With the advent of the Young Turks' supremacy, realized through the
Society of Union and Progress, all the political prisoners of the Ottoman
Empire were set free. Events took the chains from my neck and placed them
about Hamid's; 'Abdu'l-Baha came out of prison and 'Abdu'l-Hamid went in!
What became of the committee? asked someone, breaking the deep silence
that followed the recital of this thrilling page of history. Arif Bey,
continued 'Abdu'l-Baha, was shot with three bullets, the general was
exiled, the next in rank died, and the third ran away to Cairo, where he
sought and received help from the Baha'is.
Will you tell us how you felt while in prison and how you regard your
freedom? I asked. We are glad that you are free.
Thank you, he said graciously, and continuing--
Freedom is not a matter of place. It is a condition. I was thankful for
the prison, and the lack of liberty was very pleasing to me, for those
days were passed in the path of service, under the utmost difficulties and
trials, bearing fruits and results.
Unless one accepts dire vicissitudes, he will not attain. To me prison is
freedom, troubles rest me, death is life, and to be despised is honour.
Therefore, I was happy all that time in prison. When one is released from
the prison of self, that is indeed release, for that is the greater
prison. When this release takes place, then one cannot be outwardly
imprisoned. When they put my feet in stocks, I would say to the guard,
'You cannot imprison me, for here I have light and air and bread and
water. There will come a time when my body will be in the ground, and I
shall have neither light nor air nor food nor water, but even then I shall
not be imprisoned.' The afflictions which come to humanity sometimes tend
to centre the consciousness upon the limitations, and this is a veritable
prison. Release comes by making of the will a Door through which the
confirmations of the Spirit come.
This sounded so like the old theology that the modern in me rose doubting
if the discipline could be compensated for by the effort. What do you
mean by the confirmations of the Spirit?
The confirmations of the Spirit are all those powers and gifts which some
are born with (and which men sometimes call genius), but for which others
have to strive with infinite pains. They come to that man or woman who
accepts his life with radiant acquiescence.
Radiant acquiescence--that was the quality with which we all suddenly
seemed inspired as 'Abdu'l-Baha bade us good-bye.
It was a remarkable experience, hearing one who had passed along the
prison path for forty years declare There is no prison but the prison
self; and it drove conviction to one's mind as this white-robed messenger
from the East pointed the way out,--not by the path called Renunciation,
but Unattachment; Radiant Acquiescence--the Shining Pathway out of the
greater prison of self as 'Abdu'l-Baha so beautifully terms those bars
that keep us from our fulfillment.
Next: A Loving Farewell Greeting
Previous: 'abdu'l-hamid's Committee