Page 51

which is that the substantive reediting of Meher Baba's published words should not be countenanced. In a nutshell, the arguments are these : (1) Since Meher Baba was the Avatar, His words can rightly be regarded as the words of God. The human mind and human wisdom should not presume to alter what God has given. (2) In practical terms, when one sanctions the revision of Baba's words, one opens Pandora's Box. As time goes on, new editors who want to make their mark and establish their names in the roster of the Avataric historical legacy will revise more and more, and the safeguards and restrictions put in place at the beginning will gradually be abandoned. Through this process the Avatar's words could be corrupted and even lost, as evidently has happened in the past. (3) Meher Baba Himself gave us indications that His literary works should be treated under the laws and conventions that pertain to the works of a literary author. The present civilization respects authorial claims and does not permit revision without an author's consent. We should not fail to accord to Meher Baba, the Avatar of the Age, the courtesy and respect that we would give to any other human author. But before turning to these arguments in detail, let me first attend to the important caveats alluded to earlier. Two separate problems present themselves: small mechanical errors and inconsistencies persisting in the literature ofBaba's published words; and other materials recording messages that Baba gave out at various times but never got published while He was in the physical form. Each of these cases raises a range of issues; and while an indepth treatment must await another occasion, in brief we can respond to some of the major questions here.

Where Editing is Necessary espite the need to curtail the scope of editorship-which is the primary theme of this article-the fact remains that a certain amount of editing cannot


be avoided; and we should face this fact squarely. Holding to too intractable a position can be compared to building a fortress wall out of some adamantine brittle material like crystal. For a time this wall might seem to repel all cannonades; but when it breaks, it shatters completely, and all at once. In the same way, an excessively dogmatic stance on matters of editorship will lead, through its own ineluctable logic, to ludicrous and essentially indefensible positions. When these dogmas collapse, as they are bound to do sooner or later, the reaction is liable to be as excessive as the former intransigence was. Thus the very manner of the defense could facilitate the loss ofwhat one had meant to defend. This is to say that the work of safeguarding the Avataric legacy needs to be carried out intelligently. Let me give an example. In 1967, Sufism Reoriented published the three-volume sixth edition of Meher Baba's Discourses. At one point one finds the word "possesssions." Is humanity obligated to go on spelling this word with its -sss- for the next seven hundred years simply because this typo escaped the vigilance of the original proofreaders? To make the matter even more absurd: consider the fact that the sixth edition went through five printings between 1967 and 1973, two of them before Meher Baba dropped His body in 1969 and three thereafter. Throughout the reprinting process mistakes were being corrected; each successive printing weeded out a number of typographic and small mechanical errors in the printing before. A number of these errors , in other words, were corrected after Baba passed away. On the theory that no change in His published words should be sanctioned without His express permission, ought we actually to reinstate the errors corrected after 1969, but allow to stand the corrections made before that date, on the supposition that Baba must have approved all corrections made before His death, while the corrections made afterwards represent the unwarranted interventions of editors? This ridiculous consequence of an inflexible editorial policy illustrates where mindless dogmatism leads to. To be sure, we need to protect Baba's words against editorial tinkering; but nothing obliges us to throw our common sense out the window. Here's another example. Just as most of us would balk against revising Baba's words, probably most of us would resist altering His numbers as well. In God Speaks

Baba said that there are seven planes ofconsciousness; does any editor have the right to substitute the number "eight"? Instead of "five" Perfect Masters, can some forthcoming edition tell us that there are "six"? Of course not! But now consider this case. The original sixth edition ofDiscourses refers to a table (enumerating the specialized forms of meditation) on "page 147." But in the recently published revised sixth edition of the Discourses, that table appears on p. 158. Do we have to go on for the next seven hundred years referring readers to the wrong page number simply because we do not want to revise Baba's original text? The original phrase "page 147" functions as a cross reference; the very meaning and point of a cross-reference is to index another selected portion in the text. Ifwe prohibit the updating of cross-references, it could truly be said that we have checked our brains in the locker. Even in the case of Baba's published words, then, certain minor editing is occasionally called for.Then how do we prevent editorial "creep,"whereby one change leads to another, and then another, and then another, and on and on? Part of the solution lies in clearly defining what kinds ofchanges are admissible. Essentially we are talking here about "mechanical" problems-typographic or small grammatical errors. The Avatar Meher Baba Trust has enumerated specific categories of editorial changes that it allows in the text of Baba's published words. The following list is extracted from p. 433 in Early Messages to the Wes!:! (a) spelling (b) capitalization (c) punctuation (d) font (e) lineation and paragraphing (f) changes in cross-reference necessitated by the new pagination in a new edition (g) erroneous word repetition (such as "and and") (h) grammatical agreement (as between subject and verb or pronoun and referent) or faulty parallelism (i) mistakes evidently resulting from typesetting and other printproduction errors

1. Meher Baba, Early Messages to the west: The 1932-1935 western Tours (North Myrde Beach, South Carolina : Sheriar Foundation, 2009). 0:

Love Street Lamp Post 1st Qtr 2010  

AMBCSC ARCHIVES Rare Print Literature Publication