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 133: August 21, 1912 | Green Acre

“Within Greenacre’s Mystic Charm and Calm” 1

“IT APPEARS A SINGULAR thing,” the reporter wrote, “that so many famous people could have been attracted to this little town up in Maine. . . . But as soon as one arrives at Greenacre and gets to know that wonderful woman, Miss Sarah Farmer, the life and the spirit of the Greenacre movement, wonder vanishes.”

We don’t know this reporter’s name, but he spent a day in Eliot during the second week of August, 1899, recording his impressions in a long news feature printed in the Lewiston Saturday Journal on the twelfth of the month: “Within Greenacre’s Mystic Charm and Calm: The Remarkable Colony of Ideals That Has Been Grafted Upon a Prosaic Maine Country Side.”

Green Acre 2

In a group of people who came to see Him on August 21 was a girl who said, “‘I have to beg your assistance. Tell me what I am fitted to do so that I may occupy myself with it?’” He asked her, “‘Do you believe in Me?’” When she replied, “‘Yes,’” He answered, “‘Be a perfect Bahá’í. Associate with Bahá’ís. Learn the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. Then you will be assisted in whatever you undertake to do.’” she responded, “‘I am a good Jewess,’” and He told her, “‘A good Jew becomes a Bahá’í. The foundation truth of the religion of His Holiness Moses and His Holiness Bahá’u’lláh is one. Turn yourself towards Bahá’u’lláh and you will get peace and tranquillity. …’” She threw herself at His feet and cried.

17 August 1912, Talk at Green Acre, Eliot, Maine 3

How wonderful it is! How powerful the spirit of man, while his body is so weak! If the susceptibilities of the spirit control him, there is no created being more heroic, more undaunted than man; but if physical forces dominate, you cannot find a more cowardly or fearful object because the body is so weak and incapable. Therefore, it is divinely intended that the spiritual susceptibilities of man should gain precedence and overrule his physical forces. In this way he becomes fitted to dominate the human world by his nobility and stand forth fearless and free, endowed with the attributes of eternal life.

Wednesday, August 21, 1912 4

During the visit of a group of Bahá’ís with the Master, a young girl came in and said, ‘I have come to ask for your assistance. Please tell me what I am fitted to do so that I may occupy myself with it.’ The Master asked, ‘Do you have trust in me?’ She replied, ‘Yes.’ He then said to her, ‘Be a perfect Bahá’í. Associate with Bahá’ís. Study the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. Then you will be assisted in whatever you undertake to do.’ She then said, ‘I am a good Jewess.’ The Master then said:

“A good Jew can also become a Bahá’í. The truth of the religion of Moses and of Bahá’u’lláh is one. Turn toward Bahá’u’lláh and you will acquire peace and tranquillity, you will hear the melody of the Kingdom, you will stir people’s souls and you will attain the highest degree of perfection. Be assured of this.”

When she heard the Master’s words she was so impressed that she threw herself at His feet and wept.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá explained some aspects of the divine philosophy and teachings to the pastor of the Portsmouth church. The pastor said that he had included some of these teachings in his pamphlets and some people had taken offence. The Master said, ‘Constancy in all things brings forth fruitful results.’

Mrs Tatum said, ‘I feel so dejected today. I am unhappy with myself.’ The Master replied:

“This is a sign of progress. The person who is satisfied with himself is the manifestation of Satan and the one who is not satisfied is the manifestation of the Merciful One. An egotist does not progress but the one who thinks himself imperfect will seek perfection for himself and will progress. If a man has a thousand good qualities, he must not look at them. He must search always for his shortcomings. For example, if a man has a building which is well-constructed and fully decorated but which has a small crack in one of its walls, he will, no doubt, forget the rest and turn his whole attention to repairing that crack. Furthermore, the attainment of absolute perfection for a human being is impossible; thus, however much he may progress he is still imperfect and has above him a point higher than himself. And the instant he sees this point he will not be satisfied with himself. It is for this reason that when someone called Christ ‘Good Master’, He replied that there is only One who is good and that is God.”

Another lady told ‘Abdu’l-Bahá that she had lectured in America on universal brotherhood and unity. She was pleased to see the Master in America promulgating these high ideals and that she was going to continue to spread these teachings in the Western states of America. The Master said to her:

“We must endeavor as much as we can to exterminate spite and perversity so that people may be delivered from the shackles of superstition. You must serve in this way and become the cause of the unity of the world of men.”

He spoke in the same vein with everyone. There were two people, Dr and Mrs Moore, who had been antagonistic towards the Cause of God from the very beginning. However, they had become so attracted and transformed that they came into the Master’s presence with great humility and pledged themselves to the service of the truth. The transformation of such people is a momentous task which will produce great results.

In the afternoon ‘Abdu’l-Bahá went by automobile to the home of Mrs [Kate] Ives and sat next to the driver, which is where members of His entourage usually sit. He sat there until the party arrived. When a number of the friends had gathered, He went with them to the hill of Monsalvat. As soon as He arrived about four hundred people sang songs of praise to Him in unison. He addressed this gathering on the necessity of founding the school for the investigation of religions which Miss Farmer wished to establish on that mountain. A moving picture of this gathering was taken.

The gathering was also characterized by a renewed enthusiasm, ardor and love, which seemed to draw all hearts. It was an auspicious day.

He then went to Mrs [Esther Annie] Magee’s home where He dined with a group of friends. He spoke to them about the proofs and evidences of the existence of God and the composition of elements according to the will of the Almighty.

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

“The person who is satisfied with himself is the manifestation of Satan …”

Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America

Curated by Anne Perry

August 21 1912


  1. Menon, Jonathan. “‘Within Greenacre’s Mystic Charm and Calm.’” 239 Days in America, 21 Aug. 2012, https://239days.com/2012/08/21/within-greenacres-mystic-charm-and-calm/.
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 129-130.
  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, 264. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/19#916420712
  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=6#section150