1932 : Visit to New York & Harmon-on-Hudson
Meher Baba's 2nd visit to the USA - 1932
He arrived by the ship - S.S. Bremen to New York on May 19th from Southampton, England.
After a week's stay in New York City & Harmon-on-Hudson, he and his companions boarded the train at Harmon on the 25th May and proceeded to cross the continent by train arriving in Alhambra, Los Angeles on the 29th May.
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Baba was required to make an appearance on the 13th May at the British Foreign Office to obtain a visa to re-enter India. He and the group had a farewell dinner party at the Anglo-Ceylon restaurant that evening.
Early on Saturday the 14th, many gathered for a tearful send-off at the Waterloo Station. Baba, Quentin, Meredith and Margaret Starr, and Adi Jr., Beheram, Chanji, Kaka and Ghani boarded the SS Bremen bound for New York City. Kitty, Kim, Margaret and Delia journeyed from London to Southampton to see Baba off and bid him bon voyage as tears streamed down their cheeks.
On board the Bremen, Baba and Adi Jr. shared a cabin; Beheram, Chanji, Kaka and Ghani were in another one. During the voyage, Baba preferred to be in seclusion to avoid being recognized. He often remembered the lovers whom he had left behind by spelling out their names on his board and even had tears in his eyes when he thought of an individual. Daily cables filled with love and longing crisscrossed the Atlantic between Baba and those in England, echoing the sweet melody of the Beloved's song.
Baba would occasionally take walks on the deck for an hour in the morning and evening, and he played Ping-Pong with one of his companions. Every afternoon, he visited the movie theater on board. Otherwise, Baba remained in his cabin, either discussing future plans with the mandali, listening to Paul Robeson records, or having general or private meetings with Quentin, Meredith or Margaret Starr.
Click on the button to see "Southampton page.
Nearing America, Baba dictated a new message and had it printed on the ship's printing press. At first, none of the mandali could understand why Baba had gone to this trouble while still at sea, but when the steamer was 40 miles from New York on 19 May 1932, newspaper reporters requesting an interview swarmed to Baba's cabin. Baba did not see them but gave each a copy of the message through Chanji and Quentin ( who tried to answer their questions). Only then was Baba's purpose disclosed.
The message Meher Baba had printed was:
I have not come to establish any cult, society or organization, nor even to establish a new religion.
The religion I will give teaches the knowledge of the One behind the many.
The book which I shall make people read is the book of the heart, which holds the key to the mystery of life. As for ritual, I shall teach humanity to discriminate, express and live rather than utter it. I shall bring about a happy blending of the head and heart.
Societies and organizations have never succeeded in bringing Truth nearer. Realization of the Truth is solely the concern of the individual.
Every being is a point from which a start could be made toward the limitless ocean of love, bliss, knowledge and goodness already within him. No Spiritual Master brings religion to the world in the form it eventually assumes. His very presence is a blessing and radiates spirituality. He imparts it to others by personal contact. The so-called religions are an effort to commemorate that association with a great Spiritual Master, and to preserve his atmosphere and influence. It is like an archeological department trying to preserve things which only resuscitate the past. The living spirit being absent, religions or organizations gradually lose their glamour. The result is a mental revolt against the established order. Something more substantial and practical is required which expresses the life of the spirit.
There exists at the moment a universal dissatisfaction and an indescribable longing for something that will end the chaos and misery that is holding the world in its grip. I will satisfy this craving and lead the world to real happiness and peace by making people look more deeply into things than heretofore.
As a rule, Masters help individually according to temperament and fitness of the aspirant, but this being an Avataric period, which means the end of the previous cycle and the beginning of a new one, my spiritual help to humanity will be both individual and collective.
The period of junction of the old and new cycle usually connotes the advent of a Master who rejuvenates religious thought, infusing new life and meaning into the old order of things. Besides imparting the highest state of spirituality to a select few, he gives a general push to the whole world.
The West looks at things only from the standpoint of reason and logic, and is skeptical about things which baffle the intellect. Intellect is the lowest form of understanding and is developed by reading, hearing, reasoning and logic.
These processes create an illusion of knowledge.
A higher state of understanding is permanent illumination, through which the illumined one experiences and sees all things as they are. In this state, one feels in harmony with everyone and everything, and realizes the divinity in every phase of life, and is able to impart happiness to others. Here one attends to all duties and material affairs, and yet feels mentally detached from the world. This is true renunciation.
The last and highest state of understanding is the merging of the soul into the limitless ocean of infinite bliss, knowledge and power. One who has himself attained this freedom can make thousands perfect like himself. I intend bringing about a great spiritual revival in the near future, utilizing the tremendous amount of energy possessed by America for the purpose. Such a spiritual outpouring as I visualize usually takes place at the beginning or end of a cycle and only a Perfect One, who has reached the Christ state of consciousness, can make such a universal appeal.
My work will embrace everything — it will permeate every phase of life. Perfection would fall far short of the ideal if it were to accept one thing and eschew another. The general spiritual push that I shall give to the whole world will automatically adjust problems such as politics, economics and sex, though these are not directly connected with the original theme. New values and significance will be attached to things which appear to baffle solution at the moment.
The benefits that shall accrue to different nations and countries when I bring about the spiritual upheaval will be largely determined by the amount of energy each one possesses. The greater the energy — however misapplied or misdirected — the greater the response.
The Master merely diverts the current into the right channel. It will be one of my greatest miracles to bring together and blend the realistic West with the idealistic East; and the West at the zenith of its material and intellectual attainment and the East at the height of its spiritual manifestation in the shape of the Avatar will meet without shaming or looking down upon each other.
I repeat: Materialism and spirituality must go hand in hand. The balance of head and heart must be maintained; the head for discrimination, the heart for feeling, whereby it is possible to realize infinite consciousness in art, science, nature and in every phase of life.
I have become one with the infinite Source of everything. This is the state of Christ consciousness. If people call me the Messiah, Savior, Redeemer, it does not affect me. Terms and names do not matter. What really matters is the state of Christ consciousness that I eternally enjoy and towards which I shall lead all who come to me. When I speak, my original message will be delivered to the world and it will have to be accepted.
The ability to perform miracles does not necessarily connote high spirituality. Anyone who has reached the Christ consciousness can perform them. People must not come to me merely for help in their physical infirmities or for material purposes. I shall perform miracles when the time and situation demand and not to satisfy mere idle curiosity. Spiritual healing is by far the greatest healing, and this is what I intend to give. The highest is latent in everyone, but has to be manifested.
The reporters wanted to photograph Baba, but he did not allow it then. During the disembarkation at the 58th Street pier in Brooklyn that same day at 1:00 P.M., however, photographs of him dictating on the alphabet board were taken. Baba looked magnificent, dressed in a plush jacket, grey linen trousers and white shoes. Several people were observing this scene aboard the ship, and surrounded Baba as he slowly made his way down the gangplank and through the crowd. "New York was the first city in America to see the Smiling Sun," Age proclaimed, "and this Sun will always remain smiling in the heart of this land of freedom."
Norina, Jean and Malcolm, Graham Stokes, Anita, Nadine, Elizabeth and her husband and a few others were at the pier to receive Baba. Kenneth Patterson drove Baba to Greenwich Village to the home of Graham and Lettice Stokes, and the others followed in taxis. Staying with the Master at the Stokeses' were Adi Jr., Quentin, Meredith and Margaret. The other mandali ( Kaka, Ghani, Chanji and Beheram ) stayed at the Albert Hotel.
Malcolm and Jean had worked tirelessly to publicize the Master's second visit to America. They had sent letters announcing Baba's coming to about 800 people on their mailing list from their North Node bookshop. They had also contacted editors, publication houses and news agencies, in an effort to publicize Baba's visit.
Graham Phelps & Lettice Stokes at 88–90 Grove Street, New York City
Although Baba stayed in New York City for only three days, hundreds of people wanted to see him. Norina had been in charge of arranging Baba's schedule. More reporters came to interview him, and many accounts about the "Indian Messiah" were published in the local newspapers, which brought the interest of even more people to him. However, Baba did not meet every person; he only gave personal interviews and darshan to a select few.
A journalist Baba did agree to see was Frederick Collins, whom Malcolm had contacted. He was invited to have tea with Baba at the Stokeses' home one afternoon.
The interview can be read on Frederick Collins page by clicking on his name.
Nadine Tolstoy came for Baba's darshan one day. Finally, after waiting a long time, she had her interview. Seeing him again, her faith in Baba was confirmed and she surrendered to him forever. "My intuition was unquestioning and sure," she recorded. "I saw Christ before me as he was seated on the couch in the expression of all his figure and divinely lit-up face, in his eyes beaming love ... It was the fulfillment of a long-awaited meeting, the climax of my life."
Read Nadine Tolstoy's further account on her page by clicking her name.
Another woman who met Baba in New York was Agnes Bourne. "It was a moment of great love," she later recalled. Baba was holding some violets when she went in to see him. Reading her thoughts, he handed them to her. Agnes had unknowingly dropped her glove during her interview, and when she got up to leave, Baba called her back, kissed the glove and gave it to her.
On Friday, 20 May 1932, Baba went sightseeing by car around the city with the mandali and saw the Empire State Building. He met many people that day, including, Joseph John Bass, 40, who had been introduced to Baba through Norina. John Bass was to become a lifelong disciple of the Master. Elizabeth Patterson's parents, Simeon B. Chapin and his wife Elizabeth, also met Baba that day. Elizabeth's mother had loaned the group $5,000 interest-free to help fund Baba's trip, and her father was one day to donate several hundred acres of land in South Carolina to be used as a center for the Master's work.
In the evening Baba went for a walk on Broadway in midtown Manhattan. The next day, Baba was driven by Elizabeth through Central Park. This was the first time she had driven Baba. Others had gone in another car, driven by Julian Lamar (the artist). Julian was upset, for someone had broken into his car and stolen his luggage the previous night. He mentioned this incident repeatedly to Baba, who asked, "It wasn't all you had in the world, was it?" Julian admitted it wasn't, and Baba remarked, "I am in you as well as in the thief!"
***While they were driving through Central Park, Baba motioned to Elizabeth to stop near the lake at 110th Street. They all got out and walked toward the lake with Baba in the lead. There was no one around except a nurse pushing a baby carriage. After only a glance at the woman, Baba returned to the car. None knew the significance of Baba's stroll that day until a year later when Josephine Grabau ( Ross ) was in the hospital for a procedure and a young woman came into her room asked her whose photograph it was by her bed. Jo told her it was Meher Baba, and the woman remarked, "I know it is the same man who looked like Christ, whom I saw walking by the park lake a year ago. I have never forgotten his face."
Baba wished to go to a movie that night on Broadway, which Norina arranged, and a group of eighteen persons went with him. Baba became restless during the film and left in the middle of it. The group followed. Walking through the crowded New York streets, Baba went to another movie theater some blocks away. Along the way, one man stopped and stared straight into Baba's eyes, and then kept turning around to look at him after they had passed on the sidewalk. Perhaps it was for him that Baba had left the theater.
Central Park, New York City
Central Park & 110th (W) Street
58th Street Pier, Brooklyn, New York
One afternoon Baba went to Anita de Caro's apartment (617 W. 143 St.) to see her ailing mother, Jacqueline who had cancer, but who had no fear of dying. Anita recollected, "It was a meeting of tremendous silence and understanding." Baba told Mrs. de Caro that Anita was in his hands and assured her that there was no need to worry about her illness, because she would soon be free. He held her in his arms and she wept. Baba comforted her, "Birds that are free do not realize their freedom. Only birds who are caged can appreciate it. You will soon be free."
Anita was now solely dedicated to Baba, and he instructed her to stay with her mother until he called for her. Norina was thinking of opening a school of modern art, and Anita wondered if she should enroll in college, Norina's new school or another art school. Baba informed her that he would tell her what to do after some time.
On Sunday, 22 May 1932, the Stokes gave a dinner party in Baba's honor at their house in Greenwich Village, invites were sent and over 400 people attended. Several black people came, and one woman asked Baba to help the people of her race, to which he replied, "I will."
There were many interesting encounters that night between Meher Baba and the essembled guests.
The Stokes held monthly meetings right up to 1960 at the house in Stokes Street.
** Ed Flanagan first wrote a wonderful article about Baba's visits to the Stokes' house and New York in the early 1930s for the Lamp Street Lamp Post newsletter ( Oct-Dec 1992 ) which was later reprinted in the Meher Baba Australia newsletter ( June-Dec 2000 ).
The original article appeared again but with new updates in the Glow International newsletter ( Winter 2008 p.10-21 )
On Monday, 23 May 1932, Baba and the mandali were driven to the Harmon Retreat where he was received with heartfelt joy by Malcolm and Jean Schloss. Meanwhile Quentin stayed in Manhattan to arrange the train tickets and other traveling details to California. ( He was also instructed to purchase a ticket to India for Ghani.)
Some time before, Malcolm and Jean had been informed that Baba would be staying in Harmon with a few persons for a full year, and Jean had planned for his accommodations. But she was advised that, so long as she had no definite commitment from Baba, she should make no permanent arrangements. Instead of a year, Baba stayed just two days, thus giving his American lovers a practical exercise in maintaining their flexibility!
In Harmon, a representative from the Paramount Film Company approached Baba with a request for a message to the world. Baba allowed himself to be filmed again, as Malcolm read out part of the message given at the Stokeses'. Baba then dictated on the board, "I give my love and blessing to the people of America." Soon after, the film was relayed by Paramount Newsreel throughout the world.
This was Meher Baba's 2nd visit to Harmon.
The first visit was on 6th November 1931 after Meher Baba and his close male companions arrived from Europe on the SS Roma.
Once the ship was docked, they were transported in two cars to the retreat 40 miles ( 64 Kms ) North along the Hudson River to a town called Croton-Harmon at 180 Old Albany Post Road. They stayed 10 days.
The retreat property was owned by Margaret Mayo and in Baba's honour it was named "Meherashram "
About 20 people came to see Baba at Harmon, including Josephine Grabau, her mother Mary Antin, Anita, Milo Shattuck and Grace Mann. Beheram would perform on the sitar and Josephine would dance each evening and compose heartrending poems for Baba.
Howard H. Inches also came to Harmon for a few days. Inches was an actor who had appeared on
Broadway. He recalled, "I was brought up and presented to this man with the large, brown eyes and queer lamb's skin coat — a new prophet on the horizon of burning
America. I was captivated by the purity of the life of this temporary colony [at Harmon] worshiping at the feet of Baba, and soon I was a regular member."
While in Harmon, Baba kept Malcolm alongside him to read the alphabet board and help communicate during interviews with those who had come seeking advice. Privately, Baba had conveyed to Malcolm and Jean that they were his "chief agents" in America, in charge of his work there. Malcolm's close involvement was a great shock to Meredith who could not bear to be excluded. Prior to and during this trip, Meredith had been trying to impress people that he was Baba's right-hand man and knew everything about the Master, his ways and preferences. When the time came, Baba would bring one who had been raised to the heights crashing down — and Meredith's time had come. Baba had allowed him a loose rein in the beginning, but he now began tightening the leash which cut deeply into Meredith's ego. Baba stopped pampering him, and after this trip, Meredith Starr was to leave Meher Baba forever.
Tuesday morning, 24 May 1932, Elizabeth, Norina and Anita arrived in Harmon to spend the day. After lunch, Baba led his lovers outside to the stone terrace. Some from the group went forward to pick a few wildflowers, in bloom in the yard, but Elizabeth stayed close to Baba. Baba then stepped forward and motioned Elizabeth to follow. He bent down and picked a small pink flower, which he handed to her. Kaka was near Baba, ready with the board, and Baba motioned for it. Spelling the words out, he had Chanji tell Elizabeth, "Always keep this flower, and write down today's date. Someday you will know the meaning of it."
The following evening, Baba said something similar to Margaret Mayo. Before retiring to his room, he went down to the river alone or with one of the mandali. When he returned, he told Margaret that she would one day understand what work he had done at her home.
When Elizabeth returned home that night, she pasted the flower inside the cover of her New Testament and wrote, "Baba — May 24, 1932." In the mid-1950s, when she was unpacking a trunk, she happened to notice the book again and read the inscription next to the flower. Its significance was instantly apparent. Baba had given her the flower 20 years to the day prior to his automobile accident in Prague, Oklahoma, May 24, 1952, in which Elizabeth had been driving.
Two weeks prior to Baba's visit, Time magazine had published an article, along with Baba's photograph having the caption "... bringing the infinite state to Harmon."
Harmon-Croton Railway Station ( 20s-30s )
The Harmon Railway Station was located 40 miles ( 64 Kms ) North of New York City. The train-line was
electrified to Harmon. To journey further the train's locomotives were changed to steam powered locos. Hence Harmon
was a train hub in New York State.
The first part of Meher Baba's epic train journey across the United States was to Chicago on the Iroquois train ( 20th Century Limited ) which was via Buffalo NY., and Cleveland, Ohio and was a total 897 miles ( 1,443 kms ) and took almost 20 hours.
TOTAL RAIL DISTANCE BETWEEN HARMON TO ALBANY, NY. IS 78 MILES / 125 KMS.
At midnight on Wednesday, 25 May 1932, Meher Baba left Harmon by train with Jean and Malcolm ( Schloss ), Meredith and Margaret Starr, Kaka, Chanji, Adi Jr. and Beheram. (Dr.Ghani left to return to India via Europe.) Quentin Tod was on the Iroquois train ( 20th Century Limited & or New York Central Line ) already, having boarded in New York City.
The first stop on this rail journey was Albany, NY. which
was the capital city of New York State.
Elizabeth Patterson & Norina Matchabelli decided to drive from New York City to Los Angeles, arriving there when Baba arrived by train. This was an epic drive for those days. See the chapter on California for more details.
The group reached Chicago, Illinois the next evening - 26th May at 7:20 P.M., by route of Cleveland, Ohio. In Chicago, they had to change trains to the Golden State Limited, necessitating an hour's wait, during which time reporters surrounded Baba. Baba gave them a short message and was photographed. In New York, there had been at times as many as 48 reporters accompanied by cameramen near Baba during press conferences.
The Golden State Limited train traveled along different rail lines after leaving Chicago to reach Los Angeles.
These rail lines were called by different names between certain towns and cities. The rail line between Chicago & Kansas City the line was called Chicago, Rock Is. & Pacific Line.
Between Kansas City and Tucumcari, NM. it was called Rock Island Line and onto to El Paso,TX. it was the Southern Pacific Line.
The final leg of the journey between El Paso and Los Angeles,CA. it was also the Southern Pacific Line.
To continue this journey across the United States select the following page from the index on the left "1932 : Train trip Harmon-Chicago " or click the the "button" below.
With the several interviews and private meetings, Baba was fully occupied during his brief stay in New York. He also permitted himself to be filmed at the Stokes' home in Grove Street New York City by a Fox Movietone News crew.
Meredith sat beside him and "read" the board.
He began by asking Baba, "What is your mission?"
"To make others realize the Truth in every phase of life and to make brotherhood a practical fact."
"Why have you come especially to America?"
"Because there is greater energy in America than elsewhere, but most of this energy is misdirected. I will divert it into creative and spiritual channels."
"What will happen when you break your silence? "
"Those to whom I speak will be instantaneously convinced of the Truth."