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Abstract:
Overview of Abdu'l-Baha's travels through North America, newspaper coverage of his talks, and first-hand accounts of meeting him.

`Abdu'l-Bahá:
Speaking in America

by Allan L. Ward

published in World Order, 6:2, pages 38-48
1971-72 Winter
THE AMERICAN speaking tour of 'Abdu'l-Bahá[1] in 1912 proved to be one of the most unusual events in the history of public address. He attracted listeners by the thousands from coast to coast and was followed by an enthusiastic press and public. Such was the effect of 'Abdu'l-Bahá that a noted columnist of the day, Elbert Flubbard, later wrote (New York American, 1 Mar. 1915), "When he went to Washington and swept through the Capitol even the Supreme Court of the United States saw fit to adjourn: the House the same, and the Senate, for a while, at least, forgot matters of investigation."

The eight-month tour is a study in diversity. 'Abdu'l-Bahá's audiences ranged from international notables in embassy settings to derelicts in the Bowery, from prominent church congregations to atheists, from university convocations to children's meetings. He was eulogized throughout Europe and America as a great speaker, yet He had never delivered a public speech before His sixty-seventh year. Platform introductions extolled his range of knowledge in religious, social, philosophical and scientific matters; throngs of people who sought Him out for interviews and endless streams of reporters quoted His wit and wisdom. Yet, as one of the reporters noted, "this versatility, this capacity to reason and form suggestive theories on any subject, is all the more amazing when one remembers that ... he was wholly cut off from the world of culture, has never known a single year of schooling."[2] He refused large sums of money offered to Him; instead He contributed from his own meager funds to some of His audiences. Representatives of countries where He had been persecuted honored Him publicly in America.

His whole life reflected the same diversity, He had been born in Persia into an immensely wealthy family which had been reduced to poverty almost overnight. In exile at the age of eight with His family, He was at thirty-one the author of a book concerning the


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principles of establishing a world civilization, a book which is still in print and increasing in annual sales ninety years after it was written.[3] For His journey to the United States in 1912 Americans subscribed $18,000 and suggested that he come on the maiden voyage of the Titanic; He returned all of the money, requesting that it be given to charity, and came on the Cedric.[4] He organized medical facilities and an extensive agricultural program that fed thousands in Palestine during the First World War. The New York World (1 Dec. 1912) noted, "When Gen. Allenby swept up the coast from Egypt, he went for counsel first to 'Abdu'l-Bahá" and then Allenby cabled London. "Have today taken Palestine. Notify the world that Abdu'l-Bahá is safe."[5] As a result of the


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respect and gratitude of the local population and of the British authorities, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Who had been threatened with crucifixion by the Turkish Commander-in-Chief only a short time before, was made a Knight of the British Empire.

THE LIFETIME of diverse circumstances that led to 'Abdu'l-Bahá's unusual tour of America began with His birth on May 23, 1844, in Persia. All of the records of His childhood reflect extraordinary ability from His earliest years. One biographer wrote, "During these years Abbas Effendi was accustomed to frequent the mosques and argue with the doctors and learned men. They were astonished at his knowledge and acumen, and he came to be known as the youthful sage." They would ask him, "Who is your teacher - where do you learn the things which you say?" His reply was that his father had taught him. Although he had never been a day in school, he was as proficient in all that was taught as well-educated young men, which was the cause of much remark among those who knew him.[6] His Father, acknowledged in written records as His only teacher, was Himself totally unschooled in any formal sense.

In the same year of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's birth, 1844, a man titled the "Báb," meaning "Gate" in Persian, indicated that he had the mission of "opening the way for another "Messenger from God" Who would imminently reveal teachings to unite the world. Through a series of involved circumstances, too lengthy to detail here, the number of the Bab's followers grew rapidly and widely. The government and clergy responded by inciting the populace to kill them by the thousands and by maneuvering the execution of the Bab Himself in 1850.

One of the Bab's followers, Bahá'u'lláh, Whose title means "the Glory of God," emerged as the center of leadership of the decimated Bábí community. In 1863 He proclaimed that He was the One foretold by the Bab and the latest in a line of Messengers from God, including, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. Persecution descended on Him and His family, and they were exiled several times. In each instance, His influence grew to such proportions, and His teachings of the unification of all religions, races, and nations drew such an enthusiastic following, that He was exiled to another place, passing in this manner from Persia through Iraq and Turkey, to the city of Akka, in Palestine. There His influence grew to such a degree that Edward Granville Browne, a noted Cambridge orientalist, could write in 1891after an interview with Bahá'u'lláh, "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!"[7] These events bear directly on the life of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, for Bahá'u'lláh was His Father.

'Abdu'l-Bahá's sister recalled their early childhood days in Persia: "... we heard each day the cries of the mob as a new victim was tortured or executed, not knowing but that it might be my father...I spent the long days... afraid to unlock the door lest men should rush in and kill us."[8] She also recalled how, they had been sent out of the country in exile, over the mountains in winter without adequate provisions or clothing: "It was bitterly cold ... My brother in particular was very thinly clad...his feet, ankles, hands, and wrists were much exposed to the cold, which was so severe that they became frostbitten and swollen and caused him great pain."[9]

During the more peaceful periods of the exile, 'Abdu'l-Bahá became his father's closest companion. "Although a mere youth," an early believer, J. E. Esslemont wrote, "He already showed astonishing sagacity and discrimination, and undertook the task of interviewing all the numerous visitors who came to see His Father."[10] In His will, His Father named 'Abdu'l-Bahá the Center of His Covenant, indicating that He was the "perfect interpreter" of His Word, When the Young Turks revolution overthrew the existing gov-


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ernment in 1908, all religious and political prisoners of the Ottoman regime were freed, including 'Abdu'l-Bahá, after more than half a century of exile and imprisonment. Such was His background when, at the age of sixty-seven, He embarked for America.

'ABDU'L-BAHÁ arrived in America on April 11 and departed on December 5, 1912. His average day began between 4:00 and 6:00 a.m., when he frequently dealt with a continuous worldwide correspondence, and ended well after midnight. He often presented three or more major addresses a day, both to formal audiences numbering one or two thousand and to smaller groups who sought Him out wherever He went. The greater part of His remaining time was occupied with private conferences and interviews with individuals and small groups who wanted to speak with Him personally.

An example of a day's diverse activities is April 23, in Washington, D.C. 'Abdu'l-Bahá addressed a gathering of parents and children at Studio Hall concerning the education of children; attended a reception in His honor and addressed government officials and international representatives at the home of the socially prominent Parsons family; spoke on the "nature of life and death" in one of the ghetto areas of the city; and proceeded about 9:00 p.m., to address an audience of scientists and friends personally invited by Alexander Graham Bell to his home, where, after speaking and answering questions until midnight, 'Abdu'l-Bahá remained as a guest. Another example is April 30, His first full day in Chicago. He spoke to an assembly of several hundred at Jane Addams' Hull House, addressed the Fourth Annual Convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and delivered a public address to an audience of more than two thousand at the Masonic Temple.[11]

Much of His packed schedule was apparently developed as He went. The Minneapolis Tribune (19 Sept. 1912) noted, "Just how long `Abdu'l- Bahá will remain in the city isn't known, even by his most intimate associates, as he never makes engagements ahead, and has no formal program on his itinerary across the continent... He has about him, to the native American, a mysterious something." With such flexibility, He visited New York, Buffalo, Montreal, Jersey City, Washington, Boston, Cambridge, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Denver, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, as well as small towns, including Eliot, Maine, and Dublin, New Hampshire.

'Abdu'l-Bahá's enormously varied speaking engagements included presentations, besides those already mentioned, in synagogues and churches; the International Peace Forum and various peace societies; Columbia, Howard, and Stanford Universities; the Reading Room for the Blind in San Francisco; the Chicago Athletic Association; theosophical societies; Esperantist groups; the Green Acre Institute in Maine; the Commercial Club in Minneapolis; the Japanese YMCA in Oakland; the Persian-American Society in Washington; the Bethel Literary and Historical Society; the Bowery Mission; and the Atheist's Club in San Francisco. He was the featured speaker for the Unitarians' national conference; shared the platform with Samuel Gompers, President of the American Federation of Labor, at the D.A.R. Continental Memorial Hall in Washington, D.C.; and addressed gatherings in the Town Hall in Fanwood, New Jersey, in the Persian Embassy and the Turkish Embassy in Washington, and in hotel assembly rooms and banquet halls across the country. He visited William Jennings Bryan's home in Lincoln, Nebraska, to repay a visit. Bryan had tried to make to 'Abdu'l-Bahá in 'Akka, and had tea with Mrs. Bryan and her daughter, He was invited by Admiral Peary, who was recently acknowledged as discoverer of the North Pole, to address the Unity Club in Brooklyn; was sought out by former President of he United States, Theodore Roosevelt; was honored with a farewell breakfast by the Trea-


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surer of the United States, Lee McClung; and visited the home of another official who "took Him ['Abdu'l-Bahá] in his embrace and wept for joy and happiness."[12]

Delegations of various religious groups expressed their deep regard for 'Abdu'l-Bahá. The Hindu Club of Chicago issued an invitation for Him to visit India, saying they felt His teachings of unity could join together the Hindus and Muslims.[13] In an article headed, "Believe Abdul Bahá May Be Second Dowie," the Chicago Examiner (2 May 1912) told how the founders of Zion, Illinois asked 'Abdu'l-Bahá to visit them, because, "We believe that Bahá may be the teacher who is appointed to lead us out of our troubles."

BASED on the accounts of those who heard and interviewed Him, 'Abdu'l-Bahá might be termed, according to the classical rhetorical description, "a good man speaking well." Scholars of classical public address have said that the greatest speaker must have altruistic attributes and ideas and the ability to communicate them clearly and interestingly. Edward Granville Browne wrote after meeting 'Abdu'l-Bahá, "Seldom have I seen one whose appearance impressed me more...Subsequent conversation with him served only to heighten the respect with which his appearance had from the first inspired me. One more eloquent of speech, more ready of argument, more apt of illustration...could, I should think, scarcely be found...These qualities, combined with a bearing at once majestic and genial, made me cease to wonder at the influence and esteem which he enjoyed...About the greatness of this man and his power no one who had seen him could entertain a doubt."[14]

A reporter who went from Europe to interview Him in 'Akka before He came to America wrote, "He possesses to a positively miraculous degree the faculty of interesting himself in every human soul..." and added, "above all, he possesses that subtler quality of spirituality which is felt rather than understood by those with whom he comes in contact."[15] Mrs. Phoebe Hearst, wife of Senator Hearst, and mother of William Randolph Hearst, after spending three days with 'Abdu'l-Bahá in 'Akka wrote, "Those three days were the most memorable of my life, my greatest blessing in this world is that I have been privileged to be in His presence, and look upon His sanctified face." Elsewhere she added, "I must say, He is the Most Wonderful Being I have ever met or ever expect to meet in this world...The spiritual atmosphere which surrounds Him and most powerfully affects all those who are blest by being near Him, is indescribable..."[16] Louis Gregory, in Independent magazine, observed, "...during his visit Americans will see one who steadily grows in popular favor and is even now regarded by some millions of people as the foremost man of the world."[17]

A reporter for the New York Tribune (5 May 1912) who went to interview 'Abdu'l Bahá at His hotel wrote, "...why I should have expected to have the Bahá all to myself I do not know, but I did." She remarked that, "... I looked about to find myself one of a concourse of people, all actuated by the same interest. Yet, even among "a concourse of people", 'Abdu'l-Bahá never lost sight of individual souls." One woman recalled that on meeting 'Abdu'l-Bahá, "He came to each one of us and took our hands in His, with a loving greeting and a few words...I felt an electric shock that went from my head to my feet." She was so attracted that, thereafter, she wrote, whenever He spoke "in homes or churches, halls or societies, I went almost at the cost of my position..."[18]

ABUNDANT DESCRIPTIONS of 'Abdu'l-Bahá have been written. One observer said He was "strongly and solidly built", weighing about "one hundred and sixty-five pounds", adding that He was "alert and active in every movement, his head thrown back and splendidly poised upon his broad, square shoulders..."[19] Another described Him as having


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"perfect symmetry," and being "full of dignity and grace."[20]

Newspapers photographed Him frequently, and many persons wrote verbal descriptions of His face. One said, "His bright, fair face, light brown in complexion, was framed in silvery white beard and moustache...His nose was large, straight and strong. The mouth was rather full and very gentle. Deep under the broad forehead, and shaded by white, thick eyebrows, shone the wondrous eyes, large, prominent, brilliant, penetrating and kind. Around the dark pupil and brown iris is that wonderful blue circle which, sometimes makes the eyes look a perfect blue."[21]

'Abdu'l-Bahá's striking appearance was accentuated by His Persian garments. These included a full-length, light-colored robe, over which He wore an 'aba, or outer cloak, and on His head, a low-crowned fez, with a fine-linen turban of white wound around the base.

His general movements were equally striking One observer wrote, "He had the stride and freedom of a king or shepherd. My impression of him was that of a lion, a kingly, masterful Man of the most sweet and generous disposition...I found in 'Abdu'l-Bahá a man, strong, powerful, without a thought as to any act as free and unstilted as a father with his family or a boy with playmates. Yet each movement, his walk, his greeting, his sitting down and rising up were eloquent of Power, full of dignity, freedom and ability."[22]

The records indicate that in America He always spoke without note of any kind. His addresses were in Persian and a translator rendered the words into English, phrase by phrase. 'Abdu'l-Bahá stood, sat, or paced back and forth, depending on the location, occasion, size, and seating arrangement of the room. Usually the translator stood a step behind Him and to the side or, when He paced, remained in a fixed position in the front of the room. 'Abdu'l-Bahá's gestures were described as being an "encouraging upward swing of hands," with "never an upraised warning finger" nor a "downward stroke."[23]

There are numerous references on the part of observers to their sensing the meaning of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's words even before the translation took place. Howard Colby Ives, who was a Unitarian minister when he met 'Abdu'l-Bahá, cites several examples. "One listened entranced," he wrote, "and understood inwardly even before the interpreter opened his mouth. It was as though the English skimmed the surface..."[24] About 'Abdu'l-Bahá's chanting a prayer in Persian, Ives stated, "In spite of the fact that the language was Persian, and so of course, unfamiliar to me, the impression I received was that of understanding. So vivid was this that the interpreter's translation came as a shock."[25] In San Francisco an uneducated miner, who attended one of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's talks asked repeatedly about the translator, "Why does that man interrupt?" When told he was translating from Persian to English, the man responded, "Was He ['Abdu'l-Bahá] speaking in Persian? Why anyone could understand that."[26]

Observers spoke of His seeming to look at each member of the audience. One found, "in His, eyes a living flame which seemed to ignite a smoldering spark within me."[27] Another added that they seemed to "look into you instead of at you," with "an expression that is alert, intelligent, and serene.[28]

He was described as having great amounts of energy which were carefully controlled; yet His appearance was relaxed. Elbert Hubbard wrote in Hearst's Magazine that 'Abdu'l-Bahá "listens with much appreciation and sympathy" and that He speaks "slowly, distinctly, and most impressively." Hubbard concluded, "He knows what he is saying. His heart is full and his, emotions are brimming, although kept well under control."[29]

Reports mentioned His voice "filling the room," however small or large the room might be, but never being overly loud. An American called 'Abdu'l-Bahá's voice "honey-


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like,"[30] and a Persian companion referred to it as "sweeter than honey.[31] It was "like a resonant bell of finest timbre...of such penetrating quality that the walls of the room seemed to vibrate with its music."[32]

A writer for Independent magazine summarized 'Abdu'l-Bahá's appearance and physical delivery, describing Him as having "...a long white heard and saintly face, worn but peaceful." He continued, "His bearing is simple but dignified, unembarrassed by unaccustomed surroundings, giving his message...to a strange audience in a foreign land with the same earnestness and naturalness as though he were addressing his disciples in Acre.... Standing upon the floor or walking to and fro, he speaks quietly in Persian, which, sentence by sentence, is translated, though at times his expressive features and gestures make the services of an interpreter superfluous."[33]

THOSE WHO HEARD 'Abdu'l-Bahá in these diverse settings sought to understand the source of His vast knowledge. Irene Earle remarked, in a Survey magazine article, that "Scientists and men of affairs who have met him marvel at his wisdom and common-sense knowledge of world conditions, questioning how he can meet them on their own level when he has been a political prisoner for forty years."[34] Another writer observed, "Among the most learned of men he is as much at home as among the poor and humble. This is very remarkable, as he has never attended school and studied books after the manner of men. Last spring the writer met him [before he came to America]...and found him as much conversant with conditions in America...as one who had lived here all his life."[35]

'Abdu'l-Bahá always stressed that His knowledge and His teachings came from Bahá'u'lláh. His addresses in America usually concerned single themes such as the establishment of universal peace, the unity of nations or races, the equality of men and women, the unity of science and religion, and the oneness of all religions. All of these principles were part of a larger system that comprised His Father's Teachings. 'Abdu'l-Bahá taught His Father's message, that God had spoken to mankind through a series of Manifestations; that these Manifestations appeared from age to age and were perfect in action and word; that They each fulfilled the prophecies of Those that came before and foretold Those to come afterward; that They each brought two kinds of teachings - spiritual teachings, concerning love, justice, mercy, and the like, which did not change through the ages, and social teachings, which were adapted for the conditions of the place and age to which they were revealed; and that Bahá'u'lláh was the latest of these Messengers, that His spiritual Teachings reflected those of the past, and that His social Teachings were new and would form the basis for the unification of the entire world.

'Abdu'l-Bahá's talks reflected, as appropriate to the occasion, facets of this world-embracing system. To the federated women's clubs of Illinois, He spoke of the equality of men and women, to the NAACP convention, He spoke of the oneness of mankind; to the New York Peace Society, He spoke of the establishment of world peace; at a synagogue, He spoke of the unity of the teachings of Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, and Bahá'u'lláh; to those who professed belief in His Father's Teachings, He spoke of the history of the religion, the early martyrs and their sacrifices, and the needs and methods of self-purification.

His presentations began with brief introductions, often noting something in the environment, and then moved directly into the key idea. He supported the central theme in a variety of ways with examples, illustrations, explanations, and quotations; and he used arguments based on both inductive and deductive reasoning.

THE PURPOSES of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's trip were two. To the general public, He promulgated ideas concerning world peace and the unification of religions, races, and nations. To those


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who already acknowledged His Father's Teachings He urged the importance of living according to those Teachings and of helping others to understand them.

About the first purpose, Wendell Phillips wrote, "He comes on a mission of international peace..."[36] The New York Times (12 Apr. 1912) quoted 'Abdu'l-Bahá as saying that He was ready to speak "wherever an audience can be found to welcome peace and promote the realization of the brotherhood of man." According to the Washington Evening Star (20 Apr. 1912), 'Abdu'l-Bahá stated, "The great object of my life is to promote the oneness of the kingdom of humanity and international peace..." And the San Francisco Examiner reported that He said, "I have come to America to promote the ideal of Universal Peace and the solidarity of the human race."[37]

About the second purpose, deepening the Bahá'ís in Bahá'u'lláh's Teachings.[38] He stressed the need for profound personal development of attributes such as justice, mercy, trustworthiness, truthfullness, honesty, and love. He urged them to channel their efforts into undertakings for human well-being. This emphasis is shown in His farewell address: "This is my last meeting with you... I have repeatedly summoned you to the cause of the unity of the world of humanity...Therefore you must manifest the greatest kindness and love toward the nations of the world, setting aside fanaticism, abandoning religious, national and racial prejudice...You must therefore look toward each other and then toward mankind with the utmost love and kindness."[39]

The immediate response of the general public was one of acclaim. During presentations observers noted that 'Abdu'l-Bahá "was followed with close attention by the large audience."[40] and that "The address was received with breathless attention ... "[41] In public halls and universities, reports indicate prolonged applause following His talks, as when His address "was followed by a positive ovation and a recall."[42] and elsewhere when


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there was "a positive ovation."[43] In churches and synagogues, observers noted the same "deep silence which followed 'Abdu'l-Bahá's stirring address"[44] at Westminster Palace Hotel in London, "On one occasion at the Plymouth Congregational Church in Chicago, at the morning worship service, the congregation stood and, even though in the church sanctuary, burst into prolonged cheers that stopped only when 'Abdu'l-Bahá motioned them to silence."[45] One writer commented, "the divine fire of this man's ['Abdu'l-Bahá's] spirituality is bound to illuminate the dark corners of our imaginations and open up to us a spiritual realm which we would do well to go in and possess."[46]

Editorial response was overwhelmingly favorable. Often 'Abdu'l-Bahá's life and His speaking as a single entity were discussed. A Harper's Weekly article, for example, noted that 'Abdu'l-Bahá and His Father "have this in addition, that, holding the universal truths, they have honestly and in the face of dire persecution striven to carry them out. They live their religion, as well as teach it. This is their power."[47] Other commentators combined their response to His life and speaking as a part of the "whole religious system He represented. A writer in the Independent magazine concluded that the Bahá'í Faith "has proven its vitality, its reality, not only by inspiring its adherents to suffer martyrdom by the thousands ... but still more by inspiring them to live together in peace and harmony."[48] Some reviews of His speaking described the effect on those who followed the teachings. A Survey magazine article noted, "Wherever a Bahái center has been formed, there has been a new spirit and a new impetus to progress...Baháis...are back of or within every progressive movement... Baháis by thousands, unlabelled, are pushing the various peace organizations of different countries."[49]

"Letters to the Editor" columns also contained references to 'Abdu'l-Bahá's addresses, including such statements as, "I enjoyed greatly hearing to-day this eloquent visitor from the Orient." and "those who have heard Abdu'l Bahá speak ... must carry away in their hearts a high resolve to break down all barriers to human brotherhood."[50] Even the literary world responded, and Macmillan published Gertrude Atherton's novel in which the heroine went to 'Akka, explaining, "I went to see Abdu'l Bahá Abbas and investigate the new religion..."[51]

A few negative voices were heard as well. A Presbyterian missionary who had been in Persia for almost forty years criticized 'Abdu'l-Bahá's teachings, although he praised Him personally, saying that he greatly feared that the Bahá'í Faith "may find fruitful ground in the United States and I am anxious to raise my voice and urge Christians to crush it in its infancy." But he added, "Last September I called on Abdu'l Bahá...I found him a man of great affability and courtesy."[52] A San Francisco Monitor editorial (5 Oct. 1912) warned, "...If Catholics should find themselves bitten by curiosity to look into these diabolical things ['Abdu'l-Bahá's teachings]..." then they should "Stay at home and say the Rosary instead."

After 'Abdu'l-Bahá spoke at the Church of the Ascension in New York, the New York Herald (15 Apr. 1912) reported that some of the congregation thought He had violated Canon Nineteen of the Episcopal Church which "forbids any one not episcopally ordained from preaching in an Episcopal pulpit without the consent of the bishop. There is no provision against a non-ordained person offering prayer within the chance, it was said, because no such contingency was anticipated." The bishop, himself, came to apologize for these statements, and the minister invited 'Abdu'l-Bahá back to the church.

After 1912, the public mention of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's visit to America appeared intermittently in the press, usually related to some contemporary news story. When 'Abdu'l-Bahá died in 1921, the New York World (1 Dec, 1921), in a front page article, indicated, "Never before Abdu'l Bahá did the


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leader of an Oriental religious movement visit the United States..." When, in 1943, the Bahá'í House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois, for which 'Abdu'l-Bahá had laid the foundation stone in 1912, was completed, Time magazine (24 May 1943, p.36) recalled how the place had been "blessed by Abdu'l-Bahá himself."

As articles about the Bahá'í Faith have increased in number and frequency in recent years, mention of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's tour is often made in recounting its history. An article in The Negro History Bulletin in 1959 began, "In 1912 a great spiritual figure came to the shores of our American continent."[53] Denominational publications with increasing frequency summarize the Bahá'í Faith and mention 'Abdu'l-Bahá's travels here. The Lutheran Youth magazine, for example, noted that, "Under his ['Abdu'l-Bahá's] leadership Bahá'í spread to Europe and America. In 1912 he laid the cornerstone for the temple in Wilmette..."[54]

The preceding items indicate the reaction of the public to 'Abdu'l-Bahá's speaking tour. The effectiveness of the second, and long range, purpose of His visit - that of urging the Bahá'ís to spread the teachings of brotherhood, peace, and justice as contained in His father's Teachings during the decades to come to all parts of the world in all languages - can best be measured by the response His words evoked and the degree to which the Bahá'ís fulfilled His request. In 1912, Bahá'í literature existed primarily in Persian, Arabic, and English; by 1968 it had been translated into 421 languages.[55] It is difficult to identify the exact number of locations in America in which Bahá'ís resided in 1912, but estimates would seem to be below two hundred. By 1968, there were over 2,600 locations in the United States and Canada including each state and province.[56] The number of centers throughout the world in 1912 was estimated at under 400, located in fewer than 20 countries and territories; by 1968 there were 31,572 locations in 314 countries and territories.[57]

WHILE preparing this article in 1969, this writer attended the Bahá'í Institute held each Fall at Greenlake, Wisconsin, attended by several hundred people. A major portion of study concerned the life and American speaking tour of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. The diversity of persons attending would have pleased Him, considering that one of His purposes was "to unite mankind," for there were people of all ages from teen-aged youth to octogenarians; representatives of major religious backgrounds, and former atheists and agnostics, most of them now Bahá'ís a variety of ethnic backgrounds and skin colors; some individuals with doctorates and some nearly illiterate persons with occupations ranging from scientific to farming; and representatives of all income levels. Thus in modern day America - and similar groups in all the continents were studying the same subject - the review of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's words and actions as a speaker more than half a century ago not only continues, but accelerates, and attracts not only the serious researcher, but representatives of the many strata of society to whom 'Abdu'l-Bahá spoke, and for whom He now, serves as the foremost Example not only of a "good man speaking well" but also of a whole life-style to be understood and emulated.

In the words of the reporter who spent months in personal interviews with Him and His family and associates in the prison city of 'Akka, "I have shown you now, as best I am able, what manner of man is this Abbas Effendi ... That the faith which he holds and the creed which he preaches might be followed with benefit by us all, there is no gainsaying, he is a sincere, courageous man, a figure whose increasing influence is already world-wide in its significance."[58]


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Endnotes

  1. Abdu'l-Bahá is a title in Arabic meaning the Servant of the Glory (of God); His given name was 'Abbás.
  2. E S. Stevens, "Light in the Lantern," Everybody's 25 (Dec. 1911), p, 782,
  3. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization, (Wilmette, Ill.; Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1957)
  4. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace (Wilmette, Ill.; Bahá'í Publishing Committee, 1943), p. ii.
  5. Lady Bloomfield, The Chosen Highway (Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1970), p. 220.
  6. Myron H. Phelps, Life and Teachings of Abbas Effendi (New York: Putnam, 1904), p. 25.
  7. Edward G. Browne, trans., A Traveller's Narrative (New York: Bahá'í Publishing Committee, 1930), p. xi; for detailed history of the Bab and Bahá'u'lláh, see Nabil, The Dawn-Breakers, trans. and ed. Shoghi Effendi (Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1962); John Ferraby, All Things Made New (Wilmette, Ill.; Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1960); and Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By (Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1950).
  8. Phelps, pp. 14-15.
  9. Ibid., p. 16.
  10. J. E. Esslemont, Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era (Wilmette, Ill.; Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1970), p. 52.
  11. Several of these addresses can be found in The Promulgation of Universal Peace.
  12. From notations under 27 Apr. 1912, in Mahmud's Diary, National Bahá'í Archives, Wilmette, Ill., an unpublished translation made from Mahmud-i-Zarqani, Badayi-ul-Athar, 2 vols. (Bombay: 1914,1921).
  13. Ibid., 3 May, 1912.
  14. Browne, p. xxxvi.
  15. Stevens, p. 780,
  16. Quoted in Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 258
  17. L. G. Gregory, "Bahá'í Movement," Independent, 72 (11 Apr. 1912), p. 772.
  18. Unpublished notes of Bertha Rohr Clark, National Bahá'í Archives, Wilmette, Ill.
  19. Wendell Phillips Dodge, "Abdu'l-Bahá's Arrival in America," Star of the West, 3, No. 3 (28 Apr. 1912), p. 3.
  20. Blomfield, p.150.
  21. Thornton Chase, In Galilee (Chicago: Bahá'í Publishing Committee, 1921), pp. 28-29.
  22. Ibid., p. 29.
  23. Howard Colby Ives, Portals to Freedom (London: George Ronald, 1962), p.127.
  24. Ibid., p. 43.
  25. Ibid., p. 98.
  26. Ibid., pp. 98-99.
  27. Ibid., p. 90.
  28. Stevens, p. 779.
  29. Elbert Hubbard, "A Modern Prophet," Hearst's Magazine, 22 (Jul. 1912), p. 50.
  30. Ives, p.98.
  31. Story Supplement to God Passes By (Wilmette, Ill.; Bahá'í Publishing Committee, 1948), p. 63.
  32. Ives, p. 127.
  33. "Persian Prophet," Independent, 73 (18 Jul. 1912), p. 159.
  34. Irene Earle, "Leader of the Bahá'í Movement," The Survey, 28 (27 Apr. 1912), p. 179.
  35. Gregory, p. 772.
  36. Star of the West, 3, No. 3 (28 Apr. 1912), p. 3.
  37. Star of the West, 4, No. 12 (6 Oct. 1913), p. 207
  38. An "í" following an Arabic or Persian word signifies "a follower of"; hence a Bahá'í is a follower of Bahá'u'lláh, and the religion is the "Bahá'í" Faith.
  39. The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 464-466.
  40. The Palo Altan, 1 Nov. 1912, p. 1.
  41. Star of the West, 3, No. 3 (28 Apr. 1912) p. 7.
  42. Ibid.
  43. Story Supplement to God Passes By, p. 53.
  44. Star of the West, 3, No. 17 (19 Jan. 1913), p.9.
  45. Mahmud, 4 May 1912.
  46. Hubbard, p. 51.
  47. Charles Johnson, "A Ray from the East," Harper's Weekly 59 (20 Jul. 1912), p. 9.
  48. "The Persian Prophet," p. 159.
  49. Earle, p.179.
  50. New York City Mail, 29 Apr. 1911.
  51. Quoted in New York City Globe, 22 Apr. 1912.
  52. New York City Sun, 21 Apr. 1912.
  53. Etta Woodlen, "What Is the Bahá'í World Faith," The Negro History Bulletin, 23 (Oct. 1959), p. 13.
  54. "Bahá'í, The World's Largest Merger," Lutheran Youth, 47 (16 Aug. 1959), p. 11.
  55. The Bahá'í Faith, Statistical Information 1844 - 1968 (Haifa, Israel: The Universal House of justice, 1968), p.11. In 1971 Bahá'í literature has been translated into over 428 languages.
  56. Ibid., pp. 87, 90, 95. In 1971 Bahá'ís reside in over 4,000 localities in America.
  57. Ibid., pp. 76, 78, 99. In 1971 Bahá'ís reside in over 42,000 centers throughout the world.
  58. Stevens, p. 786
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