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George Townshend was born in Ireland and was a well known writer and clergyman. He spent many years near Ballinasloe, County Galway, where he was incumbent of Ahascragh and Archdeacon of Clonfert. He later became the Canon of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. However, at the age of 70, Townshend renounced his orders to the Anglican Church and wrote a pamphlet to all Christians under the title “The Old Churches and the New World Faith” proclaiming his allegiance to the Bahá’í Faith.
“The mightiest proof of a Prophet has ever been found in Himself and in the efficacy of His word. Bahá’u’lláh rekindled the fires of faith and happiness in the hearts of men. His knowledge was innate and spontaneous, not acquired in any school. None could gainsay or resist His wisdom and even His worst enemies admitted His greatness. All human perfections were embodied in Him. His strength was infinite. Trials and sufferings increased His firmness and power. As a divine physician He diagnosed the malady of the Age and prescribed the remedy. His teachings were universal and conferred illumination on all mankind. His power has been poured forth more abundantly since His death. In His presence He stood alone and events have proved and are still proving its accuracy.
From The Mission of Bahá’u’lláh
Josá Maria Eça de Queiróz is acknowledged to be one of the greatest Portugese novelists, attempting to bring about social reform through his novels. In 1869 and 1870, he travelled to Egypt and watched the opening of the Suez Canal, which inspired several of his works, most notably “O Mistério da Estrada de Sintra”. “A Correspondencia de Fradique Mendes” features a character – Mendes – who travels to many different places and writes of them to his friends and relatives. It is said that Eça de Queiróz modelled the character of Mendes on himself. Introducing the character of Mendes, he writes of their meeting in Cairo:
“…I asked Fradique what had detained him thus in Persia for a year and a day, just as in the fairy tales. And Fradique confessed with all sincerity, that he had tarried so long on the banks of the Euphrates because he had by chance come into contact with a religious movement called Bábism, which since 1849 had been developing and nearly triumped in Persia. Although attracted to this new sect by a critical curiosity, and also wishing to observe how a new religion is born and established, he gradually began to take a very keen interest in Bábism – not so much because he admired its doctrine, but because of the dedication of its apostles…
I do not remember, after so many years, whether these are the exact facts. I only know that these revelations by Fradique, thrust upon me during the festival in Cairo, impressed me unutterably. While he spoke of the Báb…and of the rise of another faith within the Muslim world, with its own procession of martyrs and ecstasies…this personage (the Báb) took on grand proportions in my mind. I had never known anyone involved in such exalted matters, and I felt myself both proud and awed to be trusted with this sublime secret. I would not have been more moved if I had, on the eve of St Paul’s departure for Greece to take the Word to the Gentiles, walked with him through the narrow streets of Seleucia, listening to his hopes and dreams.”
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
British explorer and writer, Dorothy Mills toured Palestine in 1925 where she met Shoghi Effendi, Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith. She wrote of her visit in her book, Beyond the Bosphorous.
“He (Shoghi Effendi) is a most charming young man, looking about thirty, small, slight featured, Persian in his general appearance, dressed in sober black robes, with composed and courteous manner. He seems to talk every known language, and spoke to me with willing fluency and conviction of the aims of his movement…
They are a lovable and fascinating people, the Bahais: idealists who have dreamed a dream of peace that passes all understanding, who seek to bring relief to restless unhappy human hearts, who, by cooperation, would replace competition, and blend all races, religions, nations and classes into one harmonious whole. A beautiful dream, too good, it is feared, to come true in our present state of imperfection and atavistic crudity, but a dream that it is pleasant to come into contact with, as I did, for a couple of hours, on a blazing April afternoon.”
Alain LeRoy Locke was an American writer, philosopher, educator and patron of the arts. He is best known for his writings about the Harlem Renaissance. He is unofficially called the “Father of the Harlem Renaissance”. His philosophy served as a strong motivating force in keeping the energy and passion of the Movement at the forefront.
“The gospel for the Twentieth Century rises out of the heart of its greatest problems – and few who are spiritually enlightened doubt the nature of that problem. The redemption of society – social salvation, should have been sought after first. The fundamental problems of current America are materiality and prejudice. And so we must say with the acute actualities of America’s race problem and the acute potentialities of her economic problem, that the land that is nearest to material democracy is furthest away from spiritual democracy…And we must begin heroically with the greatest apparent irreconcilables: the East and the West, the black man and the self-arrogating Anglo-Saxon, for unless these are reconciled, the salvation of society cannot be. If the world had believingly understood the full significance of Him who taught it to pray and hope “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven,” who also said ”In my Father’s house are many mansions,” already we should be further toward this great millennial vision. The word of God is still insistent, and more emphatic as the human redemption delays and becomes more crucial, and we have…Bahá’u’lláh’s “one great trumpet-call to humanity”: “That all nations shall become one in faith, and all men as brothers; that the bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened; that diversity of religion should cease, and difference of race be annulled…These strifes and this bloodshed and discord must cease, and men be as one kindred and family.”
From The Gospel of the Twentieth Century
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.”
Alfred W.Martin was a Unitarian minister and writer on religion. He was the leader of the Ethical Culture Society and author of many books about comparative religion including Great Religious Teachers of the East, Psychic Tendencies of Today, Comparative Religion and Religion of the Future, and Objective Evidence for Life after Death.
“Inasmuch as a fellowship of faiths is at once the dearest hope and ultimate goal of the Bahá’í movement, it behooves us to take cognizance of it and its mission…. Today this religious movement has a million and more adherents, including people from all parts of the globe and representing a remarkable variety of race, color, class and creed. It has been given literary expression in a veritable library of Asiatic, European, and American works to which additions are annually made as the movement grows and grapples with the great problems that grow out of its cardinal teachings. It has a long roll of martyrs for the cause for which it stands, twenty thousand in Persia alone, proving it to be a movement worth dying for as well as worth living by.
From its inception it has been identified with Bahá’u’lláh, who paid the price of prolonged exile, imprisonment, bodily suffering, and mental anguish for the faith he cherished-a man of imposing personality as revealed in his writings, characterized by intense moral earnestness and profound spirituality, gifted with the self same power so conspicuous in the character of Jesus, the power to appreciate people ideally, that is, to see them at the level of their best and to make even the lowest types think well of themselves because of potentialities within them to which he pointed, but of which they were wholly unaware; a prophet whose greatest contribution was not any specific doctrine he proclaimed, but an informing spiritual power breathed into the world through the example of his life and thereby quickening souls into new spiritual activity. Surely a movement of which all this can be said deserves-nay, compels-our respectful recognition and sincere appreciation.
Taking precedence over all else in its gospel is the message of unity in religion…. It is the crowning glory of the Bahá’í movement that, while deprecating sectarianism in its preaching, it has faithfully practiced what it preached by refraining from becoming itself a sect…. Its representatives do not attempt to impose any beliefs upon others, whether by argument or bribery; rather do they seek to put beliefs that have illumined their own lives within the reach of those who feel they need illumination. No, not a sect, not a part of humanity cut off from all the rest, living for itself and aiming to convert all the rest into material for its own growth; no, not that, but a leaven, causing spiritual fermentation in all religions quickening them with the spirit of catholicity and fraternalism.
Who shall say but that just as the little company of the Mayflower, landing on Plymouth Rock, proved to be the small beginning of a mighty nation, the ideal germ of a democracy which, if true to its principles, shall yet overspread the habitable globe, so the little company of Baha’is exiled from their Persian home may yet prove to be the small beginning of the world-wide movement, the ideal germ of democracy in religion, the Universal Church of Mankind?”
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