THE LAST TABLET
Abdul Baha had a great appreciation of the United States and he always looked toward this country with expectancy. One day, he spoke to me at length about the American institutions. At that time I could not take down his words, but immediately after he had finished speaking I went to my room, as was my custom on such occasions, and recorded the things he had said to the best of my ability. Through long practice, my memory enabled me to write the sentences spoken in fairly good sequence. These were as follows: “There are some matters that I cannot speak of publicly, because the time has not yet arrived for their disclosure and the people are not prepared to hear them; but I can speak about them to you. For example: The Republican or Democratic form of the Government of the United States is so organized and the relations between the States and the national administration, the Congress and the Legislature so defined and determined that, generally speaking, all work together smoothly for the public weal. The founders of the Republic and the writers of this Democratic Constitution were in reality the well-wishers of the world of humanity. They laid down such a body of laws, the mighty effect of which was to change the course of history on the surface of the globe. The influence of the American idea of freedom, right and equality and the representative form of government, slowly spreading far and wide, was indeed an inspirational example to other down-trodden nations to rise against absolutism and shake off the yoke of drudgery and serfdom. In the future, all the Governments of the world, including the Asiatic Governments, even this part of Asia called the Near East, will become democratic and constitutional. This is certain. No doubt can be entertained regarding the matter. The spirit of the time will remove every obstacle and crush out every opposition, for the Constitution of the United States gives to men all the sacred rights of political and individual liberty: the protection of life, the pursuit of happiness and the free exercise of religious belief. Every country, with certain modifications and changes having regard to climate, education, aptitude and the progress of the inhabitants, will take that Constitution as a guide to draw up its own Bill of Rights. All the future governments of the world, large and small, will become democratic, based upon the
[photo of circle of cedar trees on Mount Carmel omitted]
will of the governed. This also is assured. In the course of years, the North, Central and South American Republics will draw nearer and nearer together, and become united in a general Confederated Democracy; in other words, the various Republics will find their national and international interests so akin and identical, that they will forget all their petty jealousies and apprehensions, and work together for the advancement and prosperity of America, There will be a Pan-American Parliament meeting regularly, at which all questions of a general nature, affecting the vital interests of the Western Hemisphere, will be discussed and deliberated upon. In reality, the Pan-American Union in Washington is already engaged in rendering this great service.”
The closing Tablet in the great series was dictated in Haifa in March, 1917. On reading it, we observe with interest that the Master, having encircled the globe with his attention and concern, fixes his mind yet again on the Republics of the Western Hemisphere. He counts on them to merge their interests in a mighty Collective Center. He trusts that the New World will lead the Old World; and so once again he turns with infinite yearning to the Americas.
Following is the last Tablet of the Divine Plan. It appears in its entirety.
To the assemblies and meetings of the believers of God and the maid-servants of the Merciful in the United States and Canada
Upon them be Baha-O-Llah El Abha
He is God!
O ye heavenly souls, sons and daughters of the Kingdom!
God says in the Koran: ‘Take ye hold of the Cord of God, all of you, and become ye not disunited.’
In the contingent world there are many collective centers which are conducive to association and unity among the children of men. For example, patriotism is a collective center; nationalism is a collective center; identity of interests is a collective center; political alliance is a collective center; the union of ideals is a collective center, while the prosperity of the world of humanity is dependent upon the organization and promotion of these collective centers. Nevertheless, all the above institutions are in reality, the matter and not the substance, accidental and not eternal, temporary and not everlasting. With the appearance of great revolutions and upheavals, all these collective centers are swept away. But the Collective Center of the Kingdom, embodying the Institutes and Divine Teachings,
is the eternal Collective Center. It establishes relationship between the East and the West, organizes the principle of the oneness of the world of humanity and destroys the foundations of differences. It overcomes and includes all the other collective centers. Like unto the ray of the sun, it entirely dispels the darkness, encompassing all the regions; bestows ideal Life, and causes the effulgence of Divine Illumination. Through the Breaths of the Holy Spirit, it performs miracles; the Orient and the Occident embrace each other, the North and South become intimates and associates; conflicting and contending opinions disappear; antagonistic aims are brushed aside; the law of the struggle for existence is abrogated, and the Canopy of the oneness of the world of humanity is raised at the apex of the globe, casting its shade over all the races of men. Consequently, the real collective center is the body of the Divine Teachings, which include all the degrees and embrace all the universal relations and necessary laws of humanity.
Consider! The people of the East and the West were in a state of utmost strangeness. Now to what a high degree are they acquainted with each other and united together! How far are the inhabitants of Persia from the remotest countries of America; and now observe how great has been the influence of the Heavenly Power, for the distance of thousands of miles has become identical with one step! How various nations that have had no relations or similarity with each other are now united and agreed through this Divine Potency! Indeed, to God belongs Power in the past and in the future, and verily He is powerful over all things!
Consider! When the rain, the heat, the sun and the gentle zephyrs co-operate with one another, what beautiful gardens are produced! How the various kinds of flowers, trees and plants associate with each other and are conducive to the adornment and charm of one another! Hence the oneness of the bounty of the sun, the oneness of rain rind the oneness of the breeze have so overcome all other considerations that the variety of hues and fragrances have increased the adornment, the attraction and sweetness of the whole. In a similar manner, when the Divine Collective Center, the outpouring of the Sun of Reality and the Breaths of the Holy Spirit are brought together, the variety of races and the differences existing between countries will become the cause of the embellishment, decoration and elegance of the world of humanity.
Therefore, the believers of God throughout all the Republics of America must, through the Divine Power, become the cause of the promotion of heavenly Teachings and the establishment of the oneness of humanity. Every one of the important souls must arise, blowing over all parts of
America the Breath of Life, conferring upon the people a new spirit, baptizing them with the Fire of the Love of God, the Water of Life and the Breaths of the Holy Spirit — so that the second birth may become realized. For it is written in the Gospel: ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.’
Therefore, O ye believers of God in the United States and Canada, select ye distinguished personages to travel, or may they by themselves, becoming severed from rest and composure, arise and journey throughout Alaska, the Republic of Mexico; in the Central American Republics, such as Guatemala, Honduras, Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and Belize; and through the great South American Republics, such as Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, French Guiana, Dutch Guiana, British Guiana, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Chile; also in the group of the West Indies, such as Cuba, Haiti, Porto Rico, Jamaica and Santo Domingo, and the group of the Islands of the Lesser Antilles, the Islands of the Bahamas and the Islands of Bermuda; likewise to the Islands to the east, west and south of South America, such as Trinidad, the Falkland Islands, the Galapago Islands, Juan Fernandez and Tobago. Especially visit ye the city of Bahia on the Eastern shore of Brazil. Seeing that in past years this city was given the name BAHIA, there is no doubt but that this was through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Consequently, the believers of God must display the utmost effort, upraise the Divine Melody throughout those regions, promulgate the heavenly Teachings and waft over all the Spirit of Eternal Life, so that those Republics may become so illumined with the splendors and the effulgences of the Sun of Reality that they may become the objects of the praise and commendation of all other countries. Likewise, ye must give great attention to the Republic of Panama, for at that point the Occident and the Orient find each other and unite through the Panama Canal. That region shall therefore assume importance in the future and the Teachings, once established there, will unite the East and the West, the North and the South.
Hence, the intention must be purified, the effort ennobled and exalted; so that ye may establish affinity between the hearts of the world of humanity. This glorious aim will not become realized save through the promotion of the Divine Teachings which are the foundations of the holy religions.
Consider how the religions of God served the world of humanity! How the religion of the Torah became conducive to the glory, honor and progress of the Israelitish nation! How the Breaths of the Holy Spirit, through His
Holiness the Christ, created affinity and unity between divergent communities and quarreling families! How the sacred power of His Holiness Mohammad became the means of uniting and harmonizing the contentious tribes and the different clans of the Arabian Peninsula, and this to such an extent that one thousand tribes were welded into one tribe, strife and discord were done away with, while with one accord they strove to advance the cause of culture and civilization! Thus were they released from the lowest degree of degradation and set soaring toward the height of Everlasting Glory. Is it possible to find in the phenomenal world a greater Collective Center than this? In comparison to this Divine Collective Center, the National Collective Center, the Patriotic Collective Center, the Political Collective Center and the Cultural and Intellectual Collective Center are like child's play.
Now strive ye that the Collective Center of the sacred religions, for the inculcation of which all the Prophets were manifested and which is none other than the spirit of the Divine Teachings, be spread in all parts of America, so that each one of you may shine forth from the horizon of Reality like unto the morning star; that divine illumination may overcome the darkness of nature, and the world of humanity become enlightened. This is the most great work. Should ye become confirmed therein, this world will be changed into another world, the surface of the earth transformed into a delectable Paradise and eternal Institutions founded.
Let whosoever travels as it teacher, over mountain, desert, land and sea, peruse this Supplication.
O God! O God! Thou seest my weakness, lowliness and humility amongst Thy creatures; nevertheless I have trusted in Thee and have arisen in the promotion of Thy Teachings.
0 Lord! I am a broken-winged bird, yet I desire to soar in Thy Space, to which there is no limit. How it is possible for me to do this save through Thy Providence and Grace, Thy Confirmation and Assistance!
O Lord! Have pity on my weakness and strengthen me with Thy Power.
O Lord I Have pity on my impotency and assist me with Thy Might and Majesty.
O Lord! Should the Breaths of the Holy Spirit confirm the weakest of creatures, he shall attain to the highest station of greatness and possess anything that he desires. In the past, Thou hast assisted Thy servants, and
[photo of 'Abdu'l-Baha on donkey in Haifa omitted]
they were the lowliest and the most insignificant of those who lived upon the earth; yet, through Thy Sanction and Potency, they took precedence over the most illustrious of mankind. Whereas formerly, they were as moths, they became as royal falcons; whereas formerly they were as bubbles, they became the sea. Through Thy Bestowal, Thy Mercy and Thy Most Great Favor, they became stars shining on the horizon of Guidance, birds singing in the rose-gardens of Immortality, lions roaring in the forest of Knowledge and Wisdom, and whales swimming in the Oceans of Life.
Verily, Thou art the Clement, the Powerful, the Mighty and the most Merciful of the Merciful
(signed) Abdul Baha Abbas."
During the days when he was dictating the great Tablets, Abdul Baha was exceedingly happy. The sense of responsibility sad the anxieties imposed on him by war conditions seemed to have lifted, and his mind and spirit were already on the march in the campaign that was to encircle the earth and extend from pole to Pole.
The fourteen Tablets, now fully corrected, were presently placed in the hands of Noured-Din Zeine to be transcribed on great sheets of velum. Noured-Din Zeine was an expert calligraphist, and the Tablets when completed, with borders of intricate tracery illuminated in gold, were veritable works of art.
As has already been shown, two Tablets each had been consigned to the North-Eastern, the Southern, the Central and the Western States, also to the Dominion of Canada; the first of all of these pairs being very much the shorter. At the time of writing, postal restrictions had begun to set in, besides the contents of the communications were international in feeling, to say the least; consequently, in order to ensure their safe transmission, each of the five short Tablets was copied serially on postal cards and mailed. All the cards arrived safely at their destination.
The question of dispatching the nine long Tablets was one for the future, but the Master was already considering means to be taken. Sometimes I felt that I was to be the messenger, and I realized that it would be a hazardous task to take such documents out of the country. Actually, it was dangerous to have them in one's possession at all.
In order to safeguard the Tablets and ensure the delivery of his message when the time came, Abdul Baha took precautionary measures. One day he called me to him and explained: The Turkish government was suspicious of everybody in these times, and of himself at all times. His house might be searched momentarily and in such case, the Tablets would doubtless be confiscated. Therefore, certain steps had to be taken. Abdul Baha wished to have the Tablets placed underground.
Preparations were made. The fourteen great sheets of velum were rolled up and inserted in a strip of metal tubing. These, together with many other papers of value, were packed in my steamer trunk. Then one dark
[photo of the Shrine of the Bab and Haifa Bay panorama omitted]
night, Abbas Goli, keeper of the shrine of The Bab, and I carried the trunk up the slope of Mount Carmel to a secluded spot at the rear of the Shrine, where we dug a pit, approximately six feet in depth. We lowered our treasure to its resting place and covered it with earth.
The second precautionary measure was more difficult and took a much longer time to fulfill. I now learned that the Master's intention was to send me to America, immediately at the close of hostilities. I was to take the Tablets and perform the mission successfully, if this were possible. Otherwise, in case the Tablets were lost or taken, they must remain with me in intangible form. To use other words, I was to carry the text of the fourteen Tablets in my mind.
I set to work on the original copies, starting with the first short Tablets which had already been sent in much unsatisfactory form. Every day I studied, repeating and repeating to myself, and so becoming perfected in one Tablet after another. In the afternoons the Master, manuscript in hand, would hear my lessons, and often on our walks I would recite as we went along. With the passage of time and in my absorption in gaining mastery over new Tablets, the difficulty was to retain fluency in the ones already learned. So I made it a habit to get up very early in the mornings, around five o'clock, and recite aloud from the very beginning before going on with the material yet to be learned. This work took a long time, many months, but at the end I had committed to memory the fourteen Tablets, in full. It was a feat of mental gymnastics. Looking back, I don't see how I could have done it; yet it must be taken into account that I was quickened by the Master's daily presence. That was enough to make the impossible, easy. Meanwhile, all else had slipped away from my consciousness and I lived only in the Divine Plan. Sleeping and waking, the five continents loomed in my mental vision and the islands of the sea paraded before me; while the globe balanced to the Master's rhythmic words and the nations merged into one.
The translation of a valuable work is of inestimable importance, yet never can it be compared satisfactorily with the original. At that time, no translation of the Tablets had been made or even thought of; they were in the writer’s own scholarly and poetic style, just as they had come from him. Incidentally, Abdul Bohn was recognized as a master in the Persian and Arabic tongues. The Tablets were in Persian with a few prayers in Arabic.
When I had reached the stage of letter-perfection Abdul Baha summoned the Bahais to a meeting and we gathered together in the great room
adjacent to the shrine off The Bab. The women, as was the custom sat in a smaller room to one side, the door between the two being open. It was late afternoon. Before us stretched the waters of the bay, dazzling in the sunlight; around us, the perfume of the orange blossoms clung like a garment. Abdul Baha began to speak: Did his friends think that he had been doing nothing during all these months; that he, for so long accustomed to prison life, had again become resigned to captivity? No, the war was soon to end, the doors would be opened and communication with the outside world established. With this thought in mind, he had made preparations, had drawn up an order of the day concerning all nations and all races, to the end that they might come together in the realization of the oneness of all phenomena and in the consciousness that the source of all inspiration is one. He concluded saying: Now, Mirza Ahmad will recite for you the Divine Plan.
I began to chant the first Tablet to America. The Master's eyes were on me; the Bahais were listening with attentive curiosity. It was just five o'clock. As I proceeded, the heroic words of the message and its scope began to affect the hearers, and they sat immovable hanging on every syllable. A pause, during which no one moved, then I launched on the second Tablet — and the third — and the fourth. Abdul Baha was watching me at times; but for the most part, he was sitting with closed eyes, his face alive as he silently took part in every word. Presently the Bahais, unaccustomed to so long an address or recitation began to relax. The charm of the hour, the perfume of the flowers, the measured insistence of my voice, all took effect. They settled down a little more comfortably; some began to nod. I continued. An hour had passed — two. Some of the sleepers wakened and looked around anxiously; then they took up the watch and others drifted off. Once in a while, Abdul Baha scanned his court and his eyes would meet mine. He smiled encouragement and I went on. We were nearing the end; We Were on the last Tablet — finished it, and I stopped. It was eight o'clock.
Such was my try-out — my dress rehearsal; and a very successful one it turned out to be, for my Master was pleased.
AMERICAN BAHAIS CARRY ON
While World War I was in progress, the Atlantic Ocean lay, an impassable barrier between Palestine and America. No communication was possible, and during all those years both Abdul Baha and the Bahais of the United States carried on their missions without interchange of thought and according to their own views. We have seen the great patriarch as he lived out his period of seclusion on the slope of Mount Carmel and on the plane of Acca, and have watched the workings of his mind as it reached in agonized yearning to embrace all the people of the earth. Now in order to balance the picture, we might transport ourselves over seas so as to observe the activities of the followers, as they strove in their ways to carry out the teachings of the Master. Meanwhile, as a preliminary, we will go back a few years to better understand conditions,
Ever since the appearance of the Cause in America in 1893, the Bahais had been in a state of constant correspondence with Abdul Baha, receiving direct instructions; also as pilgrims, they had visited him in the Holy Land and had had opportunity to profit at first hand from his Wisdom. Added to this, the Master had come to the United States in 1912 and for nearly nine months had travelled from coast to coast, lecturing before hundreds of Bahai and non-Bahai groups, with the result that, on his departure for the East, he had left behind a very large number of admirers, friends and believers, together with crowds of those who were merely interested.
To me, who had accompanied the great teacher on that historic tour, it was evident that people of widely different social, cultural, spiritual and intellectual background were attracted to him for a variety of reasons, and, through the enchantment of his presence, were caught up in a whirlpool of exaltation and happiness. The noble appearance of Abdul Baha, his benevolent and gentle philosophy, his broad and tolerant viewpoint, his balanced and serene nature, the bubbling fountain of his good humor, his inexhaustible store of oriental stories, his hearty and infectious laughter, his astonishing ability for hard work and above all, the heights and depths of his knowledge — these characteristics and many others had endeared him to multitudes.
Now, the attraction was on the personal plane rather than on that of the teachings, but the Master felt that this attitude would in time de-
[photo of 'Abdu'l-Baha omitted]
velop into appreciation of the Cause itself. Therefore, when his American tour was completed, and later during the war when correspondence was halted, the task of keeping in touch with those who were revolving around the circumference of the movement fell into the hands of the Bahais. This opportunity of continuing the work, when the impression made by Abdul Baha was at white-heat, was one that never could return. It required something of the tact and diplomacy of the great educator himself, but more especially it involved understanding of the essential of the message. A lesson must be grasped by the teacher if it is to be imparted to others.
Now, many of the Bahais really valued the message, and practically all of them were irretrievably committed in love and devotion to Abdul Baha. They expended themselves untiringly to serve the Cause and some extremely good work was accomplished. At the same time, certain mentalities which had been suddenly charmed into liberalism reverted to type with a bang, and the flock, deprived of its shepherd, was witness to some very strange antics, indeed.
An occasion suited to an effective gesture in spreading the ideals of the movement presented itself on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the birth of Baha-O-Llah, falling on November 12, 1917. The Chicago Assembly sent out an invitation to the Bahais of the United States and Canada with accompanying letters, written by the Secretary of the Assembly and the President of the Bahai Temple Unity, wherein the significance of the anniversary was heralded. It was to be a great event and the prospect of taking part in it must have thrilled the hearts of all the Bahais, for another hundred years had to roll into the lap of eternity before a similar gathering could occur, and by that time none of the present generation would be alive. Now, how was the scene prepared for this festival, and to what purpose was the Centenary of Baha-O-Llah to be harnessed? We shall see.
The contents of the invitation and the accompanying letter do not give us any clue; nevertheless it would not be out of place to quote a paragraph showing the declared object of the occasion.
The Secretary of the Bahai Assembly of Chicago wrote: