The Eyes of All People Are Upon Us 1

But even they weren’t ready for Ralph Waldo Emerson. On July 15, 1838, he stood before the graduating class at the Harvard Divinity School and spoke words that reverberated like hammer strokes off Harvard’s hallowed walls.

Emerson, too, had graduated from Harvard, and had been a preacher at Boston’s Second Church. But he lamented the lost devotion of the Puritans, and flatly told the students that churches weren’t measuring up: “The stationariness of religion; the assumption that the age of inspiration is past, that the Bible is closed … indicate with sufficient clearness the falsehood of our theology.” “It is the office of a true teacher,” he pleaded, “to show us that God is, not was; that He speaketh, not spake.”

Even though Emerson was speaking to young men about to begin careers in the Christian ministry, he removed the Church from the spiritual equation. The only way to restore true religion, he said, was to empower the individual soul to “go it alone.” He challenged them to break with conformity, to inspire their congregations to “dare to love God without mediator or veil.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson charged his “Transcendentalism” with the religious zeal of the original Puritan settlers, and fused it with the spirit of the American Revolution that set individual freedom and liberty above everything else.

It was a truly American take on religion.

New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts 2

Monday [May 20th] and Tuesday [May 21st] were spent in interviews and public talks such as one to a Woman’s Suffragist group in the Metropolitan Temple.

He embraced them all with the utmost kindness and affection 3

In the morning and afternoon the Master delivered addresses at two public meetings.4 One consisted of admonitions from the Abhá Beauty, and the other, owing to His impending journey to Boston, was a farewell address to the friends, promising them a speedy return.

This afternoon many of the believers’ children came to visit. He embraced them all with the utmost kindness and affection. He exhorted the friends to provide Bahá’í education and spirituality for these newborn trees of the Garden of Favor. To witness such meetings is a real joy. With great devotion, the young and old circled around ‘Abdu’l-Bahá like moths.

  1. Sockett, Robert. “The Eyes of All People Are Upon Us.” 239 Days in America, 21 May 2012, [return]
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 71. [return]
  3. ’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. [return]
  4. “For an account of this day see…”

    Thompson, Juliet. The Diary of Juliet Thompson. Edited by Marzieh Gail. 1st ed. 1947. Reprint, Los Angeles: Kalimát Press, 1983, 288-93.