In Chicago, Anything Is Possible 1

THE SUN PEEKED OVER the horizon as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s train steamed toward the western outskirts of Chicago for his third, and final, stay in the city. He had first disembarked in the Windy City on April 29, 1912, less than three weeks after he set foot in America. On that trip he laid the cornerstone of the first Bahá’í House of Worship in the West. Over the next four decades, the structure’s shimmering figure, draped in a filigreed gown of white quartz and portland cement, would slowly rise over the construction site at Grosse Point, on the western shore of Lake Michigan just north of Chicago.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá had returned to Chicago on his trip west on September 12, stopping for five days with a side trip to Kenosha, Wisconsin. Stepping onto the platform at LaSalle Street Station, he saw a young Japanese student dangling from a lamp post, struggling to get a glimpse of him. Saichiro Fujita became ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s guest for the four thousand mile trip to California and back. Now, seven weeks later, Fujita would leave the party and live in Chicago. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá once again took up residence at the Plaza Hotel on Lincoln Park, where, to a packed ballroom six months before, he had argued for America’s immense potential, challenging the young nation to play a leading role on the world stage.

The Journey East: Chicago, Cincinnati, Washington, D.C., Baltimore 2

At daybreak on Thursday, October 31, the train was approaching Chicago.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá went again to the Plaza Hotel in Chicago, and the friends and inquirers again came in great numbers for interviews. He spoke in the evening to a large gathering in the hall of the hotel …

All humanity is created by God but how they differ in intelligence. 3

At daybreak the train was only one station from Chicago. Here, one of the most sincere Bahá’ís, Mr [Albert] Windust, who is the editor of the Star of the West, boarded the train to welcome the Master and became the recipient of His kindness and favors.

The Master remarked this morning:

It is now more than two years that I have been far from the Holy Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh. Now I must return. If God wills it, I shall make another journey in another direction according to a special program which I have already thought out, so that I can proclaim the Word of God in another way. Let us see what is the will of God. Now we are traveling from California to Chicago. Praise be to God that this journey has passed most pleasantly. At the time of leaving Haifa, I had several ailments and did not expect to cross oceans and plains with such ease and comfort and to make such a long journey.

When the train reached the station in Chicago, the friends were transported with joy on seeing the Master’s face. The Master went to the Hotel Plaza where He had stayed during His first visit. People came in groups to see Him and remained in His presence until late in the afternoon. Many ministers invited Him to speak in their churches. He accepted some invitations but had to send regrets to others because of the lack of time. Some journalists were given detailed interviews about the history and teachings of this great Cause, which they took down for publication.

Some of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s comments to the friends were these:

We went to California and a great commotion was set up in the souls. A new spirit was breathed into people. In universities, churches and gatherings people were stirred and the blessed Cause was proclaimed. Decisive proofs were advanced and the teachings of the Blessed Beauty were explained. No one took exception; rather, all offered praise and glory, even the clergymen.

Some engineers came to Him and He said to them:

This Cause has spread all over the world. It has brought peace and tranquillity to different nations and religions, has united diverse peoples and has laid the foundation for the prosperity of mankind. Among its principles are the establishment of universal peace among nations and governments, the oneness of the world of humanity and the uniting of sects and religions under the tabernacle of unity.

Then turning towards some new inquirers, He said:

Behold the creative power of Bahá’u’lláh! He brought us from the most remote countries of the East and acquainted us with you. How He has connected our hearts and attracted our spirits to each other and has drawn all under the banner of peace and tranquillity! See how He has delivered us from religious, political, national and racial prejudices and saved us from the gloom of superstitions. Behold what a power this is! Had all the powers of the earth combined they could not have joined the hearts in such a manner but Bahá’u’lláh has joined all with a single word. Such is the power of Bahá’u’lláh! We must all turn toward the Abhá Kingdom and pray for confirmation and help so that His aid and assistance can support us from all sides and that we may become the cause of proclaiming the Word of God and of bringing peace and salvation to the people of the world. We must render service to the Kingdom of God so that divine grace may surround all and the favors of Bahá’u’lláh may attain full expression.

To another group of the friends He said:

This is the third time that I am in Chicago. It is now your turn to come and visit the Holy Shrine. Praise be to God that divine grace has encircled you! He has chosen you from among His creation and made you favorites of His court. How many are the divines who have called on God in their churches saying, ‘O our Lord! O our Lord!’ Yet when their Lord appeared they remained veiled. You were neither ministers nor monks and you have attained this grace. This is what Christ meant when He said, ‘Many are called but few are chosen’ [Matt. 20:16; 22:14]. Similarly, He said, ‘The people are entering the Kingdom from all directions but the sons of the Kingdom are leaving it.’ Although from distant lands, you have become enlightened whereas most of the countrymen and neighbors of Bahá’u’lláh have remained veiled. Be thankful unto God!

’Abdu’l-Bahá delivered a public address in the hotel’s salon, giving decisive proofs of the greatness and power of the Cause. As a result, many people learned of the divine teachings and were attracted to the fragrances of God. After dinner Mrs [Louise] Waite sat at the piano and sang a song she had written in praise of the Beauty of the Covenant.

31 October 1912, Talk at Hotel Plaza, Chicago, Illinois 4

In Los Angeles and San Francisco great interest was manifested in the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh by the newspapers, universities and churches. Our addresses were lengthy, the message of the Cause was proclaimed and arguments and evidences advanced. There was no dissent. All heard the glad tidings with complete acquiescence, and praise was unanimous, even including the ministers.

The friends in Los Angeles and San Francisco are very firm in the Covenant. If they sense the least violation on the part of anyone, they shun him entirely; for they know that such a person is engaged in extinguishing the lamps of faith ignited by the light of the Covenant, thereby producing weakness and indifference in the divine Cause. For instance, the firm ones teach a person. Then the violators go to him and instill suspicion until he becomes lukewarm. There have been violators here in Chicago for twenty years. What have they done? Nothing. Have they been able to teach anybody? Have they been able to speak in churches or address audiences elsewhere? Have they been able to make anybody firm in the Cause? They are doing nothing except extinguishing the lamps we ignite. The friends in San Francisco are exceedingly firm. They do not receive violators in their homes. Recently a violator went to that city. The Bahá’í friends turned him away, saying, “You are not with us; why do you try to come among us?” Today the most important principle of faith is firmness in the Covenant, because firmness in the Covenant wards off differences. Therefore, you must be firm as mountains.

  1. Sockett, Robert. “In Chicago, Anything Is Possible.” 239 Days in America, 31 Oct. 2012, [return]
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 176-177. [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. [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, 381. [return]