What’s Love Got to Do with It? 1

‘“LOVE IS FICTION,” AN article published in the Chicago Tribune on January 28, 1912, stated. “There is no such thing,” it declared. “We talk of love, we read of love, we think of love. Yet we know there really is no love.”

Edward Burnett Tylor, often credited as being the founder of cultural anthropology, wrote the Tribune article. He based his argument on his extensive research into “primitive” societies, which he viewed as the kernels of modern polities. Marriage, he believed, originated as a dowry transaction to deal with surplus cows; he didn’t think much had changed.

Love, in its many forms, was something ‘Abdu’l-Bahá talked about throughout his time in America. While it is, perhaps, a word more likely to be found in an anniversary card than in mainstream social discourse, and an easy one to disregard, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá set out to redefine it.

Buffalo, Chicago, Kenosha 2

On Saturday, September 14, among other things, He [‘Abdu’l-Bahá] spoke of the Covenant and later addressed the Theosophical Society.

God be praised that there exist in America such societies founded on human principles, the appreciation of spiritual values and the investigation of truth. 3

In the afternoon ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was invited to speak at the Theosophical Society where He ignited a fire of spirituality in the minds of the audience. The president of the society introduced the Master with great respect, saying:

Gentlemen, today it is a great bounty and high honor for us to be in the presence of a person who is the greatest prophet of peace and harmony. There is no doubt – and I feel and say on behalf of the audience – that to the present time we have not had the honor of hearing the life-giving words from the tongue of a living prophet. Therefore, with unbounded happiness and heartfelt honor I present to you His Holiness ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the prophet of peace and the founder of universal brotherhood.

The Master rose and spoke brilliantly about the distinction between spiritual realities and the animal nature of man, and the appearance of the perfection of man in the image of God. He explained some of the teachings of the new Manifestation. The audience applauded with so much excitement and joy that it felt as though there were an earthquake in the auditorium.

The president thanked the Master and acknowledged the truth and greatness of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. To show their concurrence with the words of their president, the members of the audience rose together in great excitement, a clear proof of the extraordinary powers of the Center of the Covenant. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá again arose and spoke:

I am very happy with your warmth and consideration. God be praised that there exist in America such societies founded on human principles, the appreciation of spiritual values and the investigation of truth. I am most grateful to this society and hope that your inner perception may increase and that the bounties of God will be with you.

When the Master went into another room the people rushed into it. Most of them wished to tell Him, ‘We testify to the truth of this Cause.’ The degree of excitement in the hearts of such a large gathering cannot be imagined. That such a transformation can occur in such a country is beyond belief.

5 September 1912, Talk at St. James Methodist Church, Montreal, Canada 4

… In order that human souls, minds and spirits may attain advancement, tranquillity and vision in broader horizons of unity and knowledge, Bahá’u’lláh proclaimed certain principles or teachings, some of which I will mention.

First, man must independently investigate reality …

Second, the oneness of the world of humanity shall be realized, accepted and established. …

Third, religion must be the mainspring and source of love in the world …

Fourth, religion must reconcile and be in harmony with science and reason. …

Fifth, prejudice … is the destroyer of human foundations and opposed to the commands of God. …

Sixth, the world of humanity is in need of the confirmations of the Holy Spirit. …

Seventh, the necessity of education for all mankind is evident. …

Eighth, universal peace will be established among the nations of the world by international agreement. …

Ninth, there must be an equality of rights between men and women. …

Tenth, there shall be an equality of rights and prerogatives for all mankind.

Eleventh, one language must be selected as an international medium of speech and communication. Through this means misunderstandings will be lessened, fellowship established and unity assured.

  1. Jones, Caitlin Shayda. “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” 239 Days in America, 14 Sept. 2012, https://239days.com/2012/09/14/whats-love-got-to-do-with-it/. [return]
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 145. [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. https://bahai-library.com/zarqani_mahmuds_diary&chapter=7#section174 [return]
  4. 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, 318. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/22#003009227 [return]