EVANESCENCE or Humility. That is to say, man must become evanescent in God. Must forget his own selfish conditions that he may thus arise to the station of sacrifice. It should be to such a degree that if he sleep, it should not be for pleasure, but to rest the body in order to do better, to speak better, to explain more beautifully, to serve the servants of God and to prove the truths. When he remains awake, he should seek to be attentive, serve the Cause of God and sacrifice his own stations for those of God. When he attains to this station, the confirmations of the Holy Spirit will surely reach him, and man with this power can withstand all who inhabit the earth.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 384)
Humility exalteth man to the heaven of glory and power.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 29)
Humility, kindness, resignation, and all these spiritual attributes emanating from great physical strength are acceptable to God.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 98)
I have selected these latter words for emphasis because they indicate what seems to me to be the very heart of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s teachings. First: His invariable example. Second: His “humility of servitude.” This spirit of servitude was His distinguishing characteristic. The very title given Him by Bahá’u’lláh, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and by which He wished always to be known and addressed, “The Servant of Glory,” was indicative of the essential nature of this quality as it related to the Bahá’í teaching. He was once asked to act as honorary chairman of the National Spiritual Assembly. “‘Abdu’l-Bahá is a servant,” He responded simply. “I am ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and no more. I am not pleased with whosoever praises me by any other tide. I am the servant of the Blessed Perfection, and I hope that this Servitude of mine will become acceptable. Whosoever mentions any
other name save this will not please me at all. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and no more. No person must praise me except by this name: “‘Abdu’l-Bahá.” And again: “The mystery of mysteries of these words, texts and lines, is servitude to the Holy Presence of the Beauty of Abhá, and effacement, evanescence and perfect dispersion before the Blessed Threshold. This is my brilliant diadem and my glorious crown. With this I will be glorified in the heavenly kingdom and the kingdom of this world. And with it I will approach unto the Beauty among the nearest ones to God, and no one is allowed to interpret other than this.” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says that the “conditions of existence are limited to servitude, Prophethood and Deity.” That is to say: since man is incapable of attainment either to the station of the Divine Essence or of Prophethood (except in those unique instances of the anointed Ones, which occur, roughly speaking about every thousand years) the only possible station to which he may aspire is that of servitude. In spite of the fact that Jesus proclaimed much the same truth this is practically an entirely new conception, originating with the teaching of Bahá’u’lláh and exemplified in every deed and word of His majestic Son. It is important, then, that this word and its implications be examined. What does ‘Abdu’l-Bahá mean by Servitude? What possible ground can he have for asserting, as He does by implication, that unless man in this day attains that station he forfeits the right to be called man at all? When Jesus said: “He that would be greatest among you let him be the servant of all:” “The meek shall inherit the earth.” And when He washed His disciple’s feet-what did He mean? What was He trying to convey? Exactly what ‘Abdu’l-Bahá means when He made the statements I have quoted above. And it is very simple and demonstrable truth.
(Howard Colby Ives, Portals to Freedom, p. 201-202)
Now, as though a wide window opened to a breeze from the world of explanation and understanding, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s glorification of the station of Servitude becomes clear, or at least clearer than was possible without this new, yet eternally old, definition of Man. For Servitude, to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, was-is-the Path, the only possible Path to that Greatness. And this, I believe, is just the greatness to which Jesus referred, the greatness of true Manhood. One of the distinguishing marks of the revelation of Bahá’u’lláh is His practical explanation of Jesus’ Words and the inclusion of their obedience in His theophany. “The humility of servitude” to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was His “Brilliant diadem and glorious crown.” Why? Certainly not because He wished to be honored and glorified above others. That would be far from humility. No! Only because He thus, and thus only, could show others the Path to Greatness.
(Howard Colby Ives, Portals to Freedom, p. 204)
O my Lord! Make Thy protection my armor, Thy preservation my shield, humbleness before the door of Thy oneness my guard, and Thy custody and defense my fortress and my abode.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Prayers, p. 135)
One of his profound and weighty observations was that man is naturally impotent, ignorant, weak, wretched and imperfect, whereas all strength, power, knowledge, wisdom, ascendancy, virtue and goodness are from God, praised be His glory. Therefore man should under all circumstances regard himself as imperfect, ignorant and a captive of self and passion. He should not feel depressed or hurt if people impute to him these characteristics which, after all, are inherent within him. On the contrary, he should be happy and thankful to them, while at the same time he should feel disappointed in himself, should take refuge in God and beg protection from his own base and appetitive nature.
(Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v 2, p. 41)