Percy Stickney Grant Doubles Down on ‘Abdu’l-Bahá 1

But it wasn’t the first time [Percy Stickney] Grant had come up against Bishop [Charles Sumner] Burch. Back in 1912 Burch had reprimanded him for inviting ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to sit in the Bishop’s Chair behind the altar rail on April 14, the morning ‘Abdu’l-Bahá delivered his first public address in America. Bishop [John Gardner] Murray of Maryland had reacted even more strongly, banning ‘Abdu’l-Bahá from Episcopal churches throughout his state.

“But an idiotic thing like that would never stop Percy Grant — only make him more defiant,” Juliet Thompson later wrote in her diary.

Indeed it did. The Reverend Dr. Percy Stickney Grant had already invited ‘Abdu’l-Bahá back to the Church of the Ascension, to speak to the People’s Forum on Sunday evening, June 2, 1912.

New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts 2

On Saturday, June 1, the New York Times reported a “color line” at the University of Michigan, which banned Hindu students. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá went to the train station accompanied by weeping friends and returned to New York where He told the friends about the Fanwood trip.

One of the inquirers that afternoon was a Socialist, to whom ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said:

Go to the socialists and say that partnership in the properties and lands of this world is the source of strife and warfare. But partnership and inheritance in the kingdom are a cause of love and amity, If you will put your efforts to gain the precepts of the kingdom instead of worldly rights, you will gain perpetual happiness. [The Kingdom of God is vast. He will give you whatever you desire and there will be no place for strife and conflict. Is this not preferable and more pleasing?] 3

Mahmúd noted: “Every person with a particular interest was addressed similarly.”

Can you paint Me in a half hour? 4

The Master has begun to pose for me. He had said: “Can you paint Me in a half hour?”

“A half hour, my Lord?” I stammered, appalled. I can never finish a head in less than two weeks.

“Well, I will give you three half hours. You mustn’t waste My time, Juliet.”

He told me to come to Him Saturday morning, 1 June, at seven-thirty.

I went in a panic. He was waiting for me in the entrance hall, a small space in the English basement where the light–not much of it–comes from the south. In fact I found myself faced with every kind of handicap. I always paint standing, but now I was obliged to sit, jammed so close to the window (because of the lack of distance between the Master and me) that I couldn’t even lean back. No light. No room. And I had brought a canvas for a life-size head.

The Master was seated in a dark corner, His black ‘abá melting into the background; and again I saw Him as the Face of God, and quailed. How could I paint the Face of God?

“I want you,” He said, “to paint My Servitude to God.”

“Oh my Lord,” I cried, “only the Holy Spirit could paint Your Servitude to God. No human hand could do it. Pray for me, or I am lost. I implore You, inspire me.”

“I will pray,” He answered, “and as you are doing this only for the sake of God, you will be inspired.”

And then an amazing thing happened. All fear fell away from me and it was as though Someone Else saw through my eyes, worked through my hand.

All the points, all the planes in that matchless Face were so clear to me that my hand couldn’t put them down quickly enough, couldn’t keep pace with the clarity of my vision. I painted in ecstasy, free as I had never been before.

At the end of the half hour the foundation of the head was perfect.

  1. Menon, Jonathan. “Percy Stickney Grant Doubles Down on ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.” 239 Days in America, 2 June 2012, [return]
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 75-76. [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. Thompson, Juliet. The Diary of Juliet Thompson. Edited by Marzieh Gail. 1st ed. 1947. Reprint, Los Angeles: Kalimát Press, 1983, 298-299. [return]