August 19, 1912: The Week Ahead 1
IT HAS BEEN A busy few days for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá since his arrival at Green Acre, a unique retreat center alongside the Piscataqua River that serves as a crossroads for many of the spiritual quests that characterize America in the early years of the twentieth century.
In the week ahead: Fred Mortensen rides the rails to visit ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, a look at Green Acre’s remarkable founder Sarah Farmer, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá travels fifty-five miles south to Malden, Massachusetts just outside of Boston.
Green Acre 2
On August 19 He was invited to a campsite by the river on the extensive grounds of Green Acre where a group of girls were pitching their tents, He sat on the grass and watched before addressing them.
The guests at Green Acre and the inhabitants of Eliot, Maine, were not the only people who sought out ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Some years before Fred Mortensen had escaped jail while awaiting trial and had been a fugitive for four years. He later wrote that he remembered being captured when he leaped over a thirty-five foot wall, breaking his leg, “to escape the bullets whizzing around about …” He had been defended by Albert Hall, who had introduced him to the Bahá’í Faith. Fred recalled, “it was he who told me, hour after hour, about the great love of Abdu’l-Bahá for all his children … Thus the Word of God gave me a new birth, made me a living soul, a revivified spirit.” 3
In August Mr. Mortensen had gone from Minneapolis to Cleveland for a printers’ convention. He wanted to visit Abdu’l-Bahá at Green Acre, but he had no money. Therefore, he jumped on a freight train and rode the rods via Buffalo and Boston.
17 August 1912, Talk at Green Acre, Eliot, Maine 4
The worlds of God are in perfect harmony and correspondence one with another. Each world in this limitless universe is, as it were, a mirror reflecting the history and nature of all the rest. The physical universe is, likewise, in perfect correspondence with the spiritual or divine realm. The world of matter is an outer expression or facsimile of the inner kingdom of spirit. The world of minds corresponds with the world of hearts.
Every momentous work that one undertakes has difficulties in the beginning. One should withstand such difficulties with the utmost steadfastness. 5
Among the friends was a lady who had come from Brooklyn to ask ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s permission to go to Utica. He kindly said to her:
Put your trust in the Blessed Beauty. Every momentous work that one undertakes has difficulties in the beginning. One should withstand such difficulties with the utmost steadfastness. We who wish to raise this magnificent edifice must be as brave as the soldiers who are intent on conquering strong fortresses.
Later He walked to Mrs Taylor’s home. Resting in the foyer, He praised the climate and beauty of the surroundings, saying:
Here on a moonlit night, when the moon is in its full brilliance, when the stars are shining and the air is pure and a sweet breeze is wafting, at such a time to pray and weep before the Court of God has a delight of its own.
As He left there He encountered some women who were fortune tellers. Some read palms and others interpreted dreams. They all voiced their opinion that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá possessed divine spirit and heavenly power. He showered kindness on all of them then returned to the Inn and gave a talk about superstitious beliefs and the severe discipline and asceticism of the Hindus.
He also visited a residence known as the Bahá’í House.249 He praised it, saying, ‘It would have been good if we had stayed here.’ The Master then gave instructions for the Nineteen Day Feast to be held the following day, saying: “Tomorrow I will host the festivity.’
In the afternoon He was invited to a summer school for girls held on the Green Acre common. Mrs Tatum drove Him in her automobile. There He sat on the grass near the bank of the river as the students pitched their tents and began their exercises. The principal and a teacher gave Him information about the school. A group had assembled under the trees to hear the Master’s address. With great reverence, the superintendent of the school introduced the Master. He then gave an eloquent talk on both spiritual and material education which drew much admiration from the audience. Afterwards the chairman and school mistress thanked the Master and expressed everyone’s appreciation for His talk. The students then stood and sang in praise of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in such sweet tones that everyone was enchanted. When the Master left everyone went to the automobile to shake His hand and to express their gratitude.
In the evening ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke on the everlasting dominion of God and His Holy Manifestations. After the talk He answered questions.
- Sockett, Robert. “August 19, 1912: The Week Ahead.” 239 Days in America, 19 Aug. 2012, https://239days.com/2012/08/19/august-17-1912-the-week-ahead/. [return]
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 126-127. [return]
- Fred Mortensen “When a Soul Meets the Master,” Star of the West, 14, no. 12 (Mar. 1924), 366. [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, 270. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/19#043258320 [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#section148 [return]