‘Abdu’l-Bahá, aka “The Master” 1

Myron H. Phelps was one of the first Americans to meet ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. He was a wealthy New York lawyer, who had converted to Buddhism in India. Religion fascinated him, so when he heard that a new one had sprung up in Persia, and its leader lived in ‘Akká, Palestine, he made plans to visit him. After spending a month in ‘Akká, Phelps wrote the first book ever published in English about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: _Life and Teachings of Abbas Effendi_.

First Days in America: New York City 2

“Do you think our luxury degenerate,” I [Kate Carew] ask, “as in this great hotel?”

Abdul Baha strokes his long white beard.

“Luxury has a limit. Beyond that limit it is not commendable. There is such a thing as moderation. Men must be temperate in all things.”

“Does the attention paid at present in this country to material things sadden you? Does it argue to you a lack of progress?”

“Your material civilization is very wonderful. If only you will allow divine idealism to keep pace with it there is hope for general progress.”

“Is there any way of making this life in a commercial city less crude for the young boy and girl?”

“ It would be well to get them together and say, ‘Young ladies, God has created you all human; isn’t it a pity that you should pass your energy along animalistic lines? God has created you men and women in order that you may acquire his virtues, that you may progress in all the degrees, that you may be veritable angels, holy and sanctified.’”

“There are so many temptations put in their way,” I murmur.

The Abdul Baha looks very sympathetic, but his singsong tones are relentlessly firm.

“Let them try a little of the delicacy of the spiritual world, the sweetness of its perfection and see which life is preferable…”

More about Kate Carew’s exchanges with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá can be found in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in New York by Hussein Ahdieh and Hillary Chapman.

 Talk at Home of Mr. and Mrs. Marshall L. Emery, 273 West Ninetieth Street, New York

Briefly, the Blessed Perfection [Bahá’u’lláh] bore all these ordeals and calamities in order that our hearts might become enkindled and radiant, our spirits be glorified, our faults become virtues, our ignorance be transformed into knowledge; in order that we might attain the real fruits of humanity and acquire heavenly graces; in order that, although pilgrims upon earth, we should travel the road of the heavenly Kingdom, and, although needy and poor, we might receive the treasures of eternal life. For this has He borne these difficulties and sorrows.

Trust all to God. The lights of God are resplendent. The blessed Epistles are spreading. The blessed teachings are promulgated throughout the East and West. Soon you will see that the heavenly Words have established the oneness of the world of humanity. The banner of the Most Great Peace has been unfurled, and the great community is appearing. 3

  1. Menon, Jonathan. “‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Aka ‘The Master.’” 239 Days in America, April 18, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/04/18/the-master/. [return]
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 31-32. [return]
  3. ʻAbduʼl-Bahá. The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ʻAbduʼl-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912. Edited by Howard MacNutt. 2nd ed. Wilmette, Ill: Baháʼí Publishing Trust, 1982, 28-29. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/2#231768593 [return]