239 Days in America, Day 120: August 08, 1912 | Dublin
The Rights Not Only of Women, But of Men 1
AGNES PARSONS AND HER husband, Jeffrey, walk down the hill from Tiny May to Day-Spring to meet ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. They are on their way to the Cabots’ for lunch. The grass is dry and Agnes’s shoes become dusty from the walk. As ‘Abdu’l-Bahá approaches, Agnes asks Jeffrey to clean them off for her. Jeffrey bends down to clean the shoes, and looks up at ‘Abdu’l-Bahá with a humorous expression which, Agnes will recall, “He enjoyed very much.”
In November in Chicago, in front of a group of women, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá will recall the incident with the shoes differently: “I said, ‘Madam! Do you also clean your husband’s shoes?’ She replied that she cleaned his clothes. I said, ‘No, that is not equality. You, too, must clean his shoes.’”
The suffragists are busy in 1912. The women of California won the right to vote on March 28. The suffragists paraded up Fifth Avenue in New York City on May 5. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has argued vigorously for women’s rights from the first day he landed in America. But his memory of the incident with Agnes Parsons’s shoes in Dublin prompts him to argue for the equal rights of men, too.
The more material education advances, the more competitive is the race in aggression and injustice. But spiritual education is the cause of competition in praiseworthy actions and the acquisition of human perfections. 2
One of the devoted friends asked the Master about imperfect realities and their immortality. He replied:
All realities and spirits are immortal, even the spirits of non-believers and imperfect persons. But they cannot be compared in any way with the spirits of the sanctified souls and holy personages. Although this wood has existence, yet in comparison with the existence of man, it is as nothing.
In the afternoon ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke at a public gathering. He touched on various aspects of love and unity among people and the necessity for cooperation and mutual assistance in human society. In answer to a question regarding vengeance, He replied that man has no right to seek vengeance but that the community is responsible for the protection of all life, property and honor. He then went on to say:
The more material education advances, the more competitive is the race in aggression and injustice. But spiritual education is the cause of competition in praiseworthy actions and the acquisition of human perfections. We hope that day by day these injustices will diminish and the spiritual virtues increase.
The Master went into another room where a young man with a striking personality and pleasing appearance asked Him in what school He had studied philosophy. The Master answered: ‘In the same school where Christ studied.’ He then asked the Master, ‘What is the relationship between God and nature?’ The Master replied:
Some of the philosophers believe that God is the Supreme Reality and that every human being has a spark of this divine reality within him; that He Himself is in a state of utmost power and that all things manifest Him according to their different capacities. Therefore they hold that the Supreme Being is dispersed into infinite forms. This is the position of Plato. But we say that existence as conceived by man or comprehended through human reason or intellect is a characteristic of matter. Matter is like unto essence, while existence is its manifestation. The body of man is essence and existence is dependent upon it. This human body is matter while existence is a power conditioned on matter.
But it is not so with the Essential Self-Existent One. His existence is true existence which is self-subsistent, not an intellectually perceived and comprehended existence; it is an Existence by which all created things come into being. All things are like unto His handiwork and are dependent upon Him. We refer to Him as Self-Existent because we need to make use of a term but we do not mean that that Being can be contained within our comprehension. What is intended is the Reality from Whom all things emanate, the Reality through Whom all things exist.
Not only was the questioner grateful and satisfied with this response but everyone else was also pleased.
- Menon, Morella. “The Rights Not Only of Women, But of Men.” 239 Days in America, 8 Aug. 2012, https://239days.com/2012/08/08/the-rights-not-only-of-women-but-of-men/. [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=6#section137 [return]