Francis Brabazon’s The Birth of the Nation 1956

By Ross Keating

After Meher Baba’s first visit to Australia, August 9th to 14th 1956, Francis published a short four-page pamphlet, The Birth of the Nation 1956, to acknowledge the significance of the occasion. The title itself announced that this event in Francis’s eyes had national importance and it implied that the writer had something to say about the future of Australia. This idea of Francis speaking as a kind of national poet like Whitman in America or Lorca in Spain giving “directions” to the populace is part of how Francis saw his vocation as a poet. In 7 Stars to Morning, which was published in the same year of Meher Baba’s visit, he writes:

Yes, there was a war, two wars,

“And the poet reflects the tremors of his time” –

But it is not the poet’s job to rot seed

For future horoscopes. It is his work

To cultivate time so that the times

May catch hope in future endeavour;

So that the cry of “Where?” is answered by,

“There is the direction!” Not torture the wound

With probing finger of doubt,

But with clean scalpel, or balm,

Heal the disease, and encourage new tissue.[1]

And in his first book of poetry, Proletarians-Transitions, published in 1953 a year after he met Meher Baba for the first time, the first poem is entitled “Present Australians” and ends with the verse:

It took God a long time to make

a Man and a Woman,

perfect instruments

 

of His divine music.

Present Australians!

who amongst you

will study the notes of this music?

Who amongst you

will be the singers of this new Song, to which

I am giving only the initial drum-beat?[2]

Most telling of all are the opening lines in Francis’s poetic autobiography, published in 1976 and written at Avatar’s Abode after living for ten years with Meher Baba in India. Here, Francis speaks of his initial calling to be a poet – “to utter the Song / locked in a Continent” -- while working as a young man in the Australian outback, probably around 1929:

I first met it out on the plains

It rushed in from the further West

covering the sun and shrouding the trees

with fall-out from the atomic Interior;

and the trees marched back over the horizon.

And it raced on. And I went with it.

For it was the Wind’s time to explore all places,

sound all things that would sound – seeking a throat

through which it could utter the Song

locked in a Continent since the First Dreaming.[3]

Francis was called to be a poet before he met Meher Baba and after their first meeting he simply continued to be a poet. In the Preface to Stay With God, he writes, “In this book I have tried to offer some praise to one who has not so much ‘changed the course of my life’ as given it sanction.”[4]

While the pamphlet, The Birth of the Nation 1956, comes out of Francis’s connectedness with Australia it does not attempt to rouse national sentiments but to show a “direction” for all Australians. It point us towards Meher Baba as the Avatar of the Age.

It consists of two parts, the first is a prose statement followed by a poem, “Now has Come the Moment of Joy”. John Grant recalls in his book, Practical Spirituality with Meher Baba, that Francis read the poem to a small group of followers “shortly before” Meher Baba arrived.[5] And Mani, Meher Baba’s sister, confirms that the poem was written earlier when she refers to it in a letter sent from Grafton, Satara (India) to Francis dated 10th August, a day after Meher Baba’s arrival in Australia: “This is to tell you that I just read (how well timed!) the precious Gita and the love of all that accompanied it commemorating Baba’s ‘first visit’ – thank you Australia, it will hold a dear place in the ashram’s treasures”.[6]

The poem celebrates Meher Baba’s arrival in Australia. John Grant mentions in his book that Francis “always stressed the importance to a country of having the living Avatar set foot on the soil of that country”.[7] Indeed, this is a theme which appears early in Francis’s writing. In a first draft of a poem, dated 17th May, 1953, which was approximately a year after he first met Meher Baba in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Francis writes:

I sing of the day when the Perfect One,

Shri Sadguru, He, the Christ,

will set foot on these shores,

when His feet will kiss our golden beaches

when His banner will be set on the hill tops

and His voice will release the plains.

Any ideas of Utopia you may have, discount –

that is merely your dream riding upon wish,

what I am talking about is actual values,

             bedrock spiritual-material facts.[8]

And in answer to this poem Francis wrote three years later “Now has Come the Moment of Joy” when the “Perfect One” did finally arrive:

Now has come the moment of joy in this land,

The moment it has waited in woman-waiting through the ages,

The moment of BABA and the touch of His feet on her earth,

And the seal of His glance to her sun-adoring eyes.

And the rivers of His silent Word to her thirsty lips

and the cry of her soul.[9]

***

But not all was joyous before Meher Baba’s visit as a controversy had arisen between Australian followers as to whether Meher Baba should be asked to come or not. Francis was of the strong opinion that Meher Baba should come of His own volition, whenever He so pleases – not by invitation – which in Francis’s mind would be the right time. In a letter from Mani to Murshida Ivy Duce, 4th June 1956, Mani outlined Francis’s stance:

Francis was rather upset over the idea of anyone from Australia “asking” Baba to visit here [Australia]. He has a deep understanding of Baba and his ways, and I just love certain bits [from Francis’s correspondence] which I will quote here:

“Is not Baba God? Has not this same God said to us, told us himself, not to ask him for anything, and that he will give us, each one, in his own time what he thinks fit to give? Has not he told us to give to him, that he is the One to take – that he will take from us until we have nothing left but God?”

About asking anything of Baba, Francis says:

“. . . because he is not to be asked of, but is to be loved and served and given to, until one’s whole life has become a living sacrifice to his dear Person . . . I have further explained to everyone, not once but all the time, that I have observed that Baba in his great kindness often, if not usually, fell in with people’s wishes, did what they wanted him to do, but this doing would not necessarily be the real doing.

But when he himself did something or said something out of his own love or wish or want, then that doing or saying would be the right doing or saying.”

He ends with saying how much they want Baba to come:

“. . . for apart from the benefit to ourselves, we believe that a country which a Perfect Master has not touched with his sacred feet is a dead country; that the coming to a country by such a Blessed One is a sowing of a seed in that country which will eventually make it living and civilized in a real sense. We want Baba to come but we want that coming to be the real thing – for it to be from his own compassion arising in his own dearest heart, not from our asking . . .”

There is little I can add to this. I sent [Francis] a cable:

“Baba extremely happy with accurate understanding. He announces his decision of real coming to Australia for five days. Inform everybody.” (This may not be word accurate as I am writing from memory, but it is nearly so.)[10]

And in another letter from Mani, this time to Francis, Mani points to a harmonious solution to the whole issue:

Baba knows that whatever was suggested by you [Francis] was done in your deep understanding and love for him. Your attitude of reluctance of Baba’s accepting to come to Australia on being asked to do so was quite correct. On the other hand you must also understand that it had been done in LOVE [Mani’s emphasis] and enthusiasm only. So everything that happened was right and for the best – as Baba wanted it to be. And now it is entirely of his own wish [Mani’s emphasis] that Baba visits Australia.[11]

And in a final letter, 18th April 1956, from Mani to both Francis and Ena Lemmon, who first lovingly invited Baba to Australia, Mani states that followers of Meher Baba have to sacrifice their individual differences if they wish to please Baba – that this was Baba’s way:

Loving Baba is easy, but following him is not always that, and these little tests and obstacles are Baba’s way of measuring our love for him. Whenever there has been a disagreement over something amongst us in the ashram, and while hurt feelings have been at their highest pitch Baba (with a flick of His beautiful fingers) asks us to “forget” it all and embrace – a terribly difficult thing to do at the time, but possible when we love him, and oh so easy once it’s done. Let us all then, all groups and individuals, in His dear Name and Love, embrace and forget all except that BABA IS COMING [Mani’s emphasis].[12]

In the early history of Meher Baba in Australia this was a valuable and practical lesson on how Baba wanted His followers to relinquish any conflicts amongst themselves in their shared desire to please Him. This could be seen as just as significant as the various messages given by Meher Baba during His visit in 1956.

***

Around mid-April it was confirmed that Meher Baba would be visiting Australia in August and it was probably around this time that Francis began working on his poem “Now has Come the Moment of Joy”. It is a well-crafted poem in which he puts forward various ideas of what it means for the Avatar of the Age to walk on Australian soil.

        The poem centres on the significance of the “moment” of Meher Baba’s arrival. The moment which will mark the beginning of a new history; the moment of the spiritual “birth of the nation”. In the prose statement preceding the poem Francis writes: “The timeless had made of itself an accommodation in time and had entered into that accommodation to put there the seed, the tree and fruit of which will be called history: the conception of a new Nation had occurred”.[13]This for Francis, above all else, was a moment of deep, soul-filled joy.

Now has come the moment of joy in our hearts,

And the leaping in dance of our souls in the steps of His feet,

And the breaking of bonds in our heart, and our heart’s breaking

Into laughter of flowers of love and gratefulness,

And our soul’s surge no less than the ocean in the direction of

His glory and human-ness.[14]

It is interesting to note that the first of the three reasons that Meher Baba gave for coming to Australia which he outlined on 10th August at Meher House, Sydney was: “To sow the seed of Love in this country”.[15] The word “country” jumps out here, for it stands in sharp contrast to Meher Baba’s wording in His often-quoted “The Final Declaration” of 30th September 1954 in which He states, “I have come to sow the seed of love in your hearts . . .”.[16] It appears that Meher Baba’s choice of this word “country” fits in with how Francis has used this word as quoted in Mani’s letter and with several of the statements in The Birth of the Nation 1956. For instance, he writes: “This Event, which a few of us had longed for consciously, and all people and things unconsciously; which the land itself, the plains and mountains, the deserts and fertile areas, the forests and streams and rivers, and the unique kookaburra and kangaroo and platypus had dreamed of and hoped for occurred”.[17]

        But how can this “Event” be longed for “unconsciously” by all “people and things”, by the kookaburra, the kangaroo and the platypus – be “dreamed” and “hoped” for by them? Isn’t this just fanciful thinking? As far as Francis was concerned this was not the case for he saw his statements as grounded in “facts” – facts from the source of truth itself, Meher Baba:

Consciously or unconsciously, every living creature seeks one thing. In the lower forms of life and in less advanced human beings, the quest is unconscious; in advanced human beings, it is conscious. The object of the quest is called by many names – happiness, peace, freedom, truth, love, perfection, Self-realization, union with God. . .

This is a natural desire, based fundamentally on a memory – dim or clear as the evolution of the individual soul may be low or high – of its essential unity with God. For every living thing is a partial manifestation of God, conditioned only by lack of knowledge of its own true nature.[18]

And in God Speaks which had just been published a year before His Australian visit Meher Baba’s writes:

“It would be more appropriate to say that the Avatar is God and that God becomes man for all mankind and simultaneously God also becomes a sparrow for all sparrows in Creation, an ant for all ants in Creation, a pig for all pigs in Creation, a particle of dust for all dust in Creation, a particle of air for all air in Creation, etc., for each and everything that is in Creation . . .

“Consequently in Avataric periods God mingles with mankind as man and with the world of ants as an ant, etc. But the world of man cannot perceive this and hence simply says that God has become a man and remains satisfied with this understanding in his own world of man . . .

“The Avatar never takes on the karma of individuals but His Godhood functions universally.”[19]

From Francis’s perspective these statements amount to “bedrock spiritual-material facts”. Essential facts which are needed to form the basis of “actual values” upon which a living culture in Australia, or anywhere for that matter, could be built.[20] Other value systems, he would argue, like those built upon humanitarian ideals, for instance, provide no spiritual foundation for a living culture to grow and survive. And perhaps Meher Baba’s choice of the word “country” in his first reason for visiting Australia, “To sow the seed of love in this country”, is to acknowledge the fact of His actual oneness with everything existing in and on this island continent and the spiritual benefit that everything will receive through His sowing His “seed of love” in this land.

***

Francis had now reached a point in his life in which Meher Baba was all that mattered. In 1954 when he toured with Him through the towns and villages of Andhra he described at the time how central Meher Baba had become:

No man or woman, no flight of thought, no aesthetic experience, no sublimity of nature, has touched the depths of me as this man has. I have met no one, or experience, which has melted my heart or sharpened my intellect as he has.[21]

For Francis, Meher Baba was the ultimate “bedrock spiritual-material” fact: the mysterious fact of God’s appearance on earth in the form of a man. To know this was the greatest “fact” a person could know on earth; not to know it was the greatest ignorance.

        And while being in Meher Baba’s presence was overwhelming for Francis he also described a certain quality of this same presence as the inspiration and the ultimate quest behind all of life’s activities. To describe this quality he used the universal image of “light”. In The Birth of the Nation 1956 he writes:

The most vital and the most contemporary occurrence had occurred. That light which art was trying to discover and express, which science was trying to uncover and channel into a wider vision and an improved living, which economy attempted to add up and distribute, and over which politics wrangled, and self-interest wished to corner and appropriate, that light had come to this country.[22]

        For Francis, as a poet, “that light” was embodied in its purest form in Meher Baba: “the Light of the World”.[23]To be in His company was to experience the fullness of this light; to experience this light at its brightest.

In 1955 when Francis was at the men’s sahavas program at Meherabad, Meher Baba gave the following directive to those attending: “Being in my company, watching me and being watched by me, you will automatically learn and unlearn a lot which no amount of teaching can convey”.[24] It would seem that Francis experienced something of this spiritual benefit, for in The Birth of the Nation 1956 he elaborates upon this idea and presents it in terms of a challenge. A challenge that stands not only for those who met Meher Baba in person in Sydney in 1956 but to all those who feel that Meher Baba has “met” them in their hearts:

For five days this Man stayed with us, worked, “talked”, played with us, imprinting in our hearts the Image of Reality and Love. This is the Image which is a constant challenge to our thinking and loving and working. No worker had ever attained that actionless action of work, that purity of loving, or that honesty of thinking which leaves no stain or false image in his own mind or in the minds of others, without the inspiration of this Image and its measurement. ‘No man can come unto the Father except by and through the Son.’[25]

        By any standard this is a monumental statement and written in a very distilled and direct manner, characteristic of Francis’s prose style. It suggests how Meher Baba develops a relationship of inner guidance in a person’s life. And by capitalising the word “Image” Francis is making the point that he does not mean the physical image of Meher Baba’s human form; by “Image” Francis does not mean a re-presentation of how Meher Baba looks. It has more to do with a quality of His Presence in one’s heart.

What is significant here is that Francis is referring to an “imprinting” that takes place “in the heart”. And so this “Image of Reality and Love” may be expressed in the world via various mediums, for instance, in music, in dance, in architecture, in words etc. And it would seem that what Francis is saying is that if you wish to think clearly, love clearly, work clearly or just simply see clearly you need to have an imprinted heart, one imprinted with the “Image of Reality and Love” and this is what Meher Baba bestows.[26] Otherwise nothing of any real value will be achieved in life. Also what can be interpreted from this statement is that no sheer act of will on a person’s part can force this imprinting to take place. It can only be done by an act of grace, and the first to be surprised is the recipient. In one of his later ghazals Francis has the couplet:

How fortunate I am that He accepted my heart and in its place

Gave me a mirror in which I could adore the splendour of His face![27]

***

Towards the end of the prose statement in The Birth of the Nation 1956, Francis claims that

What we call great art and integral and integrated thinking or real living is simply this Image reflecting in the hearts from which the rubbish of self-expression has been swept away, from which the nonsense of precious feelings and opinions or separative personality has been eliminated.[28]

This sounds like a modern re-instatement of the Christian idea of “purity of heart” but without the holiness. Yet, it is the same old story: if you want a clear image then the heart-mirror has to be clean. This is a point which Meher Baba also emphasised when Francis was with Him in 1955: “I [Meher Baba] have already told you that love for God and obedience to a master are beyond the reach of man on his own, and that complete surrender is almost impossible for him. The next best thing then is for man to purify his heart.”[29]

The bringing together of “great art” and “real living” is also worth noting; that these are one and the same thing; that art is not some elite sport for the few. And that such “real living” is also synonymous with “integral and integrated thinking”: “integral” to do with integrity and “integrated” the bringing together of the spiritual and the material thus creating the “spiritual-material” fusion needed for “real living”.

Francis is certainly not promoting the cultivating of some internalized “idealized image” or conception of ourselves, which some spiritual practices are based around. Rather, he is saying, you can’t get hold of the truth you have to let truth get hold of you – be imprinted in you. And this is the benefit that comes from being in Meher Baba’s company. But since Meher Baba has stated that: “Following the dropping of My body, I will remain as if physically present for about 100 years, and a little more,” and since we have so much access to movies and information of and about Meher Baba this “imprinting” must still be happening today.

        In the last paragraph, Francis outlines the task ahead for every Australian and the position of “BABA” (as the “Image of Reality and Love”) within it. And yet he seems to have only artists in mind. But maybe he thinks that everyone should live, as he says, with “reverence and love” for what is around them, and therefore be artists of some kind engaged in “real living”.

To every man and woman in Australia using words, notes, pigments, clay, stone, wood, metal, the soil of the land itself, and the priceless material of their own bodies not as playthings, but in some reverence and love, BABA stands as the light of their forward-goingness and as the symbol of their eventual Realization.[30]

 

[1] Francis Brabazon, 7 Stars to Morning. Sydney: Morgan’s Bookshop 1956, 135.

 

[2] Brabazon, Proletarians-Transition. Sydney: Beacon Hill Publishing 1953, 5.

 

[3] Brabazon, The Wind of the Word, Sydney: Garuda Publications 1976, 1. It is also worth noting that sometime after Francis returned to Australia in 1969 he entered a submission, music and lyrics, for a new Australian anthem.

 

[4] Brabazon, Stay With God, Sydney: Meher Baba Foundation 1977, 7.

 

[5] John Grant, Practical Spirituality with Meher Baba. Sydney: Merwan Pulications 1985, 19.The version published in John Grant’s book is not the same as the poem published in Brabazon’s pamphlet. In John Grant’s version a line is missing from the first stanza: “And the seal of His glance to her sun-adoring eyes” (the “her” referring to the land of Australia).

 

[6] Held in Bill Le Page Archives.

 

[7] John Grant, 19.

 

[8] Fragment of a longer poem held in Bill Le Page Archives.

 

[9] Francis Brabazon, The Birth of the Nation 1956. Sydney: Beacon Hill Publishing 1956, 3.

 

[10]Bhau Kalchuri, Lord Meher Ashville NC: MANifestation Inc, 1979, 4086-4087.

 

[11] Grant 17-18. Francis took to heart Kabir’s words: “When the Master gives on His own, it is like giving milk. When you ask the Master to give, it is like His giving water. When you force the Master to give, it is like extracting blood from Him.” (Refer: Arnavaz N. Dadachanji, Gift of God NJ: Beloved Books 1996, 115.

 

[12] Grant 18.

 

[13] Brabazon 2.

 

[14] Brabazon, The Birth of the Nation 1956 3

 

[15] Grant, 24.

 

[16] Malcolm Scholss and Charles Purdom, Three Incredible Weeks with Meher Baba. North Myrtle Beach SC: Sheriar Press 1979, 116.

 

[17] Ibid., 2.

 

[18] Meher Baba, Discourses Myrtle Beach SC: Sheriar Press 1987, 266.

 

[19] Meher Baba, God Speaks New York: Dodd, Mead & Co. 1973, 268-269.

 

[20] In 1955 when Meher Baba called Francis and Don Stevens to participate in a men’s sahavas in India, Meher Baba said: “Every individual here and elsewhere is the same one, ever-indivisible God. I say this because I am responsible for the whole creation. If I am not here, then not only will you not be here but the whole creation with all its gross, subtle and mental spheres will not be here. In short, everything exists because I exist” (D. E. Stevens Listen Humanity N.Y: Harper Collins 1971, 37).

 

[21] Francis Brabazon, Journey with God Myrtle Beach SC: Sheriar Press 1971, 17.

 

[22] Brabazon The Birth of the Nation 1956 2.

 

[23] John 8.12.

 

[24] Stevens Listen Humanity 242.

 

[25] Brabazon The Birth of the Nation 1956 2-3.

 

[26] There are indeed great works of art done by artists who know nothing of Meher Baba, and Francis admired such art. He lists many such artists in Stay With God. But from his perspective, the “Image of Reality and Love” is still imprinted in their hearts but Meher Baba, the Eternal Beloved, is so to speak, acting incognito.

 

[27] Francis Brabazon, The Beloved is All in All New Jersey: Beloved Books 1988 46.

 

[28] Brabazon The Birth of the Nation 1956 3.

 

[29] Stevens 41.

[30] Ibid., 3. This statement, of course, could apply to any follower of Meher Baba whatever their nationality.