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Hand of the Cause Miss Agnes B. Alexander
Miss Alexander first heard of the Bahá'í
Faith in 1900 in Rome, where she was visiting relatives, from an American
Bahá'í who was returning from her pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Miss Alexander
accepted the Bahá'í Faith immediately as truth. The woman gave her Miss May
Bolles' (Maxwell) address in Paris. Shortly after, Miss Alexander went to Paris
and stayed for three months where she studied the Bahá'í Faith deeply, and from
that time until her passing over seventy years later, she never for an instant
faltered nor neglected her spiritual duty as she understood it, to tell the
joyous news to every soul with whom she came into contact.
An artist in Paris made this pencil sketch of the lovely 25-year-old Miss
Alexander. It was reported that he said he wished he could have captured the
spiritual look in her eyes.
This is dedicated to my grandmother Mary Elizabeth Steuben Burland,
(1868-1956), and to her daughter, my mother, Helen Hart Burland Rutledge,
(1893-1982), the first two in a line of Bahá'ís now in the fifth generation.
We of the later generations thank these two women for their spiritual gift to
Barbara Helen Rutledge Sims
In 1909 someone wrote to 'Abdu'l-Bahá asking if he should print his
mother's (Margaret B. Peeke) memoirs.
'Abdu'l-Bahá answered, "Collect the traces of thy mother's pen that they may
remain after her."
This book is an attempt, at least in part, to preserve some of the history of
the development of the Faith in Japan through early photographs and
explanations. It was principally written for present and future generations of
Japanese Bahá'ís, that they might know something of the circumstances, and of
the early Bahá'ís who laid the foundation of the Faith in their country. As the
reader can observe, some of the photographs have faded, or darkened. Some are
copies of copies. Nevertheless, they are infinitely precious as traces that
remain of the endeavors of the early believers.
* * *
For a more complete history of the Bahá'í Faith in Japan, especially in the
early days, including Tablets from 'Abdu'l-Bahá and letters from the Guardian,
Shoghi Effendi, to the Japanese, we recommend History of the Bahá'í Faith in
Japan 1914 -1938 by Miss Agnes B. Alexander, and Japan Will Turn
Ablaze!, Bahá'í Publishing Trust, Japan. [both online at this site.
1. 'Abdu'l-Bahá in Oakland, California in 1912
click here for larger image
When 'Abdu'l-Bahá went to the United States, one
of the places He visited was Oakland, California, which had a fair number of
Bahá'ís. This photograph was taken at the home of Mrs. Helen Goodall, one of
the early Bahá'ís of that city.
The first two Japanese Bahá'ís can be seen in this historic photograph. Mr.
Kanichi Yamamoto, front right, is holding his second son, Shinji. His first
son, Hiroshi, is in the middle front. At that time Mr. Yamamoto lived with and
worked for the Goodall family.
'Abdu'l-Bahá held the three Yamamoto children on His knees, and He gave them
Persian names. Mr. Yamamoto arranged for the only talk 'Abdu'l-Bahá gave before
a Japanese audience. It was at the Japanese Independent
Church in Oakland. His talk was given in
Persian, translated into English, and then into Japanese.
Mr. Saichiro Fujita is standing between trees at the top left. 'Abdu'l-Bahá
allowed Mr. Fujita to travel with him in the United States, and several
years later permitted him to go to the Holy Land to live.
'Abdu'l-Bahá met other Japanese and showed them love and attention. To Mr.
Takeshi Kanno, a poet, and friend of the Bahá'ís (seen to the right of
'Abdu'l-Bahá) He gave a rosary.
A talk by 'Abdu'l-Bahá given to a Japanese audience at the Japanese
Independent Church, Oakland, California, October 7, 1912
It is a great happiness to be here this evening especially for the reason that
the members of this Association have come from the region of the Orient. For a
long time I have entertained a desire to meet some of the Japanese friends.
That nation has achieved extraordinary progress in a short space of time; a
progress and development which have astonished the world. Inasmuch as they have
advanced in material civilization they must assuredly possess the capacity for
spiritual development. For this reason I have an excessive longing to meet
them. Praise be to God! this pleasure is now afforded me, for here in this city
I am face to face with a revered group of the Japanese. According to report the
people of the Japanese nation are not prejudiced. They investigate reality.
Wherever they find truth they prove to be its lovers. They are not attached
tenaciously to blind imitations of ancient beliefs and dogmas. Therefore it is
my great desire to discourse with them upon a subject in order that the unity
and blending together of the nations of the east and the nations of the west
may be furthered and accomplished. In this way religious, racial and political
prejudice, partisan bias and sectarianism will be dispelled amongst men. Any
kind of prejudice is destructive to the body-politic.
When we review history from the beginning of human existence to the present
age in which we live, it is evident all war and conflict, bloodshed and battle,
every form of sedition has been due to some form of prejudice, whether
religious, racial or national, to partisan bias and selfish prejudice of some
sort. Even today we witness an upheaval in the Balkans, a war of religious
prejudice. Some years ago when I was living in Roumelia,
war broke out among the religious peoples. There was no attitude of
justice or equity whatever amongst them. They pillaged the properties of each
other, burning each other's homes and houses, slaughtering men, women and
children, imagining that such warfare and bloodshed was the means of drawing
near to God. This clearly proved that prejudice is a destroyer of the
foundations of the world of humanity whereas religion was meant to be the cause
of fellowship and agreement.
Religion must be the cause of love. Religion must be the cause of justice, for
the wisdom of the Manifestations of God is directed toward the establishing of
the bond of a love which is indissoluble. The bonds which hold together the
body-politic are not sufficient. These bonds may be mentioned; for instance the
bond of patriotism. This is evidently not a sufficient bond, for how often it
happens that people of the same nation wage civil war amongst themselves. The
bond of fellowship may be racial but history proves this is not sufficiently
strong, for tremendous wars have broken out between peoples of the same racial
lineage. Again the bond holding men together may be political. How often it
happens that the diplomacy of nations makes a treaty of peace one day and on
the morrow a declaration of war! It is historically evident and manifest that
these bonds are not self-sufficient.
The real bond of integrity is religious in character, for religion indicates
the oneness of the world of humanity. Religion serves the world of morality.
Religion purifies the hearts. Religion impels men to achieve praiseworthy
deeds. Religion becomes the cause of love in human hearts, for religion is a
divine foundation, the foundation ever conducive to life. The teachings of God
are the source of illumination to the people of the world. Religion is ever
constructive not destructive.
The foundation of all the divine religions is one. All are based upon reality.
Reality does not admit plurality, yet amongst mankind there have arisen
differences concerning the Manifestations of God. Some have been Zoroastrians,
some are Buddhists, some Jews, Christians, Muhammadans and so on. This has
become a source of divergence whereas the teachings of the holy souls who
founded the divine religions are one in essence and reality. All these have
served the world of humanity. All have summoned souls to peace and accord. All
have proclaimed the virtues of humanity. All have guided souls to the
of perfections but among the nations certain imitations of ancestral
forms of worship have arisen. These imitations are not the foundations and
essence of the divine religions. Inasmuch as they differ from the reality and
the essential teachings of the Manifestations of God dissensions have arisen
and prejudice has developed. Religious prejudice thus becomes the cause of
warfare and battle.
If we abandon these time-worn blind imitations and investigate reality all of
us will be unified. No discord will remain; antagonism will disappear. All will
associate in fellowship. All will enjoy the cordial bonds of friendship. The
world of creation will then attain composure. The dark and gloomy clouds of
blind imitations and dogmatic variances will be scattered and dispelled; the
Sun of Reality will shine most gloriously.
Verily we should consider the divine prophets as the intermediaries, but
mankind has made use of them as causes of dissension and pretexts for warfare
and strife. In reality they were the intermediaries of love and reconciliation.
If they were not sources of love and fellowship amongst men, then undoubtedly
they were not true, for the divine wisdom and purpose in sending the prophets
was the manifestation of love in human hearts. Therefore we must investigate
reality. First of all let us determine whether these prophets were valid or not
by using rational proofs and shining arguments, not simply quoting traditionary
evidences, because traditions are divergent and the source of dissension.
Among the holy, divine Manifestations of God was His Holiness Moses. The
sending of prophets has ever been for the training of humanity. They are the
first educators and trainers. If Moses has developed the body-politic, there is
no doubt that he was a true teacher and educator. This will be proof and
evidence that he was a prophet. We shall consider how His Holiness was sent to
the children of Israel when they were in the abyss of despair, in the lowest
degree of ignorance and heedlessness, degraded and under conditions of bondage.
His Holiness Moses rescued these degraded people of Israel from that state of
bondage. He raised them from that condition of ignorance, saved them from
barbarism and led them into the Holy Land. He educated them, endowed them with
sagacious instincts, made them worthy and honorable. He civilized them, raised
them to a higher plane of existence until they were enabled to establish a
sovereignty, the great kingdom of Solomon. This proves that His
Holiness Moses was a teacher and an educator. He had neither army nor dominion,
neither did he possess wealth. It was only through an idealistic power that he
cemented them together proving that he was a prophet of God, an educator and
Likewise must we set aside prejudice in considering other divine educators, by
investigating reality. For instance, let us take His Holiness Christ. He
achieved results greater than Moses. He educated the body-politic, trained
mighty nations. There is no doubt whatever that such souls were prophets, for
the mission of prophethood is education, and these wondrous souls trained and
His Holiness Christ was a unique personage, without helper or assistant.
Single and solitary he arose to train great and mighty nations; the Romans,
Greeks, Egyptians, Syrians, Chaldeans and Assyrians came under his influence.
He was able to bind together many nations, melting them together as it were and
pouring them into one mould, changing their enmity into love, war into peace.
Under his influence satanic souls became veritable angels, tyrannical rulers
became just, the human moral standard was raised. This proves that His Holiness
Christ was an educator, a teacher and trainer of nations. If we deny this it is
nought but injustice.
Blessed souls whether Moses, Jesus, Zoroaster, Krishna, Buddha, Confucius, or
Muhammad were the cause of the illumination of the world of humanity. How can
we deny such irrefutable proof? How can we be blind to such light? How can we
dispute the validity of His Holiness Christ? This is injustice. This is denial
of reality. Man must be just. We must set aside bias and prejudice. We must
abandon the imitations of ancestors and forefathers. We ourselves must
investigate reality and be fair in judgment.
The old nation of Persia denied all these facts, harboring the utmost hatred
and enmity toward other religious beliefs besides their own. We have
investigated reality and found that these holy souls were all sent of God. All
of them have sacrificed life, endured ordeals and tribulations in order that
they might educate us. How can such love be forgotten? The light of Christ is
evident. The candle of Buddha is shining. The star of Moses is sparkling. The
flame ignited by Zoroaster is still burning. How
can we deny them? It is injustice. It is a denial of complete
evidence. If we forsake imitations all become united and no differences will
remain to separate us.
We entertain no prejudice against Muhammad. Outwardly the Arabian nation was
instrumental in overthrowing the Parsee dominion, the sovereignty of Persia.
Therefore the old Parsee nation manifested the utmost contempt toward the
Arabs. But we deal justly and will never abandon the standard of fairness. The
Arabians were in the utmost state of degradation. They were bloodthirsty and
barbarous, so savage and degraded that the Arabian father often buried his own
daughter alive. Consider, could any barbarian be lower than this? The nation
consisted of warring, hostile tribal peoples inhabiting the vast Arabian
peninsula, and their business consisted in fighting and pillaging each other,
making captive women and children, killing each other. Muhammad appeared among
such a people. He educated and unified these barbarous tribes, put an end to
their shedding of blood. Through his education they reached such a degree of
civilization that they subdued and governed continents and nations. What a
great civilization was established in Spain by the Muhammadans! What a
marvelous civilization was founded in Morocco by the Moors! What a powerful
caliphate or successorship was set up in Baghdad! How much Islam served and
furthered the cause of science! Why then should we deny Muhammad? If we deny
him we awaken enmity and hatred. By our prejudice we become the cause of war
and bloodshed; for prejudice was the cause of the tremendous storm which swept
through human history for thirteen hundred years and still continues. Even now
in the Balkans a commotion is apparent, reflecting it.
The Christian people number nearly three hundred millions and the Muhammadans
about the same. It is no small task to do away with such numbers. And
furthermore why should they be obliterated? For these are all servants of the
one God. Let us strive to establish peace between Christians and Muhammadans.
Is it not better? What is the benefit of war? What is its fruitage? For
thirteen hundred years there has been warfare and hostility. What good result
has been forthcoming? Is it not folly? Is God pleased with it? Is His Holiness
Christ pleased? Is Muhammad? It is evident that they are not. The prophets have
extolled each other to the utmost. His Holiness Muhammad
declares Christ to be the Spirit of God. This is an explicit text of
the Koran. He declares Christ to be the Word of God. He has eulogized the
disciples of Christ to the utmost. He has bestowed upon Her Grace Mary, the
Mother of Christ, the highest praise. Likewise His Holiness Christ has extolled
Moses. He spread broadcast the old testament, the Torah, and caused the name of
Moses to reach unto the east and west. The purpose is this; that the
prophets themselves have manifested the utmost love toward each other but the
nations who believe and follow them are hostile and antagonistic among
The world was in this condition of darkness when His Holiness Bahá'u'lláh
appeared upon the Persian horizon. He hoisted the banner of the oneness of the
world of humanity. He proclaimed International Peace. He admonished the Persian
nation to investigate reality, announced that religion must be the cause of
unity and love, that it must be the means of binding hearts together, the cause
of life and illumination. If religion becomes the cause of enmity and
bloodshed, then irreligion is to be preferred, for religion is the remedy for
every ailment, and if a remedy should become the cause of ailment and
difficulty, it is better to abandon it. Today in Persia you will see
Muhammadans, Christians, Zoroastrians, Buddhists assembled together in the same
meeting, living in accordance with the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh, manifesting
utmost love and accord. Rancor, hatred, antagonism and violence have
disappeared; they live as one family.
And ye who are the people of the Orient the Orient which has ever been the
dawning-point of lights from whence the Sun of Reality has ever shone forth
casting its effulgence upon the West ye therefore must become the
manifestations of lights. Ye must become brilliant lamps. Ye must shine as
stars radiating the light of love toward all mankind. May you be the cause of
love amongst the nations. Thus may the world become witness that the Orient has
ever been the dawning-point of illuminations, the source of love and
reconciliation. Make peace with all the world. Love everybody; serve everybody.
All are servants of God. God has created all. He provideth for all. He is kind
to all. Therefore must we be kind to all.
I am greatly pleased with this meeting. I am joyous and happy, for here in
these western regions I find Orientals seeking education, and who are free from
prejudice. May God assist you!
2. The First Bahá'í Group in the Pacific
Miss Agnes Alexander wrote of the early days of
the Faith in Hawaii, "As there was no home where the group could meet, Miss
Muther, Clarence Smith and I would go on Saturday afternoons by trolley car to
Pacific Heights. There on the hilltop, surrounded by nature, we would read
together the Bahá'í prayers and Tablets which illumined our hearts and minds.
Thus began the first Bahá'í meetings in Hawaii."
On this day in April 1903, the first photograph of a Bahá'í meeting in the
Pacific was taken. Mr. Yamamoto is on the left. Next is Mrs. Anna Bailey, a
Bahá'í from Oakland, California, who joined the group that day. Next are Miss
Elizabeth Muther and Miss Alexander, who was the first Bahá'í in the Pacific.
Mr. Clarence Smith, Hawaii's second believer took the
click here for larger image
Hawaii, 1909. This photograph shows five
Bahá'ís who responded to 'Abdu'l-Bahá's wish to take the Faith to Japan. Mr.
Howard Struven (far left) and C.M. Remey (middle rear) were on an
around-the-world teaching trip, the first ever made by Bahá'ís. They then
crossed the Pacific Ocean, stopped in Tokyo and spoke at the YMCA, then to
Yokohama, Kyoto, Nagasaki and on to China, Burma, India and other
Dr. George Augur (far right) arrived in Japan in 1914. His wife Ruth,
(front, far left) joined him on a later trip. They were in Japan off and on
Miss Alexander (sitting next to Mrs. Augur) arrived in Japan in 1914
several months after Dr. Augur. Between 1914 and 1967, when Miss Alexander left
for the last time, she spent a total of about thirty-one years teaching the
Faith in Japan. In 1957 the Guardian appointed her a Hand of the Cause and
called her "an exemplary pioneer."
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