Speech for the Universal Races Congress

July 26, 1911:
A speech prepared for the Universal Races Congress held at the University of London, July 26-29, 1911.

Abdu’l-Baha was invited to attend the Universal Races Congress in London, in July 1911, but he was not to reach London until September 4. He sent a written text, which was translated. A presentation based on that translation was delivered during the Congress by Tudor Pole, and was published in The Christian Commonwealth on August 2, 1911, and in Star of the West Vol. 2 no 9 (August 20, 1911). The text Abdu’l-Baha sent appears to be a compilation of two (or possibly three) of his own letters, so this ‘talk’ can be described as tablets that became a talk. The first of the tablets was again used by Abdu’l-Baha in his Tablet to the Hague, in December 1919.

There follows my provisional translation of this talk, based on the text in Khetabat-e Hazrat-e Abdu’l-Baha dar safr-e-Europa (Talks of ‘Abdu’l-Baha in his European travels), page 35, with reference to a version of the talk published previously, in the Persian section of Star of the West Vol. 2, No. 17, p. 24, and with reference to Persian texts of the two tablets from which the talk was derived, published in Makatib-e Abdu’l-Baha (Writings of Abdu’l-Baha) vol. 1 page 315 and Muntakhabati az Makatib-e Abdu’l-Baha (Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha) vol. 1, p. 1. More detailed notes on the sources and text differences are included in the first comment to this posting. Shoghi Effendi translated paragraphs 6 to 9 of the first source tablet, in The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 42 and in The Advent of Divine Justice p. 54, and the second tablet is translated in Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha and in Yuhanna Davud’s The River of Life, which also contains the Persian text.

The speech that was actually presented at the Universal Races Congress by Tudor Pole was first published in The Christian Commonwealth on August 2, 1911, and republished in the same month in Star of the West vol. 2, nr. 9 (August 20, 1911). It is based on the Persian text, but entire paragraphs have been inserted into it, and some material has been omitted or drastically shortened. An example is the paragraph

Rivalry between the different races of mankind was first caused by the struggle for existence among the wild animals. This struggle is no longer necessary: nay, rather! interdependence and co-operation are seen to produce the highest welfare in nations. The struggle that now continues is caused by prejudice and bigotry

This paragraph is not found in any of the Persian texts, and must be considered an interpolation.

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He is God!

1. O ye people of the world! Were you to traverse all the regions of the world, you would find that whatever is flourishing is the fruit of harmony and love, while whatever is moribund is due to hatred and hostility. Yet the people are not aware: they remain asleep and heedless. They are continually seduced by thoughts of differences, contention and conflict, and soon the battle lines are drawn and they launch themselves into fighting and killing.

2. Similarly, consider the processes of integration and disintegration, of existence and extinction: you will see that every existing thing is composed of many diverse parts. Its very existence is the result of this coming together. That is, each composition of fundamental elements in accordance with the creative will of God brings a distinct thing into existence. This is true of all of created things. But when that composition is affected by discord, the result is decomposition and the dissociation of the constituents, and that thing ceases to exist. Thus the decomposition of any thing is the result of the dissociation and decomposition of elements. Harmony and union among the elements is always the cause of life, while discord, dissolution and dissociation lead to death. In short, where there is attraction and concord, the effects will be beneficial, while repugnance and contentiousness lead only to chaos and perdition.

3. All living creatures, whether plants, or animals, or human beings, owe their lives to harmony and attraction, while contention or aversion lead to decomposition and extinction. Therefore, whatever leads to harmony, attraction and unity among all peoples is the very life of the human race. Whatever is the cause of contention, repugnance and estrangement is an instrument of death for humanity.

4. If we pass through cultivated lands and see roses and hyacinths, and crops and other plants, all growing side by side, and everything is well established, this is evidence that the crops and gardens have been planted and cultivated under the supervision of a master gardener. If we see dispersal and disorder and discord this is evidence that it has been denied the attentions of a skilled farmer, and weeds have established themselves.So it is evident that harmony and union are evidence of the training of the Divine Educator, while separation and disorder show the lack of cultivation, the lack of divine education.

5. Should anyone contend that true and enduring unity can in nowise be realized in this world, because its peoples differ widely in their manners and habits, their tastes, their temperament and character, their thoughts and their views, we will reply, that differences are of two kinds: the one is the cause of destruction, as exemplified by the spirit of contention and strife which animates mutually conflicting and antagonistic peoples and nations who seek to efface one another, each seeking to deprive the other of house and home, of undisturbed peace and well-being. To this end, they perpetrate violence and bloodshed. Such differences are truly blameworthy. The second kind of differences are the expression of diversity: these are the source of perfections and an occasion whereby the bounties of the Lord of Glory may be manifest.

6. Consider the flowers of a garden: though differing in kind, colour, form and shape, yet, as they are refreshed by the waters of one spring, revived by the breath of one wind, invigorated by the rays of one sun, this diversity increases their charm and adds to their beauty.

7. When people are drawn together through the influence of the Word of God, these differences in manners, rules and customs, thoughts, opinions and temperament become the adornments of humanity. This diversity and difference is like the natural created diversity and differentiation of the limbs and organs of the human body: it is thanks to this differentiation that beauty and perfection are manifest. When the various limbs and organs are subject to the kingship of the spirit, and the spirit permeates all the limbs and organs, and courses through the veins and arteries, this difference and diversity supports harmony and love, this multiplicity is a powerful impulse for oneness.

8. If there was a garden in which all the flowers and plants, the leaves and blossoms, the fruit, leaves, branches and trees were of the same type, colour, structure and order, there would be no beauty or pleasure in it. But when their colours, leaves, blossoms and fruits are diversified, each one enriches and adorns the others. The result is an elegant garden which exhibits the utmost beauty, vitality, and charm. In like manner, if the different ideas and opinions, and the diversity of temperaments and character in the garden of mankind are subject to the Power of one God and under the influence of the Word of Lord of Oneness, then glory, beauty, sublimity and perfection will be manifest.

9. Today, only the power of the Word of God, which encompasses the realities of things, is capable of gathering the minds, hearts and spirits of peoples around the world under the shade of the tree of God. The Word of God is the mover of souls, and the binder and restrainer in the world of men.

10. Praise be to God, today the splendour of the Word of God is shining on all horizons, and people from all sects, kindreds and nations, colours, races, and religions, have come under the shade of the Word of the One God and are gathered, united and agreed in perfect harmony.

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11. O people of the world! That pure purpose for which the Sun of Truth has dawned is to illumine the world and cause divine virtues to appear among the children of Adam, for laudable fruits and effects and goodly results, for all the abundant bounties and gifts of the Merciful, and for nothing else. The light of the world and its people is fellowship and harmony, affection and connection. Indeed, it is loving kindness, it is to become as one people, and eliminate estrangement, it is unity with all who live on earth, in complete dignity and freedom.

12. The Blessed Beauty proclaims: “You are all the fruits of one tree and leaves of one branch.” He compared this world of being to a single tree, and all people to leaves, flowers and fruits. Therefore all the branches, leaves, blossoms and fruits should flourish to the utmost. However the attainment of this degree of perfection, this sweetness, depends on close union and fellowship. Therefore we must exert our utmost to nurture one another and yearn for everlasting life.

13. Therefore those who are the friends of God must be the mercies of the Lord of mercy to the contingent world, and the bounties of the King of the seen and the unseen. Let them pay no heed to perversity, rebellion, injustice and tyranny. Rather, let them purify their sight and regard the human race as the leaves, blossoms and fruits of one divinely-created tree. Let them ever fix their minds on achieving something of benefit to one of their fellows, on showing loving-kindness and consideration to some soul, and extending a hand to assist them. Let them see no enemy, let them not suppose that any one is hostile, rather let them regard all who live on earth as their friends, complete strangers as their close companions, the foreigner as a familiar. They must not be bound by any binding, but rather free and untrammeled.

14. Today, in that Court of Grandeur, the favourites are those who proffer the cup of faithfulness and lavish the pearls of their favour on their enemies, even assisting a tyrant who has fallen on hard times and being a loving friend to a fierce foe. These are the admonitions of the Blessed Beauty! These the counsels of the Most Great Name.

15. O Friends! Fighting and contention have enveloped the world, the human race has sunk between extremes of belligerence and gloom. The dark night of cruelty surrounds them, and the light of good faith has been concealed. All the peoples and kindreds of the world have sharpened their talons, and are battling with one another. The edifice of humanity is being turned upside down. Thousands of families have been stripped of everything. Every year, hundreds of thousands are left floundering in the blood and mud of warfare and contention. The tents of life and joy are down.

16. The generals practise their generalship, boasting of the blood they have shed. They are competing to see who can create the greatest disorder. One says, “I have unsheathed the sword for the necks of a nation,” while another says, “I left a certain kingdom level with the ground,” and another, “I demolished a dynasty.” The boasting and vying among the children of men pivots on things such as these, while amity and rectitude are universally scorned; harmony and godliness are regarded as nothing.

17. The herald of well-being, progress, affection and peace is the religion of the Blessed Beauty, which has erected its pavilion on the Pole of the contingent world, and is summoning the peoples. Therefore, O friends of God! Appreciate the value of this precious Faith, align your conduct and morals with it, walk in this undeviating road. May you demonstrate it to God’s creatures. Raise the melodies of the Kingdom of God, disseminate the precepts and counsels of the loving Lord, so that this world may become another world, this darksome earth may be illumined, and the dead body of mankind may seek new life, every soul seeking the life eternal through the holy breaths of God.

18. Your life in this transitory world will last but a little while. Earthly fame and riches, and comforts and joys, will soon pass away and return to nothingness. Call God’s creatures to God, summon the souls to emulate the Concourse on high. Be as loving fathers to orphans, be a haven for the helpless, a treasury for the poor, and a cure for the ailing. Champion the cause of every victim of oppression, provide a refuge for those who are shut out. May your thoughts be fixed on serving every member of the human race. Pay no heed to malice rejection, disdain, injustice and hostility. Let your behaviour be the reverse of this. Let your loving kindness be sincere, not a show and outward form.

19. Each of the Friends of God should be thinking of nothing else but becoming the Lord’s mercy and grace. Let them do a good deed for every soul they encounter, something that will benefit them, improve their character and purify their thoughts, so that the light of guidance may shine forth and they may be surrounded by the blessings of the God of Mercy.

20. Love is light, no matter what home it shines in, and hate is darkness no matter where it makes its nest. O friends of God! Strive to banish this darkness so that the hidden mystery may stand revealed and the realities of things may be seen and understood.

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