Skip to content

`Abd al-Baha' and Thomas K. Cheyne






Translation Completed


Translation completed by Stephen Lambden from the text printed in Star of the West [Per. Sect.] + Mirza Mahmud Zarqani ...

        OXFORD: Professor Cheyne-- Rūḥānī ["Spiritual"]

upon him be Bahā'Allah al-Abhā (the Glory of God, the All-Glorious)

He is God

O thou, my spiritual philosopher! (faylasuf-i rūḥānī-yi man)

 Your letter was received. In reality its contents were eloquent for it was a sign of your literary fairness and of your investigation  of reality (taḥarī-yi ḥaqīqat va inṣāf dasht). There are numerous professors in the world but most of them are held back from the reality of the kingdom (ḥaqīqat-i malakūt). Yet you, praised be God! are a [radiant] candle among Professors and have soared unto the Kingdom. You do not [merely] walk upon the earth but rather, have [the power of spiritual] flight.

There have been numerous learned ones (`ulamā') among the Jews but they were [all] earthly. Yet Saint Paul became heavenly because he could ascend upwards. In his own time no one duly recognized him. Nay, rather, he passed his days in the utmost  difficulty and hardship. It then became evident that he was not an earthly bird but a heavenly one. He was not a materialistic philosopher but rather a divine philosopher. It is likewise my hope that in the future both the orient and the occident may become conscious that you were a divine philosopher (faylasuf-i ilāhī) and a herald of the kingdom of God (munadi bi-malakūt-i Allāh).

    Saint Paul, however learned he was when he received the news of the Messiah, completely forgot about philosophical issues and became filled with the [spirit of the] Messiah as he states in his writings [ADD]. I too am hopeful regarding yourself, that you become full of Bahā'-Allāh (the Splendor of God) and become the primary herald [of the kingdom of God] in that region and land in order that you shine like a star out of the horizon of Reality for all eternity.

Your respected wife [Elizabeth Gibson Cheyne] deserves the utmost care and consideration. In my estimation she exceeds (mumtaz) [in status] all the nuns (rāhibat) of the world. She, verily, is perfect, wise and a truth worshipper. Praised be to God, she also shares and is a partner with you [T. K. Cheyne] in heavenly qualities.

And upon you be salutations and praise.

`Abdu'l-Baha' `Abbās


`Abdul Bahā at Manchester College Oxford Dec. 31st 1912

From Mirza Mahmud Zarqani, Kitāb-i badāyi` al-āthār   vol. 2: 50-52

Completed translation by Sholeh Quinn

 On the 22 Muharram (31 December [1912]), after a group of friends and well-wishers came and offered their respects and greetings, he headed for the university (dār al-funun) of Oxford.  And that school is famous for being among the respected colleges.   He arrived there after two hours from London and went directly from the train station to the house of Professor Cheyne, who was among the famous philosophers and writers of England.  Because the mentioned-Professor was in a state of sickness and was afflicted with paralysis, since he had read some articles and treatises regarding the blessed journey [of `Abdu'-Baha'], he becomes aware of the divine teachings, accepts them, and sends a statement to the blessed presence [of `Abdu'-Baha'] in America.  He asked permission to be in his presence, and expressed the desire to meet the Master.  That was why, after He went to London, he [TKC] organized a special meeting at the university of Oxford, and invited the Master.  

[Balyuzi translation starts here:] "On arriving at Oxford the Master first went to visit the above-mentioned professor and conversed with him with utmost kindness.  And he [TKC] showed the Master [`Abdu'-Baha'] his writings about the Faith, which he was continuing despite his illness. In the condition he was in he was expressing his faith and assurance with great fervour. His attitude of belief and attentiveness so moved the Master that He several times, kissed him on the head and on the face, and kept caressing his face and his hair. The Master had luncheon at the home of Professor Cheyne"  (H. M. Balyuzi, Abdu'l-Baha - The Centre of the Covenant, p. 352)].  At the same table, he and his wife, with a group of friends from London and Oxford, and the servants of the Master, were honored with the Master’s presence.  In the afternoon, after they had finished their tea, two special automobiles were ready with a group of friends and attendants, who took him to the [Manchester] college. 

 During the arrival of the Master,  [51]  several individuals among the leading figures [ruasa] who were awaiting the Master’s arrival at the door, welcomed him with complete humility.  And the leader [Dr. J. Estlin Carpenter] took the arm of the Master and took him to one of the large halls (talarha) of the [University] college (dār al-funun).  [Manchester College Library].  Although it was vacation time and the winter season, the hall was full of people. As they were introduced, they found out that most of the people were professors of the university and clergymen of Oxford as well as honored people of England.  In spite of this [exalted gathering], when the Master entered, everyone arose. When he signaled them to be seated, the leader [Dr. Carpenter] stood up and, with utmost attention and eloquence, explained the history and teachings of the Cause of God, the difficulties of the 40 years in imprisonment in Akka', the glad-tidings of the prophecies regarding this great, exalted age, the glory of the children of Israel, and the arrival of the Center of the Covenant of God [Abdu'l-Baha] in Egypt. 

 Before all this he [Dr. Carpenter] gave the utmost thanks to Professor Cheyne  since he was the cause of the occurrence of this gathering. He spoke about the high rank and position of the aforementioned Professor [Cheyne].  Then he introduced the Master [`Abdu'-Baha'] with complete respect. And when the Master arose, everyone applauded together, and they began to shoe great joy. Then he [`Abdu'-Baha'] gave a long talk about the importance of knowledge (‘ilm) and the bounties of this century, about the teachings of this great theophany and the victory of the power (beyond the universe) (of the supernatural), over the laws of nature.  And the meanings and the spiritual secrets, like a strong rain from the sky of his generosity, poured forth. All the people who were present became very excited and happy. They were listening intelligently to his statements and they were greatly appreciative of the way he explained the truth about these matters as well as the precision of his statements.

 After the conclusion of the blessed talk and some excitement and commotion (in a good way), again the leader [Dr. Carpenter] arose. He was even more effective and more beneficial than at first.  He told the story of the blessed imprisonment and the importance of the new teachings.  And he became occupied in praying for the Master, and his protection, good health, happiness, and asked blessings for the people of Baha, until he turned to the audience and said, ‘Anyone who has any question from ‘Abdul-Baha, he is permitted to ask and listen to the answer. 

 [52] Everyone expressed joy, thanks and praise for they were grateful and content at listening to the sacred discourse. Then the leader [Dr. Carpenter] pleaded with `Abdu’l Baha that the closing prayer come from his mouth.  After the end of the prayer, the people being content and satisfied, they returned to the home of Professor Cheyne, where again a group of leaders and professors were once more honored [with `Abdu'l-Baha's presence]. They repeatedly expressed their sincerity and humility and expressed the importance of the [Baha'i] Holy Cause and the divine teachings. This until the group became large and it became a glorious meeting.

 And the most pure tongue [`Abdu’l Baha] discoursed about the unity of the basic principles (usul) of the religions and the change of the teachings according to the needs of the time and situation as well as economic matters and other things. This in such a way that all of those honored souls sought to assist and spread these blessed [Baha'i] teachings. They desired to serve this great Cause, although until then they didn’t even know what the [Baha'i] Faith was about. 

 In summary, when he [`Abdu’l Baha] returned in the evening from Oxford to London, with the blessings of the Concourse on High, and the Lofty Horizon, he started to talk:  “Thank God that with the help and assistance of the Kingdom of Abha (malakut-i abha), in this country, the Holy Breeze is spread, and the Word of God gives life to hearts and souls.” 

 And because the Master [`Abdu'l-Baha'] had mentioned Professor Cheyne’s name so many times, both from his mouth and his pen, [saying] that he was one of the foremost individuals and one of the most famous citizens of England, we are thus including here some of his writings about this great Faith in this article so that it would be a token of the greatness of the [Baha'i] Faith of God and of the power of the covenant of Baha’u’llah.  And here is the article.  

(translated by Sholeh Quinn)