“Take Us Out on a Steamer and Drown Us” 1
Yesterday in Manhattan, June 13, 1912, the painter Juliet Thompson had visited ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to complete the third and final sitting for his portrait. As she waited to begin her work, she watched ‘Abdu’l-Bahá sitting in the window seat, listening quietly to the outpourings of a distressed young girl.
The girl couldn’t understand why her life was so full of trials, especially when, as she told him, she read the 91st and the 23rd Psalms every night.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá responded: “To pray is not to read the psalms, to pray is to trust in God and to be submissive in all things to Him. . . . Strong ships are not conquered by the sea, they ride the waves. Now be a strong ship, not a battered one.”
Friday, June 14, 1912
The beloved Master called these Servants of His Threshold into His presence, served us tea with His own hand and showered us with great kindness. After a prayer was chanted, He described the devotion, servitude, sincerity and trustworthiness of some of the early believers and expressed great kindness for Siyyid Muhammad-Taqí Manshádí. ‘His station and worth’, He said, ‘will be appreciated in the future.’
In the afternoon at a public meeting He explained the first verse of the Bible and spoke on the reality of the Manifestations of God and the effulgence of the Sun of Supreme Oneness. In the evening He spoke with majesty and grandeur about the days of the Blessed Beauty:
Although He was a prisoner, He pitched His tent with glory on Mount Carmel. Even outwardly His power and majesty were such that for five years the governor of ‘Akká wished to attain His presence but was not permitted to do so by Him; indeed, He took no notice of him.
Later He gave an account of His many addresses in churches and public gatherings in America, saying, ‘What I have spoken is according to the capacity of the people and the exigency of the time. “The father makes gurgling sounds for the newborn infant, although his wisdom can measure the universe.“‘ The Master gave a detailed account of the signs of the Báb and of the Tablets of the Abhá Beauty, relating them to the exigencies of the time. 2
Diary of Juliet Thompson, 14 June 1912 3
“My father,” he said, “spent much time with the Blessed Beauty. The Blessed Beauty Himself taught him.
“One time when my father was in His room, Bahá’u’lláh rose and strode back and forth till the very walls seemed to shake. And He told my father that once in an age the Mighty God sent a Soul to earth endowed with the power of the Great Ether, and that such a Soul had all power and was able to do anything. ‘Even this walk of Mine’ said Bahá’u’lláh, ‘has an effect in the world.’
“Then He said that His Holiness Jesus Christ had also come with the power of the Great Ether, but the haughty priesthood of His day thought of Him as a poor, unlettered youth and believed that if they should crucify Him, His Teachings would soon be forgotten. Therefore they did crucify Him. But because His Holiness Jesus possessed the power of the Great Ether, He could not remain underground. This ethereal power rose and conquered the whole earth. ‘And now,’ the Blessed Beauty said, ‘look to the Master, for this same Power is His.’
Talk at 309 West Seventy-eighth Street, New York, 11 June 1912
Man must be lofty in endeavor. He must seek to become heavenly and spiritual, to find the pathway to the threshold of God and become acceptable in the sight of God. This is eternal glory—to be near to God. This is eternal sovereignty—to be imbued with the virtues of the human world. This is boundless blessing—to be entirely sanctified and holy above every stain and dross.
Consider the human world. See how nations have come and gone. They have been of all minds and purposes. Some were mere captives of self and desire, engulfed in the passions of the lower nature. They attained to wealth, to the comforts of life, to fame. And what was the final outcome? Utter evanescence and oblivion. Reflect upon this. Look upon it with the eye of admonition. No trace of them remains, no fruit, no result, no benefit; they have gone utterly—complete effacement.
Souls have appeared in the world who were pure and undefiled, who have directed their attention toward God, seeking the reward of God, attaining nearness to the threshold of God, acceptable in the good pleasure of God. They have been the lights of guidance and stars of the Supreme Concourse. Consider these souls, shining like stars in the horizon of sanctity forevermore.
It must not be implied that one should give up avocation and attainment to livelihood. On the contrary, in the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh monasticism and asceticism are not sanctioned. In this great Cause the light of guidance is shining and radiant. Bahá’u’lláh has even said that occupation and labor are devotion. All humanity must obtain a livelihood by sweat of the brow and bodily exertion, at the same time seeking to lift the burden of others, striving to be the source of comfort to souls and facilitating the means of living. This in itself is devotion to God. Bahá’u’lláh has thereby encouraged action and stimulated service. But the energies of the heart must not be attached to these things; the soul must not be completely occupied with them. Though the mind is busy, the heart must be attracted toward the Kingdom of God in order that the virtues of humanity may be attained from every direction and source.
We have forsaken the path of God; we have given up attention to the divine Kingdom; we have not severed the heart from worldly attractions; we have become defiled with qualities which are not praiseworthy in the sight of God; we are so completely steeped in material issues and tendencies that we are not partakers of the virtues of humanity.
Little reflection, little admonition is necessary for us to realize the purpose of our creation. What a heavenly potentiality God has deposited within us! What a power God has given our spirits! He has endowed us with a power to penetrate the realities of things; but we must be self-abnegating, we must have pure spirits, pure intentions, and strive with heart and soul while in the human world to attain everlasting glory.
I have come for the purpose of admonition and voicing the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. It is my hope that His will and guidance may influence your spirits, souls and hearts, causing them to become pure, holy, sanctified and illumined and making you lamps of heavenly illumination to the world. This is my desire; this is my hope through the assistance of God. 4
’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
- Knight, Annabel. “‘Take Us Out on a Steamer and Drown Us.’” 239 Days in America, 14 June 2012, https://239days.com/2012/06/14/put-us-in-a-steamer-and-drown-us/. ↩
- ’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#section82 ↩
- Thompson, Juliet. The Diary of Juliet Thompson. Edited by Marzieh Gail. 1st ed. 1947. Reprint, Los Angeles: Kalimát Press, 1983, 309. https://archive.org/details/diaryofjuliettho0000thom/page/308/mode/2up. ↩
- 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, 186-187. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/14#808708168. ↩