December 20, 2021

Some Memories of the Sojourn of ‘Abdu’l-Baha in Paris, October-December 1911 – by Sitarih Khanum, Lady Blomfield

Much has been written of the journeys of 'Abdu'l-Baha, 'Abbas Effendi. Having been released from the prison fortress of 'Akka, after forty years of captivity, He set Himself to obey the sacred charge laid upon Him by His Father, Baha'u'llah. Accordingly He undertook a three years' mission into the Western World. He left the Holy Land and came to Europe in 1911. During that and the two following years, He visited Switzerland, England, Scotland, France, America, Germany and Hungary.

When the days of 'Abdu'l-Baha's first visit to London (in the autumn of 1911) were drawing to a close, His friends, Monsieur and Madame Dreyfus-Barney, prepared an apartment for His residence whilst in the French capital. It was charmingly furnished, sunny, spacious, situated in the Avenue de Camiiens (No.4) whence a flight of steps led into the Trocadero Gardens. Here the Master often took solitary, restful walks. Sheltered in this modern, comfortable Paris flat, He whom we revered, with secretary servitors and a few close friends, sojourned for an unforgettable nine weeks.

I shall try to describe some of the events which took place, but these events owe their significance to the atmosphere of otherworldliness which encompassed the Master and His friends. We, at least some of us, had the impression that these happenings became, as it were, symbols of Sacred Truths.

Who is this, with branch of roses in His hand, coming down the steps? A picturesque group of friends (some Iranians wearing the kola [hat], and a few Europeans following Him, little children coming up to Him. They hold on to His cloak, confiding and fearless. He gives the roses to them, caressingly lifting one after another into His arms, smiling the while that glorious smile which wins all hearts.

Again, we saw a cabman stop his fiacre, take off his cap and hold it in his hands, gazing amazed, with an air of reverence, whilst the majestic figure, courteously acknowledging his salutation, passed by with that walk which a friend had described as "that of a king or of a shepherd."

November 16, 2021

The Path to God – by Dorothy Baker

Revelation, the Path to God, has been progressive. Early man could understand a little truth; later he could assimilate great truth. Fundamentally the truth was one. With each appearance of truth, a rebirth of powers has attended it; man has been imbued with divine ideals, and an ever-advancing civilization has taken new steps forward. The miracle of new social power is accompanied by the appearance of a Master Teacher. The lettered Jews sprang from the spiritual genius of Moses; the glory of ancient Persia reflected the fire of Zoroaster; unfolding Europe lifts her spires to the glorious Nazarene; the architecture, astronomy, and poetic genius of the Muslim world in the middle centuries bespeak the gift of Muhammad. "He hath ordained," writes Baha'u'llah, "that in every age and dispensation, a pure and stainless Soul be made manifest in the kingdoms of earth and heaven."

To the individual, this is always an invitation to sit at the feet of the Master Teacher and renew his own powers. Laying aside the fears imposed today by tradition, the seeker of the Path fearlessly looks for the stainless mirror of his age. The Jew who knows the majesty of Moses, the Christian who longs to touch the garment hem of Jesus; these are the souls schooled in adoration. The illumined Writings of Baha'u'llah will bring to these, and to the untutored millions, the light of renewed faith and the means of traveling with sovereign power the immeasurable distances of the Path to God.

The Words of Baha'u'llah, coming as a part of the unending outpouring of the Word of God through the ages, act as the water of life upon the thirsty soul, refreshing, cheering, and bringing forth the powers of the seeker. Every life needs the emphasis of the love of God, but some cast about for a lifetime, failing to find this Holy Grail of spiritual health and joy. Just as bodies are sometimes lacking in the food elements that produce health, the soul sometimes stands in need of a divine physician who can prescribe the missing elements for spiritual success. The few thoughts given here are chosen from the unlimited mine of wisdom and explanation offered in the Baha'i Writings. Space permits mention of only a few.

Power through prayer

Faculties long allowed to rust must be called into activity. Man becomes like a stone unless he continually supplicates to God. Prayer is the great quickener. There is no human being who is not in need of prayer. ‘Abdu'l-Baha said, "O thou spiritual friend! Thou hast asked the wisdom of prayer. Know thou that prayer is indispensable and obligatory, and man under no pretext whatsoever is excused from performing the prayer unless he be mentally unsound, or an insurmountable obstacle prevent him." The sincere seeker, however, often asks, "Why pray, since God knows our needs?" In response, Baha'u'llah and 'Abdu'l-Baha mention many of the benefits of prayer:

October 12, 2021

The sufferings of Bahá’u’lláh and their significance – by George Townshend, M.A.

The Prayers and Meditations of Bahá’u’lláh which the beloved Guardian has given us is in large measure an intimate remembrance of the Redeemer's sufferings. And Bahá’u’lláh wished us to meditate on these sufferings. In the Tablet of Ahmad He says: "Remember My days during thy days, and My distress and banishment in this remote prison."

In a great poem known as the Fire Tablet He records at length the tale of His calamities and writes at the close:

"Thank the Lord for this Tablet whence thou canst breathe the fragrance of My meekness and know what hath beset Us in the path of God." He adds: "Should all the servants read and ponder this, there shall be kindled in their veins a fire that shall set aflame the world."

True religion in all ages has called on the faithful to suffer. On the one hand it brings to mankind a happiness in the absolute and the everlasting which is found nowhere but in religion. No unbeliever knows any joy which in its preciousness can be compared to the joys of religion. "The true monk," it has been said, "brings nothing with him but his lyre."

On the other hand Heaven is walled about with fire. This bliss must be bought at a great price. So it has ever been in all religions of mankind.

An ancient hymn of India proclaims a truth as real now as it was in distant times:

The way of the Lord is for heroes. It is not meant for cowards.

Offer first your life and your all. Then take the name of the Lord.

He only tastes of the Divine Cup who gives his son, his wife, his wealth and his own life.

He verily who seeks for pearls must dive to the bottom of the sea, endangering his very existence.

Death he regards as naught; he forgets all the miseries of mind and body.

He who stands on the shore, fearing to take the plunge, attains naught.

The path of love is the ordeal of fire. The shrinkers learn from it.

Those who take the plunge into the fire attain eternal bliss.

Those who stand afar off, looking on, are scorched by the flames.

Love is a priceless thing only to be won at the cost of death.

Those who live to die, those attain; for they have shed all thoughts of self.

Those heroic souls who are rapt in the love of the Lord, they are the true lovers.

All the founders of religions have had to endure rejection and wrong, and as mankind grew more and more mature and the victory of God nearer, these wrongs, these sufferings have grown more and more severe continually.

August 5, 2021

1932: Visiting the resting place of Mulla Husayn at Fort Tabarsi – by Keith Ransom-Kehler

In my last letter we had been heartily welcomed by the Friends of Kafsha Kula, when I had to stop writing.

It was the end of a strenuous day, for before leaving Sari we had packed; gone to be photographed in the beautiful garden given by Abdul Molaki for the new Haziratu'l- Quds, been driven three times into the ditch by an inexperienced driver taking me over the new road built for my coming; met and addressed the Ahbab [Baha’i friends] of Mafruzac; commemorated the martyrdom of Mulla Ali Jan; said poignant goodbyes, which is always a stirring emotional experience; greeted, in passing, the Friends of Shahid, and then participated in the welcoming ceremonies of Kafsha Kula.

The challenge to science today is to unlock the energies resident in the atom and release them for human utility. If some inspired person could find a method of utilizing the flea power of Persia, the land would become, over-night, the greatest producer in the world. But even the fleas, which made riot with our unaccustomed flavor, were unable to detract from the joy of this memorable meeting.

To our intense relief the rains were holding off although it was November; but when we arose to find a grey morning we were urged to make an early start for Shaykh Tabarsi, lest bad weather detain us.

It is three miles across a wide river ford and through barren rice-paddies (the crop had been long harvested) from Kafsha Kula to the site of the Fort so heroically defended against an entire imperial army by three hundred and thirteen men -- not seasoned soldiers, not the grizzled veterans of many campaigns, like their opponents, but youthful students unaccustomed to arms and accoutrements, and long trained in the cloistered life of metaphysical argument and disquisition.

In the record of humanity we find no parallel to their accomplishment. Alexander's army of thirty thousand defeated the Persian forces of six hundred thousand fighting one to twenty; but they were a military organization, reared to "stratagems and sports." Quddus, Mulla Husayn and their followers, without previous training, without adequate supplies, with nothing but a flaming faith and an unquenchable devotion to their Lord, the Báb, repulsed not once, but again and again, one to a thousand, the forces arrayed against them.

May 12, 2021

The Martyr-Prophet of a World Faith – by William Sears

The blistering July sun glared from the barrels of seven hundred and fifty rifles, awaiting the command to fire and to take His life.

He seemed so young to die, barely thirty, and He was handsome, gentle, confident. Could He possibly be guilty of the shocking crime of which He was accused?

Thousands of eager spectators lined the Public Square. They crowded along the roof-tops overlooking the scene of death. They wanted one last sight of Him for He was either good or evil, and they were not sure which.

It was high noon, July 9, 1850, in a parched corner of Persia, the barracks square of the sundrenched city of Tabriz.

The chain of events leading to this scene began in 1844. It was in an age of religious fervor. Everywhere men were preaching the return of Christ. They urged the world to prepare for it. Wolff in Asia, Sir Edward Irving in England, Leonard H. Kelber in Germany, Mason in Scotland, Davis in South Carolina, and William Miller in Pennsylvania all agreed that their studies of the Scriptures clearly showed that the hour for Christ's return was at hand.

James Russell Lowell's poem "The Crisis" was written in that very hour of Advent enthusiasm:

"Once to every man and nation

comes the moment to decide.

Some great cause, God's new Messiah ... "

The years between 1843 and 1847 were generally accepted as the time for the return of Christ. Careful study of the prophecies had simultaneously led Bible scholars and students in different parts of the world to these fateful years.

Did the years between 1843-1847 pass with no sign of the return of Christ? Or were these years comparable to those which followed the birth and enunciation of Christ's original message? Years which passed with no visible sign to the people of Palestine that the Promised One had come. The crucifixion of a trouble-maker from Nazareth they had dismissed from their minds. Was the story to wait, as it had waited in the time of Jesus, for over one hundred years before it began to reach the consciousness of the people? Was the story of Calvary to be retold at an execution post in the public square of Tabriz?

And during 1844, in Persia, this story had its beginning.

It was the eve of May 23rd in Shiraz, the "city of nightingales and blue tile fountains." Shiraz, in what was once the ancient province of Elam given by Daniel, the Prophet, as the place of vision in the latter days and mentioned in the book of Jeremiah: "And I will set my throne in Elam."

A young man declared that He was the one foretold in all the holy books of the past. He said He had come to usher in a new era, a new springtime in the hearts of men. He was called "The Báb" which means the door or the gate. His teaching was to be the gateway to a new age of unity: The world is one country and mankind its citizens; there is only one religion and all the prophets have taught it.

February 10, 2021

The Old Churches and the New World-Faith – by George Townshend, M. A. (Oxon) (Sometime Canon of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, and Archdeacon of Clonfert)

Having identified myself with the Faith of Baha'u'llah and sacrificed my position as a canon and a dignitary of the Church of Ireland that I might do so, I now make this statement on the relation of this Faith to Christianity and to the Churches of Christ.

It is submitted to all Christian people in general but more especially to the bishops and clergy and members of my own communion, with the humble but earnest and urgent request that they will give it their attention as a matter of vital concern to the Church. Only through an impartial investigation of the Cause of Baha'u'llah will they find, I fully believe, a means of reviving the fortunes of the Church, of restoring the purity and the power of the Gospel and of helping to build a better and more truly Christian world.

Baha'u'llah (Whose approaching advent had been announced in Persia nineteen years before by His prophetic Herald, the Báb, Himself a world-famous figure) made His public declaration as a Messenger of God in Baghdad in the year 1863. He affirmed that His appearance fulfilled the promised Return of Christ in the glory of the Father. He brought a Teaching which though ampler and fitted to a more advanced Age was in spirit and purpose the same as that of Christ. He revealed those "other things" which Jesus told His disciples He had to give them but which they could "not bear" at that time. His mission was to bring the work of Christ to its completion and realization, to reconstruct the social order of the world and build the long-promised Kingdom of God in very fact.

He addressed individual letters or specific messages to the monarchs of the West and to the members of the various ecclesiastical orders of the Christian Churches, and directed numerous and repeated exhortations and warnings to the entire Christian world. These without exception were ignored by Christendom when they were made, and they have now been set aside and disregarded for some eighty years. During that period the long established influence of Christ in Christendom has suffered a decline so unprecedented, so precipitous that the Bishops gathering for the Lambeth Conference were greeted in the London press with the challenge that "Christianity is fighting for its life"; while the Baha'i Faith proclaimed at that time by one lone Prophet shut in a Turkish prison has spread through the whole globe, has led the constructive thought of our time, has created a spiritual world-community joining the East and the West, and is fast making good its right to a place in the age-long succession of world-faiths.