ABDU’L-BAHA IN GOLDEN GATE PARK
During his 1912 visit to San Francisco, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá enjoyed visiting Golden Gate Park and walking near Lloyd Lake. The link below will take you to a compilation excerpted from contemporary accounts of Baha’is who accompanied him there.
To this day, Bahá’ís gather at Lloyd Lake on special occasions in commemoration of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, whose father, Bahá’u’lláh, Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, named him the Master.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Visits to Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, October 1912
‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s impressions of San Francisco and Golden Gate Park
“ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá expressed himself much pleased with San Francisco and greatly enjoyed His visits to Golden Gate Park.
He took especial interest in the flowers and would often leave the automobile for a walk along the shore of some one of the small lakes. But even on the drives and during the walks He dispensed blessing – giving many wonderful lessons to those whose great privilege it was to be with Him at those times.”
[Source: Frances Orr Allen, “Abdu’l-Bahá in San Francisco, California”, Star of the West, vol. 3, No. 13 (November 4, 1912), p. 13. ]
“’Abdu’l-Bahá was immediately in demand. In fact, His entire sojourn was divided between pre-arranged public meetings and interviews granted the hundreds of callers who had read in the newspapers of his arrival with dozens of impromptu gatherings for the Bahá’í friends, interspersed between. Notwithstanding his time was so fully occupied, he made a point of motoring nearly every day in Golden Gate Park, where he could enjoy the trees and flowers and walk around the numerous lakes watching the birds. He also walked frequently in the neighborhood parks (plazas), sometimes with his secretaries, but often alone. October is such a beautiful month in San Francisco and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was very appreciative of the Indian summer weather.”
[Source: Ella Goodall Cooper Collection, M-7, Box 21, National Bahá’í Archives, United States.]
Automobile outings to Golden Gate Park, buffalo herd, and ocean side
“I, at that time, had an electric automobile which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá enjoyed driving in, as He said there was no odor and no noise and the motion was very soothing. Mrs. Goodall’s very beautiful closed car was also at His disposal with a chauffeur. As He did not wish to show any favoritism, He called first upon Mrs. Goodall and then upon me, alternatively. We had many delightful rides, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá talked often to groups in Golden Gate Park. We would follow Him along the winding paths, and occasionally He would stop and speak. One day He spoke about the plants and flowers. He said that plants were very sensitive to their environment, and that they were sensitive to the thoughts of human beings.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá sometimes would leave the others and drive with me in the electric, alone. One day He called Mrs. Goodall, and we three went to Golden Gate Park. We stopped to look at the buffalo, busily eating grass, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá remarked: There, are the true philosophers, for they never get their heads above the earth. Other days ‘Abdu’l-Bahá would drive with me alone. I had placed a very soft comfortable pillow in the corner of the car, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá would sleep while I drove along the ocean shore….”
[Source: Ella Goodall Cooper Collection M-7, Box 24, Folder 36, “Reminiscences of an early believer, Mrs. Georgia Ralston, 1936,” pp.11-13. National Bahá’í Archives, United States.]
Remarks at Lloyd Lake in Golden Gate Park
“The Master went to the public park in the afternoon, which He appreciated very much, especially when He went near the lake and saw the remnants of a few marble pillars left over from the destruction caused by the great earthquake of 1906. He remarked,
The world and its condition will change to such a degree and the Bahá’í Cause will prevail to such an extent that nothing but a remnant — like these pillars — will remain of the previous order.
Sitting on a bench, the Master spoke about the sensitivity of the vegetable kingdom:
Although sensitivity in plants is slight as compared with that manifested in animals, within their own kingdom they have sensitivity and vegetable spirit. Cut across a conical shape, sprinkle a little sulphate of copper on it, add a little water and then observe it with a magnifier. You will find its components rushing toward the center. Their sensitivity is apparent in their effort to reach the center until they form a cylinder.”
[Source: Mohi Sohhani, The Diary of Mírzá Mahmúd-i-Zarqání Chronicling `Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey to America, p. 306.]
Visit to Portals of the Past in Golden Gate Park
“When the Master was in the city Mrs. Goodall would drive Him and some of the friends (often including my father) to Lloyd Lake, a small lake surrounded by trees and flowering shrubs, in Golden Gate Park. On the edge of the lake was placed a marble arch, which is all that remains of the Towne family mansion after the fire of 1906. This arch is called ‘Portals of the Past’ and is on the shore across the lake from where the Master would stand on the path and watch the ducks. The little ducks swam toward Him as if drawn by His presence. Once He said, The ducks and flowers are more conscious of My presence than are the people of the city. He spoke of many things and said that He hoped the Faith would progress in the West.”
[Source: Ramona Brown, Memories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, pp.47- 48.]
A childhood account of meeting ‘Abdu’l-Bahá at Lloyd Lake in Golden Gate Park
The following is a childhood account from the memory of Florence Mayberry of one of the visits of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to Lloyd Lake.
“One afternoon in early October 1912, Myrtle [Florence’s mother], Marie [Myrtle’s friend] and I were on one of our Golden Gate Park outings, I, for some unrecalled reason, minus Louise [Florence’s doll] and her doll buggy, which gave me freedom to roam. Myrtle and Marie dawdled behind, chummily chatting a mile a minute. Bored with their girl talk, I skipped ahead where, off the main path on a side location, was located the dream-like white pillared portico known as the Portals of the Past. This was a relic from the 1906 earthquake and fire which had destroyed so much of San Francisco, installed in the Park as a poignant memento of a city’s devastation. On earlier strolls our trio had occasionally diverged to a side pathway to admire its poetic beauty.
A longing to see it again urged me not to wait for Myrtle and Marie, who might have other destinations in mind, but to push through the shrubs which bordered the more public pathway and to directly enter the Portals area.
I bent beneath the low branches of the closely planted shrubs, pushed myself free of them. Stopped abruptly, startled. A small crowd of laughing, exhilarated people were gathered on the periphery of the Portals. Such an excited, happy group, expressing emotion I had never witnessed before on any picnic or party gathering. Their voices lilted, the women’s high tones almost bird-like, a mysterious rapture seemed to infuse them.
They were gathered in a loose circle, facing Someone at their center, focusing their rapture upon whoever it was.
As I stared, the group, almost as one, turned and stared back. Immediately, as though on signal, the women at the edge of the group stretched welcoming, pleading hands to me, called, “Come, please come! Come here, child!” I shook my head, pleased by the invitation, but had I not been sternly warned by Myrtle never to go with strangers?
The women called, called again, continuing, “Come! Please! Come see Him!’” Reluctantly I shook my head, backed through the shrubbery, regained the outer path.
“Florence! Come right here!” Myrtle shrilled, running toward me.
“But my People want me. They want me to come back!” Now that Myrtle knew where I was, I pushed back through the shrubs into the enchanted area. Those pretty loving people renewed their cry, “Come, please come, oh please!”
See! They were My People, they liked me, they wanted me. Nobody except Myrtle, Grandma and Grandpa had ever wanted me that much. And even Myrtle, Grandma and Grandpa never called to me like it was almost a prayer. Perhaps Whoever it was in their center wanted to see me too, perhaps–
I stepped toward them, then obediently scooted back to Myrtle on the outer path. She grasped my shoulders, held me tightly. “What is getting into you? First, climbing out of windows, now hiding in bushes! Haven’t I told you never to leave my sight in this big Park? You could get lost, I might never see you again!”
“But they’re my People. They’re having a party, they want me to come.”
“No! Absolutely not!”
“They’re pretty ladies mostly. Nice people, not scary.”
Marie suggested, “Perhaps they are having a picnic and they want to be nice to the child.”
“Well, even if they are, she shouldn’t interrupt their party. Come along, now, we’d better head home, pretty soon the fog may start rolling in.”
We turned away, toward home.
Strange, really peculiar. I was a willful child, I wanted to go to go to their picnic. But somehow I didn’t seem to mind leaving, although I did want to see Whoever it was they wanted me to see. Oddly, a peculiar confidence settled within me, making me certain that no matter if I never saw them anymore, they belonged to me. For always.
In coming years, as child and adult, I often visited that same spot, visualizing that scene of the welcoming people. I always thought of them as My People. Very odd. They were friendly, lovely ghosts, more mine than many I saw in reality every day.
I finally found My People. A long time later. I am unable to factually prove the identity of My People, even though the year and the month and a corroborating event indicate the truth of my discovery. I am inwardly certain they formed a group of early American Bahá’ís who escorted ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Son of Bahá’u’lláh, Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, to Golden Gate Park during his 1912 visit to America. They did visit the Portals of the Past, a brief respite in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s demanding journey when He conveyed to thousands of Americans and Canadians the universal principles of the Oneness of God, mankind, and the world revealed by Bahá’u’lláh….
I only wish that I had heard the Center of that group speak of many things, that I could have joined the ducks and flowers and, of course, My People, in the consciousness of His presence. How grateful I am that I never forgot that strange small episode and that finally I did join them.”
[Source: Florence Mayberry, The Great Adventure, pp. 50-51.]
Conversed about health and acquiring virtues
“On one of His visits to Golden Gate Park with a few friends ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke to my father about health:
‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Man must not imagine disease but must ever trust God. Anyway, a man’s life here in this world is temporary. He is in a world that is like a house, susceptible to every invasion, and God must protect man – man must be submissive to God. He must not occupy himself with the thoughts of things – imaginings. If a man thinks too much of his health, he will become afflicted….
The spiritual life of man is important. The everlasting life of man is of the utmost importance. A man must be thinking of that….
Dr. Allen: Why should we pay attention to the everlasting life? We give up all of our time to this, and why should we be thinking about the rest of it?
Mrs. Lua Getsinger: You mean why should we not wait until we get there and take it up then?
‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Because whatsoever a man soweth here he reapeth there. This world is like a school. He must learn lessons here so that when he issues from this school he may become learned. He must not be ignorant.
For phenomena in general, there is one virtue. It is innate virtue. For example, this tree: its verdure is innate; its flowers are innate; they are creational. It does not interfere with them. It has no will of its own. As to animals, all their virtues are innate. The sun, its virtues are innate; therefore, there is no credit to be given it….Are you grateful to any of these? Not especially, as they are innate, involuntary virtues. But the virtues of man are acquired….Therefore, for man there is need of the acquiring of virtues.
All the philosophers have come with the intention of teaching man to acquire virtues. All the prophets who have come have come to endow man with acquired virtues….
When the party returned from the park to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s home, He continued:
I have traversed long distances to see you. Bahá’ís traverse long distances to see one another. His Holiness Bahá’u’lláh says: ‘My comfort, My ease, My life, My honor, My faith, My household, all have I sacrificed in order that blessed souls may appear, souls that might be centers of the virtues of mankind. May they be the souls of the Kingdom, so heavenly, so lordly, and freed from the attachments of the nether world, sanctified from all the vices of human nature, acquiring beauties from the perfections of God. Thus He endured every difficulty. All these ordeals He suffered, and He sacrificed Himself of all of us.”
[Source: Ramona Brown, Memories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, pp.48-49.]
Conversation about the Blessed Beauty during an automobile ride to Golden Gate Park
“In the afternoon, after seeing many visitors and answering questions from some reporters, at the invitation of Mrs. Goodall the Master went to see the beautiful and tranquil Golden Gate Park located outside of the city. In the automobile on the way to the park the Master spoke about the grandeur of the Revelation of the Blessed Beauty:
No one was a denier of His virtues. All the wise men of the East considered Him the greatest person in the world. But they said, `Alas, that He has claimed divinity for Himself.’ Many of the people of the East said and wrote about me, too, `all agree that he excels in knowledge, learning, speech and explanation, but, alas! he is the propagator of a new law’. They expected us to be servants and propagators of their old dogmas and customs, not knowing that we are obliged to serve humanity and spread universal love and
If all others have a few daughters and sons, I have thousands of spiritual offspring and heavenly children like you.
When He returned, and after seeing the friends and bestowing His favors upon them, He sent telegrams to the assemblies in the East. Among them was this: ‘Rejoicing among friends of God in San Francisco. Truly confirmations are overwhelming and happiness complete. `Abbás.’”
[Source: Mohi Sohhani, The Diary of Mírzá Mahmúd-i-Zarqání Chronicling `Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey to America, p. 304.]