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Meher Baba and the Family of Man

An Essay by Kenneth Lux

I don’t know if this essay was ever published before; I found it as a typescript among Ken’s papers after his death and did a little minor editing for this publication.  —Kendra

Painting by Laurie Blum

I attended the Baba meetings at Fred and Ella Winterfeldt’s apartment in New York during 1968, about six months to a year after I had heard about Baba. I didn’t live in New York at the time, although I am from New York and my parents still lived there, but I would get into New York whenever I could and I would go to the meetings there.

I still remember well getting into the elevator to go up to their floor in a very high-rise apartment building in midtown Manhattan, and the long corridor that led to their apartment, which was at the end. It’s strange, though, but I can hardly remember the content of the meetings, what they were about, and what constituted a meeting. Oh, I can imagine that various messages of Baba were read and discussed, and maybe films were shown, but I can’t really remember. But what I do remember most vividly is the sense of excitement that existed about the meeting, this buzz of energy that preceded it and most especially that followed it. At the meeting’s end, Ella would go into the kitchen and bring out some juice and cookies for the many of us that seemed to be squeezed into every corner and on every available sitting surface in their living room. We would then stand around or sit in various clusters, eagerly gulping and munching down our refreshments, and engage in very animated and spirited conversation—about this and that, but essentially about Baba. It seemed like we would go on like that forever and never stop, and Fred and Ella had to finally get rid of us by practically sweeping us out the door with a broom.

FredElla

But that wasn’t enough. A significant number of this group would then carry the “meeting” over to a nearby Horn and Hardart restaurant, when it was still an automat with a teller in the center dispensing nickels on a marble tray, and carry on the activity there until even later into the night.

I had little understanding of all this then, and associated all of this energy and activity in some general and undifferentiated way with Baba. We joked about how Baba-lovers never seemed to want to end the meeting, and how Baba in His silence had for followers a group of nonstop talkers.

But what was this energy? Yes, of course, it was Baba, but in what way Baba? What part of Baba? Looking back at it now, I see it as the beginning of my contact with and membership in the Baba Family. That energy, that current of enthusiasm, that I still feel in some way at Baba meetings, seems to me to be, among other things, the energy of a family gathering—or rather, the family gathering. We were still getting the Family Letters from Mani back then, and I noted the name “Family Letters,” but aside from perhaps thinking it a nice homey designation, I didn’t pay much attention to that word. But after two recent visits to India, and reading Kitty Davy’s book, Love Alone Prevails, I have become much more aware of the term Baba Family, and connect this now back to my early experience at the Winterfeldts’ meeting.

We Baba-lovers really are a family, and the term is not merely a cliché, as I myself might have taken it that way in-the past, had I thought about it at all. To see how we are a family, we can look at two uses of the term, one being the most basic meaning of family which is one’s own biological family, and the other is in the concept of “the family of Man.”

To talk about a Baba Family we are not, of course, talking about a biological family but we are making the comparison. A biological family implies closeness and common identity and some measure of common history. These are present in one degree or another with Baba-lovers. We can see this through the idea of “coming to Baba.” We all have come to Baba, thus our common identity. This is our shared genealogical heritage, although each of us is still an individual, just as each family member is an individual. Baba is our common nexus, but we have each come to Him in our individual way. In coming to Him we interacted with one another, with others who had come to Him, or who were also coming to Him—thus there is a social and personal closeness with some other Baba-lovers of a very intimate nature, since coming to Baba is a most intimate matter. And since Baba is the common link of all who have come to Him, whether we have actually had contact with those others or not, we share a potential intimacy with all of the others, the same as if they were cousins, let us say, or even brothers and sisters whom we had never met. With those Baba-lovers whom we do have, or have had, a personal contact with, there is a common history. We were at the same meetings together, such as the Winterfeldts’, or were in India together, or at Meher Spiritual Center, or the same gathering, and so forth. And since these events are all very important to us, whether totally good experiences or not, our common history as a result of these shared experiences is also significant and important.

But so far, what I have described does not distinguish in kind the family of Baba-lovers from any other group of people who share a common interest, such as the poetry of Dante, or stamp collecting, or membership in the Elks; and there is a distinction between the Baba Family and these groups which is critical, apart from the level of intensity that may be more or less in any one of these groupings or the other. To see this distinction, which lends a certain specialness to the Baba Family, we need to look at the other concept of family—the family of Man.

That phrase, as some may recall, was used as the title for an exhibition of photographs curated by Edward Steichen at the Museum of Modern Art, which was later put out as a book. The theme photo (by Eugene Harris) that represented the collection was, curiously, that of a smiling Peruvian boy playing a wooden flute—Krishna himself. The photos of humanity in its many shapes and guises, taken by 273 photographers (primarily Western), created a warmth and conveyed a sense, and even a longing, to make that identity with others that one felt was needed in this world, fragmented and alienated as it is. So the Family of Man collection was very aptly named, and caught the yearning and urge that all humanity feels in some measure, but cannot easily put into practice.

Well, we in the Baba Family are a family, not just because we have an interest in or a love for a common “object,” but we are very aware that this common object—the Avatar of the Age—is really common to all people, whether they know it or not. In other words, our sense of commonality or oneness is not formed out of an exclusive grouping of ourselves as against the otherness of the rest of the world, but emerges from our finding the commonality that is intrinsic to all of humanity, and will be experienced by all as they discover it. In this, our family sense becomes quite different from the family sense of a biological family, say, the Smiths. They are a family because they are differentiated from others who are not Smiths. There is nothing wrong or bad in this, but is quite natural to what makes a family a family. And a healthy family, such as the Smiths may be, will try to inculcate in its members that in addition to being Smiths, they are also members of the larger human family. The fact remains, however, that they are a family because they are Smiths. But the marvelous and quite startling fact of the familyness of Baba-lovers is that they are a family because their principle of special commonality—Meher Baba—is the same principle that makes all of the human race one family.

In a way, like so many other aspects of the life of the spirit, it is a beautiful paradox. The specialness that makes the Baba Family a family is very much based on the deep recognition that there is no specialness, and that all humanity is one. I have come to see that it was this aspect of Baba that was in large part responsible for the social dimension of that energy that was so prominent at the Winterfeldts’, and has been a part of all Baba contacts and gatherings.

To describe it as a family experience as I have done still does not exhaust its meaning and significance, and I suspect that this meaning will continue to unfold as Baba’s Age unfolds. For now I can see that to say we are a family does not mean that we all love each other, or necessarily even like each other, or that we always get along. Certainly, our experience of the various schisms in the Baba Family shows that this is so on a group scale, and we each know of its personal truth. And as I write the word schism, I can hear someone say, “What do you mean by schism? Those on the other side aren’t really following Baba.” That may be so, but what we must remember is that all people, whether they follow Baba or not, or even if they have not heard of Meher Baba, are really still part of the one human family, and since Baba is the real Father of that family, in this way all people are part of the Baba Family.

As a matter of fact, it is the Father role of God—and the Mother role as well—which makes all human beings part of one family: we all have the same Father and Mother. I believe that without the recognition of God, the one God, human beings have great difficulty in recognizing that they are spiritually brothers and sisters, and this is why the species is in such antagonistic fragments today. So one thing that the coming of Meher Baba means is that people will be able to find their unity as part of the one human family. If, or when, this happens, then we can see how the world problems of today, resulting from selfishness and estrangement from one another, can be resolved. The unity that humanity will discover will not be a static uniformity, imposed from without such as in an army, but the organic and differentiated unity of the members of a family.

As Baba-lovers, then, we participate in the beginning of a family realignment of humanity. This is not to say that we are perfect or that our family is perfect, as I have already indicated; but by loving Baba we automatically become part of a maturing as well as a growing Baba Family. We are not trying to form a family either, as in an intentional effort to make a community (and probably all such efforts will in some way fail), but by loving Baba we become “family” members as a byproduct, so to speak. We cannot put the cart before the horse—especially in the case of a white horse. It follows from this that the deeper our love for Baba, the better the connection with Him, the better we will be as a family—the more we will understand what this means, and the more we will be able to live it. Perhaps it is my growing love for Baba over the years that enables me to see now what I only dimly perceived then, back at Fred and Ella’s, about the reality and meaning of the Baba Family. As I said, it was reading Kitty’s book that helped crystallize this recognition, and this no doubt came out of the deep and central ties that she had to “the Father,” so that something was made clear to me through her that I was largely unaware of.

I might have taken the communal energy and good feeling of the Fred and Ella group as the typical social aspect of being in any group, such as the stamp collectors, and incidental to the reason for the group, which was Meher Baba. But now I see that as part and parcel of who Baba is and what he stands for, and not incidental. It rather is true that the fellowship of all groups is based on oneness with God, whether the members are aware of it or not, and this basis is most explicit and real when the One who is the One-in-all is the center of the group. This is expressed by Francis Brabazon in a lyric from The East-West Gathering, as follows:

 

       As a thirsty sheep in summer

       wanders with head hung and bleating,

       so I sought, Beloved, the stream

       of fair friendship’s smile and greeting;

       now I know that only in dust

       at your feet is true friends’ meeting.*

 

 

*Francis Brabazon, The East-West Gathering (Sidney: Meher House Publications, 1963), p. 33. See the Trust e-Library for the free pdf.

 

Ken Lux

 

 

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