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Mercedes de Acosta was a Spanish-American poet born in New York City on 1 March, 1893. Apart from publishing three volumes of poetry, she also wrote a novel and numerous stage plays. Mercedes saw herself as a spiritual explorer. She studied Theosophy and followed the teachings of the Indian mystic, Ramana Maharshi. He was considered to be an avatar, an incarnation of a deity on earth. He encouraged her to develop God Realisation, to see the divine in all things. She practised yoga, studied astrology and believed in reincarnation. She was a friend of the poet Kahlil Gibran, who introduced her to the mystical Hindu texts of the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. Mercedes is perhaps best known as the lover and confidante of the Hollywood actress, Greta Garbo. But Mercedes was much more than Garbo’s intimate, she was her spiritual guide, steering her on a journey to the heart of the ancient eastern traditions. As they sat together one night on a mountain top in Casa del Mare, Mercedes revealed the secrets of the Ageless Wisdom to Greta Garbo. They remained there the whole night, talking about karma, the origins of the universe and the destiny of humanity.
Mercedes had first met Garbo in the summer of 1931 at the home of the Hollywood screenwriter, Salka Viertel. From this initial encounter, Mercedes knew that she had met Garbo before although not in the conventional sense. As the two women shook hands, a sixth sense told Mercedes that she had known Garbo in many previous incarnations. Mercedes had a similar experience a number of years later. Bambina, her Bedlington terrier, had died while she was travelling in India. Shortly after returning to California, a puppy with the exact same markings ran in front of her car. When she took the dog home, it instinctively seemed to know where Bambina’s basket was and jumped straight into it. Remembering Bambina’s favourite snack was bananas and brandy, Mercedes gave some to the puppy. The dog devoured them and at that moment Mercedes knew Bambina had come home to her.
Mercedes was able to travel astrally. She had studied how astral travel was practised by adepts in the Far East. When separated from Garbo by thousands of miles, Mercedes astrally projected herself from her own home in California to Garbo’s hotel room in Stockholm. When she later checked her astral perceptions of the room with Garbo, her impressions were completely accurate. Mercedes believed she was able to travel to Garbo across the astral plane because of the powerful psychic bond between them.
Towards the end of 1938 Mercedes began a six month journey of spiritual discovery in India. Travelling on a train to Madras, she was seated in a carriage between an old man in a loin cloth and a dapper young Indian barrister. The conductor came into the carriage. When he saw Mercedes, he became very animated. He eagerly asked her a question in Tamil. As she did not understand the language, the old man next to her offered to translate. Mercedes asked the old man if something was wrong with her ticket? He told her the conductor’s question was not about that. The conductor had intuited that she was a seeker on a spiritual quest and was asking whether she believed in the unity of the Divine with the individual soul. She told him that she did. Her destination was Arunachala where she hoped to have an audience with Ramana Maharshi. When she entered his ashram, he was sitting in the Buddha posture, deep in meditation. Finally he opened his eyes. Mercedes had many questions for him. What path should she follow? What teacher should she follow? What was the truth about reincarnation? Ignoring her questions, he told her that only when the human body is threatened does a person believe he will die. The rest of the time he does not think about death. It is almost as if he were immortal and in his ignorance, he is right. The Truth asserts itself despite the belief that the body is the Self. The final thing Ramana Maharshi told Mercedes moved her deeply and steered her course for the rest of her life. He told her she would have no need for further questions. It was better to meditate and have no thoughts, letting the mind rest quietly on the Self in the cave of the Spiritual Heart.
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