The Holy Spirit is the source of Life

October 5, 1911: a talk given at the home of Edith and Margaret Sanderson in Paris

The Persian notes for this talk are published in Majmú`iy-i Khiṭábát-i Ḥazrat-i `Abdu’l-Bahá, vol. 1 p. 43 (KHTB1). It is also printed in Khiṭábát-i-Mubárakih (a selection from the ‘talks’), page 41, and there is an Arabic translation in Khuṭab-i `Abdu’l-Bahá fí Úrúbá wa-Amríká, which I have consulted in preparing this provisional translation. The PIN number (Phelps inventory number) is ABU0690.

The date appears to be October 4 or 5, 1911, just after Abdu’l-Baha’s return from London. [1] On those two days, he was either staying briefly with Hippolyte Dreyfus and Laura Barney, at 15 rue Greuze, or he may have just moved into the apartment he rented at 4, avenue de Camoëns. However this talk was given at the nearby home of Edith and Margaret Sanderson, at 46 avenue de Malakoff – today called the avenue Raymond Poincaré. I am grateful to Jan Jasion’s highly recommended history Abdu’l-Baha in France: 1911 & 1913, for this information and also for his personal guidance on a recent tour of that part of Paris.

He is God.
The world of existence can be compared to the human body, and the forces of nature are like the limbs and organs of that body. The human body needs a spirit, that it may be quickened, have movement and come to life. Then the powers of sight and hearing and the capacities for movement and understanding appear. Then the dazzling light of reason shines within, a light that uncovers the realities of things so that humanity may make progress.
In the absence of the spirit, these results will not be forthcoming. However graceful and well-formed the body may be, it is a mere figure, without life, without consciousness or wisdom. It is devoid of perfection.

In the same way, the body of the contingent world is without spirit, even if in the material realm it is endowed with every possible delight and refinement.

The spirit of the world is the Faith of God, and the Faith of God is spirit to the contingent world and shines its light on it. It adorns and completes all things.
Therefore, while your thoughts are inclined to dwell on the means of material progress, you should also exert yourselves to make spiritual progress. As you are striving for physical civilization, you should devote even more effort to achieving spiritual progress. You attach great importance to the body: the spirit is also worthy of attention.

If the human temple contained no spirit, what would be the point of a body? The body is then dead. In the same way, if the body of the contingent world was deprived of mystic progress, it would be a lifeless body.

Human beings are outwardly animals: what distinguishes a person from an animal is that the person has a spiritual faculty, denied to the animal. A human knows about God while an animal knows nothing of God. The human apprehends the realities of things while the animal is unaware and heedless.

A person consciously uncovers and reveals the hidden realities of everything in existence, while an animal has not been granted a share in the reality of human perfections. The perfections become manifest like the brilliant rays of a lantern. Just as the light is the appearance of the perfections of this lamp, so religion prompts human perfections to manifest themselves.

This is the capacity that makes the human person superior to an animal. It is a fragrance breathed by the Holy Spirit that gives eternal life. Therefore if the human kingdom is deprived of the spirit of religion, it is like a lifeless body and remains deprived of the breaths of the Holy Spirit. Such a person, who has received no portion from the divine teachings, is as one dead.

Thus when Christ said “let the dead bury the dead” and “for that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit,” [2] he was referring to the true spirit of religion.

So it is evident that one who is deprived of the flowing grace of the Holy Spirit is dead, even if he is endowed with bodily perfections and has mastered the practical and abstract sciences.

Therefore I am praying, supplicating God that the people of this country may be revived by the breaths of the Holy Spirit and turn to God. That they may become a centre of divine blessings, that they may implement the divine teachings, that each may become like a lantern that has been ignited and may illumine the world.

4 thoughts on “The Holy Spirit is the source of Life

  1. Regarding the date : It is dated in KHTB1 on the evening of “Thursday,” 13 Shavval 1329, which is Saturday, October 7, 1911. Because the day begins at sunset, in the Islamic calendar, a date given as “the evening of” must be translated as “the eve of,” so this would be the night of October 6.

    Jan Jasion’s history says that Abdu’l-Baha crossed from England to France on October 3. He reports that Abdu’l-Baha’s first talk in Paris was given at the home of Edith and Margaret Sanderson, on Thursday, October 5 (11 Shavval). Jan Jasion does not say anything about the contents of that talk, and he says that the Persian notes are published in KHTB1 page 49 (see Abdu’l-Baha in France: 1911 & 1913). The page number does not quite match, but I have found no indications of any other talk given at the Sandersons’ home in 1911. Abdu’l-Baha visited them almost daily in April-May 1913, but usually walked there alone, without a Persian secretary. So it appears that there can only have been one recorded talk given at the Sandersons’ home.

    I have not found manuscript notes for this talk in the Persian-language sections of Star of the West. It is possible that the original notes had the incorrect date, or that there has been a reading or typesetting error in preparing the KHTB1 text. Moreover the header for this text in KHTB says, after the Islamic calendar date, that the talk was originally dated on October 15 (which is a Sunday, 21 Shavval 1329). One reconstruction is that the original Persian notes said the evening of 11 Shavval (the night of Wednesday, October 4), but this was misread as 21 Shavval when preparing the good copy. An editor realised this was impossible since Abdu’l-Baha’s engagements on 21 Shavval were known, so it was estimated that the correct date must have been about a week earlier.

    The Arabic translation referenced in the introduction dates this talk on the eve of Thursday, October 5, 1911, without indicating a source for this.

  2. It looks like something is amiss at your website Sen.

    It’s nice to see that you and Mr Jasion are collaborating. If you meet agin soon please convey my best. We share an interest in world federalism. I think he owes me a coffee. We passed some time together in Warsaw in the winter of 1995.

    The Holy Spirit is a great topic for Roman Catholics especially. ‘Let the dead bury the dead’ is addressed by Abdul Baha in these excerpts too:

    Opening his address to the Theosophical Society, 25th April 1912, in Washington D.C. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explains the supreme power of the spirit and the spiritual meaning of “let the dead bury their dead” and “…that which is born of the Spirit is spirit”. Elsewhere on that same day in that same city, destined before the close of the decade to eclipse the power of all cities, he rhetorically asks: “What difference is there between the animal and man? The difference is this: the animal is not capable of apprehending the divine teachings, whereas man is worthy of them and possesses the capacity to understand. In the animal kingdom there is no such bestowal; therefore, there is limited progression. At most, evolution in that kingdom is a development of the organism.” (*Promulgation of Universal Peace, *pp79-88) In *Paris Talks* and* Some Answered Questions,* he similarly expands on the subjects of evolution and the origin of species. That God’s plan for life on this planet unfolds through evolution is not doubted, denied or derided by Bahá’ís. Briefly, suppose we suggest that the uniqueness of humans is like the fruit of a tree and all the animals and plants on earth are the leaves. When the new young tree sprouts from the seed there is no sign of the fruit, but its potential is latent within. For much of its life the tree grows, and the leaves are nothing like the fruit. The leaves and the fruit are different in structure; however, both have similar constituent elements inherited from the same tree. (Refer *Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era*, 2006, chapter 8, page 137.)

    • Thanks for the cross-references. If the problems with my site persist, could you send an email explaining what you see (or don’t see) and your browser. However I have little technical skill, I trust WordPress, in return for the advertising revenue, to keep their blog templates working as browsers change.

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