BY MARGARET MAGNUS
In India in mid-1956, concentrated preparations had begun for Avatar Meher Baba’s one-month trip to the West. A great deal of correspondence took place regarding plane reservations, days of stay at different places, and other arrangements.
Click here to see Meher Baba in the USA, 1956, the one-hour-and-23-minute film of Meher Baba’s trip to the U.S. was filmed by Charmian Duce Knowles and produced by Sufism Reoriented. There is a six-and-one-half minute section on Meher Baba’s visit to Meher Mount on August 2, 1956. It starts at 50:21 minutes.
Meher Baba’s sister, Mani Irani, worked constantly as the communications intermediary. According to the account in Lord Meher, “Mani’s typewriter was never silent. For the past several months, telegrams and letters had poured in from England, America, Switzerland and Australia, and after receiving instructions from Baba about each, Mani worked tirelessly to reply.” 
FOLLOWERS IN THE U.S. MAKE PREPARATIONS
A follower nicknamed ‘Energy’ — Marion Florsheim of Jackson Heights, New York — was appointed by Meher Baba to make all the necessary arrangements for Meher Baba’s trip.
AVATAR MEHER BABA at the reception for Him at Longchamps Restaurant in New York City in 1956. (Image: Meher Baba Travels)
The Meher Baba Hospitality Committee was formed, with Marion as chairman, Fred Winterfeldt as vice-chairman, and seven other members from Meher Baba's following in New York, with the aim to raise the estimated $12,000 in expenses for Meher Baba and the four men mandali (close circle of disciples) to make the journey.
Committees were also set up by Elizabeth Patterson in Myrtle Beach, Ruth White in Los Angeles, Agnes Baron in Ojai (Meher Mount), and Lud Dimpfl in San Francisco. Ivy Duce and Don Stevens formed a publicity committee.
In Europe, Will Backett made arrangements in London; while in Switzerland, Hedi Mertens and Irene Billo prepared for Baba's stopover in Zurich. In Australia, Francis Brabazon, Bill Le Page and Ena Lemmon set up accommodations, appointments and meetings in Sydney and Melbourne.
On July 16, 1956, Meher Baba and four of His men mandali – Eruch Jessawala, Vinayak Nilkantha 'Nilu" Godse (also known as Dr. Nilu), Adi K. Irani (also known as Adi Sr.), and Meherjee Kakaria – left Bombay on Air India Flight 103 for Europe.
FILMING MEHER BABA’S 1956 VISIT IN THE U.S.
As some point in planning for the trip, it was approved by Meher Baba that 44 of His "doves" (as He called them) were to join Him in the U.S. to journey from New York to Myrtle Beach and to California. This had come about after Beryl Williams, in one of her letters, wrote to Mani that they would "love to fly with the Avatar." The letter was read to Meher Baba, and He gave His permission for those who could afford to go.
AVATAR MEHER BABA arriving at San Francisco Airport in August 1956. With Him (left: Leatrice Shaw Johnston, Bili Eaton (with the white scarf), Kitty Davy (with the black beret), and Adi K. Irani. (Source: Meher Baba Travels)
Among those doves was Charmian Duce Corrinet (later Knowles) who filmed Meher Baba’s journey in the U.S. She started filming as soon as Meher Baba arrived in New York City.
“Early one beautiful morning in July 1956, a group of us drove out to Idlewild Airport to begin what Baba had called a sahavas – time in the intimate company of the Master. I had been given a special charge for this visit… Baba had asked that I make a movie of it,” Charmian explained in her book Spread My Love.
Charmian described her film experience and equipment: “I had only held a movie camera in my hands once before… That and two years of still photography in college were my only training for making a film about the Avatar. I decided that what I lacked in experience, I could at least make up for in equipment.
“We had heard about a new movie camera [16 mm] that had automatic light control and that used film cassettes. It wasn’t even on the market yet, but a friend went clear to the factory in Detroit and managed to deliver one to me in New York City. It was the most technologically advanced camera of its time, but there were still drawbacks.”
When Meher Baba emerged from the airport, Charmian started filming. She said she quickly realized “that if I was going to make a move of Meher Baba, I’d better learn to move fast. He moved so swiftly at times, it seemed his feet didn’t even touch the ground.”
AVATAR MEHER BABA’S FOLLOWERS are hurrying to keep up with Him on a tour of Meher Mount on August 6, 1956. This photograph is a screen capture from the film, Meher Baba in the USA, 1956, by Charmian Duce Knowles and produced and copyrighted by Sufism Reoriented. (Image: Courtesy David Pastor, Sufism Reoriented)
The result of Charmian’s filming and editing is Meher Baba in the USA, 1956 produced by Sufism Reoriented ©1972. In the late 1960s, assisted by Henry Mindlin and Charmian’s future husband, Duncan Knowles, she added a soundtrack. Charmian and Duncan provide the narration.
The entire film is one hour and 23 minutes long. Meher Baba’s visit to Meher Mount starts at 50:21 minutes into the film and continues for approximately six-and-one-half minutes.
After leaving the Los Angeles area, Meher Baba continued to San Francisco, then to Australia, and back to India arriving in Bombay on August 19, 1956.
 Bhau Kalchuri, Lord Meher: The Biography of the Avatar of the Age Meher Baba, Online Edition, pg. 3969, accessed July 12, 2019. ©Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust.
 Kalchuri, ibid., pg. 3969, accessed July 12, 2019.
 Kalchuri, ibid., pg. 3970, accessed July 12, 2019.
 Kalchuri, ibid., pg. 4013, accessed July 12, 2019.
 Charmian Knowles, Spread My Love (Walnut Creek, CA: Sufism Reoriented), pg. 113, ©2004 by Sufism Reoriented.
 Knowles, ibid., pp. 113-114.
“As you all become more intimate with me, with opportunities to come closer to me, all that is good and all that is bad within you comes out in sparks, as it were.
All the impressions of the past, the accumulation of past sanskaras [impressions] of all illusory things, which include both good and bad, come out. My proximity, the intimacy with me, just changes that mass of sanskaras, and sometimes you find sparks of good and bad flying out.” - Avatar Meher Baba
"Now take the other case of two people in love. When two individuals are in love with each other, how do they speak?"
"They speak softly," we answered.
"Yes," Baba agreed, "they do speak softly and the greater the love between them, the softer is their tone of speech. And when they are still further in love, no words are needed and they just look at each other, and eventually there is not even the need to look — no need at all."
Baba’s Tree continues to grow healthy new branches — aided by the winter rains, the extra measures of care given over the past 18 months, and the love and prayers from around the world.
Consulting with ISA® Certified Arborist Michael Inaba, Meher Mount put in place a care plan starting in early 2018 for Baba’s Tree recovery and regeneration. One of the steps in the plan is sheltering the limbs with a fabric to help protect them from sunburn and pests while new growth creates a protective canopy. More than a year later, it was time for a new ‘sadra’ for Baba’s Tree.
A sadra (also sadhra) refers to a thin muslin shirt traditionally worn by Zoroastrians. Avatar Meher Baba adapted the sadra into an ankle-length garment which He regularly wore. Meher Baba said, “You have no idea what just one scrap of My sadra will mean to the world in the future.”
Caretakers of a beloved oak tree in Upper Ojai say they're cautiously optimistic the tree will survive.
Baba's Tree, on the property of the Meher Mount retreat, at 9902 Sulphur Mountain Road, was shattered by the Thomas Fire, which consumed the main trunk of the tree and destroyed 90 percent of its canopy.
But now the iconic tree is coming back to life. "It's looking good, so far," said Meher Mount President Sam Ervin.
The giant coast live oak, named for Indian spiritual master Avatar Meher Baba, overlooks the Pacific Ocean from the brow of the mountain, 1,200 feet above the Ojai Valley. Meher Baba sat under the tree and sanctified the property during his only visit in August 1956.
“I am never born, I never die. Yet, every moment, I take birth and undergo death. The countless illusory births and deaths are necessary landmarks in the progression of man's consciousness to Truth — a prelude to the Real Death and Real Birth. Real Death is when one dies to self, and Real Birth is, when dying to self, one is born in God, to live forever His eternal life consciously.
Although I am present everywhere eternally, in my formless, infinite state, from time to time I take form, and the taking of the form and leaving it is termed my physical birth and death. In this sense, I was born 60 years ago and I will die when my Universal work is finished.”
Your celebrating my 60th birthday today with all your love, enthusiasm and zeal has deeply touched me and makes me give you my blessings for the ultimate understanding that we all are one, that God alone is real and that all else is false.” - Avatar Meher Baba
The following is from the Ventura County Star published on February 11, 2019, about the recovery of Baba’s Tree from the 2017 Thomas Fire. See the full article, “Baba’s Tree springs back to life after being nearly destroyed by Thomas Fire.”
The measures taken over the past year to protect and nourish Baba’s Tree seem to have contributed to its survival and new growth so far.
Baba’s Tree continues to show signs that point to survival and at the same time, caution. Most of the sprouts that have come out since the fire, on the shattered trunk and two of the largest limbs, are still green and look healthy.
There has been some significant die-back of sprouts along two other large limbs. Inaba counsels cautious optimism, suggesting that another summer will tell much more about the longer term probabilities. Fire recovery is not over and continues for Baba’s Tree at least for another year or two.
The forecast was for rain. Still, the volunteers came. It was the day of The Great Dhuni Stick Harvest. Saturday, January 12, 2019, turned out to be a glorious day with a very special dhuni at Meher Mount.
The rain stopped, and the sun came out around 10:30 a.m. The cloud-filled skies were deep blue, and the views were picture-perfect. It was time to harvest dhuni-sized sticks from the fallen branches of Baba’s Tree.
It was only fitting that after the dhuni sticks were harvested, there should be a dhuni at Meher Mount.
This Christmas greeting from Avatar Meher Baba was a sent to Elizabeth Patterson and Kitty Davy (Meher Baba's close Western disciples) at the Meher Spiritual Center in Myrtle Beach, SC, on December 10, 1958.
"Gratitude is a most lovable way of acknowledging My unconditional compassion. And it strengthens your relationship with Me. I have no expectation of it, for My own sake, but it is for your personal good.
"In a sense, gratitude is the art of accepting life, moment by moment, in whatever situation one finds oneself, as being My Will. You offer everything to Me, and receive everything from Me."
Just days before the December 4, 2017 Thomas Fire struck Meher Mount, well-known Meher Baba artist Charles Mills approached Meher Mount about doing a painting that would represent Meher Baba’s 1956 visit to Meher Mount.
“I didn’t know if a painting was needed,” Mills said later, “I just made myself available.”
In discussions with Board President Sam Ervin, they talked about a painting that would represent the energy of Meher Baba’s visit as captured in the 55-minute film Meher Baba, The Awakener made in 1994 by Tim Thelan. The footage of Meher Baba at Meher Mount starts at 43:22 minutes.
One day while working at Meher Mount during recovery and renewal from the 2017 Thomas Fire, I noticed that the window and door frames needed to be repainted and spruced up. Then I looked more closely. Some of the wooden frames and door sills needed actual replacement.
Then taking a walk through the building, it was clear that many of the 25-year-old wooden-frame doors and windows were damaged due to time, use and weather. Sam Ervin pointed out – particularly without any furniture “hiding” parts of the building – that there were gaps between and under the doors.
The gaps invited dust, rodents, snakes and other critters inside. One night in the kitchen, former Manager/Caretakers Buzz and Ginger Glasky found a baby rattlesnake that had crawled in under the door.
One day while working at Meher Mount, I heard Sam Ervin call to me, “Margaret, come look at this.”
Feeling it wasn’t something I wanted to see, I said, “No.”
Sam replied, “Yes, you have to come look at this.”
Again, I said, “No.”
He insisted, “Come look at this it.”
After six months of repairs, clean-up, and small fix-it jobs turning into big fix-it jobs following the 2017 Thomas Fire, I just didn’t want to discover one item that needed attention. But, I knew I couldn’t escape. I went to take a look.
Meher Mount continually welcomes many first-time visitors who know nothing of Avatar Meher Baba and not very much about Meher Mount. They often ask: “What is this place?” and “Who is Meher Baba?”
Followers of Meher Baba often are curious about the history of Meher Mount and how it came to be. Some ask for more details about Meher Baba’s 1956 visit.
All of these questions are part of the Meher Mount story — Avatar Meher Baba, His 1956 visit to Meher Mount, Agnes Baron and the founding of Meher Mount, and the purpose and role of Meher Mount.
In planning discussions, the board has identified the need to tell the Meher Mount story for visitors. But, where to start? How to best use the limited wall space? How to naturally guide visitors through the information?
My mind is like still water as I sit on the veranda of the Visitor Center. Next to me is a friend who has been helping me take care of Meher Mount for several weeks. It is evening, the sun is about to set, and even the busy hummingbirds are settling in to partake of the peace of this special place.
“This is all Meher Baba,” my companion remarks with deep emotion in his voice as he spreads his arms to indicate the whole of Meher Mount.
Baba’s Fireplace was part of the living room of the guesthouse at Meher Mount where Avatar Meher Baba met with His followers and gave darshan (blessing) on August 2, 1956.
Now, as Baba’s Tree’s remains in seclusion for several years while it recovers, Baba’s Fireplace and courtyard area are a more integral part of the visitor experience.
As a result, there is a greater sense of urgency to finalize and implement the plans to preserve Baba’s Fireplace and enhance the courtyard area.
If the Thomas Fire has taught me anything, it has taught me that one just never knows when something will “catch fire” at Meher Mount. Priorities are constantly shifting and even as the list of projects to be done continues to spark more lists of projects to be done, it is always Meher Baba who finds a way to ignite one’s passion at just the right moment.
What seems to be catching fire for visitors, volunteers, and caretakers alike these days is the remnant of a sandstone walkway that begins at the northeast edge of the circular driveway and extends for about 10 feet or so toward the side of the Visitor Center/Caretaker Quarters. Avatar Meher Baba walked on these exact same flagstones.
On December 4, 2017, the Thomas Fire hit Meher Mount. Within a few days, the damage assessment began. At first, it seemed straightforward: Document the damage. Make a list for insurance. Begin to repair the damage.
There was some thought that in 90 days the fire recovery "to do list" would be complete, pending insurance reimbursement. As fire recovery progressed, the to do list never seemed to get shorter. In fact, each newly completed or half-completed task seemed to generate several more related tasks. The to do list was never ending.
Then it dawned on us – draw a line through the task list. When all the recovery projects before that line were completed, declare victory.
Now, seven months - 207 days to be exact - after the Thomas Fire, Meher Mount is declaring victory. The task list is still long, but every operational aspect related to fire damage has been fixed.
Break out the champagne, it’s a celebration.
On December 4, 2017, Manager/Caretakers Buzz and Ginger Glasky evacuated with their Airsteam travel trailer to Oceano, CA, because the Thomas Fire had forced them to leave Meher Mount.
Buzz and Ginger continued to stay in Oceano even during fire cleanup and recovery, often traveling three to four hours to and from Meher Mount. Before they left Oceano in late May, a number of followers of Meher Baba visited them and the Dunite museum with Gavin Arthur's house, where Meher Baba had spent the night in 1934.
On December 11, 2017, Buzz posted this story on Facebook about their stay in Oceano.