Phoebe Apperson Hearst 1
PHOEBE APPERSON HEARST HELD her dress above her shoes to step from the limousine parked in front of 1815 California Street, where ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had been staying. It was October 13, 1912. She was a small woman and kept her hair pulled tight on top of her head except for several short curls that hung loose to frame her face. After her husband died in 1891, she took over what was then the largest private mining company in the United States. The University of California at Berkeley had risen on her dollars. Today she had arrived to escort ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to her nineteen-hundred-acre estate in nearby Pleasanton for a three-night stay in the countryside.
It was a sunny day, and they drew the blinds in Mrs. Hearst’s limousine, then sped off down California Street toward the ferry terminal at the end of Market Street. After disembarking from the ferry across the bay in Oakland, the journey to Phoebe Hearst’s estate took them thirty-five miles through the redwoods of California.
On Sunday, October 13, He spoke at the reading room for the blind.
Every universal matter is from God; and limitations are from man. 3
In the morning one of the Japanese friends came together with a group of people to visit the Master. This Japanese friend said that he had studied most religions but found none as useful and effective in bringing tranquillity to the people as this Faith. The Master replied:
I hope that you will become heavenly and not just be a Japanese, an Arab, an Englishman or a Persian, Turk or American; that you will become divine and bring your life into accord with the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. Observe: I am one of the servants of Bahá’u’lláh, helpless and weak but as I am under the shadow of His teachings you see what confirmations descend upon me.
The fame, grandeur and beauty of the Master were such that many civic, educational and social leaders of the area visited Him, considering it an honor to be in His presence. His noble mission and talks about the Cause of God, together with the enthusiasm of the people, seemed to fulfill the verse from the Qur’án: ‘The day when the people shall stand before the Lord of creation.’ Mrs [Phoebe] Hearst, a wealthy and prominent person who had visited the Master a few years ago in the Holy Land but who had become distant because of her association with worldly people, suddenly requested permission to visit Him. Realizing the privilege of His presence, she invited Him and His companions to her home. Because her invitation was sincere, it was accepted. In the afternoon, the Master and His servants went with Mrs Hearst to her home. After traveling inland, through the streets of Oakland and Berkeley, the automobile passed through verdant hills, green valleys and lovely towns and villages until it reached Mrs Hearst’s large, regal mansion. It is situated on a beautiful hillside on the outskirts of Pleasanton, surrounded by luxuriant gardens, green lawns and pathways overflowing with flowers. Some of Mrs Hearst’s relatives were also present among her guests.
In keeping with the circumstances of the occasion, for there were people of different backgrounds present, the Master’s talks were brief yet full of wisdom. Many important ideas were couched in short sentences, giving the maximum effect with a minimum of words. The guests asked questions of each other about the Cause.
After dinner, the Master went into the outer hall and spoke briefly:
Every universal matter is from God; and limitations are from man. Therefore, if people’s services and efforts are undertaken for the benefit of all, they are acceptable to God and leave lasting traces. Otherwise, every other effort is limited and transitory.
After obtaining the Master’s permission to have music, the guests sang songs accompanied by the piano. The meeting ended with great joy and happiness.
12 October 1912, Talk at Temple Emmanu-El, 450 Sutter Street, San Francisco, California 4
How shall we determine whether religion has been the cause of human advancement or retrogression?
We will first consider the Founders of the religions—the Prophets—review the story of Their lives, compare the conditions preceding Their appearance with those subsequent to Their departure, following historical records and irrefutable facts instead of relying upon traditionary statements which are open to both acceptance and denial.
Among the great Prophets was Abraham, Who, being an iconoclast and a Herald of the oneness of God, was banished from His native land. He founded a family upon which the blessing of God descended, and it was owing to this religious basis and ordination that the Abrahamic house progressed and advanced. Through the divine benediction noteworthy and luminous prophets issued from His lineage. There appeared Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, David and Solomon. The Holy Land was conquered by the power of the Covenant of God with Abraham, and the glory of the Solomonic wisdom and sovereignty dawned. All this was due to the religion of God which this blessed lineage established and upheld. It is evident that throughout the history of Abraham and His posterity this was the source of their honor, advancement and civilization. Even today the descendants of His household and lineage are found throughout the world.
- Jones, Caitlin Shayda. “Phoebe Apperson Hearst.” 239 Days in America, 13 Oct. 2012, https://239days.com/2012/10/13/phoebe-apperson-hearst/. [return]
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 168. [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=8#section204 [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, 361-362. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/27#018297801 [return]