What is Sufism
B Krishna Yadav, Meherabad
( PUBLISHED AS RECEIVED WITH NO CHANGES WHATSOEVER- EDITOR)
Sufism is not a religion, but it is the essence of all religions, the true and inner aspect of all spiritual orientations. The spiritual message now called Sufism has existed throughout history. Therefore Sufism is nothing but devotional towards spirituality rather than intellectual. Baba says “Truth is to be experienced. Intellectual knowledge does not lead to Truth”.
In Persian and Greek the word Sufi means wisdom. In Arabic the word Sufi means “Safa” which means pure, clear or unadulterated.
Actually the main founder, who established the Sufism was Lord Zoroaster, who was born in 1000 B.C., also known as Zarathustra, who was an ancient Iranian Prophet and a spiritual teacher who founded what is known as Zoroastrianism; the Ancient Avatar who lived 6000 years ago in Iran, one of the earliest of whom we have the records is the founder of Sufism. He was greatest Sufi, the Father of Sufism.
Sufism is known to have existed at the time of Zoroaster and this mystic discipline of Sufism which has its root in the Middle-East. But its origins were lost in ancient times especially during the period of Lord Buddha and Lord Jesus the Christ and this was again revitalized by Lord Muhammad and today it exists in all parts of the world.
The individuals who pursue the path of Sufism are called sufis. The word Sufi has been used to describe these persons for almost 1400 years.
There are three stages of the disciples in Sufism. In the first stage is the Master draws the disciple to himself. This is the stone stage. The disciple is enwrapped in deep ignorance and has no sense for Spiritual values. He cannot know the Master at this stone stage, and the initiative is entirely with the Master.
The second stage is called worm stage, just as the worm is engaged in all kinds of movements and actions, so the mind of the disciple is active in all kinds of doubts and questions to the Master. There is constant movement of thought at this worm stage.
The third stage is called the dog stage. At this stage the mind has got no questions to ask. It is in a faith state. Just as the dog follows the Master without challenge or doubt, the disciple has unswerving faith in the Master, and follows His instructions unfailingly. At this stage the asking comes to an end. When Spiritual progress has not yet begun as well as when it is at its height, there no asking to the Master.
The mysticism of the Persian Sufis descended from the line-age of great Persian Sufi Perfect Master, by name Kwaja Saheb Mu’ inuddin Chisti, the famous Qutub-I-Irshad, the head of the five perfect masters of his time during the 12th centaury (1142 – 1236) who was associated with the tradition of Sufism. He was the first, who brought Sufism into India at Ajmer and converted thousand of Hindus to Islam.
A well illumed soul, by name Inayath Khan, who was associated with the tradition of Sufism founded by Qutub Mu’ inuddin Chishti was born in Baroda on July 5th, 1882, and died on 5-2-1927, who was brought up in a distinguished family of acclaimed musicians and singers. Inayath Khan also became a gifted singer and a master of Vina, a stringed instrument.
From 1903 to 1907, that is for four years he studied under the guidance of his spiritual teacher who was known as Murshid Syed Muhammad Abu Hashim Madani of Hyderabad, who was also associated with the tradition of Sufism founded in India by Qutub Mu’ inuddin Chishti (1142 – 1236 of Ajmer).
Murshid Madani directed Inayath Khan to introduce Sufi principals to American and European countries through his musical gifts. Murshid Hashim Madani believed that westerners would respond more completely to artistic expressions of Spirituality than to intellectual discussions of it. Inayath Khan has presented Sufism to the west as “Message of love, harmony and beauty” with his music.
From 1910 to 1912, Inayath Khan, accompanied by his brother and his cousins all the three of them were excellent musicians, they toured major cities of America giving concerts as “The Royal musicians of Hindusthan”. Inayath Khan initially presented his Spiritual message by lecturing on Indian music at Universities and Education centers. In the year 1913 he was married to an American woman, by name Ora Ray Baker, and settled in Paris. They had four children. Inayath Khan spent the next fourteen years entirely in European countries by giving musical performances and lectures on Sufism. He also established a network of small Sufi groups in England, France, Switzerland, Holland and Belgium. From Europe Inayath Khan returned to America and extended his tours from 1923 to 1926.
Meher Baba has confirmed Inayath Khan’s stature as a Wali of fifth plane mental conscious and a truth Sufi Murshid, and it is he who was the first person blending of the mysticism of the east into the western world, which was one aspect of the Universal work which Meher Baba did during His advent. Complimenting Inayath Khan, Baba once stated, “He was a great Soul, a great Sufi and for the west a great starter.” The name Inayath means “kindness, grace, solicitude, providence.”
One day in 1911, Rabia Martin attended a music concert and lectures performed by Inayath Khan which was sponsored by the Vedanta society in Sanfrancisco, California. Then she followed Inayath Khan to Seatle, Washington, where he has initiated as his first Sufi student, and gave her the Spiritual name as Rabia (after the Sufi saint Rabia of Basrah, it is an Iraqi city located on the Shatt al-Arab at Iraq).
Late in 1926 he returned to India for a visit. In Delhi one Mr. Hasan Nizami, a distinguished leader of Sufi order of several thousand members, hosted him.
Eventually after the pilgrimage to the tomb of Mu’inuddin Chishti in Ajmer, Inayath Khan fell sick with pneumonia and passed away in Delhi, on 5th, Feb, 1927.
Rabia Martin was born in Sansfrancisco, California on 23rd, July 1871. Her parents were Jewish immigrants from Russia and Poland. Her father was an Artist and her mother was a scholar in a family line of mystics. In 1890 she was married to David Martin, a pharmacist; they had only daughter by name Etta.
She was not content with her domestic life because she was a compassionate woman, and wanted to serve the suffering humanity. For several years she volunteered at orphanages in Sanfrancisco.
In the year 1912, Inayath Khan appointed her to the office of Murshida with responsibility for Sufism in America. Then he left to begin his work in European countries. In 1924, Rabia Martin established a Sufi residential was at this retreat on his last tour of America and dictated to Rabia Martin that she was to become his Spiritual successor.
In Delhi, the Sufi leader Hasan Nizami, who had been with Inayath Khan during his last days, welcomed her. Seven days before his passing away, Inayath Khan had told Hasan Nizami that Rabia Martin was to be his successor as Mursida Rabia Martin.
On 9th, Feb 1939, Hasan Nizami held a formal “investiture ceremony” before three thousand dignitaries in Delhi on behalf of Rabia Martin to affirm her status as the successor of Inayath Khan.
Coincidentally, Meher Baba was in Delhi during this period of 1st to 7th Feb 1939, while travelling on the blue bus tour with the women Mandali; he then traveled to Ajmer to the tomb of Mu’innuddin chishti, Feb 8th –27th 1939.
So Rabia Martin after returning to America from India become convinced that her Sufi order needed to be revitalized, which could only come from the head of the Spiritual Hierarchy known as Qutub-e-Irshad.
In 1942 Rabia Martin met Norina Matchabelli and Elizabeth Patterson who revealed to her about Meher Baba’s Divinity after going through Discourses of Meher Baba through the correspondence for three years.
Since 1945 Rabia Martin has accepted Meher Baba as the Avatar of the age, and informed all the Sufis and her closest Sufi students Don E Stevens and Samuel Lewis and her successor, Ivy Duce that the Sufi order was now under the Spiritual guidance of Meher Baba. For nearly the past three years, Rabia Martin had taught nothing but Meher Baba’s words and concepts in the Sufi order Rabia had not only accepted Meher Baba as a living Qutub but had concluded that “Meher Baba is the greatest spiritual leader of this age”, offcourse Rabia Martin was not destined to meet Meher Baba in person, but she achieved her deepest wish by bringing Sufis in America under the guidance of the Avatar Meher Baba and by urging Ivy Duce to establish direct contact with Him.
Rabia Martin offered her Sufi Retreat Center, which was in fair fax, California, for Baba’s use. A few years later she turned over the property to Baba and hoped it would ultimately find a place in his work. In 1955, the same fair fax property was sold to raise funds to publish Meher Baba’s Major Book, GOD SPEAKS. Ivy Duce then felt that Rabia Martin would have been very pleased that her gift to Meher Baba was used for this purpose to serve the higher knowledge for all mankind.
Before October 1947 several Australian Sufis had also come into Baba’s contact through the influence of the Sufi leader whose name was Baron Von Franken burg, to whom Rabia Martin had sent a copy of Baba’s discourses. Among them were May Lund quist, Ena Lemmon, Bill Le page, John and John Bruford, Stan and Clarice Adams, Oswald and Belty Hall, Dennis and Joan O’ Brien and eventual Francis Brabazon. Led the Sufis in Australia after the death Baron Von Franken burg in 1950.
Rabia martin had died of cancer at the end of August 1947. After Rabia Martin passing away the group of Sufis in the Sanfrancisco Area has dwindled into a small number which met regularly under Ivy Duce consisting of Donstevens, Daphne MacDonald, Joyce Ruggles, Louise Urico and Rose Mary Mcc Fall.
From Hills borough, Fred and Carolyn Frey joined the Sufi group occasionally and from a far distance Laura Delavigne and Michigan kept in correspondence with Ivy Duce. From 1947 through the next several year’s the Sufi group was joined by Harold Stewart, Lud Dimpfl and Marvin Campen, and later became increasingly integrated with the joining of Joseph and Kari Harb.
Ivy Duce was very much eager to meet with Meher Baba, the living Avatar and unify her Sufi group under his direction. She wrote to Baba and he granted her permission to meet him in India at the beginning of 1948.
She had beautiful voice and became an operatic singer and also an overseas service worker in the First World War. Ivy Onieta Duce Born on 25th, Feb 1895 exactly one year later than our Beloved Avatar Meher Baba is born. She was student of Law, a businesswoman in South America and Editor of New York Magazine.
Later she married James Terry Duce, who was internationally respected geologist and a business executive. She has under gone deep studies in spiritual mysticism and ultimately she became a teacher in the Sufi school, which was originated in the western world by the Sufi Master, a well known saintly person Hazrat Inayath Khan.
The story of her life in service to God started in 1946, When Murshida Ada Martin, head of the Sufi Order in the West sent out a special message to her small flock of students in the California area. She said she wanted to make a very special announcement. She told her students that after a long, long search she had found the man who she was convinced was the “great spiritual genius of the Age. His name is Meher Baba”.
None of the students had ever heard anything about Meher Baba, nor did they know that Murshida Martin had been searching for a true spiritual authority. She informed her students that she had been in touch with three of Meher Baba’s close disciples, who lived on the East Coast of the United States, and that she had taken two years of very intensive study and work with them to determine who this man was. At the end she had come to the conclusion that Meher Baba was indeed the great spiritual Master of the Age. She declared that she had placed herself under Meher Baba’s directions. He was her Master and she would take orders from Meher Baba only.
Murshida Martin gave her students two weeks to make up their mind “follow Meher Baba’s guidance or resign from the Sufi Order”. It was a direct approach to the subject, but within two weeks the students gave their decision. The Sufi Order in the North and South America and Australia came under Meher Baba’s guidance. Murshida Martin never met Meher Baba, but directed her student Ivy Duce to meet Him.
Mrs. Ivy Duce received the genuine Spiritual training from Murhida Rabia Martin and shortly before her death in 1947, Rabia Martin named Ivy Duce as her successor as next Murhida for the Sufi Order.
Martin also told Ivy Duce about the Spiritual Master, Meher Baba and studied conviction, that He is a God realized being, a Perfect Master.
Then Ivy Duce had a longing to see Meher Baba, and then she knew that she needed the help of such a Master. When she first met Meher Baba then she was convinced that He is the Qutub which most of the people acknowledged him as such. She never had idea that Avatar Meher Baba was the Avatar.
Actually as matter of fact Meher Baba never admitted that He was Avatar until September 1954 at Meherastana, Hamirpur District in India.
On Wednesday, 7th January 1948, Meherjee Karkaria drove Mrs. Ivy Duce with her teen age daughter, Charmian into Meherabad.The following is Adi. K. Irani’s dairy who was present at the meetings: “Mrs. Ivy Duce and her daughter have Baba’s darshan in Ghyara’s room. Baba explains to her that unless she experiences Reality, she could not lead, as intellectual knowledge was not enough.
On Thursday 8, January 1948, they arrived in Meherazad, a place of Baba’s Residence at pimpalgaon, to meet Baba for the first time. Upon seeing Baba, Ivy Duce wept and her first meeting led to a lifetime of surrender and Service at her Beloved’s feet. Baba said, tears wept in the cause of God have the cleansing power to wipe away innumerable impressions. Only the real lovers have fortune to shed tears in his cause, these tears were the Beloved’s gift to them. She later recalled; never have I seen such eyes before and I did not have any idea that such eyes could exist.
Ivy duce and her daughter stayed at Meherazad with woman Mandali for five days. During that time, Ivy and chairman’s hearts melted and their feelings of love for Meher Baba over flowed and were expressed through their tears. Baba had captured their hearts.
Baba silently commanded me to stop weeping and then helped me to do so. He smiled and said: “Now tell me what you are confused about”.
Then Ivy Duce told Baba that Inayath Khan’s disciple Murshida Rabia Alabru Martin had made me her successor as Murshida of the Sufi Order for the western world; than I felt I had been promoted too soon and had not yet the stature for the job and I was distressed by this new responsibility Ivy knew that a true Murshid had to be illumined saint but she was not of such level of consciousness.
I did not want to be a spiritual poseur. I told Baba I was confused by the claims made by Inayath Khan’s brother Mahboob Khan, Samuel Lewis statements and the attitude of Inayath Khan’s.
Baba said: “you are honest – that is good – that is what counts; you have not seen God and you have not realized Him. Now you see Me as a person but you do not see me as I am. Therefore I will help you to see God and to realize Him. Do not worry; I will help you with these matters.
Next morning that is on Thursday, 8th Jan in Dr. Ghan’s room Baba opened our conversation with: “Now what are we going to do with this mess?”
So Ivy highlighted the Sufis affairs but he hardly listened. I showed Baba the photographs of Inayath Khan and Rabia Martin. Baba said He knew, motioning to Inayath Khan’s photograph and then pointing at Rabia’s said: “She was the right successor”
Baba talks to her at Meherazad. He tells her that she should tell all that she had not seen God or realized Him. She should help others and others would help her go Godwards. She should talk of Baba without taking the responsibility of posing as a Realized Leader, but should act only as an intermediary. If she did that trend of the devotion of the mureeds would go to Baba (she has been given the post of a Murshida by Inayath Khan’s disciple Rabia Alarbu Martin). She agrees wholeheartedly to do as Baba tells her. She tells of her physical difficulties to Baba. Baba reassures her not to worry and also not to worry for her daughter.
Adi’s dairy continues: “On Sunday, 11,I drive Mrs. Duce her daughter, Norina and Elizabeth to Meherabad Hill. At Meherabad I point out and explain about a big table under a tree, the dhuni lit on every 12th and Shamsuddin Wali’s tomb. I then take them to Meherazad, where Mrs. Duce expresses great admiration at seeing the group of ladies on the Hill leading a life of spirituality in the practical sense. She aspires for American women to have such a discipline and training she is happy to have had the privilege to see Baba and stay there. She said to know that was everything and that what she had was nothing. Mrs. Duce said that there were millions of Baba’s eyes.
From 1948 through 1952, Murshida Duce continued setting up a more stable school under Baba’s written or cable guidance. It was not until 1952 that Meher Baba mentioned to her details of a formal reorientation of Sufism.
In a letter to Murshida Duce on July 9, 1952, Meher Baba wrote: “Sufism Reoriented is fundamentally based on enlarging the concept of Sufism and making it all embracing for the matter of its knowledge and practice – yet maintaining the original value of Sufism. That is why the symbol of ‘the star and the crescent’ is to be transplanted into ‘heart and figure of one’ with the wings perched on the top”. Meher Baba emphasized, “I want you to be certain that Sufism reoriented will bereft of the Mohammedan aspect to become universal instead and not keep intact the original Sufism”.
In order to reorient Sufism, Meher Baba gave a charter, asking Murshida Duce to refrain from 6 traditions of the old Sufi Order:
- The existing 12 traditions of the Sufi Order are to be retained no longer;
- No other form of initiation or bayat, than the one laid down under section V1 of My guidance, is to be followed or recognized;
- Use of Inayath Khan’s grade papers to be discontinued completely;
- The plural for Alim is Ulema, but the term generally stands for teachers connected with “Church”. On the other hand “Haadi” carries the meaning of preceptor, leader or guide. It is advisable to have as few such terms as possible;
- Sufism has a distinct value of its own just as Vedantism etc. have theirs and therefore Sufism universalized should not on that account cease to be Sufism and as such it should not be mixed up with the generalities so as to loose sight of its original value;
- Universal worship and all ceremonies thereunder to be given up as and by way of providing a complete new Church”.
As the charter was worked out Murshida Duce had numerous questions to ask. When the subject of a successor came about, Meher Baba confirmed on October 26, 1952 that a temporal can be appointed her successor.
Confirmed in her role, Murshida Duce combined knowledge with experience to give her students fresh insights into the life and work of Meher Baba. She continued to edit Meher Baba’s books and in 1966 published her first book WHAT AM I DOING HERE? But it was in 1975 that she published her magnum opus HOW A MASTER WORKS, a book entertaining, subtle and profound. It described her life with Meher Baba.
In the sixties, Murshida Duce actively campaigned against phychedelic drugs and carried Meher Baba’s message of ‘NO DRUGS’ to the nook and crannies of the United States. A large number of hard-core addicts were weaned away and brought into Meher Baba’s fold. Murshida Duce nursed them and healed them into respectability.
Before long she set up schools where children were taught to be obedient, loving and kind. The White Pony School in Walnut Creek is a monument to her zeal and enthusiasm.
A very interesting aspect of the Order was the play held each year on Meher Baba’s Birthday. Murshida Duce actively participated in its production and representation. These plays, based on Meher Baba’s life, gave audiences an understanding of how God worked amongst men.
As she advanced in age the burden of growing organization told on her health, and she retreated from the myriad activities of the Order. During a visit to San Francisco recently, Murshida spoke to the author on the future of Sufism Reoriented. To question, she averred, “I have an executive body that will take care of functioning of Sufism Reoriented after I pass away. Meher Baba has promised me that he direct my mureeds. I have left the Order in His hands. It is His Will weather it remains or disintegrates”.
Such was the conviction of Murshida Duce in the Divinity of Meher Baba. While Murshida’s passing away has saddened the Baba-World, those associated with the organization are assured that the core of students she has trained will share the responsibilities as directed by Meher Baba.
Baba said to Charmian “Be kind to your mother, because she is very dear to Me- she is a jewel Woman”. Murshida Duce was charged by Meher Baba to lay the foundation for Sufism Reoriented in America. She completed her work and passed away in September, 1981, at the age of 86.
Baba said Charmian and Ivy Duce had connection with Him in a past life and that is why he had drawn us to Him, and wanted Ivy Duce to go ahead and work for Him in the world building up Sufism; that all the forms of religion would be swept away and only the essence shall remain, and Baba wanted Sufism spread. That entire world converges under my leadership and Baba would help it be so.
Baba repeatedly said that, everything is going according to the Divine Plan, that Spiritual Hierarchy functioning in the world affairs have the reins in their hands;
That Russia holds the key for the greatest destruction in the world;
That America has the most important role to play;
That the Arabs will fight.
Baba charged to tell my husband everything to keep the great oil concessions in Arabia for America, because my husband is top executive with Arabian American Oil Company. He worked on the highest level of international relation, a mutually respect arbiter in Arabian American petroleum diplomacy.
Baba also said we both must be out of India on the 16th Jan. Later we saw why, because a great storm came up near Karachi and we barely missed it. He also told we must be off Arabia by 10th February, but I do not know why. Dr. Donkin.
Later said that he gathered from older talks the chaos we are in might mean the panning of close to half the population of the earth before it is finished.
In 1952, Meher Baba personally wrote the charter for the new Sufi Order and reorganized it as Sufism Reorients. Baba instructed Murshida Duce to establish it soundly enough to deliver pure teachings of love for God, longing for God and selfless service for the next 600-700 years until he came again.
Meher Baba helped to put Sufism Re-Oriented in the public eye by assigning Murshida Duce the responsibility of editing and publishing His books, including His major work, God Speaks. Murshida Duce will be remembered for her warmth, affection and concern. She was a true standard-bearer of the Avatar’s cause in the west and posterity will remember her selfless-service to Meher Baba.
The Passing away of Ivy Oneita Duce, ardent devotee of Avatar Meher Baba and confirmed by Him Murshida of Sufism Reoriented, removes from the American scene one of the most tireless workers in the service of the Avatar.
Murshid James MacKie of Sufism Reoriented:
Dr. James Mackie, who succeeded Ivy Duce as the Murshid or Spiritual teacher of Sufism Reoriented, the American Spiritual School created by Meher Baba, passed away peacefully on June 10, 2001, in Walnut Creek, California. Murshid Mackie, 69, led the Sufis for 20 years. Under his guidance, the groups activities greatly expanded and the Sufis were able to offer their recourses and expertise to Meher Baba projects around the world.
In a letter from the Meherazad family, Meheru Irani wrote, “Jim will be always remembered and appreciated for the support he has given in the Baba world.” Ann Conlon, writing on behalf of Directors of the Meher Spiritual Center at Myrtle Beach, noted, “Murshid Mackie’s dedication to Meher Baba was profound, and his long service to Sufism Reoriented was an inspiration to all. He will be deeply missed and remembered with enormous respect.”
Born in Salt Lake City, Utah. Dr. James MacKie He had a distinguished career in psychology, education and the social sciences before learning of Meher Baba. In 1974, shortly after before his 42nd birthday, he saw a photograph of Meher Baba at the home of an acquaintance. He described the effect as being struck by a bolt of lightning that filled every cell of his body with the understanding that this figure was God. He said that this encounter “totally and irrevocably dissolved the frame work of my adult professional and personal life.” Over the next several years, he was inundated with extraordinary internal experiences, some so forceful that they left him crippled and nearly blind for months at a time. It was clear to him that Meher Baba was directing these processes, for at their core was an overwhelmingly benevolent love.
His Work with Murshida Duce. Among the internal directions Dr. James Mackie was to contact Murshida Ivy Duce (whom he did not know) and assist her in any way he could with her work in Sufism (of which he had never heard). [Ivy o. Duce first met Meher Baba in 1948. Baba’s work with her to establish Sufism Reoriented is described in her book, How a Master works, and in several volumes of Lord Meher] A meeting was arranged at Murshida Duce’s home in California in May 1974. Her own spiritual insight confirmed the authenticity of Dr. MacKie’s experiences, the breadth of his understanding of spiritual processes, and his dedication to Meher Baba. Over the next seven years, Murshida Duce Invited Dr.James MacKie’s increasingly close collaboration in her work as a Sufi teacher. She referred many of her own students to him for specialized consultations. She asked him to share his knowledge and experience of spiritual principals with others and even arranged for him to give a series of public seminars on spiritual topics at the University of California at Berkeley. He had never spoken openly about his experiences and only did so to honor Murshida’s wish. She chooses the subjects for his presentations. Together, they also wrote two small books, conversations with a western Gurus and psychotherapists.
During these years, Dr.James Mackie was based primarily in Washington, D.C., where he worked with small companions; Murshida Duce also had a small group there. Although Meher Baba had told her in the 1950s to establish a Sufi center in Washington, her group had few resources and was meeting in a church basement. On learning of this, Dr. MacKie and his companions acquired and remodeled a NEW HOUSE in downtown at Washington which they named “MEHER HOUSE” and offered to Murshida Duce as a possible residential centre for her work. She accepted it, and Meher House became a model for future patterns of Sufi life. Meher House supplanted by Manchester House, a large Georgian mansion in north-west Washington. Dr.MacKie supervised the renovation and remodeling this House, and most of the construction work was done by Sufi volunteers over nearly 14 years.
His Work as Murshid. Dr. MacKie, under his leadership, participation in Sufism increased from about 300 to nearly 500 people, most of them who lived near one of the two Sufi centers: an administrative and performing arts building in California and a residential campus in Washington, D.C. Both of these centers, originally purchased by Murshida Duce, were enlarged and recognized by Murshed Dr.James MacKie to accommodate a wide range of activities associated with the shared life of a spiritual community. Murshid (as he was called) maintained living quarters at each one. In the tradition of most Sufi schools, he invited his students quite literally to share his home and his life as the setting for their spiritual study. These centers are beautifully furnished and decorated, filled with flowers and plants and images of Meher Baba, carefully maintained and kept at a high level of cleanliness by Sufi volunteers.
According to his students, the keynote of Murshid Dr. James Mackie’s work was joy. He inspired the Sufis to celebrate the Avatar’s life and summon His Presence through the arts, as Sufi orders have always done. His Sufi gatherings were often Devotional evenings of song, dance and poetry that reminded many of ecstatic Qawaali sessions, singing God’s praise till dawn. He used the arts as vessels for teaching: in 1980s, he worked with his students to create large-scale musical celebrations of Meher Baba and His principals of life, including two oratories, The Elements and Lord of the Universe, and a suite of dances inspired by Meher Baba’s message, The Highest of the High. All were recorded on the videotape and many of these programs have been presented at Meher Baba celebrations around the world. To support such endeavors Murshid expanded the consortium of the Arts, which offers regular classes in voice, acting and painting.
Murshid took great delight in nurturing the talents of painters, sculptors and crafts people among his Sufi students, encouraging them to portray Meher Baba’s image in new ways. Murshid arranged for these works of art to be expertly reproduced and made available as photographs and note-cards. Much of these original art works adorns the Sufi centers in California and Washington, D.C., and many of these paintings were displayed in art show at Myrtle Beach in the year 2000.
Murshid also led large groups of Sufis on a series of “pilgrimage tours” to places around the world associated with Meher Baba’s life and work, beginning, of course with Baba’s Samadhi at Meherabad. Murshid’s last visit to India was in 1994, when he was invited to give the keynote address at the opening of the Universal Spiritual center in Byramangala, near Bangalore.
Broader Service: One of the first projects on which Murshida Duce invited Dr. MacKie’s consultation was the creation of a “community school” for children based on Meher Baba’s principals of education through love. This became the Meher Schools in Lafayette, California, a preschool, elementary School and aftercare program staffed and operated by Sufism Reoriented as a community service project. Most of the children enrolled do not come from Sufi families. Murshid MacKie, with a professional background in psychology and education, was able to consolidate and integrate the school’s programs. He refocused the curriculum to prepare children successfully for intermediate school, and sought and received full accreditation from appropriate agencies. The school staffed by more than 40 Sufi professionals and cleaned and maintained by more than 200 Sufi volunteers, has been in operation for more than 25 years and now serves nearly 400 children from all over the San Francisco Bay Area.
Murshid also generously offered the resources and expertise of his group to support the work of other Meher Baba groups and centers wherever he could. The Sufis helped prepare manuscripts of Bhau Kalchuri’s Lord Meher for publication. They published Dan Ladinsky’s first book of Hafiz poems, I heard God Laughing. Murshid developed a Sufi film and video department whose specialists have given valuable assistance to Baba archives and film makers all over the world. The Sufis also have produced recordings of concerts at their center by Baba musicians such as Raphael Rudd and Raine Eastman-Gannet, in addition to their own musical work.
Murshid MacKie was perhaps best known as a teacher. He had natural gift for storytelling and could illuminate the most complex and subtle ideas with colorful anecdotes from spiritual literature and from his own life and work. In his role as a Sufi Murshid, he prepared hundreds of hours of classes, many of which were recorded on video tape. Some of these presentations have been made generally available. They reveal Murshid’s tremendous appreciation of the sacredness and beauty of the earth, of all life in all its forms, of the grad sweep of human learning, and most especially, of the incomparable majesty and radiant loveliness of Avatar Meher Baba and the indescribable joy of his presence.
The New Sufi Murshida: Carol Weyland Conner.
Shortly before Murshid MacKie passed away, he named his close associate, Dr. Carol Weyland Conner, as his successor.
Born in 1942, Murshida Weyland Conner grew up in the San Joaquin valley of central California. She pursued a broad apprenticeship in higher education: English literature at the University of California at Berkley, French studies at the Sorbonne in Paris, translators’ school at Heidelberg, Germany, and Medieval studies at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, before receiving her Ph.D in clinical psychology from Catholic University in Washington, D.C., in 1976. After teaching for several years on the faculty of the George Washington University of Medicine, she went into private practice as a therapist, practicing for 25 years in Walnut Creek, California, and Washington, D.C.
Murshida Weyland Conner met Dr. James MacKie in the course of her graduate training in psychology in 1975, when he was still teaching in that field. He became her professional supervisor and mentor. From him, she learned of Meher Baba, of Sufism and of Murshida Duce. In 1977, she joined him and a small group on a first pilgrimage to Meher Baba Samadhi in India. Her inner experiences there confirmed for her that Meher Baba was God, the embodiment of all divinity and higher love she had known since childhood.
Over the following years, she joined Dr. MacKie whenever her schedule permitted. In 1979, he invited her help in creating Meher Baba House, a residential center for Murshida Duce in Washington. As house manager and hostess, she organized and supervised the house-keeping services and meal preparation at Meher House for a year, and thus came into close contact with Murshida Duce, whom she has recognized as a radiant vessel of Meher Baba’s light. Murshida Duce in turn, recognized her and formally initiated her and Dr. MacKie as Sufi students in December 1979. The following year she was invited to become Murshida Duce’s companion, attendant and house-keeper, a position she held until Murshida Duce’s passing in 1981.
She continued her close association with James MacKie throughout his tenure as Murshid. He referred students to her for specialized counseling. He invited her aid in organizing and directing many Sufi projects. During phases of work in the performing arts, she uncovered an extraordinary love and talent for dance. She developed her skills as a choreographer, director and performer in Sufi programs. Her poetry has played a central role in Sufi productions. She has also participated fully in all the tasks of shared life in Sufi community: construction and building maintenance, food service, cleaning, gardening, office work. Murshida Conner was a resident of Washington and Walnut Creek Centers for 8 years. Murshid MacKie invited her collaboration in every phase of his work in Sufism, including his series of “pilgrimage tours” to Spiritual Centers associated with Meher Baba in India and Europe.
In naming Carol Weyland Conner as his successor, Murshida MacKie noted that Murshida Duce had also recognized her special qualities and identified her as a future Sufi Murshida Conner formally assumed her duties on the summer solstice, June 21, 2001.
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