Materialism

He told us later that when the ship was approaching the harbor and the Master saw, as his first view of America, the Wall Street skyscrapers, He laughed and said: ‘Those are the minarets of the West. What divine irony!
(Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 57)


Earlier that day ‘Abdu’l-Bahá talked about the material progress of the world. He said that some countries had reached the apex of material progress. Physically, they were like healthy bodies, but unfortunately they were empty of spirit. He noted that a spiritless body was a dead one until it acquired spiritual capacity. Then He said: “The people of America have a great capacity for the acquisition of spiritual qualities but they are immersed in material affairs. They are like machines which move uncontrollably; they move but are devoid of spirit. They will attain perfection when the spirit of divine civilization is breathed into them.
(Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 215)


"I have come hither,” He said, “to find that material civilization has progressed greatly, but the spiritual civilization has been left behind. The material civilization is likened unto the glass of a lamp chimney. The spiritual civilization is like the light in that chimney. The material civilization should go hand-in-hand with the spiritual civilization. Material civilization may be likened unto a beautiful body, while spiritual civilization is the spirit that enters the body and gives to it life. With the propelling power of spiritual civilization the result will be greater.
(Diary of Juliet Thompson, April 14, 1912)


With a group of friends, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá visited the Walker Art Gallery on the morning of 19 September. After looking at the ancient artifacts, the Master noted that rich people in the West collected antique objects in order to “render a service to the world of art", while wealthy Persians collective horses, all for the purpose of satisfying their whims and promoting their status. He concluded by saying that in comparison to service to the cause, both attitudes are barren, producing no result. For example, if the efforts these people put into gathering these objects and the millions of dollars spent acquiring them, were employed for the Cause of God, their star of happiness and prosperity would shine evermore from the horizon of both worlds.
(Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 199)