October 14, 1912: The Week Ahead 1
THE PAST SEVEN DAYS stand out as some of the most eventful of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s entire trip to America. He argued for a novel, scientific basis for peace in front of two thousand at Stanford University in Palo Alto, tackled the subject of evolution at the Open Forum in San Francisco, and engaged Rabbi Martin A. Meyer’s Reform Jewish congregation at the Temple Emanu-El by delivering his longest address in America. Over this weekend he is spending three nights in the countryside, at the palatial estate of Phoebe Hearst in nearby Pleasanton.
In the week ahead we will hear Americans’ earliest impressions of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, during the 1898 pilgrimage to ‘Akká that Mrs. Hearst organized, and we will follow ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to Los Angeles as he pays his respects to one of the first Americans ever to reach out to him across the ocean, the late Thornton Chase.
On Monday afternoon [October 14] He went with the Persian friends to the estate of Phoebe Hearst, at her invitation, and remained for two nights. Mahmúd observed, “Some of the relatives of the lady were also present. As there were people of different dispositions, the discourses of the Beloved were brief and full of wisdom according to the exigencies of the occasion. Many important ideas were couched in condensed sentences so that they made the maximum of effect with the minimum of words.”
O Lord! Send down upon us Thy heavenly food and confer upon us Thy blessing. 3
In the morning ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke about the election of the president of the republic. He said:
The president must be a man who does not insistently seek the presidency. He should be a person free from all thoughts of name and rank; rather, he should say, ‘I am unworthy and incapable of this position and cannot bear this great burden.’ Such persons deserve the presidency. If the object is to promote the public good, then the president must be a well-wisher of all and not a self-seeking person. If the object, however, is to promote personal interests, then such a position will be injurious to humanity and not beneficial to the public.
He then went to lunch. At the request of those present at the table the Master chanted the following prayer:
He is God! Thou seest us, O my God, gathered around this table, praising Thy bounty, with our gaze set upon Thy Kingdom. O Lord! Send down upon us Thy heavenly food and confer upon us Thy blessing. Thou art verily the Bestower, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
The Master then spoke extensively on the history of some famous people.
In the afternoon He went for an automobile ride through valleys, hills and meadows as far as the breakwater. When He returned to the house, the Master rested in the garden on special chairs brought for Him and the others and gave a detailed history of the life and teachings of the Blessed Beauty.
At the dinner table He spoke of His gratitude for the blessings of God and the importance of assisting the weak and poor. He was asked, ‘How is it that the desires of some people are achieved while others are not?’ The gist of the Master’s response was:
What conforms with divine decree will be realized. In addition, good intentions and sound thoughts attract confirmations. The desires of human beings are endless. No matter what level a human being reaches, he can still attain higher ones, so he is always making effort and desiring more. He can never find peace but through effort and resignation, so that, notwithstanding all efforts in worldly affairs, the human heart remains free and happy. He neither becomes proud on attaining wealth and position nor becomes dejected on losing them. This station can be attained only through the power of faith.
Such explanations and exhortations repeated at every meeting were warnings and reminders for these prominent people. Day by day their humility and sincerity increased owing to His presence.
12 October 1912, Talk at Temple Emmanu-El, 450 Sutter Street, San Francisco, California 4
There is another and more significant aspect to this religious impulse and impetus. The children of Israel were in bondage and captivity in the land of Egypt four hundred years. They were in an extreme state of degradation and slavery under the tyranny and oppression of the Egyptians. While they were in the condition of abject poverty, in the lowest degree of abasement, ignorance and servility, Moses suddenly appeared among them. Although He was but a shepherd, such majesty, grandeur and efficiency became manifest in Him through the power of religion that His influence continues to this day. His Prophethood was established throughout the land, and the law of His Word became the foundation of the laws of the nations. This unique Personage, single and alone, rescued the children of Israel from bondage through the power of religious training and discipline. He led them to the Holy Land and founded there a great civilization which has become permanent and renowned and under which these people attained the highest degree of honor and glory. He freed them from bondage and captivity. He imbued them with qualities of progressiveness and capability. They proved to be a civilizing people with instincts toward education and scholastic attainment. Their philosophy became renowned; their industries were celebrated throughout the nations. In all lines of advancement which characterize a progressive people they achieved distinction. In the splendor of the reign of Solomon their sciences and arts advanced to such a degree that even the Greek philosophers journeyed to Jerusalem to sit at the feet of the Hebrew sages and acquire the basis of Israelitish law. According to eastern history this is an established fact. Even Socrates visited the Jewish doctors in the Holy Land, consorting with them and discussing the principles and basis of their religious belief. After his return to Greece he formulated his philosophical teaching of divine unity and advanced his belief in the immortality of the spirit beyond the dissolution of the body. Without doubt, Socrates absorbed these verities from the wise men of the Jews with whom he came in contact. Hippocrates and other philosophers of the Greeks likewise visited Palestine and acquired wisdom from the Jewish prophets, studying the basis of ethics and morality, returning to their country with contributions which have made Greece famous.
- Sockett, Robert. “October 14, 1912: The Week Ahead.” 239 Days in America, 14 Oct. 2012, http://stagingtwo39.wpengine.com/2012/10/14/october-14-1912-the-week-ahead/. [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#section205 [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, 362-363. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/27#004021410 [return]