As Little Children
History of Master’s Life
As Little Children
Leader of the Bahaites, Who Has Been Called the “Breeze of God,” Reveals to an Interviewer a Day’s Processes in His Quiet Campaign for the Advancement of His Spiritual Philosophy.
Source: ‘Abdul-Baha Talks to Kate Carew of Things Spiritual and Mundane –
New York Tribune, 1912-05-05
It is said that the wife and daughters of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, brought up according to Western ideas of education, are living in Alexandria, more or less fettered by the conventionalities of that Eastern city. It is also true that in the early days of the Bahaite movement women performed prodigies of bravery and sacrifice for the faith, so I ask:
“Do you believe in woman’s desire for freedom?”
He adjusts his turban—a frequent mannerism.
“The soul has no sex.”
“In a supreme moment, as in that of the Titanic disaster, should both sexes share the danger equally?”
“Women are more delicate than men. This delicacy men should take into consideration. That is their obligation. If the time ever comes when the average woman is a man’s equal in physical strength there will be no need for this consideration; but not until then.”
…I asked: “Is it possible for us ever to rid ourselves of our grown-up illusions and become, as Christ said, ‘as little children’?”
“Certainly. There is such a thing as innocence due to ignorance, due to weakness. It is innate in the child to be simple, but when a person becomes matured there should be such a thing as innocence of knowledge, of strength. For instance, a child, owing to certain weakness, may not lie. Even if the child wishes to tell an untruth it is incapable of doing it. This is due to his impotence: but when it becomes old and its morals receive rectitude, then through pure, conscious potency can it restrain itself from lying.”
“Do we most need suffering or happiness to open to us the door of spiritual understanding?”
“Trials and suffering for the perfect man are good. For an imperfect they are a test. For example, a drunkard may, through his sin, lose all his possessions. He is cast into a great ordeal. That is his punishment. But the man who is endeavoring along the paths of virtuous achievement may meet ordeals which are really bounties for they will help him.”
“Why is a child near the spirit land?”
“Because children are so innocent. They have no stratagems. Their hearts are like spring meadows.”
“Should we train the young mind with fairy tales or something more realistic?”
“Fairy tales will not help a child. Anything without a foundation of truth lacks permanence. We should begin early to cultivate in children virtues, to teach them the realities of life.”
“Is there any way of making this life in a commercial city less crude for the young boy and girl?’
“It would be well to get them together and say ‘Young ladies, God has created you all human; isn’t it a pity that you should pass your energy along animalistic lines? God has created you men and women in order that you may acquire his virtues, that you may progress in all the degrees, that you may be veritable angels, holy and sanctified.’”
“There are so many temptations put in their way,” I murmur. The ‘Abdu’l-Baha looks very sympathetic, but his singsong tones are relentlessly firm.
“Let them try a little of the delicacy of the spiritual world, the sweetness of its perfection and see which life is preferable. One leads man to debasement, the end of it is remorse, the end of it is scorn, the end of it is confusion. ‘Praise be to God you are gifted with intellect,’ I would say to them. ‘God has created you noble, why are you willing to degrade yourself? God has created you bright, radiant, how are you willing to be steeped in darkness? God has created you supreme. Why are you willing to be degraded into the abyss of despair? Admonish them in this way and exhort them.”