Sunday, October 17, 2021

Little Known Talk by Abdu'l-Baha

There are more talks from the Master given in Paris than we find in Paris Talks. Here is one collected in Jan Jasion's book, "Abdu'l-Baha in France." This talk by Abdu'l-Baha is about prayer, education, the need for knowledge-based leadership, the harmony of science and religion, and the need for religious leaders to keep from interfering in political affairs.

 First, though, a couple of notes:

"But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." (Matt 6:6, NIV)

Jasion identifies the "man" of science who promoted heliocentrism that Abdu'l-Baha mentions as being persecuted by the Pope as Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), but more likely it was Giordano Bruno (1548-1600), who was killed for promoting that idea.

from pp. 261-263, Abdu'l-Baha in France, 1911-1913, Jan Jasion

Undated Talks

There are also a number of undated talks and fragments of talks which `Abdu'l-Bahá gave it is presumed in Paris in 1911 and which were published in a variety of sources. They are included here exactly as published:

Christ said, “Go into thy chamber and shut the door, and pray to the Father which is in heaven." Why did he say this? It is with the tongue that man expresses his feelings to another man. But with the language of the heart man prays to God. Though God is within the heart of man, is ever present in every place, yet man lifts up his eyes to heaven and prays as if God were there, seated upon a throne. Surely this is pure superstition! Why should he utter the words, “O heavenly Father? Why should it be necessary for him to repeat prayers aloud and with the tongue? One reason for this is that if the heart alone is speaking the mind can be more easily disturbed. But repeating the words so that the tongue and heart act together enables the mind to become concentrated. Then the whole man is surrounded by the spirit of prayer and the act is more perfect. Another reason is that by the outward signs of entering into his room and praying the attention of others is attracted and they begin to ask, “Why does he do this? and are aroused to inquire about the truth.
Man may say, “I can pray to God whenever I wish, when the feelings of my heart are drawn to God; when I am in the wilderness, when I am in the city, or wherever I may be. Why should I go where others are gathered upon a special day, at a certain hours, to unite my prayers with theirs when I may not be in a frame of mind for praying?” To think this way is useless imagination for where many are gathered together their force is greater. Separate soldiers fighting alone and individually have not the force of a united army. If all the soldiers in this spiritual war gather together then their united spiritual feelings help each other and their prayers become more acceptable.
A wise schoolmaster may send his scholars out to play or to practice gymnastics for an hour so that their minds and bodies may be refreshed and during the hour of the lesson they may learn it better. If the teacher proves that his pupils are advancing no onlooker has a right to object to his system or to question his wisdom and say, "Why does he waste the boys' time?" If a wise father plays with his children who has the right to say it is not good for them? He calls them to come to him as the hen calls her chicks, he knows that they are little and must be coaxed along, coaxed along, because they are young and tiny.
For the time of Moses the law of "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” was ordained. It is very hard to see the wisdom of this, but the people then were in the wilderness and needed teaching. Different teachings were needed for different people, If you give the same teachings to all some might be retarded by them instead of helped. Christ taught some things to his disciples which he commanded them not to tell the Pharisees. It is not for the soldier to question the general's orders. If he knows him to be the real general he must carry out and obey his orders exactly. If the general orders that a certain place must be taken and held the soldiers might say, "Why risk so much by leaving this secure and safe position to a point which is the aim and target of the enemy?" But the general knows that this is the important point which must be held at all costs. The true doctor, the true teacher, the real captain must be obeyed.
If every man knew what was best for his health, if every man could teach himself, if every soldier knew how to fight by himself, if every passenger could sail the ship, what need would there be for the doctor, for the teacher, for the general or for the captain? As he has not this wisdom he must first ascertain their truth and then follow their directions. Until he does this he cannot advance.
The Priests say that Religion and Science cannot agree. Look how the Pope treated the man who discovered that the Earth went round the Sun! Priests used to believe that the passage in the Old Testament relating to the sea and sky meant that there were lands and seas above as well as on the Earth. Astronomers found that the sky was boundless ether. Moses meant that the sea was the Bounty of God. Baha'o'llah teaches that a Religion without Science is no religion. Through ignorance alone the idea became accepted that Science and Religion were enemies.

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