90-WILL BACKETT (Willmar)
Will Backett, a retired businessman of England was very religious and spiritually inclined- ever eager to help and serve.
Will and Marry Backett, in their late-fifties, had first heard of Meher Baba in 1931 from Meredith, but had not met Baba on his first visit to England. Both had been initiated into Sufism by Inayat Khan during the 1920s and followed him until his death in 1927. The Backetts were now eager to meet Baba and had their first opportunity of doing so during this visit to London. Meredith introduced them to Baba at the Davys' home. Will had brought some grapes for Baba and, when Meredith told Baba that Will suffered from poor health, Baba plucked one of the grapes and handed it back for him to eat, assuring him that his health would improve. Will recalled that first meeting:
Looking back, I see Baba again, seated so quietly on a settee that at first it might appear to the casual observer that He lacked energy. Yet there was something compelling in His posture, for the picture which stands out like a cameo in my mind is of Him being pure, untrammeled by the world, completely poised, like a bird arrested momentarily in flight in a world that reflects not the like anywhere.
Mary, too, was irresistibly drawn to the Master and once recollected:
As we entered the room, Baba sprang up with the agility, power and grace that characterize all His movements and quickly came forward. He then beckoned for me to sit beside Him and took my hand with such a gentle touch.
Immediately, I felt a great upliftment of consciousness such as I had never experienced before with anyone. I had been searching and reading deeply for many years, and knew that I had now found the Master and that the long search was over.
Baba gave me more, far more in the space of three minutes than I had gained in 30 years of earnest seeking, or through others, because I experienced the tangible, definite gift of grace and divine love that He bestowed, whereas others could only talk about it. I knew who Baba was.
Some of his life time episodes and dialogues are recorded as below;
Since 1932, Will and Mary became regular visitors at Russell Road, and also saw Baba at Margaret Craske's apartment, where Baba went for tea one evening. The Backetts became Baba's deeply devoted disciples from then onward, and Baba would lovingly refer to them as Wilmar and later as "His archangels."
New persons came to see Baba in London, but He afforded little time to meet them, as he had come especially for the sake of his close lovers, spending most of his time with Will and Mary Backett and other American lovers. These individuals were worthy of coming to stay at the ashram in India which He was planning in the near future.
In 1933, From Dover, Elizabeth Patterson drove Baba and 3 more western Baba lovers to London. They reached London in the evening, and stayed at Hygeia House, a vegetarian boarding house, at 37 Warrington Crescent. Intense activity began the next day. "All gathered including Will and Mary Backett and few more,
Will and Mary Backett too dearly loved Baba and Baba also had great love for them. This couple wished Baba to visit their home, but they did not say anything to Him about it. Baba unexpectedly mentioned to them, "I will come to your house tomorrow and you should serve us all tea." This pleased them enormously, but they worried at the same time, for there were about 30 people in Baba's group and the Backett's tiny cottage had only three or four chairs and an equally small number of cups. They wondered how to arrange things on such short notice, and were fearful of not being able to accommodate everyone.
Without their saying a word to Him, Baba solved their problem by announcing to the group the next morning, "We all are going to tea at Will and Mary's today. Everyone should bring a cup and saucer, and should sit on the floor when we get there." At this act of understanding and compassion, Will and Mary's hearts were overcome with love.
Baba and the group drove the 20 miles to Old Oak Cottage, the Backett's residence in Halstead near Seven oaks, Kent. As Baba walked through each room, viewing them carefully, He spelled on the board, "This is My house." After an enjoyable afternoon, Baba was driven back to London by Donald Slow, of the London group.
Later, Will wrote to Baba: "I cannot even now fully realize what you have given us, though I do get glimpses. I am just a child in your loving arms, filled with joy and happiness, and the strength and divine beauty which enfold me and all and again I thank you beyond the power of words for having drawn us to Yourself and enfolded us in Your love."
In 1934, a meeting of the newly-formed Circle Editorial Committee was held. Herbert was appointed the director, Will Backett the secretary/treasurer. Its future publication work was discussed and instructions given for the printing and distribution of two small booklets: The Sayings of Shri Meher Baba and Shri Meher Baba: The Perfect Master — Questions and Answers (and its translation into German, French, Italian, Rumanian, Russian and Spanish).
In year 1934, the Circle Editorial Committee had been formed to publish Baba's discourses in English. Will and Mary Backett were devoting a major part of their time to this endeavor. In the late afternoon of the 30th, they held a reception for Baba at the Committee's offices at 50, Charing Cross. Baba met 50 people during His two-hour visit.
Baba dictated to Will and Mary Backett:
As already intimated, I have returned here, for [certain] reasons, all the way in seclusion which continues and will still continue for the period already fixed, though places might change, according to the demand and necessity of work in different zones. And it is quite possible I might come to the West and spend the latter period of this seclusion, somewhere there. The time and place and possibility all depend on certain developments and conditions at different sides. But wherever I am and whatever I may be doing, I am always with you, as you, My loved ones, are ever so close to Me.
To Mary Backett in England, on 29th November 1935, Baba wrote:
The seclusion still continues, and with it the work. And although my dearest ones in far distant lands across the ocean feel the separation of their beloved Baba, the ever-unbreakable link, I know, keeps them all warm throughout.
For love never dies. It lives and enables all to live forever, in spite of all the vicissitudes that merely come and go. And those who love as deeply as Mary and my other dear ones, live in my heart and thoughts, wherever I am, whatever I do.
Failings or shortcomings should never discourage you, but should be taken as stepping stones toward the path of Ultimate Reality that I will help you reach.
In London, Baba granted separate interviews to Will and Mary Backett and other American lovers
In 1937, one evening, Baba called all together to sit with Him in silence outside on the lawn. He spelled on the board, "Tomorrow," and then elaborated: "Tomorrow we will have silence in the evening, but under one condition that is very important — that you do not look around at one another, but only look at Me and feel as if you are alone with Me. You should do it naturally without strain. You must not feel conscious of your bodies. Let the head be the center of your body. When it is, then you forget your body and you can think of Me."
Will Backett asked, "What should I do if I feel pressure in the head?"
Baba replied, "Relax, as if going to sleep. Close your eyes. If you can look at Me in such a concentrated manner that you forget your body, it is best.
Baba walked over to Sarzat and visited Will Backett, who was also sick in bed. After sitting with him for a few minutes, Baba went out for a walk alone.
Will and Mary Backett arrived in Cannes on the night of 2nd September 1937. The next morning
On 3rd September 1937, Baba urged the Westerners, "Harmony is the basis of life, living in a group, working for and living with Me and helping in My work. By following your personal feelings of likes and dislikes, the atmosphere essential for My work is disturbed."
Mabel Ryan was very ill with cancer and spent most of her time in bed while in Cannes being nursed by Mary Backett. Baba would come to see her daily, knowing this was their last meeting.
Will and Mary Backett were spreading Meher Baba's name in England, telling many about the Master's mission.
On 13th October 1938, Baba wrote to Will:
I note what you say in your letters about the different ones you are helping, and how, through your love for Me, they too are drawing closer to Me, and also finding they can lean on Me and feel My help, even though they may not have seen Me in the flesh. To some, it is a greater help to know me through My disciples. Not all can understand the human side of God. It is more difficult for some to follow and obey God in human form, due to preconceived ideas of God.
On 17th November 1939, Baba had sent this message to Will and Mary Backett in England: "Keep writing as you do now and don't worry. I am with you always and am ever watchful over my own flock."
In 1941, a British woman named Irene Conybeare Harvey, 51, had been interested in mysticism and religion since childhood. In the spring of 1940, she met Will Backett in London, and through him learned of the Master.
In 1947, during the Madras darshan program, Baba had asked Don to write a description of the proceedings and send it to Will and Mary Backett in England. At the Mudaliar's, as Baba was sitting on a gaadi listening to His arti, he twirled a small skein of cotton thread in His hands, and then handed it to Don and told him to enclose it with his letter. Baba had Don send it to Mary, who used to spin and weave her own cloth, along with instructions to hold the thread in her hands, and thereafter to keep it in a safe place and not to use it.
Five minutes later, someone garlanded Baba with a garland of sandalwood chips and this; too, he gave to Don to send to Will and Mary, as well as the two garlands of gold embroidery offered by Lakshmi Aiyangar. Don wrote his description and packed the thread, and also carefully packed the garlands in a finely wrapped parcel, and sent them to the Backetts. The thread and garlands were to Will and Mary a message of Baba's love for them, and they kissed them daily when they offered their prayers. By sending these two devout souls these precious, personal treasures — symbolically keeping them adorned like garlands around his neck forever — Baba sent his Unlimited treasure which, until their last breath, kept them alive in his love.
After receiving this prasad, Will and Mary each sent Baba a letter expressing their gratitude and joy. With it were mingled their tears, which told the story of their love for their Beloved, and which only he could understand.
In 1948, at Meherazad, meetings were held about the legal formation of a partnership called Meher Publications, and Elizabeth was also busy planning the establishment of the Universal Spiritual League of America to help protect the copyrights of Baba's writings. Delia said, "In England, too, such a league should be formed." Baba gave permission and Charles Purdom was made the president, Delia vice-president and Will Backett secretary.
On 14th July 1952, Baba, with the men and women mandali, left Myrtle Beach by car for Florence, South Carolina, where they took a train to New York City. Delia went on to London, so she could receive Baba and the mandali there after making due arrangements with the help of Charles Purdom and Will and Mary Backett.
Baba and the women arrived in London the next morning. They were met by Will and Mary Backett, Delia and Don (Donkin), who took them to the Rubens Hotel on Buckingham Palace Road, where they were to stay a week. Delia, Purdom and the Backetts had arranged their accommodations.
Dorothy (Baba lover) recalled,” In my irritation and general distress,", "I picked up the book-The Perfect Master by Charles Purdom and threw it down on the floor." The book fell open to the photograph at the beginning. Hugh picked it up and, looking reproachfully at her for her bad manners, handed it to her. Dorothy looked at the photograph of Baba and let out a yell. "This is my Persian Prince, the man who has been talking to me!" she exclaimed.
She forgot she had a migraine and spent the rest of the day reading the book. "I now knew that my experience was real," she recounted later. Will Backett's address was at the back, and she wrote to him at once. He came immediately, and Dorothy narrated what had happened to her. "My analyst will not go on with my treatment," she ended.
"Well, I do not know what you can do about that," Will counseled, "but your experience is quite genuine. This is how Baba works. Baba is calling you; He's calling you to him."
In year 1954, the Western men were tremendously impressed by the expression of love and reverence for Baba from the thousands who had attended. Seventeen years before, Malcolm Schloss and Will Backett had witnessed such a sight in Nasik at Baba's birthday celebration in 1937, and Francis Brabazon had seen similar scenes in Andhra Pradesh; but, for the rest of the Westerners, it was their first experience of such a grand spectacle — and one they would never forget! .
Baba motioned to all to bring their hats, and He led them on a tour of Meherabad Hill. He showed them the Tomb, his Tin Cabin and the graves of His lovers, narrating incidents as He went. From there, Baba took them down the hill, stopping once to ask Will Backett if the pace was too fast for him.
They were thirsting for sight of Baba, but Baba would not see them. Finally, some days later, Baba met them, and so many days of great disappointment resulted in great joy. Will Backett said, "My heart has echoed everything that has already been said, and of course, I am blissfully happy to be with Baba."
On 22nd September 1954, Baba arrived to see the Western men on the hill. Instead of walking, He was driven up in a car. When He arrived He appeared strained and tired. He went into the west room at once, where he stated:
Today, there is nothing to explain. I did not feel like coming today. Yet, I wanted to see you dear ones, so I decided to come. I have much to think about before the meetings. My thinking is not just thinking; the whole burden is upon me.
You all must be fit for two days of the meeting. Dear Will, I call you My archangel, and you are very devoted to Me, and I love you intensely; but I cannot understand your saying every day, "I am better today."
Will Backett explained, it meant he sleeps better every night. To the others Baba stated, "I do not believe you when you say you are very well."
Nicknamed Energy, Marion Florsheim of Jackson Heights, New York, was appointed by Baba to make all the necessary arrangements for the trip. The "Meher Baba Hospitality Committee" was formed, with Marion as chairman, Fred Winterfeldt as vice-chairman, and seven other members from Baba's following in New York, to raise the estimated $12,000 in expenses for Baba and four men mandali to come. Will Backett was making arrangements in London
On 19th July 1956, in the morning, Baba met with the members of the Universal Spiritual League to iron out their differences (principally between Will Backett and Delia DeLeon). Baba eventually appointed three chairpersons — namely, Will, Delia and Charles Purdom — to rotate after six months each. If during those periods any dispute arose between the three of them and they could not come to a decision, the chairman at that time was to decide the issue, and everyone was to accept it, as if it had come from Baba Himself.
Flying from Paris, Baba and His group had dinner on the plane and landed in London on 17th July 1956. Will and Mary Backett, with few others were present to receive Him. In four cars, Baba and the mandali were driven to the Rubens Hotel, where Baba had stayed before in 1952.
Upon arrival, Baba was noticeably tired. He had not slept for three days en route. He stood at the back of a crowded elevator to go up to His room. Will Backett wrote that He appeared "a rather tired, pathetic figure, amidst the other hotel guests; an eloquent tribute to that humility with which Perfection is garbed."
On 18th July 1858, starting in morning, Baba granted fourteen individual interviews. Will Backett brought Joffre to see Baba. Keith Secker, the young man from Manchester who had met Baba in Satara, was the next to be given an interview.
In the afternoon of 18th July 1956, more than 120 people came for darshan in the large hall of the hotel. Will, Mary sat next to Baba, and Dorothy, Tom and Delia ushered in each one individually to meet Baba for one minute. Baba distributed prasad of sweets and his photographs among those who came. Will described the reception as follows:
The reception -revealed Baba's same individual understanding of every guest. To one, a deeply significant glance; to another, a loving touch on the cheek, or perhaps the arm would be gently stroked. Some, whom Baba had greeted at their first meeting with a handshake, received a warm embrace. Some who expected advice received none, and yet others, who had been hoping for at least ten minutes in which to explain their longstanding difficulties, heard his familiar "I know all and I will help you." Most striking, too, were the groups of friends or the family in which the children and parents all came together to Baba for the first time, and His look, passing from son to father, conveyed his love in which both father and son and indeed all humanity find themselves afresh.
As Will Backett recalled: "Baba's intense animation, eloquent gestures and commanding glances, when dictating His words by signs, solved all our problems."
After the death of his wife, Mary, Will Backett in London had found it difficult to adjust to living without her and was in poor health. That year would have been his and Mary's 50th wedding anniversary. To console him, Baba sent him many telegrams and messages through Adi Jr., such as: "You are not alone. I am with you."
Because of his feeble condition, Will Backett had not been able to attend the East-West Gathering in 1962, and Baba sent him a telegram during it, reassuring him of His love. Through Mollie Eve, Baba also sent Will a garland He had worn during the darshan.
On 15th May 1963, at the age of 84, Will Backett died peacefully in a London hospital. In reply to Mollie Eve's telegram from London, Baba sent this message: "Your cable regarding Will's passing away received. My dear Archangels Will and Mary Backett have come to Me for all time."