A group of about sixty lovers from the New York area, California, Texas and South Carolina had gathered at Idlewild Airport (1) on the early morning of Friday, July 20th, 1956, to await the arrival of the Ancient One and to welcome him once again to the shores of America after a gap of four years. At exactly 7:05 A.M., Baba’s plane, called “The Rainbow,” landed. Baba stepped down, waving to his lovers; he was wearing a pink coat and white sadra. Elizabeth Patterson and Ivy Duce were allowed to enter customs and greet him. They were the two official representatives of the two spiritual organizations sponsoring his visit; Elizabeth Patterson represented the Universal Spiritual League of America, Ivy Duce represented Sufism Reoriented. The other people had to wait outside the barrier for forty-five minutes until Baba and his mandali were cleared through customs, and they were thrilled to see Baba pacing back and forth, walking unencumbered.
At last, Baba emerged and was overwhelmed by the effusiveness of their welcome. He embraced each one individually and was garlanded with red, white and blue flowers by Filis Frederick. To Carrie Ben Shammai of Israel, who was meeting Baba for the first time, he appeared “as an angel having descended from heaven.”
To Peter Saul, age twenty, one of Margaret Craske’s dance students, also meeting Baba for the first time, “His radiance was just extraordinary. It made everything else go away. Everything became a blur, visually and aurally. I was standing next to Miss Craske. When she and Baba greeted each other, it was like a river overflowing its banks, splashing over. I was absolutely stunned.”
Seeing this unusual display of love and affection, a member of the Ukrainian delegation to the United Nations asked, “Who is he? Is he a spiritual leader? When he came out of customs, he came to each and every one of you. How fascinating! Of all the people I have met, high priests and dignitaries all over the world, I have never seen anyone, such as he did, go forward to greet everyone, hug everyone individually. He did not overlook one of you.”
Baba proceeded to a waiting convertible car with the four mandali. The top was raised and lowered several times to allow those with cameras to record Baba’s first moments in America. Trucks, cars and taxis were held up behind Baba’s car. A policeman came to investigate, and Andrew Muir, usually mild-mannered, shouted at him, “Tell them to wait, don’t you know who this is?”
Taken aback, the policeman shouted to the next one, “Let them wait!” to the amusement of all.
(1) Idlewild Airport was later renamed John F. Kennedy International.
Lord Meher, Original ed., Bhau Kalchuri, Vol. 14, pp. 4955 -4956.