Interview with Shamcher Bryn Beorse—12/14/75
WALI ALI: This is an interview with Shamcher Bryn Beorse. I think we'll just begin, and we're going to discuss first some of the questions of succession in the Sufi Movement, the Sufi Order, and the wishes of Inayat Khan, and some of the history. So would you just begin?
SHAMCHER: At Inayat Khan's death, people collected in Suresnes; and Murshida Martin who, at an earlier period, had been assigned, as I understand, by Inayat as a successor, came, and she was not accepted. Her behavior—she stressed very much the succession thing, and her behavior was such that the membership decided to try something else. And Vilayat was about 11 years old at the time and had been announced by Murshid—at least he had announced that he would wish very much to see him as Sufi leader of the Order; and he had been given a yellow robe to signify his succession also as head of the Message Confraternity. In one of the sessions with the Sheikhs and Khalifs, Murshid had said expressly that Vilayat would be the future leader—and Vilayat was present—and afterwards, Sheikha Susanna Kjøsterud (of the Norwegian Sufi Order) said to Murshid, somewhat reproaching him, "But wasn't that wrong to tell this young man that? He might become swell—headed." "No," said Murshid, "I think it was right; he needed to know." Then, as he was so young, we decided—or the whole Order sort of decided—to ask Maheboob Khan, Murshid's brother, to take over the leadership until Vilayat became of age. And Maheboob Khan was very humble and did it as a service. And when he passed away, Pir-o-Murshid's brother, Ali Khan, said to Vilayat, "Don't you think you still are somewhat young? Don't you want me to take over for awhile?" And Vilayat graciously accepted that. And then in about 1956, I felt a very strong….
WALI ALI: Are you sure of the date 1956?
SHAMCHER: Yes. I felt a very strong urge to ask Ali Khan, who was then, in a sense, my boss (I was leader in Los Angeles), if this wasn't the time when he should approach Vilayat and come to some understanding with him—I used the expression "embrace him." And Ali Khan answered me in a letter, saying that Murshid's family was not a concern of the mureeds, which made me feel that he was a little too commanding in his attitude. And I took a plane to Geneva, and Vilayat came to meet me from Paris, and I went up to Ali Khan to see him, and Vilayat wanted to see him. And he hedged and hawed and said he must be permitted to think about this. And the next day I came again, and I told him that I would come again, and we came again, and I said, "Vilayat is downstairs, and we want to see you." And he said, "I can't do this; I have to be firm like a rock." And I said I didn't see how this had any resemblance to a rock. So it was "No." And, as he understood that I would then turn away from him, Ali Khan wept. He didn't kick me out, as I almost had expected. I don't know whether he wept because he thought I was lost, or because of his own doubt about the matter. One thing Ali Khan said about Vilayat was that, “But he has mixed in politics." And I said, “How? When?” Ali Khan said: “He has taken part in a war." "I don’t think, Ali Khan,” I said, “that you were present when Pir-o-Murshid asked his son before he passed away. What will you do if France goes to war?" And Vilayat answered, "I will study the matter and see if it is a just war." "No," said Pir-o-Murshid," not good enough. You are eating the food of France; you will fight the wars of France." And, as we know, Vilayat, as well as his sister Noor, joined the Allied Forces when France was attacked by the Nazis. He as a pilot in the R.A.F., and she as an agent for the British Secret Service. And this, which was on a command of his father and in understanding with his whole view of life, was held against him by Ali. There was another thing which also offended me with Ali Khan: he said that "all inspiration to the mureeds goes through the Pir-o-Murshid." He was called a Pir-o-Murshid then; he was never made a Pir-o-Murshid or even a Murshid by Inayat Khan. He was made a Khalif. And Inayat Khan, of course, said the opposite: that the new thing, the Message is that, contrary to so many religions, all communications go directly from God Himself to each individual, and the teacher is only a reminder, an inspirer, a friend. When Ali approached his end, which he foresaw to some extent, he named Maheboob's son, Mahmood, as the successor.
WALI ALI: Was it Musheraff or….
SHAMCHER: No. Yeah, I'll come to that. And, temporarily, as long as Mahmood was young, Musheraff Khan, Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan's younger brother. And he completely evaded having anything to do with Vilayat Khan. But, according to Pir-o-Murshid's will, Vilayat was then the leader to me; and I wouldn't have accepted that just because he was his son, or even because Murshid had said so, but also because I felt he was. May I mention something about the Sufi Movement, which had a right to exist as far as these individuals were concerned, because they probably thought they did right; it has no right to call … to monopolize the Sufi name; in fact, they haven't even as much right as Vilayat has to, for instance, say that they have a monopoly of the books, a monopoly of the name, or the sign. They have not only not a monopoly, they hardly have the right. And, apart from that, Sufi movements and Sufi divisions exist all over the world, and they have been typical in that they have a very loose and human and nice organization. And no one in any Sufi organization can say that "This is our property; no one else has a right to use that." The whole principle is so entirely foreign to the whole Sufi thought and the whole Sufi attitude—wherever we find Sufis, in North Africa, in Turkey, where they were very powerful and crowned sultans, or in India.
WALI ALI: And what of the situation today, when the person Fazl is the putative head of the Sufi Movement, and what is the situation in this sense?
SHAMCHER: Musheraff and Ali, about them it can be said that they were sincere and honest believers in their way; but their way was apart from Vilayat: they thought that he was not the right man and so on. That's an honest attitude. With Fazl, it became entirely different. He was a great friend of Vilayat, lived in his house, admired him, and said, both before and after he assumed the title of Pir-o-Murshid of the Sufi Movement (which now has been changed to Sheikh-ul-Masheikh of the Sufi Movement) he said, "Vilayat, I know that your father wanted you as leader, and I also personally recognize you as a Sufi leader." So Fazl did not share limitations of All Khan and Musheraff Khan. He wanted really to be, it seems, the head of the whole shebang when Vilayat passed away, but he went about it in a very strange way. For instance, while he said this to Vilayat personally, Vilayat said, "Tell that to your people." "Oh no, I can't do that!" And then we had the deplorable scene at the burial place of Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan, where Vilayat was bodily thrown out of the place and, I understand, suffered some lacerations and breakages that had to be treated by a doctor. So Fazl is an intelligent man and he understands the thing, but there is something strange with his nature that has made his behavior almost incomprehensible and not acceptable.
WALI ALI: The young Mahmood that you mentioned didn't succeed Musheraff Khan, it was then given to Fazl, was that the way it was?
SHAMCHER: Yes, and that was partly because Mahmood refused to take on that when the time came, and he, I understand, recognized Vilayat as the leader. And then Musheraff Khan jumped over Vilayat and named Fazl.
WALI ALI: And what do you think should be done, in terms of this whole structure which exists today?
SHAMCHER: These things are taken care of by life itself, and it's far from me to give any prophecy. The Sufi Movement will exist for some time, and it may even change. There may be people there who see and understand the whole thing and join with the efforts of the whole hierarchy of Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan, or it may slowly die. Who knows?
WALI ALI: Let's move now to your memories of Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan.
SHAMCHER: Yes. I first met him in my native town, Oslo; and I was then a member of an order that thought a great world teacher would approach. And I sat talking with Inayat, sort of casually, and suddenly it struck me, "Could this be it? And it is so tremendous:" And then after a while I joined—I asked if he would accept me as a disciple, and he said, "With great pleasure." And so I told my Theosophist friends that I had now parted ways, to some extent, with them, because I had become a disciple of Inayat Khan, the Sufi. And they said, "But Bryn, don't you know he may be on the black path?" I said, "What would be more delightful than to follow any path, black or red or white, with such a great being and such a spiritual man?" I said, "The Theosophists are a tremendous society; they don't need me. They can get along well, but Inayat Khan seemed to have a very small group, and maybe this is the greatest of all, and so I have to join it." And the Sufi name also attracted me very much at that time. I found later that many of his disciples almost resented the name "Sufi," which they considered nice but not very important historically, because they saw Inayat as a great teacher and leader of humanity in the age, which required an understanding of all religions and all—not only spiritual—but also material movements. So there was in a sense a division: some people continued to be his disciples as Sufis, and some would only hear of his great international mission. And when I came to America I met Sufi Ahmed Chisti, Samuel Lewis, and we became great friends, having had the same teacher.
WALI ALI: Was this still when Inayat was alive, or this was after his passing?
SHAMCHER: No, this was after his passing. It was in 1939; it was in 1927 that Inayat passed. And we agreed on so many things. He had traveled around the world, and I had traveled; we had seen many Sufis in all the places—he, usually very fine Sufis; and I, both very good and fine Sufis and also Sufis I didn't think so much of. So we had a slight difference of opinion there. And I listened with great interest to his report on his Sufi friends, and he to mine.
WALI ALI: Excuse me, but this couldn't have been in 1939; it must have been later, because he didn't travel to the East until 1956.
SHAMCHER: That is right, I may mix it up now. I think he had traveled somewhat before, but I remember when he made his world travels later, as late as 1959. I was very happy that Sam Lewis made his connections and got his initiations from abroad; it made the Movement and his part in it more real, more connected with the Sufis and more discriminating in that sense. We also agreed that there were many things wrong with the Sufi expressions—the Sufi Movement, the Order and so on. And he was more critical of all of them than I was. I singled out Vilayat as one he should communicate with, and he gradually did. And I am happy to say that when he met Vilayat he was very pleased, and they came together in a very fruitful cooperation, which I see as essential for the future of the Sufi approach in America.
WALI ALI: Would you like to catalogue that change in attitude, or describe some of the phases that it went through? I know in his correspondence with you that he very often took up these questions—we have all these letters, for the most part, going back for years. For instance, did you save all his letters? What did you think of him as a letter writer?
SHAMCHER: I think his letters were always very interesting; I read them all and sometimes I wonder if he didn't stress his own value for fun more than was necessary, perhaps. But that doesn't matter; he always had something new, hidden in a lot of words that were sometimes good and sometimes made me laugh. And all his letters have been preserved in a file in Atiya's great house where we have room for files. I sent the letters, after having read them, so she could read them—I think all of them—and they can be found there anytime and even copies of some of my answers when I thought they were good.
WALI ALI: We have a file going back at least to 1960 and maybe earlier than that too; in your case probably earlier than that.
SHAMCHER: Yes. I mention one thing of Sam's missions; he was sitting with me one day and he said, "Shamcher, Murshid was here twice and now again and tells me I should share everything with you." I was flattered and very happy, and I thought also that Murshid had been there. He was, as you know, a pupil of many Pir-o-Murshids, but I felt that he was very faithful and appreciative all his life to his first teacher, Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan; and his insistence on the publication of the Six Interviews proves that, I think.
WALI ALI: Now let's go back, if we can, to when you first met Samuel Lewis, who was not a Murshid at that time, isn't that right?
WALI ALI: He was—in 1939—was he connected then formally with any of the Sufi groups existing? Was there something happening, as you recall, in the Bay Area?
SHAMCHER: Yes, he was connected with the Sufi group in San Francisco, which had been started by Murshida Rabia Martin, even before she was a Murshida too. But we were both not very active in the Sufi Movement at that time. It was very difficult; half a year after I was made a mureed, Inayat Khan and I sat together in an interview, and he said, " Shamcher, do you know, this name just now came from God. It means 'the sword of the Message, the tongue of flame'; it means that—I see that millions will be against you and millions for you. You are the one who will make the Message great and break through in a word." And at that time I was young and very ambitious enough, and I thought, "Oh, of course, I will be the man." And then I found very soon how small the response was, and even my most intelligent friends would say, "Huh? What do you mean? A general religion? Ha: Embracing all?" And they would laugh. And I felt so ashamed and so humbled in relation to this great thing that he had told me that I felt I would never amount to anything, all of these things wouldn't happen. So I laid low. I tried always again and again, and nothing much happened. And only a few years ago, there was a tremendous increase and expansion of the Sufi Order in Seattle where I was then located. And then I began to see how my connection with Sam, he and I, and my connection with Vilayat, and all these began to form into a, may I say, a tremendous bubble. And I don't think half of it has been realized yet. I begin to see these millions for and against now and how it develops. And it comes back to me that Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan once looked to me and said, "Shamcher, how old are you now?" That was just before he passed away. "Oh, 29," I said. "Twenty-nine—quite young, quite young. There's a long way to go, isn't there?" So he sort of gave that impression to me, that it would take a long time.
WALI ALI: You said you were with him shortly before he died; this was right before he left for India, is that right?
SHAMCHER: Yes, that was in September 1926.
WALI ALI: And then what was his state of mind and feeling at this time? Did he feel that he would come back from India? Was he optimistic or pessimistic?
SHAMCHER: He seemed sad—not sad, really, but under great emotional strain. And I said, "Pir-o-Murshid, I will not see you for awhile, but I will see you next summer, won't I?" "In the future, Shamcher, you will see me in your intuition." And then he talked; and at the same time, more than he talked, thoughts came into my mind, and they contained Vilayat, and they contained an expansion of the Message, and that there would be great difficulties and almost hopeless periods, but something would materialize at last.
WALI ALI: Can you say something about how his vision of his work may have evolved or changed from the different periods after he began with the work of the Message in the West?
SHAMCHER: Yes. In the beginning he played his Vina, which is the oldest instrument, I think, which exists—more than 5,000 years old, and he sang, and that was his expression of the Message, as his teacher Sayed Madani had told him, that "You will unite East and West by the harmony of your music, for which work you have been blessed." And eventually he stopped playing and even singing because he saw the terms East and West as contrasting sentiments and trends within humanity and within each human being; and because he thought—"the harmony of your music"—he saw music in every person. He listened and he heard the music of each person and each group and each nation. And so his mission changed from physical music to music of the spheres, you may say, or the music of the people. And with it, his followers changed; some of them couldn't go along; some of them thought, "What is this?" and dropped—not entirely—out, but they didn't take part in the Movement, they just came to him personally now and then. And others became more eager and saw in Inayat Khan the great inspiration of the age, the channel through which God's purpose and wish for humanity would be realized. And also, in accordance with the Sufi system, he named Khalifs and Murshidas—there were four women Murshidas. But his son, second sea, Hidayat Khan, told me just a few months ago, that before he left he said, "If I come back from India…," meaning that he wasn't sure he would be back, "I feel that I would change many things; I would drop the hierarchy; I would not have hierarchy and titles anymore; I would concentrate on the teachings." I could understand that very well because many of his Murshidas were chosen as Murshidas on the basis of their sentiments and also because he would give them a promise, they did not go through the initiations, in a sense that they faced God Himself and reduced themselves to nothing; but they felt that they were something, so many of his disciples who were not given ranks had developed meanwhile to greater spirituality and greater non-entity, and so have a feeling, as Vilayat also has, that he thought the Sufi tradition of titles and ranks was not for the Message of today anymore.
WALI ALI: And what of his vision of the universality of religions? How would you say—you said you'd been at one time a member of the Theosophists—would you care to compare and contrast what was the difference?
SHAMCHER: Yes. Theosophists have some very fine members who are really very spiritual, but the leadership has often been rather materialistic and dogmatic; and they have ranks of very definite characters as we've spoken about, and Murshid was asked to talk in a Theosophical lodge, and he said, "I am very pleased to talk here to people who have taken the first step on the spiritual ladder, and please be careful so you don't remain on that first step." This was the essence, but he didn't say it quite so roughly. As you know, the Theosophists have written very many words about the various planes of existence: the physical plane, the astral plane, the mental plane, the Buddhic plane, the Atmic plane, but all these planes for almost all the Theosophists remain just mental concepts, and they are not different planes—they haven't realized them. In order to understand what these planes mean, you have to realize, you have to build yourself into that plane, and then only have you any idea, even, what it is. And that is the case with so many mystical spiritual orders, that they use names, but the name is only a mental concept and nothing more, so it means nothing, and they don't know that; they think that they have achieved. And I met many Theosophists, and in my usual humbleness I said, "I understand that you are a great master." And they nodded. "Yes, that is so." I even knew at the time that they weren't really even—they didn't even have as much insight as many young people.
WALI ALI: You spent time in Suresnes a lot of time with Inayat Khan; did you know him also when he was in the U.S.?
SHAMCHER: Yes. He was in the U.S. after that. He was in the U.S. in 1923 and 1926, for instance; and I knew him during that time, but I wasn't here then. I first came to the U.S. in 1938.
WALI ALI: Oh, I see.
SHAMCHER: Incidentally, I had been a yogi—I studied yoga first when I was 16 years old, but when I came to India and talked to yogis, they told me, "What you tell me about your dreams and your attitude shows that you were a yogi from when you were 8 years old." And that, they said, is the condition of understanding yoga. I don't say that this is right; this is just one of the many yoga dogmas amongst some yogis. And so I was very attached to the yoga system when I met Inayat Khan, and I still consider the yogis the nearest cousins to the Sufis. I see no real difference; anything you can see about the Sufis, some yogis have it and others not. There are some yogis who are more dogmatic than the Sufis, who set up a system of teachings that has to be adhered to or else. There are also Sufis of that type, but I must remember a talk that was given by three of us in L.A., initiated by the Friends—the whole affair was initiated—it was called "Talks of Mysticism." And there was one representative from the Baha'i Movement and one yogi (a venerable old Indian professor), and me (I was talking for the Sufis). And after I finished I looked at this old yogi and I said, "And let me finish, saying that some of the finest Sufis I have ever seen happen to be yogis." And he smiled and he ended his own talk on the same note and said, "Let me say this, even here at this gathering: I see some of the finest yogis who are actually Sufis.
WALI ALI: Would you describe what life was like at Suresnes with Inayat Khan?
SHAMCHER: Yes. Let me first mention that there was something we called "Suresnes Sickness," and that was a feeling some people had when they had been there for awhile, and they felt very insignificant and they felt they didn't know anything, and they had come there in great expectations of expanding their ego. And, instead of that, their ego was negated. And, of course, we had many sessions without Inayat Khan, apart from the great events when he was present, and one such session was with Murshida Green, a former Theosophist who was now a Murshida in the Sufi Order. And she said—she gathered a few young people among them—and I didn't know her so she asked, "Well folks, what does Murshid mean to you?" So nobody answered because we were afraid of her. And I didn't know her and so I said, "He's a friend, an inspirer." "You don't understand at all," she said, "he's so much further up, immensely higher up—he couldn't be that for you; we, perhaps, his older disciples could be. You don't understand at all!" And so, I thought, "You can't win them all." So we went to a lecture soon after that—it was miles away; we went by car and came to this lecture hall, and Pir-o-Murshid had been sitting in meditation in this old house and came walking in like a prophet up to the podium and he stood there for awhile, shook his head, and then he said, "Before I start, my lecture tonight, I would like to say to you that sometimes a teacher's greatest friends become his greatest enemies; they set him up on a pedestal and make him an inhuman monster, instead of what he wants to be, just a friend, an inspirer." And Murshida Green became very red, and then he looked at her so sweetly that she swelled up again.
WALI ALI: Now were you present at any of these sessions when he gave Darshan, or where he was carried into the room in a state of samadhi, and people were brought before him?
SHAMCHER: I was present, yes. He would sit there and meditate, and then each member of that group would sit down before him, and with his eyes closed in meditation, and after a long while his eyes would open, and there was something very unearthly and wonderful about it, with a feeling you were carried away from everything and you were nothing and you were in the spirit; and then his
eyes would close again, and the next one would come.
WALI ALI: Did this seem to affect people after the experience? Was there some change in their lives?
SHAMCHER: You couldn't say really that there were physical changes, but it affected people very differently; some would go away and say, "That's all right, what was that?" And others would say that life has completely changed. And sometimes the life did change. For instance, a man who had been worried about marrying a certain girl would suddenly decide, "Yes, that's the girl I want to marry." And he would marry her. And others would succeed in obtaining a long-desired position. This was a similar thing; it wasn't Darshan, but it was a similar thing: there was a Norwegian singer in Suresnes, Cally Monard, who had been a chanteuse ( a small singer) in clubs and so on, and she had suddenly the ambition she would go to the opera and become an opera singer, and she was so well-known that she had been accepted, in principle; and then she fell ill in Suresnes, and she called me down and said, "Go and tell Murshid to come here immediately; I am sick." So I went up to Murshid, and he stood on is balcony and looked out over Paris, and I said, “Cally Monrad is sick and wants you very much to come down to her." "Tell her," he said, "It will be all right." That is all he said. So I went back and told her that, and she became sort of angry—she was a great chanteuse, how could he not come? So she said, "But ask him if I have to call the doctor; I will call a doctor if he doesn't come down here. I'm going to appear in three weeks at the Opera, and how can I when I am so sick?" So I went back up and told him again. And so he said, "I think I told you to tell her that she would be all right. And, as to doctors, yes, call all of the doctors she can afford." And so she called several doctors, and these doctors all said that "You are very sick; it is a kidney condition." "When can I get up?" "Oh, you may have to stay in bed for 6 months, maybe a year, if you ever get well." And so I was rushed up again to Inayat Khan, and he said, "Tell Cally Monrad that she will be up before she has to appear at the Opera rehearsals, she'll be at the rehearsals and she'll be a great success." And I don't know if she believed it. I told her, of course. And one day, before she had to travel north to the rehearsals, she suddenly felt completely well, got up, traveled and appeared, and was a great success, and she lived for 18 years without any trouble or any disease or sickness after that.
WALI ALI: Murshid Sam Lewis would give Darshan also—I don't know if you ever were present when he….
SHAMCHER: I was present once; yes, I was present. And my son was present, and he was very upset, but he took it.
WALI ALI: The Movement then, toward the end of Inayat Khan's life, the whole—I say "Movement" just in a general sense—was it large, small, were the people angelic or ambitious, or how could you characterize them?
SHAMCHER: There were people of all types, angelic, ambitious, of the djinn type, of the angel type, of the materialistic type, and this I considered its strength: the Sufi Movement is not a movement for the elite or any type; it is a Movement firmly established in gross humanity. You have every type from the grossest to the finest, and they should all be accepted, and he accepted all. There has been—some of his heirs, or so-called heirs, have tried to say, "No, he's not right to become a Sufi." Everybody is right. Everybody should be accepted in the Sufi Order, or in a proper Sufi Movement. As to numbers, I know of about 1500—there may have been more, but there were at least official records of 1500 Sufis, and, of course, it went down after his passing. Incidentally, there is something here: we talk about successors; of course, there can never be a real successor; no spiritual teacher ever had a successor, or can have one. There may be a man who is, in a sense, greater than he—who knows? But it can never be the same man. And, for instance, in the beginning, Maheboob Khan, who functioned, understood that, but later he didn't, and he complained bitterly when someone didn't follow him as they followed Pir-o-Murshid. A man has a perfect right to say that Pir-o-Murshid is to me a teacher, my teacher; his so-called successor is not. And any successor, with an understanding of spiritual things, would know that and not claim to be a successor in that sense, except a caretaker of his affairs. And this has not been realized, neither by Maheboob Khan, nor by Ali, nor by Musheraff Khan; I have a strong feeling that Vilayat realizes this, and he has always emphasized that he is Pir Vilayat and not any semblance or similarity to his father; he couldn't be. In a sense, in some respects, he is better: for instance, he is more polished, his English is beautiful, his French and German is perfect, and his vocabulary is more developed; his whole appearance is elegant (his father was sometimes—gave the impression of being a simple man, but of course a very deep, great, Man). And I sometimes said, "Why don't you use some of your father's stories more? They are your stories too." He said, "That was my father's story; I have my approach, and that is the only thing I can do well." And that is correct.
WALI ALI: We talk about the question of succession and so on; this is one thing; this represents the wishes of a teacher and the caretaker of the Order and the fulfillment of the Message in a certain sense. One thing that Murshid Sam Lewis always stressed, "There is the same thing in Zen and Sufism: the direct transmission—the transmission of Baraka, the transmission of Dharma – this is like a link in a chain; it's heart to heart, mind to mind, soul to soul, and is independent of anything but Grace."
SHAMCHER: Yes, that is true; if the Order had been perfect and if the people had been perfect, but even Inayat Khan (whom I consider as perhaps the greatest Pir-o-Murshid—certainly the greatest I have ever seen)—even he made mistakes, or perhaps not mistakes, but he named people to certain titles—and of course he says in his own book that these are only pretences, but it's up to the people themselves later to realize that through an initiation direct with God. And that doesn't happen always. And so, since even the best are imperfect, you may name a successor but you are not sure that that will be what you intended.
WALI ALI: You see, no one would ever claim that Murshid Sam Lewis was Inayat Khan's successor—he was actually a social outcast in a lot of ways, and a nobody—but that he had a transmission was undeniable, I think, by at least by some people that felt it.
SHAMCHER: Yes, if you say that he had a transmission, yes, along with many others.
WALI ALI: Yes, that is what I'm saying—he never claimed to be the only one.
SHAMCHER: No. That is right. And I have no doubt that Inayat Khan had a great mission for him and that he fulfilled it. He may be the only one who fulfilled his mission rightly, or some of us may have done it or may do it. But it was an interesting thing in Suresnes after Inayat's passing away, four of his former disciples came and said that "I" was appointed leader; because Inayat had spoken to them in such terms and said, "You are a great sovereign, and you will do so and so…." And so they expanded on that in their own consciousness to the fact that they were the one leader, and of course all of them were equally wrong. And some of these were Murshids, and some were Khalifs, and some were Sheikhs. And I knew personally one Sheikh very well, and I said, "I don't think you should do that, go to Suresnes and say this." "Oh yes, it is Murshid's will." So he went. And some of them had been told by mediums. And incidentally Inayat Khan used the four last lectures, four whole lectures, before he went away to India and his death, to tell about how a teacher never communicated through a medium to his disciples, never. And, nevertheless, two came afterwards and said that a medium told them. And it must be true because this medium revealed things that only Inayat and this person knew. And a medium can do that. If you have any idea about other planes of existence, a medium can know a lot about that, and even without knowing it he may say it, and even without having any ill intentions. And I explained all this to this person, but it was no help. So the idea that one person is the successor, or personifies a teacher is always wrong; and anyway, nobody—the one who is closest to personifying a teacher would never say any such thing. He would wait for the people he talks to to realize whatever they want to realize, and that is all that he can build on. So, for instance, when Maheboob Khan thought that so-and-so should follow him, he didn't even understand the first principles of spirituality.
WALI ALI: To go back to another question: the temple which Inayat Khan had seen to be built. I know the story was that he laid a cornerstone for this in Suresnes, and then he said it would never be built because of people's egos involved. And Murshid Sam Lewis was very critical of some of the people who collected lots of money and then just dissipated it and so on. Do you know anything about the history of the temple and so on?
SHAMCHER: Yes, I was present when the cornerstone was laid. I never knew that Inayat Khan said it would never be built. I never heard that. I'm not sure that he did, in fact. But he laid a cornerstone and he wanted it to be built, and it would have been built there if it hadn't been for Ali Khan who came and wanted to prevent it. In fact, Ali Khan tried to belittle Suresnes and move the whole thing to Holland, because in Suresnes was Vilayat, and he couldn't unseat Vilayat from that house. So the Movement had money at that time, and some of the family had money, but not Vilayat, so they could have built that temple—they could have begun it, but it was prevented by the so-called Sufi Movement, at that place; they have built one in Katwijk now, in Holland as you know. Katwijk was also a holy place for Murshid. He would run out there as if he was going to meet some spiritual being or something; he walked out toward [?] on the beach and suddenly began running and he came to a place. So it has some meaning, in a sense, but it isn't a place where he wanted the temple to stand.
WALI ALI: We're just going to continue talking—sometimes when the tape is silent, and we'll just continue with the talk of succession and so on.
SHAMCHER: Yes. When a disciple feels that he is fulfilling the mission given to him by his teacher, then he feels a successor; and in that sense every teacher has had successors, in plural. And sometimes in his enthusiasm, and perhaps to simplify things, such a disciple writes that he is the successor—and he is right in that sense—but if he refuses another who also feels that he's a successor, he may be wrong. There are successors; some of them may be, from the eternal point of view, even greater than a teacher, who knows? But they are not the same as the teacher; they don't represent him in all spheres and in all senses. And in that sense there is a succession. But if anyone of these claims to be the One Successor, then he repudiates a great amount of disciples—perhaps in some cases, everybody but himself. The great world teachers, Jesus—who was his successor? John, Peter, Paul? Of course none of them, but all of them. Buddha, who was his successors? The Hinayanists? the Mahayanists? the Zens? Not any one of them, not any one disciple, but all of them, and yet none of them in the full sense of the consciousness and the characteristics of the Buddha. Who was the successor of Mohammed? Immediately after his death there were two entirely different sects, hostile sects. And today there are many more. So the matter of succession is a personal thing; it is, as the Sufis say, "The disciples make the teacher, and when the disciple feels that he has made the teacher, he is in his own consciousness the successor, and to some extent in the outer world, a successor."
WALI ALI: I was just thinking from my own experience of some of the movements in the history of our Movement in the present time, one could feel such a tremendous power and transmission and mission, even, in Murshid Sam Lewis, which was like a stream that came and joined with Pir Vilayat some few years ago and consequently made a much greater river. At least, this was our impression. I remember being here the evening when Pir Vilayat met Murshid, after all these years. I had just started coming to the Sufi meetings two weeks before; this was the second meeting I had even been to, and he says that Pir Vilayat would be here. And Pir Vilayat came in; it was very warm, this very room was quite crowded with people, and you could hardly move; he had on a cape which he had very closely tied around his body, it was a woolen robe which he had closely bound around him, and he was under—it seems he had stored up a tremendous amount of energy and yet he wasn't ready to release it, except in the way that his will would controls he was holding it in by this great force of will, sweat was beading from his face, and it was quite a moment. Murshid said later, "I had one breath to decide to be with Vilayat or not to be with Vilayat, and you know why I decided what I did? I'm a romantic."
SHAMCHER: Very good: that was very good. I'm very proud of this for two reasons, first: my good friend Sam, and my very good friend since he was ten years old, Vilayat, came together. And, of course, in my humble way, I had some part in producing it. I had talked to Sam a lot about Vilayat and to Vilayat about Sam. And when they came together I was very happy. And, as you said, very significantly, the rivers flowed together into a greater river.
WALI ALI: Yes. And this was the very evening when, as we say, Vilayat was the father of the Dervish dance and Murshid was the mother of the Dervish dance, as it was presented into this—and this whole new thing is so emblematic and expressive of the Message of the day, especially in the West. Pir Vilayat came and he spoke about the dance of the Dervish in Konya which he had observed. And he just spoke about it in his own way which may have been abstract, but one could feel as if there was an impregnation that took place in the space. People were interested, you see. And then in a month's time Murshid began to give birth to Dervish dances, and they came more and more and more and more. And it was like he was the father and Murshid was the mother.
SHAMCHER: Yes, that is a very good expression. Vilayat and Murshid Sam have many things in common. In the first place, there's hardly anyone that knows more about Sufi traditions than those two: very different, a little different than each one—each one knows some parts better, and the other some other parts. And yet the temperament—they are very different, of course, so different that I was worried:
WALI ALI: What of Hazrat Inayat Khan's married life? He had—was he happily married?
SHAMCHER: Yes, he was married to an American girl, a very lonely girl who was called Begum, who was always in the background, but she served tea and crumpets; and Vilayat's birthday was in Suresnes for all of us. And that's another thing with Ali Khan and Musheraff Khan: they had an idea—they were, of course, very jealous of everyone who had the attention of Inayat, their great brother, cousin and teacher. And they simply—I won't say "hated'—but they couldn't stand him having a family of his own. And that is why Ali Khan wrote to me: "Murshid's family is no business of the mureeds." Vilayat Khan tells me about when Ali and Maheboob came into their house in Suresnes, and Inayat's wife was already a widow and very weak, and she hauled these big boxes of coal up and down from the basement. And his two uncles sat there, not moving a finger to help. Vilayat said, at that time, "that is probably the custom in India." But he should know better now, it isn't. In India the woman has a very high position, is head of the household, and doesn't run up and down with coal. So, in the first place, that excluded Ali Khan as a teacher for Vilayat; he would never accept such a teacher as that. So that was one of the beginnings. And the whole family was to them a disgrace, to Ali and Musheraff. There was a complete clash there between two entirely different temperaments. Of course, Vilayat has in his outfits, both the Indian and the American, and that was one thing Murshid said to me (Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan) before he said the other things about Vilayat, specifically he said that "The Sufi Movement or the thing that I am working with is not a message from the East to the West, and not a message from the West to the East; it's a message from the whole of humanity. And the future leader and director of these efforts shall have both the Western and Eastern blood in him, both, an American and an Indian." And that is exactly what these—not typically Indian, but a special caste in India—could not understand. They were more or less a nobility and so was Inayat Khan; and so of course is Vilayat in his sense, but he has the American open consideration for woman (some of the best Indians have that too—that a woman doesn't run up and down with big boxes of coal without being helped by men present).
WALI ALI: Was theirs a happy marriage?
SHAMCHER: I would say so. Of course, Ali Khan wouldn't say so; he tried all kinds of things. It was a happy marriage, and also, it was this feeling that she knew that he knew everything, and she couldn't participate completely in it. All disciples feel, with a master of the spirit, "Why doesn't he tell me? Why doesn't he make me the same as he is?" And that, of course, he couldn't; and he tried—a master tries the best he can, but he can't completely do that. So she had the feeling of distance always.
WALI ALI: Did he meet her in the U.S.?
SHAMCHER: Yes, and, of course, she had a very difficult time with her relatives. They didn't approve of him….
WALI ALI: And how many children did they have?
SHAMCHER: Four. The oldest was Vilayat. No, the oldest was Noor, the lady who was an agent for London Secret Service. And then Vilayat was a the oldest man, next. And then Hidayat, and the fourth child was Claire.
SITARA: She lives in New York?
WALI ALI: That's all right; we can always find this out. Do you have anything you would like to say? I know you made some oblique remarks in Sufis Speak about Pir Vilayat and Jemila, and, as far as we're concerned, it's something that's completely out in the open and we have no feelings about it, concern or whatever. But if you would like to make a remark….
SHAMCHER: Yes. In the first place, a man's life is something that he only understands in the world, and nobody has any either right or business to make remarks about it or to interfere about it. Knowing, in the first place, Vilayat's condition, his home life, his wife, who incidentally seems to agree with this whole business, I have no objections in my own conscience about it. I think it's perfectly all right, and I feel (and some of Vilayat's close friends have told me also) that this is not only permissible, but a thing that he has considered as a mission, that he had to have an heir, and that he loved this girl, and so the thing was made. I think that is fine. Now I would like to say about Sufis Speak, the editor and founder had the intention to publish this, but she tried it out first on some old Sufis in Seattle, and they all blew up and said, "Oh, that's terrible!" And she had the feeling that if she published it, it would be to his disadvantage.
WALI ALI: His heir was born, is that right?
SHAMCHER: Yes. So she just acted according to political considerations, and she may hit have Been—I think she's right in that.
WALI ALI: Pir Vilayat says that he's taken all steps….
WALI ALI: today we want to get into some things about your own person, and more about your thoughts about Sam.
SHAMCHER: I'll try to. Anyway, that is…
WALI ALI: I know what you mean—he became the whipping boy of the whole Order.
SHAMCHER: Yes, and thereby he got a push upwards, really, from the spiritual point of view. He needed to have all kinds of resistance and difficulties in order to become what he was.
WALI ALI: He said it was quite a life, , because he felt the same with his parents, who had given him this kind of rigid training through difficulty—
VASISHTA: Now, I'm not clear on where and when you met Murshid Sam Lewis.
SHAMCHER: I met him in S.F. in 1939, introduced by his associate in a book venture called Glory Roads of California, which was—
WALI ALI: Luther Whiteman.
SHAMCHER: Luther Whiteman; and Sam—they wrote that book together, and it was philosophical and economic. It sounded like sarcasm, but it wasn't really that. It sounded like sarcasm because they thought the public would lap it up, and the Glory Roads were the economic proposals by such as Lewis Sinclair and all those, about so-and-so much per man, instead of paying taxes, they should each have an amount for the fact that they were a part of the U.S. and—
VASISHTA: Guaranteed minimum income?
SHAMCHER: Yeah, something like that or $200 a month for every man over 50 or things like that. And they were—these proposals were not stupid at all; they were right, but they were considered fantastic and stupid by the majority, and so they titled the book and wrote it a little bit to please those, but actually it was a push and a boost for the proposals, And, I had written about that a lot in Europe, and they knew about that. They had seen my book in a library, and that is why Luther Whiteman came to me and said, "Are you the real Bryn Beorse?" So I said, "What's that?" "The one who wrote this story?" "Oh yes," And so he took me up to the Dunes—the Dunes are a pre-hippy era.
VASISHTA: When did you go to The Dunes first?
SHAMCHER: That was also in 1939, before I met Sam. And Sam had been to the Dunes, but I met him in San Francisco.
VASISHTA: Who was living at The Dunes at the time?
SHAMCHER: Hugo Selig, for one—he's a great poet, and Elwood Decker the abstract painter, a wonderful fellow who had a big sign in his room, "Meditate all the time. Remember she who made a better choice." (that was Magda and Maria of Jesus), and then there was Moon Mullins, who had been to jail so many times.
SHAMCHER: He found this place where a man could be free, and he chose a cabin furthest away from the sheriff and from town. And he was also superstitious, so when we came out, one of the two cabins there had been burnt down. And we said, "What happened?" "Oh, there was some blasted spirits in it, and the best thing you can do with a thing is to blast the spirit and burn it down!" "Yes, of course," I said, so we got John Wingate (he was more or less a master of the Dunes), a tall fellow from England, who came here to save the Americans from themselves. And I told him about this, so he marched up in this long stride and looked around in the cabin, and said, "I see you haven't cleaned up here yet; I'll help you. I'll come here every morning at 6 o'clock." And after 3 or 4 days Moon Mullins left; he didn't want him there because he was superstitious. So he sort of kept discipline among the Dune-ites. Moon Mullins and Elwood Decker weren't too good friends either. But Mullins was not the man who burned down a cabin.
Every morning they went around the beach to find drift wood to burn. Mullins was the one who said, “That holier-than thou so-and-so, he runs up and down my beach every morning snitching all my driftwood.” While Dekker said “That Moon, that reprobate, sneaking up and my beach every morning stealing all my timber.” So this was the population there.
VASISHTA: Gavin Arthur was gone then.
VASISHTA: Were you a close friend of his?
SHAMCHER: Yes, Gavin Arthur hadn't gone. He had moved from The Dunes to a big house, a hill house, and he came out to The Dunes every other day and called in the Dune-ites to big dinners. He wanted to show them to his New York friends, and big shots in the Democratic Party. And so we came, and some of us cooked the dinner for him and some set the table. I set the table once and he said, "Bryn, this is outrageous! You forgot the salt and pepper!" And then we were always invited to stay. And we stayed sometimes to three and sometimes to five o'clock, and then we walked out to The Dunes again in the night, and that was very exhilarating. And lots of spirit around. And the entertainment was him and his wife, and they both talked at the same time, and the radio was on at the same time, so we had a three-pointed entertainment. And Gavin, of course, was a mis-chance, like in a sort of laughing way, but he was a splendid friend, and I always admired him. And now I understand he's quite—he always drank quite a lot, and Sam used to say about him, (was it Sam?) that: "The trouble with you, Gavin, is you have too little blood in your alcohol stream."
WALI ALI: (laughing) What do you remember of Hugo Selig?
SHAMCHER: Oh, he was a precious poet and he lived sort of halfway; he lived on the very pier in a combination tent and shack. And ants were creeping all over his food, and he ate it, but he brushed away the ants carefully, not to kill any of them. And he said to me, "You are the Sannyasin; you come from the Himalayas with a message from the Masters, don't you?" And I said, "You must have kissed the blarney stone." I almost think he really believed this.
WALI ALI: Didn't you later go to the Himalayas and meet masters?
SHAMCHER: Oh yes. I met very remarkable people. I really don't use the word "Masters"; Inayat Khan says, "There is only one Master, the Guiding Spirit of each soul." And one of my great superstitions is that there are no Masters, except God Himself, and of course myself! No, you are not a master until you realize you are absolutely nothing, and even then you aren't.
WALI ALI: But you did go to the Himalayas later and meet some, as you say, "remarkable men?"
SHAMCHER: Yes. And I had a good excuse; my wife was sick. I used that as an excuse, because everybody runs to the Himalayas, but I had a good reason. And do you want me to tell you what happened there once?
WALI ALI: Sure. Go ahead, please.
SHAMCHER: I was in one of the resorts in the Himalayas, in Musori which is the closest you can come, almost, to civilization. It is very civilized, it has a beautiful hotel. And so I went, but this was the first and easiest place to get to, so I went there first—I went further on later. So I walked around there sort of idly. Suddenly I found a big enclosure with tents and things, and an Indian policeman was at the entrance, and he said, "Do you want to see the Dalai Lama?" "Oh no," I said, "except, of course, if he wants very badly to see me. No, I am looking for a Yogi." "A Yogi," he said. "There are no Yogis here. This is a resort. By the way," he said, "you can go up and talk to the Government Tourist Bureau; they will tell you where you can find Yogis." And so I went up to the Government Tourist Bureau, straight away. And they said, "It's strange you ask that question, because there was a man here yesterday, at four o'clock, and he seemed to be one." "Alright," I said, "so I'll come back at four o'clock tomorrow, right?" They said, "You could try it."
So I came back at 4 o'clock the next day and there was a man sitting on the sofa, and the Tourist Bureau man went like this (gesticulates). I sat down beside him, and I was not even settled when he started reading a paper or obviously—so apparently, I was to wait and so I waited a few seconds and I turned, and I said "Pardon me," I said, "are you a Yogi?" "A Yogi is one who tries to understand life, isn't he? Aren't we all Yogis?" This was a satisfactory answer, so I said, "I have a special reason to seek you; I have a friend who is not very well, she is at the inn. Could you possibly come and see her." And so he sank back in obvious non-existence, and he came to and he said, "I am sorry; I couldn't do that, because she doesn't want to see me." And she had just said, "If you go and haul one of those Yogis in, I won't see him:" so that was of course rather correct. "But," he said, "I will give you some exercises, and you give them to her because you may think she has no faith in you, but actually she has more faith in you than anybody else. And you can do it easier than I can." And so he gave me two exercises; one was a relaxation exercise which was very simple and very effective. And he said, "Relaxation doesn't just mean that you rest; it means that you withdraw your attention from all the physical things, and then you get into the other planes, the mental and even the spiritual planes." And the other exercise he showed me was so difficult I couldn't even think of doing it. It was lying on the floor on your stomach with your hands getting hold of your feet. And I said, "But I couldn't do that!" "No, no," he said, "You can't do it but she can." And so I said, "Do you think she will do these exercises?" And then he sank back again. "Yes," he said, "three times and that is all; that will be all." So I began to fiddle with my pocket book, "May I pay you something? You, of course, have to eat and everything." And he says, "Forget that, you need that money where you are going; I can't use it where I'm going." "Will I see you again?" "We will always be together, my friend." And so we parted.
And later I went up to Joshimath and Badrinath which is the place where there are great saints and very close to the Tibetan border. And after that I came back and first talked to an engineer—I was at that time a research engineer in seawater conversion; I was even for awhile called Mr. Seawater by all the scientists in the field because I was immersed in that science. So I knew engineers in India, and I met one; he had been educated in America. And he said, "Where have you been keeping yourself?" I said, "I've been, you'll think perhaps very silly, because I took a pilgrimage up to Badrinath." He said, "That isn't silly; that's the wisest thing I ever heard any American do." "Oh lots of them do now?" "Yes, yes, I know," he said, so he was enthused about that. And then I saw Premier Nehru. And what we mostly talked about was a school for children of all nations in the Lower Himalayas. And I thought that, in the Lower Himalayas they would come from all nations. They wouldn't come from China, for instance, at that time, if you had it in America, they would in the Lower Himalayas . And also I wanted the Lower Himalayas to be under observation from all the world, so that China shouldn't take it from the Indians. (That would be a catastrophe.) Of course there is a difficult border question, but there's no reason to change that just now. So when I talked, Nehru had not his usual cap on; he was almost bald, and, and his head sank down, and I said, "By golly, I have bored the old man, and he has gone to sleep." But he hadn't; suddenly he looked up and he said, "Yes, yes, yes, but how will you get competent teachers?" "Oh," I said, "I know already several people I think would be very competent teachers." And he said, "Say, how long have you been in India?" "This time, I must admit for a very short time, but I've been on and off in India since 1923." (This was in 1959.). "So I think I know a little bit about it." He said, "I know nothing about it."
SHABDA: I'd like to ask about Hugo Selig. He was a Kabbalists, is that correct?
SHAMCHER: He was that, too. He was a mystic in the best sense of the word.
SHABDA: Murshid said that he received training and at one time in his life he had to write, he wrote out, I think, the five books of the Zohar.
WALI ALI: Yeah, but that was with (another person)—but in Murshid's own private life some people would call them fantasies—about people—and other people would call them visions of their inner beings; he saw Hugo Selig in a different way, maybe from the way other people saw him.
WALI ALI: When we talked to Gavin, he said, "Yes, he was a poet," and so on. But to Murshid there was something to do with his karma in relationship to the Jewish community, Hugo Selig being a mystic, and coming from Judaism in a certain sense, and then getting into the Vedanta and mysticism in another sense and just this karma, he felt, was very important as reflected in the world picture, because he saw it in his own life. He understood things that were personal with people very often in a world context.
WALI ALI: This may have been, on the one hand, the practice of cosmic contemplation, or on another hand it could be just the delusions of a person you see. But this, as a matter of fact, was the way that he actually saw life. And since Hugo Selig had such an interesting function in his own hegemony, so to speak, I wondered if you had anything to add in the way you see.
SHAMCHER: I agree perfectly, in Sam's description or explanation of Hugo. I think it was quite wonderful, and I saw a very great soul in Hugo, incidentally, at the University of California at Los Angeles, when I was a research engineer, the students would consult me about their work. I said "why don't you ask the professor." They said "No, he is a fuzzy bussy." "What do you mean by that? Why do you say that? "Because he is a fuzzy bussy." I was not consulted only on engineering things, but on life, love, love-making, how they should live. And then we came to religion, and I said, "I must compliment you Jews. You have, I think, a more comprehensive religion than most Christians who have a sort of Hitlerite concentration. Only one man ever, and you see the various masters." "Yes, yes," would the students say, "that is true, but the Vedantas, the Hindus, are even further along on that path." I said, "If not further, they certainly have the same thing." And Hugo Selig represented very much this awakening of the Jewish Community to a complete universalism. And so, of course, did Sam. And then, if I may be permitted to tell a funny story about Hugo; relatives of Hugo had decided that he should have some inheritance, and so he was called to San Francisco, but they didn't trust him to dress properly, and be properly attired when he came to this great meeting in the city of San Francisco, so they sent Luther Whiteman some money to dress him up and everything, and Luther Whiteman bought a new suit and new shirt and everything. And so Hugo became more and more interested and he said, "Luther, do you think the old man would go for a gold watch and a cane?" I shouldn't tell you the story because it may not be completely true. It was the story as Whiteman presented it, and Whiteman was a joker. And then he went down to Santa Barbara; he had disciples there, pupils. And so he slept in the desert, right outside the fence of his rich pupil. And Luther asked him, "Why didn't your disciples take you to a hotel room?" He said, "No, no, no I had to sleep in the desert; I have a reputation to live up to." So, these are just the side lines, but Hugo impressed me very much. And when he said, "You, Shamcher, you are the messenger from the mountains of the Himalayas." In spite of the fact that I hadn't at that time been in the Himalayas, I knew he was right.
WALI ALI: This is what Vocha said about him. Do you know Vocha Fiske?
SHAMCHER: Oh yes, I know her very well.
WALI ALI: She said, "Hugo would look at a person and tell them something about their future, and it would almost always come out that way. Even if he didn't know really what he was saying, so to speak."
SHAMCHER: Right, right, that is true. And he would look at a man and then there was something so very sweet with that look, and then he was definitely beyond himself; he would look at a man with an apologetic mien and sort of listen, and see the content of the man's mind and soul, and he would be both impressed by it, and he would contemplate it. There wasn't the least feeling that he would either judge or— Hugo Selig was no judge. There was just contemplation, and just assimilation.
WALI ALI: If we could move now to an area, which let's say, you said were a chief working with salt water conversion and as engineer, and in this respect Murshid of course had all sorts of visions of using projects like this to solve world situations, and I know you also worked with the United Nations, and I don't really know in what capacity, and I know he worked in international relations as a private person on some—
WALI ALI: I'm just trying to outline the general field that maybe we can explore, maybe you could tell us something about your view of—two things, first, your view of Murshid, or Sam as working in the area of solving world problems, and how he worked with you and how he may have worked on his own and what his effectiveness was in this area?
SHAMCHER: First, we met on the basis of economics, in the widest sense—economics as seen through the general picture of humanity, and the spiritual world. And he had really done the research for Luther Whiteman's and his own book, and was very well informed there. And economics is still my principle activity, although I am an engineer as a means of getting groceries. But he had, in my view, a completely correct picture of the economic situation and one thing that can be said right away about that is that today if sensible people were running the economy the United State. then we could have not only full employment, but we could have so much employment that people would be screaming for everyone with two legs and two arms ( and not even that many limbs) at very substantial wages. And the feeling, for instance, prevalent now in certain quarters, for instance the chief of economists of the Chamber of Commerce of the U.S. is the opposite of that; it's good for us to have some depressions, and it’s good for us that the laboring man has difficulty getting a job, and sometimes it seems to be the feeling that it’s the Grace of God you get a job at all. And this is very unhealthy, and in a sense, a devilish plot against our economic situation. The United Sates may be the only country in the world today completely ready for full employment. The remarkable British, Sir William Beveridge has said that, “If the United States introduce full employment today, this would be of greater service to me world than all the aid the U.S. has given, all the wars it has fought. Sam agreed completely with that. Today I am working with a top economist with the most intense experience in this field who thinks exactly in the same line. Then, going on to other international matters; when I came here first to the U.S. I was sought very much as a lecturer, because I had been in the war with Hitler and they all wanted to know how it was if the Germans were invincible and all that. But not only that, since I had been in that war, I was, of course, to know everything, and they said, "Now the Russians are united with the Nazis, how long will that last?" "Oh, about the summer," I said, "and then it will be dissolved violently." So it happened that way, as you know—it just happened to happen. And one day Sam came running up in the street, "Shamcher, Shamcher, Bryn, Bryn, do you remember you said that?" "Yes," I said " "And you were right." So he was very enthusiastic about that, and that was one of the foundations of our friendship. And I admired Sam because he was perhaps the only one who cared and who had the idea to tell me that and be enthusiastic about it and forgetting his own ideas for the moment. And then, as to the seawater, you said I was a chief engineer or something; I never was a chief of anything, but I was very interested. I studied the matter in France and other countries, and came here to the U.S., and found a budding interest and managed to get in very well with the man at the University of Call, a Professor Everett D. Howe who had started this here and was the first scientist who really decided to go along with experiments. And he listened to me and said that, "I will work for this at Sacramento, and as soon as I am on there, you'll be employed." And so the letter, of course, from him went through all kinds of strange channels because I was travelling all the time. I got it 3 months late, but I said, "Is it all right now?" "Yes, yes, come right away." So I was at that first project in seawater, which was at the University at Berkeley, the first in the country. And that was in 1950, the end of 1950, and the beginning of 1951, and we worked out systems that would have worked. But it didn't become popular. In the first place, many water engineers were against it, partly because they thought, "What's this, something new? And maybe we're not in on it—it's understandable." And so what would happen if they get this?" They didn't think this through clearly.
WALI ALI: Isn't that the way things go?
SHABDA: Me leader.
SHAMCHER: Yeah, and then meanwhile we got the Federal Bureau in on this seawater (what is called Saline Water Office of the Department of the Interior). And this is a very wonderful thing; however, it took the initiative from the University of California and buried it somewhat in the maze of red tape and things. And they did do a lot of good things, but at the same time, it was lost to some extent, and then a lot of research was done. And every university who had ever thought about it before wanted to be in on the game, because now they had lots of money coming. And now the University of California did take part in some of the projects, but to say, for instance, in general that all this was too expensive, this is just nonsense., We have not done sufficient basic research in this field at all, and this was said not only by me, but by a special presidential commission that Johnson established, where Roger Revelle was the head of it, and he said, "The government research has been mainly doing bigger and bigger things in a field that we already knew instead of doing new basic research and some of my scientist friends who had brilliant ideas, have not managed to be heard." Nobody can come up with a fully developed thing today, but there are avenues that seem to me so promising that it should have been tried and (probably will be tried) and there is no doubt that a very reasonable, acceptable way, (or not one, but many such ways) are potentially in the field of science and could be utilized if we hit on the right things, and that there is no general rule about it being expensive and so on—we can get all the water we want from seawater. And incidentally, the cheapest possible now today would be this: to haul an iceberg down from the North Pole, or somewhere thereabouts around to Los Angeles and simply have it melted, because that is mainly fresh water. And even when we can compute rather accurately how much of the iceberg would melt on the way and all that and how much would melt while we hooked up the machinery, but it can be done. But the problem I worked with particularly, was to use the temperature difference between surface water and deeper water (which is a difference which means we have a power). And that power can be used to run all the machinery to get the salt out of the water and to pump it up a certain distance. And so we have the thing free, if we can build the thing. And Prof. Howe was completely with me, and so I said, "Maybe I'm too enthusiastic sometimes, and you seem to be very cautious." "Bryn," he said, "you are right. Go ahead and be enthusiastic, that is your purpose, you are the prophet. And I, having my position an everything to take care of, I have to be more cautious." And once a banker and legislator phoned us about our project, comparing it to the then popular Feather River plan, estimated to cost 1 1/2 billion. He was amazed when he heard that for Five million only we could have a full-scale plant converting five million gallons ocean water to fresh water for a start. “Why then do we ever Think about this Feather River boondoggle” he fumed, echoing my own thoughts. When Professor Howe returned from a trip I told him the story and wondered if I had been too frank. “No no,” he said, “and I am glad I wasn’t here and didn’t have a chance to take that phone. You said the right thing. I might not have been able to do that in my position.”
WALI ALI: Yeah, this was, one of Murshid's constant themes in some of his letters and so people who are trying to follow through on his vision of solving the complex of problems in the Near East which he said, "All these problems have been solved, it's just that the people in power don't listen to unimportant people and scientists." Anyway some of us are working to co-ordinate actual scientific findings and get it into the public view, on things like salinity and salt water conversion and so on. And when you get back we would appreciate a letter from you which would name some of the scientists that you know and some of the places where you feel it would be profitable for us to go, in order to continue in this vein.
SHAMCHER: Yes, all right.
WALI ALI: Then, when you worked with the United Nations, what was your project?
SHAMCHER: I was the head of a mission going to Tunisia, at the request of the Tunisian government, to find out ways to make the south more economically substantial. The south of Tunisia has been for a long time in a very bad shape. The northern part is much better off, after the American aid mission and embassy have done a lot to help them. The south has very few people and desert areas, and there was a possibility there that they would need a big seawater conversion plant. I was sent there as “Economiste-Engenieur,” a combination of economist and engineer. And under me, or in the same group, were one Canadian engineer and one French engineer. And we proposed a big seawater plant in Gabez in south Tunisia, but also south Tunisia needs more people. There is always this scream about, “We’re over populated," and I will ask, "where?” There are a few places in Calcutta, for instance, where they are over the face of the earth, and other things. But in many places we need more people. The south Tunisians are very eager, and I was very touched by one thing, the head of the Tunisian atomic energy commission is a very fast driver, and we were cruising down, and the poor peasants in the little villages who could never hope of owning a car or cruising in one, just stood around waving enthusiastically. At the same time as we were there, there was an atomic energy representative from the atomic energy agency in Vienna. He was also a Frenchman. And he thought that the best thing here would be an atomic plant, at least there was a great possibility that that would be the best solution. And I agreed with him, and then I found out that the UN who was supposed to be a brother organization of the Atomic Agency were furious at them and certainly didn't want to follow their advice, nor did they want an atomic plant. And when I came back I was asked to sit there and complete the report. Suddenly there was a reversal of the order, "No, (I should not complete it), the Frenchman could complete it." And of course I don't know officially why, but I think it was because I had recommended the same as the A.E.C. that they should have an atomic plant. And there may be a general policy all over the world, that the Arab states should hot have atomic plants or something. I don't know. But when I came to Washington, I happened to see the Tunisian ambassador, who was a son of Borgviba, a very pleasant young man, and he had heard about this and he said, "Isn't it always so? The United States and the great powers want Tunisia to have some improvement, but never the best, never an atomic plant, just an old fashioned thing that you had 100 years ago." And there was a lot of truth in this thing and I said, "I don't think it's quite that bad, but there's something here which I can't find out." "I will certainly try to find out," he said. This shows another side of the political, technical difficulties. And I talked to a very fine old man, who incidentally wrote an introduction to my book, which is called The Future is Ours, which is about the economy of the United States which was written in 1948. His name is Gerald Went. He is one of the keenest scientists I have ever met, and also a wonderful orator; when he talks, every second sentence makes the public laugh, roar with laughter And he wrote a beautiful introduction to my book and called me a PhD and I said, “I’m not a doctor," he said, "if anyone should be, you should.” I wrote him about the report and how my superiors changed it, and he revealed that this was a common experience among UN scientist, that their reports were sometimes completely reversed by higher-ups, not higher-ups in scientific knowledge of science, but higher-ups politically in the UN.
WALI ALI: Now, you knew Dag Hammarskjold?
SHAMCHER: Yes, I knew him from back in Sweden; in 1936 for the first time I met him.
WALI ALI: I know there's an account of him in your book, A President's Vision and That Ancient Bugle.
SHAMCHER: Yes, yes.
WALI ALI: And you compare Sam with Dag Hammarskjold. I wonder if you would do some of that on this tape.
SHAMCHER: Yes, the comparison there is that Dag Hammarskjold was a mystic and a Sufi, and this was kept very secret. It was sort of his private life, and he didn't like to have any talk about it. And this is very nice and this is alright. But sometimes that is used as general view, that a person who is a mystic shows it by telling nobody about it. And some mystics, very great mystics, do that, and other do the opposite. And Sam and Dag Hammarskjold represent those two opposites. Dag Hammarskjold kept it very secret and Sam shouted it from the house tops, because that was his mission, and he of course was completely right in that. If there is anything the world needs today,
it is a mystic truth, or truth, for that matter, any truth, as against the political considerations, the appeal to conformity with whomever it may be, authorities in religion, or in politics, on in social sciences. It's amazing when you go after the popular trends in science, or in whatever it is, it goes up and down. When I came to America, they considered Freud an old idiot. And to some extent he is. And then suddenly everybody was on their stomachs down flat in reverence to the great psychoanalytic pope. Of course he has written a lot of words, and people who write a lot of words get to be very much esteemed. And there are some truths in them. But as a doctor in Norway says, "Everything in Freud which is true is not his, and is not new. And everything which is new is not true." And Freud, of course, took from Jewish mysticism and took what he liked and rejected with sarcasm the rest. And he took from the French doctors and Psychiatrists, I don't think he did this deliberately to cheap or to tell a lie, but that was his nature. As Murshid said about everyone who had done anything wrong or good, "That's his nature." And so the world falls down flat because he was energetic and wrote so many books.
WALI ALI: Now about Dag Hammarskjold, was he initiated, was he a disciple of Inayat Khans or…
SHAMCHER: I don't think so. I have no feeling of that, but I do know that he studied with the Sufis and that he was a mystic, and he has written a book which I have read which has no name of Inayat Khan or anybody else, but it is a mystic's diary or a confession, and it is sweet and it doesn't seem to be limited to any special religion.
WALI ALI: Do you feel he was martyred or…?
SHAMCHER: (Laughs) I don't know. You mean that he was killed, definitely? I have no feeling of that, one way or the other. I think that circumstances indicate that he was, but I don't know.
WALI ALI: Now again, in a sense we would like to find out more about Sam, Murshid—maybe he was Sam to you. I know when you say Murshid you mean Inayat Khan.
SHAMCHER: Yes, in a sense, although I sometimes even feel like not calling him Murshid or calling anybody Murshid, because whether right or wrong, to me the whole game of titles in religion, in politics, in any company or firm or in a government, all titles are a game, and not even a good game in my view. It's a game. I must admit one thing; the whole game may come from the Sufis, because they introduced it as a game. And then it became serious, and that was bad. From Abraham’s time we have the subtle legendary, about him sacrificing his son (his ego) and so on—exactly in the line of the Sufis. So I can't see how they haven't recognized that he was a Sufi. And then they probably didn't have all these titles. But then gradually it came in. And in this is the beautiful play, you have grades so that the young aspirants shall be ambitious, and use all their ambition in this line to get up, to become perhaps the Khalif or even a Murshid. And also, during this, they are taught to respect the Murshid, and by that respect they learn to see the greatness of a human being; they also see his faults, maybe, but they forget them and cover them because they see the greatness. And so by their seeing the greatness, they learn, or are supposed to learn, to see the greatness in all men, and in animals and plants. And that's the whole purpose. And also there is another purpose. There is belief among many Sufis, that there is a hierarchy, which is not now, but an absolute hierarchy of the world. And for instance, Reschad—who comes here now—he believes he was a pupil of such a hierarchical giant who has England and the neighboring areas. And so by having the hierarchy in the Sufi Order they are supposed to learn about hierarchies and respect them, and perhaps later understand the hierarchy of the world. Nevertheless, it is a game, and it is a play, and mostly it turns out wrong. So you see all over India and all over North Africa, you meet some rare specific persons that may be a Murshid, that may not be, but you meet so many more who are impressed with their own importance. And Sam is a very interesting person to me, because he was completely free of this, and at the same time, he used it. And he used it in such a way that he wasn't just playing with it, but when he used it, he used it with all seriousness. And when you would see Sam from that point you may say, "Oh well, he was limited; he believed in these titles." And the next moment you could see him from another point of view, that he didn't believe in them at all. And that is his strength, and that is, of course, the strength of all great mystics. And, to me, if you look at him from a worldly point of view, you can find a lot of things that you could call faults, but at the same time they weren't faults, and it's no reason to even think about it, because he was just as much to me as Al-Ghazali or Shams-i-Tabriz, in the desert. He also had touches of Rumi, and he reminds me of many of the Eastern mystics, and also, above all, to me he was a madzub. And you know what a madzub is? A madzub is one who from the beginning rejects all titles and laughs at it. And makes himself the lowest of all, namely a madman. And he behaves sometimes very much like a madman, and purposefully makes himself act like a madman, because he doesn't, or can't be bothered with adoration and all the waste of time that follows it, so he lives like a complete idiot, and enjoys it and can then have peace, to pursue his special projects which might go to help a certain community or a man without them knowing it, or also it may be to elevate himself, really, in the inner world. And so to me he was, he managed to combine the Murshid and the Madzub.
WALI ALI: Now a number of people we've talked to and are friends of Sam have to call him Murshid because—
SHAMCHER: Yes, that's all right; that's fine!
WALI ALI: Friends of Murshid said in the last three years of his life that he went through a complete transformation, that up until this time he had been sour on life and so on, but then when he began to find these young people around him and responding to him and loving him, that this brought out his real nature, and he became in truth the mystic he may have always thought he was. Now I would like to get your point of view, if you feel that this is true, or what your feeling is.
SHAMCHER: Yes, I would say it is true that in the outer world it appeared so. To me he was a mystic from the beginning. I wouldn't say that I knew that exactly this would come about, what has happened now, but something in that line and it is, it's true. It was not a sudden change 3 years ago, but was a change that went on through the years and became very much pronounced after his 70th year. Of course, he travelled and he met people who were highly recognized and they saw in him these things that nobody here except perhaps myself did see. And this encouraged him. He remained with a sort of bitter touch all the time, even to his last day. And so did many great Sufis—for instance Rumi. He writes in his Masnavi: first he writes about the beautiful world and God in Heaven, and so he writes, "But why do I talk? The world turns deaf ears on my preaching, and so on. Why don't I keep still?" And the same idea was with Sam all the way to the last. And he even continued to, he wrote a lot about the Sufi Movement. And also he was not at the beginning enthusiastic about Vilayat. Of course, he didn't know him. And I wrote half-sarcastically and half-jokingly, and he said, "I'm rejected by all the Sufis." "Oh," I said, "when did I reject you?" But he forgot that and wrote again that he was rejected. And I said, "Vilayat never rejected you." In fact, Vilayat almost did once to me privately. But I think I cured him of that. And one of my small ambitions or great ambitions, was to get Vilayat and Sam together. I didn't know it would succeed, but it did. And the fact that he with his more experience, more years, accepted Vilayat to the extent that he did was to me a sign of his greatness. There was no reason that he should. Most mystics in his position would not have done that.
WALI ALI: I was thinking yesterday that this sort of decision that the people came to, to respect Vilayat completely, to withdraw any kind of claim to be an Order in our own right, which Vilayat even admitted you see, we had every right to do, was a sign of Murshid Sam's greatness, that he had no wish to become known as a—no matter what he was, and externally he sometimes seemed to have exactly this kind of thing. He would push this so hard. "I am this, and these people reject me," and so on and so on. But actually it was just the opposite.
SHAMCHER: Yes, but he may have said that partly in order to fire you, because there is nothing that fires men more than when they hear about injustices of that kind. And he fired you. Or it may have been even half-unconscious; it may have been some great spirit on the other side that prompts these thugs. Sometimes I feel that I'm not acting, I'm not doing anything, I'm just being used. And when I'm not used, and see it on my own, I always get into blunders.
SHABDA: Did you ever live with Murshid Sam?
SHAMCHER: Not for any length of time, but I often stayed over at his house. And slept in his bed when he was away, and things like that, and found some interesting books on the night table which I read, and taught me a little bit about Sam. He was up at Brautlacht's for three days, and I stayed in the house at the same time. That was a funny thing, of course. He came with two other people and Mrs. Brautlacht has to do all the work herself, so she was flabbergasted that he came there and said that he intended to stay three weeks. And she phoned me and said, "Shamcher, you got me into this, you have to get me out of it." So I came over and said to Sam—first I said to Mansur, "Mrs. Brautlacht expects some more people, so I think we have to move over to my house. (I don't have a house by the way, I'll tell you what happened.) So he said, "That depends on Murshid." So I said, "I'll talk to Murshid." So I talked to Sam, and he understood it and Saul understood it. Mansur is a very fine man, but he didn't understand the situation. And so we came over to my house, and my wife was there talking her head off—she's a little strange. So I said, "Here's the floor, and I'll sleep on the floor with whoever, and Sam should sleep in my bed." No, they didn't accept that. So they went south.
SHABDA: Do you know anything about Murshid's connection with a Lama in Washington?
SHAMCHER: No, is there a Lama in Washington? I didn't even know there was.
VASISHTA: He went up there when he was there in '68?
WALI ALI: You're talking about something I don't know about.
VASISHTA: Oh well, I remember when he went up to Seattle once and one of the things on his agenda was to see a Lama who was living in Seattle.
SHABDA: There is supposedly a very great Lama who's somewhat—
WALI ALI: Did you get this from Warwick?
VASISHTA: No, I got this from Murshid.
SHAMCHER: He might have meant me; I don't know.
VASISHTA: (laughs) I don't know either. Apparently there's supposed to be a Tibetan Lama, or a group of Tibetan Lamas living more or less secretly in Seattle, but—
SHAMCHER: He may inspire our efforts. I know one thing, in Seattle I know Dr. Robert Eckwell, who is a great expert on Tibet and China, and who knows all the Dalai Lamas family and many other Lamas' family. He was born in Tibet, and he's a very good friend of mine, and in his house I met several of the Lamas.
VASISHTA: It may have been that. They're not living there but that Murshid just came to visit a visiting Lama?
SHAMCHER: What was your question, Vasistha?
VASISHTA: What I was going to ask was to get way back to the beginning of this whole thing: did you hear anything of Murshid until you met him in 1939? Like I know that he first met Inayat Khan, I think, in 1921 or '22 here; he was initiated by him, and then again in 1926. Was this covered already?
WALI ALI: No, go ahead I was just wondering about dates, but we can always check on them.
VASISHTA: And then in 1926 he saw him for the last time, I think it was.
VASISHTA: And these interviews, the series of six interviews at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, did you know anything of those activities? Did you hear anything?
SHAMCHER: Yes, I heard about him; I heard about him and Murshida Martin, and when I came to Los Angeles, Luther Whiteman had told me, "Oh yes, when you come to San Francisco, I'll introduce you to Samuel Lewis. He is a Sufi like you are. And if you are as crazy as he is, I don't think much of the Sufis." And he worked with him. That was just a joke, of course. I had heard about him but I hadn't met him. And then we met and we talked about these things.
VASISHTA: When did you first come to the U.S.?
SHAMCHER: In 1938, in the summer, on July 18, 1938, then as a visitor. And I came back and became a citizen in 1948.
VASISHTA: Then you were with which service in the war? The British? Your first were with the Norwegian underground right? And then the British?
SHAMCHER: Yes, it was not underground at that time; it was over ground. It was the Norwegians fought the Nazis openly, and I was in that battle. Battle of Gudbrandsdalen. The Americans generally, and also the army was very interested in this because I had to convince the soldiers that the Nazis were not invincible, that we had fought them with our small forces, sometimes quite successfully, which never came in the papers by the way. And so I was asked by the Army to travel around and give talks at the Army, and the soldiers could ask me whatever they liked, and I answered. Then I got back to England and first was in the Norwegian Navy and then was transferred to the Royal Air Force and went in on the 2nd front, with the Royal Air Force.
WALI ALI: Norway, was neutral, or was it Sweden that was neutral?
SHAMCHER: Sweden was neutral. Norway was attacked.
VASISHTA: Now did you know anything of—were you in contact with Murshid during WW II?
SHAMCHER: You mean on the inner plane?
VASISHTA: No, it strictly exoteric.
SHAMCHER: He was dead then.
VASISHTA: No, I mean Sam.
SHAMCHER: Oh Sam. (laughter)
VASISHTA: Because he had for some of us, some mysterious connection with the Army Intelligence. SHABDA: CIA.
VASISHTA: No, with Army Intelligence which was called—
WALI ALI: G-2.
VASISHTA: Yes, and I was wondering if you knew anything of what his function was for them at that time, because it's not clear to us at all.
SHAMCHER: No, I don't know that. I don't know if we corresponded. I think we did, But that's a different thing.
WALI ALI: When did you resume your relationship with him, with Sam?
SHAMCHER: As soon as I came back in 1945.
WALI ALI: Did you know anything about his, was this around the time of the Meher Baba thing—
SHAMCHER: Yes, that had begun then. Yes. I was introduced to Meher Baba. I met Ivy Duce and she took a liking to me and I said I wanted to meet Meher Baba, I would be very pleased, I said. Do you want me to-
WALI ALI: Ah, yeah, yeah, yeah, go ahead.
SHAMCHER: So Meher Baba came and I was there. I felt a little bad because I knew I wouldn't be like the other guests. So I said, "Meher Baba, I've come to see you because you may help me. I'm very interested in the Sufi Message as presented by Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan, and you know he has a prayer like this, and so I began Salat. "Most Gracious Lord, Master, Messiah…" and went through all the prophets. "You see this is just what we need now, the unity of all the Prophets and where they came from. But I hear that you have stopped this, you have stopped Universal Worship. Is that right?? That cannot be right?" And his four bodyguards, four people who were sitting there interpreting, they looked so furious I thought they would murder me any instant, but they didn't. I wasn't afraid, really. And so Meher Baba came forward with a little grape and said, "I have blessed this grape. Will you eat it?" "Yes," I said. And so I ate it. And so he kissed me on the cheek, and he said, "There are millions of faithful servants but only one in million drowns himself in an ocean of love." That was pretty good. And so I bowed and I left him. I said something more, but my whole purpose in going there was first to tell him what I thought about him in relation to Inayat Khan. He has come up and said, "Inayat Khan was a nice man. He had a fifth initiation. I had a seventh." That is the ranks again. And when you speak about ranks and that there are 12 degrees I say, "In mathematics we learn that there are an unending number, no limits." So I made a joke of initiation. There were some people there who were very worried about all these degrees and they had read these in the papers. And they said, "The 12th degree," "but somebody comes here maybe Martin Dickenson who is of the Movement—comes here with the 12th degree, and what will we do?" I said, "Don't worry, you two are of the 29th degree."
VASISHTA: Who is this Martin?
SHAMCHER: Martin D., he's the head of the Movement division of the Sufis up Seattle. And these two people had been under his heel for awhile. And he had treated them very badly, so they were afraid of what would happen.
VASISHTA: He was a direct disciple of Inayat Khan?
SHAMCHER: No, he was a disciple of Musheraff Khan.
SHAMCHER: Musheraff Khan.
VASISHTA: Ah, that's Vilayat's Fabled uncle?
SHAMCHER: Yes, yes. right.
SHABDA: We have a book of Murshid's that he started around 1939, about the area we're talking about. It's called The Book of Cosmic Prophesy, and about 1944 or '45, what seems to have happened is that Meher Baba took over the book and wrote through Murshid, and it goes on for, I think it's about a year's time, and then it just stops. And one assumes that Murshid's connection with Meher Baba, for himself, had stopped at that time too. Do you know anything about his connection with Meher Baba? And it talks in there about Meher Baba's building a center for the arts, and there would be artisans there, and they'd have this kind of purpose in their art and so and so, but we should probably change the tape before you answer the question.
WALI ALI: About Murshid’s relationship with Meher Baba and how it may have resolved itself.
SHAMCHER: No, I don't know too much about it. I know that we agreed from the beginning that he was not an acceptable teacher, but that he had many acceptable projects in the non-teaching field, like art. And Meher Baba usually went around and saw madzubs in India and gave them money and food; whether they liked it or not, I don't know. But that sort of connection that you mentioned, that he wrote a book together with Meher Baba—I don't know anything about that.
VASISHTA: Now, do you know anything of Murshid's relation to Ivy Duce in that time? They have a long and troubled history.
SHAMCHER: I know that Ivy Duce tried to force him not to function and not to issue Sufi literature and things like that. Ivy Duce, of course, is a very sweet, totally innocent and ignorant woman. And she was told by her husband, who is a great oil magnate and a sort of an oil diplomat—she wanted to go with him to North Africa, and he said, "Yes, on the condition that you don't try to peddle your kind of Sufism." So she has troubles on all sides. And I know that she was the successor of Murshida Martin in this group.
SHABDA: They call her Murshida now, Murshida Ivy Duce.
VASISHTA: She’s the head of the Sufism Reoriented chapter.
SHAMCHER: I wonder—can you tell me more about what happened after Meher Baba died, without having given this one word that would enlighten the world. How did they look at it?
WALI ALI: They went through a real rationalization, of course. The fellow here that we know who's most connected with Meher Baba, Alan Cohen (who was a professor at Berkeley and he dropped out as a psychologist; he was at Millbrook with Leary, as a student, did a lot of LSD then)—he tells the story that he was high on LSD and he invoked Meher Baba's "Here I am on the 6th plane, how is it on the 7th plane?"
SHABDA: In all his writing and things, was he giving out any training at that time, especially—he said he lived with these people in Fairfax at the Khankah; do you know anything about the activities that they had there or what his function was in the group?
SHAMCHER: He was the secretary of Murshida Martin. And they had a big fire where a lot of things were destroyed.
SHABDA: He said that was the day he left the Khankah….
SHAMCHER: Murshida Martin indicated that he had started the fire. She was crazy, of course.
WALI ALI: He left the day before; he said he took some of his most important materials.
VASISHTA: When was the date of that fire, do you recall?
SHAMCHER: I don't recall.
VASISHTA: Do you recall the year?
SHAMCHER: No, not even the year; I am sorry.
VASISHTA: Do you know, Wali Ali?
WALI ALI: I'm not sure; you see, I think there were two fires.
VASISHTA: Do you remember the fire of 1949? The fire in Murshid's house—wherever it was—in 1949? He had a whole library destroyed?
SHAMCHER: Oh, I remember he wrote about it, but I wasn't…
VASISHTA: Was that in Fairfax?
WALI ALI: I don't know; we have to find out whether there were two fires or only one fire, you see. This period we have very little information on. I think we have to check with Vera Van Voris who lives in California somewhere. By the way, I don't know if you know her. I think she was initiated by Murshid as a Sheikha when he was at Fairfax, you see. She happened to call up here a few days after Murshid fell, and she said, "Is Samuel all right?" "Because," she said, "he's been appearing to me in his spiritual body, and therefore I wondered if everything was all right." So I told her that he had fallen down the stairs and he was in the hospital and we were hopeful that he would recover and so on, and that the prognosis was good. But she was at Fairfax; I think we should contact her, especially with this kind of experience.
SHAMCHER: Yes, she must have a knowledge beyond the physical.
VASISHTA: Wali Ali, now the was in Fairfax how long?
WALI ALI: I don't know. I'd rather not get into this since Shamcher is not an expert on this area, but then move to an area that he knows more about directly. Murshid wrote letters and letters and letters and letters, saying, "Nobody accepts me; I've been rejected; I've been rejected over here and there and the other," and of course we have a lot of these letters. He wrote a lot of them to you and to others, and I know sometimes you would write back and say, "Yes, Sam, you are one of the really great mystics, but there are a few of the really great mystics who've gotten past the point of—you've been accepted by everybody that's important. Why are you worried about these nobodies that rejected you?"
SHAMCHER: Yes, that's right. Exactly.
VASISHTA: Do you know about his connection with the Institute of Asian Studies? That was one of his profound…
SHAMCHER: Yes, I know one thing, that he and Alan Watts weren't the best of friends: Alan Watts, of course, is an intellectual trickster; he's very good at talking and riposting, and I like to do that too. So I was introduced to him by a Sufi who lived in Ojai; do you remember her? No, I don't remember her name. Anyway, he started right out at me, and I shot back, and he set about to completely conquer and devastate the Order. Alan Watts had some friends among Sufis. Katherine Peck in Cleveland was very fond of him and wanted to go and live with him and be taught by him, but she also wanted to live with me and be taught by me. So, of course, she had not an entirely one-sided thing. And Alan Watts, of course, was the opposite of Sam, in a sense; he was never a mystic and wanted to be. And Sam was a mystic and he didn't really care whether he was or not. I don’t know whether it was a good thing or a bad thing that he was such a bitter enemy of Alan Watts. He tried to talk on the basis of his knowledge or what he knew, and the Institute of Asian Studies was a kind of super-university, in the sense that all they recognized was titles or sales of books, or whatever you have—the same thing as the society in general recognizes (and more so, because it was a small organization, and all their protection was in what they could prove), like a university who says, "We are the greatest university because we have the most PhDs on our staff" and things like that.
WALI ALI: Did you also know Herbert Spiegelberg?
SHAMCHER: Yes, I knew him very well, not very well; I met him several times. What was the relation between him and Sam? I don't know.
WALI ALI: He would put Watts and Spiegelberg together in many of his diatribes; that is, he would say, "They would never accept my knowledge, they wouldn't give me the post because I didn't have the proper degree, but the knowledge didn't matter." Many people thought he was very unfair with those people, that they had no other choice than to act the way they did. Gavin Arthur is one.
SHAMCHER: That's true; they had no other choice, so why shouldn’t we be fair with them? I feel with these people—in the beginning of my relationship with such people there's always great politeness and almost appearing to be adoring them, because that is the way to get anything out of them and have any communication. And then suddenly I forget myself and make a very sharp remark, and then all is lost. Spiegelberg was very different from Alan Watts. He was not wanting to have a sharp discussion; that wasn't his vogue. But he tended to think about certain people in India as all-knowing and all-pervading, and there was nobody else. And one of the things was Aurobindo; Aurobindo was his great hero. He was always going to see him and everything. I don't know what Sam's relationship with Aurobindo was; I have never been too enthusiastic about him.
WALI ALI: Sam thought that Aurobindo may have had something, but since he didn't pass it on to his disciples it must not have been very important.
VASISHTA: Yeah, he liked—he was very eager about the Auroville project; he had great hopes for it, but he was very quickly disillusioned. And his disillusionment was final when he traveled to Pondicherry, and the mother there refused to see him.
SHAMCHER: Oh, is that so? Refused to see him.
WALI ALI: She said she was entertaining important politicians and stuff.
VASISHTA: In order to see her now, you go there and you put in a petition saying why you want to visit and then within six weeks you're usually allowed to see her.
SHAMCHER: Incidentally, when I speak about Meher Baba—when I came to that police enclave in Mysore in the Himalayas, there was a big picture of Meher Baba, and I said, "Why do you have this picture of Meher Baba there?" "Oh," he said, "eh, there is a woman here who wants to see the Dalai Lama." And the woman sat there and looked very stern. "Why did the woman bring the picture?" "She came from Meher Baba with a message from him to the Dalai Lama, and so she put the picture up there, and we hadn't the heart to take it down." "Oh," I said, "I have met the Meher Baba." "You have? You know, he’s supposed to be an avatar.” “Oh, he is?” he said. "Oh, yes, if you had met him, you must know that, because you are supposed to feel the vibrations and to know when you meet an avatar. Did you feel that he was an avatar?" "No," I said, "I didn't, I'm sorry." "Oh—ha ha—that's the way we feel too!" And I said, "Will the Dalai Lama accept her?" "I don't think so," he said; and she wasn't accepted. Of course, she should have been accepted, but anyway, that's….
WALI ALI: Another person I would like to get your … some knowledge about is Paul Reps.
SHAMCHER: Oh, Paul Reps; yes, I'm very fond of him.
VASISHTA: He's a fellow Norwegian, is he not? He's American-born, but isn't his lineage Norwegian?
SHAMCHER: I don't know. Maybe he is.
WALI ALI: I don't know anything about that. I'm curious as to what you knew of him and his relations with Inayat Khan. He split off; he got very disgusted with the whole Movement and so on later. And he and Sam were very much together on that, except Sam would try and stick it out more, I think, and build something. At one time I heard you and Reps didn't get along very well, and I…
SHAMCHER: No, I had one thing only, and I told him that very plainly. In the first place, I liked him and I met him when he had a very strange shack-like house in the middle of Los Angeles, but on a grassy plain that, by some strange coincidence, seemed to be breaking off with the city atmosphere and making a little piece of country there. And they never cut the grass there, and it was high things and you had to wade through it. And he sat there like a lone thing. And I wanted very much to start an organization in L.A., and he calmed it down by a lot of talk about, "Shamcher, we have it here; you and I are an organization; that's all that matters." And so I realized that he was a dreamer, not a bad dreamer, but a dreamer on that line who didn't want to mix with the world. There was what I felt was a definite lack in understanding of what the Message was all about and that we had to reach people. But that didn't matter; I admired him, and I understood him and I never bothered him again, except that I saw him quite often. And then he went to Japan and I said, "Oh, what did you do in Japan?" "For Murshid, of course, for Murshid." And that is nice that he says that. And he went there and became quite proficient in some Zen practices and some Zen theories. But what I am referring to is these two things in fact: we were together with Peter van de Linde, who is a Sufi from Holland, and so he began without any challenge or prefix to say, "You Dutchmen, you have such a small nation that you can't ever think straight. It is just that, isn't it, and nothing else? That's the case with all small nations, poor people are born in the small nations." And I said, "Paul Reps, you are really much greater than such nonsense, I should say. Now, I was born in Norway, for that matters," I said, "and I don't feel neither smaller nor bigger for that reason. And where a man is born it doesn't matter. Here in America people come from all countries." And we had this discussion. And then another time we were in my home—I had a very elegant home in Los Angeles, in contrast to all the other homes I've had—and we had a meeting there, and I was projecting—I was again trying to have an organization, and he had agreed reluctantly to come. And so people began speaking about economics, and so I said, "When I started in the Sufi Movement, we all had to pay one Kronen, which was about 25 cents a month. And that was essential for our organization to exist. I don't say that we should pay 25 cents here or even $1.00, but anybody who can should pay something in, so that we have money for paper and so on. And I can spend some of my money as long as I have a job, but not too much; I haven't too much." And so suddenly, Paul Reps interrupts and says, "Shamcher, you should have seen Murshid's face now. He looked at you!" "Oh yes," I said, "and you don't think that I can see Murshid's face except through you, is that it?" "He was furious because you mentioned this about money." I said, "This happened to be almost a verbatim repetition of what Murshid himself told us some time in Suresnes. And maybe he has changed his mind now or something, or maybe you don't see him any better than I do." This was before all the mureeds, so in that sense there was a conflict; but I didn't resent it in the least, and we continued to be friends and write to each other. And I read his book, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, and I thought it was good.
WALI ALI: Those are Senzaki's stories, of course.
SHAMCHER: Of course, yes. And I hear that he had all kinds of breakups and then together-comings with Sam; and Sam called him "my spiritual brother" at a certain time.
WALI ALI: He and Sam received an initiation together from Inayat Khan and so, in a sense, Sam always felt that if they could work together they would have a great power together, simply because they were given something together. But he could never count on Reps for anything. It was when he stopped counting on him for something that he might come and direct someone this way or mention his name prominently somewhere and so on. But if he wanted him to do something, he would balk.
SHAMCHER: Yes, yes, right. That's it exactly.
WALI ALI: He was given the name Saladin by Inayat Khan, which is very similar to the name Shamcher, in a certain sense.
SHAMCHER: Yes, but it means something entirely different. I don't remember what Saladin means.
WALI ALI: Yes, "Sword of the Faith."
SHAMCHER: No, Shamcher means "Sword of the Message" or "the Tongue of Flame." And it means a lot of other things. In Turkey it means an umbrella; and in Turkey I had two experiences: I was in Turkey for three years and I was a Sufi then and joined the Sufis there. And one time I was having my usual Salada Yumurta (that means egg salad) and I had an umbrella; and I forgot it and then came a man out running at me, saying, "Shamcher! Shamcher!” And I thought, "He knows my name! He must be a mystic.” No, he had my umbrella! But another time it was more mysterious. I was walking up the street in Istanbul and suddenly a man came down that I had never seen the like of. He had a robe, white but very soiled, and big flashing red hair and flashing red beard, and he looked like a beggar but a very majestic beggar. And I looked at him and I thought, "Can you really offer some money to such a great man?" But I did. I took a two-dollar piece, which they had in Turkey, and put it in his bowl. And his eyes shone like stars and he came over and took both my hands and said, "Shamcher." And so I hoped or expected that he would invite me to some place. But he didn't; he just continued on his way.
WALI ALI: And what of other Sufis that you've met around the world? Did you meet Hassan Sani Nizami?
SHAMCHER: Yes. And I was very much impressed with him.
WALI ALI: You were? Do you recall—would you like to say anything about your meeting with him?
SHAMCHER: Yes. When we were together, somebody came and—somebody at a grave which I think was Ramakrishna's grave came and asked for some money. And he looked furious at him, and he said he didn't like him asking for money there. And he was a sweet beautiful personality. He liked Vilayat so much.
WALI ALI: He liked Vilayat.
SHAMCHER: Yes, very much. And talked about Vilayat and talked, but I don't remember if he knew Murshid Inayat Khan.
WALI ALI: He did, because the story came—I saw it from a letter of Reps to Murshid, that could have come another way as well. I know Murshid Sam talked to him about a lot of these things. Reps said that when he was there, Hassan Nizami told him— he said, "He told me twice, because he wanted me to know he was very displeased when Inayat Khan came back to Delhi that he was put into this hotel by all these Europeans that were around him, and why didn't he come to me? Why didn't he come to me? And maybe he could have been healed; all these people were around him. And then they came here later, in order to demand back his body, his bones, and take it away.
SHAMCHER: They didn't get the bones?
WALI ALI: No, they didn't.
SHAMCHER: And then I met Sufis in Pakistan, of course; there were lots of Sufis there, and this Sufi I met had a post in the government and he said, "The government is practically run by the Sufis here. It is so un-Indian!”.
SHABDA: I wonder what's happening now.
WALI ALI: This was when Ayub Khan was Prime Minister.
SHAMCHER: This was in 1959. I wonder—yes, he was the Prime Minister at the time.
WALI ALI: His advisor, I believe, was this Pir Dewwal Sherif.
SHAMCHER: That was not the man I saw, but I believe that was his advisor.
WALI ALI: Yes, of course, and Murshid did meet with Pir Dewwal Sherif and got a number of spiritual papers from him on healing and other things. He sent these to Washington—you may have seen these papers: a whole bunch of healing practices from this man. Apparently he was another one of these people, however, that have the "I am thee" attitude; and Murshid said it required all of his integrated talent not to have any confrontation with him; and apparently he was successful.
SHAMCHER: Yes, you have to be careful. This movement—the main Sufi I met there was a very fine humble man. He was in the government service, the head of some department, I understand, and had all the beautiful modesty and self-effacement of a real Sufi. And I met earlier, much earlier, in 1930 about, I met the then head of the Mevlevi order. I told you about that though.
WALI ALI: You told us about that the last time; that was very amusing. I hope you can get a copy of Jamshed Tillinghast's letter which came from Konia. Did you make some copies of that letter?
VASISHTA: It's at Amin's house.
WALI ALI: Maybe we can make some copies of that—you'll enjoy it. we'll send you a copy of that letter that he sent from Konia.
SHAMCHER: That would be very interesting, yes. Then I met Naqshibandis; they were—all the Naqshibandis I met, they seemed almost to float in the air. They were always very gay and very bright and terrifically honest and seemed to have no feeling of their own importance.
SHABDA: Where was this?
SHAMCHER: This was in Syria.
VASISHTA: The Naqshibandis, they're in India also, aren't they? I remember when the film company went to India, we had contact with W.D. Begg who is a journalist.
SHAMCHER: I know him.
VASISHTA: You know him? He's connected with the Chisti Order.
VASISHTA: And he wrote us a letter back saying, "Please come, but beware of the Naqshibandis; they're all thieves. Stay with Chistis:” He went on to some extent about those Naqshibandis.
SHAMCHER: Yes, that's very interesting; he's an interesting character.
WALI ALI: He's trying to put out this book—he has been for years—Five Great Sufis. And the last letter I saw to Moineddin—of course, he would like money, of course; he would like money from us and for us to promote his book. He's very up front about it; he mentions it in every letter several times. I admire this; at least he doesn't keep it under the cover. But the last letter he said he would like to include a section on Murshid Samuel Lewis, and so on, which I think would be very interesting.
SHAMCHER: Yes, that would be interesting. I did understood this; he didn't ask this very plainly, but he said, "My book is $5.00, and so I said, "You need more; this is a fine book; please accept my humble contribution to your book" and so on. And so he immediately answered that letter. He first wrote to Atiya, and luckily they sent it on to me before they answered it. It's very easy for a woman who hasn't traveled to answer something they couldn't.
WALI ALI: Did you go, by the way, into Iraq at any time, into Baghdad?
SHAMCHER: No, I didn't; I was around there but never got the chance. I was in Egypt and met very many interesting Sufis there. On my mission from the UN to Tunisia I met very nice Sufi Sheikhs there, introduced to me by Murshid. No, not Inayat, Sam. And also I met—this is rather silly but there was a man walking on the beach there; he was very proud and looked like a great mystic.
with a very eager and intense expression. So he walked and talked to everybody. So I thought, "He must have something on his mind to seem so important." So I said, "Pardon me," I said, "do you know anything about the Sufis?" "Sufis:" he said, "they are charlatans: They claim to have gifts which no man can have. The Prophet warned against them." "Oh," I said, "did he? I thought the Prophet himself was a Sufi." "That's a terrible accusation; that is wrong." So you have those people too.
WALI ALI: And did you have any trouble with the Sufis that you met in the Orient; did they accept you, did they insist that you become a Muslim, were they ever able to accept the universal outlook, in what way was your…
SHAMCHER: No, the ones I met never insisted on such a thing. In fact, on the opposite. One Sufi I met—one of the first in the Orient was Ali Fauzi Bey, and he was—he said, "Oh, you being a Sufi, then we have a great friendship. You a Sufi of Christian background, I a Sufi of Muslim background, the Sufi thing being a bridge between us.” And I said, "Perhaps more than that, because I'm not a Christian in the sense that I think they are any better than your religion. I see the Sufism as the origin of both Christianity, Islam, Zarathustra's teachings and the Hebrew religion." "Shamcher, then you are a real Sufi: I have to be a Muslim because of my position, and only because of that. But it is such a pity," he said, "that Western scholars, who are usually so accurate, they write about Sufism as just a Mohammedan thing. But it is just the opposite; the Mohammedans—Islam—were the first people to persecute them, when they couldn't make them their own. So they are guilty of a terrible crime there, and these Western scientists have got to get at the truth."
WALI ALI: What country was this?
SHAMCHER: This was in Turkey. But he was an Egyptian, and he had retired from his position as the head of all Egyptian libraries. And they seemed to have such a man as the head of all libraries, and it seemed to be an important position. And then, of course, he knows all the literature—Islamic first and all the others that may be. And he went to the secret—in Turkey at that time Kemal Ataturk had thrown out the Mevlevis because they were the ones who crowned the sultans. And this was originally a dance for the sultans.
WALI ALI: Oh, that was the reason!
SHAMCHER: That was the reason, yes. But we went together to these secret meetings, and if we had been discovered, it would have been bad for both of us. He sat there and—you know that Janijam music of the Sufis? It was like your own orchestra, and he gradually was completely off in another world. It was a beautiful thing to see, because he was a very intelligent man. And he forgot all his intelligence and he said Kemal Ataturk did a great service to Turkeys except this terrible thing, that he threw out the Sufis.
VASISHTA: I have a question: this again is jumping way back and around, and it's not specifically about Sam. Inayat Khan formalized in his teaching this thing of titles, the 12 degrees—that was formalized by Inayat Khan. And, in certain aspects, Murshid Sam, when he set up this center, at some point he went through a great deal of work to make sure that specific things were done. It is very well organized, this San Francisco group. And I just thought I would ask you why Inayat Khan felt like he should develop this series of degrees, why he should have formalized it in that way, because it seems like it's ultimately a source of more trouble than.
SHAMCHER: Yes, I think it is, but Inayat Khan began his work as a patron Sufi, partly because the Sufis were in his background, and then he felt very faithful towards it. And 12, to me—now I don't talk on behalf of Inayat Khan, because I don't know his thoughts exactly, but to me the 12 is just a happy choice: there are 12 months in the year and less than 12 fingers for that matter, but there are some 12 you can find here and there; but if you investigate the whole realm of human beings, you find that all the numbers up to eternity are in the human being. If he wants to, if anybody wants to, he can take the whole universe and divide it into 12 parts. And, to some extent, he does that in his book. He divides it into 12 parts, in the sense that he describes the states of consciousness and he leads up to what we can see as the upper state, and he calls that the 12th. There are such stages; in fact there are no stages in the sense of abrupt, but there are developments of consciousness which are smooth and sometimes violent, yes, but unending. But if you want to, you can cut it in 12 or in 7 or in 5 parts, and it is all equally good. In fact, very often Inayat Khan mentioned the number 5 and made everything look like 5. And, as you know, Meher Baba came after him and said, "No, there are 7." But he didn't know the other 2. So 12 to me is just a choice; like some use 10 because there are 10 fingers and because of other things, but there is no holiness more to 12 than to 13.
VASISHTA: But why did he choose to institute—do you have any feelings about why he chose to institute that at all.
SHAMCHER: Yes, in the first place as a reverence to the Sufi traditions which had introduced it already; some Sufis had that long ago. And secondly, because he thought, "This will have served the purpose of making people climb, and then when they have climbed, they have to get down again." Or, rather, eliminate their selves. But the climb is natural. And so he did it in order to help the pupils make efforts and subject themselves to discipline through 12 long stages; and it might take a lifetime or 2 minutes, who knows? So it has several purposes: it has a purpose for a disciple to strive and to climb, and to have respect for those above him in the ladder. But, to me, it has other drawbacks which are stronger; for instance, you see a man who is supposed to be above you and who you thought, "Why was he put there? Why did the teacher have such a bad vision that he put him there instead of me, instead of somebody else?" And these, to me, are stronger arguments against it, so I don't condone it, I don't accept it, and I didn't from the beginning; and Inayat knew it, and in spite of that he told me, "Shamcher, you are the Sword of the Message." Maybe he did it to try to convince me, but he didn't succeed in that, if that was the purpose. And I don't think it was.
WALI ALI: It certainly is the case that this is one of the things that Murshid Sam insisted on, as forming a backbone for structure of this center, as he saw it, as he saw his mission of fulfilling what he saw as his commission from Inayat Khan.
SHAMCHER: He was a better Sufi, in the sense that he was much more enthusiastic. The minute he saw Inayat Khan, his self dropped; whether mine dropped or not, I don't know. But I couldn't see it exactly that way, and I remained an observer all the time. Also, I remember, especially when I was initiated, he looked at me and questioned, "Why do you want to be initiated now?" He didn't say that, that was kind of on my mind. "Why do you want to be initiated when you just told me you belong to these other organizations?" And so I said, "These other organizations I belonged to were a preparation for something to come, and that has come now." And the minute I said that, there was not a doubt so much as a presentation of the facts, that this is my supposition at the time, the timing showing it was right. And he looked at me and he immediately caught that as a slight diversion from the complete devotion. And Sam didn't have that; he went right on and was completely absorbed. And so all he did would be in the same spirit as Inayat. What I do always has something of my own dirty spirit with it, or perhaps not; perhaps there's something else. I don't know, but we are different in that sense.
WALI ALI: I think what you have to say is a very healthy attitude to the problem of thinking about ranks. And I'm very grateful for you to come and to say it. And to know that you mean it. And, at the same time, I just wanted to say the other thing so it wasn't put out of balance.
SHAMCHER: I must say that I'm pleased and almost surprised that you accept it this way. I knew that I had to say it when I came, almost that it's almost to me a part of the Message. And I'm very pleased, and almost enthusiastic, that you not accept it, but that you look at it the way you do. Because it's possible—I can't quite see the importance of ranks, and for some people who have forgotten it, it is very important. So why should we reject the people for whom it is important? Incidentally, that time when he came to me just before I left and—I didn't know but I heard him, "Shamcher, I want to talk to you." And he talked to me in confidence, and I was very happy with that and proud of it. And he was questioning me about Vilayat, and I was very frank there. I think that he is a fine representative of the Order, and he has the qualities that not many other people have. And, at the same time, I don't consider him any more perfect than I considered Inayat Khan, or even less perfect than Inayat Khan. And he realizes that and he seems almost to encourage it, which I think is fine. And, of course, while I may be seeming to criticize, I'm criticizing myself much more. And I know that I have no right to criticize and might even have interrupted you. But I know that when I say this it is just that I wish to express myself, and perhaps to help and perhaps not to help then—who knows?
WALI ALI: Is there anything that we haven't covered—like a statement that would be in a book sometime or just in that whole general feeling, is there any remark you would like to make in general summing up your feelings about Murshid Sam?
SHAMCHER: I said in this book I hope will come sometime that he is a genuine mystic—as good as they come and as good as they have ever come. And personally I see no difference—at least not a lot of difference—between, for instance, Hidayat, Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan’s son, Jesus Christ or Sam or Inayat Khan or Vilayat Khan, when it comes to spirituality, and some of you people. Some people get into the stage as the Great Messenger, but a lot of other people are just as great messengers without being on the stage as that. And the aim of the Sufi, of course, is to see that greatness in every man, and the relative greatness of the dogs and the cats and the cattle and the elephants. We spoke about Darwin's theory of the man originating from the ape the other day; and I said to Atiya, "Why not the elephants?" And, "Yes," she said, "and why not the mouse?" And also the Sufis abroad—the same thing—Sam seems to have immediately fallen in with them, and he seems to be a reborn great Sufi. And I walk around and see some greatness and some I think are not so great, and something comes up in my mind quickly about their difficulties and their problems, and I go away half smiling and half weeping from some of them.
WALI ALI: I want to thank you, and God bless you.
SHAMCHER: Thank you, thank you.