To Pope Pius IX, Bahá’u’lláh revealed the following: “O Pope! Rend the veils asunder. He Who is the Lord of Lords is come overshadowed with clouds, and the decree hath been fulfilled by God, the Almighty, the Unrestrained.… He, verily, hath again come down from Heaven even as He came down from it the first time. Beware that thou dispute not with Him even as the Pharisees disputed with Him [Jesus] without a clear token or proof. On His right hand flow the living waters of grace, and on His left the choice Wine of justice, whilst before Him march the angels of Paradise, bearing the banners of His signs. Beware lest any name debar thee from God, the Creator of earth and heaven. Leave thou the world behind thee, and turn towards thy Lord, through Whom the whole earth hath been illumined.… Dwellest thou in palaces whilst He Who is the King of Revelation liveth in the most desolate of abodes? Leave them unto such as desire them, and set thy face with joy and delight towards the Kingdom.… Arise in the name of thy Lord, the God of Mercy, amidst the peoples of the earth, and seize thou the Cup of Life with the hands of confidence, and first drink thou therefrom, and proffer it then to such as turn towards it amongst the peoples of all faiths.…
“Call thou to remembrance Him Who was the Spirit [Jesus], Who, when He came, the most learned of His age pronounced judgment against Him in His own country, whilst he who was only a fisherman believed in Him. Take heed, then, ye men of understanding heart! Thou, in truth, art one of the suns of the heaven of His names. Guard thyself, lest darkness spread its veils over thee, and fold thee away from His light.… Consider those who opposed the Son [Jesus], when He came unto them with sovereignty and power. How many the Pharisees who were waiting to behold Him, and were lamenting over their separation from Him! And yet, when the fragrance of His coming was wafted over them, and His beauty was unveiled, they turned aside from Him and disputed with Him.… None save a very few, who were destitute of any power amongst men, turned towards His face. And yet today every man endowed with power and invested with sovereignty prideth himself on His Name! In like manner, consider how numerous, in these days, are the monks who, in My Name, have secluded themselves in their churches, and who, when the appointed time was fulfilled, and We unveiled Our beauty, knew Us not, though they call upon Me at eventide and at dawn.…
“The Word which the Son concealed is made manifest. It hath been sent down in the form of the human temple in this day. Blessed be the Lord Who is the Father! He, verily, is come unto the nations in His most great majesty. Turn your faces towards Him, O concourse of the righteous! …This is the day whereon the Rock [Peter] crieth out and shouteth, and celebrateth the praise of its Lord, the All-Possessing, the Most High, saying: ‘Lo! The Father is come, and that which ye were promised in the Kingdom is fulfilled!…’ My body longeth for the cross, and Mine head waiteth the thrust of the spear, in the path of the All-Merciful, that the world may be purged from its transgressions.…
“O Supreme Pontiff! Incline thine ear unto that which the Fashioner of moldering bones counseleth thee, as voiced by Him Who is His Most Great Name. Sell all the embellished ornaments thou dost possess, and expend them in the path of God, Who causeth the night to return upon the day, and the day to return upon the night. Abandon thy kingdom unto the kings, and emerge from thy habitation, with thy face set towards the Kingdom, and, detached from the world, then speak forth the praises of thy Lord betwixt earth and heaven. Thus hath bidden thee He Who is the Possessor of Names, on the part of thy Lord, the Almighty, the All-Knowing. Exhort thou the kings and say: ‘Deal equitably with men. Beware lest ye transgress the bounds fixed in the Book.’ This indeed becometh thee. Beware lest thou appropriate unto thyself the things of the world and the riches thereof. Leave them unto such as desire them, and cleave unto that which hath been enjoined upon thee by Him Who is the Lord of creation. Should anyone offer thee all the treasures of the earth, refuse to even glance upon them. Be as thy Lord hath been. Thus hath the Tongue of Revelation spoken that which God hath made the ornament of the book of creation.… Should the inebriation of the wine of My verses seize thee, and thou determinest to present thyself before the throne of thy Lord, the Creator of earth and heaven, make My love thy vesture, and thy shield remembrance of Me, and thy provision reliance upon God, the Revealer of all power.… Verily, the day of ingathering is come, and all things have been separated from each other. He hath stored away that which He chose in the vessels of justice, and cast into fire that which befitteth it. Thus hath it been decreed by your Lord, the Mighty, the Loving, in this promised Day. He, verily, ordaineth what He pleaseth. There is none other God save He, the Almighty, the All-Compelling.”
In the Tablet addressed to the Czar of Russia, Alexander II, we read: “O Czar of Russia! Incline thine ear unto the voice of God, the King, the Holy, and turn thou unto Paradise, the Spot wherein abideth He Who, among the Concourse on high, beareth the most excellent titles, and Who, in the kingdom of creation, is called by the name of God, the Effulgent, the All-Glorious. Beware lest thy desire deter thee from turning towards the face of thy Lord, the Compassionate, the Most Merciful. We, verily, have heard the thing for which thou didst supplicate thy Lord, whilst secretly communing with Him. Wherefore, the breeze of My loving-kindness wafted forth, and the sea of My mercy surged, and We answered thee in truth. Thy Lord, verily, is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. Whilst I lay chained and fettered in the prison, one of thy ministers extended Me his aid. Wherefore hath God ordained for thee a station which the knowledge of none can comprehend except His knowledge. Beware lest thou barter away this sublime station.… Beware lest thy sovereignty withhold thee from Him Who is the Supreme Sovereign. He, verily, is come with His Kingdom, and all the atoms cry aloud: ‘Lo! The Lord is come in His great majesty!’ He Who is the Father is come, and the Son [Jesus], in the holy vale, crieth out: ‘Here am I, here am I, O Lord, My God!’, whilst Sinai circleth round the House, and the Burning Bush calleth aloud: ‘The All-Bounteous is come mounted upon the clouds! Blessed is he that draweth nigh unto Him, and woe betide them that are far away.’
“Arise thou amongst men in the name of this all-compelling Cause, and summon, then, the nations unto God, the Exalted, the Great. Be thou not of them who called upon God by one of His names, but who, when He Who is the Object of all names appeared, denied Him and turned aside from Him, and, in the end, pronounced sentence against Him with manifest injustice. Consider and call thou to mind the days whereon the Spirit of God [Jesus] appeared, and Herod gave judgment against Him. God, however, aided Him with the hosts of the unseen, and protected Him with truth, and sent Him down unto another land, according to His promise. He, verily, ordaineth what He pleaseth. Thy Lord truly preserveth whom He willeth, be he in the midst of the seas, or in the maw of the serpent, or beneath the sword of the oppressor.…
“Again I say: Hearken unto My voice that calleth from My prison, that it may acquaint thee with the things that have befallen My Beauty, at the hands of them that are the manifestations of My glory, and that thou mayest perceive how great hath been My patience, notwithstanding My might, and how immense My forebearance, notwithstanding My power. By My life! Couldst thou but know the things sent down by My Pen, and discover the treasures of My Cause, and the pearls of My mysteries which lie hid in the seas of My names and in the goblets of My words, thou wouldst, in thy love for My name, and in thy longing for My glorious and sublime Kingdom, lay down thy life in My path. Know thou that though My body be beneath the swords of My foes, and My limbs be beset with incalculable afflictions, yet My spirit is filled with a gladness with which all the joys of the earth can never compare.
“Set thine heart towards Him Who is the Point of adoration for the world, and say: O peoples of the earth! Have ye denied the One in Whose path He Who came with the truth, bearing the announcement of your Lord, the Exalted, the Great, suffered martyrdom? Say: This is an Announcement whereat the hearts of the Prophets and Messengers have rejoiced. This is the One Whom the heart of the world remembereth, and is promised in the Books of God, the Mighty, the All-Wise. The hands of the Messengers were, in their desire to meet Me, upraised towards God, the Mighty, the Glorified.… Some lamented in their separation from Me, others endured hardships in My path, and still others laid down their lives for the sake of My Beauty, could ye but know it. Say: I, verily, have not sought to extol Mine Own Self, but rather God Himself, were ye to judge fairly. Naught can be seen in Me except God and His Cause, could ye but perceive it. I am the One Whom the tongue of Isaiah hath extolled, the One with Whose name both the Torah and the Evangel were adorned. …Blessed be the king whose sovereignty hath withheld him not from his Sovereign, and who hath turned unto God with his heart. He, verily, is accounted of those that have attained unto that which God, the Mighty, the All-Wise, hath willed. Erelong will such a one find himself numbered with the monarchs of the realms of the Kingdom. Thy Lord is, in truth, potent over all things. He giveth what He willeth to whomsoever He willeth, and withholdeth what He pleaseth from whomsoever He willeth. He, verily, is the All-Powerful, the Almighty.”
To Queen Victoria Bahá’u’lláh has written: “O Queen in London! Incline thine ear unto the voice of thy Lord, the Lord of all mankind, calling from the Divine Lote-Tree: Verily, no God is there but Me, the Almighty, the All-Wise! Cast away all that is on earth, and attire the head of thy kingdom with the crown of the remembrance of thy Lord, the All-Glorious. He, in truth, hath come unto the world in His most great glory, and all that hath been mentioned in the Gospel hath been fulfilled. The land of Syria hath been honored by the footsteps of its Lord, the Lord of all men, and north and south are both inebriated with the wine of His presence. Blessed is the man that inhaled the fragrance of the Most Merciful, and turned unto the Dawning-Place of His Beauty, in this resplendent Dawn. The Mosque of Aqsá vibrateth through the breezes of its Lord, the All-Glorious, whilst Bathá [Mecca] trembleth at the voice of God, the Exalted, the Most High. Whereupon every single stone of them celebrateth the praise of the Lord, through this Great Name.
“Lay aside thy desire, and set then thine heart towards thy Lord, the Ancient of Days. We make mention of thee for the sake of God, and desire that thy name may be exalted through thy remembrance of God, the Creator of earth and heaven. He, verily, is witness unto that which I say. We have been informed that thou hast forbidden the trading in slaves, both men and women. This, verily, is what God hath enjoined in this wondrous Revelation. God hath, truly, destined a reward for thee, because of this. He, verily, will pay the doer of good his due recompense, wert thou to follow what hath been sent unto thee by Him Who is the All-Knowing, the All-Informed. As to him who turneth aside, and swelleth with pride, after that the clear tokens have come unto him, from the Revealer of signs, his work shall God bring to naught. He, in truth, hath power over all things. Man’s actions are acceptable after his having recognized [the Manifestation]. He that turneth aside from the True One is indeed the most veiled amongst His creatures. Thus hath it been decreed by Him Who is the Almighty, the Most Powerful.
“We have also heard that thou hast entrusted the reins of counsel into the hands of the representatives of the people. Thou, indeed, hast done well, for thereby the foundations of the edifice of thine affairs will be strengthened, and the hearts of all that are beneath thy shadow, whether high or low, will be tranquilized. It behooveth them, however, to be trustworthy among His servants, and to regard themselves as the representatives of all that dwell on earth. This is what counseleth them, in this Tablet, He Who is the Ruler, the All-Wise.… Blessed is he that entereth the assembly for the sake of God, and judgeth between men with pure justice. He, indeed, is of the blissful.…
“Turn thou unto God and say: O my Sovereign Lord! I am but a vassal of Thine, and Thou art, in truth, the King of kings. I have lifted my suppliant hands unto the heaven of Thy grace and Thy bounties. Send down, then, upon me from the clouds of Thy generosity that which will rid me of all save Thee, and draw me nigh unto Thyself. I beseech Thee, O my Lord, by Thy name, which Thou hast made the king of names and the manifestation of Thyself to all who are in heaven and on earth, to rend asunder the veils that have intervened between me and my recognition of the Dawning-Place of Thy signs and the Dayspring of Thy Revelation. Thou art, verily, the Almighty, the All-Powerful, the All-Bounteous. Deprive me not, O my Lord, of the fragrances of the Robe of Thy mercy in Thy days, and write down for me that which Thou hast written down for Thy handmaidens who have believed in Thee and in Thy signs, and have recognized Thee, and set their hearts towards the horizon of Thy Cause. Thou art truly the Lord of the worlds and of those who show mercy the Most Merciful. Assist me, then, O my God, to remember Thee amongst Thy handmaidens, and to aid Thy Cause in Thy lands. Accept, then, that which hath escaped me when the light of Thy countenance shone forth. Thou, indeed, hast power over all things. Glory be to Thee, O Thou in Whose hand is the kingdom of the heavens and of the earth.”
In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, His Most Holy Book, Bahá’u’lláh thus addresses the German Emperor, William I: “Say: O King of Berlin! Give ear unto the Voice calling from this manifest Temple: Verily, there is none other God but Me, the Everlasting, the Peerless, the Ancient of Days. Take heed lest pride debar thee from recognizing the Dayspring of Divine Revelation, lest earthly desires shut thee out, as by a veil, from the Lord of the Throne above and of the earth below. Thus counseleth thee the Pen of the Most High. He, verily, is the Most Gracious, the All-Bountiful. Do thou remember the one whose power transcended thy power [Napoleon III], and whose station excelled thy station. Where is he? Whither are gone the things he possessed? Take warning, and be not of them that are fast asleep. He it was who cast the Tablet of God behind him, when We made known unto him what the hosts of tyranny had caused Us to suffer. Wherefore, disgrace assailed him from all sides, and he went down to dust in great loss. Think deeply, O King, concerning him, and concerning them who, like unto thee, have conquered cities and ruled over men. The All-Merciful brought them down from their palaces to their graves. Be warned, be of them who reflect.”
And further, in that same Book, this remarkable prophecy: “O banks of the Rhine! We have seen you covered with gore, inasmuch as the swords of retribution were drawn against you; and you shall have another turn. And We hear the lamentations of Berlin, though she be today in conspicuous glory.”
Again in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas these words, directed to Emperor Francis Joseph, are recorded: “O Emperor of Austria! He who is the Dayspring of God’s Light dwelt in the prison of ‘Akká, at the time when thou didst set forth to visit the Aqsá Mosque [Jerusalem]. Thou passed Him by, and inquired not about Him, by Whom every house is exalted, and every lofty gate unlocked. We, verily, made it [Jerusalem] a place whereunto the world should turn, that they might remember Me, and yet thou hast rejected Him Who is the Object of this remembrance, when He appeared with the Kingdom of God, thy Lord and the Lord of the worlds. We have been with thee at all times, and found thee clinging unto the Branch and heedless of the Root. Thy Lord, verily, is a witness unto what I say. We grieved to see thee circle round Our Name, whilst unaware of Us, though We were before thy face. Open thine eyes, that thou mayest behold this glorious Vision, and recognize Him Whom thou invokest in the daytime and in the night season, and gaze on the Light that shineth above this luminous Horizon.”
In the Súriy-i-Mulúk Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-‘Azíz is addressed in the following terms: “Hearken, O king, to the speech of Him that speaketh the truth, Him that doth not ask thee to recompense Him with the things God hath chosen to bestow upon thee, Him Who unerringly treadeth the straight Path. He it is Who summoneth thee unto God, thy Lord, Who showeth thee the right course, the way that leadeth to true felicity, that haply thou mayest be of them with whom it shall be well.… He that giveth up himself wholly to God, God shall, assuredly, be with him; and he that placeth his complete trust in God, God shall, verily, protect him from whatsoever may harm him, and shield him from the wickedness of every evil plotter.
“Wert thou to incline thine ear unto My speech and observe My counsel, God would exalt thee to so eminent a position that the designs of no man on the whole earth could ever touch or hurt thee. Observe, O king, with thine inmost heart and with thy whole being, the precepts of God, and walk not in the paths of the oppressor. Seize thou, and hold firmly within the grasp of thy might, the reins of the affairs of thy people, and examine in person whatever pertaineth unto them. Let nothing escape thee, for therein lieth the highest good.
“Render thanks unto God for having chosen thee out of the whole world, and made thee king over them that profess thy faith. It well beseemeth thee to appreciate the wondrous favors with which God hath favored thee, and to magnify continually His name. Thou canst best praise Him if thou lovest His loved ones, and dost safeguard and protect His servants from the mischief of the treacherous, that none may any longer oppress them. Thou shouldst, moreover, arise to enforce the law of God amongst them, that thou mayest be of those who are firmly established in His law.
“Shouldst thou cause rivers of justice to spread their waters amongst thy subjects, God would surely aid thee with the hosts of the unseen and of the seen, and would strengthen thee in thine affairs. No God is there but Him. All creation and its empire are His. Unto Him return the works of the faithful.
“Place not thy reliance on thy treasures. Put thy whole confidence in the grace of God, thy Lord. Let Him be thy trust in whatever thou doest, and be of them that have submitted themselves to His Will. Let Him be thy helper and enrich thyself with His treasures, for with Him are the treasuries of the heavens and of the earth. He bestoweth them upon whom He will, and from whom He will He withholdeth them. There is none other God but Him, the All-Possessing, the All-Praised. All are but paupers at the door of His mercy; all are helpless before the revelation of His sovereignty, and beseech His favors.
“Overstep not the bounds of moderation, and deal justly with them that serve thee. Bestow upon them according to their needs, and not to the extent that will enable them to lay up riches for themselves, to deck their persons, to embellish their homes, to acquire the things that are of no benefit unto them, and to be numbered with the extravagant. Deal with them with undeviating justice, so that none among them may either suffer want, or be pampered with luxuries. This is but manifest justice. Allow not the abject to rule over and dominate them who are noble and worthy of honor, and suffer not the high-minded to be at the mercy of the contemptible and worthless, for this is what We observed upon Our arrival in the City [Constantinople], and to it We bear witness.…
“Set before thine eyes God’s unerring Balance and, as one standing in His Presence, weigh in that balance thine actions every day, every moment of thy life. Bring thyself to account ere thou art summoned to a reckoning, on the Day when no man shall have strength to stand for fear of God, the Day when the hearts of the heedless ones shall be made to tremble.…
“Thou art God’s shadow on earth. Strive, therefore, to act in such a manner as befitteth so eminent, so august a station. If thou dost depart from following the things We have caused to descend upon thee and taught thee, thou wilt, assuredly, be derogating from that great and priceless honor. Return, then, and cleave wholly unto God, and cleanse thine heart from the world and all its vanities, and suffer not the love of any stranger to enter and dwell therein. Not until thou dost purify thine heart from every trace of such love can the brightness of the light of God shed its radiance upon it, for to none hath God given more than one heart. This, verily, hath been decreed and written down in His ancient Book. And as the human heart, as fashioned by God, is one and undivided, it behooveth thee to take heed that its affections be, also, one and undivided. Cleave thou, therefore, with the whole affection of thine heart, unto His love, and withdraw it from the love of anyone besides Him, that He may aid thee to immerse thyself in the ocean of His unity, and enable thee to become a true upholder of His oneness.…
“Let thine ear be attentive, O King, to the words We have addressed thee. Let the oppressor desist from his tyranny, and cut off the perpetrators of injustice from among them that profess thy faith. By the righteousness of God! The tribulations We have sustained are such that any pen that recounteth them cannot but be overwhelmed with anguish. No one of them that truly believe and uphold the unity of God can bear the burden of their recital. So great have been Our sufferings that even the eyes of our enemies have wept over Us, and beyond those of every discerning person. And to all these trials have We been subjected, in spite of Our action in approaching thee, and in bidding the people to enter beneath thy shadow, that thou mightest be a stronghold unto them that believe in and uphold the unity of God.
“Have I, O King, ever disobeyed thee? Have I, at any time, transgressed any of thy laws? Can any of thy ministers that represent thee in ‘Iráq produce any proof that can establish My disloyalty to thee? No, by Him Who is the Lord of all worlds! Not for one short moment did We rebel against thee, or against any of thy ministers. Never, God willing, shall We revolt against thee, though We be exposed to trials more severe than any We suffered in the past. In the daytime and in the night season, at even and at morn, We pray to God on thy behalf, that He may graciously aid thee to be obedient unto Him and to observe His commandments, that He may shield thee from the hosts of the evil ones. Do, therefore, as it pleaseth thee, and treat Us as befitteth thy station and beseemeth thy sovereignty. Be not forgetful of the law of God in whatever thou desirest to achieve, now or in the days to come. Say: Praise be to God, the Lord of all worlds!”
Moreover, in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, is this vehement apostrophe to Constantinople: “O Spot that art situate on the shores of the two seas! The throne of tyranny hath, verily, been stablished upon thee, and the flame of hatred hath been kindled within thy bosom, in such wise that the Concourse on high and they who circle around the Exalted Throne have wailed and lamented. We behold in thee the foolish ruling over the wise, and darkness vaunting itself against the light. Thou art indeed filled with manifest pride. Hath thine outward splendor made thee vainglorious? By Him Who is the Lord of mankind! It shall soon perish, and thy daughters and thy widows and all the kindreds that dwell within thee shall lament. Thus informeth thee the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.”
As to Náṣiri’d-Dín Sháh, the Lawḥ-i-Sulṭán, despatched to him from ‘Akká and constituting Bahá’u’lláh’s lengthiest Epistle to any single sovereign, proclaims: “O King! I was but a man like others, asleep upon My couch, when lo, the breezes of the All-Glorious were wafted over Me, and taught Me the knowledge of all that hath been. This thing is not from Me, but from One Who is Almighty and All-Knowing. And He bade Me lift up My voice between earth and heaven, and for this there befell Me what hath caused the tears of every man of understanding to flow. The learning current amongst men I studied not; their schools I entered not. Ask of the city wherein I dwelt, that thou mayest be well assured that I am not of them who speak falsely. This is but a leaf which the winds of the will of thy Lord, the Almighty, the All-Praised, have stirred. Can it be still when the tempestuous winds are blowing? Nay, by Him Who is the Lord of all Names and Attributes! They move it as they list. The evanescent is as nothing before Him Who is the Ever-Abiding. His all-compelling summons hath reached Me, and caused Me to speak His praise amidst all people. I was indeed as one dead when His behest was uttered. The hand of the will of thy Lord, the Compassionate, the Merciful, transformed Me. Can anyone speak forth of his own accord that for which all men, both high and low, will protest against him? Nay, by Him Who taught the Pen the eternal mysteries, save him whom the grace of the Almighty, the All-Powerful, hath strengthened. The Pen of the Most High addresseth Me saying: Fear not. Relate unto His Majesty the Sháh that which befell thee. His heart, verily, is between the fingers of thy Lord, the God of Mercy, that haply the sun of justice and bounty may shine forth above the horizon of his heart. Thus hath the decree been irrevocably fixed by Him Who is the All-Wise.
“Look upon this Youth, O King, with the eyes of justice; judge thou, then, with truth concerning what hath befallen Him. Of a verity, God hath made thee His shadow amongst men, and the sign of His power unto all that dwell on earth. Judge thou between Us and them that have wronged Us without proof and without an enlightening Book. They that surround thee love thee for their own sakes, whereas this Youth loveth thee for thine own sake, and hath had no desire except to draw thee nigh unto the seat of grace, and to turn thee toward the right hand of justice. Thy Lord beareth witness unto that which I declare.
“O King! Wert thou to incline thine ear unto the shrill of the Pen of Glory and the cooing of the Dove of Eternity which, on the branches of the Lote-Tree beyond which there is no passing, uttereth praises to God, the Maker of all names and Creator of earth and heaven, thou wouldst attain unto a station from which thou wouldst behold in the world of being naught save the effulgence of the Adored One, and wouldst regard thy sovereignty as the most contemptible of thy possessions, abandoning it to whosoever might desire it, and setting thy face toward the Horizon aglow with the light of His countenance. Neither wouldst thou ever be willing to bear the burden of dominion save for the purpose of helping thy Lord, the Exalted, the Most High. Then would the Concourse on high bless thee. O how excellent is this most sublime station, couldst thou ascend thereunto through the power of a sovereignty recognized as derived from the Name of God!…
“O King of the age! The eyes of these refugees are turned towards and fixed upon the mercy of the Most Merciful. No doubt is there whatever that these tribulations will be followed by the outpourings of a supreme mercy, and these dire adversities be succeeded by an overflowing prosperity. We fain would hope, however, that His Majesty the Sháh will himself examine these matters, and bring hope to the hearts. That which We have submitted to thy Majesty is indeed for thine highest good. And God, verily, is a sufficient witness unto Me.…
“O would that thou wouldst permit Me, O Sháh, to send unto thee that which would cheer the eyes, and tranquilize the souls, and persuade every fair-minded person that with Him is the knowledge of the Book.… But for the repudiation of the foolish and the connivance of the divines, I would have uttered a discourse that would have thrilled and carried away the hearts unto a realm from the murmur of whose winds can be heard: ‘No God is there but He!’…
“I have seen, O Sháh, in the path of God what eye hath not seen nor ear heard.… How numerous the tribulations which have rained, and will soon rain, upon Me! I advance with My face set towards Him Who is the Almighty, the All-Bounteous, whilst behind Me glideth the serpent. Mine eyes have rained down tears until My bed is drenched. I sorrow not for Myself, however. By God! Mine head yearneth for the spear out of love for its Lord. I never passed a tree, but Mine heart addressed it saying: ‘O would that thou wert cut down in My name, and My body crucified upon thee, in the path of My Lord!’… By God! Though weariness lay Me low, and hunger consume Me, and the bare rock be My bed, and My fellows the beasts of the field, I will not complain, but will endure patiently as those endued with constancy and firmness have endured patiently, through the power of God, the Eternal King and Creator of the nations, and will render thanks unto God under all conditions. We pray that, out of His bounty—exalted be He—He may release, through this imprisonment, the necks of men from chains and fetters, and cause them to turn, with sincere faces, towards His Face, Who is the Mighty, the Bounteous. Ready is He to answer whosover calleth upon Him, and nigh is He unto such as commune with Him.”
In the Qayyúm-i-Asmá’ the Báb, for His part, thus addresses Muḥammad Sháh: “O King of Islám! Aid thou, with the truth, after having aided the Book, Him Who is Our Most Great Remembrance, for God hath, in very truth, destined for thee, and for such as circle round thee, on the Day of Judgment, a responsible position in His Path. I swear by God, O Sháh! If thou showest enmity unto Him Who is His Remembrance, God will, on the Day of Resurrection, condemn thee, before the kings, unto hellfire, and thou shalt not, in very truth, find on that Day any helper except God, the Exalted. Purge thou, O Sháh, the Sacred Land [Ṭihrán] from such as have repudiated the Book, ere the day whereon the Remembrance of God cometh, terribly and of a sudden, with His potent Cause, by the leave of God, the Most High. God, verily, hath prescribed to thee to submit unto Him Who is His Remembrance, and unto His Cause, and to subdue, with the truth and by His leave, the countries, for in this world thou hast been mercifully invested with sovereignty, and will, in the next, dwell, nigh unto the Seat of Holiness, with the inmates of the Paradise of His good pleasure. Let not thy sovereignty deceive thee, O Sháh, for ‘every soul shall taste of death,’ and this, in very truth, hath been written down as a decree of God.”
In His Tablet to Muḥammad Sháh the Báb, moreover, has revealed: “I am the Primal Point from which have been generated all created things. I am the Countenance of God Whose splendor can never be obscured, the Light of God Whose radiance can never fade.… All the keys of heaven God hath chosen to place on My right hand, and all the keys of hell on My left.… I am one of the sustaining pillars of the Primal Word of God. Whosoever hath recognized Me, hath known all that is true and right, and hath attained all that is good and seemly.… The substance wherewith God hath created Me is not the clay out of which others have been formed. He hath conferred upon Me that which the worldly-wise can never comprehend, nor the faithful discover.…
“By My life! But for the obligation to acknowledge the Cause of Him Who is the Testimony of God … I would not have announced this unto thee.… In that same year [year 60] I despatched a messenger and a book unto thee, that thou mightest act towards the Cause of Him Who is the Testimony of God as befitteth the station of thy sovereignty.…
“I swear by the truth of God! Were he who hath been willing to treat Me in such a manner to know who it is whom he hath so treated, he, verily, would never in his life be happy. Nay—I, verily, acquaint thee with the truth of the matter—it is as if he hath imprisoned all the Prophets, and all the men of truth, and all the chosen ones.… Woe betide him from whose hands floweth evil, and blessed the man from whose hands floweth good.…
“I swear by God! I seek no earthly goods from thee, be it as much as a mustard seed.… I swear by the truth of God! Wert thou to know that which I know, thou wouldst forego the sovereignty of this world and of the next, that thou mightest attain My good pleasure, through thine obedience unto the True One.… Wert thou to refuse, the Lord of the world would raise up one who will exalt His Cause, and the Command of God will, verily, be carried into effect.”
Dear friends! How vast a panorama these gemlike, these soul-searching divinely uttered pronouncements outspread before our eyes! What memories they evoke! How sublime the principles they inculcate! What hopes they engender! What apprehensions they excite! And yet how fragmentary must these above-quoted words, suited as they are to the immediate purpose of my theme, appear when compared with the torrential majesty which only the reading of the full text can disclose! He Who was God’s Vicar on earth, addressing, at the most critical moment when His Revelation was attaining its zenith, those who concentrated in their persons the splendor, the sovereignty, and the strength of earthly dominion, could certainly not subtract one jot or tittle from the weight and force which the presentation of so historic a Message demanded. Neither the perils which were fast closing in upon Him, nor the formidable power with which the doctrine of absolute sovereignty invested, at that time, the emperors of the West and the potentates of the East, could restrain the Exile and Prisoner of Adrianople from communicating the full blast of His Message to His twin imperial persecutors as well as to the rest of their fellow-sovereigns.
The magnitude and diversity of the theme, the cogency of the argument, the sublimity and audacity of the language, arrest our attention and astound our minds. Emperors, kings and princes, chancellors and ministers, the Pope himself, priests, monks and philosophers, the exponents of learning, parliamentarians and deputies, the rich ones of the earth, the followers of all religions, and the people of Bahá—all are brought within the purview of the Author of these Messages, and receive, each according to their merits, the counsels and admonitions they deserve. No less amazing is the diversity of the subjects touched upon in these Tablets. The transcendent majesty and unity of an unknowable and unapproachable God is extolled, and the oneness of His Messengers proclaimed and emphasized. The uniqueness, the universality and potentialities of the Bahá’í Faith are stressed, and the purpose and character of the Bábí Revelation unfolded. The significance of Bahá’u’lláh’s sufferings and banishments is disclosed, and the tribulations rained down upon His Herald and upon His Namesake recognized and lamented. His own yearning for the crown of martyrdom, which they both so mysteriously won, is voiced, and the ineffable glories and wonders in store for His own Dispensation foreshadowed. Episodes, at once moving and marvelous, at various stages of His ministry, are recounted, and the transitoriness of worldly pomp, fame, riches, and sovereignty, repeatedly and categorically asserted. Appeals for the application of the highest principles in human and international relations are forcibly and insistently made, and the abandonment of discreditable practices and conventions, detrimental to the happiness, the growth, the prosperity and the unity of the human race, enjoined. Kings are censured, ecclesiastical dignitaries arraigned, ministers and plenipotentiaries condemned, and the identification of His advent with the coming of the Father Himself unequivocally admitted and repeatedly announced. The violent downfall of a few of these kings and emperors is prophesied, two of them are definitely challenged, most are warned, all are appealed to and exhorted.
In the Lawḥ-i-Sulṭán (Tablet to the Sháh of Persia) Bahá’u’lláh declares: “Would that the world-adorning wish of His Majesty might decree that this Servant be brought face to face with the divines of the age, and produce proofs and testimonies in the presence of His Majesty the Sháh! This Servant is ready, and taketh hope in God, that such a gathering may be convened in order that the truth of the matter may be made clear and manifest before His Majesty the Sháh. It is then for thee to command, and I stand ready before the throne of thy sovereignty. Decide, then, for Me or against Me.”
And moreover, in the Lawḥ-i-Ra’ís, Bahá’u’lláh, recalling His conversation with the Turkish officer charged with the task of enforcing His banishment to the fortress-town of ‘Akká, has written: “There is a matter, which, if thou findest it possible, I request thee to submit to His Majesty the Sulṭán, that for ten minutes this Youth be enabled to meet him, so that he may demand whatsoever he deemeth as a sufficient testimony and regardeth as proof of the veracity of Him Who is the Truth. Should God enable Him to produce it, let him, then, release these wronged ones, and leave them to themselves.” “He promised,” Bahá’u’lláh adds in that Tablet, “to transmit this message, and to give Us his reply. We received, however, no news from him. Although it becometh not Him Who is the Truth to present Himself before any person, inasmuch as all have been created to obey Him, yet in view of the condition of these little children and the large number of women so far removed from their friends and countries, We have acquiesced in this matter. In spite of this nothing hath resulted. Umar himself is alive and accessible. Inquire from him, that the truth may be made known unto you.”
Referring to these Tablets addressed to the sovereigns of the earth, and which ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá has acclaimed as a “miracle,” Bahá’u’lláh has written: “Each one of them hath been designated by a special name. The first hath been named ‘The Rumbling,’ the second, ‘The Blow,’ the third, ‘The Inevitable,’ the fourth, ‘The Plain,’ the fifth, ‘The Catastrophe,’ and the others, ‘The Stunning Trumpet Blast,’ ‘The Near Event,’ ‘The Great Terror,’ ‘The Trumpet,’ ‘The Bugle,’ and their like, so that all the peoples of the earth may know, of a certainty, and may witness, with outward and inner eyes, that He Who is the Lord of Names hath prevailed, and will continue to prevail, under all conditions, over all men.… Never since the beginning of the world hath the Message been so openly proclaimed.… Glorified be this Power which hath shone forth and compassed the worlds! This act of the Causer of Causes hath, when revealed, produced two results. It hath at once sharpened the swords of the infidels, and unloosed the tongues of such as have turned towards Him in His remembrance and praise. This is the effect of the fertilizing winds, mention of which hath been made aforetime in the Lawḥ-i-Haykal. The whole earth is now in a state of pregnancy. The day is approaching when it will have yielded its noblest fruits, when from it will have sprung forth the loftiest trees, the most enchanting blossoms, the most heavenly blessings. Immeasurably exalted is the breeze that wafteth from the garment of thy Lord, the Glorified! For lo, it hath breathed its fragrance and made all things new! Well it is with them that comprehend. It is indubitably clear and evident that in these things He Who is the Lord of Revelation hath sought nothing for Himself. Though aware that they would lead to tribulations, and be the cause of troubles and afflictive trials, He, solely as a token of His loving-kindness and favor, and for the purpose of quickening the dead and of manifesting the Cause of the Lord of all Names and Attributes, and of redeeming all who are on earth, hath closed His eyes to His own well-being and borne that which no other person hath borne or will bear.”
The most important of His Tablets addressed to individual sovereigns Bahá’u’lláh ordered to be written in the form of a pentacle, symbolizing the temple of man, including therein, as a conclusion, the following words which reveal the importance He attached to those Messages, and indicate their direct association with the prophecy of the Old Testament: “Thus have We built the Temple with the hands of power and might, could ye but know it. This is the Temple promised unto you in the Book. Draw ye nigh unto it. This is that which profiteth you, could ye but comprehend it. Be fair, O peoples of the earth! Which is preferable, this, or a temple which is built of clay? Set your faces towards it. Thus have ye been commanded by God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting. Follow ye His bidding, and praise ye God, your Lord, for that which He hath bestowed upon you. He, verily, is the Truth. No God is there but He. He revealeth what He pleaseth, through His words ‘Be and it is.’”
Referring to this same subject, He, in one of His Tablets, thus addresses the followers of Jesus Christ: “O concourse of the followers of the Son! Verily, the Temple hath been built with the hands of the will of your Lord, the Almighty, the All-Bounteous. Bear, then, witness, O people, unto that which I say: Which is preferable, that which is built of clay, or that which is built by the hands of your Lord, the Revealer of verses? This is the Temple promised unto you in the Tablets. It calleth aloud: ‘O followers of religions! Haste ye to attain unto Him Who is the Source of all causes, and follow not every infidel and doubter.’”
It should not be forgotten that, apart from these specific Tablets in which the kings of the earth are severally and collectively addressed, Bahá’u’lláh has revealed other Tablets—the Lawḥ-i-Ra’ís being an outstanding example—and interspersed the mass of His voluminous writings with unnumbered passages, in which direct addresses, as well as references, have been made to ministers, governments, and their accredited representatives. I am not concerned, however, with such addresses and references, which, vital as they are, cannot be regarded as being endowed with that peculiar pregnancy which direct and specific messages, voiced by the Manifestation of God and directed to the world’s Chief Magistrates in His day, must possess.
Dear friends! Enough has been said to portray the tribulations which, for so long a time, overwhelmed the Founders of so preeminent a Revelation, and which the world has so disastrously ignored. Sufficient attention has also been directed to the Messages addressed to those sovereign rulers who, either in the exercise of their unconditioned authority, have deliberately provoked these sufferings, or could have, in the plenitude of their power, arisen to mitigate their effect or deflect their tragic course. Let us now consider the consequences that have ensued. The reaction of these monarchs was, as already stated, varied and unmistakable and, as the march of events has gradually unfolded, disastrous in its consequences. One of the most outstanding amongst these sovereigns treated the Divine Summons with gross disrespect, dismissing it with a curt and insolent reply, written by one of his ministers. Another laid violent hold on the bearer of the Message, tortured, branded, and brutally slew him. Others preferred to maintain a contemptuous silence. All failed completely in their duty to arise and extend their assistance. Two of them, in particular, prompted by the dual impulse of fear and anger, tightened their grip on the Cause they had jointly resolved to uproot. The one condemned his Divine Prisoner to yet another banishment, to “the most unsightly of cities in appearance, the most detestable in climate, and the foulest in water,” whilst the other, powerless to lay hands on the Prime Mover of a hated Faith, subjected its adherents under his sway to abject and savage cruelties. The recital of Bahá’u’lláh’s sufferings, embodied in those Messages, failed to evoke compassion in their hearts. His appeals, the like of which neither the annals of Christianity nor even those of Islám have recorded, were disdainfully rejected. The dark warnings He uttered were haughtily scorned. The bold challenges He issued were ignored. The chastisements He predicted they derisively brushed aside.
What, then—might we not consider—has, in the face of so complete and ignominious a rejection, happened, and is still happening, in the course, and particularly in the closing years, of this, the first Bahá’í century, a century fraught with such tumultuous sufferings and violent outrages for the persecuted Faith of Bahá’u’lláh? Empires fallen in dust, kingdoms subverted, dynasties extinguished, royalty besmirched, kings assassinated, poisoned, driven into exile, subjugated in their own realms, whilst the few remaining thrones are trembling with the repercussions of the fall of their fellows.
This process, so gigantic, so catastrophic, may be said to have had its inception on that memorable night when, in an obscure corner of Shíráz, the Báb, in the presence of the First Letter to believe in Him, revealed the first chapter of His celebrated commentary on the Súrih of Joseph (The Qayyúm-i-Asmá’), in which He trumpeted His Call to the sovereigns and princes of the earth. It passed from incubation to visible manifestation when Bahá’u’lláh’s prophecies, enshrined for all time in the Súriy-i-Haykal, and uttered before Napoleon III’s dramatic downfall and the self-imposed imprisonment of Pope Pius IX in the Vatican, were fulfilled. It gathered momentum when, in the days of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, the Great War extinguished the Romanov, the Hohenzollern, and Hapsburg dynasties, and converted powerful time-honored monarchies into republics. It was further accelerated, soon after ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá’s passing, by the demise of the effete Qájár dynasty in Persia, and the stupendous collapse of both the Sultanate and the Caliphate. It is still operating, under our very eyes, as we behold the fate which, in the course of this colossal and ravaging struggle, is successively overtaking the crowned heads of the European continent. Surely, no man, contemplating dispassionately the manifestations of this relentless revolutionizing process, within comparatively so short a time, can escape the conclusion that the last hundred years may well be regarded, in so far as the fortunes of royalty are concerned, as one of the most cataclysmic periods in the annals of mankind.
Of all the monarchs of the earth, at the time when Bahá’u’lláh, proclaiming His Message to them, revealed the Súriy-i-Mulúk in Adrianople, the most august and influential were the French Emperor and the Supreme Pontiff. In the political and religious spheres they respectively held the foremost rank, and the humiliation both suffered was alike immediate and complete.
Napoleon III, son of Louis Bonaparte (brother of Napoleon I), was, few historians will deny, the most outstanding monarch of his day in the West. “The Emperor,” it was said of him, “was the state.” The French capital was the most attractive capital in Europe, the French court “the most brilliant and luxurious of the XIX century.” Possessed of a fixed and indestructible ambition, he aspired to emulate the example, and finish the interrupted work, of his imperial uncle. A dreamer, a conspirator, of a shifting nature, hypocritical and reckless, he, the heir to the Napoleonic throne, taking advantage of the policy which sought to foster the reviving interest in the career of his great prototype, had sought to overthrow the monarchy. Failing in his attempt, he was deported to America, was later captured in the course of an attempted invasion of France, was condemned to perpetual captivity, and escaped to London, until, in 1848, the Revolution brought about his return, and enabled him to overthrow the constitution, after which he was proclaimed emperor. Though able to initiate far-reaching movements, he possessed neither the sagacity nor the courage required to control them.
To this man, the last emperor of the French, who, through foreign conquest, had striven to endear his dynasty to the people, who even cherished the ideal of making France the center of a revived Roman Empire—to such a man the Exile of ‘Akká, already thrice banished by Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-‘Azíz, had transmitted, from behind the walls of the barracks in which He lay imprisoned, an Epistle which bore this indubitably clear arraignment and ominous prophecy: “We testify that that which wakened thee was not their cry [Turks drowned in the Black Sea], but the promptings of thine own passions, for We tested thee, and found thee wanting.… Hadst thou been sincere in thy words, thou wouldst not have cast behind thy back the Book of God [previous Tablet], when it was sent unto thee by Him Who is the Almighty, the All-Wise. …For what thou hast done, thy kingdom shall be thrown into confusion, and thine empire shall pass from thine hands, as a punishment for that which thou hast wrought.”
Bahá’u’lláh’s previous Message, forwarded through one of the French ministers to the Emperor, had been accorded a welcome the nature of which can be conjectured from the words recorded in the “Epistle to the Son of the Wolf”: “To this [first Tablet], however, he did not reply. After Our arrival in the Most Great Prison there reached Us a letter from his minister, the first part of which was in Persian, and the latter in his own handwriting. In it he was cordial, and wrote the following: ‘I have, as requested by you, delivered your letter, and until now have received no answer. We have, however, issued the necessary recommendations to our Minister in Constantinople and our consuls in those regions. If there be anything you wish done, inform us, and we will carry it out.’ From his words it became apparent that he understood the purpose of this Servant to have been a request for material assistance.”
In His first Tablet Bahá’u’lláh, wishing to test the sincerity of the Emperor’s motives, and deliberately assuming a meek and unprovocative tone, had, after expatiating on the sufferings He had endured, addressed him the following words: “Two statements graciously uttered by the king of the age have reached the ears of these wronged ones. These pronouncements are, in truth, the king of all pronouncements, the like of which have never been heard from any sovereign. The first was the answer given the Russian government when it inquired why the war [Crimean] was waged against it. Thou didst reply: ‘The cry of the oppressed who, without guilt or blame, were drowned in the Black Sea wakened me at dawn. Wherefore, I took up arms against thee.’ These oppressed ones, however, have suffered a greater wrong, and are in greater distress. Whereas the trials inflicted upon those people lasted but one day, the troubles borne by these servants have continued for twenty and five years, every moment of which has held for us a grievous affliction. The other weighty statement, which was indeed a wondrous statement, manifested to the world, was this: ‘Ours is the responsibility to avenge the oppressed and succor the helpless.’ The fame of the Emperor’s justice and fairness hath brought hope to a great many souls. It beseemeth the king of the age to inquire into the condition of such as have been wronged, and it behooveth him to extend his care to the weak. Verily, there hath not been, nor is there now, on earth anyone as oppressed as we are, or as helpless as these wanderers.”
It is reported that upon receipt of this first Message that superficial, tricky, and pride-intoxicated monarch flung down the Tablet saying: “If this man is God, I am two gods!” The transmitter of the second Tablet had, it is reliably stated, in order to evade the strict surveillance of the guards, concealed it in his hat, and was able to deliver it to the French agent, who resided in ‘Akká, and who, as attested by Nabíl in his Narrative, translated it into French and sent it to the Emperor, he himself becoming a believer when he had later witnessed the fulfillment of so remarkable a prophecy.
The significance of the somber and pregnant words uttered by Bahá’u’lláh in His second Tablet was soon revealed. He who was actuated in provoking the Crimean War by his selfish desires, who was prompted by a personal grudge against the Russian Emperor, who was impatient to tear up the Treaty of 1815 in order to avenge the disaster of Moscow, and who sought to shed military glory over his throne, was soon himself engulfed by a catastrophe that hurled him in the dust, and caused France to sink from her preeminent station among the nations to that of a fourth power in Europe.
The Battle of Sedan in 1870 sealed the fate of the French Emperor. The whole of his army was broken up and surrendered, constituting the greatest capitulation hitherto recorded in modern history. A crushing indemnity was exacted. He himself was taken prisoner. His only son, the Prince Imperial, was killed, a few years later, in the Zulu War. The Empire collapsed, its program unrealized. The Republic was proclaimed. Paris was subsequently besieged and capitulated. “The terrible Year” marked by civil war, exceeding in its ferocity the Franco-German War, followed. William I, the Prussian king, was proclaimed German Emperor in the very palace which stood as a “mighty monument and symbol of the power and pride of Louis XIV, a power which had been secured to some extent by the humiliation of Germany.” Deposed by a disaster “so appalling that it resounded throughout the world,” this false and boastful monarch suffered in the end, and till his death, the same exile as that which, in the case of Bahá’u’lláh, he had so heartlessly ignored.
A humiliation less spectacular yet historically more significant awaited Pope Pius IX. It was to him who regarded himself as the Vicar of Christ that Bahá’u’lláh wrote that “the Word which the Son [Jesus] concealed is made manifest,” that “it hath been sent down in the form of the human temple,” that the Word was Himself, and He Himself the Father. It was to him who styling himself “the servant of the servants of God” that the Promised One of all ages, unveiling His station in its plenitude, announced that “He Who is the Lord of Lords is come overshadowed with clouds.” It was he, who, claiming to be the successor of St. Peter, was reminded by Bahá’u’lláh that “this is the day whereon the Rock [Peter] crieth out and shouteth … saying: ‘Lo, the Father is come, and that which ye were promised in the Kingdom is fulfilled.’” It was he, the wearer of the triple crown, who later became the first prisoner of the Vatican, who was commanded by the Divine Prisoner of ‘Akká to “leave his palaces unto such as desire them,” to “sell all the embellished ornaments” he possessed, and to “expend them in the path of God,” and to “abandon his kingdom unto the kings,” and emerge from his habitation with his face “set towards the Kingdom.”
Count Mastai-Ferretti, Bishop of Imola, the 254th pope since the inception of St. Peter’s primacy, who had been elevated to the apostolic throne two years after the Declaration of the Báb, and the duration of whose pontificate exceeded that of any of his predecessors, will be permanently remembered as the author of the Bull which declared the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin (1854), referred to in the Kitáb-i-Íqán, to be a doctrine of the Church, and as the promulgator of the new dogma of Papal Infallibility (1870). Authoritarian by nature, a poor statesman, disinclined to conciliation, determined to preserve all his authority, he, while he succeeded through his assumption of an ultramontane attitude in defining further his position and in reinforcing his spiritual authority, failed, in the end, to maintain that temporal rule which, for so many centuries, had been exercised by the heads of the Catholic Church.
This temporal power had, throughout the ages, shrunk to insignificant proportions. The decades preceding its extinction were fraught with the gravest vicissitudes. As the sun of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation was mounting to full meridian splendor, the shadows that beset the dwindling patrimony of St. Peter were correspondingly deepening. The Tablet of Bahá’u’lláh, addressed to Pius IX, precipitated its extinction. A hasty glance at the course of its ebbing fortunes, during those decades, will suffice. Napoleon I had driven the Pope from his estates. The Congress of Vienna had reestablished him as their head and their administration in the hands of the priests. Corruption, disorganization, impotence to ensure internal security, the restoration of the inquisition, had induced an historian to assert that “no land of Italy, perhaps of Europe, except Turkey, is ruled as is this ecclesiastical state.” Rome was “a city of ruins, both material and moral.” Insurrections led to Austria’s intervention. Five great Powers demanded the introduction of far-reaching reforms, which the Pope promised but failed to carry out. Austria again reasserted herself, and was opposed by France. Both watched each other on the Papal estates until 1838, when, on their withdrawal, absolutism was again restored. The Pope’s temporal power was now denounced by some of his own subjects, heralding its extinction in 1870. Internal complications forced him to flee, in the dead of night and in the disguise of a humble priest, from Rome which was declared a republic. It was later restored by the French to its former status. The creation of the kingdom of Italy, the shifting policy of Napoleon III, the disaster of Sedan, the misdeeds of the Papal government denounced by Clarendon, at the Congress of Paris, terminating the Crimean War, as a “disgrace to Europe,” sealed the fate of that tottering dominion.
In 1870, after Bahá’u’lláh had revealed His Epistle to Pius IX, King Victor Emmanuel II went to war with the Papal states, and his troops entered Rome and seized it. On the eve of its seizure, the Pope repaired to the Lateran and, despite his age and with his face bathed in tears, ascended on bended knees the Scala Santa. The following morning, as the cannonade began, he ordered the white flag to be hoisted above the dome of St. Peter. Despoiled, he refused to recognize this “creation of revolution,” excommunicated the invaders of his states, denounced Victor Emmanuel as the “robber King” and as “forgetful of every religious principle, despising every right, trampling upon every law.” Rome, “the Eternal City, on which rest twenty-five centuries of glory,” and over which the Popes had ruled in unchallengeable right for ten centuries, finally became the seat of the new kingdom, and the scene of that humiliation which Bahá’u’lláh had anticipated and which the Prisoner of the Vatican had imposed upon himself.
“The last years of the old Pope,” writes a commentator on his life, “were filled with anguish. To his physical infirmities was added the sorrow of beholding, all too often, the Faith outraged in the very heart of Rome, the religious orders despoiled and persecuted, the Bishops and priests debarred from exercising their functions.”
Every effort to retrieve the situation created in 1870 proved fruitless. The Archbishop of Posen went to Versailles to solicit Bismarck’s intervention in behalf of the Papacy, but was coldly received. Later a Catholic party was organized in Germany to bring political pressure on the German Chancellor. All, however, was in vain. The mighty process already referred to had to pursue inexorably its course. Even now, after the lapse of above half a century, the so-called restoration of temporal sovereignty has but served to throw into greater relief the helplessness of this erstwhile potent Prince, at whose name kings trembled and to whose dual sovereignty they willingly submitted. This temporal sovereignty, practically confined to the miniscule City of the Vatican, and leaving Rome the undisputed possession of a secular monarchy, has been obtained at the price of unreserved recognition, so long withheld, of the Kingdom of Italy. The Treaty of the Lateran, claiming to have resolved once and for all the Roman Question, has indeed assured to a secular Power, in respect of the Enclaved City, a liberty of action which is fraught with uncertainty and peril. “The two souls of the Eternal City,” a Catholic writer has observed, “have been separated from each other, only to collide more severely than ever before.”
Well might the Sovereign Pontiff recall the reign of the most powerful among his predecessors, Innocent III who, during the eighteen years of his pontificate, raised and deposed the kings and the emperors, whose interdicts deprived nations of the exercise of Christian worship, at the feet of whose legate the King of England surrendered his crown, and at whose voice the fourth and the fifth crusades were both undertaken.
Might not the process, to which reference has already been made, manifest, in the course of its operation, during the tumultuous years in store for mankind, and in this same domain, a commotion still more devastating than it has yet produced?
The dramatic collapse of both the Third Empire and the Napoleonic dynasty, the virtual extinction of the temporal sovereignty of the Supreme Pontiff, in the lifetime of Bahá’u’lláh, were but the precursors of still greater catastrophes that may be said to have marked the ministry of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá. The forces unleashed by a conflict, the full significance of which still remains unfathomed, and which may be considered as a prelude to this, the most devastating of all wars, can well be regarded as the occasion of these dreadful catastrophes. The progress of the War of 1914–18 dethroned the House of Romanov, while its termination precipitated the downfall of both the Hapsburg and Hohenzollern dynasties.
The rise of Bolshevism, born amidst the fires of that inconclusive struggle, shook the throne of the Czars and overthrew it. Alexander II Nicolaevich, whom Bahá’u’lláh had commanded in His Tablet to “arise … and summon the nations unto God,” who had been thrice warned: “beware lest thy desire deter thee from turning towards the face of thy Lord,” “beware lest thou barter away this sublime station,” “beware lest thy sovereignty withhold thee from Him Who is the Supreme Sovereign,” was not indeed the last of the Czars to rule his country, but rather the inaugurator of a retrogressive policy which in the end proved fatal to both himself and his dynasty.
In the latter part of his reign he initiated a reactionary policy which, causing widespread disillusionment, gave rise to Nihilism, which, as it spread, ushered in a period of terrorism of unexampled violence, leading in its turn to several attempts on his life, and culminating in his assassination. Stern repression guided the policy of his successor, Alexander III, who “assumed an attitude of defiant hostility to innovators and liberals.” The tradition of unqualified absolutism, of extreme religious orthodoxy was maintained by the still more severe Nicolas II, the last of the Czars, who, guided by the counsels of a man who was “the very incarnation of a narrow-minded, stiff-necked despotism,” and aided by a corrupt bureaucracy, and humiliated by the disastrous effects of a foreign war, increased the general discontent of the masses, both intellectuals and peasants. Driven for a time into subterranean channels, and intensified by military reverses, it exploded at last in the midst of the Great War, in the form of a Revolution which, in the principles it challenged, the institutions it subverted, and the havoc it wrought, has scarcely a parallel in modern history.
A great trembling seized and rocked the foundations of that country. The light of religion was dimmed. Ecclesiastical institutions of every denomination were swept away. The state religion was disendowed, persecuted, and abolished. A far-flung empire was dismembered. A militant, triumphant proletariat exiled the intellectuals, and plundered and massacred the nobility. Civil war and disease decimated a population, already in the throes of agony and despair. And, finally, the Chief Magistrate of a mighty dominion, together with his consort, and his family, and his dynasty, were swept into the vortex of this great convulsion, and perished.
The very ordeal that heaped such dire misfortunes on the empire of the Czars brought about, in its concluding stages, the fall of the almighty German Kaiser as well as that of the inheritor of the once famed Holy Roman Empire. It shattered the whole fabric of Imperial Germany, which arose out of the disaster that engulfed the Napoleonic dynasty, and dealt the Dual Monarchy its death blow.
Almost half a century before, Bahá’u’lláh, Who had predicted, in clear and resounding terms, the ignominious fall of the successor of the great Napoleon, had, in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, addressed to Kaiser William I, the newly acclaimed victor, a no less significant warning, and prophesied, in His apostrophe to the banks of the Rhine, in words equally unambiguous, the mourning that would afflict the capital of the newly federated empire.
“Do thou remember,” Bahá’u’lláh thus addressed him, “the one [Napoleon] whose power transcended thy power, and whose station excelled thy station.… Think deeply, O king, concerning him, and concerning them who, like unto thee, have conquered cities and ruled over men.” And again: “O banks of the Rhine! We have seen you covered with gore, inasmuch as the swords of retribution were drawn against you; and you shall have another turn. And We hear the lamentations of Berlin, though she be today in conspicuous glory.”
On him who, in his old age, sustained two attempts upon his life by the advocates of the rising tide of socialism; on his son Frederick III, whose three months’ reign was overshadowed by mortal disease; and finally on his grandson, William II, the self-willed and overweening monarch and wrecker of his own empire—on these fell, in varying degrees, the full weight of the responsibilities consequent to these dire pronouncements.
William I, first German Emperor and seventh king of Prussia, whose entire lifetime had, up to the date of his accession, been spent in the army, was a militaristic, autocratic ruler, imbued with antiquated ideas, who initiated, with the aid of a statesman rightly regarded as “one of the geniuses of his century,” a policy which may be said to have inaugurated a new era not only for Prussia but for the world. This policy was pursued with characteristic thoroughness and perfected through the repressive measures that were taken to safeguard and uphold it, through the wars that were waged for its realization, and the political combinations that were subsequently formed to exalt and consolidate it, combinations that were fraught with such dreadful consequences to the European continent.
William II, temperamentally dictatorial, politically inexperienced, militarily aggressive, religiously insincere, posed as the apostle of European peace, yet actually insisted on “the mailed fist” and “the shining armor.” Irresponsible, indiscreet, inordinately ambitious, his first act was to dismiss that sagacious statesman, the true founder of his empire, to whose sagacity Bahá’u’lláh had paid tribute, and to the unwisdom of whose imperial and ungrateful master ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá had testified. War indeed became a religion of his country, and by enlarging the scope of his multifarious activities, he proceeded to prepare the way for that final catastrophe that was to dethrone him and his dynasty. And when the war broke out, and the might of his armies seemed to have overpowered his adversaries, and the news of his triumphs was noised abroad, reverberating as far as Persia, voices were raised ridiculing those passages of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas which so clearly foreshadowed the misfortunes that were to befall his capital. Suddenly, however, swift and unforeseen reverses fatally overtook him. Revolution broke out. William II, deserting his armies, fled ignominiously to Holland, followed by the Crown Prince. The princes of the German states abdicated. A period of chaos ensued. The communist flag was hoisted in the capital, which became a caldron of confusion and civil strife. The Kaiser signed his abdication. The Constitution of Weimar established the Republic, bringing the tremendous structure, so elaborately reared through a policy of blood and iron, crashing to the ground. All the efforts to that end, which through internal legislation and foreign wars had, ever since the accession of William I to the Prussian throne, been assiduously exerted, came to naught. “The lamentations of Berlin,” tortured by the terms of a treaty monstrous in its severity, were raised, contrasting with the hilarious shouts of victory that rang, half a century before, in the Hall of Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles.
The Hapsburg monarch, heir of centuries of glorious history, simultaneously toppled from his throne. It was Francis Joseph, whom Bahá’u’lláh chided in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas for having failed in his duty to investigate His Cause, let alone to seek His presence, when so easily accessible to him in the course of his visit to the Holy Land. “Thou passed Him by,” He thus reproves the pilgrim-emperor, “and inquired not about Him.… We have been with thee at all times, and found thee clinging unto the Branch and heedless of the Root.… Open thine eyes, that thou mayest behold this Glorious Vision and recognize Him Whom thou invokest in the daytime and in the night season, and gaze on the Light that shineth above this luminous Horizon.”
The House of Hapsburg, in which the Imperial Title had remained practically hereditary for almost five centuries, was, ever since those words were uttered, being increasingly menaced by the forces of internal disintegration, and was sowing the seeds of an external conflict, to both of which it ultimately succumbed. Francis Joseph, Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary, a reactionary ruler, reestablished old abuses, ignored the rights of nationalities, and restored that bureaucratic centralization that proved in the end so injurious to his empire. Repeated tragedies darkened his reign. His brother Maximilian was shot in Mexico. The Crown Prince Rudolph perished in a dishonorable affair. The Empress was assassinated in Geneva. Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife were murdered in Sarajevo, kindling a war in the midst of which the Emperor himself died, closing a reign which is unsurpassed by any other reign in the disasters it brought to the nation.
Belated efforts had been made to steady his tottering throne. The “ramshackle empire,” a medley of states, races, and languages, was, however, relentlessly and rapidly disintegrating. The political and economic situation was desperate. The defeat of Austria and Hungary, in that same war, sounded its death knell and brought its dismemberment. Hungary sundered its connection. The conglomerate realm was carved up, and all that was left of the once formidable Holy Roman Empire was a shrunken republic that led a miserable existence until, in more recent times, it was, unlike its sister nation, completely extinguished and wiped off the political map of Europe.
Such was the fate of the Napoleonic, the Romanov, the Hohenzollern, and the Hapsburg empires, whose rulers, together with the sovereign occupant of the Papal throne, were individually addressed by the Pen of the Most High, and who were respectively chastised, forewarned, condemned, rebuked and admonished. What of the fate of those sovereigns who, exercising direct political jurisdiction over the Faith, its Founders, and followers, and within the radius of whose domains that Faith was born and first spread, were at liberty to crucify its Herald, banish its Founder, and mow down its adherents?
Already in the lifetime of Bahá’u’lláh, and later during the ministry of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, the first blows of a slow yet steady and relentless retribution were falling alike upon the rulers of the Turkish House of Uthmán and of the Qájár dynasty in Persia—the archenemies of God’s infant Faith. Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-‘Azíz fell from power, and was murdered soon after Bahá’u’lláh’s banishment from Adrianople, while Náṣiri’d-Dín Sháh succumbed to an assassin’s pistol, during ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá’s incarceration in the fortress-town of ‘Akká. It was reserved, however, for the Formative Period of the Faith of God—the Age of the birth and rise of its Administrative Order—which, as stated in a previous communication, is through its unfoldment casting such a turmoil in the world, to witness not only the extinction of both of these dynasties, but also the abolition of the twin institutions of the Sultanate and the Caliphate.
Of the two despots ‘Abdu’l-‘Azíz was the more powerful, the more exalted in rank, the more preeminent in guilt, and the more concerned with the tribulations and fortunes of the Founder of our Faith. He it was who, through his farmáns, had thrice banished Bahá’u’lláh, and in whose dominions the Manifestation of God spent almost the whole of His forty years’ captivity. It was during his reign and that of his nephew and successor, ‘Abdu’l-Ḥamíd II, that the Center of the Covenant of God had to endure, for no less than forty years, in the fortress-town of ‘Akká, an incarceration fraught with so many perils, affronts and privations.
“Hearken, O king!” is the summons issued to Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-‘Azíz by Bahá’u’lláh, “to the speech of Him that speaketh the truth, Him that doth not ask thee to recompense Him with the things God hath chosen to bestow upon thee, Him Who unerringly treadeth the Straight Path.… Observe, O king, with thine inmost heart and with thy whole being, the precepts of God, and walk not in the paths of the oppressor.… Place not thy reliance on thy treasures. Put thy whole confidence in the grace of God, thy Lord.… Overstep not the bounds of moderation, and deal justly with them that serve thee.… Set before thine eyes God’s unerring Balance, and, as one standing in His presence, weigh in that Balance thine actions, every day, every moment of thy life. Bring thyself to account ere thou art summoned to a reckoning, on the Day when no man shall have strength to stand for fear of God, the Day when the hearts of the heedless ones shall be made to tremble.”
“The day is approaching,” Bahá’u’lláh thus prophesies in the Lawḥ-i-Ra’ís, “when the Land of Mystery [Adrianople], and what is beside it shall be changed, and shall pass out of the hands of the king, and commotions shall appear, and the voice of lamentation shall be raised, and the evidences of mischief shall be revealed on all sides, and confusion shall spread by reason of that which hath befallen these captives at the hands of the hosts of oppression. The course of things shall be altered, and conditions shall wax so grievous, that the very sands on the desolate hills will moan, and the trees on the mountain will weep, and blood will flow out of all things. Then wilt thou behold the people in sore distress.”
“Soon,” He, moreover has written, “will He seize you in His wrathful anger, and sedition will be stirred up in your midst, and your dominions will be disrupted. Then will ye bewail and lament, and will find none to help or succor you.… Several times calamities have overtaken you, and yet ye failed utterly to take heed. One of them was the conflagration which devoured most of the City [Constantinople] with the flames of justice, and concerning which many poems were written, stating that no such fire had ever been witnessed. And yet, ye waxed more heedless.… Plague, likewise, broke out, and ye still failed to give heed! Be expectant, however, for the wrath of God is ready to overtake you. Erelong will ye behold that which hath been sent down from the Pen of My command.”
“By your deeds,” He, in another Tablet, anticipating the fall of the Sultanate and the Caliphate, thus reproves the combined forces of Sunní and Shí‘ih Islám, “the exalted station of the people hath been abased, the standard of Islám hath been reversed, and its mighty throne hath fallen.”
And finally, in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, revealed soon after Bahá’u’lláh’s banishment to ‘Akká, He thus apostrophizes the seat of Turkish imperial power: “O Spot that art situate on the shores of the two seas! The throne of tyranny hath, verily, been stablished upon thee, and the flame of hatred hath been kindled within thy bosom.… Thou art indeed filled with manifest pride. Hath thine outward splendor made thee vainglorious? By Him Who is the Lord of mankind! It shall soon perish, and thy daughters, and thy widows, and all the kindreds that dwell within thee shall lament. Thus informeth thee, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.”
Indeed, in a most remarkable passage in the Lawḥ-i-Fu’ád, wherein mention has been made of the death of Fu’ád Páshá, the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, the fall of the Sulṭán himself is unmistakably foretold: “Soon will We dismiss the one who was like unto him, and will lay hold on their Chief who ruleth the land, and I, verily, am the Almighty, the All-Compelling.”
The Sulṭán’s reaction to these words, bearing upon his person, his empire, his throne, his capital, and his ministers, can be gathered from the recital of the sufferings he inflicted on Bahá’u’lláh, and already referred to in the beginning of these pages. The extinction of the “outward splendor” surrounding that proud seat of Imperial power is the theme I now proceed to expose.