Follow ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey Across America – December, 1912

Centenary Year ~ Reflecting on the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Baha  

December 5, 1912

Day 239: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Says Farewell to America  239 Days article
As ‘Abdu’l-Bahá waits to depart America on the SS Celtic, he offers final words to the crowd gathered to see him off.

“Until man reaches this high station,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said, “the world of humanity shall not find rest, and eternal felicity shall not be attained. But if man lives up to these divine commandments, this world of earth shall be transformed into the world of heaven, and this material sphere shall be converted into a paradise of glory. It is my hope that you may become successful in this high calling so that like brilliant lamps you may cast light upon the world of humanity and quicken and stir the body of existence like unto a spirit of life. This is eternal glory. This is everlasting felicity. This is immortal life. This is heavenly attainment. This is being created in the image and likeness of God.”

Diary Entries: New York

Mahmud’s Diary: The Master’s parting words to the believers aboard the ship A great number of believers from New York and other cities came to the S. S. Celtic to bid farewell to their beloved. The tears in their eyes bespoke of their great sorrow. The sobs and lamentations of both the young and the old could be heard from afar…As He moved among the friends, the Master spoke to them with words of exhortation and admonition, consoling their hearts as He bade them farewell.
Mahmud’s Diary: Passengers and officers of the ship amazed at humility and reverence shown by Americans towards ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Young and old alike were like moths to a candle, circling about the light of the Covenant.
Mahmud’s Diary: The friends bid ‘Abdu’l-Bahá a heartfelt farewell The throng of believers, stretching as far as the eye could see, waved farewell to the Master, now far in the distance. And He said: Observe how the power of the Cause of God has created a tumult in the hearts and what a revolution it has produced. See how the aid and assistance of the Abha Beauty have reached us constantly and invariably the lights of victory have shone from the supreme horizon.These have been from the promised confirmations of the Kingdom of God and the assistance of the invisible sovereignty of the Abha Beauty, which He has promised clearly in the verse, ‘Verily, We behold you from Our realm of Glory, and shall aid whosoever will arise for the triumph of Our Cause with the hosts of the Concourse on high and a company of Our favored angels.’
Diary of Juliet Thompson: We drove to the boat, then followed Him up to His cabin. Many believers were crowding the cabin. Later we all went upstairs and sat in a large room with Him. Very soon He rose, and, walking up and down, delivered to us His last spoken message…It was death to leave that ship. I stood on the pier with May Maxwell, tears blurring my sight. Through them I could see the Master in the midst of the group of Persians waving a patient hand to us. It waved and waved, that beautiful patient hand, till the Figure was lost to sight.

Promulgation of Universal Peace: Transcriptions of Talks by ‘Abdu’l-Baha in the United States and Canada

Talk on Day of Departure, On Board Steamship Celtic These are My Final Words of Exhortation

I have repeatedly summoned you to the cause of the unity of the world of humanity, announcing that all mankind are the servants of the same God, that God is the creator of all; He is the Provider and Life-giver; all are equally beloved by Him and are His servants upon whom His mercy and compassion descend. Therefore, you must manifest the greatest kindness and love toward the nations of the world, setting aside fanaticism, abandoning religious, national and racial prejudice… The obstacle to human happiness is racial or religious prejudice, the competitive struggle for existence and inhumanity toward each other… 

Beware lest ye offend any heart, lest ye speak against anyone in his absence, lest ye estrange yourselves from the servants of God…

...Exert yourselves with heart and soul so that, perchance, through your efforts the light of universal peace may shine and this darkness of estrangement and enmity may be dispelled from amongst men…

Consider how the Prophets Who have been sent, the great souls who have appeared and the sages who have arisen in the world have exhorted mankind to unity and love. This has been the essence of their mission and teaching….

Your duty is of another kind, for you are informed of the mysteries of God. Your eyes are illumined; your ears are quickened with hearing. You must, therefore, look toward each other and then toward mankind with the utmost love and kindness. You have no excuse to bring before God if you fail to live according to His command, for you are informed of that which constitutes the good pleasure of God…

December 4, 1912

Day 238: At Home in America  239 Days article
Far from being an outsider, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá succeeded in placing himself at the center of virtually all of the nation’s raging debates.

During this time he would travel the breadth of the nation, deliver over 400 public addresses, converse with thousands more in more intimate gatherings, grant hundreds of personal interviews, and receive coverage in more than 350 newspaper articles. Far from being an outsider looking in on American life, he succeeded in placing himself at the center of virtually all of the nation’s raging debates.

Diary Entries: New York

Mahmud’s Diary: Elucidating certain passages of the Bible To a rabbi the Master spoke extensively about the Torah, saying: ...And the meaning of ‘the water’ in the verse of the Torah ‘The spirit of God moved upon the face of the water like a bird’ is the water of knowledge which is the source of heavenly life...
Mahmud’s Diary: Meeting with some prominent people They told him about Professor Colombo who had written an article about the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar near Chicago in which he referred to the contributions of the Eastern Bahá’ís towards its construction as one of the indications of the greatness of the Cause.
Mahmud’s Diary: Verses of Holy Books — reading versus understanding their inner significances.
Mahmud’s Diary: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s last public talk in America The subject of the Master’s address was ‘The Eternity of God’s Kingdom’: material existence, the betterment of the world through the divine favors, the guidance provided by the Manifestations of God and their reflection upon the world of creation.‘This is the law of God, and thou shalt not find any change in it.’

Promulgation of Universal Peace: Transcriptions of Talks by ‘Abdu’l-Baha in the United States and Canada

Talk toTheosophical Society 2228 Broadway Why Do These Holy Manifestations of God Appear?

…Thus there have been many holy Manifestations of God. One thousand years ago, two hundred thousand years ago, one million years ago, the bounty of God was flowing, the radiance of God was shining, the dominion of God was existing… 

The holy Manifestations of God come into the world to dispel the darkness of the animal, or physical, nature of man, to purify him from his imperfections in order that his heavenly and spiritual nature may become quickened, his divine qualities awakened, his perfections visible, his potential powers revealed and all the virtues of the world of humanity latent within him may come to life… 

I have been in America nine months and have traveled to all the large cities, speaking before various assemblages, proclaiming to them the oneness of the world of humanity, summoning all to union, harmony and oneness. I have indeed received the greatest kindness from the American people. I look upon them as a noble nation, capable of every perfection. Tomorrow I am going away to Europe, and now I bid farewell to you all, seeking for you the divine mercy, the eternal glory and everlasting life; and I pray that you may attain the highest station of humanity. I am greatly pleased with this meeting. My happiness is great. I shall never forget you. You shall always live in my thought. I shall always pray and supplicate before the Kingdom of God and seek heavenly blessings for you.

December 3, 1912

Day 237: Building a Community of Practice  239 Days article
In addition to his public activities, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá focused on building a community in North America capable of implementing the full…

The conversations ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had with groups of Bahá’ís also touched on two subjects that he did not usually address in his engagements with the public. He spoke to them about the absolute priority of maintaining unity in a religious community that had abolished any form of priesthood… Although individual Bahá’ís had to develop their own understanding of Bahá’u’lláh’s writings, they had no right to impose their own views on others. Instead, in his Will and Testament, Bahá’u’lláh had vested interpretive authority in just one person: his son ‘Abdu’l-Bahá… In place of nominating a special class of individuals to administer the community, Bahá’u’lláh had created elected bodies, which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá called “spiritual assemblies.” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá began to build this system of governance among the North American Bahá’ís.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá also challenged them to spread their new religion beyond their own borders. “Teachers must continually travel to all parts of the continent, nay, rather, to all parts of the world,”…“but they must travel like ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who journeyed throughout the cities of America.” That is, they must bear the costs themselves… and they must distinguish themselves by their deeds.

In 1921, when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá passed away, his own Will and Testament gave instructions for the continuation of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant, and for electing governing bodies at the local, national, and international levels… Today Bahá’ís reside in more than 100,000 cities, towns, and villages around the world. More than 10,000 spiritual assemblies are elected every year, operating in over 200 countries. 

Diary Entries: New York

Mahmud’s Diary: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s imminent departure — believers overcome by emotion
Mahmud’s Diary: “Unless a man acquires perfection for himself, he cannot teach others …” – prayer to recite “every night and day” …Your hearts must be so attracted that when a question is heard you will be able to give a conclusive answer and the Holy Spirit may speak through your tongue. You must be assured and confident that the favors and confirmations of the Blessed Beauty will make a drop into an ocean, a seed into a fruitful tree, an atom into a luminous sun and a stone into a brilliant jewel…
Mahmud’s Diary: Saying individual farewells …The Master exhorted them to exert their utmost to propagate the divine principles and to diffuse the fragrances of God…

Promulgation of Universal Peace: Transcriptions of Talks by ‘Abdu’l-Baha in the United States and Canada

Talk at Home of Dr. and Mrs. Florian Krug Acquire Perfections, Teach Perfections to Others

Unless man attains life himself, he cannot convey life to others. Unless he finds light, he cannot reflect light. We must, therefore, endeavor ourselves to attain to the perfections of the world of humanity, lay hold of everlasting life and seek the divine spirit in order that we may thereby be enabled to confer life upon others, be enabled to breathe life into others….

Talk to Mr. Kinney’s Bible Class 780 West End Avenue Investigate and Study the Holy Scriptures Word by Word

…It is my hope that you may put forth your most earnest endeavor to accomplish this end, that you may investigate and study the Holy Scriptures word by word so that you may attain knowledge of the mysteries hidden therein. Be not satisfied with words, but seek to understand the spiritual meanings hidden in the heart of the words…

Talk at Home of Mr. and Mrs. Edward B. Kinney Become Imbued with Spiritual Moralities

…You must become the lamps of Bahá’u’lláh so that you may shine with eternal light and be the proofs and evidences of His truth. Then will such signs of purity and chastity be witnessed in your deeds and actions that men will behold the heavenly radiance of your lives and say, “Verily, ye are the proofs of Bahá’u’lláh… Bahá’u’lláh endured the greatest hardships. He found neither rest by night nor peace by day… Therefore, we must be faithful to Him and turn away from our own selfish desires and fancies in order that we may accomplish that which is required of us by our Lord…

December 2, 1912

Day 236: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Modern American History  239 Days article
Our Editor-in-Chief offers some thoughts on why ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has eluded American historians in their studies of the Progressive Era.

Over the last eight months, we have attempted to establish a narrative about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá that embeds him in the rich context of American life in 1912, told in a language crafted for a broad audience. We have sought to present ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as an original voice, who engaged Americans of all kinds in conversations about the way they understood themselves and their place in the world, instead of primarily as a religious figure for a particular community. We have found that this approach reveals ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s American discourse to have been far more nuanced and complex than we imagined. Paradoxically, understanding how ‘Abdu’l-Bahá engaged deeply with the specifics of America in 1912, and placing him in the detailed context of time and place, makes him more relevant — not less — to the challenges America faces today.

Diary Entries: New York

Mahmud’s Diary: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s farewell address — we should “defend the rights of Bahá’u’lláh”
Mahmud’s Diary: “…America has receptivity”
Mahmud’s Diary: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá prays that the believers “may attain to the purpose of the holy Manifestations of God”

Promulgation of Universal Peace: Transcriptions of Talks by ‘Abdu’l-Baha in the United States and Canada

Talk at Home of Mr. and Mrs. Edward B. Kinney The Special Teachings of Bahá’u’lláh

I will speak to you concerning the special teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. All the divine principles announced by the tongue of the Prophets of the past are to be found in the words of Bahá’u’lláh; but in addition to these He has revealed certain new teachings which are not found in any of the sacred Books of former times…

December 1, 1912

Day 235: Religion: The Driving Force Behind Human Civilization  239 Days article
For audiences across America, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá constructed a new definition of religion, even as he critiqued what goes on in its name.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá argued repeatedly in America that nothing short of the unifying power of religion could generate global peace and justice in the modern age. His father, Bahá’u’lláh, had re-voiced religion’s eternal teachings, and brought the social guidance needed for an age in which the unification of the planet was within reach. Bahá’u’lláh had abolished the priesthood, challenged people to investigate truth independently from outside influences, urged them to banish all forms of superstition and prejudice, and affirmed that service to the entire human race was the highest form of worship.

Diary Entries: New York

Mahmud’s Diary: Americans have the capacity to bring about universal peace …The matter of peace, in the religion of Bahá’u’lláh, is a firm command and a religious obligation. It is not the resolution of a congress or the edict of a committee of some nation or country influenced by selfish desires and subject to amendments. Because it is a fundamental principle, it will inevitably come to pass. As the denial of Christ and opposition to Him are considered infidelity in religious terminology, the rejection of peace has the same status in the religion of Bahá’u’lláh...
Mahmud’s Diary: Shedding the blood of one another is contrary to the teachings of Christ …Christ commanded Peter to sheathe his sword. He also said, ‘Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also’ .[Matt. 5:39]…
Mahmud’s Diary: An enjoyable evening with the Master

Promulgation of Universal Peace: Transcriptions of Talks by ‘Abdu’l-Baha in the United States and Canada

Talk at Home of Mr. and Mrs. Edward B. Kinney December 2, 1912 Consider All as Your Equals

…I am going away to the Orient. It will be difficult for me to visit this country again except it be the will of God. I must, therefore, give you my instructions and exhortations today, and these are none other than the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh.

You must manifest complete love and affection toward all mankind. Do not exalt yourselves above others, but consider all as your equals, recognizing them as the servants of one God. Know that God is compassionate toward all; therefore, love all from the depths of your hearts, prefer all religionists before yourselves, be filled with love for every race, and be kind toward the people of all nationalities…

In brief, let each one of you be as a lamp shining forth with the light of the virtues of the world of humanity. Be trustworthy, sincere, affectionate and replete with chastity. Be illumined, be spiritual, be divine, be glorious, be quickened of God, be a Bahá’í.