Kitáb-i-Aqdas. 3. Divine Education

There are many exhortations in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas calling the believers to live a saintly life and to adorn themselves with the ornament of goodly character and divine virtues.

There are many people, not Bahá'ís, who have been brought up to live a good life in their own traditions. They are trained from childhood to be courteous, kind and loving. They evince many good qualities which are inculcated in them until they have become second nature. They perform good deeds habitually. Such people merit the highest praise. But because they are deprived of the spirit of faith borne by God's Messenger to this age, they are like exquisite lamps which have not been lit. To live one's life as a Bahá'í is different in so far as the heart is illumined with the love of Bahá'u'lláh. It is this love which makes the difference and which enables the believer to mirror forth the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh to others. Without this it is impossible for a Bahá'í to achieve all that he could in this life. Indeed, the story of every religion is written in the language of love. Some people recognize Bahá'u'lláh intellectually; this is not sufficient. Not until the individual becomes a true lover can he acquire the spiritual capacity to serve the Cause of God fully in this day.

'Immerse Yourselves in the Ocean of My Words'

But like most things in this life which grow, there is always a beginning to this love for Bahá'u'lláh. When the individual embraces the Cause, the spark of faith appears in his heart. He then begins his journey of love towards Bahá'u'lláh. The


The Kitáb-i-Aqdas
candle of his heart is then just lighted. But this love must be allowed to grow, this light must be allowed to become a great fire.

When a person finds a friend he likes, the only way by which he can strengthen the ties of friendship and love is to get to know his friend and become more intimate with him. Should he stay away and remain aloof, the friendship will not endure. The journey of a lover to his beloved may begin with mere acquaintance, but it can develop into a deep love as a result of close association and a selfless devotion.

Similarly, a believer must continue his journey of love to Bahá'u'lláh. The most important step in achieving this is to read the words of Bahá'u'lláh in order to commune with Him and become attracted to His Holy Person. Indeed, this is one of His commandments in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. He enjoins His followers to recite His words* twice a day, in the morning and the evening, and states that those who do not have failed to fulfil their pledge to the Covenant of God. These are His words in that Book:

Recite ye the verses of God every morning and evening. Whoso reciteth them not hath truly failed to fulfil his pledge to the Covenant of God and His Testament and whoso in this day turneth away therefrom, hath indeed turned away from God since time immemorial. Fear ye God, O concourse of My servants.

Take heed lest excessive reading and too many acts of piety in the daytime and in the night season make you vainglorious. Should a person recite but a single verse from the Holy Writings in a spirit of joy and radiance, this would be better for him than reciting wearily all the Scriptures of God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting. Recite ye the verses of God to such measure that ye be not overtaken with fatigue or boredom. Burden not your souls so as to cause exhaustion and weigh them down, but rather endeavour to


* The reading of the words of Bahá'u'lláh is not to be confused with saying of prayers which is a different commandment altogether.

["Recite ye the verses..."] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶149
lighten them, that they may soar on the wings of revealed Verses unto the dawning-place of His signs. This is conducive to nearer access unto God, were ye to comprehend.1
In another passage in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas He states:

Immerse yourselves in the ocean of My words, that ye may unravel its secrets, and discover all the pearls of wisdom that lie hid in its depths.2
The reading of the words of Bahá'u'lláh exerts the same influence upon the soul as food does to the body. It enables the soul to draw nigh to Bahá'u'lláh and become filled with His love. Without regular reading of the Writings twice a day, a Bahá'í cannot grow spiritually and there is no alternative to compensate for this loss.

In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá'u'lláh states that there is no merit in reading His words when tired. He says that to read a few lines with a spirit of joy and fragrance is better than to read a whole book when depressed and weary. This commandment is very much in tune with the law of nature which advocates that a person eat his food only when he is hungry. Another similarity is that in nature one must eat food regularly every day. To eat once in a lifetime is not sufficient. It is the same with reading the Words of God, which is the food for the spirit. To read the Holy Writings once in a while is not enough. As ordained by Bahá'u'lláh, the individual must, if he is to grow spiritually, read His words which are recorded in His Tablets twice every day. These words with all their vivifying forces must then be allowed to penetrate the heart and to strengthen one's faith.

The reading of the words of Bahá'u'lláh not only enables the faithful to increase his love for Him every day, but also deepens him in the Faith as well.

Deepening in the Faith is often misunderstood. It is taken to imply participation in study classes, courses, and intellectual


1. Prayer, Meditation and the Devotional Attitude, p. 1.

2. Synopsis, p. 27.

["Immerse yourselves..."] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶182; Gleanings From The Writings Of Bahá'u'lláh, LXX;
discussions. Often in these discussions the individual may inject his own ideas, as well as modern theories, into the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh, and make the Faith appear as complicated as a highly involved scientific theory. In fact, the study of the Faith is so simple that any person with common sense, even if he lacks education, can fully understand its truth, provided his heart is pure. If we look at the talks of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in the Western world we notice how in simple language He explained profound subjects.

Real deepening occurs when the believer reads the Writings with the eyes of faith knowing that he is reading the Word of God, not the words of men--a Word which is charged with tremendous potency. Deepening also takes place when the believer associates with someone who is on fire with the love of Bahá'u'lláh. The very company of such a person increases one's faith in God. Bahá'u'lláh states in the Hidden Words: '...He that seeketh to commune with God, let him betake himself to the companionship of His loved ones; and he that desireth to hearken unto the word of God, let him give ear to the words of His chosen ones.' This is why those who meet a true servant of Bahá'u'lláh often become filled with a new spirit.

In the Heroic Age of the Faith the believers were deepened in faith by meeting together and sharing their knowledge and love of Bahá'u'lláh. One devoted Bahá'í who had been in His presence, whose heart was filled with His love, or who had received Tablets from Him, could impart his fire and faith as well as his knowledge and understanding to others who associated with him. In those days believers did not have access to all the Writings and often did not know much about the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh. But their hearts were so filled with His love that a great many laid down their lives in His path.

There may be a tendency today to become too academic, even mechanical, in the study of the Faith. A purely intellectual approach may so cloud the heart that the rays of the Sun of Truth are unable to shine within it. What the


The Hidden Words, Persian no. 56.
believer needs, in addition to knowledge of the Faith, is to open his heart to the influences of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, to commune with His spirit, rejoice in His Name and seek especially the companionship of His true lovers. Without the infusion of the spirit of faith in his life, without turning with his heart in humbleness to Bahá'u'lláh, he cannot deepen himself in the Cause, because the knowledge of God is first reflected within the heart of man, and then his intellect will grasp it. This is clear in the Writings.

And now let there be a word of warning concerning this vital subject. Reading the writings of Bahá'u'lláh, important as it is, can never be conducive to spiritual progress unless it is combined with service to the Cause. Should a person take food regularly and in abundance, but fail to move about and use his muscles every day, he would soon become an invalid. In the same way, the study of the Writings must be accompanied by deeds, deeds which are enjoined by Bahá'u'lláh in His teachings and laws.

If the individual who has recognized the station of Bahá'u'lláh immerses himself in the ocean of His words, if he opens his heart to the influences of His Revelation, if he associates with devoted Bahá'ís who are on fire with the Faith and eschews fellowship with the ungodly,* and if he arises to serve the Cause, then his love for Bahá'u'lláh will increase day by day, and he will become a deep Bahá'í.

Education of Children

Bahá'u'lláh in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas has placed an enormous responsibility upon parents for the proper upbringing and education of their children. These are His words in that book:

Unto every father hath been enjoined the instruction of his

* A person who lives his life contrary to the teachings of God. He may profess belief in God, while many who regard themselves as agnostics or atheists may not be ungodly in reality.

son and daughter in the art of reading and writing and in all that hath been laid down in the Holy Tablet. He that putteth away that which is commanded unto him, the Trustees are then to take from him that which is required for their instruction, if he be wealthy, and if not the matter devolveth upon the House of Justice. Verily, have We made it a shelter for the poor and needy. He that bringeth up his son or the son of another, it is as though he hath brought up a son of Mine; upon him rest My Glory, My loving kindness, My Mercy, that have compassed the world.3
'Abdu'l-Bahá in one of His Tablets4 states that if the parents fail in the proper upbringing of their children, they have committed a sin that God cannot forgive.

Bringing up children, according to Bahá'u'lláh, is not merely teaching them good manners and arranging for their education. It has far-reaching implications. Bahá'í education consists of academic as well as spiritual education. The former can be acquired in all the schools of the world. The latter, which from the Bahá'í point of view is more important, is the acquiring of the knowledge of God and His Manifestations, the understanding of the mysteries of creation, the becoming well versed in the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh, the acquiring of good character, and the becoming equipped for serving the world of humanity.

The following words of Bahá'u'lláh gleaned from His Writings demonstrate the importance which is attached to the upbringing of children:

Knowledge is as wings to man's life, and a ladder for his ascent. Its acquisition is incumbent upon everyone. The knowledge of such sciences, however, should be acquired as can profit the peoples of the earth, and not those which begin with words and end with words...In truth, knowledge is a veritable treasure for man, and a source of glory, of bounty, of joy, of exaltation, of cheer and gladness unto him.5

3. Synopsis, pp. 15-16.

4. Makátíb-i-'Abdu'l-Bahá, vol. 3, p. 333.

5. Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, pp. 51-2.

["Unto every father..."] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶48

["In truth, knowledge is..."] Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 27

Schools must first train the children in the principles of religion, so that the Promise and the Threat recorded in the Books of God may prevent them from the things forbidden and adorn them with the mantle of the commandments; but this in such a measure that it may not injure the children by resulting in ignorant fanaticism and bigotry.6

We prescribe unto all men that which will lead to the exaltation of the Word of God amongst His servants, and likewise, to the advancement of the world of being and the uplift of souls. To this end, the greatest means is education of the child. To this must each and all hold fast. We have verily laid this charge upon you in manifold Tablets as well as in My Most Holy Book. Well is it with him who deferreth thereto.

We ask of God that He will assist each and every one to obey this inescapable command that hath appeared and been caused to descend through the Pen of the Ancient of Days.7

'Abdu'l-Bahá has also stressed the importance of child education in many of His Tablets. The following are a few examples:

It is for this reason that, in this new cycle, education and training are recorded in the Book of God as obligatory and not voluntary. That is, it is enjoined upon the father and mother, as a duty, to strive with all effort to train the daughter and the son, to nurse them from the breast of knowledge and to rear them in the bosom of sciences and arts. Should they neglect this matter, they shall be held responsible and worthy of reproach in the presence of the stern Lord.8

...from the very beginning, the children must receive divine education and must continually be reminded to remember their God. Let the love of God pervade their inmost being, commingled with their mother's milk.9


6. Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 68.

7. Bahá'í Education, p. 2.

8. Selections, pp. 126-7.

9. ibid. p. 127.

My wish is that these children should receive a Bahá'í education, so that they may progress both here and in the Kingdom, and rejoice thy heart.

In a time to come, morals will degenerate to an extreme degree. It is essential that children be reared in the Bahá'í way, that they may find happiness both in this world and the next. If not, they shall be beset by sorrows and troubles, for human happiness is founded upon spiritual behaviour.10

The Bahá'í teachings on child education attach great importance to the role which a mother plays in bringing up children. These are the words of 'Abdu'l-Bahá concerning this vital role of mothers:

Today it is obligatory for the loved ones of God, and their imperative duty, to educate the children in reading, writing, the various branches of knowledge, and the expansion of consciousness, that on all levels they may go forward day by day.

The mother is the first teacher of the child. For children, at the beginning of life, are fresh and tender as a young twig, and can be trained in any fashion you desire. If you rear the child to be straight, he will grow straight, in perfect symmetry. It is clear that the mother is the first teacher and that it is she who establisheth the character and conduct of the child.

Wherefore, O ye loving mothers, know ye that in God's sight, the best of all ways to worship Him is to educate the children and train them in all the perfections of humankind; and no nobler deed than this can be imagined...11

One important aspect of the role of the mother in child education and spiritual training is seen in the emphasis which the Bahá'í teachings place on the education of girls. For one day they will become mothers and the first educator of the child is the mother.

These and other basic teachings on child education will enable future educationalists to formulate a programme of


10. Selections, p. 127.

11. Bahá'í Education, p. 52.

Bahá'í education. As human society inclines itself more and more towards Bahá'í ideals, these teachings will be adopted by mankind. The following was written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, in answer to a question concerning the Bahá'í educational programme:

You have asked him [Shoghi Effendi] for detailed information concerning the Bahá'í educational programme; there is as yet no such thing as a Bahá'í curriculum, and there are no Bahá'í publications exclusively devoted to this subject, since the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá do not present a definite and detailed educational system, but simply offer certain basic principles and set forth a number of teaching ideals that should guide future Bahá'í educationalists in their efforts to formulate an adequate teaching curriculum which would be in full harmony with the spirit of the Bahá'í Teachings, and would thus meet the requirements and needs of the modern age.

These basic principles are available in the sacred writings of the Cause, and should be carefully studied, and gradually incorporated in various college and university programmes. But the task of formulating a system of education which would be officially recognized by the Cause, and enforced as such throughout the Bahá'í world is one which the present-day generation of believers cannot obviously undertake, and which has to be gradually accomplished by Bahá'í scholars and educationalists of the future.12

Educating children and youth is of such paramount importance in the Bahá'í teachings that Bahá'u'lláh has praised the work of teachers and educationalists very highly. The teaching profession is held in such high esteem by Him that in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas He has ordained, in cases of intestacy, for an inheritance to be divided among seven categories of people,13 all from within the family except the last which is the teacher or teachers. In His Writings He has showered His favours and bounties in abundance upon those teachers who have recognized His station and are engaged in both spiritual and

12. From a letter written on his behalf, 7 June 1939, quoted in Bahá'í Education, p. 70.

13. See Synopsis, pp. 43-6.

[seven categories of inheritance] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶20
academic education. We have already cited one example of this.*

'Abdu'l-Bahá likewise has praised the station of teachers who are devoted to their profession. In a Tablet He describes their service as true worship of God, and states that they are the spiritual fathers of the children whom they teach, and therefore their work is highly meritorious in the sight of God.14

Teaching the Cause

In many of His Tablets, Bahá'u'lláh has enjoined upon His followers to teach His Faith to the peoples of the world. In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas too He exhorts the faithful to arise in the service of His Cause and refers to teaching as the crowning glory of every righteous deed. As stated in the previous volume, the primary purpose of teaching is to bring a soul to its God, and it is therefore regarded by Bahá'u'lláh as the 'most meritorious of all deeds'.†

The prerequisites of teaching are to be found in the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and Shoghi Effendi has enumerated some of them in his letter entitled The Advent of Divine Justice.15 They may be summarized in a few words: 'Living one's life in accordance with Bahá'í teachings.' Bahá'u'lláh in one of His Tablets states:

God hath prescribed unto every one the duty of teaching His Cause. Whoever ariseth to discharge this duty, must needs, ere he proclaimeth His Message, adorn himself with the ornament of an upright and praiseworthy character, so that his words may attract the hearts of such as are receptive to his call. Without it, he can never hope to influence his hearers.16
This statement leaves no room for doubt, for Bahá'u'lláh says:

* see pp. 90-91.

† see vol. 2, pp. 91-106.

14. Makátíb-i-'Abdu'l-Bahá, vol. 8, p. 51.

15. pp. 18-34.

16. Gleanings, CLVIII.

'Without it, he can never hope to influence his hearers.' The word 'never' is very emphatic and rules out any other method. In numerous other Tablets Bahá'u'lláh has revealed similar statements.

'Abdu'l-Bahá in a Tablet writes:

The aim is this: The intention of the teacher must be pure, his heart independent, his spirit attracted, his thought at peace, his resolution firm, his magnanimity exalted and in the love of God a shining torch. Should he become as such, his sanctified breath will even affect the rock; otherwise there will be no result whatsoever.17
The emphasis of the last sentence is clear: 'otherwise there will be no result whatsoever.' There are numerous Tablets of 'Abdu'l-Bahá with similar conclusions.

Shoghi Effendi has also drawn our attention to this truth in many of his letters. To cite one celebrated passage:

Not by the force of numbers, not by the mere exposition of a set of new and noble principles, not by an organized campaign of teaching--no matter how worldwide and elaborate in its character--not even by the staunchness of our faith or the exaltation of our enthusiasm, can we ultimately hope to vindicate in the eyes of a critical and sceptical age the supreme claim of the Abhá Revelation. One thing and only one thing will unfailingly and alone secure the undoubted triumph of this sacred Cause, namely, the extent to which our own inner life and private character mirror forth in their manifold aspects the splendour of those eternal principles proclaimed by Bahá'u'lláh.18
Here Shoghi Effendi leaves no alternative to this vital prerequisite for teaching, for he says (and let us note his double emphasis): 'One thing and only one thing will unfailingly and alone secure the undoubted triumph of this sacred Cause...'

Having discussed one of the most important prerequisites for teaching, let us now examine the work of teaching itself.


17. Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 51.

18. Bahá'í Administration, p. 66.

There are no set methods or procedures, although we have been given certain principles and guide-lines by the Author of the Faith and by 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi. These principles and guides are at variance with standards and methods current outside the Faith, where frequently every expedient measure is used to influence people and convert them to various ideologies. The Cause of Bahá'u'lláh is founded on the truth of God's Revelation, and truth cannot be clothed in false standards. It cannot employ the techniques of salesmanship, propaganda, expediency and compromise. The methods used in the commercial world to attract people to new ideas, such as extravagant and sensational publicity based on slogans, extreme statements and similar gimmicks, are all alien to the Cause of God.

In his teaching work a Bahá'í presents the Message of Bahá'u'lláh as one would offer a gift to a king. Since his primary object in teaching is not to increase numbers,* but rather to bring a soul to its God, he ought to approach his fellow men with feelings of love and humility, and above all take to them the transforming power of Bahá'u'lláh and nothing of himself. Indeed, if he tries to project himself, by impressing upon the listener his knowledge and accomplishments, and aims to establish the ascendancy of his arguments while teaching the Faith, then the power of Bahá'u'lláh cannot reach him.

Success in teaching depends on one's ability and readiness to draw from the power of Bahá'u'lláh. There is no alternative. If the believer does not open the way for Bahá'u'lláh through his love for Him, by his life and by teaching His Cause with devotion, His confirmations and assistance cannot reach him, and he will fail in his service to Him. Those who rank foremost among Bahá'í teachers were always conscious of the presence of Bahá'u'lláh at every stage of their teaching activities. It was because of the consciousness of His presence that they were enabled to approach with genuine love and humility those who


* see vol. 2, p. 94.

were seeking the truth, attracting them with the warmth of their faith and the creative power of their words. It was this consciousness which enabled them to radiate the glory of the new-born Faith of God, to demonstrate its truth, to promote its interests, to withstand the onslaught of its enemies and to win imperishable victories for their Lord.

Bahá'u'lláh often counselled His followers how to teach the Faith. For example, He directed Hájí Muhammad-Táhir-i-Málmírí, when he was leaving His presence, to engage in teaching the Cause in his native city of Yazd and gave him some instructions as to how to teach. Foremost among these instructions was to pray for the seeker and urge him also to pray so that the confirmations of God might reach him and open his eyes to the truth of the Cause. Another counsel was to begin teaching with the account of the history of the religions of the past and their Founders, similar to the accounts given in the Kitáb-i-Íqán. This would enable the enquirer to get an insight into his own religion that he might recognize the truth and the reality of the Founder of his own Faith. When this stage was reached, the individual would be ready to appreciate and understand the Cause of God for this day.*

To cite another example: there is a Tablet19 from Bahá'u'lláh in which Fáris† (the Christian Syrian who embraced the Faith in Alexandria) is exhorted to teach with wisdom. He counsels him not to disclose to people everything about the Cause at first, but rather to teach them little by little until they are ready to absorb more. He likens this process to feeding infants who need to be given a little milk at a time until they grow in strength and are able to digest other food. This exhortation of Bahá'u'lláh is the basis of teaching the Cause of God. The principles involved are very similar to those which a schoolteacher employs in teaching his pupils little by little and in accordance with their capacity. Before teaching the Cause to any person, it is important to know his background and


* see vol. 1, p. 161.

† see pp. 5-11.

19. Quoted by Fádil-i-Mázindarání, Amr va Khalq, vol. 3, p. 121.
capacity. The most successful teachers are those who after familiarizing themselves with the beliefs and ideas of an individual, reveal the truths of the Faith gradually to him, but what little they impart is the correct remedy and is so potent as to influence and stimulate the soul and enable it to take a step forward and become ready to absorb more.

Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí, the celebrated Bahá'í teacher to whose outstanding services we have already referred, has left to posterity the following account of one of his memorable interviews with Bahá'u'lláh in 'Akká, in the course of which He spoke these words about teaching the Cause of God:

The way to teach is to have a pleasing disposition and to deal with people in a spirit of loving-kindness. One must acknowledge whatever the other person says, even if it is vain imaginings, beliefs which are the result of blind imitation, or absurd talk. One should avoid in engaging in arguments or adducing proofs which bring out stubbornness and contention in the other person. This is because he finds himself defeated, and this will lead to his becoming more veiled from the truth and will add to his waywardness.

The right way is to acknowledge the other person's statements and then present him with the alternative point of view and invite him to examine it to see whether it is true or false. Of course, when it is presented to him with courtesy, affection and loving-kindness, he will hear and will not be thinking in terms of defence, to find answers and look for proofs. He will acknowledge and admit the points. When the person realizes that the purpose behind discussions is not wrangling or the winning of arguments, but rather to convey the truth and to reveal human qualities and divine perfections, he will of course show fairness. His inner eyes and ears and heart will open and, through the grace of God, he will become a new creation and will possess new eyes and new ears.

Bahá'u'lláh spoke a great deal about the evils of controversial argument and aiming to become a winner in


discussion. He then said, 'The Most Great Branch* will listen to any absurd talk with such attentiveness that the person concerned believes that He is deriving enlightenment from him. However, little by little, and in a way that the person cannot realize, He bestows upon him a new vision and a new understanding.'† 20
The talks of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in the West provide the best example of wisdom in teaching. He addressed audiences who were almost alien to the history and genesis of the Faith and unfamiliar with the claims and the station of its Founder. Yet He disclosed to them with simplicity and brevity only those essential truths which they were capable of understanding and which constituted the first stepping-stones for their eventual recognition of the stupendous Message of Bahá'u'lláh. He clearly avoided at that early stage any elaboration on the many implications of the station of Bahá'u'lláh and His Revelation as well as the unfoldment of His laws and His World Order in the future. Instead, He bestowed upon every one who had the capacity a measure of His all-embracing love, which animated and sustained those few who embraced the Faith in the West.

Perhaps it is a temptation for a Bahá'í teacher, especially if he is a knowledgeable one, to pour out upon a seeker all his knowledge, and bombard him with a series of profound utterances and lengthy discussions with the aim of proving the truth of his own arguments. When this happens it blocks the way for the power of Bahá'u'lláh to reach the heart of the seeker and enlighten him with the light of faith.

In following the footsteps of the Exemplar of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh we may observe that when someone asked 'Abdu'l-Bahá a question, He often did not give the person all the answers. He gently prepared him to understand the subject. For example, He talked about something which


* 'Abdu'l-Bahá.

† These are not the exact words of Bahá'u'lláh but convey the purport of His talk.

20. Bihjatu's-Sudúr, p. 257.
seemed unrelated to the question but in the end led him to discover the truth. One may cite the example of Howard Colby Ives, a Unitarian Minister in the United States who became attracted to 'Abdu'l-Bahá when He visited that country, and eventually became an ardent believer. One gathers from reading his fascinating chronicles Portals to Freedom that 'Abdu'l-Bahá led him to the path of truth very gently and slowly. The following story is recorded in that book:

In all of my many opportunities of meeting, of listening to and talking with 'Abdu'l-Bahá I was impressed, and constantly more deeply impressed, with His method of teaching souls. That is the word. He did not attempt to reach the mind alone. He sought the soul, the reality of everyone He met. Oh, He could be logical, even scientific in His presentation of an argument, as He demonstrated constantly in the many addresses I have heard Him give and the many more I have read. But it was not the logic of the schoolman, not the science of the class room. His lightest word, His slightest association with a soul was shot through with an illuminating radiance which lifted the hearer to a higher plane of consciousness. Our hearts burned within us when He spoke. And He never argued, of course. Nor did He press a point. He left one free. There was never an assumption of authority, rather He was ever the personification of humility. He taught 'as if offering a gift to a king'. He never told me what I should do, beyond suggesting that what I was doing was right. Nor did He ever tell me what I should believe. He made Truth and Love so beautiful and royal that the heart perforce did reverence. He showed me by His voice, manner, bearing, smile, how I should be, knowing that out of the pure soil of being the good fruit of deeds and words would surely spring.

There was a strange, awe-inspiring mingling of humility and majesty, relaxation and power in His slightest word or gesture which made me long to understand its source. What made Him so different, so immeasurably superior to any other man I had ever met? 21


21. Portals to Freedom, pp. 39-40.
Another story which throws light on the subject is the following by Colby Ives:

So one cold Spring day, a strong east wind blowing, I made a special journey to ask 'Abdu'l-Bahá about renunciation. I found the house at Ninety-sixth Street almost deserted. It seemed that 'Abdu'l-Bahá was spending a day or two at the home of one of the friends on Seventy-eighth Street and so I walked there and found Him on the point of returning to the home I had just left. But I was too intent on my mission to allow difficulties to interfere. I sought one of the Persian friends and, pointing to the passage in the little volume I carried in my pocket, I asked him if he would request 'Abdu'l-Bahá to speak to me for a few moments on this subject, and I read it to him so that there should be no mistake: 'Prevent me not from turning to the Horizon of renunciation.'

Returning, he handed me the book saying that 'Abdu'l-Bahá requested that I walk with Him back to Ninety-sixth Street and He would talk with me on the way.

I recall that there was quite a little procession of us, a dozen or so, mostly composed of the Persian friends but a few others; Lua Getsinger was one, I remember. The east wind was penetrating. I buttoned my coat closely with a little shiver. But 'Abdu'l-Bahá strode along with his 'abá (cloak) floating in the wind. He looked at me as we walked together at the head of the little group, with a slightly quizzical glance: He said that I seemed cold, a slightly amused glance accompanying the words, and I unaccountably felt a little disturbed. Why should I not feel cold? Could one be expected to live even above the weather? But this slight remark was indicative. Always His slightest word affected me as a summons. 'Come up higher!' He seemed to say.

As we walked a few paces ahead of the others He talked at length about Horizons. Of how the Sun of Reality, like the physical sun, rose at different points, the Sun of Moses at one point, the Sun of Jesus at another, the Sun of Muhammad, the Sun of Bahá'u'lláh at still others. But


always the same Sun though the rising points varied greatly. Always we must look for the light of the Sun, He said, and not keep our eyes so firmly fixed on its last point of rising that we fail to see its glory when it rises in the new Spiritual Springtime. Once or twice He stopped and, with His stick, drew on the sidewalk an imaginary horizon and indicated the rising points of the sun. A strange sight it must have been to the casual passer-by.

I was greatly disappointed. I had heard Him speak on this subject and had read about it in Some Answered Questions. It was not of horizons I wanted to hear, but of renunciation. And I was deeply depressed also because I felt that He should have known my desire for light on this subject, and responded to my longing even if I had not been so explicit in my request; but I had been most explicit. As we approached our destination He became silent. My disappointment had long since merged into great content. Was it not enough to be with Him? What, after all, could He tell me about renunciation that was not already in my own heart? Perhaps the way to learn about it was by doing, and I might begin by giving up the longing to have Him talk to me about it. Truly, as the outer silence deepened, my heart burned within me as He talked with me on the way.

We came at last to the steps leading up to the entrance door. 'Abdu'l-Bahá paused with one foot resting on the lower step while the little group slowly passed Him and entered the house. 'Abdu'l-Bahá made as if to follow, but instead He turned and, looking down at me from the little elevation of the step, with that subtle meaning in eyes and voice which seemed to accompany His slightest word, and which to me was always so unfathomable and so alluring: He said that I must always remember that this is a day of great things, very great things.

I was speechless. It was not for me to answer. I did not have the faintest inkling of what lay behind the words, the resonant voice, that penetrating glance. Then He turned and again made as if to ascend but again He paused and turned His now luminous face towards me. My foot was raised to follow but as He turned, I, of course, paused also and hung


Some Answered Questions
uncertainly between rest and motion.

He repeated, saying to me so impressively, so earnestly, that I must never forget this, that this is a day for very great things.

What could He mean? What deep significance lay behind these simple words? Why should He speak so to me? Had it anything to do with that still alluring thought of renunciation?

Again 'Abdu'l-Bahá turned to ascend and I made to follow; but for the third time He paused and, turning, as it seemed, the full light of His spirit upon me, He said again, but this time in what seemed like a voice of thunder, with literally flashing eyes and emphatically raised hand: that I should remember His words that This is a Day for very great things--VERY GREAT THINGS. These last three words rang out like a trumpet call. The long, deserted city block seemed to echo them. I was overwhelmed. I seemed to dwindle, almost to shrivel, where I stood, as that beautifully dominant figure, that commanding and appealing voice, surrounded me like a sea, and blotted out for the moment, at least, all the petty world and my petty self with it. Who and what was I to be summoned to accomplish great things, very great things? I did not even know what things were great in this world awry with misbegotten emphases.

After what seemed a very long moment, in which His burning eyes probed my soul, He gently smiled. The great moment had passed. He was again the courteous, kindly, humble host, the Father whom thought I knew. He touched His fez so that it stood at what I called the humorous angle, and a slightly quizzical smile was around His mouth as He rapidly ascended the steps and entered the open door. I followed closely. We passed through the few steps of the hall to the stairs. I remember the wondering, slightly envious glances that followed me as I followed 'Abdu'l-Bahá up the stairs. The upper hall was empty and 'Abdu'l-Bahá swept through it and up another flight to His room, a large front room on the third floor. And Still I followed. I have often marvelled since at my temerity. Had I known more or felt less I never should have dared. It is said that


fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Perhaps that is the way that fools are cured of their folly.

We came to the door of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's room. He had not invited me there, nor had He looked once behind Him to see that I was following, and it was with much inward trepidation that I paused at the threshold as He entered the room. Would He be displeased? Had I overstepped the bounds of the respect due 'Abdu'l-Bahá? Had I been lacking in due humility? But my heart was humility itself--He must know that. He swung the door wide and turning beckoned me in.

Again I was alone with 'Abdu'l-Bahá. There was the bed in which He slept, the chair in which He sat. The late afternoon sunlight lay palely across the floor, but I saw nothing. I was conscious only of Him and that I was alone with Him. The room was very still. No sound came from the street nor from the lower rooms. The silence deepened as He regarded me with that loving, all-embracing, all-understanding look which always melted my heart. A deep content and happiness flooded my being. A little flame seemed lit within my breast. And then 'Abdu'l-Bahá spoke: He simply asked me if I were interested in renunciation.

Nothing could have been more unexpected. I had entirely forgotten the question which had so engrossed my thoughts an hour since. Or was it that in that hour during which the word renunciation had not been mentioned, all that I wished or needed to know about it had been vouchsafed me? I had no words to answer His question. Was I interested? I could not say I was and I would not say I was not. I stood before Him silent while His whole Being seemed to reach out to embrace me. Then His arm was around me and He led me to the door. I left His Presence with my soul treading the heights. I felt as though I had been admitted, for the moment at least, into the ranks of the martyrs. And it was a goodly fellowship indeed. During all the long years of renunciation that followed, the memory of that walk with Him; my disappointment that He had not understood; His ringing challenge: This is a Day for very great things: my following Him up those long stairs without


even knowing whether He wished me to or not, and then the question wrapped in that sublime love: Are you interested in renunciation? has risen before me, a comforting and inspiring challenge. Indeed I was interested and my interest has never flagged from that day to this. But I never dreamed that renunciation could be so glorious.22

22. Portals to Freedom, pp. 54-9.