noorina matchbelli

Meher Baba with Norina (left ) & Elizabeth (right) in India.

(Baba lover and wife of Prince Georges Matchabelli)

Princess Norina Matchabelli met Baba in 1931 and consequently left her position and status of a diplomat’s wife and lived in Baba’s ashram. She travelled all over India, Europe and later America to spread Baba’s message and in 1949 helped Elizabeth to establish Baba’s centre at Myrtle Beach.

Born in Italy on March 3rd 1880 in Florence, Italy, and her first husband was Karl Volmoeller a Baba lover film maker. Later she married to Prince George Matchabelli, a national hero who, after revolution in Russia fought for his country of Georgia, in the Caucasus, and thereafter settled in U.S.A.

In December 1923, the couple moved to America, where Norina performed on stage in New York. As a young woman, Norina (using the stage name Maria Carmi) was chosen by the Austrian stage director Max Reinhardt to play the role of the Madonna in his pantomime play The Miracle, written by Norina’s first husband, the German author Karl Vollmoeller. The play was a phenomenal success performed over 1,000 times. Norina, a Roman Catholic, even had an audience with the Pope, in Rome in 1914. She also starred in more than 25 silent Italian films. In America, she continued to perform in a production of The Miracle.

From this role, Norina developed a deep spiritual longing and became a seeker. In the midst of a life of glamour and success, however, she developed into a deep spiritual seeker and prepared her way to the final experience which instantaneously transformed her life—when she met Meher Baba.

In 1924, they founded the world famous perfumery Matchabelli perfumes. Later the perfume corporation was sold, and she spontaneously gave her share to Baba.

Norina was an old friend of Jean’s. The day before Jean had left for Harmon to prepare for Baba’s arrival, she had gone to see Norina at her apartment in New York. Norina candidly asked her, “Who is this ‘Master’ at whose feet you would worship?” Jean tried to explain to her about Baba and about Thomas Watson’s profound experience with him in England, but Norina remained unconvinced.

Norina asked Jean, “How can you worship at the feet of any man, even if He does call Himself a Master? Women like ourselves — who have had such deep inner experiences — don’t need any man to show us the way to God.

How can you allow yourself to be drawn into such foolishness?” As Jean was leaving, Norina sarcastically remarked, “Well, darling, when your Master arrives, I must meet Him. I too would like to weep like dear old Watson!”

Jean’s explanations had seemed odd to Norina and she was amused, but also puzzled. Three days after Baba’s arrival, Norina phoned Jean at Harmon, saying, “The strangest thing has been happening to me. From the moment Meher Baba landed in New York, I have been weeping continuously. You must arrange for me to see Him.”

When Norina encountered Baba in Harmon, tears of ecstasy rolled down her cheeks and she totally forgot her princess-ly self. Her life became Baba’s and she dedicated herself completely at His feet. Later, describing that first meeting, she related:

I doubt whether that experience ([of meeting Meher Baba can be expressed in words. I had heard about Him, but I remained skeptical. I had followed teacher after teacher, and yet none of them could ever reassure me (about the Path. Eventually, I consented to go with a friend to Harmon.

I entered the room in which Baba was sitting surrounded by followers and disciples. That very moment, an experience began, full of wonder and beauty. Suddenly I had to run across the room and I found myself weeping on the floor at His feet. Weeping, weeping! Oh, how I was weeping! But I also began to laugh, and the streams running down my cheeks and the outbursts of laughter became one. I was resting my head on Baba’s hand, and my whole body was shaking with terrific sobs of liberation.

Eventually, I quieted down. Baba then took my face between His hands and looked at me for a long time into one of my eyes, and then into the other, and then back into the first eye.

Then He spoke to me via the alphabet board. His first words were: “I am man and woman and child. I am sexless.” He then paused for a while; brought His face nearer to mine and spelled out, “Have no fear.”

An incredible joy surged through me. I went into the next room and lay down on a sofa, weeping still with joy. Suddenly the door opened and Baba came in. I knew now that my whole life had no meaning if it were not dedicated to the Perfect Master, and so I said to Him, “Baba, please take me with you.”

He motioned, “It is yet too soon.” I could have died with grief when I felt his words.

As a child, Norina had had an experience of God. On one occasion, she recollected:

Since my childhood, I knew of God. When I was twelve, He came as Jesus Christ and spoke to me. He explained to me in words of sublime wisdom that this love which had begun to surge within me was an imperative for the fulfillment of the highest form of spiritual love.

He spoke to me in the unforgettable words: “I am your first and last love.”

The significance of these words was fully realized by Norina when she met Meher Baba for the first time and recognized him as Christ personified. Without her ever mentioning this incident, Baba spelled out, “I was the one who came to you in the form of Christ to lead you toward the Goal.” From their very first meeting, the Master established in Norina unconditional faith in him — which was to last a lifetime.

Returning to Boston in the afternoon, Baba boarded the SS George Washington, taking an overnight boat ride back to New York. They arrived the next morning in morning and stayed at the Astor Hotel on Broadway where Norina had booked rooms. It was an expensive hotel, frequented by a wealthy and influential clientele — yet which other guest could be more distinguished? Nevertheless, to arrange His stay, Norina had to use her influence with the proprietors, who were reluctant to accommodate a “silent Indian Master.”

After staying five days in Harmon, Baba departed at eight in the morning on 4th December 1931 for Manhattan with Norina and Malcolm. .They made one stop on their way into the city, at the home of Corinne Ingraham at 49 E. 83rd Street. Corinne was a friend of Norina’s who had recently broken her leg in an accident. She later told Norina that she had remained in ecstasy for three days after Baba’s visit and her swollen leg had returned to normal the day following her interview with Baba.

Baba wished to go to a night movie on Broadway, which Norina arranged, and a group of eighteen persons went with Him. Baba became restless during the film and left in the middle of it. The group followed. Walking through the crowded New York streets, Baba went to another movie theater some blocks away. Along the way, one man stopped and stared straight into Baba’s eyes, and then kept turning around to look at Him after they had passed on the sidewalk. Perhaps it was for Him that Baba had left the theater.

In an interview, Baba pointed to a woman standing far back in the crowd and instructed that she be brought to the front to meet Him. Baba’s summons was delivered by Norina and received by the woman in an embarrassed manner, as neither of them knew the other. The woman apologetically explained that she had come merely to accompany a friend and did not feel inclined to meet Baba. Baba kept signaling that she should come to Him. At this, her attitude changed and she walked toward Him.

Baba’s hand stretched out to her with obvious joy. He had found the needing soul that, for some obscure reason, was unconsciously due to meet Him. Standing before Baba, her embarrassment almost grew into a state of confusion which Baba took care of immediately in his benign way. At his words, “Do not worry. I know everything, and I will take care of you and help you,” she involuntarily began sobbing. The reception continued as the rescued soul disappeared into the crowd.

About a week later, before Norina drove to California to meet Baba, she received a phone call from a woman she did not know. “I am the woman that you so graciously induced to meet the Master,” the woman related. “May I come and see you? Something so wonderful has happened to me!” Norina learned the woman’s name was Marian and she was a friend of a friend. She made a date to meet her. Marian came to Norina’s apartment and narrated the sorrowful state of affairs in her family due to the hatred between her and her daughter had turned normal.

On another occasion, a friend of Norina’s, who was an acute alcoholic, came to meet Baba in New York. For years, the woman had been in and out of one asylum after another. She hated her mother, with whom she lived, and would greet her each morning with such cruel words: “Why aren’t you dead yet?”

Norina aroused her curiosity about Baba, and the friend finally agreed to see “that man.” When the woman was brought to Baba, Norina tried to tell him about her background. Baba cut her short, motioning, “I know her very well.” The woman sat at His feet, and after a few moments of friendly conversation, Baba mentioned alcoholic beverages and drinking with intense interest. They discussed different types of drinks, and Baba even remarked about a wine that He had heard was very good. The woman was overjoyed to talk about a subject so familiar to her. Her meeting was light-hearted, jovial and full of humor.

After a while, the woman turned to Norina and said, “You know your Baba is not as bad as I thought; he’s a real human being!”

A week later, the woman invited Norina to tea. She opened the door to her apartment, and for once, Norina noticed that she had not been drinking. The woman immediately disclosed her determination to change her life. “I do not drink anymore, nor will I ever do so again. I was a fool!

I have wasted the better part of my life and energy. I cannot hate anymore, either. I am sorry to have given so much suffering to my mother. I now love her and will devote my life to her happiness.” No mention was made of Baba, but Norina knew that his glance had penetrated this woman’s dark mind and had lifted it out of the clouds to a new and better life.

After leaving Baba in Venice at the end of August, Norina and Quentin had been directed to go to Germany and various other places in Europe to try to interest people in Baba.

Norina had many acquaintances in London and she brought them to meet her Beloved. Among them were Countess Catherine (“Kitty”) Pahlen of Russia, Baroness Rothschild, Lady Stella Vitelleschi, and Vivienne Giesen.

Baba explained to His lovers that He wished them to come to India the following year. And for the first time, He spoke to Kimco about Mehera and of her intense, pure love for him. He gestured, “Mehera is My Radha and her life consists of My happiness. When you see her, you will have an idea of her love for Me. Her love always keeps Me happy!”

On more than one occasion, there was a discussion about the idea of making a film of Baba’s life. This project particularly interested Norina, who had pursued it with different filmmakers since Baba had mentioned it at the Harmon Retreat in 1931.

After leaving Baba in Venice at the end of August, Norina and Quentin had been directed to go to Germany and various other places in Europe to try to interest people in Baba.

Norina arrived in Genoa on 26th September 1932. From there she and Quentin, together or separately, visited Venice, Florence, Argenta, Verona, Munich, Basel, Zurich, Halle, Berlin and Budapest. By the end of December they returned to Venice, where they were to join Baba’s group. Baba was to travel to all those places in Europe, but as so often happened with Him, plans were to change. Baba’s silent message carried the seed of consciousness within it for the countries His disciples visited. Quentin, Norina and Rustom (who had been sent to Australia and New Zealand) were the outward media of Baba’s inner work. Through them, He forged the link for His spiritual work with these different nations.

23rd April 1933 was their last day in Srinagar. Baba took all to the Shalimar and Nishat Gardens. While taking His seat in the bus, Baba remarked, “There is no place in the world as ideal as these surroundings in Kashmir.” Back at the houseboats, Baba instructed Elizabeth and Norina to return to New York.

In 1933, Alice had met Norina at a tea in New York some years before and they had corresponded regularly; Norina told Baba about her and Baba had them invited.

Norina did translation work and correspondence All were enthusiastic about spreading Meher Baba’s message. Norina and the Kimco group agreed that it was time for the world at large to be enlightened about Meher Baba, His teachings and work, especially in light of the fictitious, if not ridiculous, rumors being published about Him in the newspapers at the time. They also felt that they should let people know about Meher Baba before He broke His silence and manifested, which He repeatedly said He would do in the near future. Therefore, they were busy in Portofino collecting and assembling Baba’s sayings and material about the Master in the form of questions and answers to be published in booklet form.

Baba had asked Norina to arrange for interviews that afternoon, since she had lived with her husband in Rome when he was the ambassador prior to the Russian revolution. Unfortunately, she had not been in Italy for the last several years and had lost touch with even the closest of friends. For her to call people on the telephone and persuade them to come and meet an Indian Spiritual Master was next to impossible on such short notice. Norina made a list of the names of 32 persons whom she thought worthy to meet Baba and submitted it to him before making the appointments.

Baba glanced at it and crossed off all but three. They were a Russian army officer, a simple, good-hearted Italian and a worldly young professor of philosophy. Norina had no trouble convincing the first two to come; their meetings with Baba proved to be cordial and beneficial to them, but the professor’s attitude was defiantly negative.

Throughout March, April and May 1934, telegrams were being sent back and forth that concerned another possible visit to the West to check progress on the film Baba wished to be made. Norina had cabled Baba from Paris that her first husband, screenwriter Karl Vollmoeller, was willing to work on the script for Baba’s film. She also later wrote about her contact with the 40-year-old Hungarian producer Gabriel Pascal (who had made films in Germany with Max Reinhardt) who wished to meet Baba. “After meeting you,” Norina cabled, “Pascal will be capable of any sacrifice for realization!” Baba cabled back on 13 (and 19) March:

After spending the day in Marseilles, Baba and the mandali took the train to Paris, joined by Norina and two other western disciples.

Nearing America, Baba made it clear that He did not wish to meet any outsiders while in New York — no new persons, no interviews and no publicity. But Norina had already informed certain people about the Master’s arrival and also intended to publicize his visit. She cabled this to Baba on the ship and Baba cabled back, instructing her to cancel everything and that He would not even grant interviews. When the ship docked in New York on Wednesday, 12th December 1934, a group of newspaper reporters and photographers tried to invade Baba’s cabin, but He would not meet them and instructed Chanji to send them away. As usually happened with Baba’s arrivals in foreign countries, there was some delay in their disembarkation. After a considerable wait, the press dispersed. One newspaper article described Baba as wearing a sweater, coat, hat and carrying a silver-knobbed cane. “Immigration officials tried to make Him talk. But he just smiled and let His secretary speak for Him.” After leaving the customs area, Baba was greeted by Norina and western lovers.

Tullio Carminati, 40, another movie actor, came to see Baba that evening. He had performed on stage with Norina years before and, although she was now older, he remarked to Norina, “Why, you look so much better than you did before! It is really something quite different, something divine. I can clearly see it.”

Pointing to Baba, Norina replied, “It is His divinity that you see in me. Just look at Him and see for yourself.”

Before going to Europe, Baba had written to the close Western lovers chosen to come to India that he had bought property in Nasik for their stay. This was made possible by Norina’s financial contribution (the money having come from the proceeds of selling her husband’s perfume company). In July of 1936, Baba had informed them.

On one occasion, Norina telephoned an old friend; the screenwriter Mercedes de Acosta, to tell her there was someone in town she should meet. Mercedes had been severely depressed of late and did not wish to meet anyone, but Norina urged her that she would not regret meeting this person.

“Who is it?” Mercedes inquired.

Norina would not say. “I want it to be a surprise,” she explained.

Finally, Norina persuaded her friend to come. Norina was waiting at the door when Mercedes arrived on Monday, 31st December 1934. As a young girl, Mercedes had written impassioned letters to Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Joan of Arc and other Christian saints. Upon seeing Baba, Mercedes felt overwhelming warmth radiating from him. She rushed into his embrace and asked, “Who are you?”

Baba gestured, “I am you.” Then suddenly He spelled on the board, “Go and bring Me your revolver.” Mercedes was amazed for she had told no one about the gun in her car. She went to the car and returned with the revolver, handing it to Baba. He took the bullets out one by one and Baba then consoled her, “Suicide is not the solution. It only entails rebirth with the same problems all over again. The only solution is God-realization — to see God in everything. Everything is easy then. Promise Me that you will put this revolver away and never again think of suicide.”

Feeling His compassion, Mercedes promised. She then told Baba about her friend, the movie actress Greta Garbo, whom she loved dearly.

Baba commented, “You both were husband and wife in a past life in Italy. That is why there is such love between you.”

Norina and accompanied by others drove to Rahuri in the Ford Elizabeth he had brought. A meeting of the Mandali Maintenance Trust was to be held at Rahuri that day, and they were to attend. When they arrived, Baba gave Elizabeth and Norina a tour of the ashram. He showed them the Rahuri Cabin and explained about His work with the masts and mad. About some of the mad who were lepers, Baba commented, “However infected these men are, it does not affect Me or My men helping Me to bathe them. When I wash the mad at Rahuri, I am ‘washing’ them universally.”

Baba pointed out which inmates were mad (suffering a mental disorder) and which were spiritually advanced masts (God-intoxicated), remarking, “Through some blows a breeze — a breeze of longing for God.” On occasion, Baba would permit Elizabeth to take photographs, and she and Norina were deeply impressed at how lovingly Baba treated the mad and God-mad alike. Baba had lunch with them at a long table under the trees.

Norina was to take charge of the conduct and accounts beginning 15th January 1935. Above all, Baba wished this small diverse group of strong individualists and divergent personalities and nationalities to live together in harmony. He stressed this during His visit on 31st December:

Baba said I have left things in Norina’s charge regarding food and general management. To have complete harmony among you all, four points should be kept in mind:

First: There should be complete cooperation between you all and Norina.

Second: In some matters, Norina should give way; in some, you should give way. You all have come here to learn spiritual Truth — leaving all. So, you should put up with small discomforts and inconveniences. By this, I do not mean that you should overlook your real needs and necessities. We are going to give the world the message of love and brotherhood through Garrett’s magazine, and if in our home we have conflicts and disharmony over trivial matters, our message would be farcical and hypocritical.

Third: The thorns to which I previously referred will be in many forms. If you take them too seriously or give them too much importance, they will naturally cause unnecessary suffering. But if you take these thorns lightly and do not attach undue importance to them, even these thorns will be like flowers.

Fourth: If any of you here have the impression that Norina tries to run things her own way just because she is in charge, it is a grave, unjust misconception and should immediately be removed from your minds. I know whatever Norina does is only out of her deep love and feeling for me, to economize and save us as much as possible for My work. On the other hand, Norina seems to have the notion that some do not like it that she is in charge, although I know it is quite the contrary. They all like Norina to manage things as she does. These misunderstandings create unnecessary situations and disharmony and upset things; so the sooner you all clear them up, the better.

You should never forget that your aim is spiritual; otherwise, the retreat would be like a rest house or a hotel.

If you have come for Me, you should also suffer for Me.

In the event any of you are feeling indisposed, you should report at once to Norina, and she should give it her immediate attention and either utilize Garrett’s stock of medicines or send for a doctor if it is anything serious. Norina should give Me a detailed health report when I come every week.

In 1937, Norina returned to the retreat and brought a hot lunch of rice and spinach. Baba ate with the group off grass-leaf plates, serving the food Himself. After lunch, they rested and played more games. Norina had also packed drinks and Baba made Himself a refreshing concoction of barley water, soda water, orange and watermelon juice. He distributed slices of watermelon for dessert.

Baba presented copies of the book The Perfect Master book to Norina and few others. He also discussed the idea of having the Westerners to write of their experiences to be collected into a book. He gave all one month to complete the assignment.

Meals were often a source of conflict in Nasik. Jean had to have spinach every day, cooked in a special way; another wanted beets. One of the group said they should eat only whole-wheat bread. Another requested buttermilk at a certain time each morning. Baba had instructed that Rano and Delia were to have cream every day; others wanted it also. During this meeting, Norina brought up the question of meals, and Baba commented:

You have all promised to try your best to die, so let us begin with food. Let us have no more clashes about food. Let Norina go on giving the same as before.

You (pointing to Norina are much too blunt. And for the role of Mother, you ought to be more gentle. Be one without duality. Be gentle. Listen to all suggestions. If you can fall in with them, good; if not, kiss and say no gently. This is tact. It hurts if you are too frank sometimes, and this I do not want.

So, I repeat: all begin to try now or, seriously, I will tell you to go back home. And be honest in your trying. There must be harmony, love and peace — real harmony, love and peace, not forced.

Petty things take up all your energy, thoughts and time. No more of that. Love and forget. This is the only thing that matters. Love, always try to love.

You do not like Norina being so blunt. Love her all the more. She needs it. If she finds you weak in your wants, then she too must love you. You need it. If a mother found her child sick or weak, she would fondle it more, love it more. So, if anyone of you is weak, the rest of you should love that one more.

By weak I mean taken up with desires. Anger is weakness; pride is weakness, and so on. So all try. As Kaka says, “No discuss; just try!”

Norina sent a telegram to Baba that it would be better to cancel this trip since so many were ill. Baba cabled back in no uncertain terms: “Unless everyone comes, I will send all of you back to the West!” Baba wanted the Westerners to see what a simple life His Eastern women were leading. During one of their visits, He urged them, “I wish you to breathe in the atmosphere here and absorb as much as you can.”

Meetings discussing the future of the ashram continued throughout the next week whenever Baba was with the Westerners in Nasik. One morning Jean Adriel went to Baba and asked that Norina be relieved of her duties as manager. Baba called Norina and made Jean repeat all her complaints before her. He explained that He wanted Norina to be the manager, but Jean kept insisting Ruano would be better.

Norina asked Baba to ask everyone’s opinion after lunch. A meeting was called in Elizabeth and Norina’s room. All were asked to give their honest opinion. Different opinions and other complaints were voiced, except by Will, Mary and Elizabeth who seemed always satisfied. Thus, everyone’s feelings were expressed and the air was cleared, and in the end Baba gave in to Jean’s request and rearranged the household affairs. Ruano became the manager and Norina handled the budget.

On Saturday, 26 June 1937, a Trust meeting was held at Meherabad. Norina and Elizabeth drove there from Nasik to Meherabad. Baba directed Nadine to go to Venice, Italy for some work and she sailed from Bombay on 8th July on the Conte Rosso. Baba went to Bombay to see her off. With Nadine’s departure,

Baba and the group reached Marseilles at six o’clock on the morning of Friday, 13th August 1937. They then traveled by train to Cannes, reaching there about four in the afternoon. Prior to Baba’s arrival, Kitty had gone to Cannes at the end of June and rented villas with the help of Delia and Norina’s sister Margherita “Ghita” Gilli Blum, who was also devoted to Baba.

While in Cannes, one person whom Norina had been particularly anxious to bring to see Baba was the Russian ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky. Nijinsky had been the leading dancer of the Russian ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev. Although considered the greatest European male dancer of the 20th century, Nijinsky’s career was tragically cut short at the height of his career. At 29, severely troubled by schizophrenia, Nijinsky retired, and spent the next 31 years in and out of mental institutions. Norina had spoken with Baba about Nijinsky during the voyage to France. Baba had indicated that He could cure Nijinsky of his insanity, if he was able to stay with Him for a few months. But when Norina asked if she could pursue the matter to expedite his release and bring him to Baba, Baba’s reply had been, “Let Me do it.” On the 21st of August 1937, Norina read in the newspaper that Nijinsky’s wife was planning to take him out of the asylum. Nijinsky, however, never did meet Meher Baba.

Discussions continued in Panchgani about establishing a center for Baba. Norina, who had been to Mysore and Bangalore, wished an elaborate Universal Spiritual Center to be established. One day she was talking with Elizabeth about the possibility of relocating in either Mysore, Bangalore, Hyderabad or Panchgani. Norina’s grand visions did not appeal to Elizabeth’s more practical nature. Elizabeth tried to point out the difficulties involved and flaws in Norina’s plans, but Norina was not to be dissuaded.

Once, when they were discussing the issue, Baba called them. He allowed them to continue their argument in his presence, and then said, “You are both in the right, but Norina has got to go a little slower, and Elizabeth has got to try to move a little faster.” Looking at both with a smile, he added, “Now both embrace.”

Baba left Cannes for Marseilles early on 2nd November 1937. In Marseilles, Baba sent Norina out to a pharmacy to buy him some mineral water.

The label on the bottle was in French and when Norina returned with it, Baba asked Rano, who spoke French, to translate it. Baba indicated that this was the wrong kind of mineral water and sent Norina back to exchange it. She returned with a different bottle and again, after listening to Rano translates the name and contents, Baba sent Norina back with it and asked her to bring something else. This happened five or six times.

The pharmacist became annoyed and asked Norina, “Why don’t you ask your party for the correct name in French? Surely, Madame, if someone can read the label, he should be able to give you the correct name.” Norina kept her poise. The man had no idea that this was a lesson for Norina in swallowing her pride and anger, and maintaining her self-control.

There was some engine trouble which caused the ship to lose speed one day, and Baba sent Norina to Captain W. Gemmell, of Glasgow, to inquire when they would reach Bombay. Norina first talked with him about general topics and then casually asked, “By the way, when will we be reaching Bombay?” The captain told her, and she returned to tell Baba. He sent her back to ask the same question again. Upon her return, Baba sent her to the captain once more. Finally, the captain’s frustration erupted, “Madam, what is wrong with you? You keep coming to me with the same question! Can’t you remember what I have told you?”

When Norina informed Baba about it, he sent her once again with the same inquiry. This time it was too much for the captain and Norina retreated in embarrassed silence. What could she say? Even if the captain had swore at her, she knew it was nothing compared to the importance of obeying the Master’s order.

Again Baba directed Norina, “For My work, I must reach Bombay as soon as possible. Go ask the captain if there is any way the ship can reach Bombay earlier than scheduled.”

To avoid this confrontation, Norina said, “Baba, the poor man is already so exasperated with me”

But Baba replied, “You have no idea! I have very important work waiting for Me in Meherabad, so do your part to help Me in this. Request the captain to speed up the ship’s engines so that we will arrive in Bombay ahead of time.”

Reluctantly, Norina strode to the captain’s quarters. Seeing her, the captain became quite irritated. Norina stood absolutely quiet, her heart beating in trepidation and, after a while she asked what she had been sent to ask. The captain was furious! To arrive earlier? Out of the question! Norina returned in turmoil. Observing Norina’s exchanges with Baba, Chanji was most sympathetic, as during previous voyages, he had been made to pass through similar ordeals. Now it was Norina’s turn.


On 12th January 1938, Baba took the Eastern women, Norina, Rano and Kitty to Happy Valley for a picnic.

On another occasion, when there was a quarrel between two women, Baba intervened and stated:

Love and forget. This is the only thing that matters, and it pays. Almost all of you are weak. By weak, I mean taken up with desires. Anger is weakness; pride is weakness, and so on. If a mother found her child weak, she would love it all the more. So all love more.

Don’t you remember what I told you in Nasik? Learn to say, “Janay-doe [Let it go].” Give up wanting the last word. Give up all wants and be happy. But you must try consciously.

Now be happy. I forgive you all, but continue trying.

The question of establishing an ashram was being further discussed during this period. After accepting Chowdhary’s offer of land in Mandla, a plan had been drawn up. Some people in Mandla knew about Baba, but to make the general public more aware of who He was, a public meeting was arranged on the 12th, in which Deshmukh, Norina and Nadine delivered speeches. Norina was most interested in setting up the new ashram and would gather information and seek support by contacting influential citizens. Baba, however, did not participate actively in this as He was too occupied with His mast work, which He indicated was more important above all other matters.

In the Links bungalow itself, there were 13 eastern and 7 western including Norina living with Baba:

After seeing the Byramangala land, Norina and Chanji became completely involved in setting up plans for the ashram. Norina had also been charged with looking after Lucky the monkey, who could at times be mischievous. On the evening of 19th August, Sir Mirza came to the Links and sat on the floor before Baba. Baba sent for Norina to come at once. At the time, Norina was in the midst of sweeping her room of a mess Lucky had created. When she received Baba’s message, she ran to him with a broom in one hand and a bucket in the other, wearing an old, tattered dress. She felt awkward and embarrassed when she saw the Dewan and Baba said, “Meet Princess Norina Matchabelli.” She felt hurt that Baba had not warned her to clean up.

Sir Ismail, on the contrary, was impressed at the sight of someone of Norina’s stature carrying a broom! He remarked to Baba, “Your love is wonderful! An educated Western woman from a wealthy background doing this sort of work? Marvelous! She could engage dozens of servants, but it is your love that makes her sweep her own quarters. It is her luck to wield a broom in your court!” Tears welled up in Norina’s eyes on hearing this, and wiped out the hurt she had felt.

On 2nd November 1939, the center’s publicity committee held an open meeting in Mysore to inform the public about Baba’s work, and to invite them to the foundation-laying ceremony in December. Norina also spoke at the gathering.

A second gathering was held on the evening of the 6th in the Bangalore Town Hall. Deshmukh, Ghani and Norina, along with Nadine Tolstoy, gave lectures.

A third meeting was held at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore on 9th November. The Nobel Prize winning Indian physicist Dr. C. V. Raman chaired the gathering. Deshmukh gave a stirring speech on the question of science versus spirituality. Norina and Nadine then spoke about their experiences of being with Meher Baba. Deshmukh had been so logical and convincing, and Norina and Nadine so sincere, that Raman was impressed with the depth of their feelings, in spite of himself.

While in Bangalore, Baba directed the women to stage plays for five days consecutively. Around Christmas and New Year’s Eve, each group put on a short skirt. Norina prepared a pageant of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. Soltoon and Dowla were enlisted to sit on the stage and toss flowers towards the procession as it passed across the stage. While sitting on the stage, they were so fascinated in seeing Norina dressed as Jesus carrying the cross, they forgot their parts! When the procession had passed, Dowla remembered, and both ran behind it shouting in Persian, clutching the flowers. Baba remarked that He liked this part the best!

Norina, Elizabeth and Don went to see the Portuguese governor on 13th April, about the island in Karwar. After a lengthy discussion with him, it was learned that the place was not available for establishing a center for Baba.

In Goa, Baba took the women to a Hindu temple, and to a movie called Gopal Krishna. During their stay, Baba permitted the group to eat fish, and he also joined in, indicating it was for “special reasons.”

Baba left Meherabad for Ranchi on Wednesday, 3 July 1940, by train with the men and women mandali, and three masts, Chatti Baba, Shariat Khan and Mohammed. Among women, Norina accompanied Baba with others.

On 20th July 1940, Baba and His group arrived in Calcutta and the next day they purchased a bird at the pet bazaar and a tailless monkey, whom Baba named Jampu, who had caught hold of Baba’s sleeve as he passed. Jumpu smelled foul, but he was so affectionate that he soon endeared himself to all. Norina was instructed to look after the monkey. She had to conceal him from the conductor when they traveled by train back to Meherabad. Norina was instructed to look after the monkey. She had to conceal him from the conductor when they traveled by train back to Meherabad.

Two female peahens, who were called Idi and Jingi, had been added to the menagerie. Norina had strained a ligament in her right foot and was temporarily bedridden upstairs. As mentioned, Lucky, the monkey, had been put in her charge. He was under the mosquito net. Baba would come to see him, hold and caress him, and the monkey would in turn kiss Baba’s neck.

Lucky was anything but lucky for the women. He proved to be a great mischief-maker. He would break loose from his cage under Norina’s net, throw things everywhere, causing noise when Baba wanted silence, and in general proved an incredible nuisance. Elizabeth and Norina were supposed to be looking after Lucky, and everyone complained to them about him.

On 8th November 1940, Baba asked Norina, “Which would you rather be my hat or my sandals?”

Norina said, “Your sandals.”


“Because the sandals are your companions over good roads and bad. They pass through dirt, rain and mud and are always with you.”

Baba nodded in agreement, spelling out, “This is the reason why people in India worship the chappals [sandals] of the Master and not His hat.”

Norina said something about duality, and Baba asked:

You mean duality exists? What is it? Nothing exists but God, so this duality is also the same God.

And now we come to this: It is the same God playing different parts at one and the same time. He plays the part of the Universal God who is beyond everything that is conscious. He plays the part of being falsely conscious of being this body. He plays the part of the Creator. He plays the part of being Himself consciously in creation.

Kabir has said:

One God is the Avatar;

one God is the Soul of every being;

One God creates all;

and one God is everything.

Baba then drew the following diagram:

Four carloads of people came to see Baba on Thursday, 21st November 1940. But He sent Norina to talk to them, and did not meet them, since he wished to remain in seclusion. At 10:00 A.M., he went with the women in Elizabeth’s car to the Botanical Gardens. The next day, Baba stayed with the men the whole day, fasting on water and honey. On the 23rd, he took the women on a tour of Kandy and to the lake. They also went to see some elephants bathing and performing tricks.

Discussions arose about going to Calicut, and on the 28th November 1940, Norina complained to Baba about the luggage, saying, “How will we accommodate all this baggage in the bus?”

Baba remarked, “Do you want comfort when people are suffering so much in the war? Learn not to complain when anything is bad, and don’t be so pleased if it is good.”

Baba then asked, “If someone asked you who is Meher Baba, what would you say?”

Nadine answered, “God!”

Norina said, “The God-Man!”

Baba concurred, “Not God, but God-Man. God-Man is more than God! God is absolute. One who manifests the absolute is the God-Man.

“The person who is one with God is Man-God; it is wrong to say just God. Jivatma = man; mahatma = pilgrim on the Path; Paramatma = God. When Jivatma becomes one with Paramatma, it is called Shivatma. Paramatma cannot be called Shivatma.”

Upcoming 47th birthday in 1941 Baba had already announced: This year, being the most important one in spiritual history, my birthday, falling on February 15th, will not be celebrated publicly or privately.

One of the men who had helped in the poor program, Agrawal, was a well-known lawyer in Jaipur. He asked Baba to permit public darshan, but Baba refused. Baba did, however, allow Norina to deliver two lectures about him in Jaipur— one to a group of lawyers on 18th January, and another for the general public on 13th February 1947.

Dr. Deshmukh then invited Norina to give a lecture at Nagpur University, where he taught philosophy. With Baba’s consent, she went there on 18th February 1941. Her lecture was so effective, three students, Ram P. Pankhraj, Abdul Majid Khan and Nana (Narayan) Gopal Kher, came into Baba’s close contact after hearing her speak.

Abdul Khan’s mother had recently expired, and the shock was so severe he had wept for days. But after Norina’s lecture, he was so impressed by her speech, he requested an interview, and went to Deshmukh’s house the day after the lecture to meet her. Abdul poured out his heart, telling Norina how depressed he had been since his mother’s death. Norina spoke to him tenderly about Baba. He was so comforted he took Norina to be “God’s angel,” and all his sorrows and grief went away.

As instructed, Norina left Ajmer on 27th May 1941 to do the Master’s work of finding property for establishing a center in America.

Baba cabled Norina on 13th July 1944:

Am happy to find in all your letters about Myrtle Beach, everything that I personally and spiritually approve of and sanction. All My lovers should cooperate to make Myrtle Beach the Spiritual Abode for one and all.

Norina had been to Myrtle Beach again in September 1944, and on 2nd October 1944, the site was finalized. Elizabeth wrote to Baba charting developments:

Ada “Rabia” Martin, 70, had been initiated into Sufism by Inayat Khan in 1911 and was later made head or Murshida of Sufism in America. She met Norina and Elizabeth in San Francisco in 1942, when they had gone to California to investigate sites for Baba’s proposed American center. After listening to their descriptions of their Master at one of Norina’s public talks, Rabia became convinced that Meher Baba was an extraordinary spiritual figure. She was profoundly affected by her internal experience of the Master and offered her Sufi retreat center in Fairfax near San Francisco for Baba’s use.

Over the next three years, Rabia Martin studied Baba’s writings intensely and began a correspondence with him. She also grew closer to Norina and Elizabeth through repeated visits to New York City where their descriptions of life with Baba and His philosophy rapidly formed within her a central pillar of conviction of the importance of Baba as the key spiritual figure of our age. In April 1945, Norina and Elizabeth invited her to come and live with them. She joined them in New York and then Myrtle Beach until July. Rabia’s inner experiences during those months confirmed her intuitive understanding that Baba was the living embodiment of Sufism and the divine incarnation of God — the Rasool or Avatar.

Norina and Elizabeth landed in Bombay from America on 12th July 1947 on a TWA flight. Elizabeth had brought the dog Foundy back to India. She had also purchased and shipped two American DeSotos for Baba’s use. Adi and Pendu drove the two women to Satara on 13th July 1947, arriving that afternoon. They were allowed to meet Baba for only two minutes. Baba kept them in a separate bungalow named Jal Villa. As prior to coming, Norina had been seriously ill with a heart condition; in fact, her doctor had advised her not to travel to India.

Norina felt sad about this, as she had been separated from Baba for the past six years. Both women had been close to Him in the ashrams, but now Baba was keeping them at a distance. In addition, Norina’s “thought-transmissions” from Baba (given during her public lectures) had ended some time ago, leaving her depressed. Norina was uneasy, thinking: “Though we are near Baba, we are kept far away. Perhaps with all our worries and troubles brought with us from the West, Baba is keeping us in spiritual quarantine!”

“Norina did not know that by keeping her at a distance, Baba was drawing her nearer to Him. There is no Union without separation, and this time Baba let Norina experience the pangs of separation while remaining near Him.

The following was the Norina’s comments about Baba “In you — who can do what no man can, as you have proven to me — I believe. With renewed enthusiasm, I here re-sign. For you I am ready to live and die.”

Originally named “Meher Center on the Lakes,” the forested property had two freshwater lakes. The place was ideal from natural and spiritual standpoints as a retreat. After making all the required arrangements, Elizabeth and Norina invited Baba; after several postponements, it was fixed that He would leave India in April 1952. At one point, Baba had instructed Don to cable whether April 10 suited them for His departure, as opposed to March 31. They cabled back: “Baba asks whether the 10th of April suits us — anything! Everything suits us as long as He comes.”

On the morning of 21st April 1952, Baba and the group left Florence by car for Myrtle Beach. Norina was waiting for Baba at His house at the Center. Because of recent heart trouble, she had been unable to travel to New York. Norina and Elizabeth had put their heart and soul into preparing everything on the Center according to Baba’s instructions. Baba acknowledged their deep devotion and service. Embracing Norina lovingly, He stated to the group, “I am quite pleased with everything you have done for Me — with this house, the splendid view of the lake and ocean, the surroundings. It is all as I wanted it to be.

“I am so happy to be here, and most of all I am deeply touched with the love and devotion shown by both Elizabeth and Norina throughout the past years in preparing such a unique spot for My work and comfort.

Norina’s love, service and renunciation cannot be described. She was wholly Baba’s and merged in him. Age offered its profoundest salutations to her — and the Lord of the Age sent this telegram to Elizabeth and Kitty on the 17th: “Be happy my very dear Norina has come to live with me forever.” Her body was cremated and, as was Baba’s wish, the ashes were sent to India and interred on Meherabad Hill. Her tombstone read: “Princess Norina who is and will ever remain Baba’s.”

Before dying, Norina had told Elizabeth, “Don’t grieve for me; let me go.” So the evening after she died, Elizabeth and Kitty went to see a play at the local theater. At the door, they were met by the theater’s owner and manager, Jane Barry Haynes, who welcomed them warmly. More about this new “bird” later.

At noon on 15 June 1957, Norina Matchabelli passed away at the age of 77, in Youpon Dunes, Myrtle Beach, after prolonged heart trouble.

Norina was the only person in America who received Baba’s intuition orders to convey His messages in the 1940’s and later it was stopped in mid 1940’s Baba said, “Norina was His mother twice and father once in previous life times.

Elizabeth Patterson and Norina Matchabelli was the co-founder of Meher spiritual centre at Myrtle Beach. Kitty Davy joined them later in 1952. When Norina passed away in 1957, Baba wanted James Haynes to take her place.


References/Images from: Various Lord Meher volumes, discontinued website's ambprasarkendra & love-remembrances, images and dates, stories etc from respective copyright owners websites or publications used with permission - i.e. In His Service, Glow International, MeherBabaTravels, MSI and MNP Collections, from AvatarMeherBabaTrust, BelovedArchives websites and from various other website sources, Books, journal etc. More information where ever available with us like letter scans, stories etc are added. Kindly feel free to Contact us with any updates, photos or corrections etc.

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