By Sam Ervin
In late 1968, I was living in Santa Barbara and in the habit of visiting Meher Mount and Agnes Baron every two or three weeks. It was about a one-hour drive each way.
COULD I GIVE AGNES' FRIEND A RIDE TO MEHER MOUNT?
One sunlit Saturday, I called to let Agnes know I was planning to come to Meher Mount, and she asked me if I could give a ride to a friend of hers, Germaine Curchod, who lived in Santa Barbara.
I said sure and proceeded to steer my 1953 pink-and-black Studebaker to a modest home on upper State Street. I knocked on the door and out came a rather small, unassuming woman who was probably in her seventies.
We had a pleasant drive through the hills and the green Ojai Valley. Germaine and I exchanged pleasantries and explored various topics on the drive.
WHO IS THIS WOMAN?
Still, I was intrigued about her relationship with Agnes, and wondered how they came to know each other. Agnes had never mentioned her until that morning.
At Meher Mount, Agnes welcomed us with a cup of tea and was clearly very happy to see Germaine. They reminisced, laughing and joking, and gradually I learned more about this mystery lady who lived a mile from me in Santa Barbara.
Germaine Curchod (1897-1989) had been Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s (1881-1955) secretary when he was working as a paleontologist and geologist in China between the world wars.
She had typed the manuscript for his most important book, The Phenomenon of Man (1955). Germaine had great respect for Teilhard and called him “le petit sant” (the little saint).
In a later visit to Meher Mount, Agnes pointed out two antique Chinese paintings of flying cranes hanging on the living room wall in the main house.
I had admired them before, but had not known that Germaine had given them to Agnes saying she just felt they belonged at Meher Mount. They were lost in the New Life Fire on October 14, 1985 which destroyed all the buildings and everything in them.
SHE FELT SHE WAS NOT WORTHY OF MEETING MEHER BABA
Germaine had visited Meher Mount on August 2, 1956, when Avatar Meher Baba came there. Agnes said Germaine was shy and did not feel worthy to get in line to greet Meher Baba, who was sitting in the living room of the guesthouse.
Agnes said Germaine was not one who would put herself forward, and she had to press her to get her to go in and meet Meher Baba, which Germaine did.
A LATER ENCOUNTER WITH TEILHARD DE CHARDIN
I never saw Germaine again, but I never forgot her gracious good cheer or the delightful meeting between her and Agnes. Later, I read books by Teilhard de Chardin and sensed something of the agony of his search through science and religion in pursuit of the ultimate.
My later encounter with Teilhard de Chardin was when I was majoring in religious studies at UCSB (’71). Teilhard had been a Jesuit priest, as well as a paleontologist and geologist. He was the author of numerous books and scientific papers.
In The Phenomenon of Man, he tried to reconcile evolution with his Catholic faith. He proposed that evolution is driven by consciousness, not by form, which is similar to what Meher Baba said.
Teilhard also seemed to anticipate humanity's need for the Avatar of the Age:
“Our century is probably more religious than any other. How could it fail to be, with such problems to be solved? The only trouble is that it has not yet found a God it can adore.”
-Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man
In 1969, I wrote a paper for my Science and Religion class comparing and contrasting The Phenomenon of Man and Avatar Meher Baba’s God Speaks.
Clearly, Teilhard did not know of Meher Baba, but his secretary, Germaine Curchod did.