Documenting a “Luminous Journey” 1
FOR THE PAST FIVE years, Anne Perry and her husband Tim have been working on a feature-length documentary film chronicling ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s 1912 journey through the United States and Canada. I recently had the chance to interview Anne about the film.
Buffalo, Chicago, Kenosha 2
On Sunday, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and his entourage prepared to leave for Kenosha, Wisconsin. They had to transfer trains en route, and somehow missed the second train. The friends were sorry, but ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said, “‘There is wisdom in it.’” They left by the next train, and on the way came upon the wreckage of the train they had missed; it had collided with another train. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said, “’The protection of the Blessed Beauty was with us,’” and then narrated the episode of leaving Alexandria for America, saying, “‘Some of the people proposed that we leave London by the S. S. Titanic, which was wrecked on the same voyage. The Blessed Beauty guided us to come direct.’”
In Kenosha ‘Abdu’l-Bahá talked with the friends first and then addressed the Congregational church.
Sunday, September 15, 1912 3
In the morning ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke to Dr [William Frederick] Nutt about Kheiralla in such majestic and forcible tones that both the hearer and the translator trembled with fear. Finally, He said:
“He wants me to send for him. As a visitor to this country, the great and lowly of this land come to see me. If his intention be good, he also should come with utmost sincerity.”
The Blessed Being was very tired after His talk.
The Master had an appointment in Kenosha and was preparing to go there. He was accompanied by Dr Nutt, a Japanese believer and these companions. On the way we had to change trains. Although we hurried, we missed the second train. The friends were saddened but ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said, ‘Oh, it matters not. There is a wisdom in this.’ We left by the next train and found that the train we had missed was wrecked and some of the passengers injured. It was clear that it had collided with another train. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said, ‘This, too, was the protection of the Blessed Beauty.’ He then narrated the episode of His leaving Alexandria for America:
“Some proposed that we leave via London by the S. S. Titanic, which sank on the same voyage. The Blessed Beauty guided us to come direct.”
The friends were waiting with their automobiles at the railway station to take the Beloved to the hall of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár. The Master went onto the stage of the auditorium and sat on a chair. It was a divine and joyous festival, the people like heavenly angels of the utmost spirituality, prayerfulness and gratitude. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke briefly but effectively about the victorious power and penetrating influence of the Cause of the Blessed Beauty. He then went to a long table that extended the length of the hall which was covered with a variety of multicolored flowers.
As lunch was being served, the young friends, having received ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s permission, sang songs of praise to Him, accompanied by a piano. The Master then gave an account of the persecutions and hardships of Bahá’u’lláh, the time spent in the Most Great Prison, the Turkish revolution and the changes that took place after the establishment of a constitutional form of government in Turkey. ‘God removed all obstacles’, He said, ‘and provided all the necessities, thus enabling ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to reach this place and have the pleasure of seeing you.’
The friends then brought their children to Him to be blessed. He took the children onto His lap one by one and gave them flowers, fruits and sweets. Mr Jackson said:
“Every time we have held a public entertainment for the friends we have left two seats vacant at each end of the table, one in the name of Bahá’u’lláh and the other in that of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. We constantly longed to witness a day such as this. We have now attained our highest hopes and our eyes have seen the light of the Master.”
Another person said, ‘When the clergymen were informed of your arrival, they announced in the churches that this evening the prophet of the East will speak at the Kenosha Congregational Church.’
After lunch ‘Abdu’l-Bahá left the hall of the ‘Mashriqu’l-Adhkár’ and went to Mrs Henry Goodale’s home, where the friends were overjoyed and uplifted to hear Him speak. He said to them, in part:
“The Cause of God has always appeared from the East but it has been more effective in the West. Once Badrí Páshá said in an address, ‘Gentlemen, Westerners have taken everything from us: the sciences, the arts and the laws they took from the East. Now we fear that they may wrest from us the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh, as well.’ Those were his words. But Bahá’u’lláh is neither of the East nor of the West, neither of the South nor of the North. He is holy above all these directions. He is heavenly and godly.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s address in the evening at the Congregational Church was on the unity of the Manifestations of God, that they are one in essence and that the differences among their followers is due to obsolete imitations. His explanation of the divine teachings gave new life and insights to the audience. After His talk, everyone came to Him to pay Him their respects.
5 September 1912, Talk at St. James Methodist Church, Montreal, Canada 4
… In order that human souls, minds and spirits may attain advancement, tranquillity and vision in broader horizons of unity and knowledge, Bahá’u’lláh proclaimed certain principles or teachings, some of which I will mention.
First, man must independently investigate reality …
Second, the oneness of the world of humanity shall be realized, accepted and established. …
Third, religion must be the mainspring and source of love in the world …
Fourth, religion must reconcile and be in harmony with science and reason. …
Fifth, prejudice … is the destroyer of human foundations and opposed to the commands of God. …
Sixth, the world of humanity is in need of the confirmations of the Holy Spirit. …
Seventh, the necessity of education for all mankind is evident. …
Eighth, universal peace will be established among the nations of the world by international agreement. …
Ninth, there must be an equality of rights between men and women. …
Tenth, there shall be an equality of rights and prerogatives for all mankind.
Eleventh, one language must be selected as an international medium of speech and communication. …
These are a few of the principles proclaimed by Bahá’u’lláh. He has provided the remedy for the ailments which now afflict the human world, solved the difficult problems of individual, social, national and universal welfare and laid the foundation of divine reality upon which material and spiritual civilization are to be founded throughout the centuries before us.
’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
- Sockett, Robert. “Documenting a ‘Luminous Journey.’” 239 Days in America, 15 Sept. 2012, https://239days.com/2012/09/15/documenting-a-luminous-journey/. ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 145-146. ↩
- ’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#section175 ↩
- 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, 318. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/22#613399229 ↩