239 Days in America, Day 86: July 05, 1912 | New York
The Lesson of the Titanic 1
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who had been offered tickets on the Titanic, had spoken about the tragedy in Washington just as the Senate hearings began. “Although such an event is indeed regrettable,” he said, “we must realize that everything which happens is due to some wisdom.” He was consoled, he noted, “by the realization that the worlds of God are infinite …”
Like Senator [Isidor] Rayner, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá perceived a deeper meaning in the Titanic disaster. “We are living in a day of reliance upon material conditions,” he stated. “Men imagine that the great size and strength of a ship, the perfection of machinery or the skill of a navigator will ensure safety, but these disasters sometimes take place that men may know that God is the real Protector.”
Yet ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was also pragmatic. “Let no one imagine that these words imply that man should not be thorough and careful in his undertakings,” he said. “[H]e must provide and surround himself with all that scientific skill can produce. He must be deliberate, thoughtful and thorough in his purposes, build the best ship and provide the most experienced captain; yet, withal, let him rely upon God and consider God as the one Keeper.”
5 July 1912, Talk at 309 West Seventy-eighth Street, New York 2
Consider to what a remarkable extent the spirituality of people has been overcome by materialism so that spiritual susceptibility seems to have vanished, divine civilization become decadent, and guidance and knowledge of God no longer remain. All are submerged in the sea of materialism. Although some attend churches and temples of worship and devotion, it is in accordance with the traditions and imitations of their fathers and not for the investigation of reality. For it is evident they have not found reality and are not engaged in its adoration. They are holding to certain imitations which have descended to them from their fathers and ancestors. They have become accustomed to passing a certain length of time in temple worship and conforming to imitations and ceremonies. The proof of this is that the son of every Jewish father becomes a Jew and not a Christian; the son of every Muslim becomes a follower of Islám; the son of every Christian proves to be a Christian; the son of every Zoroastrian is a Zoroastrian, etc. Therefore, religious faith and belief is merely a remnant of blind imitations which have descended through fathers and ancestors. Because this man’s father was a Jew, he considers himself a Jew. Not that he has investigated reality and proved satisfactorily to himself that Judaism is right—nay, rather, he is aware that his forefathers have followed this course; therefore, he has held to it himself.
The purpose of this is to explain that the darkness of imitations encompasses the world. Every nation is holding to its traditional religious forms. The light of reality is obscured. Were these various nations to investigate reality, there is no doubt they would attain to it. As reality is one, all nations would then become as one nation. So long as they adhere to various imitations and are deprived of reality, strife and warfare will continue and rancor and sedition prevail. If they investigate reality, neither enmity nor rancor will remain, and they will attain to the utmost concord among themselves.
The whole of creation forms a chain composed, as it were, of many links connected with each other 3
A number of people met ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the morning. He spoke to them about divine knowledge and the spiritual stations which lead to eternal life – the ultimate goal of human existence. A black youth was there, to whom the Master gave the name ‘Mubárak’ [‘happy’], and to a black woman He gave the name ‘Khush Ghadam’ [a person who brings good fortune, welcome news, good omen]. He spoke to them about the importance of harmony between the white and black races of America and described the various meetings attended by both blacks and whites and the talks given at them which dealt with this question.
Mrs Kaufman asked about the influence of heavenly bodies on the affairs of humanity. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá replied:
The words of the astrologers are for the most part doubtful and unreliable. But the whole of creation is interrelated like the different parts of the human body which have a complete affinity from the toenail to the hair on the head. Every part is perfectly connected with the other. Similarly, the whole of creation forms a chain composed, as it were, of many links connected with each other. It is therefore obvious that they all greatly influence each other and are part of organized, regular cycles.
He was then asked about the connection between the soul and the body. He replied, ‘It has the same connection as the sun has with the mirror. Death consists of the severance of this connection.’
‘Some say that your prayers and promises for us have come true and are being completely fulfilled.’
‘I always pray with complete self-effacement and humbly implore confirmations from the Kingdom of Abhá.’
‘Do you feel the excessive heat? Does it affect your health?’
‘I am so absorbed that I feel neither the heat nor the cold. It is all the same to me.’
Today the Master was occupied in revealing Tablets for the Eastern friends. Notwithstanding the heavy pressure of work, He does not delay His answers to important questions.
There was a large crowd in the evening to whom He spoke about the various kingdoms of creation and the virtues of the world of existence. After the meeting several seekers visited the Master in His room. He answered their questions regarding the stations of divinity and the journey in the path of knowledge and servitude. Everyone was pleased and delighted and joined us in offering praise and glory to God.
- Sockett, Robert. “The Lesson of the Titanic.” 239 Days in America, 5 July 2012, https://239days.com/2012/07/05/the-lesson-of-the-titanic/. [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, 221. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/16#695281489 [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=5#section101 [return]