A Forbidden Marriage 1
IT WAS A FALL day in New York. A light rain blurred the windows of the parsonage where the wedding was about to take place. Christians, Jews, Bahá’ís, as well as whites and blacks from both England and America were represented in the small group. For the duration of the ceremony, the divides of the world were held at bay.
The groom was Louis Gregory, a prominent African-American lawyer; the bride, Louise Mathew, a white, educated woman born in England. Their marriage was illegal in twenty-five of America’s forty-eight states, and by popular opinion, unacceptable everywhere. The wedding was kept quiet; the guest list few. As the groom put it, “We do not wish any sensational newspaper articles written.”
Minnesota, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah 2
After morning prayers and tea Abdu’l-Bahá and His companions strolled around the beautiful grounds, surrounded by towering mountains. Then they went to the bath houses and bathed in the hot springs water. Abdu’l-Bahá said, “‘We have been in many places during this journey but we had no time to see the sights. We had not even a moment’s rest. Today, however, we have had a little respite.’” As they came out and looked at the river and mountains, Abdu’l-Bahá said, “‘May God have mercy on the tyrants who kept the Blessed Beauty in prison for forty years. Such scenes were loved by Him.’”
He indicated that it would be well to have lunch in the central garden of the U-shaped hotel. The manager came just then and, without being asked, ordered the waiters to set up tables and serve lunch to them in the garden. As they ate, they could be seen from all areas. People began to speak to them and recognize them from the pictures and articles that had appeared in the Denver newspapers.
They started coming to Him by groups to talk with Him.
September 27, 1912 3
After morning tea, the Master left the hotel for a walk. Three magnificent mountains stood in the distance on three sides, each crowned with trees and adorned with flowers of many hues. They were like peacock feathers and had a unique beauty from every viewpoint. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá strolled in the spacious garden and boulevard adjacent to the hotel until He reached the river where there were bath houses and hot springs. On the other side of the river, spanned by a two-story bridge, the tall buildings of the city could be seen rising high on the horizon. At the insistence of His companions the Master went to the baths with the entire party, thus bestowing upon us everlasting honor. The rooms and bathing facilities were magnificent. In a special room hot water gushed from a natural cave. It was so hot that a person could not stay more than 15 minutes. Coming out of the bath, the Master said:
“Today I am relieved of fatigue. We have been to many lovely places during this journey but because of our work we had no time to look at the scenery. We did not even think of a moment’s rest. Today, however, we have had a little respite.”
As the Master viewed the clear, transparent waters of the river shining like pure pearls and the majestic mountains and parks, He said, ‘May God not have mercy on the tyrants who kept the Blessed Beauty imprisoned between four walls in ‘Akká. How such scenes were loved by Him! Once He said that He had not seen greenery for several years.’
When He returned to the hotel He stood outside in the garden and said, ‘It would be good to eat here.’ The garden was adjacent to a large pond with fish of various colors and was enclosed on three sides by the hotel structure. Having seen the Denver newspapers, the hotel manager recognized the Master and us from photographs. Without waiting for the Master’s request, the manager instructed the waiters to serve lunch in the garden. A large table was spread with beautiful chairs. The Master sat down and instructed His companions to do the same. Both before and after lunch the Master generously tipped the waiters. When the residents of the hotel saw the majesty and glory of the Master they told others. Groups of people approached Him. Others watched from their rooms and balconies. Many were heard to say, ‘How nice to dine this way. It is evident that this is a very prominent person.’ Gradually the purpose of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s mission dawned upon the hotel guests as they were informed of the Cause of God.
In the afternoon ‘Abdu’l-Bahá took a walk in the garden and to some shops. While we were crossing a bridge, a messenger approached with some telegrams for us. One of them informed the Master that Mr [Thornton] Chase was seriously ill in a Los Angeles hospital. This made the Master and us very sad. He repeatedly mentioned the faithfulness of Mr Chase. Later He said:
“To turn to the Covenant is to obey the Blessed Beauty which is a cause of gathering together the people of Bahá. Let me explain clearly. The command to the people of Islam to prostrate before the black stone was simply a command to obey the Prophet of God and to prove the influence of the Cause of God. Now, were it not for the Word of the Blessed Beauty, we would be like everyone else and not different in the least.”
The Master and His party left Glenwood Springs at about midnight.
24 September 1912, Talk at Home of Mrs. Sidney E. Roberts , Denver, Colorado 4
What are the fruits of the human world? They are the spiritual attributes which appear in man. If man is bereft of those attributes, he is like a fruitless tree. One whose aspiration is lofty and who has developed self-reliance will not be content with a mere animal existence. He will seek the divine Kingdom; he will long to be in heaven although he still walks the earth in his material body, and though his outer visage be physical, his face of inner reflection will become spiritual and heavenly. Until this station is attained by man, his life will be utterly devoid of real outcomes. The span of his existence will pass away in eating, drinking and sleeping, without eternal fruits, heavenly traces or illumination—without spiritual potency, everlasting life or the lofty attainments intended for him during his pilgrimage through the human world. You must thank God that your efforts are high and noble, that your endeavors are worthy, that your intentions are centered upon the Kingdom of God and that your supreme desire is the acquisition of eternal virtues. You must act in accordance with these requirements. A man may be a Bahá’í in name only. If he is a Bahá’í in reality, his deeds and actions will be decisive proofs of it. What are the requirements? Love for mankind, sincerity toward all, reflecting the oneness of the world of humanity, philanthropy, becoming enkindled with the fire of the love of God, attainment to the knowledge of God and that which is conducive to human welfare.
’Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912-2012: Calling America to It’s Spiritual Destiny
Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America
Curated by Anne Perry
- Jones, Caitlin Shayda. “A Forbidden Marriage.” 239 Days in America, 27 Sept. 2012, https://239days.com/2012/09/27/a-forbidden-marriage/. ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 158-159. ↩
- ’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=7#section187 ↩
- 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, 336. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/26#332670787 ↩