Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Preparing for the Centenary of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Visit to Montreal (2012)

“The time of the sojourn was limited to a number of days, but the results in the future are inexhaustible.”

The Visit: Evening of August 30 to Morning of September 9, 1912

September 9, 2007 marked the last day of the 95th anniversary of Abdul-Bahás nine day visit to Montreal, the Canadian leg of a much longer eight month ambassadorial speaking tour throughout the United States. Put in a larger context, Abdul-Bahás three‑year‑long mission to the Western world, in Shoghi Effendis judgement, was the greatest exploit ever to be associated with His ministry.

In September, 2004 the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baháís of Canada requested the Canadian community to begin preparations for a befitting observance of the centennial of the Masters visit. As run-up to the centennial, the NSA also requested that the event be celebrated annually between August 30 and September 9th.

Preparation for the annual remembrance and the upcoming centennial may be achieved in a number of ways that necessarily involve reading, reflection, study, prayer and research. A variety of relevant topics might include the content and nature of Abdul-Bahás public addresses, interactions with the press and public, spiritual conduct, method of teaching, the composition of the Montreal Baháí community in 1912, and His manner of demonstrating interracial, interreligious, intercultural and socially diverse fellowship. Researchers should keep in mind the spontaneous, inspired and natural techniques of the Master Teacher of the Baháí Faith, the one who remains the Ideal Model of every Baháí virtue. As the paradoxical Mystery of God (Sirullah), Bahá’u’lláh’s eldest son, while He was not endowed with prophethood, was nonetheless a perfect human being who possessed supernatural powers and abilities.

Mr. H.M. Balyuzi in Abdul-Bahá: The Centre of the Covenant (1971) gives the dates of the visit as August 30-September 8, 1912 while both the National Spiritual Assemblys publication Abdul-Bahá in Canada (1962) and volume one of Mahmuds Diary by Mirzá Mahmúd-i-Zarqání (trans. 1998) give the dates as August 30-September 9, 1912. The discrepancy is explained by the fact that Abdul-Bahás departure, according to Zargání, occurred at 9:00 a.m. on September 9th. Mr. Balyuzi seems to have followed common sense in not counting September 9th as a full day. Even though Abdul-Bahá changed evening trains in Toronto on His way to Buffalo, New York, and walked along the platform of Union Station, the honour of being the only Canadian city that was blessed by a visit from Abdul-Bahá goes to Montreal. He was 68 years old at the time of His arrival in Montreal.

The Pearl of Great Price: Mrs. May Bolles Maxwell

It was no doubt the presence of the Maxwell family, particularly the illustrious May Bolles Maxwell, that drew Him there. In one of the tablets, Abdul-Bahá had described Mrs. Maxwell as a “…pearl, a real Baháí pure in heart and attracted in soul. The second tablet to Canada contains this reference to this luminary of early western Baháí history: One pearl is better than a thousand wildernesses of sand, especially this pearl of great price, which is endowed with divine blessing. Erelong thousands of other pearls will be born from it. When that pearl associates and becomes the intimate of the pebbles, they also all change into pearls. (February 21, 1917, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 95). The word pearl was no stranger to Abdul-Bahás vocabulary. Sometimes it served as metonym for the Baháí Faith itself. Its most famous allusion was to Shoghi Effendi. But in the above passage, a more personal relationship is indicated: spiritual intimacy and transformation. In Montreal, May Maxwell was the magnet and catalyst for both. Her role and station in Baháí history are great for she has won all the following distinctions: praise in the Tablets of the Divine Plan ; the spiritual founder of the first Baháí centre in Europe in Paris, France at the bequest of Abdul-Bahá; laying the foundations of the Baháí Faith in the Dominion of Canada; “the priceless honor of a martyr’s death (Shoghi Effendi) at her passing in Buenos Aires (1940).

The Arrival: Under a Full August Moon

In her journal of the Masters stay in Montreal, May Maxwell wrote, in a poetic phrase, that >Abdu=l-Bahá arrived at her home, on the flank of Mount Royal, under the full brightness of a summer moon. He came on the train from Boston and arrived late. The Master was met eagerly at the Windsor train station on Peel Street at 8:00 p.m. by Sutherland Maxwell with two carriages.Abdul-Bahá was accompanied on this occasion by only two members from his retinue: Mahmúd-i-Zarqání, who chronicled the Masters visit to North America and his interpreter, Ahmad Sohrab, who later broke the covenant under Shoghi Effendi.

The Remarkable Press Coverage

The approximately fifteen believers and their friends living in Montreal had well prepared the ground for the Masters arrival. In fact, their advanced preparation may be taken as an example of efficient media and public relations. When Abdul-Bahá arrived at 716 Pine Avenue West (later 1548) on the evening of August 30th, He was met by a group of friends and reporters that included John Lewis, editor of the Montreal Daily Star. It is likely that editor Lewis was a Baháí because in Amine De Milles eye-witness account of the visit, he is included in the list of names of first servants to arise through the teaching of Sutherland and May Maxwell and mentioned among these earliest friends of the Faith in Montreal.

No less than six English and five French language newspapers covered Abdul-Bahás visit. Among others, reporters at The Gazette, the Montreal Daily Star, the Daily Witness and the ministers and members of the Church of the Messiah (Unitarian), and St. James Methodist Cathedral Church--now United--some socialist and labour activists, professors and societal friends of the Maxwells had been given advance notice of the imminent arrival of Abdul-Bahá.

The Montreal Daily Star gave the widest coverage with ten articles and one editorial. The press had typed the persecuted, majestic and venerable figure with such majestic titles as the “the venerable Apostle of Peace,” the “Eastern Sage” and the Oriental Seer.” Despite His best efforts to have the name withdrawn, journalists referred to Abdul-Bahá as the Persian Prophet.” Having learned of ‘Abdul-Bahá’s arrival, Turks and Arabs, in their splendid native dress, came to pay their respects to, adding colour and variety to the uniform group of Anglo-Saxons that attended the meetings at the Maxwell home and in the churches. Assembled in the meetings were Americans, French Canadians, Jews, Arabs, Turks, Persians and, of course, Canadians.

The numerous articles written about Abdul-Bahás visit to Montreal provided the best newspaper coverage of His western tour. He ordered copies to be sent back to the Middle East. It was fortunate that the Montreal Baháís were well connected to the press. They were assisted by three of their own: editor John Lewis and Mr. Archibald Archie Eddington, a Montreal Daily Star reporter, and his wife who played such an active part in securing the most outstanding newspaper publicity of Abdul-Bahás visit to America. Amine De Milles journal includes the Eddingtons among these earliest friends of the Faith in Montreal. Mr. Archie Eddington also took stenographic notes of the oral translations of Abdul-Bahá’s talks. The headline of John Lewiss editorial from the Montreal Daily Star of September 11, 1912 read: War Must Precede Universal Peace. It must have dismayed readers that Abdul-Bahá had predicated the great war that was to come. He was quoted as saying: “A great war in Europe is a certainty before permanent peace can be established. International peace can only be reached by an international agreement entered into by all nations.”.

The considerable publicity and the magnetic, irresistible personality of Abdul-Bahá brought such a flow of inquirers to 716 Pine Avenue West that the Maxwell home could not accommodate them all. Zarqání recorded that Abdul-Bahá, on Monday, September 2nd rented a suite on the 7th floorroom unknown--of the prestigious Windsor Hotel on downtown Peel Street, looking majestically continental on one corner of Dominion Square.

Public Addresses, Informal Talks and Private Interviews

Abdul-Bahá gave eight public addresses and seven informal presentations, totalling fifteen, for which six transcripts are extant. This does not include newspaper articles, private interviews and the Apilgrim=s notes@ recorded in Mahmúds Diary. Three talks were given in the Maxwell home and two in the churches; one public address was enthusiastically received by the Socialists and labour activists of the day. Of these talks, three were given the same day (September 1st), two of them in the Maxwell home; third was delivered in the Unitarian Church of the Messiah. His considerable energies were fully engaged during the entire visit. To have Abdul-Bahá speak at the Church of the Messiah must have been a singularly happy event for architect William Sutherland Maxwell for he designed the Unitarian church which had opened its doors just seven years earlier in 1905.

The presiding minister at the Church of the Messiah, who introduced >Abdu=l-Bahá with eloquence, solemnity and deference, was the Reverend F.R. Griffin. The minister drew the congregations attention to >Abdu=l-Bahá=s complete naturalnessBone reads between the lines, despite his oriental provenance--and the purity of His child-like outlook on life, despite His prolonged and severe incarceration. Reverend Griffin went on to say that although >Abdu=l-Bahá has been A...disciplined by long years in prison, his spirit has never yet been crucified by pain.

These six talks contain some of the great principles and tenets that are familiar to Bahá=ís as their fundamental teachings. The vital necessity for a Christ-taught Arebirth@ and the exemplification of Avirtues divine@ to fulfil the human beings potentially high spiritual station was emphasized in His opening address at the Maxwell home. Other basic teachings are found throughout these talks: the oneness of God the Father, the divine AShepherd@ of the flock of humanity; the necessity to recognize the unity of the human family; the oneness of the prophets and religion; that religion must be a Aremedy@ and not aggravate the disease of disunity; that the prophets are the divine educators, Athe gardeners of humanity@; the unity of the Orient and Occident; that materialist philosophies are hopelessly bankrupt and of no benefit to the human race. (As reported by the Montreal Daily Star, September 3, 1912)

Other basic teachings, once included in fireside talks among Athe twelve principles@ are presented, particularly in His addresses of September 1st at the Unitarian Church of the Messiah and the St. James Methodist Church on September 5th. Proofs for immortality were presented in the second talk at the Maxwell=s during the evening of September 1st. It was during this address that >Abdu=l-Bahá was so transported by His theme that His turban fell to the ground and lay there for an half-hour while He finished the talk. At the St. James Methodist Cathedral Church, >Abdu=l-Bahá was voted thanks by a lay person, Mr. Recorder Weir, who reckoned Him among the Along line of prophets@ that some believed had become extinct. (Despite the Masters distaste for the term “prophet”, it kept reappearing). But such was the impression created by the Centre of the Covenant. One reporter described Him as a serene, majestic figure, calm, commanding, austere and wise.@

Baháí Economics for Socialists, Strikers, Marxists and Labour Leaders

In one sense, the most original talk was Bahá=í Economics delivered to an audience of 500 Socialists, labour leaders, strikers and Marxists, some of whom were members of the Jewish community. The talk took place at Coronation Hall, 204 St. Lawrence Street, now 1074 St. Laurent Boulevard. >Abdu=l-Bahá=s public speaking strategy is noteworthy: the topic was well-suited to the audience. He did not expound abstruse theological or religious themes to this group of practically minded, this-worldly socialists who were concerned with what is called today social justice. He spoke to them on their own terms. But >Abdu=l-Bahá did not refrain from mentioning God and His Holiness Bahá=u=lláh.

>Abdu=l-Bahá outlined the Baháí plan to eliminate the extremes of wealth and poverty, a plan that necessarily excluded “sedition,” i.e. the overthrow of government and the use of armed force. Rather, as >Abdu=l-Bahá expounded it, Bahá=u=lláhs solution provided ..the greatest happiness, welfare and comfort without any harm or injury attacking the general order of things. It was Apractical politics,@ as the Gazette called it, for the equitable distribution of the surplus wealth of a nation. It was based on the primacy of the agricultural class as the foundation of the system, and set out tiered levels of “revenues” or graduated taxation, in both cash and kind, that would fill a general storehouse or community chest for the village and the nation.

The funds from this central bank would ensure that all members of the community would be delivered from hunger and poverty and guaranteed “the utmost welfare and well-being.” The poor, the orphans, the old, the blind, the deaf and the handicapped would all be amply provided for in such a system. In addition to the specifics of graduated taxation and the management of surplus wealth, >Abdu=l-Bahá emphasized the necessity for concerning oneself with the well-being of others, for self-sacrifice and the recognition of the interdependence and solidarity of the human family. Abdul-Bahás innovative, genial presentation, and the noble sentiments it evoked, struck a strongly responsive chord in this largely working-class audience. Both the talk and the question period were punctuated with spontaneous and enthusiastic applause, so intense that the walls of the building seemed to vibrate to the foundation.

A Puzzle: The Healing of Nine Year Old Geraldine Birks

‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s historic visit, like all His visits, contains a number of touching anecdotes. The most moving of them was the healing of the nine year old girl who lived in the impressive home across the street at 715 Pine Avenue. Little Geraldine Birks was the grand-daughter of Henry Birks, the merchant who in 1879 founded in downtown Montreal the first of the Birks successful chain of 39 jewellery stores (2007). Her father John Henry Birks (1870-1949) had succeeded his father and had at the time of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s visit expanded the business to six stores. It was in the first Birks jewellers that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá purchased a number of rings and watches to distribute as gifts.

However, I agree with Will van den Hoonaard’s endnote comment in The Origins of the Baháí Community in Canada: 1898-1948 that there is something “puzzling” about this story. The puzzle lies in the strange lack of coherence between May Maxwell’s written account, which devotes roughly a quarter of its content to the healing, and the recollections of Geraldine Birks herself when asked about it some 79 years later in 1991.

May Maxwell describes Geraldine as a “sick child.” Both the young girl and her mother, Annie MacNeill Birks, are referred to as “invalid”; hereditary transmission probably figured into Geraldine’s illness. According to Mrs. Maxwell’s account, the mother entreated ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to come and visit them because they were unable to do so; when the Master offered to heal the child, “the reply was an ardent appeal.” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s instruction to the parents countermanded the doctor’s orders. He urged the parents to allow Geraldine to go out of doors in the middle of the day. Nine months later, according to May’s account, in the early springtime, “this beautiful child came out of her prison house and walked upon the ground, gradually becoming perfectly healthy, strong and well.“ However, when interviewed about the healing at the age of 88 years, Geraldine Birks could not recall the incident. Surprisingly, she did not remember ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s visit at all, although she did recollect being “sick”--not invalid. She did recall her family saying that Mrs. Maxwell “had invited a guru from India” to visit.

What can one make of this discrepancy? We cannot know with certainty, but the simplest explanation would be that Geraldine simply suffered from the defective memory that sometimes affects the elderly. However, another clue may be taken from the filmed interview of ‘Amatu’l-Bahá Ruhíyyíh Khanúm. When asked about this incident--and this is my impression recalled from having seen the film years ago--Ruhíyyíh Khanúm expressed disappointment that her cousin did not seem to appreciate the significance of either the greatness of her visitor or the divine healing that had been bestowed upon her.


Will C. van den Hoonaard, The Origins of the Baháí Community in Canada: 1898-1948 (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1996)

Mírzá Mahmúd-i-Zarqání, Mahmúd’s Diary, translated by Mohi Sobhani (George Ronald Publisher, 1998)

H.M. Balyuzi, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: The Centre of the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh (George Ronald Publisher, 1971)

National Spiritual Assembly of the Baháís of Canada, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Canada (The Forest Free Press, 1962)

Sunday, September 2, 2007

What A Young Man Learned From Laura Rumney Davis About Shoghi Effendi (c. 1965)

Mrs. Laura Rumney Davis: The Mother of the Toronto Bahá’í Community

That afternoon, as I left my home at 6 Emery Circle in the Township of Etobicoke, and made my way south down Royal York Road to that familiar address at 44 Chestnut Park in affluent Rosedale, I was keenly aware that I was about to visit a “historic” individual in the Canadian Bahá’í community. It was at 44 Chestnut Park that important developments in early and mid Toronto Bahá’í history had taken place. I was going to visit Laura Davis, the mother of the Toronto Bahá’í community. This distinction was sufficient in itself to merit a visit, but Laura had also made the pilgrimage to Haifa while the Guardian, Shoghi Effendi Rabbani, was still serving as head of the Bahá’í Faith.

Laura Rumney Davis was a second generation Bahá’í” but this phrase has to be used advisedly. Lauras personal papers have it, in two different documents, that her mother, Violet Rumney, became a believer shortly after Laura. Laura Davis heard about the Faith in 1919 in Toronto at the home of Bahá’í Dr. Albert Durant Watson, from that model and scion of all Bahá’í teachers, Miss Martha Root, and declared almost immediately. Laura shared the news with her mother who declared within a week. Both mother and daughter had been former Christian Scientists, although Laura’s mother had belonged to a number of Christian denominations during her spiritual search.

Laura and Violet and Lauras husband Victor became, along with only a handful of other faithful believers, pillars of the early Toronto Bahá’í community. Their steady activities spanned about 40 years, from 1936-1976. Laura was an enthusiastic amateur poet and once belonged to Dr. Watsons Toronto literary circle, a circle that included the famous Canadian poets, Bliss Carman and Sir Charles G. D. Roberts. Her presence there was probably more as observer than participant. Her school chum, Margaret Lawrence, was Dr. Watson‘s private secretary and it is likely that Laura was invited to the circle through Margaret. (For the biography of Laura’s life, readers should consult Marlene Mackes instructive manuscript Take My Love to the Friends: The Life of Laura R. Davis. Will van den Hoonaards The Origins of the Bahá’í Community of Canada: 1898-1948 (1996) also contains pertinent information).

Always eager from the time that I first declared my faith in Bahá’u’lláh in 1962 to meet anyone who had made the pilgrimage when the “the sign of God” was still alive, I felt fortunate that I was about to meet a pilgrim who had looked upon the “priceless pearl. Dame Laura Rumney Davis, who lived in comfortable surroundings when I met her, had been granted the rare privilege of sitting at Shoghi Effendis table in 1955 and hearing him expound the Bahá’í teachings and his perceptions of world events. I have since come to realise that meeting with historic individuals, and the making of historic events, are closely tied. Both went hand-in-hand with meeting the Guardian.

Following the interview, I made no notes, but as near as I can tell, the visit with Laura would have taken place circa 1965. Laura would have been about 70 years old; I was about 19. I recall climbing the steps to Laura and Victor’s spacious, red brick Georgian style home with its arched portico entrance. Although I had met Laura when I was still a child and young teenager, those occasions had been only brief hellos at conferences, conventions, public meetings or summer schools. This was our first real meeting. I rang the bell in anticipation.

The Act of Incorporation (1949): Dame Laura Rumney Davis

“Dame” is used before Lauras name when it appears, for example, in the act passed by the Canadian Parliament to incorporate the National Spiritual Assembly on April 30, 1949. However, Bahá’ís did not address Laura Davis as “Dame Laura.“ So the reader should not be mislead by this title. In the incorporation act, the title was honorific and meant simply a mature, honourable, married woman. In Great Britain the title was granted by the crown as the female equivalent to the knight. Author Marlene Macke did not discover the title even once in Laura‘s private papers. It is, consequently, more likely that Laura felt that prefixing the title “Dame” befit the dignity of the Bahá’í Faith rather than her own. Although Laura, as a middle-class Canadian of her time, was certainly aware of class distinctions and stations in life, she was far from being snobbish. Despite the comfortable surroundings in which she and Victor lived at 44 Chestnut Park, the Davis’s were not, as one might suppose, wealthy. At her fireside meetings, she mixed freely with people from all classes and walks of life. In our interactions, she presented a curious mixture of reserve, dignity and a spontaneous, child-like innocence.

The Interview

Laura greeted me at the door and welcomed me into her home. Always eager to share her impressions of the Guardian, the blend of bubbling enthusiasm, ready laughter with a gracious manner, typical of those Canadians of British ancestry belonging to her generation, was soon in evidence. Her speech-- particularly the more open “a” vowel -- had traces of English diction that were not so marked as to qualify as the overtly British “Canadian Dainty“; it was nearer to mild, mid-Atlantic.

We sat down in that spacious living room whose walls had witnessed some 50 years of fireside talks, declarations, LSA, NSA and committee meetings, and visitors of note, a space that someone has described as a “museum.It is an apt description if one considers that the early beginnings of personal spiritual histories, and certain chapters of Canadian Bahá’í history, written by many hands, were first sketched in that room. My aunt Edna Halsted Nablo (b. 1931), my mother Joyces youngest sister, had declared her faith at 44 Chestnut Park and had waited nervously later, hoping and praying that the consulting LSA would accept her. (It happened on rare occasions that ones declaration was not first accepted). Although I do not remember her speaking about it, my mother Joyce must have been welcomed in 1952 by the Toronto LSA in that same room.

The conversation began. I can regrettably recall only one or two specific details of our talk that afternoon but what I do remember, I remember clearly. (The reader is referred to Ms. Marlene Macke’s biography which gives a much fuller account of Laura’s pilgrimage). However in our conversation, she referred to what North American Bahá’ís used to call in the 1960’s and 70’s the “catastrophe.” Other pilgrim’s notes also contain references, sometimes contradictory, to this fearful event or events [1]. Now all Bahá’ís know that pilgrims notes, even though Shoghi Effendi urged the friends to read them because they contain “valuable information,” he did not deem to be authoritative. And with good reason. So they are presented here only as a matter of anecdotal interest. One “note” from Laura did not come from Shoghi Effendi directly, but it interested me as much as the Guardians reported comments; it bore eloquent testimony to Shoghi Effendis decisive influence on Mrs. Davis herself. I refer to Laura’s unconcealed love for Shoghi Effendi.

But to begin with the catastrophe: Laura told me that Shoghi Effendi had said that some of the larger cities of North America -- his reported remark applied mainly to the cities of the U.S.A. -- would be “vapourised.” That was the word he used. As I recall, she named New York, Chicago and Pittsburgh. The other note concerned a powerful energetic force as yet undiscovered in the earth which Shoghi Effendi did not name.

Her Unconcealed Love for Shoghi Effendi

But what struck me more than Laura’s pilgrims notes was her loving appreciation of Shoghi Effendi. When Laura left Haifa, the Guardian said to her: “Take my love to the friends.” While Shoghi Effendi often expressed this desire to other pilgrims, Laura took his directive as her marching orders for life. It was an unconcealed, open love, a love that was youthful, unblushing and ebullient. “You know,” Laura said, beaming at me through her glasses, “I tell Victor that I love Shoghi Effendi more than I love him.” This declaration was followed by school-girlish, innocent laughter. In this extroverted love, that some interlocutors might have found overstated, Laura clearly took pride. This love Laura wore proudly, as one might wear a badge of honour. But I could not help wondering how her husband Victor might have felt about being so completely eclipsed by Shoghi Effendi. I was somewhat reassured to learn of Laura’s deep and settled love for Victor. But that was another kind of love. Victor must not have enjoyed being introduced, as he once was, as “Laura Daviss husband.” In any case, their marriage was solid; it was a working partnership.

I gathered from her remarks that Shoghi Effendi was quite conscious of the state of Laura’s mind, for he commented on it, as was his manner, in a rather direct way: “You know, Mrs. Davis,” Shoghi Effendi reportedly said, “the purpose of the pilgrimage to Haifa and Bahji is to pray in the holy shrines and not to meet the Guardian.” Although Laura reported the Guardian’s words to me, as she did to others, I still wondered if she were fully conscious of Shoghi Effendis intent. For he read just as incisively individual personalities as he did the ethos of nation-states. However, it is to her credit that Laura, in all honesty, reported this observation.

The reader should not interpret this observation as a criticism. Many a male pilgrim had also “fallen in love” with Shoghi Effendi. Referring to the Guardian, Hand of the Cause of God, Mr. William Sears, said in of his talks: “He looked into my eyes and all the world became as ashes.” For William Sears, as for other men, no less than for Laura Davis, the heart of the pilgrimage was to be in the Guardian’s presence. After all, love is not, nor should it be, whether it be purely spiritual or human, or its various shades of in-between, entirely rational. Lauras love for Shoghi Effendi was, not only the source of all her pride and joy; it fed, long after the pilgrimage, the fountain of her spiritual effervescence and contributed to the considerable services she rendered to the Faith over the rest of her lifetime. For Laura Davis possessed that singular quality that was typical of that favoured generation that had known either Abdul-Bahá and/or Shoghi Effendi--devotion, a devotion that was expressed in action and a life of service.

She died in 1990 at 95 years of age, “being old and full of days” (Gen. 35:29), having surpassed the proverbial three score years and ten by 25 full years [2]. Her defining personal qualities were an unusual blend of purity of heart, child-like innocence, youthful enthusiasm, cheerful optimism, a ready smile, a touch of grace and dignity, combined with a high seriousness in her approach to the Causeand, of course, and above all, that unbounded love for Shoghi Effendi. She was keenly aware that she had been accorded a rare privilege. And in that Haifa moment, she attained her deepest desire. She had been ennobled.


[1] Another distinguished Baháí, Winifred Harvey, told me, unlike Lauras account, that Shoghi Effendi said to her pilgrim group: “The catastrophe is not what the Bahá’ís think. It will be spiritual, social, economic and religious.” It is admittedly hard to reconcile such contradictory views of the “catastrophe” except to suggest that the Guardian was, at different times, reading a alteration of human affairs according to a Divine Will that was, in a sense, changing Its Mind according to a divine wisdom. Or perhaps, he was giving, at different times, a number of possible readings of future outcomes.

[2] Marlene Macke discovered in her archival research Lauras correct birthdate. The above affirmation, based on Ms. Mackes research, gives her correct lifespan as 95 instead of 90 years.


Mrs. Laura R. Davis, Personal Interview

Marlene M. Macke, Take My Love to the Friends: The Life of Laura R. Davis (MS)

Will C. van den Hoonaard, The Origins of the Bahá’í Community of Canada: 1898-1948 (1996)