"The Light in the Lantern"
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the head of a religion which is spreading over the world, is soon to visit this country. Out of the mystic Orient, out of the land of the Arabian Nights, comes this turbaned teacher to convert the New World. From the land which was old when Abraham walked the earth, from the deserts across which flitted the Wise Men two thousand years ago to worship the Bábe of Bethlehem, will now start a crusade to this the youngest of modern nations, a crusade which will tell of a new Dispensation, that the coming of the Father has been fulfilled in Bahá ‘Ullah, who was an incarnation of the deity and whose worship is destined to harmonize and unite all believers in one God.
Bahá’ísm has grown so rapidly in America that most of the big cities contain many of that faith. In Chicago they are planning to build a mighty temple to be known as Mashrak-el-askar (The Dawning Place of Mention), while in Washington many of the exclusive Smart Set are adherents. One of the most prominent of these is Mr. Charles Mason Remy, son of Admiral Remy, a young man who, in spite of his position as head of an architectural college, gives a great deal of his time to the spread of the faith, and has visited many countries as a missionary. It was to him that the Prophet recently made known his intention of visiting the capital at an early date.
While in Washington the Prophet will likely be the guest of Mrs. Christian Hemmick, better known to the world as Mrs. Barney. The Barneys were among the first American converts, Miss Laura Barney, now Mrs. Hippolyte Dreyfus of Paris, having spent many months at a time in visiting Acre, where the Prophet lived, and contributing her time and means to a spread of the faith.
The claims of the Bahá’ís are that in their faith they are working for a Universal religion, a Universal peace, a Universal brotherhood of man, a Universal language and Universal suffrage. They have no priests, no formal creed, no set form of worship; the H use of wine and tobacco is discouraged, celibacy is not approved, and woman should be treated equally with man in the matters of education and political rights.
They also say that in this new Dispensation, which is the Millenium, the Jews will find their promised Messiah; the Christians the Second Coming of Christ, the Moslems the coming of the Mahdi, the Buddhists the coming of the fifth Buddha, the Zoroastrians the coming of Shah Bahram and the Hindus the return of their Krishna.
They point to the prophecies of old as foretelling the coming of this Persian Savior, who is supposed to have at last brought to earth the Kingdom of God, and to whom the poetic Persian believers give the title, “The Light in the Lantern.”
The strange faith which this turbaned Persian will bring to us began in the year 1844, when a young man arose in the land of the Lion and the Sun and proclaimed himself a great teacher who was a forerunner of an even greater one. This John the Baptist prophet was known as the “Báb,” which is the Arabic for door or gate. He went about preaching the coming of a Savior — He Whom God Would Manifest — and while he secured many followers, he also awakened the hatred of the other sects. After preaching for six years he was martyred by Mahommedan priests in the city of Tabriz, Persia, in July, 1850.
Among the followers of the Báb was a young man, a Persian of noble birth, who was known as Bahá ‘Ullah. After the death of the Báb this man announced himself as the Messiah promised by Báb, as the Manifestation of the Deity, as the Prince of Peace foretold in the Bible, the incarnation of the Father, as Christ was of the Son.
In 1868 Bahá ‘Ullah and his followers were exiled to the city of Acre in Syria, a city which was a penal colony and a place of sand, full of fever and desolate. It lies on the Mediterranean, just north of the famed Mount Carmel, a holy land in which the coming of the Lord had been predicted. Here he lived until 1892, in which year he died peacefully and was buried in a beautiful tomb, which is still a great place of veneration among the Bahá’ís. It is this man who is believed to have been a new Christ, a direct manifestation of Divinity, and the fulfillment of the messiahship of all nations.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, whom America will soon welcome, is the son of Bahá ‘Ullah and on him has fallen the mantle of his father. He is known as the centre of the Covenant and is believed to possess the spirit of God in a little less degree than his father, Bahá ‘Ullah, who is regarded as Divine.
For forty years, beginning in 1868, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá lived in the dreary prison at Acre, burying his father, from whom he inherits his mission to redeem the world. In 1908 he was released, as the fall of ‘Abdul Hamid and the proclaiming of a Turkish constitution put an end to this imprisonment, and he, with his followers, sought refuge on the green slopes of Mount Carmel, where the Christian monks pace their shady walks praying for the second coming of Christ.
This year he visited London, where he was warmly received by many of the nobility, among them Lady Bloomfield. He has also spent a few months in Paris, where there is a large colony of the faith and where Miss Laura Barney was busy writing a play in which is depicted the martyrdom of a beautiful Persian girl who was a convert. After a visit to Egypt it is expected that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá will then set sail for the New World, which he expects to bring under the sway of his faith.
In appearance he is tall, with brown skin and a snowy beard; a white turban and linen robe of the same color are his costume, this being surmounted with the gray overgarment peculiar to all high caste Persians. Around his simple cottage on the slopes of Carmel are gathered at sunset each day a band of pilgrims who listen for hours to the dignified discourse with which he entertains them.
His room is plainly furnished, his food soup and rice, which simple meal is always followed by the washing of the hands commonly in use in the East. His conversation lies in the direction of his hopes to do away with the dissensions of the different religions, to unite Jew and Gentile, Buddhist and Mahommedan, the East and the West, all under the sway of a brotherhood in which there is no creed but the good of humanity. His aim is, he says, to establish peace on earth among all men, that there shall be no law save the golden rule.
[picture caption: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Persian Prophet of a Universal Religion.]