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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.

~~~~~~~~~

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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2 thoughts on “Speech for the Universal Races Congress

  1. Notes on the sources and translation

    The first source (Paragraphs 1 to 10).
    There is a parallel text in Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 288, which is a translation of Abdu’l-Baha’s later Tablet to the Hague (December 1919). The Persian text of that tablet is published in Makatib-e Abdu’l-Baha vol. 1 p. 315. Because this tablet does not contain a direct reference to the Congress, London or to race as an issue, it seems likely that it is quoted from an earlier work of Abdu’l-Baha addressed to the “people of the world,” rather than being written especially for the Congress.

    Paragraph 1: “But when that composition is affected by discord,…”
    The text in Khetabaat has ekhtelaaf/ اختلاف (discord) while Makaatib has ekhtelaal/ اختلال (disorder). The former is much more common in Abdu’l-Baha’s diction, and fits the theme more exactly, which raises the possibility that the text in Makaatib (The Tablet to the Hague) has an error here.

    Paragraph 2: “the dissociation and decomposition of elements.” Khetabaat has `enaasr/ عناصر (elements) here, while Makatib has ejza/ اجز (parts). The text at this point is similar to a tablet of Baha’u’llah, translated in Gleanings LXXX, and sections of Abdu’l-Baha’sTablet to August Forel, which use the former where the question is composition and decomposition, and the latter when speaking of the harmony of limbs and organs in one body. Thus the text in Khetabaat is likely to be the correct one. The copyist of Makaatib has probably taken the word ejza from the previous line by mistake. (There it is translated as “dissociation of the constituents).”

    Paragraph 4: “the crops and gardens have been planted and cultivated…”.
    “And cultivated” (و ترتيب) is missing in the Tablet to the Hague.

    “If we see dispersal and disorder and discord
    “and discord” is not in the earlier version of this talk, published in Star of the West, nor in the later citation of it in the Tablet to the Hague.

    “have established themselves”
    The Makaatib text reads “تباه و خود روئيست”. The و is an obvious error.

    Paragraph 5: “Should anyone contend …”
    This paragraph is translated by Shoghi Effendi, in The Bahai World Vol. 2 p 54-55, but some ellipses have been omitted in his translation there, and he has apparently used the text in Makaatib, which is missing a sentence that is shown in Khetabaat.

    “…who seek to efface one another… bloodshed”
    This sentence is missing in the translation of the Tablet to the Hague published in Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, but it is in the Persian text of that tablet, in Makaatib. However the following sentence, “Such differences are truly blameworthy” is missing in the Persian text in Makaatib.

    “..to deprive the other of house and home…”
    The word in Khetabaat is خانمان , while Makaatib has خانمانرا . The latter appears to be a typist’s error. The meaning is not affected.

    “The Lord of Glory”
    Both the Khetabaat and Makaatib versions have an honorific, Hazrat (حضرت) here, which is not translated. But the earlier version in Star of the West omits the honorific.

    Paragraph 6: “Consider the flowers …”
    Shoghi Effendi translated paragraphs 6 to 9 in The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 42 and in The Advent of Divine Justice p. 54.

    Paragraph 7: “… it is thanks …”
    The Persian text in Star of the West omits several words. This is an evident copyist’s error, and indicates that the text in Khetabaat does not rely entirely on the Star of the West Persian version, although the preamble in Khetabaat names Star of the West’s Persian section (نجم باختر) as its source.

    “When the various limbs”
    The text in Makaatib reads “When these various limbs.”

    Paragraph 8: “… the leaves and blossoms, the fruit …”
    The text in Makaatib has ‘fruit’ in the singular (ثمار), which appears to be a scribal error.

    “But when their colours…”
    The text in Makaatib reads, “But when, as regards (از حيثيّت) their colours …”

    Paragraph 9: Today, only the power of the Word of God… ”
    The Makaatib text has (کلّيّه = supreme, or all-embracing, power), and Shoghi Effendi translates this as the ‘celestial potency’ of the Word of God. This suggests that Shoghi Effendi was using the text of the Tablet to the Hague (now published in Makaatib) rather than either version of the presentation for the Race Unity Congress.

    Paragraph 10: “…colours, races, and religions..”
    “And religions” ( و اديان) is shown in the text in Khetabaat, but not in the earlier version in Star of the West, nor in the Tablet to the Hague.

    “… the Word of the One God…”
    “the One God” (وحدانيه) is shown in the text in Khetabaat, but not in the earlier version in Star of the West, nor in the Tablet to the Hague.

    ~~~~~

    The second source

    From paragraph 11, the text in this ‘talk’ has been taken from another letter from Abdu’l-Baha, which is the first text translated in Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, and is also published in its Persian companion volume, Montakhaati az Makaatib-e Hazrat-e ‘Abdu’l-Bahaa (p. 1) and in Min Makaatibe-e Hazrat-e ‘Abdu’l-Bahaa vol. 1 p. 157. Both the Persian text and an early translation by Yuhanna Davud are published in his book The River of Life (London, 1914, p. 51). A scan of that Persian text is available online and would appear to be an original sent to Davud by Abdu’l-Baha. I have taken this as my master text. The Persian text is also published in Ma’ideh Asmani vol. 5 p. 273 [119], where the vocative at the beginning is different, and it is identified as a tablet to the Bahais of Kermanshah. If this is the source, then the introductory “O People of the World” in Abdu’l-Baha’s address to the Congress has been inserted for the occasion. In Makaatib-e Abd’ul-Baha vol. 3 p. 118, published in 1921, the letter addresses the “People of the World” and is said to have been written recently “during the war,” which is impossible as Abdu’l-Baha was citing it early in 1911, and Dawud’s translation was published in London in May 1914, and is also said to be “enclosed.” Perhaps the Bahais of Kermanshah were among those who received a copy, enclosed with another letter. It is also published in the compilation Besharat-e Nur (Langeheimm BE 140) p. 498 and Eshraq-Khavari’s compilation Payam-e Malakut p. 244. Sections are published in Payam-e Asmani vol.1 p. 22, Amr wa Khalq vol.3 p. 206. I have translated it as it appears in Khetabaat, vol. 1 p. 39, with reference to the version in Star of the West 2.17.23. A German translation is published in Abdu’l-Baha: Briefe und Botschaften, which also states that this letter was written during the First World War, which is impossible, and adds that it was attached to Abdu’l-Baha Tablet to the Hague as an appendix. It is more likely that the German translators have been working with a copy of the compilation prepared for the Universal Races Congress, which they have mistaken for the Tablet to the Hague and a supplementary text.

    Paragraph 14: “lavish”
    The auxiliary verb here is دارد, in Khetabaat and in The River of Life. The copyist of the Star of the West version has omitted the last letter.

    Paragraph 15: “O Friends…”
    The addressee and the theme change at this point, suggesting that this is a third separate citation, written to a particular group of Bahais. However Davud does not indicate that there is any break in the text which he received, and I have not located a published version in which this is a separate text. Eshraq-Khavari and the editors of Besharat-e Nur and Ma’ideh Asmani also treat this second source as a single document. While Payam-e Esmani vol.1 p. 153 begins a new citation at this point, the editor has placed elipses before it, indicating that it is part of a longer tablet.

    Paragraph 18: “Pay no heed to malice …”
    Both the electronic text of Khetabaat and the paper version have اعراض (rejection, denial), while Dawud’s text (gif 19) and the Star of the West (Persian, page 10) have اغراض (designs on something, interests, and in the Bahai writings, malice or evil purposes). I think that Dawud’s text is the best of those available to me, as it is made by a careful copyist and not reproduced lithographically rather than being typeset, and thus not subject to reading errors or editorial changes.

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