Monday, August 31, 2009

Stacking the Deck for Agrarianism in the College of Light

Freedom in Science and Education, Part II

By John Taylor; 2009 Aug 31, Asma 12, 166 BE

Yesterday, we broached two questions. The first question concerns freedom and the internal workings of the College of Light, the independent world institution charged with the advancement of science and the spread of education. The other asks: what kind of relation would the college of light have with the other wings of the Comenian world government, the political and religious? Let us try, however briefly, to answer these questions today.

The distinguishing mark of governance over the last century is a persistent, systemic failure of policy makers to listen to expert advice. Instead of working with the delicate climate and other environmental systems of this planet, we systematically upset and destroy them. At the same time, science has made tremendous strides in understanding how the delicately balanced ecosystems on our beautiful planet work.

From a democratic point of view, the chief reason for this obliviousness to our basic survival is that world population over the past century has undergone a complete shift from agrarianism, where more than 90 percent of the population work the land, to an urban society. Today, the majority of the world's population live in cities.

The way cities are built means that the surroundings of city dwellers from cradle to grave tend to be completely artificial. They live a lifestyle cut off from the cycles of nature that sustain them and in their professional lives they rarely gain direct experience with agriculture or energy production. As a result, voters simply are too ignorant to care what happens to the natural environment, although they may be vaguely aware that it does keep us alive. This is why some of the worst polluters in the world are democracies. Leaders there have little concern for where food comes from and for what must be done to assure that we continue to eat well and safely.

The formation of a democratic world government would not in itself be sufficient to solve this maladjustment. It might, as we have been arguing here that it would, shift authority from the nationalist state towards a world center and out to the periphery (stronger local governance). That is, power would go to exactly where environmental dislocation is addressed most effectively. However, that in itself is not enough if the electorate, however universal and world-embracing, remains primarily urban. As long as voters know and care little for nature or agriculture, leaders will hardly push their electorate to make the sacrifices that stopping climate change demands.

The College of Light, as imagined by John Amos Comenius, is a democratic and meritocratic entity devoted to research and the spread of useful knowledge. In its operations the College of Light would have to balance the imperious demands of knowledge with the freedom and equality that democracy requires.

First, meritocracy. As we saw last time, knowledge imposes its own power relations by selecting for those who prove their love and devotion to it. Knowledge sets up its own meritocracy that raises those who command it and subordinates the ignorant. It is the duty of the learned to see to it that any inequality that does exist is natural; that is, any inequality that persists is not based on externals such as skin colour or place of birth but solely upon demonstrable knowledge and experience.

This evolutionary process of artificial selection is true in politics, where any measure that conduces to peace is chosen over what leads to war. John Stuart Mill pointed out the utility of freedom in picking out lessons about essentials from out of the vast diversity of experimentation in human groups.

"Government operations tend to be everywhere alike. With individuals and voluntary associations, on the contrary, there are varied experiments, and endless diversity of experience. What the State can usefully do, is to make itself a central depository, and active circulator and diffuser, of the experience resulting from many trials. Its business is to enable each experimentalist to benefit by the experiments of others, instead of tolerating no experiments but its own." (On Liberty, 181)

The need for selection is also evident in religion. The Qur'an, for example, has God applying it to Holy Writ, "Say: `Bring down from God a scripture that is a better guide than these and I will follow it, if what ye say be true!'" (Qur'an 28:49) and it extends it also to entire peoples,

"Thy Lord is self-sufficient, full of Mercy: if it were His will, He could destroy you, and in your place appoint whom He will as your successors, even as He raised you up from the posterity of other people. (Qur'an 6:133, tr. Yusuf)

But in the realm of science and education, the principle of selecting for fitness according to merit surely applies most of all.

At the same time, the College of Light is also democratic in nature. As such, it will make every attempt to adhere to the assumption of equality and the yearning for freedom that are basic to its democratic element. Therefore, the College will see to it that everyone votes in elections of its members in some capacity. In a Marxian sense, everybody is a productive worker, actively supporting herself by her own efforts to learn and adhering to standards in service.

Although they may have to be appointed at first, eventually the membership of the College of Light (whose affiliates extend from the world center right down to a school-room in every family and neighbourhood) would be selected by tradespersons and professionals around the world in a series of planetary elections.

Unfortunately, suffrage may not include everybody at first, since all are not presently qualified tradespersons or professionals. However, the first constitutional priority of this institution is to see to it that as soon as possible every citizen attains the right to vote for the College, virtually without exception. This ambitious goal of a universal franchise could take as long as a generation to implement completely. Every world citizen would have to be trained and apprenticed to an approved trade or profession. While challenging, this commitment by leaders and constituents alike to science and education is a necessary condition for the Universal Civic Society to come into existence. The goal of a UCS is to see to it that learning extends throughout one's life and service to society, through both membership in a family and in some trade or profession.

The next question is how the College might be organized. That requires an answer to questions like:

What kind of expertise should take precedence over others?

What kind of knowledge is most useful?

This is an extremely difficult question. There are thousands of disciplines and trades whose usefulness fluctuates as wildly as the stock market. We should probably leave the choice of what is the most valuable kind of knowledge to philosophers and educators to answer. However, it seems plain that the medical and teaching professions are among the most useful kinds of expertise, since they nurture and protect both body and mind. Even more important are farming, fishing and other agricultural trades, since we depend upon them for our food. If the College of Light bases voting rights on an established hierarchy of utility, it could help reverse the trend from urbanism and turn even cities back to agrarianism. As we mentioned already, a strong democratic base in an agrarian majority will be necessary if we hope to make industry and civilization environmentally sustainable.

Specifically, I have something like this in mind. Let us say that there are twenty members on the College of Light with each major discipline voting in one representative each, except teachers and doctors who get two representatives, and farmers who receive three or four. This slightly disproportion of power, along with other measures, would encourage a greater proportion of young people to go into farming, medicine and teaching before they consider other trades.

The College could speed up the swing back to an agrarian society by starting and regulating a secondary trade of "gardener," who would assist farmers in the same way that nurses assist doctors. This new trade would encourage city dwellers to start gardens and eat locally. It would encourage most city dwellers to participate, if only on a part-time basis, in the branch of agriculture known as "urbiculture." It would also speed the spread of vertical farms and rooftop gardens, which agriculturalists would gain a new right to farm. At the very least, more pervasive gardening within city limits would increase the appreciation of city dwellers for nature and would make democracy friendlier to the environment.

John Taylor



How to Beat the Klan

Master's route in 1912

Thanks to Peter Gardner who found this map of the probable route the Master took on His way from Montreal to Buffalo. It is known that He took the TH&B railway, so He must have gone through Smithville, where Peter lives. The train station still exists, though it is probable that the Master passed through late in the evening.

Here is what is recorded by Mahmud of the Master's thoughts on this trip:

Stop dividing our world in your mind!

Talks Hans Rosling: Let my dataset change your mindset

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Freedom and the College of Light

Freedom in Science and Education, Part I

By John Taylor; 2009 Aug 30, Asma 11, 166 BE

This series is an attempt to come to grips theoretically with John Amos Comenius's suggestion that a future world government be based upon three possible dimensions of human freedom, political, scientific and religious. For each of the three dimensions a world citizen would have a vote in a global election. Recently, I found enough source material on political freedom to devote three chronological essays to that dimension. A smaller collection of sources on the scientific dimension of liberty means that today's overview of science and education should be briefer.


We start out bereft of knowledge or power. As babies, we know nothing of cause and effect and remain for years all but helpless. As our knowledge grows we gradually learn to manipulate causes until we attain maturity and become self-sustaining in a trade or profession. Free will, then, is relative to experience. The Stoic philosopher Epictetus captured the close link between will, learning and freedom when he said,

"We must not believe the many, who say that only free people ought to be educated, but we should rather believe the philosophers who say that only the educated are free." (Discourses)

Our potential ability to choose aright shows how knowledge by nature gives power over the very laws of the universe. To know something means that physical laws must be, to some extent, placed under our sway. As Immanuel Kant put it,

"Since the concept of causality entails that of laws according to which something, i.e., the effect, must be established through something else which we call cause, it follows that freedom is by no means lawless even though it is not a property of the will according to laws of nature. Rather, it must be a causality according to immutable laws, but of a peculiar kind. Otherwise a free will would be an absurdity." (Kant, Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals, p. 65)

What Kant calls a "peculiar" kind of law seems to be a nod to the fact that in order to know we also must love. A learner chooses freely his or her own approach; only then can knowledge imbue the mind with truth.

"Study depends on the good will of the student, a quality that cannot be secured by compulsion." (Quintilian, Institutio oratoria, iii, 8)

What is true for individuals is also true -- perhaps more so -- for groups. Knowledge and wisdom make the difference between slavery and freedom, from the most insignificant individual to the fate of empires. The history of the rise and fall of peoples is a measure of their ability to learn and respond to change in their environment, both natural and cultural.

"Therefore my people are gone into captivity for lack of knowledge; and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude are parched with thirst." (Isa 5:13, WEB)

Any potential course of action is always better decided by those who know rather than by those who do not. The Qur'an pointedly asks: "Are those who know equal to those who do not know?" Knowledge or the lack of it, then, is the only just reason to tolerate inequality. Hence the saying, "youth is wasted on the young." If we had our life to live over, who would not prefer to make every choice in the light of subsequent experience? What decision maker would not benefit from full knowledge of the consequences of every action? In his Laws, Plato held this to be the greatest principle of human governance, that,

"the wise should lead and command, and the ignorant follow and obey; and yet, ... this surely is not contrary to nature, but according to nature, being the rule of law over willing subjects, and not a rule of compulsion." (Laws, Book III, Jowett, tr.)

If the only worthy leader is one who knows best, then why is it that science and education are not their own bosses? Why have they been puppets first of religion, then of the state and now of corporations? Why does science and education not have an independent revenue stream and why are their leaders not elected directly, as political and religious leaders often are?

Such questions only John Amos Comenius has raised and attempted to address with his three chambered world government, one each for politics, science and religion.

Sixty years ago, the lion's share of research money supported physics. This funding decision was based upon the spectacular but horrific discovery in wartime of the atomic bomb and the prospect of unlimited nuclear energy. This was decided by national governments for purely geopolitical reasons. Now, well over half of all research dollars go into the life sciences, a purely economic decision made by no elected official. Rather most biological and genetic research is either directly financed or heavily influenced by drug companies and other corporate interests.

In neither case were the supposed beneficiaries of science consulted, the people. Meantime, for over a century naturalists and environmentalists have been vainly calling for different policy priorities. Even now that the imperative need to convert to a de-carbonized, fully electric economy is glaringly obvious, the opinions of scientists and educators are still ignored by those with the means to effect change.

In a Comenian world order, such crucial policy decisions about the direction of science would be made by a world body of experts -- the College of Light -- selected in a planet-wide election of scientists and educators. In such an order everybody would have the right and obligation to qualify and work in a trade or profession; in this capacity they would vote among their colleagues for their own representative on the College of Light.

Since the College of Light is charged not only with science but education as well, the College could gradually bolster its own democratic foundations by overseeing the trades and professions coming out of schools and assuring that each graduate is well-grounded in scientific principles. Then their voters would be more knowledgeable and, as we have seen, effectual. As a greater percentage of the world population qualifies in a trade and gains experience by participating in the world collegiate elections, the power and influence of science and education would spread rapidly.

However, this begs two questions: what kind of relation would the college of light have with the other wings of the world government, the political and religious? And internally, what kind of expertise should take precedence over others? This we will look at next time.

John Taylor



Friday, August 28, 2009

Sermon in the Shrine

The Sermon in the Shrine

By John Taylor; 2009 Aug 28, Asma 09, 166 BE

Abdu'l-Baha Touches Montreal, Part II

(Second part of a revision of an essay originally posted on 9 September, 2005. Page numbers are from the 1987 edition of the compilation of Abdu'l-Baha's collected talks, The Promulgation of Universal Peace)

During the first few days in Montreal `Abdu'l-Baha stayed at the home of a Baha'i couple, May and Sutherland Maxwell. Later, He moved to the Windsor Hotel, a magnificent building that no longer stands in its entirety, though the grand ballroom and other features have been preserved in the present building. This was the hotel where visiting royalty stayed when in Montreal. After returning from the church of the Messiah on that first Sunday to the Maxwell's domicile, He gave an informal talk in their drawing room. Mahmud in His diary described it in glowing terms, saying:

"This evening a great multitude assembled to hear `Abdu'l-Baha. He unfolded the mysteries of the evolution of humanity, the divine civilization and the new birth so impressively and with such majesty that His taj fell from His head and His hair tumbled down. He continued to speak in this state for more than half an hour and at last He passed through the crowd to His room." (Mahmoud, 236-7)

This must have been a very impassioned talk, for I know of only one or two other occasions when He allowed his headgear to come off. One was when the non-Baha'i mother of Juliet Thompson, one of His most faithful disciples, had the audacity to ask to see what he looked like bareheaded. "It is not the custom," He told her for men to bare their heads before women in a public place. However, since He had such great affection for this elderly lady, he consented. As Juliet Thompson describes in her diary, the two Western women were impressed by His majestic brow. For this to happen in a public talk was unheard of and it is a sign of how carried away he had become by the theme. He started off by saying, "I am exceedingly happy to meet you." This he must have said sincerely, for a cursory word-search shows that in no other talk did he use this expression. At another time He privately confided that here in Montreal he felt happier and more at ease than in any other city in North America. He continued,

"Praise be to God! I see before me souls who have unusual capability and the power of spiritual advancement. In reality, the people of this continent possess great capacity; they are the cause of my happiness, and I ever pray that God may confirm and assist them to progress in all the degrees of existence. As they have advanced along material lines, may they develop in idealistic degrees, for material advancement is fruitless without spiritual progress and not productive of everlasting results. For example, no matter how much the physical body of man is trained and developed, there will be no real progression in the human station unless the mind correspondingly advances." (Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation, 302)

His theme during the rest of this remarkable disquisition in the drawing room of what is now a Baha'i shrine in Montreal was the exalted station of the human being. Even today with the advance of science and all our sensitivity to political correctness, we tend to devalue what is good about being a human. We are not in touch with the great accomplishments that we can rightly be proud of as people. Indeed, few can say what precisely makes us different from animals. What points of pride might make us want to rise above our crass materialism and corrupt politics? What can stop us from remaining satisfied with physical progress and rise up to spiritual perfection? A reader of this talk can answer questions like this. Here are some more:

Upon what does a person depend for virtues?

What is the difference between purity in a child and the fully developed power of an adult?

What does the biblical term "Kingdom" mean, and what is its relevance to the way we think today?

What is perfection? How do we attain it?

The climax of this peroration comes as he puts his finger on our collective pulse and prescribes a diagnosis. Although it probably took place much earlier, I like to think that this is where His fez fell to the ground.

"Today the world of humanity is walking in darkness because it is out of touch with the world of God. That is why we do not see the signs of God in the hearts of men. The power of the Holy Spirit has no influence. When a divine spiritual illumination becomes manifest in the world of humanity, when divine instruction and guidance appear, then enlightenment follows, a new spirit is realized within, a new power descends, and a new life is given. It is like the birth from the animal kingdom into the kingdom of man. When man acquires these virtues, the oneness of the world of humanity will be revealed, the banner of international peace will be upraised, equality between all mankind will be realized, and the Orient and Occident will become one. Then will the justice of God become manifest, all humanity will appear as the members of one family, and every member of that family will be consecrated to cooperation and mutual assistance. The lights of the love of God will shine; eternal happiness will be unveiled; everlasting joy and spiritual delight will be attained." (Promulgation, 424)

His words were received with such acclamation that though He was both ill and utterly exhausted -- how many of our vaunted professional lecturers today give three major speeches extempore on a single day? -- He was called back after an hour so of repose to give yet another talk, this time on the life of the soul after physical death.

I like to think of the day soon to come when all Canadians will pay attention to His words in this drawing room. Surely then our effort for a real and lasting peace will make our present accomplishments, such as universal education and our medical insurance, will pale in comparison.

Here is how Abdu'l-Baha ended that unforgettable first talk given bareheaded in the Maxwell home.

"I will pray, and you must pray, likewise, that such heavenly bounty may be realized; that strife and enmity may be banished, warfare and bloodshed taken away; that hearts may attain ideal communication and that all people may drink from the same fountain. May they receive their knowledge from the same divine source. May all hearts become illumined with the rays of the Sun of Reality; may all of them enter the university of God, acquire spiritual virtues and seek for themselves heavenly bounties. Then this material, phenomenal world will become the mirror of the world of God, and within this pure mirror the divine virtues of the realm of might will be reflected." (Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 425)

John Taylor



Thursday, August 27, 2009

Master in Montreal

Abdu'l-Baha Touches Montreal, Part I

Commemorating `Abdu'l-Baha's Visit to Canada

First part of a revised version of an essay originally posted on the Badi' Blog on the 9th of September, 2005

"I think that medical care is so important that it ought not to have a price tag on it. I think that we have come to the place where medical care -- like education -- should be available to every citizen, irrespective of financial state."

These are the words of Tommy Douglas, the founder of Medicare, the Canadian system of universal medical insurance. Tommy Douglas was nominated by a broad cross-section of the Canadian population as our "Greatest Canadian" of the 20th Century in a vote sponsored by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 2004. Douglas took us in this direction in the face of tremendous opposition. In the Forties, Fifties and Sixties when Tommy Douglas put this proposal forward socialized medicine was regarded by the general public and the elites alike as bordering on communism. However, since then so valuable has this happy combination of government and private contributions to health care become that the average Canadian now proudly consider Medicare to be our proudest contribution to governance.

Where did Tommy Douglas get this idea for a government sponsored medical insurance plan? What gave him the idea? Did it come out of the blue? I think that future historians may one day recognize that a seed, a spiritual impetus was given by a brief visit to Montreal that took place ninety-seven years ago this September, in 1912. Contemporary newspapers touted this visitor as the "sage from the East," but for us Baha'is He was `Abdu'l-Baha, the eldest Son of the Founder of our Faith.

He came to Canada in an age when, by present day standards, everything was topsy-turvy. The vast majority of both Canadian and American students still did not make it to high school, much less see the inside of a university. Universal compulsory education, much less Medicare, was still regarded as visionary. Schooling was thought too expensive and even undesirable, since women and the "lower orders" may well prove ineducable. Any attempt to raise inferiors above their natural state of ignorance may be a waste of scarce resources. Since such a thing had never been tried, this was not as absurd an idea as it seems today.

Arrogance and bigotry were all but universal. Only the year before, in 1911, the Canadian government turned away all African Americans at the United States border, since they were deemed "unsuited to the climate and culture" of Canada. The public were xenophobic to an extreme, even among women and those intractable "lower orders" themselves. In 1913 a shipload of immigrants from China and India tried to dock at Vancouver but was turned back to boisterous cheering at the docks. This shameful action was not condemned but actually acclaimed in the press. Chinese who did come to work as menial labourers were subject to a racist "head tax," which effectively kept out women and separated families for decades at a time.

Earlier on, in pioneer days, this story played out over and over in the prairies and foothills of Canada. An initial wave of settlers took the land from the aboriginals and came to regard themselves as the only real, native Canadians. These were followed by waves of immigrants from foreign, non-English-speaking places like Prussia, Poland and Lithuania. The "real" Canadians petitioned for a better lot of neighbours, which meant immigrants from England. When English pioneers finally did trickle in, they made themselves the most unpopular of all, since they turned up their noses not only at Indians and new immigrants but the original Canadian residents as well, including the elites, which they considered to be brutish, unwashed "colonials."

Montreal was Canada's largest and in many ways its most cosmopolitan city in 1912. But here, as everywhere else, snobbery and bigotry ruled. Blacks were restricted to employment either as domestic servants or train conductors. The French Canadian majority were openly put down, barred by law in their own land from institutions of higher education and all but the most menial posts. Partly this came of religious tensions between Protestants and Catholics, which ran hotter than we can imagine today.

Mr. Woodcock, the fellow who warned `Abdu'l-Baha against coming to Montreal because its Catholic majority were bigoted and xenophobic was no doubt influenced by this sense of rivalry that Protestants felt for Catholics at the time. In both Canada and the United States, Protestants had gone in one short century from a large majority to minority status. This relative decline in numbers gave them a sense of resentment and grievance. Many who were not active churchgoers had their heads packed with conspiracy theories of evil Papist plots lurking behind every bit of bad news.

The first Sunday after the Friday on which `Abdu'l-Baha arrived in Montreal was September 1st, 1912. He spoke this day at the Unitarian Church of the Messiah. Straight off, He talked about the need to eliminate prejudice. Then He went through most of His Father's major social teachings, one after another, ending up with universal peace. In the hundreds of talks that He gave throughout North America, 'Abdu'l-Baha listed the Baha'i principles in this way on only 13 occasions, two of which took place in Montreal.

Among the principles mentioned in this first talk was an explication of Baha'u'llah's law in the Kitab-i-Aqdas that every parent has a responsibility to educate their child, male or female, to the full extent of that child's ability.

"Baha'u'llah has announced that inasmuch as ignorance and lack of education are barriers of separation among mankind, all must receive training and instruction. Through this provision the lack of mutual understanding will be remedied and the unity of mankind furthered and advanced. Universal education is a universal law." (Promulgation, 417)

In His second talk in a church, St. James Methodist, His last in Montreal, Abdu'l-Baha put this principle in a slightly different light.

"Seventh, the necessity of education for all mankind is evident. Children especially must be trained and taught. If the parent cannot afford to do this owing to lack of means, the body politic must make necessary provision for its accomplishment. Through the broadening spirit of education illiteracy will disappear, and misunderstandings due to ignorance will pass away." (Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation, 450-451)

This and several other principles rest upon an assumption that must have seemed foreign to many hearers, the conviction that since God created each and all of us, we are all therefore susceptible to improvement. Abdu'l-Baha went to great pains in these addresses to show that there is an indisputable case for seeing that all, rich and poor, should enter into a universal, compulsory system of public education.

In the same talk, `Abdu'l-Baha added another principle, that of equality or rule of law. His choice of words makes it sound as much prophesy as doctrine.

"Tenth, there shall be an equality of rights and prerogatives for all mankind." (Promulgation, 452)

Nor did Abdu'l-Baha neglect the need for equality between men and women. In fact, although in this talk He discusses equal rights on its own terms, in religious terms, and as part of the problem eliminating racial and patriotic prejudices, He still made a point of treating equality of men and women as an independent principle. His approach was not confrontational, a mistake we see speakers make even today, when you would think that we would know better. Rather He took an historical approach. He was confident that if we understood the reasons for the inequality of women, the proper readjustments would come naturally. In the 1st of September address, He put it like this:

"The sex distinction which exists in the human world is due to the lack of education for woman, who has been denied equal opportunity for development and advancement. Equality of the sexes will be established in proportion to the increased opportunities afforded woman in this age, for man and woman are equally the recipients of powers and endowments from God, the Creator. God has not ordained distinction between them in His consummate purpose." (Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation, 417-418)

Taken all together, these twelve or so principles add up to a comprehensive peace program that everybody can understand and support. Indeed, if I had to sum up the message that `Abdu'l-Baha gave to Canadians in Montreal, it would have to be this: there is no getting around the fact that it is peace or nothing in this age. Peace is the consummation of both physical development and our spiritual transformation. Peace, local and on a world level, is the `be all and end all' of `Abdu'l-Baha's philosophy. It has to go beyond outward acknowledgment to deep down change in our every thought and word. Without it, the experiment of civilization will certainly fail.

Tomorrow we will talk more about this momentous, historic visit to Montreal.

John Taylor



Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Master in Canada Sources

Master in Canada

It is that time of year again. A friend requested that I repost some source materials on the Master's visit to Canada that have appeared on the Badi' Blog over the past several years. This is mostly unavailable online, so it may be of use to speakers at the commemorations across Canada over the next week. Some of this material dates from back before the Badi' Blog started. Over the next few days I may add a couple of new ones... Here they are.


`Abdu'l-Baha's Visit to Canada, An Address by Hugh Church

Ward's Chapter on the Master's Visit to Montreal

Mahmud's Account of the Master's Visit to Canada (part 1)

Mahmud's Account of the Master's Visit to Canada (2)

Mahmud's Account of the Master's Visit to Canada (3)


Mahmud's Account of the Master's Visit to Canada (4)

John Taylor


Master in Canada and Buffalo (4)

Mahmud's Account of the Master's Visit to Canada and Buffalo (4)

from Mahmud's Diary, The Diary of Mirza Mahmud-i-Zarqani Chronicling `Abdu'l-Baha's Journey to America, Translated by Mohi Sobhani, with the assistance of Shirley Macias, George Ronald, Oxford, England, 1998


Buffalo, NY, 9-12 Sept.

Monday, September 9, 1912

[Montreal - Toronto - Buffalo]

In the morning the bill for $700 for the week's stay at the hotel was paid. As usual, `Abdu'l-Baha directed me to take personal charge of His bags and move them myself. I fell short of my duty as the hotel stewards carried His bags with the other luggage. When He saw that His bags were not with me, He said:

`In spite of these repeated reminders, you were neglectful. I would not have asked you to be so careful had it not contained valuable documents and writings which I wish to present to the libraries of London and Paris. Otherwise, material things are not important to me.'

All luggage sent through the railway station had to be examined by the Customs officers; but the chief officer at the Customs and his assistants passed our baggage, indicating that they were perfectly satisfied and had no reason to examine the effects of the Baha'is! When the Master was told this, His face opened up like a rose and He expounded on the stations of truthfulness and trustworthiness, which are the sources of the prosperity and assurance of the people of the world.


The enthusiasm and ardor of the friends knew no bounds. They surrounded `Abdu'l-Baha like moths. Until the train pulled out of the station at nine o'clock, the friends continued to sigh and express their sorrow at His departure.

It is astonishing to see that `Abdu'l-Baha does not want any comfort and will not take any rest, even while traveling on the train. When translations of the newspaper articles and letters from the friends were read to Him, He immediately answered and bestowed His bounties upon them. To some He wrote in His own hand. When He was tired of writing, the Master spoke about the coming of Christ from the heaven of holiness:

The Gospel expressly records that in His first coming, although Christ was born to Mary, He Himself said that He came from heaven. Thus, the meaning of `heaven' is the greatness of the Cause and eminence and might of the Manifestation of God Who spreads this divine Cause by His heavenly power and divine strength and not through material means.

Whenever His eyes fell on the luxuriant beauty of the lakes and rivers along the route He would remember the Blessed Perfection.

At noon He said to us: `You have lunch. I will not eat anything until I am hungry.'

The air in the coach was stifling and, owing to the speed of the train, even though the windows and doors were closed, the dust was heavy. `Abdu'l-Baha felt tired. When the train reached Toronto to change tracks, He walked a little on the platform, saying that He was exhausted. `We have not gone far,' He said, `yet we feel tired. How will the great distance to California be traversed? We have no choice, as in the path of God we must regard troubles as blessings and discomforts as greatest bounties.' We reached


Buffalo late at night but, in obedience to His request, the friends were not informed.

Tuesday, September 10, 1912


The moment the news of the Master's arrival in Buffalo became known, the friends eagerly hastened to meet Him, grateful that their city had been blessed with His presence. Journalists came one after the other and left happy and satisfied, which surprised everyone. Owing to articles about the Cause in the city's newspapers, a great number of people came to visit on the morning of `Abdu'l-Baha's arrival. The teachings so touched the hearts of the people that when the Master went out in the afternoon, passersby who saw Him pointed to Him, saying: `Look! There goes the Messenger of Peace, the Prophet from the East!' At the request of some of His companions, after a short walk He took the trolley to Niagara Falls. It was far away and the round trip fare cost 50 cents per person. We had never seen or heard such huge, magnificent waterfalls. It was a beautiful sight. The great river feeding the falls is flanked on both sides by lakes, fields, mountains and woods. At some places the river falls from a height of a hundred meters. Because of the height of the falls and the crash of the water, small droplets of water form sprays which appear like a great sand storm. Below is a very large lake where people entertain themselves in barges and sailboats.

`Abdu'l-Baha went to the edge, admired the great falls and recalled the days of the Blessed Perfection:

There were small waterfalls in Mazindaran which Baha`u'llah liked so much that He used to camp near them for several days.


Continuing, He said:

So much electricity can be generated from this water that it will suffice the whole town and it is also very good for the health.

While sitting on the bank of the river He ate some pears and grapes and then walked for some time in the park. We suggested that He should stay here a few days but He replied, `Even half a day is not possible. We have no time for amusement. We must keep ourselves engaged in our work.' He sat down on a bench in the center of the park and said, `I washed my hair with warm water without applying soap. It is much cleaner and takes longer to become dirty. Come and see how clean and soft it is.' We touched His hair, which was like silk, very soft and absolutely clean.

On this occasion `the place of His lovers was noticeably vacant' 272

On the trolley ride back to the hotel, newspaper articles about His arrival in Buffalo were read to Him. The headline read: "Abdu'l-Baha, the Prophet of Peace, has arrived in Buffalo. The Baha'is are very happy to see Him among them in their homes. Their great longing for His arrival is fulfilled. Our hearty congratulations to the Baha'is." When the Master reached the hotel He met a number of journalists who were waiting for Him.

This evening `Abdu'l-Baha's talk was about unity and amity among the peoples of the East and the West and also about the degrees of love which bring the whole creation into existence. His message breathed a new spirit of love and joy into friends and seekers alike. They all gathered around Him, shook His hand and expressed their humble appreciation. He then went into another room, followed by some journalists who made a note of His words.

Later in the evening He strolled along the store fronts with us. The gas and electric street lamps, as well as the brightly lit theaters and coffee shops, were picturesque. We


reached a spot where several poor people had gathered. He gave a sum of money to each. Seeing the grandeur, nobility, generosity and grace of the Master, a huge crowd, with the utmost courtesy, lined up near Him and He showered kindness on all. It was a strange sight for them to see Him walking in the street accompanied by His Persian servants in Eastern attire. Everyone said, `This is the same Prophet of Peace who has been acclaimed in the newspapers!'

For dinner `Abdu'l-Baha ate a little bread and cheese and went to bed for the night.

Wednesday, September 11, 1912


People from all walks of life came to visit Him, including friends from Spokane and Mr. Collins from Ottawa, who said that there were two thousand people in his city who believed in this golden age and in `Abdu'l-Baha and who wanted to have a glimpse of the Master. The Master entrusted him with a special Tablet and sent him, now ablaze like a ball of fire, back to his home.

Today the newspapers appeared with a new title for the Master, `The Prince of the East', which `Abdul-Baha did not welcome. He spoke with the reporters about the beginning and end of creation:

I am exceedingly pleased because I see you firm and unwavering in the Cause of God. Some individuals are like


rootless plants, they are pulled out by the slightest breeze. But those who are steadfast are like trees that have strong roots and foundations. Storms cannot shake them; rather, they add to their freshness.

The minister of the Church of the Messiah was greatly pleased to hear the Master's teachings. He stated that they could not be contradicted by anyone. After thanking the Master for accepting his invitation to come to his church, the minister left.

In the afternoon the Master went to see two of the friends who were ill. When he arrived at their home, the neighborhood children crowded around Him, gazing at Him with reverence.

Some asked about His native country and why He had come here. The friends explained it to them. The Master asked one of the friends to get change for a five dollar bill. He then distributed the coins among the children, who rushed to receive them, causing the Master to drop the rest of the coins.

He then went into the home of Mr. Mills where a number of friends had assembled. Refreshments had been prepared. The friends enthusiastically listened until the early evening hours as the Master unfolded the divine mysteries and encouraged them. Everyone begged His assistance and blessings and the desire of each for a few words from His own pen was granted. He then said, `Tomorrow we leave for Chicago.' As soon as these words were uttered, the friends became downcast. Men and women, young and old, surrounded Him, supplicating Him for His blessings and confirmations in His absence.

When `Abdu'l-Baha arrived at the Church of the Messiah, the minister received Him at the entrance and led Him to a study where he humbly expressed his gratitude. He presented the Master with the official church newsletter in which he had published an extensive article about the history and teachings of the Cause. It had been written in a scholarly style and concluded with words in praise of the


Master. When the article was translated for the Master, He turned to the minister and said, `You have left nothing for me to say here tonight. You have published everything in this booklet.' We remarked that there could be no miracle greater than this, that clergymen were testifying to the greatness of the Cause of God with their own tongues and pens. The Master replied, `I have told you repeatedly that the Blessed Perfection is assisting us. All these confirmations which descend continually are from Him.' He then went to the stage, stood before the audience and became the center of attraction for friends and seekers alike.

The minister introduced `Abdu'l-Baha in these words:

It is my great honor to present to you the prophet of peace, the leader of the Baha'i Cause. A short history and teachings of this Cause were published in today's issue of the church newsletter and distributed this evening. I need not therefore dwell on these subjects. I propose to give as much time as possible to this eminent speaker. This great personage has traveled to many parts of the world and has delivered innumerable talks on the question of international peace. In Washington He gave a unique address in a church of our creed. The essential principles of this religion are the same as ours. I feel it an honor that I have been given the privilege of introducing to you the prophet of peace, His Holiness `Abdu'l-Baha.

The Master stood and spoke on the divine teachings and the unity of the diverse nations under the canopy of the Word of God. The audience was so fascinated that although `Abdul-Baha wished to leave the church early, it was not possible. The people came one after the other to meet Him and to give Him their regards. In return each received illumination from the Branch of the Ancient Root.

An unusual and outstanding feature of this evening's experience was that at the conclusion of the meeting, the minister encouraged the congregation to go to the Baha'i


meetings to investigate and discover truth. This caused Abdu'l-Baha to express gratitude for the assistance of the Blessed Beauty and He continued to speak about the importance of this great journey until about 2:00 a.m. when He finally rested.

Thursday, September 12, 1912

[Buffalo - Chicago]

`Abdu'l-Baha called us before dawn. He had already packed and readied His bags. We packed our belongings in readiness for our departure. Because the chambermaid for His room was not there, He left a dollar for her with the hotel manager. When He reached the railway station, the driver wanted more money than the usual fare. `Abdu'l-Baha paid no heed to him, saying, `A man may give $1,000 without minding it but he should not yield even a dollar to the person who wishes to take it wrongfully, for such wrongful behavior flouts justice and disrupts the order of the world.'

As articles from the Buffalo newspapers were being translated for `Abdu'l-Baha in the train, He again offered thanks for the assistance and protection of the Abha Kingdom. He said:

"The confirmation and assistance of the Ahha Kingdom are more manifest than the sun. No eye or ear has seen or heard of such confirmations. Christ went into the Temple of the Jews where He spoke on the teachings of the Torah prohibiting buying and selling in the house of God. Up to the present time Christians glory in this and rejoice over it. But today through the assistance of the Abha Beauty the Cause of God is proclaimed with the utmost openness in the churches and assemblies of the West."