A TRUE FRIEND
A TRIBUTE BY LINDA ZAVALA
AFTER THREE YEARS of struggling with cancer, editor of The Awakener Magazine Filis Frederick died on March 19, 1987 in a suburb of Los Angeles, California. On the same day in India, when millions of lovers of God were celebrating "Guru Day", a day on which disciples traditionally pay homage to their Masters, Filis slipped into a coma and soon died quietly. From the first moment she met Meher Baba she fell in love with LOVE DIVINE and laid her life completely at His feet. On her service to Him she was like a "soldier in the army of Christ." Whether she was feeling weary or energetic, courageous or timid-she was always there with Him.
Phyllis was born in New York in 1915. J. George Frederick, Filis' father, was a writer-editor-publisher for various magazines and initiated the concept of market research. Filis' mother, Christine, after attending college and beginning a family, became involved in the upgrading of housekeeping practices and the liberation of women from kitchen drudgery, an era when lifestyles were radically changing. She went on to write two books on new housekeeping efficiency practices which were 'state of the art' manuals for 15 years and translated into eight languages. Filis grew up with her two sisters and brother in an atmosphere of reading and family discussions. At a very young age she began to write poems and plays and in her teens developed her writing and editing skills. She attended Radcliffe College and majored in philosophy and logic from Cornell University . Before long she became a writer-editor for "Vogue" magazine and a copywriter for various advertising magazines in New York City. Always creative, she also tried her hand at high fashion design and made up her creations to show designers. She was the originator of the baby-doll nightgown for women which was first featured at Macy's Department store, in New York.
One day in 1961 she decided to answer a blind news ad for a game designer. To her surprise she was asked to fly to Los Angeles for an interview with the Mattel Toy Company. She was accepted and moved to Los Angeles and worked for Mattel for 15 years. During this period she originated the concept of "painting by numbers" which was quite popular in the 50's and 60's. After retirement she continued to act as a game consultant.
As with all of us, there is our outer life and our inner life. In 1941, in New York City, Filis and Adele Wolkin met and became friends. They were both young seekers of the spiritual path even though they didn't quite know what that meant. Together, they went to philosophical, metaphysical and spiritual meetings of various kinds for about two years. Filis had been quite interested in Sri Ramakrishna. She recounts: "I used to go to the Ramakrishna Center in New York to hear Nikilananda. One Sunday as I looked at the big photo of Sri Ramakrishna, I was astonished to see no face, only brilliant white light and a sweet voice said, He is your Jesus. I turned my head and there walking swiftly out onto the platform was a man of medium stature, with a long mass of auburn hair, a small beard, gesturing hands, piercing eyes of grey blue. He began to speak in a Aramaic tongue. At the same moment I heard the meaning in English...the first lines of the Sermon on the Mount. His body was as real and solid as yours. I do not know how long I stared at him. When I awoke, Nikilananda was there chanting 'Shanti' and people were leaving. I went home in a daze. It was only two or three weeks later I got a card inviting me to hear Norina Matchabelli speak on Meher Baba at the Hotel Martinique. I had never heard of him, I do not know to this day how I got the card, but I went. No photo of Baba was there--but I recognized Norina instantly from another compelling 'prevision' of a woman in a turban. An invitation to visit their home brought me face to face with a small photo of Baba on the wall that looked the speaking image of 'My Jesus' I had seen at the center for Ramakrishna".
Filis narrates her meeting Baba's trio in the West: "I first met Baba's 'trio', Princess Norina Matchabelli, Countess Nadine Tolstoy and Mrs. Elizabeth Patterson in New York City in 1943. At the end of their stay in India in 1941, Baba had sent them West to work together to "spread His message of Love and Truth." They lived together in a duplex on East 67th Street. Norina gave the public talks on Baba, Nadine welcomed individual seekers, and Elizabeth quietly paid the bills. They were a unique blend of talent. temperament and nationality. Nadine was Russian, Norina Italian, Elizabeth American. When I met them I felt they were old and dear connections and became so close to them I was invited to live with them, which I did from 1944 to late 1946, when Baba recalled Elizabeth and Norina to India, just before the New Life. Nadine had already passed away.
"I shall always be grateful to these three women, for living and working with them prepared me in a very special way for meeting the Avatar. I cleared away some personal karma and learned some very valuable lessons in how to be with a super-conscious Being like Meher Baba. In the West we grow up with so many misconceptions about the spiritual path. One learns, with the Avatar, Who is so unique in His way of working to throw most of these out the window.
"It was all over. My heart was Baba's. I accepted him as the Christ, from deep within."
"Thereafter, I waited. A great deal of personal life-turmoil was gone through, but through it all, letters, cables came from the Beloved, including a precious 'first letter' saying He was happy I had come to Him. In 1948 Norina and Elizabeth were called back to India. Norina asked if I had any message for Him. I said, "Ask Him if I can come to India." She wrote me that for two weeks Baba went around asking everyone about me, Norina, Elizabeth, Donkin, first saying He'd send for me, then not; finally He said He'd send for me "later." Later--turned out to be the 1962 Sahavas!!!"
Filis and other early Baba lovers from the West had made several trips to Myrtle Beach to prepare the land "given in love" by Elizabeth Patterson's father for Baba's "spiritual home in the West." All those contacted by Baba's trio eagerly awaited meeting Meher Baba in human form. No doubt the waiting and inward preparation from 1943 to 1952 must have felt interminable. Finally after years of seeing Baba within, she met Him in person. When Baba came to Myrtle Beach Center in 1952 only a few people came. Filis and Adele were among the first: "In the Lagoon Cabin Baba spelled out on His alphabet board, ‘I have heard so much about you both from Elizabeth, Norina, Donkin and Margaret, and I heard you from within. I feel very happy that at last I have seen you...When you know Baba you will love Me like a little child. I am a child, (and) a grown-up man. I love humor, I love to tease and work hard here and at various places while talking to you now. Do you love Baba honestly? 'Yes, Baba!' both replied. 'What can I do for you?' Adele asked. 'What more can you do for the Beloved--I want love, nothing else! Love Me and let God love us. That is what I want. When you love Baba, God will love you and God's loving means everything. So Baba is very happy. One who really is the humblest of the humble is the greatest of the great. But it has to be in all honesty, in all truth...so let us love, love, love; all else is illusion. So Adele and Filis, what more can you do if you really love Me?'"
Mani, Mehera, Goher and Filis at Myrtle Beach , S.C.
During this first visit Baba gave Filis permission to publish a magazine devoted to Him. She was deeply committed to contributing to Baba's cause and to using her writing talents in this way. She called it "The Awakener Magazine" and published it from 1953 to 1986. Filis diligently gathered articles, interviews, songs, poems and photos for "The Awakener Magazine" issues to the great enjoyment of her many readers all over the world.
link to Susan Herr remembering Filis