Meher Baba’s Diamond
Ivy Oneita Duce
Portraits by Jane Adams
“A Diamond, Toned With Blue”
In spiritual literature, the diamond is the jewel associated with Divine Vision, the highest state of illumination. “Light dances in it. Everything is reflected in it. It is the crystalline structure of unity,” Murshid James MacKie explained. In speaking of Murshida Duce, he said:
Hers is a special kind of purity, so refined and so forceful and so fully developed that it is like the brilliant facets of a diamond – it is that kind of purity of consciousness. It is very, very forceful around her. It is anchored in a certain way on Earth. And it works in a certain way, which is to the benefit of all who are in her presence.
I later learned that Meher Baba always called her his “diamond”. She was a diamond, toned with blue.
“I Have Drawn You Here”
Ivy Oneita Duce was born in America on February 25, 1895 – a year to the day after Avatar Meher Baba was born in India. More than half a century later, she would find herself traveling halfway around the world to meet him and seek his aid. In January of 1948, Baba took the extraordinary step of suspending his ongoing work in seclusion in order to meet with Ivy for five days. It would prove to be the most important meeting of her life.
Decades later she would recall her first encounter with Meher Baba with vivid clarity:
I felt he was the most beautiful being that was ever on the Earth. This light that shone from him made him, as far as I was concerned, just like the sunshine. His face was translucent. He had such bliss in his eyes and exuded a purity that was like a perfume. I never had any doubt from the first moment that I looked at Baba that he was the God-Man.
Ivy realized at that moment that she was in the presence of the living Christ.
Accompanied by her eighteen-year-old daughter, Charmian, Ivy had made the journey to Bombay by propeller plane, then 165 miles by car to Meherazad, Meher Baba’s residence in rural India. Her personal journal described their first meeting this way:
About half a mile from the ashram was a little hut in the middle of a field, where I was to first see him. One is conscious of the marvelous atmosphere all over the ashram – it seems vitally charged and yet full of peace and beauty. As we drew near the hut, I could feel the Master’s love streaming forth, and I burst into tears.
Finally, we were in his presence. He sat in a lotus posture on the gaddi, his image entirely surpassing all my expectations. His eyes looked like jewels, brilliant, full of flashing humor, high intelligence, pathos, ineffable tenderness, sweetness, and overall a vitality and streaming energy and radiance. His skin looked very fair to me. He looked about forty, although he is fifty-three. After we had garlanded him, he motioned me gently to come sit on the edge of the gaddi. Charmian sat on one of the benches.
Although I knew he had been silent for twenty or more years, he did not seem to need to talk. You knew what he wanted to say to you, and his use of the little alphabet board which (his disciples) Adi K. Irani and Dr. Ghani and Dr. Donkin all read with such skill and clarity was hardly needed. He silently commanded me to stop weeping, then helped me do so.
Meher Baba told Ivy that it was her destiny in this life to work for him as a spiritual teacher, and that he himself would guide her. She later summarized his instructions to her this way:
He wanted me to go ahead and work for him in the world by building up Sufism; he said that all the forms of religion would be swept away and only the essence remain, and he wanted Sufism spread, that all would converge under my leadership, and he would help it to be so.
Though I wasn’t illumined, he said he would do the work through me. He said, “I will see to it that you don’t make any mistakes with your students, and I will protect you from taking on any of their karma as long as you remain one hundred percent honest.” I was simply to go forward on faith and trust.
He said I had to make the Sufi Order safe, sane, and stable, to last seven hundred years, until he comes again.
Baba confirmed my appointment as head of the Sufi Order for the Western world, that he wished me to be the leader, and that was why I had had to come to him – he had drawn me there so that I could work wholeheartedly for him – and Charmy so that she could spread his love wherever she went.
He told Ivy the time had come for her to join his work, “so that is why I have drawn you here now”. Under his guidance, she led his American Sufi school for the next thirty-three years, until her passing in 1981. Ivy Duce was the only one of Meher Baba’s worldwide followers whom he authorized to teach.
A New Sufism for the Western World
In the spring of 1952, Meher Baba and a group of his mandali (close disciples) traveled to America, staying at his newly inaugurated Meher Spiritual Center in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, which he would call his “home in the West”.
Here Baba held a series of lengthy meetings with Murshida to outline his plans for Sufism in America. Adi K. Irani, Baba’s longtime secretary, accompanied him at these meetings, serving as an interpreter of his alphabet board.
At the end of the first day’s meeting, Baba took Adi aside and said his new Sufism needed a new name. It could no longer be called the “Sufi Order” or “Sufi Movement”, as it had been in the past. Baba asked Adi to step outside and sit quietly for a few minutes and think of a new name. He did so, and within moments the name “Sufism Reoriented” came to him. Baba was very pleased and accepted it right away.