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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.”
Luther Burbank was an American botanist, horticulturalist and a pioneer in agricultural science. Burbank also had a spiritual side. His friend and admirer Paramahansa Yogananda wrote of Burbank: “His heart was fathomlessly deep, long acquainted with humility, patience, sacrifice. His little home amid the roses was austerely simple; he knew the worthlessness of luxury, the joy of few possessions. The modesty with which he wore his scientific fame repeatedly reminded me of the trees that bend low with the burden of ripening fruits; it is the barren tree that lifts its head high in an empty boast.”
“I am heartily in accord with the Bahá’í Movement, in which I have been interested for several years. The religion of peace is the religion we need and always have needed, and in this Bahá’í is more truly the religion of peace than any other.”
The psychoanalyst and philosopher Charles Baudouin founded the International Institute of Psychagogy and Psychotherapy. Baudouin was a great believer in a world where the national spirit is transcended by the human spirit.
“…towards the middle of the nineteenth century, Asia gave birth to a great religious movement – a movement signalized for its spiritual purity, one which has had thousands of martyrs, one which Tolstoy has described. H. Dreyfus, the French historian of this movement, says that it is not “a new religion,” but “religion renewed,” and that it provides “the only possible basis for a mutual understanding between religion and free thought.” Above all, we are impressed by the fact that, in our own time, such a manifestation can occur, and that the new faith should have undergone a development far more extensive than that undergone in the same space of time nearly two thousand years ago, by budding Christianity.
At the present time, the majority of the inhabitants of Persia have, to a varying extent, accepted the Babist faith. In the great towns of Europe, America, and Asia, there are active centers for the propaganda of the liberal ideas and the doctrine of human community, which form the foundations of Baha’ist teaching.
We shall not grasp the full significance of this tendency until we pass from the description of Baha’ism as a theory to that of Baha’ism as a practice, for the core of religion is not metaphysics, but morality. The Baha’ist ethical code is dominated by the law of love taught by Jesus and by all the prophets. In the thousand and one details of practical life, this law is subject to manifold interpretations. That of Bahá’u’lláh is unquestionably one of the most comprehensive of these, one of the most exalted, one of the most satisfactory to the modern mind….
That is why Bahá’u’lláh is a severe critic of the patriotism which plays so large a part in the national life of our day. Love of our native land is legitimate, but this love must not be exclusive. A man should love his country more than he loves his house (this is the dogma held by every patriot); but Bahá’u’lláh adds that he should love the divine world more than he loves his country. From this standpoint, patriotism is seen to be an intermediate stage on the road of renunciation, an incomplete and hybrid religion, something we have to get beyond. Throughout his life Bahá’u’lláh regarded the ideal universal peace as one of the most important of his aims….
Bahá’u’lláh is in this respect enunciating a novel and fruitful idea. There is a better way of dealing with social evils than by trying to cure them after they have come to pass. We should try to prevent them by removing their causes, which act on the individual, and especially on the child. Nothing can be more plastic than the nature of the child. The government’s first duty must be to provide for the careful and efficient education of children, remembering that education is something more than instruction. This will be an enormous step towards the solution of the social problem, and to take such a step will be the first task of the House of Justice. “It is ordained upon every father to rear his son or his daughter by means of the sciences, the arts, and all the commandments; and if any one should neglect to do so, then the members of the council, should the offender be a wealthy man, must levy from him the sum necessary for the education of his child. When the neglectful parent is poor, the cost of the necessary education must be borne by the council, which will provide a refuge for the unfortunate.”
The House of Justice, likewise, must prepare the way for the establishment of universal peace, doing this by organizing courts of arbitration and by influencing the governments. Long before the Esperantists had begun their campaign, and more than twenty years before Nicholas II had summoned the first Hague congress, Bahá’u’lláh was insisting on the need for a universal language and courts of arbitration. He returns to these matters again and again…
While adopting and developing the Christian law of love, Bahá’u’lláh rejected the Christian principle of asceticism. He discountenanced the machinations which were a nightmare of the Middle Ages, and whose evil effects persist even in our own days….
Baha’ism, then, is an ethical system, a system of social morality. But it would be a mistake to regard Baha’ist teaching as a collection of abstract rules imposed from without. Baha’ism is permeated with a sane and noble mysticism; nothing could be more firmly rooted in the inner life, more benignly spiritual; nothing could speak more intimately to the soul, in low tones, and as if from within…
Such is the new voice that sounds to us from Asia such is the new dawn in the East. We should give them our close attention; we should abandon our customary mood of disdainful superiority. Doubtless, Bahá’u’lláh’s teaching is not definitive. The Persian prophet does not offer it to us as such. Nor can we Europeans assimilate all of it; for modern science leads us to make certain claims in matters of thought-claims we cannot relinquish, claims we should not try to forego. But even though Bahá’u’lláh’s precepts (like those of the Gospels) may not fully satisfy all these intellectual demands, they are rarely in conflict with our scientific outlooks. If they are to become our own spiritual food, they must be supplemented, they must be relived by the religious spirits of Europe, must be rethought by minds schooled in the Western mode of thought. But, in its existing form, Baha’ist teaching may serve, amid our present chaos, to open for us a road leading to solace and to comfort; may restore our confidence in the spiritual destiny of man. It reveals to us how the human mind is in travail; it gives us an inkling of the fact that the greatest happenings of the day are not the ones we were inclined to regard as the most momentous, not the ones which are making the loudest noise.”
Excerpts from Contemporary Studies, Part 111, page 131. Allen & Unwin, London 1924.
Michele Lessona was an Italian zoologist, physician, Senator and writer. A dedicated Darwinian, Lessona translated many of Charles Darwin’s works into Italian. In 1862, Professor Lessona was appointed physician to the diplomatic delegation sent to Persia to establish relations between the newly created Kingdom of Italy and the Persian government. Fascinated by the life and teachings of the Bab, Lessona wrote a small monograph called “I Babi”, published in 1881.
“Forty years ago, in the city of Shiraz, there left childhood and entered puberty a youth that for his singular potency of intellect, for his extraordinary application to study, his profound religious tendencies, his loving nature, for his energy of character, grace of body and beauty of countenance, awakened admiration and affection in everyone who had occasion to deal with him, and captivated all the love of his teachers and relatives. The name of this youth was Mirza Ali-Muhammad…
His style was imaginative and sublime, not like anything human; thus to his quality of a most eloquent orator he added that of an inimitable writer. And while he preached, discussed and taught in the mosques, in the colleges, in the streets, in his house, everywhere they were reading aloud his verses, often interrupting with cries of the most ardent admiration. In all of Shiraz they did not speak of anything else but the Bab, everyone was filled with enthusiasm for him…
The house of the Bab was crowded, night and day, with new converts to his faith; to him came men rich in possessions, men of intellect and energy, and among the very first many mullas enrolled under his banner…”
“The Bahá’í call for peace comes at a crucial moment in the history of humanity. Peace in the contemporary world is no longer an option but a necessity. All leaders and peoples of the world must come to realize this fact,and achieve the maturity which the Bahá’í Faith foresees for the coming of age of humanity.”
“At Karlsruhe in 1920, I first came to know of the supraconfessional world religion of the Bahá’ís, founded in the East more than 75 years ago by the Persian Bahá’u’lláh. This is the true religion of human social good, without dogmas or priests, uniting all men on this small terrestrial globe of ours. I have become a Bahá’í. May this religion live and prosper for the good of mankind; this is my most ardent wish.”
Excerpt from Dr Auguste Forel’s Will