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Misc Baha'i : The Life of Thomas Breakwell
The Life of Thomas Breakwell
by Rajwantee Lakshiman-Lepain
This etext is based on:

"The Life of Thomas Breakwell " by Rajwantee Lakshiman-Lepain

Copyright (c) 1998 The Bahá'í Publishing Trust
27 Rutland Gate
London SW7 1PD

Availability of this etext in no way modifies the copyright status

of the above publication.

This etext is freely available through anonymous internet

file-sharing.
+P6

With grateful thanks to those friends whose kind contributions

made this publication possible.
+P7
INTRODUCTION

The dramatic birth of a new world religion and its rapid

spread to every corner of the earth is a phenomenon sometimes best

understood through the lives of its early followers. The story of

the Bahá'í Faith, and how the revolutionary teachings of the

majestic figure of Bahá'u'lláh first reached the West, is still

unknown to many. It is a story of inspiration, of the faith, vision

and sacrifice of apparently ordinary people, who, when faced with

the challenge of spreading a new gospel, proved themselves to be

saintly and holy souls. Some paid with their lives at the hands of

cruel and scheming oppressors, others gave up their substance,

their homes,
+P8

careers and social standing, and many dedicated themselves to lives

of humble service in every part of the globe, laying down their

bones as pioneers of a new and noble cause.

These first followers understood that they were witnesses to

the dawn of a new age of enlightenment. They left a spiritual

heritage from which all of us may draw strength and insight. Only

as history unfolds will we truly begin to understand the

significance of their lives and the power of the faith they

espoused. United by a glorious vision of the coming of age of the

human race, of the fulfilment of prophecy of all the great faiths,

and the realization of the oneness of God, they each lit a torch

which illuminates the path to lasting unity, and to the

establishment of a just and peaceful world.
+P9

One such soul was Thomas Breakwell. His brief life may appear

to have left no tangible legacy, but, as we shall learn through

these pages, he was endowed with a truly remarkable station. Having

become a Bahá'í in the summer of 1901, Thomas Breakwell passed away

barely a year later, aged only 30. His life is surrounded by an

aura of mystery. Described by 'Abdu'l-Bahá as 'a lamp amid the

angels of high Heaven'[1] and by Shoghi Effendi as one of 'three

luminaries'[2] shedding brilliant lustre on the annals of the

Irish, English and Scottish Bahá'í communities, Thomas Breakwell's

life certainly invites deep contemplation. Set afire with the love

of God, his deep devotion exemplifies that profound mystical

relationship which unites the lover with his Beloved.

[1 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá,

comp. Research Department of the Universal House of Justice, trans.

a committee at the Bahá'í World Centre and by Marzieh Gail, 1st

pocket size ed. (Wilmette, Ill: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1997),

158.12, p. 198.]

[2 Shoghi Effendi, from a cablegram to the National Spiritual

Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the British Isles, 27 March 1957,

Unfolding Destiny: The Messages from the Guardian of the Baha'i

Faith to the Bahá'í Community of the British Isles (London: Baha'i

Publishing Trust, 1981), p. 377.]
+P10

To those followers of Bahá'u'lláh who live in the West, the

life of Thomas Breakwell offers an example of a true believer, an

expression of loving obedience to the Will of God. Breakwell

desired that his humble life would be accepted as a sacrifice for

the spread of the divine teachings of love and universal

brotherhood. His dedication challenges us all to burn away the

veils of materialism and self which are the cause of so much human

suffering, and to arise for the promotion of the well-being of

humanity.

Thomas Breakwell died in relative obscurity, a victim of

tuberculosis in a poor quarter of the city of Paris. His earthly

remains now lie in the communal charnel house at the cemetery of

Pantin. It was not until the summer of 1997 that a dignified but

suitably modest monument
+P11

to mark his resting place was finally unveiled to the world.

Throughout the United Kingdom, the significance of Thomas

Breakwell's life is being commemorated in an increasing number of

ways. In the 1980s a nation-wide system of Bahá'í Sunday Schools

was instituted and named in his honour. This was followed by the

establishment of the Thomas Breakwell College, a distance learning

programme intended to provide moral and spiritual education to a

new generation of young people who are striving, as Thomas

Breakwell did, to see the whole world as one country and all people

as its citizens. All over the world an expanding number of

institutes, programmes and activities seek, in a variety of ways,

to honour his life and foster his remembrance.
+P12

Thomas Breakwell's name will never be forgotten. His true gift

to us lies in the sacred vision that he realized in his brief life.

The brightness and purity of his faith will continue to illuminate

the hopes of many future generations.

We are much indebted to Rajwantee Lakshman-Lepain for

preparing this valuable introduction to the life, rank and station

of Thomas Breakwell. This has been ably translated from the

original French by Olive McKinley. Our thanks also to Hugh McKinley

and Sally Spears for their practical support in promoting its

publication. Our hope is that this volume will serve to widen

interest in and encourage study of this fascinating episode in the

development of a world-embracing faith, which is today the source

of inspiration for millions.
+P13
THE CALL OF GOD

Thomas Breakwell was born on 31 May 1872 in the small market

town of Woking in Surrey. His father, Edward, was an ironmonger and

a herbalist who, at some point during the 1860s, had joined the

nonconformist Christian sect known as the primitive Methodists and

subsequently held evangelical meetings in the family home. Thomas,

the youngest of five children, was educated at an ordinary state

school before his family emigrated to the United States.[3]

[3 This paragraph is from Robert Weinberg, Ethel Jenner Rosenberg:

The Life and Times of England's Outstanding Bahá'í Pioneer Worker

(Oxford: George Ronald, 1995), p. 42.]

There Thomas was able to take up a responsible position in a

cotton mill in one of the southern states, from which he derived

a considerable income. His comfortable financial position enabled

+P14

him to pay regular visits to his relatives in England each summer,

and to take long holidays on the Continent.

Thomas seems to have been of an open mind when it came to

spiritual matters. He was very interested in religious doctrines

and the Hermetic philosophies in general, and in particular that

of the Theosophical Society, to which he may have belonged. This

movement, founded in 1875 in the United States by Mme. Blavatsky

and Colonel Olcott, was much in vogue among British and Indian

seekers at the time. The interest this Society showed in the occult

and the esoteric, with their particularly oriental approaches, may

well have predisposed Thomas Breakwell to turn towards the mystical

universe which lies at the heart of the Bahá'í religion.

+P15

His sensitivity towards things of the spirit led him, while

taking the steamer to France in the summer of 1901, to make the

acquaintance of a certain Mrs Milner. The latter, although having

no personal interest in religion, felt impelled, seeing Breakwell's

passion for spiritual subjects, to speak to him of one of her

friends in Paris, who had, she said, found a philosophy which had

given meaning to her life. The young woman in question was none

other than May Bolles, the future May Maxwell.

May Ellis Bolles had been among the first party of Western

pilgrims to visit 'Abdu'l-Bahá in 'Akka, in 1898-9.[4] By that time

she had been living in Paris for a number of years, during which

time she had attended a convent school there, and where her

brother, Randolph, had taken
+P16

up a course of architectural studies at the Ecole des Beaux Arts.

Her mother had rented an apartment on the fashionable Quai d'Orsay;

May and Randolph also lived there with her. 'Abdu'l-Bahá

recommended that May remain in that city, and entrusted her with

the special responsibility of establishing the first Bahá'í centre

in Europe there.

[4 For an account of that historic visit, see May Maxwell, An Early

Pilgrimage (Oxford: George Ronald Publisher, 1976 ed.)]

'Abdu'l-Bahá once said of Himself, 'I have a Lamp in my hand

and seas to find souls who can become heralds of the Cause.'[5]

Surely May Bolles was one of those very souls whom 'Abdu'l-Bahá

sought -- and found.

[5 'Abdu'l-Bahá, 'The Most Important Work', Star of the West, vol.

IV, no 15, p. 256 (bound vol. 3). (Oxford: George Ronald, 1978).]

One of those who accepted the Bahá'í Faith in Paris during

this time wrote, 'In 1901 and 1902 the Paris group of Baha'is

numbered between twenty-five and thirty
+P17

people with May Boles as spiritual guide and teacher.[6]

[6 Charles Mason Remey, cited in Marion Holley, 'May Ellis

Maxwell', The Bahá'í World: A Biennial International Record,

prepared under the supervision of the National Spiritual Assembly

of the Bahá'ís of the United States and Canada with the approval

of Shoghi Effendi, vol. VII (95 and 96 of the Bahá'í Era, 1938-1940

A.D.), (Wilmette, Ill: Bahá'í Publishing Committee, 1942), p. 634.]

The Master had told May that she should 'on no account absent

[herself] from Paris.' So she had remained there through the summer

of 1901, despite her mother's wish that she should accompany her

on holiday to Brittany. Mrs. Bolles rather resented her daughter's

work for the Bahá'í Cause, and had no hesitation in closing her

apartment when she left the city, so May had to find accommodation

with another believer, Edith Jackson. It was to this apartment that

Mrs Milner brought Breakwell.[7]

[7 This paragraph is adapted from Weinberg, p. 43.]

On a pleasant day that summer, May Bolles opened the door to

Thomas Breakwell and Mrs Milner. As she entered, Mrs Milner said,

smiling, 'He was a stranger and she took him in.' May's

+P18

attention was immediately drawn to this young man, 'of medium

height, slender, erect and graceful, with intense eyes and an

indescribably charm.'[8]

[8 Unless otherwise stated, all quotations in this section are

taken from May Maxwell, 'A Brief Account of Thomas Breakwell', The

Bahá'í World, vol. VII (93 and 94 of the Bahá'í Era, April

1936-1938 AD), (New York: Bahá'í Publishing Committee, 1939), pp.

707-11.]

May made no actual mention of the divine Revelation during

their first meeting. Nor did Mrs Milner, she having, in May's

words, 'closed her ears to its message.' The conversation mainly

centred on Theosophy, the details of Thomas's work, and his

projected trip through Europe. As it continued, May could discern

that Thomas was 'a very rare person of high standing and culture,

simple, natural, intensely real in his attitude toward life and his

fellowmen.' She also became aware that Thomas was studying her most

attentively.

As he was leaving, Thomas asked if he might call on her again

the following day.
+P19

When he returned the next day, May was surprised. Thomas came

to her 'in a strangely exalted mood, no veil of materiality covered

this radiant soul -- his eyes burned with a hidden fire'. He looked

at her earnestly, and asked if she saw anything strange in him. May

replied that he looked very happy. At once, unable to contain

himself any longer, he told his new found friend what had caused

this state of mind. May recalls Thomas's words as follows:

'When I was here yesterday,' he said, 'I felt a power, an

influence that I had felt once before in my life, when for a

period of

three months I was continually in communion with God. I felt

during

that time like one moving in a rarefied atmosphere of light

and
+P20

beauty. My heart was on fire with love for the supreme

Beloved. I felt

at peace, at one with all my fellow-men. Yesterday when I left

you

I went alone down the Champs Elysees, the air was warm and

heavy,

not a leaf was stirring, when suddenly a wind struck me and

whirled
around me, and in that wind a voice said, with an
indescribable

sweetness and penetration, 'Christ has come again! Christ has

come again!'

Afterwards Thomas looked at May with wide, startled eyes, and

asked her if she thought he was going insane. With a smile, she

replied: 'No, you are just becoming sane.' She then spoke to him

of the Báb, His exalted Mission, His martyrdom, and the thousands

of Babis who sacrificed their lives to establish the

+P21

Faith; she then told him of the coming of Bahá'u'lláh, the Blessed

Beauty, 'Who shone upon the world as the Sun of eternity', and of

His laws and teachings.

For three days, Thomas absorbed May's words. For the first,

he accepted the Message without reservation, and eagerly received

all the books which May had to give him. His enthusiasm grew even

greater when she recounted her pilgrimage to 'Akka, where she had

met the Master, 'Abdu'l-Bahá. The experiences which May had in the

presence of this holy Being so much impressed Breakwell that,

sighing deeply, he decided there and then to break with his old

life and cancel all his travel plans. From that moment on he had

only one desire: to be received by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, to contemplate the

face of his Beloved.
+P22

On the third day, he decided to write to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, to

inform Him of his acceptance of the Bahá'í Faith, and to seek His

permission to make pilgrimage to 'Akka. It was a letter of only two

lines:
'My Lord, I believe, forgive me,
Thy servant Thomas Breakwell.'

According to May's account, the simplicity of this request was

typical of Thomas's concise and exalted mind. She was intrigued by

his appeal for forgiveness, the significance of which, she said,

only became apparent later.

Around that time, another young believer newly welcomed into

the fold, Herbert Hopper, had obtained permission to go to 'Akka.

Thomas promptly got in touch with him, and they
+P23

planned to go together. All was set, and the only thing remaining

was to secure the Master's authorization for Thomas's visit.

That day, May forwarded Thomas's message to 'Akka, along with

one of her own, asking the Master to send His reply to Port Said,

where the two young men planned to disembark. That very evening,

when May returned to her apartment, to her great surprise she found

in her letter box a blue cablegram from 'Abdu'l-Bahá which said:

'You may leave Paris at any time!'

May drew her own conclusion from these most surprising events:

'Thus by implicit and unquestioning obedience in the face of

all

opposition the Master's Will had been fulfilled, and I had

been the link in
the chain of His mighty purpose.'
+P24
...

'How gratefully my heart dwells on the divine compassion of

the

Master, on the joy and wonder of my mother as I told her

everything, and

when she burst into tears and exclaimed, 'You have, indeed,

a
wonderful Master.'

Through this series of coincidences, this deployment of

celestial forces, the Divine Being expressed His Will, and made it

reality by bringing to May the soul for whom she had waited.

Marion Holley described 'the confirmation of that brightest

of spirits, Thomas Breakwell' as 'Perhaps the most wondrous event

of that fecund time'.[9] Thomas, it is certain, was a mature soul,

because of his capacity to assimilate all the teachings of the

Faith in a single moment. We
+P25

might well think of him as a 'chosen' soul, because of the special

manner of his conversion. Rather than being rationally convinced,

by argument and proof, of the reality of the Manifestation of God,

his spiritual confirmation was instantaneous and complete. Having

accepted this great truth, he saw his life up to that point in a

completely different perspective, and understood the nature of his

future mission. A 'chosen' soul, too, in terms of his tremendous

spiritual capacities and love for humanity, evident at such a young

age. Nevertheless, he was not to know the full extent of his

destiny till he attained the presence of Him whom he humbly

referred to as his Lord: 'Abdu'l-Bahá.
[9 Marion Holley, op. cit., p. 635.]
+P26

Thomas Breakwell enjoys the unique distinction of being the

first Englishman to make the journey to the Holy Land as a Baha'i

pilgrim.

May Maxwell describes that first visit of the two young

western gentlemen to the city of 'Akka, and their arrival at the

house of 'Abdu'llah Pasha,

'...they were ushered into a spacious room, at one end of

which

stood a group of men in oriental garb. Herbert Hopper's face

became

irradiated with the joy of instant recognition, but Breakwell

discerned no
one in particular among these men. Feeling
+P27
suddenly ill and

weak, he seated himself near a table, with a sense of crushing

defeat.

Wild and desperate thoughts rushed through his mind, his first

great

test, for without such tests the soul will never be unveiled.

'Sitting thus he bitterly lamented: Why had he come here? Why

had he abandoned his projected journey and come to this remote

prison, seeking -- he knew not what?'[10]

[10 May Maxwell, 'A Brief Account of Thomas Breakwell', p. 709.]

May emphasizes this moment as one in which Thomas's soul was

poised to rend asunder whatever veils still obscured the Sun of

Reality. His despair tortured him, until, suddenly, a door opened

and revealed the figure of the Master. Immediately, Thomas

recognized his Lord.
+P28

In his interview with 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Thomas explained how he

enjoyed substantial remuneration from his work in the United

States, but he also expressed a sudden conviction of sin when he

added that these mills were run on child labour. The Master looked

at him, gravely and silently, then said, 'Cable your resignation.'

May's account tells how Thomas obeyed 'Abdu'l-Bahá at once.

With one stroke he had cut all ties to his former life, and was

relieved of his crushing burden. He now had only one desire, to

please the Master. Although only moments earlier he had felt weak

and full of doubt, he was now completely transformed.

Although his stay in 'Akka was short, Thomas made a lasting

impression. Dr. Yunis Khan Afrukhtih, 'Abdu'l-Bahá'í secretary,

relates the following:
+P29

'The fervour and the faith of this young man were so sublime in

character that the blessed name of Breakwell shall ring throughout

the centuries, and shall be remembered with deep affection in many

chronicles. Verses from the Gospels which attest to the glories of

the Kingdom were always on his lips. His sojourn in 'Akka was too

short, but so intense was his love and so ardent his zeal that he

touched the depths of the hearts of those who heard him. Whenever

he was in the presence of our peerless Master, he was rapt in

wonderment.[11]

[11 Yunis Khan Afrukhtih, cited in H. M. Balyuzi, 'Abdu'l-Bahá:

The Centre of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh (Oxford: George Ronald,

1971), p. 77.]

Thomas did not have time to meet all the Bahá'í friends in

'Akka. Because of regulations imposed by the authorities, his visit

was restricted to two days only. When
+P30

the moment of departure finally arrived, 'Abdu'l-Bahá asked him to

settle permanently in Paris.

The Master then asked Yunis Khan to accompany Thomas to Haifa,

from where his ship was to sail. The emotion of the occasion was

intense. Breakwell left the Holy Land without knowing that he would

never again see his beloved Master, but his soul had been so deeply

touched by 'Abdu'l-Bahá'í divine love it would have lasted the

longest lifetime.

Yunis Khan spent a few hours in Thomas's company at the home

of one of the believers. He testifies to the young pilgrim's

devotion:

'...we were in a room that looked towards 'Akka. There he

would

stand, every now and then, perfectly still, facing

+P31
'Akka in a

state of communion. Whilst his eyes welled with tears, his

tongue

uttered words of supplication. All those who were there were

greatly
moved.'[12]
[12 Ibid.]

In this ecstatic state, Thomas asked Yunis Khan if he could

correspond with him. Thomas expressed the desire that his letters

would bring to him 'the fragrances of the effulgent city of

'Akka.[13]
[13 Ibid.]

From then on, the correspondence with Yunis Khan would be the

vital link that united the young Englishman with his beloved

Master.

All those who were present wept as the time came to bid

farewell to this devoted young pilgrim who had made such a lasting

impression. Thomas followed his Master's bidding and returned to

Paris.
+P32
A STAR IN THE FIRMAMENT OF PARIS

Back in Paris, Thomas lost no time in sharing with others the

wonderful spirit which the Master had released within him.

The firmness of his faith was apparent to all, as was his

sincere wish to serve the Cause, and obey the Covenant. May writes

of him in the following terms:

'Those days in the Prison of 'Akka, when the Master's all

consuming love and perfect wisdom had produced that mystic change

of heart and soul which enabled him to rapidly free himself from

all earthly entanglement, and to passionately attach himself to the

world of reality, brought great fruits to the Faith.'[14]

[14 Unless otherwise stated, all quotations in this section are

taken from May Maxwell, 'A Brief Account of Thomas Breakwell'.]

+P33

Although he had been used to living fairly comfortably, Thomas

now completely changed his way of life. He returned to his studies,

and went to live in an inexpensive neighbourhood, probably at No.

14, Rue Leonie, the place of residence entered on his death

certificate. The same document, discovered in 1979, tells us that

he was working as a stenographer before his death. Although Thomas

lived a long way from the city centre, he used always to go on foot

to the Bahá'í meetings, in order to save his fare and make his

contribution to the teaching work in Paris. He was the first Baha'i

in the West to pay Huququ'llah, the Right of God. No care for the

future ever oppressed his mind. He had but one concern: to serve

humanity until his last breath.
+P34

So abandoned was he to the creative forces latent in the

Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, that he was moved spontaneously in the

smallest actions of his daily life to pour out that spirit of love

and oneness to all.

May records one incident which illustrates his truly

kind-hearted nature:

'Well I remember the day we were crossing a bridge over the

Seine on the top of a bus, when he spied an old woman

labouriously

pushing an apple-cart up an incline; excusing himself with a

smile, he

climbed down off the bus, joined the old woman, and in the

most natural

way put his hands on the bar and helped her over the bridge.'

+P35

She describes Thomas's exemplary courtesy in the following

manner:

'The rock foundation on which the Bahá'í Revelation rests,

"the

oneness of mankind", had penetrated his soul like an essence,

taking on

every form of human relationship, imbuing him with an insight

and

penetration into human needs, an intense sympathy and genuine

love which
made him a hope and refuge to all.'
She further relates:

'Although we were fellow Bahá'ís and devoted friends, with

everything in common, yet when he came to our home he gave his

whole loving

attention to my beautiful Mother, with but a scant word

+P36
for me, yet

as he took my hand in farewell, he slipped a little folded

note

into my palm with words of cheer and comfort, usually Words

of
Bahá'u'lláh.'
Admiringly, May concludes:

'He knew the secret of imparting happiness and was the very

embodiment of the Master's words, 'The star of happiness is

in every heart.

We must remove the veils so that it may shine forth

radiantly.'

Thomas not only excelled in his social relations, he had

become a

guiding light in the Paris community in all matters concerning

the
teaching of the Cause.'
+P37

'In the meetings, he spoke with a simplicity and eloquence

which

won the hearts and quickened the souls, and the secret of his

potent

influence lay in his supreme recognition of the Manifestation

of God in

the Báb and in Bahá'u'lláh, and of the sublime Centre of the

Covenant, 'Abdu'l-Bahá.

The potential which, from their first meeting, May had seen

in this young man, was now manifest in its full splendour.

The effects which this spiritual growth produced were then so

remarkable, that May went so far as to comment:

'He had become the guiding star of our group, his calmness and

strength, his intense fervour, his immediate and
all-penetrating grasp of
the vast import
+P39
to mankind in this age of the Revelation of

Bahá'u'lláh, released among us forces which constituted a new

epoch in the
Cause in France.'

These words are especially poignant when one thinks of

Thomas's young age, of the influence he demonstrated both during

his life and after his death. For, truly, he was unlike anyone

else. The spiritual maturity he evinced was that of a much older

person.

Thomas continued a fortnightly correspondence with Dr Yunis

Khan, who shared all his letters with 'Abdu'l-Bahá. He would inform

Him of Thomas's situation and of his desire to do the Master's

will. In one of his letters, Thomas asked whether the Master would

permit him to leave Paris for a few
+P40

days for England, should one of his parents become ill or die.

Then, upon reflection, he thought it was not necessary to trouble

'Abdu'l-Bahá with this question, since He would certainly reply as

Christ had already replied, that he must 'Let the dead bury their

dead'. Dr. Khan read the message to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Who smiled and

told him to reply that, today, 'the living must bury the dead'.[15]

[15 A. Q. Faizi, 'A Precious Gift', Bahá'í Journal, Nov. 1969.]

In one of Thomas's later letters to 'Akka, he said that he now

understood what he must do, but was still hoping to please the

Master more, to suffer more for his Beloved. No one yet knew what

this suffering was of which he spoke. Matters became more complex

when Thomas's parents arrived in Paris, seeking to persuade him to

return at once to England, to convalesce from his
+P41

increasingly poor health. But Thomas steadfastly refused to leave

Paris.

He asked 'Abdu'l-Bahá to pray for his parents, so that they

might become Baha'is. The Master replied that Thomas should not

worry over that matter, and, only a fortnight later, Thomas

informed 'Abdu'l-Bahá that his father, who had previously disowned

him for rejecting Primitive Methodism, had embraced the Baha'i

Faith. Edward Breakwell even went so far as to write his own letter

of supplication to the Master. 'Abdu'l-Bahá revealed a Tablet in

his honour.

Thomas wrote to the Master, happily saying that, if he were

Persian, he would have chosen to be a martyr. He had been admitted

to hospital, and was in the tuberculosis ward. But news from the

young man continued to reach
+P42

'Akka, conveying an ever-increasing joy, despite his suffering.

Sometimes, when Dr. Khan read Thomas's letters to

'Abdu'l-Bahá, the Master would remain silent. Dr. Khan knew that

the 'mysterious communion between the lover and the Beloved had no

need of the spoken word.'[16] At other times, the Master would ask

his secretary simply to convey His greetings. Although Thomas could

have asked for healing, he never did, but prayed always for greater

suffering. The more his illness consumed him, the greater his joy

became.
[16 Yunis Khan, cited in Balyuzi, p. 78.]

Hippolyte Dreyfus, who was able to visit Thomas in hospital,

relates how the young Englishman spoke to the other patients

enthusiastically about the Bahá'í Faith. Some of his listeners were

upset by his message, others criticized it. But
+P43

Thomas, unperturbed, maintained his tranquillity and told them that

he was not going to die, but was merely departing for the Kingdom

of God, and that he would pray for them in heaven.

Writing of his pain, he said:

'Suffering is a heady wine; I am prepared to receive that

bounty

which is the greatest of all; torments of the flesh have

enabled me to

draw much nearer to my Lord. All agony notwithstanding, I wish

life

to endure longer, so that I may taste more of pain. That which

I

desire is the good-pleasure of my Lord; mention me in His

presence.'[17]
[17 Thomas Breakwell, cited ibid.]

Thomas Breakwell breathed his last at seven p.m., on 13 June

1902, at No. 200, rue Faubourg Saint Denis. He was 30

+P44

years of age; he had been a Bahá'í for hardly one year. But from

that moment on, he possessed all eternity to live and proclaim his

Faith.

The mysterious nature of the unspoken communion between the

lover and the Beloved can be seen in the way in which Yunis Khan

learned of Thomas's death.

'I was accompanying the Master in the evening from the house

where He received His visitors to His home by the seaside. All

of a

sudden He turned to me and said: 'Have you heard?' 'No,

Master,' I

replied, and He said: 'Breakwell has passed away. I am

grieved, very

grieved. I have revealed a prayer of visitation for him. It

is very

moving, so moving that twice I could not withhold my tears

when I was
writing
+P45

it. You must translate it well, so that whoever reads it

will weep.' I never knew who had given the Master the news of

Breakwell's death. If anyone had written or cabled either in

English or

French, that communication would have passed through my hands.

Two days

later the prayer of visitation was given to me. It wrung one's

heart,

and I could not hold back my tears. I translated it into

French, and

later, with the help of Lua Getsinger, into English.[18]

[18 Ibid., pp. 79-9.]

Yunis Khan recounts the following story regarding the Master's

continuing attachment to Thomas, after his passing from this

earthly plane:

'Abdu'l-Bahá called me one day to His presence, to give me

letters to translate. There
+P46
were many envelopes sent from various

places. While examining them still sealed, He, all of a

sudden, picked

out one and said: "How pleasing is the fragrance that emanates

from

this envelope. Make haste, open it and see where it comes

from. Make

Haste."... In it there was a postcard ... the postcard was

coloured a

beautiful shade, and attached to it was a solitary flower --

a violet.

Written in letters of gold were these words: "He is not dead.

He lives

on in the Kingdom of God." Further, there was this sentence:

'This

flower was picked from Breakwell's grave.' When I told the

Master what

the message of the postcard was, He at once rose up from His

seat,

took the card, put it on His blessed brow, and tears flowed

down His
cheeks.'[19]
[19 Ibid., p. 80.]
+P47

In a letter, enclosed with the card, Edward Breakwell wrote,

'Praise be to the Lord that my son left this world for the next

with the recognition and love of 'Abdu'l-Bahá.[20]

[20 Cited in Weinberg, p. 46.]

Thomas Breakwell's grave was leased for five years, after

which time, as no surviving members of his family kept up the

payments on the plot, his bones were disinterred, cleaned, bundled

and numbered, and as is the custom, placed in the cemetery's

charnel house. The section where Breakwell's bones are stacked has

long since been sealed and other sections built against it, which

in turn have been filled.[21]
[21 Ibid., pp. 46-7.]

Since the time when Thomas's bones were removed, two other

people had been buried in this grave. When it
+P48

became known to the Bahá'ís in Paris that the gravesite was once

again vacant, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of

France applied for permission to erect a permanent monument to

Thomas on the site. A competition was announced, and a number of

Bahá'í architects submitted a variety of designs. Cemetery

officials were reluctant to give approval for an elaborate

monument, and the National Assembly had to settle for a simple but

dignified stone.

Now that stone is in place, and has already become a focal

point of pilgrimage. The Universal House of Justice has encouraged

the French Bahá'í community to continue its efforts to retrieve

Thomas's remains from the charnel house and have them returned to

their original grave.
+P50

In a Tablet to Ethel Rosenberg, another outstanding early

British believer, 'Abdu'l-Bahá stated that,

'Holy places are undoubtedly centres of the outpouring of

Divine

grace, because on entering the illumined sites associated with

martyrs

and holy souls, and by observing reverence, both physical and

spiritual, one's heart is moved with great tenderness. ...it

is pleasing

and acceptable in the sight of God if a person desires to draw

nigh
unto Him by visiting them...'[22]

[22 'Abdu'l-Bahá, cited in Universal House of Justice, A Synopsis

and Codification of The Kitáb-i-Aqdas (Haifa: Bahá'í World Centre,

1973), p. 61.]

On 14 June 1997, 95 years to the day since the mortal remains

of Thomas Breakwell were laid to rest, a diverse group of Baha'is,

representing the inheritors of that glorious legacy of faith

+P51

which Thomas left to the world, gathered at the Pantin Cemetery in

Paris, to honour his memory at the dedication of the newly erected

memorial, and to participate in a celebration of Thomas's life and

legacy.[23]

[23 For more information, see Rob Weinberg, 'The Commemoration

of Thomas Breakwell', Bahá'í Journal, September 1997, pp. 12-13.]

+P52
TABLET REVEALED BY
'Abdu'l-Bahá

Grieve thou not over the ascension of my beloved Breakwell,

for he hath risen unto a rose garden of splendours within the Abha

Paradise, sheltered by the mercy of his mighty Lord, and he is

crying at the top of his voice: 'O that my people could know how

graciously my Lord hath forgiven me, and made me to be of those who

have attained His Presence!'
O Breakwell, O my dear one!

Where now is thy fair face? Where is thy fluent tongue? Where

thy clear brow? Where thy bright comeliness?
+P53
O Breakwell, O my dear one!

Where is thy fire, blazing with God's love? Where is thy

rapture at His holy breaths? Where are thy praises, lifted unto

Him? Where is thy rising up to serve His Cause?
O Breakwell, O my dear one!

Where are thy beauteous eyes? Thy smiling lips? The princely

cheek? The graceful form?
O Breakwell, O my dear one!

Thou hast quit this earthly world and risen upward to the

Kingdom, thou hast reached unto the grace of the invisible realm,

and offered thyself at the threshold of its Lord.
+P54
O Breakwell, O my dear one!

Thou hast left the lamp that was thy body here, the glass that

was thy human form, thy earthy elements, thy way of life below.

O Breakwell, O my dear one!

Thou hast lit a flame within the lamp of the Company on high, thou

hast set foot in the Abha Paradise, thou hast found a shelter in

the shadow of the Blessed Tree, thou hast attained His meeting in

the haven of Heaven.
O Breakwell, O my dear one!

Thou art now a bird of Heaven, thou hast quit thine earthly

nest, and soared away to a garden of holiness
+P55

in the kingdom of thy Lord. Thou hast risen to a station filled

with light.
O Breakwell, O my dear one!

Thy song is even as birdsong now, thou pourest forth verses

as to the mercy of thy Lord; of Him Who forgiveth ever, thou wert

a thankful servant, wherefore hast thou entered into exceeding

bliss.
O Breakwell, O my dear one!

Thy Lord hath verily singled thee out for His love, and hath

led thee into His precincts of holiness, and made thee to enter the

garden of those who are His close companions, and hath blessed thee

with beholding His beauty.
+P56
O Breakwell, O my dear one!

Thou hast won eternal life, and the bounty that faileth never,

and a life to please thee well, and plenteous grace.

O Breakwell, O my dear one!

Thou art become a star in the supernal sky, and a lamp amid

the angels of high Heaven; a living spirit in the most exalted

Kingdom, throned in eternity.
O Breakwell, O my dear one!

I ask of God to draw thee ever closer, hold thee ever faster;

to rejoice thy heart with nearness to His presence, to fill thee

with light and still more
+P57

light, to grant thee still more beauty, and to bestow upon thee

power and great glory.
O Breakwell, O my dear one!

At all times do I call thee to mind. I shall never forget

thee. I pray for thee by day, by night; I see thee plain before me,

as if in open day.
O Breakwell, O my dear one![24]

[24 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections, 185.1-15, pp. 196-9.]

+P58

This sublime Tablet not only moves the reader, as 'Abdu'l-Bahá

wished, but also prompts one to ponder the unique character of

Thomas Breakwell, that he should have attained such a station,

should have become 'a star in the supernal sky, and a lamp amid the

angels of high Heaven', 'like unto the birds chanting the verses

of thy Lord, the Forgiving', should have been blessed with

'beholding His Beauty'.

The terms used by 'Abdu'l-Bahá are moving and significant.

Yet, Thomas was a believer for a very short period of his life. One

may also be surprised to read Shoghi Effendi, on the occasion of

the passing of George Townshend, state that he merited a place

beside Thomas Breakwell and John Esslemont as one of

+P59

'three luminaries shedding brilliant lustre'[25] on the annals of

the Irish, English and Scottish Bahá'í communities. Shoghi Effendi

paid tribute to George Townshend's 'sterling qualities his

scholarship his challenging writings high ecclesiastical position

unrivalled any Bahá'í western world';[26] John Esslemont was the

author of a book which won singular praise from the Guardian, who

said that it would 'inspire generations yet unborn to tread the

path of truth and service as steadfastly and as unostentatiously

as was trodden by its beloved author.'[27] Both John Esslemont and

George Townshend were designated Hands of the Cause of God by the

Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith: the former posthumously,[28] the

latter during his own lifetime.[29] That honour was never

+P60

bestowed upon Thomas. Neither was he included among that group of

twenty-one distinguished early western believers whom Shoghi

Effendi designated 'the Disciples of 'Abdu'l-Bahá'í and 'Heralds

of the Covenant'.[30]
[25 Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 377.]
[26 Ibid.]

[27 Shoghi Effendi, from a message 'To the beloved of God and the

handmaids of the Merciful in the East and in the West', 30 November

1925, ibid., p. 43.]
[28 Ibid.]

[29 See Shoghi Effendi, cablegram 24 December 1951, Messages to

the Bahá'í

World 1950-1957 (Wilmette, Ill: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1995

reprint), p. 20.]

[30 See The Bahá'í World, vol. III, pp. 84-5. Also, The Baha'i

World, vol. IV, pp. 118-19.]

Compared to the lasting achievements of Esslemont and

Townshend, the significance of Thomas Breakwell's life and death

seems a mystery indeed. By all accounts he left no tangible legacy

for posterity. He was a Bahá'í for less than a year. Until

recently, even his final resting place was left unmarked. One can

but wonder why it was that 'Abdu'l-Bahá should have written about

him in such glowing terms; and why Shoghi Effendi should have named

him one of these 'three luminaries', and ranked him as co-equal in

such exalted company.
+P61

Many intriguing issues arise when one ponders such questions as:

Why did Thomas long for death so? Why did he wish for more

suffering? How did he know that he would please God by drinking

from the cup of sorrow, when, in any case he could not escape it?

Were not his qualities of more benefit to humanity when he was

living rather than dead?

How can one explain all this deployment of mysterious forces

which led him to come into contact with the Bahá'í Faith, then live

for such a short time after that? Is there some kind of hidden

meaning to his life?

Perhaps 'Abdu'l-Bahá Himself may lift the veil a little for

us. In the last talk He gave in Paris, on 1 December 1911, nine

years after the death of Thomas Breakwell, 'Abdu'l-Bahá said:

+P62

'When I arrived in Paris some time ago for the first time, I

looked around me with much interest, and in my mind I likened

this
beautiful city to a large garden.

'With loving care and much thought I examined the soil, and

found it to be very good and full of possibility for steadfast

faith

and firm belief, for a seed of God's love has been cast into

the
ground.'[31]

[31 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Paris Talks: Addresses Given by 'Abdu'l-Bahá

in 1911, 12th rev. ed. (London: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1995),

53.1-2, pp. 178-8. Emphasis added.]

It is tempting to conclude that Thomas Breakwell was chosen

to be the seed of the love of God of which 'Abdu'l-Bahá speaks

here. Planted by the hand of the Master Himself, it was helped to

grow and flourish, and to produce fresh seedlings whose maturation

would signal a decisive stage in the history of the Faith in this

capital city. Such was his destiny! Is
+P63

this why Thomas Breakwell was so on fire, and so urgently wished

to give his life, to drink the cup of suffering, because he knew

that he would serve the Cause better this way, since God had

bestowed tremendous hidden powers on him?

Thomas's sacrifice recalls that of Mirza Mihdi, Bahá'u'lláh's

youngest son, whose death released such forces as to throw open the

doors of the prison which hid the Manifestation of God from the

eyes of the world.

What similar forces were released by the sacrifice of Thomas

Breakwell?

If May Bolles, even at that time, thought that he had

liberated forces in the Parisian Bahá'í community, the appearance

of which launched a new epoch in the Cause, if she claimed that the

spirit of Thomas Breakwell continues to
+P64

live, 'not alone in the hearts and memories of the Baha'is, but is

also welded into the very structure of the World Order', what can

be said today, now that almost a hundred years separates us from

the time of Thomas's passing?
+P65
SPIRITUAL RANK AND STATION

It is probably impossible for most of us to truly comprehend

the spiritual station of the great souls of religious history.

Thankfully, however, the Bahá'í Writings do cast light on some

aspects of the glorious rank which Thomas Breakwell appears to have

attained.

The Seven Valleys by Bahá'u'lláh and the prayer of visitation

revealed by 'Abdu'l-Bahá in honour of Thomas Breakwell are two

texts which offer distinct but complementary approaches to

understanding spiritual reality. One revealing the process of

evolution that every soul must undergo, and the other, the heights

to which it may aspire.
+P66
BREAKWELL'S MYSTICAL JOURNEY

Bahá'u'lláh's Seven Valleys traces the mystical journey of the

spiritual seeker, and the joys and sorrows to be encountered along

that pathway. The life of Thomas Breakwell takes on a deeper

meaning when considered in the light of that mystical work.

The spiritual odyssey of Thomas Breakwell could be described

imaginatively here, and may, in turn, set an example by which to

approach The Seven Valleys itself. The concordance of incidents

from what we know of Thomas's inner and outer life, with

Bahá'u'lláh's descriptions of the tests and triumphs of spiritual

advancement, may be said to be striking indeed.

Thomas Breakwell's progress towards God could be said to take

him through
+P67

each of the Seven Valleys. This young man was first attracted to

Theosophy and the fashionable spiritualist theories of this day.

In this condition, he travels through the Valley of Search and

seeks for the 'Beauty of the Friend'[32] with the fervour of a

mystic lover. 'How many a Jacob will he see, hunting after his

Joseph', and how many lovers, 'hasting to seek the Beloved', before

being guided to May Bolles?

[32 Unless otherwise stated, all quotation is this section are

from Bahá'u'lláh, The Seven Valleys, trans. Ali Kuli Khan and

Marzieh Gail London: Nightingale Books, 1992).]

Did not the 'aid from the Invisible Realm' guide his steps

when, walking through the streets of Paris, he heard a voice

announcing the return of Christ to him, and did not the 'heat of

his search' 'grow' as soon as he, in a state of exaltation,

returned to see his friend May and tell her of his strange

experience? 'And if, by the help of God,' as
+P68

Bahá'u'lláh describes it, 'he findeth on this journey a trace of

the traceless Friend', and 'inhaleth the fragrance of the long-lost

Joseph from the heavenly messenger, he shall straightway step into

the Valley of Love and be dissolved in the fire of love.'

Did he not feel, from that moment, the ultimate longing to see

his Beloved -- 'Abdu'l-Bahá -- as soon as he had declared his

faith? Thomas was now 'unaware of himself, and of aught else

besides himself.' He saw 'neither ignorance nor knowledge, neither

doubt nor certitude'. He abandoned all his former plans and set

sail for 'Akka. But the seeker had not yet acquired the certitude

of the True Believer, for in the Valley of Love, 'if there be no

pain this journey will never end.'
+P69

Having actually reached the prison city of 'Akka, Thomas was

seized by fear while awaiting the arrival of the Master. Doubts

assailed him. He wondered why he had come so far to that remote

prison? He did not know that 'until, like Jacob, thou forsake thine

outward eyes, thou shalt never open the eye of thine inward being;

and until thou burn with the fire of love, thou shalt never commune

with the Lover of Longing.' It appears at this stage that Thomas

remained attached to the material world, and so was unable to

experience the same joy as his travelling companion, Herbert

Hopper. It was not until, seated by the Master's side, that the

veil was suddenly lifted. 'Abdu'l-Bahá'í loving presence touched

his soul, revealing to him at once, the real nature of life's

vanities and injustices.
+P70

Thomas was not one of those many souls who choose to remain

deprived of the spirit of life by wrapping themselves in veils of

materialism. He possessed 'great qualities' which enabled him to

know 'the fire of love'. Soon the overwhelming sense of solitude

and despair which had first enveloped him became dissolved through

the intense flame of his pure-hearted devotion. Instead, he was

seized by transports of delight through meeting at last his beloved

Master. His ego and all its attachments was forgotten. He thus

entered the Valley of Knowledge, where he came 'out of doubt into

certitude', and 'from the darkness of illusion to the guiding light

of the fear of God'.

Thomas could now leave 'Akka satisfied, and begin to 'privily

converse
+P71

with his Beloved' when, as he was departing, he turned one last

time to pay homage to that holy place. 'With inward and outward

eyes he witnesseth', from then onwards, 'the mysteries of

resurrection in the realms of creation and the souls of men.'

When Thomas made his way back from 'Akka to Paris, where, at

the Master's wish, he was going to settle, the spiritual journey

of his soul was continuing. 'He beholdeth justice in injustice, an

din justice, grace. In ignorance he findeth many a knowledge

hidden, and in knowledge a myriad of wisdoms manifest.' In Paris,

Thomas devoted himself to teaching the Cause and displayed great

solicitude to everyone, as May Bolles noted: 'If he meeteth with

injustice he shall have
+P72

patience and if he cometh upon wrath, he shall manifest love.' Is

not this how Thomas reacted when he became aware that he himself

was doomed in this mortal world? His illness was consuming him; he

knew he could not escape it. Before the injustice of this enemy

which had attacked him while still so young, did he not manifest

courage and gratitude to God?

'Those who journey in the garden-land of knowledge,' explains

Bahá'u'lláh, 'because they see the end in the beginning, see peace

in war and friendliness in anger.'

'After passing through the Valley of Knowledge, which is the

last plane of limitation, the wayfarer cometh to the Valley of

Unity and drinketh from the cup of the Absolute, and gazeth on the

Manifestations of Oneness.'
+P73

May Bolles said of Thomas Breakwell that he had so well

understood the spirit of unity inherent in the religion of

Bahá'u'lláh that his very essence was impregnated with it. Thomas

entered into a mystic union with God, upon Whom he continually

called in prayer. 'He burned with such a fire of love that his

frail body seemed to be gradually consumed.' He seemed to be

passing through the Valley of Contentment: 'From sorrow he turneth

to bliss, from anguish to joy. His grief and mourning yield to

delight and rapture... The wayfarer in this Valley may dwell upon

the dust, yet inwardly they are throned in the heights of mystic

meaning; they eat of the endless bounties of inner significance,

and drink of the delicate wines of the spirit.'
Thomas Breakwell, poor, alone, weak
+P74

and emaciated by his illness, nevertheless felt intensely what it

was to traverse this Valley: 'and thou wilt loose thyself from all

things else, and bind thyself to Him, and throw thy life down in

His path, and cast thy soul away.' Was not this very sacrifice what

Thomas was in fact seeking when he wrote to 'Abdu'l-Bahá,

expressing his wish to be a martyr? Did he not see his impending

death as just such a sacrificial act? Can one imagine a more

fervent lover than this young man who, by now in the grip of an

incurable illness, thanked his Lord for his condition, and asked

to be allowed to drink more deeply of the wine of suffering?

The Valley of Wonderment is also one of perplexity where the

True Believer 'seeth the shape of wealth as poverty itself, and the

essence of freedom as sheer
+P75

impotence. Now he is struck dumb with the beauty of the

All-Glorious; again he is wearied out with his own life. How many

a mystic tree hath this whirlwind of wonderment snatched by the

roots', asks Bahá'u'lláh, and 'how many a soul hath it exhausted?'

But Thomas remained firm.

Hippolyte Dreyfus, who visited Thomas in hospital, was

astonished by his indomitable spirit. 'After scaling the high

summits of wonderment the wayfarer cometh to the Valley of True

Poverty and Absolute Nothingness. This station is the dying from

self and the living in God ... being poor in the things of the

created world, rich in the things of God's world. For when the true

lover and devoted friend reacheth to the presence of the Beloved,

the sparkling beauty of the Loved One and the fire of the lover's

heart will kindle a
+P76

blaze and burn away all veils... Yea, all that he hath, from heart

to skin, will be set aflame, so that nothing will remain save the

Friend.'

Thomas Breakwell departed this life a poor man, with not even

enough to purchase a plot of earth for the repose of his earthly

remains. Though his body may be lost in a common grave in this

world, his soul nevertheless shines on high, and tastes the glory

and joy of those who have 'attained the Presence of God'. Such was

his life, and such could be that of all true believers,[33] of whom

Thomas Breakwell is surely an illustrious example.

[33 For a discussion of the attributes and station of the true

believer, see Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh,

Volume One: Baghdad 1853-63, rev. ed. (Oxford: George Ronald,

1976), pp. 238-9, 243.]
BREAKWELL'S LUMINOUS STATION

Thomas Breakwell possessed great spiritual capacity, and was

courageous in the way he manifested it. These two
+P77

factors determine the spiritual rank and station which each soul

occupies.

Yet there is, it would seem, a very important difference.

One's spiritual station is conferred by God, and is entirely

dependent on His grace. One may lose it, but one cannot 'earn' it.

Rank is a degree of spiritual development which the individual

acquires by his or her own efforts, and which distinguishes him or

her from any other believer.

Thomas Breakwell's rank is much less of a mystery to us than

his station. Consider how baffling it may at first seem when we

read that Shoghi Effendi describes George Townshend, John Esslemont

and Thomas Breakwell as being equal in rank. On the other hand,

Thomas Breakwell appears to have been endowed by God with an

exceptional
+P78

station, higher than that of any other Western believer.

What is the spiritual nature of this station? A close study

of the prayer of visitation revealed by 'Abdu'l-Bahá in honour of

Thomas Breakwell perhaps allows us a glimpse of its greatness.

When we refer to the original Arabic language of this Tablet,

and consider some of the precise terminology which the Master

employs, we see that Thomas Breakwell was one of those rare souls

who was able to attain the ultimate goal of his life (fa'izin). The

greatness of this goal is clearly revealed in the Arabic version,

though it is perhaps not so apparent in either the French or

English translations, as neither of those languages contains words

or phrases which can convey the equivalent meanings and allusions

of the Arabic. 'Abdu'l-Bahá
+P79

writes, literally: 'Thou hast forsaken the world of Nasut and

ascended to that of Malakut, and by the grace of God thou hast

attained to Lahut and reached the threshold (atabat) of the Lord

of Jabarut'[34]

[34 See Bahá'u'lláh, op cit., pp. 63-4. For a discussion of the

hierarchy of the worlds of God, see Moojan Momen, 'Relativism: A

Basis for Bahá'í metaphysics', in Moojan Momen (ed), Studies in the

Babi and Bahá'í Religions, vol. 5: Studies in Honor of the Late

Hasan M. Balyuzi (Los Angeles: Kalimat Press, 1988), pp. 185-217.]

The world of Lahut may be described as the realm of the Divine

Will or Logos where the divine names and attributes of God are

first revealed. Here the divine Manifestations exist in a condition

of complete union with the Essence of god. In Bahá'í terminology

this is sometimes referred to as 'The Heavenly Court', or the

'All-Glorious Horizon'. The realm of Jabarut is where these

manifestations of God's Will acquire their individual existence,

the form in which they become known among us, revealing God's

actions and decrees in each dispensation.
+P80

Then comes the realm of Malakut, which is the world of the

soul. In the Bahá'í scriptures this is also known as the Kingdom

of Abha, where, beyond physical death, the human soul pursues

spiritual development on the infinite journey toward God. The world

of Malakut is arranged in a hierarchy according to the spiritual

development of the souls and their station.

According to this hierarchy of the worlds of God, we may

describe the spiritual journey of Thomas Breakwell as having left

the world of Nasut (the plane of the human condition), to rise,

first of all, to the world of Malakut, the world of the soul, and

by a special grace, reach the world of Lahut, the world of Divinity

where he attained the sacred Threshold of the Lord of Jabarut.

+P81

This suggests that Thomas Breakwell attained the presence of

the divine Manifestation (Bahá'u'lláh), in that station of

splendour and power, distinct from His station in the world of

Malakut. For the world of Jabarut is, at the same time, the world

of the Divine Will and also the World of the Manifestation.

So Thomas Breakwell, without having entered into the heart of

the world of the divine Manifestation, attained that point which

marks its frontier, the Tree of Tuba (as it is in the original

Arabic), also called the Sadratu'l-Muntaha (the name given to the

last tree of an oasis before the desert begins), beyond which he

caught sight of the world of the Manifestation of God and the Face

of God, as is promised in the Qur'an. This is the highest station

to which a human being can attain.
+P82

In a Tablet which Bahá'u'lláh devotes to the qualities and

station of the 'true believer', this meeting is described in the

following manner: 'Such a man hath attained the knowledge of the

station of Him Who is "at the distance of two bows", Who standeth

beyond the Sadratu'l-Muntaha.'[35]

[35 Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, comp.

and trans. Shoghi Effendi, rev. ed. (London: Bahá'í Publishing

Trust, 1978), XXIX, p. 70.]

In the Qur'an, the Sadratu'l-Muntaha refers to the point which

marks the inaccessibility of God.

This Tablet also furnishes details of the conditions of life

in the next world, the life of those souls who have attained the

highest level of spiritual being. They are entrusted with a special

service which plunges them into such extremes of joy that they sing

the praises of God and chant verses which rain down upon the whole

of creation. Their sustenance is the
+P83
contemplation of the Beauty of the Manifestation.

Thus it was that Thomas Breakwell received the grace of God,

Who granted him, above and beyond the spiritual rank achieved

through his own efforts, the exalted station of one of 'His close

companions'.[36] In final tribute, in the words of 'Abdu'l-Bahá Who

wrote so definitively of Thomas, 'Thy Lord hath verily singled thee

out for His love.'[37]
[36 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections, 158.10, p. 198.]
[37 Ibid.]

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