Meher  Baba


1.     Wikipedia  Cordon

2.     Contesting  Misrepresentation

3.     Hindus  and  Zoroastrians

4.     A  Distinctive  Donor

5.     Be  in  the  world  but  not  of  the  world

6.     Sufism  Reoriented

7.     Meher  Baba  Centres  and  Censorship

8.     Pride  and  Abnegation

9.     The  Sectarian  Issue

10.   Suppression  of  Literature

11.   Meher  Prabhu/ Lord  Meher

12.   Complexities: Ann  Powell  and  Delia  De  Leon


        Annotations  and  Bibliography  

1.  Wikipedia Cordon

Meher Baba (1894-1969) was an Irani Zoroastrian by birth. He has a clean moral record, and his evolutionist teaching is distinctive. During the 1960s, he expressed strong opposition to the use of LSD; he was a very beneficial influence in that respect. More controversially, he claimed to be an avatar or divine incarnation. Over the years I have included his career in my research interest, adopting a procedure of approaching the data without reliance upon the avatar claim and nor related devotional interpretations. I am resistant to hagiology. Further, this exercise has been part of a more wide-ranging approach, including studies of Iranian religion and philosophy. (1)

Christopher Ott at the Myrtle Beach Meher Center, 2014. Courtesy Anthony Zois

However, aggravations have been in evidence. For instance, in 2009, the English Wikipedia article on Meher Baba eliminated reference to an annotated work on the subject, in preference for canonical and other books (one of which has only twelve lines on Meher Baba). I am referring to my own annotated book Meher Baba, an Iranian Liberal (1988), 300 pages in length, and featuring a bibliography of nearly fifty pages. The Wikipedia exclusion is strongly associated with Christopher Ott, a Meher Baba devotee representing the Meher Center of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Ott is also a pseudonymous editor on Wikipedia, identified with the name Dazedbythebell.

The Meher Baba article on Wikipedia is a devotee/partisan medium that has included cordon procedure. The deletion of reference to a relevant annotated book has suggested to observers a well known tendency of religious groupings to suppress works that do not adhere to partisan criteria, imposed by a consensus within the movement or sect. Some analysts have observed that Iranian Liberal provided the first critical bibliography on the Meher Baba literature, a matter incomprehensible to some dogmatic Western devotees.

Wikipedia footnotes are often in query. The devotee-preferred twelve line commemoration, from the book Children of the New Age, is the cited Wikipedia source for Meher Baba's birth in a Zoroastrian family (Meher Baba, accessed 19/04/2019). The same peripheral source dovetails Meher Baba with a well known entity promoted by Ouspensky (the Russian philosopher). "Gurdjieff and Meher Baba are particularly strong representatives of the biographical hybridity swirling beneath the surface of these new spiritualities" (Sutcliffe 2003:38). The pronounced differences between these two entities are completely ignored. The inacccurate statement follows that Meher Baba "claimed initiation" from a female Sufi (no name supplied, but meaning Hazrat Babajan). He never claimed initiation, and was opposed to initiatory practices.

The more extended version of biographical hybridity (entailing a Zoroastrian background, plus Sufi and Hindu influences) was excised by Wikipedia. This devotee media suppressed the only full length 300 page book explicitly describing the Irani (and hence Iranian) liberal by means of an ethnic title (as distinct from a new age gloss or a devotee honorific). Irani Zoroastrians in India are noted for retaining elements of Iranian ethnicity and language.

The twelve line memorandum extends from reference to a 1930s book entitled God is My Adventure, by Rom Landau. A contrasting analysis of the Landau report on Meher Baba was suppressed by devotee editors at the Meher Baba article on Wikipedia. The present writer provided an unprecedented critique (in thirty-seven pages) of the reports authored by Landau and Paul Brunton (primarily the latter). This critique, having no relation to the New Age, was rejected by devotee editors. The sanitised Meher Baba article on Wikipedia does not refer to the dismissal of Meher Baba by Brunton and Landau (accessed 19/04/2019). Meher Baba is not the most historical prospect in such channels.

The critique of Landau and Brunton appeared in Meher Baba, an Iranian Liberal. Reference to this book was eliminated from the Wikipedia Meher Baba article by Dazedbythebell and his colleagues. Further, Dazedbythebell was a major instigator in deleting the Wikipedia article on Kevin R. D. Shepherd in 2009, at which time he supported the defamation of cyberstalker Gerald Joe Moreno against myself. The hostility from this pro-sectarian editorial quarter is on record. Supporting the libellous attack blogs of an agent for the Sathya Sai Baba sect is no proof of accuracy. The defamation from a sectarian agent has been repudiated. Moreno was a former Wikipedia editor, zealously active at the Sathya Sai Baba article. The factor of "cultist" activity and manipulation on Wikipedia is controversial. There are strong critics of this trend, which masquerades behind a declared NPOV (Neutral Point of View).

The Wikipedia Meher Baba talkpage has prominently featured two pseudonymous representatives of the Meher Baba movement, namely Hoverfish (whose real name is Stelios Karavias) and Dazedbythebell (strongly associated with Christopher Ott). The latter has made statements on Wikipedia which clearly reveal a devotee orientation evident to many other editors. Earlier, the Christopher Ott circle contributed on Wikipedia a derisive appellation in my direction (see triple incarnation theory). I there became "Sam Shepherd," acknowledgement of my real name being too great an effort. My identity was also haphazardly confused with that of Wikipedia editors, in the misleading world of "encyclopaedia" lore (in reality, I have never been a Wikipedia editor). The atrocious manners and crude assumptions of the Ott circle earned a description in terms of troll characteristics.

Dazedbythebell is possibly Frank Landsman, but the balance of critical opinion implicates his close colleague Christopher Ott, which seems more probable. Dazedbythebell evidently felt justified in depreciatory measures by his role as a privileged follower of the Avatar, and guardian of the Meher Baba article.

The Christopher Ott website (Ott's Essays) revealed the close linkage between Ott, Landsman, and Karavias, whose images were displayed, together with brief reference to Wikipedia. After a complaint about collusion of this trio on Wikipedia, that website was removed from open view by Ott, who carefully screened the discernible collaboration by an obstructing sign-in procedure at Google Sites. A formerly accessible URL was http://sites.google.com/site/ottsessays/credits. Transparency is not everywhere in favour.

A close colleague of the American devotee Christopher Ott is Frank Landsman, a Dutch celebrity with the stage name of Frankie Paradiso. His music can be sampled at singers, musicians, bands. More than one web source has stated that Ott and Landsman co-wrote the Dutch Wikipedia article on Meher Baba. This detail is well known. Far less obvious is that the same duo are closely associated with the Wikipedia Meher Baba article in English. Ott has become indistinguishable from Landsman in this respect (some assessors have suspected a shared editorial identity).

Another member of the Ott circle, and a fixture at the English Meher Baba article, is the Wikipedia editor Hoverfish (Stelios Karavias). This conservative was notably aggressive in my direction, even inserting into a Wikipedia "noticeboard" discussion a disapproving theme clearly originating from within the Meher Baba movement, or rather, the American branch of that contingent. A sectarian agenda here emerged, contravening Neutral Point of View. Hoverfish made the following statement, revealing the underlying reason for the Ott circle belligerence:

I hear that Shepherd and his mother had correspondence with Meher Baba in the 1960s, and later with some of his prominent disciples, that they became involved with another spiritual teacher, against Baba's orders, that this caused them to become ostracised by the English Baba group and that in the 1980s they sent letters to all Baba centers around the world defending themselves. I also hear that Shepherd has a dislike of followers of Meher Baba and considers them 'sectarian,' although no sect actually exists. (Hoverfish, Wikipedia Reliable Sources Noticeboard, 29 January 2012)

Acute contractions and blatant inaccuracies are evident in this version of events. Devotee gossip is not a reliable guide to the sequence of actual occurrences. Neutral Point of View on Wikipedia can amount to a farce. The distorted and hostile report of myself and my mother is very misleading, and accordingly in need of correction from a direct participant in caricatured episodes. Wikipedia needs more history, as distinct from cult lore.

2.  Contesting  Misrepresentation

Only one component of the deceptive Wikipedia statement (in section 1 above) can be considered correct. Meaning that myself and my mother (Jean Shepherd, alias Kate Thomas) had correspondence with Meher Baba in the 1960s. We did not in fact become involved with "another spiritual teacher." The misrepresented entity was here an Indian disciple of Meher Baba who never made any claims, and who never became a spiritual teacher, instead living a very retiring existence as a scientist and electronics engineer. He always insisted that he was an ordinary man. His integrity cannot be faulted.

Adi S. Irani, London 1966; Jean Shepherd, 1972. Both images copyright Kevin R. D. Shepherd.

The misrepresented Hindu disciple had the misfortune to be considered a rival by an influential authority figure, namely Adi S. Irani (d.1988), the brother of Meher Baba who was resident in London. Adi likewise was not a spiritual teacher, but did demand the allegiance of my mother, to whom he was partial; she was unable to credit that his rival was so irrelevant by comparison. She supported the rival, who had earlier left England, returning to India in relative obscurity. Adi refused to acknowledge the validity of an unpublished book she had written, which expressed esteem for the rival, although within the context of her allegiance to Meher Baba.

I was caught in the middle of this drama, being only sixteen at the time. I was a follower of Meher Baba, although sometimes reacting to the failings and dogmatism of devotees. I had met both Adi and the rival, and observed many differences between them. I had encountered the rival during a short period in July 1965, when he had briefly returned to England. I never saw him again (and nor did my mother). It became obvious to me that Adi was jealous of Inder Sain (the rival), not least because he (Adi) was much attracted to my mother, even visiting her shop in Cambridge. Adi was very annoyed when he grasped that she esteemed Inder more than him.

My mother tended to believe that Inder would eventually become a "master." When she encountered the dogmatism of Adi, she would not retract this belief, there being no proof that Adi was superior. Adi reacted with a threat, telling my mother that unless she recanted and destroyed some of her writings, he would personally ensure that she was blocked from the movement. She was unable to oblige, feeling nauseated by his calculating tactic.

Adi subsequently engineered an agenda of excommunication, spreading defamation of his victim amongst the mandali (resident devotees) at Meher Baba's ashram (Meherazad). The major recipient was his sister Mani, who believed every word he said. Adi also callously outlawed me for supporting my mother against him (although I held a modified view about Inder). I perceived with shock that this was a campaign of self-affirmation on Adi's part. He was widely considered by devotees to be Meher Baba's impeccable "ambassador" in England. Adi was certainly proud of that role.

In October 1966, there commenced a complex correspondence with Meher Baba and the ashram, lasting for months. Baba was in seclusion, and generally averse to correspondence, which he discouraged, unless in emergency. My mother had an unusual history of communication with Meher Baba, and I had also received some communications from him in the past. His brief cablegram communications were quite different to the accusing letters sent at this time by his sister Mani (d.1996), who was clearly in support of her brother Adi in London. My correspondence was with Mani, not with Adi, who remained conveniently, though influentially, in the background.

At first I expressed the belief that Inder could not be an ordinary man, because he stood out so much from the devotees, whom he did not in any way resemble. I dared not refer to the current situation with Adi, fearing that the latter might become even worse in his reactions if I did. The real issue was Adi versus Inder. This factor was impossible to explicate under the circumstances. Mani had never met Inder. To agree that Inder was ordinary would mean endorsing the argument of Adi, the presumably superior "ambassador" who basked in the limelight of high status and supposedly infallible utterance (a feat generally attributed to the mandali by devotees).

Meher Baba sent a prolonged string of cablegrams, the final one acknowledging with approval that we (myself and my mother) had conceded his theme that Inder was an ordinary man (which was also Inder's own consistent refrain).

That final cablegram from Meher Baba (dated February 1967) was totally ignored by Mani, whose prior version of the situation was transmitted to devotees at large (most of the surviving mandali were in low profile, and did not communicate with Western devotees). Adi prudently retreated, and made no further accusations. He neglected to inform the mandali of his own biases which had been so influential in the episode under discussion. Several years later, after the death of Meher Baba, Adi privately acknowledged (in London) the errors which had been made. However, he was unwilling to make this a public disclosure, and never in fact did so.

Adi admitted that Mani and himself had handled the situation, not Meher Baba; they wished to impose the "ban," which they did, but the final cablegram from Meher Baba conflicted with their tactic. The crucial communication from Meher Baba posed a contradiction for anyone aware of it. Adi was often closely associated with the mandali, having long ago been one of them. By that time, the mandali were believed by devotees to be infallible. The supposed perfection here avoided the final cablegram, which was effectively suppressed. The "ban" by Mani and Adi was preferred to Meher Baba's own final verdict.

As a consequence of this episode, I stopped being a devotee. I no longer identified with the movement, and detested Adi for his act of incrimination. The situation was atrocious. I was banned by association with my mother, who had not done anything wrong. Adi and his associates denied me all newsletters relating to Meher Baba. However, sympathetic devotees compensated for this excess behind the scenes. Adi never bothered to ascertain my views at any juncture of this episode. His power-crazed role as the "ambassador" was unrestrained in this instance. His position was one of absolute authority. Nobody dared to contradict him. My mother was the first dissident.

Devotees generally assumed that Meher Baba was responsible for the "ban," probably because Mani was so keen to assist Adi in her more visible international capacity. Adi later specified that Meher Baba was not responsible for the "ban," but instead Mani and himself. These two were delegated by Meher Baba to deal with any matters relating to myself and my mother. Adi claimed to know all about the subject of Inder, and Mani sent the letters that resulted. Most onlookers did not know that Adi was the pivotal factor of agitation. Meher Baba appeared to agree with Mani and Adi, but subsequently contradicted the "ban" by his final cablegram, which disconcerted Adi (who was sent copies of all the cables by Baba's secretary Adi K. Irani, known as Adi Senior, to distinguish him from Baba's brother, who was his junior).

The nature of Meher Baba's final cablegram negated any excuse for the "ban" being perpetuated, as Adi Junior knew very well. This factor caused Adi to retreat from the issue. Meher Baba had clearly not censored the victims. His final cable read: "Your cable of acceptance that Inder is ordinary man has made me happy. I send my love [and] blessing to you both. Meher Baba" (26 February 1967).

To sum up, my mother was an oppressed mystic, Adi (Junior) was a cult-like dictator, and I was a juvenile victim in my pre-rational phase. When I began to change my orientation in 1967, I still regarded Meher Baba with respect, but now I could see more clearly the limitations of the devotee mentality. The accepted authority figures like Adi and Mani were not infallible, as many believed, but instead made errors that could be very serious. One or two psychologists who subsequently studied the details (in my mother's autobiography), (2) have thought that certain events can be construed as a criminal offence against a minor, i.e., myself, who was only sixteen at the time. I was stigmatised and outlawed, according to a predetermined campaign mounted by a zealous authority figure, who was suffering pique at being considered secondary to a scientist who displayed more sophistication in "Baba's cause."

Inder, 1965, a disciple of Meher Baba since the 1940s, and mistakenly reported as a guru in devotee lore. He lived a conventional life as a professional scientist. Copyright Kevin R. D. Shepherd.

Over the years, I heard about the distorted version of myself and my mother that was in devotee circulation, though more especially in America. The devotees had no idea of what had really happened. Inder was sometimes mistakenly represented as a guru. In fact he was a scientist, working with such leading enterprises as Pye Telecommunications. He was also very unobtrusive and difficult to trace. The mandali eventually admitted that they no longer knew where he lived. This failure to locate Inder occurred during the 1970s.

The developing notion that "they became involved with another spiritual teacher, against Baba's orders" is sheer nonsense. We never saw Inder again after 1965, and there was no correspondence with him. Many devotees are unable to assimilate recorded facts. They are instead influenced by hearsay and beliefs promoted by sectarian authority figures.

"This caused them to become ostracised by the English Baba group." That report is erroneous, the nature of events being misconceived. In fact, during the early 1970s, I was in contact with three prominent devotees of that group, namely Adi S. Irani, Delia De Leon, and Fred Marks. I was on good terms with them, and in all cases, was invited to their homes, although I was no longer a devotee. I remained wary of Adi, but he was not now hostile; he very reluctantly (and all too briefly) admitted his error in private meetings. He had a habit of smoothing over events, and pretending that everything was now in perfect order, despite the grapevine distortions he had created.

Fred Marks, London 1966. Copyright Kevin R. D. Shepherd.

Of these three devotees, I was closest to Fred Marks (1900-1985), a former acquaintance whom I visited several times in London during the years 1973-75 (Meher Baba, an Iranian Liberal, pp. 295-6). He did not fully understand my independence from the movement, although he accepted this, and was well aware that Adi comprised a problem factor. Fred knew more about Adi than did any of the other English devotees, having assisted him at close range with his antiques business over many years. (3) Fred's underlying frustration with some of Adi's habits did sometimes emerge in private conversation; however, in public he had never been able to overcome his awe of Adi's authority role. (4) Fred was a retired schoolteacher, amongst other vocations. He had some skill as a dealer in English antique furniture; however, he was not commercially motivated, and never acquired much capital. He told me that he assisted Adi because he felt that he ought to do so, not because he was keen to acquire money.

By the 1970s, Adi had another rival, namely the rock superstar Pete Townshend, who had become a prominent devotee, and who gained hero worship from young American and British devotees. Adi could not compete with this new development, and became estranged from the London Meher Baba group (then known as the Meher Baba Association).

Ironically enough, Adi was the supporter of my mother in her failed petition to Townshend in 1977. The rock celebrity was so overbearing that he would not heed her version of events, and instead dogmatically maintained that she should be banned from his new London Centre (called Meher Baba Oceanic). Townshend was influenced by the distortions and misconceptions blindly perpetuated by Adi K. Irani (Adi Snr) in India. Townshend ignored the objections of Adi S. Irani (Adi Jnr) in London. The "ambassador" in London was now an ailing man in relative obscurity. Adi Jnr was the ultimate cause of much erroneous reporting, having neglected his responsibilities in reparation for too many years.

Pete Townshend

Meher Baba Oceanic transpired to be an impaired project that collapsed. A few years after Oceanic was founded in 1976, Townshend became notoriously addicted to cocaine and heroin. This drawback was accompanied by acute alcoholism. These habits led to a dangerously close encounter with a hospital life support system. Townshend subsequently recovered, but lost his prestige role in the Meher Baba movement as a consequence of his problems.

In contrast, my mother was a teetotaller and never took drugs. She became noted for her stance against drug ingestion, and strongly opposed the psychedelic therapy (and allied holotropic breathwork) of Stanislav Grof. She witnessed casualties in "new age" sectors, where alternative therapy was a commercial predator. See Findhorn Foundation and Against Grof Therapy.

3.  Hindus  and  Zoroastrians

The issue of religious identities in the following of Meher Baba is relevant. He did not emphasise or accentuate those divisions, but instead applied a common denominator in terms of his adherents or devotees. Shirdi Sai Baba (d.1918) did the same at an earlier date. However, any historian is obliged to recognise the different religious components, and to attempt some evaluation.

The Indian devotees of Meher Baba included Zoroastrians, Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs. The ashram mandali are the most well known contingent, but other categories existed. By the 1960s, the number of mandali had contracted, not because there were no candidates, but because Meher Baba did not choose to make more recruits in this grouping.

Meher Baba, Meherazad 1949

After the New Life phase commencing in 1949, the number of mandali gradually decreased. The residual 1960s mandali comprised a substantial majority of Zoroastrians, both Parsis and Iranis (including Aga Baidul). They were a distinctive grouping in many ways, and not typical of Indian ashrams.

Bal Natu (d.2003) and Bhau Kalchuri (d.2013) were closely associated Hindu supporters; these two outlived other Hindus like Dr. Nilu Godse (d.1956) and Vishnu Deorukhkar (d.1962). Natu encountered Meher Baba in 1944, at a time when he was "a regular reader of all the eighteen cantos of the Bhagavad Gita" (Natu 1977:39). Afterwards Natu remained in contact with Meher Baba as an "out-station" affiliate. He did not reside at Meherazad until 1977, afterwards becoming a prominent figure. While many devotees assumed that the resident mandali were invariably the most spiritually advanced supporters, this is by no means certain.

Kalchuri encountered Meher Baba in 1952, being a graduate student at Nagpur University; he joined the mandali the following year. His family were Rajputs of Madhya Pradesh, descendants of the royal Kalchuri dynasty (Kalchuri Fenster 2009:13). Both Kalchuri and Natu have multi-volume works in their name. However, Kalchuri (a poet) only authored a part of Lord Meher (section 11 below).

A sense of humour is evident in the first instruction that Bhau Kalchuri received from Meher Baba. The newcomer was told to go every evening to the room of each of the men mandali and loudly exclaim: "You fool! Keep silence after nine!" (Kalchuri 1984:6) Vishnu, Dr. Nilu, Eruch, and Pendu responded cordially to this exhortation, being aware of the origin. The others involved did not know who had instigated the unusual greeting. Bhau felt embarassed because the Parsi disciple Gustadji Hansotia (d.1958) had (like Meher Baba) been observing silence for many years. Gustadji merely smiled at the message. Whereas Dr. William Donkin (d.1969) replied: "Definitely, sir!"

Donkin likewise did not know the origin of the injunction, but was noted for his repartee and unusual sense of humour. This British medic was a distinctive member of the mandali for many years; he authored The Wayfarers, an exceptional work defying general classification.

The householder devotees varied extensively, and included many Zoroastrians in Maharashtra. One of these was Adi K. Irani (Adi Senior), the secretary of Meher Baba. Although he is generally identified with the mandali, Adi did not live at the ashram for many years, but instead at his family home in Ahmednagar. He frequently visited the ashram, but did not live there. Other householders were also important in the general scheme of events, including donors to the ashram.

An "out-station" donor from the 1950s onward was Inder Sain (b.1935), representing the Hindus. His surname was also rendered Sen. This man is significant because he lived in the West at the instruction of Meher Baba. His instance appears to have been unique. "I want ten years from you," Meher Baba told him in 1954. Inder was obliged to remain in England until 1964, in fulfilment of the instruction. In the same early communication, Meher Baba identified Inder as a donor to the ashram, and in terms of thousands of pounds. A substantial anomaly is that Inder's career was largely forgotten, and also misrepresented, within the Meher Baba movement. In this respect, the Hindu dimension requires to be restored, for the purpose of due perspective.

Relevant data about Inder is missing from Meher Prabhu (Lord Meher), attributed to Bhau Kalchuri, but much amplified by other contributors. That work is not comprehensive, despite the unusual length. Kalchuri was not in contact with Inder, and was unfamiliar with his case history; the American editor is in a similar category. Minor references to Inder are made in that work, lacking detail. More extensive information is found elsewhere, and also in unpublished writings. Inder emerges in the Meher Baba record prior to Kalchuri. He exercised a different approach.

In July 1965, I had the opportunity to talk with Inder on numerous occasions, in a quiet village near Cambridge. I was able to closely observe his mode of life and speech, and to record his disclosures about Meher Baba and other matters. Inder was non-assertive, and did not express himself in a devotional manner. On some occasions, he exhibited a strong sense of humour.

4.  A  Distinctive  Donor

Inder Sain (Sen) was a very unusual Hindu follower of Meher Baba. He was not one of the Maharashtra Hindus in the vicinity of Meher Baba ashrams, but instead a North Indian from New Delhi. His father Harjiwan Lal was an early devotee of Meher Baba, and a successful lawyer in New Delhi. At an early age, Inder became a follower of Meher Baba in 1946. He stayed for a time at the ashram prior to the "New Life" phase commencing in 1949. He was brilliant at physics, and in 1956 gained a degree in this subject at London University.

At the instruction of Meher Baba, Inder lived in England for a period of specified duration, returning to India when this term was over in 1964. By that time, he had lived in different British cities, including Nottingham, Coventry, and Cambridge. When returning to India, he gained a meeting with Meher Baba at Meherazad, and thereafter continued his career in electronics. In December 1964, Meher Baba assigned Inder to write a regular monthly letter to him (the correspondence is thought to have continued until 1969). This was a rare privilege.

From the time he gained his degree, Inder lived in simplicity and frugality, sending most of his professional wage to Meherazad ashram. He knew a great deal about his beneficiaries, meaning Meher Baba and the mandali. His disclosures about them were unusually revealing, but he was not always communicative in this respect. Such information was transmitted in private encounters, not in public assemblies like the "London Meher Baba group." His perspective was not in any sense typical of the devotional movement.

This perceptive Indian was the only follower in England who donated in the regular manner to which he was accustomed. None of the other Eastern devotees living in England had this distinction, and likewise none of the English devotees. Only a few people seem to have known of Inder's ability in this respect, because he was not in the habit of communicating such details.

Meher Baba at Meherazad, 1967; Inder, 1965 (copyright Kevin R. D. Shepherd)

For many years, Inder had enjoyed a regular correspondence with Meher Baba, but did not advertise his degree of intimacy. Instead he developed a pronounced tendency to self-effacement. This trait was in contrast to the disposition of certain other devotees, who are known to have emphasised their standing as disciples of Meher Baba.

Inder did not agree with the 1950s innovation of Adi K. Irani (d.1980), who described himself on office stationery as the "Disciple and Secretary" of Meher Baba. In the view of Inder, the secretarial capacity was a sufficient description of role and talent. He did not broadcast this criticism in any way. The London group were not aware of the reflection, which occurred only in private meetings with a very few persons. Inder was implying that the over-confident role of Adi Senior could lead to misinterpretations. In Inder's own case, this contention certainly did prove correct, and also in relation to my mother (and, to a lesser extent, myself).

The contact between Inder and Adi S. Irani (Adi Junior, Meher Baba's brother) commenced in 1956, when the latter moved to London from India (of his own volition, and not under special instruction). Very different temperaments were involved in this situation, which occurred outside the "London group." Adi Junior tended to indicate, or emphasise, his own importance in events concerning Meher Baba. Whereas Inder moved in the opposite direction, gaining the ability to disown any personal importance.

Very few people knew that Adi Junior also benefited from Inder's facility in financial donation. Meher Baba was intimately familiar with this arrangement, which he inaugurated. Inder was dismayed to find that Adi expected him to purchase a bottle of whisky for the host every time that he visited Adi's home. This became the norm, but was nothing to do with Meher Baba. Both Inder and Meher Baba were strict teetotallers. Adi's role as "ambassador" was compromised in Inder's personal view (and not merely by the factor of alcohol).

These events are on published record. They were eclipsed by an afflicted situation, in which biases of Adi Junior and Adi K. Irani (Adi Senior) sent the Hindu dimension into caricature and oblivion. Furthermore, the adamant viewpoint of Adi Senior influenced Pete Townshend, who was instrumental in furthering obscurantism. For instance, my mother had been mistaken for another English follower, but neither Townshend nor anyone else was willing to rectify this matter. The climax of a curtailing process occurred at the Myrtle Beach Centre, which favoured erratic stories presenting Inder as a guru in rivalry with Meher Baba. The dismissive American lore must be distinguished from fact.

Adi K. Irani (Adi Senior), 1962

A critical reflection about Adi Senior was included in my book Iranian Liberal (1988:265-266). I did not there mention the ultimate source. This was nearly a decade after Adi Senior's death. In 1988, the influential Ann Conlon of Myrtle Beach interpreted my comments as a virtually criminal offence against the devotee hierarchy. Her version of Meher Baba was relentlessly conformist, leaving no room for independent thought. In her view, the mandali and prominent devotees were invested with Meher Baba's divine grace, and were beyond criticism.

In contrast, Inder did not agree with the "Disciple" stylism of Adi Senior. He received numerous communications over the years from Adi Senior, who was an intermediary for Meher Baba in correspondence (messages were dictated via gesture language). Inder relayed that Adi had a tendency to give his own interpretations in correspondence, and these were not always appropriate. Some due perspective is required. The role of Adi K. Irani as secretary does not necessarily mean that he should be regarded as infallible. Realistic details do not validate the hagiology (section 5 below).

The contention of Inder tends to be supported by known details of an event occurring in 1954, when some Indian devotees expressed confusion about Adi Senior. In this episode, Meher Baba "was concerned to emphasise that nobody should take the advice of the mandali as Baba's advice. The mandali would not purposely mislead, but 'the mandali are not Baba,' and hence due reflection should be given to their advice before acting upon any of it. One devotee then implored: 'Give us help through Adi.' Very patiently, Baba pointed out that Adi's experience in office work for the past twenty years did not mean an incapacity for error" (Shepherd 1988:53). Meher Baba stated on this occasion: "Advice you can have from Adi, but not as from Baba through Adi."

Charles Purdom (d.1965) was another follower at loggerheads with claims of prowess. I met Purdom in 1965, and can testify to his efforts at objectivity. His mode of speech lacked all devotional accents. Purdom did not describe himself as a disciple, and nor as a devotee. He believed that many statements made by devotees were exaggerated and mawkish. In this respect, he was convergent with Inder. Purdom was quite content to be considered an author and a pioneer of Welwyn Garden City. Any other recommendation was superfluous.

Purdom and other English supporters were very restrained in their version of allegiance. They did not even call themselves followers, but instead the "friends of Meher Baba." Two years after Purdom's death, the new wave of young English devotees were identifying themselves as "lovers of Meher Baba," duplicating an American tendency to favour idioms found in the newsletters of Mani. The professed identity as "lovers" was considered ridiculous by some outsiders. Adi Junior was also critical of this trend. Meher Baba himself definitely did use the term "lover." However, some analysts (including Adi Junior) concluded that this term should not become a generally adopted word, serving to reduce and trivialise the meaning.

A very distorting version of Inder is evidenced by American devotee (or "lover") misconception. In contrast, the factual evidence strongly indicates that this Hindu was one of the most committed disciples of Meher Baba, living in England contrary to his own personal wishes, and donating most of his salary to Meherazad ashram.

Like many Hindus, Inder was liberal towards other religions. He studied Sufism and other mystical traditions, and was not in any way doctrinaire about Hinduism (I never heard him make a reference to Hindu deities). One of his best friends was a Muslim (another devotee of Meher Baba who lived in Nottingham). This was Hoshang Ali Patel, a senior man in whose home Inder lodged during the late 1950s. Patel had a large family, and here Inder commenced a habit of informal group meetings commemorating Meher Baba. That was a Hindu-Muslim project.

I met Patel in 1965 at one of the London group meetings. He wore Western clothing, but retained his turban. In combination with his white beard and moustachios, this gave him a very traditional appearance. Although a follower of Meher Baba, he firmly stated to me: "I am Muslim!" Patel was one of the most arresting instances of a Meher Baba devotee I ever encountered. He had a high opinion of Inder, to whom he was a loyal friend.

From the Asian nucleus at Nottingham, Inder subsequently developed contact with English people who joined his private meetings. These meetings were quite different to the more formal and accessible London group, which he also attended on a monthly basis.

5.  Be in the world but not of the world

In Cambridge, during the early 1960s, Inder again lived in simple lodgings, renting an upstairs bedsit in an English family home. The working class location was Sedgwick Street, comprising terraced houses of the late Victorian era. The room was not large, and the furnishings were of no value. The house was on the corner of an intersecting road; the old sash window overlooked a similar street. The host family were friendly but noisy. The lodger's favourite time of day was in the early hours of the morning, when peace reigned.

Inder did not live in England because he wanted to do so, but because of an instruction from Meher Baba enjoining a sojourn of ten years. Money did not matter to this immigrant, who only retained from his high salary what he needed for rent, food, and other basic expenses. Because of his constant donations to Meherazad ashram, his bank account never had much ballast.

Sedgwick Street, 1966. The small front upstairs window was Inder's bedsit. Copyright Kevin R. D. Shepherd

The only decorations in Inder's simple room were a few framed photographs, two of these placed on the mantelpiece. The larger photo featured Meher Baba, and the smaller one revealed Swami Vivekananda (d.1902). The occupant's only luxury was a recently acquired motor scooter, which he used to reach his distant place of work at Pye Telecommunications. He was a skilled electronics designer.

From Vivekananda, Inder had early gained inspiration via such maxims as: "Arise, awake, and stop not till the goal is reached!" From Meher Baba, he had learned something more complex. "Be in the world but not of the world." This converges with a much older Sufi teaching, but the format and specifics were different. Meher Baba's teaching on that theme was not delivered in a book or lengthy discourse, but in various asides and short communications. Inder had an angle on this subject that I never found elsewhere in the movement. Unfortunately, the theme can be copied by facile pretensions. Inder did not claim any accomplishment in this field. The mere words are useless.

The living space of Adi Junior was palatial by comparison with that of Inder. In London, the younger brother of Meher Baba had a house, called Meher Manzil, located in Barnes. Adi acquired a motor car. His middle class ambience featured a number of rooms on different floors. There was sufficient space for a workshop, and also a storeroom. Numerous items of value were eventually in evidence, varying from his rolltop desk to a supplementary stock of English oil paintings and watercolours (other works of art were also visible by the 1970s).

Inder was a guest in Adi's home on numerous occasions, frequently bringing the desired bottle of whisky stipulated by the host. Adi would drink alcohol only in the evenings, explaining that this refreshment helped him to relax from the pressures of business activity. Inder only drank tea and water. Adi was thrifty and energetic, and always keen to expand his stock. Two big drawbacks were his lack of expertise and strong competition from the London antiques trade (a fraternity who were seldom in the mood to ignore bargains).

Adi would sometimes eloquently refer to "Baba's work," which he was apparently engaged in, although details were vague. Of course, he was "in the world but not of it." Long ago, he had been trained by Meher Baba to become detached from all events. Adi was principally referring to the early 1930s, when he had sometimes been a travelling companion of his famous relative. His key argument tended to be that Baba had frequently placed his companions in contrasting situations. For example, a luxury hotel room one day, followed the next day by shabby accommodation elsewhere. These associations do not prove that Adi Junior was exercising a spiritual detachment during his much later residence in London. His familiarity with the Meher Baba corpus certainly transpired to be deficient.

In distant Ahmednagar, Adi Senior lived at the Khushru Quarters, a building inherited from his parents, and where he conducted his secretarial activity. He was not mercantile like his namesake, but he did have servants. Adi Senior drove a capacious automobile on his journeys to the ashram and other venues. Certain other devotees also had large cars. Many Indians did not possess such vehicles, and some servants did not even have a bicycle. Nevertheless, quite apart from such social comparisons, the basic issue becomes: was Adi Senior in the world but not of it?

In the mind of Adi K. Irani, economic matters were often pressing. "Adi Sr often fought with [Meher] Baba, mostly over money" (Kalchuri Fenster 2009:191). This evocative statement comes from the reliable account of a person closely affiliated to the mandali (namely Sheela, the daughter of Bhau Kalchuri). The situation of conflict has apparently astonished some Western devotees. Related matters were known to the reticent Inder during the 1960s and earlier.

The method of Meher Baba was not always obvious to devotees. Some relevant details are completely missing in much of the literature. The Irani mystic could evoke strong reactions amongst the mandali; he was liable to admonish one or other of these ashram supporters. Sentimental explanations will not suffice to explain the details.

The confrontations with Adi K. Irani entailed sufficient friction for the Disciple and Secretary to ignore what the master was saying. The self-proclaimed Disciple was right, the master was wrong. At such junctures of resistance, Meher Baba would (in apparent desperation) resort to a threat involving his sister Mani. This was the only factor that could make the stubborn Disciple rethink his agenda, apparently because Adi knew that Mani would spread news of the disagreement.

If Adi was obdurate, Baba would then summon Mani to the scene. "If Mani was called, she would yell and shout at Adi and go on and on" (ibid). This dramatic opposition was evidently recurring. The frictions were such that Meher Baba remarked: "These people will be the death of me; they will be the cause of my death" (ibid).

At large however, these events were unknown. Adi the Disciple and sister Mani were elevated to paragon roles by devotees in America and other countries. Adi Senior and Mani were said to be the perfect channels of Meher Baba's love and compassion. It is therefore discrepant to find that Adi Senior often shouted at young Sheela, who reports: "Sometimes Adi would tell me to lie to Baba" (ibid:636).

In the 1960s, Adi Senior was "always fighting with his servant" (ibid). Domestic items were at risk in these quarrels. Ceramics were particularly vulnerable. Adi was so angry on one occasion that he overturned the dining room table, which got damaged. The plates and food fell on the floor. Adi later complained to Meher Baba that he had no plates left. Baba responded with annoyance, saying that Adi should eat off the floor. "Never come and ask me for money for them [the chair, the table, and plates]. I'm not buying you anything" (ibid). The refused money probably related to donations like those Inder regularly made.

On one occasion in Poona (at Guruprasad), Baba was "lambasting Mani and Eruch, and they too were arguing" (ibid:189). This scene of strife involved Mani arguing with Baba. The harassed master used Bhau Kalchuri to relay a warning message that this fighting would be the cause of his death. "I will survive longer, till I am 90, if you don't argue with me. Otherwise you both (Mani and Eruch) will be the cause of killing me" (ibid:190). An eyewitness reports: "The atmosphere was so tense and Baba was so serious and upset, I was about to cry" (ibid).

The same source relays that Mehera, Naja, Dr. Donkin, Bhau Kalchuri, and Aloba (Ali Akbar Shapurzaman), never argued with Meher Baba (ibid:192). Sometimes the disputing mandali were proffering arguments which they thought to be in the interests of their mentor. It is nevertheless difficult to justify their overall tendency, and even more so in the face of a prevalent belief about infallible disciples.

6.   Sufism  Reoriented

Inder did not return to London after his departure from England in 1964. The subsequent "Townshend phase" enveloped the London group from 1967 onwards. This contrasted strongly with the earlier phase dominated by Charles Purdom and Adi S. Irani. I know this because I attended many of the London group meetings in 1965-6; with my mother, I also visited the homes of devotees, including Ann Powell, Delia De Leon, Maud Kennedy, and Adi S. Irani.

The exegesis of Sufism Reoriented came into vogue during the late 1960s. This American activity was hosted in London, with Don Stevens becoming prominent as a lecturer on the Discourses of Meher Baba. This presentation was quite different to the example of the now deceased Purdom. The American Sufis frequently expressed a much more dogmatic angle than Purdom had done in his own version of the Discourses. Don Stevens criticised the approach of Charles Purdom, who was far more restrained in his presentation of the avatar theme.

Murshida Ivy Oneita Duce

In 1978-79, my mother corresponded with Ivy O. Duce (d.1981), the leader of Sufism Reoriented, and by then a famous expositor in America. My mother showed me the correspondence, which eventually failed. At first Murshida Duce was resistant to my mother's version of 1960s events in England. However, when sufficient detail was arrayed, Duce grasped that an extensive anomaly existed in American reports of events that my mother was discussing. The correspondence revolved primarily around the subject of Inder, although other topics were included.

Duce and her American colleagues were not aware that Inder had been a significant donor to the Meherazad ashram. They knew nothing about Inder. They had not the slightest idea of events in relation to Adi S. Irani, who was completely missing from their version of the situation. The various episodes had gone into oblivion, smothered by devotee jargon associated with Mani. That jargon had undergone accretions via devotee inventions and stories. Duce possessed copies of Mani's letters at the time of the "ban," but no record of the significant telegram from Meher Baba dating to February 1967. Mani had very briefly referred to Inder, but Duce and others had no qualifying information about him. For instance, the Americans were completely ignorant of Inder's professional career and salary.

One of the confusions about Inder was very briefly included by Duce in her book How a Master Works (1975). Inder is not there named; the context given is very misleading. Departing from this false scenario, Murshida Duce eventually acknowledged the reality of events she had never before known about. She conceded the truth of my mother's contrary report. Duce could scarcely ignore the sustained account of a direct participant and victim. My mother then requested that Duce should correct the misreporting that had developed over the years.

A setback occurred. Murshida Duce realised that revisionist onus would involve confrontation with Mani and Adi Senior, who were major authority figures in the Meher Baba movement. Both of these entities were regarded by devotees as being incapable of error. Adi K. Irani was the Disciple and Secretary whose word was law. Duce backed down, clearly apprehensive at the possible outcome. She then invented an explanation, in evasive devotee terms, that meant she would not have to do anything in reparation.

The ghost of donor Inder Sen, victims of misrepresentation, the different face of Meher Baba which the elite had failed to see. These matters were conveniently shelved and forgotten.

Sufism Reoriented gained many subscribers at this period. Pete Townshend had become an admirer of Murshida Duce, whom he personally encountered (he told my mother that Duce had inspired him). Townshend had blocked my mother from all democratic representation, while Duce now did something even worse. Townshend could not see how my mother was right, being blinded by a contrary interpretation and devotee lore. In significant contrast, Duce knew that my mother was right, but suppressed the new revelation.

7.  Meher  Baba  Centres  and  Censorship

"In the 1980s they sent  letters to all Baba centers around the world defending themselves."  This fiction and distortion appearing on Wikipedia (section 1 above) is again misleading. My mother was not involved in any correspondence with Meher Baba Centres in the 1980s, only with Ivy Duce in the late 1970s. She had no need to defend herself, not having done anything wrong, as Ivy Duce grasped in shocked retrospect.

My mother had been callously set aside by Duce, who had forsaken her own conscience. My relative had already been marginalised into obscurity by Pete Townshend, whose "holier than thou" attitude was accompanied by the more general sentiments of "Baba Love." During the 1980s, the surviving "London group" were known to inform enquirers that they had nothing further to do with Townshend. These people disavowed any connection with the superstar, now considered to be an unpredictable extremist who had nearly killed himself with alcohol and drugs (however, this celebrity still declares his allegiance to Meher Baba; see Townshend 2012).

The Wikipedia misconception (conveyed by the Ott circle) relates to a document despatched on my behalf by an intermediary in 1988, a document that described the errors and distortions which had accumulated. Someone had pointed out to me that, unlike my mother, I had never contacted any Meher Baba Centre with a complaint. A suggestion was also made that I send my new book on Meher Baba to devotee leaders, and give them the chance to make a fair comment. I was sceptical, but eventually agreed, grasping that there was some logic in the promptings. At least nobody would be able to say, in future, that I had not contacted those Centres and attempted to set the record straight.

The response to the 1988 document was memorably evasive. There was complete indifference and total failure to reply on the part of many Meher Baba Centres in America (and England). Sufism Reoriented were another miss. A form of censorship was clearly operative.

The influential Meher Center at Myrtle Beach did respond to the document, but very inadequately, and basically in a vein of facile retort. The situation was one of convenient avoidance of many points made in the lengthy document. The misinformation about myself continued as a consequence of the neglect in ethics. This event was sufficient to merit the judgment of a cultist attitude from a number of observers.

This leading Centre also suppressed Meher Baba, an Iranian Liberal (1988), then newly published. Their influential spokesman was Ann Conlon (d.2005). She conceded that my book was very favourable to the subject. However, she took the attitude that mild criticisms of some prestigious devotees were beyond tolerance (Conlon herself was not mentioned in the book). Aversion to all criticism is not a clinching argument in other directions. Ann Conlon also stated that nobody at the Myrtle Beach Centre had any interest in reading my book, which was evidently considered taboo. In effect, the unread book was unofficially banned.

Confirmation of an underlying bias came via a subsequent letter, from another American devotee at the Myrtle Beach Centre. The wording revealed that the concept of a "ban" or exclusion (applying to myself) was in operation at that Centre. The devotee writer expressed her disquiet about this situation, which she appears to have found repugnant. At the same time, she evidenced her inclination to fall into line with the emphasis of authority figures (primarily Conlon) at the Myrtle Beach Centre. This situation boiled down to the belief that I was banned, and therefore my book on Meher Baba was unreadable.

Eruch B. Jessawala interpreting Meher Baba, Myrtle Beach Centre, 1958

A complication for the American attitude was that a prominent Indian devotee adopted a different approach. At this period, Eruch B. Jessawala (d.2001) responded to the same communication despatched to Myrtle Beach. Eruch was a leading member of the surviving mandali associated with Meherazad ashram. He stated that the situation involving myself and the ashram was long in the past, and that no "ban" existed.

The American censorship was evidently at the root of Wikipedia developments over twenty years later. The hostility of certain Wikipedia editors (attached to the Meher Baba article on Wikipedia) was clearly influenced by inadequate conceptions of prestigious devotees associated with the Myrtle Beach Centre. The censorship in that Centre was extended into Wikipedia, where devotee biases were active under the convenient conceptual umbrella known as Neutral Point of View.

8.  Pride  and  Abnegation

"They became involved with another spiritual teacher, against Baba's orders." This Wikipedia error (section 1 above), supplied by the poorly informed Ott circle, requires further discussion. What was the "spiritual teacher" doing and saying? Was he an exotic Himalayan guru seated on a tiger skin? Or perhaps a teacher of Vedanta in some conservative ashram? No, he was a devotee of Meher Baba, gifted in electronics, working for a salary under routine urban conditions, first in England and later in India. He also composed a monthly letter (in English) to his mentor, according to ongoing instructions from the Irani mystic in 1964, at the time when Inder visited Meherazad.

At first returning to New Delhi, Inder later moved to Mumbai (then still called Bombay). He is known to have again encountered Meher Baba at Poona in May 1965 and once more in June 1966, by invitation (he described to me the 1965 event). In late 1966, many of his monthly letters to Meher Baba were sent to me (in duplicate form) by Adi K. Irani (with whom I corresponded during those years). This gesture was intended as proof that Inder was of little or no consequence. The Disciple and Secretary viewed Inder as sincere but ailing, and not comparable to important devotees.

The mandali now believed that Inder was suffering from depression. This idea was furthered by Adi Junior in London, and also during the latter's visit to Meherazad in December 1964, only a few days after the meeting granted by Meher Baba to Inder. In the latter part of 1964, Inder was subject to what Adi Junior and others interpreted as a nervous breakdown. Other persons gave a different version (in terms of a spiritual experience).

In the summer of 1964, Inder left his salaried occupation in Cambridge, having applied for a new job in Harlow. He travelled to the London home of Adi Junior, asking if he could lodge there temporarily. The day after his arrival, Inder started to continually chant the name of Meher Baba, and entered "an indrawn state," to employ the surviving description. Adi was annoyed, treating this development as an interference with his business life. The reluctant host took Inder to Banstead Hospital, declaring that his companion was suffering a nervous breakdown. However, Inder was quickly discharged by the hospital staff, who gave the reason that he was still functioning normally. He was not mentally ill, as Adi wished to believe. This episode brought to a climax the underlying difference between these two Asian followers of Meher Baba.

From now on, Adi denounced Inder as being mentally ill. He wrote letters to the mandali in India conveying his extremist opinion, which had no supporting medical evidence. Inder now stayed with the sympathetic Fred Marks in Putney. However, this British devotee felt harassed by Adi, who was now hostile towards Inder. The victim moved on to lodge with a more accommodating Indian family in London. Meher Baba sent an ambiguous message saying that Inder should take due medical advice. The medics had not diagnosed Inder as being mentally ill. They apparently grasped that he was committed to a religious disposition of intent reflection. However, Adi interpreted Meher Baba's words to mean that his own diagnosis was correct. More realistically, Baba frequently recommended devotees to take medical advice, and with no attendant context of mental illness.

Inder remained withdrawn, but nevertheless communicative to a few persons. He afterwards moved back to Cambridge, where he observed strict silence for two months. His donations had now stopped. Adi Junior was annoyed at the loss of his benefit (he received a regular payment from Inder, following an arrangement made by Baba). Meher Baba stated that Inder should return to India. This was exactly ten years since the instruction Baba had given Inder to remain in England for a decade. The three women who assisted Inder at this time chose to ignore the urgent communications from Meherazad. When Inder's residual money was exhausted, they conveniently consigned him to a hospital, without consulting Meher Baba. Inder was now very abstracted, but started to speak. He appeared to be disoriented, and was administered electric current treatment. He quickly recovered from the effects of introversion.

The doctors at first believed that Meher Baba's instruction, for Inder to leave England, was impractical. They were surprised at the patient's speedy return to normality. Inder started to write faultlessly normal letters to Eruch Jessawala (of the mandali), communicating that he felt quite able to return to India alone, without the escort that his father was arranging. A meeting at Meherazad with Meher Baba was scheduled. Inder departed on his own in November 1964. His father had to pay for the air flight; Inder's donorship to Meherazad ashram had left him penniless. His contact with Adi Junior now ended permanently. However, Adi's interpretation of events had been accepted by the mandali. Meher Baba did not define the psychological condition of Inder.

At a later date, Adi Senior confused my mother with one of the erring women who had failed to respond to ashram letters. In fact, my mother obeyed communications from Meher Baba, and kept away from the erring women. She was concerned at Inder's state of a spiritualised introversion, which is how she and some others interpreted the phenomenon. As for myself, I had no interest in these events at the time, being a fourteen year old schoolboy, and preocccupied with other matters.

The grapevine version of this scenario was astounding. For instance, according to Murshida Ivy Duce, Meher Baba "sent for one of his devoted followers [Inder] to return to India from Europe because of the insistence of a European in venerating said man as a Perfect Master" (Duce 1975:120). This is not what happened. The various stories in circulation fell far short of the facts.

Characteristically, Inder did not refer to his completion of the ten year contract, preferring instead a markedly abnegatory profile. He fell into line with the prevalent view that he had undergone a nervous breakdown, and referred to his "illness." In July 1965, I could see no sign of depression in this man during my visits to his temporary lodging near Cambridge. (5) Instead, Inder was serene, buoyant, and exhilarating. However, he did sometimes make self-depreciatory remarks intended to indicate his lack of importance. He made no claims about himself whatever. The contrast with some other parties was acute. His self-effacing approach was no proof of depression, although assertive persons interpreted him in that erroneous context.

In his monthly letters to Meher Baba during the year 1965, Inder reached a peak of abnegatory expression. In these epistles, the self-demeaning writer presented himself as a forlorn devotee prone to making mistakes, and as a person "weak mentally, confused and upset." He lamented his stupidity. He was always in danger of making the wrong decisions. The total absence of conceit conveyed the impression that even to call him an imbecile was not sufficient reminder of his worthlessness.

In contrast, the prominent British devotee Delia De Leon frequently asserted: "I am one of Baba's nearest and dearest." She had for long viewed Inder as a peripheral junior, lacking the degree of intimacy with Meher Baba that she considered herself to possess. Her contact with the Irani celebrity dated back to 1931, earlier than many other devotees.

Much was measured in terms of duration. A facile belief had developed: the longer that devotees had known of Baba, the more important they were. Meher Baba himself did not say anything of the kind. Delia would refer to her correspondence of the 1930s for support in her claim. It is relevant to add that Delia was not in the same category as Inder in terms of regular correspondence with Meher Baba during the 1950s and 1960s. She did receive letters from Mani in the later period, but this was not the same type of occurrence.

The "I was earlier than thou" argument afflicted victims like Fred Marks. He described to me at some length how the constriction had made him feel almost hopelessly too late. Fred had first heard of Meher Baba in the 1940s, but did not meet him until 1952. Twenty-one years after the elite Kimco group of women celebrated by Delia and others. Fred had evidently undergone agonies of dislocation in time. He eventually consoled himself with a counter-argument that Meher Baba had directly contacted him, on an inner level, at a comfortably early date.

Adi Junior revelled in protracted chronology. He was still a young man when he participated in the Prem Ashram, of late 1920s vintage. This had marked his first real commitment to Meher Baba. However, even before that, he had been strongly attracted to Hazrat Babajan in the early 1920s, when still a schoolboy. Adi knew a great deal about those early years, and when he was in the mood, he could describe events quite closely. However, he was not always in the mood, and never wrote down his memories. (6) Many devotees assumed that Adi Junior had a thorough knowledge of his brother's teaching, a belief that is not sustained by the evidence.

Meher Baba at Meherazad, 1967

According to Inder's private disclosures in England, Meher Baba was an advanced mystic who rated devotees and others according to their intrinsic achievements, not their effusive declarations. The worst thing any devotee could do was to preen themselves, or make claims out of the ordinary. Such claims were not valued by Meher Baba, however genial he might seem at the time, and despite whatever prominence the inflated devotee might gain. This theme appears to be a variation upon: pride comes before a fall.

During his last few years, Meher Baba is known to have expressed acute dissatisfaction with Adi K. Irani, chiding him and expressing aversion to him. "This was so pronounced that the secretary would feel under strain when visiting the ashram at Meherazad" (Shepherd 1988:265-266). Meher Baba does not appear to have specified the cause of his disapproval. Brief references to this episode appeared in the literature at the time of Baba's death, thereafter becoming unfashionable. Adi Senior subsequently recovered in a role of apostolic fervour. He was nevertheless considered dogmatic by some critics, and proved inflexible in supporting the misrepresentation of my mother.

"Right at the end of the show, straight between the eyes, at point blank range."

This recent comment applies to a published report concerning Adi S. Irani (Adi Junior). In December 1968, Adi was invited by Meher Baba to visit Meherazad ashram, where he stayed for three weeks. The prestigious ambassador in London did not anticipate a setback which now occurred. He was sternly rebuked by Meher Baba for not having read the latter's major work, published in 1955. Adi seems to have regarded himself as being beyond the need for due study. Inder afforded a strong contrast, being an expert on the content of God Speaks: The Theme of Creation and Its Purpose. Adi complained that he found the book difficult to read. Meher Baba did not accept his excuses, and instead made his leisurely brother read the neglected work without further ado.

Adi could not escape the new assignment. With some reluctance, he started to read laboriously through the first part of the book. However, he still complained that he could not understand the complex themes enumerated. It now became quite obvious that Adi did not comprehend his brother's teaching in the way that many tended to imagine. The Discourses were much easier to read. Relatively few devotees were closely familiar with the more demanding God Speaks. Yet for many years, Adi had been assuming the role of an expert on Meher Baba. To say that Adi felt discomforted, is probably an understatement (Eruch Jessawala was apparently present, one of the mandali who had assisted in the presentation of God Speaks, and who did understand the text; Eruch would have been quick to perceive Adi's problem).

These are the bare bones of a fraught situation. Although the Irani mystic was now in poor health, he was quite capable of repeatedly dramatising an error, his silent adamance reflected in his expressive face, his mannerisms, and flowing hand gesture language (generally interpreted by Eruch). Adi's subsequent, and very private, report of the episode (to my mother) conveyed an admission that Meher Baba deflated him with a strong criticism. The experience was humiliating.

On the basis of Adi's rather furtive account, Meher Baba was accusing him of neglect, a contention which Baba proved and highlighted by means of the unread book. The episode meant that twelve years as an "ambassador" in London were now heavily compromised. Only a few of the mandali were present on these occasions, and they did not advertise the new development. (7)

Very soon after the confrontational episode at Meherazad, Meher Baba expired in January 1969. Adi had still not finished reading God Speaks by that time (and may never have done so). In London, Adi had believed for years that a role of great spiritual importance would be his after the famous brother died. According to some devotee accounts, Adi spoke of his own presumed role in laudatory "avataric" terms. This does not tally with his laxity in reading. During the 1970s, Adi Junior became ill and receded into the background of events, becoming an obscure figure to the movement at large.

9.  The  Sectarian  Issue

"No sect actually exists." This assertion comes from the deceptive Wikipedia statement reproduced in section 1 above. The disclaimer was evidently intended to deny any possibility of problems or drawbacks occurring at the Meher Baba Centres, and amongst devotees. Censorship and suppression are attributes associated with the more extreme sectarian actions.

The Western devotees have often disavowed a sectarian identity, but generally insist upon the concept of a unique avatar. Avatar Meher Baba is emphasised as the central belief. The Western devotees have often identified themselves as Baba Lovers. The Meher Baba Centres are major vehicles for the avataric theme. Those Centres have tended to promote their literature in a manner conveying the impression that the favoured texts are canonical. A problem arises in misrepresentation of persons inside or outside the movement.

Rather questionably, Meher Baba Centres in the West have demonstrated tendencies to suppression of unwanted data. In this perspective, the outsider must be wrong; the insiders are totally right. The partisan standpoint has furthered misinterpretation in my case, while non-canonical books on the figurehead are ignored. Dogmatic instances have been known, as on Wikipedia, where outsider authorship is deemed invalid opinion by trolls, and canonical authorship legitimated as factual reporting (see Wikipedia attack). Such tendencies are regarded by academic analysts as symptoms of a sectarian approach.

In 2007, a British academic editor was disconcerted when an American devotee (Christopher Ott) inserted a "sectarian" sidebar into his Wikipedia article on Meher Baba's father Sheriar Mundegar Irani. That sidebar elevated Meher Baba Centres and ashrams, the organisations called Avatar Meher Baba Trust and Sufism Reoriented, "prayers and practices" of the Meher Baba movement, "terms and concepts" of the same movement, major publications, and "major figures" of the movement, including Bhau Kalchuri and other members of the mandali. The non-devotee academic editor was offended by this clearly denominational gesture, one of the reasons why he soon afterwards migrated from Wikipedia to Citizendium. He was reacting to a form of religious identity, which has also offput many other observers over the years. The insistence of Baba Lovers that they are free from sectarian trappings is not convincing to outsiders.

The jacket of my book Meher Baba, an Iranian Liberal  informed that "the author's approach is not sectarian, and throws new light upon many events relating to the Iranian [or Irani] mystic." I was making clear my stance as an independent commentator. The non-sectarian book was suppressed in America (and England) by the sect which purportedly does not actually exist. The preface stated: "I respect Meher Baba, but do not choose to propagandize in any way for the movement in his name" (page 5). I was careful to add on the same page: "This movement is highly law-abiding, and in general reflects the moral rulings of the figurehead." Independent assessment of the figurehead is nevertheless resisted by Meher Baba Centres, a fact which is no particular encouragement to regard the movement as being liberal.

The word sectarian (and also the word sect) does not necessarily bear any negative connotation whatever. In itself, that word merely denotes a doctrinal commitment. The avatar doctrine is considered sectarian by many academics, amounting to a religious belief in competition with the teachings of other sects. More than one religious grouping has entertained this doctrine, for example, the Sathya Sai Baba movement. There are many sects who consider their founders or inspirers to be unique entities, whatever designations are applied. There is not necessarily anything wrong in this, except that dogmatism can easily develop and kill any meaning.

As an independent commentator, I have covered three religious movements in the Maharashtra zone of Western India, including that of Shirdi Sai Baba. "I am not myself a devotee or sectarian, and have approached him [Shirdi Sai] from another angle, commencing with a book published thirty years ago" (quote from online article). The disposition to cover, in some detail, different religious movements, may be contrasted with the blogger tendency to hate campaign demonstrated by an American defender of Sathya Sai Baba.

Some religious sects or movements are tolerant and harmless, while others are insular and dogmatic; the latter category can become obsessive in their promotionalism, which the outside world may not find convincing. Some sects become cults, a situation implying more hazardous occurrences. The word cult has recently gained strong negative implications of extremist behaviour and/or attitudes. See, for instance, Cults and Suspect Parties. The academic literature has debated various manifestations.

The known aberrations in a fair number of contemporary "spiritual" groupings have revealed basic patterns of manipulation, with unpredictable consequences. Suppression and misrepresentation are basic resorts of the cultist disposition, which will justify lapses on the pretext of a supposedly higher cause. I do not here accuse the Meher Baba movement of being a cult, but certain of their more insular actions and verbal strategies could easily be interpreted in that light.

Beryl Williams, New York 1966

According to the Wikipedia misinformation above (section 1), I have a dislike of followers of Meher Baba. Compare some of my published statements, for example: "If more people were like her [Beryl Williams], the world would be a much better place" (Iranian Liberal, p. 291). Beryl Williams (d.1968) of New York was a black American devotee (of Meher Baba) with whom I once corresponded. (8) Wikipedia is unreliable.

Some contemporary American devotees appear to have a strong dislike of me, based on their misconception of events in which I was victimised at the age of sixteen. For fifty years or so, they have maintained a very distorted version of 1960s occurrences. For many years also, they have suppressed my book that is favourable to their figurehead, a bias duplicated on Wikipedia by pseudonymous devotee editors (the Christopher Ott circle), who are party to hostile rumours.

The Wikipedia aggression has also demonstrated a total unfamiliarity with the contents of Investigating the Sai Baba Movement (2005), again suppressed, and which has a substantial section favourable to Meher Baba. Almost mind-boggling is one Meher Baba devotee comment (on Wikipedia) which sourly attributes the theme of "Sai Baba movement" to me, completely ignoring the academic literature on this subject dating back some four decades (see further the Postscript below).

Professional analysts of sect and cult (who do exist, and who should be reckoned with) are notably sceptical of the "canonical" syndrome. According to some academic authorities, banned or suppressed books are often a source of significant materials. Scholars have proved this factor over generations of research into the history of religions.

The adherence to standard "canonical" books is no proof of accuracy or infallibility. For instance, the lengthy multi-volume work Lord Meher, a canonical biography (partly authored by Bhau Kalchuri of the mandali), though informative to a substantial degree, has also been attended by hagiological flourishes, omissions, and a number of errors. Drawbacks are sometimes attributed to a translation process from the original Hindi. Much of Lord Meher was not written or compiled by Kalchuri, but by other hands; there is ongoing editorship and amplification from an American devotee. The extensive editorial process was for long obscured. Many people still tend to mistakenly believe that Kalchuri composed most or all of Lord Meher. (9)

Two avatars, Sathya Sai Baba and Meher Baba. Which one inspires less hate campaign? A current issue relates to sectarian sentiments that are contradicted by symptoms of hate campaign.

In 2010, I posted a web item on Meher Baba that amenably distinguished between his devotees and the openly aggressive manifestations associated with the Sathya Sai Baba sect. I had not recently heard of any adverse rumours emanating from the Meher Baba Centres. I was being optimistic, as subsequent developments on Wikipedia confirmed. The gap between these two movements or sects has effectively narrowed. The cyberstalker hate campaign of Gerald Joe Moreno, an apologist for Sathya Sai Baba, is closely followed by suppression and misrepresentation achieved by Western affiliates of the Meher Baba movement. Both of these sects claim surpassing avataric auspices. However, critics still await the proof of exemplary behaviour.

To ensure that I have not misled readers, here is a due reminder of the matter which I kept silent about in 2010, though editorial bad manners on Wikipedia in 2012 preclude any further reticence:





10.  Suppression  of  Literature

Wikipedia events in 2012 included the deletion of an article about Meher Baba and his influential critic Paul Brunton. Many years earlier, I was the first commentator to delve more deeply into the Brunton episode than had previously been the fashion, and with results that were not in Brunton's favour. Subsequent accounts have served to confirm Brunton's unreliability. See further Meher Baba and Paul Brunton on this website [also Investigating Meher Baba].

A new Wikipedia article (Meher Baba's Critics) cited a number of appropriate sources, but was attacked by "Meher Baba" editors Hoverfish and Dazedbythebell. The opposing argument was maintained on grounds that were not convincing to observers outside Wikipedia. A Wikipedia real name academic editor (Simon Kidd) implied that the major reason for this attack was the appearance of my own books in the citations. The nature and significance of this episode has provoked due reflection. (10) 

The irrational nature of some devotional assessment is capable of arousing comment. In 1988, I contacted Tom Hopkinson, the new leader of the London Meher Baba Centre (known as the Meher Baba Association). I cordially gave notification of my new book Meher Baba, an Iranian Liberal, and also other books of mine on closely related figures (including Meher Baba's father Sheriar Mundegar Irani and his mentor Hazrat Babajan).

Hopkinson replied very briefly and dismissively, saying that he and his Association did not want to see or read books on comparative religion, which was the category in which he placed all my books. The sole reason he gave for this uncompromising attitude was: 'we are only interested in Meher Baba.' (11)  

The suppression of Iranian Liberal by American Meher Baba Centres also signified another feature of censorship. Included in the bibliography was reference to an unpublished four volume work by the same author.  (12) This longer work is likewise non-canonical, and was thus ignored. For the record, some of the sources for the unpublished work can be mentioned here:

Reminiscences of Adi S. Irani, one of the most important sources of oral information relating to Meher Baba, extending back to the 1920s (and earlier). Reminiscences of Inder Sain, dating back to the 1940s. Other sources include Will Backett, Delia De Leon, and Ann Powell, all being veteran British followers of Meher Baba from the early 1930s. I had personal contact with all save one of these informants. Backett was represented by documents and four personal contacts.

Of course, such sources, if included in canonical works, would be welcome to the movement or sect, but if appearing in an uncanonical format, run the risk of being dismissed by partisan prejudice. The insular perspective rejects data on the basis of partisan criteria, foreign to the scholarship found in universities. Variations of attitude are involved. I have recently been approached by a devotee wishing to have certain data in my unpublished manuscript inserted into Lord Meher, a canonical work. In contrast, I take the view that the data belongs in the outsider text, not least because of complexities of a type frequently omitted in canonical works (section 12 below).

Moving at a tangent to the suppressive tendency was a gesture of Dr. Ward Parks, an American devotee who has edited certain works about Meher Baba. He included Iranian Liberal in the bibliography of a book published at Myrtle Beach in 2009. He also supplied due reference in an annotation, which acknowledges the relevance of my data concerning the major critic of Meher Baba (meaning Paul Brunton). In that respect, the reference of Dr. Parks is certainly a substantial advance upon Wikipedia hostilities.

In another respect, a misreading occurred. Parks describes me in terms of "no devotee of Meher Baba and a sharp critic of Meher Baba's followers." (13) I am certainly not a devotee, but the factor of criticism needs to be evaluated rather more carefully. The book which this commentator cited was Iranian Liberal. There are indeed a number of criticisms, but that work also includes sympathetic references to, and portrayals of, followers like Charles Purdom, Will and Mary Backett, Ann Powell, Beryl Williams, Gustadji Hansotia, Abdul Ghani Munsiff, William Donkin, Ramju Abdulla, and others.

More recent online remarks of Ward Parks evidence no awareness of my web output, including the present article. Someone who contacted him remarked to me: "Ward seems to think you disappeared off the face of the earth after the 1980s; he does not show any comprehension of your output."

William Donkin

In the bibliography to Iranian Liberal, I made positive comments on Dr. Donkin's book The Wayfarers (1948). "This is a unique book. It is a study of one of the most important and least understood of Baba's activities.... The Wayfarers remains a remarkable testament to dimensions of the Muslim and Hindu populations of India and Pakistan that are generally unsuspected, far less documented.... Donkin himself did not draw all the relevant conclusions from his study, as I have attempted to indicate in the present book and also in my unpublished study" (Shepherd 1988:257-258). Part of the unpublished study covered at some length the hundreds of diverse Asiatic entities described by Donkin in terms of the "God-intoxicated" and "advanced souls."

William Donkin (d.1970) himself suggested to Meher Baba that a record should be made of masts and other categories. Baba approved of the suggestion, and indicated that Donkin should compose the record. The British medic said that he was not fit for this task. Meher Baba disagreed, and Donkin complied. However, when The Wayfarers achieved publication, "Baba was critical of the book, saying William's account of the masts was 'too dry.' " (14) That book nevertheless remains distinctive.

11.  Meher  Prabhu/ Lord  Meher

Charles Purdom wrote a biography of Meher Baba, giving basic information, along with some exegetical chapters. (15) Some contents of the latter were disputed by Don Stevens of Sufism Reoriented. This situation of differing opinion and contrasting format is far preferable to the tactic of suppression.

In another direction, a lengthy devotee work is frequently regarded as a definitive version of Meher Baba's biography. A devotee convention is the attribution of Lord Meher to Bhau Kalchuri (d.2013). I have myself deferred to this convention in certain references of my own. Nevertheless, that convention requires correction. I have considered bibliographic documentation in terms of Kalchuri et al, but even this is misleading, because that recourse still suggests Kalchuri as being the primary author of a multi-volume presentation subject to extensive editing and amplification.

Not until 2014 did the background details of Lord Meher become generally known via an internet article. For nearly thirty years after publication of the first volume, Bhau Kalchuri was frequently believed to be the mandated author of this multi-volume work circulating under his name. Meher Baba only assigned to him the project of writing a verse biography in Hindi. This development did not occur until January 1969, when Kalchuri was requested to compose poetry in a compass of 800 pages. He diligently discharged this obligation, and in the process created another manuscript.

Bhau Kalchuri was a poet, not a historian. He was not greatly familiar with Meher Baba's life prior to the 1950s. Accordingly, he interviewed the surviving mandali for assistance, and also some Indian devotees. Then he wrote a biographical account in Hindi prose, as a preparation for the poetic work he had been delegated. Working for up to eighteen hours a day, he completed the prose version in seven months. He afterwards composed the verse biography in less than four months. (16) Meher Baba did not commission the subsequent lengthy book developing from the prose preliminary (known as Meher Prabhu). The verse biography is represented by the Hindi book Meher Darshan (1984). Kalchuri stopped writing at the end of 1972.

He used nineteen notebooks for Meher Prabhu. These are not bulky, and "would likely have filled one volume" only of the eventual twenty volumes (to quote the assessment of Ott). The difference is very substantial.

Bhau Kalchuri; Feram Workingboxwala typing Meher Prabhu

A Parsi devotee, Feram Workingboxwala (d.1980), wanted to translate (and type) the Hindi prose document into English. (17) That document was Meher Prabhu, having been shelved by Bhau Kalchuri as superfluous. "Bhau had not considered any of his preparatory writing for Meher Darshan to be of any value in and of itself" (Ott, 2015). Bhau agreed to the suggestion of Feram. However, the translation process was not straightforward. Feram was proficient in English and Gujarati, but not Hindi. Bhau was not proficient in English. Feram found difficulty in reading the handwriting of Bhau, so the latter would assist by trying to find the appropriate English words. Progress was to some extent erratic. The result included translations needing revision at a later date by another hand. (18)

An industrious typist, Feram innovated by translating numerous documents from Gujarati and Marathi, (19) inserting these into Meher Prabhu, swelling the manuscript considerably. He finished his project circa 1975, the manuscript length now being 2,900 pages. Much of the reworking in English is to be credited to Feram, not Bhau. See Christopher Ott, How Lord Meher came about (2015). The misunderstandings attending this situation included a belief that Bhau Kalchuri translated his own work into English.

The Workingboxwala document was given to an American devotee, David Fenster, who was living in India from 1975. Fenster made many further additions, variously described. (20) The length now extended to 4,400 pages, that compass afterwards increasing. Other Western contributors were also involved. One of these was the American devotee Lawrence Reiter (d.2007), who first visited India in 1973. Reiter self-published the outcome of Meher Prabhu, translated as Lord Meher (an earlier proposed title was The Silent One). The first volume of this American edition appeared in 1986. (21) The work as a whole (22) continued to expand in size via the editing of Fenster, who created an online edition commencing in 2002 (lacking the numerous images found in the Reiter volumes). (23)

In his foreword to the last two volumes, Reiter refers to his own participation in the editing: "As I was working on the translated material (making certain what was being written was comprehensible) from the British-Indian-English, I had to, in some cases, interpret what was being stated and its meaning when it was not clear. With others' help, rephrasing would clarify matters. This occurred time and time again." (24)

The title pages of the Reiter edition are very misleading, attributing sole authorship to Kalchuri, and confusing many readers to the present day. Some readers believed that Kalchuri also wrote the editorial endnotes (which have been criticised for omissions). A different kind of problem attaches to classification of an early manuscript edited by Kalchuri and Ward Parks. (25)

Lord Meher has for long been presented by devotees as authoritative text; the name of Bhau Kalchuri is here a paramount consideration, with no attention given to the editing process. The monolithic text of 5,000+ pages has been optimistically described as incontestable fact. Length does not necessarily mean an infallible composition.

Kalchuri's writing was enveloped by Workingboxwala, while many extensions have been provided by Fenster (and others). It would surely be very difficult to define which words are those of Kalchuri in the English version.

In a letter dated 1982, David Fenster revealed some details about the text of Lord Meher. Kalchuri had translated English sources into Hindi, and Feram had retranslated these back into English from Hindi. The result was imperfect, and so Fenster restored the original English quotes from Meher Baba and others. Further, Kalchuri never read what Feram translated. Instead, Feram's version was passed to Ann Conlon at Myrtle Beach. Fenster adds that he himself would regularly ask Kalchuri to clarify meanings and phrases in the text. Kalchuri would then ask him to bring the Hindi version. Kalchuri would then "retranslate sections." Another complexity is that "sometimes whole lines had been left out" (February 1982 letter, linked in the Ott 2015 article How Lord Meher came about).

In the same epistle, Fenster says that he compared other books about Meher Baba to what Kalchuri had written. He conceded: "No doubt, there are many different versions of the same story." The comment was here forthcoming: "Sometimes two people who were both present at the same time... have a different version of what happened." Despite these relevant reflections, Fenster argued in the same letter: "After hundreds of hours of researching and cross-checking... I can say that whatever is in Meher Prabhu should be maintained... It is as accurate as possible, despite what anyone might 'remember' or say."

This verdict does not pinpoint missing components. There are defects in Lord Meher, and not merely in terms of extensively undocumented sources. See further Lord Meher Critique (2017). To take one example of lost context:

The Hindu disciple Inder Sain (Sen) was a highly committed entity from 1954. He is reduced to a few lines in Lord Meher (accessed 20/11/2015), which effectively say nothing in comparison to the record available elsewhere. Inder is depicted as falling prey to depression, a theme originating with Adi S. Irani, whose career is contrastingly presented in more glowing terms. Kalchuri himself was remote from intimate contact with the scientific and mystical Hindu of New Delhi. Inder lived for ten years in England at the injunction of Meher Baba; it was much more difficult for him to reside in England than to live at the ashram (as he initially wished to do). In England he had to bear the snobbish attitude of prestige devotees, and to work at a professional level in which only expertise counted. Both Adi Senior and Adi Junior benefited from his role as a donor.

12. Complexities: Ann Powell and Delia De Leon

In 2014, a form of response to the present article was sent to an intermediary by David Fenster. However, the editor/compiler of Lord Meher did not express any recognition of my article content, being solely concerned to acquire additional data for his expanding Lord Meher. Fenster referred to an "unpublished manuscript of Ann Powell." He wanted "simply to extract the facts of her contact with Baba" from my unpublished multi-volume work on Meher Baba. This approach was completely ignoring the relevance of other matters, meaning the misrepresentation and suppression I complained about above.

I responded to David Fenster: "You should be aware that Wikipedia events have spotlighted a problem in your movement, and that a fairly large number of outsiders now know about it. Until that problem is rectified, if it ever is, then I cannot discuss such personal matters as the unpublished lengthy manuscript I wrote many years ago on the life of Meher Baba. The data on and from Ann Powell is an integral part of that manuscript, which was treated as irrelevant by the Myrtle Beach Centre in 1988." (26) There was no reply from David Fenster.

Meher Baba and Eruch B. Jessawala, Myrtle Beach Centre, 1958

The Western branch of the Meher Baba movement has, on average, demonstrated a memorable degree of censorship and/or indifference concerning a basic issue (excepting Anthony Zois, see postscript 3 below). The Eastern branch of this movement is a different matter. For instance, Eruch Jessawala demonstrated a non-dogmatic approach (27) in a period of controversy (section 7 above). The bibliography associated with Bal Natu has also evidenced a liberal perspective. (28)

Complexities relating to Ann Powell (1889-1965) are substantial. This Welsh lady, residing in London, was one of the most perceptive partisans I encountered. She had a notable tendency to self-effacement. She kept such a low profile that American devotees in New York were not aware of her existence until after her death. Welsh Ann nevertheless possessed an extensive knowledge of devotees and other contacts of Meher Baba, going back to the eccentric Meredith Starr in the early 1930s. She knew Starr and his wife Margaret at close range. In a different situation, Ann Powell was the close confidante of Will and Mary Backett for many years. The Backett domicile at Old Oak Cottage (near Sevenoaks) became a virtual legend.

East Challacombe, Devon, 1932, l to r: Meher Baba, Ann Powell, Meredith Starr

Ann was also intimately familiar with the habits of Kimco, an elite group of middle class British women who became prominent devotees. At one period during the early 1930s, Ann worked as a housekeeper and servant for two of those women in London. "They treated her as inferior" (Shepherd 1988:276). This brief disclosure of British class differences was not acceptable to American devotee Ann Conlon (1932-2005) of Myrtle Beach; Conlon was a close associate of Kitty Davy (1891-1991), a Kimco figurehead and patron of the Meher Center. One may be at risk, from sanitising preferences, in telling the truth. The British social environment of the 1930s was very different to post-war America.

The friendly Kimco women were not contemptuous of working class Ann; however, the situation was not one of total equality, instead reflecting assumptions prevailing in that colonial era. Ann had to accomplish all the domestic work. Privileged middle class women did not clean toilets or the kitchen sink. On one occasion, Ann was occupied for several hours in laboriously preparing food for many visitors, including Meher Baba. Seeing her predicament, Baba called her out of the kitchen and told her to sit beside him; he insisted upon feeding her, to the surprise of others present.

Margaret Craske

Ann emerged from that subordinate phase with a new friend in Margaret Craske (1892-1990), a talented ballet dancer, and one of the Kimco group. Margaret became a very disciplined instructor of the Cecchetti technique. Ann was not a dancer, and did not move in the same circles. However, the dancing stopped during the Second World War, when Margaret lived a simple and cloistered life at Meherabad ashram, from where she corresponded with Ann in England. A later report erroneously stated that Margaret Craske was "studying the Hindu faith" in India. Meher Baba did not teach Hinduism. Margaret afterwards emigrated to America, where she resumed ballet teaching for many years.

Kimco were celebrated in England by Pete Townshend, during the 1970s. In contrast, Welsh Ann was one of those followers who tended to be very much forgotten. Penetrating the obscurity here, she developed mystical tendencies from the time she first encountered Meher Baba in 1931, but was also a very practical type. She felt deeply the need for self-renovation, which not all devotees experienced. If she had still been alive, Ann would surely have confronted the guitar-smashing Townshend, who despatched her friend Jean Shepherd to oblivion. Ann was not afraid to contradict the high-ranking ambassador Adi Junior. Strangely enough, Adi and Ann converged in a belief that Jean Shepherd was exceptionally genuine. Adi excommunicated the genuine mystic, but subsequently regretted his action.

Ann Powell, London 1965. Copyright Kevin R. D. Shepherd

At the end of her life, Ann disclosed in private that some devotees tended to derive a sense of self-importance from their association with Meher Baba. She acknowledged that Inder Sain was not in this problematic category. Ann was not surprised that Inder had gained the very rare distinction of a monthly correspondence with Meher Baba, offsetting the discrepant condemnation from Adi Junior. She had met Inder many times in London, finding him to be exquisitely polite and considerate. When Welsh Ann died in December 1965, Fred Marks was anguished, deeming her to be irreplaceable, even more so than the departed Backetts (whom he had known well since the 1940s).

Delia De Leon (1901-1993) was far more well known than Ann Powell. Favoured by Pete Townshend, Delia's fame was boosted by the rock superstar circa 1970. Delia provided me with much information about Meher Baba during two lengthy sessions, several years apart. The second of these occasions, at her London home, was in 1973. To her credit, she was independent of the confusion created by Adi Junior. The "ban" (imagined at Myrtle Beach) did not exist for her. Delia did not regard Adi as being infallible. There was a rift between these two, occasionally visible at London group meetings of the 1960s. Adi never invited Delia to his home in London during all the years he had been in England; Delia had formerly complained about this matter in private, to my mother, who concluded that Adi viewed Delia as a rival for devotee attention.

I believe that Delia may have felt badly about an episode occurring in 1966, when my mother telephoned her with an imploring request for assistance. The message concerned the new tactic of Adi Junior, who was intent upon condemning his victim (and myself) over the Inder Sain issue. Delia declined to intervene, saying that she had no control over Adi, and did not fully understand the situation. She was very aloof at this juncture, to the extent that my mother never contacted her again. In 1973, Delia said very little to me about the former situation; however, she decided that no blame or ban should arise in view of what Meher Baba himself had stated in the cablegram of February 1967.

Myrtle Beach, 1952: Delia De Leon, Mehera J. Irani, Meher Baba

Delia generously supplied me with many details of her contact with Meher Baba since 1931, the same year that Ann Powell encountered him. There were differences in approach between these two women. I became aware of gaps in the information. For instance, Delia did not mention Ann (a similar omission applies to subsequent published Kimco literature). I probed this matter as delicately as I could. Ann was dead; I knew from personal conversation with Ann that she had reservations about the outlook of some Kimco members. At London group meetings, Delia tended to be aloof from Ann and some other women; Delia enjoyed an approximately equivalent status to Charles Purdom and Adi Junior. Cf. Shepherd 2005:227-228.

Delia frequently referred to the 1930s travels in Europe, during which Kimco and others accompanied Meher Baba. Ann had not been included. In response to my query, Delia said that Ann "would not have fitted in with us" (Shepherd 1988:295). She did not enlarge upon this, and I did not probe further. There were indeed differences of temperament. The Kimco group often appeared frivolous to the mandali (including Adi Junior). They liked parlour entertainments and "holiday" leisure pursuits of the kind familiar in their British social setting. Working class Ann Powell did not have the same leisure, and had a different disposition. The contrasts between devotees were fairly pronounced, amongst both Eastern and Western contingents. I have always believed that these differences should not be suppressed, as the record then becomes misleading and substantially incomplete.

Delia acknowledged that Kimco had faults. During the presumed "holidays" in Europe, Meher Baba was known to criticise the behaviour of this group and their companions. He said they invented distractions, including quarrels. He accused them of failing to understand what he wanted them to do. In Italy during 1933, he became annoyed, threatening to leave the villa at Portofino where his party were staying for a few weeks. All the women were in tears at this shock. After creating a sobering upset, Baba eventually said that he would remain at the villa.

Kevin R. D. Shepherd

March 2012, amplified November 2015, last modified April 2019


Since this article was placed online three months ago, a mood of insidious hostility has been discernible at the Meher Baba talkpage on Wikipedia (section 1 above). On 29 May, 2012, HumusTheCowboy there stated: "I now dislike Shepherd a lot and I never even met him." The strong implication here is that if he met me, he would dislike me even more. This very pointed assertion comes from an ostensibly American editor identifying himself as a Sufi follower of Meher Baba. Obviously, I will have to take great care not to meet such people. The fact that such animosities can be broadcast on Wikipedia, in the guise of a presumed encyclopaedic expertise, is no legitimate reason for a non-Sufi and non-devotee to be stigmatised as a target for dislike.

A devotee colleague of HumusTheCowboy was Hoverfish. This editor conveyed the erroneous impression (on the same talkpage) that I innovated the "Sai Baba movement" theme. "The theory of a movement begun by Sai Baba of Shirdi which included Babajan, Upasni Maharaj, Meher Baba, and Sathya Sai Baba will have to find its way to fame the proper way" (Meher Baba talkpage, 28 May 2012). This adverse judgement was clearly implying the inferior status of my output, suppressed on Wikipedia by devotee tactics. Suppression and misrepresentation is not the proper way, even if Wikipedia does permit extensive improprieties from the Meher Baba movement.

In actual fact, the "Sai Baba movement" theme was created by an American academic forty years ago, and in a learned journal, as is well known in the more informed circles. In 1985, a related book was published in India with the title of The Sai Baba Movement. This theme was further broadcast to fame in the 1990s by the State University of New York Press, who explicitly used the label of "Sai Baba movement" to describe a SUNY volume on Sai Baba of Shirdi. The author of that well known work included reference to all the names mentioned by the obscurantist Hoverfish. Furthermore, I contested this theme in the full length book Investigating the Sai Baba Movement (2005), a work that has been suppressed for years in the Meher Baba article on Wikipedia, an article maintained by Meher Baba devotees.

In such instances, the chances of fair representation on Wikipedia are negligible, the cult biases being too intrusive. In more general terms, the pseudonymous context and tactics of Wikipedia personnel are notorious.

A widely held viewpoint amongst university academics is that Wikipedia articles are unreliable and uncitable, and that Wikipedia talkpages represent an even more questionable factor of reference.

June 2012


In July 2013, an American devotee of Meher Baba cordially sent me an appreciation of my book Meher Baba, an Iranian Liberal. This man had read the present web article, and seemed concerned at the record of events. He was familiar with recent developments at the Myrtle Beach Centre. His review of Iranian Liberal included the following comments:

"It was slightly off-putting at the beginning due to a pedantic academic style, but I ended up feeling that the spiritual insight expressed was quite worthwhile and, as I wrote earlier, there is nothing that I found unreasonable or would particularly disagree with. I skipped some of the religious and philosophy sections because of a lack of background to fully understand your exposition. Your insights into the gifts and perspectives of people like [Charles] Purdom and the Backetts have merit."

December 2013


My mother, Jean Shepherd (1928-2017), was a follower of Meher Baba from 1962. She received many communications from this mystic, in the form of letters and cablegrams. These messages were so numerous and diverse that Adi S. Irani commented upon this factor with great surprise. In 1966, Adi (Meher Baba's brother) said that he did not know of any other British follower with such a record of communications at that period. Adi also informed that she had been in receipt of [substantially] more communications from Meher Baba than he had himself received during the years 1962-1966.

The general scarcity of personal communications from Meher Baba was well known amongst both American and British devotees during the 1960s. Meher Baba was in a near-constant form of seclusion (and semi-seclusion), not being accessible like many Indian gurus (a matter that is seldom comprehended by those unfamiliar with the details). During his last years, relatively few persons received more than one or two communications from him.

Communications from Meher Baba to my family continued until February 1967. By that time, and insofar as I am aware, none of the other British followers were receiving many or any personal communications. At that period, Adi S. Irani received letters from his sister Mani at the ashram, but not from Meher Baba (who did not write anything). My mother and myself received direct cablegrams from Meher Baba (I also received brief messages from him relayed in letters from the ashram). Less than two years after the last cablegram, Meher Baba died at Meherazad ashram.

My mother died forty-eight years later, in January 2017. She was now a complete outsider to the Meher Baba movement, which she regarded critically, because of the eccentric behaviour, hostility, and insularism of Western devotees. Despite backward traits of the disconcerting Meher Baba movement, she never lost her respect for Meher Baba. The only online source, within the Meher Baba movement, to acknowledge her existence (after her death), was the website of Anthony Zois, a benevolent devotee who grasped that an error had occurred. The liberal gesture of Zois is much to his credit.

February 2016-April 2019



(1) See further Shepherd, Meaning in Anthropos: Anthropography as an interdisciplinary science of culture (1991), providing a format of themes and guidelines. See also Philosophical Anthropography. My version of Zoroastrianism was first charted in Minds and Sociocultures Vol. 1: Zoroastrianism and the Indian Religions (1995), pp. 203-388. A supplement is provided in my web article Zarathushtra and Zoroastrianism. See also Suhrawardi and Ishraqi Philosophy. An account of Meher Baba's father Sheriar Mundegar Irani (d. 1932) was included in From Oppression to Freedom: A Study of the Kaivani Gnostics (1988), part one.  On the Kaivan school, see further Azar Kaivan and Zoroastrian Ishraqis. The book Meher Baba, an Iranian Liberal (1988) may be described as an independent treatment, divided into four parts, and with an annotated bibliography. The title derives from the subject's Irani background, his parents both being emigrants to India from Central Iran. A sequel coverage was included in Investigating the Sai Baba Movement (2005), part three. See also Shirdi Sai Baba and the Sai Baba Movement. See also Hazrat Babajan, Faqir of Poona.

(2) Kate Thomas, The Destiny Challenge (1992), chapter 3. There have been some persons who queried the reason for my mother's apparent pseudonym. Thomas was in fact her legitimate name by a second marriage. Kate was a name she always liked, being the name of her grandmother. Several factors conspired in her avoidance of other family names, including the strong objections of my father (her first husband) to being mentioned in print. I myself emphasised that she should not disclose very much about Adi S. Irani while he was still alive, owing to the problems involved. This consideration meant that, for many years, she could never give the full account. My mother also includes such factors as dreams and mystical experiences, which are not part of my own emphasis. I had disagreements with her about this matter, but eventually desisted in view of the fact that she had been oppressed by men all her life, starting with her father, who callously prevented her from attending Girton College (Cambridge), instead opposing her schoolteachers because of economic considerations. My own atheistic father fought her mysticism to a pronounced degree. The bludgeoning Adi S. Irani was another ogre in the hostile landscape, not forgetting the proscribing superstar Pete Townshend. Her first published book was written under a male pseudonym, as she felt this gesture was the only way to ensure that men would read it.

(3) The online Lord Meher states that Adi "had become partners with Fred Marks in an antique business" (page 3973, accessed 18/11/2015). No source is cited. In fact, Fred Marks was never an official partner in that business. Furthermore, he received no pay for his services, which were rendered free, of necessity. This was because Adi did not like paying for work done. That was one of the grievances which Fred conveyed to me. Adi was not a leading businessman, and not wealthy as far as I could discover. During his first years in London, Adi seems to have possessed very little money, encountering difficulty with livelihood. Fred had previously worked in several roles, and himself had never been a prominent dealer. However, he really did know about English furniture. Adi utilised Fred's knowledge, not himself possessing such expertise. Adi was nonetheless astute, and also capable of hard work. I once watched him strip down an item of pine furniture, which he did very proficiently, working in the hot sun. I was also impressed to find that his workshop was of good standard, with many tools. Nevertheless, he purchased mainly in the cheaper range. I was fascinated to accompany Adi on a buying trip to antique shops in his home locality. He was very talkative in the shops, but said that the goods on offer were too expensive; he instead bought (merely for use in his home) a recently manufactured domestic light for one pound. I myself worked for Adi for two days, and without any pay.

(4) The extent of Adi's lapse from an "ambassador" role was pronounced. Inder and Fred Marks provided some revealing details about how Adi invited funds from devotees for "Baba's Centre," which transpired to be his own home. In this way, the ambassador was conveniently able to install central heating in his London abode. Fred and Inder were both donors in this deceptive project. Inder described how Adi tried to get him drunk on whisky, and more than once, a factor which the abstemious Hindu resisted. Fred had another strong grievance that he repressed for years, feeling unable to discuss the implications. This related to the episode in which Adi appropriated his harmonium, which Fred liked to play in the evenings and on weekends. Adi acquired this treasured possession via his fluent theme of "Baba's work" and "Baba's Centre." Adi gave the harmonium to his young daughter; the instrument stayed in his own house. Fred eventually admitted, in the 1970s, that Adi had serious flaws. In 1973, Adi told me that he thought writing was useless, and asked me why I did not become a businessman instead of composing my unpublished work on Meher Baba in four volumes. He made his basic interest quite obvious on that occasion. He considered me more useful to him as a businessman than as a writer.

(5) Inder addressed his letters directly to Meher Baba, and generally received replies via Eruch Jessawala. He ended every communication with the refrain of "Thy will be done." In 1965, he obtained Baba's permission to return to England, although he did not stay long. The reasons for his sojourn were obscure. He gave an explanation that the best medical treatment was available in England. Yet he did not receive such treatment. I learned that his father was responsible for the medical suggestion. Inder did initially visit a hospital (at the wish of his father), but the doctors there could find nothing wrong with him. If he was concerned about his health, they said, he could be an outpatient. He described this situation to me in a jovial manner. I grasped that such behaviour was intimately linked to something Meher Baba had recommended for him and other devotees in the past. "Take due medical advice." Meher Baba was not an alternative therapist. There are several references to doctors in the Inder letters, evidently intended to prove that he was being scrupulously attentive to Meher Baba in such resort (and satisfying his father Harjiwan Lal). However, Adi K. Irani believed this precautionary action meant that Inder was in constant need of medical assistance, and therefore suffering from a form of mental illness. The aspersive argument was actually quite ridiculous. In 1966, Inder was treated by a doctor for fever, a common ailment in India, and nothing to do with depression. In Bombay during 1966, he became subject to a high blood temperature, and then moved to New Delhi, where medical diagnosis implied a kidney infection. When this condition improved, he returned to Bombay. Even then, he still had to be careful, being prone to a recurring form of fever. Mumbai (Bombay) does not possess the most salubrious climate, and Inder was not accustomed to the region, having spent ten years in England. On Meher Baba's contact with a famous doctor, see Jessawala 1995:41-51. Dr. Ram Ginde of Bombay, a leading neurosurgeon in India, was persuaded to visit Meher Baba at Meherazad, to assist with the latter's problem of trigeminal neuralgia. In subsequent years, Dr. Ginde visited the Irani mystic many times, becoming a virtual devotee. Indeed, on the day of Meher Baba's death, the shock of this event was such that Dr. Ginde suffered a heart attack (fortunately not fatal).

(6) The Kalchuri-Fenster version of Adi Junior is not complete. Adi's version of Babajan here relays that she talked in different languages, a mix which he found unintelligible as a youth attending high school. Adi could speak Persian, but did not know Pushtu, and was not an expert in Urdu dialects. This reflection (of mine) does not rule out Arabic complexities. Babajan once told him in clear Persian: "Speak the truth, no matter how bitter it may be" (Lord Meher online, p. 561, accessed 18/11/2015). The quote is also found in a source of an earlier date, and has been reproduced elsewhere. The exhortation to truth made a strong impression upon Adi, perhaps because this reflected a cardinal Zoroastrian emphasis upon speaking the truth. Adi's career as the "ambassador," in his later years, is fraught with implications of compromising the truth, as some reports (and his own admissions) reveal. These details are not found in the pages of Lord Meher.

(7) Thomas 1992:130-131. Cf. Kalchuri et al, Lord Meher Vol. 20 (Reiter edn, 2001), pp. 6689-6698, which has no reference to the confrontation. Adi Junior arrived at Meherazad on December 20th, 1968. He stayed at the ashram for most of the three weeks sojourn, while his family stayed in Ahmednagar. Meher Baba had agreed to the wedding festival of Adi's Zoroastrian son Dara and the Hindu girl Amrit. "Mixed caste marriages were then extremely uncommon in India" (ibid, p. 6692). Meher Baba was now in a wheelchair, and would go to the mandali hall daily until January 12th. Baba would also relax outside in the sun, and again communicate with the mandali at this juncture. Adi Junior was present on these various occasions. The drama concerning God Speaks escaped reporting in Lord Meher. The wedding celebration gained the limelight. The mandali were now alarmed at Baba's deteriorating health. The online version of Lord Meher has also lacked reference to the confrontation (accessed 23/11/2015).

(8)  Williams "had formerly been rebuffed by white [American] devotees, though she was reluctant to state any identities" (Meher Baba, an Iranian Liberal, p. 291). Beryl Williams had first met Meher Baba in 1952. "I found that the American negroes in the movement were much more helpful than most of the other Westerners" (ibid., p. 290). I doubt whether the black American devotees were consulted by the Meher Baba Centre elites in 1988, when a document was sent on my behalf to those dismissive Centres. The elites were all white Americans.

(9) See further B. Kalchuri, F. Workingboxwala, D. Fenster, L. Reiter et al, Lord Meher (Meher Prabhu): The Biography of Avatar Meher Baba (Reiter edn, 20 vols, 1986-2001). The much shorter original of this work was composed in Hindi during 1971-72, becoming known as Meher Prabhu.  Some internet features declare that Kalchuri worked 15-18 hours a day, "writing like a machine, and not thinking about what he was writing." A subsequent lengthy sequence of editing and amplification greatly swelled his Meher Prabhu manuscript. The American devotee Lawrence Reiter exercised a strong influence as the publisher of Lord Meher, extending to 20 volumes and nearly 7,000 pages (the text was inflated by many hundreds of photographs). David Fenster has for many years been adding materials, also visible in the online edition. Kalchuri's name amounts to a status profile for this much enlarged work. Some relevant commentary is afforded in Christopher Ott, How Lord Meher came about (2015). In my own accounts, I have frequently cited from the Reiter volumes. However, flaws are discernible in the presentation. Some Wikipedia editors have queried the relevance of Lord Meher. I do not myself advocate any suppression of that work. I do not seek to emulate the barbarous suppression that some devotees have exercised in my own direction. There are 26 indexed references to Bhau Kalchuri in my Investigating the Sai Baba Movement (2005), despite the rejection of this book by the hostile Ott circle of Meher Baba devotees on Wikipedia. For Kalchuri, see also the details in Sheela Kalchuri Fenster 2009. See also note 2 of my article Wikipedia Anomalies Sequel, on this website. Another multi-volume work on the main subject, although less extensive in coverage, is Bal Natu, Glimpses of the God-Man, Meher Baba (1977 onwards), commencing at the date of 1943.

(10) For the radical findings on Paul Brunton, see Shepherd 1988:146-176. The convergent, but sabotaged, Wikipedia article by real name editor Stephen Castro is preserved at Critics of Meher Baba: Paul Brunton and Rom Landau. The Wikipedia real name academic editor Simon Kidd expressed his verdict at the talk page of Meher Baba's Critics on 21 February 2012, including the observation: "The only source they [Hoverfish and Dazedbythebell] really don't want to use is Shepherd, perhaps because his books have been sidelined by the Meher Baba movement, apparently because they contain some inconvenient truths." The article Meher Baba's Critics was deleted, with ominous threats to that effect from the start, despite the fact that Meher Baba was here favourably represented. The opposition was such that the author evidently decided to concur with deletion rather than see the content mutilated. Observers outside Wikipedia concluded that the presence of a petty pro-sectarian bias on Wikipedia is very strong, undermining due information.

(11) Shepherd, Investigating the Sai Baba Movement (2005), p. 260 note 468. This book was also attacked in the Wikipedia pro-sectarian campaign associated with editor Hoverfish and administrator Smartse. See also Attack Forum. Part Three of Investigating is about Meher Baba (pp. 105-161). Notes 300-480 also relate to Meher Baba, and are found on pages 204-268. The amount of suppressed information, and the relevance or no, is an issue that may be left more authoritatively to real name scholars outside the Wikipedia circuit and the Meher Baba Centres. In the field of religion, Wikipedia has gained a reputation amongst academic specialists for being a pronouncedly unreliable indicator of relevant data.

(12) See Meher Baba, an Iranian Liberal, pp. 271-2. The listed unpublished biography was composed during the years 1967-77. The unpublished manuscript is entitled The Life of Meher Baba. The prospect of "a condensed one-volume version" was here mentioned, and is still under consideration.

(13) Ward Parks, ed., Meher Baba's Early Messages to the West (2009), pp. 223-4 notes 31-32, referring to Paul Brunton and Rom Landau. The acknowledgments inform that "this book was edited by Ward Parks with the advice and guidance of Meherwan B. Jessawala" (ibid., p. 458). The acknowledgments are in small print, not always readily detected by readers. Some internet features identify Dr. Parks as a former professor of medieval studies at Louisiana State University. He left the academic world in 1993 to live in India as a follower of Meher Baba. Parks demonstrates a close attention to bibliographic format and related editorial procedure. In marked contrast was the slipshod attitude of Paul Brunton, whose commercial books eventually displayed the questionable identity of Dr. Paul Brunton, a profile which has met with criticism.

(14) Mossman 2012:107. The author adds: "A reader of The Wayfarers quite naturally recognises that while the 'who, what, when, and where" are covered in precise detail, the 'why' remains an unanswered mystery" (ibid). Meher Baba himself is here strongly implicated in the non-disclosure. However, a different angle is possible, in relation to the who and what, and in the pursuit of context (an angle ventured in my unpublished manuscript The Life of Meher Baba). This treatment was not the same as that found in Lord Meher or the version of Natu 1977. However, Natu appropriately observes, for instance, that "from January to December 1946, Baba seemed absorbed in mast work alone" (Natu 1977:153). The same writer adds: "There were no darshan or sahavas programs, not even a meeting with the mandali" (ibid). Another version of the activity in 1946 can be found in Kalchuri et al, Lord Meher Vol. 9 (1996).

(15) See Purdom, The God-Man (1964), published during the lifetime of the subject. An earlier version was Purdom 1937. A number of readers have perceived that Purdom's style of reporting was not devotional, contrary to the idiom found in some other works. See also Purdom's autobiographical book Life Over Again (1951). See further Shepherd 1988:190-207, 264-5.

(16) David Fenster, Meher Darshan (1985). In this preliminary item of Lord Meher Vol. 1, Fenster describes the inception of Meher Darshan and Meher Prabhu. The Hindi poem known as Meher Darshan contains 14,000 couplets, and was evidently intended for the devotees at Hamirpur, in North India. Fenster says that the poem was sung by the Hamirpur people. He gives the the date of publication as 1985. Meher Baba had visited Hamirpur with considerable success in 1954. Hindu devotees throughout Hamirpur and Andhra had sent letters to him, pleading for him to visit their towns and villages (Natu, Glimpses Vol. 5, p. 19).

(17) Feram was closely associated with Adi K. Irani, living in the latter's abode at Ahmednagar, and helping with correspondence. He was noted for his diligence as a typist, a capacity in which he had assisted William Donkin during the 1940s, in the distinctive book entitled The Wayfarers. Feram gained a repute for eccentricity. He is described in one account as a misogynistic character, typing during the day, reading English novels in the evening, complaining about the servants, and reputedly afflicted by a ghost (Kalchuri Fenster 2009:641-3).

(18) Kalchuri's daughter Sheela describes some other events at this period, including an episode in which Bhau had difficulty with the other mandali at Meherazad. When he wished to live in Ahmednagar, Rano Gayley said that he could not take anything from Meherazad, including his notebooks. "Bhau was reluctant and nervous about upsetting the others, but he did not want to leave his writing work at Meherazad for fear it would be discarded" (Kalchuri Fenster 2009:765). Sheela adds: " 'How could Baba's mandali act like this with my father?' I wondered. It was a rude awakening. Already they had neglected Bhau's health, but what about Baba's orders and work?" (ibid). Sheela is quite frequently realistic about the mandali; she clearly did not regard them as infallible, contrary to a more prevalent conception amongst devotees. The book by Sheela Kalchuri is very unusual in this respect. For instance, she remarks of some occasions when anger surfaced: "I always wondered why Baba kept such mandali around him. Baba would tell them to be quiet, but they would continue to argue" (ibid:190). Sheela also reports that Baba once remarked: "They (the mandali) think they understand better than I do; they think they know everything" (ibid:191). Inder Sain had some similar reminiscences during the 1960s; he only expressed these in private meetings. Such reflections would have seemed blasphemous to many devotees. Inder was simply telling the truth, on the basis of personal observation.

(19) Bhau Kalchuri was not fully conversant with Gujarati and Marathi. Feram assisted him to organise material from the records kept for many years by Adi K. Irani at Khushru Quarters. "Many of the letters and diary notes were falling apart, " and a thick layer of dust testified to the general neglect (Kalchuri Fenster 2009:766). The major diaries include those of F. H. Dadachanji (Chanji) and Ramju Abdulla. Chanji's diary was almost legendary, but still tangible, and "difficult to decipher" (ibid). The English diaries of Ramju Abdulla were easier to publish (Deitrick 1979). The wartime diaries of Dr. William Donkin have also been presented (McNeill, ed., Donkin's Diaries, 2011). The later diary of Kishan Singh was commemorated in my book Gurus Rediscovered (1986), which aroused disagreement on the subject of miracles. Cf. Marianne Warren, Unravelling the Enigma (1999), who was unable to locate a relevant source mediating the Singh diary, being at a disadvantage accordingly.

(20) In his Erratum of 2000 (Lord Meher Vol. 17), Reiter has the statement: "Financed by Lawrence Reiter, from 1980 to 1985, Bhau Kalchuri had additional translated material compiled which was inserted in the original manuscript." This was a reference to the compilation by David Fenster. Subsequently, this supplement was described in terms of: "Reiter also paid approximately an additional fifteen thousand dollars for financing the compilation of various notes, translated documents and audio tape interviews to be inserted in chronological order and typed by David Fenster over a period of five years (1980-85)" (endnote to page 6707 in Lord Meher Vol. 20, 2001). The increase from 2,900 to 4,400 pages is here recorded. According to the 2014 internet article by Christopher Ott: "Fenster in turn continued to type stories from English sources, and to insert these, compiling into the manuscript whatever sources he felt were relevant."

(21) The first volume of Lord Meher featured good quality paper and numerous photographs. This format continued in subsequent volumes. Lawrence (Hermes) Reiter became a devotee of Meher Baba in 1966. He was one of many who did not meet the Irani mystic, and nor gain communications from him. Reiter successfully pursued a project of salvaging over 2,000 photographs relating to Meher Baba. Some of his idioms tend to reflect those current at that period amongst American devotees, and which were not in evidence during earlier years prior to the late 1960s. However, Reiter also expressed some phraseology that was uniquely his own. For instance: "This biography of Meher Baba's life is a blessing for humanity, but a curse for Lawrence Reiter" (Lord Meher Vol. 17, 2000, "What Words Will Allow," unpaginated).

(22) Reiter self-published 20 volumes of Lord Meher. He was in a financial predicament by 1990, having at that time published only five volumes. Volume Six did not appear until 1994. From then on, Reiter commenced to publish "two volumes in one" as a financial expedient. This meant a final total of thirteen volumes. The declaration of 20 volumes is misleading in that respect. Reiter was only able to continue because of funding from wealthy devotees, including the controversial branch known as Sufism Reoriented. Subsequently, devotee trolls on Wikipedia blacklisted my books on Meher Baba as self-published, while glorifying the self-published Reiter volumes and the partisan online edition of Lord Meher. The bias was so pronounced as to be obvious for what it is.

(23) The subject of Meher Baba photographs is not without interest. The Reiter volumes included many hundreds of images, but not all the captions are necessarily accurate. Some dates can be disputed on the basis of much earlier photographs which I purchased from India during the 1960s; these have details handwritten on the reverse by one of the mandali.

(24) This statement comes from the unpaginated preliminary entitled Something Superhuman. Reiter adds with retrospective honesty: "I see now there are a number of defects, but that is reconciled as human imperfection." Other readers have also perceived defects in the existing multi-contributor version. Some matters are not reconciled. A contrasting and uncritical partisan attitude assumes that the text of Reiter Lord Meher is excelling, and incontestable fact throughout. Wikipedia has been one avenue for the misleading enthusiasms, which spell the death of scholarship.

(25) See "Meherwan Jessawala's Account of the Finding of the Manuscript" in Meher Baba 2005:591-595. The account dates to 1999. Jessawala here makes the request that "none should get embroiled in the needless controversy" as to whether or not the Infinite Intelligence manuscript is identical to the "lost book" of Meher Baba composed in 1925-26. According to Jessawala, "it is best left for each one to decide for oneself, either way" (page 595). He mentions that Bhau Kalchuri and Ward Parks had recently begun to edit the manuscript. Jessawala emphasises: "This led you [Bhau Kalchuri] to surmise that the handwritten volumes must be the transcript of the original Book written by Baba!" Jessawala is clearly saying that a surmisal does not necessarily represent fact. Different views have been expressed about the origin of this early manuscript. The handwriting of the manuscript is not that of Meher Baba. "No explicit indication of authorship or date of composition appears anywhere on the Intelligence Notebooks" (editorial essay, Infinite Intelligence, pp. 495-6). A much shorter document from an early period is in Meher Baba's own handwriting. See Meher Baba 2000. A prominent interpretation dates the longer manuscript to the period 1925-26, and reflects: "While the underlying content undoubtedly derives from Meher Baba, the form and style of its presentation may owe to the hand of the redactor" (editorial essay, Infinite Intelligence, p. 525).

(26) Insertions are made in the online Lord Meher without acknowledgment of the source. The Powell data would probably have been edited and sanitised in Lord Meher. In conformity with the general presentation of Lord Meher, readers would not have been told that this material was part of a lengthy unpublished manuscript, mentioned in a book suppressed by Wikipedia trolls and the Myrtle Beach exercise in dogmatism. Ironically perhaps, the relegated manuscript originated in a 1966 telegram from Meher Baba, who included the phrase: "I am happy with your intentions."

(27) Eruch evidently thought that the Western devotees were being extreme via the indifferent and dismissive attitude associated with the Myrtle Beach Centre. My mother objected to his brief mention of certain correspondence of the 1960s, which I was not actually involved in (Thomas 1992:141ff). The various phases of 1960s correspondence were never adequately distinguished by the mandali, not even by Eruch (who was probably the most literate member of that grouping, with the exception of Dr. William Donkin). However, Eruch was not involved in the "ban" formulated by Mani and Adi Junior. He expressed a verdict that the contested "ban" was of no further relevance. Eruch added that he did not want to continue correspondence on this subject (which was certainly awkward for the mandali). I had formerly been in contact with Eruch during 1965-66, when he sent me handwritten communications, including one that resolved a query of mine about the book God Speaks, which many devotees were not inclined to read. In contrast, Bhau Kalchuri did not write to Western followers, instead being delegated to the Hindi-speaking sector. Bhau could not speak or write fluent English as Eruch did. Many Westerners knew very little at that period about Bhau, who was obscure to them. Indeed, some British devotees were quite unaware of his existence.

(28) The long-term devotee Bal Natu composed a bibliography extending from the year 1928 (Natu 1978). This was afterwards expanded (revised edition 2009). That source includes certain of my books, including Shepherd 1988. Natu did not take up residence at Meherazad until 1977, although he is generally regarded as one of the mandali. He was "the caretaker of the Meherazad Records Room and... intimately familiar with much of the Meherazad documentary archives" (Parks, ed., Infinite Intelligence, 2005, p. 713).



Deitrick, Ira G., ed., Ramjoo's Diaries 1922-1929 (Walnut Creek, California: Sufism Reoriented, 1979).

Donkin, William, The Wayfarers: An Account of the Work of Meher Baba with the God-intoxicated, and also with Advanced Souls, Sadhus, and the Poor (Ahmednagar: Adi K. Irani, 1948).

Duce, Ivy Oneita, How a Master Works (Walnut Creek, California: Sufism Reoriented, 1975).

Jessawala, Eruch, That's How It Was: Stories of Life with Meher Baba (Myrtle Beach, SC: Sheriar Foundation, 1995).

Kalchuri, Bhau, The Nothing and the Everything (North Myrtle Beach, SC: Manifestation, 1981).

----------While the World Slept (North Myrtle Beach, SC: Manifestation, 1984).

B. Kalchuri, F. Workingboxwala, D. Fenster, L. Reiter et al, Lord Meher (Meher Prabhu): The Biography of Avatar Meher Baba (20 vols, North Myrtle Beach SC and Asheville NC: Manifestation, 1986-2001).

Kalchuri Fenster, Sheela, Growing up with God (Ahmednagar: Meher Nazar, 2009).

Landau, Rom, God is My Adventure (London: Ivor Nicholson and Watson, 1935).

McNeill, Sarah, ed., Donkin's Diaries - Travels in India with Meher Baba: 1939-1945 (North Myrtle Beach, SC: Sheriar Foundation, 2011).

Meher Baba, Discourses (originally 5 vols, ed. C. D. Deshmukh; seventh edn, ed. Eruch B. Jessawala et al, Myrtle Beach SC: Sheriar Press, 1987).

-----------God Speaks: The Theme of Creation and Its Purpose (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1955).

-----------In God's Hand: Explanations of Spirituality in Meher Baba's Own Hand, ed., Meherwan B. Jessawala, Ward Parks et al (New Jersey: Naosherwan Anzar, 2000).

-----------Infinite Intelligence, ed. Ward Parks et al (North Myrtle Beach, SC: Sheriar Foundation, 2005).

Mossman, Bob, Slave of Love: The Life of Dr. William Donkin with Meher Baba (Lunenburg, Nova Scotia: Oceanic Publishing, 2012).

Natu, Bal, Glimpses of the God-Man, Meher Baba (6 vols, 1977-1994, different publishers).

----------Avatar Meher Baba Bibliography: 1928 to February 25, 1978, ed., J. Flagg Kris (New Delhi: J. Flagg Kris, 1978; revised edn, 2009).

Parks, Ward, ed., Meher Baba's Early Messages to the West: The 1932-1935 Western Tours (North Myrtle Beach, SC: Sheriar Foundation, 2009).

Purdom, Charles B., The Perfect Master: The Life of Shri Meher Baba (London: Williams and Norgate, 1937).

----------Life Over Again (London: J. M. Dent, 1951).

----------God to Man and Man to God: The Discourses of Meher Baba (London: Gollancz, 1955).

----------The God-Man: the life, journeys, and work of Meher Baba with an interpretation of his silence and spiritual teaching (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1964).

Shepherd, Kevin R. D., Gurus Rediscovered: Biographies of Sai Baba of Shirdi and Upasni Maharaj of Sakori (Cambridge: Anthropographia, 1986).

----------Meher Baba, an Iranian Liberal (Cambridge: Anthropographia, 1988).

----------Investigating the Sai Baba Movement (Dorchester: Citizen Initiative, 2005).

----------Hazrat Babajan: A Pathan Sufi of Poona (New Delhi: Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 2014).

Sutcliffe, Steven J., Children of the New Age: A History of Spiritual Practices (London: Routledge, 2003).

Thomas, Kate, The Destiny Challenge (Forres: New Frequency Press, 1992).

Townshend, Pete, Who I Am (London: HarperCollins, 2012).

Warren, Marianne, Unravelling the Enigma: Shirdi Sai Baba in the Light of Sufism (New Delhi: Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 1999; new edn, 2004).