239 Days in America, Day 21: May 01, 1912 | Chicago

Breaking Ground at Grosse Point 1

Early this morning, May 1, 1912, they had begun to assemble on this piece of land in the village of Wilmette. The Master had arrived at 1 p.m. First he took a private moment to console Mrs. Corinne True, whose son, Davis, had passed away the night before. Mrs. True had invested more than five years of her life in finding a site for the temple, and in raising the funds necessary to buy the land. Today, in spite of her recent loss, she was here to see things through. Then ‘Abdu’l-Bahá walked under the large tent where three hundred people sat on chairs in concentric circles, between nine equally spaced aisles. He strode to the center and began to talk about this unique religious institution.

“Thousands,” he said, “will be built in the East and in the West.” 2 But they were more than just places to pray. They would become the central edifices in a complex of institutions devoted to social, humanitarian, educational, and scientific pursuits. Together, they would offer a new model of faith dedicated to the service of humankind. They would become “one of the most vital institutions in the world.” 3

Chicago

On Wednesday, May 1, the day ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was to lay the foundation stone for the first Bahá’í House of Worship in the Western Hemisphere, weather forecasters in the Chicago Daily News predicted unsettled conditions “and probably occasional showers to-night.” A marquee tent had been set up on the Temple site, with three hundred chairs arranged in nine sections separated by aisles leading to a central open area. A special entryway had been prepared for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s carriage in the middle of the eastern side of the tract. He arrived, instead, by taxi and entered on the northern side. Pacing back and forth before the filled chairs and two hundred additional person who were standing, He spoke of the importance of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár. 4

Talk at Public Meeting Concluding Convention of Bahá’í Temple Unity, Drill Hall, Masonic Temple, Chicago, Illinois, 30 April 1912

[T]he original purpose of temples and houses of worship is simply that of unity—places of meeting where various peoples, different races and souls of every capacity may come together in order that love and agreement should be manifest between them. That is why Bahá’u’lláh has commanded that a place of worship be built for all the religionists of the world; that all religions, races and sects may come together within its universal shelter; that the proclamation of the oneness of mankind shall go forth from its open courts of holiness—the announcement that humanity is the servant of God and that all are submerged in the ocean of His mercy. It is the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár. The world of existence may be likened to this temple and place of worship. For just as the external world is a place where the people of all races and colors, varying faiths, denominations and conditions come together—just as they are submerged in the same sea of divine favors—so, likewise, all may meet under the dome of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár and adore the one God in the same spirit of truth; for the ages of darkness have passed away, and the century of light has come. Ignorant prejudices are being dispelled, and the light of unity is shining. The differences existing between nations and peoples will soon be annulled, and the fundamentals of the divine religions, which are no other than the oneness and solidarity of the human race, are being established. For thousands of years the human race has been at war. It is enough. Now let mankind, for a time at least, consort in amity and peace. Enmity and hatred have ruled. Let the world, for a period, exercise love. For thousands of years the nations have denied each other, considering each other as infidel and inferior. It is sufficient. We must now realize that we are the servants of one God, that we turn to one beneficent Father, live under one divine law, seek one reality and have one desire. Thus may we live in the utmost friendship and love, and in return the favors and bounties of God shall surround us; the world of humanity will be reformed; mankind, enjoy a new life; eternal light will illumine, and heavenly moralities become manifest. 5

Talk at Dedication of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár Grounds, Wilmette, Illinois

The power which has gathered you here today notwithstanding the cold and windy weather is, indeed, mighty and wonderful. It is the power of God, the divine favor of Bahá’u’lláh which has drawn you together. We praise God that through His constraining love human souls are assembled and associated in this way.

Thousands of Mashriqu’l-Adhkárs, dawning points of praise and mention of God for all religionists will be built in the East and in the West, but this, being the first one erected in the Occident, has great importance. In the future there will be many here and elsewhere—in Asia, Europe, even in Africa, New Zealand and Australia—but this edifice in Chicago is of especial significance. It has the same importance as the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár in ‘Ishqábád, Caucasus, Russia, the first one built there. In Persia there are many; some are houses which have been utilized for the purpose, others are homes entirely devoted to the divine Cause, and in some places temporary structures have been erected. In all the cities of Persia there are Mashriqu’l-Adhkárs, but the great dawning point was founded in ‘Ishqábád. It possesses superlative importance because it was the first Mashriqu’l-Adhkár built. All the Bahá’í friends agreed and contributed their utmost assistance and effort. The Afnán devoted his wealth, gave all he had to it. From such a mighty and combined effort a beautiful edifice arose. Notwithstanding their contributions to that building, they have assisted the fund here in Chicago as well. The Mashriqu’l-Adhkár in ‘Ishqábád is almost completed. It is centrally located, nine avenues leading into it, nine gardens, nine fountains; all the arrangement and construction is according to the principle and proportion of the number nine. It is like a beautiful bouquet. Imagine a very lofty, imposing edifice surrounded completely by gardens of variegated flowers, with nine avenues leading through them, nine fountains and pools of water. Such is its matchless, beautiful design. Now they are building a hospital, a school for orphans, a home for cripples, a hospice and a large dispensary. God willing, when it is fully completed, it will be a paradise.

I hope the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár in Chicago will be like this. Endeavor to have the grounds circular in shape. If possible, adjust and exchange the plots in order to make the dimensions and boundaries circular. The Mashriqu’l-Adhkár cannot be triangular in shape. It must be in the form of a circle. 6

Wednesday, May 1, 1912

In the morning ‘Abdu’l-Bahá looked at some buildings from His balcony and enjoyed the lovely view of the park. He spoke to us, until visitors arrived, about the early days of the Most Great Prison and the sufferings of the Blessed Beauty. He sent several telegrams today to the assemblies of the East, sharing with them the glad tidings of the assistance of Bahá’u’lláh.

He spoke with the friends for a time and bestowed upon them His love. About an hour later He went to the proposed site of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár located outside the city, where property had been purchased for the construction of this great building. By the time He arrived the friends had already assembled and had pitched a large tent for the meeting.

’ Abdu’l-Bahá first drove around the site, inspecting its boundaries, and then entered the tent. The friends stood all about Him, their eyes intently fixed on His luminous face. It was in these circumstances that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave His talk on the power of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh to unite the people of the East and the West beneath the shadow of the Word of God. He also spoke about the Mashriqu’l-Adhkárs of ‘Ishqábád and America. He then went to the spot where He was to lay the cornerstone with His own hands. Miss Holmes presented Him with a golden trowel especially prepared for the occasion. He took it in His hand and dug the earth for the foundation stone. Then the delegates from the American assemblies, followed by representatives of the Eastern friends, each took the trowel and continued digging the foundation. Among them were Mihtar Ardishír Bahrám Surúsh representing the Bahá’ís of Pársí background, Siyyid Asadu’lláh representing the Bahá’ís of Muslim origin, Zia Bagdadi representing the Arabian friends and Ghodsieh (Qudsíyyih) Khánum Ashraf representing the Bahá’í women of the East. When the digging was completed, the Master set the stone in place with His own hand.78 He then showered His love and affection on the friends and left the site. Most of the friends remained and had lunch inside the tent.

There was a reception at the Plaza Hotel later that afternoon at which the Master spoke on divine civilization and spiritual qualities.79 Both before and after the meeting friends and inquirers requested interviews and asked Him questions on several subjects. 7

  1. Sockett, Robert. “Breaking Ground at Grosse Point.” 239 Days in America, May 1, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/05/01/dont-call-it-a-church/.
  2. Effendi, Shoghi. God Passes By. 1944. Reprint, Wilmette, IL: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1970, 351.https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/shoghi-effendi/god-passes-by/1#337700484.
  3. Baháʾuʾlláh. The Kitáb-i-Aqdas: The Most Holy Book. Haifa: Baháʾi World Centre, 1992, 190-191. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/bahaullah/kitab-i-aqdas/13#371279610.
  4. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 51.
  5. 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, 65-66. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/4#281413700.
  6. 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, 71-72. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/4#181680280.
  7. ’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#section38.

239 Days in America, Day 20: April 30, 1912 | Chicago

The Fallout from a City in Flames 1

Next door to Handel Hall, at the Masonic Temple on the corner of State and Randolph Streets, another convention was underway that evening. Fifty-eight delegates from forty-three cities were about to elect nine members to the governing board of the Bahá’í Temple Unity, a national body formed to coordinate the largest project ever undertaken by the Bahá’ís in North America: the construction of an enormous house of worship north of Chicago. White fluted columns with capitals wrapped in acanthus leaves surrounded the delegates in Corinthian Hall as they cast their secret ballots.

After the first round of voting there was a tie for ninth place between Frederick Nutt, a white doctor from Chicago, and Louis Gregory 2, the black lawyer from Washington, DC. In a dramatic departure from the vicious 1912 Presidential election, which raged all around them, each man resigned in favor of the other.

Then Mr. Roy Wilhelm 3, a delegate from Ithaca, NY, stood and put forward a proposal. His motion, seconded by Dr. Homer S. Harper of Minneapolis, recommended that the convention accept Dr. Nutt’s resignation.

The delegates assented unanimously.

To have elected an African American to the governing board of a national organization of largely middle- and upper-class white Americans — and to have done so at the nadir of the Jim Crow era in 1912 — was rare in the extreme. Even the NAACP had only elected one black member to its executive committee when it had been formed in 1909.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s assault on the color line was beginning to bear fruit.

Chicago

It was a warm, springlike day on Tuesday, April 30, when Jane Addams welcomed ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to an audience that far exceeded the auditorium’s seating capacity of 750. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke on the unity of races, saying, “God is not pleased with , neither should any reasonable or intelligent man be willing to recognize inequality in the races because of this distinction [color].” 4

Talk at Hull House, Chicago, Illinois

But there is need of a superior power to overcome human prejudices, a power which nothing in the world of mankind can withstand and which will overshadow the effect of all other forces at work in human conditions. That irresistible power is the love of God. It is my hope and prayer that it may destroy the prejudice of this one point of distinction between you and unite you all permanently under its hallowed protection. Bahá’u’lláh has proclaimed the oneness of the world of humanity. He has caused various nations and divergent creeds to unite. He has declared that difference of race and color is like the variegated beauty of flowers in a garden. If you enter a garden, you will see yellow, white, blue, red flowers in profusion and beauty—each radiant within itself and although different from the others, lending its own charm to them. Racial difference in the human kingdom is similar. If all the flowers in a garden were of the same color, the effect would be monotonous and wearying to the eye.

Therefore, Bahá’u’lláh hath said that the various races of humankind lend a composite harmony and beauty of color to the whole. Let all associate, therefore, in this great human garden even as flowers grow and blend together side by side without discord or disagreement between them. 5

Tuesday, April 30, 1912

Several friends and inquirers gathered in one of the rooms of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s suite and went in two or three at a time to speak with Him through an interpreter. Each returned transformed, soaring high in the atmosphere of happiness and joy. A few newspaper reporters were announced and He addressed them:

“We believe Bahá’u’lláh to be the supreme educator of the humanity. When the gloom of contention was spread over the Orient; when the nations of the East were steeped in enmity and hatred; when its religious sects shunned one another, denouncing one another as impure, and the people were ever engaged in war and the shedding of blood, Bahá’u’lláh appeared as the sun from the horizon of the East and summoned all to fellowship and harmony. He devoted Himself to their education and upliftment. He guided people from all nations and religions, cemented different denominations and united diverse nationalities to such an extent that if you attend their meetings you cannot say who is a Jew, who is a Muslim, who is a Parsi or who is a Christian. The despotic king of Persia with the legions of his ‘ulamá [Muslim clergymen] arose against Him and inflicted the severest persecution upon Him. They imprisoned Bahá’u’lláh and killed His followers. The oppression intensified to such a degree that all those who dared obey Bahá’u’lláh would lose life and property. But with all this, they could not resist Him; His teachings spread more and more. Then His persecutors exiled Him to Baghdád, whence He was sent to Rumelia and finally to the penal city of ‘Akká. He passed away in that city. I myself was in the same prison until the declaration of liberty by the Committee of Union and Progress when all prisoners were set free.

As to the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh, they are, first, the investigation of truth. The fundamental principle of all the Prophets is Truth. Truth is one. Abraham was the promulgator of truth; Moses was the servant of truth; Christ laid down the cornerstone of truth; Muhammad was the propagator of truth; the Báb was the herald of truth; and Bahá’u’lláh was the light of truth. Truth is the foundation of all the divine religions and is one. In truth there is no dissension. Imitations are different and are a cause of dissension and division. If people investigate truth and set aside imitations, all the nations will unite, for there exists no difference in religious truth; the differences lie in imitations only.

The second principle of Bahá’u’lláh is the unity of mankind. Bahá’u’lláh proclaims that all are the servants of one God; He has created all and provides for and sustains all. All are immersed in the ocean of His mercy and God is kind to all. Why should we be unkind to one another? We must follow the polity of God. Can we conceive a better polity than that of God?

The third principle He gave us is the harmony of science and religion. Both science and religion are truth. If religion is against reality and truth it is mere superstition. Every religious tenet that conflicts with true knowledge and sound reasoning is not worthy of belief. Thus the dogmas and imitations that stand in the way of science and progress must be removed.

The fourth principle is that religion must be the cause of unity, it must connect hearts to one another. Christ and all the other divine messengers came to create unity and love. Therefore, if religion becomes the cause of differences, its nonexistence is preferable.

The fifth principle is that all religious, racial, patriotic and political prejudices are the causes of war and the destroyers of the edifice of humanity. All these must be discarded and abolished.

The sixth principle is Universal Peace. Humanity must achieve this peace. Until its light illumines the decisions of the leaders and governments of the world, humanity will find no rest.

The seventh principle is the equality of rights for men and women. The education of women must be equal to that of men so that they may advance and achieve the same status as men. Teachings of this kind are numerous. In addition to the visits of large numbers of people at the hotel both day and night, three large meetings were held, attended by almost three thousand people, all of whom were honored to see Abdu’l-Bahá. The first meeting was held at Hull House and was attended by both blacks and whites. The Master spoke on the subject of the unity and oneness of humanity; that God has given faculties and powers equally to all and that the different colors of humankind are like the various colors of the flowers of a garden, which increases the beauty and charm of the garden. His eloquent and impressive talk thrilled His listeners.”

In addition to the visits of large numbers of people at the hotel both day and night, three large meetings were held, attended by almost three thousand people, all of whom were honored to see ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The first meeting was held at Hull House and was attended by both blacks and whites.71 The Master spoke on the subject of the unity and oneness of humanity; that God has given faculties and powers equally to all and that the different colors of humankind are like the various colors of the flowers of a garden, which increases the beauty and charm of the garden. His eloquent and impressive talk thrilled His listeners.

There exists among the whites in America a marked animosity for the blacks, who are held in such low esteem that the whites do not allow them to attend their public functions and think it beneath their dignity to mix with them in some of the public buildings and hotels. One day, Dr Zia Bagdadi 6invited Mr [Louis] Gregory, a black Bahá’í, to his home. When his landlord heard about this, he gave notice to Dr Bagdadi to vacate his residence because he had had a black man in his home. Although such prejudice was intense, the influence of the Cause of God and the power of God’s Covenant is so great that in many cities in America hundreds of black and white Bahá’ís mingle together and associate with each other as brothers and sisters.

Another meeting held at Handel Hall especially to bring together the blacks and the whites. The Master offered a commentary on a verse from the Old Testament, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’: ‘By “image and likeness”‘, He said, ‘is meant human virtues and perfections and not the black or white color of the skin.’ The Master’s impressive talk transformed and deeply affected the gathering.

The Master then went to a third meeting, addressing some two thousand people at the Convention of the Bahá’í Temple Unity held at the spacious Drill Hall. The entire audience stood when the Master entered, even though not all were Bahá’ís. The friends were full of excitement and cried ‘Alláh-u-Abhá’ so loudly that the hall resounded with their voices.’After a song of praise and glorification, the Master gave a detailed and eloquent talk on the purpose of the Temple and the unification of all under one standard. He concluded His talk by chanting a prayer in Persian in a most melodious voice. Some of those attending the convention met Him outside and asked whether they could visit Him at His residence. The crowd gathered around Him until He got into His carriage. 7

  1. Menon, Jonathan. “The Fallout from a City in Flames.” 239 Days in America, April 30, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/04/30/the-fallout-from-a-city-in-flames/.
  2. Reneau, Annie. “Shining Lamp: Louis Gregory (1874-1951).” Brilliant Star, April 6, 2020. https://brilliantstarmagazine.org/articles/louis-gregory-1874-1951.
  3. Radley, Gail. “Shining Lamp: Roy Wilhelm (1875-1951).” Brilliant Star, August 1, 2019. https://brilliantstarmagazine.org/articles/shining-lamp-roy-wilhelm-1875-1951.
  4. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 48.
  5. 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, 68-69. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/4#677388614.
  6. Reneau, Annie. “Shining Lamp: Dr. Zia Mabsoot Bagdadi.” Brilliant Star, May 15, 2018. https://brilliantstarmagazine.org/articles/shining-lamp-dr.-zia-mabsoot-bagdadi.
  7. ’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=2#section37.

239 Days in America, Day 15: April 25, 1912 | Washington, DC

What Makes a President 1

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, a man who drove to the heart of virtually all of America’s pressing challenges, failed to comment even once on the election – neither about the headlines, nor the candidates, nor even about the winner once it was all over. Yet, like his father Bahá’u’lláh before him, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had a good deal to say about the qualities of leadership and of principled governance. He had even written a book on the subject back in 1875, when he was just thirty-one years old, addressed to the rulers and people of Persia. He titled it The Secret of Divine Civilization.

In America, while avoiding commenting on the election at hand, he did offer his views on the kind of individual who should be President.

“The president,” he said, “must be a man who does not insistently seek the presidency. He should be a person free from all thoughts of name and rank; rather, he should say, ‘I am unworthy and incapable of this position and cannot bear this great burden.’ Such persons deserve the presidency. If the object is to promote the public good, then the president must be a well-wisher of all and not a self-seeking person. If the object, however, is to promote personal interests, then such a position will be injurious to humanity . . . ”

In a hard-fought election year where the headlines screamed self-aggrandizement and entrenched partisanship, ‘Abdul-Bahá simply directed his voice elsewhere.

Washington D. C. 2

On Thursday, April 25, a large delegation from the Theosophical Society arrived at the Parsons’ home at 10:30 A.M. They had barely departed when a group of Esperantists came. He told them “The heart is like a box and language is the key.” 3 By the afternoon when the crowds were pouring into the Parsons’ home for the daily reception, ‘Abdul-Bahá joked with Mrs. Parsons, “It is very difficult to have one like me as a guest. Every guest and traveler has a limited number of friends with whom he makes special dates for visits, but you are forced all day long to be the entertainer of all.’” 4

Talk at Home of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur J. Parsons , 1700 Eighteenth Street, NW, Washington, D.C.

The first teaching of Bahá’u’lláh is the duty incumbent upon all to investigate reality. What does it mean to investigate reality? It means that man must forget all hearsay and examine truth himself, for he does not know whether statements he hears are in accordance with reality or not. Wherever he finds truth or reality, he must hold to it, forsaking, discarding all else; for outside of reality there is naught but superstition and imagination. 5

The second teaching of Bahá’u’lláh is the oneness of the world of humanity. Every human creature is the servant of God. All have been created and reared by the power and favor of God; all have been blessed with the bounties of the same Sun of divine truth; all have quaffed from the fountain of the infinite mercy of God; and all in His estimation and love are equal as servants. He is beneficent and kind to all. Therefore, no one should glorify himself over another; no one should manifest pride or superiority toward another; no one should look upon another with scorn and contempt; and no one should deprive or oppress a fellow creature. All must be considered as submerged in the ocean of God’s mercy. We must associate with all humanity in gentleness and kindliness. We must love all with love of the heart. 6

The third teaching or principle of Bahá’u’lláh is that religion and science are in complete agreement. Every religion which is not in accordance with established science is superstition. Religion must be reasonable. If it does not square with reason, it is superstition and without foundation. It is like a mirage, which deceives man by leading him to think it is a body of water. God has endowed man with reason that he may perceive what is true. If we insist that such and such a subject is not to be reasoned out and tested according to the established logical modes of the intellect, what is the use of the reason which God has given man? 7

Thursday, April 25, 1912

In the evening the Turkish Ambassador, his honor Díyá Páshá, invited the Master to a royal feast. Most of us were also invited, as were many dignitaries, all of whom were dressed in formal attire. The Master gave a short talk at the table with the utmost majesty and beauty on the subject of the influence of the words of the Manifestations of God and their all-conquering power. The Ambassador then read from a prepared statement written in praise of the Master and presented it to Him:

“The light of His honor’s quality and knowledge in this new land and new world is now shining upon all peoples, showering them with His encouragement and enlightenment. He has suffered and sacrificed everything for the purpose of disseminating good qualities for humanity. He has now honored us by His presence. His Honor, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, is unique in our age and is highly esteemed and treasured by all of us. With prayer to the Lord of the worlds, I wish Him a long life and good health.”

When the Ambassador [Díyá Páshá] completed his statement, the Master spoke:

“This night is a very blessed night, worthy of the utmost praise and joy for many reasons. First, praise be to God, we are in a country which is famous for its prosperity and freedom. Second, we are in a house which is connected to the great Ottoman Power. Third, we are the guests of His Excellency the Ambassador who shines like the sun in the world of morality. Fourth, this meeting provides a tangible demonstration of the love and unity that is possible between the East and the West.

His Excellency the Ambassador is from the East, while his wife is an American. Similarly, His Excellency the Ambassador of Persia is from the nobility of the Orient, while his wife is also an American. This is a proof that the Orient and Occident can meet, love and unite. The greatest wish of people of thought and broad vision and sound understanding is the oneness and unity of humanity. This reality was not so apparent in former times but in this enlightened age which is the age of science and the progress of the world of humanity, this important fact has become manifest through the help and assistance of God: that all peoples are related, that all are from one family, citizens of one country and one world. This is the century of the oneness of the world of humanity and of the decline and abrogation of the superstitions of past ages. Every learned person is persuaded that this is the century for oneness and unity and the time for fanciful prejudices to fade away. We pray that misunderstandings among nations may disappear completely so that it may be evident that the foundation of all divine principles is the oneness of mankind and that the real purpose of all divine Manifestations has been to educate humanity. Divine religions are not the cause of dissension, nor do they beget enmity and hatred, for the foundation of all of them is truth and truth is one, it has no plurality.

The differences which we find are the results of imitations. As the imitations vary one from another, they become the cause of animosity and difference. The gloom of these imitations has wholly obscured the Sun of Reality. But, praise be to God, day by day these clouds are being dispersed and dissipated; ere long, they shall be wholly removed and the Sun of Reality shall be seen to shine most brilliantly. The standard of the oneness of humanity will be unfurled, the tabernacle of the universal peace will be raised, and this world will become another world.

I thank His Excellency the Ambassador who brought about this meeting of people of different nationalities in his home. Such meetings, in truth, deserve much praise and commendation.”

At the close of the meeting the Ambassador again arose to show his respect and appreciation. He accompanied the Master to His carriage with the utmost humility and esteem.

During these days, many dignitaries and important people visited the Master. Even President [Theodore] Roosevelt came, with humility and respect, especially to see the Master. 8

  1. Menon, Jonathan. “What Makes a President.” 239 Days in America, April 25, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/04/25/the-election-year/.
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 44.
  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, 60. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/3#293573670
  4. Bagdadi, Zia. “’Abdu’l-Bahá in America.” Star of the West, June 1928, 90.
  5. 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, 62. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/3#502326955.
  6. 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, 63. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/3#732109286.
  7. 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, 63. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/3#907730916.
  8. Mahmud-i-Zarqani, Mirza. 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=2#section32

Vision 101

Leaders prompt alignment. With alignment comes a flow of human energy and creativity that advances whatever cause is underway. Through this flow endeavors deemed important are initiated, actions are taken, and change occurs within a proposed framework.

Alignment is produced in three ways: integrity, vision, and fear – greed (see previous posting). Leaders lead because of their ability to draw upon at least one of these three dimensions “…in the exercise of power within a social system to produce alignment.” Of course, the greater the skills leaders have in more than one dimension, the more fluid their movement from one dimension to another as circumstances warrant, and ultimately, the more effective they will be.

Leaders who can exercise more than one dimension possess the wherewithal to use “vision” as a way to both inspire and motivate. While somewhat synonymous, the terms “inspire” and “motivate” represent a critical duality that is central to the importance of vision in the repertoire of tools used by effective leaders. Inspiration originates when there is sufficient detachment from what is or a future extrapolated from what was to see possibilities otherwise missed. Motivation is fueled by an expectation of comfort when that which is feared is dismissed and the stress of achievement is diminished. Leaders are able to use inspiration and motivation at the right time and in the correct context to build momentum and keep the flow going.

The diagram below illustrates the dual nature of vision. As an organizatio – represented by the green triangle – moves through time toward an endpoint on the horizon, it passes through its “vision” – illustrated by the yellow circle – of what it anticipates it will become or what will influence it. Philosophical ideals and spiritual values pre-date and eclipse the organization and provide a guiding moral framework that is timeless in its relevance and significance.

While the pursuit of abstractions such as peace, justice, love, and freedom is a source of inspiration, it lacks the type of structured approach required to convert the obtuse into the actionable. At some point people benefit from a clear picture of what can be reasonably expected after a finite period during which people invest their time, energy, and resources to have the intended results. Vision in this practical sense relates to the mission of a project, goals and objectives of an organization, and the “nuts and bolts” details of strategies and tactics required to complete the mission. But it is not the simple restatement of these elements a la Dilbert. Instead, it is a story told that depicts what reality might look like if the mission is completed successfully.

Just as leadership is about alignment, vision is about change – seeing it, relating to it, describing it and making it happen. Leaders who are in command of the tools of vision tell stories that inspire people at their higher levels of functioning and motivate them to take necessary action in giving practicality to that which is dreamed. Great leaders are involved; they embody the changes they are attempting to influence rather than remaining aloof and attempting to control them remotely.

A significant part of the story a powerful leader tells is not only in words but by example in deed. The leader espouses the principle in clear wording, such as the following extract from Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech delivered to more than 250,000 on August 28, 1963 in Washington, DC:

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”

It’s no wonder Dr. King could lead thousands – he posited the principles as a dream worth striving for, outlined the very trying and difficult steps that would have to be taken to make the dream reality, walked the talk hand-in-hand with others, and put his life on the line to stand tall in what he believed possible for his country and its people.

Of course, Dr. King was a “student” of another great leader in this respect, Mahatma Gandhi. The following extract from a brief biography on Gandhi’s life by B.R. Nanda sums up the compelling nature of a leader who strikes a dynamic balance between the philosophical and the practical:

His genius, so to speak, was an infinite capacity for taking pains in fulfillment of a restless moral urge. His life was one continuous striving, an unremitting sadhana, a relentless search for truth, not abstract or metaphysical truth, but such truth as can be realized in human relations. He climbed step by step, each step no bigger than a man’s, till when we saw him at the height he seemed more than a man. ‘Generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe’, wrote Einstein, ‘that such a one as this, ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.’ If at the end he seemed like no other man, it is good to remember that when he began he was like any other man.”

The result of his strong stands on principle and living the life of change – being the change – was a key factor in India gaining independence. His strict adherence to the concept of non-violence and non-resistance sets a stellar example for others to follow in their struggles with freedom and justice. And the lessons of his life continue to inform and influence generations of Indians as they build on the foundation of self-determination he laid and propel his beloved country into prominence as an economic and political global powerhouse.

The Dalai Lama, political leader of the Tibetan government in exile and spiritual guide for thousands of people around the world, offers yet another powerful example of vision in the ethereal married with the practical. Below is a extract from his commentary entitled, “A Human Approach to World Peace“:

Science and technology, though capable of creating immeasurable material comfort, cannot replace the age-old spiritual and humanitarian values that have largely shaped world civilization, in all its national forms, as we know it today. No one can deny the unprecedented material benefit of science and technology, but our basic human problems remain; we are still faced with the same, if not more, suffering, fear, and tension. Thus it is only logical to try to strike a balance between material developments on the one hand and the development of spiritual, human values on the other. In order to bring about this great adjustment, we need to revive our humanitarian values.”

Again, overarching philosophical ideals and spiritual principles are associated with the conundrum of daily issues that plague humanity. The Tibet issue is one of three commitments made by the Dalai Lama wherein he gives unwavering focus. It is in this arena on the world stage that principle is carried into action for all to see and learn. This is vision in its purest form. No one can ask more of a leader than that!

Originally posted to New Media Explorer by Steve Bosserman on Monday, February 13, 2006