100th Anniversary of Abdu’l Bahá’s Visit to North America – Spirit Matters by Shirley Barr September 9, 2012

CFN – As you may be aware I am a member of the international Bahá’í community. While my columns have so far focused on general topics and their connection to spiritual matters, today I thought it would be interesting to bring to your attention a connection to Cornwall. Exactly 100 years ago, on September 9, 1912, ‘Abdu’l Bahá, the successor and eldest son of the founder of the Bahá’í Faith, boarded a train in Montreal headed for Buffalo, New York – and that train came through Cornwall! ‘Abdu’l Bahá’s nine-day visit to Canada was part of an eight-month itinerary across North America that began in April 1912 and ended in December.


To commemorate this special connection between a major religious figure and North America, a number of special events are taking place this weekend in Montreal, which will be attended by many.

‘Abdu’l Baha was an extraordinary figure in human history. The fact that he came to Canada, that he spent 239 days in America, visiting as many areas as he could, speaking to individuals, groups, organizations of every kind, is in itself, an accomplishment for anyone – particularly for someone who was 68 years old and had spent some 40 years of his life as a prisoner and exile with his father. The city of Montreal responded very positively to his messages. He spoke on topics, which today, resonate with so much significance and power that I wanted to focus on his September 5, 1912 talk at St. James Methodist Church in Montreal.

He begins his talk by explaining how the bounties of God are continually being showered upon the Earth. He explains how these bounties are similar to the way the sun operates to continually shower the Earth with its rays, so too does God’s love permeate all of human life. The natural law and the spiritual law are brought into a simple explanation that anyone can understand: if the sun were to stop shining, he explains, would not life on Earth cease to exist? So, it stands to reason that if God’s love were to suddenly stop being sent to us, would we not then cease to exist?

He then speaks to the origin of religion as having always been our system of education and training from the very beginning of human existence. We have never been abandoned to our own devices, rather we have been guided by many divine beings who have given us teachings that have helped us to advance. These divine beings have appeared first to those populations that were most in need of divine intervention. Bahá’ís believe the most recent of these divine messengers is Bahá’u’lláh, ‘Abdul-Bahá’s father, who appeared in Persia (now known as Iran) in the mid-nineteenth century, but they accept the founders of all the other major world faiths as well as sharing the same common purpose. Bahá’u’lláh suffered the most degrading treatment while he lived, accepting the most grievous injuries in order to free the human race from its bondage of materialistic pursuits. However, the body of work he left behind will resonate for centuries into the future. The central message is that “All the teachings have one reality, for reality is single and does not admit multiplicity. therefore the Prophets are one, inasmuch as They reveal the one reality, the Word of God.” This Word, then serves to reorganize the pattern of human society into one where peace and justice will reign. We know we have a long way to go but it is vital that we begin to understand that there is a vision that we can gather around.

‘Abdul-Bahá then goes on to describe eleven principles as guides for reorganizing human society. I will only focus on three that I feel are burning issues for the CFN family.


The first – the foundation – is for each individual to investigate reality independently. This powerful concept, he states, helps us to overcome our limited thinking, rooted in traditions and ancestral beliefs, or hereditary forms of worship. Instead of blindly believing, we are asked to think for ourselves and to remove the veils that prevent us from understanding that “the divine teachings are ever conducive to love, unity, and fellowship.” We now know that CFN is being viewed over 1 million times a month, so perhaps those who read this might appreciate how valuable their thoughts are, and how they can contribute to elevate public interactions by sharing how they individually investigate reality. Such a powerful concept is so “right on” for the times we are living in, don’t you think?

The second principle is one that I have addressed before: the principle of the oneness of the human race, which, if we investigate reality for ourselves, is clear and evident. Scientifically proven and validated by innumerable studies, the oneness of the human race stands as the matrix within which human society can rapidly be reorganized. Each individual human being fits into that kind of thinking and each would be appreciated and helped to reach their potential. This is not mere imagination or wishful thinking, rather it is a principle that we can immediately use in our daily lives. One practical application is to start rooting out that unconscious sense of superiority we have towards others.

The third principle is that an international language must be chosen for speech, script and communication. This is definitely a pressing issue, as witnessed by the hundreds of comments submitted to CFN on the subject of language rights. Although I am bilingual in French and English and believe that it is important to have the right to keep our mother language, whatever that may be, we will all eventually have to transition to a world where we understand one another using a universal auxiliary language: with a world language comes a world culture. While it is, of course, not at all clear what that universal second language will be, even though the international language of Esperanto already exists and English currently enjoys prominence in business and science, ‘Abdul-Bahá says that with an international language “misunderstandings will be lessened, fellowship established and unity assured.” Sounds like a recipe for success, doesn’t it?

The entire talk is available here: http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/ab/PUP/pup-102.html
If you would like to know more about the 239 Days of ‘Abdul-Bahá’s trip to America please visit the following site:

Shirley Barr lives and works in Cornwall, Ontario and is a member of the international Bahá’í community.



  1. Shirely wirtes -“Abdu’l Baha was an extraordinary figure in human history. The fact that he came to Canada, that he spent 239 days in America, visiting as many areas as he could, speaking to individuals, groups, organizations of every kind, is in itself, an accomplishment for anyone…”.

    How many people did this saviour raise from the dead? How many did he heal? Multitudes by the thousands fed – any at all? Delivered any one from demon possession? How about, last by not lease, did such die on the Cross as a substitutionary sacrifice to pay for our sins that were against God, and then on the third day rise from the dead?

    No comparison with this false saviour and the Risen, Exalted Lord Jesus Christ! No proof that God ever accepted this Abdul Baha for anything, but God raised up the Lord Jesus, His Son, to prove that He alone is “My well beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased – hear ye Him”. He is the only Savior given among men!

    John 14:6 “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me”.

  2. And Shirley, don forget, the Lord Jesus came all the way from Heaven to earth! Let your saviour beat that!

  3. That’s hilarious! @ Shirley. Clearly Mr. Newton’s saviour is better than yours. It must be true because he says so. You better get with the program before it’s too late.

  4. Whoever is not against us is for us.
    Mark 9:40

  5. Just want to say that in addition to the principles above there are two other principles that should have been highlighted since it’s been brought up by Pastor Newton. Those principles concern religion and its role in society:

    “Third, religion must be the mainspring and source of love in the world, for religion is the revelation of the will of God, the divine fundamental of which is love. Therefore, if religion should prove to be the cause of enmity and hatred instead of love, its absence is preferable to its existence.

    Fourth, religion must reconcile and be in harmony with science and reason. If the religious beliefs of mankind are contrary to science and opposed to reason, they are none other than superstitions and without divine authority, for the Lord God has endowed man with the faculty of reason in order that through its exercise he may arrive at the verities of existence. Reason is the discoverer of the realities of things, and that which conflicts with its conclusions is the product of human fancy and imagination.”

    The point of this reply is to clarify our thinking while keeping in mind that we ought never to be fanatical as fanaticism is repellent. Fanaticism is a form of violence, it is a root cause of oppression. Religious people ought to hold themselves to a standard of righteous conduct but in their relation to others be extremely tolerant. That is how Abdu’l-Baha was, he would listen to people very patiently while they emptied themselves of all their thoughts. I am sure he would have enjoyed listening to you Pastor Newton. I wish you well sir.

  6. @ Shirley. Surely you know by now that you either with Mr. Newton, or you are with the devil. Which side are you on?

  7. Listening to me is one thing, but really having something to say is another whole different ball game. John 7:46 “The officers answered, Never man spake like this man”.

    John 6:67 – 69 “Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God”

  8. @ Pastor Newton- Please review the first principle of establishing the foundation for universal peace- to investigate reality for ourselves. Unless and until you take the time to investigate the life and teachings of Abdu’l-Baha these interactions are pointless.

    You are cordially invited to take the time to investigate these claims for yourself. I challenge you to find anything at all to hold against Abdu’l-Baha, in fact, when people tried to put him on a pedestal and worship him, he would always stop them and in total humility, state that he was only a servant, that was his role, that was his mission in life.

    I can understand your passion for the Lord Jesus Christ as having saved you from a life of sin. Those of us who do have a love for God ought to put our energy into deeds, rather than words, the people are not interested in words.

  9. I don’t need to hear the words of a would be social activist, I need the Words of Life, from the lips of the Son of God. The Lord Jesus is “the Prophet of God”, if anyone’s words, which are behind one’s deeds, do not line up with the Word of God, then we are not to listen to such humanistic heresy. There is only one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. And there is only One spokesman for God – the Lord Jesus Christ. So if you want to come into God’s presence, then you need to be redeemed, reconciled by the Cross work of Messiah Jesus. There is no other way. As sinners (all of us) need forgiveness of sins, and as sinners we need to be “born of God”, without these grace works of God in the soul, we can never do anything acceptable to God. We can not see nor enter into the kingdom of God, says the Lord Jesus Christ – John 3. Self achievement, self help, self illumination, self awareness, etc., no matter what the form of religion it takes, God will not accept you apart from faith in the sacrifice of His Son.

    Tit 3:4-7 “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life”

  10. What a wonderful way to start the week Shirley. You certainly have gotten someone to thinking. I am always amazed at how the bible can be quoted to support just about any position you might want to take, but isn’t it wonderful how Jesus placed himself amongst the poor, the downtrodden, the sinners and the troubled. I thought it was always about forgiveness and loving thy neighbour as thyself.
    There a many prophets walking the earth today. The difficulty is in telling which ones are the true ones I guess. I think the ones I am most suspicious of are the all-knowing types who have the only answer to life’s questions.
    Faith comes in many forms. Thanks for the thoughts.

  11. Garry you are such a wise man, as you think, but your liberal, open mindedness betrays you, and exposes your spiritual blindness. It’s so typical of a know-it- all to speak evil of the messenger while totally missing the message. The message is that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only Savior given to mankind from God. He said of himself – ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man cometh unto the Father but by me”.

    Garry do you suppose this man Abdu’l Bahá’ believed this? Or was his teaching of enlightenment divorced from any relationship or acknowledging of such revealed truth. Joh 3:36 “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him”. 1Jn 5:12″ He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life”.

    By the way Garry, I don’t say that I have the only way, but that the Lord Jesus is the only way. To allow others to say there are other ways to God contradicts what the Lord Jesus said – Mat 7:13-14 “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it”.

    Simple rule to follow -Isa 8:20 “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them”.

  12. There is only one GOD, no other.
    The bible is written by MAN.
    Have a nice day and thank GOD for the lovely day that has passed and may you wake up to a peaceful day tomrrow.

  13. Forgive me for interrupting this conversation, but I would like to offer my humble thoughts on this topic.

    Interestingly, ‘Abdu’l-Baha does not claim to be a prophet of God and in no way he compares his station with the Station of Jesus Christ.

    I don’t think that ‘Abdu’l-Baha refered to himself as a saviour of the peoples of the world; he called himself a servant. Never did he say he was a prophet or a messenger of God.

  14. So why listen to him (Abdu’l-Baha), or follow him. Why settle for a servant when you can follow the Master – the Messiah, the King of Kings, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God?

  15. Shirley how refreshing to hear a commentary on the travels of Abdu’l Baha being written by a professional woman who also knows something of the spirit. It has been far too long that clergy who have primarily been men, have had a leg hold on how we view and understand spirituality and how it is an everyday occurrence.
    The Master would indeed loved to have spoken to the people who have responded on your site, and they would have been delighted that he endorsed and upheld their beliefs in the teachings of Christ.
    Good on you girl!

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