New on the Web! The complete 6th Edition  Discourses by Meher Baba 
 
Background
In October 2004, the Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust considered how best to preserve Baba’s published words. The Board of Directors passed a resolution based upon a recommendation from the Trust Publications Committee. The resolution is comprehensive, thoughtful, and establishes important guidelines. However, it is also contradictory in critical ways. It draws a line in the sand about changing the words published under Baba’s name during His lifetime: “But the primary text of Baba’s published words, from now on, should remain inviolate.” Baba’s own admonition is quoted: “No, it is not advisable to send my notes and lectures for composition to anyone who is away from me.” Unfortunately, the Trust compromises that injunction—in that same paragraph—by allowing exceptions for “spelling, capitalization, and punctuation.”

It was those same seemingly innocuous justifications that led to the editorial desecrations that became the 7th edition of the Discourses in 1987. It is impossible to protect Baba’s words when they are fair game for any changes. The door to changing any of Baba’s words must be shut, locked, and barred. The resolution gives the impression of doing that, then hangs an OPEN sign on the door. There must be no changes whatsoever to the words Baba approved during His lifetime.

The resolution fails the Discourses by allowing the 7th edition to stand as an exception to the preservation of Baba’s exact words published during His lifetime. The justification is that Eruch was involved in the editing. Eruch was one of the greatest human beings to ever walk this planet. He was matchless and magnificent as “Meher Baba’s Tongue,” but he was never “Baba’s rewriter.”

Further, and of critical historical importance, many if not most of the editorial changes attributed to Eruch were unsupervised, unilateral decisions that Eruch did not even review before the 7th edition went to press. There is compelling physical evidence that the Trust is endorsing a rewrite of Baba’s Discourses based on a factual error of who did it. (See Unsupervised Red Ink, below)

The resolution contains more confusion regarding the Discourses. It sees no problem “in principle” in having several different versions of the Discourses available concurrently. One sentence later, the recommendation rejects that notion because dual versions “might create confusion among the public.” It then recommends making both versions available on the Trust’s web site. It then recommends deferring a decision for up to five years on republishing any version, in large part to prevent an economic hardship on Sheriar Press. It then credits this delay with enabling “more study”—which would seem to throw the resolution’s endorsement of the 7th edition into the realm of uncertainty anyway.

There are two basic positions at play in all of this: 1) Baba’s published words should not be changed under any circumstances for any reason, and 2) it’s OK to change some of Baba’s words some of the time even if Baba has not given His permission. The resolution attempts to broker a compromise between these competing views. Inevitably, it is Baba’s words that are broken and compromised when they are submitted to such a debate.

 
Unsupervised Red Ink
The following excerpt is taken from Meher Baba’s Word & His Three Bridges, Don E. Stevens with Norah Moore & Laurent Weichberger, Companion Books, 2003, page 151.

    Don: Well, all right. So I’m on the spot, and I do have to say something, as Baba explained what honesty is, and how we had to follow it in our vow to him. It is perfectly true that when, let’s say the Mandali were getting older, all of them decided that there must be a final re-editing of the Discourses—done while some of them who had been around Baba, and his thoughts, were still there.
    Laurent: After Baba dropped his body.
    Don: After Baba dropped his body. This was a Mandali decision that was made. And it was decided, I think most of you are familiar with the fact, that Eruch, Bal Natu, with Chris Flagg, or Flagg Chris, I never remember which, was to be, you might say, the secretary of this situation. So that was done. I found out about this early, just accidentally, because I’m terribly close to Eruch. I kept seeing him through the years and we’d talk about things related to Baba’s words, and what was going on.
    Eruch worked very hard with Bal Natu and Chris Flagg for a long time. Remember this, though, I have to say Eruch was still a human being. He still had some wedges of sanskaras and Baba would occasionally get after him. So, even Eruch was fallible, but Eruch was the chief person to suggest various things. Bal Natu much less. And then the two sort of turned it over, secretary-wise, to Flagg Chris. Flagg Chris is a superbly trained academic librarian, and he knows his business. And he is a good master of words too, and he knows proper sentence structure.
    Flagg then began going through what had been gone over by Bal Natu and by Eruch, and he began correcting it from a grammatical standpoint. I get along well with Flagg because I like him, I think he’s a good workman. And he would send me material and suggestions and so on. His editorial changing I would never have done, and I called that to his attention. He went through editorial changes number one, which were partly supervised by Bal Natu, but not by Eruch. Then, finally, he started going through for a second time. At that point, Sheriar threw up their hands and said, “We accept no more changes, we’ve got to get this thing out and printed.”
    Hence there were changes made that were not supervised by either Bal Natu or Eruch and still further ones that were in the mill when Sheriar called time out. This is the story. You draw your own conclusions. As a result there is quite a vast difference, finally, between the three volumes, which I edited under Baba’s supervision, and then the Sheriar [seventh] edition. There is quite a great deal of difference. I’m not going to sit around and bellyache about it. But it’s an important story, and I have probably the only existing copy which has all of Chris Flagg’s unsupervised changes marked in red, so I think that’s an important document.
    Laurent: And it’s not a little red.
    Don: It’s a lot.
    Laurent: Too much.
    Don: Because he’s a good academician. He knows academic proper English structure.
    John: Well, it made a lot of difference.
    Don: It makes a great deal of difference in the styling.
    Participant: But also the meaning? Not the meaning?
    Don: Well, some people claim the meaning in important places has been changed.
 
Call for Action
  1. There must be no changes to spelling, punctuation, capitalization, or any other changes whatsoever to the words Baba approved during His lifetime.
  2. The 7th edition Discourses should be taken off the market, including Sheriar Press’s remaining stock of ~3125 copies.
  3. The Trust should not officially promote the 7th edition Discourses in any way, including putting it on the web.
  4. The 6th edition of the Discourses should be reprinted immediately.
 
Text of the Trust’s Resolution
In October 2004, the Trust adopted as a resolution the following recommendation from the Trust Publications Committee.

Recent advocacy for the sixth edition of the Discourses. On 29th February 2004, the Chairman Bhau Kalchuri received from Dan Tyler, a Baba lover residing in Florence, Oregon, an email raising objections to the seventh edition of Meher Baba’s Discourses, published by Sheriar Foundation in 1987, which Mr. Tyler compared unfavorably with the sixth edition, published by Sufism Reoriented in 1967. Dan Tyler’s email came with a link to his web site, entitled “Messing with Perfection: The Mishandling of Meher Baba’s Discourses”. On 23rd March 2004, Meherwan B. Jessawala received an additional letter from Jamie Newell of Nashville, Tennessee, which expressed a view similar to Mr. Tyler’s.

Both men have argued their positions in a serious and responsible manner, and the Committee feels that real attention needs to be given to the subject. While Mr. Newell’s letter makes a number of notable points, Mr. Tyler’s web site could be called a full scholarly treatment. When printed out, it runs to 21 pages. It contains a carefully organized discussion of such literary topics as the use of italics, “gender sensitivity,” and the “that-which” distinction. It also incorporates four tables; an analysis of inserts; and a detailed, side-by-side comparison of two discourses (“The problem of Sex ”and “The Sanctification of Married Life”) as treated in the two editions.

From this material, two fundamental themes can be distilled. First, the three-volume 1967 sixth edition was the last edition of the Discourses to have been published during Baba’s lifetime with Baba’s approval. To tamper with this text, Mr. Tyler feels, is to tamper with the words of God. “Do we allow museum patrons to dab paint on a Picasso? Why should Baba’s words be afforded less respect?” He goes on: “If the Discourses need to be edited in 1987 to make them more ‘current and appropriate,’ why not in 2007? 2017? 2027? Where does it end?” Second, the editing of the seventh edition, according to Mr. Tyler, does not improve the text but rather disfigures it. “It applies irrelevant conventions, fixes non-problems with inelegant solutions, deflavorizes delightful language, eviscerates the unique tone and presentation of the sixth edition, and subverts meaning.” Mr. Tyler concludes that “future printings of the Discourses should restore the 6th edition in all its glory.” “The best way to protect the Avatar’s words is to leave them alone.”

Publication History of the Discourses. Before attempting this assessment (of the sixth versus seventh editions), we need to recall the publication history of this work. The Discourses were originally published serially in the Meher Baba Journals between 1938 and 1942. Baba dictated them in the form of points to the mandali, usually Dr. C.D. Deshmukh, who then wrote them up as essays which Baba checked and approved. Later in the 1940s and 50s, Adi K. Irani published the collected discourses as a five-volume set. With Baba’s approval, Charles Purdom subsequently carried out a major editorial revision of the Discourses and had them published in 1955 by Victor Gollancz in a single volume entitled God to Man and Man to God. In the 1960s, again with Baba’s approval, Sufism Reoriented performed another, much less drastic, edit of the text of the five-volume set (not Purdom’s version) and published it in 1967 as the three-volume sixth edition. This was the last edition carried out in Baba’s lifetime with Baba’s approval. In the 1980s the sixth edition was further edited by Eruch Jessawala, Bal Natu, and Flagg Kris; and this led to the publication of the one-volume seventh edition by Sheriar Foundation in 1987.

Important principles on the permissibility of the editing of Baba’s words. The Publication Committee feels that any of the editions of Baba’s books and messages that were published during His physical lifetime, with His evident approval, and with His name on them as author, are, in principle, eligible for republication, if the Trust regards this as practical and appropriate at the time when such a publication request is made. In such republication, however, it is imperative that the primary text be reproduced without further change and editing, except possibly in areas of spelling, capitalization, and punctuation. This is to say that Baba’s published words should not be altered or tampered with, but left as they are. There is nothing in principle wrong with the incorporation of new supplementary materials, such as a glossary or index or new preface, or the creation of a new book design, if this is carried out judiciously and if the Board specifically approves. But the primary text of Baba’s published words, from now on, should remain inviolate.

Though the editing of the seventh edition was done in the 1980s without explicit sanction from Baba, the Publication Committee feels that this is a unique and special case. For one of the editors was Eruch Jessawala, who played a most exceptional role in relation to Meher Baba’s words. Baba was silent, of course, and Eruch was the disciple who, more than anyone else, rendered that silence into speech. Eruch possessed a deep and intimate knowledge of Baba’s ways of communication, and the fact that he took part in the editorial process confirms the seventh edition, we feel, as a valid version of the this work.

The restrictions on the editing of Baba’s words described above should apply, the Committee feels, to books and messages that have already been published, not to unpublished manuscripts, audio tapes of discourses of Baba’s as narrated by Eruch or other mandali, or other records. Material of these types almost always need editing before they can achieve a form suitable for public presentation. Such edited versions should not be regarded as final and authoritative, however, and when it is possible, the Trust should make the original records available for review and should entertain proposals for new editions when this seems necessary.

For the Board’s information, the Committee would like to draw attention to a comment that Meher Baba Himself made on the editing of His words. This quotation appears in “The Combined Diary,” 7 August 1927 (Vol. 2 folio 355):
No, it is not advisable to send my notes and lectures for composition to anyone who is away from me. The writer must be here in order to ensure correctness. For example, [K. J. Dastoor] took note of certain explanations [of mine] in writing the other day, yet while putting the same in his own language he made a mess of it all. My explanations may be re-composed in forceful and stylish language, but the spirit and meaning must remain unchanged. . . . Such a writer will come in the course of time. . . . Dastoorji writes well, but his uncompromising tone and terms are likely to offend some communities. . . .
In the case of books and messages of Baba’s that were published in later years under His direction, we assume that the editing and “recomposition” that He refers to here was accomplished to His satisfaction, since He oversaw the editing process. Unpublished manuscripts and other records, however, can be edited, in the spirit and manner described by Baba.

Practical considerations. While any of the previously mentioned editions of the Discourses are eligible for republication in theory, what course of action should the Trust take at the present time?

The Publication Committee wishes to draw attention here to a relevant practical consideration. The current seventh edition is still in print; according to Sheila Krynski, president of Sheriar Foundation, 3125 copies in back stock remain. At current rates of sale, this stock will deplete in four to five years. The publication of a new edition, while the current edition is still in print, would undercut and compromise the publisher. The 1967 sixth edition has been out of print for decades; after all this time there is no reason why it needs to be republished instantly. The Committee recommends, therefore, that the Trust defer decision on republication of the Discourses, pending further study and the selling of the greater part of current inventory.

The Publication Committee feels it would be preferable if the Trust could avoid taking any position on the superiority of any particular edition of the Discourses; the matter would be best left to the judgment of Baba’s lovers and posterity. Let Baba’s lovers read whichever version most touches their hearts. In principle, the Committee would not object to the concurrent availability of several editions such as the sixth and seventh. However, such a course may be impractical. Board members of Sheriar Foundation have pointed out that such concurrent publication imposes heavy burdens on publishers; moreover, it might create confusion among the public. Since factors and complexities such as this come into play, the Committee recommends, again, that the Board defer decision on matters of republication until further study of the matter can be completed.

In the meantime, however, the Publication Committee recommends a specific step that would speak to the concerns of many Baba lovers around the world and at the same time help preempt perils of internet piracy of Trust-copyrighted words. At present the sixth edition of the Discourses is available on the internet, by permission of the Trust; in the past, without our permission, the seventh edition was published there too. Since the Trust now has its own web site, we recommend that the sixth, seventh, and earlier editions be put on line there. Since the Trust is the holder of all these copyrights, it is only appropriate it should be the one to present these works to the world through the internet medium. Such publication could be accomplished at virtually no cost to the Trust and would further our mission of disseminating His message of love and truth. Moreover, this timely action would cancel out the incentive some Baba lovers might otherwise have to carry out their own internet publications of these Trust-copyrighted works without proper authorization from us.