And, that the Message of Baha-O-Llah — that dynamic message of love for all peoples and rates, that great unifying message — shall fittingly be acclaimed on this significant occasion, the House of Spirituality, in behalf of the Bahai Assembly of Chicago, calls you to participate in the commemoration of the day… Let the Centennial Celebration be, in reality, a festival of love, and let this Twelfth Day of November, 1917, be forever remembered in the annals of the Bahai Movement. Let this gathering 46
demonstrate to the world the power of the Message of Baha-O-Llah to dispel all superstitions of the past; to unite the hearts of humanity and bring them into direct harmony with the divine will. A program of great beauty and attraction has been prepared. Prominent speakers from the various Assemblies of America will be in attendance, and altogether the occasion will be one of complete joy and fragrance. As President of the Bahai Temple Unity. Mr. William H. Randall, expressed himself as follows:
The Peerless Century for which all centuries existed, in which all the horizons of the world have been illumined and which encircles the world of man with the Glory of God, completes the span of its centennial, November 12th, the Hundredth Anniversary of Baha-O-Llah... In a world torn with dissensions and rent with division, the Bahai body must be the dayspring of composure, the organism of unity sustaining the breath of the Holy Spirit.... The mystery of unity consists in spiritually breathing together, that the arteries of the world may be purified by the respiration of heaven. In all the Assemblies gathered together on November 12th, lovingly to commemorate with joy and glad-tidings the birth of Baha-O-Llah individually and in Assembly, let us supplicate the Lordly Oneness to bestow upon His servants, as an -organic body, the breath of the Holy Spirit to unite us and show forth to mankind the fruits of unity; for this breath of oneness is the attribute of God in the world Of His humanity. (Star of the West. Vol. VIII, no. 11 and 12
September 27th and October 16, 1917,
pages 145, 140, 147. 148)
A Report of this Centenary and the speeches delivered by various visitors, along with a general photograph is published in Vol. VIII, No. 14, November 23, 19 17, of Star of the West (pages 191, 196, 197 to 203).
The ceremonies attendant upon this majestic and soul-stirring anniversary lasted three days, which days, according to the record, “were full of spiritual joy and heavenly harmony.” The record is enhanced by, one of the most beautiful of Abdul Baha's utterances, which reads as follows: “The principles of His Holiness Baha-O-Llah, like unto the Spirit, shall penetrate the body of the world, and the love of God, like unto an artery, shall beat through the five continents. The East shall become illumined, the West perfumed, and the children of men shall enter beneath the all-embracing canopy of the oneness of the world of humanity.”
So much significance wait attached to this Centennial celebration that Dr. Zia M. Bagdadi predicted that: “The names of those who have attended this glorious gathering will be recorded in the history of this great Cause.” Dr. Bagdadi’s talk, given on this occasion reads in part:
Baha-O-Llah broke the chains of superstition and error, proved the unity and singleness of Truth, and removed the chains of imitation. He also removed pride and the feeling of superiority of one nation over another. Another chain he removed was that of prejudice. The most bitter prejudice among Orientals is religious. He proved that the foundation of all religions is one. He also removed racial prejudice, showing the races that their colors are like the different colors of birds mind flowers. And so with national prejudice, He proved that the earth was one home. In like manner he freed the women from oppression and proved the harmony between science, religion and reason. He freed the world from the fetters of misunderstandings and raised the banner of the oneness of humanity from his great prison… Do not teach the youth the prejudices of past ages. Baha-O-Llah has revealed the means of harmony and happiness for the whole world… Man, in order to know and have peace, must fill his heart with love. Love is the creator of peace. Let us conquer ourselves. Mr. Charles Mason Remey spoke of the birth of the new architecture in connection with the Bahai Temple. Mrs. Corinne True explained the great purpose of the Bahai Movement in the following happy phrases!
In this day the Sun of spiritual Truth has again arisen in the Orient, and its radiance is seen in the Occident as well. Baha-O-Llah has said that the human family was once one, dwelling together in the greatest state of harmony. Then differences crept in, and racial and religious bias appeared until discord and hatred were found among the children of men. The great purpose of the Bahai movement is to restore the foundation of human solidarity. Mr. Louis G. Gregory who wrote the account of the Centennial, lauded the occasion with these words:
The efforts of the House of Spirituality and the Chicago Assembly to arrange for the comfort and happiness of all, the love of those present for each other, the mingling of the various elements of humanity, the eloquent addresses and spiritual songs, were all signs of the confirmations which descend from the Throne of Majesty… the effect of such gather is far-reaching, as the hearts are attracted by the fire of divine love. This Festival of Commemoration was an occasion of historic value in the growth of the divine Cause. The friends left for their homes with longing and grateful hearts. Now, no intelligent reader could object to anything that was said from the public platform, and nothing to cause anxiety appears on the record save for one allusion, made by Mr. Albert R. Windust, which the uninitiated might scan without being disturbed. This, a distinctly cryptic allusion, runs
as follows: “The hour has struck. From now on those who serve the Cause must be firm in the Covenant. They must also be well-known as such. . . . This is especially true of those who would teach.”
The, above lines do not seem to carry portentous implication, yet they contain the crux of a long and sinister story
During many years, the question of “firmness in the Covenant” had agitated the Bahai World. In simple language, it meant no more and no less than this: Baha-O-Llah, in his Will, had appointed Abdul Baha is his successor or as the Centre of a Covenant with his followers, which Covenant the Bahais had to enter into, to keep and to hold.
Now, in spite of the simplicity of the proposition, a battle royal had developed around this issue, and the Bahais, although few in number, were divided into two warring camps: those who held themselves as “firm in the Covenant” and those who were considered as “violators”, or to use the Persian term, Nakezeen. In time, this Persian word became quite popular, striking terror to the hearts of all who were suspected, or were liable of being suspected of the least trice of Nakz or violation-. From the very first, the self-styled firm-ones were the more aggressive, being by nature pamphleterers and letter-writers. Soon. they developed quite a body of literature on Firmness versus Violation, and in order to give validity and weight to their arguments, they took advantage of, and incorporated in their writings detached statements from the tablets, speeches and intimate talks of Abdul Baha which had been written or spoken in connection with a variety of local matters.
Notwithstanding the universal and constructive principles of Baha-O-Llah which they repeated in parrot manner on all occasions, certain persons harbored in their minds and souls the most exclusive, the most parochial and the most destructive beliefs — all grounded on the thesis: Firmness versus Violation. The result was that when Bahais came in contact with one another, the spoken or unspoken question uppermost 'n their minds was: Is he firm in the Covenant?
As I stated in the beginning, large numbers from among his audiences had become attracted to the personality of Abdul Baha, and in time these men and women began to study the words of Baha-O-Llah. Presently, some of them set themselves to a campaign of teaching and writing, and in utter innocence, spread their untried wings in the heaven of service. Being as yet unfamiliar with much of the literature of the Cause, they, on occasions, made mistakes in interpretation and even historical errors, natural in stu-
dents; but the firm ones in the Covenant made no allowances on these points. Therefore the tom-toms beat out, the war-cry was raised and the announcement made that Chicago, Boston, Washington and a number of other cities had become cancer spots of violation, and that something drastic had to be done in order to free the Cause from the disease of Nakz. This accusation, mainly directed against the new Bahais who had put their foot in it, included many of the Bahais of long standing who were in opposition to the practice of witch-hunting. To meet this situation, a Committee of investigation was appointed to study, explore, and report at a later date, as to whether violation existed in the United States and, if so, to designate the violators or Nakezeen. This inquisitional Committee consisted of four members: Mr. Louis G. Gregory of Washington, D. C.; Miss H. Emogene Hoagg of San Francisco, California; Mr. George O. Latimer of Portland, Oregon and Mr. Charles Mason Remey of Washington, D. C., Chairman.
At a meeting held on November 11, 1917, at the house of Mrs. Corinne True, 5338 Kenmore Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, which was one of a series carried on in conjunction with the One Hundredth Anniversary Celebration of the birth of Baha-O-Llah, a Committee of Investigation was founded. The report reads:
The Condition was discussed, and those attending saw the necessity for taking immediate steps toward an investigation, in order that all might know whether or not a center of violation existed in Chicago. By unanimous vote a committee for investigation was appointed by the meeting to inquire into the matter and to report the findings to the Friends in America. This Committee of Four must have accomplished its investigations with lightning speed, for a letter, shortly issued, urged as many Bahais as possible to be present in Chicago to hear its findings on December 9, 1917 — just twenty-seven days later.
The “Report of the Bahai Committee of Investigation 1917-1918” is a mimeographed book of fifty-one pages, single-spaced. It in a strange document the like of which one can find only in the records of the Middle-Ages which were periods of apostasy, heresy, expulsion and excommunication. It is a distorted, abnormal document, replete with fantastic assertions and somnambulistic hallucinations. It is an incredible document for no one would believe in its existence unless he actually read it himself or touched it with his own hands. Having originated at the Centennial of Baha-O-Llah, it constitutes the most gruesome blasphemy imaginable against the Great Teacher of universal tolerance.
In answer to the summons of the Committee, forty-eight Bahais from eleven states and Washington, D. C., presented themselves in Chicago on the appointed day to bear the Findings; their names are registered on page 32 of the Report. The representation stands as follows:
Washington, D. C. ……….3
Thus, theme forty-eight persons, constituting themselves a religions tribunal, under the chairmanship of Mr. Charles Mason Remey, undertook the task of dividing the sheep from the goats. They met at the house of Mrs. Corinne True, because she was considered as one of the few firm ones and they also “knew that in that place ... no sympathizer of violation would venture and it they did come, they could easily be ejected and the meeting made safe…. All the members of the committee had had past personal experience with the Nakezeen, so they were particularly alive to the danger of contamination.”
The friends assembled at 5338 Kenmore Avenue (Mrs. Corinne True's House) at 10 o'clock in the morning of December 9, 1917, but because of belated arrivals, the report was not commenced until about two o'clock the same afternoon. In the presence of about fifty friends... the detailed report and various testimonies from friends present, were given… In a wonderful and harmonious spirit after lengthy consultation and prayer, a unanimous acceptance of these findings was voted.
So, in a wonderful and harmonious spirit and with prayer on their lips, did these forty-eight self -constituted inquisitors pronounced anathema on all those in whom they thought to have discovered the least trace of violation, while the alleged violators being absent, had no opportunity of pleading their own case.
As soon as the Report had been unanimously accepted by the tribunal of Forty-Eight, copies were made and mailed to all the Bahai Assemblies and to a selected list of individuals. The committee must have considered the Report of unique importance, for the Copies are numbered and marked at the bottom of the page with the words: - “A Limited Number of Copies for Private Circulation Only.” The one in my possession is No. 33.
The members of The Tribunal were apparently not satisfied with the mere circulation of the Report but "prolonged the work of the Committee of Investigation by commissioning them to travel to various assemblies and to explain and elucidate the facts of violation; to warn the friends in all parts of the country of this danger to the Cause."
Then began one of the strangest crusades in the annals of religious intolerance, a crusade, the object of which was to broadcast far and wide the glad-tidings of Nakz (violation).
Mr. Charles Mason Remey, Chairman of the Investigation Committee, wrote:
Since December 9th one member of the Committee has travelled to the Pacific coast, where in several assemblies, he explained the matter, while the other three members of the Committee have divided their time between Chicago, Boston, New York, Washington and other centers in the pursuance of their labors, and in addition to holding meetings in these various cities, they have written and circulated their report, so that people in all parts could have their definite statement. They have also done individual work of explaining, through personal interviews and correspondence, the facts of the matter in question. The purpose of this intensive propaganda was to force the Bahai world to accept the Report. It was not easy, and a murmur of discontent began to reverberate among the Assemblies, finally growing into open revolt. To their credit, be it said, that loud protest came from many of the best known Bahais.
According to the Report, a certain Mrs. Luella Kirchner wan one of the most obstinate among the violators and the charge against her was a serious one. Mrs. Kirchner had taken a leading part in opening a Bahai Rending Room in Chicago without permission of the. Assembly of that city; and from there had disseminated "injurious teachings" as contained in two booklets by Mr. W. W. Harmon of Boston. Now, in the booklets of Mr. Harmon, the claim was made that God dwelt "within" the individual, a claim well justified in Bahai literature for Baha-O-Llah said: "Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, powerful, mighty and supreme." However,the Bahai teaching includes the theory that God is "without," and as the Bahai leaders were more partial to this latter concept, found in Judiasm, Christianity and Islam, they considered Mr. Harmon's attitude rather too Hinduistic and Pantheistic. Consequently, they regarded his writings, and especially his commentary on the Seven Valleys, as misleading and dangerous.
It seems, from page 24 of the Report, that in the past Abdul Baha had been pleased with the work of Mrs, Kirchner for he had sent her a Tablet, wherein he said: "I became very happy on account of thy sincerity and uprightness." Nevertheless, the Chicago Assembly had thought fit to summon her to its presence, and there she had been put through a gruelling cross-examination conducted by Dr. Zia Bagdadi. It appears that Mrs. Kirchner had accepted all that the Assembly had demanded of her, so Abdul Baha was notified by cable and his answer came: "Friends accept Kirchner."
One would naturally think that Abdul Baha's message would have been sufficient. But no! Other charges, such as causing division among the friends, were trumped-up against this helpless woman, and her situation in the Cause looked pretty black until, one day out of the clear Sky, an open letter printed on one sheet of paper and signed: "Some Washington Bahais," was distributed far and wide. This letter, a sincere and noble document which embodied a rejection of the Report of the Committee of Investigation, stands on the record to the everlasting credit o f those who wrote it.
Open letter to Mrs. Kirchner Washington, D. C., April 14, 1918. Beloved Friend in the Cause of Abdul Baha: We have read with amazement and dismay a report of a so-called "Committee of Investigation," headed by our Mr. Charles Mason Remey, a hitherto beloved and trusted member of our little flock. We can scarcely believe our ears! We do not speak of the charges brought against you, which, taking them as stated by Mr. Remey and without inquiring into your side of the case at all, do not constitute valid charges, but are the querulous complaints of an offended would-be dictator. What amazes us is the general tone of the report. We look for a spirit of Bahai love and tolerance; we look for broad-mindedness, generosity, charity; we look for the all-inclusive spirit of this newest and greatest faith, which will overwhelm all opposition by the sheer weight of undiluted love and we look in vain! We find a writing that might grace the archives of the Holy Roman Inquisition! Instinct with bigotry, intolerance and a narrow interpretation of chosen passages, it declares: "Thou shalt shun the sinner!" Ah, and who is he, who amongst us shall point the finger and cry: "Thou art the sinner whilst I possess virtues, yea, and omniscience too, since I am able to detect these?" Since when Abdul Baha declared it to be the Chief Aim of his followers to search for sins amongst their brethren, and not for sins only, but for the "least trace" thereof? And, which of the brethren is he who shall set the standard of virtue? The reply will readily occur to you, and will give the Key to the animus of the whole "report." 53
You have been too broad for them, Mrs. Kirchner; you have shown too much tolerance; you have been too active in the Cause — too much of a true Bahai, in short, for these narrow and undeveloped souls, who would arrogate to themselves all virtue. Our blessing be upon thee, good and faithful servant. Such charges harm thee not at all.
Are they therefore harmless ? Alas, not so. They harm the Cause, perhaps irretrievably. We are all too few for our great purpose, even though we bend all our energies in unison to the promotion of this vast enterprise, which is no less than to unite all mankind in, the bonds of the love of God. Not convert nor proselityze; not to found a new religion nor usher in a new dispensation; no, our task is to show to all men that the foundations of all religions are one, even as one God reigns supreme, and therefore disharmony can exist only through ignorance and misunderstanding. Our task is to clear away the clouds of ignorance, to dispel the vapors of sects and creed; to broaden, broaden, expand and include. With enmity for none and charity for all, to forge upward toward the light
What then of this report? Oh, Mrs. Kirchner, can we mention it in the same breath? Fifty believers, headed by our once beloved and trusted Mr. Charles Mason Remey (yea, still belove!), have been engaged in detective work, suspicion, charges, the inquisitorial chamber, the harsh decision, the excommunication! And they call themselves Bahais! Would that they did not, for how shall we now present this broad and inclusive Cause to the world as it should be presented? Bahais! And engaged, in such deeds! Oh, the indignity, the stultification, the prostitution of our beloved Cause! Wolves in sheep's clothing! They made their charges against you, Mrs. Kirchner! We wonder that they dared!
Go on with your labors, beloved sister. Heed not such charges; fear not such "Committees!"; listen not to the barking of the ravening wolves. There will be more of such things. And know that not all the believers have been deceived by this "investigation."
We are not going to write you our names. The others have done that, and for us to do likewise would be to array believers against believers and make an open division in our midst. We will, not do that. We love them, all still. They are but blinded by ignorance. Peradventure they may learn to see. It will be our task to help them, and to show them by our example what miracles can be accomplished by love, patience and tolerance — Bahai love, Bahai patience, Bahai tolerance — can anything be greater or more long-suffering? We beseech for you the Confirmation of El Abba.
(signed) SOME WASHINGTON BAHAIS.
It is obvious that such a plain and unequivocal statement, earning from "Some Washington Bahais" (the identity of whom was unquestionably suspected by Mr. Charles Mason Remey, himself a member of that Assembly) was very disturbing indeed. Besides, voices of protest from other parts were becoming audible. Something had to be done, unquestionably and immedi-
ately! Therefore, the Open Letter of the Washington Bahais was met by "An Open Letter to the Bahais in America," dated March 21, 1918. This is an eight-page, single-spaced mimeographed document with the following introduction:
Written to refute certain erroneous statements which are being made with reference to the activities of the Bahai Committee of Investigation in its endeavor to free the Cause of Baha-O-Llah from the spirit of Violation. Like the Report itself, this letter tries to prove the righteous attitude of the Bahai Committee of Investigation and then goes on to answer twelve objections raised against it by the Bahais of the United States. Mr. Remey wrote:
People have spread false reports and stories, and letters misstating facts have been circulated in various parts of this country, until the minds of many souls are confused and troubled. Therefore, I feel moved to write this letter in order to try to protect the minds of the friends from some of the slander and untruths which are being circulated about the country regarding the stand of the Bahai Committee of Investigation in its endeavor to protect the Cause from the subtle and disintegrating effects of the violation. The last page bore the facsimile of another letter, prepared by Mr. Remey himself and addressed "To the members of the House of Spirituality in Chicago and to all who stand with them." The letter commended the action of the Committee of Investigation and carried the signatures of 27 Washington Bahais. Now, a careful study of these signatures very clearly revealed the names of the members of the Washington Assembly who did not figure on the list. In other words, "Some Washington Bahais" who had signed the Open Letter to Mrs. Kirchner were, by this means, unmistakably spotted. In explanation of the transaction, Mr. Remey wrote: