The Lost Suitcase of Malcolm Schloss
by Clive G. Adams
© 2014 by Clive G. Adams
During November 2013, while on a sixty-day visit to Meherabad, I began work on a book detailing my life and Meher Baba stories, for my children, grandchildren, and future generations of our family. Initially, I didn’t see any major significance to any particular story, but as more details emerged, it became clear some stories may have broader interest. The following story about Malcolm Schloss and Filis Frederick seemed like a good a place to start, especially as the sixtieth anniversary of the Three Incredible Weeks Sahavas (September 1954) approaches.
Following the 1969 Darshan, I spent considerable quality time with Filis Frederick, who lived near where I grew up. Through frequent contact and many shared interests, Filis became an important mentor and a spiritual (cosmic) mother to me. I didn’t see it so much at the time, but Filis and I had much in common, in terms of interests and outlook, and we both shared intense interest and curiosity about the hidden side of life and nature.
During the course of our relationship, Filis shared many stories about Meher Baba, the minor incarnations of the Avatar, her past life memories, and insights on the nature of the Spiritual Path. Baba Lovers such as Bill Files, Peter Justin, Ursula Reinhart, Susan Herr, Jurgis Sapkis, Audrey Bowen, Teri Adams, Lyn Maguire, and numerous others also were recipients of Filis’s extensive archive of experiences and stories. Some of the stories were relatively short anecdotes, but others were more complex, involving a detailed backstory and historical context. After almost forty-five years, the following story is still quite vivid in memory.
Filis shares a Malcolm Schloss anecdote
One day Filis told me a remarkable story, which forms the backdrop for a larger story called “The Lost Suitcase of Malcolm Schloss.” At the time of Filis’s initial sharing, the basic facts became fixed in my mind, because part of the story involved Meher Baba’s “lost Book” and a theory as to a possible location for it! What follows is the gist of the story as I remember her reciting it.
Sometime in 1954, Meher Baba announced his intention to hold a special gathering, to be held from September 12 to September 30 of 1954, at Meherabad, India. The “Three Incredible Weeks,” as it became famously known, was to be an important gathering of Baba’s male “lovers,” as he called his followers, from East and West. The timing and purpose of the meeting, according to Meher Baba, coincided with crucial universal work He was doing of immense spiritual significance. This special work included the public release for the first time of His “Final Declaration” and other major formal public announcements.
As founder and editor of The Awakener Magazine, a journal devoted to Meher Baba, Filis Frederick required some eyes and ears on the ground at Meherabad, to record the daily happenings, during the three-week event with Baba. Filis intended to publish a detailed history of the Sahavas in The Awakener. The two men she recruited to report on the event were Malcolm Schloss and Charles Purdom. Charles and Malcolm were among Baba’s earliest circle of Western disciples, and each was a keen observer and experienced writer.
Filis confirmed with Charles and Malcolm their intention to attend the gathering in India, and they agreed to keep a daily diary of the event for posterity. Filis indicated to me that she had an understanding with Charles and Malcolm , in which they agreed to write up a collaborative story after their return, drawing from their notes and experiences, and allow The Awakener Magazine exclusive publication rights.
A combined diary of Malcolm Schloss and Charles Purdom’s notes, from the Three Incredible Weeks, was published in a “special issue” of The Awakener Magazine (vol. 2, no. 3), which was released in early 1955, devoted exclusively to their joint story. Additional reminiscences from attendees of the three-week Sahavas were published in The Awakener Magazine (vol. 2, no. 4), in the spring of 1955, under the title “Facets of the Diamond.” In 1979, Sheriar Press combined the Awakener accounts into a single book entitled Three Incredible Weeks with Meher Baba.
During 1954, Filis and Malcolm were living in the New York City area. Charles Purdom lived in England, where he was a respected drama critic, editor, and author. Malcolm Schloss was married to Jean Adriel, with whom he founded and ran a metaphysical bookstore called The North Node , located in NYC, during the 1920’s and early ’30’s. Malcolm and Jean parted ways sometime in the late 30’s, I believe. The North Node had been the main contact point for a number of sincere American seekers of God, forming a crucial link between the modern Avatar and His male and female Western “Circle” members. Most of His early Western Mandali, whom Baba contacted on his 1931–32 visits to the U.S. and England, came to Baba, directly or indirectly, through contact with Jean and Malcolm at The North Node bookstore.
Prior to Malcolm’s departure for the Three Incredible Weeks, Filis went to see him, to discuss the upcoming meeting and to give him some letters and gifts to deliver to the women Mandali and Baba. She may also have given Malcolm a small camera and some cash for the trip, if I recall correctly.
The next part of the story was extremely memorable the time I first heard it. According to Filis, after the Three Incredible Weeks came to an end, Malcolm made one, or more, unscheduled stops (in Paris, for example) on his return journey to New York. He arrived back in the U.S. almost one week later than expected, on October 6, 1954. Filis told me that after Malcolm’s delayed return, she had wondered if he had broken Baba’s order, by failing to come straight back following the gathering. When Malcolm finally did arrive back in New York, Filis had a strong premonition that she should immediately go to his apartment and get the notes and diaries and whatever else he may have been bringing back from Baba for her. I vaguely remember Filis mentioning that Malcolm was bringing letters and a “manuscript” of some kind, from Baba, for the Awakener archive.
Acting on her premonition, Filis went to Malcolm’s apartment the same day he arrived back in the U.S., and after he handed over to her his notes and diaries of the gathering, she quickly took her leave. The very next day (October 7, 1954) Malcolm dropped dead of an apparent heart attack. Filis was almost certainly the last Baba person to see him alive. It turned out that the same day Malcolm died, Baba formally gave up the use of His alphabet board, and Baba was quoted by Filis as saying that Malcolm was “fortunate” to have died when he did because of the significance of the October 7th date. Why this was fortunate I never found out.
As Filis proceeded with the story, she dropped a second bombshell. She said she had always wondered if, by a strange quirk of Avataric fate, Malcolm’s unscheduled stops on the way back from the Three Incredible Weeks was in some way connected to Meher Baba’s so-called, lost or missing Book, or some other secret errand he may have been sent on by Baba. This idea was partly fueled by the mystery surrounding the timing of his death, plus the fact that Filis couldn’t believe Malcolm would intentionally break Baba’s order by randomly stopping on the way back from such an important Baba gathering; thus, she felt, he must have been carrying out some kind of secret instructions from Baba. This comment made a deep impression on me.
Filis then went on to state that she and Ivy Duce had often speculated that Malcolm may have been carrying Baba’s famous Book (i.e., the manuscript for it) back from India or Europe, with specific instructions as to its final destination in either Europe or America. This part of the story had a powerful impact on my imagination for a number of years. It caused me to bookmark as many facts as possible from the story in case I would ever have the opportunity to investigate further.
Filis then said that after Malcolm died, a number of Baba lovers (including Filis and Ivy) tried unsuccessfully to gain possession of his belongings, especially his Baba treasures. But for whatever reason, Malcolm’s relations and heirs were totally uncooperative in this regard, in spite of repeated attempts by Sufism Reoriented and others to get hold of them. Filis ended the story by saying that Malcolm’s personal effects, along with his Baba treasures, had seemingly disappeared and were probably lost forever.
Note: Malcolm died so soon after arriving back in America, that whatever Baba treasures he may have been bringing back from India were likely to have remained in his suitcase(s). This likelihood appealed to my treasure-hunting sanskaras, especially the remote but nonetheless real possibility that Baba’s famous manuscript could have been brought back by Malcolm and was either in Europe or lost in America!
The Lost Suitcase
Now we fast-forward to the late 1970’s, when I was living with my then-wife, Teri Scott Adams, in a beautiful adobe ranch home in Corrales, New Mexico, along with our three children Merwan, Raina, and baby Eruch (Katie came later, in 1981). In those days we had our own Indian jewelry business, called Meher House of Heishe, located 40 miles to the north, in a 500-year-old Spanish village by the name of Peña Blanca. It was 10 miles off the I-25 Interstate, located midway between two Indian reservations by the name of Cochiti and Santo Domingo pueblos. The area is frequented by tourists, sitting as it does between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and well known for its custom jewelry, pottery, ceremonial dances, and a famous geological anomaly known as Tent Rocks.
We were the only trading post in New Mexico that specialized in Native American heishe jewelry exclusively. The Indian word heishe means ground rock or shell;the jewelry is an ancient form of ceremonial necklace, made of hand-ground precious and semiprecious stones and/or shell beads, an art form also well known to the Polynesian, Egyptian, and Tibetan cultures. From 1973 to 1980, Meher House of Heishe traded in American Indian arts and jewelry while also producing a line of custom heishe-style necklaces for jewelry stores all over the U.S. (Another Baba lover, Peter Busse, became a business partner of MHOH after Kitty Davy sent him to NM to connect with me.)
Artisans from the nearby Santo Domingo Pueblo are among the most famous heishe makers in the world. We developed a close relationship with many Native Americans from various pueblos, and many came to hear of Meher Baba through our store and the large “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” poster that hung prominently on the wall of our store for many years.
One day in 1977, I was working alone in the store when a larger-than-life gentleman in his forties or fifties, with a thick, ruddy beard, walked in, appearing somewhat dazed. He glanced furtively around the store as if looking for something, then spied the “Don’t Worry, Be Happy“ poster, at which point he turned and said, “I thought this place must have something to do with Meher Baba, so my girlfriend and I [who initially stayed in the car], stopped to find out. Somehow, we got lost on our way from Santa Fe to Albuquerque and ended up passing by your store.”
Then he asked if Meher Baba still had an active following and was most surprised to learn there was a growing movement of Baba people all over the world. He apparently assumed that interest in Meher Baba had died out long ago. Teri and I recall that he introduced himself as Matthew, but we’re not sure of his last name.
When Matthew said he had become lost on his way from Santa Fe to Albuquerque, I knew that it was almost impossible to “‘accidentally’” end up in front of our store in Peña Blanca, except through divine intervention, or else copious quantities of drugs and alcohol. Matthew went on to make the startling announcement, “My uncle, was the poet and writer Malcolm Schloss. That’s how I came to recognize the name ‘Meher’ on the outside of your store.”.
He then said that he also had become a writer, due partially to Malcolm’s example and encouragement. He stated how much he loved and respected Malcolm, and at some point he said he had inherited Malcolm’s belongings—including his Baba treasures—mainly because he was the only one in the family who had a deep connection with Malcolm. I remember at the time trying to wrap my mind around the fact that Matthew, a non–Baba lover, ended up with all Malcolm’s stuff, in spite of the repeated efforts of Filis Frederick and Ivy Duce to get hold of his possessions back in 1954, and now Matthew is here in my store twenty-three years later, telling me his uncle was Malcolm Schloss and that Matthew actually inherited the missing stuff. Wow!
I began to gently press Matthew with questions to clarify the history, and found out that Malcolm’s belongings were currently stored in the attic of another relative’s house, who lives in Connecticut! Oh my God! My mind was reeling with this news. For a moment I thought I was dreaming the whole thing up. I couldn’t get out of my mind the idea that Baba’s missing Book, and other spiritual treasures, might be hidden away in that attic in Connecticut. How and on what pretext could we gain access to Malcolm’s long-lost belongings?
When Matthew said that his inheritance of Malcolm’s personal effects had been stored, unseen, for twenty-five years in an attic in Connecticut, all I could think of was: How can I delay Matthew’s departure? I wondered if Matthew would be amenable to some kind of agreement, to give us the missing belongings. The instant Matthew said his uncle was the poet Malcolm Schloss, the details of Filis Frederick’s story flooded back into my mind. I felt in a quandary: on the one hand, here was the link to Malcolm’s stuff standing right in front of me, but on the other hand, he was about to leave for California, where he was heading when he became “lost.”
In those days, I had a fairly active imagination and all things seemed possible. The crazy idea that Meher Baba’s lost Book could actually be within our reach acted as a motivating force to invite Matthew and his girlfriend to have dinner that evening with our family. I felt an inner excitement, as if on the verge of some great discovery, the sort of feeling one might have when breaking the seal on a door to a 4,000-year-old tomb of Ancient Egypt. So in order to make the dinner invitation more compelling, I offered in addition a place to stay for the night. I called Teri to confirm the arrangements and seem to recall deciding to serve a traditional English-style roast beef dinner for our illustrious guests. I closed the business early, and Matthew and his girlfriend followed me the 40 miles south to our home in Corrales.
Matthew had initially balked at accepting the dinner invitation, because he had to reach San Diego, some 1,200 miles distant from where we were then standing, because of an important engagement he had to make. This created a sense of urgency and unpredictability around the problem of how to raise the issue of Malcolm’s belongings.
Matthew talked it over with his girlfriend and they finally decided to accept our invitation for dinner and staying the night. On the way back home from the store, I was trying to fathom the question of how one might go about obtaining Malcolm’s possessions. As the question turned over and over, I came to the conclusion that if a deal was possible, it must be struck while Matthew was at our house. Otherwise it would likely never happen. The greater risk, to my mind, was in not finding out what Malcolm had left behind when he passed so suddenly in 1954! I had to make an effort; otherwise Filis might never forgive me. . . .
In those days, we didn’t have much extra cash (who did?) in order to make an offer for Malcolm’s things, so the question arose, how could one create urgency? Teri served a wonderful English roast (with Yorkshire pudding, no doubt) and we drank some good wine, after which I awkwardly broached the subject of Malcolm’s possessions. I had already made up my mind that I wasn’t letting Matthew out of the house without making a serious effort to acquire the items he had inherited from Malcolm’s estate.
It was going to be tricky to achieve the right balance, but no doubt Teri’s excellent cooking, the wine, the atmosphere—and of course, Meher Baba’s intervention—all contributed to making it possible. It was no doubt a somewhat clumsy attempt on my part, but it was up to us to find a way to make this happen while we still had the opportunity. If Filis hadn’t brought up the subject of Baba’s missing Book in relation to Malcolm’s untimely death, I may not have felt so much urgency around the affair, but as it was I simply couldn’t get the idea of finding the famous missing Book out of my mind, no matter how remote the possibility might be.
We found out earlier in the evening that Malcolm’s precious Baba treasures had been consolidated into one small suitcase. As the evening progressed, it became clear that Matthew wasn’t going to let go of this little piece of luggage without some kind of financial exchange, so I offered him five hundred dollars and hoped for the best. (An online inflation calculator indicates that five hundred dollars in the late 1970s equates to about eighteen hundred dollars in 2014 money.) Even after this generous offer, Matthew was still reluctant to part with Malcolm’s possessions, but he did agree to call his relatives in Connecticut and obtain an inventory of the suitcase’s contents. He made the call and asked them to do a quick inventory and get back to us. This is when things got even dicier, because no one except me saw any reason for urgency, and the earliest his relations in Connecticut could get back to us with the inventory was the next day. Matthew was in a big hurry to leave for California, so it began to seem impossible to reach an agreement before his departure. This led me to conclude that there was nothing to be done but sweeten the offer and try to finalize an agreement with him while I had the chance.
At this point I recall asking Matthew what would motivate him to cement a deal for the suitcase, and he pointed to two beautiful handmade Navajo blankets (or rugs), which were hanging on the walls of our home. Yikes! We didn’t want to part with these precious keepsakes, but for the purpose of a quick resolution, I agreed to throw in the rugs. (I don’t think Teri was very happy about letting Matthew have the rugs, but neither was I!) After sweetening the offer, Matthew seemed far more motivated and it seemed a deal was imminent.
The following morning, with the inventory in hand, I drew up an agreement and we both signed it. The items on the inventory list were not very specific, so we had to make a leap of faith as to the value, if any, of the contents of the suitcase. But one thing that was particularly interesting on the inventory was the notation of an unfinished manuscript or a book having to do with Meher Baba!
It took several weeks for the suitcase to finally arrive. Unfortunately, as you’ve already guessed, Baba’s lost Book was not among the contents of the suitcase, but by that time I had already prepared myself for that eventuality, although I still held out some hope.
When the suitcase arrived, the first surprise was how humble a suitcase it was. The initials M.S. were embossed in gold on the front of the suitcase, and it had the appearance of an antique relic left over from the World War I era. I realized Malcolm had gone all over the world with this suitcase for decades, and he must have traveled incredibly light, because the case was quite small. When we first opened it, we were not overly impressed at the contents, because there weren’t a large number of items. The suitcase contents in part, were as follows:
- A bedside folding photo case, containing a lovely photograph of Jean Adriel Schloss from the 1920’s and another photo of Malcolm and Jean together.
- An envelope of old black and white snapshots, taken during World War I.
- An unfinished manuscript of a book Malcolm was working on, called “When the Master Is Ready.” (We gave the manuscript to Filis to publish initially, in The Awakener Magazine, which she did, not long after we received it. The original manuscript now resides at Beloved Archives in New Jersey and has also been published in the Glow International.) Malcolm was working on the full history of The North Node bookstore and all the early contacts with Meher Baba, at the time of his death, but the manuscript appeared only about half finished.
- One 11 x 14-inch photo signed by Meher Baba and one 5 x 7-inch photo signed by Him (each with the handwritten words at bottom, “I am the Highest of the High”), which were apparent gifts from Baba to those who attended the Three Incredible Weeks Sahavas. The former signed photo was unusual for its large size, and it was unclear why Malcolm would have received two photos, both signed by the Avatar, instead of the usual single signed phtotgraph? I thought at the time that maybe Baba (who knows everthing) sent one to me as a gift. Wishful thinking, maybe . . .
- Two handmade etchings, given to Malcolm by Roger Vieillard, a well-known French artist who was married to one of the early Western members of the Circle, Anita de Caro. The two etchings were from a famous 1951 series of thirteen etchings by Roger entitled L’Ecclésiaste (Ecclesiastes). These were almost certainly given to Malcolm when he stopped over in Paris on his way back from the Three Incredible Weeks. It appears he must have stayed at the Vieillard home on his way back from India. We have heard that Roger Vieillard is among the most famous twentieth-century French artists.
- Notes and diaries of World War I and earlier.
- Other diaries and notes.
- Letters and correspondence from Ivy Duce on behalf of Sufism Reoriented, regarding their wish to obtain Malcolm’s personal effects.
- A list of all those invited to the Darshan by Meher Baba that took place in Hollywood in 1952. A number of famous people were on this guest list, the most famous of whom was none other than God Himself!
- There were a few other miscellaneous items, which I have now forgotten.
During and for a short period after this adventure occurred, I had a strong sense of Malcolm’s presence, from time to time; I never met him, but somehow I knew it was him. He carried an aroma of Baba.
This sums up the adventure of the Lost Suitcase of Malcolm Schloss. I never had any regrets over the affair, or the material cost of obtaining Malcolm’s treasures. After receiving the suitcase, we never heard from Matthew again. Teri Adams has one of the signed photographs, and I have the other, both of which we regard as priceless artifacts of the Three Incredible Weeks Sahavas. The 11 x 14-inch signed photo was professionally mounted and framed using archival materials, and it should last many generations. The two Roger Vieillard etchings are similarly framed and preserved.
Someday, God willing, we would like to establish a Baba Museum in Asheville, NC, to house Baba treasures, from our own and other Baba lovers’ collections. My personal collection includes a precious sadra worn by Meher Baba, which was a gift from Mani and Mehera and handed to me in person by Mehera J. Irani in 1971, along with her love blessings. But that is another story, for another time!
Avatar Meher Baba ki Jai!
Clive Gordon Adams
June 1, 2014
Point Richmond, CA