First We Must Speak of Logical Proofs:
Some Reflections on `Abdu'l-Bahá's Discourse in America

By Franklin Lewis

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #107
Louhelen Bahá'í Center: Davison, Michigan, USA
October 7–10, 2011
(see list of papers from #107)

    This essay reflects upon the positioning of Abdu'l-Bahá's discourses in the United States as examples of interfaith dialogue and attempts to draw some paradigmatic conclusions from them about current Bahá'í efforts at interfaith discourse. In addition, it evaluates the reception of this public presentation or recitation of the Bahá'í message in intellectual circles, as measured by the representation of Bahá'í characters in fictional works (poems and novels, from Ezra Pound to Jon Stock). Among the questions to be considered are: the rhetorical and epistemological assumptions of Abdu'l-Bahá's interfaith discourse in America; what common ground does he stake, intellectually, for that discourse; how were decisions made about which particular groups to engage; to what extent did engagement with one group or type of group exclude engagement with others; and what conclusions may be drawn for the current efforts at evolving a sophisticated and now very public interfaith and intellectual discourse?

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