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Phil Cowans

Phil Cowans and Dorothy Weiss

Phil Cowans and Dorothy Weiss

Please see Dorothy’s reminiscence of Phil here.

A Remembrance by Max Reif, September 2013

 

Phil Cowans was one of the pioneer American Baba-lovers of my generation, one who had the good fortune to correspond with Baba. Because he lived practically as a recluse in his Miami Beach home, his name  may not be recognized by many Baba-lovers. But he was a dear, and his one-pointed devotion to Meher Baba an inspiration! His long-time friend Dorothy Weiss posted the notice of his passing in Miami Beach several months back, in June 2013.

Phil came to Baba in the early ‘60s through Irwin Luck. The story, as told me by Phil and confirmed by Irwin (I remember the main facts; please forgive me if I get some detail wrong), is one of those great Baba tales that simply leave you aware that the Beloved can do ANYTHING to draw a destined one into His orbit!

Phil and Irwin were both in the Air Force Reserve, and they had to go away to a Reserve weekend. They did not know one another.

One day at the Mess Hall, Phil noticed that a young man getting up from the table had a note on a piece of paper that was pinned to his back! Curious, Phil walked up behind the young man to read what it said. It said: “I am being silent today as a spiritual observance.”

The next day, Phil saw this same young man, sans note. Phil approached him and said, “I saw the note on your back yesterday that said you were being silent as a spiritual observance. What was the occasion?”

And Irwin’s reply was: “What note?”

BABA of course had somehow caused Phil to see what was not literally (in Illusion) there! The connection forged by this experience led to Irwin’s telling Phil about Meher Baba, and to Phil’s falling in love with Baba, too.

Phil was one of the small number of Westerners to attend the East-West Gathering in November 1962. This passage from Lord Meher conveys a sense of the power and intimacy of Phil’s face-to-face encounters with the God-Man:

                             UNFORGETTABLE CRUSHING EMBRACE
 

Like several Americans who met Meher Baba for the first and only time at the East-West Gathering, Phil Cowans, a young man in his twenties, had memorable encounters. When he first went to embrace Baba, Baba held on to him tightly for a long time, so tightly that Cowans actually felt that he was being crushed by him and that he was about to lose his life! Gasping, with all his strength, he pushed Baba away. Baba did not convey anything, and Cowans walked back to his seat in tears. However, that experience of feeling Baba’s power, of being crushed by it, never left Cowans’ memory.

On another day after darshan, Phil Cowans found himself all alone with Baba. Cowans spoke; Baba listened. It had to do with sex and women. Baba gestured in reply and Cowans told him he did not understand a word from his hand signs. Then Baba got Eruch somehow to come over and convey his words: “Don’t worry about this problem. Baba will help you with this.” (vol. 18, p. 5994)

I first met Phil in 1978 when my about-to-be wife, Barbara Waxman, took me to his home to meet him. No one answered the door, but we found Phil jogging in an adjacent small park. Phil’s first words to me were, “When I saw you approaching, my first thought was ‘That’s me over there!’” (We did have a certain physical resemblance in those days.) He told me a bit about his meeting with Baba, as well as the fact that he owed some money and at a certain point Baba would not allow Phil to correspond with Him until the debt was paid off.

Phil also told me about his job as a freelance mechanic, specializing in Corvettes. He worked on these upscale cars in the driveway of his small house. He told an anecdote about going out to the driveway one morning, starting up a Corvette, and listening to the engine hum . . . and then opening the hood, only to find that there WAS no engine! “Baba was playing with me!” Phil said. It was a little “out there’, but I had my own little treasury of “extreme (personal) Baba stories,” and I knew very well that Baba could and it seemed DID occasionally “play with” His lovers in that way, as part of His Lila.

That period was part of the Whirlwind (Baba’s, I assume!) that carried “the spirit of the ’60s” way into at least the late ’70s! During that period, I sometimes got overwhelmed with Baba’s Immanent Presence, and in fact, our whole lives seemed so FULL of Him and His Energy and Whimsy, that I sometimes took Him for granted and became what I would now call too familiar.

One day I said something born of this flippancy in Phil’s presence, and Phil looked me very intently in the eye and said, “Do you know that little jingle Baba dictated about His being Fire?” And he quoted it slowly for me:

 

Baba is Fire!

When you feel cold

And sit near the fire,

It drives out your cold

And makes you perspire.

When you feel hungry

And cook on the fire,

It gives you your food

For which you aspire.

But if you, like a fool,

Try to play with the fire,

It may burn you so badly

That would make hell admire.

 

I did indeed get burned that badly, not too long afterward! And I will always remember Phil Cowan as someone who cared for me, but was willing to speak truth when I acted like a simpering fool.

In the ‘90s, along with several Baba-lover friends from Myrtle Beach, I journeyed to Miami to take part in Lifespring, a sequence of “human potential” seminars that was supposedly designed to enhance one’s life-skills. The group was very difficult for me, and occasionally I sought out Phil’s company. I had also heard the group “pitched” to Phil by one of my friends, and Phil resolutely refused to “try the beginner’s course.”

When I would ask him more about his strong boundary in this area, he would quote verbatim from memory a letter Baba had dictated and sent to him two and a half months prior to the East-West Gathering:

“Know that the paramount need more than Self-Realization is simply the friendship of a God-Realized Master gotten by resigning yourself completely to his will. The more you clean your heart of otherness—the more you will love. My Love Blessing to you. Baba in seclusion.”
(quoted in Lord Meher, vol. 19, p. 6267)
 

Phil, your steadfast commitment to Meher Baba is one of my inspirations. Godspeed in His Love, brother!!

 

LORD MEHER ENTRIES ABOUT PHIL COWANS

From East-West Gathering:
“ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW!” (vol. 18, p. 6025)

Irwin and Edward Luck and Phil Cowans were lingering by the door after everyone had filed out. They, too, turned to leave when all of a sudden Baba snapped his fingers loudly. They turned and looked at him, and he gestured, “Remember, I am God in human form.” Again, they turned to go. Baba snapped his fingers and repeated,Remember, I am God in the human form! That is all you need to know!and then he motioned for them to leave.

The following is the main Phil Cowans entry:

UNFORGETTABLE CRUSHING EMBRACE (vol. 18, p. 5994)

Like several Americans who met Meher Baba for the first and only time at the East-West Gathering, Phil Cowans, a young man in his twenties, had memorable encounters. When he first went to embrace Baba, Baba held on to him tightly for a long time, so tightly that Cowans actually felt that he was being crushed by him and that he was about to lose his life! Gasping, with all his strength, he pushed Baba away. Baba did not convey anything, and Cowans walked back to his seat in tears. However, that experience of feeling Baba’s power, of being crushed by it, never left Cowans’ memory.

On another day after darshan, Phil Cowans found himself all alone with Baba. Cowans spoke; Baba listened. It had to do with sex and women. Baba gestured in reply and Cowans told him he did not understand a word from his hand signs. Then Baba got Eruch somehow to come over and convey his words: “Don’t worry about this problem. Baba will help you with this.
(vol. 19, p. 6267)
While in seclusion, on July 29th, 1962, Baba sent this telegram to Phil Cowans of Miami Beach, Florida: “Don’t worry, my love will help you be happy. Remember me.

Then later, on August 15th, 1962, Baba had this message sent to Phil Cowans in a letter:Know that the paramount need more than Self-Realization is simply the friendship of a God-Realized Master gotten by resigning yourself completely to his will. The more you clean your heart of otherness – the more you will love. My Love Blessing to you. Baba in seclusion.(Cowans soon after met Baba at the East-West Gathering, November 1962.)

 

LOVER OF MANKIND & CREATION (vol. 19, p. 6277)

. . . “And here you are, sitting comfortably on a chair waiting for me. And it is definite that I will send for you at five o’clock. You should be happy that I call you within just two hours. You do not have to sit for years waiting for my call. I do not make you sit unnecessarily. Can it ever be a waste of your time to wait for my call? You think you are sitting there without work. Tell me, is it not work to wait for my call? You have no idea what important work you are doing.” Bhau gradually realized what Baba explained.

Meanwhile in America, Phil Cowans of Miami Beach, Florida, was having problems with a young lady with whom he gotten involved. Although she felt love and affection for Phil, she would not accept Meher Baba. Phil wrote Baba about this, and on June 15th, 1964, Baba through Eruch replied:Baba wants me to convey to you that you are not only to curtail your relationship with girl in question but to abrogate it. And it is about time that you became enticed by your love for the Real Beloved—Baba—which is the true search for a genuine aspirant.”

Phil Cowans’ problems with women continued and he felt confused whether or not he should marry. He wrote Baba about this, and in July 1964, Baba through Adi K. Irani replied:Marriage does not interfere with man’s loving God. Whether you get married or stay single is of little importance. What is important is that you love and obey me. Love-Blessings. Baba in seclusion.”

In another letter through Adi, Baba advised Phil Cowans: “The girl of your choice should accept Baba at least; otherwise, you would be diverted from the goal of life!

 

 

 

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2 Responses to Phil Cowans

  • Hello max: Wonderful eugoly. I met you in Mrytle Beach when Adi visited. I remember you getting up and dancing!
    I had a 6 year relationship with Terry Levine who I met over at Barabara Waxman place in South Beech. Terry was first introduced to Phil but they never clicked.
    Phil was an inspiration to me with his spontaneous stream-of-conscious talks about Baba. He was my first contact in 1963–while he was out jogging at that same park that you alluded to! Crespi Park.
    Dorothy and I were at the hospital the day Ohil passed and we were able to view his body in the morgue . I called my brother and his wife on the phone and we all recited the Masters Prayer and Prayer Of Repentence. When Dorothy and I were leaving to go to her car, we heard the Bells chime–a rare occurrence and only reserved for the passing away of a great soul. In all the years of going to Mount Saini , we had never heard bells toll. We were convinced the bells tolled for Phil.
    A final tribute to a truly remarkable Baba- lover.

    Al

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