239 Days in America, Day 116: August 04, 1912 | Dublin

The Challenges of Finding ‘Abdu’l-Bahá 1

THE MOST EXTENSIVE PRIMARY sources for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s journey across North America in 1912 come with difficult problems. If you were to ask Mahmúd-i-Zarqání how Americans responded to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, you might always get the same answer. They were — almost every one of them — “astonished” at what they saw and heard from the Master. Mahmúd was a devoted follower on unfamiliar terrain in America, who felt the greatest reverence for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and held him in awe. In his preface he writes that he generally found himself overwhelmed by the events he saw, and in his account he ascribes such wonder to everyone.

Juliet Thompson’s ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is an otherworldly figure whose every look, every slight gesture, is imbued with a magical quality that she flourishes with her own emotions. How close was the real ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to Juliet’s perception of him? It is difficult to say.

Reverend Howard Colby Ives wrote an autobiography of his time with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá called Portals to Freedom. Its pages are filled with turns of phrase that mix metaphors and burst with personal drama, yet he seems deeply sincere and his story often brings one eerily close to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The scene he paints of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wiping the tears from his eyes on April 12 at the Hotel Ansonia in New York is so moving that it’s hard not to well up with tears yourself.

Agnes Parsons wrote a nuts-and-bolts diary account of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Washington and Dublin, full of interesting details but largely free of the romantic aura that surrounds Thompson’s and Ives’s accounts. But Agnes’s social circle constrains her perspective. She hosts ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in her home and plans many of his activities, but when he attends events in Washington with African Americans, you wouldn’t know from her diary that they carried any significance.

Sunday, August 4, 1912 2

When He had finished writing Tablets in response to petitions from the friends in the East and the West, the Master had a little time to rest. He then went for lunch at the home of Miss [Fanny] Knobloch. Her friends and relatives were fascinated with His explanations and enchanted by His manner.

In the afternoon He spoke in Mr and Mrs Parsons’s drawing room about the power of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh and the assistance and confirmations of the Greatest Name. Mírzá ‘Alí Akbar [Nakhjavání] related that during the troubled times in ‘Akká the Master used to say that a great event would take place in the very near future: it would be as though this lamp would go away and then come back to its original place. Now we understand that this assertion of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was a reference to His travels and His return to the Holy Land. The Master then said:

“The assistance of the Blessed Beauty brings about extraordinary things. Every act of the Blessed Beauty constitutes in itself a consummate proof. In one of my early writings I wrote that in the eyes of the possessors of insight the doings of Him Who is the Sovereign Truth have no equal. For instance, if the Blessed Beauty asked after someone’s health, although outwardly a common expression, it could give to a person who was perceptive hints as to the wisdom and mystery hidden in the words spoken on that occasion. Thus it is that God in all His actions is distinct from all others, just as a wise man displays in all his actions the signs of wisdom.”

There were several people waiting to see Him. Two ladies, both of whom were hard of hearing, requested permission to sit near Him so that they might listen to His words through their hearing aids. He said, ‘Yes, the nearer they come, the better they will hear the Words of God. They must hear the Voice of the Lord in whatever way possible or by whatever means.’

Today, the Master’s talk on the immortality of the soul so impressed the hearts that from then on He was asked to speak on this subject at most of the meetings.

Talk at Fourth Unitarian Church, Beverly Road, Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York, 16 June 1912 3

The unity which is productive of unlimited results is first a unity of mankind which recognizes that all are sheltered beneath the overshadowing glory of the All-Glorious, that all are servants of one God; for all breathe the same atmosphere, live upon the same earth, move beneath the same heavens, receive effulgence from the same sun and are under the protection of one God. This is the most great unity, and its results are lasting if humanity adheres to it; but mankind has hitherto violated it, adhering to sectarian or other limited unities such as racial, patriotic or unity of self-interests; therefore, no great results have been forthcoming. Nevertheless, it is certain that the radiance and favors of God are encompassing, minds have developed, perceptions have become acute, sciences and arts are widespread, and capacity exists for the proclamation and promulgation of the real and ultimate unity of mankind, which will bring forth marvelous results. It will reconcile all religions, make warring nations loving, cause hostile kings to become friendly and bring peace and happiness to the human world. It will cement together the Orient and Occident, remove forever the foundations of war and upraise the ensign of the Most Great Peace. These limited unities are, therefore, signs of that great unity which will make all the human family one by being productive of the attractions of conscience in mankind.

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

Each action and word of the Manifestation of God have many meanings – they have no equal

Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America

Curated by Anne Perry

August 4, 1912


  1. Sockett, Robert, and Jonathan Menon. “The Challenges of Finding ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.” 239 Days in America, 4 Aug. 2012, https://239days.com/2012/08/04/the-challenges-of-finding-abdul-baha/.
  2. ’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=6#section133
  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, 191 https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/14#450919860

239 Days in America, Day 95: July 14, 1912 | New York

Religion: The Greatest Cause of Human Alienation 1

“‘ABDU’L-BAHÁ WILL SPEAK upon the oneness of humanity,” Reverend Leon Harvey told to his congregation at All Souls Unitarian Church in Brooklyn. “It is a great gospel,” he said. “Many have dreamed of it, but ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has lived it.”

The congregation at All Souls was one of the largest in the city. During its hundred-year history it had counted among its members some of New York’s most prominent reformers and cultural figures, including novelist Herman Melville. It was founded in 1819 under the Congregationalist banner, but by the late 1800s had become a Universalist Unitarian church – a movement with roots in Christianity, which accepted people of every religious background, unified by a dedication to spiritual growth and a commitment to serving the local community.

Reverend Harvey was pleased that he had assembled such a large crowd on one of the hottest days in memory. He began with a prayer: “We thank Thee for him whom we shall hear this morning and pray that whatever may come to us may not fall upon barren soil.”

Then ‘Abdu’l-Bahá took the pulpit and began. “In this great century the most important accomplishment is the unity of mankind,” he announced, “it has now become the paramount issue and question in the religious and political conditions of the world.”

Sunday, July 14, 1912

The Master returned to New York in the morning and went directly to Mrs Zieglar’s home to see her mother, who was unable to walk because of a foot ailment but who longed to see the beloved Master and attain His presence. When her desire was made known to the Master, He immediately decided to visit her. The ailing woman was very pleased and happy and found in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá the fruit of her life and a feeling that she had been newly born.

When He returned to His residence the Master conversed until noon with the many seekers who had come to visit Him. Several distinguished ladies met with Him later in the afternoon at Mrs Krug’s home. He spoke to them about the education and training of women and after a period of questions and answers He left the gathering.

In the evening ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s talk at the meeting at His home centered on two groups — the materialists and theists. He spoke about divine power and demonstrated its outward influence on human souls in every cycle. After the meeting other seekers arrived and remained for some time before departing.

Being in a state of great exhaustion and fatigue, the beloved Master did not take dinner but instead went directly to bed. 2

Talk at All Souls Unitarian Church, Fourth Avenue and Twentieth Street, New York 3

Today I wish to speak to you upon the subject of the oneness of humanity, for in this great century the most important accomplishment is the unity of mankind. Although in former centuries and times this subject received some measure of mention and consideration, it has now become the paramount issue and question in the religious and political conditions of the world. History shows that throughout the past there has been continual warfare and strife among the various nations, peoples and sects; but now—praise be to God!—in this century of illumination, hearts are inclined toward agreement and fellowship, and minds are thoughtful upon the question of the unification of mankind. There is an emanation of the universal consciousness today which clearly indicates the dawn of a great unity.

In the investigation of a subject the right method of approach is to carefully examine its premises. Therefore, we must go back to the foundation upon which human solidarity rests—namely, that all are the progeny of Adam, the creatures and servants of one God; that God is the Protector and Provider; that all are submerged in the sea of divine mercy and grace and God is loving toward all.

Humanity shares in common the intellectual and spiritual faculties of a created endowment. All are equally subject to the various exigencies of human life and are similarly occupied in acquiring the means of earthly subsistence. From the viewpoint of creation human beings stand upon the same footing in every respect, subject to the same requirements and seeking the enjoyment and comfort of earthly conditions. Therefore, the things humanity shares in common are numerous and manifest. This equal participation in the physical, intellectual and spiritual problems of human existence is a valid basis for the unification of mankind.

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

Exhausting daily activities

Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America

Curated by Anne Perry

July 14, 1912


  1. Sockett, Robert. “Religion: The Greatest Cause of Human Alienation.” 239 Days in America, 14 July 2012, https://239days.com/2012/07/14/shunning-division-welcoming-oneness/.
  2. ’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=5#section112
  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, 228-229. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/16#971819005

239 Days in America, Day 9: April 19, 1912 | New York, NY

“Isn’t that the Woman of It?” 1

‘Abdu’l-Bahá opened his eyes again: “I am going to the poor in the Bowery now,” he told her. “I love them.” He invited Kate Carew to come along.

“There was another gasp of surprise at the Bowery Mission as, still hand in hand—he just wouldn’t let me go—the Baha and I trotted through a lane composed of several score of the society’s members. A few of the young ladies had their arms filled with flowers, which afterward filled the automobile. Some four hundred men were present, belonging to the mission.”

‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke to the homeless men for about twenty minutes. Jesus Christ was also homeless, he told them. “You are His comrades, for He outwardly was poor, not rich. Even this earth’s happiness does not depend upon wealth.”

“You will find many of the wealthy exposed to dangers and troubled by difficulties, and in their last moments upon the bed of death there remains the regret that they must be separated from that to which their hearts are so attached.”

“Therefore,” he said, “we will thank God that we have been so blessed with real riches. In conclusion, I ask you to accept ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as your servant.” 2

First Days in America: New York City 3

On Friday, April 19, ‘Abdul Baha spoke in Earl Hall at Columbia University, telling his audience, “it is our duty to put forth our greatest efforts and summon all our energies in order that the bonds of unity and accord may be established among mankind.” 4

That evening, Mahmúd noted, “most of the friends stayed longer in His presence” and they “continued coming until late in the night.” Because it was His last day in New York before leaving for Washington and Chicago the friends wanted to be with Him as long as possible.

Talk at Earl Hall, Columbia University, New York

God has created us all human, and all countries of the world are parts of the same globe. We are all His servants. He is kind and just to all. Why should we be unkind and unjust to each other? He provides for all. Why should we deprive one another? He protects and preserves all. Why should we kill our fellow creatures? If this warfare and strife be for the sake of religion, it is evident that it violates the spirit and basis of all religion. All the divine Manifestations have proclaimed the oneness of God and the unity of mankind. They have taught that men should love and mutually help each other in order that they might progress. Now if this conception of religion be true, its essential principle is the oneness of humanity. The fundamental truth of the Manifestations is peace. This underlies all religion, all justice. The divine purpose is that men should live in unity, concord and agreement and should love one another. Consider the virtues of the human world and realize that the oneness of humanity is the primary foundation of them all. Read the Gospel and the other Holy Books. You will find their fundamentals are one and the same. Therefore, unity is the essential truth of religion and, when so understood, embraces all the virtues of the human world. 5

Friday, April 19, 1912

It was the last day of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s stay in New York. From early morning until noon there were the usual comings and goings of numerous friends and believers at the Master’s hotel. In the evening a large meeting was arranged for the Master’s talk at Earl Hall at Columbia University. In addition to students and professors, there were many other interested people, as well as the Bahá’ís. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s talk was most penetrating and dealt with the supernatural powers of human nature and the results achieved from education and knowledge, and gave an explanation of peace and so on. After the meeting, those who had already met ‘Abdu’l-Bahá brought other seekers to meet Him in another room. These meetings were so long that the professors’ plan to give the Master a tour of the university had to be abandoned.

From both the friends and inquirers was frequently heard the remark, ‘Oh, that this meeting would never end, for we do not want to leave Him.’

As it was ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s last night in the city, many believers remained longer than usual in His company. Each was a Majnún, enchanted with the beauty of the Center of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant and attracted to the divine fragrances.

The friends continued to arrive until late at night. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá bade farewell to all and promised to be back among them when He returned. 6

  1. Menon, Jonathan. “”Isn’t That the Woman of It?”.” 239 Days in America, April 19, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/04/19/isnt-that-the-woman-of-it/.
  2. 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, 32-34.https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/2#141496815.
  3. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 36.
  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, 31. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/2#018105204.
  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, 32. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/2#018105204.
  6. 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#section26