April 26, 2018

1932: The first Local Spiritual Assembly of Baha’is in North America becomes incorporated

Under date of February 16, 1932, incorporation papers were filed with the Recorder of Deeds of Cook County, Illinois, to meet the requirements of the Illinois State laws for religious organizations. We quote the following paragraph which was used as an introduction to the Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws:

“The Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Chicago adopts this form of corporate association in order to supply proper legal status to its conduct of the affairs of a religious community, which has had continuous existence for thirty-six years, and continuous organized existence since 1901 A.D., in the City of Chicago, County of Cook, and State of Illinois, being the first local Baha’i community established in North America. During the period from 1901 to the present date the Spiritual Assembly has been recognized, encouraged and instructed in nineteen Tablets and letters addressed to it by ’Abdu’l-Baha. This first Local Spiritual Assembly of Baha’is in North America was vested with the responsibility of founding the first Baha’i Temple -- Mashriqu’l-Adhkar -- in the Western Hemisphere, until the organization of a National Body in 1909 A.D. The Spiritual Assembly was visited by ‘Abdu’l-Baha three times in the year 1912, during His sojourn in North America. The Spiritual Assembly has been recognized since the Ascension of ’Abdu’l-Baha in letters addressed to it by the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith. The Chicago Baha’i community has been continuously and uninterruptedly represented by delegates in the Annual Meetings held by the recognized National Baha’i body of North America, since the foundation of that body in 1909 A.D. The Spiritual Assembly is at present enrolled in the list of Local Spiritual Assemblies recognized by the National Spiritual Assembly.

“The members of the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Chicago have taken this action in full unanimity and agreement. They acknowledge for themselves and on behalf of their successors the sacred meaning and universal purpose of the Baha’i Faith, the teachings and principles of which fulfill the divine promise of all former religions.” 
(Baha’i News, no. 60, March 1932)

April 17, 2018

Lawh-i-Hawdaj (Tablet of the Howdah) – possibly the first Tablet revealed by Baha’u’llah after He left Baghdad

Bahá'u'lláh on many occasions had warned His companions of their fate and of the calamities which would befall them in future. Now He predicted dire afflictions in the Lawh-i-Hawdaj (Tablet of the Howdah) revealed in Arabic in the port of Samsun on His way to Constantinople. At the request of His amanuensis, Mirza Aqa Jan, He revealed this Tablet as He sighted the Black Sea from His howdah. As far as we know this was the first Tablet revealed by Bahá'u'lláh after He left Baghdad. In it He referred to the forthcoming voyage by sea and stated that it had been foreshadowed in the Tablet of the Holy Mariner. Thus he linked the Tablet of Hawdaj with the Holy Mariner and mentioned that the study of these two Tablets would enable the believers to understand the mysteries of the Cause of God and become strong in faith. The dire predictions already foreshadowed in the Tablet of the Holy Mariner would come to pass, He affirmed, and He further warned His companions of the 'grievous and tormenting mischief' which would assail them from every direction, and would act as a divine touchstone through which the faith of every one would be severely tested and truth separated from falsehood.

Probably few among His companions realized that this 'grievous and tormenting mischief' would emanate from Bahá'u'lláh's own half-brother Mirza Yahya, precipitating a crisis of enormous proportions within the community, or that he would become the embodiment of man's rebelliousness, the centre of all the forces of darkness, who would arise to battle with the light of God's Supreme Manifestation.
- Adib Taherzadeh  (‘The Revelation of Baha'u'llah vol. 2’)

April 16, 2018

1931: Tablet of the Báb Found in British Museum

I think the friends will be interested in hearing of our finding the Star Tablet of the Báb.

A year ago, while in London, Wanden La Farge and I went every day to the British Museum to compile a list of original Baha’i manuscripts. Each morning at ten o’clock we knocked on the little hidden door of the Oriental room. An iron bar was pulled back from within and we found ourselves in the midst of impressive Oriental scholars completely absorbed in poring over ancient manuscripts. So deep and profound was the silence that, to ask for what was necessary, one was obliged to lower the voice to a shadowy whisper. After several days of cataloging and not being able to find any trace of the Tablet to Queen Victoria, the head of the department suggested that we might ask for an interview with the Curator of the Museum. This was a special privilege which was granted, the Director receiving us with the utmost cordiality and showed a lively interest in our quest. He assured us that the Tablet we so specially sought had never been in the British Museum, but that, after the death of Prof. E.G. Brown, his heirs had sent one original Baha’i manuscript to the Museum. This, however, was not written by either Baha’u’llah or ‘Abdu’l-Baha so it might not be of value to us at this time. This news was a great disappointment until he added, “It is in the hand of ‘Ali Muhammad, the Báb.” At this unexpected and wonderful news we asked if it was possible to see it. It is too valuable to be on view, he replied, but I will send for it. It proved to be a single sheet of heavy vellum inscribed in the delicate handwriting of the Báb, illuminated in exquisite colors and so written as to form a star.

April 12, 2018

Johanna Sorensen – The first Baha’i in Denmark

“The Danish people are fine in calibre and have some new and very good ideas about education and culture for the masses,” writes Miss Martha Root, who reached Copenhagen, Denmark, on April 28, 1927. Miss Johanna Sorensen, a beautiful Baha’i and the first believer in Denmark, had arranged a splendid program of events. April twenty-eighth, the two Baha’is visited the three largest newspapers and explained about the Cause to the editors and gave them literature. Miss Sorensen had translated into Danish and published “What is the Baha’i Movement” and “Baha’u’llah and His Message,” both by Dr. Esslemont and these attractive booklets were a great help. English books were also given and a photograph of ‘Abdu’l-Baha. Three articles appeared during the week, a woman writer came to the hotel and next day published an interview. Books were placed in the Royal Library which is Denmark’s greatest library. A letter was written to the King and Queen and Crown Prince of Denmark and left with three Baha’i books at the palace. Their Majesties were not in Denmark at this time. 
(Baha’i News, no. 19, August 1927)

April 8, 2018

Dr. August Forel – how he heard about the Faith

Yesterday, I [Martha Root] spent the day with our glorious Baha’i brother, Dr. August Forel, the European scientist, at his home in Yvorne. You cannot imagine the importance of his influence in Europe and in other continents! Though he is now such an invalid, still he is always thinking of the Baha’i Cause and doing something to promote it. I was astonished at what he thought of yesterday and he actually wrote it and sent it! Still, the rest of us may find courage in the fact that Dr. August Forel first heard of the Teachings from his son-in-law Dr. Arthur Brauns who first knew of the Cause from a Baha’i lecture which Mr. William Herrigel, I think, gave in Carlsruhe, Germany. If we faithfully keep on “giving the Message”, this truth of Baha’u’llah will illumine the world. It was Peter and James and John’s faithfulness which brought the divine civilization of Christianity to the western world. 
- Martha Root  (Baha’i News, no. 32, May 1929)

April 5, 2018

1927: First Baha’i Funeral Service in the East

From Miss Effie Baker, at the American Pilgrim House, Haifa, we learn the significant fact that the services held to observe the passing of Mirza Mohsen Afnan were entirely Baha’i without admixture of Moslem elements -- the first entirely Baha’i funeral service to be held in a Moslem environment. Thus slowly but surely the Cause asserts itself as an independent Religion founded upon new laws and teachings and giving rise to new customs and observances not reflecting superstition and man-made tradition. 
(Baha’i News, no. 19, August 1927)