Mason Remey

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Charles Mason Remey (15 May 1874 - 4 Feb 1974) was an eminent and controversial American Bahai with a distinguished life of service to the Bahai Faith. In 1960 Remey claimed to be the second Guardian of the Bahai Faith (see [1]). Because of this controversial claim, he and his followers split from the majority of Bahais who believed that no appointment had been made, and they mutually excommunicated each other as Covenant-breakers. Acquaintances knew him as Mason Remey.


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Contents

Early life

Born in Burlington, Iowa, on 15 May 1874, Mason was the eldest son of Rear Admiral George Collier Remey and Mary Josephine Mason Remey, the daughter of Charles Mason, the first Chief Justice of Iowa. One of his ancestors, John Howland, came to America as a pilgrim aboard the Mayflower.

Charles Mason Remey’s parents raised him in the Episcopal Church. Remey was introduced to the Bahai Faith in 1899 by May Ellis Bolles while in Paris, France.

Remey trained as an architect at Cornell University (1893-1896) and the Ecole des Arts in Paris, France (1896-1903).

After declaring as a Bahai

The Bahai architect

Mason Remey was a favoured architect within the Bahai leadership. He was asked to design the Australian and Ugandan Bahai House of Worship which still stand today and are the mother temples for Australasia and Africa respectively. Upon the request of Shoghi Effendi, he also provided designs for a Bahai House of Worship in Tehran, for Haifa, and the Shrine of Abdul-Baha, however only the Haifa temple was approved before the death of Shoghi Effendi, and none have so far been built.

Under Abdul-Baha

Abdul-Baha praised Remey’s efforts and character in a Tablet to Corrine True, published in the Bahai newsletter “Star of the West” in August 1920. What follows is one of the many examples of Abdul-Baha’s affection and love for Mason Remey:
"Praise be unto God, that the model of the Mashrekol-Askar made by Mr. [Louis J.] Bourgeois was approved by his honor, Mr. Remey, and selected by the Convention. His honor, Mr. Remey is, verily, of perfect sincerity. He is like unto transparent water, filtered; lucid and without any impurity. He worked earnestly for several years, but he did not have any personal motive. He has not attachment to anything except to the Cause of God. This is the spirit of the firm and this is the characteristic of the sincere." (Star of the West. Volume 11, No. 9, p. 139)

Remey’s attachment to the Cause was well known at the time. He traveled extensively to promote the Bahai Faith during the ministry of Abdul-Baha. In God Passes By, Shoghi Effendi recorded that Remey and his Bahai companion, Howard Struven, were the first Bahais to circle the globe teaching the Faith. Remey visited Abdul-Baha in the Holy Land several times and received numerous Tablets from him. “Star of the West”, a Bahai periodical, published many of these letters during the years 1913-1922. Abdul-Baha’s high regard for Remey is evident in several letters sent to him.

"O my dear son! Numerous letters have been received from you and their contents have all been conducive to happiness. Praise be to God, thou art confirmed in service to the Kingdom, art promulgating divine teachings, art raising the call of the oneness of mankind, art detaching the souls from ignorant racial prejudices, art summoning them to the investigation of truth, art showing forth unto them the light of guidance and art offering them the chalice of the wine of the love of God. This blessed purpose of thine is the magnet of the confirmations of the Abha Kingdom." (July 1919 – translation by Shoghi Efffendi)
"O thou herald of the Covenant! Thy letters have been received and an answer has been written. Verily thou art firm in the Covenant, art self-sacrificing, art the son of the Kingdom and dost deserve the confirmations of His Holiness Baha Ullah." (December 1920 – translation by Shoghi Effendi)

A prolific writer, Remey wrote numerous published and personal articles promoting the Bahai Faith, including Abdul-Baha – The Center of the Covenant and the five volume A Comprehensive History of the Bahai Movement (1927), The Bahai Revelation and Reconstruction (1919), Constructive Principles of The Bahai Movement (1917), and The Bahai Movement: A Series of Nineteen Papers (1912) are a few of the titles of the many works Remey produced while Abdul-Baha was still alive. Remey's life was recorded in considerable details in his diaries which in 1940 he provided copies and selected writings to several public libraries. Included in most of the collections were the letters and tablets Abdul-Baha wrote to him.

Remey’s memoir of his final visit with Abdul-Baha in 1921 records the words Abdul-Baha’s spoke to him at that time.
"I have adopted you as my son. You have to appreciate this favor very much indeed. One should see that you are living according to the requirements of this sonship. You should be aware of your responsibilities. My prayers will help you. I always pray for you." (Abdul-Baha to Remey, 1921: Final Visit in Tiberias, Folio 2, "A Pilgrimage to the Holy Land: Reminisces of the Master, 1921", pp.127-129)

Under Shoghi Effendi

Shoghi Effendi was also aware of Abdul-Baha and Remey’s relationship. Shoghi Effendi translated some of Abdul-Baha’s letters to Remey, and may have served as translator during their meetings. After Abdul-Baha’s passing, Remey made his eighth pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There he met with Shoghi Effendi, who showed him the original text of Abdul-Baha’s Will and Testament and provided him with a copy of it.

In one of his diaries Remey recorded his reaction to his first reading of the Master’s Will and Testament:
“Never have I read anything which gave me the joy and inspiration that this Holy document produced in my heart. It filled my heart with assurance that the Cause was safely guarded and gave me a fixed direction toward which to turn and a continuous center about which we are all to revolve so long as we are in this world. I rejoice at the Bahai standard of excellence which it established…” (“A Pilgrimage to the Holy Land,” 1922, pp 8-9)

At the end of his 1922 pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Shoghi Effendi handed Remey a packet, sealed and signed by himself sometime in the months after Abdul-Baha’s passing. This packet was found among Remey’s stored papers after his death in 1974.

The packet’s outside envelope contained these handwritten words:
Coagulated drops of Baha Ullah's All-Sacred Blood and Ringlets of His Most Blessed Locks presented as my most precious possession to Abdul-Baha's "dear son" Mr. Charles Mason Remey as a token of my Bahai affection and brotherly love. Shoghi
On the packet’s inner sealed envelope was handwritten:
Of all the remnants of Baha Ullah's all-Sacred Person, the most hallowed, the most precious, confidently delivered into the hands of my brother and co-worker in the Cause of God, Mr. Remey. Shoghi March 1922. Archived Photo courtesy of Neal Chase

Remey lived for some time in Washington, D.C., in the 1930s and 1940s, enjoying his family’s high social standing. In 1932 Remey married Gertrude Heim Klemm. She died a year later. Little is known about their relationship, and Remey never married again.

In 1950 Remey moved his residence from Washington, D.C., to Haifa, Israel, at the request of Shoghi Effendi. In January 1951, Shoghi Effendi issued his historic Proclamation announcing the formation of the International Bahai Council (IBC), the evolution of which he described as: “this first embryonic International Institution, marking its development into officially recognized Bahai Court, its transformation into duly elected body, its efflorescence into Universal House (of) Justice ." (Messages to the Bahai World, p.7-8)

Shoghi Effendi announced Remey’s appointment as the President of the International Bahai Council (IBC) in a cablegram dated 2 Mar 1951. At the end of the year, 24 Dec 1951, Shoghi Effendi appointed Remey to be among the first contingent of the Hands of the Cause of God.

Aftermath of Shoghi Effendi's passing

When Shoghi Effendi died in 1957, the Hands of the Cause met in a private Conclave at Bahji in Haifa, and determined that he hadn't appointed a successor. They decided that since such a situation wasn't provided for in any Explicit Text (where a Guardian doesn't appoint a successor), that it would need to be reviewed and adjudicated upon by the Universal House of Justice, which hadn't been elected yet. Remey signed a unanimous declaration of the Hands that Shoghi Effendi had died "without having appointed his successor" (see here).

Remey had always insisted on the importance of finding a new Guardian, and held the fundamental belief that there must and will always be a Guardian. Common belief amongst the other Hands of the Cause was that this could not happen as the Guardian must be an Aghsan, a term used to describe the male descendants of Baha Ullah of which there were none remaining. In 1960, Remey himself proclaimed to be the Guardians on the grounds that:

  • He was appointed by virtue of being the President of the First International Bahai Council (the "embryonic Universal House of Justice" and his belief that only a Guardian can lead the House). The original Persian cablegram notifiying that he would be president used the term “Rais” (meaning in both Arabic and Persian “president” or “boss”) of the IBC. “Rais” is the same term used by Abdul-Baha in His Will and Testament in the passage referring to the Guardian as the “sacred head and distinguished member” of the Universal House of Justice.
  • He claimed to have been adopted by Abdul-Baha in a private meeting, and being called "My son" was a public recognition, thereby making him an adopted descendant of Baha Ullah, or Aghsan.

Given that he did not renounce his attempt, the Hands of the Cause and Remey formed a schism in the religion, each excommunicating the other as covenant breakers. Remey formed a group under the title Orthodox Bahais Under the Hereditary Guardian.

Although Remey was initially unsuccessful to garner more than a hundred supporters, the French National Spiritual Assembly, led by Joel Bray Marangella, formed a narrow majority to support Remey and was disbanded. Marangella was one of Remey's staunchest supporters for a few years before claiming to be the third Guardian after Remey had appointed him.

Successors

From before 1969, through Remey's death in 1974, and beyond, there was a dispute over succession that divided Remey's followers into several groups. Only three remain as the others appear to be defunct.

Joel Bray Marangella

After his Proclamation in 1960, Remey went on to form the Second International Bahai Council, and appointed Joel Bray Marangella to be its President. In 1962 Remey gave Marangella a sealed envelope, with instructions to open it when the time was right. In 1965 Mason Remey called for the Council to become active, and Marangella opened the sealed letter, which was a hand-written note by Mason appointing Marangella as his successor. Shortly afterward Remey deactivated the Council. Once Marangella shared this appointment in 1969, he attracted his own following around himself while Remey was still alive called the Orthodox Bahai Faith.

Donald Harvey

In 1967 Remey publicly declared that he was choosing Donald Harvey to be his successor whilst just two years later Marangella made his Proclamation to being the Third Guardian, asserting that when Remey "activated" the Second International Bahai Council he ceased being the Guardian at that moment, since, he claimed, there could only be one Guardian alive at a time.

Remey never commented on the matter further than stating that, according to the Will and Testament of Abdul-Baha, the Guardian is the Guardian for life. He never denounced Maragella for his actions, despite being openly attacked by him, and publicly ridiculed.

Those who followed Donald Harvey accepted his appointed successor Jacques Shogomonian who now claims to be the Fourth Guardian of the Bahai Faith under the group called "Bahais Loyal to the Fourth Guardian".

Pepe Remey

In Florence, Italy, 1964, Remey adopted, as his son, an Italian Bahai named Joseph Pepe who he had known since the 1950s. Pepe served as Remey's personal secretary until Remey's death in 1974. In his will, Remey left Pepe "all things tangible and intangible", which some believe included the Guardianship.

Although Pepe never went about collecting believers around himself, he was proactive in publicising details about his adopted father's life. Leland Jensen, a supporter of Remey, put forward Pepe as the third Guardian since neither of Mason's other two appointees were sons. He pointed to page 14 in the Will and Testament of Abdul-Baha that states the successor must be an Aghsan, referring to male descendants of Baha Ullah. Being Remey's son and being appointed, Jensen claimed, made the other non-hereditary appointments irrelevant, especially due to the fact that Mason referred to his own Guardianship as the "Hereditary Guardianship".

Pepe never accepted being the Guardian for Jensen's Bahais Under the Provisions of the Covenant (BUPC) or being seated as the president of Jensen's Second International Bahai Council. Letters written by Pepe Remey to individual believers contradict each other stating in some that he was never a Bahai nor the Guardian, and in others that he had been a Bahai since the early 50's when he met Mason and that he was Mason's successor. One of Jensen's followers, Neal Chase, claims to have been adopted and appointed privately by Pepe, and that he is now the fourth Guardian and president of the BUPC's Second International Bahai Council.

Death

In April 1974, Mason Remey died at the age of 99 in Florence, Italy. The funeral was organized by his secretary/companion Giuseppe Pepe with the assistance of the American consulate in Florence.

References

  • Abdul-Baha (1913-1922). Star of the West. Bahai periodical
  • Abdul-Baha (1944). The Will and Testament of Abdul-Baha, Bahai Publishing Trust, Wilmette, Illinois 60091.
  • Effendi, Shoghi (1971). Messages to the Bahai World, 1950-1957, Bahai Publishing Trust, Wilmette, Illinois 60091.
  • Effendi, Shoghi (1974). God Passes By, Bahai Publishing Trust, Wilmette, Illinois 60091
  • Remey, Charles Mason (1960). Proclamation of Guardianship. Retrieved February 5,2006.
  • Remey, Charles Mason (1921). "A Pilgrimage to the Holy Land: Reminisces of the Master, 1921". Johns Hopkins University, Special collections
  • Remey, Charles Mason (1922) “A Pilgrimage to the Holy Land,” Bahai Archives of Washington, D.C.,
  • Spataro, Francis C. (2003). Charles Mason Remey and the Bahai Faith, Tover Publications, Queens, NY 11427-2116. 2003 ISBN 0-9671656-3-6.

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