Ivy Duce was confirmed by Meher Baba in 1952 as the murshida of Sufism Reoriented, an order derived from Inayat Khan’s Sufi Movement in America. He told her that he would help her and her students spiritually on the basis of her absolute honesty, as she was not spiritually illumined.
In the discussions between Ivy Duce and Don Stevens with Baba on the subject of succession, Ivy came to believe that Baba had promised her that there would be a continuous lineage of saints or Perfect Masters guiding Sufism Reoriented for 700 years, i.e. until Baba as the Prophet/ Avatar once again returns.
This point has been refuted by Don Stevens who was in a unique position to know the facts about this contentious issue. He was in fact the primary liaison between murshida Duce and Baba, and has gone on record as saying that Baba pointedly disabused murshida Duce on this subject; Don relates that Baba said Sufism Reoriented would be blessed with a real murshid(a) “from time to time”, and that this would be entirely Baba’s business. This point has been confirmed by Baba’s secretary, Eruch Jessawala.
Don Stevens resigned from Sufism Reoriented in the early ’70’s because of Murshida Duce’s chronic dishonesty. (Don relates that Terry Duce, Ivy Duce’s husband, once drew him aside and cautioned him, “my wife is an habitual liar”.)
The question arises, how and why did Ivy Duce get so carried away with spiritual pretension? The idea that the sufi order which had been entrusted to her would be guided by genuine saints or Masters for 700 years is a spectacular assertion. In the annals of spiritual tradition, there has never been such an example.
At best, a spiritual lineage (as a public and recognizable institutional lineage) of genuine saints and or Masters might last for one or two hundred years. The Tibetan lineage of Marpa, Milarepa and Gampopa comes to mind. This lineage continued as the Kagyu lineage, but not with an unbroken lineage of Perfect Masters or saints leading the order. The Sikh lineage of Guru Nanak lasted for two hundred years, assuming that they were all bona fide saints or Masters. The lineage of Moinuddin Chishti is a celebrated lineage, but it did not last as an institutional lineage of genuine saints and Masters for much more than a hundred and fifty or so years.
Please mark my point: genuine spiritual succession continues forever, but not as an identifiable public and institutional lineage. The succession of Perfect Masters and saints is always assured as a transmission, but not at all necessarily within a given institutional context. The Spirit blows where it wills.
The great problem with Sufism Reoriented’s assertion is that it maintains that Baba promised a continuous, public and institutional spiritual lineage of 700 years. This reminds one of the Catholic Church, which is based on a priestly hierarchy.
Why would Sufism Reoriented get confused on the difference between priestly and spiritual lineages? Well, if murshida Duce had left the problem of succession to Baba, it would have remained a spiritual issue. However, she decided to resolve this problem herself, and not having the spiritual status to properly address it, she appointed an occultist, Jim Mackie, as a presumed saint and successor. This consigned her sufi order to become something like the Catholic Church with its exalted priestly lineage . The proof of this is the newly completed Sanctuary of Sufism Reoriented in Walnut Creek which is built to last 700 years as the seat of this new Papacy.