HEROINES OF THE PATH
Baba's Work with Women in the West
IVY ONEITA DUCE
In surrender to His will, Ivy was a fine example. In '52 Baba had said to me, "Ivy has done great work for Me, and will do even greater work." On this '56 trip in San Francisco, when she invited Him to visit the Sufi Center, He asked me and Elizabeth Patterson to go along. I recall it vividly. Baba sat in a special chair, and inwardly I heard His voice say "I am the greatest Sufi of them all." Then came the gestures, then Adi's voice translating them into the same words. He walked down the aisle and put His hand on Ivy's head, and she burst into tears.
Four years later I transferred to the West Coast and began to gather a Baba group in Los Angeles. It was slow going and I would often fly up to San Francisco to stay with Ivy in her charming apartment on Knob Hill. She too found her work slow going and often thought she would have to close the Sufi Center. But Baba insisted on her keeping it open, saying the souls would come. And they did, in a rush, from '63 on. Baba's young "jewels" of which He had spoken so often showed up, bright-eyed and very bushytailed, at her door on Sutter Street. Now her crew of trained "preceptors" had a lot of work to do. This was the '60's generation and they, as we all did, had to deal with new problems like drug addiction, phony gurus, changing sexual morals, crazy diets, new roles for women, rootlessness, generation gap, etc. One blessing was the wonderful acceptance of these young people of the fact of Avatar no Alice Baileyite rejection of the living Christ.
Murshida always had a gift of empathy with young people, and a real gift for counselling them with intuition, wit, and common sense. She also devoted a lot of time to non-Sufis who came to her with problems. She published a little book for beginners, What Am I Doing Here? In the '50's Baba had given her the job of publishing His magnum opus God Speaks and later His Discourses, in paperback; she co-edited both with Don Stevens. She also brought out Beams and Life at Its Best, the latter contains the messages Baba gave us on the '56 trip. She also worked with several of her gifted students to bring out children's books with a spiritual theme. In the '70's she moved to Walnut Creek and the Sufi Center also moved there. An old restaurant was rebuilt to contain a small theatre and the Ivy Bookstore.
One of her most effective ways of training her mureeds was through creative and sometimes exhausting group theatre. The tradition of celebrating her birthday with entertainment had grown to full-fledged musical plays on different segments of Baba's life. Zuhair Al-Faqui, coached by Ivy, was a startling Baba lookalike; it gave you a real jolt to see him walk out on stage with an alphabet board, long hair and white sadra. Music was mainly by Hank Mindlin, the scripts by Charmy and her husband Duncan Knowles, and others. I even played myself (in a wig) in the drama of the '52 trip, "I Never Come, I Never Go." The presence of Baba was palpable especially at the last performance which Murshida always attended.
Anyone who steps out in the public eye must expect criticism; spiritual workers are no exception. Ivy, as head of a "mysterious" closed order (Sufi meetings are not public) was subjected to the usual criticism. The presence in San Francisco of another Sufi order following Murshid Sam Lewis and Pir Vilayat Khan, Inayat's eldest son, was also confusing. But Baba had told her never to defend herself. In any case her group continued to grow and by the mid-70's numbered about 300. She published her book, How a Master Works, which is divided between her autobiography and a collage of Baba quotes and anecdotes, many from the pages of "The Awakener."
She joined the '62 East-West gathering in India and also was able to make a special trip to see Baba in 1959. Baba said she could see Him "for five minutes, and five more to see the girls," but graciously allowed her to sit beside Him as He gave public darshan for four hours the next day.
In '69 she brought a large group of Sufis to India to "the Last Darshan," cheering the Mandali with their first taste of Sufi theatre. Hank Mindlin's "Arti" was very moving, especially when the eccentric Poona lights flickered on and off in tune with the music! I was supposed to join this darshan group but because of "flu" went later.
Ivy had a lovely smile and a wonderful sense of humor. To me this, plus her kindness, were her best traits. I think she enjoyed having a friend of old standing with whom she could be informal and relaxed. We shared a mutual interest in Baba archives and publishing. We had our disagreements too. I could not go along with her use of psychics, as Baba had plainly stated to us consulting psychics, for any reason, pulls you off the Path.
Inyat Khan appointed Rabia Martin as his successor; Rabia appointed Ivy; Ivy appointed Dr. James Mackie, a psychologist. The controversy over this decision gave her some painful moments before her death in October, 1981. But she surely had fulfilled Baba's words "She will do great work for Me."
P.S. In the '50's when I was really broke, I worked for a short time as her housekeeper on West 67th Street, New York. She always had beautiful things; and one was a huge round glass bowl. When washing it, it slipped out of my hands and broke. I worried how I could pay for it, but Ivy said, with a sweet smile, "Never mind, dear, there's a mischievous ghost in this kitchen. He must have done it!" I blessed the old ghost and Murshida's gracious sense of humor.
1983 © Universal Spiritual League in America, Inc.