New John the Baptist Preaching Universal Brotherhood
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Patriarchal Head of Bahá’ís in Denver With Message of Love and Justice to All and for All
Venerable, Impressive and Imposing Figure From Oriental Lands Comes to Give, Asking Nothing But to Be Heard.
BY ALICE ROHE.
A venerable man-like, a patriarch of old — his gray beard falling upon his breast, his white locks surmounted by a white turban, his erect figure draped in the flowing garments of Persia, this is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Abbas Effendi — “Servant of God,” teacher of universal religion, universal peace, universal brotherhood.
When I say this is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the statement refers only to the first fleeting impression of this head of the Bahá’í movement, who is in Denver spreading the message of brotherly love of the universal religion, which will be the foundation of inter religious, interracial and international brotherhood.
For when this aged man — whose presence in the dominant personality defies age — speaks, when the keen dark eyes become afire with the words he utters — the first impression of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá becomes but a superficial one. Yesterday afternoon at the Shirley hotel, surrounded by a staff of attendants, chief of whom is the vividly intelligent and finely educated Dr. Ameen U. Fareed, I was thrilled for an hour by the flow of sonorous words that rolled from the lips of this man of the Orient, who has a message for all the world.
Not understanding a word that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said in his native tongue, the calm of “the master,” broken at times by an impetuous rardor as he raised small slender hands in expressing a thought his words quickly translated with a beautiful understanding by Dr. Fareed gave to the interview an impressiveness that is seldom possible when interpretation from one language to another is necessary.
The son of Bahá’u’lláh, whose coming “the Báb” foretold — ‘Abdu’l-Bahá brings the message from his father, the founder of the Bahá’í movement.
Underlying Love of Humanity.
The most impressive feeling that one receives in talking to this patriarchal messenger from Persia is his broad humanity — his love of humankind underlying. the deep spirituality of his teaching and his deep love of God in whom is all knowledge.
Yesterday afternoon, listening to the rolling sentences quickly translated by Dr. Fareed, the interruption of an afternoon tea drinking according to American custom would have been extremely incongruous.
But this man of deep sympathies, who shrinks from the exploitation of his own personality, who wishes to get his message of brotherly love, of unity to all mankind, is as simple as only dignity and nobility of character understands simplicity.
The conversation of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá did not stop even as we drank our Persian tea together. And for the benefit of tea drinkers, let me add that until one has sipped this fragrant tea of Persia, served in small glasses pored over two lumps of sugar and stirred with a tiny spoon — on a plate of Persian design — one has never tasted tea.
Then it was with the aroma of that fragrant tea permeating the room with a soft and subtle perfume that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá added more light upon the Bahii movement of which he is the present head and which has witnessed the martyrdom of “the Báb” and the forty years’ imprisonment and exile of Bahá’u’lláh.
Brood and Sweeping Philosophy.
Questions concerning the actions of progressives and reformers, of the woman’s suffrage movement being but an outcome of the teachings of Bahá’ísm, were answered but in the broad sweeping philosophy of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s own style:
“The contingent world is typical of man as the microcosm, the human organism. Just as the microcosm, the human organization, goes through successive embryonic steps beginning with embryonic origin, through the foetal, to stages of maturity, likewise does this contingent world. In man we find in the period of maturity unfolding signs of intelligence and the virtuous characteristic of the world of humanity. Therefore we can say that the development of man from the beginning was a preparation for the laying of a foundation, for the culminating event which was intellection. All these processes expressed in metabolism are for the same purpose of ripening into a reasonable being. The reason of mind in the human world is the great goal toward which organism works. The greatest of all reforming movements appeared bearing the same relation to the world at large as the mind in maturity bears to the human being. This was no other than the coming of Bahá’u’lláh. Bahá’ísm appeared in the Orient and founded the divine civilization, because civilization is of two kinds, material and divine, natural cvilization and the civilization of the kingdom.
“Inasmuch as these constitute a great issue which transpired in this century, the manifestation of Bahá’u’lláh in the East was like the dawning of the sun, was like the dawn of the great mind. And it revolutionized the Oriental world. The development is like unto the tree. It has put out leafage and branches and has blossomed. But like the tree, all these are only the beginnings, preparatory for fruitage.”
Teaches Universal Council.
As ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke leaning back in a chair drawn near the window of his room in the hotel — he glanced from the rain flecked leaves of a swaying tree skating its branches near the panes of glass. The gray beared man with the message of universal religion wrinkled his high forehead at times and occassionally closed his eyes as though looking into the future for the realization of the message which he believes is finding material ground for fruitage in America.
“Among the teaching of Bahá’u’lláh,” he continued, “is that of a universal council. Indeed the father of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá — the promised one of whom the Báb prophesied to come bearing the divine truth — met imprisonment and exile through his teaching of universal justice.
“His teachings are for a universal council among all races, for all nations, for all religions.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá then spoke of his father with an added reverence in his voice:
“Fifty years ago Bahá’u’lláh wrote to all the kings and crowned heads of the earth presenting the need of the world for a court of justice, the members of which shall be elected delegates representing all nations and governments of the world. The parliaments of every nation must have two delegates elected at large, the nation whereof the world’s court shall be composed.
“All international disputes and intergovernmental problems shall be presented for settlement to this court of justice.
If in case a nation should go contrary to the decrees and court the world, if humanity would arise against the rebel power.
“This was declared fifty years ago by Bahá’u’lláh. His addresses were published in India, and were spread all over the continent. However, the royalty of Persia arose against Bahá’u’lláh, being of the deepest despotic form of government. For fifty years he endured horrible ordeals. He was either in exile or prison, but through the power of the Holy spirit he spread through the world his teachings.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá was a young boy when his father was first thrown into prison, and the gray-haired man who is now in Denver himself, suffered forty years along with his father, imprisonment and exile, receiving from the head of the Bahá’ísm his instructions.
“Religion ought to be the cause of love,” he continued. “The foundation of Divine religion is love. Hence it must be ever the cause of love and fellowship among men. And if religion proves the cause of hatred and enmity, and a factor in murder and rapine, it is better to do without it.”
The son of Bahá’u’lláh speaks always of his beliefs as being the teaching of his father. A favorite way of making his statements is:
“Among the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh is that relating to a universal language, which shall be the means of international communication. He speaks for a general spirit of education. It is the duty of a father to educate his children. If he cannot, then it is the duty of the body politic to educate the child.”
Pioneer of Equal Suffrage.
A system of social economy goes hand in hand with the Bahá’í movement, and interesting it is to note the position of woman in their scheme of life entire. Indeed, the Bahá’ís claim the forethought of the equal suffrage movement.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, speaking of education, does not hesitate to say, since women are the mothers of the race, a father who has not money enough to educate both boys and girls, should choose the daughters as the recipients of culture.
Speaking of civilization, natural and divine, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says that the natural is not sufficient for it tends toward bodies, while divine civilization is on the realm of morality. Were it not for divine civilization the world of men would be akin to animals. All the divine, holy manifestations were the founders of the godlike civilization. The first and foremost of such a civilization was Jesus Christ.
Asked whether he thought woman with her awakened responsibilities and realization of her own individual rights would be largely instrumental in the regeneration of society ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said:
“The accomplishments of wonderful women in our own times gives us the keen anticipation of many extraordinary women in the future. So far as equality is concerned, both men and women must be equal. Men and women are as wings bearing humanity aloft. If one wing is weak the flight is hampered. Both wings must be equally strong in order that the bird may take its way to progress. Therefore, as women become the peers of men the world of humanity will soar.”
And ‘Abdu’l-Bahá sees no reason that woman is not man’s equal. As the mind and the soul are sexless so there should be no discriminations except those dependent upon frailer physique concerning women. Women, he believes, having finer sensibilities, finer intuitive powers, are often man’s superiors.
Science and religion, instead of being conflicting, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá compares to the same simile as that used for men and women — both are wings of the same truth.
The broadness of his views and the desire toward universal religion — a oneness of mankind, accepts all religions. His philosophy is that, as there is but one God which all religions worship — why not throw aside the symbols, the theories, the differences which but turn the straight path toward God in diverse directions.
Bahá’ísm is not a cult, it is not a doctrine — it is a message, a desire to blend all religions, to smooth away the rough edges of differences that creak. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has spoken in the big churches of New York city, he has addressed the men of the Bowery mission, he has talked before the Theosophical society in Chicago, he will talk in the Divine Science church in Denver. Indeed, he is a man of all religions, seeing good in all who worship God. He is a Christain in that he believes in the teachings of Christ. Christ, to the Bahist, is a manifestation of the divine spirit. This spirit manifests itself from time to time. Bahá’u’lláh is the last manifestation.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá takes to himself no divinity. He is merely the messenger of his father’s teaching of universal peace, brotherhood and religion.
This patriarchal man of Persia, with the face that is now overcast with thought, was lighted by a kindly feeling of friendship, was born in Persia on the twenty-third of May, 1844, the day upon which “the Báb” prophet of the coming manifestations of the divine spirit made his declarations to his disciples at Shiraz.
His father, Bahá’u’lláh, was of one of the richest and most noble families of Persia. Bahá’u’lláh never met “the Báb,” the prophet who told of the coming of the greater teacher, whose mission would be that of establishing the universal religion, the Brotherhood of Man.
Has Been Head Twenty Years.
The Báb suffered martyrdom along with thousands of his followers, and shortly after Bahá’u’lláh appeared, his mission lasting forty years. He died in 1892, and since then the man who is now in Denver has been at the head of the Bahá’í movement.
This venerable man whose only wish is to be known as the servant of humanity, has led a life which has been one continual dispensing of good. Charity flows from his finger tips. And the practical demonstration of brotherly love is his. Recently in New York quite unostentatiously he gave away $200 in quarters to the poor at the Bowery mission.
He teaches that the root of all knowledge is the knowledge of God. And when he teaches it is not for gain.
The remarkable thing about the Bahá’í movement is that the teachings are altruist — ‘Abdu’l-Bahá receives nothing — he gives always. He does not believe in a paid priesthood and his social and economic doctrine is that no human being should look to others for his maintainance.
He gives freely of his teachings of a universal religion — a universal brotherhood — a oneness of the world.
The followers of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá number 200 in Denver. Last night he gave the first of his talks at the home of Mrs. S. E. Roberts on Sherman street.
[picture caption: ‘ABDUL ALLAHO ABHA, Persian — prophet and apostle of the Bahá’u’lláh religion and his retinue, after their arrival in Denver yesterday. Left to right: Mirja Mohmoul, the scribe; Fingeta, the Japanese cook; Ahmad Sohrab, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Dr. Ameen U. Fareed, the interpreter, and Saryid Asad [unreadable text]]
[picture caption: Alice Rohe.]