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Dr David Starr Jordan was a distinguished American scientist and university administrator. In 1885, he was named President of Indiana University, becoming the nation’s youngest university president at age 34. In 1891, he became president of Stanford, serving there as president until 1913 and chancellor until his retirement in 1916. Jordan was best known for being a peace activist. He argued that war was detrimental to the human species because it removed the strongest organisms from the gene pool. Jordan was president of the World Peace Foundation from 1910 to 1914 and president of the World Peace Conference in 1915, and opposed U.S. involvement in World War I.
Introducing ‘Abdu’l-Bahá at Stanford University, David Starr Jordan said,
“It is our privilege to have with us, through the kindness and courtesy of our Persian friends, one of the great religious teachers of the world, one of the natural successors of the old Hebrew prophets. He is said sometimes to be the founder of a new religion. He has upward of three millions of people following along the lines in which he leads. It is not exactly a new religion, however. The religion of brotherhood, of goodwill, of friendship between men and nations is as old as good thinking and good living may be. It may be said in some sense to be the oldest of religions.”
“Abdu’l-Bahá will surely unite the East and the West, for He walks the mystical path with practical feet.”
John Estlin Carpenter was an eminent Unitarian biblical scholar, theologian and Oxford professor. Carpenter presided over a meeting on 31 December 1912 for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá at Manchester College, Oxford, where Carpenter was Principal.
“From that subtle race (the Persians) issues the most remarkable movement…The new faith declared that there was no finality in revelation, and while recognising the Koran as a product of past revelation, claimed to embody a new manifestaton of the divine Unity. Carried to Chicago in 1893…it succeeded in establishing itself in the United States; and its missionaries are winning new adherents in India. It, too, claims to be a universal teaching; it has already its noble army of martyrs and its holy books; has Persia, in the midst of her miseries, given birth to a religion which will go round the world?”
From Comparative Religion
Yone Noguchi was an influential writer of poetry, fiction, essays and literary criticism in both English and Japanese.
“I have heard so much about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, whom people call an idealist, but I should like to call Him a realist, because no idealism, when it is strong and true, exists without the endorsement of realism. There is nothing more real than His words on truth. His words are as simple as the sunlight; again like the sunlight, they are universal…. No Teacher, I think, is more important today than ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.”
The English author E.S.Stevens, later Lady Drower, travelled extensively in the Middle East from where she drew the inspiration for her books. The Bahá’í community in the Holy Land was the setting for her romantic novel, The Mountain of God, published by Mills and Boon in 1911. She later became the foremost authority on Mandean culture in Iraq.
“Any day in Haifa you may meet an old man whose flowing white hair, gathered up beneath his snowy turban, proclaims his aristocratic birth, accompanied at the slight distance prescribed by respect by Persian followers with folded hands. His white beard, his blue eyes slightly flecked with brown, his commanding bearing, his dignified walk, his keen kindly face, all proclaim him to be someone of importance and distinction. He wears the simple robe of white linen and grey linsey customary in Persia. This man is Abbas Effendi, or Abdul Baha, the recognized head of the Bahai movement throughout the world.
Bahais have been accused by their Persian enemies of working an enchantment on those who visit them, so that an intoxication, an exultation like that of the hashish smoker, seizes their intellect and enchains their sense, lifting them into a dream-world of illusion. And anyone who has come into close contact with them, as I have been permitted to do during the past six months, is inclined to endorse this, for it is impossible to be with them for long without feeling the infection of this strange enthusiasm, this spiritual hashish, which has sent men to martyrdom with smiles on their faces and joyous ecstasy in their hearts…
Abbas Effendi…had been carefully trained by his father to assume the leadership of the Bahai community and to become the head of the movement…He has in the highest degree that great gift which we call personality. His readily-given sympathy, his understanding of human nature, his power of interesting himself in every human soul which asks his advice and help, have made him passionately beloved by his people. Above all, he has that subtler quality of spirituality which is felt rather than understood by those with whom he comes into contact.”
Frenchman Romain Rolland was a Nobel Prize winning author, art historian and pacifist. He visited the Bahá’í Centre in Geneva and corresponded with Tolstoy and Forel about the Bahá’ís. He quotes from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Some Answered Questions in his novel, Clerambault.
I first learned of Bahá’ism at Geneva, where they hold a meeting of believers in the doctrine on the 19th of each month…
It is or wants to be a fusion of all the religions of the East and West. It denies none, it accepts them all. It is above all a religious ethic, which does not conceive of religion without putting it into practice, and which seeks to remain in accord with science and reason, without cult or priests. The first duty is that each has a profession: work is holy, it is divine benediction.
I have noticed an analogy with Christian Science. In my spirit, I prefer Bahá’ism. I find it more flexible and subtle. And it offers the poetic imagination a rich feast. Its roots are sunk in the great metaphysical dreams of the Orient. There are some luminous pages in the discourses of St Jean d”Acre (ie: Some Answered Questions) of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Bahá’u’lláh, a prisoner, succeeded in writing and answering some ‘tablets’ of an admirable and moral beauty, under the name ‘the Oppressed One’…
Major Wellesley Tudor Pole was a writer, philosopher and English mystic. He authored many pamphlets and books and was a life long pursuer of religious experiences and mystical visions, being particularly involved with spiritualism and the Glastonbury movement.
“The fundamental truths of life and conduct as proclaimed through Jesus have been reaffirmed in picturesque language by the Bahá’í leaders, this reaffirmation being worded to meet the needs of our complex modern “civilisation”. The Founders of both these Faiths possessed outstanding powers of healing and seership.”
“What is the special appeal voiced by Bahá’u’lláh and his son, which has resulted in so many of their followers the world over asserting that they are no longer Jews, Christians, Moslems or Buddhists, as such but have become Bahá’ís? The answer may well be that as each religious revelation becomes crystallised, dogmatic and formal, the need arises for Truth to be restated in terms that conform to the needs of the new hour.”
“The most abiding impression I received from intimate contact with him was his immense breadth of outlook, permeated with the spirit of deep and loving kindness. Whatever the topic under discussion – ranging from religion to the weather, from sunsets to the flowers, from ethics to personal behaviour, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá always struck the universal note, the note of Oneness as between the Creator and all His creation, great or small.”
“He was a man of great spiritual stature and prophetic vision and I shall always cherish the affection he bestowed upon me and the inspiration that his life and example have given to me ever since he first came into my life in I908…
Although of a little less than medium height, Abdu’l Bahá made an impression on all who met him by his dignity, friendliness, and his aura of spiritual authority. His blue-grey eyes radiated a luminosity of their own and his hands were beautiful in their grace and healing magnetism. Even his movements were infused with a kind of radiance.
His compassion for the aged, for children and the down-trodden knew no bounds. I remember once after he had visited a Salvation Army refuge near the Embankment, in London, tears came to his eyes. He could not understand how a wealthy nation like Britain could allow such poverty and loneliness in its midst. He spoke about this to Archdeacon Wilberforce of Westminster Abbey and to Dr. R. J. Campbell of the City Temple and he provided a sum of money through London’s Lord Mayor for the succour of the poor and derelict, then so prominent a feature of the London scene.
In speaking to me, he often referred to the need for providing food and sustinence for those in want, as a primary requisite to supplying moral and spiritual food for the heart and for the mind.”
“I well remember him, majestic yet gentle, pacing up and down the garden whilst he spoke to me about eternal realities, at a time when the whole material world was rocking on its foundations. The power of the spirit shone through his presence, giving one the feeling that a great prophet from Old Testament days had risen up in a war-stricken world, to guide and inspire all who would listen to hlm.”
“Though by no means a fanatic, I am bound to say that my visit to these places, sacred to Bahá’u’lláh and his son, have deepened my conviction that the Bahá’í movement has an important part to play in the religious regeneration of the world, and especially the Eastem world.”
From The Silent Road, 1960
An English politician and diplomat, Herbert Louis, Viscount Samuel of Carmel, was one of the first Jewish members of the British cabinet. He was perhaps most important as the first British high commissioner for Palestine from 1920-1925.
“It is possible indeed to pick out points of fundamental agreement among all creeds. That is the essential purpose of the Bahá’í Religion, the foundation and growth of which is one of the most striking movements that have proceeded from the East in recent generations…The Bahá’í Faith exists almost for the sole purpose of contributing to the fellowship and the unity of mankind. Other communities may consider how far a particular element of their respective faith may be regarded as similar to those of other communities, but the Bahá’í Faith exists for the purpose of combining in one synthesis all those elements in the various faiths which are held in common.
Its origin was in Persia where a mystic prophet, who took the name of the Báb, the “Gate,” began a mission among the Persians in the earlier part of the nineteenth century. He collected a considerable number of adherents. His activities were regarded with apprehension by the Government of Persia of that day. Finally, he and his leading disciples were seized by the forces of the Persian Government and were shot in the year 1850. In spite of the persecution, the movement spread in Persia and in many countries of Islam. He was followed as the head of the Community by the one who has been its principal prophet and exponent, Bahá’u’lláh. He was most active and despite persecution and imprisonment made it his life’s mission to spread the creed which he claimed to have received by direct divine revelation. He died in 1892 and was succeeded as the head of the Community by his son, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who was born in 1844. He was living in Haifa, in a simple house, when I went there as High Commissioner in 1920, and I had the privilege of one or two most interesting conversations with him on the principles and methods of the Bahá’í Faith. He died in 1921 and his obsequies were attended by a great concourse of people. I had the honour of representing His Majesty the King on that occasion.
Since that time, the Bahá’í Faith has secured the support of a very large number of communities throughout the world. At the present time it is estimated that there are about eight hundred Bahá’í communities in various countries. In the United States, near Chicago, a great Temple, now approaching completion, has been erected by American adherents of the Faith, with assistance from elsewhere. Shoghi Effendi, the grandson of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, is now the head of the community. He came to England and was educated at Balliol College, Oxford, but now lives in Haifa, and is the center of a community which has spread throughout the world.”
Introductory address delivered at the Bahá’í session of the World Congress of Faiths, held in London, July, 1936
“In 1920 I was appointed as the first High Commissioner for Palestine under the British Mandate, and took an early opportunity of paying a visit to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Effendi at his home in Haifa.I had for some time been interested in the Bahá’í Movement, and felt privileged by the opportunity of making the acquaintance of its head. I had also an official reason as well as a personal one. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had been persecuted by the Turks.A British regime had now been substituted in Palestine for the Turkish. Toleration and respect for all religions had long been a principle of British rule wherever it extended; and the visit of the High Commissioner was intended to be a sign to the population that the adherents of every creed would be able to feel henceforth that they enjoyed the respect and could count upon the good will of the new Government of the land.I was impressed, as was every visitor, by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s dignity, grace and charm. Of moderate stature, his strong features and lofty expression lent to his personality an appearance of majesty. In our conversation he readily explained and discussed the principal tenets of Bahá’í, answered my inquiries and listened to my comments. I remember vividly that friendly interview of sixteen years ago, in the simple room of the villa, surrounded by gardens, on the sunny hillside of Mount Carmel.I was glad I had paid my visit so soon, for in 1921 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá died. I was only able to express my respect for his creed and my regard for his person by coming from the capital to attend his funeral. A great throng had gathered together, sorrowing for his death, but rejoicing also for his life.”
Lady Blomfield, née Sara Louisa Ryan, was a distinguished London society hostess, philanthropist, public speaker and writer. She was a founding member of the Save the Children Fund, and dedicated her life to the welfare of children, women, animals and prisoners. She hosted ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in her home at 97 Cadogan Gardens, London, during his historic visits to London. Her memoirs, The Chosen Highway, were first published in 1940 and remain in print.
On ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: “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 ‘abá; on His head He wore a low-crowned táj 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 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.”
From The Chosen Highway
R. J. Campbell was an English Congregational Minister, who, at the turn of the 20th century, occupied the pulpit of one of the most prestigious churches in England – the City Temple in London. From
this pulpit, Campbell began to articulate a doctrinal position which he termed “The New Theology”. Campbell invited ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to give His first ever public address at the City Temple in 10th September 1911.
(The Bahá’í movement) “is one of the most remarkable religious movements of this or any age, a movement which includes, I understand, at least three million souls… The Bahá’í movement, as it is called, in Hither Asia rose on that soil just as spontaneously as Christianity rose in the middle territories adjoining, and that faith – which, by the way, is very closely akin to, I think I might say identical with, the spiritual purpose of Christianity – that movement stands for the spiritual unity of mankind; it stands for universal peace among the nations. These are good things, and the man (‘Abdu’l-Bahá) who teaches them and commends them to three millions of followers must be a good man as well as a great.”
Kahlil Gibran was a Lebanese-American writer, poet, artist and philosopher. Since its publication in 1923, his inspirational book,The Prophet, has never been out of print and remains an international best-seller.
Juliet Thompson wrote that Gibran “got hold of some of the Arabic of Bahá’u’lláh. He said it was the most stupendous literature that ever was written, and that…there was no Arabic that even touched the Arabic of Bahà’u’llàh.””
Later Gibran met ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. “He simply adored the Master. He was with Him whenever he could be,” wrote Thompson. “He told me that when he wrote The Son of Man, he thought of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá all through. He said that he was going to write another book with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as the centre and all the contemporaries of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá speaking. He died before he wrote it. He told me definitely that The Son of Man was influenced by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.”