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Bahá’í Leader In Minneapolis Tells of Mission

Bahaist Leader In Minneapolis Tells of Mission
Minneapolis (no paper)
September 18, 1912

Time to Wipe Out Religious Surface Differences, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Says.


Leader Says America Is in Need of Breath of the Holy Spirit.

Long before the other guests at the Plaza hotel were astir today, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Abbas, head of the Bahá’ís of the world, who believes and teaches the eventual harmony and unity of religious mankind, and who arrived last night in Minneapolis for a two-day stay, was up and about in parlor 603, pacing quietly across the room and back, and pausing occasionally to look meditatively out across Hennepin avenue into Loring park. At 7 a. m. the five members of his party called at his parlor to pay their respects. Dr. Clement Woolson of St. Paul called on behalf of the St. Paul Bahá’ís and Dr. H. S. Harper and Albert H. Hall of Minneapolis came next. Mrs. R. M. Passmore and Mrs. H. G. Harrison, who had been in the country where Bahá’s influence is greatest in their foreign travels, and who had known well in advance of his coming, sent him messages of welcome to Minneapolis. Dr. S. N. Deinard of the Jewish Reform temple called to pay his respects and to see if it would be possible to arrange for the Bahá’í leader to address the Jewish people of Minneapolis. About a dozen men and women, who are local followers of Bahá’ísm, came into the room.

Turbaned Interpreters.

Turbaned, dark-visaged gentlemen of the visitor’s party stood about ready to interpret. They were Dr. Ameen W. Fareed, who is Persian born, but who gained his physician’s diploma at the University of Illinois and took a later postgraduate course at Johns Hopkins university, Baltimore, and who is thoroughly Americanized and speaks English with pleasing nicety of accent; Mirza Ahmad Sohrab, Mirza Mahmood and Ali Akbar, the latter really a Russian, governmentally speaking, since the part of Persia that he comes from is partially Russianized.

I have not breakfasted nor did I eat last night,” said ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, speaking through Dr. Fareed. “It is spiritual food, not physical food, that I most crave.” He smiled faintly, and two beautiful large hazel eyes looked about the room. He rose from the divan on which he had been sitting and walked towards the window. Except that his complexion is dark and he is short of stature, he looked not unlike the portraits of General Robert E. Lee, the contour of the nose being particularly striking.

Only Incidentals Differ.

All the religions of the world are the same fundamentally,” said Dr. Fareed, stepping forward to offer to epitomize the Bahá’í teaching. “The essentials are the same, but the incidentals or accidentals differ. We believe the day has arrived when we can agree on the surface differences. Religious prejudice, racial prejudice, and limited, or nationalistic patriotism, must be eliminated. The world can be unified.

I do not offer this as a full exposition of the principles of Bahá’ísm, but merely by way of guidance.”

Mirza Mahmood had spoken of the Bahás, pronouncing it Bayhighs. But Dr. Fareed said it more like Bahhees. The correct spelling, Dr. Fareed said, is Beha, but the Americanization of it has become Bahá, and is now commonly used. Dr. Woolson pleaded with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to visit St. Paul. Mr. Hall presented his program for approval. It was suggested that the distinguished visitor lunch at the Commercial club at noon and speak in the assembly room after lunch.

Will there be many there?” he asked through his interpreter.

Not as many as if we made it tomorrow and the people knew ‘Abdu’l-Bahá would be present,” said Mr. Hall.

Speaks Twice Today.

The leader considered. He walked about. He shook hands with several visitors, and his hand felt like a silken glove. H. S. Fugeta, a Japanese from Cleveland, who had joined the party at Chicago, came in and knelt beside a window chair where ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had seated himself, and the leader placed his hands on the head of the kneeling man and uttered a prayer in Persian. The syllables were strangely effective and rhythmetrical. Mirza Ahmed Sohrab translated it aloud.

Your spiritual growth is noteworthy; you are becoming stronger; your spirit is awake and you will be happy,” was the less poetic English rendition of part of it.

It was finally arranged that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá should speak at the Commercial club at noon, call during an automobile trip today at the home of Dr. Woolson in St. Paul, and at the residence of Albert H. Hall, 2030 Queen avenue S, and speak tonight at the Jewish Reform temple, Tenth street and Fifth avenue S, admission to be free to all. There will be a short reception after the address at which people interested in Bahá’ísm will have an opportunity to meet the leader of the movement. It was a program with physical effort enough in it to tax the abilities of a political campaigner, but ‘Abdu’l-Bahá made light of that part of it.

He drew aside and stepped into another room. Those in parlor 603 sat waiting for him to return. In the other room he said, with traveler’s phrase book accent:

How do you do? I hope you are well.” The words came with surprising distinctness, but did not seem to carry with them indication of much more to come, nor did ‘Abdu’l-Bahá make any pretension in that direction. To a question as to his mission, he waved his hand toward Dr. Fareed, who had entered the room. Mirza Mahmood had also come in silently. One sat upon the bed, the other in a cane chair, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá seated himself at a window that looked out upon the blank wall of the Plaza enclosure. He looked long and silently at the wall.

Dr. Fareed rose and said:

He is about to give a message to the people of Minneapolis.

May I ask,” continued Dr. Fareed, “that this message be taken exactly

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as he gives it! I ask this because, while it is not the case that any great numbers of the American people might as yet be interested in it, the people of Persia are profoundly interested, and all that is done by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá on this journey and all that he says is sent back to Persia.”

He bowed very courteously, reseated himself and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá began.

I was in the orient and I learned that the western regions had advanced and I thought it opportune to visit these parts,” he said, his musical accents passing to Dr. Fareed and thence back in the harsher English. “Here I have come, to find, in reality, that material advancement has assumed noteworthy proportions.

Day by day this country is advancing. The government is fair and the people are a noble people. I pray that this nation may advance day after day, that education may advance, that industrialism and commercialism may advance, and that the arts and literature shall advance.

I pray that happiness may daily become greater. But all these are advances in the world of natural civilization. It is more favorable that there be advances in divine civilization.

Natural philosophy is progressing, but divine philosophy is also necessary, because natural civilization is like the body, whereas divine civilization is like the spirit. Natural civilization serves the world of bodies. Divine civilization serves the world of morality.

The body without the animus of the spirit is dead.”

The word animus, as used commonly in America, seemed scarcely the right word here, but Dr. Fareed translated it so. He then said it meant animation spiritually. “Without the spirit the body is lukewarm,” the leader continued.

Abdu’l-Bahá stared long at the blank wall. His eyes were open, but he seemed to be looking afar. For some time he waited, then he said:

America’s Spiritual Needs.

The American democracy is most beautiful, but it is in need of the breath of the holy spirit, in order to become exhilarated and that its beauty may become manifest.

The holy men of God, like Christ, were founders of divine civilization. His (Christ’s) life illustrated the world of morality. He adorned it. Christ was not an engineer, a geographer, a geologist, a mathematician or a natural philosopher, but he thought of the beauties of the holy spirit and illumined the world of morality.

His holiness, Bahá’u’lláh, through the bounties of heaven and the effulgence of the Son of Israel in the orient, illumined the world of morality and founded divine civilization. He ignited the lamp which will never be extinguished. He laid a foundation which will never be destroyed.”