Anyone who comes to the Meher Spiritual Center knows The Gateway is the Center’s office where you check in on arrival and check out on departure. It’s the hub of information and assistance for Center guests.
I worked there full-time for seven years, 1976 to 1983, and off and on as a volunteer for a few years before that. My first full-time job was as the Gateway’s secretary and it was supposed to be temporary. I was there only a few months, working with Fred Winterfeldt, when Fred died, a heartfelt loss for all those guests who had experienced Fred’s bear-hug welcome and sympathetic ear. Suddenly I was thrust into his role and I quickly learned it could be a tough one. Elizabeth Patterson told me I was “the lion at the gate” and my job was to protect the Center guests from anything or anyone that might disturb their retreats. I did my best to carry out that charge and I do remember the people to whom I refused entry and the people whom I removed from the Center for breaking that “do not disturb” rule. Most of those incidents were very sad as the people involved were emotionally disturbed. Baba himself did not allow emotionally disturbed people to stay in his ashram because such a spiritually charged atmosphere was too much for them. I certainly found that to be true at the Center. Visitors who came only slightly emotionally shaky quickly lost what little poise they had. Which usually meant calling the parents to come and get them, sending them home with an escort, or, in the most serious cases, getting local mental health help.
There weren’t that many serious cases when I was there until the last few months and then there were many, eight of them the last five days I was there. One I remember very well, because it also had its humorous aspect. A young man who had previously toured the Center with his comparative religion class, arrived one morning, asking to stay on the Center and asking me to take his car keys so he couldn’t leave. Hmm.
I had him sit down and as we talked he said he was “on the eighth plane.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him there were only seven. Finally, it became clear what was going on. He was a “professional college student,” who was married and his wife was expecting their first child. Life had hit with a vengeance, and he was simply running away. I managed to get him to leave quietly, then called the professor of his religion class, who was aware of the young man’s problem and promised to follow up on it.
The tough ones aren’t the only ones I remember, though. The most powerful memories are of people tangibly touched by Baba’s hand. One Saturday, I was in the Original Kitchen, serving as a tour guide, while Marshall Hay was staffing the Gateway. He called to tell me two Baba followers we knew were bringing in a new person, a young woman, and Marshall wasn’t sure what was going on with her because she couldn’t stop crying. I met them near the Refectory and, sure enough, she was still crying and the two young men looked very worried. They said their friend had started crying when they were still a hundred miles from the Center. I asked the girl if she wanted to walk around the Center a bit. She nodded and we went on a walking tour with her wordless and crying all the way. They left after an hour or so and I knew I’d seen an extraordinary example of Meher Baba reaching out and touching someone.
I remember a similar incident. A newcomer went into the Lagoon Cabin and came out weeping, unable to stop. Someone called Kitty Davy and asked what to do. “Nothing,” Kitty said, “and don’t try to explain it to her. This is Baba’s doing.”
Another time, a young man came for the first time and I let him go into the Lagoon Cabin by himself. He came rushing out after only a few minutes, saying, “You really shouldn’t burn incense in there; it’s overwhelming.” He went white when I told him there was no incense, and he left in a hurry.
There were many other times when I saw people arrive exhausted and depleted and then saw them when they left a few days or weeks later, vibrant and glowing. Baba had told us to come often to his centers to fill our cups.
And that’s what we all do, over and over again, refilling our cups from his bottomless pitcher. In my seven years in the Gateway, it was my privilege to witness the miracle of the endless outpouring of Meher Baba’s restorative love.