The Chosen Highway
PART III: 'Abdu'l-Bahá
"My father was much with Bahá'u'lláh.
"One night Bahá'u'lláh, as He walked back and forth in His room, said to my father:
"`At stated periods souls are sent to earth by the Mighty God with what we call "the Power of the Great Ether." And they who possess this power can do anything; they have all Power....'
"Jesus Christ had this Power.
"The people thought of Him as a poor young man, Whom they had crucified; but He possessed the Power of the Great Ether, therefore He could not remain underground. This ethereal Power arose and quickened the world. And now look to the Master, for this Power is His."
1892 to 1908 After the passing, from this visible, mortal world, of Bahá'u'lláh, His devoted disciples turned their faces to the beloved Master, `Abbas Effendi. "`Abbas Effendi" was the name by which He was known by all who came into His presence in those days, the dwellers in `Akka and the country round about, and also by the many who came to ask His help and counsel in problems great and small.
To all comers He was the "Father of Compassion" and helpfulness; in His presence was rest; in His words peace and joy, love, and a wonderful wisdom.
Beyond the comprehension of the people, in whose midst He walked, to the pilgrims, who journeyed from Persia, Arabia, and gradually from America and Europe, the Master was also their adored Lord, Who had been appointed to establish the teaching of His Father.
The personality of Bahá'u'lláh, the pilgrims understood to have dwelt in a human temple, where the clouds of humanity veiled the mystery and the majesty of Divinity. They thought of Him as the Mouthpiece, the Manifestation of the Spirit of the Divine Father, Who had arisen to re-educate the world, which had forsaken the Law of Love, given to them nigh two thousand years ago by the Holy One, Christ Jesus, a humanity which had transferred their worship from the Lord of Compassion to that of the Golden Calf.
The pilgrims recognized that Bahá'u'lláh was "He whom God shall make Manifest."
He had fulfilled the prophecies, relative to this Day of God, the prophecies which were contained in the Holy books of the great religions of the world.
A mighty part of the Mission of Bahá'u'lláh was to bring about
the cessation of "the fruitless strifes and the ruinous wars" and to usher in "the Most Great Peace."
He, "Whom God had made Manifest," had suffered persecutions, manifold tortures, imprisonment, and exile for forty years!
From behind the prison door His Voice had proclaimed His Sacred Mission. The Supreme Pen had written Laws for the guidance of the world of the future. The earthly, mortal work was finished. Bahá'u'lláh had returned to the Shelter of Heaven.
Before His Ascension, He had laid the charge upon `Abbas Effendi, His eldest son, to go forth into all the world, to "Sound the solemn call to Regeneration, to carry the glad tidings of the renewal of the Gospel of Peace into every land of earth."
`Abbas Effendi henceforth took the title of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, literally "Servant of Glory."
Now the pilgrims who came from afar understood the glorious Mission which had been entrusted to Him, but the people of the land of Palestine knew not the Station of Bahá'u'lláh and of `Abbas Effendi.
They saw only the Christ-like life; very few of them comprehended anything of the significance of the Great Ones Who walked in their midst.
The reason was this:
The Turkish Government, entirely misunderstanding the matter, gave ear to the false statements of prejudiced and bigoted religionists, and fearing any innovation, exacted a promise from Bahá'u'lláh that no teaching should be given to the dwellers in that country, where the Holy Ones were held as prisoners and exiles.
'Abdu'l-Bahá also continued to respect this promise, so that for the people of that country the Life of the Holy Ones, as lived amongst them, was the Teaching for them. Some souls, by intuition, divined the secret of the stupendous event which was taking place, but for the most part they did not become aware.
At this time many and great difficulties beset 'Abdu'l-Bahá, mainly through those enemies who were of His own kindred and "of His own Father's house." The enemies would approach the various Governors of the Prison City with differing results.
Some of these Governors, being intelligent, and having, moreover, a great admiration for the Master, would reply to the calumnies of these persons:
"I advise you not to make these accusations against your brother; He is a great and wonderful person, of Whom you should be very proud; I do not wish to listen to these obviously untrue tales; do not trouble me again with such things."
Another Governor, not so intelligent, would give ear to the insidious suggestions made by this enemy. For instance:
"`Abbas Effendi has gone to Haifa.
"He has many English and American friends.
"He is building a strong fortification on Mount Carmel. Very soon the whole of Palestine and Syria will be in his hands, and the Turkish Government will be driven out."
Such insinuations seem too absurd to consider, but they constituted ground for fresh persecutions.
Thus 'Abdu'l-Bahá and His family were recalled from Haifa, where they were enjoying the freshness of the air, and, with their dear little children, were again immured in the pestilential atmosphere of the prison city of `Akka.
The Turkish officials at one time tried persistently to entrap the Master into saying something which they would be able to misrepresent as incriminating, but the wisdom of His replies never failed.
On one occasion an unfriendly Governor, hating these peaceful, honest Bahá'ís, thought of a plan for destroying their means of livelihood. He gave orders to the police: "There are fifteen shops owned by Bahá'ís; go to-morrow morning early, lock them up and bring the keys to me."
the Master called the Bahá'ís to Him that same evening and said:
"Do not open your shops to-morrow, but wait and see what God will send to us."
The next morning the Governor waited for the keys. Again he sent them. "Go," he said to the police, "and see if the shops are open." The police announced that the shops were closed.
He waited and waited; at ten o'clock all the shops were still unopened, those shops which were always accustomed to open and be ready for trade at seven o'clock. The Governor was
greatly perplexed. His plan did not seem to be working as he had schemed.
The Mufti (the chief mulla) came to the Governor whilst he waited.
"How are you?" said the Governor.
"Quite well," was the reply, "but very sad; because of a telegram from Damascus, I am full of sorrow."
"Show it to me," said the Governor.
To his consternation he saw that the telegram was from the Vali of Damascus, deposing him from his place as governor, and directing that he be conducted by the police to Damascus.
In fear, sorrow, and amazement he went to his own house to make such preparation as was possible for the hurried and unlooked for journey.
The shops of the friends were saved.
'Abdu'l-Bahá, hearing of the misfortune which had befallen the Governor, went to visit him.
"You must not be sad because of this; everything in this world changes. Can I do anything for you?" He asked of the erstwhile Governor.
"Now that I am being taken away from them, there will be none to care for those I love. My dear family will be sad, lonely, and helpless, with nobody to counsel and aid them in their sore need."
"Do not be filled with grief, but tell me where you wish your family to go."
"If only they could go to Damascus?"
"Now, trust in me, and let your heart be lightened of its distress; I will gladly send an honourable escort with your wife and children to Damascus; you will find that they will be there soon after your own arrival."
The Master sent the family with a trustworthy escort, providing mules and everything needed for the comfort of the journey - quite a formidable undertaking in those days. The command was worded: "Take these persons safely and with great respect to join the Governor at Damascus." A telegram was despatched after they had set out: "I have sent your family to Damascus. They will very soon arrive in safety."
When they arrived in Damascus the Governor, being greatly
rejoiced, enquired of the escort as to the cost of the journey. "It is nothing; I am but obeying the command of the Master."
The Governor then wished to give the escort a present for himself.
"I desire no recompense: I am but obeying the Master's command, I can accept nothing."
When invited to stay the night for rest and refreshment, the reply was:
"I obey the Master's command to return without delay."
"Then I pray you take a letter, which I will write at once to the Master." "O `'Abdu'l-Bahá," the letter read, "I pray you pardon me. I did not understand. I did not know you. I have wrought you great evil. You have rewarded me with great good."
Thus was this enemy, who had indeed wrought great evil to the prisoners, repaid by being loaded with benefits.
Always did 'Abdu'l-Bahá obey this Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh:
Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbour, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face. Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer of the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge. Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men. Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression. Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all thine acts. Be a home for the stranger, a balm to the suffering, a tower of strength for the fugitive. Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be an ornament to the countenance of truth, a crown to the brow of fidelity, a pillar of the temple of righteousness, a breath of life to the body of mankind, an ensign of the hosts of justice, a luminary above the horizon of virtue, a dew to the soil of the human heart, an ark on the ocean of knowledge, a sun in the heaven of bounty, a gem on the diadem of wisdom, a shining light in the firmament of thy generation, a fruit upon the tree of humility."
'Abdu'l-Bahá lived forty years of His sanctified life in the prison fortress town, obeying this holy Tablet, not only in the letter but in the spirit.
* * *
When the dreaded Committee of Investigation arrived from Constantinople, they abode in a large garden, hear the tomb shrine of Bahá'u'lláh.
Enemies of the Master at once busied themselves in sending documents full of false accusations. The people of `Akka, being panic-stricken and full of fear, were careful to avoid any communication with the Master and His family; nobody dared to pay visits to them.
'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote to the Committee, informing them that there were many enemies, who were capable of forging and posting a letter in His name, full of untrue statements. The Committee assured Him that they would beware of and suppress any such document.
After the investigations in `Akka were completed, the Committee proceeded to Haifa, where they examined the building on Mount Carmel.
In the meantime they were awaiting the official farman, confirming the sentence of banishment of the Master to the far-off island of Fizan. But, instead of that farman, the Committee received the command to return at once to Constantinople, in consequence of an attempt to assassinate the Sultan, 'Abdu'l-Hamid, by placing a bomb in his path!
In consequence of this recall, it came to pass that the very boat which had been prepared to take 'Abdu'l-Bahá into perpetual banishment took the investigators hurriedly away to Beirut, thence to Constantinople.
Arrived there, they presented their report to the Sultan.
The main points were three: 1. `Abbas has made `Akka a Mecca, and Haifa a Medina
2. He has made a banner with "Ya Baha'u'l-Abha" emblazoned upon it; with this
he is endeavouring to foment a rebellion among the Arabs. 3. He, `Abbas, is establishing his government in that neighbourhood.
Such was the report presented to His Majesty the Sultan, at Constantinople.
But his government, being too much occupied with the investigation of the conspiracy against the life of the Sultan, did not take up the "`Akka and Haifa Accusations," as they were legally called.
Meanwhile the persecution of the Master continued unabated. No one dared to go near Him, but a few of the Bahá'í friends. His days were spent in chanting prayers and in planting trees in the garden.
One day the Governor of `Akka sent for the Master, Whom he questioned about some political documents which He was supposed to have received. To which the reply was: "Assuredly, and I speak naught but the truth, no such papers have ever been received by me. If, however, you wish to bring a false accusation against me, you have only to write it down and I will sign it. For I have no fear of death, it is, indeed, my life's greatest desire, for it would be following the example of the most dearly beloved Bab to be martyred for my love of God."
This answer was communicated to the Vali of Beirut.
At this time the Master wrote to the Sublime Porte at Constantinople, replying to the three accusations, contained in the report of the Committee of Investigation.
"To make a `Mecca' of one town, and a `Medina' of another town is not in the power of my hands to accomplish, therefore it is an absurd accusation.
"The statement that I have established a government in this place, with myself as king, is quite the greatest honour you could possibly confer upon me, and the highest praise.
"For a prisoner, so carefully watched and guarded, day and
night, to be able to institute a government would be absolutely miraculous, therefore the accusation is truly a tribute to my ability.
"Concerning the banner which I am supposed to have had made, and that special emblem upon it - it is very strange that neither the Vali, nor any other Government official has ever seen it.
"Moreover, for me to possess such a flag, and to carry it far and wide among the Arabs to raise a revolt, would need the help of the Angels of God to render it invisible to the sight of all others."
When the Sultan eventually received the report of that Committee of Investigation, he sentenced the Master to banishment, but before the decree was carried out the "Young Turk" revolution took place, the Sultan was deposed, and the religious, with the political prisoners, were set at liberty.
This release took place in August 1908.
Those fateful days in the autumn of 1908 were passed by the Master's family and the friends in constant anxiety and fear of danger to His very life; whilst the people of 'Akka were panic-stricken and full of fear.
At this time there was much activity going forward: the Governor of the town was dismissed, and replaced by a new Governor of `Akka, who was appointed in Beirut.
This man was very unfriendly to the Master, and did not permit any of His friends to approach Him.
In a short time this antagonistic official was recalled to Beirut, and another new Governor had arrived in `Akka; whilst in Beirut the unfriendly person's conduct as an official gave great offence, and he was dismissed from his post. On hearing of his downfall, the Master straightway sent a special messenger to enquire as to his health and to assure him of His good wishes; He also sent a very precious ring as a present. This envoy was charged to tell the unfortunate man that, although in captivity, 'Abdu'l-Bahá was ready to do everything in His power for him.
Such was the Master's kindness, disregarding always the bitter persecution directed against Himself.
The man was much ashamed of his behaviour, and begged the Master to forgive him all the harmful deeds he had wrought against Him. The Master forgave all the evil done to Himself, but the people of Beirut were not ready to overlook his behaviour, and rejoiced in his downfall. It was during these dark days that one of the government officials asked the Master to give an `aba (cloak) to him. "I have only this `aba, which I am wearing, I will gladly give it to you." The man replied that he did not like that `aba, but wanted a better one. "I do not possess a better one, but if you wish," said the Master, "I will give you money to buy a good 'aba for yourself."
This offer did not content the man, so 'Abdu'l-Bahá promised to send and buy a new `aba for him, meanwhile letting him keep His only one!
In spite of all this kindness, the man continued to speak evil concerning the Master, to bring false accusations against Him, to make more rigorous the prison rules, and in many ways to harass and annoy the noble prisoner. He set soldiers to watch all those who tried to approach the Master, and to prevent their meeting Him.
Whilst this official busied himself in working evil against 'Abdu'l-Bahá he offended a brother official, who accused him to the Vali of Beirut, of certain treacheries; for instance, of possessing a book of which he could foretell future events. By this book he prophesied "that the Sultanate would not last more than two years."
This aroused the suspicions of the Vali, who sent an escort of soldiers to arrest that faithless public servant, also to seize all his possessions and papers, and to bring him and his belongings, including the prophetic book, to Beirut.
* * *
During the latter part of this time when all the people of the place had grown to look upon Him with a great reverence,
witnessing His perfect Christ-like life, He had much additional suffering heaped upon Him through the bitter hatred of His half-brothers.
The Master one day being asked a question concerning these enemies, replied:
"I do not wish to mention them, much less to speak against them; only do I wish to say unto you that calumny and persecution are of no importance. As nothing can prevent the fall of rain from heaven to give life to the gardens of earth, so no human power is able to prevent the fulfilment of the Word of God."
And so we leave them, for as these are some memories of the Divine Cause, not of its traitors, its betrayers, its opposers, or its enemies, it is not the place to discuss the abundant evidence of increased severity, of imprisonment, of even death sentences passed upon 'Abdu'l-Bahá through the intrigues of these enemies, the subtle poison of whose malign and cunningly devised misrepresentations were persistently poured into the ears of officials. These persons, however inclined to be in themselves friendly, were not proof against what was described to them as the dangerous influence of the new reforming teaching.
The day came when the Master was forbidden to visit even the tomb-shrine of Bahá'u'lláh, where He had been wont to spend in prayer such time as He spared from the daily and nightly ministering service to the poor, the grief-stricken, and the sick in body, soul, and spirit.
One of His daughters related that being deprived of these visits, which were the most prized intervals in His arduous days, gave Him more pain than the imprisonment itself:-- One day, a party of nine (we, my mother, Khanum, my three sisters, two Persian, and one English, friends) were passing the Master's door. He came out and said:
"Where are you going?"
"To the shrine; to Bahji - it is the day of the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh."
"Yes. Yes. Pray for me."
None could describe how touched we were that our Beloved One should turn back into His little room, whilst we went on
to celebrate the day in prayer and chanting. Oh, the pity of it, that the Master was not permitted to visit the tomb-shrine of His Father, even on the Day of His ascension.
The party of nine determined to pray a prayer of power at the shrine for the whole of the night, with the special intention - the release of 'Abdu'l-Bahá.
Very soon, suddenly, the release came.
The day before `Abdu'l-Hamid was dethroned, we were seated at lunch; always in a state of terrible anxiety, the atmosphere seemed charged with dread and danger.
A soldier passed the window; he was bringing a letter. It was for the Master calling Him to the house of the Governor. The much-feared Committee of Investigation had returned, un-relenting and cruel, and began to terrorize the people in advance.
'Abdu'l-Bahá arose to obey the call, to be arraigned before such a tribunal.
"Do not be unhappy, my dear ones," and He smiled that calm, loving smile, which filled our hearts with peace, even in that dire hour.
"Do not be unhappy; I shall come back to you."
Those waiting hours were spent in an extraordinary state of mind. Outwardly all was hopeless. We were tortured by the spectre of the possible, nay most probable fate of the Master. We waited - waited. Mirza Muhsin (a son-in-law of 'Abdu'l-Bahá) went to the Court House to obtain news. Still we waited, upheld by the words, spoken as He left us:
"Do not be unhappy; I shall come back to you."
At length He came. But He told us nothing.
All through the hours of that night we could hear the Beloved chanting and praying. The night seemed endless. At dawn He called us: "Make some tea and then go to Haifa. Carry the news that everything is changed, that all is well."
Thus the burden was lifted from our hearts.
On that day the Sultan, `Abdu'l-Hamid, was dethroned. In two days the news reached `Akka. "The Young Turk Party are in power."
The great gun was fired from the fortress in `Akka.
"That was God's gun," said 'Abdu'l-Bahá.
All prisoners, religious and political, were released. The Master was free!
* * * Forty years in captivity! Entering thee prison city of `Akka a young man of twenty-four years. Released at sixty-four!
Was ever so great a victory over material conditions? The opposing forces utterly routed!
The radiant spirit of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, undaunted and eager!
He began to make plans for journeying to the western world in accordance with His Father's sacred charge to bring to mankind the knowledge of the Divine Plan for establishing the "Kingdom of God, where His Will shall be done on earth as it is in Heaven." He was ready to go forth with that vital transforming spirit which would change a World, now wet with tears, into the delectable Paradise of Love and Justice.
Oh, the marvel of such a preparation of such a Mission!
'Abdu'l-Bahá in London To the Bahá'ís of Britain:
Tablet from 'Abdu'l-Bahá
O ye Sons and Daughters of the Kingdom!
Your letter, which was written by heavenly inspiration, has arrived. Its contents are full of interest, and its message expresses the feelings of radiant hearts. Verily, the Bahá'ís of London are steadfast believers and faithful in service.
They shall not slacken with years, nor shall their light grow dim.
For they are Bahá'ís. They are children of Heaven. They are of God. Surely they will be the means of uplifting God's word and of fostering the oneness of the world of humanity.
They will proclaim the equality of man and spread the Divine Teachings.
It is easy to accept the Kingdom of God; to endure therein with steadfastness is difficult, for temptations are great and strong.
The English have always been resolute, not swerving in the face of difficulties. Having taken up a cause, they are not ready, for trivial reasons, either to leave it or to lose heart and enthusiasm.
Verily, in all their undertakings they show firmness.
O my friends, though you dwell in the West, praise be to God, you have heard the Divine Call from the East, and like unto Moses and the burning bush, you have become aglow with the fire, lighted in the "Tree of Asia."*
You have found the Right Path. You have become as shining lamps, and have entered into the Kingdom of God.
Now in thanksgiving for this bounty, you have arisen to offer prayers for blessings to fall upon all mankind: that, by the light
of the Star of the Kingdom of Abha, the eyes of all may be opened and their hearts, like unto mirrors, reflect the splendour of the Sun of Truth.
This is my hope - that the breath of the Holy Spirit may so inspire your hearts, that your tongues may begin to reveal the mysteries and to expound the truth and the meaning of the Holy Books.
May the Bahá'ís, by the Divine Teachings, become physicians to heal the long-standing infirmities of the world, to restore sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and life to the dead, and to awaken those that sleep.
Be assured that the blessings of the Holy Spirit will descend upon you, and that the hosts of the Kingdom of Abha will come to your succour.
Upon you be the glory of the Most Glorious! Written by'Abdu'l-Bahá at Ramleh, Egypt, on the 9th May, 1911. Translated into English by Y. Dawud.
The beloved Prisoner was free! Free to obey the charge laid upon Him by Bahá'u'lláh to go forth into all the world to carry the message of the Renewal of Peace and Unity, of Joy and Service, and to call mankind to immediate action for averting the "Great Woe."
Would His strength be sufficient for these journeys? Our hearts sank as we thought of His captivity in the pestilential air of `Akka. Entering it as a young man of twenty-four; leaving that death-dealing atmosphere at the age of sixty-four (August 1908).
News came of His sojourn in Alexandria from one who said of Him: "Seeing 'Abdu'l-Bahá and His most holy life has made me believe in Christ. Never before did I think His existence possible. Now I can understand."
As we thought upon all these marvels, we waited and wondered whether it was to be our privilege to see Him. Would it be given to us to hear the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh from 'Abdu'l-Bahá Himself?
Should we travel to Egypt, or would He come to Europe? If He were to come to London, where would be the roof to shelter Him? We who had quietly prepared our home in the hope that He might deign to sojourn there awhile, sent the invitation. Soon a telegram came:
"'Abdu'l-Bahá arriving in London 9th September.* Can Lady Blomfield receive Him?"
And now at last 'Abdu'l-Bahá was coming into the western world, even to us in London!
He arrived, and who shall picture Him?
A silence as of love and awe overcame us, as we looked at Him; the gracious figure, clothed in a simple white garment, over which was a light-coloured Persian `aba ; on His head He wore a low-crowned taj, round which was folded a small, fine-linen turban of purest white; His hair and short beard were of that snowy whiteness which had once been black; His eyes were large, blue-grey with long, black lashes and well-marked ------------------- *8th September, 1911
eyebrows; His face was a beautiful oval with warm, ivory-coloured skin, a straight, finely-modelled nose, and firm, kind mouth. These are merely outside details by which an attempt is made to convey an idea of His arresting personality.
His figure was of such perfect symmetry, and so full of dignity and grace, that the first impression was that of considerable height. He seemed an incarnation of loving understanding, of compassion and power, of wisdom and authority, of strength, and of a buoyant youthfulness, which somehow defied the burden of His years; and such years!
One saw, as in a clear vision, that He had so wrought all good and mercy that the inner grace of Him had grown greater than all outer sign, and the radiance of this inner glory shone in every glance, and word, and movement as He came with hands outstretched.
"I am very much pleased with you all. Your love has drawn me to London. I waited forty years in prison to bring the Message to you. Are you pleased to receive such a guest?"
I think our souls must have answered, for I am not conscious that anyone uttered an audible word.
The history of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's stay in our house lies in the relating of various incidents, connected with individuals, who stand out from amongst the crowd of those persons who eagerly sought His Presence.
Oh, these pilgrims, these guests, these visitors! Remembering those days, our ears are filled with the sound of their footsteps - as they came from every country in the world! Every day, all day long, a constant stream. An interminable procession!
Ministers and missionaries, Oriental scholars and occult students, practical men of affairs and mystics, Anglican-Catholics and Nonconformists, Theosophists and Hindus, Christian Scientists and doctors of medicine, Muslims, Buddhists, and Zoroastrians. There also called: politicians, Salvation Army soldiers, and other workers for human good, women suffragists, journalists, writers, poets, and healers, dressmakers and great ladies, artists and artisans, poor workless people and prosperous merchants, members of the dramatic and musical world, these all came; and none were too lowly,
nor too great, to receive the sympathetic consideration of this holy Messenger, who was ever giving His life for others' good.
In this short chronicle I must be content to omit many details and only touch lightly on such personalities as pass before my eyes in the memories of those unforgettable days.
First of all there were the Bahá'í friends, who assembled to greet the Master. These arrived eager and elated nearly every day during His sojourn, often bringing a friend or relation; Mrs. Thornburgh-Cropper, Miss Ethel Rosenberg, Miss Gamble, Miss Herrick, Mrs. Scaramucci, Miss Elsie Lee, Mr. Catanach, Mr. Cuthbert, Miss Juliet Thompson, Mr. Mountfort Mills, Mr. Mason Remey, Mrs. Claudia Coles, Miss Yandell, Miss Julia Culver, Mrs. Louise Waite, the Reverend Cooper Hunt, Miss Drake Wright, Mrs. Movius, and many others.
Foremost amongst our visitors were Monsieur and Madame Dreyfus-Barney, the brilliant French scholar and his no less brilliant American wife, who spoke Persian with 'Abdu'l-Bahá, translated for Him, and were altogether helpful, courteous, and charming.
Very important arrivals were the pilgrims from Persia, who had journeyed far to attain the Presence of the Master. Now at last this was possible, after long years of confinement, of danger, and of persecution. Several were sons of those who "steadfast unto death had been martyred for the Cause of God."
These survivors of the Martyrs were accorded a very special and loving welcome by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Who was deeply affected as they entered His Presence. We were all overcome by the poignant emotions of such meetings.
As a contrast to these faithful souls, came a man of imposing appearance, also a Persian, Jalalu'd-Dawlih, who had caused two young brothers to be cruelly tortured and killed for refusing to deny their faith in what they held to be the Trust of God. This man entreated to be received by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, at Whose feet he fell prostrate, imploring pardon for his inhuman crimes.
When all was understood, this was a heart-rending episode.
Another day came a deputation from the Bramo-Somaj
Society, inviting the Master to address them. 'Abdu'l-Bahá was much pleased with the enlightened spirit of their movement.
Members of the Muslim Community of Great Britain came to pay their respects, and at their request 'Abdu'l-Bahá visited the mosque at Woking, where an important gathering of their friends gave an enthusiastic welcome to Him Who, albeit the bearer of the new Message to all the religions of the world was descended from the ancient line of nobles in Islam.
Members of the Persian Legation came to see Him from time to time, entertained Him, and were also entertained by Him.
Another Persian nobleman, Dust Muhammad Khan (Mu`ayyiru'l-Mamalik) was a constant visitor, and sometimes accompanied the Master to His country meetings.
A workman who had left his bag of tools in the hall was welcomed with smiling kindness by 'Abdu'l-Bahá. With a look of sadness the man said: "I don't know much about religious things, as I have no time for anything but my work."
"That is well. Very well. A day's work done in the spirit of service is in itself an act of worship. Such work is a prayer unto God."
The man's face cleared from its shadow of doubt and hesitation, and he went out from the Master's presence happy and strengthened, as though a weighty burden had been taken away.
The late Maharajah of Jalawar, an enlightened and cultured prince, paid many visits to 'Abdu'l-Bahá. He gave an elaborate dinner and reception in His honour, to which we also were invited. The Maharajah and members of his suite sometimes dined at our house with the Master, who delighted all the guests with His beautiful courtesy, recounting interesting stories, often full of humour; He always loved to see happy, laughing faces. And what grace He possessed - as of a king - this serene and dignified Personage Who had spent a lifetime in prison!
'Abdu'l-Bahá was always very glad to welcome visitors from India.
He would speak to them of the "Spiritual Sun of Truth, which has always shone from the eastern horizon, and again of
the great Spiritual Teachers, who have all arisen in the East." The Message of Krishna was a Message of Love; every true Prophet of God has given the same message, that of Love. We must all strive to spread this Love among the sons of mankind.
"It would be well for the Western peoples to turn to the East for illumination," He would say again and again.
"The East and the West should unite to give to each other what is lacking in each. This exchange of gifts would form a true civilization, where spiritual ideals would be translated into action in the material world."
Professor Edward Granville Browne, who had written much concerning the Babis and the Bahá'ís, came from time to time, speaking in Persian with the Master, Who was delighted to see him, and talked over many things, especially the momentous occasion when that intrepid Cambridge Orientalist succeeded in obtaining permission to enter the presence of Bahá'u'lláh*
Mr. Wellesley Tudor-Pole, who had visited the Master in Alexandria, with the clear insight of a student of things sacred and mystic, had recognized the inspiring influence which emanated from 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Mr. Tudor-Pole had helped us to understand something of the power of Bahá'u'lláh, working in the realm of thought, to awaken the hearts and minds of those who, through inner training, had attained capacity. These explanations were very illuminating to us. who were waiting and hoping for the coming of 'Abdu'l-Bahá.
Soon after His arrival in London 'Abdu'l-Bahá received Archdeacon Wilberforce in audience. This was a remarkable interview. Our dear friend, the Archdeacon, sat on a low chair by the Master. 'Abdu'l-Bahá spoke to him in His beautiful Persian. He placed His hand on the head of the Archdeacon, talked long to him, and answered many questions. Evidently His words penetrated further than the outer ears, for both were deeply moved. On this occasion the invitation was given for 'Abdu'l-Bahá to speak to the congregation of St. John the Divine, at Westminister, on the following Sunday.
The beloved Messenger from the East passed through the * This occasion is described in the Introduction to The Traveller's Narrative, Professor E. G. Browne, who translated that interesting book from the Persian.
midst of the crowded church, hand in hand with Archdeacon Wilberforce, up to the chancel, where they stood together, two men of God, one from the East and one from the West, united in their loving service to the "Ruler of the throne and of the dust." 'Abdu'l-Bahá's beautiful voice filled the church with its powerful vibrations. The translation was read by the Archdeacon in his own impressive way. This was indeed a soul-stirring event, far-reaching in its influence!
Dr. Planton Drakoules, who had invited the first Bahá'í gathering in England to meet at his chambers in Oxford, paid several visits to the Master.
Among other guests were Mr. Albert Dawson, editor of an interesting paper, The Christian Commonwealth, dealing with religious and ethical matters. The Rev. R. J. Campbell was one of the earliest to arrive. At his invitation 'Abdu'l-Bahá, for the first time in His life, addressed a Western audience. This took place at the City Temple. On this occasion Mr. Wellesley Tudor-Pole read the translation.
Mrs. Annie Besant visited the Master one day, also Mr. A. P. Sinnett, who came several times, and they each invited 'Abdu'l-Bahá to address the Theosophical Society.
Sir Richard and Lady Stapley were frequent visitors. Mr. Eric Hammond came several times. He was the author of that interesting book The Splendour of God, dealing with the Bahá'í Message, published in The Wisdom of the East series.
Miss Alice Buckton was an earnest visitor. She had written Eager Heart, a very interesting Christmas mystery play. The performance of this mystery play at the Church House, Westminister, was honoured by the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. This was a memorable occasion, as it was the first time He had ever witnessed a dramatic performance.
The Master wept during the scene in which the Holy Child and His parents, overcome with fatigue, and suffering from hunger, were met by the hesitation of Eager Heart to admit them to the haven of rest which she had prepared, she, of course, failing to recognize the sacred visitors.
The Master afterwards joined the group of players.
It was an arresting scent. In the Eastern setting the Messenger, in His Eastern robes, speaking to them in the beautiful Eastern
words of the Divine significance of the events which had been portrayed.
Another interesting visitor was Mrs. Pankhurst, who was much cheered by her interview, for the Master told her to continue her work steadfastly, for women would very shortly take their rightful place in the world.
Mr. Stead had a long and earnest conversation with 'Abdu'l-Bahá. I see also passing before me Mr. Francis Skrine, author of a book on the Bahá'í Message, Lady Wemyass and her sister, lady Glenconner, Princess Karadja, Mrs. Douglas Hamilton, Mrs. Forbes, Baroness Barnekow, Mr. David Graham Pole, Miss Constance Maud, Miss Mary Maud, Mrs. Charles Blomfield and her tiny girl. From time to time children were brought, who received an especially loving welcome from the Master.
Other guests were the Rev. Roland Corbet, the Rev. Rhonddha Williams, Mr. Claude Montefiore, Dr. Hector Munro, Miss Felicia Scratchard, Miss Louise Heron, Miss Eve Faulkener, Mrs. Cecil Headlam, Mrs. Alexander Whyte, Miss Leggatt and her sister, Miss MacLeod, Madame Bricka, Lady Evelyn Moreton, and Miss Katie Wingfield.
Mr. and Mrs. Felix Moscheles, who were very eager to hear the Master's teaching on the imperative need for a universal language, arranged a meeting at their studio, at which many Esperantists were present:
The Ranee of Sarawak, Colonel and Mrs. Seymour, Mr. Keightley, Lady Agnew, Sr. Michael Sadler, M<'irza Nayyir Afnan, and many, many others who came were privileged to share in the joyous atmosphere created by the presence of the Master.
One evening in the drawing-room of Mrs. Gabrielle Enthoven, the Master asked her whom he called "Hamsayih" (neighbour):
"What is your great interest in life?"
She replied: "The Drama."
'Abdu'l-Bahá said: "I will give you a play. It shall be called the Drama of the Kingdom."
The Master then gave a plan, from which a play has been written by my daughter, Mary. This has been approved by the Reviewing Committees of the National Spiritual Assemblies
of the Bahá'ís of the British Isles, and of the United States and Canada.
Day by day friends brought offerings of flowers and fruit, so that the dinner table was laden with these beautiful tokens of love for 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Whilst cutting off bunches of grapes and giving them to various guests, He talked to us of the joy of freedom, of how grateful we should be for the privilege of dwelling in safety, under just laws, in a healthy city, with a temperate climate, and brilliant light - "there was much darkness in the prison fortress of `Akka!"
After His first dinner with us He said: "The food was delicious and the fruit and flowers were lovely, but would that we could share some of the courses with those poor and hungry people who have not even one."
What a lesson to the guests present!
We at once agreed that one substantial, plentiful dish, with salad, cheese, biscuits, sweetmeats, fruits, and flowers on the table, preceded by soup and followed by coffee or tea, should be quite sufficient for any dinner. This arrangement would greatly simplify life, both as to cookery and service, and would undeniably be more in accordance with the ideals of Christianity than numerous dishes unnecessary and costly.
'Abdu'l-Bahá was accompanied by a secretary, Mirza Muhmud, and Khusraw, His faithful servant.
He rose very early, chanted prayers, took tea, wrote Tablets, and dictated others. He then received those who flocked to see Him, some arriving soon after dawn, patiently waiting on the door-steps until the door would be opened for their entrance.
On an early day of His visit a telegram came from the Tihran Bahá'í Assembly:
"That the holy feet of 'Abdu'l-Bahá have crossed your threshold receive our felicitations. Blessed are ye."
* * * A book entitled 'Abdu'l-Bahá in London was compiled soon after His visit, and contains many of His addresses. I will therefore
describe some episodes and incidents which came under my own observation, and which, as I believe, are not elsewhere recorded.
One striking fact that 'Abdu'l-Bahá never asked for donations, and even refused to accept money or any costly gifts that were offered to Him.
One day in my presence a lady said to Him: "I have here a cheque from a friend, who begs its acceptance to buy a good motor-car for your work in England and Europe."
The Master replied: "I accept with grateful thanks the gift of your friend." He took the cheque into both His hands, as though blessing it, and said "I return it to be used for gifts to the poor."
"We have never seen the like before. Surely such deeds are very rare,: it was whispered amongst the friends.
In all the arrangements for the comfort of the numerous guests, Miss Beatrice Platt, Dr. Lutfullah Hakim, and my daughters, Mary and Ellinor, were occupied from morning till night. They also took notes of the addresses of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and made appointments for interviews with Him.
We very swiftly grew into the habit of calling Him "the Master," a name used by Bahá'u'lláh when speaking of Him, and afterwards by His family and His intimate friends, though He Himself preferred to be called "'Abdu'l-Bahá ("Servant of the Glory").
"Come ye people into the Kingdom of God, for this day the doors are open, and the station of Servitude is the highway thereto."
This station of Servitude - how great! How marvellous! We very gradually began to have a tiny glimmer of comprehension of what Service could mean, as the life of this Servant unfolded itself daily before our eyes.
The Master's customs was to receive the visitors by twos or by threes, or individually, during the early hours of the morning. Then, about nine o'clock, He would come into the dining-room whilst we were at breakfast to greet us. "Are you well" Did you sleep well?"
We tried to prevail upon Him to take some breakfast with us
(we were always concerned that He ate so very little). At last one day He said He would like a little soup - then we had it brought in every morning. He smiled and said: "To please you I will take it. Thank you, you are very kind." Then to the servitor who offered it to Him: "I give too great trouble,"He said.
In a few minutes He would go to His room, where He would resume the chanting of prayers and dictating of Tablets in reply to the vast number of letters which incessantly arrived.
Visitors having gradually gathered in the drawing-room (about ten o'clock), 'Abdu'l-Baháwould come to us, pausing just inside the door, smiling round at the guests with a look of joyous sympathy which seemed to enfold each and all who were present; they rose simultaneously, as though the kingship of this Messenger were recognized by an inner perception.
"How are you? My hope is that you are well. Are you happy?" Speaking so to us, He would pass through our midst to His usual chair. Then He would talk rather with us than to us; so did He reply to unspoken questions, causing wonderment in those who were waiting to ask them - weaving the whole into a beautiful address, in the atmosphere of which all problems and pain and care and doubt and sorrow would melt away, leaving only happiness and peace.
The power of Diving Love we felt to be incarnated in Him, Whom we called "the Master."
Now came the hour when He would receive those who had asked for appointments for private audiences. Careful time-tables were made and strictly adhered to, for very numerous were these applicants for so unique an experience, how unique, only those knew when tin the presence of the Master, and we could partly divine, as we saw the look on their faces as they emerged - a look as though blended of awe, of marvelling, and of a certain calm joy. Sometimes we were conscious of reluctance in them to come forth into the outer world, as though they would hold fast to their beatitude, lest the return to things of earth should wrest it from them.
"My sorrow is still with me," said one woman clad in deepest mourning, "but He has taken away the sting, and turned it into joy."
One day a woman asked to be permitted to see the Master. "Have you an appointment?"
"I am sorry," answered the over-zealous friend who met her in the hall, "but He is occupied now with most important people, and cannot be disturbed."
The woman turned away, feeling too humble to persist in her appeal, but, oh! so bitterly disappointed. Before she had reached the foot of the stairway, she was overtaken by a breathless messenger from 'Abdu'l-Bahá.
"He wishes to see you, come back! He has told me to bring you to Him."
We had heard His voice from the door of His audience room speaking with authority:
"A heat has been hurt. Hasten, hasten, bring her to me!" Another day, whilst several personages were talking with 'Abdu'l-Bahá, a man's voice was heard at the hall door. "Is the lady of this house within?" The servitor answered "Yes, but --" "Oh please, I must see her!" he interrupted with despairing insistence. I, overhearing, had gone into the hall.
"Are you the hostess of 'Abdu'l-Bahá?" he asked.
"Yes, Do you wish to see me?" "I have walked thirty miles for that purpose." "Come in and rest. After some refreshment you will tell me?" He came in and sat down in the dining-room. In appearance he might have been an ordinary tramp, but as he spoke, from out the core of squalor and suffering, something else seemed faintly to breathe.
After a while the poor fellow began his pitiful story: "I was not always as you see me now, a disreputable, hopeless object. My father is a country rector, and I had the advantage of being at a public school. Of the various causes which led to my arrival at the Thames embankment as my only home, I need not speak to you."
"Last evening I had decided to put an end to my futile, hateful life, useless to God and man!"
"Whilst taking what I had intended should be my last walk, I saw `a Face' in the window of a newspaper shop. I stood
looking at the face as if rooted to the spot. He seemed to speak to me, and call me to him!" "Let me see that paper, please," I asked. It was the face of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. "I read that he is here, in this house. I said to myself, "If there is in existence on earth that personable, I shall take up again the burden of my life.'"
"I set off on my quest. I have come here to find him. Tell me, is he here? Will he see me? Even me?"
"Of course he will see you. Come to Him." In answer to the knock, 'Abdu'l-Bahá Himself opened the door, extending His hands, as though to a dear friend, whom He was expecting.
"Welcome! Most welcome! I am very much pleased that thou hast come. Be seated."
The pathetic man trembled and sank on to a low chair by the Master's feet, as though unable to utter a word.
The other guests, meanwhile, looked on wonderingly to see the attention transferred to the strange-looking new arrival, who seemed to be so overburdened with hopeless misery.
"Be happy! Be happy!" said 'Abdu'l-Bahá, holding one of the poor hands, stroking tenderly the dishevelled, bowed head.
Smiling that wonderful smile of loving compassion, the Master continued:
"Do not be filled with grief when humiliation overtaketh thee.
"The bounty and power of God is without limit for each and every soul in the world.
"Seek for spiritual joy and knowledge, then, though thou walk upon this earth, thou wilt be dwelling within the divine realm.
"Though thou be poor, thou mayest be rich in the Kingdom of God."
These and other words of comfort, of strength, and of healing were spoken to the man, whose cloud of misery seemed to melt away in the warmth of the Master's loving presence.
As the strange visitor rose to leave Him Whom he had sought and found, a new look was upon his face, a new erectness in his carriage, a firm purpose in his steps.
"Please write down for me His words. I have attained all I expected, and even more."
"And now what are your going to do?" I asked. "I'm going to work in the fields. I can earn what I need for my simple wants. When I have saved enough I shall take a little bit of land, build a tiny hut upon it in which to live, then I shall grow violets for the market. As He says `Poverty is unimportant, work is worship.' I need not say `thank you,' need I? Farewell." The man had gone.
* * *
Certain of those who thronged to see the Master, having travelled from far countries, were naturally anxious to spend every possible moment with Him, Whose deeds and words appealed to them as ever-filled with grace and love. Therefore it came about that day after day, whilst the Master was teaching, the luncheon gong would sound, and those who remained would be invited to sit at food with Him. We grew to expect that there would be nineteen guests at table, so often did this number recur.
These were much-prized times; 'Abdu'l-Bahá would continue the interrupted discourse, or tell some anecdote, often humorous, meanwhile frequently serving the guests with His own hands, offering sweets, or choosing various fruits to distribute to the friends.
The following touching incident took place one day when we were seated at table with the Master.
A Persian friend arrived who had passed through `Ishqabad,. He presented a cotton handkerchief to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Who untied it, and saw therein a piece of dry black bread, and a shrivelled apple.
The friend exclaimed: "A poor Bahá'í workman came to me: `I hear thou goest into the presence of our Beloved. Nothing have I to send, but this my dinner. I pray thee offer it to Him with my loving devotion.'"
'Abdu'l-Bahá spread the poor handkerchief before Him, leaving His own luncheon untasted. He ate of the workman's
dinner, broke pieces off the bread, and handed them to the assembled guests, saying: "Eat with me of this gift of humble love."
Of the guests who remained to lunch or dinner, the Master would often hold out His hand to the humblest or most diffident, lead them into the dining-room, seat him or her at His right hand, smile and talk until all embarrassment had passed away, and the guest felt as though all uneasiness had changed into the atmosphere of a calm and happy home.
Every detail of one evening remains in the memory of those who were present.
Two ladies had written from Scotland asking if it were possible that 'Abdu'l-Bahá would spare them one evening.
They accepted my invitation to dinner. Having come straight from the train, and being about to return the same night, every moment was precious.
The Master received them with His warm, simple welcome, and they spontaneously, rather than consciously, made more reverent curtsies than if in the presence of the ordinary great personages of the earth.
Everybody was feeling elated at the prospect of a wonderful evening, unmarred by the presence of any but the most intimate and the most comprehending of the friends.
Not more than half an hour had passed, when, to our consternation, a persistent person pushed past the servitors, and strode into our midst. Seating himself, and lighting a cigarette without invitation, he proceeded to say that he intended writing an article for some paper about 'Abdu'l-Bahá, superciliously asking for "Some telling points, don't you know."l He talked without a pause in a far from polite manner.
We were speechless and aghast at the intrusion of this insufferable and altogether unpleasant bore, spoiling our golden hour!
Presently 'Abdu'l-Bahá rose and, making a sign to the man to follow Him, went to His own private room.
We looked at one another. The bore had gone, yes, but alas! so also had the Master!
"Can nothing be done?" Being the hostess, I was perturbed and perplexed. Then I went to the door of the audience room, and said to the secretary: "Will you kindly say to 'Abdu'l-Bahá
that the ladies with whom the appointment had been made are awaiting His pleasure."
I returned to the guests and we awaited the result.
Almost immediately we heard steps approaching along the corridor. They came across the hall to the door. The sound of kind farewell words reached us. Then the closing of the door, and the Beloved came back.
"Oh, Master!" we said.
Pausing near the door, He looked at us each in turn, with a look of deep, grave meaning.
"You were making that poor man uncomfortable, so strongly desiring his absence; I took him away to make him feel happy."
Truly 'Abdu'l-Bahá's thoughts and ways were far removed from ours!
His desire that everyone should be happy showed itself in many ways. "Are you well? Are you happy?" He always asked.
One day the sound of peals of laughter came from the direction of the kitchen. The Master went quickly to the cheery party.
"I am very much pleased that you are so happy. Tell me, why are you laughing?"
It appeared that the Persian servant had remarked "In the East women wear veils and do all the work," to which our English housekeeper had replied: "In the West women don't wear veils, and take good care that the men do at least some of the work. You had better get on with cleaning that silver."
The Master was delighted, laughed heartily, and gave each of them a small gold coin for being happy."
At the invitation of the Lord Mayor of London, 'Abdu'l-Bahá paid him a visit at the Mansion House, and was greatly pleased with the interview, in the course of which many subjects were discussed; the freedom and happiness of the people; the efforts made to improve social conditions; prisons and prisoners. When the Lord Mayor told Him how people were working to improve the treatment of these poor creatures in prison, and to secure help for them when they were released, the Master said: "It is well with a country when the magistrates are as fathers to the people.
"There is a great spiritual light in London, and the ideal of justice is strong in the hearts of the people.
"I am always pleased to remember an instance of this sense of justice, which so amazed the Eastern people of the place.
"A certain Pasha, having most unjustly and cruelly beaten one of his servants, was arrested and brought before that just man who represented Britain. To the intense surprise of the Pasha, he himself was sentenced to a term of imprisonment, and told that he richly deserved the punishment. He could not think it possible that so great a person as himself could be sent to prison, and offered a large bribe for his release. This was sternly refused. A much larger sum was offered with the same result, and the unjust lord was compelled to accept the punishment awarded him for his cruelty to his servant.
"The news of this incident, being noised abroad, did much to show the Eastern people that British justice is in reality the same for the rich and for the poor, and therefore worthy of all respect."
The Lord Mayor remarked that he was delighted to hear so pleasing a story of British administration in the East. "Sometimes, alas! there are adverse criticisms," he added.
* * *
During the early days of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's visits to London, may were the attempts to photograph Him. Men with cameras waited round the door, watching for an opportunity. On one occasion I expostulated with them: "Do you think it very courteous to insist on photographing a guest from a distant country against His will?"
"No, Madam," was the reply, "but if others succeed and I fail, my chief will think me a fool."
When I told this to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, He laughed heartily and said: "If the photographs must be, it would be better to have good ones. Those in that paper are very bad indeed."
Thereupon he consented with His unfailing, smiling grace, to be photographed. "To please the friends," he said. "But to
have a picture of oneself is to emphasize the personality, which is merely the lamp, and is quite unimportant. The light burning within the lamp has the only real significance."
He signed a photograph, writing His name on the white part of his turban. "My name is my crown," said 'Abdu'l-Bahá - "Servant of God, the Most Glorious."
* * *
'Abdu'l-Bahá often went to the houses of the friends, where again others were invited to meet Him, so that many were the meetings other than at His "English home" which took place.
Mrs. Thornburgh Cropper placed her charming motor-car at His service. It was always ready, in the early morning, at any hour of the day, or late hour of the evening.
It was especially touching to see Mrs. Thornburgh Cropper and Miss Ethel Rosenberg, who had visited Him in the prison fortress of `Akka, and who had been the first to bring the Message to London, coming day after day, as though transported with gratitude that He was not free to give His Message to those who were hungering and thirsting after righteousness, who were not content that the grand Christian ideals should continue to be "words only," but that they should be translated into action, to the healing of the woes of the world.
For us, every day was filled with joyous interest and marvelling, where simple happenings became spiritual events. One day we were invited to accompany the Master to East Sheen, where a number of friends were gathered, invited by Mr. and Mrs. Jenner. Their three small children clambered on to His knee, clung round His neck, and remained as quiet as wee mice whilst the Master spoke, He meanwhile stroking the hair of the tiny ones and saying:
"Blessed are the children, of whom His Holiness Christ said: `Of such are the Kingdom of Heaven.' Children have no worldly ambitions. Their hearts are pure. We must become like children, crowning our heads with the crown of severance (from all material things of the earth); purifying our hearts, that we
may see God in His Great Manifestations, and obey the laws brought to us by those, His Messengers."
After we had enjoyed the hospitality of the parents of those sweet children, the Master, always loving trees and pastures, went into Richmond Park, where He watched a race on ponies between some boys and a girl. When the latter won, He clapped His hands, crying out "Bravo! Bravo!"
On the way back the evening light was waning as we crossed the Serpentine bridge. Rows of shining lamps beneath the trees, stretching as far as our eyes could see into the distance, made that part of London into a glowing fairyland.
"I am very much pleased with this scene. Light is good, most good. There was much darkness in the prison at `Akka, said the Master.
Our hearts were sad as we thought on those sombre years within that dismal fortress, where the only light was in the indomitable spirit of the Master Himself! When we said "We are glad, oh! so full of gladness that you are free," He said: "Freedom is not a matter of place, but of condition. I was happy in that prison, for those days were passed in the path of service.
"To me prison was freedom.
"Troubles are a rest to me.
"Death is life.
"To be despised is honour.
"Therefore was I full of happiness all through that prison time.
"When one is released from the prison of self, that is indeed freedom! For self is the greatest prison.
"When this release takes place, one can never be imprisoned. Unless one accepts dire *vicissitudes, not with dull resignation, but with radiant acquiescence, one cannot attain this freedom."
* * *
Those of us who were included in the kind invitation of Mr. and Mrs. Tudor-Pole to accompany 'Abdu'l-Bahá on His visit to the Clifton Guest House, Clifton, will forever remember
the wonderful three days under that hospitable roof. Many of their friends and neighbours were invited to meet the Eastern guest Who had suffered long years of persecution "in the path of God."
this visit has already been described in our host's own words in 'Abdu'l-Bahá in London, and we shall always be grateful that we were privileged to share in the sunshine of those days.
One refreshing evening was spent at the house of a friend in Chelsea, who had steadfastly refused to invite anybody to meet 'Abdu'l-Bahá. "He shall have one quiet, restful evening without being surrounded by people. Besides, we really want to have Him to ourselves," she said.
So our hostess, her sister, and little niece made the Master very happy. He was delighted to watch the lighted boats passing up and down the river Thames. Our hostess was a real musician, and an authoress. 'Abdu'l-Bahá said to her:
"All Art is a gift of the Holy Spirit. When this light shines through the mind of a musician, it manifests itself in beautiful harmonies. Again, shining through the mind of a poet, it is seen in fine poetry and poetic prose. When the Light of the Sun of Truth inspires the mind of a painter, he produces marvellous pictures. These gifts are fulfilling their highest purpose, when showing forth the praise of God."
A reception was given by Sr. Richard and Lady Stapley in honour of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. A picturesque and symbolic decoration was that of a large iced cake with flights of snow-white doves radiating from it. One of these doves was given by the Master to each guest as a souvenir of the Eastern Harbinger of Peace. Who spoke earnestly to us of the duty of each one of those assembled to work, body and soul and spirit, for the Most Great Peace.
"When a thought of war enters your mind, supress it, and plant in its stead a positive thought of peace. These thoughts, vital and dynamic, will affect the minds of all with whom you come into contact, and like doves of peace, will grow and increase till they spread over all the land."
The devotion of the Master's followers was wonderful, and sometimes took embarrassing ways of showing itself.
As we were starting to the entertainment, one of those who dearly loved 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Siyyid Asadu'llah, followed Him. Finding the car full of invited guests, he sprang on to the roof, and arrived with us! When we were announced, the host and hostess hid their surprise, and welcomed the faithful friend.
At a sign, an extra seat was placed at the table for him, who refused to be separated from his Master.
Knowing nothing, and caring less, for conventionalities, he spent a happy evening in the presence of the Beloved One.
* * * 'Abdu'l-Bahá did not accept gifts of money, but a handkerchief, a box of bon-bons, baskets of fruit, and lovely flowers gave Him great pleasure. These were constantly brought to His "English home." These offerings of love gained His smiling thanks, and were quickly distributed among the friends.
One day a pair of soft, red-leather slippers, folded into a little case, were offered to Him by the daughters of the hostess. These were soon given to a Persian prince, who, no doubt, treasured them always as the gift of the Master.
The pastor of a Congregational church in the east end of London invited the Master to give an address one Sunday evening. The congregation seemed spell-bound by the power which spread like an atmosphere from another, higher world.
* * *
The visit to Oxford was one of notable interest. The meeting between 'Abdu'l-Bahá and the dear, revered higher critic, Dr. T. K. Cheyne, was fraught with pathos. It seemed almost too intimate to describe, and our very hearts were touched, as we looked on, and realized something of the sacred emotions of that day.
'Abdu'l-Bahá embraced the Doctor with loving grace, and praised his courageous steadfastness in his life's work, always striving against increasing weakness, and lessening bodily
health. Through those veiling clouds the light of the mind and spirit shone with a radiant persistence. The beautiful loving care of the devoted wife for her gifted, invalid husband touched the heart of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. With tears in His kind eyes He spoke of them to Mrs. Thornburgh-Cropper and myself on our way back to London: "She is an angelic woman, an example to all in her unselfish love. Yes, she is a perfect woman. An angel." This lady was Elizabeth Gibson Cheyne, the very specially gifted poetess. * * * One day after a meeting when, as usual, many people had crowded round Him, 'Abdu'l-Bahá arrived home very tired. We were sad at heart that He should be so fatigued, and bewailed the many steps to be ascended to the flat. Suddenly, to our amazement, the Master ran up the stairs to the top very quickly without stopping. He looked down at us as we walked up after Him, saying with a bright smile, from which all traces of fatigue had vanished: "You are all very old! I am very young!" Seeing me full of wonder, 'Abdu'l-Bahá said: "Through the power of Bahá'u'lláh all things can be done. I have just used that power. That was the only time we had ever seen Him use that power for Himself, and I feel that He did so then to cheer and comfort us, as we were really sad concerning His fatigue.
Might it not also have been to show us an example of the great Reserve of Divine Force always available for those of us who are working in various ways in the "Path of the Love of God and of Mankind." A celestial strength which reinforces us when our human strength fails.
Many were the "Signs" spoken of by those friends gifted with the clairvoyant sense.
"I have just seen a great light, as a halo shining round the Master's head! Wonderful! Wonderful!"
"Have you not seen it yourself?" said one of these friends.
I replied, "In the sense you mean, no. I am not gifted with a constant clairvoyance, but to me He is always clothed in a sacred light."
"But," she persisted, "there must be miracles. Many miracles, are there not?"
"Yes, of course. But 'Abdu'l-Bahá says:
"`Miracles have frequently obscured the Teachings which the Divine Messenger has brought. The Message is the real miracle. The phenomenal miracles are unimportant, and prove nothing to anybody but the witnesses thereof, and even they will very often explain them away! Therefore miracles have no value in the teaching of religion.'"
"Yes, I understand," she answered, "but when a dear friend was being carried to the operating room to undergo a serious operation, 'Abdu'l-Bahá seemed to walk before her, smiling encouragement, and stayed whilst the doctors did their work. The dreaded ordeal was overpast, and she who had been despaired of, even by the doctors, recovered most unexpectedly. Are you not surprised?"
"No, for this reason; on the day she left London, to join her mother, that lady's daughter came to implore 'Abdu'l-Bahá to `bear in mind the critical hour of the operation, and to come to her mother's help.' I am of course not surprised that He granted her request."
Another friend said: "At that gathering which I attended, the radiant light emanating from 'Abdu'l-Bahá spread over the whole hall. It looked like showers of golden drops, which fell upon every person in the assemblage."
We who observed and pondered these things grew to take the unprecedented happenings as a part of the whole, not with surprise, but rather with thankfulness that such things could be.
* * *
A woman had grown to love 'Abdu'l-Bahá. She had, however, not yet seen Him. She wrote imploring Him to help her, and, if possible, to send her a sign for her comfort, as she was in very great distress of mind. One day shortly afterwards she went to
the Bahá'í friend who had told her of the great Educator: "You have a message for me? she said.
"Yes, I have it; it is this: I seemed to hear 'Abdu'l-Bahá's voice at the early hour of dawn this morning. This is what I heard:
"`Tell her that walking from henceforth in the Celestial Garden she will evermore be bathed in the sunlight of God. No future occurrences will have power to really hurt, for the Protection surrounding her will so shield her that no evil will have any possibility of penetrating through her armour. In this armour there will be no flaw.'"
This message she wrote down at the time on the fly-leaf of her Bible (in April 1912, at Bex in the Valley of the Rhxone).
The following December, during the second visit of 'Abdu'l-Bahá to London, this lady came to see Him. He talked to her of happy, pleasant things, smiling His welcome. When she rose to leave, I said: "Master! She is so very unhappy!"
The Master then put His hand on her shoulder and spoke to her the very words of the Message, which had been written down in her Bible many months before. "It is my message," she said, trembling.
'Abdu'l-Bahá looked at us with a smile, full of loving pity, as though at children, who were surprised at some unusual token of their father's power and love.
* * *
One day, whilst I was driving with Mrs. Cropper and the Master, she said: "Master, are you not longing to be back at Haifa with your beloved family?" He smiled and said:
"I wish you to understand that you are both as truly my dear daughters, as beloved by me, as are those of whom you speak."
Our hearts thrilled with joy and awe as He spoke. "How can we serve to be even a little worthy of so high an honour?"
* * *
"Will this misery-laden world ever attain happiness?" a visitor asked one day. The Master replied:
"It is nearly two thousand years since His holiness the Lord Christ taught this prayer to His people: "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven.' Thinkest thou that He would have commanded thee to pray for that which would never come? That prayer is also a prophecy."
"'Abdu'l-Bahá, when will the Kingdom come? How soon will His Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven?"
"It depends on how intensely you, each and every one of you, serve day and night. Ye are all torches that I have lighted with mine own hands. Go forth, light others till all the separate waiting servants are linked together in a great Unity.
"Those who are working alone are like ants, but when they are united they will become as eagles.
"Those who work singly are as drops, but, when united, they will become a vast river carrying the cleansing water of life into the barren desert places of the world. Before the power of its rushing flood, neither misery, nor sorrow, nor any grief will be able to stand. Be united! It is rather dangerous to be an isolated drop. It might be spilled or blown away."
* * *
In Scotland 'Abdu'l-Bahá gave several public talks, emphasizing different aspects of the Bahá'í Teaching. One very definite impression received from that visit was of His power to refresh Himself from some spiritual source when His strength had been overtaxed.
'Abdu'l-Bahá had spoken to a large group in the afternoon, and when He mounted the platform in the evening, before a packed hall, He looked very tired. He remained seated in silence for a few moments, after Mr. Graham Pole had reverently introduced Him. Then, seeming to gather strength, He arose, and with voice and manner of joyous animation, and eyes aglow, He paced the platform with a vigorous trend, and spoke with words of great power.
The following is a message to the Theosophists, who received Him with so much enthusiasm during His stay in Scotland:
"Give my most friendly greetings to all the Theosophists. You have risen to help humanity because you are freeing yourselves from superstition and you are casting ignorance far from your minds. You wish the welfare of mankind, and this object is a mighty one. Every man that in this day rises to save his brothers is nearing the threshold of God, for all the Manifestations and Prophets of God have striven to bring about unity among men, and they have worked for harmony.
"The foundation of the Divine teaching is this unity and harmony. Moses strove for unity among men; the Christ did all to promote this understanding, and Muhammad proclaimed the necessity of this union. The Buddha also worked for the same great goal. The Gospel, the Qur'an, and all Holy Writings are the basis for this unity. The foundation of the religions of God is one; the faith of God is one: to bring between men love and understanding. Bahá'u'lláh has renewed the teachings of the Prophets and of the Manifestations, and has again proclaimed the Oneness of the foundation upon which the religion of God is established.
"He is bringing together different nations, and He has been able to unite antagonistic sects. The spirit of Bahá'u'lláh is bringing all the members, and all the organs of the body of humanity, to a complete understanding. As you are members of this body of humanity striving to bring about the accomplishment of this great aim, I pray God to assist you."
* * *
The last morning came. The secretaries and several friends were ready to start for the train.
'Abdu'l-Bahá sat calmly writing. We reminded Him that the hour to leave for the train was at hand. He looked up, saying:
"There are things of more importance than trains," and He continued to write.
Suddenly in breathless haste a man came in, carrying in his hand a beautiful garland of fragrant white flowers. Bowing low before the Master, he said:
"In the name of the disciples of Zoroaster, The Pure One, I hail Thee as the `Promised Shah Bahram'!"
Then the man, for a sign, garlanded 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and proceeded to anoint each and all of the amazed friends who were present with precious oil, which had the odour of fresh roses.
This brief but impressive ceremony concluded, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, having carefully divested Himself of the garland, departed for the train.
We had witnessed a solemn act in the Mysterious Sacred Drama of the World.
'Abdu'l-Bahá's sojourn in London was ended.
We stood bereft of His presence.
Of the friends who gathered round Him at the train, one had been a constant visitor, a charming Eastern potentate, *dignified and picturesque in his jewelled turban. He was an example of earthly kingship, one of the many other great personages of the world, all of whom, absent and present, were so small, so insignificant, when compared with the Ambassador of the Most High, as He stood, clad in a simple garment, speaking courteous words of farewell, smiling that love-laden smile which comforted all hearts.
Discarding preconceived ideas, a new consciousness seemed to awaken when in His presence.
Some of the minds, though as yet so finite, reached out to a recognition of the Light of the great Manifestation, now being diffused by 'Abdu'l-Bahá on all Humanity. To us He was impregnated with that Light, "as a vesture wrapped about him, like a garment round him thrown."
Small wonder that we mortals were overwhelmed with awe, as we drew near to the heavenly Messenger of that immortal Spirit of Truth and Light, which had come to save the children of men from chaotic destruction.
Would Humanity awaken? Or would they continue to sleep "unaware"?
* * * A question, natural, and often asked, is this: "Where are those people who crowded to 97 Cadogan....
Gardens, during the two visits of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and how have they answered His call?" "I have come with a torch in my hand, seeking out those who will arise and help me to bring about the Most Great Peace."
Who shall say how much or how little of the Message given by the Servant of God was understood by those persons, well-known and unknown, gentle and simple, who sought His presence in those days?
States of consciousness and powers of vision being so varied, one visitor would come to hear and to see "some new thing" out of curiosity, hoping to witness a magic happening, an astounding phenomenon.
Of another kind was a man who, being on his way to Japan, heard that 'Abdu'l-Bahá was in England. He broke his journey at Constantinople, and hastened to London for the joy of spending one evening in His presence.
Still another type of mentality was that of a popular preacher.
Often voicing his hope and desire that a Great Messenger would again come to the world, he answered an invitation to visit the Master by sending regrets as he was "engaged to attend a garden party.:
It is not ours to know how many were conscious of the vital breath of that atmosphere of "Love and Wisdom and Power," which was always around the Master, more penetrating and significant than even His words, although they were spoken with authority.
Of those who came into touch with that pervading influence, some were awed and transformed. Their very souls seemed wrapt by an unforgettable experience. The power of this atmosphere was overwhelming, but could neither be described nor defined.
Some of the Western visitors felt this hitherto unknown or unaccustomed atmosphere of the Spirit with moving gratitude and awe. To the Eastern guests this wonder was as the air they breathed. They accepted the Power with the reverence of the Oriental soul, trained to recognize the influence of holiness manifest in Him, Who had suffered long years in the Path of God, and Who had at length succeeded in bringing together the Message into the open air of the world.
Minds and motives must needs be varied because their quality depends upon the stage of advancement of each in spiritual evolution. Such an awakened consciousness alone determines the capacity to recognize Spiritual Truth.
The appeal of the Word of God to the spirit of man being so intimately sacred, it is not our province to judge any other human being in this matter.
"The earth is full of the signs of God; may your eyes be illumined by perceiving them," said 'Abdu'l-Bahá.
For comfort and encouragement we are able to perceive these signs as stars of hope and fulfilment on every hand, whilst they are developing on the crowded stage of the world since 'Abdu'l-Bahá's coming to the West with His warnings and His injunctions.
"The Great Woe" (the World War) proves the truth that when spiritual civilization is neglected and material civilization alone is cultivated, the whole edifice collapses into ruin, there being no firm foundation.
"And great is the fall thereof."
* * *
Talk Given at 97 Cadogan Gardens, London, England
16th January, 1913
The Cause has become very great. Many souls are entering it - souls with different mentalities and range of understanding. Complex difficulties constantly rise before us. The administration of the Cause has become most difficult. Conflicting thoughts and theories attack the Cause from every side. Now consider to what extent the believers of God must become firm and soul-sacrificing. Every one of the friends must become the essence of essences; each one must become a brilliant lamp. People all around the world are entering the Cause, people of various tribes and nations and religions and sects. It is most difficult to administer to such heterogeneous elements. Wisdom
and Divine insight are necessary. Firmness and steadfastness are needed at such a crucial period of the Cause.
"All the meetings must be for teaching the Cause and spreading the Message, and suffering the souls to enter into the Kingdom of Bahá'u'lláh. Look at me. All my thoughts are centred around the proclamation of the Kingdom. I have a lamp in my hand searching throughout the lands and seas to find souls who can become heralds of the Cause. Day and night I am engaged in this work. Any other deliberations in the meetings are futile and fruitless. Convey the Message! Attract the hearts! Sow the seeds! Teach the Cause to those who do not know. It is now six months that Siyyid Asadu'llah implored that I write a few lines to my sister, my daughters. I have not done this because I find I must teach. I enter all meetings, all churches, so that the Cause may be spread. When the `Most Important' work is before our sight, we must let go the `Important' one. If the meeting or spiritual assembly has any other occupations the time is spent in futility. All the deliberations, all consultations, all the talks and addresses must revolve around one focal centre, and that is: Teach the Cause. Teach. Teach. Convey the Message. Awaken the souls. Now is the time of laying the foundation. Now must we gather brick, stone, wood, iron, and other building materials. Now is not the time of decoration. We must strive day and night and think and work; what can I say that may become effective? What can I do that may bring results? What can I write that may bring forth fruits? Nothing else will be useful today. The interests of such a Glorious Cause will not advance without such undivided attention. While we are carrying this load we cannot carry any other load!"
* * *
Tablet from 'Abdu'l-Bahá to the Friends Sent to Us by
"Lutfullah"* in March 1912
Cry aloud and say:
O friends, a hundred times Glad Tidings that the Light of Reality has shone and enlightened the world.....
The Proclamation of the Kingdom has reached you.
The ears heard and shook with this great sound!
The Doors of the Kingdom were opened.
The Heavenly Troops have arrived Army by Army, and they help the Bahá'ís (friends of God).
Anyone who is free from ambition and (earthly) desire will be victorious on this plane, and anyone who is pure and holy from the suggestions of evil, and is a refined (purified) soul, he will shine in reality like the Star of the Most High!
Then, O friends, strive with all your might to make yourselves free from ambitions until you become brimful of joyfulness like a cup of wine from the bounties of Bahá'u'lláh - the Blessed Beauty - that you may be the cause of the illumination of the world!
'Abdu'l-Bahá in Paris Much has been written of the journeys of 'Abdu'l-Bahá,`Abbas Effendi. Having been released from the prison fortress of `Akka, after forty years of captivity, He set Himself to obey the sacred charge laid upon Him by His Father, Bahá'u'lláh. Accordingly, He undertook a three years' mission into the Western world. He left the Holy Land and came to Europe in 1911. During that and the two following years He visited Switzerland, England, Scotland, France, America, Germany and Hungary.
When the days of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's first visit to London (in the autumn of 1911) were drawing to a close, his friends, Monsieur and Madame Dreyfus-Barney, found an apartment for His residence whilst in the French capital. It was charmingly furnished, sunny, spacious, situated in the Avenue de CamGons (No.4), whence a flight of steps led into the Trocadero Gardens; here the Master often took solitary, restful walks. Sheltered in this modern, comfortable, Paris flat, He Whom we revered, with a secretary, servitors, and a few close friends, sojourned for an unforgettable nine weeks.
Who is this, with a branch of roses in His hand, coming down the steps? A picturesque group of friends (some Persians, wearing the kulah, and a few Europeans), who are following Him, see little children coming up to Him. They hold on to His `aba (cloak), confiding and fearless. He gives the roses to them, caressingly lifting one after another in His arms, smiling the while that glorious smile which wins all hearts.
Again, we saw a cabman stop his fiacre, take off his cap and hold it in his hand, gazing amazed, with an air of reverence, whilst the majestic figure, courteously acknowledging his salutation, passed by with that walk which a friend had described as "that of a king or of a shepherd."
Another scene. A very poor quarter in Paris - Sunday morning - groups of men and women inclined to be rowdy. Foremost amongst them a big man brandishing a long loaf of bread in his hand, shouting, gesticulating, dancing.
Into this throng walked 'Abdu'l-Bahá, on His way from a mission hall, where He had been addressing a very poor congregation at the invitation of their pastor. The boisterous man with the loaf, suddenly seeing Him, stood still. He then proceeded to lay about him lustily with his staff of life, crying "Make way, make way! He is my Father, make way!" The Master passed through the midst of the crowd, now become silent and respectfully saluting Him. "Thank you, my dear friends, thank you," He said, smiling round upon them. The poor were always His especially beloved friends. He was never happier than when surrounded by them, the lowly of heart.
Who is He?
Why do the people gather round Him?
Why is He here in Paris?
I hope to indicate, albeit inadequately, something of that Messenger, the "Trusted One" Who came out of an Eastern prison to bring His Father's message to the bewildered nations of earth. During the Paris visit, as it had been in London, daily happenings took on the atmosphere of spiritual events. Some of these episodes I will endeavour to describe as well as I can remember them.
Every morning, according to His custom, the Master expounded the principles of the Teaching of Bahá'u'lláh to those who gathered round Him, the learned and the unlearned, eager and respectful. They were of all nationalities and creeds, from the East and from the West, including Theosophists, agnostics, materialists, spiritualists, Christian Scientists, social reformers, Hindus, Sufis, Muslims, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, and many others. Often came workers in various humanitarian societies, who were striving to reduce the miseries of the poor. These received special sympathy and blessing.
'Abdu'l-Bahá spoke in Persian, which was translated into French by Monsieur and Madame Dreyfus-Barney. My two daughters, Mary and Ellinor, our friend Miss Beatrice Platt, and I, took notes of these "Talks" from day to day. At the
request of the Master, these notes were arranged and published in English.* It will be seen that in these pages are gathered together the precepts of those Holy Souls Who, being Individual Rays of the One, were, in diverse times and countries, manifested here on earth to lead the spiritual evolution of human kind.
The words of 'Abdu'l-Bahá can be put on to paper, but how describe the smile, the earnest pleading, the loving-kindness, the radiant vitality, and at times the awe-inspiring authority of His spoken words? The vibrations of His voice seemed to enfold the listeners in an atmosphere of the Spirit, and to penetrate to the very core of being. We were experiencing the transforming radiance of the Sun of Truth; henceforth, material aims and unworthy ambitions shrank away into their trivial, obscure retreats.
'Abdu'l-Bahá would often answer our questions before we asked them. Sometimes He would encourage us to put them into words.
"And now your question?" he said.
I answered: "I am wondering about the next world, whether I shall ask to be permitted to come back here to earth to help?" "Why should you wish to return here? In My Father's House are many mansions - many, many worlds! Why should you desire to come back to this particular planet?"
The visit of one man made a profound impression upon us:
"O 'Abdu'l-Bahá, I have come from the French Congo, where I have been engaged in mitigating the hardships of some of the natives. For sixteen years I have worked in that country."
"It was a great comfort to me in the darkness of my prison to know the work which you were doing."
Explanations were not necessary when coming to 'Abdu'l-Bahá!
One day a window in deepest mourning came. Weeping bitterly, she was unable to utter a word.
*When the 'Talks" were ready, the book was sent to 'Abdu'l-Bahá for His comments. He read them through and was well pleased with the English translation. He wished them to be published without delay. Accordingly, the book came out in May 1912 and is now obtainable from Bahá'í Publishing Trust, London. In 1939 Talks of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in Paris was translated into French by Madame Hesse. With the assistance of Mrs. Lynch and of Madame Dreyfus-Barney the book was published in Geneva. It is found to be of great use in teaching the various seekers in Paris and other towns in France.
Knowing her heart's grief, "Do not weep," said 'Abdu'l-Bahá, wiping away the tears from the poor face. "Do not weep. Be happy! It will be well with the boy. Bring him to see me in a few days."
On her way out, this mother said: "Oh, my child! He is to go through a dangerous operation today. What can I do?"
"The Master has told you what to do. Remember His words:
"Do not weep, it will be well with the boy. Be happy, and in a few days bring him to see me.'"
In a few days the mother brought her boy to the Master, perfectly well!
One evening at the home of Monsieur and Madame Dreyfus-Barney, an artist was presented to 'Abdu'l-Bahá.
"Thou are very welcome. I am happy to see thee. All true art is a gift of the Holy Spirit."
"What is the Holy Spirit?"
"It is the Sun of Truth, O Artist."
"Where, where, is the Sun of Truth?"
"The Sun of Truth is everywhere, It is shining on the whole world."
"What of the dark night, when the Sun is not shining?"
"The darkness of night is past, the Sun has risen."
"But, Master, how shall it be with the blinded eyes that cannot see the Sun's splendour? And what of the deaf ears that cannot hear those who praise its beauty?"
"I will pray that the blind eyes may be opened, that the deaf ears may be unstopped, and that the hearts may have grace to understand."
As 'Abdu'l-Bahá spoke, the troubled mien of the artist gave place to a look of relief, satisfied understanding, joyous emotion.
Thus interview followed interview. Church dignitaries of various branches of the Christian Tree came, some earnestly desirous of finding new aspects of the Truth-"the wisdom that buildeth up, rather than the knowledge that puffeth up." Others there were who stopped their ears, lest they should hear and understand.
One afternoon, a party of the latter type arrived. They spoke words of bigotry, of intolerance, of sheer cruelty in their bitter condemnation of all who did not accept their own particular.
dogma, showing themselves obsessed by "the hate of man, disguised as love of God," a thin disguise to the penetrating eyes of the Master. Perhaps they were dreading the revealing light of Truth which He sought to shed upon the darkness of their outworn ecclesiasticism. The new revelation was too great for their narrowed souls and fettered minds.
The heart of 'Abdu'l-Bahá was saddened by this interview, which had tired Him exceedingly. When He referred to this visit there was a look in His eyes as if loving pity were blended with profound disapproval, as though He would cleanse the defiled temple of Humanity from the suffocating diseases of the soul. Then He uttered these words in a voice of awe-inspiring authority: "Jesus Christ is the Lord of Compassion, and these men call themselves by His Name! Jesus is ashamed of them!"
He shivered as with cold, drawing His `!aba closely about Him, with a gesture as if sternly repudiating their misguided outlook.
The Japanese Ambassador to a European capital (Viscount Arawaka-Madrid) was staying at the Hotel d'Jena. This gentleman and his wife had been told of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's presence in Paris, and the latter was anxious to have the privilege of meeting Him.
"I am very sad," said Her Excellency. "I must not go out this evening as my cold is severe, and I leave early in the morning for Spain. If only there were a possibility of seeing Him." This was told to the Master, Who had just returned after a long, tiring day.
"Tell the lady and her husband that, as she is unable to come to me, I will call upon her."
Accordingly, though the hour was late, through the cold and the rain He came, with His smiling courtesy, bringing joy to us all, as we awaited Him in the Tapestry Room of the Hotel d'Jena.
'Abdu'l-Bahá talked with the Ambassador and his wife of conditions in Japan, of the great international importance of that country, of the vast service to mankind, of the work for the abolition of war, of the need for improving conditions of life for the worker, of the necessity of educating girls and boys equally.
"The religious ideal is the soul of all plans for the good of mankind. Religion must never be used as a tool by party politicians. God's politics are might, man's politics are feeble." Speaking of religion and science, the two great wings with which the bird of human kind is able to soar, He said: "Scientific discoveries have increased material civilization. There is in existence a stupendous force, as yet, happily, undiscovered by man. Let us supplicate God, the Beloved, that this force be not discovered by science until spiritual civilization shall dominate the human mind. In the hands of men of lower material nature, this power would be able to destroy the whole earth." 'Abdu'l-Bahá talked of these and many other supremely important matters for more than an hour. The friends, wondering said: "How is it possible that, having spent all His life imprisoned in an Eastern fortress, He should so well understand world problems and possess the wisdom to solve them so simply?"
Truly we were beginning to understand the majesty of greatness, whether mental, or spiritual, is always simple.
One day, I received a disquieting letter: "It would be well to warn 'Abdu'l-Bahá that it might be dangerous for Him to visit a certain country, for which I understand He proposes to set forth in the near future."
Having regard to the sincere friendship of the writer, and knowing that sources of reliable information were available to him, this warning obviously could not be ignored. Therefore, as requested, I laid the matter before the Master.
To my amazement, He smiled and said impressively: "My daughter, have you not yet realized that never, in my life, have I been for one day out of danger, and that I should rejoice to leave this world and go to my Father?"
"Oh, Master! We do not wish that you should go from us in that manner." I was overcome with sorrow and terror.
"Be not troubled," said 'Abdu'l-Bahá. "These enemies have no power over my life, but that which is given them from on High. If my Beloved God so willed that my life-blood should be sacrificed in His path, it would be a glorious day, devoutly wished for by me."
Therefore the friends surrounding the much-loved Master were comforted, and their faith so strengthened, that when a sinister-looking man came up to a group who were walking in the gardens and threateningly said: "Are you not yet sufficiently warned? Not only is there danger for 'Abdu'l-Bahá, but also for you who are with Him," the friends were unperturbed, one of them replying calmly: "The Power that protects the Master protects also His other servants. Therefore we have not fear."
The man departed, abashed, saying nothing more.
Two days before the close of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's visit, a woman came hurriedly into the gathering at the Avenue de Camoens:
"Oh, how glad I am to be in time! I must tell you the amazing reason of my hurried journey from America. One day, my little girl astonished me by saying: `Mummy, if dear Lord Jesus was in the world now, what would you do? `Darling baby, I would feel like getting on to the first train and going to Him as fast as I could.' `Well, Mummy, He is in the world.' I felt a sudden great awe come over me as my tiny one spoke. `What do you mean, my precious? How do you know?' I said. `He told me Himself, so in course He is in the world.' Full of wonder, I thought: Is this a sacred message which is being given to me out of the mouth of my babe? And I prayed that it might be made clear to me.
"The next day she said, insistently and as though she could not understand: `Mummy, darlin', why isn't you gone to see Lord Jesus? He's told me two times that He is really here, in the world.' "Tiny love, Mummy doesn't know where He is, how could she find Him?' `We see, Mummy, we see.'
"I was naturally perturbed. The same afternoon, being out for a walk with my child, she suddenly stood still and cried out, `There He is! There He is!' She was trembling with excitement and pointing at the windows of a magazine store where there was a picture of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. I bought the paper, found this address, caught a boat that same night, and here I am."
The above was written down as it was related to me. This is the second instance which came to my knowledge of the pictured face of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. arresting the beholder with a compelling force. The first incident was that of a man in deadly
despair, about to take his own life; and now this innocent child.
It was of great interest to notice the effect the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá had upon some children. One little girl whispered, "Look, that is Jesus when He was old." Perhaps their unstained nature sensed the breath of holiness which was always with Him, and caused these little ones to liken Him to the most Holy One of Whom they were conscious.
One day, a certain man, a Persian of high degree, came to 'Abdu'l-Bahá: "I have been exiled from my country. I pray you intercede for me that I may be permitted to return."
"You will be allowed to return."
"Some of my land has been bought by one of the Bahá'í friends. I desire to possess that property once more."
"It shall be given back to you and without payment."
"Who is the young man standing behind you? May he be presented to me?"
"He is Mirza Jalal, son of one of the martyred brothers of Isfahan."
"I had no part in that crime."
"The part you took in that event, I know. Moreover, your motive I know."
This man, with his fellow-conspirator, the "Wold" ()so named because of his ruthless cruelty and greed), had borrowed large sums of money from the two noble and generous brothers of Isfhan. To accuse them of being followers of Bahá'u'lláh, to bring them before a tribunal which condemned them to be executed, and to have the brothers put to death, was their plot to avoid being required to repay the loans.
After the death of the "Wolf" some documents were discovered, relating to the borrowed money. This, with the addition of the interest which had accumulated, now amounted to a considerable sum. The lawyer who was in charge of the affair wrote to the son of the martyr, asking into what bank the moneys should be paid. The reply sent, with the approval of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, was that he declined to accept repayment of money which had been one reason for the shedding of his father's blood.
Mirza Jalal was now married to a daughter of 'Abdu'l-Bahá
Whilst these episodes were taking place, we who witnessed them seemed to be in a higher dimension, where they were natural indications of the presence of the Light which in all men is latent and in 'Abdu'l-Bahá transcendent.
The constant awareness of an exhilaration, which carried us out of our everyday selves, and gave us the sense of being "one with the Life Pulse, which beats through the Universe: is an experience to be treasured rather than an emotion to be described.
'Abdu'l-Bahá in War-time
The Story of Mirza Jalal
Prayer of 'Abdu'l-Bahá
"Oh Lord, this is a mountain to which Thou has given the name Carmel in the Torah, and Thou hast attributed it to Thyself in the Tablets and the Scriptures.
"O Lord, verily I invoke Thee, in this supreme threshold, under the wing of the gloomy nights; pray to Thee with throbbing heart and flowing tears, imploring, supplicating Thee, and cry: "O my Lord, verily the fire of battle is raging in the valleys, hills, and streams, and the conflagration of war is burning even under the seas and high in the air, destroying and devastating.'
"We hear only the sighs of the maidens and the cry of the orphans, the moaning of the mothers, and the tears of the fathers...and this is only because of our heedlessness of Thy commemoration, and our neglect of Thy Love. Verily we have been occupied with ourselves. The intoxication of passion seized us. We have taken the road of neglect and blindness; have abandoned the path of guidance, and have chosen the path of obstinacy.
"Oh my Lord, do not deal with us according to our offences - remove the veil, scatter this dense cloud on the horizon; extinguish these fires; subdue this flood, staunch the bloodshed, that these hurricanes may cease, the thunderbolts be extinguished, the torrents quelled, the land become visible, so may the souls find composure, and we will tank Thee for Thy abundant favour, O thou dear Lord, O Thou Forgiver."
Abu-SinanThe joy when 'Abdu'l-Bahá arrived safely back in Haifa (in December 1913) cannot be described. How the friends flocked about Him! He had now greater work than ever; letters to be answered increased and multiplied. From all those places which He had visited, letters came asking for explanation and begging for advice. From many other parts of the earth came appeals imploring Him to visit them also.
To these correspondents the Master replied with His unfailing patience. So it came about that His family saw little of Him in those months after His return from the world Mission.
Eight months after this came the war.
Soon after its outbreak, Haifa, which was still under Turkish rule, was panic-stricken. Most of the inhabitants fled inland, fearing bombardment by the Allies.
those Bahá'í friends who were merchants suffered great losses, for all their stores of tea, sugar, etc., were commandeered by the Government, without payment.
The friends, in spite of the reassurances of the Master that no guns would be turned on Haifa, were living in constant fear, and the children, having heard terrible stories which were being told everywhere, grew quite ill, always looking round and about with frightened eyes.
At this time, the Master decided that it would be well to accept an invitation of the Shaykh of Abz'uSinz'an to remove the Bahá'ís and their children to that peaceful, healthy village, out of reach of the dreaded bombarding. In this village also, the very limited resources of the friends would, with strictest economy, be sufficient for their daily needs, with the help of the corn from 'Abdu'l-Bahá's storing.
Shaykh Salih placed his house at the disposal of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and His family, Who received the most cordial welcome from this gracious and courteous chief of the Druze village of Abu-Sinan.
The other Persian friends were gladly taken into various houses of the village, where they found themselves in most happy surroundings.
Their food was of the simplest: lentils, dried beans, delicious olives and their oil, and sometimes mile, eggs, and even some goat's meat. The fresh pure air was, of course, wonderfully good for their health, and they quickly recovered calm nerves and strength of body.
The strictest economy was the rule, from necessity, there being so many mouths to feed, some of whom being in terrible distress, had to be cared for and saved from sheer starvation.
'Abdu'l-Bahá had taught the friends to grow nourishing vegetables, which, with the corn from His village of `Adasiyyih where there were marvellous crops - kept many from perishing of hunger.
The Master's life was very full at this time. Not only did He care for the friends of Abu-Sinan, but in `Akka and Haifa all the poor looked to Him for their daily bread. Even before the war the spectre of starvation had not been very far from many of these pitiful people, but now when all the breadwinners (Germans and Turks) had been taken for the army, the plight of the women and children was desperate, for alas! there were no government "separation allowances."
Nothing and no one but the Master stood between them and certain death from hunger.
He also instituted a dispensary at Ab'u-Sin'an, and engaged a doctor, Hab'ib'u'll'ah Khud'abkhsh. This doctor was qualified to perform operations and to give instruction in hygiene.
'Abdu'l-Bahá did not neglect the education of the children. He arranged schools where they were taught by some of the most gifted of the Bahá'í friends.
These were truly unquiet days. From time to time the Bahá'ís were in danger of being compelled to join the army. Even the young boys of the Master s family, who were at school in Beirut, had their names taken down. Many were the telegrams sent to Constantinople, claiming exemption for the Persians as being of a neutral nation.
In spite of all the difficulties which surrounded them, the sojourn at Ab'u-Sin'an village was a time of great happiness. Was not the Beloved One more with them than ever before? It was many years since His family had seen so much of their Father.
From the balcony of the house in Abu-Sinan the Master's family watched for His return on the days when He went to Haifa and `Akka. The Shaykh and his handsome sons would walk down the steep, rocky road to welcome 'Abdu'l-Bahá as soon as His carriage came into sight, and they led their finest horse for their guest to ride, when the carriage could climb no further.
He was always a fearless horseman, and to ride was a joy for Him. Riding swiftly on a beautiful Arab horse must have given Him a sense of restoration of vigour, after the fatigue of these strenuous days.
All the friends would run out to the steep, hilly road to greet Him, clustering round Him, the children dancing with gladness that He was come, vieing with each other to get nearest to Him. These were the first days of real freedom many of them had really ever known.
The Master would bring any news from the outside world that was available, and would first visit the ladies' wing of the house, asking about the health of each one separately. There were some American guests in those early days, but 'Abdu'l-Bahá thought it unwise for them to remain. They left by the last boat which went from Haifa to Alexandria in January 1915.
All were much relieved when these dear American friends had succeeded in reaching safety.
The Shaykh and his sons would gather in the divan. This was the reception room, vast and comfortable, of the masculine portion of the family. Here, with their friends and guests, they waited to hear any news the Master might bring.
They loved Him, trusted Him, and honoured Him, with all their hearts, feeling and believing that His wisdom grasped the future as well as the present.
Prayers were chanted at these gatherings, the Druze friends joining with the Bahá'ís.
For five months there was no word from any part of the outside world.
Sometimes the Governor of `Akka, or the Commandant, the Chief Magistrate, the Mufti, or the Pasha, would come to visit 'Abdu'l-Bahá, staying one or two nights, as guests at the village. All consulted Him on many questions regarding the
feeding or otherwise caring for the people during this time of difficulty, and many other problems were discussed. Great was His wisdom. Here, too, He answered many questions and explained many incidents which had not hitherto been made clear. Questioned by one of the visiting officers from `Akka, 'Abdu'l-Bahá told the following:
Sultan `Abdu'l-Hamid wished to strike terror into my heart; he sent to tell me that I should be imprisoned for ever, or executed, or sent to a far-off penal colony. I answered his threats by a message which read: `Please assure `Abdul-Hamid that he cannot imprison me whilst my spirit is unfettered. Even in the grave I should not be imprisoned, for my spirit, free from the limitation of the material body, would be still more free. The threat to send me to the island of Fizan, far from family and friends, where my only companions would be murderers and other malefactors, also has no terror for me; from amongst those poor, ignorant children of God the Pardoner, I should lead many back to my Father's House to receive forgiveness and Peace.'".
The narrative here is continued by Tuba Khanum:
On the 19th of January, 1915, Fadlu'llah Khan, a friend of Baqir Khan of ShiraPersia, came with great difficulty to obtain some news of the Master and the Bahá'í friends. This was the last neutral friend we saw for a long time.
Fadlu'llah took the last Tablet from the Master to Cairo and to all the friends - then no more communications.
At the dinner hour we often listened to words of wisdom from the lips of 'Abdu'l-Baháthat were like sacred gems being slowly strung on the consciousness of the Druze villagers and of the guests in their care.
e day He spoke of healing:
"There is spiritual healing and there is also material healing.
Unless these two work together a cure is impossible. The material element is medicine; spiritual healing is of God.
Man must work in unison with the laws ordained by Providence. All good things that take place are based on Divine Wisdom."
The Naw-Ruz* is a sacred day, and 'Abdu'l-Bahá prepared the feast at Bahji, the shrine of Bahá'u'lláh. He Himself cooked it. All the friends were bidden. They walked those few miles from Ab<'u-Sinan in two parties, the women in one party, the men in the other.
'Abdu'l-Bahá explained the day to His guests:
"There are two equinoxes, the vernal (Aries) and the autumnal (Liberia). Before this vernal season, the earth, mountains, and gardens are as dead; this season brings life.
"In Persia the great vernal feast has been respected from far-off ages. King Jamshid first built a gigantic fire-place and instituted a banquet on this day, and from this time the day of Naw-Ruz gradually came to be kept as a national feast. All victories were celebrated on this anniversary, and foundation stones of important buildings were laid on this day of the Naw-Ruz."
At the end of the feast the Master chanted prayers at the shrine of Bahá'u'lláh, and at sunset we dispersed and walked back to Abu-Sinan.
A few days later on the Mutisarrif (Governor) of `Akka and a group of friends came to visit the Master. They talked of the war. As they all sat at dinner that evening, 'Abdu'l-Bahá spoke as follows:
"All this trouble is because humanity has wandered far from the true teaching of God.
"Nations are divided through superstition and tradition. Religions are divided through tradition and superstition. All superstition is the result of people's imagination. For instance, the Shi`ites await a promised one who is invisible; they believe that he is the Imam Mihdi, who with servants and soldiers are abiding in Jabulqa, two imaginary cities of the East and the West. Each of these cities has twelve gates. The Imam Mihdi spends six months of the year in either city. When he appears he will fill the earth with justice and mercy, destroying enmity and oppression.
*Bahá'í New Year--21st March.
"The Sunnis believe that the Mihdi will come from an unknown place and suddenly appear at Mecca with a sword in his right hand; he will disperse the people (infidels) into different parts of the earth.
"Parsees believe that Kay-Khusraw will appear from a mountain.
"Christians believe that the Promised One will descend from the sky.
"The Jews say that the Messiah must be a descendant of David. They speak of a city named Sabbath, round which flows a river of sand; this sand stops flowing on Saturdays. The gates of this city are all closed. Moses said: `After me, a man like unto me will appear.' He came. But the Jews are still waiting. They have waited three thousand years.
"Materialists maintain that a Superman will arise, who must be perfect in wisdom, and in all respects above and beyond the best of men. All peoples are awaiting a Promised One.
"When the wise man regards this world, he realizes that this earth has not existed for only six thousand years. Science has proved that stars have a fixed orbit, therefore there are many `heavens,' in which are `many mansions.' "The Trust of Divinity is everlasting. God's bountiful qualities and names are eternal in the Divine Sovereignty. "Would it be possible for a king to exist without subjects? Or creatures without a Creator? If the Divine Creator be eternal, then His creatures, made after His own image, into whom He breathed the breath of Life, are likewise eternal.
"Change and transformation are qualities essential to material things. As physical man comes under the category of material things, these qualities affect him. Therefore it follows that change and transformation must take place in the administration of laws which affect mankind. Whenever there is a change there must be a rebirth into new conditions.
"The physical sun sets, and the earth is in darkness. Should the sun not arise again, death would overtake all things in the world. Heat and light are the essential qualities of the sun; without heat and light the sun would be a vast colossal orb of darkness.
"Man should weigh all questions with the power of the intellect.
"History, which is a great science, should be written by academies, not by individuals, liable to be influenced by emotions."
Speaking of the name "Druzes," the hospitable dwellers in Abu-Sinan, the Master said: "A few hundred years ago, Darz'i, a tailor, came from Persia to Syria, where he established the Druze cult. `Druze' is a corruption of the word `Darzi'"
One of the stories that 'Abdu'l-Bahá told us at that time was the following:
"There was a woman who was one of the disciples of His Holiness the Bab; she had seven sons; six of them had been martyred. She dreamed a dream, and behold, she saw her seventh son, the only one left. He was being brought to her with a dagger in his heart. "When she awoke from her dream she prayed: 'O God, the Compassionate! I gave six sons unto Thee. I cannot lose my only son, the last one left to me Oh spare him! Do not take him also!'
"As she prayed, a young woman, who was a friend, came to her: `Why lamentest thou?' she asked.
"`I have lost six sons, who were martyred for their Faith. I am begging God not to take my last one,' she answered.
"`If I were worthy, and had beautiful sons, I would give them all to my God,' the young friend said.
"In course of time a boy, Ashraf, was born to her also. He grew up to be a joy and comfort to his mother. He was loved and admired by all for his beauty, both of body and of soul.
"When he was about twenty-two years old, he was arrested, having become a disciple of the Bab.
"He was condemned to be crucified.
"As he, Ashraf, was being nailed to the cross the people begged him to deny his Master. He steadfastly refused, saying: `Nay, rather do I wish to be sacrificed for my God.'
"Then his mother was brought to him.
"She had been told that he denied his faith -- this was to her an unspeakable tragedy. But when she saw her beautiful, beloved only child being nailed to the cross, she cried:
"`My Ashraf! I owe thee to our God. I promised you to Him before you were born. I brought you up and educated you and
taught you [holy things] for this day. If you had consented to deny your God, my very motherhood would have cursed you. But now my mother-blessing will follow you into the Presence of our God.'
"So spake Umm-Ashraf.
"The people cried `Crucify him.' Then turning towards her the mob cried `And now let us kill this foolish mother.'
"They fell upon her. Still she cried aloud, rejoicing that she had given her dearest treasure for the Cause of God -- and they beat her till she, too, died.
"`There are many mirrors reflecting the Light, but though all the mirrors should be shattered, the Light would remain.'"
* * *
This seems the place to relate the story of `Abdu'l-Vahhab, as told at Ab<'u-Sinan, by 'Abdu'l-Bahá.
One day, whilst at Kazimayn, through which He passed on his first journey to Karbila and Baghdad, Jamal-i-Mubarak was appealed to by a young man, `Abdu'l-Vahhab, who was much attracted to Him, saying:
"One request, my Lord. My father and my mother have come to spend their latter days, and to die, in this holy place. They are very fanatical! I pray that they may be given grace to drink of the Chalice of Life." Bahá'u'lláh answered: "Persuade your father to come to me." To his father the youth went, saying: "O my father, there is here an honourable person from Tihran, who, although wearing a kulah, not a turban, is a surging sea of divine knowledge; he has a shining countenance, and a radiance of joy and happiness is with him, surely we should go to see him." His father, as soon as he came into the presence of Jam<'al-i-Mub'arak, exclaimed: "Oh! Lord, we have heard One calling us to faith, therefore we believe. Forgive us our sins." (From the Qur'an.)
Immediately he, heaving understood and believe, began to treach publicly, and became a famous Babi.
`Abdu'l-Vahhab (the son) implored to be allowed to accompany Bahá'u'lláh; he was, however, directed to remain with his parents, whose love for him was very great. `Abdu'l-Vahhab continued to ask his father's permission to join Bahá'u'lláh. To this at length the father agreed, and the young man made his way to Tihran, where he was unable to find his beloved Lord.
He, meanwhile, proceeded to teach the people openly in the street, ignoring all personal risk.
Now took place the deplorable incident of the insane youth shooting at the Shah.
Mirza `Abdu'l-Vahhab was instantly seized and thrown into the horrible prison, where very soon Bahá'u'lláh Himself arrived, having been arrested at His village, Niyavaran, whence He had been made to walk barefoot, with heavy chains on His neck, and fetters on His limbs; in this condition, without His kulah, did the friends see their Beloved.
Mirza `Abdu'l-Vahhab spent a few days in that dungeon in great joy and happiness, for was he not in the presence of Him, Whom he recognized as his Lord? Each day would the executioner come and call out certain names. `Abdu'lVahhab's turn came. He arose and danced in the prison, knowing that his hour of martyrdom had come. He kissed the beloved hand, and gave himself over into the hands of the executioner and his assistant torturers.
When the news reached his father, he bowed his head and thanked God that his sacrifice had been accepted at the Diving Threshold.
He is amongst those martyrs who were so great an amazement to the people of Tihran.
It is related that the torturers said "Let us nail red horseshoes on to his feet, we then shall see where his joyful dance will be."
This was done! But never did he flinch, and passed to his Crown of Martyrdom, praising God with his last breath.
First Visit of Ruha Khanum to Abu-Sinan, after the Passing of
'Abdu'l-Bahá. Early Spring of 1922. Abu-Sinan is about an hour's drive from Haifa over fields, with rough tracks -- that is after we passed by `Akka. Our car seemed to be taking flying leaps over rocks, then we climbed winding, almost perpendicular roads. Nothing but a Ford car, with a perfect driver, knowing every inch of the way, which was our Khusraw, could safely have accomplished the tests of that motor drive.
The Shaykh of the place, with some of his sons and nephews came out to welcome us.
We were conducted to the Shaykh's house, which, with its adjoining guest house, is a veritable palace. In the court-yard we were received with great cordiality by the ladies of the families -- the wife of the Shaykh, her daughters, daughter-in-law, and their children.
We mounted many, many steps on the outside of the house and arrived at a very large, beautifully-proportioned room. Under the large windows, round two sides of this reception chamber, were fixed divans.
As we arrived, the younger ladies brought soft, square cushions covered in wonderful brocade of apple-green and gold; these they placed on the divans for the comfort of their honoured guests.
They were full of joy to see Rupha Khanum, who had not paid them a visit since the passing of her adored Father. Her sorrow overflowed her heart afresh, as these dear Druze ladies wept with her, and she looked round the room, where the Master had so often taught and comforted His people during the dread and fear-laden days of the war.
This was their refuge till some of that ghastly time was over-past, and the Master knew that it would be safe to return to their homes at Haifa, bringing their children, now restored to health.
The view from these windows is glorious, and the whole atmosphere of the place full of calm and rest. No marvel that
the dear ones were happy in that haven, in the presence of their Beloved One, and cared for by these devoted, lovely creatures.
Across one end of this room were book-cases filled with beautifully bound books.
How I longed to know what they contained! Sacred writings naturally; but their religion is secret, none but the initiated are ever permitted to either enter their houses of worship, or to read their holy books. They are not Christians, although they reverence the Lord Christ; they are not Jews, but they reverence Moses and some of the other Israelitish prophets: Nabi-Shu`ayb, the father-in-law of Moses, is one of the Saints whom they esteem.
But Khir, as prophet of pre-Mosiac times, is greatly honoured by the Druzes. He, according to their sacred legend, having drunk of the WAter of Immortality, is now alive, and will live for evermore. He dwells in the Invisible Kingdom, but assumes bodily form and appears to those who love him in their dreams.
The places where Khidr is seen in dreamland are held sacred.
These holy places are numerous. Muslims also hold these shrines in veneration, making pilgrimages to them, praying for such benefits as healing, and vowing to return and give thinks, when their prayers are granted.
The Cave of Elijah on Mount Carmel is one of the shrines, where Khidr is also honoured both by Druzes and Muslims. Important pilgrimages are made to this cave at certain seasons of the year, where a lamb is sacrificed in memory of Abraham and of Isaac, whom they look upon as friends of Khidr, also associated with Moses and Elijah.
What their beliefs are, and their mode of worship, no outside person is ever permitted to know.
But their religion is deep and real, as shown in their lives.
The Druzes are kind, courteous, and nobly hospitable. Strict, very strict, in their morality -- the husband of one wife; no lapse from virtue is permitted -- the penalty would be terrible, even death.
No Druze family would suffer dishonour. They never marry outside their own religion; the penalty for this (which, however, very rarely occurs) would be fearful.
There is a tragic story told of a Druze maiden who fell in love
with a Muslim and secretly married him. Her brothers inflicted the punishment on their sister -- poor, beautiful `Afifih -- they killed her!
No Druze, either man or woman, can with impunity break any of their religious laws.
They may neither smoke nor drink alcohol. Shaykh Yusif, the eldest son of ShaykhS<'alih, is now the chief Druze. Shaykh Salih was deposed from that position because on a visit to some town he had learned to smoke cigarettes! He even dresses differently, wearing a red fez and a brown, fur-lined coat.
The Druzes wear a white amice, under the zombaz, a long, black coat, which, with a large, snow-white turban, has a pleasing and dignified effect. Both men and women are extraordinarily fine, noble-looking, strong, and healthy people.
Their fine physique is due in great measure to the pure, clean lives they lead. They keep to a vegetarian diet, very seldom eating meat; they observe the strictest morality, take no wine, spirits, nor tobacco. Tilling the ground, growing corn, olive oil, and fruit for their simple needs, spending most of their days in the fresh, pure, bracing air, they certainly do nothing to induce weakness or ill-health.
The ladies are amazingly lovely, with slight, graceful figures, regular features, wonderful eyes with long lashes, deep ivory coloured skins. I have never seen so many beautiful women together without one plain face among them. For even the grandmother and great-grandmother were beautiful! The dress is certainly most becoming; there is the white amice, very soft muslin-embroidered, and edged with fine lace. Then an ivory-=coloured, fine, supple silk, embroidered with coloured flowers, only showing in front, where the zombaz, a long coat, floated back as they walked with their free, graceful step; this zombaz is sometimes black or dark blue velvet; the head is covered with a large, flowing, white soft veil; this is bound firmly round the head with a band, it might be dark blue, embroidered with gold, forming a sort of coronet; it is tied at the back of the head, the ends falling below the knees, over the snowy veil, nearly reaching the ground. They never show their hair, and it is a mark of great respect to draw their veil over the mouth.
An enchanting baby, one year old, was brought in; even her hair was not to be seen. She wore a quaint little silk bonnet with white frills round the lovely baby face, and a curtain covered the neck. I wanted to see Badd'urah's head, but the beautiful grandmother, Sit `Afifih, only pushed the bonnet a wee bit back, and I did not like to insist by asking again.
As soon as we arrived, sweet iced water was offered to us in pretty glasses. After a while tea came, with delicious Arabian pastry, cakes, sweets, and nuts, followed by very sweet coffee.
They pressed R'uha Khanum and the other visitors, of whom there were three, to stay for at least a few days. Their hospitality is spontaneous kindness itself.
When they found we were really unable to accept their invitation, we were taken to the divan, another comfortable and large reception room. Here we were presented by Ruha Khanum to Shaykh Salih, a courtly, charming, and fascinating man, ninety years old, who wept bitterly as he welcomed us, for he had a great reverence and love for 'Abdu'l-Bahá.
Them came the Shaykh of the Khalwa -- the sacred House of Prayer -- which is entered by none but the Druzes who are initiated.
This is Yusif, the eldest son of Shaykh Salih, who had taken the place of his father, when he was deposed for smoking! He also was deeply moved as he spoke of the Master with loving devotion. Three younger brothers were then introduced to us and numbers of their sons, quite a large party of as splendid-looking men as I have ever seen.
They had come to Haifa to the funeral of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, also to the forty days memorial feast, and were now overcome with emotion as they spoke of Him, and the never-to-be-forgotten days, when He had hallowed their roof by sheltering under it. When at last we rose to depart, they all came out into the court-yard, the ladies were standing apart, and an enchanting group they made.
Our two friends were anxious to be allowed to take a photograph, but when asked, the Shaykh consented for themselves, but not for the ladies, which was disappointing.
The Story of Mirza Jalal Isfahani, Son-in-Law of
'Abdu'l-Bahá, Son of the "King of the Martyrs" At the beginning of the year 1916, at about seven o'clock one morning, 'Abdu'l-Bahá sent me for His faithful coachman. "Tell Isfandiyar to have my carriage brought, and you and Khusraw be ready to accompany me to Nazareth in half an hour." We did as He commanded, and at the appointed time 'Abdu'l-Bahá left His home in Haifa, accompanied by Khusraw and me. That day the health of 'Abdu'l-Bahá was not very satisfactory, as one could see by the signs of weariness on His blessed face. However, the Commander-in-chief of the Syrian and Palestine fronts was in Nazareth. He was Jamal Pasha, and 'Abdu'l-Bahá was determined to meet him there, so in spite of His great fatigue and physical weakness, the Beloved started on His journey.
At one in the afternoon we arrived at a small village, called Majdal. "Have you any acquaintance in this village?" the Master asked. "Yes, Master, the headman of the village is a good Christian and an acquaintance of mine."
The Master then told me to inform him of His arrival, and ask shelter and time to rest in his house. I went at once to the home of the headman of the village, who was called Khuri, and told him of the arrival of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. The headman, and many of the notables of the village ran towards the Master's carriage, and with great respect helped Him to alight. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, His attendants, the host, and some of the notables entered the house and sat in the guest room. The Master told Khusraw to make tea and prepare a repast. The food had been brought from Haifa, and the host produced some honey, yoghourt, olives, and eggs. 'Abdu'l-Bahá tasted only a few spoonfuls of honey, a little broth, and some olives, and after the meal He slept about an hour. Arising, He washed His
hands and bathed His face with cool water, and came again to sit in the guest room. He spoke words of wisdom to the host, and to the notables, and advised them on many of their problems and difficulties caused by the war.
The host thanked 'Abdu'l-Bahá for His advice, and for the great honour bestowed upon his humble dwelling and upon himself by this visit.
"Your visit at such a time of distress, and particularly to this house, will bring heavenly bounties and support and confirmation to all the dwellers in this village. Now I have one more request to make of you."
"What is your request?" said 'Abdu'l-Bahá. "It will be a happiness to grant it if I have the power."
The Master was always courteous to every creature. He was the symbol of what Bahá'u'lláh had said long ago. "Courtesy is my garment with which we have adorned the temples of our favourite servants."
"The headman continued: "I have only one child, a girl of fourteen, who has been consumptive for two years. All the physicians have pronounced her a hopeless case. Days and nights her mother and I and our relatives can do nothing but weep, wail, and moan. God has not given us another offspring. If your holiness would pray for the restoration of my only child to health, I feel that a new life would be bestowed upon her, as has been bestowed upon us all by your sympathy and wise advice. We feel sure that the prayers of your >Holiness are acceptable to God, and we know that 'Abdu'l-Bahá's bounties shower on all men, regardless of their deserving." At this point the headman burst into tears.
'Abdu'l-Bahá immediately arose from His seat.
"Where is your little girl?"
"In the other room," the headman answered.
'Abdu'l-Bahá went into the other room and saw the young girl lying on a bed on the floor, in the middle of the room. The members of her family were seated about her. Some were acting as nurses, and some only wept. 'Abdu'l-Bahá approached the head of the bed, and sat down beside her. He took the little hand and felt the pulse. The temperature was very high. The child coughed incessantly, and spat blood. She was like a
creature of skin and bones. She was in a condition of utter weakness. 'Abdu'l-Bahá laid His blessed hand upon the child's forehead and caressed her. Turning to Jalal, He said, "Bring a cup of tea."This was done at once. 'Abdu'l-Bahá drank some of the tea, and prayed for about five minutes. He Himself gradually poured the rest of the tea with a spoon into the maiden's mouth, and twice placed His hands on her forehead. Once more He prayed, this time for about ten minutes.
Then with a movement of great authority He arose, and turned to the parents, saying in a loud voice of command: "Be assured God will grant a complete cure to your daughter. Do not be perturbed, and neither weep nor moan. With utmost assurance nurse her. Before long she will be in perfect health."
He then returned to the guest room, and comforted the people present with words of great wisdom for half an hour. Then bidding them farewell, He walked out of the house, and stepped into the carriage. Khusraw and I also took our seats.
'Abdu'l-Bahá told Isfandiyar to drive on to Nazareth. All the people of the village, men, women, and children were crowding about the carriage, and until the last second of His remaining there were begging and pleading with the Master for His prayers and blessings.
On the night of that day the maiden perspired a great deal, and gradually the fever abated. According to the word of her father, within two months his daughter was restored to complete health, and in the year 1922 she was married to a Christian man of `Akka, who is a government official. She is now the mother of three healthy children. Since then, at `Akka, Haifa, and at Nazareth, the father of the girl has recounted this story many times, and always ends his tale with:
"My daughter was given back to me by His Holiness `Abbas Effendi."
'Abdu'l-Bahá continued on His way, arrived at Nazareth in the evening at seven o'clock, and took up His residence at the German Hotel.
The next day the Master was invited to lunch at the home of one of the notables of the town of Nazareth. He was one of the Fahum family. On that day Jamal Pasha, and nearly two hundred of the war leaders, were present at the lunch where the
Master sat down at one o'clock and arose from the table at four.
During all those hours 'Abdu'l-Bahá was speaking in Turkish on philosophical and scientific subjects, and on heavenly teachings. So intense was His utterance that all stopped eating while they listened to His blessed words.
"Who is this great and learned Shaykh who is so well-informed in science?" they asked. So moved and attracted were they by His blessed utterance that all endeavoured to draw near to Him, the better to hear every word. Jamal Pasha, who had been His great enemy because of false accusations, had not paid the proper respect to 'Abdu'l-Bahá when He had first arrived. Now, however, having heard the Master speak so learnedly and wisely, he was most deferential and full of all kinds of politeness. When the time came for the Master to rise, Jamal Pasha most courteously held the Beloved's arm to assist Him to leave the table, and himself led the way to the reception room, and seated the Master comfortably.
Finally, after answering more questions, and giving wondrous light on many subjects, the Master arose to bid farewell to His host. Jamal Pasha who was not accustomed to rise from his seat to pay respect to anyone. His Holiness 'Abdu'l-Bahá was excessively fatigued, and remained that night at the German Hotel at Nazareth. The next day, His work of making a friend of an old enemy having been accomplished, He returned to Haifa.*
Haji RamadanEarly in 1917 rumours, vague though most alarming, reached us in London regarding Palestine conditions. Great was our anxiety for our beloved 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Often to comfort myself I repeated His words: "Have you not realized that never in my life have I been for one day out of danger? ... Be not troubled, these enemies have no power over my life, but that which is given to them from on high." Often I found myself saying these words as though for some inner comfort.
During these very difficult and dangerous days of the war 'Abdu'l-Bahá was desirous of sending a Tablet to the friends in Tihran, there to be copied and despatched to the Bahá'ís in different parts of the world. Everywhere the friends were anxious to hear of the Master, of Whose fate terrible rumours were whispered.
Who would be chosen for this mission?
None of the friends available could have any probable chance of succeeding in so arduous an enterprise. Carrying a letter in war-time from one, whose watchful enemies were always on the alert for opportunities of mischief, seemed an impossible task. Loss of liberty, and even of life itself, would inevitably be the penalty of such an attempt on behalf of 'Abdu'l-Bahá
Now there stepped forth an Arabian Bahá'í, named Haji Ramadan:
"I implore Thee, O my Master, to accept this service from me. Insignificant am I, and nearly blind, who would suspect me? A humble old man, seventy-five years old. No family have I, my wife is dead, my boys are dead; my property and my shop I have given to my sons-in-law. What money I have left I wish to be used for the poor. Nothing have I to bind me to this world, so in perfect freedom I offer this my service. I only, it seemeth to me, have any chance of succeeding as Thy messenger. I pray Thee, accept me!"
"Thou only are at this time available, and I entrust thee with this Tablet," said the Master.
Haji Ramadan began his journey with the precious treasure hidden most carefully, and his heart filled with joy. For forty five days he walked. Finally, he reached Tihran with the glorious news of the safety of the Beloved One and His family.
After resting awhile, he set off on the return journey, which was even more difficult. He wended his way through Kirmanshah and Baghdad disguised as a pedlar. There was gold in the bottom of the bags! Letters were sewn inside the lining of his `aba!
At one stage of his journey he was an eye-doctor, working wonders, according to the child-like belief of the wild Arabs amongst whom he passed, with his simple remedies (boracic acid lotion).
Very little rest did he dare to take, because of the risk of discovery, so he persisted, defying fatigue, danger, and the burden of his seventy-five years. At the end of his intrepid, daring return journey he arrived and laid the gold and the letters with which he had been entrusted, intact, at the feet of the Master!
"Behold by what poor and humble children of God are great events served," said 'Abdu'l-Bahá, embracing him.
After some rest this gallant friend again started on a mission, but alas! he never arrived. And no tidings of the fate of brave and loving Haji Ramadan ever reached the friends. From time to time others were sent to seek him, but all in vain.
The valiant Arab, old and nearly blind, with the soul of a shining and chivalrous knight, will never be forgotten by the friends, and his name will live in song and story as the centuries enroll their days and nights.
* * *
Tablet of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, sent through Tihran, by the heroic bearer, Haji Ramaan, to assure the friends of uninterrupted Communion of the Spirit:
November 1917. "What though the doors be closed, the roads and the ways
barred, and the usual means of communication be no longer existing, yet the streams of union and nearness of heart flow on without ceasing in the ecstasy of spiritual communion.
"Even though the rays of Light and the reflecting Mirrors be far apart, yet there is no severance, for the union, by the rays and bounties of the reflection, remains firm and unfailing.
"The Bahá'ís ought to show forth in their works such determination and steadfastness that the world of humanity may greatly marvel, saying: Behold what firmness and uprightness, what strength and vigour are theirs.'
"By night and by day the thoughts of this servant are ever filled with fragrant spiritual memories of the friends, and his constant and fervent prayers to His Holiness the Merciful are that He will so greatly bless them with the infinite confirmations of the Holy Spirit, that every drop may surge like the sea, and every atom be made to shine, visible in the light of the Sun.
"This can only come to pass through the grace of God the Beloved.
"Convey to the friends each and all from me the utmost longing to see them.
"Praise be to God that, with the aid and favour of His Holiness the Almighty, our days are passed in the best of health on Mount Carmel at the house of His Honour Aqa `Abbas-Quli.
"Because of the many inquiries (by the friends) as to the health and safety of the Bahá'ís of this place, and because of the usual means of communication being served, His Honour Haji Ramadan, has been sent with this Tablet, since he only is, at this time, able to undertake the journeyings."
Bahá'í VillagesThe Master bought from time to time some land in various villages. Asfiya and Daliya, near Haifa--these two properties He bestowed upon Diya'u'llah and Badi'u'llah, the two younger half-brothers, at the request of Bahá'u'lláh.
Land was also acquired in the villages of Samrih, Nughayb, and 'Adasiyyih, situated near the Jordan.
A comparatively small sum, a few hundred pounds only, was required for the purchase of these properties. Groups of Bahá'ís live on this land, where they grow corn. Zoroastrian Bahá'ís are established in 'Adasiyyih; they occupy themselves in cultivating the land. A tenth part of the corn they produce is sent to the Master's household, so that bread is always assured.
These people are industrious and prosperous, growing a sufficiency of the fruits of the earth for their own use, and selling that which remains.
The peace of these tillers of the ground is not always unbroken. A raid of wild Arabs used not to be infrequent.
They would descend upon the village, steal everything they could find, carrying off, not only the corn and oil, but furniture, clothes, even the doors, and the simple agricultural tools, as well as driving off all the cattle and horses. At these times the women and children would be packed into wagons, and conveyed with all possible haste out of the very real danger of capture.
These fugitives ;would arrive at Haifa, claiming protection from the Master; it was a difficult task to find food and shelter for these suddenly arrived guests. On at least one occasion he caused the chief Shaykhs of the tribes guilty of these depredations to be arrested, much to their amazement, and to be compelled to restore to the poor villagers at least some part of the stolen property.
In the village of Nughayb some of the kinsfolk of the Holy Family
live; they cultivate the land, the produce of which gives them the wherewithal to live.
the dwellers in these villages looked always to the Master for protection, guidance, and direction in every detail of their simple lives.
During the way the Arabs were less frequent in their raids. They were afraid, if they ventured too near, that they might be seized and carried off into an unknown life--that of the soldier, the idea of which was a terror to themselves, and indirectly a cause of tranquillity to the villagers.
Preparation for war conditions had been made by 'Abdu'l-Bahá even before His return to Palestine, after His world tour. The people of the villages Nughayb, Samrih, and 'Adasiyyih were instructed by the Master how to grow corn, so as to produce prolific harvests, in the period before and during the lean years of the war.
A vast quantity of this corn was stored in pits, some of which had been made by the Romans, and were now utilized for this purpose. So it came about that 'Abdu'l-Bahá was ;able to feed numberless poor of the people of Haifa, 'Akka, and the neighbourhood, in the famine years of 1914-1918.
We learned that when the British marched into Haifa there was some difficulty about the commissariat. The officer in command went to consult the Master.
"I have corn," was the reply.
"But for the army?" said the astonished soldier.
"I have corn for the British Army," said 'Abdu'l-Bahá.
He truly walked the Mystic way with practical feet. [footnote: Lady Blomfield often recounted how the corn pits proved a safe hiding-place for the corn, during the occupation of the Turkish army. -Ed.]
The MasterI, Mrs. Florian King, said to the Master:
"O Beloved, Paradise would be black for me without Thee or Thy Presence. To me Thou art Bahá'u'lláh, Thou art Muhammad, Thou art Jesus, Thou art Moses, Thou art Buddha."
He held out His hand, saying:
"Come take my hand."
His face was shining, shining. Verily transfigured!
I asked if I might kiss His hand.
"No, my daughter, it is not permitted; the personality is not be worshipped; the Light it is which is of importance, not the lamp through which it shines."
This he said with a smile of most holy radiance.
* * *
One day 'Abdu'l-Bahá said to the friends: "Your names are better known in the Heavenly Realm than they are in this world." Again He said: "I know the station, the needs, and the condition, of every soul in the world, therefore I know how hard your life has been."
* * *
"We Want to See Our Father"
The Story of the Sad Turkish Official and His Family
A Turkish official living in Haifa lost his position when the British occupation took ;place. He became very poor; he, with his wife and children, were in great want.
They came to ask the help of 'Abbas Effendi, Who did much to soften their hardship.
At length the poor man became ill; the Master sent a doctor to him, medicine, and many comforts.
When about to die he asked for 'Abbas Effendi, and called his children. "Here," he said, "is your father, who will take care of you when I am gone."
One morning four little children came to the house of 'Abbas Effendi; they said:
"We want our father." The Master heard their voices and recognized them.
"Oh! we have come to you, our other father is dead, and now you will take care of us, and be our father."
The Master brought them in and gave them tea and cakes and sweets. He then went with the little ones to their home. The father was not really dead, but had merely fainted; the children thought that he had passed away. However, the next day he died.
The Master charged Himself with the whole responsibility of the doctor, nurse, and funeral.
Then He provided the sad family with food, clothing, their travelling tickets, and other expenses, to Turkey.
This is one instance of the Master's care for all who came to Him, sorrowing and in misery.
On all sides we heard stories of the Master's care for the people.
Christians said "He lived the life of Christ amongst us for forty years."
Muslims cried "He was our Comforter, our Father, Brother, Friend. We shall never cease from mourning Him."
Jewish friends tell how they found themselves, when in His presence, wrapped round in such an atmosphere of love that they felt they had found the true home of the heart and soul.
And how shall we speak of Him?
* * *
Ju'an (literally "I am hungry" in Arabic) was the constant moan of a woman who sat in a Haifa street.
A broken leg! The people called her "Ju'ani." None to care for her, starving she lay, full of pain, pleading for help.
Two weeks later, Ju'ani having ceased her pitiful moaning, a woman had this tale to tell:
"the Master called me to take care of poor Ju'ani--to find a room for her. To wash and comfort her with good food, clean
clothes, and a doctor. Now she has died, and the Master arranged for her funeral."
* * *
The Master was told:
"There is a poor young Arab man sick of consumption. The Master went to see him; every comfort was taken to him, good food was prepared for him every day; Dr. Nicola was directed by the Master to give all needful attention and medicine. When he died, 'Abbas Effendi arranged that the coffin from the mosque (usually borrowed) should be retained for the young man himself.
"The mother and the sister, overcome with gratitude, cried: 'O Master, Thou art like as God unto us.'"
* * *
The Master was averse to divorce.
In reply to a question, He said "It is not that divorce should be more easy, but that marriages should be ;more difficult." In all the years that Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá were dwelling in Syria there was not one case of divorce among the Bahá'ís.
The wife of an Armenian Bahá'í implored the Master to allow her husband to divorce her; many were her accusations against her husband.
The Master said to her:
"You are a Christian, how can you ask to be separated? Christ Jesus, Whom I reverence, came not to part but to unite."
At length, seeing that the woman loved another man, the Master said:
"You may divorce her, she is no longer your wife."
When the woman fled with the man, taking much of her husband's money with her:
"You now see the reason for my consent," said the Master.
'Abdu'l-Qasim, the gardener of the Ridvan, wished to marry an Arab peasant woman; he was advised by Bahá'u'lláh not to do so. But as he was very much in love with her, consent was at length given.
In a few years he came saying:
"I want to divorce Jamilih, and marry a younger woman."
"It is absolutely forbidden, you have married her; you must take care of her to the last moment of your life."
When the British arrived in Haifa, where the blockade had caused a perilous condition for the inhabitants, it was discovered that 'Abdu'l-Bahá had saved the civilian population from starvation. provisions which He had grown, buried in under-ground pits, and otherwise stored, had been given out to the civilians of every nation living in Haifa. 'Abdu'l-Bahá did this in a military was as an army would give rations, and deep was the gratitude of those women and children who had been saved by His power to see into the future of tragedy and woe as early as 1912, when He began the preparations for the catastrophe which was to overtake that land in 1917 and 1918. When Haifa was finally occupied by the British, reserve provisions had not yet come for the army, and someone in authority approached the Master, as already mentioned.
The British Government, with its usual gesture of appreciating a heroic act, conferred a knighthood upon 'Abdu'l-Bahá 'Abbas, Who accepted this honour as a courteous gift "from a just king."
The dignitaries of the British crown from Jerusalem wer gathered in Haifa, eager to do honour to the Master, Whom every one had come to love and reverence for His life of unselfish service. An imposing motor-car had been sent to bring 'Abdu'l-Bahá to the ceremony. The Master, however, could not be found. People were sent in every direction to look for Him, when suddenly from an unexpected side He appeared, alone, walking His kingly walk, with that simplicity of greatness which always enfolded Him.
The faithful servant, Isfandiyar, whose joy it had been for many years to drive the Master on errands of mercy, stood
sadly looking on at the elegant motor-car which awaited the honoured guest.
"No longer am I needed."
At a sign from Him, Who knew the sorrow, old Isfandiyar rushed off to harness the horse, and brought the carriage out at the lower gate, whence 'Abdu'l-Bahá was driven to a side entrance of the garden of the Governorate of Phoenicia.
So Isfandiyar was needed and happy.
* * *
Of Life After Death
"Know thou of a truth that the Soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of the world can alter. It will endure as long as the Kingdom of God, His sovereignty, His Dominion and Power shall endure."
A woman, full of sorrow and despair, came to 'Abdu'l-Bahá: "I pray you remove my doubt, and give me consolation, I have lost my beloved husband."
The Master answered her:
"If you have a bed of lilies-of-the-valley that you love and tenderly care for, they cannot see you, nor can they understand your care, nevertheless, because of that tender care, they flourish.
"So it is with your husband. You cannot see him, but his loving influence surrounds you, cares for you, watches over you. They, who have passed into the Divine Garden, pray for us there, as we pray for them here."
Another day a woman came to 'Abdu'l-Bahá and told Him of a dream.
"Last night, Master, I dreamed that I was in a garden of such
beauty that it seemed beyond the power of the most perfect human gardener to have created it. IOn this garden I saw a beautiful girl, about nineteen, who was caressing the flowers. As I came into the garden she lifted her lovely head and came towards me with outstretched arms, as though in great love and joy at my visit. I look at her amazed, and then I saw a startling resemblance to the tiny daughter I lost many years before."
'Abdu'l-Bahá smiled His miraculous smile:
"My child, you have been permitted to see your daughter as she is now, walking in the sacred garden of one of the worlds of God. This is a bounty of God to you. Rejoice and be happy."
Ridvaniyyih Khanum related that when her child was ill, the Master came and gave two pink roses to the little one, then, turning to the mother, He said in His musical voice so full of love: "Be patient."
That evening the child passed away.
"Ridvaniyyih," said the Master, "there is a Garden of God. Human beings are trees growing therein. The Gardener is Our Father. When He sees a little tree in a place too small for her development, He prepares a suitable and more beautiful place, where she may grow and bear fruit. Then He transplants that little tree. The other trees marvel, saying: 'This is a lovely little tree. For what reason does the Gardener uproot it?'
"The Divine Gardener, alone, knows the reason.
"You are weeping, Ridvaniyyih, but if you could see the beauty of the place where she is, you would no longer be sad.
"Your child is now free, and, like a bird, is chanting divine joyous melodies.
"If you could see that sacred Garden, you would not be content to remain here on earth. Yet this is where your duty now lies."
When my own mother made the "great chance" from one world of God to another, 'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote a very beautiful tablet to me, in which He spoke of my mother as being "in the garden of rejuvenation." One day a friend, who had not yet heard of the tablet of the Master, told me of a vivid dream she
had of my mother, whom she had known and loved. "I seemed to be in a marvellous garden, where every type of rare and beautiful flower was in bloom. Moving about among the flowers was a young girl. She seemed to be a in a state of inexpressible joy over the loveliness of her garden. Her voice, as she chanted, was full of the ecstasy of a complete happiness. She listened to the song of birds, and inhaled the odour of the flowers as though she were filling her soul with their fragrance. Suddenly she turned towards me, as though conscious that someone was there beside herself. The young girl facing me with an enchanting smile was your mother, in the full beauty of youth."
* * *
New Year Tablet from 'Abdu'l-Bahá
Nawruz, 21st March, 1918.
O ye Children of the Kingdom! It is the New Year. A year is the expression of the cycle of the sun, but now is the beginning of a cycle of the Sun of Reality! A new cycle, a new age, a new time, and therefore it is very blessed.
I wish the Blessing to appear ;and become manifest in the faces and characters of all the believers in God, so that they may also become a new people, and having found new life, and been baptized with Fire and Spirit, may make the world as new world--so that the old earth may disappear and the new earth become manifest; the old ideas depart and new thoughts come; old garments be cast aside, and new garments be put on; former politics, whose foundation is war, be discarded; and new politics, founded upon peace, raise the standard of victory, the new star shine, and the new sun's gleam illumine and radiate; so that new flowers may bloom, the new spring become known, the new breeze blow, the new bounty descend, the new tree bring forth the new fruit, the new voice be raised, and its new sound reach all ears.
I desire for you all that you will receive this great assistance, and partake of this Bounty; that in Spirit and heart, you will
strive and endeavour until the World of War become the World of Peace; the Worlds of Darkness the Worlds of Light; Satanic conduct be turned into Heavenly behaviour, the ruined places become builded up; the sword be turned into the olive branch; the flash of hatred be changed into the Flame of the Love of God, and the roar of the gun become the Voice of the Kingdom.
That the soldiers of death may become the soldiers of Life!
That all the nations of the worlds may be united in one nation; all races as one Race.
And all the National Anthems be harmonized into one melody.
Then this material realm will be Paradise, the earth will be Heaven, and the world of Satan will become the World of Angels.
Upon thee be greeting and praise.
* * *
One day, during the war, two men were passing along the way of the sea beyond Jordan which lies between Haifa and 'Akka. They were talking together, when their attention became attracted by the venerable figure of a man lying, as though overcome with weariness, on the sands, near the edge of the tideless sea.
They gazed silently; the body was completely relaxed, one arm supporting the beautiful head with its hair of spun silver. The face bore traces of great sorrow, but was softened by an ineffable tenderness. Great nobility of character lay upon the brow. There seemed a spiritual light of rare beauty about Him. He was resting in deep slumber.
Danger to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, His Family and Friends,
In the spring of 1918, I was much startled and deeply disturbed by a telephone message: "'Abdu'l-Bahá in serious danger. Take immediate action." It came from an authoritative source. There was not a moment to be lost. Every available power must be brought to bear to save the Master.
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