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 185: October 12, 1912 | San Francisco

Rabbi Martin Meyer Hosts ‘Abdu’l-Bahá at Temple 1

THE LATE MORNING SUNLIGHT filtered down through opalescent windows and settled on the soft features of Rabbi Martin A. Meyer. At 10:45 a.m. on the cool morning of Saturday, October 12, 1912, he stood upon his pulpit, hand-carved from weathered oak, and looked out over two thousand members of his congregation. They filled the majestic sanctuary of San Francisco’s Temple Emanu-El.

The massive Gothic Revival synagogue, built in the 1860s, was one of the largest vaulted chambers ever constructed in the state of California. Two octagonal towers shot up at the temple’s front corners on Sutter Street, supporting bronze-plated Russian domes that impressed themselves on the city’s skyline. The vaults and the domes had come crashing down on the fateful morning of April 18, 1906, and the temple had burned to its skeleton in the fires. But just sixteen months later Temple Emanu-El rose again from the ashes: squat towers now stood where the domes had been, a ceiling of Oregon pine replaced the vaults, and chandeliers hung down in the shape of six-pointed stars.

“It is a privilege, and a very high privilege indeed,” Rabbi Meyer said, “to welcome in our midst this morning Abdul Baha, a great teacher of our age and generation. . . . Abdul Baha is the representative of one of the religious systems of life, and it appeals to us Jews, because we Jews feel that we have fathered that ideal throughout the centuries of men.”

California 2

On Saturday, October 12, He presented His memorable address to an audience of 2,000 in the Temple Emmanu-El, emphasizing “the truth of His Holiness Christ, the reality of Islam, the oneness of humanity and universal peace.”

Saturday, October 12, 1912 3

The Master’s address at the Jewish Temple was unique and magnificent. His talk, which was delivered to some two thousand Jews, concerned the truth of Christ, the reality of Islam, the oneness of humanity and universal peace. This gathering was clear evidence of the power and majesty of the Center of the Covenant. Indeed, it can be counted as a miracle. The proofs supporting the truth of the reality of Christ and Muhammad, the Messengers of God, flowed from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s lips with such majesty and authority that all were dumbfounded. After His talk, many humbly came to see Him to express their gratitude, except for a very few diehards who left in dismay. The chairman of the meeting, considered to be an eminent and learned Jew, introduced the Master:

It is our privilege to welcome in our midst ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, a great teacher of our age and generation. The heart of the Orient seems to be essentially religious, and now and then, out of the heart of the Orient, the fundamental religious message for the world is stated and restated. This century is very great and this age is the age of the maturity of the world. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is the representative of one of the religious systems which appeals to us Jews, because we feel that we have fathered that idea throughout the centuries. This morning He will speak to us, the followers and the children of Israel, in His native tongue through an interpreter, on ‘The Fundamental Unity of Religious Thought’. I am certain that whatever He says will be of great significance to us. …

Address by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave this address in the afternoon at the home of Mrs Goodall and Mrs Cooper:

“Today we spoke in the Jewish temple. You saw how it was proven that Christ was the Word of God and Muhammad the Messenger of God. From the beginning of Christianity and Islam up to the present day, no one has spoken thus, proving the validity of Christ and Muhammad in a Jewish temple and in a manner to which no one took exception. Rather, most were appreciative and content. This is none other than the assistance of Bahá’u’lláh.”

The effect and influence of the address were such that from then on there was evidence of unity and communication between the Christians and Jews. They even made plans to visit each other’s places of worship to give talks about the unity of peoples and religions. Whenever they met ‘Abdu’l-Bahá or attended Bahá’í gatherings, they expressed their gratitude from the depths of their hearts for this great Cause and its new teachings.

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

The greatest bestowal of God in the world of humanity is religion, for assuredly the divine teachings of religion are above all other sources of instruction and development to man. Religion confers upon man eternal life and guides his footsteps in the world of morality. It opens the doors of unending happiness and bestows everlasting honor upon the human kingdom. It has been the basis of all civilization and progress in the history of mankind.

We will, therefore, investigate religion, seeking from an unprejudiced standpoint to discover whether it is the source of illumination, the cause of development and the animating impulse of all human advancement. We will investigate independently, free from the restrictions of dogmatic beliefs, blind imitations of ancestral forms and the influence of mere human opinion; for as we enter this question, we will find some who declare that religion is a cause of uplift and betterment in the world, while others assert just as positively that it is a detriment and a source of degradation to mankind. We must give these questions thorough and impartial consideration so that no doubt or uncertainty may linger in our minds regarding them.

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

Presenting proofs supporting the truth of the reality of Christ and Muhammad

Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America

Curated by Anne Perry

October 12, 1912


  1. Menon, Jonathan. “Rabbi Martin Meyer Hosts ‘Abdu’l-Bahá at Temple Emanu-El.” 239 Days in America, 12 Oct. 2012, https://239days.com/2012/10/12/rabbi-martin-a-meyer-hosts-abdul-baha-longest-address-in-america/.
  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#section203
  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#592795487

239 Days in America, Day 49: May 29, 1912 | New York

The Good Shepherds 1

YOU MIGHT HAVE EXPECTED ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to speak to the International Peace Forum on the scourge of war, or perhaps the need for international arbitration. Yet, just as he had done at the Lake Mohonk Conference on International Arbitration, and at various speeches to peace societies in New York, he tackled the subject in an unexpected way. He spoke instead about religion, and about the prophets of God throughout the ages.

The peace movement in the early twentieth century was deeply intertwined with religion. Peace organizations met in churches and synagogues. Their membership pursued the cause of peace with religious conviction. But ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wasn’t simply taking advantage of a captive audience in order to present a religious message; his approach ran much deeper. He argued that the binding power of religion must lie at the core of humankind’s hopes for peace.

“There is a brotherhood greater and superior to all other brotherhoods,” he said, “and that is the spiritual brotherhood, the heavenly brotherhood. This brotherhood is established by the Manifestations of the Holy One.”

New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts 2

The New York City American, the next day [Wednesday, May 29], in an article headed, “URGES ONE RELIGION FOR ALL,” reported about the meeting:

The Metropolitan Temple was filled yesterday with a fashionable and distinguished audience greeting Abdul Baha Abbas. Upon the platform were seated the Rev. Wesley J. Hill, former pastor of the Metropolitan Temple Church, who presided; the Rev. Rabbi Silverman and the Rev. Dr. Frederick Lynch, all of whom spoke…

Abdul Baha said that divine religions, like the waters, are in reality one. He advocated one universal religion with no racial difference.

Talk at Home of Mr. and Mrs. Edward B. Kinney, 780 West End Avenue, New York 3

The divine Manifestations have been iconoclastic in Their teachings, uprooting error, destroying false religious beliefs and summoning mankind anew to the fundamental oneness of God. All of Them have, likewise, proclaimed the oneness of the world of humanity. The essential teaching of Moses was the law of Sinai, the Ten Commandments. Christ renewed and again revealed the commands of the one God and precepts of human action. In Muḥammad, although the circle was wider, the intention of His teaching was likewise to uplift and unify humanity in the knowledge of the one God. In the Báb the circle was again very much enlarged, but the essential teaching was the same. The Books of Bahá’u’lláh number more than one hundred. Each one is an evident proof sufficient for mankind; each one from foundation to apex proclaims the essential unity of God and humanity, the love of God, the abolition of war and the divine standard of peace. Each one also inculcates divine morality, the manifestation of lordly graces—in every word a book of meanings. For the Word of God is collective wisdom, absolute knowledge and eternal truth.

Wednesday, May 29, 1912 4

A public meeting was held today by the Theosophical Society where ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke on matters relating to the spirit and its passage through the world of existence. The effect of His address was such that the president of the society said, in the presence of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, that his greatest desire was to bring about a perfect harmony between the Bahá’ís and the Theosophists. The happiness of Master increased day by day through influence of the Cause of God. Whenever He was asked about His health, He said with the utmost happiness, ‘My health and happiness depend on the progress of the Cause of God. Nothing else merits attention. This happiness is eternal, and this life is life everlasting.’

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

Mahmud: May 29 – “My health and happiness depend on the progress of the Cause of God.”

Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America

Curated by Anne Perry

May 29, 1912


  1. Sockett, Robert. “The Good Shepherds.” 239 Days in America, 29 May 2012, https://239days.com/2012/05/29/the-good-shepherds/.
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 74-75.
  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, 154. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/12#218331438.
  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=3#section66.