True Followers?

You are right that specifically the Inayat Khan sufi effort is typically directed to the future, though this is not so for sufism in general, except that, like all traditions, it encompasses past-present-and-future. Inayat Khan’s “message” was the future, near and far.
When you come to his “followers”, no one really is a follower, however much they try to claim to be an “only” follower — well, the less spoken of the better. But the concept of “following” may be good for a “follower” on a certain stage, but that is all, or it may become bad, if vain and egotistical.
I saw Inayat Khan invest power and appointments in his son Vilayat, who, however, is the first to think and say that he is not his father but himself, trying his best to convey and continue the “Message”. Of course, everyone has a message and is worth listening to, sometimes with a laugh, or only a vague smile, and sometimes with interest. But let no one claim to be a “true follower”. That is one more reason why discipleship is not always to the best, particularly if the teacher is not supremely developed, and pure and wise.
(from correspondence)

God Changes His Mind

I was told by some friendly sufis that since I had more experience with worldly hierarchies — in business, governments and even religious organisations in more than 65 countries — more than any sufi or anyone else, perhaps, in the big wide world since the creation of time, they liked to hear my views of this and they felt it was my duty to provide it. And my view is that God changes his mind, quickly, thoroughly, all along the line, up and down, as often as we change our shirts. And he changes it according to our own reactions. It is his privilege and nobody can take it away from him.
In a sense hierarchies grow and change organically without any direct intervention or nomination.
A blessed hierarchy does exist, of which Inayat Khan is to me a shining example. The titles and grades we give in the sufi order — even those he gave — are quite another matter. To quote him: “A privilege granted the mureed to see if she or he may become worthy some day to represent that attitude of respect, gratitude and utter humility — the attitude of a SUFI”. Many, as you know, never arrived.
You seem often to be so concerned with the “higher Officials” and believe them to truly represent the so-called lower ranks, while I (and now I must confess with Inayat’s inspiration) see the “lower” as often actually higher.
(from correspondence)


Inayat Khan publicly dissociated himself from a “murshida” appointed, by himself, who had disturbed the sense of unity.  Inayat Khan repeatedly told stories of how even Prophets had failed, as for example in his story about Kidr and Moses.  So why do people look transfixed at “leaders” and forget to look at plain people like the ones from Edmonton?

(from correspondence)


How lucky for all of us that the Edmonton group chose to talk rather than keep “silence” which is the advice of so many “mystics”.  Or should Inayat Khan, Sam Lewis, and Jesus have kept silent rather than talking?  Or, can you see gold where it appears?  Hierarchies are games, which, rightly understood and used, have a purpose, but which most often are not rightly understood or used.

(from correspondence)

Bryn Beorse: In Search of Mystic Balance

By Neil Klotz (originally published in New Age Magazine, late ’70’s)

“…At eighty-one, Beorse abjures all titles and will be the first to correct, gently but firmly, anyone who uses one on him…”

Therefore, O Ananda, be a lamp unto yourself
Rely on yourself and do not rely on external help, holding fast to the truth as a lamp.
Seek salvation alone in the truth, and do not look for assistance to anyone besides yourself -from the Buddha’s farewell address to his disciples

It was India, 1959, and Bryn Beorse was sixty-three years old. He had spent the better part of his life as a man of the world, as an engineer and economist working on solar energy and full employment, as an advisor to foreign governments and the United Nations, as a traveller living in sixty-seven countries, as a member of the Norwegian Underground in World War II, as the author of eight books, and at the same time as a spiritual disciple of the sufi mystic Inayat Khan.
Beorse was somewhat discouraged at the time, because he had been fighting for twenty years to interest governments in a technology that would tap the massive solar energy resources in the sea. But it was 1959, and the nuclear power chimera of “atoms for peace” had taken the energy community by storm.

“I had had an experience,” says Beorse, “where I was talking to Prime Minister Nehru and a room full of scientists, whom I felt were listening and were interested, but that nothing would come of it. So I felt I might just as well go on retreat.”

Bryn Beorse headed for the Himalayas, followed the pilgrim trail toward Badrinath, and, at the last station, Josimath, rushed up a mountain trail, along a stream.

“I drank from the stream from time to time,” he recalls, “and it became more beautiful and more life-giving for every mile that I ascended, until at last I had the feeling that I just flew up with no hindrance. And I began to think that this was the place where I should spend the rest of my life. Then, just as I was thinking this, I saw a cave, cut right into a steep wall of rock.

“It was one of those caves where you’d expect a saint to be looking out from the opening. So I said to myself, ‘Oh, this is exactly where I should stay. Perhaps I could sit there meditating for the rest of my life. But how am I to get in?’ ”

“Then I discovered, by climbing higher, that there was a way of getting in, a shaft down into the cave. At the bottom it was really dark. And as I was feeling around, I felt something furry that went BRROOOOM and then I felt again and it went BRRRROOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMM. And I thought, ‘I better get out of here.’ So a Himalayan bear, which I think now was pushed by Inayat Khan, told me to get out of there, go back, work on yourself, work on solar energy, work in the world. So here I am back in the world. ”

And, at eighty-one, Bryn Beorse is still here, still fighting for clean energy, full employment, and the work in the world which he says is necessary for mystic balance. Much of this balance, he says, lies in working with the one’s point of view. Beorse expresses his own point of view with a good deal of vigor, but apparently without any attempt to have others follow him.

“I express what I feel because I have been asked to, and one may or may not listen to that as they wish,” he says. In fact, he says, taking someone else’s point of view is much of what the sufi training is about, although the word sufi has been widely misunderstood to refer ‘to a sect of Islam or some other religion.
“A sufi,” he recalls his teacher saying, “has two points of view, his own and that of the other. And who is this other? Everybody in the world. In other words, he has at least three billion points of view, because he has to have that of himself and any other being.”

One of the things sufis themselves have different points of view about is the matter of titles and ranks. Although Beorse is the oldest living disciple of Inayat Khan – the man who founded the Sufi Order in the West in 1910 – and has been accorded the title of murshid, or “teacher,” he abjures all titles and will be the first to correct, gently but firmly, anyone who uses one on him. He will point, instead, to Buddha’s farewell advice to his disciples: “Be a lamp unto yourself.”

“Some believe in the hierarchy as a means to help the pupil, and maybe in some instances that is good,” he says. “Personally, I am against it. I don’t think that it does any good, and I’ve always asked that no one use the title I have been accorded in the sufi effort. I certainly don’t feel that I deserve any title.”

Titles are only one of the things that can get in the way of someone’s spiritual development these days, said Beorse. With his “tongue of flame” (the meaning of his sufi name Shamcher), Beorse will good-humoredly disassemble any particular concept of the spiritual path one cares to bring up – all in the name of the search for balance.

On spiritual teachers: “Teachers should not tell you what to do. If they do tell you what to do, then they are not teachers. A teacher is one who helps you evolve and awaken your own latent powers of judgment and decision.

“A lot of people need no teacher at all. Rabindranath Tagore said in one of his poems that people told him that he had to go through this gate or that gate or follow this leader to become close to God, but then God had grace on him and led him to Himself without any guide.”

On spiritual practices: “When Inayat Khan first instructed me in some practices, it was in a railway station where he was waiting to take the next train. Everyone sat there and looked at us as if they didn’t even notice. There was no secrecy.

“At that time there was a big superstition among people: The more practices you got, the more important they thought you were. I never thought that. I thought practices were given because there was something wrong with you that you had to correct. So I did the practices conscientiously, but I didn’t feel the least bit proud of them.”

On initiation: “Initiation is as much as the initiated one accepts of the initiation, nothing less and nothing more. Some are afraid that initiation will oblige one to acknowledge one’s membership in a certain order. Initiators may think so, but in that case I feel sorry for them. The only thing that initiation makes is a contact, which may be very important or may be rather unimportant – it all depends.

“For instance, anyone can get in touch with lnayat Khan or his teacher or any of the spiritual beings, but if you are initiated, it is easier, because you have been reminded to them, your name has been told. It may be easier the more sincere you were at the moment of initiation. But once you have had that initiation, no one can take it away from you. It goes beyond lifetimes.”

Beorse’s own early spiritual path took him on what he calls a “wild search” for a teacher through India during his twenties. Born into a Lutheran family in Norway, he had begun to study yoga at an early age and chose engineering as an occupation so that he could travel widely. But he found nothing in India and returned to Oslo determined to forget about the whole thing. At that point he met Inayat Khan, who asked him to translate a lecture that the sufi was going to give.

His meeting with Inayat Khan to prepare for the lecture consisted solely of ten minutes of silence, Beorse recalls. “I thought that since he didn’t want to discuss the lecture, why should I,” he said. “So I came to his lecture, listened to the whole thing, and went up and gave it all in Norwegian without any notes. Normally I wouldn’t have remembered that
much, but there was something in Inayat Khan. He managed to transfer it to my mind so that I was able to repeat it correctly. ”

After that, Beorse knew Inayat Khan for four years before the teacher’s death. Beorse recalls that in a sort of repeat of Buddha’s farewell address, his teacher used the last four hours he spent with his European disciples to warn them about using mediums or psychics instead of relying on their own intuition.

“One of the things he said was that teachers never, never talk to pupils through a medium. If they want to reach their pupils, they talk to them directly,” says Beorse. “Most mediums have no capacity of discrimination; they believe in everything that comes from the other side. I have met so many people who say, ‘Oh, I have direct guidance from the other side!’ Well, the other side is just as full of cheating and nonsense as this side-even more so.

“And do you know, after Inayat had warned us and after he had gone to the other side, four of his closest disciples, with high titles, came to Suresnes (the sufi headquarters in France) and each said, ‘I must tell you that I have been appointed to be the leader of the whole sufi movement – I have been told so by a medium.’”

Even so-called “mystic sciences” such’ as the I Ching, tarot, and astrology can get in the way of developing one’s own intuition and spiritual guidance, says Beorse. And when an intuition does come, it still needs to be discriminated from the mental static that can get mixed in, and doing so is an art that people must learn for themselves. What all teachers and all paths point to is nothing but this self-reliance for communication with the Absolute, which Beorse says Inayat Khan referred to as “faith.”

“Faith, said Inayat, is what makes people venture out in the sea in boats that will hardly carry them. Faith is what makes people shoot down a ski slope and jump into the wild air and not know what will happen. And faith is what brings mystics up to the top of the mountain, where they can see the whole world before them, while scientists dig themselves up along the mountainside and also reach the top,” Beorse says. .

Testing out intuitions, digging one’s way up, is what leads to the true knowledge, enlightenment, or whatever one wants to call it, Beorse says. What is necessary is a balanced life – “in the world, but not of it,” in the words of the Bible.

“There is a trend now in the opposite direction,” he says. “You are supposed to give all this up and just think about your own development or become peaceful before you start working for peace in the world. That is complete nonsense. You don’t get any peace within yourself without working in the world and with the world. We are here for that reason. We weren’t born here to retire into a cave and sit there the rest of our lives. Then you could just as well be on another plane.”

In his long and varied life, Beorse has tackled two of the biggest problems on this plane – energy and employment. As an engineer, he was the first to bring to the U.S. the technology that makes it possible to extract solar energy from the ocean’s waters. Called ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC), the system could supply one hundred times as much energy as the world is projected to need in the year 2000. Unlike photovoltaic cells and other solar electric systems, ocean thermal conversion has been ready to put into production at competitive costs for the past several decades, but it has been disregarded while both fossil and nuclear fuels were monopolized for profit.

The OTEC system uses free fuel – the sun’s energy extracted from the temperature difference between the surface and depths of the ocean. There would be no pollution, says Beorse, and millions of jobs would be created worldwide by the production of the plants.

Fortunately, more and more people have begun to listen to him and the few other engineers who have advocated OTEC over the past ten years. In fact, seven major universities have come to conclusions similar to Beorse’s. And the federal government has begun to fund a sea solar project, but apparently at a rate that places it well behind other priorities. At present, the government funds OTEC development for $36 million, fossil fuel development for $903 million, and nuclear power development for $3.4 billion.

“OTEC is much better technically prepared than the nuclear plants,” says Beorse. “But people have a hard time seeing that, since they have worked so hard on the nuclear plants. I talked with a nuclear engineer from Massachusetts who said, ‘I can agree with you that OTEC might be cheaper than nuclear, but it isn’t cheaper now because you have to build new plants. We already have nuclear plants.’”

Under his other hat as economist, Beorse has fought an even larger battle, for insured full employment for everyone. How, after all, can one work in the world if there is no work?
“Employment is a condition for dignity and humanity,” he says. “It is the most cruel and most thoughtless thing in the world to keep even one person unemployed against his or her wish.”

During the Kennedy administration, Beorse met with Arthur Schlesinger, one of the chief presidential advisors, to discuss a plan for full employment based on his work as well as that of economists John Phillip Burnett and John H. G. Pierson. Both Burnett and Pierson have developed ways to finance full employment under a free enterprise system, Beorse says. He and Schlesinger “formed an alliance” on the plan, he recalls, and the aide told him that the President and everyone else would meet to decide on it “as soon as this silly trip to Texas has been completed.” “And that was the end,” says Beorse.

Full employment, he adds, would be the quickest way to cut down on the number of senseless, unfulfilling jobs and give more people a chance for interesting ones, closer to what the Buddhists call “Right Livelihood.”

“There will always be people who are working in jobs that aren’t fulfilling to them. That can’t be helped,” he says, “But full employment can gradually change that, because you could leave a job and get another one. You could say, ‘I quit, because I don’t like this.’ That is what so many businesses are afraid of. And to hell with their fear.”

As an engineer, Beorse himself has held several jobs he would have left sooner but had a family to support. And there weren’t many openings after he passed seventy. Beorse now works as a consultant on sea solar power to the Sea Water Conversion Laboratory of the University of California-Berkeley. He also serves as an advisor to the newly formed Alternative Directions in Energy and Economics in San Francisco.

One thing Beorse consistently refuses to discuss is the future. As his own projects inch closer to fulfillment, as the discoveries of the scientist-engineer begin to parallel those of the mystic, as young people ask him what they should do with their lives, Beorse finds himself besieged with requests for predictions. Not much chance for that, however. With an indeterminate gleam in his eye, he directs one back to Buddha, the farewell address, and one’s own resources.

“We are making the future, we are not predicting it,” he said. “When you predict, you predict on the basis of past experiences, which have no significance anymore.

“Science mainly lives in the area of Isaac Newton-cause and effect. But today’s physicists are beginning to understand that this is just a concept we have. There is no such thing as a fixed or stationary thing. Everything is in constant movement. Not in millionths of a second, but in millionths of a millionth of a millionth. subatomic particles are created out of the void, out of space, and again enter into space. It is the same thing in a small time period that happens in a great time period when God or Brahman or the Universe expresses itself and begets planets and plants and animals and people and spiritual longings, and then contracts again and turns it into nothing in billions of years. And there would be no satisfaction in the work for OTEC or for full employment if it weren’t for the light of this evolution.

“We don’t know whether we will have a stable or an unstable future. We don’t know whether there will be a colossal evolution or even a nuclear war. But it is our damned duty to try to lead the evolution in a sensible way. That is all we can do.”

Cooperative and Non-Cooperative Mind Rendezvous

November 5, 1962

1. Lacking generally accepted terms, the above is used to indicate the rare but confirmed observations of either voluntary mind contact, in which case two or more persons know what the others are thinking – or involuntary contact, in which case a “mind-reader” may know what another or others are thinking without cooperation or even without the knowledge of the objects. these may be removed from the “reader” any distance on this globe.
2. In 1957 an army project for research in this matter was contemplated. This project was, in my view, too exclusively based on mediocre results reached by large groups rather than on achievements demonstrated by a few individuals. So I wrote some suggestions to Brigadier-General Theodore J. Conway, Director of Army Research and Development.
3. Our correspondence concluded with talks with Colonel Shrimp in the Pentagon in 1959, following my return from a trip to the Himalayas. Colonel Shrimp was interested in my suggestions but apparently not authorized to change or add to the project scope, which was limited to sponsoring university studies and studies in Japan.
4. University studies along these lines have so far chiefly been confined to group results, even though many scholars are informed of the more interesting results achieved by rare individuals.
5. My own concern began at the age of eight when I found I had some limited capabilities which were suppressed by hostile reactions from friends, not from parents. Generally a sympathetic home and school environment in the formative years is a first requirement. My lost early talents were occasionally and spottily revived.
6. From 1924 through part of 1927 I was a friend and pupil of the late Hindu musician Inayat Khan, who seemed to have a complete mastery of mind rendezvous. In his presence and then only I could also read him. Inayat, in his youth, traveled widely in the Himalayas where he met men communicating mentally with ease. His son Vilayat, whose mother was an American and who studied at the Sorbonne, also traveled in the Himalayas and met mind communicators. I met one myself in the quite civilized city of Mussorree in the lower Himalayas.
7. Several Americans, some in influential positions, are interested in and/or have achieved in this matter.
8. Colonel Warren D. Langley, present Director of Army Research and Development, informed me last Wednesday that Colonel Shrimp’s project had been discontinued, but that resumption was possible … “if a breakthrough in University research would be forthcoming.”
9. The ‘breakthrough’ rather happened long ago when we first discovered that minds were pooled and the common pool could be tapped. The problem may not be to discover new procedures but to recover and broaden knowledge already possessed.
A. In view of the military and civilian importance of this matter it is suggested that at least one project be started in which interested University personnel should certainly take part, though these should not be the exclusive operators and shold not be permitted to limit the studies according to their views.

B. Among the first steps of such a project might be these:
a. Establishing schools for picked children from homes sympathetic to the idea. A great many such homes can be found in this country today. Should we experiment with children? We do, every day, and not always safely. The proposed experiment could do the children nothing but good.
b. These schools would teach the acknowledged courses in addition to special training in reliable mental responses, special mental and physical exercises, certain dietary considerations under supervision of medical doctors versed in these disciplines. There are quite a few such doctors.
c. Generally these schools might be tilted toward Dr. Montessori, Inayat Khan and similar trends. The results of such an education could be nothing but good, whatever else might be achieved.
d. Similar courses could be established for interested adults.

My Meeting with Murshid Inayat Khan

by SHAMCHER BEORSE (in The Message, February 1980)

A dark November day in 1924 the phone rang. Would I translate the talks to be given at the Oslo University by the Hindu musician and mystic, Inayat Khan?

I had just returned from two years’ work as an irrigation engineer in India and Indonesia. I had arrived with a reading knowledge of Indian culture and traditions, eager to learn more.

The abyss of poverty and misery staggered me and soon overshadowed all other impressions. I wondered whether the self-inflicted torture of the fakirs or even the subtle philosophies of the Yogis could not have been channeled into talents or activities more helpful to the starving masses and the welfare of a great nation.

Accordingly, my first reaction was not too positive toward this Hindu who was lounging in the hotels of Europe and America while his countrymen were in such desperate need of mind and muscle to better their lot.

Outside his room at the Grand Hotel was a winding queue of excited enthusiasts, among whom was an old friend and chronic curiosity-hunter, Lars, who attached himself to me upon hearing my errand and that I was to be let in without waiting. “We ought to go together,” he said, “and thus ease the queue.” (And ease your waiting time, too, my fine-feathered friend, thought I, but hs proposition was altruistically put. I could not turn it down. )

Wondering how I would be able to get in my pot shots of practical questions about the lectures amid the heavy spiritual artillery fire I expected from my friend, I entered the room a worried man.

A pair of laughing eyes looked up at us.

“Shall we have silence?”

The gentle, sincere, almost apologetic tone of his voice contrasted with the startling sense of his words. With a graceful movement of his hand, a nearby sofa was indicated. My friend and I seated ourselves in opposite corners, with Murshid Inayat Khan in the middle. Then we closed our eyes.

I woke up, refreshed, when a bell rang. The interview was over. My friend and I rose, shook hands with our host, left.

“I had a lot of questions I wanted to ask him,” said my friend as we walked out. A thoughtful frown creased his forehead. “The funny thing is, I can’t remember a single one of them now. They couldn’t have been so important. But I feel fine!”

Murshid Inayat Khan and I had no further talk before the lecture. I felt he was quite able to judge for himself what was necessary in the way of preparation. When the evening came, I sat down in the first row, with notebook and pencil. I did not use either.

He talked about the urges and hopes of all creation …. “Those whose intensity of sympathy has blended their hearts with beings and things — know that the trees of the forests and even the rocks of the deserts are yearning for greater freedom and knowledge. One might use the expression that the trees of the forest are planted in hope.”

When the lecture had been given in full, I took his place and delivered the talk in my native tongue. I had always been proud of my memory. This time I wondered whether it was all a matter of my own mental powers.

When he was to leave I took him to the railway depot. A station attendant gave us the wrong platform number so he nearly missed his train, which would have upset his entire schedule of lectures and caused irreparable damage.

As we ran for the right platform, all out of breath, we again came upon the careless attendant. I was about to give him a piece of my mind when up came Murshid Inayat’s right hand, in a hasty greeting, embellished by laughing eyes, and these somewhat breathless farewell words:

“I have not had such fun for a long time — God bless you!”

The train still stood at ease, three minutes after scheduled departure time with not the slightest indication of hurry. I apologized at having led him at such a fast pace when obviously it had not been necessary.

“Oh, but it was,” he insisted, “for now we shall have time to talk!”

In the quiet of a railway compartment, miraculously unoccupied except for the two of us, Murshid Inayat told me of his music and his work, how his late friend and teacher in India, Seyed Madani, had told him on his death bed, “Go West, my son, and unite East and West by the rhythm of your music — for which task you have been blessed!”

At first he understood this in a strictly musical sense. A descendant of the great Moula Baksh, “India’s Beethoven,” Murshid Inayat Khan had been collecting ancient tunes from all over India and singing them, accompanied by his vina, for the public and at court. Arriving in San Francisco in 1910, he sang and played his vina as he had done in India. By and by he began to feel he not only played music, but that he was music. And all other human beings likewise seemed to him to be music, each one of a particular tune and character, revealing their secrets to his supersensitive heart.

He then began to view his teacher’s parting words in a new light. He had grown into a world of music where humans — and even things — were the instruments. The terms East and West he no longer saw as mere geographic directions, but as straying entities of mind and heart, leading to misunderstanding and disharmony, which he would try to bring together in mutual understanding.

There followed two years of study with him at his summer school at Suresnes, Bois de Boulogne, outside Paris. I found that his ideas, which had seemed a little vague in a railway depot in Oslo, were as scientifically conceived as anything I had encountered in my engineering career or in my study of physics. They were already incorporated in several books.

In 1926, Eddington, Hylleraas, James Jeans and other outstanding physicists hypothesized what has been called the “vibration theory of matter,” about which science is still fighting. This hypothesis is a true replica of Murshid Inayat’s views, except that, to the latter, the “vibrations” were not just movement of inert matter, or of no matter at all, as has elegantly been suggested by some scientists. To Murshid Inayat, these vibrations were curls and twists of love — that unfathomable force that created and goes on creating and maintaining things and thoughts and sentiments.

A curious and significant application of this vibration theory was Murshid Inayat’s attitude toward the “peace through disarmament” dreams of the time, sponsored by the United States Secretary of State Kellogg and others.

“Were men of good intentions to disarm now.” said Murshid Inayat, “they would become slaves of the not-so-well-intentioned and be made to work and fight for the very causes they abhor.”

A few years later this warning was dramatized by Hitler’s rise to power.

His extraordinary sensitivity was a constant puzzle to me. Once, as he was lecturing, my mind slipped off to the thought of a swimming appointment I had after the lecture and, although the talk was most interesting, I impolitely wondered whether it would be over soon. With an instantaneous reflex Murshid Inayat looked down at his wrist watch — then up at me! There was no reproach in his eyes, just mild wonder. He was only half through his talk!

Upon another occasion an older associate of his had taken me to task for using a chair in the audience which was just next to the one Murshid Inayat used when he was listening to some speaker. It was far back and, said my assailant, Murshid Inayat wanted, of course, to sit alone and undisturbed!

Somewhat taken aback at such fussiness I decided nevertheless to sit as far away from that chair as possible, and seated myself in the first row at the next lecture. Before it began, Murshid Inayat walked in unobtrusively, looked around, then walked quietly up to the first row and sat down beside me again. My assailant blushed profusely.

Another elderly associate of Murshid Inayat once took it upon herself to lecture me on his exalted state, a state which was such that none of us could ever hope to reach it, or even have him as an example; at the most, we might hope to reach the status of some older associate!

To anyone familiar with psychology, the case of this “older associate” was pretty clear and rather alarming, as long as she was posing as a teacher and helper of man, and I was concerned and somewhat dejected as both of us entered the hall where Murshid Inayat was to give a talk. He had not been anywhere near the place where we had talked. Now he entered the rostrum, his face a thundercloud, though his eyes softened as they fell upon the “older associate.”

“One’s closest and dearest friends often become one’s worst enemies,” he began. “Throughout history, the blessed influence of great teachers has been marred and distorted by their associates insisting upon putting them on pedestals and making monsters of them! All great teachers have been great because they were human, subject to the foibles and temptations of humans — yet surmounting them! Their wish was always to serve God and man by trying to be examples, or at least friends, on the most humble human basis — to all who cared for their friendship. In the eyes of God there are no highs or lows, spiritually or otherwise, and whoever thinks he is ‘advanced’ has not begun to climb!”

Then, gently, he switched to the subject of the evening.

One day I asked him the question that had been on my lips since the first day we met. Why did he not stay in India which was so much more in need of his vision, wisdom and energy?

He smiled as if he had known all along this question had been worrying me. First he reminded me he had stayed and worked for quite some time in India before he came to the West. Also, he told me some day he would go back. (He did.) But he came to the West, he said, because this, and not India, was now the center of the world from which action and initiative went out to the other parts of the world. If his message was important for the whole world, he said, it had to be planted in the West. Here the minds were alert, the determination and organizing ability active. Western associates might take a longer time making up their minds. But when made up, they would stick, and do something about it.

“India,” he said, “was once the center of civilization. That is no longer so. The western industrialist, who first builds human power outward and upward and then uses his profits for building further and along other lines, is a greater benefactor at this time and often closer to God than the pious man who ponders his own soul only.”

In the same vein, when asked by associates if we should not go to India to learn, Murshid Inayat smilingly replied: “The people of India will come here.”
One might say Murshid Inayat helped his own countrymen by helping the West sharpen its tools of service.

His goal in life was the same as for all earnest seekers: truth. But how does one look for truth? What better path than love? Sympathy? Looking at things from the other’s viewpoint? Merging into that penetrating force that runs the world? This leads to harmony, which again breeds beauty and, in the atmosphere of Love-Harmony-Beauty, vision becomes clear, truth may be seen, reached.

Universal Worship, instituted by him, demonstrated his goal as well as his means of seeking it. This was a devotional service, or ceremony, conducted around an altar on which were placed, in the order of their age, six books representing the Hindu, Buddhist, Zoroastrian, Hebrew, Christian, and Muslim religions, from which selected quotes were read. Behind each scripture was a candle lit from a taper with the words, “To the glory of the omnipresent God, we kindle the light symbolically representing the Hindu religion” (Buddhist, Zoroastrian, and so on), and at last a seventh candle in the middle was lighted, with the words, “To the glory of the omnipresent God, we kindle the light symbolically representing all those who, whether known or unknown to the world, have held aloft the light of truth amidst the darkness of human ignorance.”

We who had the privilege of thus hearing, in one sitting, quotations from all the world’s scriptures, were always amazed anew at the similar, nay identical, manner in which all of them dealt with our problems.

A prayer followed (which has been used upon several occasions at United Nations meetings):

Most gracious Lord, Master, Messiah, and Savior of humanity,
We greet Thee with all humility.
Thou art the first Cause and the last Effect,
The Divine Light and the Spirit of Guidance,
Alpha and Omega.
Thy Light is in all forms, Thy Love in all beings:
in a loving mother, in a kind father, in an innocent child, in a helpful friend,
in an inspiring teacher.
Allow us to recognize Thee in all Thy holy names and forms:
as Rama, as Krishna, as Shiva, as Buddha.
Let us know Thee as Abraham, as Solomon, as Zarathustra, as Moses, as Jesus, as Muhammad,
And in many other names and forms,
known and unknown to the world.

It has often been said that character can be gauged in adversity. To Murshid Inayat, nothing was adversity. He found a staunch supporter of this viewpoint in a man from an entirely different walk of life, the pioneer of American mass industry, Henry Ford, who after an interview with Murshid Inayat in his Detroit office exclaimed, “This is what America needs!”

0n a mid-September day in 1926, when Bois de Boulogne had put on its brilliant fall colors, I reminded Murshid lnayat of this and pleaded with him to remain in the West, or at least come back, when he told me he was heading for his native land.

“We’ll meet again next spring,” I said, confidently.

“We’ll meet every time you think of our friendship –in your heart!” he smiled. Then he added, with a faraway look, “True friendship grows beyond the need of physical presence. ”

I never saw him again “in physical presence.” He passed from our world of East and West in February, 1927, near the tomb of his teacher.

“There was a scent as of roses in the room when he had left this world,” said one who had witnessed his passing.

In his native India there is a legend that a saint or sage leaves a scent of roses upon passing, as a token of the fragrance of his eternal soul.

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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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