1307THE WEST LEARNS TO SING1931
Around 1905 Stokes developed an interest in Eastern thought and joined the American branch of the Vedanta Society. For 25 years he held regular monthly "gatherings" at his home, where like-minded spiritual aspirants listened to a lecture and meditated. In 1926, Rabia Martin, the American representative of Inayat Khan, sent him advanced lessons of Sufism.
In January 1931, Stokes had penned a foreword to a book of lectures (Pillars of Life by Vishwanath Keskar), in which he wrote: "The fundamental note sounded ... by all the great Eastern teachers is that life is One ... Realization of this oneness marks the fulfillment of its purpose, the attainment of its goal." So he was deeply impressed with meeting Baba and invited him to stay at his house in Greenwich Village whenever Baba visited New York City. Baba accepted his offer.
Another prominent visitor that day was Princess Norina Matchabelli, 51, the Italian wife of Prince Georges Matchabelli, 46, a national hero of Georgia who had fought for his country after the Russian Revolution. In December 1923, the couple moved to America, where Norina performed on stage in New York and Georges founded the Prince Matchabelli Perfume Company. As a young woman, Norina (using the stage name Maria Carmi) was chosen by the Austrian stage director Max Reinhardt to play the role of the Madonna in his pantomime play The Miracle, written by Norina's first husband, the German author Karl Vollmoeller. The play was a phenomenal success performed over 1,000 times. Norina, a Roman Catholic, even had an audience with the Pope, in Rome in 1914. She also starred in more than 25 silent Italian films. In America, she continued to perform in a production of The Miracle. From this role, she developed a deep spiritual longing and became a seeker.
Norina was an old friend of Jean's. The day before Jean had left for Harmon to prepare for Baba's arrival, she had gone to see Norina at her apartment in New York. Norina candidly asked her, "Who is this 'Master' at whose feet you would worship?" Jean tried to explain to her about Baba and about Thomas Watson's profound experience with him in England, but Norina remained unconvinced.
Norina asked Jean, "How can you worship at the feet of any man, even if he does call himself a Master? Women like ourselves — who have had such deep inner experiences — don't need any man to show us the way to God. How can you allow yourself to be drawn into such foolishness?"