Face in Focus

Theoosophist as Devotee - Howard Murphet
In Search of his 'Star of Destiny'

Howard Murphet is well known to Sai Devotees world-wide. In the mission of the Sai Avatar, Howard was called forward, along with others (most notably, Jack Hislop) to chronicle his experiences seeking the spiritual path, discovering Sai Baba, deepening his store of wisdom (and finally, to his great joy, his store of prema) and sharing those experiences in print. Howard has a most frank manner of writing. His is the rare knack of involving his reader in his narrative and his questions, and the answers to the many questions he raised about Sathya Sai Baba. The result was a magnificent trilogy of Sai books, Sai Baba-Man of Miracles, Sai Baba-Avatar and Sai Baba-Invitation to Glory.

In a darkening era when the lights of humanity have been dimmed by planet-wide wars, the population explosion, and the gee-whiz electronics in home, hearth and workplace that divide the haves from the have-nots, Howard Murphet emerges as a beacon shining in the darkness, guiding those in travail to the safe shores of Sathya Sai Baba.

Howard has been to war. He evaluated the cause of war spiritually, before joining up. He knew there was a great spiritual goal in his life, amid the twists and turns he has observed in his ninety plus years. He is a modern Parsifal, a knight of the Round Table in search of the Holy Grail, which he called his “Star of Destiny” or his “Star of the East.” Howard Murphet’s quest was to discover that star and satisfy the restless yearning in his soul.

In this life time, Howard Murphet was born in Tasmania, the ‘apple isle’ of Australia, in 1906. His family came from a strong Christian background, and he was blessed with a mother of great faith, whom he names as his first guru. In his youth, he had a miracle after falling into a deep pond, and later on, had a vision of another world, perhaps Heaven:

“As I gazed upwards into the blue, absorbed in the beauty of this dome-like roof of the world, suddenly a window appeared in the roof. Beyond the window was a glorious scene that made me feel I was looking into Heaven. There was a radiant light shining on white or light-coloured buildings in the background. In the foreground were figures moving about as if in a street scene. Their robes were of rich colours with red and gold predominating. I could see some of their faces, which to me looked wise, benign and somehow noble. I remember too that there was a soft drift of heavenly music coming through the window and reaching my ears as I lay on my back among the silent oats. A wave of bliss flooded through me as time stood still. Then as suddenly as it had come, the window disappeared, leaving nothing but the clear blue of the sky. But I knew that the radiant, heavenly scene in the sky had been real while it lasted.... Was it really Heaven I had been looking into, I wondered... but I had not seen the golden throne of God, and the figures moving about did not have wings, as angels should, according to my mother.”

Many years’ pursuit of various forms of formal education and visits to war-torn Germany inspired Howard to be a spiritual seeker. In moments of heightened intuition he was always in tune with his real self.

Several years after participating in Yoga classes, Howard met Iris, his wife to be and companion in travels and spiritual seeking. Together they studied and travelled to Europe. Howard was to visit Germany again, and England. After visiting and attending a spiritual practice called Subud for a time, they sailed east to attend the School of Wisdom at the Theosophical Society’s Adyar Institute, on the river Adyar, Madras, in 1964.

The search had not ended. Howard had certainly found his Star of Destiny, his Star of the East that he had sought all his life. The Crown Prince of Venkatagiri shared his belief with Howard that Sathya Sai Baba was a full incarnation of God, an “avatar.” Howard departed from Puttaparthi, armed with books gifted by Sathya Sai Baba, and was determined to answer the question, “was He also an avatar, a descent of God to earth?”

 Howard has written that he was probably the first from the western world to come to Sathya Sai Baba as a western sceptic and stay with Him or near Him for some six years in India. He did this in order to solve the problem of His Identity and why He was here in the world. “After returning to the west I have been back many times, pulled by the strong magnet of the Divine Love and fascination of One I decided was an Avatar of God. He taught me what an Avatar is, His relationship to ordinary human beings in the world and how His Purpose was to lead those who are ready, to their own inner Guru or the God within. I did not immediately accept Him as an Avatar, but after He taught me in a humble manner what an Avatar is and how we are all Avatars, descendants from God without being aware of it. As I stayed on, I became more and more certain that He was indeed an Avatar. This is not based on the fact that He materialises things.”

Howard has used the ancient vedantic method of learning in his evaluation of Sathya Sai. This is crucial today. Sai Baba himself says, “Well, making the questioner himself give out the answers is the Sanathana method of teaching. If those who question themselves give the answers, they would clearly understand the subject. The lecturing style is different. In olden days, all the Rishis enabled their disciples to understand Vedanta only by this method.”

Those who read Howard’s books must follow in his footsteps and ask their own questions. Someone else’s questions and answers do not lead to liberation. In this wise, Howard has been an exemplar who has adequately illuminated the path for others to walk. The task of the devotee is excavation of Truth. 

Howard describes the greatest of Sai miracles to be the Divine Love by which He brings about a deep change in the nature of people, His followers. We are born of course with the embryo of the Divine Child within us. Swami gives us the initiation to begin to know the meaning of true Love and the feeling of oneness with our brother man.

In 1982, Howard was diagnosed as having an incurable disease He prayed very earnestly for healing. He was in a beautiful room in the Adelaide Hills “while Sai Baba in the body was of course at that time in India at His ashram. My prayer was so intense that after a sleep on a couch while the sun was shining through the windows I woke up to see Swami’s Hand and Arm as it circled over me and I knew that He had come, that this was a healing gesture. I saw it in that brief time between being asleep and fully awake when as you might have heard, everybody has a short period of clairvoyance. When that short period had passed His Hand and Body disappeared from my vision but He was still there in the room and I knew this by the unbelievably soul-moving sense of the luminous in the room. In fact, the room was filled by it and it penetrated the wall to where my wife was sitting in the breakfast room and then when Swami left, the luminous went too. This is what the ancient Romans called “sense of the Presence of the Divine” (the luminous or lumina). Well, I knew that I was cured of the disease and all tests afterwards proved that this was so.”

Howard writes, although blind: ‘Before I came into Sai Baba’s private interview, near the end of 1989, I had accepted unhappily the prospect of a silent rest from the labours of writing, which had been my life and joy for many years. As Swami knew, through retinal haemorrhages into both eyes, I was quite unable to read or write. All I had was minimal peripheral vision in one eye. But in a firm, commanding voice he said, “You must write the book that’s in there.” He patted my chest. “Go home and write it and bring it back to me in two years.”  My wife and two friends who were present in the room looked startled at this royal command. “May he have a co-author to help him?” asked my wife. “No,” replied Swami. “He must write his own book. I will give him all the help he needs.” I knew that I must somehow carry out this task set me by my divine Master. But how? For many years, my writing had been born of a happy partnership between me and an old typewriter. The art of prose writing demanded that I work with words and phrases on the written page, polishing towards perfection or as near to it as attainable. To reach a satisfactory standard in prose expression through auditory means would be quite impossible for me. Yet, I must make the attempt.

‘Lord Sai’s help is often given through the hands of others. I saw the first signs of this when a Dictaphone and other equipment necessary almost fell into my lap. So began a new, unfamiliar road to creative writing.’ So, Where the Road Ends was written by its blind author. Howard’s days are not over, he resides quietly in the Blue Mountains area of New South Wales, Australia, some two hours drive from Sydney.

Howard, through his light shows direction to others to make self evaluations in order to excavate the Truth. He does all an invaluable service in the gloom of Kali Yuga, and the wakening dawn of the Golden Age.

[He spread the glory of Bhagawan to the western world. Even today, many know Bhagawan through Sai Baba: Man of Miracles translated world-wide in various languages. For many years, Howard had been Baba’s constant travel companion. Both Iris and Howard had been with Baba to Madras, Ooty, Venkatagiri, Bangalore and other places throughout India. Howard, records these visits with love and reverence in his three books on Baba. Baba would play on the pronunciation of his name and ask, “Murphet, are you perfect?” A common joke but one impregnated with much deeper meaning. –Editor
Chris Parnell, long-time editor and writer on Baba.Presently he 
is the moderator of various e-groups on Bhagawan on the Web.   
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