Happy Fourth of July! 1
“THERE WERE CELEBRATIONS EVERYWHERE,” Mahmúd wrote on July 4, in his chronicle of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s trip to America.
Mahmúd-i-Zarqání had traveled to America with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá on the Cedric from Egypt, and accompanied him on his journey across the country as one of his secretaries. On July 4, 1912, Mahmúd was about to get his first taste of a good old-fashioned American celebration: a Fourth of July parade in New York.
New York Mayor William J. Gaynor had sent ‘Abdu’l-Bahá an invitation the week before while he was still in Montclair, New Jersey. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who was recovering from exhaustion, replied that he would come if time permitted. His schedule in America involved periods of intense activity where he greeted guests from 7:00 a.m. to well after midnight, or spoke at five gatherings in a single day, alternating with shorter periods of rest. He didn’t say yes to every invitation.
New York City 2
And then came July 4. The mayor of New York asked Abdu’l-Bahá to be with him on the parade reviewing stand. Abdu’l-Bahá did not go, but sent the other Persian friends to represent Him.
After an evening meal in Abdu’l-Bahá’s house honoring the birthday of Juliet Thompson’s mother, the Master spoke of tests. “Even the sword is no test to the Persian believers. They are given a chance to recant they cry out instead: ‘Ya Bahá’u’l-Abhá!’ Then the sword is raised. They cry out all the more, ‘Ya Bahá’u’l-Abhá!’ But some of the people here are tested if I don’t say, ‘How do you do.’” 3
Thursday, July 4, 1912
A number of people met ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the morning. He spoke to them about divine knowledge and the spiritual stations which lead to eternal life — the ultimate goal of human existence. A black youth was there, to whom the Master gave the name ‘Mubárak’ [’happy’], and to a black woman He gave the name ‘Khush Ghadam’ [a person who brings good fortune, welcome news, good omen]. He spoke to them about the importance of harmony between the white and black races of America and described the various meetings attended by both blacks and whites and the talks given at them which dealt with this question.
Mrs Kaufman asked about the influence of heavenly bodies on the affairs of humanity. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá replied:
The words of the astrologers are for the most part doubtful and unreliable. But the whole of creation is interrelated like the different parts of the human body which have a complete affinity from the toenail to the hair on the head. Every part is perfectly connected with the other. Similarly, the whole of creation forms a chain composed, as it were, of many links connected with each other. It is therefore obvious that they all greatly influence each other and are part of organized, regular cycles.
He was then asked about the connection between the soul and the body. He replied, ‘It has the same connection as the sun has with the mirror. Death consists of the severance of this connection.’
‘Some say that your prayers and promises for us have come true and are being completely fulfilled.’
‘I always pray with complete self-effacement and humbly implore confirmations from the Kingdom of Abhá.’
‘Do you feel the excessive heat? Does it affect your health?’
‘I am so absorbed that I feel neither the heat nor the cold. It is all the same to me.’
Today the Master was occupied in revealing Tablets for the Eastern friends. Notwithstanding the heavy pressure of work, He does not delay His answers to important questions.
There was a large crowd in the evening to whom He spoke about the various kingdoms of creation and the virtues of the world of existence. After the meeting several seekers visited the Master in His room. He answered their questions regarding the stations of divinity and the journey in the path of knowledge and servitude. Everyone was pleased and delighted and joined us in offering praise and glory to God. 4
Talk at Fourth Annual Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Handel Hall, Chicago, Illinois, 30 April 1912
Each kingdom of creation is endowed with its necessary complement of attributes and powers. The mineral possesses inherent virtues of its own kingdom in the scale of existence. The vegetable possesses the qualities of the mineral plus an augmentative virtue, or power of growth. The animal is endowed with the virtues of both the mineral and vegetable plane plus the power of intellect. The human kingdom is replete with the perfections of all the kingdoms below it with the addition of powers peculiar to man alone. Man is, therefore, superior to all the creatures below him, the loftiest and most glorious being of creation. Man is the microcosm; and the infinite universe, the macrocosm. The mysteries of the greater world, or macrocosm, are expressed or revealed in the lesser world, the microcosm. The tree, so to speak, is the greater world, and the seed in its relation to the tree is the lesser world. But the whole of the great tree is potentially latent and hidden in the little seed. When this seed is planted and cultivated, the tree is revealed. Likewise, the greater world, the macrocosm, is latent and miniatured in the lesser world, or microcosm, of man. This constitutes the universality or perfection of virtues potential in mankind. Therefore, it is said that man has been created in the image and likeness of God.
Let us now discover more specifically how he is the image and likeness of God and what is the standard or criterion by which he can be measured and estimated. This standard can be no other than the divine virtues which are revealed in him. Therefore, every man imbued with divine qualities, who reflects heavenly moralities and perfections, who is the expression of ideal and praiseworthy attributes, is, verily, in the image and likeness of God. If a man possesses wealth, can we call him an image and likeness of God? Or is human honor and notoriety the criterion of divine nearness? Can we apply the test of racial color and say that man of a certain hue—white, black, brown, yellow, red—is the true image of his Creator? We must conclude that color is not the standard and estimate of judgment and that it is of no importance, for color is accidental in nature. The spirit and intelligence of man is essential, and that is the manifestation of divine virtues, the merciful bestowals of God, the eternal life and baptism through the Holy Spirit. Therefore, be it known that color or race is of no importance. He who is the image and likeness of God, who is the manifestation of the bestowals of God, is acceptable at the threshold of God—whether his color be white, black or brown; it matters not. Man is not man simply because of bodily attributes. The standard of divine measure and judgment is his intelligence and spirit.
Therefore, let this be the only criterion and estimate, for this is the image and likeness of God. A man’s heart may be pure and white though his outer skin be black; or his heart be dark and sinful though his racial color is white. The character and purity of the heart is of all importance. The heart illumined by the light of God is nearest and dearest to God, and inasmuch as God has endowed man with such favor that he is called the image of God, this is truly a supreme perfection of attainment, a divine station which is not to be sacrificed by the mere accident of color. 5
’Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912-2012: Calling America to It’s Spiritual Destiny
Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America
Curated by Anne Perry
- Jones, Caitlin Shayda. “Happy Fourth of July!” 239 Days in America, 4 July 2012, https://239days.com/2012/07/04/on-the-fourth-of-july/. ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 108. ↩
- Thompson, Juliet. The Diary of Juliet Thompson. Edited by Marzieh Gail. 1st ed. 1947. Reprint, Los Angeles: Kalimát Press, 1983, 326-327. https://archive.org/details/diaryofjuliettho0000thom/page/326/mode/2up. ↩
- ’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=5#section102 ↩
- 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, 69-70. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/4#517138722 ↩