239 Days in America, Day 109: July 28, 1912 | Dublin

A Different Side of America 1

IT IS A FUNDAMENTALLY different task to write feature stories about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Dublin, New Hampshire, than it is to reconstruct life in New York, Washington, or Chicago. Only about 500 people lived in Dublin in 1912. Like many summer destinations, the population swelled during the sunny months, but it remained a small country village. While many newspapers covered the goings-on in the big metropolitan areas, and many of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s speeches there were written down, in Dublin there are very few sources to mine.

In Dublin it is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s interactions with the unique characters who lived there in the summer of 1912 that comprise the most interesting aspects of the story. We have met some of these families already in the last two days: the Parsons, the Joseph Lindon Smiths, the Brushes, and the Thayers. They were not national figures. Some possessed extreme wealth; others were artists with compelling personal histories.

During our research for these three weeks in Dublin we were surprised by how many currents of thought, emblematic of the times, reached into this tiny village. The artists here, whom we will meet, did not merely paint beautiful images or write beautiful sentences. They constructed a view of human nature that we may consider to be controversial or retrograde today, but that wrestled with the outlooks of the age, whether Eugenics, Orientalism, Positivism, or Late Transcendentalism. These viewpoints were central to the conversations ‘Abdu’l-Bahá encountered among intelligent people in 1912. As we shall see in the days to come, they reveal a different side of America.

Sunday, July 28, 1912 2

After prayers the Master revealed several Tablets. A lengthy one was addressed to Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl (may my life be a sacrifice to him). The Master’s affection and love for him was such that when Mr MacNutt presented Him with a picture of Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl, He took it at once and kissed it with such love and warmth that all saw how dear he was to the Master.

The Master sat in the drawing room and spoke to Mr Harmon about the sanctity of God, who is beyond emanation and appearance, ascent and descent, ingress and egress, and about the reflection of His attributes on the mirrors of the hearts of the Manifestations. His talk was brief but comprehensive and impressive. He also explained the meanings of the holy books and discussed the saying that ‘everything is contained in everything’, that is, every atom of creation passes through infinite forms and every molecule is transformed and passes through everything else. He then said:

“The Theosophists are educating a boy in the schools of Europe and say that he will become the promised one of all nations. How ignorant this is! God must select the Promised One, not men. The lamp that men ignite will be put out; but the Lamp of God is ever bright. He who is educated by men is always dependent on men. How can he give eternal prosperity? It is as if a person wishes to make a sun out of oil and wick.”

‘Abdu’l-Bahá was asked about the conditions in Turkey. He replied, ‘Do not expect good news from that spot. But we have nothing to do with political affairs. Our work concerns spirituality, the knowledge of God and the acquisition of spiritual bounties.’

A group of prominent persons came to see Him in the afternoon at Mrs Parsons’s home. The subjects concerned telepathy, the immortality of the spirit and related subjects. The guests were so impressed that they attended every meeting. After each day’s meeting Mr and Mrs Parsons come with their carriage to take the Master out riding with them. Today He said He would rather go for a walk and instead sent some of these servants for a ride.

This evening Mr Harmon read to the Master passages from a book he had written on Theosophy and Buddhist teachings. He showed Him the illustrations he had drawn. He had illustrated truth as a circle, with God at its center, and divided the circle into seven segments representing the world of creation. The Master listened to him with love and patience while at the same time removing his superstitions with quotations from philosophers and sages in such a way that Mr Harmon was astonished. The Master explained the seven segments so beautifully that he cried, ‘Oh, your explanations have opened the doors of understanding before me!’ The Master then said, ‘I have had no education. I have not even been to elementary school. These people know it.’ Mr Harmon said, ‘I feel that whatever you say comes from innate knowledge.’

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

The philosophers of the world are divided into two classes: materialists, who deny the spirit and its immortality, and the divine philosophers, the wise men of God, the true illuminati who believe in the spirit and its continuance hereafter. The ancient philosophers taught that man consists simply of the material elements which compose his cellular structure and that when this composition is disintegrated the life of man becomes extinct. They reasoned that man is body only, and from this elemental composition the organs and their functions, the senses, powers and attributes which characterize man have proceeded, and that these disappear completely with the physical body. This is practically the statement of all the materialists.

The divine philosophers proclaim that the spirit of man is ever-living and eternal, and because of the objections of the materialists, these wise men of God have advanced rational proofs to support the validity of their statement. Inasmuch as the materialistic philosophers deny the Books of God, scriptural demonstration is not evidence to them, and materialistic proofs are necessary. Answering them, the men of divine knowledge have said that all existing phenomena may be resolved into grades or kingdoms, classified progressively as mineral, vegetable, animal and human, each of which possesses its degree of function and intelligence. When we consider the mineral, we find that it exists and is possessed of the power of affinity or combination. The vegetable possesses the qualities of the mineral plus the augmentative virtue or power of growth. It is, therefore, evident that the vegetable kingdom is superior to the mineral. The animal kingdom in turn possesses the qualities of the mineral and vegetable plus the five senses of perception whereof the kingdoms below it are lacking. Likewise, the power of memory inherent in the animal does not exist in the lower kingdoms.

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

The Master’s affection and love for Mirza Abu’l-Fadl

Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America

Curated by Anne Perry

July 28, 1912


  1. Menon, Jonathan. “A Different Side of America.” 239 Days in America, 28 July 2012, https://239days.com/2012/07/28/abdul-baha-in-dublin-new-hampshire/.
  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=5#section126
  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, 240. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/17#650985033

239 Days in America, Day 90: July 09, 1912 | New York

The Jewish Watchman and the Blue Whale 1

THE BELLY OF THE blue whale was lined with deep corrugations, like a field that had just been plowed. It hung from the ceiling of the Mammal Gallery in the American Natural History Museum in New York, which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá visited on July 9, 1912.

It was seventy-six feet long and weighed four tons. It wasn’t a real blue whale but a model of one, the largest in the country. It had taken eight months to build in 1907; its skin was papier-mâché.

The sight of the whale made ‘Abdu’l-Bahá laugh. “He could hold seventy Jonahs!” he declared.

The walk to the museum from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s house, at 309 West 78th Street, had taken about twenty-five minutes. But the heat that day was oppressive, and he sat down on a stone ledge to rest before traversing the last half block to the museum’s main door. Juliet Thompson, who accompanied him, looked for a closer entrance. She tried the employee entrance, but it was locked. Then a shrill whistle stopped her in her tracks.

She turned around to face an old, bent little man with a kind face. He was the watchman of the museum grounds, and he was Jewish. She pointed to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: “I must find a nearer door than the main one. See Who is sitting on that ledge! I must find it for Him.” The watchman turned and looked at ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.

“Is he a Jew?” he asked.

“A descendant of Abraham.”

“Ask Him to come to me,” the watchman said.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Juliet Thompson, and the Persian attendants followed the watchman, who showed them a shortcut across the grass. After seeing the blue whale and viewing a few more exhibits, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá walked outside and sat on the grass under the shade of a birch tree.

The watchman stole up beside Juliet. “Who is He?” he asked. “He looks like such a great man.”

“He is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá of Persia,” she replied, “and He has been a great Sufferer because of His work for the real Brotherhood of Man, the uniting of all the races and nations.”

New York City 2

He [‘Abdu’l-Bahá] had asked Lua Getsinger to go to California to proclaim the Covenant; but she, eager to be with Him, delayed going and finally walked in poison ivy during the Unity Feast to prevent her departure. Abdu’l-Bahá sent her some fruit, and she was quickly cured. Again He directed her to go, and she finally did.

Tuesday, July 9, 1912 3

A number of friends were waiting for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá when He arrived with a paper from Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl in His hand. He gave it to us and said, ‘Read it. It is very interesting.’ It was an answer to criticisms of one Siyyid ‘Abdu’lláh, an enemy of the Cause. These criticisms are themselves more proof of the greatness of the Center of the Covenant than are the praises of the friends. Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl has recorded the very words of this critic in his book.

Although that Siyyid had embraced Christianity, thus retrogressing, he appeals in his pamphlet to the nationalities of the world, even the Zoroastrians and Jews, to cooperate with him in his opposition to the Bahá’í Faith. The English press of Cairo published his pamphlet in the month of Naisan 1912. In his pamphlet, he attributes the success of the Cause to the virtues and perfections of the Center of the Covenant. Below is a passage from the second chapter of his pamphlet:

“And when we reflect upon his [the Master’s] work and the work of his father, we find a great difference between the two. The foundation laid down by Bahá’u’lláh did not rise except very little. It was not even apparent to the eyes of outsiders. But what has been built upon it by ‘Abbás [’Abdu’l-Bahá] since the time of the passing of his father, which does not exceed twenty years, is really striking. We see millions of people of various religions and diverse denominations such as Muslims, Christians, heathens, Buddhists and Hindus drawn and attracted to His Cause from such remote countries as America, Caucasia, Russia, Great Britain and the shore of India.”

In the fifth chapter, he wrote:

“What vast genius, striking intelligence, consummate opulence and tried virtue has enabled ‘Abbás Effendi to attract multitudes of people from diverse denominations and languages? Even this month he received hundreds of letters from his American friends, supplicating him to visit them. They sent 1,000 guineas to defray the expenses of his journey. He granted their request as he had promised them last year, but sent back their guineas with thanks and apology, saying that it was not his custom to accept such things. Consider this great opulence which was related to me by one of his followers and also spoken of by some Egyptian papers. Look to this virtue and piety which is the cause of love and affection as is said by our ancestor, the author of Islamic law: ‘Be indifferent to what the people possess and the people will love you.’”

At the table the Master read this paper and smiled. He remarked that according to the words of the Qur’án, the deniers said to the Messenger of God, ‘Verily, Thou art an insane one.’ But now, according to the words of the deniers of the Cause, ‘vast genius, striking intelligence, consummate opulence, tried virtue’ and the majesty of the Center of the Covenant have become a cause for the attraction of hearts. The preeminence and power of the Cause is established even by the words of its enemies. Today the services of Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl were mentioned repeatedly by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.

Talk at 309 West Seventy-eighth Street, New York, 6 July 1912 4

You must come into the knowledge of the divine Manifestations and Their teachings through proofs and evidences. You must unseal the mysteries of the supreme Kingdom and become capable of discovering the inner realities of things. Then shall you be the manifestations of the mercy of God and true believers, firm and steadfast in the Cause of God.

Praise be to God! The door of divine knowledge has been opened by Bahá’u’lláh, for He has laid the foundation whereby man may become acquainted with the verities of heaven and earth and has bestowed the utmost confirmation in this day. He is our Teacher and Adviser; He is our Seer and the One clement toward us. He has prepared His gifts and vouchsafed His bounties, revealed every admonition and behest, prepared for us the means of eternal glory, breathed upon us the life-quickening breaths of the Holy Spirit, opened before our faces the doors of the paradise of Abhá and caused the lights of the Sun of Truth to shine upon us. The clouds of mercy have poured down their precious rain. The sea of favor is swelling and surging toward us.

The spiritual springtime has come. Infinite bounties and graces have appeared. What bestowal is greater than this? We must appreciate the divine generosity and act in accordance with the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh so that all good may be stored up for us and in both worlds we shall become precious and acceptable to God, attain to everlasting blessings, taste the delicacy of the love of God, find the sweetness of the knowledge of God, perceive the heavenly bestowal and witness the power of the Holy Spirit.

This is my advice, and this is my admonition.

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

The Master and the museum watchman

Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America

Curated by Anne Perry

July 09, 1912


  1. Jones, Caitlin Shayda. “The Jewish Watchman and the Blue Whale.” 239 Days in America, 9 July 2012, https://239days.com/2012/07/09/abdul-baha-jewish-watchman-blue-whale/.
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 109.
  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=5#section107
  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, 227-228. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/16#756656705