Jean Overton Fuller
1915 – 2009
W R I T E R -
By Susan Waters
T H E I R S T O R Y C O N T I N U E S . . .
Designs: Kirsty Crawford
Splat and Sparkle
View of Paris from Suresnes
The story of Noor and Jean’s courage and friendship has taken me on quite a journey. From helping to catalogue Miss Fuller’s letters, to making this website and then to visit Fazal Manzil in Paris, the Inayat Khan family home. At the Inayati Healing Order International Retreat in April 2018, I gave a talk, The Links of Love, about these two extraordinary women.
September 13th 2019 marked the 75th anniversary of Noor Inayat Khan’s execution in Dachau Prison. In Sufi circles, a death is considered to be the day of union with the Divine Beloved, and is called the "Urs", which means the wedding. Omega Publications announced the reprint of Jean Overton Fuller’s biography of her friend Noor in commemoration of Noor's Urs. First published in 1952, this new book is a reprint of the 1988 edition. It includes previously unpublished material; with permission, I have written appendices about the friendship between Noor and the author, and further research on Noor’s life and the SOE.
The price is $26.95 in paperback,
Available at Omega Publications
When I walked through the gate at Fazal Manzil,
“The House of Blessing”, I was impressed by its pure, powerful energy. As a space devoted to love, harmony and beauty for almost a hundred years, how could it be otherwise?
There was a sense too that I was one follower in the footsteps of others.
In the garden stands the luminous Universel, Temple of All Religions. On September 13th, 1926, a cornerstone was laid by its founder, Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan, Noor’s Father. It was a day to become known as Hedjerat Day, marking the beginning of a journey or a new chapter in one’s life. How poignant then, to know the month and day coincides with the day of Noor’s death.
It was only when I was travelling by taxi from Gare du Nord that I realised how near Avenue Foch is located to Suresnes. It moved me to think of Noor’s agony to be in prison, but so near to home. Looking at the skyline, I thought of Fazal Manzil, high on a hill, rising above Paris. It helped me understand Noor’s desperate need to escape on to the prison roof – she managed it twice – and wondered if Noor would have turned to gaze again on her beloved home. Noor became very real to me then.
Before we gave the talk, Joëlle I sat quietly together in the Universel to go over the French translation.
Then I was able to read it out loud alone to practice. Going back inside to join the others for supper, people started to shout there was a double rainbow shining over the Universel.
There had been no sign of rain. I took this to be both a blessing and an encouragement.
As Joëlle and I spoke, I became aware of an increasingly strong presence. My voice remained steady, but my limbs started to shake; it was as if the family had come down to listen and we were moved to tears.
These experiences made me reflect on how Jean Overton Fuller’s visit to Fazal Manzil might have affected her. In her autobiography, Driven To It, she describes it as just one event in a Summer vacation with her fiancé, Harold:
In the summer of that year I went with Harold to Paris, where I read in the Bibliotheque Sainte-Genevive, and Basil said he would be talking to the Sufis in Suresnes and asked us to his talk. There was the ritual, as he described it, and then he had been billed to speak on “The Virtue of Tolerance”… Afterwards, he introduced us to Vilayat and Noor – both very reticent on that day.
I wonder if going to Fanzal Manzil was the start of a spiritual reawakening for her. It is significant that Jean broke off her engagement to Harold:
...it was obvious I could not remain in a relationship that was utterly destructive to me.
The worst of it was that my faith had been so undermined that I could not even say ‘put it down to experience’
if there was no hereafter in which the experience counted… nothing at all.
I knew only that I had to be on my own again… I got back my faith.
The faith I had had as a child, but which had been undermined and overlaid.
...On 17 April, the doorbell rang. When I heard it I was already on my way downstairs, holding a letter I was taking to the post. The letter was to Harold, to end our relationship completely; for although no longer engaged to him I had received him when he came up to London. This had been a mistake. There must be an end.
I went on down the stairs and opened the front door. It was Vilayat. Basil had given him my address, he said; as he would be in London for a bit.
I was just going to post a letter, I said.
He would do it for me. He took it from my hand, walked to the pillar-box and dropped it in. That, afterwards, appeared to me symbolic.
The symbolic significance, I think, is that Pir Vilayat was signposting Jean to a different,
spiritual path where she belonged, and remained for the rest of her life.
After my visit to Suresnes, I wrote the following two poems:
Gayan for Noor
Tell me, did we choose our fate
in the gyre of time
And you, bowl of light,
Daddy’s daughter, dutiful,
Aerial as a bat-squeak,
Grounded by army boots;
Tapping water through rock
to break up on that roof
Reaching towards home again
And your destiny
Susan Waters 2019
For Jean Overton Fuller
One small woman set her face
Against Baker Street diktat.
Brushing off the Blitz dust
Set her foot down, Nacht und Nebel
Kraken of the blackest pitch.
Kept in the shelter of trust
The Masters of Wisdom,
She held her truth
Like a darling child,
Protecting from the den of thieves
F Section outrage
Pressing on the heavy keys.
Conversing, even, with a captor,
Their shared grief for Babuly
Liberation into Light.
Your lined books, greening
A plenitude of grace.