Some Memories of Murshid

My first contact with Inayat Khan was in Oslo. I had just been to India, running around wildly to find a proper teacher. Either they didn’t want me or I didn’t want them, so nothing much happened there. I did join the Theosophical Society out of the feeling that I owed them my cooperation, because they were close to these things. But I was very critical, always very critical of everything.

A man phoned me with a heavy Dutch accent, “We are coming to Oslo with the greatest mystic of the age.” It was Mr. van Stolk. I immediately thought, “Aha.” “And he wants you to translate his lecture.” And I thought, “Why shouldn’t I do it? If he’s the greatest mystic of the age, the least I can do is translate his lecture.”

So I went down to the Grand Hotel, where he was staying. There was a queue, but the secretary, who was Mr. van Stolk, a very distinguished Dutch gentleman, said to me, “Oh, you’re on business, so you can come in.” A man from the queue jumped to my side; he was from the Theosophical Society. He said, “I will go in with you now to make the queue a little smaller, so we can save time.” I thought it was a beautiful excuse, and I couldn’t deny it. I thought, “How can I talk about translating this lecture with this fellow with us? How can we talk about how we should do it, sentence by sentence, or whether I should see the manuscript?” So we went in.

A smiling gentleman came forward and said, “Gentlemen, shall we have silence?” So we sat down on the sofa, Inayat Khan in the middle and the two of us on either side. Complete silence for ten minutes. I had been meditating as a yogi; in this meditation I got nothing but irritation because this fellow was with me, and I needed to arrange for the translation, and the whole thing was confusing. After ten minutes, a little bell rang. Inayat Khan said, “Gentlemen, the interview is over. It has been a great pleasure. Thank you very much. Good-bye.” I thought, “Well, if he doesn’t want to talk about the translation, then it doesn’t need to be talked about.” So I came to his lecture a little bit skeptical, to see what would happen. Then he gave his talk, an hour’s talk. I explicitly remember one sentence, “Those who have been able to transfer their consciousness to the plants and trees in nature know that even the trees in the forest are planted in hope.”

I gave the whole lecture to the satisfaction of everybody. They said, “How can you remember all that?” I said, “Oh, I have a pretty good memory.”

So I talked to Inayat Khan. I said, “I like your message very much; however, I am a member of the Theosophical Society, the Order of the Star of the East.” That was Krishnamurti; he was supposed to become the great world teacher. I really didn’t think that was the way to do it. But I was a member and I thought it was my duty.

lnayat Khan went on a trip to the country, and four days later he was back. I said to him, “I think that those other organizations were a sort of preparation for something to come. I think maybe it has come now. I would like to join if it is all right with you.” “With great pleasure,” he replied. We sat in a train compartment, and he gave me initiation and practices quite openly. Everybody in the train compartment looked as if they didn’t even see us.

The conductor came running in and said, “Oh, you are in the wrong train. This train is going to so and so. You should be in the other train on the platform over there.” In order to reach it we had to run, and Murshid ran very well. On the way we met the conductor who had given us the wrong information. I was about to tell him, “You gave us…..” But before I could say anything, Murshid said, “Oh, hello, I haven’t had so much fun for a long time.”

The Sufi Order in Oslo was instituted with about seventeen mureeds. The leader was an older lady who had a business in baby outfits; she had a beautiful big apartment, and so everything was arranged. But she was quite demanding and always wanted this or that. When I went to Summer School the next year, in 1925, I had prepared a long talk about the impossible situation to give to Murshid. Immediately he saw me and said, “Shamcher! That’s your new name; it just came from God. Isn’t it wonderful? It means sword of the message, or the tongue of flame.” Then, before I could say a word, the thought came to me, “What are you trying to do, talk down this old lady who does the best she can? What does it matter that she bothers you a bit? That’s a good lesson for you.” Of course, he always acted through projection. You can’t just project anything to a person, but you can project what the person is ready to receive.

Once during his last four talks, Murshid talked about mediums, sensitives and psychics. He said, “A teacher never, never talks to a pupil through a medium. If he must talk to a pupil, he does so directly.” He also mentioned that to have contact with the so-called other side is more of a disadvantage than an advantage, because there is just as much cheating on the other side as here, or even more.

Question: Could you describe the Saturday evening darshans?

It was in the Oriental Room, which was his retreat room. He would sit in meditation and we would sit in a chair. When you came in, his eyes would open to look at you; then you would sit down. He would close his eyes and you would close yours. Nothing was ever said. Then, after a while, you would open your eyes and he would be looking at you. There was a great light coming from his eyes. You felt an intense communication, something which could not be expressed in words. We understood when we were to leave. Nothing was ever said or taught in words during any of these darshans. We left with the feeling of having been born again.

Q.: Could you speak about the presence of Hazrat Inayat Khan?

There were many different conceptions about that. Some people fainted in the presence of Murshid. I felt that we were two people in very good communication. I don’t feel awed by any human being, not even Jesus Christ. I feel he was a fine person who did the best he could, but that none of us is perfect. Murshid was always stressing that he was not perfect and that he learned more from his mistakes than from his so-called virtues. I felt very well in his presence. One thing, though, was that if you approached him from behind, that was not the right thing; that applies to everybody, even to a horse.

Q.: Could you say something about the attitude of the mureeds towards Murshid?

There is a story about that. Pir-O-Murshid had a very close disciple, Murshida Sophia Green. He trusted her advice in many matters, especially about ceremonial, as she had been very involved in the Anglican Church. He wanted to use white robes in the Universal Worship, but she said, “Oh, no, that isn’t done; they must be black.” Anyway, one day she called us in and said, “You young people, I want to have a talk with you.” I was very young then. She asked, “What do you think of your Murshid?” Nobody answered. Some of the people who knew her a little better were reluctant to answer. So I piped up, “An inspiration and a friend.” “Oh,” she said, “you don’t understand at all. He is so far above that. We, his close disciples, might be an inspiration and a friend. Oh, no, you don’t understand at all.”

That same evening Murshid was giving a lecture. He walked rather majestically up to the roster. He stood there for a while and then shook his head a little. Then he said, “Before I go on to this evening’s talk, I want to mention that sometimes the teacher’s best friends become his worst enemies. They lift him up on a pedestal and make of him an inhuman monster. And all he wants to be is an inspiration and a friend.” He looked so beautifully at Murshida Green that she smiled and bowed her head.

He always realized people’s tendencies and limitations, and so he wasn’t angry about what people thought. Murshida Green’s talk gave him an opportunity. He always stressed that the messenger is never perfect and that this was shown in his own life.

He was once asked, “Who is greater, Buddha or Christ?” He said, “If I were to judge that, I would have to consider myself greater than either. Do you think that I am?” It was a difficult question.

There was more adoration, almost blind adoration, of Murshid than I am inclined to present. He obviously made a very, very deep impression on people. Some said, “ls he greater than Christ? That was their feeling. It was this great feeling that led some people, after his death, to turn away from any successor.

Q.: What was your reaction when you heard the news of his passing?

On February 27, 1927, it was in the middle of a very cold winter in Norway, and I suddenly felt that I should go to Suresnes. I said to myself, “What is this idiotic impulse? This is the middle of winter, and Suresnes is a summer school, May through August.” Nevertheless, I went, on the ship, and then on the train, questioning myself the whole way. When I got to Suresnes, I was slightly ashamed to be there for no reason, but there were some other people there also; not everybody, but quite a few. We all tried to weigh the issue of why we had come; we didn’t know. In the morning, the message came that Murshid was dead. I felt not so much sadness as a sense of tremendous responsibility. I don’t think I thought of any successor. I knew that Pir Vilayat, who was then ten years old, was a coming successor. But just at that time, all of us were responsible, and it was a very heavy responsibility.

Q.: Could you describe the physical aspect of Murshid?

His walk was measured; it was as though he walked with the rhythm of destiny. If you took a meter stick and measured his height, he was not tall. But he made the impression of a huge being.

* * * * *

by Shamcher Bryn Beorse (in The Message, February 1981)

Editor’s Note: Shamcher Bryn Beorse was a mureed of Hazrat Inayat Khan and a beloved friend of many in the Sufi Order. He passed on last April. In the summer of 1979 he granted a very long interview to the editor, part of which has been transcribed into this article. There is yet more to come.

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The Art of Learning

When Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan said, “I learn more from my Mureeds than they from me,” we smiled, a bit embarrassed. Granted that he may have learned something from us, but certainly not more from us than we from him?

Throughout the years I have wondered, and now at eighty I begin to think that he meant exactly what he said. The art of learning, is it not the first and last art? It is an art of the ear and of the eye first. In the presence of a teacher-friend it develops beyond ear and eye, at first only toward the teacher. His love, concentration and wordless coaxing draw your finer senses into focus. You see and hear though not through the eyes and ears.

Some wild, unforgettable day or night you hear and see a friend, a stranger, one passing in the street–see him without eyes, hear him without ears. You have learned to learn. Not the multiplication table or carpentry, though eventually you will learn some of those things too in this manner. What you learn now are symphonies of personalities. What surprises you is their vastness, infinite potentials, richness. What surprises you next is their ignorance of their own power and splendor. You try to tell them and they become scared and turn away in disbelief or even resentment. One or two look back at you in wonder and amazement: they hear you and see you as you see and hear them. They have learned the art of learning. It may happen after a whole second or a year or fifty years. What do you call these? Your mureeds? It would be more true to call yourself their mureed. You are learning more from them than they from you.

What do you do now? Tell them of their great future? Perish the thought! We have not one but a hundred alternative futures, depending upon our own choices and the prevailing conditions. The exact future has not been made yet–we make it step by step. In our present civilization, however, this is handicapped, delayed, and queered by forecasts and prophecies in all areas from economics to medicine, to gambling, to pyschism.

Pir-O-Murshid Inayat Khan, for illustration, told a story of a Bishop and a drunk. A Bishop accosted Moses and asked, “Hmm, Moses, where are you going?” Said Moses, “I am going up to the mountain to talk to God.” “Oh, hmm,” said the Bishop, “I know of course that I am going to heaven some day but–eh–would you please find out for me where I am to sit up there?”

A little later a drunk came along. “Hey, Moshes, where ya goin’?” Moses told him. The drunk bowed his head. He said, “Such a great noble being wouldn’t even know that such a mean lowly thing as I exist at all, so…”

Moses came back, told the Bishop where he was going to sit up there and to the drunk he said, “I am sorry, but you have to go to that other place…”

The drunk lifted his head, looked up toward heaven and jubilated, “Oh, to think that the great good Lord has a thought even for me and cares to arrange for where I am to go–oh, I am so deeply touched and grateful.”

Eventually Moses left this world and went to his destiny and what did he see? the drunk was in Heaven and the Bishop in hell. Moses had been a man of his word for a long life and he was very stern with the LORD. “You told me the Bishop would go to Heaven and the drunk to hell. I lose the confidence of people when such things happen, don’t you see?”

Said the Lord, “I am sorry, but you see when I saw their reactions I changed my mind.”

So, since the Lord changes his mind, changes the plans for the future, why do so many men and women try to “predict” the future, freeze it, thus robbing God of his options? Do they catch the first plan to send the Bishop to Heaven and the drunk to hell, or are they open to the later and reversed decision? Why does our entire civilization build on forecasts and predictions–instead of building the future with our minds and hands? Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan used the four last hours with us to talk about mediums, fortune tellers, and psychics. “A real teacher,” he said, “never talks to a pupil through a medium or a psychic. There are people who boast of seeing spirits. It is too complex to explain to one who doesn’t yet see. He who describes and explains usually does not see or hear much. Seeing is no sign of spirituality. He who sees before he is spiritually developed may very easily get hurt.”

After Pir-o-Murshid’s passing four of his older Mureeds came to Suresnes claiming that a medium had told them–each one of them–that she, he was now to become the head of the Order. They had all been present during those last talks on mediums and fortune tellers.

Perhaps one could say that the first step toward the art of learning is the willingness to unlearn–unlearn not merely concept and theories but previously acquired methods and procedures of learning.
by Shamcher (in The Message, May 1976)

The Second Teacher?

Pir-O-Murshid Hazrat lnayat Khan came to Oslo and met a seeking soul who had travelled all over India and many other countries in search of a teacher. When the bond and trust were established it seemed a matter of course to this pupil that there was only one teacher in the whole wide world–for him at least. Joining or even listening seriously to anyone else seemed impossible, ridiculous, devastating. He moved from Oslo to Los Angeles, heard of Yogananda, remembered that Yoga was his first love and study, but felt no desire whatever to even listen to Yogananda now. After Yogananda’s passing he studied his papers to understand the many Yogananda disciples–with the blessing of his teacher, he felt.

However, this pupil had a weakness, or at least a trend of thought: wherever he travelled in the world he looked over the landscape–would there be a cave or spot where he could retreat in complete silence–meditation, maybe for the rest of his life? He knew, not by word of mouth but by feel, that Hazrat Inayat Khan would hardly approve of that, but, well, he just looked.

It was in 1923 he first met Hazrat Inayat Khan in Oslo. ln 1959 he was in India, followed the pilgrim trail toward Badrinath. At the last station, Joshimath, he rushed up a mountain trail, along a foaming stream. Its water became more and more refreshing the higher he mounted. At last he felt he was flying. Perfect! … and there, before his eyes, was the kind of cave in which hermits are pictured, right into a steep wall of rock. How could one get in? Was this for him? Sit there for the rest of his life, just meditating? Perhaps, not eating — not needing to?

Then–LO! There was an upper entrance, a shaft down into the cave. Eagerly he lowered himself down through the “chimney.” At the bottom he felt around. It was dark. Dld he feel some furry thing?

BRRROOOM! Soft. What was that? He felt the fur again. This time–BRRROOOM!–thunderous! “I better get out of here,” he thought, and clambered back out. Back to Sufi meetings, universal worship, engineering work on energy, insured full employment, the tasks life had given him.

So, a Himalayan bear was his second teacher. Second? It hadn’t eaten him, not even sunk its claws into his flesh. Why so gentle? Maybe the Himalayan bear wasn’t really a–second–teacher. Could its inspiration and behavior have come from the first and only?

by Shamcher (in The Message, December 1977)

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OTEC Emergency Letter

OCEAN ENERGY

We have a choice between a great many energy sources, many of them cheaper, faster to build and ecologically far superior to any energy system now in use. Several of them are connected with the Oceans. The power of waves have been harnessed in Japan and England. In ten years this power will be operating. England sees half of its energy supply coming from this source. Tide power has been successfully operating at Rance in France for twenty years, now competitive with current power sources economically, and much more benign ecologically. Ocean currents are of themselves promising power sources.

The temperature difference between sun-heated surface water and deeper colder currents is a well developed power source that could be operating in five years if we so decide, and in 15 years could produce enough power to stop all import of oil to the United States. Eventually, this power source alone could produce all the power the world will ever need, with only a modest use of available sites. The Gulf of Mexico, the coast line around Florida, the Pacific along the Mexican shores provide sites for Ocean Thermal Plants. The Sea Solar power, New Orleans shipyards and the Hydronautic Company in Maryland have offered such plants built for $500 per Kilowatt, which is competitive with any existing power system. Other companies have planned titanium heat exchangers and other novelties assuring longer life and less corrosion, so their price is upped to 1800 dollars per Kilowatt — still competitive with more conventional plants when it is remembered that the Ocean “fuel” is free: The ocean itself.

This all does not mean that we “must” build Ocean plants or any other touted device, but it goes to show that we have no “energy crisis” whatever, just an ignorance- or a laziness-crisis.

There are two types of “ready-to-buiId” ocean thermal plants: In the “open cycle plant” the surface water itself is brought to a boil by removing air from the boiler and thus lowering the pressure. There is no heating. The steam runs a turbine running a generator. After that the steam is condensed in a condenser into which cold water is pumped from deeper layers. The condensed water can be tapped as fresh water. In the “closed cycle” the warm surface water heats a working fluid — ammonia or another refrigerant. The refrigerant boils and this vapor runs the turbine, after which it is condensed by cold water pumped from below. Then again this “working fluid” is led into the boiler: A closed cycle. The two types will be suitable for different conditions and requirements. The plants of either type may be built on shore or as ships, in the ocean, anchored or free-moving. The latter type may move according to where maximum thermal difference may be found. This is a type designed by the Applied Physics Laboratory of the Johns Hopkins University. Newer, not yet fully researched types are foam, mist and hybrid cycle plants, investigated at the Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh and the University of California at Berkeley.

Ocean thermal plants were first discussed by French, Italian and US engineers and scientists in 1881. In the Twenties, the French engineer George Claude built three plants in Paris, Ougre in Belgium (producing 60 Kilowatts) and in Cuba, producing 22 Kilowatts for 11 days. In 1942, the French government began research of systems and components and designed and partly built a plant in West Africa producing 7500 Kilowatts plus fresh water. In the late Forties, an American engineer studied the French work and caused the National Bureau of Standards and later the University of California at Berkeley to build plants and test them. The oil crisis in the Seventies caused seven major universities and five large firms to join in this work.

Bryn Beorse
Cal Herrmann

(Written in the late 1970’s)

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Time does not Exist

(Actually, this has not been literally posted by Shamcher, but by me, Carol Sill. I thought it better to list as posted by Shamcher, as he is the author of most of these entries.)

In posting these archival letters and articles to the blog, I find that I am reminded of Shamcher’s words on the mystery of TIME. When I checked in preview mode, somehow the post dates were listed as occurring on January 1, 1970, and I couldn’t seem to change that. What is funny is that the documents were written before and after 1970, but Shamcher himself passed away in 1980. Now in 2005, almost 2006, I post his work for others to find. A two-way time capsule.

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