Welcome to the home of Mr. Stanwood Cobb, at 19 Grafton Street in Chevy Chase Maryland, where the Master visited Mr. Cobb and walked along Conneticut Avenue. On May 9, the Master left Mrs. Parsons house at 6pm to visit Mr. Stanwood Cobb traveling with Ali Kuli Khan. In 1941 Hanna Lohse recorded what Ali Kuli Khan recalled of the visit, "One day in 1912 when 'Abdu'l-Baha visited Washington he also came out to Chevy Chase. It had not extended as far as it is today. Mr. Cobb and Mr. McDaniel's homes are to the left of the circle. The center of the community. But the Master was walking with Dr. Khan then along a tree bordered by large beautiful trees which led to the north.. all of a sudden He stopped pointing ahead and said "Here I see a brilliant light shining." Mr. Cobb in 1911 had registered himself as a member of the National Scoiety of the Sons of the American Revolution being the great-grandson of Ebenezer Cobb Jr. a private in Col. Ebenezer Sprout's Mass. Regiment. He was also a descendent of the Cobb on the second Mayflower voyage. Mr. Stanwood Cobb had a long and outstanding career as an educator. He was the founder and organizer of the Progressive Education Association and a renowned leader in the field of child psychology. Mr. Cobb founded and became principal of the Chevy Chase Country Day school in 1919, in the house visited by the Master. He was also president and founder of the Washington Authors Club. He was born in Newton, Massachusetts to Darius Cobb a Civil War soldier and a descendent of Elder Henry Cobb of the second voyage of the Mayflower. He had pursued his interest in religion to Green Acre Baha'i School in Eliot, Maine while studying comparative religion at Harvard Divinity School, and would later open Mast Cove Camp next to Green Acre. Between 1909 and 1913 he met 'Abdu'l-Baha five times. Cobb was a founding member of the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Washington DC. He lies burried in Rock Creek Park Cemetery in a Baha'i section including the gravesite of Ali Kuli Khan, having past away at 101 years of age on December 28th 1982. The circle Ali Kuli Khan mentioned is just east of Mr. Cobb's home, it is one of 33 circles in the District of Columbia. Chevy Chase Circle, unlike other circles in northwest Washington, D.C. was a later development of the Chevy Chase Land Company (Circa 1893), created to amplify the original city plan and add grandeur to the new residential area. The Chevy Chase Circle is located at the confluence of Western Avenue, Grafton Street, Magnolia Parkway, Chevy Chase Parkway, and Connecticut Avenue, straddling the border of Chevy Chase, Washington, D.C. and Chevy Chase, Maryland. Thus the tree lined street the Master walked along in a north bound trajectory would most likely have been Conneticut avenue which retains a beatuiful tree line to this day. Across the street from the Cobb house is the All Saints' Protestant Episcopal Church which was constructed in 1901, would have been a prominent site in 1912.
cablegram was received from the Universal House of Justice:
GRIEVED PASSING STANWOOD COBB. HIS LONGTIME SERVICES CAUSE BEGINNING AS CONTRIBUTOR STAR OF THE WEST AND SUBSEQUENTLY COEDITOR WORLD ORDER MAGAZINE EARNED HIGH PRAISE BELOVED GUARDIAN. HIS SCHOLARLY ACHIEVEMENTS SPECIALLY FIELD EDUCATION HAVE GREATLY ENRICHED LITERATURE FAITH. PRAYING HOLY SHRINES PROGRESS HIS SOUL ABHA KINGDOM.
31 December 1982
(Adapted from a memoir by RUTH L. DUNBAR)
Dr. Cobb passed away at age one hundred and one in his home in Chevy Chase, Maryland, on 29 December 1982, having achieved his ambition to live for a full century. During the final weeks of his life he often referred to his last meeting with `Abdu'l-Bahá which occurred in Washington: `. . . He embraced me at the end, kissed me, and said three times, Be on fire with the love of the Kingdom!' Stanwood Cobb was indeed on fire with the love of the Kingdom to his last breath after some seventy-five years of service to the Bahá`í Faith.
To review Dr. Cobb's life is to make a beautiful and heavenly journey through those marvellous years beginning with the early dawn of the Bahá`í Faith in the United States when news of this `new Revelation' and of the presence of `Abdu'l-Bahá in the Holy Land reached the ears of a few `ready souls', aroused their curiosity, quickened their hearts and resulted in their making their way to `Akká in an ever-increasing stream to enter the Master's presence.
An account of Dr. Cobb's introduction to the Bahá`í Faith in 1906 is given in his Memories of `Abdu'l-Bahá and in Star of the West, Vol. 15, No. 1, April 1924: He was at that time studying for the Unitarian ministry at the Harvard Divinity School but was drawn to Green Acre in Maine as a result of a series of weekly articles in the Boston Transcript. Miss Sarah Farmer introduced Dr. Cobb to the singer, Mary Lucas, who had just returned from visiting `Abdu'l-Bahá. `. . . within half an hour from that moment I became a confirmed Bahá`í and have remained so ever since,' Dr. Cobb wrote.
After graduating from Dartmouth College and taking an M.A. in philosophy and comparative religion at Harvard, Dr. Cobb served as an instructor at Robert College in Constantinople from 1907 to 1910, an experience that led to the publication of his first book The Real Turk. During this interval Dr. Cobb met `Abdu'l-Bahá on two occasions. The first meeting was in 1908 when `Abdu'l-Bahá was still a prisoner of the Turks. On this occasion the pilgrim disguised himself as a Turk in order to attain the Master's presence, spending several days as a quest in His home in `Akká. Mrs. Lua Getsinger, whom Dr. Cobb had encountered by chance in Cairo, had encouraged him to accompany her on this most significant of journeys.
`Again it was my privilege to visit `Abdu'l-Bahá in the summer of 1910,' writes Dr. Cobb, `and this time at His own invitation . . . spending a week there in the Persian guest house on the slopes of Mt. Carmel . . . He seemed to me more noble in countenance, more regal in bearing, more potent in the power of His presence than ever before.'
Later Dr. Cobb was to again enter the presence of `Abdu'l-Bahá in France and in the United States during the course of the Master's historic travels. Dr. Cobb related that while teaching at Robert College he suffered severe depression. During the course of one of his visits to the Master, `Abdu'l-Bahá took him aside, held his hand and sat with him quietly. The depression lifted and never returned. Indeed, sunniness of disposition, cheerfulness of outlook and uncomplaining acceptance became Stanwood Cobb's outstanding characteristics.
He returned to the United States from Constantinople to pursue a career in education and writing. He published approximately twenty books on religion, education and philosophy, and several volumes of verse. He made his home in Chevy Chase, Maryland, where, in 1918, he organized the Progressive Education Association which has exerted a profound influence on education in the United States. He established the Chevy Chase Country Day School where he was able to put into effect his ideas about education. His wife, Nayam Whitlam, a Canadian Bahá`í, was of considerable assistance in this activity until their retirement in 1958. In 1935 Dr. Cobb founded Avalon Press through which he published his works. Some of his better known publications that deal with the principles of the Bahá`í Faith are Security for a Failing World, Tomorrow and Tomorrow, Islám's Contribution to Civilization and the pamphlet America's Spiritual Destiny. Among his books dealing with the development of the individual are Discovering the Genius Within You--a book which proved very popular--and Character: A Sequence in Spiritual Psychology His autobiography, Saga: A Tale of Two Centuries, appeared in 1977.
In 1924 Dr. Cobb was invited to serve as editor of Star of the West and until 1939 he acted as co-editor of its successor, World Order, with various distinguished Bahá`ís including Mariam Haney, Horace Holley, Edna True and Jináb-i-Fádil. Almost every issue of this publication carries an editorial signed or initialled by Dr. Cobb on a large variety of significant topics reflecting his wide range of interests. He was a popular lecturer on the Faith at public functions and informal firesides and a sought-after teacher at Summer Schools. To the end of his life he possessed an amazing memory for names, dates, places and historical facts, and seldom if ever used notes when giving an address. He kept well informed about current events and world affairs. He was a member of the Spiritual Assembly of Washington, D.C., at the time of its incorporation in 1933, and until his one hundredth birthday frequently lectured at the weekly public meetings held at the Bahá`í Centre there. He mingled with noted authors at the Washington Cosmos Club of which he was a member, and had many distinguished friends among the clergy.
Shoghi Effendi warmly appreciated Dr. Cobb's services to the Faith as the following excerpt, appended in the Guardian's hand to a letter written on his behalf on 5 September 1943, attests:
`. . . Your services to our beloved Faith have been such as to reflect lustre on its institutions and literature, and I pray from the depths of my hart that Bahá`u'lláh may graciously guide and assist you to render through your able and ready pen still greater and more distinguished services.'
Although content with a simple life style, Dr. Cobb was a highly cultivated person and had a taste for the arts. He believed strongly in and greatly valued the power of prayer, and many of his friends would come to ask for prayers on their behalf. Often he could be seen sitting on his porch at Chevy Chase or on the screened veranda at Green Acre meditating and supplicating on behalf of loved ones. Young people sought him out and he was something of the `wise man' in our midst. He loved youth and had great faith in their potential. Always he urged them to immerse themselves in the Teachings, acquire spiritual virtues and--in the words of `Abdu'l-Bahá--Be on fire with the love of the Kingdom! He was a happy man and whatever he did seemed to be achieved without stress, strain or struggle. Vigorous and young at heart, he was a frequent guest at youth conferences.
Dr. Cobb's passing to the eternal realm robs us of yet another precious link with the early period in the rise of the Bahá`í Faith when seekers hastened to the presence of `Abdu'l-Bahá and returned home to inspire others with the Glad Tidings and to strive zealously to lay the foundations of the burgeoning World Order of Bahá`u'lláh.
What Stanwood Cobb Told Me About 'Abu'l-Bahá
by Jack (John Allan) McLean, August 12 2007
Stanwood Cobb: “Un original”
But let me turn now to Stanwood Cobb (b. 1881), formerly of Chevy Chase, Maryland. Although Stanwood’s books are no longer widely read in the Bahá’í community, he was a prolific writer, innovative teacher and international lecturer. He has well earned his place, if not somewhat neglected, in the annals of Bahá’í history. I first came across Stanwood’s name in our family library. There I discovered a few of his books, including Islamic Contributions to Civilization (1963), which gives a readable, economical overview of the contributions of Islam to world culture and civilization.
Stanwood was a living illustration of what the French call “un original.” With the possible exception of the flamboyant and dramatic Ali Kuli Khan, one of my aunt Ruth Halsted Kern’s teachers, the personalities of the Middle-Eastern Bahá’ís seemed to fade into evanescence at the very mention of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s name. By contrast, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s effect on the early western believers was such that they generally stand out as individual personalities, a characteristic mark of their culture. There were not a few eccentrics among them. But if Stanwood Cobb was eccentric, he was not markedly so. I have since come to the conclusion, after having met some of these great souls in my younger days, that the perceived eccentricity of some of the early western friends meant rather that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had been instrumental in helping them to discover, in Dr. Daniel Jordan’s phrase, their ‘true self.’ He changed them in indelible ways.
Although he was first and foremost a Bahá’í, Stanwood reached out to the non-Bahá’í world. He lived and moved in parallel universes. In 1919, he became one of the founders and later President of the Progressive Education Association , an organization devoted to the reform of elementary education in America. In 1940, an academic named Reuben R. Palm wrote an 8 page article called “The Origins of Progressive Education ” which was reprinted in a recent issue of The Elementary School Journal, published at the University of Chicago Press. It mentioned Stanwood Cobb. Stanwood also founded other literary and philosophical associations including the Cosmos Club.
Stanwood studied at Dartmouth College where he had been chosen Valedictorian in 1905. He did post-graduate work at Harvard Divinity School, studying the history and philosophy of religion. He was preparing for ministry in the Unitarian Church when he became a confirmed Bahá’í in a matter of a few hours, under a tree at the Green Acre Fellowship, responding to the call of two other luminaries, Miss Sarah Farmer, the spiritual mother and creator of Green Acre (1894), a centre she established for the study of comparative religion and progressive ideas and movements, and Mary Lucas, “the woman in white,” who had recently returned from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s presence, who was then a prisoner in Akká (Acco). Like so many other chosen ones of that age, Stanwood was in a state of spiritual readiness because he had come to the independent conclusion that for the creation of a new world order, someone with more than human authority must appear.
Meeting Stanwood Cobb
I first met Stanwood Cobb at Beaulac summer and winter school, a property north of Montreal in the beautiful Laurentian Hills, not far from Rowdon, Quebec. I was about 14 years old; Stanwood would have been about 72. (Circa 1959). When, years later, I paid him a visit at his cottage at the Green Acre Centre near Eliot, Maine in the summer of 1977, he had reached the advance old age of 96, but he was to live on for a few more years. Although he was somewhat frail by 1977, Dr. Cobb was still in reasonably good health, a condition that had been produced, not only by robust genes, but also by his life-long regimen of good hygiene, a program that included deep-breathing, meditation, dietary practices and exercise.
Beaulac had once been owned by the National Spiritual of the Bahá’ís of Canada but it was subsequently sold. It consisted of a two-storey farm house, a barn that had been converted into a rustic lecture hall for larger meetings—it always retained the lingering odour of the cattle barn--cabins on both sides of the highway, a small lake, and acres of rolling hills. It was at lunch that I met Stanwood. He sat opposite. Time has not dimmed the memory of this colourful character. He was showing a faint growth of beard and, as I recall, unlike photos of his later years, he was not wearing glasses, perhaps because he was returning from his morning swim.
His first piece of advice was dietary: “You should never eat until you feel completely full,” he said, speaking matter-of-factly. “If you feel full, you have eaten too much. Always leave a little room.” Stanwood practiced what he preached. After donning his black swimming trunks, he would head down to the lake for a daily swim. One day I stood on the shore and watched him. I recall seeing the strong head visibly still above the surface of the water. As I recall, he did not swim vigorously but movement was the key to his exercise philosophy. His body was strong and solid, and even in his senior years, his muscles were toned.
Memories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: The Joy of Life
It was during his lectures in the barn that he first spoke of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, whom he had met on five occasions: twice in Akká in 1909 and 1910, later in Boston (1912), then in Washington (1912) and finally in Paris (1913). It was later at Green Acre, in old age, that he would give me his more personal impressions. But during his barn lectures, Stanwood related some of the stories that were published in his memoir “Memories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.” However, the following observation was not found there. “Abdu’l-Bahá,” said Dr. Cobb, “was unlike the other spiritual leaders who came to Green Acre in this respect: He had a wonderful sense of humour and laughed out loud. It is this joy and zest for living that distinguished the Master from the other spiritual teachers there. They were much too serious. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá fully embraced the joy of life and encouraged his followers to do the same.”
It was at Beaulac that Stanwood told the story of how his father, “a venerable Boston artist 75 years of age,” a devoutly religious man, and much to Cobb’s shock and horror, began to lecture the Master on the personal spiritual philosophy that was the fruitage of his mature years. There must have been something of the preacher in Mr. Cobb senior because Stanwood’s memoir says that his father, for no less than half an hour, “proceeded to lay down the law to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.” But on this, as on other occasions, the younger Cobb witnessed ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s graciousness and silent wisdom. In an unforgettable lesson, informed by infinite courtesy and humility, the Master listened patiently to the preachment, smiling all the while, “enveloping us with His love.” The unfailing wisdom of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had correctly divined that Mr. Cobb Senior needed to empty his cup. Stanwood’s father came away from his encounter with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá fully satisfied this wonderful interview!
The Divine Healing: Cured From Depression
The most gripping of Stanwood’s anecdotes was the divine healing. But the printed version of his memoir differs slightly from his table talk at Beaulac. At Beaulac, Stanwood intimated that it was from a “suicidal depression” that he had been cured by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. His memoir says that “I had been slowly recovering in previous years from a nervous depression due to overwork at Dartmouth.” This depression was not just a case of “the blues”; it was clinical. He wrote: “At times I would feel so depressed that I should have been glad to have found a hole in the ground, crawled into it, and pulled the hole in after me. I understood at such times, the Hindu craving for extinction.” Stanwood’s table talk also revealed another factor that is not found in his memoir, although it is hinted at there. He told us that because he was a Bahá’í, his life had been threatened by some of the Muslim students whom he taught at Robert College in Istanbul. They must have been a fierce lot, not unlike the Muslim extremists of our time, for some of them were carrying “knives and revolvers.” Returning to the school, where he was still employed, must have seemed a fearful prospect. In any case, this is the account of the healing taken from his memoir, an anecdote which he also told at Beaulac:
“‘Abdu’l-Bahá came into my room one morning without His translator. He sat beside me and took one of my hands in both of His and held it for a minute or two. He had not at any time inquired as to my health. He knew. From that moment on I found myself permanently relieved of these depressive moods. No matter how hard the going, I have always since then been glad to be alive.”
In his oral account at Beaulac, Stanwood related that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had looked directly into his eyes. When after his Akká pilgrimage he returned to Robert College, the divine magic of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had worked its wonders: “As for my disciplinary troubles at the college,” he wrote, “they vanished like mist which the sunshine dispels.” His pupils “loved me again and more than ever.”
The Venerable Stanwood Shares His Latter View of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Some 18 years were to pass before I would meet Stanwood again. In 1977, when our children were small, we decided to attend the Green Acre Summer School. Forever blessed by the presence of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Green Acre is a veritable “who’s who” of the Apostolic and early Formative Ages of the Bahá’í Faith. An impressive, vast company of teachers, scholars, writers, and Hands of the Cause have passed through; several have lived and taught there. When I heard that Stanwood was living in a cottage on the property, I determined to visit him, desiring the privilege of being in the company again of one who had known the unique “Mystery of God.” One afternoon, I made my way down to the cottage. Stanwood was sitting on the porch; a young attendant sat nearby. We exchanged greetings. I sat down and the conversation was engaged. I recalled to him our first meeting at Beaulac. Then I came to my central question: “Stanwood,” I inquired, “now that you have reached this ripe old age, and when you look down the long vista of the years, what is it that comes now to your mind about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá?” There was a brief moment of silence. Suddenly the atmosphere changed and the air became charged with emotion. “Well, if I told you what I really thought,” he exclaimed, “you would find it reprehensible!”
I asked for a clarification. “Well,” he replied, “if ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had not specifically denied being a prophet, as far as I was concerned, He was. He moved with the ease of a king, was as free as a bird, and did just as He pleased.” He said that if ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wanted to visit a home in Eliot, He just rang the door-bell and waked in. I encapsulated Cobb’s views about the Master in my book Dimensions in Spirituality (1994): “But what Cobb perceived in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was a kingly freedom and majestic power which indicated to him that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was master of His fate in a way that no ordinary man was and possessed a freedom and a power that Cobb could only associate with what we might call a prophet.”
Such was the lasting impression produced by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. But it was no ordinary impression. It was a divine encounter that forever changed the soul.
Building's 1912 Continuity: The home remains without major renovation.
Metro Stop: Friendship Heights Metro Station on the Red Line walk 0.4 miles North East along Western Avenue until you reach Cedar Parkway. Follow Cedar Parkway North West for 0.2 miles and then turn east on Grafton Street.
Open: A Private Residence.
Parking: On Grafton Street
Food: The American City Diner is recommended at 5532 Connecticut Avenue Northwest, 3 blocks south east along Conneticut Avenue
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