Sunday, 19 May 2013

Paul Brunton and Meher Baba: In Search of Brunton’s Secret – Afterword

It had been my intention to relate events that occurred after Paul Brunton left India. But on reflection I now feel that, for the time being, sufficient information has been provided for any serious re-evaluation of Brunton’s critical chapters on Meher Baba in A Search in Secret India. I have simply offered a wider perspective in attempt to set the record straight. Time will tell how successful this has been. Doubtless there are scholars out there who can do a far better job, and I would be the first to invite them to do so.

The fact is Meher Baba did make avatar claims. Yet Charles Purdom reports: “When I was with [Meher Baba] at Poona in 1954, he said to me unexpectedly, ‘You are bothered about the idea of Avatar. There is no need to be, for we are all Avatars.…’ He followed this remark ten days later by a declaration which read as follows:

When I say I am the Avatar, there are few who feel happy, some who feel shocked, and many who take me for a hypocrite, a fraud, a supreme egotist, or just mad. If I were to say every one of you is Avatar, a few would be tickled and many would consider it blasphemy or a joke. The fact that God being One, indivisible and equally in us all, we can be nought else but one, is too much for the duality-conscious mind. Yet each of us is what the other is. I know I am the Avatar in every sense of the word, and that each one of you is an Avatar in one sense or another.…”

Purdom comments: “What we are intended to understand is that if it be granted that men contain the principle of divinity then the Avatar as such and men as such are essentially one. The difference between the Avatar and other men is that he is conscious of ‘descent’, while they … become conscious of ascent” (Purdom, 1994: 391–92).

According to Charles Haynes: “The starting point for any discussion of Meher Baba is his declaration that he is the Avatar, the manifestation of God in human form who comes age after age to awaken all life to the love of God” (1993: 11). But that is a devotee statement. Kevin Shepherd states more realistically: “To define whether or not Meher Baba was a literal avatar is beyond my range of competence, and I have seldom seen this done satisfactorily even one fraction. I must leave that subject for theologians to argue over” (1988: 5).

A much-needed neutral and objective assessment of Meher Baba requires an interdisciplinary approach—a scholarly appraisal not influenced by belief or disbelief. I can only conclude by again quoting from Shepherd, an independent scholar whose books and contributions to studies related to Meher Baba (see for example. have been a significant inspiration for this blog:

“Meher Baba definitely did claim to be the avatar. An inspection of various statements he made on this subject leaves no room for doubt. He also used the Persian term sahib-e-zaman, but that was not popular amongst Hindu devotees. The term avatar is variously interpreted in India; Meher Baba employed the Sanskrit word to denote a cosmic spiritual function occurring at cyclical intervals of time. Reactions to this are usually very hostile from religious parties, while his devotees defend this claim rather enthusiastically, sometimes adding things that he never said. It is surely possible to discuss [Meher Baba] more rationally, outside the very rigid ‘I believe it/don’t believe it’ biases attendant upon messianism. The ethnographic, sociological, and mystical material contained in Meher Baba’s case history can be studied without becoming a dogmatic spokesperson for or against” (2005: 139).

See also articles of interest by Kevin R D Shepherd:

Investigating Meher Baba in “Secret India”

Meher Baba and Paul Brunton

Hazrat Babajan, a Pathan (Pashtun) Sufi

Hazrat Babajan, Faqir of Poona

Hazrat Babajan


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