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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
Amír Amín Arslan was a noted Lebanese Druze journalist. In Paris, he founded and edited several Arabic newspapers. He was the Ottoman Consul-General to Brussels and to Buenos Aires, where he died.
“I have had the honour of catching a glimpse of him who is the incarnation of ‘the Word of God’ in the eyes of the Persians. It was in 1891, during a journey that I made to St Jean d’Acre (‘Akká). As soon as I arrived I was eager to pay a visit to ‘Abbás Effendi, the eldest son of ‘the Word’ who was in charge of the external relations of the community. I had known him at Beirut, in Syria, and there had quickly been established between us the bonds of a true friendship.
‘Abbás Effendi received me in the sumptuous palace where he lives with his father, ‘the Word’…Naturally, I solicited from him the honour of an audience with his holy father. He explained to me, in a very kindly manner, that it was not the custom of him who represented the Divinity to admit to his presence unbelieving mortals. Since I insisted, he promised to make every possible effort to bring about the realization of my wish.
Eventually, after three days, I received word that this signal favour had been accorded to me…I thought then that I was going to be able to converse with him who was the reflection on earth of the rays of Divinity, but my illusions were quickly dispersed. I had to content myself with catching a glimpse of the illustrious Bahá’u’lláh at the moment when he came out to take his daily walk in the immense park surrounding his residence. In fact, ‘the Word’ never left the inside of his house except to take a walk in the park in the evening, a time when he could better elude the praying attention of outsiders.
But ‘Abbás Effendi had carefully positioned me behind a part of the wall, along his path, in such a manner that I could easily contemplate him for a short while. I even believe that ‘the Word of God’ had realised the presence of a stranger and had understood that it was a question of granting a favour to a friend. His appearance struck my imagination in such a way that I cannot better represent it than by evoking the image of God the Father, commanding, in his majesty, the elements of nature in the middle of clouds.”
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
Marcus Bach was an American writer and lecturer on religion, and founder and director of “The Fellowship for Spiritual Understanding.” At one point in his life, Dr. Bach set out to meet the five people of his time whom he felt best exemplified the teachings of Jesus Christ in their lives. He travelled 40,000 miles in pursuit of this aim, interviewing Helen Keller, Pope Pius XII, Albert Schweitzer,Therese Neumann, and Shoghi Effendi.
“I went to Israel recently, to the harbor city of Akka, for it was there that Baha’u’llah, banished from Baghdad, spent his years of exile. To this windswept land, where Francis of Assisi once walked, Baha’u’llah came in chains in 1865. I went to the old prison where he was held captive for 25 years and where his son, Abdul-Baha, was a prisoner for 40 years. As I poked around behind the old walls and peered into the dungeons, the Baha’i story came to life. Baha’u’llah, like Jesus, had a forerunner who called himself the Bab, which means “the Gate.” In the midst of the religious and political wrangling of Moslem, Christian and Jew, the Bab said in effect: “A plague on all your houses. You have all lost sight of your common origin.” He preached that God is the Father of all men and the Founder of all faiths, and that the time had come when heaven would personify this truth. Like John the Baptist, the Bab announced the coming of a messiah: Baha’u’llah, who proclaimed himself in 1863.
I went to Bahji, some six kilometers inland. Here is the sheik’s mansion where Baha’u’llah lived like a prince after his release from prison and where he died in 1892. Here is the holy spot where Christians, Jews, Moslems, Zoroastrians and Buddhists came to “lament the loss and magnify the greatness of the herald of God.” Baha’is even today do not speak of the death of Baha’u’llah but, rather, of his ascension. In reverence, I knelt beside the bier.
As I walked through the majestic rooms I was reminded that it was here, years ago, that the noted Cambridge University Orientalist, Edward G. Browne, visited Baha’u’llah. His impressions, widely quoted, are precious to every ardent Baha’i: “The face of him on whom I gazed I can never forget. Those piercing eyes seemed to read one’s very soul…. No need to ask in whose presence I stood, as I bowed myself before One who is the object of a devotion and love which kings might envy and emperors sigh for in vain!”
This was Baha’u’llah whose power and grace Baha’is saw reflected in his successor, Abdul-Baha, and which they see mirrored today in the present leader, Shoghi Effendi, the eldest son of the eldest daughter of Abdul-Baha, and a distant relative of the Bab. This was Baha’u’llah who, as my minister friend insisted, “can never be sold to Americans; even his name is against him.”
But quietly in the heart of every Baha’i there lives a feeling that he and his fellows are children of destiny as well as children of light. Baha’u’llah assured them in his writings: “Be not dismayed! Arise to further my cause and to exalt my word among men….. We are truly almighty. Whoso hath recognized me will arise and truly serve me with such determination that the powers of earth and heaven shall be unable to defeat his purpose.”
I have met Baha’is in many parts of the world. They are all cut to the same pattern: heartfelt dedication to the cause and person of Baha’u’llah, zeal in the advancement of their ideals. They ask no salaries, want no honor, and are literally more interested in giving than in receiving. Typical were two Baha’i women I met in Chichicastenango. They had been in this Guatemalan village for two years and had won two converts among the Maya-Quichés. “Isn’t this slow progress?” I asked. “That all depends on how you figure it,” I was told. “Who knows the power or the value of one soul?”
The Baha’i faith may have been slow in getting started in America because of its ambitious and altruistic world-uniting program. It may have put the cart before the horse. It may have oversold Baha’u’llah on the basis of the oneness of all faiths. But a second look shows that by way of its devotion and the opening door, it may loose itself from captivity. It may also be that the minister was quite right when he said, “If these Baha’is ever get going, they may take the country by storm!””
Published in The Christian Century, Volume 74, Number 15 (April 10, 1957)
“This, then, is our mission: that we who are made in the image of God should remember that all men are made in God’s image. To this divine knowledge we owe all we are, all we hope for. We are rising gradually toward that image, and we owe it to our fellow men to aid them in returning to it in the Glory of God… It is a celestial privilege and with it comes a high responsibility, from which there is no escape.
In the Palace of Bahjí , or Delight, just outside the Fortress of ‘Akká, on the Syrian coast, there died a few months since, a famous Persian sage, the Bábí Saint, named Bahá’u’lláh-the “Glory of God”-the head of that vast reform party of Persian Muslims, who accept the New Testament as the Word of God and Christ as the Deliverer of men, who regard all nations as one, and all men as brothers. Three years ago he was visited by a Cambridge scholar and gave utterance to sentiments so noble, so Christlike, that we repeat them as our closing words:
“That all nations should 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 religions should cease and differences of race be annulled. What harm is there in this? Yet so it shall be. These fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the ‘Most Great Peace’ shall come. Do not you in Europe need this also? Let not a man glory in this, that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this, that he loves his kind.”
Spoken at the Columbian Exposition of 1893, Chicago.
“It would be unwise…to attempt to picture even in broad outlines what might be the kind of social system that would be most likely to emerge after a profound reorganization of mankind on a global scale. For a relatively long time the process of re-structuring a society of such a scope and obvious complexity would almost inevitably know ups and downs, and perhaps crucial conflicts; unless a very large section of the coming generations spontaneously would experience such a change of consciousness that, perhaps under some quasi-divine guidance, they can readily accept as valid and necessary some basic principles of social organization, such as, for instance, is envisioned by adherents to the Bahá’í Faith.”
From Directives for New Life
“…Thus the “massacre of the Innocents”, among whom Herod hoped to have the newborn Jesus destroyed, is really to be interpreted as the cyclic destruction of those Initiates who pave the way for the Great One, and whose sacrificial deaths leaven the soil in whom His mission is to become rooted. These Initiates represent the John-the-Baptist phase of the avataric descent. They are heralds as well as martyrs. They close a cycle, and make the opening of another possible.
We find the same series of happenings in the Bahá’í traditions. The Báb and the thousands of his followers who underwent martyrdom leavened the soil trod by Bahá’u’lláh, the “Glory of God”.”
From New Mansions for New Men
Robert Hayden was a pioneering African-American poet. He won the Grand Prize for Poetry at the First World Festival of Negro Arts and 1975 Fellow of the academy of American Poets. He served two terms as Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress, was a member of the American academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and professor of English at the University of Michigan.
Bahá’u’lláh in the Garden of Ridwan
Agonies confirm His hour,
and swords like compass-needles turn
toward His heart,
The midnight air is forested
with presences that shelter Him
and sheltering praise
The auroral darkness which is God
and sing the word made flesh again
Eternal exile whose return
He watches in a borrowed garden,
prays. And sleepers toss upon
their armored beds,
Half-roused by golden knocking at
the doors of consciousness. Energies
like angels dance
Glorias of recognition.
Within the rock the undiscovered suns
release their light.
From A Ballad of Remembrance
“At the front and head of all saints, poets, artists and philosophers, stand great figures – Moses, Krishna, Zoroaster, Guatama, Christ. Mohammed, and, I believe, the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh – shedding light and love upon mankind – the milestones of human evolution. No power of kings and conquerors, nor even of genius, can compare with the sway which their authority has exercised throughout recorded history, until day has turned to night and men have twisted Their Teachings to suit their own purposes…
Bahá’u’lláh’s light shone in Persia and Palestine a century ago. He recognized and united the Teachings of all the Founders of religions providing thereby a true basis for World Peace and Unity… He has left a great body of writing and a complete Plan of World Order based upon man’s relationship with God, man’s relationship with himself, and man’s relationship with man.”
From My Religious Faith, 1953
“A man was born at the close of one era and the beginning of another, whose concept of inclusive unity gave so powerful a voice as to eventually force me out of my persistent doubt. His name was Bahá’u’lláh (The Glory of God). Born in Persia in 1817, he died in Palestine in 1892 after forty years of exile and prison, from whence His fuller revelation emanated. For the first time a divine Genius could speak to mankind during the greatest crisis in history. This is the ‘time of the end’ (of an epoch), when men may comprehend that which Jesus said they could not comprehend in his day. Instead of a diminution of the concept of God to nullity is its expansion to man’s united wholeness. How else can we understand each other or hope for peace?…
To those readers who feel surprised that I give such loyalty to three Persian Teachers whose spiritual and practical lives were selfless as was Christ’s, my reply is that the absence of the separating self implies the Presence of God. Those pure mirrors reflecting the Essence of Being described in the Bible as ‘I am that I am’ I have called spiritual or divine Geniuses of the human race.”
From Drawings, Verse and Belief, 1973
Edward Granville Browne was a British orientalist who published numerous articles and books of academic value, in the areas of Persian history and literature. Professor Browne took an interest in subjects which few other Western scholars were willing to explore to any sufficient degree. Professor Browne’s interest in the Bábí and later Bahá’í movements was piqued by a book by the French diplomat Comte de Gobineau and resulted in his enjoying a number of private interviews with Bahá’u’lláh Himself in His home at Bahji in 1890. Browne was the only Westerner to meet Bahá’u’lláh and leave a description of the experience.
Professor Browne’s encounter with Bahá’u’lláh
“… my conductor paused for a moment while I removed my shoes. Then, with a quick movement of the hand, he withdrew, and, as I passed, replaced the curtain; and I found myself in a large apartment, along the upper end of which ran a low divan, while on the side opposite to the door were placed two or three chairs. Though I dimly suspected whither I was going and whom I was to behold (for no distinct intimation had been given to me), a second or two elapsed ere, with a throb of wonder and awe, I became definitely conscious that the room was not untenanted. In the corner where the divan met the wall sat a wondrous and venerable figure, crowned with a felt head-dress of the kind called 1taj1 by dervishes (but of unusual height and make), round the base of which was wound a small white turban. The face of him on whom I gazed I can never forget, though I cannot describe it. Those piercing eyes seemed to read one’s very soul; power and authority sat on that ample brow; while the deep lines on the forehead and face implied an age which the jet-black hair and beard flowing down in indistinguishable luxuriance almost to the waist seemed to belie. No need to ask in whose presence I stood, as I bowed myself before one who is the object of a devotion and love which kings might envy and emperors sigh for in vain!
A mild dignified voice bade me be seated, and then continued: — “Praise be to God that thou has attained! … Thou has come to see a prisoner and an exile. … We desire but the good of the world and happiness of the nations; yet they deem us a stirrer up of strife and sedition worthy of bondage and banishment. … That all nations should 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 differences of race be annulled — what harm is there in this? … Yet so it shall be; these fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the `Most Great Peace’ shall come. … Do not you in Europe need this also? Is not this that which Christ foretold? … Yet do we see your kings and rulers lavishing their treasures more freely on means for the destruction of the human race than on that which would conduce to the happiness of mankind. … These strifes and this bloodshed and discord must cease, and all men be as one kindred and one family. … Let not a man glory in this, that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this, that he loves his kind. …”
Such, so far as I can recall them, were the words which, besides many others, I heard from Beha. Let those who read them consider well with themselves whether such doctrines merit death and bonds, and whether the world is more likely gain or lose by their diffusion.”
Professor Browne’s tribute to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
“Seldom have I seen one whose appearance impressed me more. A tall strongly-built man holding himself straight as an arrow, with white turban and raiment, long black locks reaching almost to the shoulder, broad powerful forehead indicating a strong intellect combined with an unswerving will, eyes keen as a hawk’s, and strongly-marked but pleasing features–such was my first impression of ‘Abbas Effendi, “the master” as he par excellence is called…. One more eloquent of speech, more ready of argument, more apt of illustration, more intimately acquainted with the sacred books of the Jews, the Christians, the Muhammadans, could, I should think, scarcely be found even amongst the eloquent, ready, and subtle race to which he belongs. These qualities, combined with a bearing at once majestic and genial, made me cease to wonder at the influence and esteem which he enjoyed even beyond the circle of his father’s followers. About the greatness of this man and his power no one who had seen him could entertain a doubt.”