Abdul Baha on Divine Philosophy, file 01

Abdul Baha on Divine Philosophy

© 1918

Online edition provided by Robert Stauffer, 1998, proofread by T. Lovejoy, formatted by J. Winters. Copies of this book are no longer available at the address given on the title page, nor has it been reprinted since the 1916 and 1918 printings.

Eunice Braun, in Know Your Baha'i Literature (1968), writes: "In 1936 the Guardian wrote to the NSA not to make a new edition of this work because 'this book has in large part been taken from notes recorded at the time but which do not constitute an authentic text of the Master's word's.'" (page 11) At the same time, the book concludes with the colophon "Approved by Bahai committee on publications." William Collins, in his Bibliography of English-Language Works on the Babi and Baha'i Faiths, writes: "[this is] a collection of wisdom attributed to 'Abdu'l-Baha. Sources are not indicated for most of the items and some of the quotations are questionable, thus lessening the value of this compilation. It does, nevertheless, give a sense of how early Western Baha'is were introduced to the teachings of their faith." (p. 10)


[title page]

Abdul Baha
— on —
Divine Philosophy

At the suggestion of Abdul Baha these notes on Divine Philosophy, together with a short introductory history, have been compiled and published by
ISABEL FRASER CHAMBERLAIN

Those desiring copies may obtain them by addressing
the above at

234 EAST ELEVENTH STREET, NEW YORK CITY
NEW YORK


Price 75 Cents


Copyright, 1918
THE TUDOR PRESS
BOSTON, MASS.



                         CONTENTS


 (click here to go directly to a page) PAGE INTRODUCTION . . . . . 5 PRINCIPLES OF BAHA'O'LLAH . . . 25 PRELUDE . . . . . . . 29 CHAPTER I. Divine Revelators. . 33 " II. Education . . . 79 " III. Soul, Mind and Spirit . 117 " IV. Value of a Universal Language . . . 141 " V. Questions asked by Theological Students . 147 " VI. Letters to Religious Congress . . . 159 " VII. Address to Theosophical Society . . . 165 " VIII. Address to the Spiritual Alliance . . . 175 " IX. A Loving Farewell. . 185

INTRODUCTION


WHY this great unrest — wars and the rumors of wars, changing of dynasties, earthquakes, cataclysms? The people cry "Peace, peace; when there is no peace!" Are not these the outer sign that man has lost the inner truth? Students in every land who have stepped out of the stream of humanity remind us of the holy books of history — all of which foretell the coming of a great Messiah or world teacher. Once again the wheel has turned and brought man face to face with truth. Truth is the handmaid of the prophet. Can there be a handmaid without the prophet?

A movement comes from the East which claims to be the divine instrument for bringing unity into the world. For this reason, if for no other, it deserves attention. Its claims are too

5

vital and important to be overlooked. The wonderful lives of its founders command interest. The courageous lives of its followers and their uncompromising sacrifice for this cause form a chapter that has no parallel in history.

During the last century three great seers or supermen have appeared in Persia — the Bab, BAHA'O'LLAH, and Abdul Baha.

The Bab was born in Shiraz, in the month of October, 1819. At the age of twenty- four he heralded the advent of a universal teacher whom God would manifest, and through whom the unity of the nations would be established. The Bab (door or gate) effected a reformation of Islam, opening the way for a broader movement — for always with earnestness and zeal he cried of one who was to come after him to illumine not only Islam, but the whole world. The young reformer made his declaration in 1844 at Shiraz and afterward at Mecca, where one hundred thousand people had congregated.

His teachings met with instant opposition on the part of the orthodox religionists of the day. After two years he was imprisoned and held a prisoner until 1850 when he was shot in the public square of Tabriz.

But physical torture and death were ineffectual to stop the onsweep of the reformation inaugurated by the Bab. When, some years later BAHA'O'LLAH arose as the one who was expected, thousands accepted him and at once came under his banner. BAHA'O'LLAH was not personally

6

related to the Bab, nor had he ever seen him, though he became one of the first disciples of the Bab's teachings.

Dreadful persecutions ensued and more than twenty thousand martyrs joyfully gave up property and life rather than renounce the faith which they recognized as divine truth. At such variance were his teachings with the creed-bound world about him that BAHA'O'LLAH, with his family and followers, was banished to Bagdad, to Constantinople, to Adrianople and finally to the penal colony of Acca in Syria.

Few people of the western world were fortunate enough to see BAHA'O'LLAH, who was born in Teheran November 12, 1817. One who had journeyed afar, and who was finally ushered into his presence, described him thus: "The face of him on whom I gazed I can never forget, though I cannot describe it. Those piercing eyes seemed to read one's very soul; power and authority sat on that ample brow…. No need to ask in whose presence I stood, as I bowed myself before one who is the object of a devotion and love which kings might envy and emperors sigh for in vain!"

One of his followers in describing his power declares: "His proclamation was made with the certainty of immediate knowledge and a divine understanding of the needs of humanity for 'this gloomy and disastrous age!' Brilliant, spontaneous, mighty — he was like a conscious sun bursting on a dark, dead world. Verily, in the future these laws will be used 'for the healing of the nations.'"

7

The prison officials of Acca ultimately granted him the liberty of the fortressed city and he pitched his tent upon the Mount of Carmel in the land of Sharon, the very spot where, according to the ancient prophecies, the Glory of God would be manifested in the latter days. The name of BAHA'O'LLAH means the Glory of God, Baha — Glory, and Allah — God.

It will be noted that the divine teachers of all ages in their efforts to direct man's attention to God have assumed a spiritual title symbolic of their teachings.

BAHA'O'LLAH unsealed the holy books and revealed laws through which mankind can attain to a high state of spiritual civilization. These new laws will go into effect after the great readjustment, when wars, cataclysms, famine, labor troubles, etc., have done their work of equalization!

From the prison of Acca, BAHA'O'LLAH issued proclamations to the crowned heads of Europe and to the Pope, exhorting them to cease from their injustice and oppression and hasten to the tent of unity and consultation — that the reality of each matter might become disclosed. These epistles (copies of which are to be found in the British Museum) were dispatched by personal messengers, volunteers from his little band of exiles.

His commands, like a resonant call upraised from a land of oppression to the confused and sorrowful world — stern, irrefutable, immutable — stand out against the bloody background of Europe. Those who are following this call

8

declare that the soundless voice will be heard throughout the ages, for they believe the words to be creative, and affirm that, notwithstanding his banishment and incarceration, BAHA'O'LLAH has been enabled to impress every nation on earth with a glory and universality of thought that promises the loosening of the shackles which have held mankind in the political, ecclesiastical and financial slavery of the times.

When a great force is liberated by the entrance of a divine being into the world arena, it must of necessity express itself through the vehicle of a human temple, and the objective expression of this force manifests itself in thoughts of different grades and degrees according to the capacity of the people. The master- teachers are the expounders of divine common sense which is the pathway to a knowledge of universal law, the result of which will be a harmonious humanity. Man confines his consciousness to this material plane. This new force will liberate him and he will become conscious of many planes and of the ultimate oneness of them all.

Tolstoi in one of his books says that we spend our lives attempting to unravel the mystery of life, but adds, "There is a Persian, a Turkish prisoner, who knows the secret." Tolstoi was one of those who was in communication with BAHA'O'LLAH. With him he held that a life uncompromisingly sacrificed to the ideals is the life of the superman.

BAHA'O'LLAH continually urges man to free

9

himself from the superstitions and traditions of the past and become an investigator of reality, for it will then be seen that God has revealed his light many times in order to illumine mankind in the path of evolution, in various countries and through many different prophets, masters and sages.

Life must hold as its primary foundation the opportunity of a knowledge of the divine law. The great ones come, primarily, to remind man of this law which remains the same in all ages — immutable, unchangeable, eternal, and which deals with man attaining immortality. The mundane laws, those governing human conduct and regulating the Sabbath, divorce, capital punishment, etc., vary with each age according to the capacity of the people. "These diversities are established out of regard for the times, seasons, ages and epochs."

Before his ascension from the prison of Acca in 1892, BAHA'O'LLAH, commanded his followers to look to his eldest son, Abbas Effendi, whose spiritual title is Abdul Baha (Servant of God), as the expounder of his teachings and the one through whom the new kingdom on earth would eventually be established. The mantle of glory descended upon this beloved son in order that the divine decrees might be fulfilled. BAHA'O'LLAH was the great lawgiver. Abdul Baha is the law establisher, as he was the first to live these laws. He was born in the city of Teheran, Persia, May 23, 1844.

A year after the departure of BAHA'O'LLAH

10

mention was made of this cause at the Chicago World's Fair, in 1893, by Dr. Harvy Harris Jessup, President of the American College of Beirut, Syria, who sent a paper to be read before the congress of religions. This address was read during the afternoon session of the thirteenth day of the congress, September 23, 1893. Dr. Jessup closed his address thus: —

"In the place of Behjé, or Delight, just outside the fortress of Acca, on the Syrian Coast, there died, a few months since, a famous Persian sage named BAHA'O'LLAH — the Glory of God.

"Three years ago he was visited by a Cambridge scholar to whom he uttered sentiments so noble, so Christ-like that we repeat them as our closing words — 'We desire but the good of the world and the happiness of the nations — that all nations should become one in faith and all men as brothers; that all bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened; that diversity of religion should cease and differences of race be annulled — and so shall it be; these fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away and the most great peace shall come. Is not this that which Christ foretold? Let not a man glory in this, that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this, that he loves his kind.'"

Interest was enkindled in America and as there was no English literature on the subject at that time, a party was formed to journey to the Syrian city to get information of BAHA'O'LLAH at first

11

hand from his son. They brought back graphic accounts from the prison philosopher. Meetings were held and a correspondence was begun with Abdul Baha.

Soon from all parts of the world people journeyed to Acca. They wrote accounts of their visits and these, with the letters or tablets from Abdul Baha, were widely distributed. The city of Acca became a center of pilgrimage. Around the board of Abdul Baha gathered all races and creeds — it was the only place on earth where Christian, Moslem, Jews, Zoroastrians, Buddhists and Hindus met and ate together in perfect harmony and understanding.

The above are mere facts of history, but present history without the setting of the background of time has no perspective to our clay-laden eyes. We are ever looking for some miracle, some proof — for the Christ life as viewed from the outside seems so simple; yet could there be anything more dramatically miraculous than this to establish peace in the hearts in the midst of a warring world? This kind of peace BAHA'O'LLAH calls the "most great peace." To establish this kingdom in the hearts — verily, it is the unrealized dream of the planet!

After his liberation, in 1908, at the earnest solicitation of friends, Abdul Baha made an extensive tour of Europe and America, bringing the message of the new creational day from shore to shore; speaking in churches of every denomination, in the synagogues, before many

12

clubs, societies, universities and congresses. So swiftly has this cause spread that it has encircled the globe within a few years.

In America will be reared a material symbol standing for unity between the races, unity between the classes and equality between the sexes. In Chicago an imposing temple is to be erected by the voluntary contributions from all the people of the earth. Every race, creed and color will be represented.

The temple wherein each may worship God in his own way is to be surrounded by such accessories as a hospital, pilgrim-house, school for orphans and university for the study of higher sciences.

The people of universal mind recognize in this plan the symbol of assurance that we are at the beginning of the golden age that prophets and poets have depicted in song and fable. The people who have come in contact with this spirit of the age hold that the time has come when the highest concepts of man are to be realized and become part and parcel of every nation's fabric. With glowing faces these people tell of future ideals based on justice. They speak of international laws as yet untranslated into our language which are to govern the world after wars have ceased.

A new chapter in the life of the planet has been opened. Humanity has attained its maturity, and the race consciousness has awakened to the fact that it must put away the childish things which seemed necessary in the day of the

13

"survival of the fittest." This day "wherein the feet of the people deviate" is to be followed by a glorious to-morrow; for — "This is a new cycle of human power. All the horizons of the world are luminous and the world will become indeed as a garden and a paradise. It is the hour of unity of the sons of men and of the drawing together of all races and all classes.

"The gift of God to this enlightened age is the knowledge of the oneness of mankind and the fundamental oneness of religion. War shall cease between the nations and by the will of God the most great peace shall come; the world will be seen as a new world and all men will live as brothers."

The hour has struck — soon the vibration will be felt on this material plane; for as Abdul Baha so beautifully puts it — "Does not the dawn of a new day arouse the sleeping ones from their couches of negligence and awaken all those who are not dead?"

Speaking of the temple of the future, Abdul Baha says — "Every country has a hundred thousand gigantic temples, but what results have they yielded? The important point is this — from a temple of worship must go forth not only the spiritual but the material needs. Verily, the founding of this temple will mark the inception of the Kingdom of God on earth. It is the evident standard waving in the center of the great continent of America.

"The doors will be open to all sects — no

14

differentiation; and by God's help this temple will prove to be to the body of human society what the soul is to the body of man. For when these colleges for the study of higher science, the hospital, the orphanage and the hospice are built, its doors will be opened to all nations, races and religions, with no line of demarkation and its charities will be dispensed without regard to race or color. Its gates will be flung wide to mankind; prejudice toward none, love for all. The central building will be dedicated to prayer and worship and thus for the first time religion will become harmonized with science and science will be the handmaid of religion — both showering their spiritual gifts on all humanity. In this way the people will be lifted out of the quagmires of slothfulness and bigotry."

All of which would seem to verify the prediction of the great world thinkers of our time, one of whom says: "Abdul Baha will surely unite the East and West, for he treads the mystic way with practical feet."

It was while Abdul Baha was in Paris that a group composed of different sects awaited an audience to argue their various faiths. Suddenly this divine teacher of men swept into the room and pointing out of the window, exclaimed: The sun of truth rises in each season from a different point of the horizon — to-day it is here, yesterday it was there, and to-morrow it will appear from another direction. Why do you keep your eyes eternally fixed on the same point? Why

15

do you call yourselves Christians, Buddhists, Mohammedans, Bahais? You must learn to distinguish the sun of truth from whichever point of the horizon it is shining! People think religion is confined in an edifice, to be worshipped at an altar. In reality it is an attitude toward divinity which is reflected through life.

"This movement eludes organization — it is the realization of a new spirit. The foundation of that spirit is the love of God; and its method the love and service of mankind. Many who have never heard of this revelation teach its laws and spiritual truths. These people are performing what BAHA'O'LLAH hath commanded though they never heard of him. The power of BAHA'O'LLAH'S words is compelling — therefore you must know and love them. For instance, in the spring season trees burst forth into verdure though they are not conscious of the sunshine, of the falling rain or the gentle breeze — nevertheless, the power of nature urges them on to yield forth their fruits."

Soon after his release as a prisoner of the Turkish Government, Abdul Baha journeyed from the little fortressed town of Acca to Egypt and thence to London. While in London he gave the following interview to the writer. It was published in one of the leading journals, under date of September 23, 1911.

16

THE WORLD'S GREATEST PRISONER

Some Experiences of Abdul Baha's Forty Years'
Imprisoned in a Turkish Fortress

In an apartment in Cadogan Gardens sits a Persian sage, Abdul Baha, whose recent advent in London marks the latest link between the East and the West.

The teachings of Abdul Baha have already brought about a community of thought between the Orient and the Occident. Upon the basis of mutual help and friendship the people have joined hands with an earnestness and brotherly love contrary to the theories of certain cynical poets and philosophers.

In his reception room one found a constantly augmented group representing many languages and nationalities. There were turbaned people from the East, a member of the English House of Lords, smartly dressed women from the continent, two tramps, who, having read of Abdul Baha in the papers, sought his presence; and arch-deacon of the Church of England, and several Americans.

Abdul Baha entered. With one impulse we arose, paying unconscious homage to the majesty of the station of servitude. Surely there can be no greater station than this! Instantly one felt an intangible something that stamped him as one apart. Try as one would it could not be defined.

17

All that was tangible was the dome-like head with its patriarchal beard and eyes that suggested eternity. After greeting us he waved us to our seats and inquired if there were any questions we would like to ask. When informed that my editor had sent me to ascertain if he would speak of his prison life, Abdul Baha began at once to tell his story in a simple, impersonal way:

"At nine years of age, I was banished with my father, BAHA'O'LLAH, on his journey of exile to Baghdad, Arabia; seventy of his followers accompanying us. This decree of exile after persistent persecution was intended to effectively stamp out of Persia what the authorities considered a dangerous movement. BAHA'O'LLAH, his family and followers were driven from place to place.

"When I was about twenty-five years old, we were moved from Constantinople to Adrianople and from there we went with a guard of soldiers to the fortressed city of Acca where we were imprisoned and closely guarded.

"There was no communication whatever with the outside world. Each loaf of bread was cut open by the guard to see that it contained no message. All who believed in the universal precepts of BAHA'O'LLAH, children, men and women, were imprisoned with us. At one time there were one hundred and fifty of us together in two rooms and no one was allowed to leave the place except four people who went to the bazaar to market each morning under guard.

18

"Acca was a fever-ridden town in Palestine. It was said that a bird attempting to fly over it would drop dead. The food was poor and insufficient, the water was drawn from a fever-infected well and the climate and conditions were such that even the natives of the town fell ill. Many soldiers succumbed and eight out of ten of our guard died. During the intense heat of that first summer, malaria, typhoid and dysentery attacked the prisoners, so that all the men, women and children were sick at one time. There were no doctors, no medicine, no proper food and no medical treatment of any kind. I used to make broth for the people and as I had much practice, I made good broth," said Abdul Baha, laughingly.

At this point one of the Persians explained to me that it was on account of Abdul Baha's untiring patience, resource and endurance that he was termed "The Master of Acca." I felt a mastership in his complete severance from time and place and from all that even a Turkish prison could inflict. "The Master" continued:

"After two years of the strictest confinement, permission was granted me to find a house, so that we could live outside the prison walls but still within the fortifications. Many believers came from Persia to join us, but were not allowed to do so. Nine years passed. Sometimes we were better off and sometimes very much worse. It depended on the governor, who, if he happened to be a kind and lenient ruler, would grant us permission to leave the fortification and would

19

allow the people free access to visit the house; but when the governor was more rigorous, extra guards were placed around us and often pilgrims who had come from afar were turned away."

Again my Persian friend, who, during these troublous time was a member of Abdul Baha's household, explained that the Turkish Government could not credit the fact that the interest of the English and American visitors was spiritual and not political. Finally, pilgrims were refused permission to see him and the whole trip from America would be rewarded merely by a glimpse of Abdul Baha from his prison window. The government suspected that the tomb of the Bab, an imposing building on Mount Carmel, was a fortification erected with the aid of American money and that it was being armed and garrisoned secretly. Suspicion grew with each new arrival, resulting in extra spies and guards.

Abdul Baha continued: "One year before Abdul Hamid was dethroned, he sent an extremely overbearing, treacherous and insulting committee of investigation. The chairman was one of the governor's staff, Arif Bey, and with him were three army commanders of varying rank.

"Immediately upon his arrival, Arif Bey proceeded to try and get proof strong enough to denounce me to the Sultan and warrant sending me to Fezan, or throwing me into the sea. Fezan is a caravan station on the boundary of Tripoli, where there are no houses and no water. It is a month's journey by camel route from Acca.

20

"The committee, after denouncing me in their report, sent word that they wanted to see me, but I declined. I assured them that I had no desire to meet them. This infuriated them and when they sent for me again I sent this word back: 'I know your purpose. You wish to incriminate me. Very well, write in your report just what you like; send me a copy with instructions as to what you want me to write, and I will seal it myself and give it to you.'

"A ship came into port reputed to be the one that was to take me to Fezan or drop me into the sea. The people used to stand on the wall of the city and look at this ship; but Arif Bey, rising in supreme wrath, declared that he would return to Constantinople and bring back an order from the Sultan to have me hanged at the gate of Acca.

"About this time another ship appeared in the harbor, an Italian vessel sent by order of the Italian consul. On it I was to escape by night. The friends implored me to go, but I sent this message to the captain: 'The Bab did not run away; BAHA'O'LLAH did not run away; I shall not run away' — so the ship sailed away after waiting three days and three nights.

"It was while the Sultan's committee of investigation was homeward bound that the first historic shell was dropped into Abdul Hamid's camp and the first gun of freedom was fired into the home of despotism. That was God's gun," said Abdul Baha, with one of his wonderful smiles.

"When the committee reached Constantinople

21

they had more urgent things to think of. The capital was in a state of uproar and rebellion and the committee, as members of the government staff, were delegated to investigate the insurrection. Meanwhile the people established a constitutional government and Abdul Hamid was deposed.

"With the advent of the Young Turk's supremacy, realized through the Society of Union and Progress, in 1898, all the political and religious prisoners of the Ottoman Empire were freed. Events took the chains from my neck and placed them about Hamid's. Abdul baha came out of prison and Abdul Hamid went in!"

"What became of the committee?" was asked.

"Arif Bey," answered Abdul Baha, "was shot with three bullets; the general was exiled; the next in rank died suddenly and the third ran away to Cairo where he sought and received help from some of the friends there."

"We are glad that you are free," I said.

Again the wonderous smile. "Freedom is not a matter of place. It is a condition. I was thankful for the prison and the lack of liberty was very pleasing to me, for those days were passed in the path of service under the utmost difficulties and trials, bearing fruits and results.

"Unless one accepts dire vicissitudes he will not attain. To me prison is freedom; troubles rest me; incarceration is an open court; death is life and to be despised is honor. Therefore, I was happy all that time in prison. When one

22

is released from the prison of self, that is indeed freedom, for self is the greater prison. When this release takes place, one can never be imprisoned. They used to put my feet in stocks so," and he put out his feet before him to illustrate and laughed as though it were a joke he enjoyed.

"I would say to the guard 'You cannot imprison me, for here I have light and air and bread and water. There will come a time when my body will be in the ground and I shall have neither light nor air nor food nor water, but even then I shall not be imprisoned.' The afflictions which come to humanity sometimes tend to center the consciousness upon the limitations. This is a veritable prison. Release comes by making of the will a door through which the confirmations of the spirit come."

This sounded so like the old theology that the modern within me rebelled doubting if the discipline really compensated for the effort.

"What do you mean by the confirmations of the spirit?" I asked.

"The confirmations of the spirit are all those powers and gifts with which some are born and which men sometimes call genius, but for which others have to strive with infinite pains. They come to that man or woman who accepts his life with radiant acquiescence."

Radiant acquiescence — that was the quality with which we suddenly seemed inspired as Abdul Baha bade us good-bye.

It was a remarkable experience, hearing one

23

who had passed along the prison path for forty years declare, "There is no prison save the prison of self"; and it drove conviction to the heart as this white-robed messenger from the East pointed the way out; not by renunciation, but by radiant acquiescence — the shining pathway out of the "greater prison of self."

24


Go to next chapter

Back to Published books
Baha'i Academics Resource Library ][ Sacred Writings ][ Search
Primary sources ][ Secondary sources ][ Resources and etc.
Bulletin board ][ Links ][ Personal pages ][ Other sites hosted by the Library