Friday, November 6, 2015


This is an edited version of an essay that was originally posted back in 2010.


Avatar Meher Baba's Tomb-Shrine

In 1988, I made my second trip to Meher Baba’s Tomb-Shrine (also known as the Samadhi) near Ahmednagar, India.  I’d been to Meherabad for the first time in the summer of 1987 and was planning a return trip the following July.  But in early March of 1988 something strange happened:  One morning I woke up—abruptly yanked into awareness—to hear a voice:  very clear, very powerful, as if someone was in the room talking to me.  Only the voice wasn’t coming from across the room, it was coming from inside me.  It was coming the center of my chest, from my heart.  I don’t recall the exact words, but the message—actually, it was more like an order—boiled down to this:  “Come to Meherabad.  Come now.”  Those words had such force, such impact, that I couldn’t ignore them.  Oh, I tried to.  There was no way I could just drop everything, get on a plane and go to India.  I had work, I had obligations.  Even if, by some miracle, I could go, the ashram where most visitors to the Samadhi stay during their pilgrimage was only open until March 15th.  (After that, the Maharashtra heat becomes unbearable.  The Meher Pilgrim Center doesn’t reopen till the end of June.)   If I was going to travel around the world, I’d need to stay for at least two weeks, not swoop in and out like some spiritual lunatic.   Nope, no matter what that voice was, no matter where it came from (a passing angel, my unconscious mind or Meher Baba Himself), I was ignoring this order.

But the thing is I couldn’t ignore it.   It was as if the order itself contained the ability to execute it.  As if each of those words, spoken in my heart, were energy-eggs that cracked open and provided the strength and will for me to (with seeming effortlessness, I don’t recall there being any blockades along the way) rearrange my life, race to the Indian Consulate for a tourist visa, buy a plane ticket and—within a few days—fasten my seat belt for a journey to Bombay (which, for the record, didn’t become Mumbai till 1995).

By the time I arrived in India, I was—as I’d been the first time around—a sleep-deprived wreck (I’m not one of those people who can sleep on airplanes.  I’m from the fitful dozing school).  I hustled from the international to the domestic airport, waited the requisite interminable hours, then took an Indian Airlines flight—aboard a small, propeller-driven plane—to Pune.  From there, I rickshawed to a taxi stand and began the long drive to Ahmednagar.  You can imagine the shape I was in when I got there:  it was as if I was a creature molded from cracked glass and every step brought me closer to totally shattering.  But, after arriving at my destination and settling into my room at the Pilgrim Center, I couldn’t go to sleep.  However exhausted I was, I had to make the trip up the hill to Meher Baba’s Tomb-Shrine.  I had to lay down my head at his feet and say, “Baba, I’m here.  I listened to the voice, I followed the order, now wrap your arms around me and flood me with your love.”  (One thing you have to grok in order for this story to work:  Despite the fact that He died in 1969, my experience with Avatar Meher Baba has been that He’s very much alive, and incredibly accessible.  Master and companion, guide and best friend.  And MB’s Tomb-Shrine is, for me, like a direct radio link to that Living Presence.  You don’t have to believe that—feel free to think I’m completely nuts (you won’t be the first)—I’m just asking you to understand it.)

So up the hill I staggered, into the Samadhi I went.  But there was no love-bomb waiting to engulf me, no warm arms waiting to envelop me.  The instant I rested my head against the cloth-covered marble, it was as if a Cosmic Hand sliced open my mind, reached in and untapped a psychic geyser that had been waiting years to explode:  all my self-loathing—every wretched program that told me I was small, insignificant, unworthy, a hopeless waste of space on the planet—erupted up and out, wave after wave of psychic sludge:  pitch black, oily and utterly repugnant.  I felt poisoned, toxic, as it flooded every cell of my body, every corner of my soul, washing away all other thoughts and feelings, every other aspect of Self, until all that remained was the Black Sludge of Unworthiness.  How bad was it?  I remember noticing a bug crawling across the Tomb floor and feeling that the only difference between us was that the insect had more of a right to be alive than I did.

Devastated, I staggered out of the Samadhi and down to my room. wondering why the hell I’d dropped everything and raced across half the world only to be spiritually ambushed by a God who suddenly seemed less-than benevolent.

Once I was rested, free of jet lag and psychic aftershocks, I began to understand what had happened.  I’d been with Meher Baba long enough to know that one of His methods is to shine a light on the shadowed corners of the soul, corners we’re often not even aware of, peeling back the hardened layers of psychic excrement that cover up the Divinity we all are.  Magnifying those aspects and dragging them to the surface of our minds allows us to work with them more directly and, ultimately, dissolve them in the light of awareness.  By letting me see the Black Sludge in its full, flowering ugliness, Baba gave me the tools to deal with it in a conscious way.  Twenty-seven years later, I can’t claim the Sludge is gone—I suspect that, being human, I’ll always carry echoes of it, sometimes faint, sometimes loud—but, since that day, it’s certainly diminished in power.   

But perhaps it hasn’t diminished:  perhaps it’s just transformed.

As the years have passed, I’ve come to believe (well, I think I’ve always believed it, I’ve just come to see it in a deeper way) that these seeming demons, these apparent nightmares born of our unconscious darkness, aren’t really there to prevent us from reaching our true height and power:  they’re here to help us reveal it.  In fact, I’m convinced these devils are actually angels-in-disguise, waiting for the moment when we recognize them so they can spread their wings wide and invite us to fly with them into the heart of a magical, and sacred, universe.   (I’ve also come to believe that it’s ultimately far easier to fly with angels than dance with demons, even illusory ones—that joy is a far more efficient, and delightful, path to awakening than suffering—but that's another discussion for another time.)   

Our true height and power.  I had a memorable glimpse of just how high, just how powerful, we all are two years after my encounter with the Sludge.  It happened, again, in Meherabad—on a December night in 1990.  I had a dream—one of those dreams that seem more real than our waking life—in which I was at an event where one of the Meherabad residents, an extraordinary man called Mohammed the Mast (Mohammed, by the way, was the inspiration for Charlie Limbo in Seekers Into The Mystery), was sitting at a table signing...well, I’m not sure what he was signing:  it might have been books (which, given the dreamer in question, makes sense).  I approached the table, but, rather than sign my book, Mohammed instead scribbled on me, writing his way up from my hand to my upper arm.  When he did that I felt disrespected, powerless, small, ashamed—another echo, I see now, of the Black Sludge—and very angry.  But my anger was so bottled up, my rage so impotent, that I couldn’t express it.  The best I could do was grab Mohammed’s pen and throw it—without even looking—to the floor.  It was a pathetic throw, like something a weak, exhausted two year old would do.  (And that’s pretty much how I felt:  like a vulnerable, utterly overwhelmed child.)   But then...

Then I turned around—absolutely stunned to discover that my “pathetic” throw had sent the pen hurtling across the room, where it smashed into the wall, lodging there with such incredible force that it collapsed the entire thing, not just in the main room where we were, but in the adjoining room, as well.  And, in that moment of assumed weakness, revealed as inexplicable power...

I woke up—not just from sleep, but into myself.  To who and what I really am.  To my true height, my true power.  This wasn’t just an intellectual knowing, this was a visceral experience, an inner vision that touched a deeper reality.  I could see and feel that height, that power—I was that height and power—and it was far taller, far mightier, than anything I could have ever imagined:  like looking down at all Creation from the highest rung on Jacob’s Ladder.  I can’t say how long the experience lasted, maybe just a few seconds, maybe a few centuries, but looking at the universe, and at myself, from that extraordinary height became so dizzying, so overwhelming, that it actually frightened me.

And the experience passed.

But the memory didn’t.  I’ve held tight to that vision, that gift of grace, and treasured it all these years, knowing that my job—no, not my job, my pleasure—is to grow into the height and power that I already am.  Looking back, I see that what I was shown was just what I could handle at the time.  It was only one small hint of my true height.  Jacob’s Ladder extends up into infinity (and beyond, as Buzz Lightyear would say)—and I can, I must, continue to grow with it.    

Understand, please, that this experience wasn’t unique to me.  It became very clear that this is the height we all truly are, the divinity that lives and breathes within every last one of us, if we could only see it.

And, yes, that includes you.

So when the Black Sludge comes calling, remember:  take a deep breath, grow tall.  And don’t be afraid to look down.

Avatar Meher Baba and Mohammed the Mast

© copyright 2015 J.M. DeMatteis        


  1. I've faced the sludge before. Thanks for identifying it for me. I think I will enjoy the view.

    1. Glad the post meant something to you, Douglas. And, yes, enjoy the view!

  2. I too heard Baba's voice from within me calling me to Myrtle Beach. I have not been to India yet but on the Center in Myrtle Beach I have been fortunate enough to feel that warm embrace flooding me with love and bliss. And now when I go I have to keep myself from feeling disappointed when I don't feel it. I'm sure He knows when I need it most. But rather than sludge he has worked on me through my fear, scaring the crap out of me and each time when I thought why do you do this to me? I have come out of the fear with a greater level of understanding and through that I have found the most delicious peace that I once longed for for so long. Thank you for posting this. I love to hear how Baba has worked with others and I would love to personally meet you as well. I volunteer for a large Comic Convention here in Myrtle Beach every year in May. I'm sure there are tons of fans that would love to see you there.
    Jai Baba

    1. Thanks for sharing a little of your story, Marlene. He works with each of us in such specific, individual ways and that's the beauty of this journey with HIm. It's different for everyone.

      I'd be interested in attending the Myrtle convention at some point. Sounds like fun (AND a good way to get me to the Center)!

  3. Yes I also enjoy hearing how He has worked with others. I would love to meet you on the Center and XCON! Please contact
    Jai Baba!

  4. Thanks, Marlene! I'm at a convention in Greece right now, but I'll get in touch when I get back.

  5. an inspiring anecdote, very beautifully written, and lovingly shared
    The victory is His.
    Jai Baba!

    1. Thank you, Ron—and "Jai Baba" right back at you!