239 Days in America

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

August 21, 1912
Eliot, ME
Storify Feature

“Within Greenacre’s Mystic Charm and Calm”

“IT APPEARS A singular thing,” the journalist wrote, “that so many famous people could have been attracted to this little town up in Maine. . . . But as soon as one arrives at Greenacre and gets to know that wonderful woman, Miss Sarah Farmer, the life and the spirit of the Greenacre movement, wonder vanishes.”

We don’t know this reporter’s name, but he spent a day in Eliot during the second week of August, 1899, recording his impressions in a long news feature printed in the Lewiston Saturday Journal on the twelfth of the month: “Within Greenacre’s Mystic Charm and Calm: The Remarkable Colony of Ideals That Has Been Grafted Upon a Prosaic Maine Country Side.”

He watched a silent crowd under the main tent sit wrapt in meditation. He listened to the actor Joe Jefferson tell stories “like a boy, full of quips and larks and pranks.” And he took a walk with Sarah Farmer, “up the slope of the great hill that lay broad in the blaze of the sun.”

As they looked out over the glint of the distant river from the top of the hill, Miss Farmer spoke:

The foundation of our work here is constructiveness. We have no room for iconoclasts. Those are the only ones we bar. All others are welcome to come and express their views. All are listened to with respect and attention. If they bring us anything that seems good to us we accept it. If there is nothing that appeals to the rest there is no cavil, no supercilious criticism. At least it has harmed no one.

What he brings we take and build on to what we have already constructed as a bulwark of our faith in the good or as a superstructure of a higher ideal. But we do not tolerate here the man who seeks only to tear down. Some say that certain things are frauds, are delusions, are shams and that they should be exposed. But the attacking of any man’s cherished beliefs or ideals, faulty though they may be in our eyes, brings only mischief in its train. I have had some eminent men propose to come here and display their iconoclasm but I have had to ask them to stay away until they could come in the constructive mood to bring us something as building material — not as battering ram. And I must tell you that some of them have come here and have been conquered by the Greenacre spirit.

The journalist continued: “Much did this true woman of the steadfast eye and purpose say to me as we sat there in the sunshine, but I will not venture to put into my words the expounding of her faith as she revealed it to me.”

“Go to Greenacre! If for a moment you can draw this gentle woman in gray from the throng that greets her whenever she appears on the grounds, and will ask her to tell you what there is in life for the heart that seeks further than cold creed, biased sect, Pharisaical doubtings and material grossness, then you will come down from the hill-tops of Greenacre with the blues in your heart transformed to a pink flush, in harmony with one of those magnificent Greenacre sunsets.”


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=736563072 Michael Alcorn

    Teach a world about the Faith that encompasses all – Baha’i

  • Randy Moore

    Live the life Baha’u’llah and ‘Abdu’l-Baha taught … live in oneness and unity with all the people of the world, love all people, sincerely treat everyone as our true brothers and sisters regardless of race, class, creed, nationality or gender. See no distinctions, and don’t think in terms of “us” and “them. Oneness, unity, love, and fellowship are the essential concepts to learn and practice.

  • Anne Perry

    ah! A precursor to the wonderful writing you, Jonathan, will do in reference to Sarah Farmer and Green Acre. I can hardly bear to wait until your BOOK on the subject comes forth! Sarah Farmer (described as a female counterpart of Emerson, but more practical) was certainly grounded in the real-world applications of spirituality–yet she had unrealized visions, too, of a “university” that would include agriculture (sustainability) and care for children along with a kind of universal education focused on spiritual as well as physical/intellectual truth. How do any of us bring our visions into daily applications? There’s a Buddhist adage, “Chop wood, carry water.” I want to read more from you, Jonathan, about Sarah Farmer, so I hope you are including this pursuit on your list of practical tasks, even in the midst of continuing your amazing blog! 🙂 Must pick up my own axe now. . . .

  • shahla

    Trying, in practice, to gain an increasingly fuller understaning of the following words of the prayer:

    O God, my God! Thou seest me enraptured and attracted toward Thy glorious kingdom, enkindled with the fire of Thy love amongst mankind,

  • lili shang

    Thank you kindly for your efforts and those of your co-workers,
    who are diligently making this social media documentary for the Bahá’í
    community. It has been a lovely journey for the mind.
    Thank you kindly for your efforts and those of your co-workers,
    who are diligently making this social media documentary for the Bahá’í
    community. It has been a lovely journey for the mind.

  • pascal molineaux

    I would venture that a life dedicated to the service of our fellow men, whether they be our neighbors or distant, even unknown friends, a generous life of giving of oneself: knowledge sharing, time giving, bountifully resource provider will defnitely help to build a better world. As we assume fully the responsibilities that come with oneness, we turn a suffering eye to the inhumanity of today’s world and strive to build a better, more just world. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in all His doings and sayings was, no doubt, a living example of such a life and thus such an inspiration to all who met Him with an open heart. May we all strive to follow His footsteps and be inspired by His shining example.