One day, during the Master’s visit to New York City, He paid a visit to Central Park. After spending several hours in the Museum of Natural History, He came out to rest under the trees. A solicitous little old watchman inquired, ‘"Would you like to go back after you have rested? There are fossils and birds."’ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá smiled and replied, ‘"No, I am tired of going about looking at the things of this world. I want to go above and travel and see the spiritual worlds. What do you think about that?"’ The watchman scratched his head – he was puzzled. Then the Master queried, ‘"Which would you rather possess, the material or the spiritual world?"’ ‘"Well, I guess the material."’ ‘"But,” continued ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, “you do not lose it when you attain the spiritual. When you go upstairs in a house you do not leave the house. The lower floor is under you."’ Suddenly the old man seemed to see the light.
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 142)
Stanwood Cobb recorded that ‘the most important interview’ he had with the Master was while in Paris in 1913. He wrote, ‘I was one of the staff of Porter Sargent’s Travel School for Boys. On my first visit He inquired about the school and asked me what I taught. I told Him that I taught English, Latin, Algebra and Geometry. He gazed intently at me with His luminous eyes and said, “Do you teach the spiritual things?” ‘This question embarrassed me. I did not know how to explain to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá that the necessity of preparing the boys for college-entrance exams dominated the nature of the curriculum. So I simply answered: “No, there is not time for that.” ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá made no comment on this answer. But He did not need to. Out of my own mouth I had condemned myself and modern education. No time for spiritual things! That, of course, is just what is wrong with our modern materialistic “civilization”. It has no time to give for spiritual things. ‘But ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s question and His silent response indicated that from His viewpoint spiritual things should come first.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 139)
When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá met Admiral Peary, North Pole explorer, while the Master was in America, He said, ‘I hope you will explore the invisibilities of the Kingdom.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 116)
A ‘Mrs C’ was an early believer who went to ‘Akká. She belonged to a wealthy and fashionable group of people in New York. Her life had been conventional and rather unsatisfying. She had been a sincere Christian, but somehow had not gained much comfort from her religion. She had become somewhat melancholy. While travelling abroad, she had learned about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. She eagerly grasped His message and headed to the prison-city. Having arrived, she was fascinated by everything, most especially by the Master. She noticed that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá always greeted her with ‘Be happy!’ The other members of the party were not addressed in the same way by Him. This troubled her. Finally she asked someone to ask the Master why He addressed her in this way. With ‘His peculiarly illuminating smile‘, He replied, ‘I tell you to be happy because we can not know the spiritual life unless we are happy!’ ‘Then Mrs C’s dismay was complete, and her diffidence vanished with the fullness of her despair.
‘"But tell me, what is the spiritual life?” she cried, “I have heard ever since I was born about the spiritual life, and no one could ever explain to me what it is!” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá looked at His questioner again with that wonderful smile of His, and said gently: “Characterize thyself with the characteristics of God, and thou shalt know the spiritual life!"’ – few words, but they were sufficient. The characteristics of God? They must be such attributes as love and beauty, justice and generosity. ‘All day long her mind was flooded with the divine puzzle, and all day long she was happy. She did not give a thought to her duties, and yet when she arrived at the moment of her evening’s reckoning, she could not remember that she had left them undone.
‘At last she began to understand. If she was absorbed in Heavenly ideals, they would translate themselves into deeds necessarily, and her days and nights would be full of light. From that moment she never quite forgot the divine admonition that had been granted her: “Characterize thyself with the characteristics of God!” ‘And she learned to know the spiritual life.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 133)