Washington High Society Receives ‘Abdu’l-Bahá 1

Every afternoon at 5 p.m., members of Washington’s elite sought out ‘Abdu’l-Bahá at the Parsons’s home: members of the House of Representatives, of the Senate, and of the Cabinet; Justices of the Supreme Court; officials of foreign embassies; and men of science such as Alexander Graham Bell and Admiral Robert Peary.

Agnes [Parsons] 2 had built a large, bright ballroom to the left of the front door especially for this purpose. It was twenty-five feet wide by fifty feet long, decorated in white with yellow silk curtains, and it seated 150 people. Carved garlands blanketed the ceiling, the paneled walls, and the high mantel at one end of the room. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke from a platform in front of the mantel, behind a bank of American Beauty roses that were delivered fresh every day. As the days passed, the crowds grew bigger.

Yet ‘Abdu’l-Bahá didn’t come to Washington simply to meet the nation’s wealthy and powerful. He also intended to assail America’s biggest taboo – the issue of race.

Washington D. C. 3

At 4:00 P.M. He [‘Abdu’l-Bahá ] spoke at the Universalist Church at 13th and L Streets to more than one thousand persons, who had started filling the auditorium an hour before time for the service to begin, In introducing Him the Reverend John Van Schairk, Jr., pastor of the church, said, “After arrangements for this meeting had been made, I received a letter warning me that I should be false to my belief if I held it… Against such narrowness this Church has always stood. We stand today humbly seeking the Spirit of Truth…” 4 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá then addressed the gathering…

 Talk at Universalist Church, Thirteenth and L Streets, Washington, D.C.

All the existing nations had a divine foundation of truth or reality originally, which was intended to be conducive to the unity and accord of mankind, but the light of that reality gradually became obscured. The darkness of superstitions and imitations came and took its place, binding the world of humanity in the chains and fetters of ignorance. Enmity arose among men, increasing to such an extent that nation strove against nation in hatred and violence. War has been a religious and political human heritage.

Now it is enough! We must investigate reality. We must put away these superstitions. It is a self-evident truth that all humanity is the creation of God. All are His servants and under His protection. All are recipients of His bestowals. God is kind to all His servants. At most it is this: that some are ignorant; they must be educated in order that they may become intelligent. Some are immature as children; they must be aided and assisted in order that they may become mature. Some are sick and ailing; they must be healed. But the suffering patient must not be tested by false treatment. The child must not be warped and hindered in its development. The ignorant must not be restricted by censure and criticism. We must look for the real, true remedy. 5

  1. Menon, Jonathan. “‘Abdu’l-Bahá Goes to Washington.” 239 Days in America, April 20, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/04/20/abdul-baha-comes-to-washington/. [return]
  2. Reneau, Annie. “Shining Lamp: Agnes Parsons (1861-1934),” Brilliant Star, September 28, 2017. https://brilliantstarmagazine.org/articles/agnes-parsons-1861-1934. [return]
  3. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 39. [return]
  4. Hannen, Joseph H. “Abdul-Baha in Washington, D.C.,” Star of the West, 3, no. 3 (Apr. 28, 1912), 10. [return]
  5. 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, 39-40. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/3#593384709. [return]