Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Meher Spiritual Center

Two of my friends recently, though at separate times, expressed that they were under the impression that the Meher Spiritual Center in Myrtle Beach was originally Meher Baba's idea. This is a common misconception. While the Meher Center is a lovely place, enjoyed by many Baba lovers, it was not Meher Baba's idea. It was the idea of Elizabeth Patterson and Norina Matchabelli, while living with Baba in India, and wishing to find some meaningful work to do for Baba after parting from him.

This is Baba's original response to the suggestion in 1938 that a "Universal Center" be created for him somewhere in the world:
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In Panchgani on the morning of March 31st, Baba sat in seclusion in his room from ten to eleven o'clock. Later that day, Norina and Elizabeth suggested to Baba that if he had a "Universal Center" his messages could be conveyed to other centers throughout the world. And if he was more publicly known, enthusiastic workers would have a chance to actively spread his messages among the masses. In reply, Baba stated:
It is a good idea indeed, but by attaching to it great significance or giving it too much importance, it develops into a regular organization or system, and I do not wish to limit myself or bind myself with any such thing. I create things on a firm foundation and then pull them down. The more I make changes, the more changeless I am!
Neither do I want an organization, nor any society. That is exactly what I am afraid could happen. If such centers are allowed to prosper, they form themselves into organizations or societies. For that reason, I build structures and then demolish them. The more changes I make, the more unchangeable I become! Organizations are like the foam which brings unwanted things up to the surface of the sea, letting the real substance lie beneath, submerged in the depths.
(Lord Meher, 1986, print version, p. 2270)
If one reads on from that page in Lord Meher, the following day Baba continued on this discussion and gave a much longer explanation of the ways of an Avatar, and how those ways contrast with organizations.

After Norina and Elizabeth persisted in expressing their desire to Baba, he eventually consented and gave himself to it, giving them some conditions for its creation and lovingly visited it three times in the 1950s. My own interpretation of this relenting by Baba is said best by Baba's original biographer Charles Purdom, who wrote in his autobiography in 1951, "To be importunate with [Baba] usually meant that he gave the answer desired, just as any devotee who greatly wished to take any action was, after warning, allowed to do it" (Life Over Again, J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., London, 1951, p. 258). Baba was, as he said on numerous occasions, the slave of the love of his lovers. Of his western mandali Baba once quipped in Italy in 1933, "In the East people bow to my feet, but in the West my lovers want me to bow to them" (Meher Baba in Italy, directed by David Carter). As it is emblazoned on his emblem and over the threshold of his tomb,Baba is master in servitude. And as he said to Rick Chapman in 1966, "God proposes, but man disposes" (Meeting God in Human Form, White Horse Publishing, 2010, p. 232).

At the Center among friends having tea, 2013
Photo by Anthony Zois
The proposal by Elizabeth and Norina was not the first time Baba was approached with the idea of a Center. In August 1935, in reply to a letter from Darwin Shaw expressing his desire to establish a retreat for Meher Baba in America, Baba wrote back:
Whether that retreat on earth is established or not, I do really appreciate the spirit of love and brotherhood that has been awakened and consider it as a spiritual retreat already established within, which is much more substantial and real than any earthly home or structure. The true spirit is there, already awakened, and if it is fostered and kept up with warm feelings of love and brotherhood, it will eventually bear results that will be helpful in the development of spiritual understanding of life and things pertaining to life. And wherever such spirit of love and brotherhood exists, inner light and guidance invariably follow. (Lord Meher, 1986 print edition, p. 1969)
In 1957, referring to the many Baba centers in India (in 1962 there were 72 centers in Andhra), Baba said, "I do not object to having centers. There, lovers of Baba can meet and exchange their ideas and feelings of love for me." But Baba also said that he did not require Centers for his work. He once wrote to one man, "I have now shown you how to work. But bear in mind it is now all your own responsibility. You can establish 100 centers for Baba, and I will have no concern with any of them. You yourselves will be concerned with them. It is all your concern, not mine."

2 comments:

  1. informative as usual......

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  2. It has always been my understanding that MB asked Elizabeth Patterson, (such a dear heart) to look for a place that was pure virgin land; ( there is a list of details wanted by MB given to her) with water running and had the right atmosphere. She looked in many places in other states as well until it dawned on her that her father had a place that fit Baba's description; it was then given to her after she approached and asked her father for it. So it was an idea that MB gave to her and she took it to heart to make it happen. Then MB sent others to help; Kitty, Norina and others. And Baba was very pleased with it. Note: One of The first things Baba did when he 1st came to Myrtle Beach was meet with Ivy Duce to discuss Sufism; which later after much correspondence and time along with Don Stevens, was finally drafted and charted by MB; later to be called Sufism Reoriented. Baba wanted to establish 5 centers in the world, and we have 3 here that I know of. Prague,Oklahoma, Myrtle Beach SC, and Sufism Reoriented, CA. Please let me know if this information is inadequate. It is as I remember learning it over many years since the incredible Great 1969 Darshan period evolved onward.
    Thank you and Mahalo, Paul Morse from Hawaii.

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