The Punk Meets the Godmother: Pete Townshend Looks Back

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Despite the strength I felt growing within me, I think I can speak for our whole party when I say I felt exhausted by Myrtle Beach. God's endlessly present love isn't to be taken lightly. It's great to be forgiven, but it hurts to admit you were wrong in the first place. I realized that I would not be reaping such fantastic emotional and mental rewards had I not been in pretty bad shape; a condition for which I had no one to blame but myself.

When you hold out an empty cup to God and demand that He fill it with wine, He fills it faster than you can ever drink. Then you know that the fault is your own incapacity to receive His infinite love, rather than His capacity to give it. I loosely quote Hafiz here, of course, but this is what I felt was happening. Even my youngest daughter, Aminta, three years old, became starry-eyed with the atmosphere that poured from the trees. I wouldn't say that the warm reception given us by the residents of the Myrtle Beach retreat was not enjoyed and appreciated, but it paled in significance when compared to the welcome we felt in the buzzing dragonflies, the sound of the ocean and the massaging humidity of the warm afternoon.

We spent an unbelievable ten days. I talked to the older devotees of Meher Baba about my plans for a new place in London and they were naturally encouraging. The sun shone, the children enjoyed themselves, we relaxed and relished rejuvenation at the Master's command. The fears I had that I would not be strong enough to see through the imminent testing rehearsals and tour with the Who receded.

We traveled then to California.

▪ "I look out through your bloodshot eyes and I ask you, does this really matter? I am here, and I wait constantly as your hair falls over the typewriter keys."

I don't want to die . . . !

"Death is not at all what I expect. I want surrender, surely that is simple enough."

I am suffocating in your love . . . help me somebody! I am drowning!

"They say that to drown in the depths is really to ascend."

Beloved God, why do you sometimes bring me close to tears?

"Because I am your own heart, you might well be bored with me. I am you. And have known, and lived, and died with you . . . for a billion years."

In California, we were well looked after, taken into the bosom of the Sufi family there, provided with a furnished house, picnics, swimming pool, outings to state parks, camping trips to the Sierras and all kinds of straight-laced relaxation.

You are probably as mystified as I am as to where the spiritually beneficial work was being done in this kind of program, but spirit was what was needed, and spirit was what I got, even if it didn't fit preconceived notions.

Murshida Duce is a remarkable woman. She heads a group of about 300 initiates, all committed to total honesty and respect for her authority. She has Meher Baba's sanction as the legitimate Murshid along with "in line" decree from her own deceased Murshid, Murshida Martin. Murshida Martin herself took over under the instructions of the famous Inayat Khan, a spiritual teacher and master musician whose books on Sufism present a poetic system for modern life.

"Sufism Reoriented" today focuses its initiates on developing their devotion to Meher Baba. Meher Baba gave an explicit charter to Murshida Duce and it is under the limitations of this charter that she works today. I am not a Sufi initiate, but her spontaneous help in my life has always touched me. I felt it extraordinary that she was clearly comfortable with me. She is a rather grand lady in late years, accustomed in her own youth to formal dinners and cocktail parties for her husband's work as an oil man in the Forties and Fifties. In fact, she is not so easily pigeonholed.

On arrival in California, I went for a talk with her, to gossip, to bring her up-to-date on events at home, to ask her advice about the color of the walls at the newly planned Baba house in London. Instead, to my amazement, I sat and poured out my very soul. I couldn't for a second have anticipated this happening. She sat and listened as I told her every grisly detail: the paranoia, the drunken orgies, the financial chaos, the indulgent self-analysis (continued herein, I'm afraid) and, of course, the dreamy hopes for the future.

Without batting an eyelid she listened to stuff that was making me recoil myself, then went on to talk a little about her own youth, her life with her husband, the trouble some of her students were having at the time. In short, she got me right in perspective.

At the end of this month with her, we packed our bags, said our farewells and headed home, my wife and the kids to school, me to rehearsals with the band. Keith later told me I walked into the rehearsal hall smiling; he related this because he had found it remarkable. Something positive had happened to me.

Back in England, I got hold of a building for the London Meher Baba house and one morning, early, sat thinking about the past year. I thought about the incredibly circuitous route I had taken to bring me to that point in October 1975, a new British Who tour ahead of us. I got to where I ended up. Having taken energy, freely given, from just about every source I could lay my hands on, being strong again and feeling fairly certain that I could now rock & roll right into my grave, I decided that I could dare to ask for just one more directive.

I raised my eyes to the heavens, my future Meher Baba house looming up as a great potential encroachment on my time with band, and asked the old man: "What conclusions do I draw from all this, Baba? Where do I put this love you've given me?"

The answer came out of the sky, in a voice that, to me, was audible in a fantastic sense: "Keep playing the guitar with the Who until further notice."

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