The business sessions of the Convention were attended by a large number of Delegates, probably between 250 and 300, more than had attended business sessions at any time . . . It is with deep regret that I must chronicle here a spirit of opposition to Ahmad Sohrab (at the second session) which was evidenced by several of the friends, seemingly a group led by Dr. Zia Bagdadi and Mrs. Corinne True of Chicago. There were a very few who followed this leadership, or the suggestion which it brought of suspicion or the lack of full cooperation. Your faithful messenger, Mirza Ahmad was besieged with inquiries as to his "credentials," and to tell the contents of the Tablets yet to be unveiled. There developed a spirit of antagonism, which in the minds of the most of us was wholly unwarranted and unexplainable, save upon the basis of a desire for personal prestige or leadership. In the face of it all, Mirza Ahmad remained firm and impregnable, standing by his instructions from the Beloved, and urging the friends to defer action on the teaching plans and program until the Tablets should have been revealed and unveiled, and the plan made clear in its entirety. 111
There were brave and strong defenders of this stand, and finally the day was won; and the convention voted unanimously to suspend further action until Thursday morning, after the last of the Tablets and the final instructions had been given. The opposition went so far as to attack the validity of Mirza Ahmad's mission, although he has exhibited on all occasions, when asked for it, the Tablet of Permission from the Beloved, and all of us feel that his spirit is redolent of the Power of the Centre of the Covenant, and the Tablets themselves need no further authorization or plenipotentiary power for the one who has been privileged to bring them to us. All are filled with the spirit of the work to be done and I am sure the power of that inspiration will conquer every smaller consideration, and unity be reached. Surely it will, unless some cannot set aside the veils of self. I go into all these details at my own initiative, and that you may know how faithful your messenger to America has been and is being, and what opposition he is meeting in the most unexpected quarters. Another incident that also had its amusing side! One morning, as we were nearing the close of the Convention, an old Bahai associate took me to the lounge of the hotel, where we sat down.
"Ahmad," she began, "I have come on a painful mission."
"Go ahead," I answered. "There an be no embarrassment between you and me."
"All right, then here it is. Strange things are happening at this Convention, and it seems you are to blame for all of them: You have filled the hall with unfamiliar faces; you have placed strangers in the very front seats; you have out the Nakezeen on the committees and have ignored the firm Bahais; you have driven into a corner the faithful followers of Abdul Baha."
"All this," I sighed.
"All this" she repeated, "and much more. You have aroused the forces of Socialism and Bolshevism. Actually, you have started a revolution."
Dear me, dear me!" I shook my head. "I wonder if I realized what I was doing!"
"You have been doing something very criminal, and I think very deliberate. Furthermore, you have been doing something very sacrilegious."
"Now you surprise me!" I exclaimed. "Please tell me how I have been sacrilegious."
"Mr. Hooper Harris wept over it all night. This morning his eyes were blood-shot. You should have seen him — the picture of desolation."
"But what did I do?" I was getting impatient. "Please come to the point."
"We are not fools nor dumbells. We have seen Abdul Baha. We know how he walked, how he talked. We remember his grand gestures."
"I do too."
The lady arose from her seat. "Yes, that's just the trouble. Now I an sent by those who love the Master, I am commissioned to tell you: When you appear on the platform, you walk like Abdul Baha; you talk like Abdul Baha; you make gestures like Abdul Baha. We are determined that this mimicry shall cease."
Her face was as white as chalk and her lips quivered. As I looked at her, I recognized the fact that she and countless others, who probably had seen the Master for only a few fleeting moments, had retained his picture in their hearts where it was engraved as if on granite. That was their shrine, and it seemed that I had violated those shrines. I held my peace for a few moments, then I answered.
"I am going to return a message to those who sent you and, believe me, it carries the same sincerity as did theirs. The message is this: When I left Haifa, the Master whom we all so adore said to me: 'Mirza Ahmad! When you arrive in America, I want you to walk as I walk, speak as I speak, move as I move, think as I think, act as I act and live as I live.'
Now, I never expected to fulfill the Master's injunction in this particular instance, although at times I have tried to obey him; but if you think that I have succeeded, then I can only be very happy as well as very much surprised. Please tell this to your friends.
The public sessions in the great hall of the hotel McAlpin succeeded one another while the soul of Abdul Baha brooded over the Convention. Sometimes it seemed that he really was there, so much were the people caught up by something outside of themselves, something that burned away the trite preoccupations that assail all of us, and set them on the broad level of receptivity and awareness. During those days, a little group had formed itself behind the scenes. It was largely composed of leading Bahai officials, many of whom had in the past yielded their consciences, more or less willingly, to the inquisitional demands of the Bahai Committee of Investigation;
it also included a few persons whose tolerant and liberal spirit had remained unimpaired in spite of all the tests that had crowded in on that harassed community. Now, this group supported me so magnificently that
it was mostly owing to these friends that the Convention proceeded with out break toward an outcome that left nothing to be desired. At the time, my sense of appreciation knew no bounds and, to this day, I recall the memory of each and every one with a very full heart. Some of them were: Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Hannen, Mr. and Mrs. William H. Randall, Mrs. May Maxwell, Miss Juliet Thompson, Mr. Mountford Mills. Mrs. Agnes Parsons, Mr. Louis G. Gregory, Mr. Roy C. Wilhelm, Mr, and Mrs. Harlan Ober, Mr. William Hoar, Mrs. Isabel Fraser Chamberlain, Mr. and Mrs. Edward J. Kinney and Mr. Alfred Lunt.
When the last word was spoken from the platform on the last night of the Convention and the crowd had melted. Away, I sought my room with uncertain steps. Since my arrival in the United States, just forty.two days before I had been burning candle at both ends. What effort had gone into that Convention, what emotion! No thought of ease had been possible, no opportunity for a moment's composure. During the final days, I had kept going by sheer force of will, though I often had to sit down wherever happened to be, and turn my mind to Abdul Baha. If only he could see me through till the last Tablet had been read. I did not care what happened next! The child of Abdul Baha was being given to the world — the child conceived in that mighty brain of his, nurtured in that heart which knew no frontiers, which in itself had no limits — the Divine Plan was being set up for the guidance of nations? Then, when my task was accomplished and my mission fulfilled to the best of my ability, I just went into non-existence.
During four days I was in delirium, so the doctor and the hotel maid told me later; after which I rested with mind as blank as a white sheet of paper. I did not even know that I was resting.
So the Eleventh Bahai Convention went into history, and plans were initiated for embarking on a great program of teaching. Speakers, including myself, presently set out in all directions; the spirit of exertion and sacrifice took possession of all, while the Bahai Committee of Investigation was so dead, so disintegrated, that not even a bone of it remained to warrant a funeral ceremony. It passed into oblivion, leaving behind simply a record and a ghost; one which has haunted all religions since man first learned to
bow his head before God in community with his fellows. That ghost will always be amongst us with its sickle of death, cutting down the fresh flowers
of spirit; but the Words of Love remain, spoken by those who knew; and our deeds of love remain and increase in volume; and the Divine Plan, for the drawing together of all races and nations, remains as charter for this era, given to mankind by the Servant of God.
Prayers in the Divine Plan
Abdul Baha's primal wish for his teachers was illumination of the soul, and he was certain that the state of illumination could not be attained without prayer. For this, and other reasons as well, he adorned the Tablets of the Divine Plan with a few moving prayers, some to be repeated by the teachers themselves, and others by the friends who accompany them in spirit on the lonely trail of the pioneer. He was at one with Tennyson in that: "More things are accomplished by prayer than this world dreams of." He hoped that the teachers of the Oneness of the World of Humanity would make of their very lives a prayer, and act of faith, a voice of truth. In his eyes, prayer and toil were to be mingled in fair proportion, for it is under such conditions that God responds to the one and rewards the other. Thus prayer without action, action without prayer, were equally fruitless, while the two conjoined made a sturdy vehicle — a golden chariot for the soul to mount heavenward.
To Abdul Baha, prayer was another word for the love of God and the love of men, and these were to be mingled in fair proportion. Approach the Threshold of the Almighty for the sake of His servants, and the gates will swing wide open. Prayer is a mighty instrument of which only a few notes have been sounded. The keys await our touch, along the infinite scale of man's aspirations and of God's destiny.
Sometimes the fog settles over a vessel's deck, leaving the topmast clear. Then a sailor goes aloft and views the scene, while the helmsman steers the ship according to the sailor's instructions. Even so does the soul rise in prayer, above the mists of disharmony and confusion, to discover the hidden course that lies ahead. Hence, the Divine Wisdom has given these prayers for the illumination of the soul, so that the teachers may steer the Ship of the Cause through the ocean of adventure into the harbor of security.
"O Lord, O Lord! Praise and thanksgiving be unto Thee for Thou hast guided me to the Highway of the Kingdom, suffered me to walk in this straight and far-stretching path, illumined my eyes by beholding the lights, made me listen to the Melodies and attracted my heart with Thy love among the righteous ones.
"O Lord! Confirm me with the Holy Spirit, so that I may call in Thy Name amid the nations and give the Glad-Tidings of the manifestation of Thy Kingdom amongst mankind.
"O Lord! I am weak; strengthen me with Thy power and potency. My tongue falters; suffer me to utter Thy commemoration and praise. I am lonely; endear me through my entrance in Thy Kingdom. I am remote; cause me to approach the Threshold of Thy Mercy.
"O Lord! Make of me a brilliant lamp, a shining star and a blessed tree adorned with fruits, its branches overshadowing all th4ese regions! Verily Thou art the Mighty, the Powerful, the Unconstrained!
"O God, O God! This is a broken-winged bird and his flight is very slow. Assist him, so that he may fly toward the apex of prosperity and salvation; wing his way with utmost joy and happiness thoughout illimitable space; raise his melody in all regions in Thy Supreme Name; entrance the ears with this Call, and brighten the eyes with the beholding of the Signs of Guidance!
"O Lord! I am single, alone and lowly; for me there is no support save Thee and no sustainer beside Thee. Confirm me in Thy Service; assist me with the Cohorts of Thine angels; make me victorious in the promotion of Thy Word, and suffer me to speak out Thy wisdom amongst Thy creatures. Verily, Thou art the Custodian of the poor and the Defender of the little ones, and verily Thou art the Powerful, the Mighty, the Unconstrained!
O God, O God! Thou seest me enamored and attracted toward Thy Kingdom of El Abha; enkindled with the fire of Thy love amongst mankind; a herald of Thy realm in these vast and spacious countries; severed from aught else save Thee, relying on Thee; abandoning rest and comfort, remote from my native land; a wanderer in these regions; a stranger fallen on the ground before Thine exalted Threshold, supplicating Thee in the middle of the night and in the heart of the evening, invoking and entreating Thee at dawn and at twilight, that Thou mayest assist me in the service of Thy Cause, in the promotion of Thy teachings and the exultation of Thy Word in the easts of the earth, and the wests thereof.
Oh Lord! Strengthn and confirm me in my servitude, and leave me not to myself in these foreign lands.
Oh Lord! Associate with me in my lonelines, and accompany me in my journeyings.
Verily, Thou art the Confirmer of whomsoever Thou willest, in that which Thou desirest, and verily Thou art the Powerful, the Omnipotent!
On Sending Out Teachers "Praise be to Thee, O God! Verily these are Thy servants, who are attracted by the fragrances of Thy mercy, enkindled by the ignited Fire in the Tree of Thy Singleness and brightened by beholding the effulgences of the Light in the Sinai of Thy Oneness!
"O Lord! Loosen their tongues in Thy commemoration amongst Thy people; suffer them to speak Thy praise through Thy favor and grace; assist them with the cohorts of Thine angels; strengthen their loins in Thy service, and make them the signs of Thy guidance amongst Thy creatures!
"Verily Thou art the Powerful, the Exalted, the Pardoner and the Merciful.
"O God, O God! Thou beholdest this weak one, begging the strength of Thy Kingdom; this poor one, supplicating the treasures of Thy Heaven; this thirsty one, longing for Thy Fountain of the Water of Eternal Life; this sick one, invoking perfect recovery through Thy boundless mercy, which though hast designated for Thy chosen servants in Thy Supreme Kingdom!
"O Lord! I have no other helper save Thee; no other comforter beside Thee, and no other sustainer except thee!. Assist me with Thine angels in the diffusion of Thy Holy Fragrances and the dissemination of Thy Teachings amongst Thine elected people!
"O Lord! Suffer me to sever myself from aught save Thee, holding fast to the Hem of Thy Garment. Make me sincere in Thy Religion, firm in Thy love and living in accordance with that which Thou hast commanded me in Thy Book.
"Verily, Thou art the Powerful, the Mighty and the Omnipotent!
"O Thou Incomparable God! O Thou Lord of the Kingdom! These souls are Thy heavenly army. Assist them with the cohorts of the Supreme Concourse and make them victorious, so that each one may become like unto a regiment and conquer these countries through the love of God and the illumination of the Divine Teachings.
"O God! Be Thou their supporter and their helper, and in the wilderness, the mountain and the valley, the forests, the prairies and the seas, be Thou their Confident — so that they may cry out through the power of the Kingdom and the Breaths of the Holy Spirit!
"Verily Thou art the Mighty and the Omnipotent, and Thou art the Wise, the Healing and the Seeing.