54 Interviews with Westerners
on their search for spiritual fulfilment in India

Compiled, Edited and Mainly Photographed by
Malcolm Tillis

  1. Vijayananda
  2. Melita Maschman
  3. Brahmachari Gadadhar
  4. Bill Eilers
  5. Simonetta
  6. Swami Jnanananda
  7. Bill Aitken
  8. Bramacharini Atmananda
  9. Jamie Smith
  10. Martha Smith
  11. Radheshwari
  12. Omkara Das Adhikary
  13. Gopi Jai Krishna
  14. Ellen Schector
  15. Paul Ivan Hogguer
  16. Giorgio Bonazzoli
  17. Anil Bhai
  18. Russell Balfour-Clarke
  19. Norma Sastri
  20. John Clarke
  21. Peter Hoffman
  22. Dhruva
  23. Maggi Lidchi
  24. Sz. Regeni
  25. Baruni
  26. Michael Zelnick
  27. David and Sally
  28. Wilhelmina van Vliet
  29. Norman C. Dowsett
  30. Father Bede Griffiths
  31. Matthew and
    Joan Greenblatt
  32. Lucy Cornelssen
  33. Doris Williamson
  34. Lucia Osborne
  35. David Godman
  36. Hamsa Johannus de Reade
  37. Sir
  38. Joachim Peters and
    Uli Steckenreuter
  39. Richard Willis
  40. Chitrakara das Adhikary
  41. Aviva Keller
  42. Ma Prem Leela
  43. Swami Prem Pramod
  44. Ma Amanda Vandana
  45. Swami Anand Bodhisattva
  46. Swami Nadama
  47. Sister Arati
  48. Francis Reck
  49. H.H. Giriraja Swami
  50. Jean Dunn
  51. Raymond and
    Maree Steiner
  52. Bhikshu Ngawang Samten
  53. Ani Tenzin Palmo
  54. Kate Christie



Kate Christie


7 March 1981

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New Lives - Malcolm Tillis

Raymond Steiner has not only been instrumental in bringing me here to Puruwala in the Derha Dun valley, he is now driving me all the way up to Landour near Mussoorie, my home. As I thought, when I left last December, the snow peaks of the Himalayas are now veiled in purdah, but I am happy to be coming to the end of this strange exhilarating pilgrimage-sadhana. There is just one last Interview I have to take, a rather personal one.

Kate Christie is a writer who has published several novels and a book on ESP. Since 1973 she and her husband have lived mainly in the foothills of the Himalayas away from publicity, away from their former worldly interests. They are both disciples of Sant Kirpal Singh, and help prepare some of his manuscripts for publication – a labour of love.



Interview 54

I was born in England into a very loving family. One of my earliest memories – I suppose I must have been two or three years old – was of someone inside my body using the hands, walking on the feet and looking out through the eyes. I thought grown-ups to be god-like creatures, free to do exactly what they liked; at that time I had no conception of the pressures, tensions and heartbreaks of the world. So at the age of six I prayed to God to give me all the illnesses I had to have in this life while still a child – I wanted to be perfectly fit and free to enjoy my god-like adult life unhampered.

Now of course at this time I had no idea of karma – how did I know I had to have any illnesses? However, that prayer was answered because from my seventh year on into my early teens I was more or less ill all the time. During one illness – I was ten years old – I was given a certain drug by the doctors to which one person in a thousand is allergic: I was the thousandth person. It acted on my system as a poison and I went through the death process. Death took place on three different levels. On the physical level the physical body fought to live – it had everything to lose. On the mental level I was perfectly calm – and very much annoyed: I am too young to die, I have not had a chance to grow up, to develop into anybody, it’s not fair! But there was yet another level in the very depth of me which was utterly unaffected by death. I then blacked out.

You were aware that there was another dimension to your being?
That was what I was aware of then. Now I feel that we should surely live our lives so that this level, instead of being latent, is fully activated into consciousness enabling us to transcend physical death. Whether this death experience opened me up to certain areas of consciousness or whether I inherited the faculty of clairvoyance from my mother I don’t know, but as I grew up my psychic awareness increased. I was tormented by fore-knowledge of death and disaster and also forced to suffer the death – anguish -- of those killed in war, accident or by natural calamity. I actually saw disembodied entities who clung to me sometimes for weeks at a time. Later it was explained to me that these entities came to me because I was a “sensitive,” that’s to say one of the few living persons with whom they could make contact – some of them did not know they were dead. Sometimes I knew who they were, sometimes I didn’t. In desperation I tried to get help.

Were they always people who had died violent deaths?
No, they weren’t. I learned that there are two types of death – the hard death and the easy death. A typical hard death would be that of a young man in the prime of life who had lived entirely in the physical world, giving no thought beyond the body and sense gratifications. Then there are older people who feel their lives to be completed and who feel the body as a burden – they die easily. But the best deaths are those of people who have an awareness beyond the body – who have some form of religion and spiritual expectation beyond death. Roman Catholics and Buddhists rightly stress the need of the soul, the spirit -- at the time of the death of the physical body -- for spiritual help from priests, although I know that Buddhists don’t use the word “soul”.

In the case of my own Guru, Sant Kirpal Singh, he promised to be with the initiate at this time, even to warn him or her some days beforehand of the coming departure. Recently a devoted Indian initiate of Sant Kirpal Singh, whom I knew, was knocked down and fatally injured in a traffic accident. He asked to be taken quietly home. He said: Don’t take me to the hospital – the Master is here, I am ready to go. Another old lady told her family that the Master had come and asked her: Are you ready? And she left the body shortly after. These aren’t isolated cases, they are typical – a true initiate dies smiling.

There are now many accounts – descriptions – of people who were clinically declared dead, who came back to life. Can you remember the experience, what was happening -- during the time you blacked out and lay unconscious as a child?
Whatever happened during that time, the memory of it was wiped from my mind. As I was explaining, I was later beset by psychic experiences.

Couldn’t you get advice from anyone?
Two things did help me: the first was the books of Carl Jung, to whom I shall be everlastingly grateful; the second was the realization that as I could get no help from other people I should have to dig understanding out of myself. Because I was a writer I decided to use the technique of writing for auto-analysis – a painful process involving the unbearable probe of who am I?

You were not then aware of the Indian mystic teaching of self-inquiry?
No. But I discovered that the deeper you dig the more everything breaks up under your hand. In the course of writing this book, which I called Apparitions(1) , I discovered that far from being the victim of my horrifying experiences I was in fact attracting them! I myself was responsible for them. The book did help me to objectify and understand my predicament to a certain extent, and I had many interesting and even enlightening letters from readers with similar experiences. But no one can stand still; I had to move on in one direction or another. Two courses were plainly open to me: that of becoming a medium and that of learning to harness and use occult forces. In both of these directions people were waiting and willing to help me. But I had implacable blocks. To be a medium means to open oneself to God-knows-what-or-whom while in a state of trance – the dangers are obvious. And the occultist uses his powers for what purpose? To have power over natural forces and over other people. He achieves this by an aggrandizement of the will. But the mystic does just the opposite; he submits his will to that of God. So I started looking for the third door, the door of the mystic. But who would open it for me?

Then one winter when I was living in Rome I met someone who suggested meditation, and taught me what she called a Zen technique. One was simply to sit and look at a blank wall and think of nothing. I found I could leave the body very easily. But, once out of the body, all kinds of figures and situations are to be met with, and I quickly realized my friend was not competent to guide or help me. One evening I left the body in this way and found I couldn’t get back. At that moment such a cry for help went up that I believe it was heard by Sant Kirpal Singh, for within a year I had heard about him and he had accepted me as a future initiate.

You are the only person I have Interviewed to have come to the spiritual path by way of psychic experiences. Have you come across any others?
Oh, yes. When I was at my Guru’s feet I met several. But once under the protection of a true spiritual Master no occult or astral forces can touch you. And the Master would not allow us to dwell on those past experiences. He told us: Don’t dwell on the past, don’t speculate on the future, live in the living moment. The sort of meditation I was doing in Rome was taking me out through the heart chakra which is very easy – but the Master makes us go out through the third eye which is exceedingly difficult because first the mind has to be stilled. Many people coming to him from other sorts of meditation at which they’d become proficient had to start again from the beginning like babies! I refer to Sant Kirpal Singh in the past tense because he left the physical body in August 1974.

I can’t ask you how you came to the feet of the Master as if I didn’t know, for we are husband and wife and we both came to him together. But I will ask you to describe it.
We had the blessing of coming to him at the same time, but we came from quite different angles. I have already described my crying need for a Master if I was to make any headway spiritually. In your case Malcolm, you’d had three careers, as a musician, as a writer and lastly as a designer. All three had been successful, but you used to say none of them gave you the deep satisfaction you needed. When we moved from Rome to the island of Malta you had reached a point at 40 at which it did not seem worthwhile starting yet another career, and indeed I remember your saying it did not even seem worth while living. I think you were at the lowest ebb it’s possible to reach and still be alive. Your health was gone and your spirit broken. We didn’t even know why we went to Malta – it wasn’t our scene. We’d lived for many years in the Mediterranean but always with writers and artists; now we were moving in among the gin-drinking retired colonels. All we wanted was some peace, so we found an old farm house we could renovate.

Unknown to us on that tiny island was one initiate of our future Master: his name was Leon Gurney Parrot. At that time he was writing to the Master that he could find no one in Malta who was remotely interested in spirituality and should he not leave and go somewhere where he could serve the Master better? The Master replied: Stay where you are; souls will be sent to you in Malta. At that time, while the Master was foreseeing our contact with Leon, I began seeing the Master clairvoyantly. He appeared as a shining figure of such spiritual power that I thought he must be Christ – the face and features were too bright to see clearly: I wondered what Christ was doing standing before me day after day – I was in no special anguish nor had I been praying to him. Afterwards I realized who it had been.

At our first meeting with Leon – when he described his own meeting with the Master in Bombay years before, and as he went on to tell of the teachings -- it was as if the Master came straight through him. We both left that house with no doubt in either of our minds but that the Master had found us. It was a time of tremendous happiness. During this euphoria I thought that since I was able to leave the body I could take flight and find him. So I sat in what I called meditation and almost at once was in his presence. I saw him very clearly and very far off, like looking down the wrong end of a telescope.

He was sitting outside, as I saw green leaves behind him: he was wearing his white turban and, since it was winter, his black coat over his white cotton salvar suit. As I approached he put out his hand and said: “Don’t do this. Wait!” I realized he meant me to wait for initiation, when I would have his full protection. I obeyed him. Then after a time I thought I’d just try sitting in meditation – and I found he’d blocked it! I could no longer leave the body. I thought: “Here indeed is a true Master! He is protecting me even before I am initiated.” Life had taken on a new dimension. We read the Master’s books and frequently met Leon.

The Master then said we should sit together in meditation. Every time we sat, tears poured out of my eyes. And then I began to hear the Sound Current. The Master teaches that the inner Sound and Light are the primal manifestations of God, and that at initiation the third eye will be opened to see that Light and the inner ear opened to hear that Sound. The sound comes into all religions but is called by different names; in the Bible it is of course, the Word, through which creation came into being and by which it is sustained. Far from having to be in the Master’s physical presence for initiation, aspirants not in India could apply for initiation and then sit in meditation after instructions had been read to them by whoever the Master appointed to do it – the Master Power is not bound by time and space. Indeed when we sat for initiation in Malta both of us had the inner experiences he promised. And within six weeks we had been allowed, with Leon, to go and visit him in India.

So many things happen when you are close to your Master that it’s impossible to recount them all. The first thing I asked him was need I suffer the psychic phenomena which had been dogging my steps? He said no. And since then, although I am still sensitive on that level, the experiences are rare. In being forced to share the agony and anguish of the deaths of other people, was I rendering them some service? They were always those without spiritual awareness or faith. Some of the worst traumatised stayed with me for weeks.

All during that visit we experienced many things both inwardly and outwardly, but it wasn’t until the last evening of that visit that he opened the floodgates of love and poured it through us – the seal on our relationship with him, the cord with which we are forever bound to him. He told me, “I am your Father, I have you by the hand, and I shall never let you go.”

That was in the autumn of 1969. We didn’t see Sant Kirpal Singh again until he came on tour in the West in 1972; we were with him in London, and later joined him for part of his American tour. The tour ended in Rome and there we asked him if we might visit him in India. He said we could. Back in Malta the wish grew and grew that we might stay with him in India and work for him there. When we wrote and asked the Master, he just said he would see if we could stay or not when we arrived. At the last minute we were able to rent our house in Malta to friends from Italy; we left with one small suitcase each and have never been back. As soon as we spoke to the Master he was willing for us to stay with him and prepare some of his manuscripts for the press. In that first Interview, which only lasted about 20 minutes, the majority of the literary work we did for the next six years or so had been given to us.

You, Malcolm, had already felt that important out-of-print talks by the Master should be re-issued in book form. Some of them needed re-editing, and many points cropped up which needed his clarification. And this gave us the blessing of being able to go in to see him whenever we wished. Once we found in one of his discourses he had quoted his own Master, Baba Sawan Singh, and there was no indication where the quote ended and the commentary continued. So, sitting on the carpet at his feet, we asked him if he could tell us.

We became awestruck when he withdrew from the body in front of our eyes to ask his Master in the higher planes. When, after a few moments, he came back into the body he said to us apologetically: What was it you wanted to know? In the bliss of that encounter he had forgotten to ask Baba Sawan Singh. So once again we told him, he again withdrew, but this time came back with the answer. This book was published with the title: “The Night is a Jungle.”

On another occasion we handed the Master a note explaining that his morning’s short darshan talk had not been recorded, and although it would be impossible to recapture the tremendous charging of his words, you had from memory managed to write down a remarkable passage on Silence. We asked him to correct it. Here is that passage with the Master’s hand-written corrections and his tick of approval.

Living close to a Master is rather like living on top of a live volcano! As he is far more than human, his reactions cannot be predicted as they largely can in the case of a limited human being. Expecting fireworks you may get a benign pat on the head, and looking for praise you may get blame. He said himself that his angle of vision was necessarily quite different from ours. Within his radiation all perception was heightened; it was a rarefied atmosphere in which breakthroughs into God-intoxication could be followed by troughs of dark despair. Personality clashes (inevitable in any Ashram) appeared to be fostered by the Master in the interests of what he called man-making. But so all-pervading was the love emanating from the Master and enveloping all his disciples that it was a whole element in which you lived and breathed, like air.

Are there any special aspects of the teachings of Sant Kirpal Singh you would like to stress?
There are two points which I think of special importance as I have not come across them expressed so clearly in other teachings. One is that the Master told us the Attention is the outer expression of the soul. This means that wherever we put our attention the soul will go; we can either fritter it away in outward pursuits, or we can send it inside and up on the spiritual path. He used to point out that when our attention is absolutely engaged in what we are doing we experience happiness.

The other point he so clearly explained was that the sexual urge and the spiritual urge are opposite ends of the same power – he called it the ojas power – and you can turn it which way you like. But in sex this power is drained away. This is why everyone, in whatever religion, who wishes for enlightenment is celibate. It’s not a question of repression, but simply of a new direction. Sant Kirpal Singh said that one on the Path should be celibate even within marriage, except for the procreation of children. He wanted us to be house-holders and wage-earners, not leaning on other people. He himself had married and had children and a responsible government appointment – so when we approached him we were talking to someone who could understand our problems and never spoke to us over our heads, of states we could not comprehend – he was the loving Father taking us up step by step. He said that his teaching was for everyone, and that indeed children and illiterate peasants often made better progress than people with trained and speculative minds which only stood in their way.

When we came to India our lives were completely changed. Our attention, our work, our meditation and our love were all centered on the Master. We wore simple white cotton clothes, we ate simple vegetarian food, we had one room in the Ashram in which we lived, worked, meditated and slept. We had the Master’s darshan twice a day with the visiting Westerners, and of course attended his public satsangs on Sundays. When we were with him he would talk to us and answer our questions. But the most profoundly penetrating experiences were those of his silent darshans. During that winter, which proved to be his last on this physical plane, we went with him on a tour of the Bombay area. In February came the great Unity of Man Conference in Delhi at which he presided. After this he took us Westerners up to Manav Kendra, the centre he had started outside Dehra Dun. Here we were in the foothills of the Himalayas, and every time I saw those peaks I felt I had come home. Indeed, since those days they have become our home.

It was during our weeks at Manav Kendra that I experienced the ultimate joy of all the time we had with him, as one sunlit day succeeded another and his presence ( even when he was physically away) permeated the very stones.

In April the Khumba Mela was held at Hardwar that year, the Master had his camp there and we were allowed to accompany him. Afterwards we all moved up to Rajpur to be near him while he was in his own house. His health was far from good, but he drove himself day and night in what he told us was his Master’s work. He seldom stayed in one place for more than a few days; he still went visiting his many devotees in towns and villages – villages which were sometimes so remote that he took no one with him, and his car bumped for miles over dirt cart tracts in clouds of dust, and in the merciless summer heat. He had a special love for country people who did not always have the money to come to Delhi to see him.

But by the end of July it was known his health was failing; he gave what was to be his last initiation session; he himself began to prepare us to face his departure – but we simply wouldn’t listen, we refused to think it possible. Then one morning walking down near where we were staying in Rajpur, I had the vision of a huge glowing white sun before my eyes. I saw it with open eyes and even more brightly with closed eyes. The thought that came to me was that something was now complete, an unblemished whole. This vision lasted about half an hour. I remember we sat by the roadside in meditation. Afterwards I heard that many other disciples saw this same sun at the passing of the Master, and we remembered that when Baba Sawan Singh was dying in Beas, he asked if people in Jalunder could see the sun. So it was in Rajpur that the stunning blow fell on us – our Beloved Master had left his physical body.

He had often told us he was not the body, but we had come to rely upon his physical presence for our sustenance. Now we had to come to the realization that he lived within each one of us and that, as he had promised, he would never leave us until we had reached our true Home. He indeed is still with us to guide and protect us on the inner planes. And you, Malcolm, have just experienced, in Agra, his continuing grace – and he left his physical body 7 years ago!

We of course still had the work he had given us, so it was natural for us to stay on to complete the 2 volumes of Heart to Heart Talks, and the other books that followed. Afterwards we were drawn to the feet of the Master’s spiritual successor, Sant Darshan Singh, where we continued to do much the same literary work. Martha Smith in her Interview has described how the same loving, caring Master Power is now pouring out through him.

Malcolm, now that you’ve traveled all over India and collected so many Interviews from Westerners following so many different gurus and life-styles, I am struck by this thought: When you and I first came on the path we thought ours was the only path leading to enlightenment. We were as closed as fervent devotees so often are. Since those days a mellowing and opening process has taken place in us. I think it’s because we have gradually become aware of the depth and richness of so many other spiritual paths round us here in India.

Our guru used to say: “Stay in whatever religion you already belong to – just take the next step.” For us he opened the door into another dimension, that of the mystic. Mystic paths all lead to the same realization. It’s interesting that the teachings of some gurus are purely traditional while others vary according to the way in which each of them attained enlightenment: if it was sudden enlightenment, then the devotees are taught to work towards that; if it was through the long process of meditation or austerities, then the followers are encouraged along that path; if it was attained through self-surrender, then that will be advocated. Doubtless, Krishnamurti declared no guru is necessary because of his own experience. But all teachers are saying, as the ancient Greeks said: “Know thy Self.” They are trying to break down our self-important egos and to release the inner awareness of the true Self which is in all of us: all seekers are surely drawn to the path which is right for them.

Ours is the bhakti path – the path of loving devotion to the Guru – and as we are both bhaktas, and as you have included photographs of other Gurus for these Interviews, here is one of our own Guru, Sant Kirpal Singh.

Sant Kirpal Singh

Kate Christie now lives quietly with her husband in Shrewsbury, England. She still writes but does not publish her work.


© Malcolm Tillis 2006