10 Feb
Posted in: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, England, Peace
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Revisited: Abdu’l-Bahá in Oxford

On the morning of New Year’s Eve, 1912, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and His entourage, including His hostess Lady Blomfield, took the 90 minute train ride from London to Oxford so that the Master could address an audience at Manchester College.  This was at the express invitation of the Reverend Dr. T. K. Cheyne who was an ardent admirer and keen supporter of the Master and His Faith.  In one of his letters to Lady Blomfield, Dr. Cheyne noted the “spiritual impression which he [sic] seems to have made [in London]” but observed that “Christmas and the New Year are bad times for getting up meetings; we can only hope to get a few sympathetic hearers [in Oxford]”.[1]

A spiritual impression the Master made in Oxford too.  Various reports on the lunch gathering at the North Oxford home Dr. Cheyne shared with his wife, Elizabeth Gibson Cheyne, movingly tell of the love and tenderness that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá showered upon his host and hostess.  According to Lady Blomfield, the Master “embraced the Doctor with loving grace, and praised his courageous steadfastness in his life’s work, always striving against increasing weakness”.[2]  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave Dr. Cheyne, who, despite his advanced age and ill-health, was in the process of writing a book on the Bahá’í Faith titled The Reconciliation of Races and Religions, the name ‘Ruhani’ meaning “spiritual”.[3]  Of his wife, Elizabeth, the Master later said “She is an angelic woman, an example to all in her unselfish love.”[4]

That afternoon, and contrary to Dr. Cheyne’s expectations, a large crowd of professors, scholars, Ministers, and students gathered to hear the Master speak on such themes as science, knowledge, and the unity of religions:

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who delivered his lecture through an interpreter, said it was science which caused the progression of the intellect of man; which held before the vision events of the future….Referring to warfare, the speaker said…was it not regrettable that the people were fighting against themselves, because of their religion? … Think how easy the original foundation of God had slipped from their minds, yet pure religion invited men to love each other. … He was glad to say that the intellect of man had taken a much broader view; his perception was becoming clearer, and the great universities were carrying on that great work of peace and reconciliation.[5]

The message of peace and unity greatly inspired those present:  In his 1913 book, Comparative Religions, Dr. Carpenter wrote “Has Persia, in the midst of her miseries, given birth to a religion which will go round the world?” while, that same year, the headmaster of Balliol College at Oxford told one of his colleagues that the Bahá’í Faith was “the greatest light that has come into the world since the time of Jesus Christ”.[6]


[1] Robert Weinberg, Lady Blomfield:  Her Life and Times (Oxford:  George Ronald, 2012), p.140.

[2] Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst (Oxford:  George Ronald, 2011), p.284.

[3] Redman, ibid, pp.273-306.

[4] Redman, ibid, p.284.

[5] From a newspaper cutting, author unknown, recorded in Mírzá Ahmad Sohrab’s diary account of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Britain.  See also excerpts of reports from the Oxford Times and the Oxford Chronicle in Weinberg, op.cit.

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