"During the mid 1960's as a whole generation turned toward the very ideas that Mercedes De Acosta had expounded and written about for so much of her life she was secluded and in ill health. She was without the great wealth of her youth having even sold the last of her jewelry to pay medical bills and playing out her last remaining years in a small apartment in New York City. Most of her former lovers resented her honesty in her 1960 memoirs and abandoned her to die alone. Still she tried to get out when possible, and many noted that her spirit remained youthful. Late in life De Acosta befriended a young Andy Warhol and true to form, introduced others to his talents. To the end De Acosta was thinking and trying to transend, calling friends on the phone in the middle of the night to discuss the meaning of life and other vexing questions."
From the biographical essay attributed to Laurence Frommer
As you will no doubt learn if you read her book Here Lies The Heart as well as explore her excerpted memoirs as found in My Meeting With Ramana Maharshi, linked below, Mercedes De Acosta, although not friends in the classical sense with the British author and playwright William Somerset Maugham (who knew De Acosta's older sister Rita De Acosta Lydig through their interactions in Paris during the postwar 1920s), had at least a somewhat passing interwoven relationship with him.
So said, regardless of all other aspects of her life, close or distant, her most steadfast legacy then, except for perhaps Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, and a few others, will forever be interlinked between herself, Maugham, and the Maharshi. Also in the mix, albeit not always mentioned on the highest level because it came so late in her life as you will see, was her relationship and deep friendship with the 1960's pop artist Andy Warhol.
Garbo and Dietrich along with a host of others had been in and out of her life, but all were gone. Through it all her need for a certain spiritual fulfillment never waned. Her holy man, the venerated Indian saint the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, who both Maugham and Mercedes met in 1938, albeit several months apart, had died in 1950 and Maugham at the very end of the year of 1965. During those intervening years most of her spiritual connections, like almost everyone else, were all but gone or dissapated. She was nearing the end of her years and still she had not obtained the level of Attainment she had always sought and knew personally could be reached.
Using what was left of her society and Hollywood connections she began searching for leads to the only two remaining links in the scheme of things she could think of. The first of her links was a man by the name of Guy Hague, discussed in her memoirs and, although patently not so, thought by many to have been the role model for the Larry Darrell character in Maugham's novel The Razor's Edge. The second link, ironically enough, was the ACTUAL real life person Maugham used as the role model for the Larry Darrell character. Nobody in India from the broader Sri Ramana circles had seen or heard of Hauge since his return to the states sometime around the start of World War II. As well, just as she began her search to talk with the REAL role model for Darrell, which she heard through friends was living in the general Southern California area, had --- albeit unrelated to her quest --- absconded himself on one of the Channel Islands off the coast of California and was, for the most part, at the time, nowhere to be found. Later, as others heard about him, small numbers caught up with him here and there and he gained a small but lasting reputation as the "holy man of the Channel Islands." However, during the period we are talking about here he was unreachable.(see).
The trail led De Acosta to an obscure American Zen master living not far from her by the name of Alfred Pulyan (d. 1966). Pulyan had just finished having the only person remotely left in the loop, the Wanderling, visit his wooded country compound during the summer of 1965 for study-practice. The real-life person Somerset Maugham had used as a role model for the Darrell character had become the Wanderling's Mentor some years earlier and it was he that sent the Wanderling to Pulyan --- hence the connection.
De Acosta, who had somehow become privilege to the then little known fact that the Wanderling had visited the ashram of Sri Ramana and had darshan under the Maharshi as a young boy, was sure the Wanderling still maintained a working or spiritual relationship with his mentor and would be able to arrange a meeting. At the period in time De Acosta was in the process of searching down the Wanderling he was just nearing the end of the so-called twelve year rule and had not yet reached the Full Attainment that would eventually befall him as so discussed in Dark Luminosity. Knowing it would take a certain amount of persuasion to entice his mentor to travel to New York the Wanderling and De Acosta set a meeting at her place at 315 East 68th Street in Manhattan, New York City to figure out how she and his mentor could cross paths as well as for the Wanderling to meet her friend, the avant garde pop artist Andy Warhol. However, on May 9, 1968, before the two were actually able to finalize any arrangements, Mercedes De Acosta died.(see)
Because of her death the meeting between the Wanderling and De Acosta did not come off, and because of same, the Wanderling figured that was the end of it. However, within days of De Acosta's death, oddly enough out of nowhere, the Wanderling received a request from Andy Warhol to meet anyway. The typically New York based Warhol just happened to be staying in La Jolla, California, not far down the coast from where the Wanderling was at the time. Warhol was filming a movie called San Diego Surf with a bunch his groupies, including not just a few of whom were seemingly experiencing the short and long term effects of west coast/Mexican mescaline for the first time during the Wanderling's stay --- of which, it must be said, neither he nor Warhol participated in.
The meeting fell right on the heels of De Acosta's death. Warhol had an obsession with both death and celebrities. The British art dealer and curator Anthony d’Offay once said he remembered being stuck in a lift (elevator) with Warhol one time and looking at Warhol's pallid skin, covered in powder, and thinking to himself, "This is the image of death." The Wanderling had gone to the opening of Warhol's first one man show ever, held in Los Angeles on July 9, 1962, at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles, although at the time Warhol was not well known nor had the Wanderling really heard of him.
In later years he had heard such things about the artist, i.e., pallid skin, etc., but had never met him (Warhol wasn't present at the opening in 1962). However, during their time together now, the Wanderling did think that Warhol, pallid skin notwithstanding one way or the other, seemed rattled, although it could have been one of his regular traits. Because De Acosta was their only mutual connection and she and her passing was on the forefront of almost every conversation, Warhol continued to bring up the Wanderling's Near Death Experience and what happens to a person after death.(see)
Interestingly enough, for Warhol, the topic of those conversations, almost as if in premonition, became more that just talk. Within days of his departure from Califonia, on June 3, 1968, he was shot in the chest at close range after arriving at his New York studio. The bullet ripped through one of his lungs, tore up his esophagus, then passed through his gall bladder, liver, spleen, and intestines before exiting his left side, leaving a huge hole in its wake.(see) At the hospital Warhol was pronounced clinically dead. He remained dead for well over a minute pushing into two before the medical team was finally able to revive him. He was in the hospital for two weeks followed by a few more weeks at home.
After Warhol's flatline and close to death experience followed by those few weeks at home to allow sufficient time for healing, at least for Warhol, physically anyway, than an unusual sized package, about three feet by three feet square and around three or four inches thick, arrived in care of the Wanderling at the studio of an up and coming artist he knew in the Santa Monica/Venice area of California, Santa Monica being an upscale beach town somewhat west along the coast from Los Angeles. Inside that carefully wrapped package, in honor of De Acosta through Andy Warhol's studio in New York, was a three foot by three foot signed by Warhol artist's proof print of Marilyn Monroe similar in color, tone and texture if not exactly like the following:
At the end of this sentence is a link that will take you to a complete, free, unabridged PDF online version of De Acosta's book Here Lies the Heart followed secondly then by a link to her excerpted memoirs as found in My Meeting With Ramana Maharshi:
HERE LIES THE HEART
MERCEDES DE ACOSTA'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY
MY MEETING WITH RAMANA MAHARSHI
DE ACOSTA DISCUSSES HER PERSONAL MEETING WITH SRI RAMANA
AN UNTOLD STORY OF SRI RAMANA
Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.
ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT IN A NUTSHELL
ON THE RAZOR'S
MERCEDES DE ACOSTA AND ANDY WARHOL
Not everybody agrees how close De Acosta and Warhol were, say to set a meeting between he and the Wanderling for example. Some say not at all, saying it was a figment of her imagination. Others say they were very close. However, by the late 1950s it was quite clear De Acosta and Warhol had become friends, at least well enough for Warhol to hand draw the original for the Invitation to De Acosta's party celebrating the publication of her book Here Lies the Heart (1960).
Additionally, Hugo Vickers, in his book Loving Garbo writes that De Acosta was ill in the early months of 1963, and the following year underwent a painful leg operation. But, ever adventurous, she had become a friend of Andy Warhol, and regularly shared Thanksgiving with him and his friends. Vickers goes on to say Warhol once met Greta Garbo at a picnic with De Acosta and presented her with a drawing of a butterfly. She crumpled it up, but he rescued it, and had his mother write on it: 'Crumpled butterfly by Greta Garbo'.
In that De Acosta had told the Wanderling that she was going to introduce him to Warhol, it might be that she may have discussed the possibility with Warhol at some length in arrangement for the meeting. Upon De Acosta's death, Warhol, who just happened to be in California shortly thereafter, for whatever reason, requested the meeting to go forward, perhaps out of respect for De Acosta's wishes and their friendship, perhaps out of curiosity.
De Acosta, in her book Here Lies the Heart, writes she visited the ashrama of the Maharshi Sri Ramana at the end of November, 1938. In the Extracts of that book the following is found, which gives the exact dates of her visit:
21- 22 November, 1938
583. Ganapati Sastri, known as well as Ganapathi Muni, showed Sri Bhagavan a letter from a Spanish lady, Mercedes De Acosta, saying she would be arriving here the next day. Sri Bhagavan remarked: "See the trouble to so many because I am here." (see)
24 November, 1938
587. The Spanish lady and her lady friend sat in counsel with Sri Bhagavan asking of him several questions.
Both ladies then kneeled before Sri Bhagavan, one after another, and asked for blessings. Then they left for Pondicherry on their way to Colombo.
Some six years later the Wanderling was at the ashram receiving darshan from the Maharshi, the experience and outcome fully described in:
SRI RAMANA MAHARSHI: THE LAST AMERICAN DARSHAN
RECOUNTING A YOUNG BOY'S NEARLY INSTANT TRANSFORMATION INTO THE ABSOLUTE DURING HIS ONLY DARSHAN WITH THE MAHARSHI
NOTE: There is a glaring discrepancy with the November 21-22, 1938 date regarding Ganapati Muni. All records of his life list the year of his death as being 1936. See:
THE BEST OF THE MAUGHAM BIOGRAPHIES:
- WILLIAM SOMERSET MAUGHAM
Good biography. Lots of Maugham graphics, from early childhood to late adult.
- W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM: A BIOGRAPHY
- MAUGHAM IN INDIA
- LITERARY AMBULANCE DRIVERS
Everybody knows Hemingway drove an ambulance during WWI, nobody knows Maugham did.
- THE ART COLLECTION OF W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM
SPIRITUAL GUIDES, GURUS, AND TEACHERS INFLUENTIAL IN DARRELL'S LIFE OTHER THAN THE MAHARSHI: