239 Days in America, Day 121: August 09, 1912 | Dublin

The Symbolic Language of the Bible 1

“THE HOLY BOOKS HAVE their special terminologies,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá told an audience at the Dublin Inn on August 5, 1912. “Physicians have their own peculiar terms; architects, philosophers have their characteristic expressions; poets have their phrases; and scientists, their nomenclature.” It was one of the few talks he gave in the scenic town of Dublin, New Hampshire, that was transcribed for posterity. His subject was religious scripture and the symbolic language it employs.

Narrow-minded interpretations of scripture, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá argued, have held people back from recognizing the truth. Christians and Jews, for example, had clung to the literal meaning of prophecies that said “The Messiah shall appear from heaven.” Although Christ was in their midst these people denied him, saying, “This man came from Nazareth; we know his house; we know his parents and people.” The true meaning of the statement, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá argued, “is that the divine reality of Christ was from heaven, but the body was born of Mary.”

‘Abdu’l-Bahá urged his audience in Dublin to search for the “inner meanings” of things. He quoted a popular Eastern phrase: “When my friend entered the house, the doors and walls began to sing and dance.” The point, he said, is to “engage in the matter according to its own terms and usages.”

New Hampshire 2

When a young man asked Him, on August 9, in what school He had learned His philosophy, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá replied, “‘In the school in which Christ learned it.’”

Friday, August 9, 1912 3

A number of the friends, both old and new, were present at ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s house. One of their questions was whether the existence of evil proceeds from God. He replied:

“There is no evil in existence. Evil is non-existence. All that is created is good. Ignorance is evil and it is the non-existence of knowledge; it has no existence of its own. Hence, evil is the non-existence of good. Want of wealth is poverty; absence of justice is oppression; want of perfection is deficiency. All of these opposites imply non-existence and not existence.”

At the public meeting in the afternoon ‘Abdu’l-Bahá exhorted the audience to refrain from blind imitation, reminding them that the distinction of man lies in his ability to investigate reality and ascertain the truth. He spoke of the coming of Bahá’u’lláh and explained some of the teachings of the Supreme Pen.

After lovingly shaking hands with those present, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá came into the room where we were and asked about our health, saying to us, ‘Come here, be seated. Mrs Parsons has sent tea, sweets and some fruit for you. Eat and drink.’ Then with a merry twinkle in His eyes, He continued:

“Oh! You are very badly off here! May God hear your complaint! Oh! It is so difficult to live in this manner, to dwell in such a house, to breathe such air! And to stay with such servants and respected friends is, of course, very hard for you! May God come to your help!”

Then He said:

“Joking aside, what a wonderful table the Blessed Perfection has spread for His friends! Had kings come here they would have been served but this fervor and zeal of the friends would not have appeared for any one of them. These noble people who serve you love you with heart and soul and serve you without any fear, hope or expectation of reward. The poet spoke truly when he said that three things are scarce, namely, the demon, the phoenix and the faithful friend. Yes, like the demon and the phoenix, the true friend is rare. But under the shadow of the Word of God, the Blessed Beauty has produced such friends for you.”

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

“… evil is the non-existence of good.”

Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America

Curated by Anne Perry

August 9, 1912


  1. Jones, Caitlin Shayda. “The Symbolic Language of the Bible.” 239 Days in America, 9 Aug. 2012, https://239days.com/2012/08/09/the-symbolic-language-of-religion/.
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 121.
  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#section138