Talks by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: The Spirit of Christ is a new arrangement of public and private talks, all previously published in Paris Talks and Promulgation of Universal Peace. Each talk mentions Christ; some are directly about Christ’s teachings and disciples, while others are more generally about religion and the Prophets or “Manifestations” of God. Like a good mix tape (playlist), the arrangement here creates a beautiful and new experience: the reader gains a clearer and more coherent view of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s theology from these pages. This of course is an elucidation of Bahá‘u’lláh’s theology; as such, this new volume would make an excellent compliment to the study of the Kitáb-i-íqan.
Having just read two other books containing many excerpts from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s talks, presented in historical context, I was looking for a followup that would present more analysis and application. When this book arrived, I was stunned by the beautiful dust jacket and the elegant book design. Nevertheless, I felt some initial disappointment, until I realized that these talks are in themselves the best analysis of modern conditions and application of the Bahá‘í teachings. Furthermore, this collection offers an education in how to challenge an audience without putting them down and without overwhelming them with too much information, and how to use the power of both intellect and emotion wisely.
Although frequently commenting on the religionists of the past who were unwilling to forsake the forms of their fathers when a new dispensation arose, and stating in no uncertain terms that it would be better to live without religion than to live with it when it becomes the cause of disunity, the reader sees that his words of criticism were “mild as milk” and are expressed with a sense forthright observation rather than fiery castigation:
“If in the day of Jesus Christ the Jews had forsaken imitation and investigated reality, they would assuredly have believed in and accepted Him, for the Messianic effulgence was far greater than the Mosaic. The Sun of Reality, when it appeared from the dawning point of Christ, was as the midsummer sun in brilliancy and beauty”.
Imagine the tone of our social discourse if the body politic could learn from this example; and imagine if our academic discourse were devoted to building on itself rather than constantly trying to tear each other apart. It would be a different and far more pleasant society, if we could learn from the Master.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the Bahá’í Publishing Trust through its Bloggers Network book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” (http://ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)