ceived authors and their creative work in a new cultural and legal framework, whereby literary works are "intellectual property" and authors are the owners of that property. You can't trespass across another man's land, or start tapping and hammering and sawing away at his house, without his permission. The same goes for an author: you need his okay before you start messing around with what he wrote. Authors are indeed notoriously fussy about such things! As a matter of fact, Baba Himself did not exhibit this particular trait (of authorial obsessiveness with literary niceties); nor does He seem during His human lifetime to have cared especially about His ownership of His books and messages. Rather, I feel that, in His attention to copyright and other literary matters, He was giving humanity guidance as to how to treat His literary legacy after His human death. Where editorship and publication are concerned (since these domains directly relate to copyright), we should accord to Him the courtesies and considerations that we give to all other human authors. Ironically enough, the Avatar's own lovers and devotees are liable to disregard these courtesies precisely because of the very intimacy that they feel with Him as their Beloved. Many of us experience Baba as uniquely and personally "mine." Babas words speak within me as the words of other authors do not. They well up from inside; they participate in the intimate secrecies of my love-dialogue with Him; I can hardly even distinguish them from my own words, the words that I would say to myselÂŁ When I "rewrite" His words, I am actually conforming them to the higher law of the love that is between us. Subjectively speaking, Babas published words, absorbed into my daily life, mingle freely and without distinction with the words that my own heart whispers. Who dares to dictate, who dares to intervene himself, in what passes between my Beloved and me? And thus for the best ofreasons the Lord's own lovers, acting in the capacity of editors, could serve to facilitate in the corruption of His literary legacy to the world. I have nothing to say in criticism of those who "rewrite" Baba's words in the intimacies of their personal love-relation with Him. That is their business. Yet the private and public spheres should not be confused. For in truth, our beloved Avatar can be conceived and approached in any number of ways. To some He is the inconceivable transcendent Absolute and illimitable Ocean, nirgun and nirakar; to some, the very personification of
Beauty and Resplendence, Love and Knowledge, Power and Bliss, God endowed with forms and attributes; to some, a man of Iranian extraction and Indian nationality who was born on February 25'h, 1894 and who died on January 31 st , 1969. Meher Babais all of this, and more. Yet where the editing and publishing of His words are concerned, we should approach him as an ordinary man and human author. This, I feel, is the indication that He has given to us. To recapitulate: Baba's act ofhaving placed the posterity of His words under the protection of copyright gives us a hint of His wish not only as to who should exercise the authority of the caretaker of this intellectual property but how His words and literary works should be treated. They should be given the same protections and courtesies as are customarily given in the modem era to the recorded words and literary works of any other man or woman. Modem sensibility and ethical culture prohibits the rewriting of published literary works after the author is dead. We should not deny to our Lord the same honor and consideration that we freely give to everyone else.
Fixed Words in theLifeoftheSpirit
every Avataric Advent a new civi.r1..lization forms itself on the basis of the legacy that He has left behind. Inevitably those after-comers who did not meet Him but have leamed to love Him try to hold on to what they know of Him in an attempt to keep alive His ineffable fragrance. Yet as Baba Himself has said, such attempts to "commemorate the association with a great spiritual Master" are like the work of an archeological department that succeeds only in resuscitating the past," Preserving Babas words, even at its best, cannot substitute for treading the path that His words point to. His words find their fulfillment and highest expression in those who actually live them. In the real sense, the finest-indeed, the consummate-"edition" of Meher Babas words is the lover ofGod who loves, obeys, and surrenders to Him one hundred percent. For such a lover, why do Meher Baba's "words," in the literal sense, matter at all? For some, they do not, nor need they. But for others, His words can provide a fixed point in a dynamic relationship. The same could be said for Babas photographs. In real life, Babas face was endlessly changing, with
6. See Meher Baba's "Message to Reporters and Press Representatives,"in Early Messages to the West, p. 6.
one magical expression melting and transforming itself into the next, like a river of miracles. A photograph captures and freezes one single moment in this flow. Yet in the life of a lover, this one frozen moment can serve as a launching pad for flights of love that no boundary nor ceiling can contain. The dynamism that was His life among us continues in the life of such lovers in their remembrance and adoration of Him. His words can function similarly. No doubt, as we have often heard, those words, when we read them in the black and white ofprinted editions, cannot compare with the same words spoken aloud by Eruch and resonating against the fathomless background of His Silence in the moment when He dictated them. Yet the absence of that does not stop the lover of God who reads His books today. As Don Stevens has related, Baba spoke of "atom bombs" of spiritual energy that His words contain. For those of this bent and inclination, His words, mined for these lodes of spiritual dynamism, can serve as an invaluable tool and resource in the life of their love for Him. What I mean to say is this: that fixing and establishing His words does not "fix" and "freeze" the life of the spirit. But it can help to protect His lovers and the generations to come from those who want to meddle. His words, like His photographs, capture something uniquely His, something that is authentically and personally Babas. This remains true even when the prose style through which these words flow to us owes to Eruch or Dr. Deshmukh: after all, these disciples too were Babas, and they served at His direction as the instruments that He personally chose for this very work. Best for us now is to leave this legacy and this substance alone. He knows what food we need. What we do with this food, how we use it in living out our lives oflove and service, is another matter. Whatever short-term provisions Meher Baba may have put in place as regards copyright and literary custodianship, in the long run the legacy of His words belongs to humanity in general and especially the lovers of God. Those who most love the Avatar's words will keep them best. The work of the present is to preserve this legacy intact and uncorrupted so that it can pass into their hands.
Published on Apr 6, 2014