Marjorie Vickers Waterhouse8 min read

Marjorie Vickers Waterhouse was a lover of life; no disappointment in it, no setback drove her to despise it. Always she had an unquenchable spirit and it was this thirst for more abundant opportunities, for proof that indeed the breath of life held a gift more precious than appeared, that drove her towards her goal. But always it saddened her that men believed that a spiritual quest meant a withdrawal from the claims of humanity.

As she grew in awareness she realised that if we are to see the flame in this earthly mortality, if we are to realise that life is to be accepted as an opportunity, that breath is given for a wider and greater purpose than mere living, then we must bend our every endeavour in order to become receptive and aware of this inner claim.

And so it became an axiom with her that men are here a little space in order to grow; that life is a school in which the soul is to develop into the full stature of its God-given nature. She used to say that to allow outrageous fortune to cripple the mind or to taint the heart with bitterness was the proof of mediocrity.

Her own richness of character is an answer to this challenge.

For she grew in greatness with the passing of the years, and above all her courage flamed up and triumphed over a crippling illness.

She has often said that all the various activities of her life —all the suffering that only a very sensitive nature knows— all, all, had contributed to her preparation and to the capacities and the strength of character

During her school days, when the call of friendship, of love of poetry and literature pressed upon her, she began to learn the severity of the demands any art must make on those who are its servants—and in her love, her passionate love of music she realised the extent of the task ahead.

No one, she used to say, who has mastered an art ever fails to understand the demands it makes. As a pupil of a great teacher of the piano she accepted and grasped many precepts; to be obedient to the master one has chosen meant to gain receptivity—only so can the musician allow the greatness of the conception to flow through and be known. Moreover, she learnt how to treat and train the instrument of that art. She told how once she protested that no one could possibly play any major work, if they had to hold their hands in the position he demanded of her. The teacher replied that as yet she was not a pianist, she had first to get acquainted with her hands. “This done”, he said, “you can play, and then hold them as you like”.

From this teaching grew the conviction that those who search for the spiritual Reality which alone gives life its meaning, must use the mind as their means and their method; mind and body and indeed the whole personality must submit to restriction and rigorous training in order to expand and allow that which is not the mind, but the Light behind it to flow through and become known, as perfect music played by a master is known.

But soon after her return from Germany, after a time of fun and games and the joys of being young, a great interruption came. She felt she could no longer disregard the need for more nurses. This was during the first World War. No one knows what those first months of so alien a profession as nursing cost her. Probably only a few of those who worked with her can guess what she had to go through before she could make herself sufficiently adjusted to suffering to be able to relieve it and to bring solace to the sufferer.

Service tears away the locks of self love, and compassion is the birth of that identity consciousness by which the claims of a common life are known. All these things she carried away—all this increased her stature.

For a time she went back to her music, but soon the claims of necessity, the knowledge that the life of a concert player was not for her, drove her to yield to the suggestion of someone who had long recognised her value. And she started the next phase of her training in a lawyer’s office.

Two great renunciations were involved in this step. It was all or nothing where music was concerned, so music was given up without moan or outward repining.

And at this time, and later, she realised that her future work, only yet dimly perceived, would as time went on ask still more of her. All who knew Marjorie knew that, from her childhood, nature and its solitudes, the beauty of country in winter and summer alike—were part of her—were in a sense the very breath of life. One hardly knows which held her more securely, the outward glory of down and moor and lonely islands and the sea dunes of the little place in Norfolk she loved so much, or the relaxation, the inner peace of a solitary life. Like the poet Wordsworth,

His daily teachers had been woods and rills,

The silence that is in the starry sky,

The peace that is among the lonely hills.

She often urged the necessity for this withdrawal. She said that no-one could grow interiorly without silence and solitude.

But although for many years she had her solitary times and proved their revitalising effect, she more and more realised that her real training lay in life, among men, and not apart from its demands and urgencies.

She worked for someone who had made it his principle to be open at all times to the needs and sorrows of those he worked for. He saw the law as a way into the human heart, not the way of the legal mind but the way of one who held it as an instrument of help and succour. Here she learnt  many things. How to be business-like—not a necessary qualification of an artist!—to know how to organise and draw the best from those who work for you, and, of the utmost importance, how to serve the man you work for, how to foresee yet not to thwart, how to support the best and yet sometimes to curb exuberance, how in fact to be identified with his task and its purpose.

The words that were used at the Memorial Service of her employer and her friend may well be used for her

“No cold heart but was cheered by warmth from him. No sad soul ever failed to drop a portion of its burden at his door.”

It has been the underlying aim in these words to show that behind all she did a sense of direction was growing stronger in her. She could look back and see that indeed all her work was preparing her, teaching her that a great quest lay ahead, for which a training more rigorous than any she had known must be accepted.

And then—she met Dr. Shastri, and learnt all over again the exacting life of a dedicated pupil.

She recognised in Dr. Shastri, immediately, and without any reservations, the guide whom she must follow, the leader who would uncover the Truth lying in the heart, the prophet who would teach her how to hold the torch and in time how to guide others, as she was led, led to find the Unity at the heart of life, by uncovering the divine nature.

She learnt that only in self emptying through obedience is the gross instrument of the mind turned into the delicate perceptivity of the mystic. She learned that it is in the acceptance of every occurrence as part of the training, the actual welcome given to trial and grief, that life is turned into a ladder of perfection, by which to make progress towards the Light hidden in an unawakened heart.

And when the time came when her beloved and revered Teacher left his body, she accepted the post he had held, and from 1956 she held the position of head of the spiritual group at Chepstow Villas.

As one who had learnt the value of obedience, she made a remarkable leader; her judgements were sure, for they were not her own.

She made an unrivalled teacher: her compassion, and that inestimable gift of seeing and feeling with the one she taught, brought light to her words and some comprehension into the minds of those she instructed!

Of her it can be said, as the man she admired, Artur Schnabel, said of his teacher:-

“His teaching was much more than a method. It was a current which sought to release all the latent vitality in the pupil. It was addressed to imagination, taste and personal responsibility—it was not a blue print or a short cut to success.”

Moreover—and of the final importance—she taught from experience, her own or Dr Shastri’s, and never allowed her personal bias, or her own opinion to interfere with the greater power of what was indeed inspiration. And so the truth which came from her was universal and fitted each individual hearer.

No words are complete without speaking of her wit and humour—the wit which lent a healthy saltiness to all she said and taught—the humour which kept a proper sense of balance, the kind of proportion so necessary in the life of any community, but most necessary of all in a community whose purpose is spiritual.

 

“If there were no life beyond death, there could be no perfecting of Love—

no God, since He himself is that Life and that Love.

It is by Love alone that we escape death and

Love alone is our surety for Eternal Life.”

 

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