Though our age is no different from any other in its need for the divine help, it has one unique feature — the camera and the printing press. This Avataric age will be unique in the possession of scriptures and sayings not recalled purely from memory but from actual dictations; of sacred images not derived solely from the artistic imagination, but from the photographer's lens. Barring unique destruction, future generations will know exactly how he looked and what he said on many occasions. It will also know, to a lesser degree, just how the 'movement' started, the first few roots of what, inevitably, will become another great world religion. Although Meher Baba has stated, 'I have come not to teach but to awaken,' and 'I am not come to establish any cult, society organization; nor even to establish a new religion. The religion that I shall give teaches the Knowledge of the One behind the many. The book that I shall make people read is the book of the heart that holds the key to the mystery of life. I shall bring about a happy blending of the head and the heart. I shall revitalize all religions and cults, and bring them together like beads on one string,' — it is inevitable that the pressure of history will condense his life and teachings into some new form of orthodoxy.
At the present time, there is no society, church or organization devoted to Meher Baba. He himself does not wish it and all such efforts have failed. Only one organization, a legal corporation called the Universal Spiritual League in America, Inc., with a branch in England, has been formed with his approval. It is purely a legal device, at present, to make his world travel possible, as the government of the U.S. demands sponsorship of all foreign visitors to these shores, Avatar or not. The League was notable in bringing him with twelve disciples to this country in 1952. He also owns no property at the present time.
There do exist however an unknown number of nuclei or groups of disciples and devotees throughout the world, particularly in the large centers of population such as Zurich, Paris, London, Athens, Los Angeles, New York, St. Petersburg and San Francisco, most of them cities which the Master has visited at different times.
As I have been a member of the 'New York Baba Group' or the 'Monday Night Group’ as it is sometimes called, for 14 years, I have chosen it for the subject of this paper. I have just sketched in the backdrop against which it might be seen historically some day. I make no apology for my beliefs regarding Meher Baba nor is this paper devoted to life or teachings primarily, — a growing literature exists, including many published discourses of the Master.
The evolution of our little group, such as it is, is typical of many devoted to Meher Baba. When he first came to the West, in 1931,1932,1933 and 1936, for the express purpose of contacting his 'Circle' disciples especially*, those who had met him and been profoundly moved by this spiritual contact, voluntarily decided to get together regularly and meditate on the Master and study his life and teachings. The first meetings were held fairly regularly at the home of the Buddhist scholar and philanthropist, Phelps Stokes, in his old home at 88 Grove Street, New York City, where the Master had been his guest for two weeks. In fact, the chair in which he had sat, in the little room at the top of the house, and where so many first had their glimpse of him, is still roped off and preserved as a shrine of sorts.
Some of those who came to these early meetings were John Bass, Agnes Bourne, Countess Nadine Tolstoy, Mrs. E. C. Patterson, Darwin Shaw, and Princess Norina Matchabelli. Meetings went on for several years, but soon the Master called many of this early group to his ashram in India. Another factor in the ending of these meetings was the defection of Mr. Stokes, the host. He had decided that Meher Baba was not the Avatar after all; rumour has it, because Baba took physical food. Apparently he felt a Master should live on prana alone!
In 1940**, after five years with Meher Baba in India, three women, Countess Nadine Tolstoy, Princess Matchabelli and Mrs. Patterson, were sent back to the U.S. with Baba’s definite instructions to carry on his work — i.e., to contact new people for him.
In this, these women succeeded admirably. They were an exceptional team. Mrs. Patterson, a member of New York society and a business woman in her own right, was the unobtrusive and quiet support of the other two in their public work. Princess Norina Matchabelli, wife of the Russian émigré, was Italian by birth. She was a woman of
*CF. Awakener, Vol 3, No. 1. P.1