Holy Order of Mans
February 14, 1976
Dear Miss Scott,
In response to your letter of January 27, 1976, requesting any remembrances of Murshid Samuel L. Lewis, I don't know if what I have to offer will be of help, but am happy to tell what I can. I was a little surprised at the Islamic symbol on your letterhead, for although the Sufi movement, so far as I know, originated in the Middle East, I had not connected it with your particular movement.
As you may remember, I had very little direct contact with Dr. Sam, as we always called him, and almost no conversation with him. He would arrive with one or more of his disciples about a half hour before it was time for class to begin, and Father Paul would draw him into his office, where they would speak behind closed doors for the period until Dr. Sam was to begin teaching. This was during the time when classes were being held in Father's office at 20 Steiner.
I recall Dr. Sam always liked to have a pot of tea upon arrival, and I would leave word in the kitchen well ahead of time in an effort to have it served as soon as he appeared, but almost invariably it would be brought up just a few moments before class time. Then the door would open and Brothers and Sisters were called from their duties.
It was usually held on Thursday afternoon around that time. The room would fill and the class begin. Father Paul usually sat near the door unless he had outside appointments. I could hear him speak from my room next door—with doors being open—and was especially interested when he spoke of the Bible and the inner meanings of Hebrew words as used therein.
He would usually begin with anecdotes of his travels and encounters with various people, and his activities in both the spiritual world and the mundane.
I always felt his true work was not that which appeared, but that he had a much larger mission. In fact the only direct communication I remember having with him, other than the amenities, related to this. Once Father was called out during the preliminary period before class, and I went in to entertain Dr. Sam. One of his disciples may have been present. The tea arrived and was served. Somehow I was thinking of what I thought might be his true mission when Dr. Sam said, "I wonder why they don't see it." I looked at him "knowingly," but am not sure whether he meant that or something else altogether. Father soon returned and the class began.
I don't recall our actually requesting Dr. Sam to give classes to our Brothers and Sisters. He would announce that he would be coming over for a series of classes at such and such a time each week, and we would welcome him, and enjoy the occasion. On our behalf he usually taught from the Bible, with a slant from his own background knowledge of the Hebrew language.
I first met him before the Order was actually formed, at our Science of Man church on Market St. I believe Father met him about the same time. He and Father had one or two mutual acquaintances who studied metaphysical and Eastern teachings, and I believe Dr. Sam stopped by to see what sort of work we were doing. Father wondered much the same about him, and thus the association was casually begun, and though it continued in a casual way, there was much dignity and respect in their regard for each other, and their manner was proper to two teachers together.
Dr. Sam offered to come over, in those early days, at 7 A. M. to teach Bible classes from the New Testament. At a later session he taught from the Gospel of St. Thomas. I can't remember how often he came. It may have been twice a week for awhile. Those classes were wonderful; we would walk several blocks to the class (as he did also) early in the morning, from our various places of residence; then most of us went on to daytime jobs, and the words we were taught enlivened the whole day, giving much to ponder upon as we moved about our duties.
Our group numbered only about a half dozen then, and were not organized, but just individuals coming to be taught. Those were days of great spiritual wealth in the presence of our own teacher, Father Paul.
Periodically Dr. Sam would go on a trip, and then classes would cease until he returned and a different time and place would be announced, in accordance with our own moves. The first disciple I remember him bringing along was Matthew Lippa, who later joined us with Dr. Sam's blessing.
At a later time, when we had moved to 20 Steiner St., and were holding services at Duboce and Guerrero, Dr. Sam was coming one evening each week. We would walk the several blocks to class. One week Father was extremely busy and tired and asked if I would go alone with the Brothers and cover for him. Shortly after our arrival Dr. Sam came and with him a splendid company consisting of three other teachers, all in striking robes of different colors. They all went and sat in chairs on the dais, and I hastened to call Father to come quickly, which he did.
Dr. Sam, as a surprise to us, had brought three of his teacher-friends, all of whom were heads of various groups studying Eastern teachings, though they themselves were Americans. Besides Dr. Sam, there were Dr. Warwick, Rev. Wagner, and Rev. Joe Miller. Each of them participated, and it was a memorable evening.
One of these men later told us that Dr. Sam is recognized throughout Asia as a Sufi teacher, and as for themselves, they recognized his authority to the extent that when he asked for their presence somewhere, they unquestioningly came.
Father went to see him when he became ill. He felt Dr. Sam did not want a healing treatment. Father and I stopped once or twice at his home on Precita Ave. One of our first Sisters did a little secretarial work for him there. Her name was Sister Denise, and it struck my attention that a picture of dancer Ruth St. Denis was placed prominently near the door.
Another time he invited Father and me to a festival put on by his group in the little park near his home. His disciples were there with their families. It was a pleasant relaxed afternoon, sitting on the grass. My clearest memory is of two small children colorfully dressed in purple gowns.
Once at 20 Steiner Dr. Sam demonstrated to us the Lord's Prayer in motion. I don't know if you would call it a dance, but it was a method of reverent devotion in action.
He also brought with him two or three times his Pakistani disciple or chela called Saadia. She was beautiful and graceful, exemplifying the ideal feminine. She wore a watermelon-red silk garb, consisting of trousers with tunic and a scarf which would be worn in various ways over her head.
Dr. Sam called her his godchild. They had met when he visited her well-born family in Pakistan, and she accepted him as her teacher. She was soon to go to Ithaca, New York to attend Cornell University where she would study home economics in order to return to Pakistan and help her people. She taught a class about Mary, the mother of Jesus, as brought out in the Koran. She had been brought up Mohammedan, but had, I believe, attended a Christian school.
Around that time Dr. Sam put on a dress show out near the beach at a public gathering place, and some of our Sisters went. As near as I could gather, it seemed to me he was attempting to set more practical styles for the new age. Though I did not see them, it was mentioned that some of the outfits were along the lines of Saadia's—that is, tunic and trousers.
He was a person of much vitality (as you know), far from dull, and he said he did not like dull people around him.
You may use any or all of this information, but I am shy about having my name used in print, so prefer you forget that.
As a postscript to the part about Saadia, in case you had lost track of her, a year or two ago I learned that she was in a suburb of New York City living next door to a former Sister of the Order. It may have been White Plains.
Tell Wall Ali I appreciated his postscript to your letter, and I wish him well in God's great Work, which is all one when you get right down to it.
May you also be blessed in the writing of the biography.
Yours in Christ,