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[Concerning claims that D. T. Suzuki’s wife was a Baha’i. ] 

Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 32/2: 249–281 
© 2005 Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture
Thomas A. Tweed
American Occultism and Japanese Buddhism
Albert J. Edmunds, D. T. Suzuki, and Translocative History

Beatrice’s own religious identity seems to have shifted in some ways over the 
course of her adult life. As late as 1928, Daisetsu wrote to his wife about the 
importance of having “a religious faith”: “You have not got a religion yet. Try 
to take hold of it, it is worth your hard seeking for” (SDZ, vol. 36, pp. 
478–79). Beatrice’s mother, Emma Erskine Hahn, had been one of the early 
American converts to Baha’i on the East Coast, and some scholars of the Baha’i 
faith have claimed Beatrice as well for that tradition.20 For example, one 
history of the Baha’i faith in Japan notes that Beatrice knew Agnes Baldwin 
Alexander (1875–1971), a prominent Baha’i in Japan, and it claims that Suzuki 
told the potter Bernard Leach (1887–1979) “that his wife was a Baha’i” (Sims 
1989, p. 84).21 One reference in a 1912 periodical claimed that Beatrice also 
translated the Baha’i Message into Japanese, though this seems doubtful, and, 
in 1907, before
18. On Hanseikai see Thelle 1987, pp. 199–202.
19. On Vetterling see Tweed 2000, pp. 58–60 and Tweed and Tworkov 1991, pp. 
6–7. See also Andrei Vashestov’s introduction to Swedenborg the Buddhist 
(Vetterling 2003, pp. xiii–xxxi).
20. For a history of those early Baha’i converts see Stockman 1985.
21. For her account of missionary efforts in Japan see Alexander 1977.

tweed: american occultism and japanese buddhism                                 
| 257

they were married, Beatrice and her future husband attended the Greenacre 
summer retreat in Eliot, Maine, where they would have encountered Baha’is.22 
Yet it seems fair to say that she was not Baha’i. She affirmed Zen and Shingon 
Buddhism and expressed enduring interest in American occult traditions. She 
studied with Shaku Sōen, the Rinzai Zen priest; and, as her husband’s diary 
for 9 June 1929 indicates, Beatrice took the Bodhisattva vows in a Shingon 
ceremony at Tōji. Yet, acknowledging her occult interests, a few years earlier 
Beatrice had described her own religious affiliation this way for the 
twenty-fifth reunion of her class at Radcliff: “I am a member of the 
Theosophical Society and am interested in Christian Science.” She also went on 
to note that “I am co-editor, with my husband, of ‘The Eastern Buddhist’ and 
for nearly every number I write an article on Buddhism.”23 Even if Beatrice and 
Daisetsu not only shared a commitment to Buddhism but also an interest in 
occult traditions—I will say more about that later—there still is no evidence 
that she was the source of his interest in Swedenborg.
22. On the notice about the Lane translation see Star of the West, vol. 2, no. 
18 (Feb. 1912), p. 13. For the information about Greenacre I am indebted to 
Wayne Yokoyama: Personal correspondence, Wayne Yokoyama, 6 April 2004. Yokoyama 
bases this judgment on the records in the archival sources in Suzuki’s Pine 
Hill library in Kamakura. For an early attempt at a history (and assessment) of 
Greenacre see Richardson (1931).

Richardson (1931) : The rise and fall of the Parliament of Religions at 
Greenacre. Open Court
46: 129–66.

Understood properly, all man's problems are essentially spiritual in nature.

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