Updated: Jul 30
1) “Planned accidents “
Recently on 2nd December Meher Baba lovers marked the 65 th anniversary of Avatar Meher Baba’s automobile accident at Udtara near Satara. This was the second time in His Avataric mission that the Avatar’s physical body underwent an automobile accident.
Meher Baba had foretold that He would need to shed His blood (both in the east and the west). He had hinted at a ‘dark cloud’ and also gave a clear hint about the date of the accident in the USA almost 30 years back.
This means, these were “accidents” only in the name, in fact they were planned by Him for His universal work. Hence, it would be appropriate to say that He participated in the accidents planned by him for the benefit of future generations.
2) Avatar’s mission through planned accidents
He confirmed that these planned accidents were in fact a part of His mission for the benefit of humanity as is clear in His subsequent statements like:
“I got my physical bones broken so as to break the backbone of the material aspect of the Machine Age, keeping intact its spiritual aspect.” (February 1959)
“…the personal disaster, for some years foretold by me, took place in the form of an automobile accident while crossing the American continent… It was necessary that it should happen in America. God willed it so.” (www.lordmeher.org, p3191)
“You must understand that this was God’s will and it will result in benefit to the whole world.” – Avatar Meher Baba (www.lordmeher.org, p3097)
His “participation” in two automobile accidents has indeed conferred huge benefits on the future generations. We will see how this was achieved with the help of some statistical data and technical details I have been able to collect as an automobile professional.
3) Machine age represented by automobiles
More than 60 years after the event, with the benefit of hindsight, we can now see more clearly how the “backbone of the material aspect of the Machine age was broken keeping the spiritual aspect intact” and how they benefited the whole world.
In the last 6 decades, the various technological improvements, safety regulations and the many campaigns for safety awareness (all of which were initiated after mid fifties - ie after the Avatar suffered the two accidents), have together enhanced the safety of the machines in general and automobiles in particular and this has resulted in reducing fatalities and injuries to a large extent.
Charmian Duce Knowles (who attended to Meher Baba after the accident in 1952) has remarked in an article that there were only a few thousand (4000) automobiles in the year 1900. Their number increased to 600 million in 1975 (when she wrote this comment). The number of automobiles, as on date (in 2021) has now increased to 1400 million or 1.4 billion! This proliferation in numbers is staggering and compares only with the proliferation of the global human population. As Beloved Baba has pointed out in His final declaration “There are two aspects of experience in illusion - manyness and oneness. While manyness multiplies manyness, oneness goes on magnifying itself. Manyness is the religion of illusion on which illusion thrives.”
In the 19th and 20th centuries, automobiles have revolutionized transport and mobility, facilitated mass markets and this in turn has facilitated development of roads, highways, city-suburb networks etc. In short it has contributed greatly to the economic prosperity of the world. Explosive growth of population and mass production of automobiles have been happening hand-in-hand but with a phase difference in different parts of the world. These have brought quality, energy and economic well-being to the lives of common man and given him a new experience of life and brought about a new release of power for not just a few but for all. This is just one of the aspects of the current Avataric advent (just as the communication revolution in Information Technology comprising print media, motion pictures, mobile phones, computers and internet was brought about by the Avatar through various phases of His Silence and interest shown in cinema).
One can safely say that automobiles symbolically represent the essential aspects of our age which Meher Baba described as the “Machine Age”.
4) The Avatar’s work in United States and Europe and the order of the accidents : first in USA and then in India
Avatar Meher Baba has devoted a considerable amount of His time in the west and has also brought a large number of westerners into His fold. Meher Baba has said that the East in general (and India in particular) has been and will remain at the forefront of spiritual progress in future and it was Avatar Meher Baba’s mission that the West which has developed predominantly on the material lines should get initiated on the path of spiritual development.
The western civilisation has been primarily responsible for advances in sciences in the last few centuries. As a result of Meher Baba’s Avataric Mission, the east got an impetus in material development while the West got an impetus to develop in spiritual domain.The East-West gathering in Guruprasad Pune in 1962 has resulted in bringing these two halves closer together for mutual benefits. This cross fertilisation of ideas and development has accelerated with globalisation in the late 20 the century and also in the early 21st century.
The machine age and industrialisation in general and mass manufacture of automobiles in particular initially originated in the US and Europe. However we are now witnessing speedy industrialisation and exponential growth in automobiles manufacture in the East as well.
It is significant that Meher Baba’s first automobile accident happened in the heart of USA. This was followed 4 years later by another accident in India. Naturally the after-effects of the accident and its benefits as felt by humankind, first accrued to the West. These benefits are only now being seen in China and India after a phase difference. While the effects of Improved safety have now been established in the West, they are still unfolding in India and the East.
Hence in this write up, the statistics of post accident era of automobile safety are mapped only for USA, just to illustrate the point. However there is absolutely no doubt that similar trends have already started in the East in terms of awareness, education and regulation. The full blown effect in India and the East is still to be seen and its full impact will only be seen in future decades.
5) Material aspects of Machine age - statistics of casualties before and after 1952 and 1956
As with every technology there are two sides - the positive and the negative. While automobiles have contributed to convenience of mobility and transport needs of the growing population and hence the economic growth and well being; at the same time it has also caused millions of deaths and many more millions of injuries over the years. The injuries and deaths have targeted relatively younger population.
The rate of car deaths per lakh (100000) people in the USA increased steadily from early 1900s and peaked upto 30/ lakh in late 1930s and early 1940s. Automobile accident fatalities have been among the top 10 largest killers for many decades before 1950s (when Beloved Baba suffered the two accidents).
After Meher Baba’s “planned accidents” in 1952 and 1956, these fatalities started to decline and they were around 22/ lakh in 1975 and further declined sharply to the 11.8/ lakh till date (2021).
Thus through His accidents Beloved Baba have achieved the desired results viz
“breaking the backbone of the material aspect of the Machine age while keeping the spiritual aspects intact.” Here we need to understand that the Machine age is not all evil but also has a spiritual aspect.
Chart of Reduction in fatalities since 1950s when Beloved Baba underwent the planned accidents given in a graphical form
6) Chronology of Developments and safety benefits post the mid fifties - ie after the planned accidents of 1952 and 1956
The convenience, the freedom of mobility and economic prosperity brought about by automobile revolution needed to be preserved, while at the same time the needless and reckless craze for speeding, the false bravado associated with flaunting of technology resulting in unsafe driving habits and practises needed to be eliminated.
This negative material aspect needed to be broken which Beloved Baba achieved by taking the ill effects on His own person and causing a general awakening at different levels.
Firstly, the technology itself needed to become humane and more responsive to the needs of human life and safety. Medical professionals and engineering professionals needed to come together to devise ways to achieve this goal. Secondly, society and the government needed to come together to formulate appropriate laws and regulations for safe technology and also to ensure behavioral changes around safety. This happened at two levels. Firstly, on the level of prescient professionals, doctors and social workers who acted as “agents of change” , and secondly, on the level of the general public which became aware through the agents of change and participated in implementing these changes in their daily lives.
▶️ 1953- Air Bag - industrial engineer John W Hendricks was inspired to device an “ inflatable cushion assembly “ ( or air bag )near passenger dash are and designed to deploy on impact or sudden stop, after an accident to his daughter.
▶️ 1954- Breath Analyser - Robert Frank Borkenstein (1912–2002) was a captain with the Indiana State Police and later a professor at Indiana University Bloomington. His Breathalyzer used chemical oxidation and photometry to determine alcohol concentrations.
▶️ 1955 - Improved retractable seat belts -Dr C Hunter neurologists after detailed study of head injuries in automobile accidents determined that the primitive seat belt design was the cause of a lot of serious injuries and death. In his paper in 1955 Journal of the American Medical Association ( JAMA ) he recommended retractable seat belts, recessed steering wheels, reinforced roofs, roll bars, door locks and air bags
USAF surgeon who advised the US Surgeon General wrote an article on how to make cars safer for those riding in it. Aside from the usual safety features, such as seat belts and padded dashboards, bumper shocks were introduced.
▶️ 1956 - Ford Life guard safety package - Ford tried unsuccessfully to interest Americans in purchasing safer cars with their Lifeguard safety package. (Its attempt nevertheless earns Ford Motor Trend's "Car of the Year" award for 1956.). This unsuccessful attempt paved the way for safety regulations in later years.
▶️ 1958 the United Nations established the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations - an international standards body advancing auto safety. Many of the most life saving safety innovations, like seat belts and roll cage construction were brought to market under its auspices.
▶️ 1959 - Modern 3 point lap and shoulder seat belt - Volvo engineer Nils Bohlin invented and patented the three-point lap and shoulder seat belt, which became standard equipment on all Volvo cars in 1959.Over the next several decades, three-point safety belts were gradually mandated in all vehicles by regulators throughout the industrialised world
▶️ 1959 steering column that turned inside out under force - General Motors began developing the Invertube, a steering column that turned inside out when force was applied.
I▶️ 1959- Head rest for front seat - American Motors Corporation offered the first optional head rests for the front seat.
▶️ 1965 - Popular book “ Unsafe at any speed “ - A young attorney and consumer advocate, Ralph Nader, published “ Unsafe at any speed “ , a scathing criticism of the American auto industry and its unsafe products ( Highway accidents had claimed more than 50000 lives in USA that year. ) This book paved the way for regulations on road and vehicle safety.
▶️ 1966 - National traffic and Motor vehicle safety act - The US Senate passed the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, and along with that legislation, the senate appropriated usd 465 million over three years for state and city traffic safety programme which included elements like driver education, licensing, auto inspection, highway designs and traffic law enforcements - and the legislation was signed by president Johnson and became a law in Sept 1966.
▶️ By the late 1960s, Test dummies introduced to examine impact - independent firms were supplying crash test dummies to automobile manufacturers, who had to prove that they were in compliance with federal seat belt standards. Dummies were fitted with internal sensing devices that measured and recorded impact.
▶️ Collapsible steering design - GM began installing steering columns with mesh that compacted under pressure. Chrysler adopted a similar column in 1967, and Ford introduced its collapsible design in 1968.
▶️ 1968 An Agency overseeing Safety under the executive branch of US Govt - Act established an agency that would set the safety standards for all new motor vehicles beginning with model year 1968 which was named the national highway safety administration under dept of transportation.
▶️ 1980 - Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is a nonprofit organization in the United States, Canada and Brazil that seeks to stop drunk driving, support those affected by drunk driving, prevent underage drinking, and strive for stricter impaired driving policy, whether that impairment is caused by alcohol or any other drug. The Irving, Texas–based[organization was founded on September 5, 1980, in California by Candace Lightner after her 13-year-old daughter, Cari, was killed by a drunk driver.There is at least one MADD office in every state of the United States and at least one in each province of Canada.These offices offer victim services and many resources involving alcohol safety. MADD has claimed that drunk driving has been reduced by half since its founding.
By the 1990s, acceptance of automotive safety equipment had become a social norm in USA. Most of these technological changes and regulations have now been introduced in India, China and other countries in the East. The result in terms of reduction in casualties are starting to show.
▶️ 21st century and beyond - Automobile fuels : The polluting effects of green house gases emitted by automobiles and other modern industries started getting mapped in late 20th century. The science of environment, climate change and regulatory mechanism for these is still work in progress. The pollutants of automobile emissions have started getting regulated ( euro norms and Bharat stage norms etc ) in phased manner both in the west and the east. Climate change, however is another topic which deserves much more space, as the same has been foretold by Avatar Meher Baba in His final declaration. Meher Baba has warned in His Final Declaration and sketched out the blue print of climate change and the looming disaster “ in His language alone “.