A Report to Abdul Baha of the Bahá'í Activities in the States of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida
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in the states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, U.S.A.
Humbly submitted by Charles Mason Remey
Shortly, after Mr. Bassett and I set forth upon our tour South, of which this report treats a cablegram was received from Abdul-Baha containing several instructions regarding our travels, among which was to "write letters".
From various cities and towns, letters were written, and forwarded to the Holy Land, telling of meetings held and of the general progress of the Bahai work in the states visited, but on account of the rush of travel and meeting many people, these accounts were necessarily brief and fragmentary. Now that time and other conditions permit, this more detailed account of our tour is being prepared to send to The Holy Presence of The Center of the Covenant of El Baha.
Washington, D. C.
7 June 1919.
During the time that the United States was engaged in the European war, it was very difficult to teach the Cause of GOD to the people in general. The war activities occupied the time, attention and energy of the vast majority of men and women, and for the most part the leaders of religion confined their attention largely toward preaching patriotic sermons calculated to stir up and maintain the war valor of the country. Thus the carrying on of any teaching or propaganda calculated to inculcate tangible love and friendship between warring nations was frowned upon and considered as a treasonable offense — therefore the friends had to conduct themselves with carefulness and wisdom, so, during the months while this intense war spirit reigned, the believers were in certain ways hindered from giving forth the teachings. In fact in those days, the pillars of civilization were so shaken by the great wave of war hatred that it was with the greatest difficulty that the Bahais retained their composure, for when the whole world is ablaze with animosity and enmity, it is like a plague from which protection is difficult and even the friends of GOD at times had to make efforts lest, like others, they themselves might be swept into the psychology of war. However, praise be to GOD, that hatred, prejudice and enmity did not find root in the hearts of the Bahai friends.
Though distressed in body and soul, because of the terrible conditions of the world, it being so difficult to proclaim the Cause to the people of the world during those days, the friends were actively engaged in giving moral support to one another, and in strengthening the circle of the people of The Covenant.
As it was, various of the friends in America had trouble because of their activities in the Bahai work, which was not appreciated by the governments. In Canada, Mother Beecher was arrested and made to leave the city where she was teaching; in New York Juliet Thompson was "investigated" and had it not been for the timely intervention of Mr. Wm. H. Randall of Boston, who interviewed certain officials and explained to them the reality of the affair, she might have gotten into very serious trouble; while in California the home of Mr. Beckett was searched for documentary evidence that the Bahai Cause was against the then existing policy of this government. This last caused the Bahais in southern California to cease for a time, their meetings. At another time, those who had turned against the Cause of GOD, published an article in a California newspaper stating that Abdul-Baha and His followers were against the United States Government, and about this same time it was reported that these same enemies had tried to spread the rumor that the Mashrak-El-Azkar fund was in reality not for the building of a temple, but was to be devoted to the purpose of working against the Government. These and other statements were circulated, but were found by the Government to be false, so the Bahais have been spared any great troubles and difficulties. Although the friends have been obliged to be most careful and circumspect in their words and conduct, yet through all they have been divinely blessed and protected. For example, — Green-Acre had always stood for Peace, and from its flag pole waved the ensign of Peace, which emblem also appeared upon the stationery used by the friends there. However, during the war, this flag had to be lowered, and general Peace
propaganda eliminated from the programs. The Green-Acre property being quite surrounded by war institutions which absorbed the public mind, but few people attended the conferences, so there was but very little work done there last season in the way of general public teaching. Notwithstanding this, we all felt that a very great and a glorious spiritual work was accomplished within the circle of the friends there.
Twice daily, morning and afternoon, the friends assembled in the home of the Misses Thompson of New Haven, in which house the Kinney family and others dwelt, and there tablets and prayers were read and the teachings of the Bahai peace given. In this manner a very virile and a strong spiritual center was formed, and great confirmations resulted from those gatherings, so much so that people were so attracted that they could not easily remain away from the meetings. Friends who came to Green-Acre intending to remain but for a few days, stayed on for weeks, while others who were obliged to return to their homes, arranged their affairs and came back again to Green-Acre. This spiritual unity was acknowledged by all to be a Divine Bounty of The Covenant, for in those gatherings they found the Bahai Peace and strength, while the outside world was in the throes of conflict and disaster.
Now the visible collapse of the old ideals of the former civilization is causing many people to consider the spiritual reality behind these phenomena now transpiring upon every hand, and is causing them to inquire as to the reason of this great change, the explanation of which lies in the Revelation of EL ABHA.
With the signing of the armistice in Europe, the intense war enthusiasm of the people throughout the country diminished greatly and then the public seemed more approachable upon matters of religion, so the Bahais found themselves able, as never before, to give the ABHA Glad Tidings to the people.
As conditions throughout the country became more feasible for the general teaching and proclamation of the Glad Tidings, the friends began to consider more and more the ways and means for spreading The Message. Abdul-Baha's tablets, dwelling upon "teaching" were discussed and among these was considered that tablet sent over a year before and addressed to the Washington friends, exhorting them to teach the Cause of GOD in sixteen mentioned states in the southern part of this country.
Desirous of serving in this field and feeling the need of, and the desire for a companion and a fellow server in this work, I opened up former negotiations, which had been interrupted by the war, with Mr. John B. Bassett, with the result that, together we undertook this work of teaching in the South.
John Bassett, originally from Chicago, and later of Schenectady, New York, first heard of the Bahai Revelation about two years ago through Mr. Albert Vail who lectured in Schenectady. Subsequently he met Mrs. May Maxwell and others and became a confirmed believer and was actively associated in the Bahai propaganda with Mr. Allen B. McDaniel in Schenectady.
Over a year ago, Mr. Bassett and I had talked together of traveling and teaching, but as it was necessary for him to enter military service, for the period of the war, our hopes and plans had to be deferred until this Spring, when he obtained his discharge from active service in the navy early in the month of March, after which he came on here to Washington, preparatory to our setting forth together.
Before leaving Washington, however, there was a good deal of preliminary work to be done toward getting a better understanding of the particular problems now agitating the public mind in the states which we anticipated visiting. In this matter several friends of the cause rendered valuable assistance.
During this past winter, there has been associated with the cause, living in Washington, Mrs. Janowitz, a lady whom George Latimer and I had the pleasure of knowing in Honolulu, several years ago, one who is earnestly working and serving to hasten the realization of the ABHA Kingdom. Mrs. Janowitz has been in the employ of the Department of Labor of the United States Government, working in connection with the Bureau of Negro Economics — she, at various times having been sent South by the Department to study questions pertaining to racial problems, with the hope of creating as much co-operation and economic adjustment as possible between the white and the colored races.
Through the good services of Mrs. Janowitz, several of us Bahais, who have these racial problems much at heart, became better informed of the efforts being made in government circles to amicably adjust some of the very serious aspects of this race problem.
I had several talks with Dr. George E. Haynes, formerly a professor at Fiske University in Nashville, Tennessee, one of the largest institutions of learning for the colored, in this country. At present, Dr. Haynes is at the head of the Bureau of Negro Economics in the Department of Labor. Through Dr. Haynes, and through Mr. Emmett J. Scott, formerly of the Tuskeege Institute and at present special assistant to the Secretary of War in negro matters, whom I also met through Mrs. Janowitz, I gathered a good deal of information regarding conditions among the colored people of the South. Both of these men are striving to ameliorate the condition of their people, so various phases of the race problem were learned of in detail, and many good suggestions were received regarding the pursuance of the Bahai work among people, both white and colored, names and addresses of progressive individuals and some introductions were received, all of which will doubtless be of value in the pursuance of the Bahai work.
I must not omit mention of Dr. Thos. Jesse Jones who is at the head of the division of Negro Education of the Department of Interior Affairs, through whose kindness I was furnished with a list of the most progressive negro educational institutions throughout the country where it was hoped that the Bahai Message might be given.
In the early spring a meeting of the Executive Board of The Bahai Mashrak-El-Azkar Unity was held in Washington, and while the out-of-town members of the Board were in the city it was arranged to have them meet some of these aforementioned workers who are striving to better the condition of the colored race. Accordingly Mrs. Ledyard, who has been spending this winter in Washington, invited this group of friends to her home where a notable gathering took place.
It has been the experience of the Bahais to find much response to the teaching among those people in general who have at heart the betterment of the condition of the colored people. These people seem to recognize that nothing short of a change of heart and of spirit can dispel the increasing animosity and distrust which exists between the two races in this country.
In considering this racial problem one recalls vividly Abdul Baha's admonition to the people of America given in this country in 1912 — forecasts of impending troubles which would befall the nation unless this racial hatred and
enmity were overcome and replaced by trust and confidence; but now to one's dismay he finds in some respects the alienation of the races to be on the increase and the separation to be even greater than before! The white people in many parts of the country fear the negro on account of his education and increasing knowledge of the world, of his economic independence, and of the increased and widened vision of life which he is now receiving from the colored American soldiers now returning from Europe where they fraternized with their white European allies and were received as social equals.
In fact as one views the present racial situation in this country he sees that the people of both races have much to lose and little to gain in the face of conflict and trouble, whereas if all these adjustments can be made amicably between the negroes and the whites all will be better off and happier than ever before.
It therefore seems as if Abdul Baha's call to unfurl the standard of Baha'o'llah in the Southern States is the hope of conciliation between the races, for as the people respond to the call and to the spirit of The Abha Covenant, hearts will be melted, animosity will be dispelled, co-operation, justice and opportunities for the advancement and development of all will ensue, and there will cease to be a "race problem" as we now know it.
For some weeks prior to starting South I had been writing to various persons in the states which we intended visiting, in the hope that through correspondence the way might be opened for reaching people with the teachings. To this end, I had printed an outline of five lectures upon the Bahai Cause, with a brief historical sketch of the Revelation and some of its salient principles, and also another leaflet telling about the Mashrak-El-Azkar and description of a series of preliminary designs for the temple which were available to be exhibited before and explained either to people interested in the building of this edifice or to those interested in architecture and building. Copies of these prospectuses are attached to this report. [See these online at www.bahai-library.com/author/Mason Remey. -J.W., 2013]
In order to secure the names and addresses of persons residing in the South who might be already interested in the Cause, a general letter was circulated among the Bahais in all parts of America asking them for the names and addresses of any people of their acquaintance who were interested — people living in the territory of the sixteen states mentioned in the tablet to Washington as follows:
From these letters there were many replies with names and addresses.
Also over one thousand letters, with copies of the above mentioned prospectuses, were sent forth throughout these states of the South to the presidents of colleges and universities, clubs and societies and progressive institutions, informing these people of this occasion to learn of the Bahai Teachings, and seeking the opportunity to tell them of the Message. From these various missives there were some very warm responses. Although these replies were not as numerous as I had anticipated, nevertheless there was an appreciable result which in time I trust may yield good fruits.
Leaving Washington on March 16th, John Bassett and I went by boat to Norfolk, Virginia, and from there travelled by train to Washington, in North Carolina, where the doors were open to the cause. Through the kindness of Mrs. Hooper Harris of New York, we had been placed in correspondence with her brother-in-law and sister, Dr. and Mrs. W. H. Carter in the town of Washington, and at their invitation we stayed in their home while there.
Mrs. Harris had taught in Washington, and upon one occasion, Mrs. Hannen, of Washington, D.C., had gone there on a similar mission, so the ground had been prepared.
The Carter family were most hospitable and kind to us, and through their efforts two well attended meetings were arranged in their home, — one in which the history and general teachings of the cause were explained, and the other in which the Mashrak-El-Azkar and its spiritual and philanthropic functions were explained to the people. The response was good, and from the happiness and joy in the hearts and faces we felt that something had been accomplished.
In Washington, N.C., there is a large negro population, among the members of which the living and educational conditions are not good. Mrs. Carter is
interested in the matter of a new school house, so during our visit a meeting was arranged for us at the colored school. On our way thither through the negro quarter which, with its unpaved streets and side walks presented a strong contrast with the general character of the rest of the town, we had occasion to inquire from an old colored man the direction of the school. He assured us that we were heading the right way, adding that we could not miss finding it since it was the most "tumbledowndest" building on the street. From this graphic description we had no difficulty in locating the school, an old frame building crowded to the doors and the windows with the audience of parents, teachers and scholars awaiting us.
There was considerable applause when Mrs. Carter spoke of the new building which they were all hoping for, — about as much applause as one cared to witness in so rickety a building, — after which the children who ranged from six or seven years of age upwards, sang a number of songs — hymns at first and later various of the real negro melodies. All listened wrapt and attentively to the story of the Bahai Revelation, and as The Message of The Covenant was explained to them the entire crowd of two or three hundred souls seemed to respond and to vibrate as one soul in many bodies, then in their final hymn they gave forth in song the spiritual note struck through the mentioning of the Holy Word. It was impressive. Never have I enjoyed choral singing as upon that day, for it was indeed melodies produced by the call of the Kingdom.
It is always a particular joy to the Bahai teachers when they find a response to their message amongst the clergy and this experience was one of our many pleasures while in the town of Washington. Mrs. Carter arranged a morning for us with the clergymen of the two principal churches of the town. It was a memorable interview, one which I will always look back upon with a sense of real joy. Both gentlemen were deeply touched by the message and by the spirit of the cause. Passing quickly over the general philosophic principles of the teachings, as matters the truth of which were so evident that they offered no questions nor arguments, many basic and fundamental truths were discussed, particularly those relative to divine revelation, and the Reality of the Word of GOD, and of His Manifestation. Our meeting was so fragrant and harmonious, and there was such gladness of heart manifest in the faces of each one present that we knew that the spirit of El ABHA was in our midst and that in the Lord's own time the fruits of that day would be forthcoming.
In several of the towns which we visited upon this tour we went to the public libraries in order to ascertain what literature upon the Bahai Religion was available to the reading public, and with the idea of the possibility of placing in libraries, where acceptable, some of those Bahai publications suited to the general reading public.
Mrs. Carter was interested in getting some Bahai literature into the local public library in her town, so we wrote to Miss Elizabeth Hopper, the Secretary of the Bahai Library Committee in Washington, D.C., that she might forward to Mrs. Carter, for the town library, copies of such books as the committee had in hand, thus making it possible for those with whom we met and talked, as well as others, to follow up their first interest with a systematic study of the teachings.
An effort has been made upon the part of this Library Committee, appointed by the annual convention of Bahais, to enlist the co-operation, of the friends in the various assemblies in placing those Bahai books which are suitable for general circulation in their local public libraries. During the past three or
four years between three and four thousand books and bound pamphlets have been thus placed in libraries with the hope of furthering the knowledge of the cause.
The Bahai Library Committee has extended a general call to the friends in all parts asking them to arrange with the librarians of public libraries to apply for Bahai books addressing their communications to the Secretary of the Bahai Library Committee, P. O. Box 1319, Washington, D. C.
On leaving Washington, North Carolina, our next stop was in Greenville in the same state. There we called upon Mrs. K. R. Beckwith (to whom we had a letter of introduction from Dr. Carter). Mrs. Beckwith is the principal of the East Carolina Teachers Training School — a large institution where three hundred young women are being educated to become teachers. This lady received us very graciously and listened with interest to an account of our work. The daily curriculum of the school was so filled and taken up that there was no opportunity on that day for us to talk before the student body, but an evening gathering of the teachers was arranged which proved to be very satisfactory.
The talk commenced with a discourse upon the influence of religion upon civilization and architecture, which led to a description of the Mashrak-El-Azkar and an exposition of some of the preliminary designs for the edifice to be built in Chicago. Afterwards, as every one was thoroughly interested, questions were asked regarding the cause and the spiritual teaching. It was late in the night when, with happy hearts, we left the school for we had been able to speak freely and fully of the Bahai Message and Glad Tidings, and all which had been said had been received with joy and fragrance so from the glow within our own hearts we felt that that which we had offered to our audience had been well accepted.
Raleigh, the capitol city of the State of North Carolina was our next field of activity. Here we knew no people, nor did we have letters to anyone, although we knew the name of a prominent clubwoman of broad interests, Mrs. Timberlake. We called upon this lady and told her of our work and of the meetings held in Greenville and in Washington. She became interested, and through her kindness we met several other progressive women which resulted in a meeting in an auditorium in the Woman's Club. At this meeting a good and responsive audience assembled to hear the message with particular respect to the influence of the Bahai Revelation for the upliftment of women.
The audience listened very attentively to the account of the life of Kurat-Ul-Ayn and of the great work which she accomplished and they were much interested in hearing about the Bahai women in Persia and other countries in the East and the freedom from ignorance and the educational advantages which the Bahai Cause is inculcating into the mind of humanity, all of which is so changing and ameliorating the status of woman in the Orient. The two Raleigh daily papers published good articles which, in order to secure accuracy of statement, we ourselves had written about the lecture, so we had some publicity of a good character.
We were in Raleigh at a time when the public mind was much occupied with the returning troops of soldiers from Europe. Triumphal arches spanned the streets, buildings were hung with flags, strains of martial music were heard
repeatedly from the passing bands while thousands of people from the countryside thronged the streets. This general prevailing excitement made it somewhat difficult to get hearings for the message. In various ways we tried to increase our scope of work. Visiting the Agricultural and Engineering University in the outskirts of the city, we interviewed the professor in charge of the department of civil engineering and architecture, suggesting that we give an illustrated lecture upon the Mashrak-El-Azkar, explaining this architectural and engineering problem to the students and faculty, but there was too much going on that week to admit of this matter, through which we had hoped would be aroused some interest in the cause. Then we directed our steps toward Shaw University, which is the principal institution of learning in those parts for the members of the colored race. Here we were very cordially received, were given seats upon the platform at their morning chapel exercises, and there a couple of days later, under the auspices of the Young Men's Christian Association, addressed an audience of fine young colored men, giving them as comprehensive an outline as the hour would allow, of the principles and the divine foundation of The Holy Cause. The Dean of the University and several other members of the faculty were present and the response was very good. We found that our Bahai fellow servant and brother Mr. Gregory had lectured upon the Bahai Religion before the students of Shaw, so through his work our way there had been facilitated and made easy.
Columbia, the capitol of South Carolina, was our next abiding place. Here we had a difficult time in finding a listening ear. We visited the University of South Carolina, which is the most important institution of learning in Columbia, and there arranged with the president and one of the professors for a lecture to be given upon the "Influence of Religion upon Architecture", to be illustrated with the Maskrak-El-Azkar designs, but after the matter was all arranged and, as we thought, settled, the president of the university became troubled and would not allow the meeting to be held. He undoubtedly feared the criticism of the people, because the Bahai Religion was not known to them, so we went our way.
Having failed with this university, which was for the white students, we visited Benedict College, which is a large university for colored people, the president and some of the faculty of which are white people. Here also it was impossible to gain an entrance or to find an audience. In brief, during our visit in that city we found no opening by which an audience could be assembled, though we labored diligently.
For example, one day John Bassett called at the Young Men's Christian Association, and interviewed a gentleman in charge in the hope of there finding an opening for the Glad Tidings of Baha'o'llah. This man questioned him closely about our work, travels, etc., but was not awake to the spiritual reality of religion. He asked John as to what money he was making from the Bahai Teaching, and when John informed him that he was not only receiving no pay, but was defraying his own expenses from money which he had earned in his profession, the gentleman marveled, and presumed to suggest to him that he would do better were he to engage in the Young Men's Christian Association work for there he would receive a salary for services rendered.
After various disappointments, in the end we met with one lady, the wife of a judge of one of the local courts, and we found this lady to be most sympathetic, receptive and alive to the truths of The Bahai Cause, so we knew that our stay in that town had been successful despite the many disappointments.
Leaving Columbia we journeyed to Augusta in Georgia. Miss Margaret Klebbs, a teacher of vocal culture and a friend of Miss Farmer, who for a number of years had been associated with the Bahai work at Green Acre, spends her winters in Augusta, where she has been blessed by diffusing the ABHA fragrances in the hearts of a number of people, some of whom are believers, while others are becoming deeply attached to the cause.
We spent eight busy days in Augusta, addressing meetings and holding long conversations upon the teachings with the various people attracted. Miss Klebbs kindly engaged accommodations for us in the same house where she has her studio for instructing her pupils, and as this was very centrally located, and easy of access from all parts of the city, the work was facilitated and so arranged that we met many people with ease.
Miss Julia Moore, one of the editors of the "Augusta Herald" is doing much to assist in the Bahai work. Through the kind services of this lady, we had some good publicity in her paper — meetings were announced — and articles upon the history and principles of the cause were published. The night after our arrival in Augusta, a large meeting was arranged in the home of Miss Julia Moore — people of various churches and different thoughts, including a clergyman, comprising the audience. The topic presented was the Oneness of all Religions and the Manifestation of this day. All present seemed happy and attracted.
The City of Aiken, South Carolina, is not very far from Augusta. Miss Klebbs spends a certain amount of time there, where she has succeeded in interesting some people in the Bahai work.
Through a notice in the local Aiken paper, the public was invited to a meeting there held in the studio of Miss Blondelle Malone, a painter of landscapes. There was quite a good turn out of people, though not as many as we had expected. The people are apt to be so busy with various matters that it is quite impossible to find a time to hold a Bahai meeting which will not conflict with something which some of the people will want to do. The day of our meeting in Aiken there was another matter which claimed the attention of a number of those whom Miss Klebbs had expected in our gathering, nevertheless the meeting was a very good one, for it seemed as if the very people who were ready for The Message of the Covenant gathered to meet us.
The first part of the meeting was devoted to The Mashrak-El-Azkar and the influence of religion upon civilization and art, after which The Message of the Great Universal Master, Baha'o'llah, was explained to the people and they were told of the Center of the Covenant and of the life and service of Abdul-Baha, of His spiritual penetrative power, of the great love which He has for all humanity, and of the lives of the people of various religions, races, nationalities and classes. now being reached by the spirit of Baha'o'llah through The Center of The Covenant.
During the latter part of this meeting, a hushed spirit prevailed in the room, and the whole thought of the gathering seemed to be concentrated upon the one pivotal point, the Center of the Covenant! It is very difficult to put into a word picture one's impression of such a deeply spiritual gathering — there remains always something which perforce is left unsaid, therefore I find it impossible to convey in words the spiritual fragrance of that meeting — a gathering which in the beginning was almost a disappointment because a number of those whose presence had been anticipated were not there, yet in the end it proved to have been arranged, as it were, by Divine Providence. In this Bahai work this has very
often proven to be the case. When a planned meeting does not carry out the original plan of the friends, one finds almost invariably, that it turns out to be a far better meeting and one more productive of spiritual fragrance than could possibly have been arranged and anticipated by human thought and calculation.
One evening Miss Klebbs arranged a meeting in her studio. Some of her vocal pupils sang; the significance of the Mashrak-EL-Azkar was explained as well as a general summary of the Bahai teaching, particularly upon the principle of the Oneness of the World of Humanity as expressed in the Mashrak-El-Azkar.
The most stirring meeting held while we were in Augusta took place in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Jas. H. Jackson, in North Augusta, whose daughter Mrs. Daisy Moore is a believer. About forty were present, a few of whom were believers while the rest were interested and attracted. Since the majority of those present had been brought up in the orthodoxy of the Christian teaching the message was presented from the standpoint or foundation of Christianity and the Biblical prophecies and proofs, with particular emphasis upon the unity of all religions and the ABHA Kingdom, which is sustained by the words of Christ and the Prophets.
Several people present asked questions — one gentleman in particular — a lawyer queried and quizzed to his heart's content. It was really astonishing that one could think of so many intricate questions to ask. Later on, we found that he had merely been voicing inqueries made by a lady who sat near him, who, not wishing to appear herself as an inquirer, had arranged with him to propound an interrogation upon her behalf.
Usually one seeks to avoid such a bombardment of questioning before a large gathering for it is sometimes difficult to preserve equanimity and the spirit of unity under such circumstances, but in this particular gathering the Bahai spirit was so strong amid the group that this storm of questions and cross questions only brought out more clearly and more perfectly the presentation of the Glad Tidings. Every one present seemed too in the best of spirits and happy and attracted so we felt that the evening had been a spiritual success.
Besides meeting the Augusta people in the gatherings described above, we had the pleasure of meeting various ones individually and of holding personal interviews with them. One was a Christian Scientist, another, a lady — a writer from Boston who had attended Bahai Meetings in New England — and another a physician of note, who was one of the most sincere and attracted seekers of truth whom we met while on our travels. This gentleman had been a student of religion for some years and had delved and studied and was prepared for the knowledge of the "Manifested Word" which we explained to him and to which he was responsively attracted. In fact we had several visits together and when we left, he gave us the names and addresses of three friends of his in Savannah, and of a lady living in Jacksonville, Florida, whom he assured us were students of truth and would welcome the Bahai Message.
In fact we were much impressed by the spiritual influence which Miss Klebbs has made in the hearts of the people in Augusta, for we found that although the people there needed to study and to learn more than they knew about the Holy Teachings of The Revelation, they were nevertheless profoundly impressed and attracted — yet we felt that much teaching and study was needed in those parts in order to confirm the people in the service of The Covenant. Mr. Joseph Hannen of Washington, D.C., had lectured upon the cause in Augusta a year or two before our
visit, and now we hope others may go there, from time to time to help Miss Klebbs with her work.
While in Augusta we received many letters and telegrams from the friends who were arranging for the Bahai Convention to be held in New York — all urging our immediate return to the North that we might there engage with them in making preparation for the coming Convention and. Congress.
The friends were so sincere and pressing and so united in their urge to us that for a time we considered returning North. However, after much thought and consideration, we decided that there were many Bahais in New York to arrange for the convention while for the moment there were but the two of us touring and teaching in the South, so we determined to continue our teaching, for we knew that after the convention was over the coming hot weather and summer season would be too advanced for work in that part of the country. Therefore it seemed imperative that we continue our mission since these Southern travels had already been an entirely too long delayed effort in response to Abdul-Baha's call received a year and some months before.
From Augusta we went to Atlanta in the same state. For several years there have been some Bahais in Atlanta. Mr. Fred Mortensen once spent a year there and gave the message to some souls who believed, and later one of the old Chicago believers. Dr. J. C. Oakshette, settled there. On our arrival we found Dr. Oakshette ill, but had the pleasure of meeting Mr. J. Elmore Hays, a friend of Mr. Mortensen, and also Mrs. Minge, a daughter of Mrs. Diggett of Chicago. These Bahais were very kind and hospitable to us, and in their company we passed some profitable hours.
In response to one of the circular letters and the prospectus of lectures sent out from Washington, we had been in correspondence with Mrs. Rose M. Ashby, the founder and president of the "Psychological Society" of Atlanta. This lady was attracted by what she had heard of the Bahai Cause, and had extended to us an invitation to meet with the society of which she was the leader, so we placed ourselves in communication with her as soon as possible after reaching the city. We found Mrs. Ashby to be quite a moving spirit in the midst of a large group of thinking and wide awake people. One afternoon she assembled a few persons who were interested in the history of ancient Egypt and who had been making a particular study of the pyramids. Somewhat hastily and crudely we made a diagram drawing of the Great Pyramid and I was able to tell them some things about its structure of which they had not known, after which the conversation was turned toward the Egyptian belief in the immortality of the soul and at this point the Bahai Teaching of immortality was introduced as the full and prospected assurance of the future life which the teachings of the religions of the past had introduced and for which they had paved the way.
It was on a Sunday afternoon that we met with the people of the Psychological Society at their regular place of meeting at the Ansley Hotel, one of the large Atlanta hostelries. A good and a most unusual audience composed of people of almost every type and shade of modern thought, people who were but partially satisfied with the spiritual knowledge which was theirs but who were open and receptive to truth from whatever horizon it might cast its light and shine upon them. The oneness of the foundation of all religions and the Oneness and Singleness of
of the Word of GOD was the basis of the presentation which led up to the Bahai Revelation of this day and its relation to the particular world problems of this new day and age.
Rarely have I ever met with a more receptive and attracted group of souls. Under such circumstances when the audience is drinking in every word in harmony and fragrance of thought, one is quite conscious of the descent of the divine confirmations into his soul and the going out of a spiritual force from his heart to the hearts of those who are hearing. Thus the seeds of the knowledge of the Kingdom seem to be sown in the hearts of the people. It is my earnest hope that I may again visit that group of souls in Atlanta and try to do more toward placing them in touch with the center of the life of the New Kingdom.
While in Atlanta I met one night informally with a group of Theosophists. The Bahais invariably find much in common with Theosophists. After speaking about the cause and its teachings one gentleman present said that he could see no disagreement between the Bahai and the Theosophical teachings and he asked me if there was any point of difference! He seemed very much aroused and awakened when told that the principle difference between the Bahais and the Theosophists was that the Theosophists were looking and praying for the coming of the Great World Master (Manifestation) while the Bahais knew that He had come. I left the house of meeting in company with that man and in parting with him at the corner of two streets, he taking one way and I another, I could see as my eye followed him disappearing into the night that he went away thinking deeply over all which he had heard.
Leaving Atlanta, we went down into Florida, our first stop in that state being Jacksonville. Here we spent a busy week. Calling there upon the lady whose name had been given us by the physician in Augusta, we were very cordially received and entertained, she suggesting to us several names of people known to be progressive in religious matters — also advising us to see the president of the Jackson Art Club in order to enlist his aid in arranging for an exhibition of some of the preliminary drawings for the Mashrak-El-Azkar, and with this as a basis of interest, be able to speak with them about the cause and its principles.
The president of the Art Club we found to be most affable, and through his kindness arrangements were made for holding an exhibition in the auditorium of the Woman's Club, which was a large hall, the club building being centrally located in the heart of the city. Moreover this same gentleman introduced us to the art editors of the two leading daily papers, both young women who found sufficient interest in the exhibition to give it a series of very good writeups, which attracted a good many people, and brought them to the exhibit. From these people there were some who were led to investigate the teaching.
A New Thought center, the members of which met in a small auditorium in the Woman's Club building, was an open door to us, for they welcomed us in their meetings, where we met and spoke with a number of people who were seeking spiritual knowledge. Some of these persons invited us to their homes, and in this manner we addressed several parlor groups.
The night before we left Jacksonville, we held a meeting of our own in the small auditorium of the Woman's Club, which we had rented for the purpose, the larger auditorium on the floor below, where our Mashrak-El-Azkar drawings were still hanging, being used that night, and at the same hour as our meeting, by an organization of Russellites who were preaching of the second coming of Christ.
Practically all of the people with whom we had met and talked while in Jacksonville came to our meeting, and there were others besides attracted by the publicity kindly accorded us by the newspapers. I should say there were between thirty-five and forty people there, and there was a very good spirit present which increased in fervor as the various principles and constructive doctrines of the cause were explained with emphasis on the necessity for man to investigate those various truths and prove their verity. This led up to The Message of The Covenant and to dwelling at some length upon the mission of Abdul Baha and the gospel of his daily life of service to humanity.
We left Jacksonville feeling that a spiritual touch had been made with certain people, and trusting that others of the Bahais and perhaps we, ourselves, might again be privileged to visit there in order to keep in Bahai touch with those who received the Glad Tidings with such sympathy.
From Jacksonville we made a visit of one night and parts of two days in Fernandina, a small town on the Florida coast near the Georgia line. For some years I had been in correspondence with our people there, most of whom had first heard of the message through the teaching of Mrs. Laura Fitzhugh Preston, a Bahai and a resident of Fernandina, who had been untiring in her efforts to spread the Glad Tidings among the people until she was called to enter into the life of the world beyond about a year prior to our visit.
We were quite impressed by the love and devotion of the friends in Fernandina to the memory of Mrs. Preston. They arranged for us to meet her daughter, Mrs. Jeffries, showed us the ruins of her former home overgrown with vines and brambles, which was burned some years before, and the small house in which she lived, in the time of trouble following her material losses during which epoch she became a confirmed servant of the cause. They all spoke most affectionately and appreciatively of her service in telling them of the Glad Tidings.
It is indeed an appreciated blessing when Bahai travellers find themselves amid warm and loving friends in a strange part of the country. This was particularly true in our case during these travels, because, with the exception of but a few towns and cities, in the majority of places we arrived as strangers, our first problem being to make friends with the people, therefore when we found friends awaiting us, we were appreciative of this ABHA blessing.
As our train pulled into the station at Fernandina the first person we saw upon the platform was a Bahai brother, Jim Stone. Though we had corresponded for some years, this was my first meeting with him, and I was happy to be able to recognize him from the Bahai look in his face, this spirit of his I had become quite familiar with through his letters. Also at the station there were several other Bahais awaiting us, and we soon found ourselves in a motor, on the way to the home of Prof, and Mrs. Grimwald, where it was arranged that we should lunch.
In the afternoon, in company with Mr. Stone, we made a round of the town, calling upon numerous men, whom he had interested in the teachings, and with whom he was desirous that we should speak regarding the cause and its philosophy. Late in the afternoon the group of about a dozen believers assembled in the home of the Nagle family where a spiritual feast was served. We all sat around a tea table partaking of various refreshments both before and after which tablets, teachings and prayers were read, and we talked of Abdul Baha. The real spirit of the Covenant so reigned in that meeting that our hearts were vibrant with the ABHA love,
which was reflected in the countenances of all, noticeably in the faces of several of Mrs. Nagle's little grandchildren, who were present with us.
To my delight, I found that Mrs. Nagle was a native of Wurttemburg, though she had lived many years in this country. She was very familiar with Stuttgart and the vicinity, which through the Bahais there and my experiences among them in the summer of 1914, brought many spiritual associations to my mind. The extreme firmness in the Covenant of the Bahais in those parts of Germany is as a refreshing fragrance to my soul, and I long for the time when tranquillity will again reign in Europe and correspondence may be re-established between the Bahai friends upon both sides of the recent lines of battle, so that we may again be united in friendly intercourse as we have never ceased to be united in the love of Abdul Baha during these years of war and bloodshed.
Before arriving in Fernandina, through Mr. Stone, Mrs. M. H. Smith had offered to us the hospitality of her establishment, a lodging house and restaurant near the railroad station. It was suggested by some others, however, that we might prefer to go to the hotel of the town where we might be more centrally located. Upon thinking it over, however, we decided that we would rather be with our own people, so Mrs. Smith and her son made us very comfortable and happy at their place. In writing to us of the various Bahai people in Fernandina, Mr. Stone had remarked of Mrs. Smith's son "You will like Gus! Everybody likes Gus!" all of which came about and we witnessed as foretold and more than that — we found out why everybody liked him! It was because he liked everybody himself and had such a cheery, happy spirit that people simply had to like him!
A large public meeting had been arranged by Mr. Stone. It was held in the evening in the Opera House, and had been well written up in the local paper of the town, so we had a good audience, representative of the Bahai group and their friends and the people whom they had interested. The general discourse was upon the Bahai Principles, for the reconstruction of the world of humanity, and the teaching of Baha'o'llah regarding Universal Peace and the Bahai means for its accomplishment, the great foundation of which is The Covenant of The Holy Word of GOD.
Every moment of our stay in Fernandina was a pleasure, and I find myself constantly reverting in my mind to our short but memorable visit with the Bahais there. I feel that one reason why their confirmation is so real is because they have been doing a good deal of teaching and spreading the knowledge of the Covenant, and in this way have the blessed fragrances of El ABHA been wafted their way.
Going south from Jacksonville, we stopped for a few hours in St. Augustine, where we had one address or two. One of these persons we found at home, but she was not really as much interested as the friend who sent us to her had imagined her to be, so we did not seem to accomplish much in that town.
From St. Augustine our route took us to Miami by way of Palm Beach. One of our Bahai friends in the Middle West had been in correspondence with a leading clergyman of West Palm Beach and she had written us hoping that we might meet him. This we did, and had a very pleasant call explaining to him our mission in those parts. He seemed to have a certain fear of mentioning the Bahai religion and of hearing that which we might be able to tell him of the faith, so we chatted about other things — principally about church architecture in which he seemed particularly interested, since he anticipated building a new church in his parish, some
designs for which he showed us, so after a pleasant call, we left him assorted in his own affairs.
For several years there have been a few Bahais in Miami. The Atwater family have lived there and have done what they could to interest others in the work, until this year they were reinforced by Mrs. E. R. Boyle of the Assembly in Washington, D. C., who with her children wintered in Miami and joined forces with the Atwaters in the Bahai work.
Mr. Atwater very kindly met us at the station with his car and helped us to locate ourselves in a hotel and the same evening we all went down to see Mrs. Boyle and to plan out a short series of meetings to cover the three days which we expected to stay in Miami. The afternoon following our arrival, Mrs. Boyle arranged a reception and gathering of about forty thinking and progressive people of various walks of life — army and navy from the nearby military posts — and professional persons — and with these some northerners who had winter homes in Miami. As usual the talk in the meeting revolved about The Message and The New Day, and as there were several scientific men present, the harmony between science and the true religion was featured and emphasis was given to the fact that as Divine Revelation has always been the foundation of civilization in times past, it is correct to infer that the great universal world civilization toward which we are now looking will be the product of the universal world religion which is given in the Bahai Revelation and is the universal cause of the day. This meeting was followed up by several talks with people who were there. One afternoon we went out to Cocoanut Grove, a suburb of Miami, to the home of an eminent astronomer from a New England University whose wife was interested in the movement. We also spent an interesting hour at tea with Mrs. Beckwith (who had received us and arranged our meeting in Greenville, North Carolina) who was then in Miami on a visit to her daughter who was also much attracted to the cause.
One evening Mr. and Mrs. Atwater had us to dinner with several others, and in the evening quite a number of their friends came in to hear of the Message, amongst whom were several spiritualists, who seemed much attracted by all they heard of the Bahai Teaching.
Our last evening in Miami was spent at the home of Miss Julia D. Harris where we dined and later met a number of after dinner guests. Miss Harris conducts an open air school for children and is doing a constructive educational work much appreciated by the people. She was assisted by quite a corps of young women teachers and assistants who all seemed to be interested in all we told them about the Bahai ideals. The discourse of the evening began upon the influence of the true spirit of religion upon education, art and architecture, with a description of the Mashrak-EL-Azkar and its various educational accessories, after which the thought and attention of the audience was turned toward the more fundamental and spiritual aspects of The Glad Tidings and The Bahai Revelation was presented as the fulfillment of all the highest ideals of the religions of the past.
We were very pleased indeed with our experiences while in Florida. This state has been settled by people from all parts of this country and the world and consequently Florida is a place of cosmopolitan interests and spirit all of which tends to free people from their mental and religious limitations of the past and
open their hearts to The Call of GOD. In fact it seemed to us that the field of the hearts was particularly ready in Florida for the Message of El ABHA.
It was quite a long journey from Miami, which is in the southern part of Florida, up to Savannah, Georgia, which was our next stopping place; but we were fortunate in finding ourselves in company with a physician and his wife and daughter who had attended Mrs. Boyle's meeting and who through her had become interested in Abdul Baha. Our visit with them was temporarily interrupted when we left the train at Savannah, for we were to see them again in Charleston, South Carolina, a few days later.
We had in our possession the names of three gentlemen in Savannah which had been given us by our physician friend in Augusta — men who had long been associated together in the mystical study of the Masonic orders and rites. One of these gentlemen was leaving town so we could not meet him, but with the other two we had a most unusual conversation which lasted the better part of a Sunday afternoon and well on into the evening.
These students of religion had penetrated below the surface into the realities of things, so we found we could begin with them with the most vital principles of the Bahai Revelation. They seemed quite awake to the fact that the world was now in the early days of the Kingdom upon earth and that the time was for the New Revelation, so we were able to tell them of the Revelation of Baha'o'llah and of the presence now upon earth of the Living Branch — Branched from the Pre-existent Root — The Word.
Our interview was one of those experiences when one feels virtue to be going out of himself to be absorbed by the listeners who are thirstily drinking it in. These men seemed to realize the significance of the message we brought to them, and we parted with them, each feeling that our paths would again meet in this Great Cause.
We would gladly have remained longer in the South but the time for the Annual Convention and Congress of Bahais to be held in New York was approaching so we were obliged to leave Savannah after having but the one visit with our new friends there. Charleston was the next place where we stopped. With the exception of our acquaintances from Miami, to whom I have referred, we met no one in Charleston with whom we could speak regarding the cause. We had two good conversational visits with the physician and his wife and daughter and then left Charleston for New York, remaining over in Washington for a few hours on the way North. I trust some day to be able to visit Charleston again, remaining for a sufficient length of time to be able to meet people and to tell them something about the Bahai Revelation.
The Convention, as many will testify, was a time of great rejoicing and unity among the friends. The wonderful tablets revealed by The Center of the Covenant, conveyed to this country by Mirza Ahmad Sohrab, calling the Bahais to arise and proclaim this great cause to the whole world of humanity, brought great responsibilities upon the friends and at the same time, with this call came the
spiritual power necessary with which to arise and to accomplish this work, so the friends one and all returned to their respective homes, filled with the vision of the great program of teaching unfolded to the believers by Abdul Baha.
Returning to Washington after the close of the Convention for some six weeks in order to arrange my affairs for a long absence from home, I have found quite a little Bahai work to be done in this vicinity and in the country around about here.
Mrs. Nourse and her family live on the Potomac River seventeen miles below Washington, their place having formerly been a part of the original George Washington Estate of Mount Vernon. But a short time ago, Mrs. Nourse began a series of Bahai meetings to which she invited her neighbors and the people of the countryside in her vicinity. At the first meeting she had between forty and fifty people — men and women and children, including several soldiers from an army encampment in the neighborhood, Mr. Allen McDaniel, Mr. Bassett and I conducted the presentation of the Holy Cause. While the subject was entirely new to the majority of those present, the response was very good and a number of the people asked that they be invited to the next meeting. Mrs. Nourse intends holding these meetings regularly in the hope that the Washington friends will help her in this work.
Miss Margaret Green, originally of Washington, who was for some time in Juneau, Alaska, is now again here in our Assembly and has been organizing a Bahai center in the hamlet of Woodford in Virginia about eighteen miles west of Washington. The meetings there are being held in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Hampton Williams. Several times a group of us from Washington have gone up there to present the message, and on the last occasion we addressed between twenty and twenty-five people, all of whom were impressed to listen most attentively and thoughtfully to The Glad Tidings, and afterwards asking questions the nature of which showed that they were considering deeply all which they had heard.
Mrs. Ledyard has rendered much service in this matter of teaching in these rural districts by transporting to and from the places of meeting in her automobile, the groups of Bahais from Washington who are conducting the teaching. Through this service of hers it has been possible for us repeatedly to go down to Annapolis, the seat of the Capitol of the State of Maryland, where we have met regularly with certain friends.
During the past winter a group of people have been assembled in Annapolis, through the efforts of Stanwood Cobb, originally of Boston, who for some time has been an instructor in English at the United States Naval Academy situated in Annapolis.
Through Mr. Cobb's efforts, a series of regular weekly meetings were held in his rooms — these began with five or six people and gradually increased. I have been able to follow this work for the past year, going down to Annapolis frequently The last meeting which I attended there before going South was held in one of the lecture halls of St. John's College, (which is the State College of Maryland) and over forty persons were present to hear a talk upon the cause with particular reference to the Mashrak-El-Azkar. ... An exhibition of some of the preliminary designs for the Mashrak-El-Azkar was held in connection with this meeting.
During our travels Mr. Bassett kept a very careful list of the names and addresses of those who attended our meetings and who seemed really attracted to the cause. Already Bahai literature has been sent to those on this list and I trust to be able to keep in touch with them through correspondence in the hope of
watering with the Holy Words and Bahai thoughts the spiritual teachings which have been planted in the hearts of these people — then later when other teachers go over this same ground again, this list will be of great assistance to them.
While on this recent tour, I have been quite impressed by the state of receptivity of the people for the Bahai Teachings. Not only for the general spiritual principles of the religion but for the Message of The Covenant, for in each place we visited, we were able with the greatest facility and harmony of spirit to tell the people of the coming of the Promised One of all religions, of the establishment of His Covenant upon earth, and of the Center of that Covenant in Abdul Baha who is here with us now upon earth. Only a few years ago the people whom the Bahais were then meeting did not seem to be nearly so ready for this great fundamental teaching of the cause as they now are, for now they seem to be prepared to receive it in its entirety.
This readiness to listen to the Divine Call by the people in this country seems to be coexistent with the general upset state of society which is causing the people to seek reality. This war and all of the conditions attending the coming of the new age is causing great unrest and upheavals everywhere, until one feels as if he were standing over a volcano which might burst forth at any moment. Only a few nights ago as I sat late writing upon this report the whole neighborhood was startled by a terrible explosion shaking the houses and causing alarm. It proved to be an assassin's bomb exploding before the home of a high government official in the near vicinity — one whom anarchists wished to kill — fortunately the official himself was not injured, though his house and the homes of his neighbors were sadly demolished and marred.
Such actions indicate the unrest of the people and make one feel like exerting a greater effort than ever made before toward sending forth the Bahai Spiritual leaven of the Kingdom in order to save humanity from causing its own annihilation and destruction.
Mr. Bassett is now in New York City so we are no longer associated in this work of teaching together. For many reasons, this is a matter of deep regret to me. It is a great help in going out to teach to have a spiritual companion and fellow-missioner to share with one the joys and blessings of the Bahai work, as well as to sustain one another in the difficult moments when one may be tired and inclined to be a bit discouraged.
In a few days I am starting forth to continue work in the field of the sixteen southern states mentioned in the Tablet to Washington. I trust to visit various towns, and be able to raise the call of the Kingdom in those parts, trusting in Abdul Baha for knowledge and looking to him always for guidance.
Washington, D. C.,
9 June 1919.
To the Members of the Bahai Board of Teaching in America.
At the first meeting of our Board held at the McAlpin Hotel in New York City on the night of May first last, several of the friends requested me to make a few written suggestions which might be of value to the committee and to teachers now going forth to teach the Bahai Revelation in various parts at home and abroad. Therefore I will embody in this letter some suggestions as to ways of approach and the means which I have found successful in attempting to reach those people who would respond to the Glad Tidings and are ready for the ABHA Message.
One of the most difficult problems which confronts the Bahai teachers is the locating of those souls who are spiritually prepared and seeking for the Message of GOD. In the Holy Words we are told that like attracts like and that every one seeks affinity with his own kind. According to this principle many of us have observed that truth seeking souls usually band more or less together. When a Bahai teacher enters a strange town or land and there, through the bounty of GOD, meets with one seeking soul, it is usually the case that through that one person other similarly attracted and waiting souls may be reached.
I well recall the young men and women to whom Mrs. Maxwell gave the message and brought into the cause nineteen years ago in Paris. There were several small groups of seekers who came into the knowledge of the revelation at about the same time, each circle or group being led to the cause through the attraction, effort, and interest of one of its members.
For instance, among my personal friends of the students of the Latin Quarter were several young men and young women who for some time prior to hearing of The Bahai Message were associated as friends. They often talked together of the spiritual realities of life and were seeking truth. The first of the group to hear the Glad Tidings of The Coming told the others and it was not long before this small circle of seeking friends were united in the cause, having found their Lord. Mr. and Mrs. Hopper were of this number, and in a similar manner, through certain ones, Mrs. Maxwell was enabled to reach other groups of people ready and ripe for the revelation.
At the present time, in this country, there is a great variety of diverse sects and cults of a religious nature both old and new. Those which are dominated by the spirit of sectarianism seem to offer but little opportunity and field for Bahai work, because revolving about a sectarian ideal they attract their like and kind, so the Bahais do not find a very broad field of work among these sectarianists. However, the Spirit of GOD is working among them and as they
relinquish their sectarian ideals and respond to the divine call of this New Age, their hearts become opened to the universal Truths of GOD.
Upon the other hand, there are certain religious movements and associations founded upon a broad religious outlook and in these societies the Bahais find a better field for their labors, for here are gathered together groups of progressive souls freed from religious and sectarian prejudices.
For example, let us consider the Theosophists who have centers in many of our leading towns and cities. It has invariably been my experience to receive a warm welcome among these people and opportunities to speak in their meetings and to give them in a simple and a direct way, The Message of The ABHA Coming. For the most part, the Theosophists are expecting and looking for the coming of "The Great Master", and, as this is one of the most striking tenets of their religious thought, it is to be anticipated that in their midst we will find persons who are ready and seeking for The Lord in His Latter Day Coming.
In addition to the people grouped in the acknowledged religious organizations, there is an ever increasing and already a vast multitude of souls also ready for The Message, who, because of the admixture of so much superstition, and imagination with the truth, in the religious formulae of the past, have ceased to hold their former religious connections and are now engaged in philanthropic and humanitarian service. Many of these people are open to receive the Bahai Teaching, and though oft times they will tell you they are not "Religious" one finds that they are speaking in the orthodox parlance of the old idea of religion whereas, according to the Bahai standard of reality, they are religious in that they are seeking to express their highest spiritual ideals in service to the human race.
It has been the experience of our Bahai teachers that when a person is found to be alive to and working to establish one of the principles of Baha'o'llah, that he or she is usually found to be in sympathy with the other principles of the cause when these are presented to them with regard to their own special labors and service.
These progressive people are found throughout the country banded together in many clubs, associations and societies. I have found the woman's clubs in various towns to be a good ground for Bahai teaching. In the work of their clubs, the women of this country are keenly interested in the general welfare and progress of the sister women in all parts of the world, so by taking as his theme the Bahai Movement and its influence for the upliftment of women, touching upon the work of the cause among the women in the Orient, the Bahai teacher is quite sure to attract and to hold the attention of an audience of progressive women. So far as club organizations are concerned the men's clubs in the past, I have found to be spiritually unprogressive compared with the women's clubs throughout the country. It has been with comparative difficulty that openings for Bahai speakers have been arranged before men's clubs. I imagine that this has been caused largely by the fact that for the most part men's clubs are either for social diversion or for business purposes, and religious and philosophic subjects are rarely presented in a public way. However, I understand that this condition is now changing and that latterly some of our Bahai speakers have found attentive and receptive audiences before commercial, business and social clubs of men, an experience which I hope may some day be mine.
There are many organizations of men, apart from the social and
business centers of interest, where the Bahai thoughts and voice often find a hearing, Among the gatherings of men and women most open to the application of the Bahai principles one finds the various Peace Societies, the Esperantists, Educational Associations, (largely composed of teachers), chautauquas and other groups of people who are studying and considering the social and economic problems of the present day, persons who are trying to adjust the friction and clash between the interests of the races and the doing away with racial prejudices and hatred, and occasionally a group of scientific minds studying ethics and the psychology of religion and who hold fast to the Bahai principle of the harmony and accord between the scientific truths of the material world and the spiritual principles of true religion. Such groups of people are often glad to welcome a Bahai speaker and they usually respond to the progressive principles of the teaching.
Some years ago one heard of classes in various parts of the country organized for the comparative study of religion. Of late, I have not run across these groups as often as formerly. I presume this is due to the fact that people in general are better informed now than they were a decade ago, about the religious doctrines of the foreign peoples. Now the general thinking public knows and accepts much true philosophy due to the pioneer work of students of comparative religion, added to which is the present spiritual condition of the world which now has created a demand in the heart of humanity to seek vital dynamic truth rather than to delve in the study of the doctrines and customs of the ancient religions.
I well remember, just before entering college, when I was beginning my first study of the oriental religions by reading the books of James Freeman Clarke, the effect upon orthodox Christian America caused by the Congress of Religions held in connection with the World's Fair in Chicago. Preachers throughout the land denounced this invasion of Christendom by the then so-called "Heathendom" of the Orient. However, their protests were of but short duration. Before long there was so much demand in many places for knowledge of the systems and practices of the religions other than Christian, that some clergymen inaugurated classes for the comparative study of religion to meet this new demand of the public thought.
I sometimes regret that there is not more of this work going on now about us, for these groups of people were, in many cases, peculiarly ready and prepared for the Bahai thought. My first public exposition of the Bahai Message was before such an audience. It was in the home of Mrs. Richard Fitz-Hugh Ledyard, in Cazenovia, New York, where under the instruction of the Presbyterian clergyman of the town, a man of unusually broad vision and interests, a class of sixty or more people were just finishing a series of lectures by him upon the various religious systems ancient and modern, which formed a good preparation and introduction to the Bahai Religion.
In addition to the platforms provided by religious and philanthropic gatherings of people, there are a number of clubs and organizations for general improvement and study which offer good opportunities for Bahai speakers, such as "current event" classes, literary, historical, dramatic art, archaeological and architectural clubs, besides organizations, schools, travel clubs and the like, before which a speaker can through giving a talk upon the subject of particular interest to the audience make certain connections with the Bahai Thought.
For example, it is a rare opportunity for a "current event class" to be able to hear explained to them the history and the object of the Bahai
Movement by a Bahai whose heart and soul is in the cause. Before other classes interested in certain special studies the creative influence of religious thought upon civilization, including literature, history, the drama and all branches of art is a theme which presents many possibilities, while people of all ages are glad to hear about the experiences of the Bahais in foreign lands and their pilgrimages to The Holy Land.
Throughout all these many ways of approaching people with the Bahai Message, the more we can tell the people of Abdul-Baha and of the gospel of his daily life, the greater seems to be the impression made upon them and the more they will be attracted to the cause. Even though they may not be very much awake to the religious teaching of the cause, if their interest and sympathy of thought be focused upon Abdul-Baha, between him and them a spiritual connection is established, and this relation will in time be productive of illumination and divine results. After all, the most that the Bahai teacher can do in the way of service is to direct the souls of the people toward the Center of the ABHA Covenant from which Center emanates to humanity the power and the confirmations of the AHBA Kingdom, and in this service of giving The Message of The Covenant lies the power of The Kingdom and the hope of humanity!
Most people need appreciation and encouragement to develop their best possibilities. Should we not do all in our power to encourage the individual Bahai to arise in service to the cause, rather than to await tranquilly until others arise, or a "committee" be formed to do the work? The mere fact that the spirit of The Covenant working in the heart of some one individual inspires and prompts that soul to arise to do a certain constructive service should be proof sufficient that by acting upon this prompting with wisdom and according to the Bahai instructions that person will be blessed and confirmed!
In the growth of the Holy Cause collective works grow out of and develop from the labors of individuals. For example, in each city where there now is an assembly of Bahais, there was once but one person who believed and undertook to establish a center. Through the tireless efforts of that first person to realize the need for establishing a center, we now find as a result an assembly supported unitedly by a number souls.
The formation of assemblies is but one example of the principles which I am trying to enunciate. For example, our Bahai Publishing work started when the first Bahai undertook to reproduce the Holy Words for the enlightenment of others. The work of the Mashrak-El-Azkar in America was first given impetus by one Bahai who having conceived the idea, from the study of the Holy Word, began to agitate the matter with the result that now all the Bahais in the world are united in this vast undertaking, and so it is with all phases of the holy work.
It is the one who arises to act upon whom the divine confirmations descend and spreading to others who follow in the path of EL Abha bring about a unity of the friends in service. It seems as if this unity was invariably the result of serving together in conformity with the divine commands.
Should we not dwell upon this matter in order to encourage, as much as possible all individuals who have the desire to serve, those who, perhaps are reticent and retiring and shrink from inaugurating works, those who often, rather than seem to wish to take the initiative themselves, retire with the thought
that someone possibly more "prominent" and "experienced" than themselves should take the initiative.
Abdul Baha calls all of the friends, old and young, experienced and inexperienced to serve. In consultation with the older experienced Bahais and with care that all that is done is accomplished according to both the letter and the spirit of the revealed ordinances, no one need feel that he or she must wait for another to arise to do that service which their hearts prompt and call upon them to perform.
One of the evident duties of every Bahai, particularly among the older believers, is to encourage and to assist others to serve the cause. This is indeed a great responsibility which rests with weight upon those who, prominent in Bahai affairs, are looked upon as leaders in the cause. In many instances, a word of encouragement and guidance from a Bahai of experience will have the effect of helping to launch a younger soul in a career as a servant of El Baha; while upon the other hand a discouraging word or attitude upon the part of a looked-up-to Bahai, or a spirit of indifference upon his part will often chill the ardor of another, and cause to disappear the desire to serve. Such desire is service in the embryonic stage, and should be fostered and nurtured until it arrives at the highest stage of service which is that of divine confirmation.
It is a very great bounty to teach a soul and to bring that soul into the Kingdom of El Abha, but how great will this blessing be if one is enabled to help to train and to teach another soul to become a teacher!
The responsibility of the Bahai is great, and this increases in proportion with his knowledge and standing in the cause.
I have often thought how productive of good results it would be if every experienced Bahai teacher could have associated with him or her in service a Bahai who had the desire to teach and to serve and who sought this association as a means of gathering experience and knowledge. Such a combination would benefit both friends associated — the younger would constantly be acquiring facts and imbibing from the experience of the elder one, while the elder one would have always the inspiration which comes with the responsibility of imparting knowledge and sharing experience with those who look to us and to a certain extent depend upon us for guidance and understanding.
In my early experience in the cause, I longed and craved for association with those who had knowledge and experience in teaching, but my surroundings were such that this was not attainable in the measure of the need which I felt. I will never cease to be thankful for the very few and brief associations which I had with the older and more experienced friends, during my early Bahai days. Mr. Chase's friendship was a source of real help to me. We saw one another only at long intervals, but he was always most kind in answering at length any questions of which I wrote, and I think the way in which he helped me most was the assurance that I had, that there was a man of experience devoted to Abdul Baha, who was always willing and glad to have me go to him with perplexing problems. This was especially appreciated, for in those days of which I write, the cause in the West had not attained its present composure, equilibrium and growth, and we did not have the books, tablets and instructions, which we now possess, to which to turn for advice. Those also were the latter days of Abdul Baha's imprisonment, when communication by correspondence with him was always difficult and at times impossible, so the advice of those experienced in the teaching was appreciated by those of us who were taking upon ourselves Bahai responsibilities.
Many of us learn our spiritual lessons by stumbling and blundering along, making the same mistakes over and over again, until something interferes to throw us out of our rut and into another channel of experience in which the procedure is like unto that of the former ruts and channels — at least, such is the case when many of us are left to our own devices to work out alone the Bahai truths and experiences. But where we are intimately and with affection associated with others, who themselves have gone the path which we are treading, they cannot only help us, but we ourselves can inspire and help them also. Perhaps this type of Bahai association could be more generally emphasized in the life and activities of the cause for I feel that much good would ensue therefrom. There is a natural tendency for the older Bahais to associate together and for the younger ones to gravitate together, but the more that each general group realizes its inter-dependence and the virtue of association with those of the other type the more these conditions will become equalized and the greater will be our spiritual efficiency as servants of Abdul Baha.
Nothing seems to be more important and essential to Bahai service than that all of the teachers be well informed as to the teachings, find that they adhere closely to the thought and the spirit of the revealed words, not going beyond this, nor adding anything thereto. If we all adhere to this principle we will be so united that there will be no danger of misunderstandings.
Without doubt the day will come when we will have equipped schools and courses of study for the education and preparation of Bahai teachers, but as yet these do not exist, so for the present the responsibility of the preparation to teach seems to rest with the individual Bahai. As we as individuals arise to prepare ourselves to meet this need the way will be made easier for others, until as a result of the present pioneer labors and study of individuals here and there, we will have groups formed for this service out of which will develop greater Bahai institutions of teaching.
In the early days of the cause in America, before we had the revealed books, tablets and instructions which we now possess, there were various points of view and angles of divergence in teaching in some of the assemblies which, for the time being in different places, retarded the growth of the cause. I recall some time ago, visiting an assembly in the middle west and at the close of my stay suggesting to the friends that it might be arranged for different Bahai teachers to visit their group at intervals of a few weeks in order to stimulate their work. Several of those friends replied by saying that they had tried that plan and had rejected it because of the confusion arising from the conflicting statements of the different traveling Bahais!
To be sure at the present time such conditions no longer exist save perhaps in rare instances, for with our present sources of Bahai information and instruction we are now as never before, fortified against such dangers. Nevertheless, we all need to study more and more the facts and the principles of the cause in order that if one person goes about asking the same question of various teachers, he may always receive in reality and in spirit the same answer from each teacher, which answer will be according to the revealed text.
Now that we are all facing this time of great activity in Bahai teaching in America, we are going to be confronted by many questions and problems which can only be met and solved through a profound study of the facts and teachings
of the revelation. Since the cause is showing manifest signs of increased strength and growth, and articles and books are being written and published against us, we must be prepared to meet these opposing forces with a knowledge of the truth of the matter. For example, the late Rev. Samuel G. Wilson's pen was a prolific agent of opposition to the cause. Some of his articles in the "Union Seminary-Review", "The Princeton Theological Review", "The Bible Magazine", "The East and The West", "The Church Missionary Review", and other religious publications, not to mention his two books "Modern Movements Among Moslems," and "Bahaism and Its Claims," are all bitter harangues against the Bahai Religion. Most of us are also familiar with other publications against us such as those of Stenstrand, the Azali, and a series of bitter articles against the cause published some time ago in the "Open Court" by a person writing under the name of Richardson. In addition to the opposing works of these and other American writers, are the many false and erroneous ideas of the cause contained in the much read and quoted writings of Edward G. Browne, the well-known orientalist of Cambridge, England, who has written and published in addition to his books on the Bahai Religion several works upon Persia, in which he makes misleading allusions to and statements about the cause. To my mind, these writings of Browne should be handled with particular care by our Bahai teachers because of the shifting and unstable attitude of this writer toward the Religion. Upon one page he writes with apparent conviction on behalf of the cause, while upon the next he is equally eloquent in interceding for those Azalis who were the violators of the Covenant of The Bab.
I do not wish to be misunderstood concerning this statement about Edward G. Browne's works. The Bahai world recognizes his translation of "A Traveller's Narrative" the original of which was approved and is one of the standard works of the Bahai Cause. I refer to the many misleading statements and incorrect and biased information contained in the notes and data appended by Mr. Browne to his translation of the "Narrative", much of the material of which, as he himself states, was the testimony of the enemies of the Bahais.
In addition to the works mentioned, which have had wide circulation and are more or less familiar to many of our people, are those of a number of others — occidentals living in the Orient, such as M. A. L. M. Nicholas and various Christian missionaries, also residents of Persia, among which are P. Z. Easton, W. A. Shedd, R. E. Speer, as well as H. H. Jessup of Syria. So long as we are informed of the exact facts and reality of the cause we have nothing to fear when confronted by these writers and those who hold their arguments, but we must be prepared to meet all of these questions with knowledge and facts.
Some of the antagonistic works mentioned have had a wide circulation throughout the country. During my travels I make a point of visiting the libraries in various towns, and there, side by side with the Bahai books, I often find such books, for instance, as Dr. Wilson's. Moreover, one often meets people who have read these articles, so the reason I mention these antagonistic writers and their works is to try to share with our teachers the importance that I feel we should give to the study of those Bahai writings which contain the truth of these matters which are assailed. Once assimilated through study, these truths and realities will be a powerful weapon in our hands for the spread of the cause amongst mankind and for its protection against all enemies.
While at present we have a goodly supply of the standard works of the cause in book form, both of the revealed words and of the apologetic writings,
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this book and can scan or type page 26 for us, please email us. [-J.W., 2013]
In this service, the committee needs the help and co-operation of the friends in all parts of the country. We appreciate it very much when you interest librarians in having our literature in their libraries, and when you refer Bahai readers and students to these libraries, in which our books are shelved. These are important elements in getting the Bahai Message to the people.
After some experience our committee has found it desirable to carry on their business directly with the librarians throughout the country where our books are welcomed. If the Bahais will interest librarians of public libraries to apply for books, the matter will be attended to without delay.
The committee invites correspondence and suggestions regarding the placing of Bahai books. Kindly address communications to:
Bahai Library Committee,
P. O. Box 1319.
Washington, D. C.
One of the apparent handicaps which has beset many of our Bahai teachers and has limited their fields of activity has been due to lack of finances so necessary for traveling while engaged in teaching. I would suggest that every reasonable effort be made by The Bahai Board of Teaching, toward obtaining for the Bahai teachers the reduced fares of travel, accorded to ministers of religion in this country, by the United States Railroad Administration.
Now that the Bahai Religion is daily becoming more and more recognized in the religious world, there seems to be no reason why our teachers who may be especially called by Abdul Baha to perform certain missions, or those detailed by our Board of Teaching to perform other services entailing travel and railroad fares, should not come in for those perquisites allowed by the laws of the land to ministers of religion who travel!
This is a matter which I feel should be pushed as rapidly as possible in order to facilitate the carrying out of Abdul Baha's world programme of teaching. Many ocean steamship lines give reduced rates to missionaries going and returning from abroad. Now that we are called to branch out from America into the international field of Bahai activities, it may be possible for the Bahai teaching organization to obtain this reduction in ocean travel for the accredited Bahai missioners who are traveling to foreign parts engaged in the work of the cause.
The time will undoubtedly come, and soon we hope, when we will have well organized and arranged central bureaus where files of names of people interested and attracted to the cause will be kept together with information helpful in placing teachers in touch with seekers and also of service in keeping those attracted and interested in touch with the movement. However, for the present, we have no such general organization and until such be formed, and in order that we may work toward that larger organized plan, I have found it advantageous to keep an index of names and addresses of those with whom we meet and talk regarding the cause. Though we may be separated and not see such persons for years, nevertheless a postal or letter, and a copy of a tablet or a pamphlet sent to them from time to time keeps them in touch with the believers and makes
them realize our friendly interest in them personally and in their spiritual problems, all of which paves the way toward their Bahai association. The exchange of such data between Bahai teachers is of inestimable value too, for very often one teacher in traveling over the ground traversed by another will find his work greatly facilitated by information of this nature, with introductions to attracted people.
While Abdul Baha was in this country he seemed pleased by the newspaper publications about him and his cause. It seemed to be a very good thing to have as much newspaper notice as possible providing it be of the right sort. We have had so much difficulty in getting just the right kind of "write ups" and straight information about the cause into the papers that I find the best plan to be to write the article, have it typed, and take it to the editor of the paper. It often appears in a very much abridged form of one's original article, but so far as it goes the information it contains is quite sure to be correct. When a man unacquainted with the Bahai thought is sent by a paper to report a meeting, usually his article is more apt to have mistakes in it than otherwise, so I find it to be a good plan to have at hand a brief typed statement of the more salient points of the movement to be given to these journalists. It minimizes their work and they appreciate having the exact data.
Each one serving in the cause through experience finds his own method and system for work, but through comparing our experiences and learning of the ways of other Bahais, we often find ideas for increasing our own service. It has been with this thought in mind that I have been led to compose this lengthy letter, which, now in its complete form is many times longer than anticipated when I first sat down to write.
In The Service of The Covenant,
Architectural exhibition of a series of preliminary designs by charles mason remey for the Mashrak-el-Azkar (Bahai Temple)