The Collapse of the Long Peace 1

[On February 8, 1904] the Imperial Japanese Navy under Admiral Togo launched a surprise attack on Russia’s Far East Fleet at Port Arthur, in Manchuria, three hours before declaring war. The Czar was shocked at such behavior, and sent armies across the Trans-Siberian Railway to reassert his power. The war raged on land and sea for more than a year, sending more than 150,000 men to their deaths. Finally, the upstart Japanese smashed Russia’s mighty Baltic Fleet at the Tsushima Straits, south of Vladivostok, in the early morning hours of May 28, 1905. 2

Shortly afterwards in ‘Akká, a group of European visitors asked ‘Abdu’l-Bahá if Russia could have avoided the calamitous war. Yes, they could have, he said. Russia’s peace initiative at The Hague had generated substantial goodwill, but they had failed to leverage it. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá took out a world map and described the Russian frontiers, the movements of the naval battle groups, and the roles of the ships in each, pointing out how Russia could have retreated while buying time to coordinate international pressure on Japan for a ceasefire. He proceeded to explain to his visitors how a comprehensive peace plan could have been put in place.

New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts 3

After prayer and tea ‘Abdu’l-Bahá took the ferry to New Jersey and then caught a train for Montclair. The Reverend Edgar S. Wiers introduced Him to the congregation of Unity Church, saying:

We need some great impelling message of peace … class is set against class. The employer and the employee, the capitalist and wage earner confront each other with hatred … Our own attitude of the white race toward the negro … and the red men … is anything but that which is indicated in our religion or any religion … We need some great word that will bring us to … brotherhood, unity and love.

… Just when we need the message of spiritual truth … this new religion has appeared… One of the successions of men who has brought forward this religion — Abdul-Baha will speak to us now … 4

Talk at Unity Church, Montclair, New Jersey 5

It is a self-evident fact that phenomenal existence can never grasp nor comprehend the ancient and essential Reality. Utter weakness cannot understand absolute strength. When we view the world of creation, we discover differences in degree which make it impossible for the lower to comprehend the higher. For example, the mineral kingdom, no matter how much it may advance, can never comprehend the phenomena of the vegetable kingdom. Whatever development the vegetable may attain, it can have no message from nor come in touch with the kingdom of the animal. However perfect may be the growth of a tree, it cannot realize the sensation of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch; these are beyond its limitation. Although it is the possessor of existence in the world of creation, a tree, nevertheless, has no knowledge of the superior degree of the animal kingdom. Likewise, no matter how great the advancement of the animal, it can have no idea of the human plane, no knowledge of intellect and spirit. Difference in degree is an obstacle to this comprehension. A lower degree cannot comprehend a higher although all are in the same world of creation—whether mineral, vegetable or animal. Degree is the barrier and limitation. In the human plane of existence we can say we have knowledge of a vegetable, its qualities and product; but the vegetable has no knowledge or comprehension whatever of us. No matter how near perfection this rose may advance in its own sphere, it can never possess hearing and sight. Inasmuch as in the creational world, which is phenomenal, difference of degree is an obstacle or hindrance to comprehension, how can the human being, which is a created exigency, comprehend the ancient divine Reality, which is essential? This is impossible because the reality of Divinity is sanctified beyond the comprehension of the created being, man.

Furthermore, that which man can grasp is finite to man, and man to it is as infinite. Is it possible then for the reality of Divinity to be finite and the human creature infinite? On the contrary, the reverse is true; the human is finite while the essence of Divinity is infinite. Whatever comes within the sphere of human comprehension must be limited and finite. As the essence of Divinity transcends the comprehension of man, therefore God brings forth certain Manifestations of the divine Reality upon Whom He bestows heavenly effulgences in order that They may be intermediaries between humanity and Himself. These holy Manifestations or Prophets of God are as mirrors which have acquired illumination from the Sun of Truth, but the Sun does not descend from its high zenith and does not effect entrance within the mirror. In truth, this mirror has attained complete polish and purity until the utmost capacity of reflection has been developed in it; therefore, the Sun of Reality with its fullest effulgence and splendor is revealed therein. These mirrors are earthly, whereas the reality of Divinity is in its highest apogee. Although its lights are shining and its heat is manifest in them, although these mirrors are telling their story of its effulgence, the Sun, nevertheless, remains in its own lofty station; it does not descend; it does not effect entrance, because it is holy and sanctified.

  1. Menon, Jonathan. “The Collapse of the Long Peace.” 239 Days in America, May 12, 2012. [return]
  2. Liulevicius, Vejas Gabriel. “The Causes of the Russo-Japanese War: From Imperialism to War.” The Great Courses Daily (blog), November 2, 2020. [return]
  3. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 66. [return]
  4. “Addresses Delivered by Abdul-Baha in New York City and Vicinity,” Star of the West 3, no. 7 (July 13, 1912), 12-13. [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, 113-115. [return]