Sufism Reoriented became a cult the moment Ivy Duce appointed Jim Mackie as her “spiritual chargeman” in 1979. She was not empowered by the Sufi Charter of 1952 to take this action. In fact, in as early as 1948 in a letter dictated to Dr Ghani and addressed to Ivy Duce, Baba discusses the subject of what defines legitimate spiritual succession in the case of Rabia Martin and presciently warns Ivy Duce about confusing psychism with spirituality as well:
March 29th, 1948
Dear Mrs. Ivy Duce,
…. the only thing that is expected of you is to uphold the highest traditions of spirituality, that is, Sufism pure and simple.
… the present upholders of the various schools of spirituality in India are all professionals who, beyond having deep learning of religious lore, have no tinge of spirituality about them. When people whose sole authority is derived from religious scriptures and also the heredity devolving on them from a spiritual Master no longer alive, they can never take upon themselves the responsibility of guiding others, much less claim the authority of conferring Khilafatship [Successorship] on possible aspirants.
… the spiritual worth of Rabia Martin consists in being appointed as Murshida by Hazrat Inayat Khan personally and directly. Hence the effort on the part of Rabia Martin to obtain a written investiture from Hasan Nizami was altogether superfluous and unnecessary… .
For the continuance of the work of spiritually enlightened humanity, it is never imperatively essential to contact disembodied Masters, nor is it necessary to receive messages from departed souls. It is only living Masters actually working on the physical plane that sometimes communicate or send messages of guidance through and to suitable mediums.
The sending of messages even by living Masters is a rare phenomenon and very seldom resorted to, unless the urgency of the situation warrants it. The Masters who are out to guide humanity always do so by having recourse to ordinary and natural means of communication. When Masters in flesh avoid all occult methods of teaching and guiding humanity through appointed mediums, whatever may be their intrinsic worth, you can imagine how tall and presumptuous the claim of certain individuals can be when they talk of receiving messages from Masters, and that too from those who are no more on the physical plane of existence. You are therefore enjoined by Hazrat Meher Baba to remember that nobody should succeed in impressing or overawing you by such claims as having the capability of receiving messages from Masters, living or dead.
Hazrat Meher Baba has once again taken this opportunity of reiterating the advice given to you while here in India:
“You should openly declare that you are a student of spirituality. You are not God-realized and that you are aspiring for that blessedness with the help and grace of a Master who is alive and active in the affairs of the world today. Since the responsibility – not of your seeking – of supervising the Sufi movement has devolved on you through Murshida Rabia Martin, you would do your best to shoulder the Cross, knowing fully well your shortcomings and weaknesses. While trying to help and teach others in the Sufi way, you are alive to the fact that you yourself are growing and learning. The result of your work when conducted in this spirit should be left entirely in the hands of Baba.”
Hazrat Meher Baba is gratified to note that you are trying to introduce him as the Avatar and Qutub of the Sufis in the world around you, and that you are working there under his benign guidance and direction. If you keep up to this noncommittal and detached modus operandi, without prevarication and the least signs of hesitation and doubts, it will be up to Hazrat Baba to give you strength and added zeal in the execution of your work. So far as things go, it may be adduced that if Baba is looked up to as the only source of inspiration and guidance, then whatever obstacles, difficulties and disappointments that you will have to face for his sake, you can be sure, he will never let you down.
With regard to papers and additional lessons and instructions for Sufi students, you would do well to introduce Hazrat Meher Baba’s Discourses for developing the Irfan (Gnosis) of aspirants. On the practical side of spiritual life, the chapter in the Discourses, Part III, would go a long way in helping Sufi initiates in the matter of Meditation practices over and above the papers that you already possess. The reading of Baba’s Discourses would automatically develop gnosis of the Path for spiritual aspirants and in the light of this gnosis, all practices or papers undertaken would make the task divinely interesting and spiritually intelligent.
With Love and Blessings from the Master for you and Charmian.
Yours in Baba,
(Dr.) Abdul Ghani Munsiff
The context for this letter concerned issues that pertained to the succession of Rabia Martin after the passing of Inayat Khan and issues relevant to Ivy Duce’s succession upon the death of Rabia Martin. The letter’s most important points make it abundantly clear that Ivy’s authority as murshida was entirely dependent on Baba and that she had no authority to appoint an illumined successor; and that she should most definitely not indulge in psychism. Baba makes the emphatic and central point to Ivy Duce that “…if Baba is looked up to as the only source of inspiration and guidance, then whatever obstacles, difficulties and disappointments that you will have to face for his sake, you can be sure, he will never let you down.”
Baba’s covenant with Ivy Duce was predicated on her total faith and reliance on Baba, but which she found impossible to achieve because of an unfettered dependency on astrologers, psychics and mediums, especially after Baba dropped the body in 1969. This dependency led her, in turn, to the occultist Jim Mackie.
The de facto succession of Jim Mackie in late 1979- he would not officially become murshid until Ivy Duce died in 1981, was carefully prepared for by her assertion that Baba had promised an illumined murshid, i.e. a saint, as her successor. This was in fact a lie. She willfully distorted conversations on the subject of succession with Baba to arrive at the fabrication, publicly expressed only after Baba dropped the body, that Baba had promised a continuous line of illumined murshid(a)s for the next 700 years to guide Sufism Reoriented. The leadership and mureeds of her order believed her, with the notable exception of Don Stevens who was Ivy’s liaison with Baba on such maters. He was evidently the only sufi apart from Ivy herself to have full knowledge of the facts. He has gone on record to reveal that Baba conveyed to him through Eruch that Baba disabused Ivy of her wishful thinking on this subject by saying that he would provide a genuine murshid(a) only from “time to time and in his own way and manner.” (Don Stevens left Sufism Reoriented in the early 70’s because of Ivy Duce’s dishonesty.) Ivy Duce, however, refused to repeat this as Baba’s final statement on the matter and promoted instead a grandiose fiction.
The Sufi Charter, finalized in 1952 after several years of of intermittent discussion between Ivy Duce and Don Stevens on behalf of Sufism Reoriented, and Baba and others does not provide for the possibility of Ivy Duce appointing a spiritual successor for the obvious reason that Ivy Duce herself had no spiritual status:
“Where there is neither Divine Illumination nor Realization of God, there should never be constitutional authority for the sustenance of any such privileges and prerogatives.” (#1, Section VII, Organization)
This was the central subject of the 1948 letter. Ivy Duce certainly did not become illumined on the basis of repeated consultations with astrologers, psychics and mediums in the period after Baba dropped the body in 1969. Baba did allow for the provision that he himself could play (in the period after he dropped the body) this role:
“The Qutub (the very source of illumination) can play the part of a Murshid (the fully illumined).” (#5, Section II, States and Stages of Experience and Knowledge)
There are myriad indications that Jim Mackie exercised an occult or hypnotic influence on the order. An astonishing “groupthink” began to pervade the membership after he became murshid: sufis started to wear white, because Jim Mackie wore white; sufis began to smoke, because Jim Mackie smoked; sufis consolidated their living arrangements in shared buildings and began to decorate their spaces similarly; sufi’s collectively got rid of their Lyn Ott paintings- the best Baba paintings in the Baba world; sufis became more and more dedicated to an order that above all showcased “spiritual camp”- the theatre of group devotion came to be the rule; the staging by Jim Mackie’s besotted mureeds of his arrival at Baba’s Samadhi in 1987 remains the unsurpassed story of spiritual pretension in the Baba world; Jim Mackie’s occult theories of spirituality replaced Baba’s works as a new paradigm of thinking, etc.
In the primer for prospective members of Sufism Reoriented written by Jim Mackie, “Participation in Sufism Reoriented”, the following is asserted as Baba’s guideline for membership: “the ability to generate a personal surplus of time, energy, and resources for spiritual work.” What this has meant in practice is the most extraordinary dedication of time, energy and money to an organization with the overarching ambition to become a powerful institution. The new $40 million underground Sanctuary of Sufism Reoriented is nearing completion near Walnut Creek, Ca where the membership will have enhanced opportunity to dedicate yet more resources to a dark and dank enterprise.
The present murshida of Sufism Reoriented, Carol Conner, succeeded Jim Mackie upon his death in 2001. Reoriented sufis believe that she is a 6th plane saint as a result of a spiritual transmission from Jim Mackie, and that she will appoint a successor who is likewise a perfect saint. This spiritual tragedy reminds one of the compelling need of the wandering Jews to fabricate a Golden Calf so as to render the Divine Presence.
However, one problem facing the order is that 80% of the membership is over 60 years of age and the progeny of most of these sufis simply aren’t interested. The order has not had success in recruiting young people in general. But for now, the cult totters on.