Shrine to the Perfect Man – Columbus, New Mexico - Atlas Obscura

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Shrine to the Perfect Man

Columbus, New Mexico

This replica of the Indian spiritual master Meher Baba's tomb stands unfinished in the New Mexico desert. 


Deep in the New Mexico desert, three miles from the Mexican border is a scaled-down replica of the Tomb of Meher Baba, an Indian spiritual master who was the center of a large spiritual movement in the 20th century.

Baba’s following numbered in the hundreds of thousands—though some estimate it was in the millions—and largely concentrated in India, but with pockets in the United States, Europe, and Australia. In his teachings, Baba described the observable world as illusory, and proposed an idea of the universe as imagination.

Upon discovering the works of Mehar Baba in the early 1960s, a Miami man named Earl Starcher abandoned his career as an air traffic controller in order to pursue a life of spiritual servitude and poverty. By the mid-80s his dreams extended to include building a replica of Baba’s tomb, plus a pilgrimage center and library to memorialize Mehar Baba’s all-encompassing love.

Unfortunately, only the tomb was constructed—and even it was left unfinished. Starcher died in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in 1994, before the shrine’s completion. The exterior paint and proclamation “Mastery in Servitude” has flaked off in the unforgiving desert sun. The tomb is surrounded by pillars of a planned wall that was never constructed. A sign welcoming visitors to “The Shrine to the Perfect Man” in both English and Spanish is now nearly illegible.

But the shrine itself is solidly constructed of cinderblock and concrete and, short of a wrecking crew visit, will likely stand a long time. In this way, Starcher accomplished his goal. Located at the corner of Jones and Roosevelt streets, the unassuming lot is flat, open and covered in cactus with an excellent view of the Tres Hermanas mountain peaks.

Know Before You Go

Located at the crossroads of NM Highways 9 and 11, Columbus is a remote village with a gas station, an RV Park and two hotels. There are three restaurants, which are closed on weekends, so plan accordingly. Visitors often walk across the border into Mexico for margaritas  and Tex-Mex but due to unstable conditions across the border, returning before dark is advised.

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