Mason Remey and Joel Bray Marangella
by Chad Jones2001-10-26
Mason Remey was a great lion of the Covenant before his ego outpaced him. Which makes the story of his tragic fall all the more chilling and reminds us of our duty to "avoid fellowship with evil doers, and pray for the remission of their sins.... forgive the sinful, and never despise his low estate, for none knoweth what his own end shall be." 1
A couple of years after the Guardian's passing in 1957, Mason Remey, an eminent Hand of the Cause, began having delusions about himself having been circuitously appointed as a successor to the Guardian. This despite the fact that he, as well as the 26 other Hands, had already signed a document (25 Nov. 1957) stating that Shoghi Effendi had appointed no successor. Besides which, Abdu'l-Bahá's Will is quite clear on the requirements of a successor Guardian -- namely that he must 1) be chosen by the Guardian from among the male descendents of Bahá'u'lláh 2) in the Guardian's own lifetime and 3) be confirmed by a majority vote of the Hands in Haifa. 2
When Mason announced suddenly his absurd claim, it created quite a stir in the Bahá'í world due to his position, rank and life-long dedicated service to the Cause. Shock, horror and pain were the predominant emotions -- especially amongst his colleagues. In a letter from the Hands in Haifa we read: "We all knew after the passing of our beloved Guardian false claims would surely be made; but we never dreamed they would come from one of ourselves, from a Hand honoured by both 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi. History has repeated itself once again..." Not fooled by such a preposterous claim, the National Spiritual Assemblies of the world immediately pledged their support and allegiance to the Hands.
Except for one -- the NSA of France. In an 8-1 vote, that NSA decided to accept Mason Remey as the second Guardian. The Hands quickly sent one of their distinguished members, Mr. Faizi to sort out the mess and most of the friends were soon persuaded to reject Remey's claim. Among those who persisted in their deviation were five NSA members - one of whom was an Auxiliary Board Member by the name of Joel Bray Marangella. Joel was a major henchman behind Remey and his letters went forth to Bahá'í communities around the world trying to win support for Remey's claims.
A few years later, in response to the Election of the Universal House of Justice, Remey "created what he called a 'Second International Bahá'í Council'. He appointed to the presidency of this body one Joel Marangella... Since Remey had sought to base his own claim to the Guardianship on his position as president of the International Bahá'í Council created by Shoghi Effendi, this action on his part appeared to give Marangella the leading position among Remey's followers." 3
In November of 1969 Marangella proclaimed himself the third Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith. Of course Mason Remey was still alive, but by this time Marangella and Remey's fateful friendship had fallen afoul. Remey disbanded the Council and appointed another follower, Donald Harvey, as his successor. Marangella ignored these actions claiming that Remey was "exhibiting irrational behaviour". Strange he didn't notice this earlier.
It was Joel Marangella's recent efforts to revive a following (as the so-called "Third Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith") that resulted in the 31 January 1997 letter from the Universal House of Justice entitled Mason Remey and those who Followed Him.
In 1974, the Universal House of Justice announced to the world Remey's demise:
Why did Remey make such an unfounded claim? Knowing full well the absurdity of his position, how could he abandon the Work for which he had poured out his entire life? Perhaps the answer can be found by considering another example of Covenant-breaking -- that of Yahyá himself.
Consider for a moment, the way the Guardian describes Mírzá Yahyá in "God Passes By". In this book, Shoghi Effendi does not hesitate to describe Áqásí as "a vulgar, false-hearted and fickle-minded schemer" and yet, despite the catalog of evil deeds done by Yahyá, Shoghi Effendi, in painful honesty, describes him as "good-natured yet susceptible to the slightest influence" 5 At the heart of Yahyá's Covenant-breaking was the whispering of Siyyid Muhammad, that "black-hearted scoundrel who befooled and manipulated this vain and flaccid man with consummate skill and unyielding persistence" 6
Remey's "ill-advised" claim was just too absurd, the details of the Master's Will too explicit and well-known. How could any rational mind make the absurd leap from "Head of the International Bahá'í Council" to "Guardianship"? Someone must have been urging him on, but who? Who was whispering in Remey's ear? Who was saying to Remey "It's you!"..."Don't you see, look at what the Master has said about you?"..."Shoghi Effendi appointed you as head of the International Council, surely he meant for you to be head of the House of Justice as well!"... "Surely he was indicating that you were to be his successor!"
But who was Mason Remey's "Siyyid Muhammad"? I've long suspected that it was none other than Joel Marangella.
A few days ago, I had the opportunity to ask Gloria Faizi about Mr. Faizi's experience in France back in 1960. I asked her if it was Mr. Faizi's conclusion that Joel was the source of Remey's absurd claims. Her opinion was clear: "Yes, definitely yes!"
I've been told that a few years back, while on pilgrimage, Brent Poirer asked Mr. Furutan: "Do you think it is possible that Marangella may have planted this seed in Mason Remey's mind?" Mr. Furutan's answer: "NO. It is not possible. It is a fact."
3) Universal House of Justice, 31 January 1997 - Mason Remey and Those who Followed him