August 5, 2018

A Brief History of the American Development of the Baha’i Movement – by Thornton Chase

Thornton Chase
In the month of June, 1894, a gentleman in Chicago desired to study Sanskrit, in order to further pursue his search into ancient religious teachings. While seeking an instructor he met a Syrian who had come to Chicago from Egypt a short time before, and who told him of the Baha’i Movement.

As the statements of the life and teachings of Baha’u’llah, and his son, Abbas Effendi, the "Greatest Branch," otherwise known as ‘Abdu'l-Baha, accorded with the declarations of numerous sacred prophecies, and with the age long expectations of mankind, it was deemed of value to investigate those claims as far as possible.

Other seekers for truth became attracted to the study of these matters, with the result that five accepted the teachings as true during the year 1894. In 1895 a number of earnest students became interested, classes were formed, and several became "believers," and in 1896, the followers of the Baha’i Cause in Chicago were numbered by hundreds.

A class of Truth Seekers was begun in Kenosha, Wis. another in Milwaukee, and individuals from New York, Cincinnati, Washington and other points, came in touch with the Movement in Chicago, and carried information of it to their friends at home, so that in 1898 many students in eastern cities were eagerly seeking knowledge of God through this channel.

On Nov. 4th, 1900, there arrived in New York, Mirza Assad’u’llah a Persian teacher of authority from Acca, in Palestine, and Haji Hassan Khorassani, a prominent merchant of Cairo, Egypt; with Mirza Hossain Rouhy, and Mirza Buzork, as interpreters. They remained in New York, meeting and teaching large numbers of people, until Nov. 26th, when they visited Johnstown, New York, for two days, and reached Chicago at 4 p. in. Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 29th, where they made their headquarters for a year and a half.

A little later came another Persian gentle man, Mirza Abu’l-Fazl, a scholar and historian, famous in the Orient for his learning and sincerity, one who had given up a position of the highest honor in Persia, as president of the Royal College of Teheran, to embrace the Baha’i Cause, which resulted in his imprisonment for three years in Persian dungeons. Two young Persians, Mirza Ali Kuli Khan and Mirza Ameen'u'llah also arrived to act as interpreters.

With these teachers came the first opportunity for a correct and intimate knowledge of the true Baha’i teachings. The salient facts, the mission of the Báb as the forerunner and proclaimer of the coming of "He Whom God Shall Manifest," His life, and early martyrdom; the appearance of Baha’u’llah, the Manifestation, and Revealer of the Divine Word, the station and authority of Abbas Effendi, ‘Abdu’l-Baha, as the Center of the Covenant, the Interpreter and the Establisher of the Sacred Law; these were known and believed; but, as yet, there had been but little translation of their writings, and but a small portion of their beautiful and comprehensive teachings of religion and life was known until they were disclosed by these visitors from the Center of the Cause.

The young interpreters, assisted by Mr. Anton Haddad of Syria, busied themselves in translating the Baha'i Writings from Persian and Arabic into English, and a wonderful treasury of wisdom and knowledge was opened, which has been the delight and satisfaction of thousands of hungry souls in America.

The instructions given by Mirza Assad'u'llah and Mirza Abu’l-Fazl were thoroughly sane and practical, and so insisted on righteousness, right living as the essential of religion, rather than psychic and occult experiments, that many persons, who had conceived views imbued with imaginations and superstitions, fell away from the Cause but those who remained discovered such spiritual light, guidance, richness, and power in the teachings, that they were deeply confirmed in their belief, and clung to it as the most valuable instruction possible for man to obtain.

The classes and assemblies which had diminished in number, again began to grow, and to spread the knowledge of the Baha’i Cause; until at the present time its adherents in the United States are numbered by thousands -- there are believers in many cities and towns, from the Atlantic to the Pacific -- all earnest and sincere in their faith, and in their acceptance of this modern revelation of Divine Knowledge, and striving with their lives to carry out the Baha’i teachings of love to God expressed in love to man.

There are assemblies of believers in Chicago and New York, in Boston and Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia, in Cleveland, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Kenosha, Minneapolis, Spokane, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and in many towns of lesser fame; in all of which this wonderful, religious, ethical, moral, and practical teachings of the age, is received and loved as the great solvent of religious, social, and  economic problems, and the joy and beauty of life. 
(Star of the West, vol. 5, no. 17, January 19, 1915)