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Days of marriage

Posted by Sen on December 20, 2009

A friend asked about the ‘days of marriage’ which Abdu’l-Baha referred to in a letter to Alwyn Baker in late 1920. That led me to two letters from Abdu’l-Baha, one of them translated by Shoghi Effendi and available only in an edited form, the other not available in English in Ocean and the other search engines, and containing some remarks on philosophy, evolution and the eternity of creation. And, in the end, I also found out about the ‘days of marriage.’

The paper chase begins with a letter to Howard Macnutt in 1919, translated by Shoghi Effendi and published in Star of the West vol. 10, page 153. It has also been published in Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha 223, but in a slightly shortened and amended form. Since it also has an incidental interest as an example of Shoghi Effendi’s early translation style, I am using the original Star of the West version (the Persian text appears to be unpublished).

To his honor Mr. Howard MacNutt, Brooklyn, New York. – Upon him be Baha’o’llah El-Abha!

A month ago a letter was written to the favored maid servant of God, Mrs. MacNutt, and at present two letters from you dated February 18th and 21st, 1919, have been received. Their text indicated firmness and perseverance in the Kingdom of the exalted Lord.

Today, every wise, vigilant and foresighted person is awakened, and to him are unveiled the mysteries of the future, that nothing save the power of the Covenant is able to stir and move the heart of humanity; just as the new and the old Testaments have propounded throughout all regions the Cause of His Holiness Christ – a Cause that has been the pulsating power in the body of the human world. A tree that has a root shall bear fruit, while the tree which is devoid of it, no matter how high and hardy it may be, will eventually wither, perish and like unto a log be fit for fire.

The Covenant of God is like unto a vast and fathomless ocean. A billow shall rise and surge therefrom and shall cast ashore all accumulated foam.

In brief, praise be to God, that the highest wish entertained by heedful souls is the exaltation of the Word of God and the propagation of divine fragrances. This is, verily, the secure and firm foundation.

At present, like unto the morn, the lights of the Sun of Truth have been shed around. Effort must be made that slumbering souls may be awakened, the heedless become vigilant, and the divine instructions, which constitute the spirit of this age, may reach the ears of the people of the world, may be propagated in papers and enunciated in meetings with the utmost brilliancy and eloquence.

One’s conduct must be like the conduct of Paul, and one’s faith similar to that of Peter. This musk-scented breeze shall perfume the nostrils of the people of the world, and this spirit shall resuscitate the dead.

The offensive odour of violation hath temporarily arrested the onward movement of the Cause, for otherwise, the divine teachings, like unto the rays of the sun, would immediately spread and radiate throughout all regions.

The addresses of Abdu’l-Baha which thou hast compiled and which thou intendest to print and publish is indeed very advisable. This service shall cause thee to acquire an effulgent face in the Abha Kingdom, and shall make thee the object of the praise and gratitude of the friends in the East as well as the West. But this is to be undertaken with the utmost carefulness, so that the exact text may be reproduced and will exclude all deviations and corruptions committed by former interpreters.

Convey on my behalf the utmost kindness and respect to the respected maid-servant of God, Mrs MacNutt. Upon thee be Baha-el-Abha.

(Translated by Shoghi Rabbani, April 13, 1919. House of Abdu’l-Baha, Haifa, Palestine.)

The reference to the “offensive odour of violation” is likely to refer to the ‘Chicago reading room affair’ which had split the Chicago community into three rival camps during World War 1. The core issue appears to have been the willingness to use the work of the theosophist W.W. Harmon in classes at the Reading Room, to which Corinne True and Zia Bagdadi objected. Since communication with Abdu’l-Baha was impossible at the time, the Bahais gathering to celebrate the centenary of Abdu’l-Baha’s birth appointed a Committee of Investigation which concluded that the Reading Room activities constituted Covenant-Breaking, and expelled the participants from the Bahai community. This decision was ratified by delegates at the Bahai Temple Unity Convention in 1918. A third party, including Roy Wilhelm and Agnes Parsons, felt that the investigation and expulsion were inappropriate and advocated greater tolerance. The episode is an object lesson in the value of strong institutionalised authority in the community – which was lacking here – but also of the need for tolerance and patience.

When the tablet above was published in Star of the West, it was preceded by an editorial – presumably written by Albert Windust – which connects this situation, and the allusion to a high tree becoming fit for the fire, to a gospel reference to the days of Noah:

Editorial – “But as the days of Noe were”

(St Matt. xxiv: 37-39)

Nineteen hundred years ago, the Word of God – speaking through the mouth of Jesus – uttered, concerning these days in which we live:

“But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”

Today, the Word of God – speaking through the month of Abdul-Baha – as recorded in the Great Tablet published in this issue of the Star of the West, declares:

”Consider: Eminent personages whose fame has spread throughout the world, shall, ere long, be exterminated as the result of their deprivation of this heavenly bounty; no name and no fame shall they leave behind, and of them no fruit and trace shall survive.”
(Star of the West vol. 10, No. 8, August 1, 1919, p. 152)

The verse that was briefly cited says:

“But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. (Matthew 24:37)

The implication of the use of this verse in the editorial is that there are both worthy and unworthy people in the Bahai community, and the unworthy think themselves safe, but the day is coming when the wheat will be sorted from the tares (Matt 13:24).

A little more than a year after this, in December 1920, the words of the editorial are echoed back in another letter from Abdu’l-Baha, :

To his honor Mr. Alwyn J. Baker, Berkeley, California
– Unto him be greeting and praise! – Care of Mrs. Kathryn Frankland.

He is God
O thou who art seeking for Truth!

Your letter has been forwarded. I have no opportunity to write a detailed answer, so I am obliged to be brief.

The point is, that the Cause of Baha ‘Ullah is inclusive of all perfections and supplies all the needs of the world of humanity. But this cannot be accomplished in a short time. Time is needed. This will gradually be realized.

When a divine farmer sows the seed, the crops cannot be immediately gathered in, but it is certain that the seed will develop into a harvest. The seed which His Holiness Christ – May my soul be sacrificed for Him! – sowed, grew into a harvest within three hundred years.

We are now at the commencement of the shining forth of the Sun of Reality. It is the time which His Holiness Christ, calls the “days of marriage.” No doubt the house is not in order, but the time will come when it will come under order.

They put some questions pertaining to wisdom and philosophy to his honor Paul. He said that before he recognized Christ he knew everything; but after he came to know Christ, he forgot everything. He was filled with Christ and so they should ask him about Christ, besides whom he was ignorant of everything whatsoever.

In the Tablets of His Holiness Baha’Ullah, there are many philosophic questions. For example, the Tablet of Wisdom, but it has not yet been translated. It may be found that his honor Fazel Mazandarani gave this Tablet to a Persian expert to translate into English. In His Tablets He has encouraged and rather urged (the people) to study philosophy. Therefore, in the religion of Baha ‘Ullah philosophy is highly esteemed.

As to life, however, it has had no beginning, nor will it have any end. The eternal grace of God has always been the cause of life. It has had no starting point and it will not approach any end. But concerning the degrees through which the soul has gone, these degrees are spiritual. Consider all the advancement of the world of humanity which is at present manifest and known. This has been realized through the spirit. The manifestation of the will of the Omnipotent, in the universe, means the manifestation of the divine laws and disciplines which are essential to the realities of beings, and in the world of the Kingdom they are ideals which in the appearance of the holy Manifestations (of God) are realized.

The fruits of the deeds of man, i. e. the harvest of the reward of man’s conduct, is gathered in the heavenly realm.

But as to evolution, it is true of both the body and the spirit. Consider how many sciences, arts, discoveries and achievements have come into existence since the days of Moses till the present time through the progress of the human soul in knowledge and perfections. Similarly, how much the soul has evolved from the moral point of view. From the material standpoint, you can see also how much civilization has progressed.

In short, I wrote the answer in brief. No doubt you will understand realities in detail thereby.

Unto thee be greeting and praise!

(Translated by Aziz Ollah S. Bahadur, Mount Carmel, Palestine, December
Published in Star of the West, Vol. 12, No. 12, October 16, 1921, p. 194

The reference to the days of marriage might well indicate that the Star of the West editorial, with its brief reference to the Gospel of Matthew, had been read to Abdu’l-Baha who (knowing his Bible by heart) connected it to the following words about “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage.” He does not take sides in the Reading Room affair, but concedes “No doubt the house is not in order, but the time will come when it will come under order.” That was a work which occupied Shoghi Effendi for the following twenty years.

~~ Sen McGlinn ~~

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