The following is a short extract from a chapter written by Ron Farmer in Howard's latest book "The Way to Love Divine".
I hope you enjoy reading about this remarkable messenger of God.
Biography - Howard Kelvin Murphet - 1906 - 2004
"I entered this world on the 4 November 1906 and I grew up on a farm near Launceston, Tasmania." With loving parents who instilled in him a high code of compassion, ethics and morality, his life on the farm was rich and satisfying.
Early events of what might be called ‘divine grace’ sowed the seeds of a life-long interest in the supernatural. Laying down on his back looking up at a clear blue sky, suddenly a window appeared in the dome-like roof of the world: "Beyond the window was a glorious scene that made me feel like I was looking into Heaven. There was radiant light shining on buildings, moving figures with wise and noble faces, and heavenly music as well. A wave of bliss flooded through me as time stood still." This and other experiences at such a young age no doubt played their part in shaping Howard’s future destiny as a voice to the world announcing spiritual masters.
In contrast to his forming life, he found the compulsory hours at his one-teacher school dragged on interminably. Once at high school his delights knew no bounds. "It was a wonderful experience, a great adventure. I loved the unfamiliar smells of new books and the chemical laboratory. All of the teachers were excellent, had degrees and wore their academic gowns." His father generously sent him off for two years to what is now the oldest school in Australia, Launceston Church of England Grammar School
Already at this early age of sixteen, Howard was wondering more about Godly matters than most other boys his age, due perhaps in large part to his mother’s devotion to religion: "Many noble spiritual teachings were given to me by my first guru, my mother. Some of them – God’s omniscience, for example – I dropped as quite irrational as I passed along the corridors of secondary school and university. Yet years later, in the garden of meditation and greater understanding, I discovered new facets of my maternal spiritual teachings and knew them to be gems of truth."
Howard enrolled in the Hobart Teachers’ College and developed his love of good literature, pointing him towards Tennyson, Browning, Keats, Emerson, Dickens and others, with Tennyson his favourite poet: "I often quote Tennyson in things I write."
However the practice of teaching was a disappointment and Howard at the age of twenty-four left the safe profession of teaching at the start of the Great Depression and arrived in Melbourne to start the Collingwood Clarion. It did so well that he sold it after a few months so he could work as a sports journalist on the evening edition of the Argus, a large Melbourne daily.
When Howard was twenty-six the paper closed down, leaving him unemployed. So he teamed up with a friend and they "went on the ‘track’. Kenneth Slessor, the editor of Smith’s Weekly, had agreed to publish Howard’s articles and paragraphs about the ‘bag-men’ – the vast numbers of unemployed men ‘on the track’. "You were an accomplished bag-man if you could jump the ‘Sydney Limited’. It used to go romping up from Melbourne to Sydney with smoke billowing out from the coal-burning engine. So we jumped the Sydney Limited and arrived in Sydney."
Howard met Gwen who was to become his first wife. Just before the start of the war with Germany in 1939, they travelled by sea to England with the intention of gaining more experience in advertising and commercial art; but "….soon after we arrived the war came, and all of our plans fell through as the big daily newspapers were all reduced to four pages, and there was little room for advertising. So I had to move in another direction then."
Howard, "seeking adventure", went over to France as a driver with the British Red Cross. After Dunkirk he joined the ambulance service for a few months at the start of the bombing blitz on London; then, at age thirty-five Howard joined the British Army in an officer’s cadet training unit, resulting in his being commissioned as a second lieutenant.
Then came postings as a motor transport officer with the Ninth Battalion in Ireland, then Port Suez in Egypt and finally time spent training Jewish and Palestinian troops in Palestine. The chagrin felt from missing out on immediate action in the Western Desert soon changed to a deep soul-nurturing delight as he began visiting the many holy places "….written indelibly into the fabric of my childhood culture. While walking in places where the feet of Jesus had trodden, I seemed to move, myself, out of time into the eternal. While sitting one afternoon in the Garden of Gethsemane near a battered olive tree that was old enough to have witnessed the agony of Jesus in this very garden before the day of his crucifixion, I realised that the way of life for which we were fighting had begun here."
The hand of destiny saw him transferred to the Desert as an officer – now captain - conducting war correspondents to wherever good news stories were available: "As the Battle of Alamain raged, I took my party of war correspondents to whichever part of the line promised the most interesting action." His supply truck was blown up and later, near Benghazi, his staff car was also destroyed with a "brother officer" losing both his legs. After the long desert campaign came the invasion of Sicily. Now with the Fifth Division, Howard landed with his allotted war correspondent from the London News Chronicle: "I can see him now as we waded onto a beach from a small landing craft, his typewriter held high above his head, while bullets from a German aircraft whistled around our ears." Once Sicily was taken, General Montgomery led the Eighth Army in Italy where Howard was now in charge of "three stars among the British war correspondents at that time ", including the Australian-born Alan Moorehead who was later to become famous as an author of non-fiction books. During both invasions Howard had begun to write feature articles himself which he learned to market successfully.
After duty in Paris and Brussels, Howard flew home to London to welcome his newborn son whom he named Richard, after Richard- the-Lionhearted. His joy was short-lived however as his next assignment was to visit and write a report on the Belsen concentration camp not far from Hanover in Germany, which had just been liberated. His journey ‘into the horror pit’, as he called it, was indeed ten days of descent into what had been a sub-human world. The emancipated inmates, the piles of rotting corpses and the tales of unspeakable crimes against humanity gave stark clarity to his understanding of why Nazism had to be stopped whatever the cost in human life. Later, soon after the surrender of Germany, he was further reminded of this imperative when he was in charge of the British Press Section at the Nuremberg Trials.
The end of the war also saw the end of the marriage between Howard and Gwen – they had grown too far apart during those terrible six years. Gwen returned to Australia and her family with young Richard, while Howard was to spend another five years in Germany, first as an official of the Control Commission, and then as the director of public relations and advertising for NAAFI (Navy, Army and Airforce Institutes) in Western Europe.
The year 1951 saw Howard at the age of forty-five returning to Sydney, yet the call to travel and search for ‘something’ remained with him. The ‘finger of God’ answered this call in 1955 by prompting him to attend yoga classes in the Adyar Headquarters of the Theosophical Society. By a mutual mistake, he met his future wife, Iris, waiting at the closed doorway to the yoga school. Choosing the newly-discovered Liberal Catholic Church – founded and staffed by officials of the Theosophical Society - as their wedding venue, there began a quickening of their- hitherto dormant- spiritual quest. Soon after, they both went to a lecture at the Self-Realisation Fellowship founded by Paramahansa Yogananda, the author of ‘Autobiography of a Yogi.’
During a lesson practising one of Yogananda’s chants, Howard was flooded with bliss: "So much so, my consciousness disappeared. Nothing existed anywhere but the unutterable bliss of being. The experience was a reaffirmation of the Reality I sought. Brief tastes of it, such as this, whet the appetite for the bottomless chalice of ambrosia, and to find it the pilgrim moves onward, ever onward." And so, with both searching for how to attain the spiritual dimension, the year-long married couple sailed for Athens in 1960 on the first leg of what would prove to be a most extraordinary adventure.
In the spring of 1961, they joined the twenty-member Subud colony at Coombe Springs outside London. During the next two years in England and Spain, Howard earned his living writing articles on yoga and psychic phenomena. This work was accompanied by the publication of his first book, ‘Yoga for Busy People’, which sold well for many years. His psychic research led them into the Theosophical Society’s library in the West End which in turn led them to be accepted as students in the School of the Ancient Wisdom at the Theosophical Society Headquarters at Adyar, in Madras, India.
Based at Adyar, they ventured forth and spent time with the young Dalai Lama and imbibed a banquet of spiritual understanding through meeting many extraordinary figures including the renowned J. Krishnamurthi, Swami Ranganatananda of the Ramakrishna Mission, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and Tat Wallah Baba, among others.
Then came the truly pivotal event in Howard’s life; his journey to Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s ashram, Prasanthi Nilayam, near Bangalore. This not only opened his spiritual heart to an extent he could never have even dreamed of, but also inspired the writing of his best-selling book ‘Sai Baba, Man of Miracles’. He had witnessed truly astonishing miracles – including the covering of a large Shirdi Sai Baba statue by holy ash created by Baba’s hand inside an upturned small empty urn, and the production of a lingam from Sai Baba’s mouth – and heard of many more miracles from other devotees. He began his writing.
However, much time and extensive research would be demanded of him in biographies of the two founders of the Theosophical Society, Colonel H.S. Olcott and Madam H.P. Blavatsky. Writing of the two biographies throughout 1967, funded under a Writer’s Fellowship from the Kern Foundation in America. The first of the two, ‘Hammer on the Mountain’, is a detailed and inspiring account of one of the most outstanding men that ever lived - Henry Steel Olcott.
The second biography, ‘When Daylight Comes’, on the controversial Russian noblewoman, Madam Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, would be completed upon their return to Australia in 1971 and 1972.
Howard’s attention was now directed towards his writing of ‘Man of Miracles’. Saturated with first-hand accounts of Baba’s miracles, told with the copy-writer’s economy of language and interwoven with a deep understanding of the Avatar’s teachings, ‘Man of Miracles’, was first published in 1971. It has since published in every major language, selling tens of thousands of copies and led "many people to the Light."
In the midst of writing ‘Man of Miracles’ from their base at Adyar, Howard and Iris still found time to visit the ashram of the late Sri Aurobindo at Pondicherry, thus beginning a life-long study of this great spiritual master’s published works. Then, after the completion of ‘Man of Miracles’, they set off in the footsteps of that earlier writer/seeker, Paul Brunton, to visit the sacred mountain of Arunachala at whose feet rests the ashram of the late Ramana Maharshi, famed for his teachings on self-enquiry. There they spent time with Arthur Osborne and his wife: "It was this gifted spiritual searcher who wrote the book ‘The Incredible Sai Baba’ (on Shirdi Sai) which had done so much in our lives", as well as the seminal work, ‘The Life and Teachings of Ramana Maharshi’.
After six years in India, Howard and Iris travelled back to Australia, settling in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. Following four years of absence from their beloved guru in sacred India, in 1974 Howard and Iris were now able to return for another stay. This not only provided them with wonderful spiritual nourishment, again in close physical proximity to Sai Baba for much of the time, but also further material for Howard’s second book on Sai Baba, ‘Sai Baba Avatar’, which he wrote after their 1976 return to Australia. This book chronicles a further host of miraculous events and expands in more depth upon the timeless spiritual philosophy taught by Sai Baba: "But perhaps my main reason for writing was that, after a period of rumination and contemplation on the subject, followed by a return journey into the realm of Divine Power, Love and Glory, I felt a strong need to say more, to make one more attempt to express that which is ultimately inexpressible."
In 1982 he published his third book on Sathya Sai Baba, ‘Sai Baba: Invitation to Glory’, which not only adds to the storehouse of recorded miracles, but also paints a literary mosaic of how Sai Baba’s teachings can be applied in everyday life.
Howard made good use of another fellowship from the Kern Foundation to write on a topic he had been researching ever since their days at Coombes Springs when he could immerse himself in the London library of the Society for Psychical Research - our experience after dying. First published in 1984 as ‘The Undiscovered Country’ and again in 1990 as ‘Beyond Death: The Undiscovered Country’, the book begins with scholarly essays on how the subject of death has been viewed throughout history. Dr Elizabeth Kubler-Ross acclaimed the book: "a masterpiece’ and ‘a remarkable scholarly study".
In the year when he turned eighty-three, it is understandable that Howard thought his writing days were over: "Through retinal haemorrhages in both eyes, I was quite unable to read or write. All I had was minimal peripheral vision in one eye." But Sai Baba patted his chest and commanded him to write another book, sharing what was in his heart, and to return with the manuscript in two years. So, with Baba not permitting a co-author, and relying now on dictating and auditorial editing, Howard set forth to carry out the instruction of his guru. Sensing that his many readers were keen to hear more of how one man’s footsteps could lead unerringly to become the Avatar’s story-teller read in over twenty languages, Howard wrote his most autobiographical and heart-felt work: ‘Where the Road Ends’. It is an absorbing and uplifting story of a true spiritual seeker searching indefatigably to discover the deeper purpose for which we are all born.
By 1996, when he was eighty-nine, ‘Sai Inner Views and Insights’ was being avidly read worldwide. The first few chapters had been written before the passing of his dearest friend and wife, Iris. With grief overwhelming him, Howard received a message from Sathya Sai Baba to visit him in India. Christmas, 1994, found the now-famous blind devotee again at the feet of his master: He was again spurred on to write the remainder of the book. For many, the most touching and revealing chapter is in the form of a long, intimate and celebratory letter to Iris. In closing that personal tribute, he writes, "Death may seem to take all away and cut all ties, but it cannot cut the link of the love that is forever. So I can still sign myself your ever-loving husband, Howard." A remarkable chapter is titled, ‘Why Fear’, giving Howard’s account of how fear of death was banished forever from his life as he was standing beside a heroic tank commander amidst bursting artillery shells during the great battle of El Alamein in the Egyptian desert in 1940.
‘The Lights of Home’, published in 2002 when Howard was ninety-five, is a book vibrating with love and liberating in its visionary tenor. Howard, blessed with that self-honesty and sensitivity that accompanies the drawing closer to death, writes exquisitely of his parents, precious conversations with Sai Baba, the yogas, close friends and his now vast perception of history and understanding of the timeless philosophy of spirit.
His final book, ‘The Way to Love Divine’, was published in 2004. He could hear the rippling of the current on the ‘River Jordan’, as he called the final crossing-over point; he could sense the awaiting embrace of his beloved Sai Baba and treasured wife, Iris. Living life to the fullest in every minute of every day remaining to him, Howard Murphet continued to work until he breathed his last. He leaves not only a legacy as Australia’s wisest spiritual voice but also as the international writer who brought many people to the truth. His books are timeless, as is the example of a life well lived.
Posted on 24.10.2004 by Ross Woodward