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36

 

THE ENGLISH SCENE -

EARLY & LATE

 

by Delia De Leon

I

 

In the Autumn of 1931 an event of great spiritual importance took place. Shri Sadguru Meher Baba (as He was then called) sent a cable to Meredith Starr, saying that He was leaving for the West and would be at the Centre, East Challacombe, Coombe Martin, North Devon, in September.

 

Meredith and his wife Margaret had stayed in India at Baba's Ashram in Toka in 1928 for six months, He had then sent them back to England with precise instructions on the work they were to do, and He told them He would guide them, and at the ripe moment he would come. They had been at the Centre for two and a half years when this cable arrived.

 

At this time Meredith was in his early forties with a very alive face and piercing eyes. He had a great deal of occult knowledge, and was a prodigious reader. His wife Margaret and her brother Kenneth Ross helped in the running of the place.

 

Those who went there found an old farmhouse run on simple, almost austere, lines, four hours' meditation during the day, washing in cold water, helping in some way in the chores. The food was vegetarian, and there was a well stocked library; beautiful walks were available in the N. Devon countryside.

 

Meredith told eager listeners stories of his stay in India and about the great Master Meher Baba, saying that it was an experience he would not have missed for anything in the world. Certainly at this time he accepted Baba with wholehearted love and devotion. To quote his own words, "We only live to love and serve Him."

 

None of those drawn to this place (including myself) realized at the time the spiritual significance of this event, which must in a sense have initiated a cosmic upheaval, for the Avatar of the age to set foot for the first time on Western soil. Though He landed at Marseilles with some close Indian disciples on September 11th, He was brought straight to London by Herbert Davy and Meredith Starr. He stayed one night at the Davy home and returned there again after a shortened stay at East Challacombe.

 

Of these early disciples, the ones destined to play a main part in the development of Baba’s work in England were, among many names, Will and Mary Backett, C.B. Purdom, (later to write Baba's biography), Kitty Davy, Margaret Craske and myself. Will and Mary Backett were Sufis and Mary had studied with Inayat Khan himself. They both had an old world air and Mary wore garments woven and made by herself, looking always as if she had stepped out of the New Testament. She had a great sense of humor. They lived a simple life in the country and created in their home such a warm loving atmosphere that people flocked to be with them and hear about Baba. To their great delight Baba visited their home in Kent, taking twenty-two people with Him in a chartered bus, and Mary provided tea for all.

 

C.B. Purdom was a man of many parts ― accountant, author, critic, and at the time of meeting Baba he was editor of the weekly magazine called Everyman. In it he wrote a series of articles about a plan of life, and two of these were about Baba. Being a practical mystic Charles Purdom was a man of profound wisdom.

 

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