The lovely memorial page to Nina (www.ninagitana.allegre.ca) asserts that “to a Taoist, she was a Taoist, to a Sufi she was a Sufi, to an Oglala Sioux she was an Oglala Sioux.” I don’t agree. When I knew her, Taoism was one of my core sensibilities. I had read Lao Tse and moved on to Chuang Tse — introduced to me by my brother Nicholas — the more oblique, challenging Taoist sage whose outlook and parables so resemble Zen Buddhism.
So she didn’t strike me as a Taoist. To me, she presented herself as a rigid adherent to the doctrines and disciplines of Kirpal Singh, and she perpetually urged me to follow his path. Once, when I came to her in dire existential straits, believing I was near death and terrified of it, she showed no sympathy. She just frowned disapprovingly and gave me pamphlets on his Science of the Soul, on the benefits of celibacy, on the necessity of surrender to a spiritual master.
I’ve never been good with pamphlets; surely she could see that!
What she was, I’d say, was an extraordinarily rare and powerful person whose presence was undeniable and whose demonstrations of an existence beyond the material were inarguable. Ouspensky would have loved to meet her.
As I’m sure she did with many others, she entered my mind telepathically and carried on conversations in dreams and waking mental communications, over a period of years.
For example, after the death of Kirpal Singh in 1974, Nina agreed with those who believed Ajaib Singh was Kirpal’s designated successor. Ajaib visited the U.S. in 1977 and Nina’s ashram was on his itinerary. In her anticipation of this contact with her new spiritual lover and Master, she was like an excited teenager getting dressed for prom night, a bride dressing for her wedding. At one point, she visited me in a dream and told me about her hopes and worries about the forthcoming visit. “He doesn’t speak English! I don’t speak Hindi! How will we be able to talk?” She fretted that the underground meditation “cave” she had been digging out would not be ready in time, or otherwise suitable, to accommodate him.
When I next visited her, she took me to the “cave” — an irregular space she and her followers had been painstakingly excavating within a jumble of huge, glacially-deposited boulders not far from her house. We talked about the logistics of preparation for Ajaib’s visit, picking up the conversation from where our dream discussion had ended.
I also sat with her in meditation several times, just the two of us. We explored and inwardly “discussed” the nuances of the sound current as we listened; once, at my (unspoken) request, we digressed to the “light current” and descended deep into the phosphene starfield together. When we came close enough to keep a single dot in focus — from up close, you can see they are actually rainbow-colored, not white — she spoke out loud, with satisfaction: “There.”
Without her there, I doubt I could have attained sufficient singleness of mind to focus on a single phosphene. It was joyful, to fly through inner space with a knowledgeable, steady companion right there in every way.
This telepathic connection assuredly not an illusion fostered by my susceptibility to her charisma or a desire to please her: our relationship was still quite brambly.
Nor am I a gullible supernaturalist. I write this as one who is, in most matters, a scientific skeptic. I am an amateur scholar of neuroscience; doing research for my novels, I’ve read over a hundred books on the subject and have conducted dozens of interviews with experts. I have a good knowledge of the brain’s structure and chemistry, of current views on neurological processes and our perception of a unitary “self.”
No, brain science doesn’t offer an explanation of telepathy. But I have experienced telepathic communication many times. Science just hasn’t caught up with reality.
And this is certainly one of Nina’s most remarkable attributes. For me — for all who knew her — she offered an inarguable demonstration that the world is, ultimately, magical. Such people change us.
What was the origin of her power? I don’t believe it derived directly from the specific practices of Singh’s Science of the Soul. I believe this kind of strength comes from searingly fierce aspiration and courage. Yes, pursuing a rigorous discipline is part of it — but the particular form of the discipline is far less important than the passion of its pursuit.