He spoke of the exalted station of the people of Bahá given them through the bounties and confirmations of the Abhá Kingdom, which can turn black dust into a brilliant ruby, a grain into a harvest, a fisherman into a Peter and a village woman into a Mary Magdalene, the pride of men.

As they passed before Him one by one, they received His bestowals and blessings. He returned to His residence on foot. Near Central Park a gentleman approached Him and said, ‘I have heard much about you and have been waiting for the moment to see you. I am thankful that now I have attained the honor of meeting your Excellency.’ He followed the Master to His residence, greatly interested in His explanations and the wonderful Bahá’í teachings.

This evening friends and seekers immensely enjoyed and benefited from hearing the Master’s explanations of the mysteries of the Books of God and other important issues. He was asked about music and singing in the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár. He replied, ‘Singing and chanting of scripture and prayers in verse or in prose should be used but I do not interfere in matters not expressly stated in the Text. Whenever and whatever the Universal House of Justice ordains, that will be the criterion.’

Later in the evening He spoke at length to a Christian Science lady who was quite fanatical in her beliefs. The Master explained to her the meaning of the assertion that there is no evil in existence. He said:

“By saying there is no evil in existence is meant that what has come from the Origin of existence and being is good and useful. It is good in its time and place and not evil. For example, I can say that there is no darkness in the sun because darkness is the absence of light and has no existence in itself. Oppression is the absence of justice and ignorance is the lack of knowledge. Hence, the imperfections and defects of the world of creation, the contingent world, are merely the absence of virtues and the lack of perfections. These defects have not come from the Source; rather, the essential properties of the world of matter which are change and transformation cause the training of all things and the manifestation of perfections of realities and spirits.”

9 November 1912, Talk at Home of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur J. Parsons, 1700 Eighteenth Street, NW, Washington, D. C. 4

Furthermore, this immortal human soul is endowed with two means of perception: One is effected through instrumentality; the other, independently. For instance, the soul sees through the instrumentality of the eye, hears with the ear, smells through the nostrils and grasps objects with the hands. These are the actions or operations of the soul through instruments. But in the world of dreams the soul sees when the eyes are closed. The man is seemingly dead, lies there as dead; the ears do not hear, yet he hears. The body lies there, but he—that is, the soul—travels, sees, observes. All the instruments of the body are inactive, all the functions seemingly useless. Notwithstanding this, there is an immediate and vivid perception by the soul. Exhilaration is experienced. The soul journeys, perceives, senses. It often happens that a man in a state of wakefulness has not been able to accomplish the solution of a problem, and when he goes to sleep, he will reach that solution in a dream. How often it has happened that he has dreamed, even as the prophets have dreamed, of the future; and events which have thus been foreshadowed have come to pass literally.

Therefore, we learn that the immortality of the soul, or spirit, is not contingent or dependent upon the so-called immortality of the body, because the body in the quiescent state, in the time of sleep, may be as dead, unconscious, senseless; but the soul, or spirit, is possessed of perceptions, sensations, motion and discovery. Even inspiration and revelation are obtained by it. How many were the prophets who have had marvelous visions of the future while in that state! The spirit, or human soul, is the rider; and the body is only the steed. If anything affects the steed, the rider is not affected by it. The spirit may be likened to the light within the lantern. The body is simply the outer lantern. If the lantern should break, the light is ever the same because the light could shine even without the lantern. The spirit can conduct its affairs without the body. In the world of dreams it is precisely as this light without the chimney glass. It can shine without the glass. The human soul by means of this body can perform its operations, and without the body it can, likewise, have its control. Therefore, if the body be subject to disintegration, the spirit is not affected by these changes or transformations.

’Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912-2012: Calling America to Its Spiritual Destiny

‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s greatest wish for New York believers: That they “…become the cause of the enlightenment of the world of man.”

Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America

Curated by Anne Perry

November 14, 1912


  1. Jones, Caitlin Shayda. “The Trial of the Century.” 239 Days in America, 14 Nov. 2012, https://239days.com/2012/11/14/the-trial-of-the-century/.
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 186.
  3. ’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#section236
  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, 416-417. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/30#436836201

239 Days in America, Day 190: October 17, 1912 | San Francisco

The Last Days of Thornton Chase 1

‘ABDU’L-BAHÁ’S TRAIN WEST arrived in Glenwood Springs at two o’clock in the morning on Saturday, September 28, 1912. That afternoon the party took a walk in the gardens of the Hotel Colorado, and crossed the bridge to visit the shopping district. As the Colorado River swept beneath them, a messenger approached with some telegrams that had arrived for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. One of them, from Los Angeles, reported that his friend, Thornton Chase, had been rushed two days earlier to the Angelus Hospital and was awaiting emergency surgery.

Thornton Chase had first heard about Bahá’u’lláh from the speech Dr. Henry Jessup had given at the World Parliament of Religions in 1893. By mid-1894 he was studying the new faith in Chicago. Three other Americans became Bahá’ís before Chase, but, of the four, only Chase had stuck. He was, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá later said, “the first Bahá’í in America.”

When Phoebe Hearst planned her pilgrimage to ‘Akká in 1898, Chase’s work with the Union Mutual Life Insurance Company prevented him from accompanying them. “I am heart broken,” he wrote to one of the party, “to learn that you are going and it is impossible for me to join you.” Instead, he sent along a letter to be hand-delivered to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, beginning a correspondence between the two men that would unfold over the next fourteen years. Of all the Americans ‘Abdu’l-Bahá knew, none were closer to him than Thornton Chase.

California 2

Early Thursday morning [October 17] He returned to San Francisco. People came to talk to Him throughout the day.

Thursday, October 17, 1912 3

The Master left for San Francisco early in the morning. He had lost His seal, so all of His Tablets and writings made during this time were signed by Him with His own pen.

Mail from the Eastern friends was brought to Him. I read a letter from Hájí Mírzá Haydar-‘Alí and, on his behalf, prostrated myself at the feet of the Master. He raised me up with His hands and said, ‘I embrace you on behalf of Hájí.’ He did this with a smile and such kindness that it will never be forgotten.

In today’s gathering ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave an account of the martyrs of Jahrum, testifying to the firmness and steadfastness of the friends in the East. The services and sincerity of Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl were highly praised by the Master. He also gave accounts of the last days of His imprisonment in ‘Akká, the oppression of Sultán ‘Abdu’l-Hamíd and the conduct of the Commission of Investigation.

This commission of investigation and oppression was on its way back to Istanbul from ‘Akká when the majesty of the justice of God revolutionized all matters. Sultán ‘Abdu’l-Hamíd was deposed and one member of the commission was murdered, another died and two of them absconded. One of these two begged for his daily expenses from the friends in Egypt.

Some philosophers, religionists and civic leaders of the town came one by one to see the Master. They were attracted by His words on spiritual matters and left with the utmost sincerity. One questioned Him about spirit and matter. The Master replied:

“This question may be answered in two ways, philosophically as well as spiritually. Philosophically, the answer is easy because in philosophy the spirit is energy and all matter is endowed with energy; and this power is inseparable from matter, as in electricity. In other words, matter is a vehicle for spirit but the transformation of matter does not involve the extinction of that power because transformation and transference are in the properties of matter.

“Immaterial beings or realities, however, are protected and preserved and their essential power remains unaltered. The manifestation or appearance of the spirit varies due to changes in matter and bodies. This, however, does not mean that spirit itself is subject to extinction.”

The listeners were pleased to hear ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explain this subject in detail and testified to His divine knowledge and to the cogency of His explanation and argument.

Today the Master spoke twice at public gatherings at His residence. In the first of His addresses He exhorted the audience to keep the soil of their hearts pure and holy so that the flowers of the virtues of humanity might grow and that the blessings of God might descend upon them. In His other address (given after He had taken a short walk), He explained that heat and motion are essential for the contingent world.

12 October 1912, Talk at Temple Emmanu-El, 450 Sutter Street, San Francisco, California 4

The second classification or division comprises social laws and regulations applicable to human conduct. This is not the essential spiritual quality of religion. It is subject to change and transformation according to the exigencies and requirements of time and place. For instance, in the time of Noah certain requirements made it necessary that all seafood be allowable or lawful. During the time of the Abrahamic Prophethood it was considered allowable, because of a certain exigency, that a man should marry his aunt, even as Sarah was the sister of Abraham’s mother. During the cycle of Adam it was lawful and expedient for a man to marry his own sister, even as Abel, Cain and Seth, the sons of Adam, married their sisters. But in the law of the Pentateuch revealed by Moses these marriages were forbidden and their custom and sanction abrogated. Other laws formerly valid were annulled during the time of Moses. For example, it was lawful in Abraham’s cycle to eat the flesh of the camel, but during the time of Jacob this was prohibited. Such changes and transformations in the teaching of religion are applicable to the ordinary conditions of life, but they are not important or essential. Moses lived in the wilderness of Sinai where crime necessitated direct punishment. There were no penitentiaries or penalties of imprisonment. Therefore, according to the exigency of the time and place it was a law of God that an eye should be given for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. It would not be practicable to enforce this law at the present time—for instance, to blind a man who accidentally blinded you. In the Torah there are many commands concerning the punishment of a murderer. It would not be allowable or possible to carry out these ordinances today. Human conditions and exigencies are such that even the question of capital punishment—the one penalty which most nations have continued to enforce for murder—is now under discussion by wise men who are debating its advisability. In fact, laws for the ordinary conditions of life are only valid temporarily. The exigencies of the time of Moses justified cutting off a man’s hand for theft, but such a penalty is not allowable now. Time changes conditions, and laws change to suit conditions. We must remember that these changing laws are not the essentials; they are the accidentals of religion. The essential ordinances established by a Manifestation of God are spiritual; they concern moralities, the ethical development of man and faith in God. They are ideal and necessarily permanent—expressions of the one foundation and not amenable to change or transformation. Therefore, the fundamental basis of the revealed religion of God is immutable, unchanging throughout the centuries, not subject to the varying conditions of the human world.

’Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912-2012: Calling America to It’s Spiritual Destiny

‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s seal for Tablets

Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America

Curated by Anne Perry

October 17, 1912


  1. Sockett, Robert, and Jonathan Menon. “The Last Days of Thornton Chase.” 239 Days in America, 17 Oct. 2012, https://239days.com/2012/10/17/the-last-days-of-thornton-chase/.
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 169.
  3. ’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=8#section208
  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, 365-366. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/27#059564833

239 Days in America, Day 139: August 27, 1912 | Boston

Women’s Work 1

THE PROGRESSIVE ERA WAS not a rewarding time to be a working woman. While the wages of men were low, women’s pay was drastically lower. The number of females employed − typically in factories or as domestic servants − was rapidly increasing. Emma Goldman, a leading voice in the Socialist movement, wrote in 1910: “Nowhere is woman treated according to the merit of her work, but rather as a sex.”

Reverend George L. Perin, a pastor serving inner city Boston, decided to lend a helping hand. He was appalled at the housing that single, working women in Boston were compelled to live in. Through a tireless fundraising effort, Perin managed to buy an unoccupied hotel in Boston’s South End. His goal was to “furnish for girls living away from home a dwelling place which is morally safe, as well as comfortable and sanitary, and to give them food that is both palatable and wholesome.” The New York Times called Franklin Square House “the largest hotel for young working women and girl students in the world.”

‘Abdu’l-Bahá visited Franklin Square House on the evening of August 26, 1912. He had been invited by its superintendent to give a talk to the nearly six hundred women that called the vine-covered, red brick building home. He began by confirming the equality of women and men. “[E]ach is the complement of the other in the divine creative plan.” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá noted that God distinguishes a person’s “purity and righteousness” in “deeds and actions,” and not their gender. He acknowledged the history of the subordination of women, attributing it to a lack of equal access to education.

27 August 1912, Talk at Metaphysical Club, Boston, Massachusetts 2

It is evident, then, that each elemental atom of the universe is possessed of a capacity to express all the virtues of the universe. This is a subtle and abstract realization. Meditate upon it, for within it lies the true explanation of pantheism. From this point of view and perception pantheism is a truth, for every atom in the universe possesses or reflects all the virtues of life, the manifestation of which is effected through change and transformation. Therefore, the origin and outcome of phenomena is, verily, the omnipresent God; for the reality of all phenomenal existence is through Him. There is neither reality nor the manifestation of reality without the instrumentality of God. Existence is realized and possible through the bounty of God, just as the ray or flame emanating from this lamp is realized through the bounty of the lamp, from which it originates. Even so, all phenomena are realized through the divine bounty, and the explanation of true pantheistic statement and principle is that the phenomena of the universe find realization through the one power animating and dominating all things, and all things are but manifestations of its energy and bounty. The virtue of being and existence is through no other agency. Therefore, in the words of Bahá’u’lláh, the first teaching is the oneness of the world of humanity.

Tuesday, August 27, 1912 3

‘Abdu’l-Bahá returned to Malden in the morning. He was occupied chiefly in writing letters to the American friends. Believers and seekers came by ones and twos and He lovingly received them.

In the evening there was a well-attended meeting at the Theosophical Society. The gathering became the dawning place of the confirmations of the Abhá Kingdom. The chairman of the meeting introduced the Master to an audience of some five hundred saying:

“Several months ago I attended a convention on the emancipation of religions in this city. Many people of different religions and sects spoke, each one praising the beliefs of his own sect. But a very august personage then stood. By His bearing and by the first few words of His address, everyone felt that this person was spiritual and divinely inspired; that His explanations were heavenly; that He was speaking from God; that He could transform the souls; that He was with God and was the herald of peace and love; that what He said was first practiced by Himself; and that He was a flame from the Kingdom which brightened and illuminated the minds and hearts of all. That august person was ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. I am not worthy to introduce His Holiness to you. You will yourselves know Him better than I.”

’Abdu’l-Bahá then stood and gave a stirring address concerning the movement of atoms and the infinite forms that compose this contingent world and gave an explanation of the new teachings of the Cause. During the address, every heart and soul was enthralled. After the meeting everyone spoke of feeling the bounties of the Holy Spirit and of the need for these teachings of love and unity.

’Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912-2012: Calling America to It’s Spiritual Destiny

Chairman of Theosophical Society gives impressive introduction about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to audience of five-hundred

Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America

Curated by Anne Perry

August 27 1912


  1. Jones, Caitlin Shayda. “Women’s Work.” 239 Days in America, 27 Aug. 2012, https://239days.com/2012/08/27/womens-work/.
  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, 285-286. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/20#163204180
  3. ’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=6#section156

239 Days in America, Day 114: August 02, 1912 | Dublin

Being Black in the Progressive Era 1

LOUIS GREGORY INHALED THE sea air as his ship broke from the shore. He was leaving America, crossing the same throes of the Atlantic his African ancestors had — but Louis Gregory was unchained. It was March 25, 1911, and he was on his way to Alexandria, Egypt, to meet ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. It was here, in the middle of the ocean, Gregory later said, that he finally felt truly “American.”

Shortly after arriving in Alexandria, Louis Gregory met ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. “If it be possible, gather together these two races, black and white, into one assembly,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá told him, “and put such love into their hearts that they shall not only unite but even intermarry.” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s solution to the American race problem seemed to be far more fundamental than the political deals that had been struck — and had failed — since Reconstruction.

Friday, August 2, 1912

A meeting for blacks was held near Lake Dublin. At this gathering the Master delivered an eloquent address regarding unity and amity between blacks and whites. He spoke of the approaching wedding of Miss [Louisa] Mathew, a white woman, and Mr [Louis] Gregory, a black man, which is to take place shortly in Washington DC. The white people in the audience were astonished to see the influence of the Cause and the blacks were pleased. Incidents like these are little less than miracles; in fact, ‘splitting the moon in half‘ would be an easier accomplishment in the eyes of the Americans. This meeting was full of joy.

The guests rejoiced when the Master returned to Mr and Mrs Parsons’s home. His words made a deep impression. He spoke on the oneness of the basic principles of the religions of God and the unity of His Manifestations. When questioned about Muhammad, the Prophet of God, His proofs were clear and persuasive and his arguments decisive, uplifting every downcast heart. Everyone testified to the convincing nature of His argument and the greatness of this Cause. About Islam some seemed restrained but no one uttered a dissenting word. 2

Talk to Theosophical Society, The Kensington, Exeter and Boylston Streets, Boston, Massachusetts, 24 July 1912 3

When you wish to reflect upon or consider a matter, you consult something within you. You say, shall I do it, or shall I not do it? Is it better to make this journey or abandon it? Whom do you consult? Who is within you deciding this question? Surely there is a distinct power, an intelligent ego. Were it not distinct from your ego, you would not be consulting it. It is greater than the faculty of thought. It is your spirit which teaches you, which advises and decides upon matters. Who is it that interrogates? Who is it that answers? There is no doubt that it is the spirit and that there is no change or transformation in it, for it is not a composition of elements, and anything that is not composed of elements is eternal. Change and transformation are peculiarities of composition. There is no change and transformation in the spirit. In proof of this, the body may become weakened in its members. It may be dismembered, or one of its members may be incapacitated. The whole body may be paralyzed; and yet the mind, the spirit, remains ever the same. The mind decides; the thought is perfect; and yet the hand is withered, the feet have become useless, the spinal column is paralyzed, and there is no muscular movement at all, but the spirit is in the same status. Dismember a healthy man; the spirit is not dismembered. Amputate his feet; his spirit is there. He may become lame; the spirit is not affected. The spirit is ever the same; no change or transformation can you perceive, and because there is no change or transformation, it is everlasting and permanent.

’Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912-2012: Calling America to It’s Spiritual Destiny

Need for unity and amity between blacks and whites – announcing upcoming interracial marriage

Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America

Curated by Anne Perry

August 2, 1912


  1. Jones, Caitlin Shayda, and Jonathan Menon. “Being Black in the Progressive Era.” 239 Days in America, 2 Aug. 2012, https://239days.com/2012/08/02/the-ups-and-downs-of-being-black-in-the-progressive-era/.
  2. ’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=6#section131
  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, 242-243. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/17#722543803

239 Days in America, Day 45: May 25, 1912 | Boston

‘Abdu’l-Bahá Draws a Line in the Sand 1

On the surface, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s comments about the “spirituality” of the East and the “materialism” of the West sounded virtually identical to the Indian reformers. But nothing could have been further from the truth.

On May 25, 1912, at a talk at Huntington Chambers in Boston, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá made it clear that he didn’t put any stock in the ability of ancient traditions to meet the needs of the modern world. “Thoughts and theories of past ages are fruitless now,” he said. “It is evident that counterfeit and spurious religious teaching, antiquated forms of belief and ancestral imitations . . . must also pass away and be reformed.”

Neither did he believe the nostalgic notion that modern society was somehow inferior to the civilizations of the past. “If comparison be made with the sum total of all former human achievements, it will be found that the discoveries, scientific advancement and material civilization of this present century have equaled, yea far exceeded the progress and outcome of one hundred former centuries.”

New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts 2

On Saturday, May 25, after a day of individual interviews, He went to a farewell dinner at Huntington Chambers Hall and spoke to an audience of a thousand people.

Huntington Chambers, Boston, Massachusetts 3

What a wonderful century this is! It is an age of universal reformation. Laws and statutes of civil and federal governments are in process of change and transformation. Sciences and arts are being molded anew. Thoughts are metamorphosed. The foundations of human society are changing and strengthening. Today sciences of the past are useless. The Ptolemaic system of astronomy and numberless other systems and theories of scientific and philosophical explanation are discarded, known to be false and worthless. Ethical precedents and principles cannot be applied to the needs of the modern world. Thoughts and theories of past ages are fruitless now. Thrones and governments are crumbling and falling. All conditions and requisites of the past unfitted and inadequate for the present time are undergoing radical reform. It is evident, therefore, that counterfeit and spurious religious teaching, antiquated forms of belief and ancestral imitations which are at variance with the foundations of divine reality must also pass away and be reformed. They must be abandoned and new conditions be recognized. The morals of humanity must undergo change. New remedies and solutions for human problems must be adopted. Human intellects themselves must change and be subject to the universal reformation. Just as the thoughts and hypotheses of past ages are fruitless today, likewise dogmas and codes of human invention are obsolete and barren of product in religion. Nay, it is true that they are the cause of enmity and conducive to strife in the world of humanity; war and bloodshed proceed from them, and the oneness of mankind finds no recognition in their observance. Therefore, it is our duty in this radiant century to investigate the essentials of divine religion, seek the realities underlying the oneness of the world of humanity and discover the source of fellowship and agreement which will unite mankind in the heavenly bond of love. This unity is the radiance of eternity, the divine spirituality, the effulgence of God and the bounty of the Kingdom. We must investigate the divine source of these heavenly bestowals and adhere unto them steadfastly. For if we remain fettered and restricted by human inventions and dogmas, day by day the world of mankind will be degraded, day by day warfare and strife will increase and satanic forces converge toward the destruction of the human race.

Saturday, May 25, 1912 4

Among the visitors this morning was a group of Unitarian ministers who asked many questions and who received important answers. They took their leave with great humility. Another clergyman, Rabbi Fletcher, remained for over an hour in the Master’s presence, asking various questions and receiving answers. He was so grateful and enthralled that it is difficult to describe his attraction. Dr Jack, the editor of an important London journal, also came for an interview. With great fervor and interest, he wrote down the answers to his questions for his journal. Besides the visits of these interested people, the Bahá’ís, who were in spiritual ecstacy and excitement, continuously begged for admission to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s presence.

At a meeting in the afternoon at the Master’s residence with philosophers and learned men of Boston, one visitor asked about the immortality of the soul. In response, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá delivered a most unique discourse on the subject, which left everyone astonished. Those leaders of science and knowledge were captivated with the beauty of the Covenant. The talk was so impressive that the Master Himself remarked as He left the meeting: ‘Until now there has never been such a discourse about the immortality of the soul.’ This was purely the result of His authority and power. He had had no intention of speaking on this subject but when He was questioned, He answered without hesitation.

After the meeting He went to a public park in Boston. Later that evening, in the Huntington Chambers, the Bahá’ís held a farewell gathering with over one thousand in attendance. The Master spoke on the signs of progress in the 20th century. He then chanted a prayer in such an imploring manner that tears sprang to all eyes. The meeting ended with the utmost beauty and dignity.

’Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912-2012: Calling America to It’s Spiritual Destiny

Mahmud: May 25 – Meeting various philosophers and learned men of Boston; Farewell gathering with Bahá’ís


  1. Menon, Jonathan. “‘Abdu’l-Bahá Draws a Line in the Sand.” 239 Days in America, 26 May 2012, https://239days.com/2012/05/25/abdul-baha-draws-a-line-in-the-sand/.
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 73.
  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, 144. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/10#975098386
  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#section62.

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.

Vectors of Disruption and Sea Changes

A colleague of mine is working on a white paper about various trends affecting agriculture over the next 10 years. These futuristic endeavors are fraught with peril because who really knows what the future will hold – no one. But clients and colleagues are constantly looking for ways to talk about the future with sufficient clarity and confidence that their audiences go away having more insight than otherwise.

What can one say about the future that holds true beyond the simple inevitability that the world will end and life on this planet will cease? Not much, it seems, if one is searching for specificity. But in general, there are several points that can be made which offer a framework for consideration when looking at the future.

My previous posting discussed “push” and “pull” business models. The embedded diagram illustrated a progression from individual products / services to integrated product / service combinations.

In the diagram below, this same progression forms a backdrop to highlight an increasing integration over time characterized by solutionizing and convergence.

The objective is human equivalence as introduced in an earlier posting. The balance of this diagram sets up two critical relationships that supplement increasing integration. First, developments in nanotechnology, genetics, and robotics continue to displace people from making things. And second, as artificial intelligence becomes more robust and capable of emulating human problem-solving, human intelligence is pressed into service to address an expanding awareness of the enormous complexity within the whole of creation. In other words, human intelligence leads artificial intelligence into areas of greater sophistication, ambiguity, and choice. This accelerates the advances in artificial intelligence hastening the day when it effectively achieves human equivalence.

Between now and then, the trends to watch are directly influenced by technology operating at the molecular, atomic, and sub-atomic levels, recombining DNA, and merging the biological with the mechanical. Whether related to care and consideration for the environment, applying agricultural practices to the production of food, feed, fiber, or fuel, or raising the quality of life, all are overshadowed by developments in these three areas. In general terms, to watch the evolution of technology as it shrinks to the barely detectable, rearranges genetic structure at will, and creates androids that eventually replace us will be exhilarating, unnerving, and perhaps traumatic, but inevitable. These then, are the primary trends. All others are of secondary importance. More later…

Originally posted to New Media Explorer by Steve Bosserman on Monday, April 24, 2006

Vision 101

Leaders prompt alignment. With alignment comes a flow of human energy and creativity that advances whatever cause is underway. Through this flow endeavors deemed important are initiated, actions are taken, and change occurs within a proposed framework.

Alignment is produced in three ways: integrity, vision, and fear – greed (see previous posting). Leaders lead because of their ability to draw upon at least one of these three dimensions “…in the exercise of power within a social system to produce alignment.” Of course, the greater the skills leaders have in more than one dimension, the more fluid their movement from one dimension to another as circumstances warrant, and ultimately, the more effective they will be.

Leaders who can exercise more than one dimension possess the wherewithal to use “vision” as a way to both inspire and motivate. While somewhat synonymous, the terms “inspire” and “motivate” represent a critical duality that is central to the importance of vision in the repertoire of tools used by effective leaders. Inspiration originates when there is sufficient detachment from what is or a future extrapolated from what was to see possibilities otherwise missed. Motivation is fueled by an expectation of comfort when that which is feared is dismissed and the stress of achievement is diminished. Leaders are able to use inspiration and motivation at the right time and in the correct context to build momentum and keep the flow going.

The diagram below illustrates the dual nature of vision. As an organizatio – represented by the green triangle – moves through time toward an endpoint on the horizon, it passes through its “vision” – illustrated by the yellow circle – of what it anticipates it will become or what will influence it. Philosophical ideals and spiritual values pre-date and eclipse the organization and provide a guiding moral framework that is timeless in its relevance and significance.

While the pursuit of abstractions such as peace, justice, love, and freedom is a source of inspiration, it lacks the type of structured approach required to convert the obtuse into the actionable. At some point people benefit from a clear picture of what can be reasonably expected after a finite period during which people invest their time, energy, and resources to have the intended results. Vision in this practical sense relates to the mission of a project, goals and objectives of an organization, and the “nuts and bolts” details of strategies and tactics required to complete the mission. But it is not the simple restatement of these elements a la Dilbert. Instead, it is a story told that depicts what reality might look like if the mission is completed successfully.

Just as leadership is about alignment, vision is about change – seeing it, relating to it, describing it and making it happen. Leaders who are in command of the tools of vision tell stories that inspire people at their higher levels of functioning and motivate them to take necessary action in giving practicality to that which is dreamed. Great leaders are involved; they embody the changes they are attempting to influence rather than remaining aloof and attempting to control them remotely.

A significant part of the story a powerful leader tells is not only in words but by example in deed. The leader espouses the principle in clear wording, such as the following extract from Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech delivered to more than 250,000 on August 28, 1963 in Washington, DC:

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”

It’s no wonder Dr. King could lead thousands – he posited the principles as a dream worth striving for, outlined the very trying and difficult steps that would have to be taken to make the dream reality, walked the talk hand-in-hand with others, and put his life on the line to stand tall in what he believed possible for his country and its people.

Of course, Dr. King was a “student” of another great leader in this respect, Mahatma Gandhi. The following extract from a brief biography on Gandhi’s life by B.R. Nanda sums up the compelling nature of a leader who strikes a dynamic balance between the philosophical and the practical:

His genius, so to speak, was an infinite capacity for taking pains in fulfillment of a restless moral urge. His life was one continuous striving, an unremitting sadhana, a relentless search for truth, not abstract or metaphysical truth, but such truth as can be realized in human relations. He climbed step by step, each step no bigger than a man’s, till when we saw him at the height he seemed more than a man. ‘Generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe’, wrote Einstein, ‘that such a one as this, ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.’ If at the end he seemed like no other man, it is good to remember that when he began he was like any other man.”

The result of his strong stands on principle and living the life of change – being the change – was a key factor in India gaining independence. His strict adherence to the concept of non-violence and non-resistance sets a stellar example for others to follow in their struggles with freedom and justice. And the lessons of his life continue to inform and influence generations of Indians as they build on the foundation of self-determination he laid and propel his beloved country into prominence as an economic and political global powerhouse.

The Dalai Lama, political leader of the Tibetan government in exile and spiritual guide for thousands of people around the world, offers yet another powerful example of vision in the ethereal married with the practical. Below is a extract from his commentary entitled, “A Human Approach to World Peace“:

Science and technology, though capable of creating immeasurable material comfort, cannot replace the age-old spiritual and humanitarian values that have largely shaped world civilization, in all its national forms, as we know it today. No one can deny the unprecedented material benefit of science and technology, but our basic human problems remain; we are still faced with the same, if not more, suffering, fear, and tension. Thus it is only logical to try to strike a balance between material developments on the one hand and the development of spiritual, human values on the other. In order to bring about this great adjustment, we need to revive our humanitarian values.”

Again, overarching philosophical ideals and spiritual principles are associated with the conundrum of daily issues that plague humanity. The Tibet issue is one of three commitments made by the Dalai Lama wherein he gives unwavering focus. It is in this arena on the world stage that principle is carried into action for all to see and learn. This is vision in its purest form. No one can ask more of a leader than that!

Originally posted to New Media Explorer by Steve Bosserman on Monday, February 13, 2006

Affiliations: Cycles of Corruption and Renewal

Even though our thoughts are born in the private spaces of our minds, we humans do not live solitary existences with occluded thinking. At some point we express our private selves in the public arena whether that be a tight-knit circle of family and close friends or an expansive network of colleagues and associates of like-mindedness or dissimilarity.

Statements made about what we think impact others and, in turn, influence what they think.

Depending on how one resonates with the statements of another defines the type and degree of affiliation those two can have, if any. Sometimes what a person says is a statement of principle, ideal, or deeply-held belief that equates to a “universal truth.” Such statements, like motherhood and apple pie, are hard to contest – they just are. How we behave in relation to them, though, is another thing entirely. Many a vicious and deadly conflict across the panorama of human history has been fueled by behaviors in the name of spiritual principles and humanistic ideals like peace, justice, love, and freedom.

How could such noble and lofty ideals be at the heart of destructive behavior? The root cause is not the ideal but how a person chooses to put the ideal or principle into effect. Intangible abstractions like peace, justice, love, and freedom need an image to which people can relate in order for them to see what life would be like if society adhered to these concepts. The tool most commonly used is “vision,” an idealized extrapolation of what the world might be if human relationships, social institutions, and ecological responsiveness at all levels were based on these principles. Visions – no matter how well-articulated and beautiful the potentialities they describe – are nothing more than the well-considered opinions of a select group of people. Visions are not predictors of the future. Still, a common vision of what is possible and highly desired forms a powerful motivating force for the group that shares it. Unfortunately, there are many groups that have a multitude of visions based on the same set of principles and ideals, but pursue different outcomes. These differences have the potential to enrich the pool of possibilities among them, or to become the seeds of conflict and contentiousness. Too often, it is the latter.

Visions are both personal and social. Affiliations begin with principles and ideals expressed by one and shaped by many as a shared vision worth pursuing collectively. While one person can hold an ideal and front a vision with which others are aligned, visions require more than one person to make them a reality. Therefore, the more people become involved the greater the likelihood of success.

Oftentimes, there are not enough people compelled by a vision to carry it into fruition and sustain it over time. This is typical for organizations that begin in a spirited, entrepreneurial manner fueled by the creative energies and ideas of one or a handful of committed individuals. Initial success warrants more resources to feed growth. Not everyone is drawn by the vision or even the ideals that undergird it. Instead, they are attracted by what’s in it for them if they do or what they will miss or lose if they don’t. Once again, the continuum of fear and greed arises to capture the hearts and souls of the unwary and unsuspecting. Ironically, no matter how well-engrained the core values and heartfelt the vision of an organization in the founders and first generation of affiliates, every addition to their ranks who is driven more by fear and greed compromises the original sense of the organization.

People who are not in touch with the principles and ideals that drive them, lack vision, or whose visions are not shared by those with whom they seek to affiliate become complicit in the corruption of any organization they join. Similarly, people new to an organization do not have shared experiences with those who deeply honor its organizing principles and care for its guiding vision. As a result, people not closely aligned to the integrity of an organization, are at risk to undermine it.

This presents an organizational dilemma. No organization is sustainable over time without changing who is affiliated with it, what it does, and the manner with which it does it. Yet by definition these changes introduce other people into the organization who are not necessarily aligned with its founding beliefs. To protect itself in spite of all these variations in attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, an organization converts its philosophical underpinnings into a formal system comprised of rules, regulations, policies, procedures, programs, processes, funding, resources, roles and relationships as a method of control. It becomes institutionalized as a way to preserve itself.

Granted, this institutionalizing of an organization serves to protect its basic integrity, but it does not guarantee long term success. The slide into corruption caused by those whose greed prompts illegal, unethical, and unjust behaviors is sharply reduced, but by penalty of adhering to tradition and adopting an unwieldy conservatism that is slow to adapt. While an organization can explode by paying inadequate attention to risks it is taking, an even more insidious condition is where the lack of appropriate responses to a changing context in which the organization exists causes the organization to implode. Either way, corruption unchecked inevitably leads to decline and, ultimately, destruction.

What, then, keeps an organization going over time – what makes it sustainable? History shows it is the ability of the organization to allow someone or several to restate the underlying principles and ideals upon which it was founded and reframe its vision such that its purpose becomes a revitalizing source of passion for those who are committed to those values; people are inspired and re-energized; the organization is reborn. Sustainability is a function of healthy, recurring life-cycles. They begin in the intellectually pristine space of universal principles and ideals and are followed by the unavoidable corruptive forces of unshared visions and divisive actions driven by individual or collective fear and greed. This prompts the resurrection of originating principles and ideals, renewal of visions of possibilities, and the realignment of integrity. Organizations that persist over time live, die, and are reborn. Their basic “genetic structure” is transferred from generation to generation while its mode of operation and relevance in the social environment that sustains it adapts. The key to long-term success for any organization is how well this cycle is triggered and honored. Sounds easy, but it is a challenge millions have failed to heed!

Originally posted to New Media Explorer by Steve Bosserman on Thursday, January 19, 2006 and updated on Tuesday, January 31, 2006