By Scott Tower Maloney
While some of you are already familiar with Meher Archive Collective (MAC) and its vision, I would like to introduce myself and share my passion for this exciting Baba project.
Some of you know me as Scott Tower, others as Scott Maloney in the past. I would like to share a story, one of precious things lost and others found. My grandmother, Mayme Kramer, met Baba in Myrtle Beach in 1958. I don’t know much more than she accepted Him as the Avatar, and had a picture of Him in her library. Mayme lived in New York and I have heard that she attended the Monday night meetings there. I know that she was involved with sending medicine to India, and in one of the films of Baba’s visit to Myrtle Beach in ’58, she crosses briefly in front of the camera. Mayme died when I was 12, and when her house was cleared out, everything connected to Baba was discarded. Either no-one knew its importance, or perhaps they were happy to see it go. Only later would I feel the loss.
As my personal connection to Baba crystallized in my mid 20s, I realized that we are living in those same early days of an Avatar’s advent that I had been drawn to study in college. I became interested in early Christianity because I wanted to get closer to what really happened in those early years, what was the real story of Jesus at the time?
My connection to Baba is rooted in stories. Many of us have had the great fortune to have known and spent time with the Mandali. For me, the essence of that gift was a combination of their individual presence and example, and their stories. They freely shared the flavor of their lives with Baba with all who came, and consequently we received some of the divine aroma of His Presence. The great blessing of such personal contact will not be there for the generations that follow us. Soon, others will have to rely on those stories that are preserved and shared.
I feel deeply the importance of preserving Baba stories and records, for my family, and also for future generations. I wish I knew more about Mayme’s experience, I wish I knew her Baba story. This is one of the reasons I am passionate about MAC and its vision; I don’t want others’ stories to be lost and unavailable to their children, grandchildren or to the larger world.
Fast forward nearly fifty years from my grandmother’s passing. While volunteering at MAC, not just as a board member, but actually getting my hands on the Fredella Winterfeldt collection, I happened upon a letter from Goher to Ella. It being my first day, I made the newbie mistake of trying to read each document (there really isn’t time for this). But this time I would be rewarded beyond expectation. I found a reference to my grandmother in a postscript from Mani. It was short, sweet and I am likely the only living person for whom it has meaning. I felt a twinkle in Baba’s eye, and a deeper connection with Mayme.
Beyond this personal experience, I have been deeply moved by the intimacy of the contents of this collection, especially the calm intensity of Mehera’s love for her Beloved that emerges from the small details she relates in her letters. I know that the growing number of volunteers are also touched by their experience and by the opportunity to help with this work. The archive will have to be a large group effort, one that I believe will actively foster community both through volunteers working together for Baba and through the global sharing of archival material online.
Like many people, my family and I were drawn to Asheville without a clear rational reason. We felt attracted in part by the Baba community and, on our first visit, it immediately felt like home, in a way that reminded me of Nanaker’s “Welcome Home” hug on my first time at Baba’s Samadhi. Why are so many Baba lovers moving to this area? Asheville is quickly becoming a major Baba hub, with its Music Sahavas and a growing number of Baba transplants, events and visitors.
The Asheville area is ideally suited as a safe and secure location for a permanent archive due to its moderate climate, and absence of environmental risks (such as earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, changing sea levels and frequent forest fires). The large and growing Baba population also provides a crucial volunteer base for an archive. As many of you may remember, Filis Frederick said that there should be a Baba archive somewhere in the mountains of North Carolina.
Confident that the Asheville area is perfect for a permanent archive site, MAC has been looking to build or buy a suitable space. We have found an existing building that meets or exceeds all of the criteria we have established. These include accessibility, a fireproof structure that is built to last, opportunity for gradual expansion and income potential. The cost per square foot is also a fraction of the cost to build from scratch. Peter Nordeen and Ty Provosty (an accomplished architect who is working on Baba’s tower in Meherabad) have both looked carefully at the building, and are enthusiastic about its quality, value and suitability.
I have been inspired by the vision of MAC to preserve, and also freely share, the stories connected to artifacts, documents, photos and other media related to Baba. Once preserved, these will serve as an invaluable vehicle of connection to Baba and His Advent for years to come. The time for this is NOW as those with firsthand stories and collections are getting older, and in many cases the physical material is in urgent need of preservation.
We are very excited about the possibility of acquiring this building and land to secure a home for a Meher Baba Archive in the Asheville area. We will be sharing more details with you in the next few days. Stay tuned…
In His love and service,
Meher Archive Collective
MAC Board of Directors
Jean Brunet Ludwig
Scott Tower Maloney