In the light of personal experience
by Wellesley Tudor Pole
(no date or publisher given)
From Chapter 3, A Personal Note
A Case of Intervention
One such instance may be worth recording. When lying gravely wounded
in the hills around Jerusalem in December I917 I prayed for guidance
or that my end might come. 'Someone' knelt down beside me and gave me
instructions through which my safety was ultimately to be assured. It
may be of interest to give the story in some detail, based on notes
set down in a Cairo hospital soon after the event in question.
The Saving Presence
It had been a sunny blue day and the scenery was glorious. It was
Sunday, December 2nd, 1917 -- a fort- night before the fall of
Jerusalem to Allenby's armies.
We were ordered at 8 p.m. to start creeping up the hill of Beit el
Fokka a dozen miles north-west of the city and almost overlooking its
outskirts. The night was dark; in places the boulders were almost
insurmountable. We were able to advance only a few yards at a time.
The men (drawn from the Devon Yeomanry, dismounted) were cheery, for
they knew little of what lay ahead; only the officers knew, and I for
one was satisfied that the enterprise was desperate. The summit of the
hill was but half a mile away, though about five hundred feet above us
in actual height. We lay down and waited for the rising of the moon.
Waiting under such circumstances was not pleasant. The silence was
broken only by the cries of jackals.
Suddenly the moon rose across the hills, turning the country into
fairyland. We could see for miles, away beyond the orange groves down
to the plains and to the sea. It was not long before we were
discovered, for there were Turkish snipers behind each ledge and
boulder and in the trees. Machine-guns were hidden cleverly at the
entrance to caves and ravines; high above were the breastworks on the
hill crest, then a bare plateau without cover, and finally the rough
walls of an old Roman village on the summit. The first wave of men
began to creep forward. The force I commanded was in the second wave,
and we followed on, just a few yards every five minutes.... In the
distance we heard a few stray shots, and then silence. Suddenly chaos
was let loose. Shrapnel burst over our heads- machine-gun bullets
rained down upon us and how any men in the first wave escaped I cannot
tell. The moonlight was in our eyes; we could not fire back
accurately. Turkish guns two miles away on another high ledge began to
bombard us, and we could not hear our own voices. Men began to fall;
some crumpled up without a cry, while others groaned in agony and then
lay still. The first wave needed reinforcements, so I took my men up
into the front line, running and leaping over and around the rocks,
then falling flat to recover breath....
Water was scarce in both armies, and we were fighting for it--fighting
for two wells in an old Roman village on the hilltop. Bullets whistled
past us, whirred through the air above. We reached the front line one
hundred and fifty feet below the hill-crest, fixed bayonets, and leapt
forward on to the crouching Turks.
It was a terrible moment....
I do not give details because as I jumped over the crest an interior
form of guidance began and I was lifted in consciousness above the
blood and hell around us. I gathered my men together. The enemy, who
had been driven temporarily off the hilltop, swarmed up through the
trees under cover of machine-gun fire which raked the ledge on which
we lay. We tried vainly to fire over it and down while we flattened
ourselves out on the hard rock. Suddenly a score of shrieking Turks
jumped on to the ledge, but they never went back. Hundreds were behind
them, led by officers dressed in British khaki, shouting in quite good
English 'Don't shoot I Don't shoot!'
Orders came not to advance, so we lay there, to be picked off one by
one, our fire going too high and doing little damage.
We could not dig in, for we lay on the bare rock. Then Mills grenades
were sent to us and we pitched them over the ledge more or less
blindly.... Someone stood by me unseen, a guardian who seemed grave
and anxious. I knew my fate would be decided during the next few
minutes. I called for reinforcements, and half stood up. There was a
Turkish sniper in a high tree just visible below but we could not move
him. Wails from the enemy came from the woods below, but there was
silence on the ridge--those of us who had been struck were beyond
pain.... I felt a sudden premonition that a decision had been arrived
at as to my own fate. The sniper in the tree fired. I fell on my
knees, wounded. My sergeant came over to see where f was hit, but fell
dead across me, pinning me flat to the ground on that bare
bullet-swept ledge. I was bruised and broken, bleeding freely, unable
The sun was rising in all its splendour across the hills of Judah, and
there was silence. With pain I raised my head. It was a bitterly cold
morning and there was no sign of life around me. What could I do? I
longed for another bullet, and just then firing began again. The enemy
swept over the hill, bayoneting the wounded, stripping their bodies
and throwing them into the wells to contaminate the water. No one who
showed signs of life was spared. The protection of the sergeant's body
saved me from this final indignity.
Then the unseen presence knelt and told me to lay my head on the
ground. I obeyed, and lay still. I heard a whisper in my ear. The
substance of the message was that I was needed for some other work
later on in life and would not die just then however much I desired to
do so. The experience I was passing through would be valuable,
especially as a test of faith. The ridge on which I lay could not be
held. Had I remained un- wounded, my duty would have kept me upon it
until I was killed.... Later, I heard that no one was left alive
there. My 'guide' had come to a decision how to get me away safely. I
was to be wounded. I was to lie still for some time longer and make no
effort to move whilst my escape was arranged. I must 'obey implicitly,
That is all I can remember now, except that the message satisfied me.
I just lay still and waited.... Probably an hour passed, and then I
was 'told' to stir. I raised myself and found that the sergeant's body
and rifle had rolled off me and I was free. Beside me there lay a
strong hooked stick; I have no idea from whence it came. With its help
I drew myself into a position which enabled me to crawl along the
ground, though without any clear sense of direction. Later, through
the intervention of the same 'guide' already referred to, I was led to
a cave where fresh water was available and ultimately to a place of
There is one point about this incident which perhaps is worth
recording. Whilst in hospital, the surgeon in whose charge I was told
me that the bullet had passed right through my body without touching a
vital organ, without severing an artery or breaking any bones, which
fact he considered surprising to the point of being miraculous.
Who decides when intervention of this kind shall be allowed? Who
arranges for an intervener to be avail- able when needed? I have
written earlier in this book about the mystery of premonitions.
Sometimes a pre- monition of a very simple kind can lead to important
The story has often been told of a conversation between two young
officers in Palestine on the eve of battle. This particular experience
took place the night before the incident that I have just related. May
I quote the details here?
The following extract is taken from a pamphlet entitled Round the
World at Nine o'clock.*
The Origin of The Silent Minute
Published by the Big Ben Council, Parliament Mansions, Westminister,
Chapter Four, The Voices
During the fighting in the mountains around Jerusalem early in
December I917, two British officers were discussing the war and its
probable aftermath. The conversation took place in a billet on the
hillside at the mouth of a cave and on the eve of battle. One of the
two, a man of unusual character and vision, realising intuitively that
his days on earth were to be shortened summed up his outlook thus: 'I
shall not come through this struggle, like millions of other men in
this war; it will be still my destiny to go now. You will survive and
live to see a more tragic conflict fought out in every continent and
ocean and in the air. When that time comes remember us. We shall long
to play our part wherever we may be. Give us the opportunity to do so,
for that war for us will be a righteous war. We shall not fight with
material weapons then, but we can help you if you will let us. We
shall be an unseen but mighty army. Give us the chance to pull our
weight. You will still have "time" available as your servant. Lend us
a moment of it each day and through your silence give us our
opportunity. The power of silence is greater than you know. When those
tragic days arrive, do not forget us.'
The above words are quoted from memory and are not literally exact.
Next day the speaker was killed His companion W. T. P. was severely
wounded and left temporarily with the enemy, but managed to get back
to the British lines with an inescapable sense of miraculous delivery.
It was then that the idea of a daily moment of united prayer and
silence was born, now known as the Silent Minute and signalled by the
chiming and striking of Big Ben at nine each evening.
- Is it not strange to think that a movement destined to become so
widespread should owe its birth to the premonitions of a single man as
he prepared to take leave of his life on earth?
History has shown that on many occasions the fate of the human race
has depended on incidents of a seemingly minor character. I suppose
there is a moral to be drawn from this undoubted fact. It is
reasonable to believe, for instance, that if Hitler's favourite
soothsayer had not predicted victory for Germany, the Second World War
might never have occurred. Per- haps it is more reasonable to suppose
that the cumulative forces behind any world event, or even behind the
happenings in men's lives, are responsible for bringing about the
final minor 'incident' through which the powers of Destiny are
It may be that when the fate of kings and empires appears to hang upon
a single thread, that thread is the instrument through which immense
forces operate, and in a way far beyond the range of human vision To
think otherwise would make the world picture I
WAS SITTING on the deck of a transport in the Eastern Mediterranean.
It was at sunset on the --evening of November th, I9I7. The day had
been a glorious one, marred only by an attempt made to torpedo our
ship during the afternoon. The sun went down in splendid radiance; the
sea was still, stars shone up above. There was silence everywhere. I
sat alone. Suddenly the night was filled with a tumultuous sound of
'voices'. For a time I could distinguish nothing.
I seemed to be surrounded by unseen presences striving, striving,
striving to make their voices heard and under- stood. I could hear
voices speaking many tongues: English, French, German, Russian,
Italian and many Eastern dialects. The confusion of the sound was
great, but, strangely enough, there arose above the confusion an Idea.
The Idea was clothed in form, but to attempt description would prove
impossible. I gazed long upon the Idea that stood before me, striving
to understand its purport. The Idea grew out of the babel of voices
that surrounded me on every side, welling out of the sea, and through
the air and from the sky. Gradually the voices died away, and then the
form of an Idea became for an instant more distinct; then disappeared.
In that instant I gleaned some inkling of what it stood for, and,
taking out my notebook, I jotted down a record of the meaning of those
voices. A strange cry from the night, harsh and uncontrolled, sad, but
'Our voices must be heard. Some day our voices will be heard. No power
can hold back from us the chance to say that which awaits our
utterance. What is it that we have the need to say? Why should we not
remain silent whilst the world groans on in agony ? Our message must
be delivered, come what may, a message that shall in some degree
express the ideas, the ideals of a countless number of us, slain on
the battlefields of Europe and elsewhere, slain needlessly, uselessly
and as if unendingly. The great ones of the world talk of the Wars
that are to follow, as if human conflict would never cease. On this
subject we have the right to make our voices heard, voices that cannot
be stilled until our message has been given.
Because our bodies have been taken from us, snatched away when
strength and vigour were at their height, who dare deny to us the
right to speak back across the river we have just crossed i Who dare
to erect barriers of unbelief, saying we are dead and gone for ever?
Because a cruel fate has robbed us of our earthly lives of usefulness,
robbed us of our human birthright, hurled us across space into a
strange and solemn land, this is no reason why we should not speak
that which is in us, pass back our message into those regions where
chaos and carnage still mercilessly riot.
We are of every race, our message is for every race, we know no
barriers of colour, creed or sex. We claim our right to be heard above
the din of earthly conflict. Again we say, who dare deny us this ?
Life itself cannot be taken from us for God alone can give life and
take it away. We have been robbed not of life, but of the form in
which we were expressing it. Our opportunities of service and
experience have been cut in two. Beyond again will come a day of
judgment. Beyond once more will come a day of reparation and
repentance. Then will dawn the days of peace. Our bodies lie broken
and buried beneath a hundred battlefields, but our souls live on, we
have triumphed over death in ways not yet apparent even to ourselves.
Listen to what we have to say, for have we not the right to speak our
minds? Is it for no great end that we have been murdered wilfully? Who
are we who speak to you? By whose authority do we speak? You wish to
know? Then you shall hear:
I am a French soldier, I fought in many battles, was wounded thrice,
suffered unspeakably, was taken prisoner, died a death of
misery--cold, hungry, covered with disease. Shall I tell you of the
agony suffered by my wife, my children, my mother? The story is too
tragic in its holiness. I dare not speak of it. What has the world
gained through the terrors of my life and death? Tell me.
I am a Belgian girl. I died in the market square, naked and alone. Can
I never banish from my thought the horrors of my last hours on earth?
I was torn from my home, stripped naked and thrown on the ground in
the public place. It was evening: I looked up to the quiet stars above
and longed for death. Death was so long in coming. I lay upon the
pathway of my Calvary all night--and longer still. Can you picture
what this means? The enemy soldiers had just come in that awful night.
They were drunk, they stood in jeering groups around me and used my
body for their sensual satisfaction. They brought my mother, my
father, my young sisters, and forced them to watch my agony, my shame.
Need I say more? Death came at last, at last, and I am here. Some day
peace may come to me again, or, better still, oblivion. And I am only
one of countless many. Countless many. What has the world gained
through the terror of my life and death? Tell me.
I was a Russian peasant, full of lusty youth, of life, of hope. A
shell struck me; an arm was torn away. I remained for hours upon the
battlefield until I bled to death. I died alone, in mortal agony. I
died alone. Nothing can efface the memory. I can speak but little of
the thoughts that well within, but tell me this: What has the world or
my country gained through me? What has become of me?
I was in the Prussian Guard. I served my fatherland well for nearly
three years of war. Why should I not speak? I saw my country writhe in
agony and still the dance of death goes on and on. I met my death from
English gas. For two days I lay outside the parapet slowly
suffocating, gasping my life away in froth and blood. I speak for
thousands of my countrymen. Our voices blend with those who speak to
you across the gulf. War must for ever cease.
You know my voice of old. I can claim your friendship from the days I
spent on earth. You know my story well. I was shot at sunset just
outside the lines in France. I died quickly. What do details matter?
Sufficient that I am still alive. My work here brings me into touch
with the maimed and weary ones who die on battlefields. Add my words
to those already spoken to you by other soldiers killed in battle. We
dare not think we died in vain.
'Who are we to speak to you? Our voices blend, our message is the
same, yet, as we have already told you, we belong to every race, we no
longer fight among ourselves. We only strive to speak, to give our
message, to make our influence felt and understood. To give our
individual stories would be to tell unending tragedies of war; to tell
of vilest passions hideous lusts unending, evils unspeakable, called
into being by the trumpets of the conflict. For us, all this is over.
We have not returned to speak of what has been, but to speak of what
shall be--what must be, if the race is not to be swallowed up for ever
in the dark- ness of unending night. We claim the right to give our
message; we command attention. Mark well our words.... We dare not
rest while wars continue.
There can be no blissful heaven for any one of us while the anguish of
the battlefields remains. We tell you this. We work that wars shall
end for ever. There are millions of us now. We work in bands, in
councils, in communities. We are behind the people's cry for peace in
every land. We strive in Russia that the people's voice be heard. In
every conflict we are there to urge our cause. Think you we have no
power? Our power grows and in time will become greater than any power
the war lords of the world can raise against us.
'We inspire many who know not of our presence. We stand behind kings.
We sit in council halls. We walk at noonday in the market places of
the world. We are never absent from the battlefields. We move in and
out of the minds of the great ones of the earth, and all, unknowingly,
they fear us. We sit beside priests and ministers in their private
hours. When they descend from pulpits, having preached of righteous
war, we give them war within themselves instead of peace. We dog the
footsteps of all who dare to take the name of God in vain. They cry to
Him forsooth for victory for this or that material cause. They cry in
vain. God is not near such men and will not help them.
'We sit beside our soldier pals in trench and bivouac and hut. They
know us not, but all unconsciously they feel our presence and our
thoughts. War must forever cease! Our powers will grow apace. The time
will come when we shall bring mortal fear into the hearts of all who
dare to stand before our way. We strive, we strive, to make our voices
heard above the mortal din. No mundane power can hold us back. We will
be heard. We are purposeful, fiercely un- relenting, strong in our
demands, united in our strength. 'No man dare tell us we have died in
vain. No man dare stand between us and the purpose we are pledged to
'Our message is to all. Hearken before it be too late. We would avert
a chaos beyond words menacing. Listen to our words! A people's peace,
a soldiers' peace, a peace such as a child would make--that is the
peace that must be made.
'There must needs be renunciation, sacrifice, penitence from all. We
see signs, we see blessed signs upon the dim, the very dim, horizon.
Meanwhile we cannot rest and would not. Tell the common people of the
world, the simple souls, those who suffer silently in trenches or
elsewhere, the quiet and steadfast men and women who watch and wait
and pray. Tell them that we are with them. We dare not watch, we work.
We dare not wait, we act. We cannot pray. We yearn for the day when we
can kneel before our God once more and tell Him that the great purpose
to which we have bent our very selves has been won--achieved,
accomplished. You who fight in war! Soon you will hear the voices of
us who fight for peace: who fight across the veil; who fight the long
'One word more. A lesson we had hard to learn, a lesson all must heed.
Peace comes to those who are at peace within. Such inner peace is
worth a thousand victories on the outer battlefields of life. Be
quiet! Listen for that inner voice; the still, small voice-- obey it!
Never act without its mandate first. Purify the sanctuary within your
soul that the Christ may walk therein. Bar not the gates. The Christ
He is calling everywhere. Above the deafening noise of battlefields we
hear His Voice. His Message is greater than any we can give. Listen
for that still, small voice. Live with it, hearken to it, and all will
yet be well. We have spoken. We can say no more. There is nothing more
I have only one desire left, that my story and my example may stir the
conscience of mankind so that all who prepare for further wars and who
train future generations in the art of murder may be driven for ever
from power in the councils of the people and expelled from the
governments of all nations.
Chapter 8 Spiritual Healing
"If several healers offer themselves--namely, one who heals with the
knife, one who heals with herbs, and one who heals with the holy word,
it is this one who will best drive away sickness from the body of the
faithful." The Avestas, Vendidad (c. 1000-400 B.C.).
Healing 'Miracles' (Abdul Baha Abbas)
It has been my good fortune to meet two saintly men whose capacity to
heal has seemed to me to be almost as wonderful as that of Jesus
Himself. I have already referred to the Persian seer, Abdul Baha
Abbas, a modern-day prophet, whose father, Baha Ullah, founded the
Baha'i Faith a century ago. This great movement first emerged from the
Moslem world and has now become a purifying and regenerating influence
far and wide. One of the great purposes inspiring the Baha'i Faith is
to bring about unity and brotherhood between all religions, with the
desire to establish a universal faith that shall embrace all man-
kind. For a period of over forty years Abdul Baha and his family lived
in Turkish prisons, first at Adrianople and later within the walled
town of Acca on the Pales- tine coast. His saintly father died there
in I892 and it was not until the Young Turkish Revolution in I908 that
Abdul Baha secured freedom for his family and himself. They had
committed no crime, but their movement was so much feared by the
Muslem fanatics in Persia that the Teheran authorities were able to
induce the Turkish Government of the notorious Sultan Abdul Hamid to
act in this barbaric manner. It was not unusual for devoted followers
to make the long journey from Persia to Acca, by mule or on foot,
solely for the purpose of receiving their master's blessing, although
this could only be obtained through prison bars.
Many sick and maimed were brought all this way, taking two or three
months on the journey. They would be carried to a spot on the seashore
from which a view could be obtained of the barred window on the sea
wall of Acca, through which a glimpse of their venerated leader could
be obtained. Although unable to be present on such occasions, I have
secured reliable evidence to the effect that many remarkable healings,
even of so-called incurable diseases, took place solely as the result
of these pilgrimages of faith. The patients would be carried on to a
small rock in the sea which gave the best view of the window behind
which Abdul Baha would stand to give his blessing.
I have spoken with one of those who was completely cured in this way.
He had been bedridden for twenty years and was both dumb and
paralysed. His sons had carried him on a stretcher all the way from
Tabriz to Acca by road and mule track. He told me that so soon as he
saw his beloved master, standing behind these prison bars, with his
hands held out in blessing, he felt new life surging throughout his
body. (It should be mentioned that there was a distance of over sixty
yards between the wall of the prison and the sea-girt rock on which
the pilgrims were wont to gather.) Within a few minutes of receiving
Abdul Baha's blessing, the healing happened. The paralysed man found
his voice, stood up and was able to carry his own stretcher back on to
the shore. When I met him some years later he told me this story, and
one of his sons (who was present when this miracle took place) was
able to assure me of its truth in every particular. After his release
in 1908 Abdul Baha went to live on the slopes of Mount Carmel at
Haifa, where I often visited him. Later, he was twice my honoured
guest in England. The following incident is worth recording. In the
spring of 1910 I went out to Alexandria, where Abdul Baha was staying
at the time. I had been entrusted with gifts from his English friends
to take to him. I had travelled from Marseilles on a steamer called
the Sphinx and intended to return overland via Damascus, Smyrna,
Constantinople and Vienna. My return ticket and reservations for the
round trip were arranged before I left London. On arrival at
Alexandria I lost no time in visiting my revered friend and in
carrying out the commission with which I had been entrusted. I speak
no Persian and my knowledge of Arabic is rudimentary, and so our
conversation was carried on through Abdul Baha's grandson, acting as
At one point the latter was called away, but Abdul Baha continued the
conversation and I found myself replying! When the interpreter
returned my ability to do so ceased. To make sure that I had
understood correctly, I asked for a translation of what Abdul Baha had
been saying in his absence, and this confirmed the fact that I had
been able to understand and to reply accurately in a language of which
I was completely ignorant. (This curious experience was repeated some
years later when visiting Abdul Baha in Paris.)
On returning the next day for another interview, I asked the master to
give me his blessing for the journey that lay ahead of me. This he
did, adding casually that I should be returning to Marseilles on the
following day on the same steamer from which I had so recently
disembarked. I then explained to the interpreter that I had made other
arrangements and that all my overland bookings had been made. He
replied to the effect that if the Master said I had to return to
Marseilles now, then that was what would happen. I went back to my
hotel in a state of considerable annoyance because I saw no good
reason for changing my plans. During the night, a very restless one, I
found myself in two minds as to what I should do. Next morning, when I
went to say goodbye, and much to my own surprise, I told Abdul Baha
that in fact I ~as leaving on the Sphinx for Marseilles later on that
He took this for granted and then requested me to carry out a
commission for him on reaching Paris. He said that there I should meet
a certain Persian student who was nearly blind, and he gave me OI? in
gold to pay his fare to Alexandria. (Travelling was much cheaper in
those days!) I was to tell this young man, whose name was Tammadun ul
Molk, to lose no time and to present himself to his master as soon as
he arrived. I accepted this commission with very bad grace because it
seemed a poor reason for upsetting all my previous plans. When I asked
for the student's address in Paris I was told that this was unknown,
but that a way would be found for bringing me into contact with him.
On reaching Paris I went to the Persian Consulate, only to find that
Tammadun ul Molk was unknown to the officials there. I then visited
the students' quarter on the left bank of the Seine and spent the
whole day there and elsewhere in a task that yielded no results
whatever. When one's mind is fearful or depressed, no interior
guidance can be expected. This I have found to be true on many
occasions throughout my life. In the present instance I gave up the
search and set out for the Gare du Nord, where my luggage was already
deposited in readiness for the return to England.
En route I crossed the Seine by the Pont Royale. Happening to look
across the bridge to the opposite pavement, I saw, among a crowd of
pedestrians, a young man, evidently of Eastern origin, who was using a
stick to tap his way along. I dodged through the traffic and accosted
him. In reply to my question, he told me he was of Persian origin. I
then enquired whether by chance he knew a certain Tammadun ul Molk. In
surprise he replied 'C'est moi, adding that he had only arrived in
Paris from Vienna that very morning.
In Vienna three serious operations on his eyes had been undertaken,
but the results were negative and he had been told by the surgeon that
his sight could not be saved. I then gave Abdul Baha's message and the
money for his ticket to Alexandria. To watch the profound joy on his
face was more than sufficient reward for all my previous
disappointments, including the abandonment of my European tour.
Tammadun duly reached Alexandria and visited his master at once. Those
present told me later that Abdul Baha poured a few drops of attar of
roses into a glass of water. He then gave the youth his blessing
whilst anointing his eyes with the water in question. Immediately full
sight was restored, and when I met Tammadun some years later he was
still enjoying perfect vision.
The further sequel was both significant and instructive. I crossed to
England late that night and on reaching my house the next day
discovered that I was only just in time to avert a very serious crisis
in my affairs. The change in my plans had indeed turned out to be a
blessing in disguise. On many other occasions the prophetic insight of
the Baha'i leader was made clear to me. As an instance of this, I
recall that when visiting him at Haifa, just after the Armistice in
November 1918, I spoke of the thankfulness we all must feel that the
war 'to end all wars' had been fought and won. Sorrow came into the
master's eyes. He laid his hand upon my shoulder and told me that a
still greater conflagration lay ahead of humanity. 'It will be largely
fought out in the air, on all continents and on the sea. Victory will
lie with no one. You, my son, will still be alive to witness this
tragedy and following many tribulations, and through the beneficence
of the Supreme One, the most great peace will dawn.'
Abdul Baha left us some years ago and his mortal remains lie buried in
a mausoleum on Mount Carmel, specially built for the purpose by
devoted followers from many countries.