Hand of the Cause Miss Agnes B. Alexander (Circa 1900)
“Your name will forever remain associated with the rise of the Faith and its establishment in Japan and the record of your incessant and splendid endeavors will shed on its annals a lustre that time can never dim.” (Shoghi Effendi, June 8, 1933)
As early as 1903 and for years thereafter, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá urged Bahá’ís to travel to Japan to spread the Message of Bahá’u’lláh. On occasion He said He Himself would like to go to Japan, and also to some other countries. In 1908 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote to an American believer, Mr. Howard McNutt “A trip of the believers of God to the Orient is of the utmost importance and it will become the cause of great connection between the two regions… Perchance, God willing, in Japan, you may lay the foundation for the Kingdom!”
In 1910 He said to the first two Bahá’ís to visit Japan, “Blessed results will appear from the Holy Cause established in that land. I have sent your letter regarding the work in Japan to Mr. McNutt in New York, that he may spread the word for some of the American Bahá’ís to go to Japan, and there serve and teach the Cause. It is very good for teachers to travel, and, through the love of God, give life to the people. American Bahá’ís should go to Oriental countries as teachers.”
The first Bahá’ís to make the long voyage, Mr. Howard Struven and Mr. C.M. Remey, 1909; Mme. Aurelia Bethlen, 1911; Mr. and Mrs. Dreyfus-Barney, 1914, stayed for brief periods of time and continued around the world. Dr. George Augur and Miss Agnes Alexander both arrived in 1914 — Miss Alexander shortly after Dr. Augur. They sailed to Japan with the intention of residing there for some time. All these believers traveled in response to the wishes of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Besides Japan, He also encouraged travel in those early days to China, India, Persia and other Asian countries.
In the Tablet of the Divine Plan written to the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada, Japan is mentioned six times and the Japanese language itself once. In those Tablets ‘Abdu’l-Bahá again urged travel. “How good would it be were there any possibility of a commission composed of men and women, to travel together through China and Japan…”
In 1919 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote to Mr. Roy Wilhelm “Attach great importance to the Japanese people. Mrs. Magee should continually communicate with them.”
And again, later in the year to the same believer, “Convey to Mr. Nasu the Japanese, my greeting and say: The world of nature is darkness but the heavenly Sun dissipates by its light this darkness that prevails over the world. Likewise the world of mind and of souls is a dark one and nothing will illuminate it save the rays of the Sun of Truth. My hope therefore is that thou mayest be the cause of the shining of the Divine Teachings in Japan, that thou mayest vivify the dead. The people of Japan are intelligent but they are in need of a leader that he may awaken them. I hope that thou mayest be the cause of their awakening and may vivify them.”
“These are His very words, that still keep ringing in my ears: ‘Japan will turn ablaze!’”
The title of this book was taken from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s prophecy of the spiritual future of Japan as quoted by Shoghi Effendi, Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, in his first letter to the Bahá’ís of Japan, January 26, 1922.
We have taken the liberty of adding a few words, for the sake of continuity, and also that the reader, knowing something of the individuals and circumstances might better observe the creative power in the words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi as reflected in the lives and actions of the recipients.
For further information on the history of the Bahá’í Faith in Japan, we recommend to the reader History of the Bahá’í Faith in Japan 1914–1938 by Agnes B. Alexander, and Traces That Remain, (A Pictorial History of the Early Days of the Bahá’í Faith Among the Japanese) by Barbara R. Sims.
Barbara R. Sims
Tokyo, Japan 1992
The year was 1913, and Miss Alexander recalls: “My only desire was to serve His Cause. The words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá rang in my ears: ‘I have a lamp in My Hand searching through the lands and seas to find souls who can become heralds of the Cause. Day and night I am engaged in this work.’
“I prayed that His lamp might find me. For nearly twelve years I had been privileged to assist in establishing His Cause in Hawaii. Now the time had come when I was free to go forth to serve in other parts of His lands… I received a Tablet from the Master which contained the first intimation that He wished me to travel to Japan. He wrote in part: ‘Therefore if thou travelest toward Japan unquestionably Divine confirmations shall descend upon thee.’ “Through the Divine favors all difficulties were overcome and I sailed … reaching Japan November 1, 1914.”
Between the time of her arrival and 1967 when she left for the last time, Miss Alexander spent a total of about 31 years in Japan. The rest of her time was spent in Hawaii or other parts of the world teaching the Faith. Shoghi Effendi referred to Miss Alexander as a “distinguished pioneer” and wrote the following to her regarding her role in the development of the Faith.
“Your glorious services in those remote regions of the earth (China and Japan) are never to be forgotten. I ever pray on your behalf and wish you to remember the sacred interests of the Cause in far-away Japan as you are that radiant herald who has raised the Call of Salvation in its very heart and to whom it owes a great debt of gratitude… I never, never forget you.” (January 27, 1924) “I feel that your destiny lies in that far-off and promising country (Japan) where your noble and pioneer services future generations will befittingly glorify and thankfully remember.” (January 10, 1928)
Miss Alexander received thirteen Tablets from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. They are quoted below.
O thou maid-servant of God!
The tongues have spoken of thy attraction to God, and the pens have testified of thy burning by the Fire of the Love of God. Indeed the heart of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá approves of this because it feels its heat from this distant and Blessed Spot.
O maid-servant of God!
By God, the Truth, the Spirit of Christ from the Supreme Concourse doth in every time and aspect announce to thee this great good-news. Be, therefore a divine bird, proceed to thy native country, spread the wings of sanctity over those spots and sing and chant and celebrate the name of thy Lord, that thou mayest gladden the Supreme Concourse and make the seeking souls hasten unto thee as moths hasten to the lamp and thus illumine that distant country by the Light of God.
(Translated by Anton Haddad. Received in Paris, June, 1901)
“Mr. Struven became a herald of the Kingdom and traveled through the countries of China, India and Japan. (”`Abdu’l-Bahá) Mr. Howard Struven, the first Bahá’í to visit Japan, is at the far left. Dr. Augur is at the far right and Miss Alexander is sitting second from left. Taken in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1909.
O thou bird warbling in the Garden of the Love of God!
Thank God that He has illumined thy insight, led thee unto the Fire glowing in the tree of man; caused thee to utter His Praise among the creatures and guided certain women to whom thou spoke the Word of God. O maid-servant of God!
Verily thy Lord lighteth the lamp of Love in the heart of whomsoever He chooseth. This is indeed the great happiness. He confirmeth him in the service of the Supreme Vineyard.
I pray God to confirm the relatives in attaining to the Brilliant Light, to let the light of Insight shine forth to the hearts and sights; to aid thy friends in being illumined by the Light of El Bahá and fed from the Heavenly Table, and to make thee empty, void from the thoughts of the life of this world and filled with the Love of thy Lord, ready for His service, uttering His Praise and demonstrating with proofs the appearance of the Kingdom of God.
(Translated by Mirza Ameen, Chicago, Illinois, January 25, 1903)
O thou seeker of the Kingdom!
Thy letter was received. I prayed at the Court of Holiness to deliver thee from the darkness of the attachment to this world, enlighten thee by the Divine Illumination and purify the mirror of thy heart, so that the Rays of the Sun of Truth may shine therein.
Permission is granted thee to marry … but thou must try with heart and soul to guide him and cause him to enter under the Shade of the Covenant and Testament, so that ye may become united as one soul in two bodies and be engaged in the service of the Kingdom.
(Translated by Ahmad Sohrab, Chicago, August 14, 1909. Received in Honolulu, September 8, 1909)
O maid-servant of God!
Thy letter was received. Thou hast written something about Mr. Remey. In reality that youth is the son of the Kingdom and the herald of the appearance of Bahá’u’lláh. All the believers of God and the maid-servants of the Merciful must summon the people to the Kingdom and be the means of the guidance of their souls. They must live and conduct themselves in such a manner so that they may become distinguished above other people in sanctity, prayerfulness and humility. I hope that thou mayest attain to this station and become the cause of the diffusion of the Manifest Light.
(Translated by Ahmad Sohrab, August 16, 1913, Ramleh, Egypt. Received in Honolulu, September 15, 1913)
O thou dear daughter!
Thy letter was received. It became the cause of infinite rejoicing for it expressed eloquently thy faith and thy turning thy face toward the Kingdom of God. This light of guidance which is ignited in the lamp of thy heart must become more brilliant day by day and shed its light to all parts. Therefore, if thou travelest toward Japan unquestionably Divine confirmations shall descend upon thee.
Convey the utmost kindness … on my behalf and say: The doors of the Kingdom of God are open, the Call of the Lord of the Kingdom is raised, the Bestowals of the Almighty are endless and the effulgence of the Sun of Reality has illumined the East and the West. In such a time patience and tranquility are not allowable. Thou must engage with infinite joy and happiness in the mention of the Forgiving Lord.
(Translated by Ahmad Sohrab, October 31, 1913, Ramleh, Egypt. Received in Brooklyn, New York, January 1914)
O thou my dear daughter!
Thy letter was received. It imparted great happiness. Praise be to God that that dear daughter is sacrificing herself in the path of Bahá’u’lláh and enduring every difficulty. It is now more advisable for thee to depart directly to Japan and while there be engaged in the diffusion of the fragrances of God. From there thou mayest return to India and from India to the Holy Land.
Today the greatest of all divine bestowals is teaching the Cause of God for it is fraught with confirmations. Every teacher is confirmed and is favored at the Divine Threshold. In the estimation of the Ideal King, the army which is in the front of the battlefield is encircled with the glances of His mercifulness and in the sight of the Divine Farmer, the sower of the seed is accepted and favored. I hope that thou mayest be like unto a realm conquering army and a farmer, therefore thy voyage to Japan is preferred to everything else. Still thou are perfectly free.
(Mount Carmel, Haifa, August 4, 1914. Received in Geneva, Switzerland, August 22, 1914)
O thou heavenly daughter!
Thy letter through Mr. Hannen was received from Japan; likewise the letters of Mr. Fukuta. The contents of both letters imparted exceeding joy, for each word was an eloquent tongue explaining the wonders of the Love of God and elucidating the story of the attraction of the heart with the Breaths of the Holy Spirit.
Praise be to God that thou hast become assisted to promulgate the Word of God in Japan. Ere long this circle in Japan will be enlarged obtaining heavenly blessings. God says in the glorious Qur’an: “A seed, growing out of it seven ears, and God is able to double this for whomsoever He willeth.” This verse means: Whenever the Word of Truth is proclaimed, it is like unto a seed, which sown in a pure soil brings forth seven ears and every ear produces one hundred kernels, and God says again that for whomsoever He desireth, He will double this number, that is, He will make the seven hundred kernels fourteen hundred.
Now I hope that thy call in Japan may be like unto that seed, so that it may obtain heavenly blessing and benediction, and the souls be educated and taught the oneness and singleness of God, the truthfulness of the prophets and the usefulness of the Divine Teachings. An answer is written to the letters of Mr. Fukuta and forwarded. Present it to him.
(Translated by Ahmad Sohrab, Haifa, October 27, 1916. Received in Tokyo, February 7, 1917)
O thou daughter of the Kingdom!
Thy letter dated July 15, 1916 was received. Its contents indicated that thou hast organized a meeting in Japan. Consider thou what a great favor God hast bestowed that such spiritual meetings are being held in Tokyo and such heavenly gifts are being distributed.
God says in the Qur’an: “The example of the people of faith is like unto a field which obtains freshness and verdancy from the rain descending from the clouds, attaining to full fruition and finding the blessings of the Kingdom. There is no doubt that day by day it will grow and develop and in the end the ears of the sheaves will be laden with God’s benediction bringing forth one hundred fold.”
Now, ye are the fields of the plain of Reality and are under the protection of the educative rays of the Sun of Truth. At every moment ye obtain a new vitality from the rain of divine bestowals and ere long ye will produce full grown seeds which are blessed by the care and attention of the Divine Farmer. There is no doubt that such will be the end.
Convey on my behalf the utmost longing and greeting to the friends residing in Tokyo as well as the recently arrived travelers and say to them: All the individuals of humanity are farmers. Every soul sows a certain kind of seed, but at the season of the harvest there will be gathered no result except the seeds which are sown by the believers of God. That alone will obtain heavenly blessings. Reflect that His Holiness Christ and His Holiness Muhammad scattered such holy seeds the fruits of which are being gathered until now, but all the other farmers were finally doomed to regret and disappointment.
(Translated by Ahmad Sohrab, Haifa, October 30, 1916. Received in Tokyo February 17, 1917)
O thou daughter of the Kingdom!
Although your letter has not yet been received, yet we do answer it. Praise be to God, that in Japan thou hast been assisted in the accomplishment of a distinguished service. Thou hast raised the Call of the Divine Kingdom and hast led the people to an illumined world and a heavenly Cause. Thou hast become the cause of enlightenment and the wisher for the education of human souls. For those regions are in sheer need of Divine Teachings and are endowed with sufficient capability. Those souls must be emancipated from the obscurity of blind imitations and be illumined by the light of heavenly instructions. Whosoever arises for such a work, divine confirmations shall assist him and the power of the Kingdom shall be made manifest.
Effort must be exerted that the East and West may be reconciled, that the darkness of bigotry may vanish, that the unity of mankind may be made manifest and that East and West, like unto two longing souls, may embrace each other in the utmost love, for all are the sheep of God and God is the Real Shepherd and is kind to every one.
In accordance with the wish of the attracted maid servant of God to the love of God, Mrs. Maxwell, go thou to Canada and stay there for a time and then hasten back to Japan for in Japan you will be assisted and exalted. Some letters are enclosed for the friends in Japan. Forward them.
(Translated by Shoghi Rabbani, Haifa, December 27, 1918. Received in Montclair, New Jersey, March 8, 1919)
O thou daughter of the Kingdom!
Thy letters were received. The travel to Japan was in the utmost necessity. Thou hast undoubtedly met the attracted maid servant of God, Mrs. Maxwell before sailing to Japan, for that maid servant of God is ablaze with the Fire of the love of God. Whosoever meets her feels from her association the susceptibilities of the Kingdom. Her company uplifts and develops the soul.
Thou didst well to travel to Japan for the seed thou hast sown needs watering. Capable souls are found in Japan; the Breath of the Merciful is necessary to stir and enliven them and to bestow a spiritual liveliness. A blind soul is there but is in the utmost enkindlement and likewise a priest lives there and is endowed with great capacity. I hope that thou wilt find the doors flung open and become the cause of the guidance of souls.
Convey on my behalf the utmost love and kindness to the maid servants of God, Elizabeth Stevens and Maud Gaudreaux. Through the bounties and blessings of God, I supplicate that Mr. Weirs may become attracted to the Divine Kingdom and may be so enkindled with the love of God that he may illumine the surrounding regions.
Of the death of Richard Potter we were made infinitely sad, but that nightingale of the Kingdom has flown to the rose garden of the Kingdom, and that drop returned to the limitless ocean. That wanderer has ascended to his original abode. On his behalf I supplicate from the Threshold of Oneness pardon and forgiveness.
Convey on my behalf to the maid servants of God, Miss Ragina Sunshine, Mrs. Louise Smith and Louise Bosch the wonderful Abhá greetings. I have entreated and supplicated to the Abhá Kingdom and have begged for those maid servants of the Merciful unbounded blessings, that each may unloosen an eloquent tongue and engage in the commemoration of the Beloved of the world.