Pat Keeley

Pat Keeley

I was born, raised and educated in India and I found that I could believe in all the faiths without any trouble whatsoever.  In fact, by the end of the war, or in the ‘40s, I found that I could accept that all religions were equal and that Christianity did not have an exclusive heaven – and that people who lived by other teachings, or none at all, if they lived a good life, would have as much right to a heaven as Christians.  When I was told about Bahá’u’lláh and asked if I could accept Him, I found no difficulty whatsoever. I could see no reason why the Faith was not true.

In World War II  I served in the Royal Air Force as a radio operator and part of the air crew.  (Pat was involved in many dangerous situations on bombing raids over enemy territory; sometimes the planes he flew in were badly damaged by enemy action). I left the Royal Air Force in December 1945.  In 1950 I began to investigate Spiritualism, but my mother talked me out of it.  In 1954 I was transferred to Whitchurch in Hampshire; there was another lodger living in the same house as I, and he was curious and was investigating things, so it was through him that I started my own investigations.  I remember reading a book about Mexican mushrooms (also known as ‘magic’ or psychedelic mushrooms) around that time.

I started investigating Spiritualism and I used to go to two meetings on Sundays – one in Winchester and one in Andover.  I found the subject interesting, especially their books.  There were three books written by the same author which were very interesting and I carried on with this until I went to live in Singapore in 1958.  I also tried one or two other things – Rosicrucians, and the Ramakrishna Mission which I found very interesting – especially books written by Vivekananda on various subjects pertaining to Ramakrishna’s and other Hindu teachings.

In 1958/59 I went to Singapore and whilst I was there I saw an advert in the local paper saying that there was a Bahá’í meeting to be held on Sunday at Grant Road, near the Singapore Swimming Club.  Now there is the word bhai in Urdu or Hindi, which means ‘brother’, and I thought brotherhood sounded interesting.  I worked out that for me taxis were expensive and the bus would take me down to the beginning of Bukit Timah Road in the town, but as I then had to get on to a tram to take me to the Singapore swimming pool where I had to get off and go to Grant Road, I decided that it was too far away and that I would not do it.  About another six months or so afterwards, there was a Bahá’í meeting being held in a theatre on Orchard Road and I thought about it, but again I took no action.

I came back to England in 1961 and in May or June I first went to live in a bed-sitter.  In about September I was fed up with living in a bed-sitter and sharing a bathroom and toilet with a lot of other people so I then looked for other accommodation and eventually found a place.  I moved into the digs at the end of September and settled in.  Around about the end of October I noticed in the personal column of the local paper that there were Bahá’í meetings to be held at St Paul’s Road, Salisbury.  I was curious and I asked the landlady and the other lodger where St Pauls’ Road was, and was told that it was just at the bottom of our road.   For the first few weeks I was trying to find this road and the place where the meeting was to be held and I would keep forgetting, until one day I saw St Paul’s Road and walked down it until I came across the house at which the meetings were held – inside they had a big photo of the Shrine of the Báb.

In Singapore the meeting place was too far away from me, or so I thought.  In Salisbury it was not more than about a hundred yards from where I was living, so I thought there was no excuse not to go to the meetings.  When I did start going to the meetings at Margaret and Stuart Sweet’s home, I found them interesting and liked the people.  Owen Battrick gave quite a number of talks on the Bahá’í Faith and I found it all interesting.  When I was asked whether I could accept Bahá’u’lláh, I said:  Why not?  If I accepted all the other Manifestations of God, then I could also accept Bahá’u’lláh.  But I didn’t become a Bahá’í.  Something inside me refused to sign on the dotted line.  That was in November 1961.  In 1963, there was the election of the Universal House of Justice and the World Congress in London and I still hadn’t become a Bahá’í.  We used to meet quite frequently in the Sweets’ home and we used to talk to one another about the Faith and have a good time.  Eventually in 1964 they wanted one more person to make up the Local Spiritual Assembly and I then decided I would do something about it.  I wrote out my declaration, early in April; we had a meeting in the Sweets’ home, and I took it with me.  When we were going home, I took the letter out from my pocket, gave it to Stuart and told him that he might find it interesting.  I then walked out of the door and I am afraid I ran around the corner to my street!  When I saw them again on the Friday, Stuart told me that he had come out of the door to welcome me into the Faith but he couldn’t find me!

So I made up the number 9 for the Local Assembly of Salisbury.  I keep telling people that I only became a Bahá’í so that the Local Assembly would remain intact!

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Pat Keeley

Cornwall, October 1992

Local Assembly of Bath, 1970 (Pat is third from left, back row)

Local Assembly of Bath, 1970 (Pat is third from left, back row)

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