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31

 

The Meher Baba Group

 

A Sociological Study
by Filis Frederick

 

Ed. Note:  In 1956 I took a Sociological course at N. Y .U., in which we were asked to write a paper on any group in which we had been involved, as we were studying the interaction of people in social groups. I chose, of course, the Meher Baba "Monday Night Group," from which, historically, arose the connections which formed subsequent Baba groups all over the United States in the 40's and on into the 80's. Our first experiments with the democratic format have now blossomed into many groups, some full-fledged non-profit corporations, which maintain annual elections, centers, bookstores, Sahavases, etc . . . all devoted to Avatar Meher Baba. The first of these, which Adele Wolkin, Bruce Hoffman and myself founded in 1969, was Baba House, in New York City.

 

Looking back at our early struggles, amusing as they seem now, I see a pattern for a New Age definitely emerging with Baba's insistence on democratic procedure. As my favorite Baba quote states, "Humility is at least as important as utility." In this world of less-then-perfect egos, the not-yet-perfect democratic structure is still the best answer — not only for religious groups, but many other types of groups — political, intellectual, scientific, philanthropic — to the constant problem of how to get work done without the stranglehold of the one versus the many. On the religious side there is always the struggle between the inner-directed and outer-directed devotees, the Protestant versus the Catholic, the mystic who listens to the inner voice, and the pragmatist who serves an outer hierarchy. Both have their place and both have their dangers. The danger of the inner voice is that it can become egomaniacal and self-deluded; the danger of the outer order is that it can become a crusading, crushing power structure. It is the old, eternal struggle between the love of power and the power of love.

 

"The life of Christ is not an exhibition of over-ruling power.
Its glory is for those who can discern it and not for the world.
Its power lies in its absence of force.
It has decisiveness of a supreme ideal,
and that is why the history of the world divides at this point."

 

Alfred North Whitehead, Religion in the Making

 

 

Although Whitehead is using the word "Christ" in its orthodox sense, i.e., referring to the man Jesus, it is more true to say that history always divides into two streams every time the Avatar or Christ appears among mankind . . . those who go forward with him and those who stay behind. In esoteric philosophy, Christ is the office, not the man. All the great religions of the world are the reliquary crystallizations around the persona and teachings of such a Divine Person, who is the Christ, or head of the true spiritual hierarchy of his time. This hierarchy, of course, has nothing to do with formal orthodox or religious offices but is that actual body of illumined or God-realized souls always present in mankind. In the evolutionary mass of souls struggling toward higher consciousness, the proportion of advanced souls is infinitesimal, but ever-present.

 

What the world calls a 'faith' or religion is a slow accretion of many things; first and foremost, memories of the living Avatar, of his life and teachings; relics and sacred places and days; the slow evolution of a dogma: i.e., intellectual and philosophical interpretation of the original teachings and events, prayers and rituals, an event priesthood and church. Few or none of these things exist during the life of the actual Avatar. His life follows a certain pattern as foreshadowed in the primitive myths of Divine Hero or Saviour; which, though it differs for each Age or Cycle and ethnic group in which he appears, is basically the same. It is the example of the life supremely lived for the sake of others. Eternity moving within the circumscribed circle of time and

 

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