239 Days in America, Day 189: October 16, 1912 | San Francisco

The Grand Benefactress of California 1

ON OCTOBER 16, 1912, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá woke up in one of Phoebe Hearst’s forty rooms in her mansion in Pleasanton, California. Most of the other rooms were empty; only a few close friends and family had joined Mrs. Hearst for the duration of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s stay. Since George Hearst’s death twenty-one years earlier, Mrs. Hearst had been busy managing an immense mining fortune, including the Homestake gold mine in South Dakota, and the Anaconda copper mine in Butte, Montana.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá did not give lengthy talks while in Pleasanton; instead, he casually answered the questions of those around him. “How is it that the desires of some people are achieved while others are not?” someone asked. “Good intentions and sound thoughts attract confirmations,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá answered. “The desires of human beings are endless. . . He can never find peace but through effort and resignation, so that, notwithstanding all efforts in worldly affairs, the human heart remains free and happy.” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá concluded: “He neither becomes proud on attaining wealth and position nor becomes dejected on losing them.”

The morning of October 15, 1912, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá toured Mrs. Hearst’s home and gardens. He chose a few plant specimens to take home with him and cultivate next to the resting place of his father, Bahá’u’lláh. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá enjoyed the company of Mrs. Hearst’s grandchildren that evening, saying, “In reality, children are the ornaments at the table, especially these children, who are very sweet! The hearts of children are extremely pure and simple. A person’s heart must be like a child’s, pure and free from all contamination.”

California 2

Before leaving on Wednesday morning [October 16], ‘Abdu’l-Bahá called all the servants together, thanked them, and gave them ten dollars each.

After returning to San Francisco, He spoke at the Century Club concerning the rights of women. At the Nineteen Day Feast that evening, at the home of Mrs. Goodall in Oakland, 125 were present. The friends played the piano and sang before the meeting. Then ‘Abdu’l-Bahá anointed each guest with attar of roses and served them Himself, speaking afterward of spiritual development. He remained in Oakland overnight.

Wednesday, October 16, 1912 3

Although some of Mrs Hearst’s relatives had previously been narrow-minded and aloof, they were now humbled and transformed. This was most notable when it came time for the Master to depart and He was bidding them farewell. The Master called all of the servants and attendants of the house and the maids, orderlies, cooks and butler stood in a line before Him. He encouraged them to be truthful, honest and devoted to their work. Thanking them for their services, He said: ‘As I am like a father to you, I wish to leave a memento with you.’ He gave each two guineas and left. The grand and illustrious guests stood by humbly, astonished and impressed with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s generosity, grandeur and majesty.

Mrs Hearst begged ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to allow her to accompany Him to San Francisco. Her wish was granted and she traveled with the Master. Some of His words to her were these:

“The Cause of God is sanctified from all political power and worldly affairs. Among the divine teachings are trustworthiness, detachment and sanctity. So if you should see a man coveting property and evincing greed toward the wealth of others, know that he is not of the people of Bahá. The people of Bahá are they who, should they happen to come upon a valley of gold and silver, would pass by it like lightning in utter disregard.”

The Master encouraged her especially to protect and train her youngest grandchild. ‘This child’, He said, ‘has a well-proportioned forehead and an open, pleasant face and if given heavenly instruction will be the cause of the eternal happiness of this family.’

When the eminent men of America and the liberal-minded people of its cities see such behavior, wisdom, majesty and power exemplified by the Master, even though they are prominent themselves, they are fascinated by His unique character and fall in love with Him. This afternoon the Master gave an address at the Century Club in San Francisco on the rights and education of women before an audience of women and their husbands. They were captivated and so overcome with joy that they begged to be introduced to Him and to attain His presence. This was a gathering of wealthy people and there was an abundance of food and refreshments. The Master had some tea and sweets and then left. When He was outside the building, crowds of people surrounded Him, demonstrating their joy, love and respect.

After the meeting, the Master remarked:

“I speak according to the demands of the time and the capacity of my listeners. ‘The father makes gurgling sounds for the newborn infant, although his wisdom be capable of measuring the universe.’”

Later in the evening the Master and some of the friends and His servants went to Oakland to attend the Nineteen Day Feast. On the way He spoke of the sadness of the friends in Seattle, saying:

“They are upset that I am not going there. However, in spite of the great distance, they have come to see us, notwithstanding the effort involved. Had it been but a one- or two-day trip, I would have gone to Portland and Seattle but the distance is great. I would not visit Los Angeles were it not for the purpose of visiting the tomb of Mr Chase. The friends all have expectations but if I should want to go to all these places, the journey would become too long and that is impossible. However, in my heart there is such love for the heavenly friends that I do not wish even a speck of dust to touch them. God forbid! If I see harm coming to one of you, I will throw myself in its path to shield you.”

When the Master reached the home of Mrs Goodall and Mrs Cooper He took a walk before the Feast on the shores of the lake. He returned for the meeting and spoke to the friends and seekers, saying:

“On the way here we were saying that it never occurred to us that we would come to California and meet with the friends in this manner or that we would proclaim the Cause of God in great assemblies. How Bahá’u’lláh suffered, what persecutions and hardships He endured! He saw His property plundered and carried off. He was chained and imprisoned so that hearts would be connected, that the East and the West would find harmony, that the oneness of humanity would come about and that universal peace may reign.”

The friends had gathered to play the piano and sing songs of praise while awaiting the arrival of the Master. When their melodious voices reached His ears from the lower hall, He wrote a letter to Hájí Mírzá Haydar-Alí (the Angel of Carmel), beginning:

“O thou who art partner and co-sharer with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in servitude to the Threshold of Bahá! It is evening and these wandering birds are nestled in the home of the maidservant of God, Mrs Helen Goodall, in Oakland, California. It is the Nineteen Day Feast. A number of the faithful friends and the pure and illumined leaves of God are supplicating the all-glorious Kingdom. All the delicacies are spread and ready and the table is exquisitely arranged. Oh, how thou art missed! Severed from all else, they sing a new song and with a new voice repeat spiritual notes. They are in a state of absolute love and supplication. Oh, how thou art missed! Oh, how thou art missed!”

‘Abdu’l-Bahá joined the gathering, invited the friends to sit at the table and began to serve them, anointing each with perfume and serving delicacies while circulating amongst them, saying:

“Praise be to God! We are assembled in the home of Mrs Goodall and Mrs Cooper in utmost love and affection. Every delicacy is provided. All hearts are in utmost love and serenity. All eyes are turned to the Abhá Kingdom. It is a good gathering, it cannot be surpassed. The Supreme Concourse is now beholding this assemblage and crying out, ‘Blessed are ye! Blessed are ye! O ye servants of the Blessed Beauty! Blessed are ye; blessed are ye with your radiant countenances! Blessed are ye; blessed are ye with hearts like unto rose gardens! Observe, what a favor is conferred upon you, what a bounty is bestowed upon you that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is in your midst, makes mention of you and congratulates and compliments you.’”

He then said, ‘Go on with your supper. I shall go upstairs and then come back.’

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

From this review of the history of the Jewish people we learn that the foundation of the religion of God laid by Moses was the cause of their eternal honor and national prestige, the animating impulse of their advancement and racial supremacy and the source of that excellence which will always command the respect and reverence of those who understand their peculiar destiny and outcome. The dogmas and blind imitations which gradually obscured the reality of the religion of God proved to be Israel’s destructive influences, causing the expulsion of these chosen people from the Holy Land of their Covenant and promise.

What, then, is the mission of the divine Prophets? Their mission is the education and advancement of the world of humanity. They are the real Teachers and Educators, the universal Instructors of mankind. If we wish to discover whether any one of these great Souls or Messengers was in reality a Prophet of God, we must investigate the facts surrounding His life and history, and the first point of our investigation will be the education He bestowed upon mankind. If He has been an Educator, if He has really trained a nation or people, causing it to rise from the lowest depths of ignorance to the highest station of knowledge, then we are sure that He was a Prophet. This is a plain and clear method of procedure, proof that is irrefutable. We do not need to seek after other proofs. We do not need to mention miracles, saying that out of rock water gushed forth, for such miracles and statements may be denied and refused by those who hear them. The deeds of Moses are conclusive evidences of His Prophethood. If a man be fair, unbiased and willing to investigate reality, he will undoubtedly testify to the fact that Moses was, verily, a man of God and a great Personage.

In further consideration of this subject, I wish you to be fair and reasonable in your judgment, setting aside all religious prejudices. We should earnestly seek and thoroughly investigate realities, recognizing that the purpose of the religion of God is the education of humanity and the unity and fellowship of mankind. Furthermore, we will establish the point that the foundations of the religions of God are one foundation. This foundation is not multiple, for it is reality itself. Reality does not admit of multiplicity, although each of the divine religions is separable into two divisions. One concerns the world of morality and the ethical training of human nature. It is directed to the advancement of the world of humanity in general; it reveals and inculcates the knowledge of God and makes possible the discovery of the verities of life. This is ideal and spiritual teaching, the essential quality of divine religion, and not subject to change or transformation. It is the one foundation of all the religions of God. Therefore, the religions are essentially one and the same.

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

‘Abdu’l-Bahá thanks all the domestic servants in Mrs. Hearst’s house

Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America

Curated by Anne Perry

October 16, 1912


  1. Jones, Caitlin Shayda. “The Grand Benefactress of California.” 239 Days in America, 16 Oct. 2012, https://239days.com/2012/10/16/the-humility-of-the-rich/.
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 168-169.
  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#section207
  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, 364-365. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/27#289803138

239 Days in America, Day 186: October 13, 1912 | San Francisco

Phoebe Apperson Hearst 1

PHOEBE APPERSON HEARST HELD her dress above her shoes to step from the limousine parked in front of 1815 California Street, where ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had been staying. It was October 13, 1912. She was a small woman and kept her hair pulled tight on top of her head except for several short curls that hung loose to frame her face. After her husband died in 1891, she took over what was then the largest private mining company in the United States. The University of California at Berkeley had risen on her dollars. Today she had arrived to escort ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to her nineteen-hundred-acre estate in nearby Pleasanton for a three-night stay in the countryside.

It was a sunny day, and they drew the blinds in Mrs. Hearst’s limousine, then sped off down California Street toward the ferry terminal at the end of Market Street. After disembarking from the ferry across the bay in Oakland, the journey to Phoebe Hearst’s estate took them thirty-five miles through the redwoods of California.

California 2

On Sunday, October 13, He spoke at the reading room for the blind.

Sunday, October 13, 1912 3

In the morning one of the Japanese friends came together with a group of people to visit the Master. This Japanese friend said that he had studied most religions but found none as useful and effective in bringing tranquillity to the people as this Faith. The Master replied:

“I hope that you will become heavenly and not just be a Japanese, an Arab, an Englishman or a Persian, Turk or American; that you will become divine and bring your life into accord with the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. Observe: I am one of the servants of Bahá’u’lláh, helpless and weak but as I am under the shadow of His teachings you see what confirmations descend upon me.”

The fame, grandeur and beauty of the Master were such that many civic, educational and social leaders of the area visited Him, considering it an honor to be in His presence. His noble mission and talks about the Cause of God, together with the enthusiasm of the people, seemed to fulfill the verse from the Qur’án: ‘The day when the people shall stand before the Lord of creation.’ Mrs [Phoebe] Hearst, a wealthy and prominent person who had visited the Master a few years ago in the Holy Land but who had become distant because of her association with worldly people, suddenly requested permission to visit Him. Realizing the privilege of His presence, she invited Him and His companions to her home. Because her invitation was sincere, it was accepted. In the afternoon, the Master and His servants went with Mrs Hearst to her home. After traveling inland, through the streets of Oakland and Berkeley, the automobile passed through verdant hills, green valleys and lovely towns and villages until it reached Mrs Hearst’s large, regal mansion. It is situated on a beautiful hillside on the outskirts of Pleasanton, surrounded by luxuriant gardens, green lawns and pathways overflowing with flowers. Some of Mrs Hearst’s relatives were also present among her guests.

In keeping with the circumstances of the occasion, for there were people of different backgrounds present, the Master’s talks were brief yet full of wisdom. Many important ideas were couched in short sentences, giving the maximum effect with a minimum of words. The guests asked questions of each other about the Cause.

After dinner, the Master went into the outer hall and spoke briefly:

“Every universal matter is from God; and limitations are from man. Therefore, if people’s services and efforts are undertaken for the benefit of all, they are acceptable to God and leave lasting traces. Otherwise, every other effort is limited and transitory.”

After obtaining the Master’s permission to have music, the guests sang songs accompanied by the piano. The meeting ended with great joy and happiness.

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

How shall we determine whether religion has been the cause of human advancement or retrogression?

We will first consider the Founders of the religions—the Prophets—review the story of Their lives, compare the conditions preceding Their appearance with those subsequent to Their departure, following historical records and irrefutable facts instead of relying upon traditionary statements which are open to both acceptance and denial.

Among the great Prophets was Abraham, Who, being an iconoclast and a Herald of the oneness of God, was banished from His native land. He founded a family upon which the blessing of God descended, and it was owing to this religious basis and ordination that the Abrahamic house progressed and advanced. Through the divine benediction noteworthy and luminous prophets issued from His lineage. There appeared Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, David and Solomon. The Holy Land was conquered by the power of the Covenant of God with Abraham, and the glory of the Solomonic wisdom and sovereignty dawned. All this was due to the religion of God which this blessed lineage established and upheld. It is evident that throughout the history of Abraham and His posterity this was the source of their honor, advancement and civilization. Even today the descendants of His household and lineage are found throughout the world.

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

“I hope that you will become heavenly … that you will become divine …”

Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America

Curated by Anne Perry

October 13, 1912


  1. Jones, Caitlin Shayda. “Phoebe Apperson Hearst.” 239 Days in America, 13 Oct. 2012, https://239days.com/2012/10/13/phoebe-apperson-hearst/.
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 168.
  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#section204
  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, 361-362. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/27#018297801

Declaring Independence

Last week when I was visiting friends in a small, rural German village, my host’s eighteen year-old daughter, Lara, asked if I knew the “Declaration of Independence.” “Of course,” I quickly stated while punctuating that harrumph with the added self-assuring thought to myself, “What American doesn’t know the Declaration of Independence.” “We’re studying it in school,” she added. “Our teacher is making us memorize the introduction. Why do we have to do that? It’s two-hundred thirty years old. This is stupid!” Silence. Hmmm. She asked me if I REALLY know it, not if I knew about it! “Do you know it from heart – can you say it right now?” I inquired incredulously. Without a moment’s hesitation she blurted out the nearly 300 words in perfectly elocuted, well-delivered English. As she is reciting I am wondering, how many American kids her age can do this? My two at home are fourteen and fifteen and they don’t have a clue! I want to think they are typical middle school / high school kids, so – hypothesizing from and “n” of two – American kids get a big “F” for failure on this one. But what about the larger question she asked, “Why do we have to do that?” that is the real bugaboo. Why, indeed.

The trite answer is, “use it or lose it.” Urban legend has it that many of the signers of the “Declaration of Independence” came to a bad end due to their association with that act. While Snopes argues that many of these legends are exactly that, fabrications, checking world history, liberty does come at a price and freedom when taken for granted is lost. The common thread through the rise and fall of liberty and freedom is the ascent or descent of political and economic systems within a governmental jurisdiction. Clearly, the trajectory is an arc and what goes up must come down. Nothing stays the same; the only constant is change; and as an old “bull of the woods” boss of mine used to say, “The only thing that runs itself, runs downhill.”

In The New York Times, June 27, 2006 edition, Op-Ed Columnist, Nicholas D. Kristof wrote an editorial entitled, Chinese Medicine for American Schools. Dateline: Shanghai, Kristof writes:

But the investments in China’s modernization that are most impressive of all are in human capital. The blunt fact is that many young Chinese in cities like Shanghai or Beijing get a better elementary and high school education than Americans do. That’s a reality that should embarrass us and stir us to seek lessons from China.

And he concludes with the following:

During the Qing Dynasty that ended in 1912, China was slow to learn lessons from abroad and adjust its curriculum, and it paid the price in its inability to compete with Western powers. These days, the tables are turned, and now we Americans need to learn from China.

China, on the ascent, is blocking the Internet from its citizens…

…and the citizens are fighting it.

The U.S., on the descent, is spying on its citizens

…and we do what?

When the Declaration of Independence was enacted in 1776 Great Britain was drawing closer to the apogee of its strength as the greatest political and economic power on earth. While the hard-fought independence of the American colonies did not compromise Great Britain’s destiny as a world super power, it did send a signal that despite such greatness nothing lasts forever. Others will challenge what is taken for granted. And as was the case with the former American colonies, the United States eventually supplanted Britain as a stronger powerhouse on the world stage.

Below are the “charges” brought against King George II – deemed by the colonists who revolted, “A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free People.”

The United States Declaration of Independence, continued:

The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws of Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our People, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with Power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy of the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

So, who’s going up and who’s coming down make all the difference. Based on who is affronted by such conditions and the context in which they live their lives, people choose to either accept those conditions or challenge them. It is in making this choice that the principles defining the space where liberty and freedom prevail are brought to the forefront, given true meaning, and set the stage for a just civilization to progress. The very conditions imposed by an unjust government from which the colonists declared their independence now perpetrates those same conditions on its citizens and others. What some 230 years ago was unacceptable is now relegated to the ranks of the routine. We are quickly forgetting why our forefathers took the stand they did. But it won’t take others elsewhere to pick up the banner from us. Liberty, freedom, and justice that underpin them, live on forever! And that, my friends, is why we read and memorize the Declaration of Independence!

Originally posted to New Media Explorer by Steve Bosserman on Tuesday, July 4, 2006