239 Days in America

A Social Media Documentary following 'Abdu'l-Bahá in 1912

July 25, 1912
Boston, MA
Storify Feature

What Can the Hypocrite Know?

WHILE IN AMERICA ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke to a wide variety of public audiences, including peace societies, church congregations, women’s groups, and social justice organizations. But he also spoke directly to groups of Bahá’ís — followers of his father’s religion — and often when he did so, his tone changed.


“I am expecting results from this visit,” he told them on July 25, 1912, at the Hotel Victoria in Boston, “and hope that my coming may not be fruitless. The results I expect are these: that the individual soul shall be released from self and desire and freed from the bondage of satanic suggestions.” By “satanic” he meant “the natural inclinations of the lower nature,” and not some independent evil spirit.

“Man possesses two kinds of susceptibilities,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said, “the natural emotions, which are like dust upon the mirror, and spiritual susceptibilities, which are merciful and heavenly characteristics.” It was an analogy he had used many times before — the soul as a mirror reflecting divine qualities and virtues, and the constant struggle to keep it pure.

“What is the dust which obscures the mirror?” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá asked. “It is attachment to the world, avarice, envy, love of luxury and comfort, haughtiness and self-desire,” he said. The “natural emotions,” he argued, are the “rust which deprives the heart of the bounties of God.” He contrasted these emotions with what he called “spiritual susceptibilities,” a list which included “sincerity, justice, humility, severance, and love for the believers of God.”

Then he laid out the standard he expected from the Bahá’ís. “It is my hope that you may consider this matter, that you may search out your own imperfections and not think of the imperfections of anybody else. Strive with all your power to be free from imperfections. Heedless souls are always seeking faults in others. What can the hypocrite know of others’ faults when he is blind to his own?”

“As long as a man does not find his own faults,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá emphasized, “he can never become perfect. Nothing is more fruitful for man than the knowledge of his own shortcomings.” It was, he said, “a guide for human conduct.” He ended his short talk by quoting his father, Bahá’u’lláh: “I wonder at the man who does not find his own imperfections.”

At 4 p.m. that afternoon, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said farewell to his friends and well-wishers in Boston and headed eighty miles northwest into the countryside. He arrived in Dublin, New Hampshire, at 7 p.m.


  • winnie

    Calling one’s self to account and feel good about yourself are not mutually exclusive.  In fact, by assessing ourselves, and finding our shortcomings, we have a base from which to further improve and then we will feel good that we are addressing and working on them. .  The person who ignores this step cannot truly “feel good” as in the back of their mind, they know there are shortcomings.  By supressing them, they may risk them coming out in very negative ways.

    • Rooplall Dudhnath

      I must state, that i do enjoy and learnt much from  all the above blogs, and when i ask myself  what i should blog i found my self empty……..thanks all…glad to be your friend and student. I have gained a lot here to translate into action!

  • http://www.facebook.com/nicola.g.daniels Nicola Gaye Daniels

    One of the most enlightening experiences I ever had was a short course given by a couple who practice Gnosticism. I learned that a key to knowledge is self-awareness. This makes sense because we can’t divorce the world around us from our perception of it, the two things are so intensely related. I see this injunction of ‘Abdul-Baha – to come to know our own shortcomings – as an expression of this divine law. If we truly know our own selves then neither flattery nor insult can influence us and we will be able to ‘see with our own eyes and not through the eyes of others.’

  • Anne Perry

    Reflect, detach, experience joy.  Your post is inspiring, to these ends!  

  • Tapio from Finland

    To become aware that there is ‘animal me and spiritual me’ inside one person having a struggle and  being alert which ‘inhabitant’ – animal or spiritual being – we are feeding. By being aware of our shortcomings we remember to feed the spiritual being. This does not mean that we cannot ever feel good when we have done something good. Remembering our own faults keeps us also away of thinking other people’s faults.

  • Vanessa

    I think ‘Abdu’l-Baha is calling us to have a balanced approach.  We need to be aware of our own imperfections and shortcomings, and at the same time not descend into self-loathing but remember that, “Noble have I created thee … “, “Thou art My dominion and My dominion perisheth not … ” and “I loved thy creation, hence I created thee ….”

  • Mg

    If pop psychology tells us to feel good about ourselves (though I don’t believe there is anything there that says we should ONLY feel good about ourselves), it’s because many of us have been victimized by self-hating religious teachings that harm. The Bible says that we should love others AS  we love ourselves. A person who loves himself as a creation of God sees others similarly. Whereas a self-defeated person is a danger to himself and to  others.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rosamond.brenner Rosamond Brenner

    We must realize how little time we have to do the right things.  Check out pride at the door and be humble!

  • http://www.facebook.com/willyengel Billy Howell-Sinnard

    I think we should feel good about ourselves. Baha’u’llah says, “Noble have I created thee”. On the other hand, until we uncover our shadow–in the Jungian sense–we can’t recognize that noble creation of God. We must recognize what brings us down and what lifts us up. Not always an easy task. It takes prayer, meditation, daily discipline, and truth. “Are you happy?”

  • Anita

    Cleansing the dross and dust from the mirror seems to be a life-long process in which we must engage, preferably on our own free will, if our true essence is to be revealed. The journey is diffcult and challenging, to say the least. Often, the unanticipated circumstances, the countless trials and tribulations of life, force us through the process. Regardless, I have found that as one submits to the disciplines and sacrifices of this process, what emerges is truly astonishing and magnificent. “Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/William-Maxwell/1140616716 William Maxwell

    “Tell me, good Brutus, canst thou see thyself?” 
    “No, Cassius, for the eye sees not itself but by reflection, by some other thing.”
    — Willliam Shakespeare, “Julius Caesar.”

    Our educational system does not teach us HOW to see ourselves, although psychology has known some helpful methods for over 100 years.  How backward our systems are and we wonder why the world is in such grave crises.

    William Maxwell

  • http://www.facebook.com/King.Farabi Hamid Farabi

    “It behoveth us one and all to recite day and night both the Persian and
    Arabic Hidden Words, to pray fervently and supplicate tearfully that we may
    be enabled to conduct ourselves in accordance with these divine counsels.
    These holy Words have not been revealed to be heard but to be practised.”
    (`Abdu’l-Baha: The Importance of Deepening, Page: 196)