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Abdu’l-Baha on theosophy

Posted by Sen on May 9, 2010

This letter from Abdu’l-Baha to Thornton Chase was published in Star of the West, and has been picked up in the Bahai-library project that is republishing these tablets. After answering a question about Baha’u’llah’s Arabic Hidden Word 13, Abdu’l-Baha discusses pantheism, incarnation, gnosticism, and reincarnation. Direct references to theosophy in Abdu’l-Baha’s writings are rare, but there are a considerable number of talks by Abdu’l-Baha addressed to theosophists, five of which have the status of Bahai scripture since they are backed by Persian notes: those given on 29 May (or 30 May), 24 July, and 4 December 1912 and on 9 January and 14 February 1913.

Through Mirza Ahmad to Mr. Thornton Chase.
Upon Him be Baha’o’llah-el-Abha
He is God!

O thou herald of the Kingdom!

I received thy two letters, an old one and one of recent date, and both of them were read with the utmost attention. Praise be to God! that thou didst not waver before the tests; nay, rather, thou didst remain firm and steadfast When the tree sends down its roots into the bowels of the earth, then it will bring forth blossoms and fruits. Now, Praise be to God! that in this day of Kingdom thou art firm and steadfast. Rest thou assured that thou wilt become the recipient of confirmation and assistance, and the object of infinite bounties.

Thou hast asked about the statement in the Hidden Words, which reads “Son of Spirit! Turn thy face so that thou mayest find Me within thee, Powerful, Mighty and Supreme.” This is the statement to which His Holiness, the Christ, referred His apostles in the Gospel, saying, “The Father is in the Son, and the Son is in you.”

This is evident that, when the hearts are purified and through divine education and heavenly teachings become the manifestors of infinite perfections, they are like clear mirrors, and the Sun of Truth will reflect with might, power and omnipotence in such a mirror, and to such an extent that whatever is brought before it is illumined and ignited. This is a brief interpretation because of the lack of time. Therefore, do thou reflect and ponder over it so that the doors of significance may be opened before thine eyes.

In regard to the philosophy of the Theosophists, these people have borrowed some remarks and statements from the heavenly books, but they have not attained to the Reality. Notwithstanding this, they have made these appearances the foundation of their faith and religion. However, the reality of the question of Unity is thus:-

The Sun of Truth hath shone forth from the Horizon of Unity upon all the regions. All contingent things are clad with the garment of existence through the rays of the sun. Were it not for the rays of the sun no being could step forth upon time arena of life. Everything would have remained hidden; nay rather, the life of the terrestrial beings is continued through the light and heat of the sun to such an extent that all the infinitesimal atoms, which move through this realm of earth, owe their life to the reflection of the sun. Of course, each being manifests its inward tendencies according to its ability and capacity. However, no matter how much the sun reflects itself through all the contingent beings, yet it never leaves its supreme height and exalted station. It (the divine Sun) is not divided among these beings, so that every being may become a part and a portion of Divinity.

Descent, division, transmission and transmigration in the stations of life are the conditions of the contingent beings, but the Eternal Reality is wholly beyond and above these conditions; for when you behold that a being is subject to division, descent and disintegration, this is a proof of the contingency and impermanency of that being. The Ancient, the Ever-living, and the Omniscient Lord, who is above the comprehension of humanity and is qualified with self-existent perfections, will never descend to the stations of life, and will not be divided so that every man may become an atom or a part of Him. Children can understand the untenability of this proposition. This is the pure imagination of the weak minds.

Therefore, according to their theory, the Manifestations of God are infinite in number, and this would leave us to believe in the theory of the “Concatenation of life” but concatenation is false, and change is the essential condition of the contingent realities, and not of the Eternal Reality. Ponder deeply over the above explanation, so that it may become evident to thee that by Unity is meant the outpouring of the Divine, which appears and manifests in the realities of all Existence, and especially in the unity of man.

The story of the cock that you have written is very appropriate. (This refers to the play of Chanticleer, wherein the Cock supposed the sun to be caused to arise through his crowing, until be was chagrined to learn that its rising was independent of him and his voice.)

Associate with the utmost love and friendship with the Theosophists, and make them comprehend this unity of humanity, which is the unity of the outpouring of the Divine, so they may attain to the essence of the facts.

In regard to the verse, which is revealed in the Koran, that His Highness, Christ, was not killed and was not crucified, by this is meant the Reality of Christ. Although they crucified this elemental body, yet the merciful reality and the heavenly existence remain eternal and undying, and it was protected from the obsession and persecution of the enemies, for Christ is Eternal and Everlasting. How can he die? This death and crucifixion was imposed on the physical body of Christ, and not upon the Spirit of Christ.

* * *

Regarding my coming to America, it depends upon the Realization of conditions of which I have already written to that country. If those conditions are brought into fruition, rest thou assured that I will present myself, otherwise, it will be difficult.

Upon thee be the Glory of God!

(Signed) Abdu’l-Baha Abbas.

Translated by Mirza Ahmad Sohrab, June 8 1911, Washington, D.C.,

I have placed some notes in the first comment to this page.

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One Response to “Abdu’l-Baha on theosophy”

  1. Sen said


    This tablet was translated by Ahmad Sohrab in June 1911, and published in Star of the West, volume 2, nos. 7 and 8, August 1 1911, pages 11 to 13. I have not located the Persian text for this: several points could be clarified if it was located (feel free to use the blog comments to share your knowledge).

    Thornton Chase (1847 – 1912)
    Thornton Chase became a Bahai in Chicago in 1895, and is commonly recognized as the first western convert. In 1907 Chase was able to make a pilgrimage to meet Abdu’l-Baha in Palestine. Although he was only with Abdu’l Baha for three days, the experience transformed him. Abdu’l Baha, highly impressed by Chase’s qualities, gave him the name thabit, “the steadfast.” On returning home Chase published an account of his pilgrimage, entitled In Galilee (1908) and in the following year a good introduction to Bahai life and teachings, The Bahai Revelation.

    “the question of Unity..”
    From what follows, it appears this refers to tawhid, the question of the unicity of God and the multiplicity of creation, and how the one relates to the other.

    “Concatenation of life”
    Concatenation in theosophic terminology usually refers to the concatenation of causes and effects which, as whole, we experience as karma. It seems likely that the term here is the result of Abdu’l-Baha referring to a ‘chain,’ and the translator trying to use theosophical terminology without much understanding. The term ‘chain of life’ or ‘chain of being’ refers to the kingdoms ranging from the mineral to the divine. In theosophical thinking, a soul can be reincarnated at any point in this chain, according to the lessons that soul needs to learn in the process of becoming one of the Ascended Masters.

    …the verse, which is revealed in the Koran, that His Highness, Christ, was not killed and was not crucified
    The reference is to Qur’an 4:157:

    They said “We have killed the Messiah Jesus, the son of Mary and Apostle of God,” but they killed him not nor crucified him, although it appeared so to them. Those who disagree concerning this are in doubt, they have no knowledge of it except pursuit of a conjecture. They killed him not for certain.

    Regarding my coming to America
    He did in fact go to America, in 1912, arriving in New York City on 11 April. The condition for his coming, referred to here, was unity among the American Bahais.

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