15 July 2018

Remembering Lawrence “Hermes” Reiter

After viewing the post about Hermes Reiter’s memorial, Calvert Bullock contributed this remembrance of an old friend. (Hermes died in 2007.)

In the early 1970’s I met Hermes at the Center in Myrtle Beach. We quickly became friends. I think he was in the middle of his 37-day fast; but he drank so much coffee that I told him that I would call him Twelve Cups, in honor of the mast Twelve Coats. He also told me that he had always wanted to “know everything” but knowing Baba took care of that.

In Miami I got to help him with Baba’s photos in a darkroom that was only available from 9 pm into the wee hours. I am lucky enough to have a few photos that were not published. Hermes administered the eight-hour hydrotherapy cleansing bath to several people. He asked me to assist him, so I did but he got cantankerous and kept asking me to put on “Nights in White Satin” over and over. I almost got tired of it.

I am not sure when he got the name Hermes, but I remember he called me Bullock … cart, with a snicker.

We played tennis at different times and he would pause to have a Camel. In 1975 we started an overland trek to India. In Zurich, Switzerland, we went in a shop to ask directions about trains or something. Outside I asked Hermes if he remembered all she said. He said he remembered nothing, he had only been staring at her beauty. We also went across a field with a sign in it saying Fallenfluh [where Meher Baba visited and encountered a spiritual agent in 1934]. We decided to camp in those woods near the cliff.

 In France we rode the train past our destination and had to sleep on benches in a park between so many condos. If only we spoke French that would have been better. One night in Rome we finished supper late and were not sure of directions, so I said let’s ask the cop. So we asked that man even though he had a machine gun on his shoulder. He was most helpful. When we got to Assisi at midnight we heard a popular American song. We had two miles to walk to town. We stopped halfway there and threw our sleeping bags down in a field. The next morning we were awakened by nuns singing hymns in Italian about 50 yards away. We had slept in an olive grove near a nunnery. It was a lovely way to wake up! We found Baba’s cave and saw that many Baba cards had been left there. In the Cathedral of St. Francis, Hermes also ran into a man that he had met in Myrtle Beach.

  In Greece one night Hermes and I noticed the spotlights on the Parthenon and went to see why. Crowds were climbing up all those steps. A woman who was rushing down asked us if we had tickets. We said no; she said, “Have these.” When we got to our free seats the Moscow Symphony started their concert! Another night in Greece we could not find lodging so we threw our sleeping bags down in a field, which may have been a cemetery. Hermes heard noises and said he thought there were horses in our field. We were too sleepy to care.

 Hermes got a ticket to Cairo, so I went onward and we got a break from each other. I saw him when he got to Tehran, but I had been there and to Shiraz, so he stayed. He caught up with me again in Ahmednagar. Hermes had several talks with Adi K. He quoted Adi about me with “That beard gives him a Jesus like look but too bad about his consciousness!”

Hermes was a very unique and interesting Atma! I believe he went to South America to climb Machu Picchu, but when he told me he met a headhunter who liked his Baba button; I realized Baba sent him there to give a picture to this headhunter.

Cal Bullock, July 2018

06 November 2015

In Which I Learn the Gujarati Arti

The story of the Bujaawe Naar Arti, written and composed by Meher Baba in 1925, is currently being recounted in a series of Tavern Talk articles by Cindy Lowe. I am reminded of the time, many years ago, when I decided it was time I learned to sing the Arti by heart. Having a degree in languages, as well as being a stickler for exactitude, I was determined to learn the precisely correct pronunciation of the Gujarati words. 

I was not satisfied with the existing prayer card from India that gave the words in phonetic spellings, some of which I considered highly ambiguous. At that time, Jane Brown’s lovely Westernized rendition was the only recording available to me. But even though rationally I knew that Jane—a trained singer—must have learned it properly, no doubt from the women mandali, I hesitated to accept the recording as the perfect model, since Jane was not a native Gujarati speaker. In a couple of places on the recording, I thought the words did not sound like the spellings on the card, which confused me.

Then I got the loony idea to use an actual Gujarati version, printed in the Gujarati alphabet, which I would learn to pronounce and thus I would learn it perfectly. This idea isn’t as totally far-fetched as it sounds, since I had made a study of the alphabets of various languages (such as Sanskrit, Arabic, Hebrew, Yiddish . . .), in connection with systems of transliteration into our Latin alphabet. Weird, I know, but it was not unheard of for me to learn an alphabet and how to pronounce words in it, even if I did not know the language thoroughly or at all. I can read or sing aloud from the Hebrew prayer book, for example, without understanding more than a few words of the ancient Hebrew and Aramaic in which it is written.

I began to search for my fantasied Gujarati version of the Bujaawe Arti during a pilgrimage to Meherabad. Both Indians and Westerners greeted my inquiries with astonishment. Eyebrows were furrowed in puzzlement. Why on earth would I want such a thing? Several people were absolutely certain that nothing of the kind even existed. How can that be? It was composed in Gujarati; why wouldn’t it be printed on a card or something, for Gujarati speakers? Okay, never mind. I finally understood there was no point pursuing this, so I dropped it.

After I was home, I set the search aside, but my discontent persisted as I stumbled through the text on the prayer card whenever I sang the Arti. Then one day something incredible happened. It was one of those synchronicities that leave no room for doubt that Baba knows one’s every thought and feeling.

I left work early on a Friday, feeling a little under the weather. I decided to skip that evening’s Baba meeting, even though it would be held just a couple of blocks from my place, at (the late) Margaret Brennan’s home in Cambridge, MA. As I trudged home from the subway, who should I see heading toward me but Margaret Brennan herself! From a bit of a distance I could already see her broad smile as she prepared to give me a big hug. Oh no. Now she’ll ask me if I’m coming to the meeting tonight. She did ask me, and I promptly heard the words coming out of my mouth, “Yes, of course! I’ll see you there!” Damn, now I had to go, even though I didn’t feel like it.

I arrived early, to find a couple of friends seated at Margaret’s kitchen table, finishing up some tea before the meeting would begin in the other room. Margaret gestured for me to sit in the one vacant chair.

What the—? Right in front of me on the table, like a placemat, was sheet music for the Bujaawe Arti, with the words in a new, improved phonetic spelling (I recognized that right away). I demanded to know what this was, and Margaret casually said, “Oh, I brought that back from the L.A. Center. Would you like to have it? I have a few copies.”

Soon after, I was able to sing the Bujaawe Arti by heart with no worry about about whether my pronunciation was exactly correct. I now knew what was the important lesson—not a singing or an elocution lesson, and not even the lesson that Baba knows all hearts. Since that day, I am 100% convinced that when our wholehearted desire is to do our best to please Meher Baba, he quickly responds. We may pray for all manner of desires to be fulfilled. But when we sincerely desire to be closer to Meher Baba, when we desire something to help us love him more and more, that desire will be fulfilled, sometimes immediately. Also, Baba’s response, in my experience, is always a surprise.


For two alternative phonetic guides to the pronunciation of the Gujarati Arti, see the article at the Mischievous Peeps site.

All quotes of Meher Baba © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust unless otherwise indicated. Writings by Kendra are © Kendra Crossen Burroughs unless otherwise noted.