‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Bahá’í Prophet, Speaks at Stanford University
A great assembly of students and teachers crowd the auditorium to hear the Bahá’í Prophet of Persia expound the doctrine of a new day for Universal Brotherhood International Peace and Religious Unity
Oriental Savant with Entourage of Twenty-nine Persons Spent the Day at Stanford University and Are Entertained in Palo Alto
Sketch of the Life of Abbas Effendi the “Servant of God” Reprinted from the London Chronicle, Bahá’ísm and its Prophet
[picture caption: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Abbas Effendi]
[picture caption: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Rev. Clarence Reed.]
[picture caption: President David Starr Jordan.]
[picture caption: View of Stanford University from the Hills.]
[picture caption: Leland Stanford Junior Museum]
A crowded Assembly Hall, holding nearly two thousand people, awaited with eager expectancy the appearance last Tuesday morning, of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Abbas Effendi, the world leader of the Bahá’í movement. The venerable prophet, with his long gray beard and Persian cloak and turban, gave a true impression of the reincarnation of the Far Eastern prophet of old. He spoke in Persian, and his remarks were translated by Dr. Ameen Fareed, a graduate of the University of Illinois and also of John Hopkins University.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá is revolutionizing the religion of Asia, bringing Mohammedans, Jews and Christians together on the basis of the laws of Moses, which they all ratify. He already has a vast host of followers and has aroused great interest by his present tour of America and England.
A pilgrimage through England and America undertaken by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has created great interest in the Bahá’í movement. The knowledge of this movement has been brought home to thousands of people who are willing and eager to spread its beneficent teachings. On this far western shore of America the seeds of peace and welfare find fertile ground and abundant fruitage. At Stanford there is a keen interest taken in International Peace on account of the prominent part taken by Dr. Jordan, one of the trustees of the Carnegie Peace Endowment.
After the address at the university some time was spent by the party in viewing the campus buildings and surroundings. In the evening another large assemblage gathered at the Unitarian Church in Palo Alto to hear the message to the church as the morning sermon had been addressed to the men of science. As before, the sermon was translated sentence by sentence by Dr. Fareed as uttered by the speaker. The venerable prophet was followed with close attention by the large audience of men and women present.
It seemed to be a notable day when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá from the far country of the Orient, met Dr. David Starr Jordan of the far western shore, both carrying the standard of international peace and universal brotherhood. It was Persia, the oldest nation of the world, indeed the fabled country of the Garden of Eden and the birthplace of the human race, bringing a message to America, the youngest great nation of the world.
“For there is neither East nor West,
Border nor Breed nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face,
Though they come from the ends of the earth.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá carries the message of religion and Doctor Jordan carries the message of science, both aiming for one great result. As all men are the children of one God so are they all brothers and we are at the dawning of a new day when the relationship of world fraternity will be seen and recognized.
The prophets of Israel, Moses, Elijah and Christ, are firmly established in the heart and mind of humanity as great teachers who delivered the message of God to the world. They lived and taught in one small country, never getting far away from the place of their nativity. In the case of Moses, who led the children of Israel up out of Egypt to Canaan, a notable journey in its day, would be a slight migration in the modern sense of people accustomed to traverse the globe. Our Savior lived and taught only in Palestine. Yet with all the differences which come in the stretch of two thousand years one feels in the presence of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, that he is a living embodiment of the old patriarchs and prophets. He has accomplished a great journey from the far East to the far West. Yet he was known before he came, and he will be long remembered.
In connection with these discourses, the wonderful skill and felicitous expression of the translator, Dr. Ameen Ullah Fareed, should not go unrecognized. To his ready learning is indebted the ability to fully appreciate the beauties of the discourses. They have been faithfully transcribed by the stenographer, Miss Bijou Straun.
The day, according to the wisdom of Solomon, is divided into three parts, whereof a part is for labor, a part for refreshment, and a part for repose. As fitting to follow the labor of a busy day, the company and a few guests enjoyed the hospitality of Mrs. I. C. Merriman at the home of her daughter on Waverley street. An evening of profitable and delightful discussion of the Bahá’í movement was followed by the serving of a sumptuous dinner at which all the appointments of refinement and good taste pervaded. Mrs. Merriman has taken a deep interest in the work of true benevolence best typified in the teachings of this universal religion and it was a pleasure to gather around her hospitable board on this occasion. The company remained over night and the next morning returned to San Francisco.
BAHAISM AND ITS PROPHET
Abbas Effendi, the “Servant of God.”
We live in noisy days, when it is hard for the counsels of perfection to obtain a hearing. Among the most civilized communities the stress and din of angers, of strife, of the armed preparations for war confuse and trouble. Neighboring nations glare at one another; the industrial world is a distracted cockpit; east and west, throughout Europe, revolution is muttering and threatening. And yet, despite this wretchedness and bitterness, there comes a prophet who cries Peace!
It is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, generally known as Abbas Effendi. His visit to England has drawn attention to a movement which, rapidly growing in strength and influence, has already done much to bind together in a union of fraternity some of the best good folk of the time. Bahá’ísm - admirably explained by Eric Hammond in a little book belonging to the remarkable series of “Wisdom of the East” - is a living ideal. It is truly catholic. Christian and Jew, Moslem and Buddhist, are numbered among its adherents. Not a sect itself, it makes appeal to all the sects. Its ideal is the one God, the God of all the religions. Unity and universal concord: those are its aims and objects.
The Three Prophets.
Abbas Effendi was born in Shiraz of Persia on May 23, 1844, on the very day that Bahá’ísm was established. He is the third of its prophets. The first, Mirza Ali Mohammed, the Báb, was Fore-runner to the movement. A Persian, the Báb’s activities were necessarily confined to his own country. His was really a reforming effort, a purified development of Islam. He took the best of the teachings of the Koran, and purged them, giving his compatriots new religious ideals. His aims were the realization of the real Oneness of all human conceptions of God, and the necessity of direct communion between Man and his Maker. The consequence was that the established powers - the priesthood because he trenched on their province, and the ruling authorities because of his growing influence over the populace - regarded him with enmity, and in the end gave Bahá’ísm the strength that comes through martyrdom. The Báb was executed, his followers were persecuted. In spite of, and because of, the shambles, the movement grew.
The Fore-runner was succeeded in 1863 by Bahá’u’lláh, an aristocrat who from his youth had been caught by the ideals. At once the efforts of the Bahá’ís broadened in scope. No longer were they confined to Persia. They carried the torch into all the countries, and proclaimed the Brotherhood of Man. But persecution fell more heavily upon them. Bahá’u’lláh and seventy of his followers were exiled and imprisoned. For two years the imprisoned Bahá’ís were kept in a couple of rooms; and there, despite the close confinement, the absence of comfort, and the unhealthiness of their condition, they behaved with such patience, courtesy, and gentleness that every succeeding governor of their jail relented towards them. For forty years the captivity of Bahá’u’lláh continued, during which time, without despairing, he unceasingly wrote and taught. In 1892 he died, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Abbas Effendi, the present prophet.
An Englishwoman, after eight months’ residence under his roof, expressed herself as having found her esteem and admiration of Abbas Effendi increase day by day. Known as “The Servant of God,” the fitness of that description is proved and recognized by his service to man. His method of life has been, and continues to be, a luminous example of the fact that, here and now, despite all the surroundings of struggle for fame and wealth and material mastery, an existence guided and guarded by the Light of the Spirit, is a possible actual thing. Those who pray for the coming of the kingdom of God on earth may see in Abbas Efendi one who dwells in that kingdom consciously, and creates an environment pulsating with the peace that passeth ordinary understanding.
Purposes of the Bahá’í.
So far the man. The teaching of the Bahá’í is at once mystical and practical. In effect, it challenges frequent comparison with the charity, illumination, and social service of that sweet mediaeval, Francis of Assai. We have something of the same close sympathy with the divine, combined with a splendid personal humility and eagerness to serve. Abbas Effendi leads his followers over what is elsewhere called the Mystic Way; but wherever they march, they tread with practical feet. This is best shown by a comparison. The prophet - who, by the way is no advocate of celibacy - enjoins that, as with Paul the tent-maker, every Bahá’í should have the working knowledge of a trade. Cleanliness, industry and thrift are looked for. They watch the stars, and do not forget the gutter. To quote Abbas Effendi’s own commands, amongst the purposes of the Bahá’í are -
“To never allow ourselves (alas, for that infinitive!) to speak one unkind word about another; even though that other be our enemy. To rebuke those who speak to us of the faults of others. **To be truthful, to be hopeful, to be reverent. To be a cause of healing for every sick one; a pleasant water for every thirsty one; a heavenly table for every hungry one; a guide for every seeker; rain for cultivation; a star to every horizon; a light for every lamp; a herald to every yearning one for the kingdom of God.”
It is a condition of healthy-minded self-abnegation. There is no enthusiasm of asceticism, no flagellation or self-torturing for the sake of the dreams to come; but a joyous and serviceable self-training to helpfulness and devotion. “Oh, God, protect me from myself!” is the Bahá’í’s prayer.
A Spiritual Pilgrimage.
But the Mystic Way is also to be trodden. This is illustrated by a pilgrimage Mr. Hammond proves an admirable guide and exponent - through the Seven Valleys. How universal is that mystical number! As with Dante we climb the seven steps of Purgatory, losing at every stage one of the deadly sins, so, as led by Bahá’u’lláh in his writings, we pass through the Seven Valleys. The first is that of Search. The traveler, mounted on the steed Patience, wanders after God. He is to be sought everywhere, even in the dust that is under our feet, because He is everywhere. We come to the Valley of Love, and the steed of this valley is Pain. Self must be lost, must be forgotten, for the love that is elfish is not love; and so, over the dividing hills, to the Valley of Divine Knowledge, leading from doubt to uncertainty, from the error of worldly desire to the lighted wisdom. These three valleys are stages recognized by all who at any time have set out on the spiritual pilgrimage.
We come to the fourth, distinctively associated with the aspirations of the Bahá’ís, that of Divine Unity. It is necessary, where there is such a divergence of aim among men, to recognize the omnipresence and indivisibility of the One, and to realize, through the mere fact of being, mankind’s unity with that One. That process accomplished, the way for the time becomes lighter, and the feet less weary. The traveler reaches the Valley of Contentment, wherein all things are joyous and beautiful, and the mystic finds his reward of happiness. But there follows the Valley of Astonishment or Perplexity, wherein old appearances are seen as really they are, old ideas are cleared of their errors and prejudice and the truth as it is recognized with such amazement as the child would show had he the wit to wonder at the miracles of the life which surround him, to which we of older growth have become blindly accustomed.
Lastly, we reach the Valley of Poverty, wherein we recognize that all the earthly splendor, the tinsel, the tufts, the glories, the honors, and the ornaments of worldly fortune are really an organized make-believe. Here, again, obviously, the spirit of Bahá’í comes very close to that of Francis.
The principles which govern the Bahá’í movement are, doubtless, in their detail not new. They are, indeed, older than the hills; [text missing] their application to these noisy, tumultuous times they are new enough. The absolute equality and spiritual brotherhood of all! Will the world listen? Has it ever listened to its prophets? - London Chronicle.
Stanford University was founded in 1884 by Senator and Mrs. Leland Stanford as a memorial to their only son, Leland Stanford Junior, who died in Italy in that year. To this institution property valued at more than thirty millions of dollars was bequeathed and this great endowment places it in the front rank of the educational institutions of the world. It offers free instruction in all departments of university work leading to the advanced degrees in science, literature, languages, law, medicine and engineering. The university is housed in a series of magnificent buildings built of buff sandstone with red tile roofs, an adaptation of the Spanish mission type of architecture. The great damage wrought by the earthquake of 1906 has already been largely repaired by new construction. The work of restoring the magnificent Memorial Church, built at a cost of nearly a million dollars, is now under way. This church is one of the glories of California. The library now contains about 200,000 volumes and is steadily growing at the rate of 1000 volumes a month.
THE NEW EVANGEL
Wednesday morning at the university assembly and in the evening at the Unitarian Church in Palo Alto appeared and spoke the leader in a world movement for unity in religion, international peace and universal brotherhood. This is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, a native of Persia who has devoted his life to the mission handed down to him by his father. This mantle of inspired evangelism was consecrated by the persecution of forty years of imprisonment imposed by the sultan of Turkey upon Bahá’u’lláh, the elder.
As the stone that was rejected may become the head of the corner, or like the prophet’s dream expand until it fills up the whole world, so may be the mantle of the wise men of the east, who rediscover a glorified star shining over the birth of a world movement toward idealism.
This idealism is the further perfection of the ideals of all the great religions of the world. In the science of photography there is a process by which any number of images of different faces may be composited together to produce the dominant type. What is truly representative leaves its impression upon the final result. What is vague and non-intrinsic surpluses into the shadow and disappears. Such a scientific process to arrive at the true composite of religious truth may be likened to the aim of the Bahá’í movement. It seeks the true common denominator of all religions, rejecting nothing which is good and afraid of nothing which is true.
The spiritual kingdom is full of clashes and contradictions, just as the political and industrial worlds are full of contention and strife. And just as in the latter fields volunteers are spending their lives to pave a better way, so in the spiritual kingdom we have the dawning of a more perfect light. This light will shed its peaceful rays over all contentious factions and will show them the form and substance of truth, which may have been obscured by the dust of strife.
To build a structure by taking a plank from here and a plank from there and a stone from hither and a stone from yonder, as some vague fancy might dictate, would result in an architectural monstrosity that would violate all the rules of unity and proportion. In no such way is the temple of true light to be founded. It is to be brought together in one focus of rays forming an image of all the elements which stand the searching test. This temple may be surrounded on all sides by the images of those beautiful non-essentials which have not gained entrance to the inner structure, but which the true spirit within may yet see as outer landscapes unfolding before the temple windows.
This is the task of the Bahá’í. It is a true ideal. Truly catholic and universal, it provides a meeting ground for Christian, Jew, Moslem and Buddhist. There is one God who is the God of all religions. His will is the law of all harmony and good. He stands revealed in the last analysis of universal truth. His truth is a gospel of love which surrounds and comprehends all things. In this there is no room for strife, and discord, no place for darkness or deceit, and no beginning for bitterness and woe.
Whenever science discovers any great truth, that truth is not the property of science, but it is the heritage of the whole world. We do not refer all the marvels of electricity to Edison nor worship his laboratory at Menlo Park. We use the blessing and pass it along. It matters little, in the long run, who made the discovery. If the founders of Bahá’í arose from the ancient plains of Persia and sent out the true message it matters little whether Persia is of the east or of the west. From the cradle of the human race and the oldest nation of the world comes a voice reaching down the centuries, to bring a message of peace to the strong young giant of the west, bidding America to usher in the dawn.
H. W. SIMKINS