239 Days in America, Day 24: May 04, 1912 | Chicago
Blame It On Religion 1
IT’S NOT BEEN A month since ‘Abdu’l-Bahá arrived in America, yet he has succeeded in placing himself at the center of virtually all of the nation’s raging debates. He has championed women’s rights. He has challenged whites and blacks to work together. He has argued that, of all nations, America is uniquely capable of leading the world to peace.
He is the unlikeliest of spokesmen: a sixty-eight-year-old Middle-Easterner, recently released from forty years captivity at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, accompanied by an entourage of men wearing fezzes.
But ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has shown that he is entirely at home in America. He converses with ease in the company of scientists, philosophers, businessmen, politicians, and men of religion, whether Christian or Jew.
Racial equality. Social progress. International peace. For ‘Abdu’l-Bahá these matters are fundamentally spiritual in nature. Yet the faith he offers isn’t one of mystical contemplation, though there seems time for that too. As he noted at the temple’s cornerstone ceremony three days ago: spiritual devotion must be manifested in material action.
On Saturday, May 4, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke to the Theosophists at Northwestern University in Evanston… 2
Talk to Theosophical Society, Northwestern University Hall, Evanston, Illinois
The spiritual blessings of God are greatest. When we were in the mineral kingdom, although we were endowed with certain gifts and powers, they were not to be compared with the blessings of the human kingdom. In the matrix of the mother we were the recipients of endowments and blessings of God, yet these were as nothing compared to the powers and graces bestowed upon us after birth into this human world. Likewise, if we are born from the matrix of this physical and phenomenal environment into the freedom and loftiness of the spiritual life and vision, we shall consider this mortal existence and its blessings as worthless by comparison.
In the spiritual world the divine bestowals are infinite, for in that realm there is neither separation nor disintegration, which characterize the world of material existence. Spiritual existence is absolute immortality, completeness and unchangeable being. Therefore, we must thank God that He has created for us both material blessings and spiritual bestowals. He has given us material gifts and spiritual graces, outer sight to view the lights of the sun and inner vision by which we may perceive the glory of God. 3
The foundation of all the religions is one and this foundation is truth 4
When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá arrived at the [Plaza] hotel, many people were already waiting for Him. He answered their questions, for which they were filled with gratitude. One person asked him about the future affairs of Asia and the countries in the East. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave a detailed answer:
No progress is possible except through the power of the Holy Spirit and the Cause of God. Each of the Manifestations of God appeared amongst a nation and in a country which outwardly had no means of salvation or progress. But no sooner had those nations come under the shelter of the Cause of God than they excelled all the civilized countries of the world. Today, whichever nation raises the standard of the oneness of humanity and comes under the shelter of this divine power will ultimately lead the whole world.
Question: ‘What is the difference between the Bahá’í religion and the other religions of the world?’
The foundation of all the religions is one and this foundation is truth. In this respect there is no difference between either the divine religions or their Founders. The subsidiary laws that pertain to the affairs of society differ. These social laws are subject to the demands of time and place, so they are modified in each age.
Question: ‘What are evil and bad qualities?’
There is no evil in the world of existence; rather, evil is the absence of goodness just as darkness is the absence of light.
Speaking of the exigencies of the material world and its creation, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said:
It [the world of creation] calls for change and transformation. Without change there can be no composition or development. Change and transformation, decomposition and composition produce opposites. In the realm of reality, however, there are no opposites. Consider the world of the sun, which has neither darkness nor east and west. But owing to the exigencies of this world, there is night and day, light and darkness.
- Sockett, Robert. “Blame It On Religion.” 239 Days in America, May 4, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/05/04/a-man-of-both-faith-and-reason/. [return]
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 55. [return]
- 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, 90. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/4#018271400 [return]
- ’Abdu’l-Bahá, and Mirza Mahmud-i-Zarqani. Mahmúd’s Diary: The Diary of Mírzá Mahmúd-i-Zarqání Chronicling ’Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey to America. Edited by Shirley Macias. Translated by Mohi Sobhani. Oxford: George Ronald, 1998. https://bahai-library.com/zarqani_mahmuds_diary&chapter=3#section41. [return]