239 Days in America, Day 52: June 01, 1912 | New York

Percy Stickney Grant Doubles Down on ‘Abdu’l-Bahá 1

But it wasn’t the first time [Percy Stickney] Grant had come up against Bishop [Charles Sumner] Burch. Back in 1912 Burch had reprimanded him for inviting ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to sit in the Bishop’s Chair behind the altar rail on April 14, the morning ‘Abdu’l-Bahá delivered his first public address in America. Bishop [John Gardner] Murray of Maryland had reacted even more strongly, banning ‘Abdu’l-Bahá from Episcopal churches throughout his state.

“But an idiotic thing like that would never stop Percy Grant — only make him more defiant,” Juliet Thompson later wrote in her diary.

Indeed it did. The Reverend Dr. Percy Stickney Grant had already invited ‘Abdu’l-Bahá back to the Church of the Ascension, to speak to the People’s Forum on Sunday evening, June 2, 1912.

New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts 2

On Saturday, June 1, the New York Times reported a “color line” at the University of Michigan, which banned Hindu students. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá went to the train station accompanied by weeping friends and returned to New York where He told the friends about the Fanwood trip.

One of the inquirers that afternoon was a Socialist, to whom ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said:

Go to the socialists and say that partnership in the properties and lands of this world is the source of strife and warfare. But partnership and inheritance in the kingdom are a cause of love and amity, If you will put your efforts to gain the precepts of the kingdom instead of worldly rights, you will gain perpetual happiness.

Mahmúd noted: “Every person with a particular interest was addressed similarly.”

Can you paint Me in a half hour? 3

The Master has begun to pose for me. He had said: “Can you paint Me in a half hour?”

“A half hour, my Lord?” I stammered, appalled. I can never finish a head in less than two weeks.

“Well, I will give you three half hours. You mustn’t waste My time, Juliet.”

He told me to come to Him Saturday morning, 1 June, at seven-thirty.

I went in a panic. He was waiting for me in the entrance hall, a small space in the English basement where the light–not much of it–comes from the south. In fact I found myself faced with every kind of handicap. I always paint standing, but now I was obliged to sit, jammed so close to the window (because of the lack of distance between the Master and me) that I couldn’t even lean back. No light. No room. And I had brought a canvas for a life-size head.

The Master was seated in a dark corner, His black ‘abá melting into the background; and again I saw Him as the Face of God, and quailed. How could I paint the Face of God?

“I want you,” He said, “to paint My Servitude to God.”

“Oh my Lord,” I cried, “only the Holy Spirit could paint Your Servitude to God. No human hand could do it. Pray for me, or I am lost. I implore You, inspire me.”

“I will pray,” He answered, “and as you are doing this only for the sake of God, you will be inspired.”

And then an amazing thing happened. All fear fell away from me and it was as though Someone Else saw through my eyes, worked through my hand.

All the points, all the planes in that matchless Face were so clear to me that my hand couldn’t put them down quickly enough, couldn’t keep pace with the clarity of my vision. I painted in ecstasy, free as I had never been before.

At the end of the half hour the foundation of the head was perfect.

Talk at Town Hall, Fanwood, New Jersey, 31 May 1912 4

Therefore, it is evident that the Prophets of God have come to unite the children of men and not to disperse them, to establish the law of love and not enmity. Consequently, we must lay aside all prejudice—whether it be religious, racial, political or patriotic; we must become the cause of the unification of the human race. Strive for universal peace, seek the means of love, and destroy the basis of disagreement so that this material world may become divine, the world of matter become the realm of the Kingdom and humanity attain to the world of perfection.

Saturday, June 1, 1912 5

In great humility a group of Bahá’ís came to the railway station to bid farewell to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Everyone was weeping as the train left. When He left, the Master was in a devout and meditative mood.

Upon His return to New York, He spoke to a gathering of friends about the harm of intoxicating beverages and also related some historical stories to the friends. In the afternoon some Bahá’ís and inquirers visited Him in His room, one after the other. Among them was a socialist. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said in part:

“Tell the socialists that sharing of property and land in this mortal world is the source of strife and warfare but sharing and inheritance in the Kingdom is the cause of love and unity. If you put your efforts into understanding the precepts of the Kingdom instead of into acquiring worldly shares and rights, you will gain perpetual joy and happiness. The Kingdom of God is vast. He will give you whatever you desire and there will be no place for strife and conflict. Is this not preferable and more pleasing?”

Each visitor with a particular interest was addressed similarly and each departed in joy.

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

Mahmud: June 1 – “The Kingdom of God is vast. He will give you whatever you desire…”

Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America

Curated by Anne Perry

June 1, 1912

  1. Menon, Jonathan. “Percy Stickney Grant Doubles Down on ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.” 239 Days in America, 2 June 2012, https://239days.com/2012/06/01/percy-stickney-grant-doubles-down-on-abdul-baha/.
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 75-76.
  3. Thompson, Juliet. The Diary of Juliet Thompson. Edited by Marzieh Gail. 1st ed. 1947. Reprint, Los Angeles: Kalimát Press, 1983, 298-299. https://archive.org/details/diaryofjuliettho0000thom/page/298/mode/2up.
  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, 162-163. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/12#113894423.
  5. ’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=4#section69.

239 Days in America, Day 1: April 11, 1912 | New York, NY

‘Abdu’l-Bahá Arrives in America 1

After being forty years a prisoner I can tell you that freedom is not a matter of place. It is a condition. . . . When one is released from the prison of self, that is indeed a release.— ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

First Days in America: New York City 2

His [‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s] first words were about the press, saying:

The pages of swiftly appearing newspapers are indeed the mirror of the world… But it behooveth the editors of the newspapers to be sanctified from the prejudice of egotism and desire, and to be adorned with the ornament of equity and justice.” 3

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

I am greatly pleased with the city of New York. Its harbor entrance, its piers, buildings and broad avenues are magnificent and beautiful. Truly, it is a wonderful city. As New York has made such progress in material civilization, I hope that it may also advance spiritually in the Kingdom and Covenant of God so that the friends here may become the cause of the illumination of America, that this city may become the city of love and that the fragrances of God may be spread from this place to all parts of the world. I have come for this. I pray that you may be manifestations of the love of Bahá’u’lláh, that each one of you may become like a clear lamp of crystal from which the rays of the bounties of the Blessed Perfection may shine forth to all nations and peoples. This is my highest aspiration. 4

Wednesday, April 10, 1912 [Thursday, April 11, 1912]

When the boat anchored, some newspaper reporters came on board to see ’Abdu’l-Bahá to ask Him about the purpose of His journey. He replied:

Our object is universal peace and the unity of humankind. I have traveled to Paris and London and now I have come to America to meet with those who seek universal peace and I hope that the peace societies of America will take the lead in promoting this end.

They asked, ‘How can universal peace be achieved?’ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá answered:

Its realization is through the attraction and support of world public opinion. Today universal peace is the panacea for all human life.

They questioned, ‘What are these ills?’ He answered:

One of these ills is the people’s restlessness and discontent under the yoke of the war expenditures of the world’s governments. What the people earn through hard labor is extorted from them by the governments and spent for purposes of war. And every day they increase these expenditures. Thus the burden on men becomes more and more unbearable and the tribulations of the people become more and more severe. This is one of the great ills of the day. What a great tribulation there is in the countries of Italy and Turkey in these days! The fathers hear of the death of their sons and the sons are distressed on hearing the news of the death of their fathers. What cities are laid to ruin and what rising fortunes are thrown to the winds! The antidote for this great ill is world peace, which is the source of universal tranquillity.

They then asked: ‘Is it not possible that peace can become the cause of trouble and that war the means of progress?’ He replied:

No. It is war which is today the cause of all trouble. If all would lay down their arms, they would be freed from all difficulties and every misery would be changed into relief. However, this cannot be brought about except through education and the development of people’s thoughts and ideas. 5

Additional Commentary

Bahá’í s follow the teachings of the prophet and founder of the Bahá’í Faith, Bahá’u’lláh – and they also attempt to follow the spiritual example of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’u’lláh’s son and successor.

Today ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s exemplary life – selfless, altruistic, and entirely devoted to world peace and oneness – inspires millions of people all over the world. It also has a special resonance for the Bahá’í s in North America, because he visited the United States and Canada for eight months in 1912.

Only with the passage of time can we truly appreciate the magnitude and the historic importance of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s visit.

After a lifetime as an exile and a prisoner, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá came to the global West to spread the Bahá’í principles of justice, compassion, and unity. In conversations small and large, he bestowed love, guidance, knowledge, and vision to each soul he encountered. 6

  1. Menon, Jonathan. “‘Abdu’l-Bahá Arrives in America.” 239 Days in America, April 11, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/04/11/abdul-baha-arrives-in-america/.
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 13.
  3. Dodge, Wendell Phillips. “ABDUL-BAHA’S ARRIVAL IN AMERICA.” Star of the West III, no. 3 (April 28, 1912): 3–5, https://bahai.works/Star_of_the_West/Volume_3/Issue_3/Text#ABDUL-BAHA.27S_ARRIVAL_IN_AMERICA..2A
  4. ’Abdu’l-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, 3, https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/1#820079356.
  5. 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#section17
  6. Ahdieh, Hussein. “Walking in Abdu’l-Baha’s (Actual) Footsteps.” BahaiTeachings.Org, 11 Apr. 2022, https://bahaiteachings.org/walking-in-abdul-bahas-actual-footsteps/.