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Phiroz Mehta

12 year old Phiroz with his parents
12 year old Phiroz with his parents

Phirozshah Dorabji Mehta (1 October 1902 – 2 May 1994) was an Indian-born writer and lecturer on religious topics who also had many other interests including astronomy, poetry and philosophy. He was born to Parsi Zarathushtrian parents in Cambay, India, and was brought up in the Zarathushtrian religion.

His interest since early boyhood in all the major religions of the world was not confined to a theoretical study. Deeply concerned with discovering through personal experience the Truth which is the Heart of Religion, he practised both the outer and the inner disciplines of several great religions. He was closely involved with the Theosophical Society, and at the age of 16 was running the Colombo branch.

After his schooling at Royal College, Colombo, he won a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge where he read Natural Sciences and History. The scholarship was not allowed however because he had no birth certificate and even though the case was taken as far as the House of Lords, no grant was given!

Fortunately private sponsorship was found and he was able to commence his studies. During his final year at Cambridge he fell ill and was unable to complete his studies. Twenty six years later, after studying intensively for only ten weeks, he took the finals exam in history and was awarded his Master’s degree.

From 1924 until 1932 he studied the piano with the world renowned pianist Solomon, giving recitals in India and Britain. Again illness struck and he was unable to follow his chosen career as a concert pianist and piano teacher. The conductor Zubin Mehta was one of his early piano pupils.

Phiroz practising Theorhythm
Phiroz practising Theorhythm

He now devised his own system of physical education, Theorhythm, to promote health and self-expression through rhythmic movement and breathing. People as diverse as C.B. Fry, the England cricket captain, and Douglas Kennedy, English Folk Dance and Song Society president, came to him for lessons.

In 1956 his first major book, Early Indian Religious Thought, was published. It was not however until 1976, after extensive study, research and travel in India that he completed The Heart of Religion, a profound study of the essence common to all religious experience. During these years a frequent visitor to his south London home, Dilkusha, for advice on Eastern religions, was Fritjof Capra, author of The Tao of Physics et alia. He subsequently published three more books, Zarathushtra: The Transcendental Vision, Buddhahood and Holistic Consciousness.

Phiroz at Dilkusha
Phiroz at Dilkusha

Through his knowledge of current scientific thinking and his lifelong study of all the major religions (notably Christianity, Buddhism, Zarathushtrianism, Hinduism and Qabalah) together with life experience in both India and Great Britain, Phiroz Mehta not only bridged the fields of science and religion but also linked the cultural heritage of the East and the West.

During his lifetime he gave over three thousand talks on religion and Indian culture to learned societies, university students, schools and conference centres in England, Holland, Germany, India and at his London home, Dilkusha.

Phiroz always insisted that he was not to be regarded as a guru or as a leader of any movement, but essentially as a fellow student. He regarded every person as being unique, discovering truth through his or her own way of life.

Gallery

Phiroz and Silvia Mehta at Dilkusha, 1st November 1973