Accompanying Baba on this trip were no books, no spiritual discourses, rituals, rules or dogmas. Baba's only spiritual baggage was that of his two close disciples, Rustom and Dadachanji — Ali was but a youngster — whose example of love and service to Baba meant so much to us then.
Baba came as the "Infinite Messenger" and Servant of Love at this particular "moment" in time. As the medium of expression for that love and service, he chose to travel four thousand miles across the ocean — not once, but many times!
I quote from writings of F. H. Dadachanji, one of Meher Baba's earliest and most devoted Indian disciples:
"Shri Meher Baba, after strenuous work in India over a period of fifteen years spent in preparing his Eastern group of disciples, came for the first time to the West in 1931. There he laid the foundation of the new phase of his work when he gathered around him the Western intimate group of disciples and planted the seed of spirituality in the lives of hundreds whom he contacted in Europe and the United States.
"In his own words — 'I have not come to teach but to awaken' — Shri Meher Baba qualified his spiritual mission in the world. In fact, he has come to reactivate in the heart of man the true experience of spirituality."
I. The Call
Early in 1931, my brother, Herbert, then a medical student in London, had been on the lookout for a quiet place, suitable for rest and meditation, to which he could go at Easter after end of term. By one of those strange strokes of destiny, he heard through a college friend of a spiritual retreat near Ilfracombe, North Devon, run by a Mr. Meredith Starr.
I too was in need of a suitable place to convalesce just as soon as I could leave London and my bed to which I was confined with a sharp attack of pleurisy. This retreat might be the answer. My brother and I decided he should write for details, then go down and investigate its possibilities and report back.
A good description of the retreat and its surroundings is the following taken from the Meher Gazette, 1929-30:
"This ashram is situated in one of the loveliest spots of England. Ilfracombe is the nearest railway station. We alight here and a bus takes us to the village of Coombe Martin which is nearest the farm. There we alight and climb up about a mile with the Atlantic Ocean on our left side. It will be convenient to use galoshes as we have to walk through soggy soil.