Meher Baba’s Warnings about the Occult
An Interview with Arnavaz N. Dadachanji by Nancy Wall
Mischievous Peeps note: Arnavaz Dadachanji (1918-2009) was among Meher Baba’s close women mandali. She began living at Baba’s residence in Meherazad soon after the death of her husband, Nariman. As the one among the women mandali who had lived the life of a disciple in the world rather than the seclusion of the ashram, Arnavaz was often sought out for her advice. She was and is much beloved by Baba-lovers; nonetheless, not everyone agrees with all of her beliefs about what constitutes the “occult” (although I believe there is a misperception that she disapproved of many popular forms of alternative healing). It should be realized that the mandali held their own personal opinions, although they were all one in supreme love for and obedience to Avatar Meher Baba. For more about Arnavaz, see her book, Gift of God (Beloved Books, 1996); the AMB Anthology; and the memorial issue of the Love Street LampPost devoted to her (2nd quarter, 2009, published by Avatar Meher Baba Center of Southern California). —KC
NW: In Gift of God, Arnavaz, you wrote about the dangers of becoming involved in any way with the occult. You’ve also told me that an increasing number of Baba lovers are asking you questions about this subject.
Arnavaz: It is true that more and more Baba lovers have been coming to me to ask what they can do to disentangle themselves from various kinds of occult practices, such as seeking help from the spirit world or trying to develop psychic powers. Many have also consulted other people who are involved in the occult. For instance, a common practice today is to consult “healers,” people who use psychic power to eliminate disease or pain. At first the help given through occult means may make a person feel better or happier. But there are great dangers involved.
This is not to say that those who explore the occult do so simply out of the desire for power. Some people have the best of intentions and they want only to help themselves or others. For example, I mentioned in Gift of God a woman who loved Baba very much, but used occult practices to save the life of her husband. Someone guided this woman, gave her mantras to repeat and instructions to follow. Her husband’s life was spared, but his whole personality changed. Whereas they had once been a very loving couple, now he stopped talking to her and lived like a stranger in the house. And she could not stop herself from becoming further involved with her practices. When my mother was gravely ill with cancer, this woman came to our family, wanting to help extend my mother’s life. I told her emphatically that whether my mother lived or died was completely in Baba’s hands. As Baba has said, “Never beg me to save your life or the lives of your dear ones. Only beg me to accept you and permit you to lay down your life for me.”
Some fifteen years later this woman came to my home for Baba’s darshan. She looked so frail and broken that I didn’t even recognize her. She implored Baba to save her. Baba very lovingly embraced her, but He told her she had taken upon herself more than she could handle and therefore He couldn’t help her. She would have to suffer the consequences of her actions. This woman was suffering at least in part because of the heavy sanskaric load she was carrying. So although it is natural that we should want to eliminate our own suffering or the suffering of those we love, the elimination of pain through psychic healing may actually serve as a block on the spiritual path of the aspirant.
NW: This brings up another question for me. To what extent should we, as Baba lovers, try to eliminate our pain and suffering?
Arnavaz: Well, certainly when we are in pain, it is reasonable to pursue whatever relief may be available through natural and practical means. Doctors, psychiatrists, chiropractors, massage therapists, those who practice Chinese medicine, acupuncture, homeopathy, allopathy, Ayurvedic medicine — all these I would call natural and practical. But healing through psychic powers is another matter altogether. In consulting those involved in occult practices for relief from suffering, we may actually add to our sanskaras and later bring about more suffering and pain. Baba wants to free us from suffering, but when we seek occult help, we are interfering with His work and creating further bindings for ourselves. And if we ourselves use occult means to help others, we take on the sanskaras of those we seek to help.
NW: Arnavaz, you mentioned that the woman who used the occult to save her husband continued to use it even after he had been saved. Once a person starts using occult powers, is it difficult to stop?
Arnavaz: Let me tell you two stories about that. Once when Baba was giving darshan in different parts of India, a guru who had practiced occult powers came to Him. Baba gave this man darshan several times, and he became Baba’s disciple. Baba told him that he must give up his practice as a guru and no longer use the occult or allow people to bow down to him. He obeyed Baba for some time, but after a few years he returned to his old ways. He knew Baba was not pleased, and he ceased all contact, never showing his face to Baba again.
The second story involves an only child who died. Naturally, the parents were devastated, and a Baba lover who was present put the dead child in his lap and sat all night, repeating Baba’s name aloud. After several hours the child was revived. When Baba heard about this incident, He sent a telegram to the man saying that He was very displeased. The man felt terrible and he came to Baba and begged for forgiveness. Baba kept the man with Him for a while in the ashram, but because he had been able to revive the dead child, the man believed that he must have special powers and after some time he had the urge to use his powers again. One day, without even informing Baba, he simply disappeared from the ashram. His ego had overpowered him, and he returned to his home and established his own following. His connection with Baba was broken. So you see, once a person has experienced this kind of power, he becomes entangled in it and does not want to give it up.
NW: Your family at one time had frequent contact with a man who had certain powers. Can you tell me about him?
Arnavaz: Our contact with this man, Savak, came about in the early 30’s, when we were quite new to Baba. Later, of course, we would have had nothing to do with this man, but at the time we knew very little about spiritual matters. Although we loved Baba very much, my mother and others in the family thought that Savak must be a highly spiritual man. He could make coins or flowers appear in his hands, or a certain scent would suddenly fill the room. He would give orders, and sometimes they would turn out to be the same orders that Baba later gave us, so it is easy to see why Savak impressed my family. I have to say, though, that I myself was never attracted to him. Even though I thought he might be on a higher plane, I found him somehow repulsive. I understand now that Baba was keeping me away from this man, keeping me from getting involved with him in any way. And even though throughout my life I have seen numerous examples of people who were possessed by spirits and many kinds of black magic, I have always known that Baba would protect me from all of this, that I had nothing to fear as long as I held tightly to His damaan. “Avatar Meher Baba’s Last Warning,” given in July of 1968, contains specific orders for His lovers concerning involvement with such masters:
“It is … important at this critical period of the Avataric Age to beware at all times of persons who lead others into believing that they are saintly and pious and profess to possess supernatural powers. However pious such persons appear to be, a Baba-lover must never mix such piety with the Divinity of the Avatar!
“A true Baba-lover must remember the repeated warning given to all Baba lovers time and again to stay away from persons who feel and assert that they are masters and saints and possess powers to help human beings. His lovers and workers should never get involved with such persons and affairs, much less with perverted “helpers of humanity” who have no reverence or regard for the Perfect Masters and the Avatar of the Age. Beware of them who exploit spirituality to gain their selfish ends and dupe others in the name of Sadgurus and the Avatar.”
At the end of this warning Baba added the following note, originally given in February of 1966:
“Shun those masters
who are like multi-coloured electric signs
that flash on and off,
brightening the dark sky of your world
and leaving you in darkness again.”
N W: Aren’t there some people who have actually found Baba through occult means and come to follow Him?
Arnavaz: It is true that Baba Himself has used such means as automatic writing, Ouija boards, etc., to bring people to Him, but the fact that Baba has done something in no way gives us permission to do it. “Don’t do what I do,” He has told us. “Do what I tell you to do.” When God comes as man, He works thorough everything in His creation, what we would call good and what we would call bad. Baba said these were two sides of the same coin. In the play of Maya, God keeps a balance between them. Why? We cannot know. Given our limited understanding, we cannot fathom the ways of God. We can only do what Baba asks of us and not worry about trying to understand His work. Baba has been very clear about what He asks of us. For instance, the rules regarding appropriate behavior at His Center in Myrtle Beach contain this statement: “By Meher Baba’s directive, divining cards, Ouija board, and the I Ching are not to be used at the Center.” And anyone tempted to interpret that directive to mean that outside the Center it is all right to use such devices should think carefully about Baba’s statement given in Andhra on 1 March, 1954:
“I want my lovers and workers to know that there is no greater ’Baba’s Centre’ than the heart of my lover. Those who truly love me are my centres in the world. Let each ‘Baba-lover,’ wherever he or she may be, be the ‘Baba’s Centre’ personified, radiating the eternal message of Love Divine, living a life of love, sacrifice and honesty.”
NW: I think it’s sometimes difficult for us to distinguish between what is occult and what is not. There are so many “New Age” practices from which sincere people seem to derive the same kinds of experience that we have had in our lives as Baba lovers that the whole issue can become very confusing. How can we protect ourselves from getting involved in something best left alone?
Arnavaz: Irene Coneybeare, in the introduction to her book In Quest of Truth, or How I came to Meher Baba, gives a good and easy guideline to follow when she discusses the vast difference between mysticism and occultism. The mystic, she says, is simply searching for God and does not seek power, whereas the person who practices the occult is actually attempting to control the forces of nature. Occult power, she stresses, is safe only in the hands of a Master who will not misuse it — that even an advanced spiritual aspirant may incur great harm through practice of the occult, and she quotes the following from Baba’s Discourses: “The introduction of an uncertain and incalculable factor, which the free exercise of occult power would involve, is bound to create much confusion and disturbance in the ordinary pursuits of man, who must be left to his own limitations, resources and possibilities for the equal and uninterrupted working out of the Law of Karma” [6th ed., 1967, vol. 2, p. 104]. She also talks about the undue importance that people often attribute to miracles, which have nothing to do with the spiritual path, and again she quotes Baba: “All miracles belong to the phenomenal world, which is the world of shadows. As phenomena, they are subject to change; and nothing that changes can have lasting value. Realisation of the eternal Truth is an initiation into the unchangeable Being, which is the supreme Reality; and no acquaintance with the occult world or capacity to manipulate its forces can really amount to realisation of the Truth.” [vol. 2, pp. 109-10]
On His birthday in 1965, Baba told those gathered in His love the following, also taken from His Discourses:
“…There is nothing particularly spiritual about occult power as such. Like any other mundane power or scientific invention, it is capable of being used for good ends or bad. It gives immense scope for co-operative work on the higher planes, but this necessarily implies a spiritual preparedness to shoulder a special responsibility.
“The novice may seek some occult powers and, within certain limits, even succeed in having them, but this new attainment will prove to be a curse rather than a blessing if he is not spiritually prepared for the adequate fulfillment of the new responsibility implied in the acquisition of the new powers. Even the slightest misuse of occult power has a severe reaction and creates a binding for the soul. Sometimes it may retard the progress of the aspirant and may even lead to a considerable set-back. Apart from the spiritual ruin which the novice may invite upon himself through indiscreet use of occult power, he is bound to be a source of incalculable harm to others over whom he has succeeded in wielding a formidable advantage.” [vol. 2, p. 103]
So when Baba lovers ask me about the occult, I tell them that whoever Baba has taken into His fold must do whatever Baba wants. Those who have not come to know and love Baba will act according to their sanskaras and destiny. But Baba has told His lovers specifically not to get involved in the occult. It is extremely foolish for Baba lovers to dabble in matters that Baba has told us to keep away from. He has warned us of the harm we may do not only to ourselves, but to others who seek our help. And He has shown us how to please Him. That means obeying Baba wholeheartedly, leaving His work entirely in His hands, and staying away from any attempt to work in realms we are not spiritually prepared to enter.
“I do not want anything else but the gift of your obedience.”
— Meher Baba [Lord Meher, 17: 5749]