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Meeting Between ‘Abdul-Bahá and Mr. Campbell

Meeting Between Abdul-Baha and Mr. Campbell
The Christian Commonwealth
September 13, 1911

[text missing] times of meeting; in short, it is spirit and life. It does not seek to proselytise; you can be a Bahá’í without ceasing to be a Christian, a Jew, or a Mohammedan. There are adherents of the Bahá’í faith in every country in the world; in Chicago a monthly organ has appeared, “The Star of the West,” printed partly in English and partly in Persian. There is a considerable body of Bahá’í teaching of which some particulars have already appeared in THE CHRISTIAN COMMONWEALTH, and further accounts will be given from time to time; the essentials of the faith may be gathered from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s utterances given above and below. Following the practice of Bahá’u’lláh, Abbas Effendi issues from time to time written tablets for the edification of Bahá’ís and all who care to read them. He volunteered to write one such for THE CHRISTIAN COMMONWEALTH; this, in Persian character, will be reproduced in facsimile in our next issue, together with a summary in English.

It has been my good fortune to meet ‘Abdu’l-Bahá several times during the past week. In one conversation I sought his impressions of England. Coming straight through to London, and having so far had only a few motor drives in the West End, he has not had much opportunity of observing the life and habits of the people generally, but already he has been much impressed by the freedom we enjoy. “I admire the liberty you have in England and the use you make of it,” he said. — Every person in this country can go his own way and say what he thinks without anyone making him afraid; in fact, he is king of himself.”

Do you consider we have too much liberty?”

Oh, no, you all seem to be perfectly comfortable and perfectly safe. Freedom of thought and speech enlarges the circle of one’s understanding and leads to progress and unity. English people ought to be happy.”

Abdu’l-Bahá is married, and has had eight children, four of whom are living. He was frequently urged, in accordance with Mohammedan custom, to take a second wife, the more so that he has no heir; but he is a believer in monogamy, and says that if it had been God’s will that he should leave a son the two born to him would not have been taken away.

I happened to be in the room when Rev. R. J. Campbell was announced. There were also present several English ladies. Mr. Dreyfus-Barney (who kindly acted as interpreter), Tamaddon-ul-Molk (‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s secretary), an elderly Persian scribe who sat like a statue taking notes of the Master’s words, and another Persian gentleman — altogether a picturesque mingling of East and West.

Meeting Between ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Mr. Campbell.

Immediately Mr. Campbell entered the room ‘Abdu’l-Bahá rose from his chair and advanced to meet him with smiling face and arms extended. The elder man grasped both the hands of the younger, and, retaining them, warmly greeted him. His expression and manner showed that he regarded the occasion as no ordinary one. Standing face to face, linked hand in hand, in the centre of the room, these two spiritual leaders of world-wide fame — Eastern and Western, but essentially one in their outlook on life — formed an impressive picture that is stamped indelibly on the mind’s eye of all who were privileged to be present. The meeting was so remarkable that I ventured to take notes of the conversation (conducted through an interpreter), and here reproduce them. It should be mentioned that the note-taking was quite unpremeditated. Neither speaker was aware that his words were being recorded. The conversation was private, and permission to publish was given with reluctance.

Abdu’l-Bahá first inquired after Mr. Campbell’s health, and said he had been very anxious to meet him. The conversation then proceeded as follows: —

R. J. Campbell: I have long looked forward to this opportunity.

Abdu’l-Bahá: That is proof that both our hearts are at one.

R. J. C.: I think that is true.

A. B.: There is a Persian saying that hearts that are at one find their way to one another.

R. J. C.: I do not think that saying is peculiar to Persia.

A. B.: Often two people live in the same house in constant intimacy, but their hearts are not united. Here are two men, one living in the East and one in London, whose hearts were coming to meet one another long ago. Although in the material world we were far apart, we have always been near in the spiritual world. The real nearness is the nearness of the heart, not of the body.

R. J. C.: The spirit knows no nationality.

A. B.: Praise be to God that now there is between us a material as well as a spiritual tie, the union is perfect!

R. J. C.: I am so glad that you took the resolution to come to England, even though you can remain only a short time.

A. B.: From the time I left Egypt my purpose was to come here, but I remained a few days on the Lake of Geneva for change of air.

R. J. C.: I know many of your friends who are also mine.

A. B.: I have read your sermons and speeches.

R. J. C.: And I have read yours.

A. B.: That is a proof of unity. As I have read your sermons (with a humorous smile), you have to read mine.

R. J. C.: I see on my left one who has spoken from my pulpit (Tamaddon-ul-Molk).

A. B.: We are all friends of one another (hands raised as in benediction). We have spread the proclamation of universal peace, therefore we are friends of people all over the world. We have no enemies; there are no outsiders; we are all servants of God.

R. J. C.: That is good.

A. B.: Worshippers of one God, we are recipients of the graces of one God. Men have made differences and divisions; God did not establish them. God has created every one, and treats every one equally. He is merciful to all and gives food (lit. “livings”) to all. God knows every one. To him none is foreigner. We must follow his example.

R. J. C.: What is distinctive of the Bahá’í movement as compared with the faith out of which it came?

A. B.: The Báb foretold the coming of One after him who would address the whole world. We are the followers of that One — Bahá’u’lláh. When he manifested himself, some of the followers of the Báb did not receive him. Those are called Bábis; the disciples of Bahá’u’lláh are Bahá’ís. The Báb came as a reformer of Islam, and foretold the coming of a greater one in his footsteps. Instead of confining his revelation to the Moslem world, Bahá’u’lláh gave it forth to all mankind. The narrow-minded ones, even those who meant well, could not understand so broad a movement, they were not strong enough to follow Bahá’u’lláh; they said, “He is speaking a language we cannot understand.” Therefore they are called Bábis.

R. J. C.: What a close parallel to primitive Christianity! The Judaising portion did not wish the Gospel to go any further.

A. B.: It has come about, by their narrow-mindedness and exclusiveness, that the Bábis are now opposed to all the other religions; they want to keep rigidly to the teaching of the Báb, and convert everybody to it. The Bahá’ís recognize the truth in all religions. They come from the same root, but there is now that difference.

R. J. C.: A difference of attitude.

A. B.: Their conduct is absolutely different.

R. J. C.: How many Bábis are there?

A. B.: Very few.

Interpreter: Perhaps 200 or 300 in Persia.

R. J. C.: It is suggested that there are three million Bahá’ís.

Interpreter: There are no statistics. The Bábis are more politicians than anything else. Some Persians, who do not live the life, are not acquainted with the life, claim to be Bahá’ís, because they know the Bahá’ís are the advanced people.

R. J. C.(to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá): I should like you to visit the City Temple.

A. B.: I should like to come. I know that the City Temple is a centre of progress in the religious world, and seeks to promote a universal understanding. As you have been a promoter of unity in the Christian world I hope you will strive to bring about unity in the whole world. A man first wants unity in his own family, and then as his intelligence expands he wants unity in his village, then in his town, then in his country, then in the world. I hope you will strive to unify the whole world.

R. J. C.: We are doing what we can. We believe that religions are many, but Religion is one.

A. B.: The principle of religion is one, as God is one.

A Lady: Mr. Campbell’s reform movement in Christianity is helping the world of Islam. The attitude of the New Theology is one Moslems can understand; they cannot understand the divisions of Christianity.

R. J. C.: I have had some evidence of that.

When Mr. Campbell left it was with the understanding that there would be a further meeting.

Abdu’l-Bahá at the City Temple.

Abdu’l-Bahá attended the evening service at the City Temple on Sunday. No announcement of the visit was made, and, although the sight of the Persians and other members of the suite in the congregation excited curiosity, very few people were aware that the Bahá’í leader was expected. The service proceeded as usual until the hymn immediately preceding the sermon. Whilst this was being sung a venerable figure, clad in Persian robes, was seen slowly ascending the stairs of the pulpit. When the hymn was finished Mr. Campbell placed the distinguished visitor in his own chair, and then, addressing the crowded congregation, said:

I propose to shorten my sermon this evening, because we have a visitor in the pulpit whose presence is somewhat significant of the spiritual drawing-together of East and West, as well as of the material drawing-together which has long been going on, and I think you would like to hear his voice, if only for a few moments.”

Mr. Campbell spoke on “The Use of the Will in Prayer” (Luke XVIII, 1), closing with the story of wireless telegraphy given on page 852. He then said: This evening we have in the pulpit of the City Temple the leader of one of the most remarkable religious movements of this or any age, a movement which includes, I understand, at least three million souls. The Bahá’í movement, as it is called, in Hither Asia rose on that soil just as spontaneously as Christianity rose in the middle territories adjoining, and that faith — which, by the way, is very closely akin to, I think I might say identical with, the spiritual purpose of Christianity — that movement stands for the spiritual unity of mankind; it stands for universal peace among the nations. These are good things, and the man who teaches them and commends them to three millions of followers must be a good man as well as a great. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is on a visit to this country — a private visit — but he wished to see the City Temple; and I think I am right in saying for the first time in his life he has consented to lift up his voice in public. He does not address public meetings, he does not preach sermons; he is just a religious teacher. He spent forty years in prison for his faith, and from his prison directed the efforts of his followers. There is not much in the way of organization, but simple trust in the Spirit of God. We, as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is to us and always will be the Light of the World, view with sympathy and respect every movement of the Spirit of God in the experience of mankind, and therefore we give greeting to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá — I do not know whether I could say in the name of the whole Christian community — that may be too much — but I think in the name of all who share the spirit of our Master, and are trying to live their lives in that spirit. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, I think, intends to say a word or two in response to this greeting that I address to him in your name.

1st Public address

Address by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.

Abdu’l-Bahá then advanced to the front of the pulpit, and addressed the congregation. He spoke for eight minutes in Persian, with considerable animation, his voice rising and falling as in a rhythmic chant. Towards the close he placed the palms of his hands together as in prayer. The translation was afterwards read by Mr. W. Tudor Pole, as follows: —

O noble friends, seekers after God, praise be to God! To-day the light of truth is shining upon the world in its abundance. The breezes of the heavenly garden are blowing throughout all regions. The call of the kingdom is heard in all lands, and the breath of the Holy Spirit is felt in all hearts that are faithful. The Spirit of God is giving life eternal. In this wonderful age the East is enlightened, the West is fragrant, and everywhere the soul inhales the holy perfume. The sea of the unity of mankind is lifting up its waves with joy, for there is real communication between the hearts and minds of men. The banner of the Holy Spirit is uplifted, and men see it, and are assured with the knowledge that this is a new day. This is a new cycle of human power. All the horizons of the world are luminous, and the world will become indeed as a garden and a paradise. It is the hour of unity of the sons of men, and a drawing together of all races and all classes. You are loosed from ancient superstitions which have kept men ignorant, destroying the foundations of true humanity. The gift of God to this enlightened age is the knowledge of the oneness of mankind and the fundamental oneness of religion. War shall cease between nations, and by the will of God the Most Great Peace shall come; the world will be seen as a new world, and all men shall live as brothers. In the days of old an instinct for warfare was developed in the struggle with wild animals; this is no longer necessary; nay, rather, co-operation and mutual understanding are seen to produce the greatest welfare of mankind. Enmity is now the result of prejudice only. In the “Hidden Words” Bahá’u’lláh says, “Justice is to be loved above all.” Praise be to God, in this country the standard of justice has been raised; a great effort is being made to give all souls an equal and a true place. This is the desire of all noble natures. This is to-day the teaching for the East and for the West; therefore the East and the West will understand each other and reverence each other, and embrace like long-parted lovers who have found each other. There is one God; mankind is one and the foundations of religion are one. Let us worship him, and give praise for all his great prophets and messengers who have manifested his brightness and glory. The blessing of the Eternal One be with you in all his riches, that each soul according to his measure may take freely of him! Amen.

Mr. Campbell: I think you will probably agree with me that this is an interesting as well as a unique occasion, and that what we have been listening to in that brief message uttered by a spiritual teacher from the East is in spirit the same message that you are listening to on the authority of Jesus week by week. It is a great time, a time of the drawing-together of all people. East and West join hands in the City Temple to-night.

The service closed with the doxology and benediction.

I am Very Happy.”

After the service in the City Temple vestry, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote a few sentences in Persian in the pulpit Bible and added his signature. The following is a facsimile reproduction: —


This book is the Holy Book of God, of celestial inspiration. It is the Bible of Salvation, the noble Gospel. It is the mystery of the Kingdom and its light. It is the Divine Bounty, sign of the guidance of God. — ‘Abdu’l Bahá Abbas.

Asked by Mr. H. W. Chapman his impressions of the service, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá replied: “It is an assembly which is turned to God. The light of guidance is shining luminous here. The bounty of the Kingdom was spread, and all hearts were praying to God.” As he took his departure, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said in English, “I am very happy.” So were we all!

A. D.

A photograph of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, specially taken for “The Christian Commonwealth,” will be reproduced in our next issue.

We are able to supply a very few copies of “Abbas Effendi: His Life and Teachings,” by Myron H. Phelps, published at 6a.; [unreadable text] age 4d.

To Our Readers Across the Seas.

There is a beautiful passage in the New Testament based on the familiar and homely figure of the hen gathering her chickens under her wings. As we pass Midsummer and begin to look again towards Christmas that figure expresses our feeling towards the members of our great family, The Christian Commonwealth Fellowship. We want to gather you all together. But since you are spread to the four ends of the earth, and we cannot do that, we want to hear from you all before Christmas. And as it takes many weeks for the letters of some of you to reach us, we begin to tell you so now. Though severed far by land and sea, all who read and love “The Christian Commonwealth” are members of one family. They are bound together by ties which distance cannot sunder — ties stronger often than those of blood, or race, or country, the subtle silken threads of sympathy. We want a Christmas greeting from the most distant of you from the far East, from the far West, from the Colonies, from the Gold Fields, from the Camp fires of the Prairies, from Siberia. We offer books to the senders of the messages which reach us from the most remote spots. As we hope to publish these greetings in our Christmas number, please write as briefly as possible and on only one side of the paper (postcards accepted). Write legibly, especially your name and address. Details about the travels of the paper in the writer’s neighbourhood, how it is obtained, what it costs, etc. and particulars about the outlook for religious and social progress in the locality will be very welcome. Communications should be addressed: — Fellowship, “Christian Commonwealth,” 183 Salisbury Square, Fleet Street, London, W. C.