Note: The following account (Chapter 3 of 'Source of the Dream') was written while I was still enamoured of Indian spirituality. It is correct in descrtiptiv detail, but my interpretations of them are influenced by the faith I then had, while I now have a broader and deeper persepective of these kinds of events and issues.


In the spring of 1979, I visited friends in London who still followed the swami, and I accepted an invitation to meet him again, not having seen him for nearly six years. The atmosphere was as intense and unusual as it had been on my previous visit. The swami came very close to me and looked into my eyes from only a few inches away, which gave me a peculiar feeling; then he said that I was torn between England and Norway, duty to my mother, and duty to my son. This was true indeed, being the very nub of many related problems that caused me great difficulties. I was certain he had no normal way of knowing this so well.

He asked me to hold a bunch of incense Sticks while someone else lit them, adding in a commanding tone, “Don’t drop any!” I found this provocative and unnecessary. As before, he still dominated all around him. Not a minute later, I swapped the incenses to the other hand, and one stick fell on the floor. The swami had his back to me, making an Indian sweetmeat, but be straight away said, “You dropped one?” This caught me off balance, and I had no answer. I decided I would not let this happen again, whatever he said, all the while puzzling over what had happened.

Five or ten minutes later, the swami was rapidly moving among those present, serving food, when he suddenly and very swiftly turned to point at the floor at my feet, exactly as another stick of incense fell from my hand to that spot! He gave me a penetrating and knowing look, as if to say, “Didn’t I tell you so?” It took me some time to realise what had occurred. I was certainly astonished and rather disturbed by this apparent usurpation of my will, which I had in a sense pitted against his. What actually happened, whether it was mind-reading or what, I cannot say.

In accordance with the custom, I, like everyone else, had brought a bunch of flowers that the swami had said we ought to offer to the Divine Mother. He had directed me to put the bunch I brought before the house’s shrine, saying, “Let them stay there!” I had felt a bit “bossed about” then, too, and my ego was quietly preparing to rear its head. When the children’s part of the program was over, the adults threw the flowers they had brought to the children. I reached for “my” bunch, too, but they were daffodils with strong stalks, so instead of throwing them, I handed the bunch to one of the children running out of the room. But one flower was dropped in the hand-over. Just a second too late, the swami came rushing from an alcove where he had been sitting, to try to stop me from handing over the flowers. In a trice, he pointed at the flower that had fallen, as ifit were a calamity, which created a dramatic atmosphere. Then he shrugged his shoulders expressively, saying he was very sorry, but it was too late. He gave me no further explanation, and I was too nonplused to think of asking for one. It is sufficient here to note that, months later, something causing me much emotional pain happened, in which a yellow flower was peculiarly involved.

Later I sat on a sofa, close to where he sat on the floor. He sang songs, accompanying himself on the harmonium and created a loving and also very inspiring atmosphere, spicing his singing with hilarious comments or sudden advice to a devotee. At one point he asked a lady present to read from a book about Sai Baba. The reading contained accounts of someone who had been revived from death by Sathya Sai Baba. I had not then heard much about Sathya Sai Baba being a present reincarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba, who had passed on in 1918, and I tended to confuse the two figures. Sai Baba was just the name of yet another Indian saint to me then.

Most of the swami’s long-term followers were known by a spiritual name that he had given them. This is a common practice in India, one of the purposes being to perceive oneself more spiritually and to identify with the divine within by being reminded every time anyone says your name. I had once wished to have such a name, and I knew which name I would choose. After reading Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi I was fascinated with his account of the Himalayan saint known as Babaji. Without giving any notice, the swami looked up from his music and announced, “Bob can be Baba.”

Never had I told anyone at all which name I would have liked. However, the sound of the name Baba is close to Bob, and I knew that the swami apparently now and again gave names sounding like one’s own, the most striking instance being a devotee called Harry Ball who had received the spiritual namesake “Hari Bol” (i.e., “God’s Name”). Later, the swami joked around with my name, writing that Bob Priddy could become Baba Shriddy. Later he modified this to Baba Shirdi. He thus linked me not to Babaji, but to Sai Baba yet again, which I now see was another indication of things to come.

People in the ashram now began to call me Baba, and I even used the name myself, if only in letters to them. When I left that evening, the swami marked my forehead with holy ash (viblmti) and gave me some to taste. From where it came or quite what it represented I did not learn until years later. It was vibhuti' from Sathya Sai Baba’s ashram.

In the following months I corresponded with the swami, and among the peculiar things he wrote was a provocative reference to my “future wife.” I was by now divorced from my first wife, and had been living with Reidun for five years. We were firmly determined not to marry, she more so even than I. At that time, we thought of marriage as a last recourse for those who were unable to live in harmony together, for those who could not solve the problems of genuine sharing. Since cohabitation is accepted as quite normal and legally recognised in Scandinavia, marriage seemed to us to be a ritual having real significance only for public authorities, like the tax man.

During my spring visit, I had seen a photo of the swami, supposedly picturing him during samadhi or superconscious trance while visiting the Himalayas. It was a most attractive, largish photo. As time went by, I wished I had a photocopy of it, and wondered about asking my friend R. R. for one. A week or so went by, and my ex-Vvi'fe sent a message to ask me to remove all my old papers from the dusty attic in the house that was now her property. Among those papers were some I had received from the visiting band before I had actually met the swami, and there was the exact photocopy I was wishing for!

That summer, while on a visit to England to see my mother, we attended a big fair near Newcastle. Reidun had never had her fortune told by a Gypsy before. She came laughing sardonically from the gaudy caravan because the fortune she had been told by the daughter of Petroleigo had ended with the news that Petroleigo herself was in another room and would read her fuller fortune for a few more pounds! One item that had made her most skeptical, however, was the prediction that there would very soon be a most happy event in the family, within some weeks. This, we were sure was out of the question, as no births, marriages, or other happy family events were pending.

When we went down to London, Reidun was able to attend a kirtan and meet the swami for the first time. As usual, he was unconventional, nodding “hello” to us while sitting to sing at the harmonium. He looked up at Reidun, and his first words to her, between two melody lines, were: “Gypsies can’t tell you anything!”

During that meeting the swami took me aside to talk in the privacy of a side room. He asked me ifI would mind reading aloud for the group some things he had written that had to do with Sai Baba. He explained that he had written it, not knowing I was coming there, but feeling sure that it had all been arranged by a higher power. Both Reidun and I read part of the invocation, and very drawn-out and peculiar it was.

Later the swami almost transfixed me by his intensity in a half-hour conversation in the middle of the room, during which he insisted that it was best for me to get married to Reidun - at least, I should if l wished to continue on the spiritual path with him. I was rather obstinate, as one might understand. I marshalled my objections in haste, but to each of them he seemed to have an answer that I had not really considered properly before. My strongest card was the final, “But she won’t!” (I had actually asked her some years before.) “Oh! Never mind. She will!” was his completely confident reply.

Through all this Reidun sat, unable to say a thing, while people who were waiting to get the swami’s attention listened to it all. I had to laugh when I thought about what Reidun’s women’s liberation colleagues would have made of it. One truly strange thing the swami did was to suddenly and dramatically adopt an extraordinary stance, pointing up with one hand and down with the other and saying in a strong voice, “He blesses you!”

Someone told me that he very seldom accepted gifts from anyone, and only if they were given from the heart. I had at our previous meeting offered him a small candle that was moulded in a red, heart-shaped tin. I had a specific intention in doing this, and the gift was a symbol of something that one would in fact be very hard put to guess its meaning! During the spiritual marriage proceedings, the swami returned the small tin to me, asking me if it did not represent exactly what it in fact had. He did this in a way that kept this meaning quite private. He had burned the candle, and it now contained ash that he said had just been brought from the shrine of Sai Baba in Shirdi, India. He also gave us each a dried rose petal from that same shrine.

There I also met briefly a young Indian who had just come from India and apparently had brought these things with him, some from Shirdi and some from Puttaparthi. He told me that since Sathya Sai Baba had entered his life, everything had changed vastly for the better. A week later some of the devotees gave us a box of fragrant vibuthi, as the swami had told them. He had also told them it was from Sathya Sai Baba and had somehow issued from a picture of him somewhere. Six years later it transpired that I actually received a lot more of this same vibuthi, with its unmistakably unique fragrance, from a picture in a Sai Baba temple in India.

At another point in the spiritual marriage ceremony, the swami asked someone to hand him a carrier bag he had with him. He drew out a garland made of sandalwood shavings, looking very surprised as he did so: “There were two, but now they are joined together into one!” he said. “But then, Sai Baba does many wonderful things. It’s not my doing!” He placed the garland around both our necks together. “It is from Sai Baba. You understand?” Yet I did not grasp whether it was from Shirdi or Puttaparthi, nor did I know whether he meant this figuratively or literally. Everything was happening too fast for me to figure it out. I was not at all sure where I had this swami-or for that matter, where he had me.

The symbolic meaning of the “unification” of two garlands to one I understood from the swami, who declared that from then on Reidun and I were made as one by God. This was eventually illustrated to us by what happened in our relationship years afterward, and most adequately, too, as will become evident. He reminded us how we had been “blessed by the Great One, the Almighty One Himself,” and “as He spoke, it was made and sealed,” even though he had been surprised considering our having lived together unmarried.

The whole experience was very felicitous for us. In arranging the day, the swami said he had taken account of planetary movements that he could not explain to us. We later found it to have been the auspicious day of the new moon. Also, though it was a very sunny, hot, and almost cloudless July day, a very fine rain fell for just a few minutes when we took a pause in the garden after the ceremony, which supposedly is a very good sign. It had also rained after the church ceremony. Altogether, many difficult practical matters that seemed to be insoluble hindrances to our getting married, such as a missing certificate of divorce, airline reservations, and the booking of the chapel all fell exactly into place, just in time, most remarkably.

One day a friend who knew the swami came wearing a red corduroy cap and I realised it was a favourite cap that I had lost the last time I was in London. He immediately said that the swami had passed it on to him, saying he had found it. When my friend asked him what to do with it, the swami had said, “Give it to lost and found.” This had seemed difficult, for where in London was a lost property office where one might deliver a cheap holiday hat? Before he could decide what to do, I turned up to claim it. I had let it at the kirtan with the incense sticks and flowers the previous Easter. In a deeper sense, of course, it was I who, from the swami’s viewpoint, was “lost and found.”

That incident was similar to many others involving the swami. He was not a person one could tie down to straightforward discussion, for the atmosphere he created about him simply made one’s own intentions slip away or feel irrelevant. Once I saw his eyes shine “like burning embers,” as someone most aptly had tried to describe it. They shone with a fascinating light that was entirely out of the ordinary, showing a depth and mystery that I have never seen before or since.