Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Ancient One Photo

One of the most well known photos of Meher Baba is known among Baba lovers as "The Ancient One Photo." It was taken in 1925, the year Baba began his silence.

1960s style Ancient One poster
First of all, I had to ask a friend to remind me why this photo is called this. The reason turns out to be that in the 1960s a small poster of Baba with this picture was distributed that said: "I am the Ancient One. I was Rama, I was Krishna, I was this one, I was that one. And now I am Meher Baba."

I don't know who originally created this poster [see post-note at bottom], which gave the photo its name, and associated the image with "the ancient one," a word that was new to people then, especially in the West. But it seems likely to me that this person didn't miss the coincidence that this particular image looks strikingly like many people's impression of what Jesus looked like at the same age (probably around 32 when the photo was taken; Jesus was crucified at 33) - giving the word 'ancient' additional meaning.

The image was even in the 1969 film documentary Woodstock, stapled to a telephone pole. This image from the film is lifted from A Tapestry of Meher Baba's Connections with the West.

In the mid 1960s, posters with this image were printed in very high contrast, probably due to the quality of inexpensive printing at the time. I don't know the reason. But it was years before I myself saw this image in anywhere near the quality of the actual original photograph.

As seen in the 1960s                                             As seen today

Some people (myself included) have noticed a resemblance between this picture of Baba and the famous image of Jesus on the Shroud of Turin, which to my knowledge Baba told Elizabeth Patterson was the actual burial shroud of Jesus.

Since I was a boy, I myself have seen Baba at this age in another famous image, taken accidentally by a Chinese photographer taking photos of melting snow. When he later saw the image of Christ, he famously turned to Christianity. The full story is here. When I first saw this image on the wall at my Dad's chiropractor's office, I wondered why he had a photo of Baba on his wall. For those who can't see the image clearly, as some have trouble, a Christian painting of the image is put to the right of it.

The Ancient One in the snow

The Ancient One photo is not the only image of Baba where he appeared in our image of Jesus at about the same age.

But for all these terrific images of Baba as this one and Baba as that one, my favorite images of Baba will always be Baba as Baba.

Post note 2-17-14

From emailing I discovered that the Ancient One poster was designed by Rick Chapman and Allan Cohen of Meher Baba Information in 1967. Chapman designed the Don't Worry--Be Happy poster and card a year or so after that. Here is a pertinent excerpt from Mr. Chapman's reply to my email:
Upon return from India in 1967, I bunked with Allan Cohen until I found my own apartment in Berkeley. We started Meher Baba Information as a way to offer people a way to follow up after listening to radio or watching television shows mentioning Baba, of which we had a slew in the late summer of 1967. Our first printing was the Ancient One poster, on newsprint. After some time, a year or two or so, I created the "Don't Worry--Be Happy!" poster and card after hearing a Baba-lover speculate on the idea.
– Rick Chapman, Feb. 2014, in correspondence with Chris Ott
An early printing touched by Baba


  1. When I went into Baba's Jhopdi at Meherabad, I saw this photo of him there, chosen presumably because it was taken around 1925, when Baba began his silence. Such a rich phase of his work!

  2. Looking at the poster and the information on the bottom, I'm assuming it was created by Rick Chapman at Meher Baba Information in Berkeley..

    1. Yes, I emailed him and have added a note at the bottom.

  3. I enjoyed this entry... yes for me as well this is my internal image of Jesus . I am also particularly drawn to Baba on the donkey..

  4. I believe the photo above (under where you say "The Ancient One photo is not the only image of Baba where he appeared in our image of Jesus at about the same age") is known as the "Young Christ" photo of Meher Baba.