A sincere effort was made in order that every Bahai here in the District, (Washington, D. C.), should be given an opportunity to sign this letter to the Chicago friends, if he or she so desired. This was in no sense put forth as a test to the firmness of these friends, but it was an expression, to our brothers and sisters, co-workers and upholders of the standard of firmness in Chicago, of our appreciation of their good work, for prior to the drawing up of the letter in question, the Committee of Investigation in several meetings had rendered verbally a comprehensive report of the violation in Chicago, so these friends were fully informed of the affair before the matter of the letter was presented to them. It was well known among those who took an active part in arranging and sending the letter that certain of the well known and staunch Washington Bahais, for reasons of their own, which they explained, deemed it wise not to affix their signatures to this document. The Committee has never questioned the wisdom of their stand in this matter, nor their firmness in the Covenant.
The Committee of Investigation was the fruit of the First Centenary of Baha-O-Llah in America. It was a ghastly tribute laid at the threshold of Him who came to the world with his mind and heart laden with love. May it be that the Bahais on this continent will find a more fitting offering to present on the occasion of the Second Centenary!
BAHAI COMMITTEE OF INVESTIGATION
The Committee of Investigation, which had come into being at the One Hundredth Anniversary celebration of Baha-O-Llah (whether or not in tribute to that occasion. I do not venture to state), had been enjoined to travel throughout the country and warn the various Assemblies of the fact that the Nakezeen were in their midst. It was a provocative task, one which the Chairman of the Commitee himself did not shirk. In the eyes of the firm ones, he appeared as the Angel of the Lord descending sword in hand upon the irregulars; and the regulars showered their blessings upon him as he journeyed from city to city, a veritable Peter the Hermit, preaching on the dangers of Nakz.
During this time, as an auxiliary service, Mr. Remey managed to write a great deal on the subject of violation. Two such documents are in my possession: the first one, entitled Firmness, is a mimeographed pamphlet, of five pages, single-spaced; the second, named Protection, is another mimeographed pamphlet of twenty-eight pages, single-spaced. These articles, which were released on the same date, March 27, 1918, were intended to bolster up and fortify the Report of the Bahai Committee of investigation. In them, the author relates his personal experiences in the East and West during the many years of his travels in the interest of the Cause; and the argument goes to prove that violation or Nakz is contagious like a poison that pollutes the water supply, like a disease that eats into the vital organs of the spiritual community. Many of the anecdotes and stories in Protection have little or no bearing on the problem under discussion, but the author, through a strange process of rationalization, tries to make them applicable and conclusive. He ends thus:
Now that we are all awake to the present vital issue in the Bahai Cause in America, let all the firm friends who have come through these fires of tests unite in the fulness of the love of the Covenant, rejoicing in the cause to which God in bounty and mercy has called us, to go forth to give this message to the world.
The Bahai Committee of Investigation had done a noteworthy job. To sum up: in less than a month, it had produced a voluminous Report which had been unanimously accepted by the religious tribunal of Forty-Eight, sitting in Chicago on December 9, 1917. It had mimeographed the. Report
[group photo of early American Bahai leaders including Windust, Remey and True omitted]
and mailed it to all the Bahai Assemblies in the United States; after which, the members of Committee had made a coast to coast pilgrimage, giving lectures and interviews, and corresponding with those who could not be reached in person. Besides, the Chairman had written three apologetic pamphlets, namely: An Open Letter to the Bahais in America, Firmness and Protection, all of which had served as campaign literature; yet, in spite of all this, a percentage of the Bahais remained unaffected by the propaganda, and a complete black-out of conscience had not been obtained. What was to be done?
Now, the Tenth Bahai Convention was in the offing and this even, held great possibilities. If the Report could be adopted (unanimously, if possible) by the Bahai Assemblies of the United States and Canada in convention assembled, then it would be as though the very conscience of the American Bahais had spoken; then the Report would have authority equal with the Word of God, and woe unto any who would oppose it! If such would indeed arise, that man would himself be branded as a rebel, a blasphemer, a child of perdition — a Nakez.
The plan was a risky one, for if it failed the committee would be in a tight place. Therefore it must not fail! All the ingenuity of the Forthy-Eight and thei r sympathizers would be used to bring the issue to a triumphant finish.
I can give but a brief review of this historic event which took place in Chicago, from April 27th to 30th (inclusive) 1918. Those who are interested may read the dramatic story of this Tenth Bahai Convention in the three successive issues of Star of the West, Vol. IX, Nos, 4, 5, 6 May 17, June 5 and June 24, 1918.
At preliminary proceedings, a Committee on Credentials had been appointed, the duty of which was to see to it "that no representatives of the said group (suspect persons) be admitted to this Convention or seated therein as delegates. Thus, the undesirables (alleged Nakezeen) were eliminated, and the Tenth Bahai Convention opened its doors to the delegates and the perfectly safe visitors.
In order to prepare the ground Mrs. Claudia Cole spoke on obedience, stating that we must recognize and realize that violation is, as it were, pathological, like gangrene in the spiritual body of the world, even as are other poisons in the physical body. Unless one can realize that, one does not understand the actual meaning of violation,
Mrs. Edward Struven made it plain that people receiving Tablets from Abdul Baha could not count very much on his commendation at a time when "this great question of their firmness in the center of the Covenant is before us to decide."
Mrs. Imogene Hoagg made a distinction between love and obedience. "It seems to me today that we have to have more than love, we have to have obedience. . . . Let us call for obedience, and love will come."
Then Dr. Zia Bagdadi, one of the most zealous of the Nakezeen-hunters who was also at times a constructive speaker as I have shown earlier, delivered a long talk on the necessity for firmness in the Covenant: "The most important subject to the real Bahais is firmness and obedience. We know a violator when we see him as we know a donkey, because violation has a pungent odor, a pungent smell — a sickening smell. We must inhale with the nostrils of the spirit, then we can distinguish between violation and firmness."
After giving an outline of the difficulties that, on account of violation, had descended upon the Cause in Chicago, and the consequent dwindling of believers, Dr. Bagdadi continued:
We have tried many experiments. I have seen that. But now, praise be to God, that cancer is cut out, and the body of the Cause is perfect. Many, on account of ignorance and self-interest tried to spoil the work. . . . On the 12th of November (the Hundredth Anniversary of Baha-O-Llah) that great feast was held in perfect harmony, and the Committee of Investigation was elected, and they were efficient, and whenever communication is resumed, you will hear commendation from the Center of the Covenant, for always he recognizes, always he confirms those who stand for the Covenant; always he shuns those who oppose the Covenant. The members of that Committee have sacrificed their time, their energy and their money, and they have received arrows of criticism from all parts and they have come here and finished their work. . . . Criticisms were raised and yet those souls who criticized the Committee, never contributed any help in removing the conditions. That is, they did not remove the stagnation in Chicago, and they did not cut any of the cancerous tissues. . . . It is characteristic of the violators to sit down and criticize, and do nothing else. The friends in Chicago are not tying the bands of anybody. Those who want to work in harmony are welcome. . . . There is no compromise where violation is. . . Baha-O-Llah never said, "Pray for the violators." His only command was to shun them. Maybe the opinion of one is not to shun them, the opinion of another to be a little kind. But what is best? . . .
[photo of Dr. Zia Bagadadi omitted]
The Committee of Investigation has done its part, and the Convention is here. If any one did not receive the Report, a copy can be had by asking for it; and if they wish, let them withhold judgment until an opportunity can be had to read it. But I beg of those who have read the Report to stand with a rising vote and commend the committee for its work, and they may rest assured that the divine confirmation will surround them.
This sudden command of Dr. Bagdadi, which was intended to stampede the Convention into a rising vote, must have taken the Chairman of the Convention, (Mr. Alfred E. Lunt) by surprise, for he said:
I did not hear your closing remarks, Dr. Bagdadi.
DR. BAGDADI: May I repeat them?
THE CHAIRMAN: Yes.
DR. BAGDADI: I said let those of the friends here who have not yet received the Report of the Committee wait and read the entire Report; but I beg of those who have received the Report of the Committee of Investigation, if they find that it has done a great piece of work — in order to preserve the Cause, in order to stop the stagnation in this city, that they stand up and commend the Committee.
MRS. MAY MAXWELL: May I make a motion that this Report of the Committee (if Investigation be accepted?
DR. BAGDAD: That is what I mean, by a rising vote.
THE CHAIRMAN: The matter now before us is that the Report of the Committee of Investigation on violation in America be accepted. Are you ready for the question? All those in favor will rise. The purpose of this, as I understand it, — if I am mistaken, Dr. Bagdadi will inform me. . . .
DR. BAGDADI: Delegate or non-delegate, all those who received the Report.
THE CHAIRMAN: The secretary will call the roll.
The delegates arose and remained standing during the roll call.
THE CHAIRMAN: It appears officially that the Convention has recorded its unanimous approval and acceptance of the Report of the Committee.
MR. GREGORY: I suggest that we let all the friends vote.
THE CHAIRMAN: All right. Kindly sit down, you who are delegates. Now, for a general expression, which I know many of you wish to make,
those who are not delegates, who are present, kindly rise, if you share this feeling.
The remainder of the attendance at the meeting arose to their feet.
THE CHAIRMAN: Are there any who vote no on the motion? If so, please rise. It appears that by the unanimous vote of the entire body gathered here this morning, you have approved and ratified the Report in full of the Committee of Investigation on violation in America. AND I SO DECLARE IT.
In this manner, the most sanguine expectations of the four members of the Bahai Committee of Investigation were fulfilled. The chain of slavery, forged on the anvil of fanaticism, was officially fastened on the Cause by the entire body of delegates and visitors, on Tuesday morning, April 30, 1918, at the Tenth Bahai Convention held in the Auditorium Hotel, ninth floor, Chicago, Illinois under its permanent chairman Mr. Alfred E. Lunt and its permanent secretary, Mr. Louis G. Gregory. A masterful stroke of political strategy had been effected. The plot had succeeded. That hour, when the chairman pronounced the words: "And I so declare it," was the zero hour of the Cause of Baha-O-Llah in North America. It was an hour of degradation for the Movement; it was one of despair for the vanquished forces of liberalism, and of triumph and jubilation for those now in complete control.
To all outward appearances the American Bahai conscience died it that Convention; and the black pall of a full-fledged inquisitorial policy fell upon its mutilated body, as it was laid to rest under the rising feet of the delegates and non-delegates. Then upon the grave-site, and without loss of time, the Bahai leaders turned to the election of the executive committee for the coming year.
Here, Mr. Charles Mason Remey suggested:
Before we proceed with this election, we have a few moments of prayer and supplication, that we may elect a Board, that we may entrust into the hands of those who are most fitted for it, the work of this Unity for the next year. We are up against many, very, very vital problems. We have had some very vital problems to meet this last year, and we have met many in this gathering yesterday and today. And it occurs to me to make this suggestion of prayer, that we may be spiritually guided.
Following the prayer, the Chairman, Mr. Alfred Lunt, spoke:
We have been sent here this year as no body of delegates ha% ever been sent in the history of the world. You have been sent here after hearing
the divine injunctions towards firmness in the Covenant, you have been sent here because you are firm . . . therefore, what cannot you accomplish if you realize your oneness ... and what it has meant to us ever since we came into this room? and if we will only come in line with that center, . . . will we not all become melted into one soul, one thought and one purpose, to choose those whom he desires to be chosen today to represent this Bahai Temple Unity of America? And not only to choose them, but to perform every act which this Convention has come here to perform.... So shall we not enter into this blessed flame of the love of God at this moment, and do his will?
Then Dr. Bagdadi again raised his voice, prophesying: —
Whatever you do under this roof will be proclaimed from the housetops. That is the law. "The whole world is looking toward America.... All of you are confirmed; all of you are firm and steadfast believers; otherwise we would not be here. The time has come for the separation of violation from firmness. There is no doubt about the sincerity and firmness in this cause of God on the part of all those who are here. If you become members of the Board, it means one, and if one becomes the Board it means all.... And the main issue, which is firmness in the Covenant, is the greatest qualification in all elections of committees.
As a master magician, Dr. Bagdadi well knew the methods with which to arouse the religious emotions of the already overwrought delegates, and how to appeal to their loyalty to Abdul Baha in order to control their votes. The right people had to be chosen to direct the affairs of the Cause in the months ahead, or all the work of the Committee of Investigation Might yet be undone. He therefore dramatized the sufferings of The Bab and Baha-O-Llah, enumerated the martyrs and closed by picturing the meeting, face to face, of each and every one with Abdul Baha, when the words: Well done would be the reward of those who had voted wisely. Listen to Dr. Bagdadi: —
Abdul Baha wants us to look in our hearts at this moment and see how we stand, and each one will be the cause of making others who are firm, firmer. This is in obedience to Abdul Baha, and I am going to do as we all must, think of that in this election. So far, my dear friends, we must not think of it as if he were my friend or my sweetheart, or my old friend, or my associate — the time has come when we ore on a plane higher than that. To show that this Cause is the Cause of God, the Bab gave his life; Baha-O-Llah spent his life in agony; Abdul Baha has lived in prison; 24,000
or more gave their lives. We are to serve such a Cause. Who is going to be my friend, my wife, my child, when I look at the sacrifices that have taken place? Will it not be a shame, more than a shame, to put any name on this paper before I in my heart and soul hear Abdul Baha say to me, "Well done." Because I am going to face him; you are going to face him sooner or later. We are facing him now in the spirit. He is watching and counting all these things we are doing now. What can I say more than these words of his, those who are to be elected must be well known Bahais; they must be known for their firmness in the Covenant. Can I make a statement stronger than this? Is it possible? Let us begin.
Following this appeal, the delegates were herded into the center section of the hall and the roll call of delegates and alternates was read.
The outcome of the election was completely satisfactory. From the point of view of the High Command, it could not have gone better. Three from among the four members of the Bahai Committee of Investigation were elected to the National Board on the first ballot, to wit: Mr. Charles Mason Remey, Chairman; Miss H. Emogene Hoagg and Mr. Louis G. Gregory, simon-pure champions of orthodoxy against whom nothing could be said or thought. Five other persons were likewise chosen: Dr. Zia Bagdadi, evangelist of the Bahai Committee of Investigation; Mrs. Corinne True, in whose residence the Bahai Committee of investigation had held its sessions; Mr. Alfred E. Lunt, Permanent Chairman of the Convention; Mr. I Harlan F. Ober, Delegate from Cambridge, Mass., and Reporter Of the Convention and Mrs. May Maxwell. Completing the Board of Nine, entailed some difficulty. Mr. William H. Randall, President of the Board which was going out of office had on various occasions laid himself open to the charge of liberalism and, although he had voted on all the proposals Of the Convention, he still did not quite come up to the mark. Therefore, on the first two ballots he fell short of a majority, but he came to the front on the third, and was elected with a small number of eighteen votes. Mr, Charles Mason Remey was chosen as President for the coming year and Mrs. May Maxwell as Vice-President.
The election of the Board of Nine. completed the infamous structure of Bahai orthodoxy as dreamed and planned by a small group of reactionaries who now found themselves in undisputed possession Of the Cause, standing ready to impose their decisions upon the helpless Bahai Assemblies throughout North America. The Convention had been a success from start, but the election had capped it to an exhilarating climax.
Through its report, we are given a glimpse of the new Board of Bahai Temple Unity at its first meeting, held immediately after the election; and it seems that the members were so overpowered by the complete victory that had been obtained, that all were well-nigh speechless. Mr. Harlan F. Ober, who had been chosen as Secretary for the coming year, interpreted the silence of the group with more transcendent significance than I can allow. He writes the following:
One of the greatest evidences of the unity and love of the Convention was found in the first meeting of the Executive Board, which was held in the evening of April 30th immediately after the Convention. The members of the Board gathered and began the meeting with prayer and chanting, which was followed by an indescribable quiet and peace. No one spoke, for it seemed that the door of the Rizwan (Paradise) had opened, and the breath of the holy Abha spirit had encircled all. We found infinite rest and wonderful consolation beyond the capacity of words to describe.
It may have been a moment or many moments, we could not tell, but with hearts overflowing we turned to each other, and from all lips came the words: "This is unity." "This is the mystery of unity."
Star of the West, Vol IX, No. 6. June 24. 1918 — page 76
THE DOORS OPEN
It would be difficult to describe the feelings of the people of Palestine on the memorable day of September 23, 1918 when, at three o'clock in the afternoon, isolation and oppression were suddenly substituted for glorious freedom. It would be impossible to give a fair account of their bewilderment and ecstasy when the final scene of the war, as enacted in the East, came to view.
The first indication of release was the sound of stray shots among the hills; then detachments of a Hindu cavalry regiment appeared simultaneously on the crest of Mount Carmel and in the adjoining valley, converging on the town of Haifa. As the riders tore down the mountain-side at full speed, I ran out on the road, in my excitement forgetting the Master's orders that all of us were to keep indoors. Never will I forget those troops as they thundered past, and especially one horseman who descended upon me, lance poised, the fire of battle in his eyes. He missed me by an inch, and I scuttled back to the house with my curiosity definitely assuaged.
The Turks and Germans had raised a barricade on the waterfront, but the Hindus drove straight toward it, their leader falling in the impact. Then, wild with rage at this loss, they cut down everyone in sight, natives as well as soldiers, and they drove their enemies before them through the streets of Haifa and around the bay, continuing past Acca and down the road toward Tyre and Sidon. At evening General King, arriving at Haifa at the head of the British troops, received the keys of the city.
The first words of General King were these: "Is Abbas Effendi safe?" and, the answer being in the affirmative, he was presently conducted to the house of the Master. The general carried with him a little gift which he presented to Abdul Baha. It was a package of sugar, an almost forgotten luxury, sent with the compliments of General Allenby.
That night, the plane of Haifa from end to end glimmered with, the lights of the bivouacking troops. The fighting was over.
The work of readjusting civil conditions began immediately, and the cooperation of the natives was needed; so a request was made of Abdul Baha to recommend, from among his entourage, men of education who could speak English. There were many to come up to the requirements and
an interview was arranged for. General King met us and conversed very affably; then he made his choice. Abdul Baha was ready to comply on all points, but when it was found that I was included in the selection, he said "This one, you cannot have. I have other work for him to do."
By this time, the news agencies had cabled the announcement that Abdul Baha and his followers were safe and well on Mount Carmel, but this news did not reach the American Bahais until October 4th. "Star of the West", of October 16th, published the following telegram from Mr. William H. Randall:
Just received cable from London saying official cable received there states Master well and protected. Notify friends. Abha greetings.
A short editorial follows:
Momentous changes are taking place in the Holy Land. The doors of communication between Abdul Baha and the outer world are opening. A few days ago the above telegram was received by the Star of the West. The full significance of these events cannot be grasped at this moment; only the future will reveal them. It is likened unto the appearance of the sun after long obscurity.
The dark clouds seem to be scattering.
A tumult of happiness and expectation reverberates in the hearts of the Bahais.
Ya Baha El Abha!
Immediately after the opening of the doors, Abdul Baha instructed me to write a series of letters and post-cards to individual Bahais in the United States, giving snap-shot news of the happenings in Palestine, and quite a number of these were published in "Star of the West", Vol. IX beginning with issue no. 14, November 23rd. One of the communications was addressed to Mr. Alfred Lunt, who was a liberal at heart and a sincere Bahai well loved by the Master, although he at times, and against his own better judgment. became involved with the orthodox. As has already been pointed out, in this letter, I described a quiet afternoon on Mount Carmel and finished with some informal Words of Abdul Baha which I had taken down in my note-book. These words, so fortunately preserved, are one of the jewels of the Master's utterance and constitute an immortal page in Bahai literature: