The East-West Gathering is a book which Francis Brabazon was asked to write by his Master Meher Baba. It records the large gathering of Baba followers from both East and West which was held to receive darshan from Baba in 1962, in Pune. The book was completed at Meherazad in 1963 and published in Australia shortly after. It was reprinted in 1968.
There is a celebratory and communal feeling to the book as Francis proceeds to weave a ‘song-story’, putting new words to old songs, hymns, folk songs, madrigals and Eastern devotions, with cheerful carefree rhythm and rhymes. The songs are interspersed with prose passages which recount some of the details of the happening . There is a gradual increase in seriousness and intensity as the story unfolds. There are warnings to those who feel presumptuous about the God-Man.
They had set out for the Garden of Love, but they found they had arrived at the Sea-shore;
They had come to admire the Rose, but they found themselves gazing at the illimitable Ocean. (p.9)
We are reminded that we all are as little children before Him and one might see the kernel of the book as saying that before His glory we need to become as stones ready to be ground to dust.
My beloved is that One who by his singing created the suns and the earths, and this Earth for men. (p.11)
The majesty of the power of God is conveyed with great zest. A rundown of the eight types of lovers is given. Many of the images are of Eastern origin so we get the text reflecting the synthesis that was a feature of the Gathering.
One of the songs is now known as the ‘Australian arti’ (which Francis intended to be an Arti for all Westerners, not just Aussies) –
O glorious, eternal Ancient One….
especially designed for one of the eight types of lovers, the ‘Simple-praisers’. None of the types exclude the others although the final one applies only to God’s nearest ones.
There is enormous variety, playfulness and true feeling in the lyrics.
We are then led on to a poetic evocation of the four journeys of God. How well Francis knew God Speaks! These are four journeys, in reality never journeyed, for God is beyond here and there. After that are radiant praises of God’s Name, followed by a prose description of the days of the gathering as a passing dream. The text finishes with a hymn to Meher’s Name.
The book was greeted with indifference or patronising scorn by the literati of Australia who were mighty insulted at a poem that suggested they needed ‘upliftment’.
This is not a book for solitary reading, or so it seems to me. It records an event and it can become an event. The poems are best as songs. It can be shared with sweet singing and exultant recitation.