26 August 2007

Lawrence "Hermes" Reiter (1946-2007) Memorial

[Note: The photo at the top shows Hermes (far right) with his poker buddies in North Myrtle Beach. The image of Meher Baba has been inserted.]
On the steamy, rainy afternoon of August 26, a crowd gathered at Jerry Edwards’s home in Briarcliffe Acres (next to Meher Center) to celebrate the life of Hermes Reiter, who died on Thursday, August 23, in Myrtle Beach. Hermes was remembered by his friends as a man who devoted his life to “the pursuit of the face of God.” As the photographer entrusted by the mandali with the copyright for Baba’s photographs, Hermes preserved the precious negatives they gave him and collected many additional ones, making Baba’s photos available to Baba-lovers, notably through several stunning and important books: two photo collections, Love Personified and God in Human Form, and the 20-volume biography of Meher Baba by Bhau Kalchuri, Lord Meher, which Hermes painstakingly edited and published (under the imprint MANifestation, Inc.)—truly an amazing life’s work in itself, yet he also published several other major works, including Bhau’s The Nothing and the Everything and Avatar of the Age Meher Baba Manifesting, as well as Bhau’s poetry collections Meher Sarod and Meher Roshani.
Scott O’Neil started off the tribute by announcing that he had come not only to honor Hermes but to not irritate or piss him off, since Hermes was a very particular person and would want us to keep things as short and sweet as possible.
After we had all stood and recited “The Master’s Prayer,” Scott described Hermes as one of the most diligent of all workers for Meher Baba. The mandali had a good eye for talent and recognized this in Hermes in the early 1970s. The words of Dr. Goher from a 1973 letter were read out, thanking Hermes for his “unique service to posterity” and saying that through his photographic work he merited the credit for making humanity aware of the “anatomical framework” of the Avatar of the Age and, more important, the depth of Baba’s physical suffering. Mani in 1973 wrote to Hermes that “your deep understanding comes from the depth of your love for Baba, which touches our hearts.” And Bhau’s message following notification of Hermes’s passing expressed a conviction that “Hermes will have the taste of Divine Wine now.”
Hermes was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1946 and moved to Los Angeles with his father when young. His father died when Hermes was 17, and he moved back to Pittsburgh to live with his aunts. He was a highly rebellious but brilliant young man—a brilliance, said Scott, that helped him “get into trouble faster.” But his life only truly began when he came to Meher Baba in the late 1960s. From then on his life’s path in the service of Meher Baba was set. All he cared about was Baba’s work, and he would talk about nothing but Baba and the Perfect Masters. He would call Scott up late at night to quote one sentence from Upasni Maharaj. Scott would have no idea what Hermes was talking about and would go back to sleep.
Hermes was an encyclopedia of knowledge, whether of Baba and the spiritual path or of baseball and sports. These things—plus his daughter, Mehera—were his whole life. “And Mehera figured so prominently, I can’t tell you,” Scott said with feeling. Hermes didn’t have any possessions, apart from a few pieces of furniture, that didn’t have to do with Baba.
Hermes’ love for his wife (and the mother of their daughter), Lindesay W. Reiter (who passed away on June 15, 2007), should not go unnoticed, Scott said. Even though they had been divorced for many years, he never referred to her as his “ex-wife” but always as his wife.
Everyone knows that Hermes was difficult to deal with. But there were many other words that came more readily to Scott to describe him: Fearless. Straightforward. Square deal. Loving. Dutiful. Highly organized. Forthright. Curious. Perceptive.
“Square deal.” That means that in his interactions with people, everything had to be square and fair; he wanted to be sure you got what you expected and that he didn’t leave any obligation unfulfilled.
“Fearless.” One time Scott and Hermes were kidnapped and held at knifepoint after their car broke down and they were picked up as hitchhikers. The man kept them hostage for four hours and said he didn’t care if he killed them because he’d been in Vietnam and was going to hell anyway. Hermes whipped out a 5x7 photo of Baba and Scott said it was the craziest thing he’d ever seen, Hermes talking about Baba to a guy who had a knife at their throat.
Hermes liked to drink, which didn’t help his health much. Even with drinking, he did things in an organized way, carefully planning when he was going to drink—which was often—but never putting anyone else at risk, never driving while under the influence.
Hermes had one toast he liked to use, and it went like this: Meher Baba.
John Dietz added to Scott’s comments that he’d known Hermes all his adult life and was amazed by him. Hermes was the first genuine seeker he’d ever encountered. He regarded Hermes as part of the Manifestation—along with Baba’s Circle comes this inscrutable Lawrence Reiter character, it’s part of the program.
It was not easy to get along with Hermes, but he was undeniably in love with the Truth, with the Masters, and with the images of the Masters. John said, “They say the eyes are the windows of the soul—in Hermes’s case it was his refrigerator door”: there was nothing there but pictures of the Master and pictures of his daughter, Mehera, and mementos of his friendships. He spent his entire life in pursuit of the face of God.
Interspersed with Scott’s and John’s remarks were songs sung by the inimitable Jerry Edwards, including “The Ancient One Blues,” Louis Armstrong’s “Wonderful World,” and “Saint James Infirmary,” the traditional New Orleans funeral song.
By Hermes’s wish, two prayers were read out: the Christian Prayer (which Baba had read out as part of a special multifaith “prayer meeting” on September 17, 1954; see Lord Meher 13: 4451-52) and the 101 Names of God, the ancient Persian prayer that Baba gave out and which Hermes had posted (in English) next to his chair in his office. Meher Baba asserted that if someone of any religion repeats these names, no other prayer needs to be said.
Ana von Hofmann said that Hermes was an authentic human being, with a great heart and a great mind, and that his passing was a great loss for the world. Gary Assadourian read out Hermes’s words from the preface to volume 6 of Lord Meher, reproduced below.
But I can end this account of Hermes’s memorial in no better way than by repeating the memorable line tossed off by Jerry Edwards: “Put on his marker: ‘He was with Baba and he went out cool!’”
[preface to vol. 6 of Lord Meher, written by Lawrence Reiter]
Although the moments are rare, no doubt the most wonderful feeling in life is feeling that one is at the exact right place at the exact right time, and doing the exact right thing. There and then, God is as close as God can be to one, and one experiences that feeling of being connected with and in harmony with everything and everyone in the world. It is mysterious that feeling that God is with one, that God has led one to this very moment where one can sense destiny and fate. It remains mysterious but that all one has gone through, although inexplicable at times, was necessary for this moment to be experienced, and all the past experiences are proven worthwhile, and one knows that God has one exactly where one is meant to be. Such moments have come and gone in this work, and such moments will manifest again. These are aspects of Him, manifesting. These moments are most vital to one's relationship with God, with the world, with the meaning of what one does, and one's connection with other beings.
Moments as described urged me to come back to this work. One time in Poona, inwardly I was urged to go to Alandi, the tomb and shrine of Sadguru Dnyaneshawar to bow to his dnyan, divine knowledge of "the Supreme Interpreter of the Gita." I am indebted to Dnyaneshawar.
On another occasion I inwardly reached out to the mast, Mohammed, and wrote his caretaker that this would be the opportune time to reveal how he came to Meher Baba. As my letter was in the mail to India, the mast began narrating to his caretaker fragments of his life.
During a period of turmoil, I unexpectedly was seized by one of the ocean's most violent currents — the Lord's hand held me in His fist and squeezed all life out of me. While I was leaving my body, I saw the original chaos; sea and sky became one in an effulgence, and I beheld what must be Genesis. I can only imagine now how great the God­-Realized beings are who have swallowed the ocean.
Later in a state of discouragement over completing this work, the Lord with a smile and in good humor revealed his wish for me in the form of a poem that he wrote many years ago to Ghani Munsiff:
"He swears by everything he holds dear and near
that he will stay here without the summer fear
And not asking for beer
And finish this book or out he'll clear!"
After this book was finished, Mansari sent the following written in 1923. It is a letter from Meher Baba to her uncle Sohrabji Desai sent after Sohrabji's editing completion of the Gujarati Biographv of Sadguru Upasni Maharaj, Sakori-na-Sadguru — Protector of the Poor.
Dear Sohrabji.
May the Truth which is unbounded be your guide, and lead you to its infinite sovereignty, and hold you to its own. When we are true, we enjoy true heavenly happiness even if the whole world be up against us; but. if falsehood be reigning in our heart, we find the very hell raging hot within us with all its horrors therein, in spite of our finding the whole world at our feet.
Therefore, "May Truth, and only Truth, be your guide, friend and companion," is my blessing for your and yours.

A death has passed. Why has it been four years since the last volume was published? What happened? There is no one who can des­cribe what can happen in the Beloved's path better than Hafiz (as trans­lated by H. Wilberforce Clarke), and I can only say: "Sing, sing with Hafiz, but beware, beware what means the path ‘of the Beloved's street.'"
Lawrence Reiter
Hafiz had once a heart, believers, like you; a pitiful good heart,
A comrade true, a counselor and most faithful friend.
In the Beloved's street I lost my heart!
Skillful it was to aid and to advise, shelter and succor,
And exceedingly wise, the broken hearts of other folk to mend.
In the Beloved's street I lost my heart!
The street of my Beloved it was there!
I became lost my friend: O perilous thoroughfare! Most dangerous is my Beloved's street,
And most detaining to the robe of man.
In the Beloved's street I lost my heart!
O maze of honeycomb! O heavenly hive! Bewildered, I wander on with tangled feet,
Seeking my heart in the Beloved's street;
But again it I never can find.
In the Beloved's street I lost my heart!
Would I had pearls for every tear I shed! Sometimes I wonder if he lives,
And sometimes shudder lest he should be dead;
O never was such a case like mine.
In the Beloved's street I lost my heart!
Have pity! Honored once and wise,
Before he drank of passion's fatal wine,
Was he who comes now in a beggar's guise.
So sweet the song of Hafiz used to be,
Before my Beloved took my heart away from me, Multitudes would hold their breath to hear,
As at the singing of a heavenly bird.
In the Beloved's street I lost my heart!
Perchance of Hafiz you have heard,
As of a man honored in all the schools,
A man of sense, and of judgment clear.
Believe it not! He is the greatest of fools!
In the Beloved's street I lost my heart!


Jim Wrobel said...

Thanks for this accurate accounting of today's events Kendra!

One thing that I don't remember hearing amongst all the words spoken, was that Hermes had a unique way of working some laughs into most of his conversations. I can still hear that.
His poker buddies in North Myrtle Beach will really miss this guy.

davana said...

Jai Baba! dear Kendra,

Thank you for your heartfelt summary - it allowed me to feel a part of this memorial and the sentiments and words have touched my heart.

I did not know Hermes personally, although we had met a number of times. But his wholehearted immersion in the work that he was blessed to be given by Baba, and his one pointed focus to give it his all, shall remain behind as an inspiration for how one needs to one pointedly strive to serve Him in whatever ways our lives present to us.

This is a unique age, for it is the only Advent of the Avatar where the face of God has been photographed from almost every angle and in almost every mood. To make those photographs available to the world is no small thing. The giving of such a treasure through Hermes' painstaking efforts, has made him a tool that was truly graced. And the completion of the editing and publishing of Lord Meher and the many other volumes of work that he published is,in itself, a remarkable life's work.

I recall it being said by one of the mandali that whatever the weaknesses of the man, the Godman takes them, redirecting them in His Cause, if we are His. And, that, in the end, is what all of us hope our Beloved will do for us. What more could we wish for...

Yours lovingly, devana brown

Fred Stankus said...

I have a photo of Hermes
with the players of the
East-West basketball game in the
early 1970's at Ahmenagar, India.
It was a rout by the westernerns.
(Baba-Lovers who just happened to
be in town on Pilgrimage to Mehera-bad and Meherazad. The Ahmednagar
Christian College players were
dazzled by Hermes; running barefooted on the outside dirt court and yelling and calling for
the ball!...It was a magic moment
in time....Hermes has a special
place in my connection to Beloved
Baba. Fred Stankus -Los Angeles

Dan said...

Thank you for splendid words on the splendid Hermes.

Jeff Craddock said...

Kendra, thanks so much for posting your account of Sunday's memorial. I wanted so much to be there--I was one of Hermes' poker/bowling/tennis buddies for nearly twenty years, until I moved away from Myrtle Beach. As Jim said, I can still hear his laugh, one that you could never forget.

I spent the night before his memorial going through all the memories of times spent with Hermes and it all came flooding back...the stories all of us could tell!

Jay said...

Thanks Kendra. It means a lot to me reading this, when I'm unable to be there myself.

Jay Mohler

Mehercy said...

Splendid effort of love Dear Kendra. Thank you.
In His remembrance,
Mehercy Khambata

Anonymous said...

I knew Larry Reiter in the 60s. Met him in a Catholic Worker house in Detroit. He was an intense truth seeker, then reading Friedrich Nietszche, but very compassionate to the poor. Later he stayed with me in Pittsburgh. One day, when I was out, the FBI went to my home and arrested him for non-cooperation with the draft. I had advised him to flee to Canada, but he was adamant. He was drafted, but discharged within the month for incompatibility with the military. He had a strange sense of humor. I remember watching a play with him at Duquesne University, "Waiting For Godot." He laughed when no one else in the audience did.

TMClancy said...

I'm reading this again as Dina Snow has posted today about her husband's passing. August 26 is my wedding anniversary, and Hermes had given us two Baba photos to celebrate, just a couple years before.

As I sat in his memorial four years ago, I imagined Hermes' forehead on Baba's feet--I think that would have been his first wish, Just let me put my head to Your Feet for an hour.

So many have passed on to Baba since then, too. I am sure that Dina's husband will have his Audience with Baba and join the multitude that is waiting to welcome us all.

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.