Mahmud: April 21 - "… free ourselves from the darkness of dogmatic imitations …"
The highlight of the day was a very important and well-attended meeting at the Universalist Church. The minister of the church introduced ‘Abdu’l-Bahá with a most glowing tribute to His life and teachings. Then the Master rose from His seat and delivered an address on the need for cooperation, love, friendship and universal peace. He stressed Christ’s statement that ‘I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth’ [John 16:12-13], and added, ‘And now that time has come and the Divine Spirit has spoken, revealing all truth.’
I have reproduced here the whole of that address:
What the minister of the Church delineated before us just now testifies to his high sense of morality and his efforts to serve the world of humanity. It is truly praiseworthy and deserves commendation for it opposes the ingrained prejudices of man. These prejudices have kept the human world in a state of chaos for the past six thousand years. How many wars have taken place; how many battles have been fought; how much discord has been caused by them! Inasmuch as this century is the century of the manifestation of truth — praise be to God! — the thoughts of men are turned to truth and the souls are prepared for the oneness of humanity. The ocean of reality is surging more tumultuously and the mirage of imitation is daily passing away. All the existing religions have had one foundation of truth. This foundation has led humanity to love, accord and progress. However, after each of the divine Manifestations, that light of reality was gradually beclouded and the darkness of superstitions and imitations came in its place. The world of humanity was encircled in that darkness. Day by day, enmity waxed great until it reached such a pitch that each nation rose against the other. Were it not for political obstructions, the nations would have completely destroyed and overthrown one another. Now it is enough!
We must investigate the truth. We must pass by these vain imaginings. Praise be to God that we are all the servants of one God. We are all under the protection of His favors and are recipients of His bestowals. God is kind to all. Why should we be unkind? God is at peace with all; why should we war with one another? At most it is this: that some are ignorant; they must be educated. Some are as children; they must be trained. Some are sick and infirm; they must be healed. But the ill patient must not be detested. The child must not be considered bad. We must strive to remedy and heal. All the Prophets of God came for the education of humanity in order that the immature souls might become mature and to establish love and amity among mankind. The Prophets have not come to this world to cause discord and enmity. For God wants good for all His servants, not ill; and he who wishes the servants of God ill is opposed to God. He is not on the right path; rather, he has followed the footsteps of Satan, inasmuch as the attribute of God is mercy and that of Satan is rancor. Therefore, every man who is merciful and kind to his fellow man is following God’s way and every man who bears hatred toward his fellow man is opposing Him. God is absolute mercy and pure love, and Satan is absolute enmity and utter hatred. Therefore, in whatever meeting you see love, know that it is a manifestation of God’s mercy; and wherever you see enmity, know that it is the outcome of the evil suggestions of Satan. The Prophets of God have come to this world to make human souls the expressions of the All-Merciful and to instill friendship and love in the hearts of men. The animal is a captive of nature and does what its nature prompts it to do. It has not consideration for good or evil. But the Prophets have come to teach man that which is good, not evil, so that he may act in conformity with justice and equity and not follow the demands of his natural instincts. He should act in accord with reason and justice, even though that be against his natural inclination. Whatever he should find contrary to reason and equity, that should be considered unworthy, even though it be propitious to his natural impulse. Therefore, man must follow the attributes of the All-Merciful. However, the imperfect members of society follow their natural instincts. They obey these instincts. They are captives of physical susceptibilities. They are not aware of the spiritual bounties. Man is possessed of two aspects, the physical and the divine. The divine aspect consists of reconciliation, purity, love and faithfulness but the animal aspect consists of war, contention, bloodshed and massacre. If the animal side in man should overcome, he becomes more degraded than animals. If the divine side should triumph, he becomes an angel. The teachings of the Prophets were solely directed to educate humanity in order to subdue the animal side so that persons under the yoke of nature may find salvation and the heavenly aspect may rule victorious. This divine aspect is the bounty of the Holy Spirit, it is the second birth. He who possesses the divine aspect is a well-wisher of mankind and is most kind to all. He will entertain no enmity toward any Faith and will not belittle any religion, for the foundations of the religions of God are one. If we refer back to these foundations, we shall become united. But if we turn toward imitations, we shall be at variance, for imitations differ but the foundations of the divine religions are one and the same. Imitation leads to differences and trouble but the foundations of the divine religions cause love and union.
Christ once said, ‘When he, the Spirit of Truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth.’ He also said, ‘There are many things which you cannot bear hearing now, but when the Spirit of Truth is come, he will expound all truth unto you.’ Now is the century in which the Spirit of Truth has spoken and has revealed the whole truth. He has laid bare the truth of the religion of Christ and has redeemed people from superstitions so that the edifice of ignorance and enmity may be destroyed and the foundation of love may be established. We must all endeavor with heart and soul in order that this enmity and spite may disappear entirely from the midst of humanity, that this hatred and strife may pass away absolutely. The Holy Spirit admonishes us to follow the example of Christ, to read the Gospels and to see that Christ was pure love. He even prayed for His executioners when He was on the cross. He prayed, ‘O Lord, pardon them, for they know not what they do. If they knew, they would not perform such deeds.’ See how loving the divine Manifestations are that even on the cross they pray for the forgiveness of their oppressors. Therefore we must emulate the Prophets of God; we must follow in Their footsteps; we must free ourselves from the darkness of dogmatic imitations. I ask you, did God create us for love or for enmity? Surely He has created us for love and friendship. Therefore, we must be aware because self-interest prompts people to shut their eyes to the truth. They want to pursue their own self-interest and they move but in the darkness of desire. Consider what hardships Christ suffered when He appeared. In spite of all this He in the end united diverse people and different religions. The Romans, Greeks, Assyrians and Egyptians were most hostile toward each other. Christ, through the breath of the Holy Spirit, united them all, established fellowship among them all, so that differences were cast aside and strife and disputes were forgotten. They were united under His standard and lived in peace through His teaching. Which was preferable? To have followed Christ or to have followed satanic and hostile instincts? I hope that the people of the East and the West shall be quickened by the breath of the Holy Spirit, in this, the blessed century of Bahá’u’lláh, and become united, that all may cling to the essential reality of the divine religions — that truth is one and that it is indivisible and not multiple. When all investigate the truth, all will be united, the light of the oneness of humanity will shine and universal peace will come into being. I will now pray on your behalf:
O Lord! These Thy servants have assembled here out of pure love. They have gathered together in perfect accord and harmony. O God! Illumine their faces, make joyous their souls with Thy most great glad tidings. Brighten their eyes with the verses of Thy guidance and delight their ears with the melody of Thy sweet voice.
O Lord, we are wrongdoers; forgive us. We are sinners; grant us Thy pardon. Shelter us in Thy refuge. Satisfy the needy through Thy forgiveness. Free us from the world of vain imaginings and guide us to the Truth, that we may seek the divine reality, shun the mortal world, approach the divine kingdom and, withdrawn from the world of darkness, enter the realm of light.
Deliver us from the darkness of material existence and illumine us with the rays of the infinite realm. Make us the manifestations of Thy light and the dawning places of Thy signs. Turn us from all else save Thee and cause us to become the recipients of Thy mysteries. Thou, O God, art the Compassionate, the Wise, the Forgiving, the Mighty.
After this wonderful talk, the minister rose to thank the Master and said to the congregation, ‘If anyone wishes to shake hands with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, he should come from one side of the podium and leave by the other.’ The Master stood near the pulpit and members of the audience approached Him with great respect and reverence. They bowed, shook His hand and offered their thanks to Him. Later the Master said, ‘The people in the church pressed my hand to such a degree that it is now aching.’ In addition to these public gatherings, from morning to evening people from all walks of life came to the Master’s residence to visit Him.