Renee Chishti and David Whitaker on Murshid Sam—5/27/76
WALI ALI: Do you recall when you first met Sam?
RENEE: I recall when I first went to the Mentorgarten; I'm not sure if I met him when I was very much younger or not, and I can even tell you how I happened to go there.
WALI ALI: Yeah, would you do that?
RENEE: It was through the people from Second City, through actors and people like that because there was a woman named Thelma who taught Tarot at the Seven-Day School which was run by an Astrologer named Ambrose who used to be sort an Astrologer for everybody at Second City. And he was an agent for Quicksilver Messengers.
WALI ALI: He didn't have any connection with Gavin Arthur, did he?
RENEE: No, he came out from Chicago, and he was in an accident and so he was no longer able to do the Quicksilver Messenger thing so he started the school called the Seven Day School where they taught esoteric things.
WALI ALI: That was up at Mt. Shasta for awhile?
RENEE: Yeah, they moved to Mt. Shasta later, but they were up at a place called Top of the Mountain which is still being used by people who were into the occult. Because I met two of them when I went to Egypt, there were two guys who are living there now and another group of people.
WALI ALI: So somebody from there had heard of Murshid?
RENEE: Selma's old man had just come back from seeing Sam and talked about him. And I was with Thomas Joshua at the time and we wrote the address down and we went and looked for it. Thomas Joshua couldn't find it—it didn't exist it was one of those things, which always happens to me whenever anything important is happening, so I knew it was something important. There is this ridiculous scene where it is right around the corner and it takes you three hours to find it. That happened with the house that we are living in now; I couldn't find the damn place, I wandered all over for three or four hours and found out that I started a half a block away from it, because you always demand this kind of labyrinth of tunnels, so that your proper initiation—you have to go through the dark to come out in the light, you wouldn't believe it if you went there straight. And when I arrived, finally, I found out really where it was. A week or so later I just went in, I think, by myself. I don't know if Thomas Joshua came in later or not and David Hoffmaster. I always get him mixed up with the guy who played Captain Video—that was Hollister, who was a friend of mine.
And nobody came out for quite awhile and I was looking at the books, and there was only one book on mandalas there, by Tuchi (sp?), which is not a very good book I discovered later, and that's what I thought I was interested in. My comprehension of where things were at was mandalas. I saw everything in mandalas, I saw people in mandalas; everything I looked at always took form, and ever since I've been a child, the forms always shift. I looked at people and people's forms shifted, and I heard things too. I had also seen people who were supposed to be dead standing there like they were alive, and all that kind of thing. And the only thing I remember distinctly about the conversation that I had with David Hoffmaster was that he asked me something about myself, and he was kind of stumbling around. He had a couple of operations later on, but at that time he really jerked around pretty badly—he was not in the greatest of physical shapes as he moved across the room, and somehow we got into the business of awkwardness and I told him that I had an incident in my childhood—talking about how awkward people can be where I had been collecting china and we went to somebody's house for a special dinner, and I was supposed to be specially on my good behavior and they had a whole set of Haviland china there. And I couldn't believe it, I thought maybe it was a reproduction, so I turned the soup bowl over to see if it was really that, because I had never seen a whole set outside of a museum—and it was full of soup. And I was 12 years old already—this unbelievable situation where you turn the soup all on yourself and the table right in front of everybody, quite deliberately—how can you ever explain such a thing? However, I lived with the kind of people where no explanation was necessary. But David Hoffmaster's reaction was, "Wow, what concentration, I wish I had concentration like that." So I immediately felt that I was in a place that had different attitudes. That was sort of like my key story, if you could handle that one, I figured that I was home safe.
WALI ALI: You didn't meet Murshid that visit?
RENEE: Yeah, yeah, he was outside listening to the whole thing, listening to me talk and to David Hoffmaster. He was puttering around at the door all the time—maybe he wasn't—I don't mean it in the sense of eavesdropping—he was quite aware of whatever was going on and people are people. David Hoffmaster and I were quite aware of him, there was some other old guy there too.
WALI ALI: Mr. Hunt.
RENEE: I don’t know.
WALI ALI: Probably he was there.
RENEE: Probably, yeah, but there was somebody there who had nothing much to do with anything: it could have been him, I am not even sure what he looked like, that's the trouble. And then finally he came out and I got introduced, and that first night—I feel as though these were not more than six or seven people in the room, perhaps my memory has made it smaller and there were twelve, but it was not a full room full of people, and I remember Bob Cogswell, because he kept kind of looking at me out the side of his eyes, and I remember—maybe not that time but either that time or the next time—Krishnadas, and the dancer that Krishnadas used to dance with.
WALI ALI: Susann.
RENEE : Yeah, sounds something like that, and I remember Frank Tedesco because he was acutely miserable; I have never seen anybody be quite so miserable in any situation, and he was in a completely relaxed, free situation and he was utterly-miserable. He was suffering; this poor guy was sitting there, profusely sweating, awkward and in agony, and nothing was happening to cause it that I could see, so I particularly noticed him. And there was like a reading, and a greeting thing and at eight o'clock—now I'm not sure if it was that way at first because I'm not sure if it happened that way every time or just certain times—with disciples, people who weren't disciples…
WALI ALI: Yeah, it happened some nights and not others.
RENEE: Yeah, but I'm not sure whether that was a routine or just what, or I am putting that into it later, and I asked about the mandalas and Sam told me to go see Ajari, only he wasn't Ajari then; Neville Warwick. So I went up to see him and it was an absolute debacle because Thomas Joshua behaved just appallingly. He laid all over the floor and rolled and did one of his things like he did. In a lot of ways he kind of resented Sam when Sam was doing some of his things, and Neville was being very precise, and he had gotten these little Japanese tea cakes, and then on top of that this friend of ours who was utterly screwy, who was hanging around downstairs and wanted to come up too. He rang the bell and finally ended up there and he was really a total madman. And I remember that Neville showed me an embroidered napkin with flowers in each corner, just the simplest kind of embroidery know, which was all I really needed to know, I got the information I wanted to learn from him and ended up buying like that $40 tent and art books and stuff and looking at them and stuff. And most of what happened was very trivial and inconsequential. There isn't any spectacular experience because everything was spectacular, so how could anything stand out?
And I remember one other thing that was hard too; I talked about having been in an orphanage—I think that was David Hoffmaster that was getting me to talk about myself too—I was there for six months when I was four years old, and I was constantly messing everything up because I was raised in an artists' colony, and everybody said that my father was an atheist, and he used to take me around to different churches and temples and things, and he would drive me down to the City and take me into a different one. I never knew whether it was going to be a Mosque or a Synagogue or a Sacred Heart or what, and then he'd come out afterwards and say, "You see? It is just like the other ones, isn't it? They are all the same." And then take me to a Broadway show that he had free tickets for, because everybody that lived up there was in all these things, a big long opera or something, and then he'd say, "See! All the same." So when I was in this place for the six months it was about like, I’ve seen kids come down from Alaska into nursery schools and things, and they really don't know how to behave like the other children. They have been alone a great deal of the time and playing with kids that are Aleutians and in a free situation and being not at all accustomed to somebody telling them, "Do this, do that," all the time, so I was just constantly in trouble. They would get you up at a certain time, put a little well on your head to go to mass, and I would pull it crooked and start talking to everybody in the middle of it, and so then they would hit you. They were into all of this hitting and everything. You would put your hand out and they would do this number with straps and everything, and it really didn't affect me, I kind of got off on it, and finally one day, they got upset. They had had it, and one of the younger nuns who was just freaking, and there were about four or five of them all gathered in together, and I was sitting in the corner. I wasn't even crying; they had been paddling me and wearing themselves out and all of a sudden I started to sing and I sang what I know now was the Agnus Dei all through, because I had been hearing it all the time, and I was able to sing, so I was doing it from the time I was two. And she freaked, the young nun freaked, she said, "We have been beating God's Instrument," and so on and so forth. I was out of it. My mother and father hadn't been getting along so I was in there, and the Mother Superior ran out and found them and got them together and got me out of there, and I had never thought that was a particularly inviting aspect of myself either, and again I got a very good reception. So that was what was so very different because all these kind of testings that you do, and having had this kind of childhood where you would walk through the town and people would think that you were with crazy people and that they were Godless, and so on and so forth, when they were extremely religious. It gives you a kind of a habit of checking places out when you get there, and I just never had such a good check out!
WALI ALI: Yeah, it's interesting, if people come trying things out expecting to be rejected in a certain way. I don't know if you remember Greg Potemkin?
WALI ALI: He was a person who was….
RENEE: I don't think it was that I was expecting to be rejected; I think it was that I was testing the parameters of the situation, because I never get rejections. It is a very rare thing for me to experience any kind of rejection. And I got rejection later when Sam had some terrible scenes with me.
WALI ALI: Oh, I recall, I was going to ask you about those scenes.
RENEE: Really fantastic horrendous scenes; my God, like Rumplestiltskin, he almost went through the floor and out the roof and stuff.
WALI ALI: But he would say, "I can't have it both ways; if I am going to be criticizing the establishment, I can't criticize these crazy, freaky, non-establishment people that come to my doorstep, you can't have it both ways, you have to accept somebody."
RENEE: See the thing is, that I wasn't really that non-establishment, because I had gone all through the University of Chicago and done all this graduate work and I was a bio-chemist and so on and so forth and I think that that is one of the reasons that he sent me to Neville, thinking that there might be some reason why I belonged in a situation that would be more formal or something like that.
WALI ALI: So then?
RENEE: I relived a past life once. It is a technique that Lois Robinson teaches, and Sam sent me to her, and I had this experience of being back in Greece and being a student and experiencing Sam as Socrates, for example. And so it had to do with, I think, with the same kind of thing that happens when you go to a college and they give you a whole bunch of exams. I went over to the University of Texas, they ran me through a battery of tests for three days and decided what classes to put me in and whether to put me ahead or behind and so on and so forth, because I was quite young at the time. And I think that Sam sent people around to different people to see them and had David Hoffmaster talk with them and just set up situations to see what would happen. I think that was his way of teaching right from the very beginning, and that the fantastic subtleness of his approach is what made him such an unusual man, aside from any Divine Qualities, just as a human being had extreme sensitivity of intellect, and that is a very rare quality. Most people who do a lot of studying get hardened by it; they become very rigid; it does not make them more flowing or looser. Maybe he had siddhis that were genius kinds of things. It was not obvious to people, because it did not take a form like being a scientist or being a this or a that.
WALI ALI: It wasn't carefully ordered….
RENEE: It was! It was super ordered.
WALI ALI: But it wasn't all in place?
RENEE: That's the point, it was like super ordered, it was ordered on such a high level that they weren't aware of it.
DAVID: They couldn't relate to it.
RENEE: You could only barricade it.
DAVID: It seemed very dispersed.
RENEE: You could only locate it by doing things like, let's say, reliving a past life, or allowing your mind to roam and create associations for you, or talking about things in your own childhood, and seeing the different responses that you got. You got a much higher level of response from him. His approach to everything was positive; there was no negativity there of any kind; it just didn't exist, and there is an expression—I wrote it down it that little red book I gave you—I don't know whether I read it somewhere, or I heard it, or dreamt it or what. There is the concept that there is a match, a mate that your heart designs for you that you find in the universe, and not just once, but once you really get it solidly there, it appears everywhere. That's like the mandala thing, and it is like he was a mandala, and he was able to respond to what you put out in exactly the appropriate way but like opposite—I'm pretty good at that myself in other words, like he was doing my trip and I am sure that everybody else experienced the same thing. He was good at what I was good at.
WALI ALI: He sure met you head-on. I recall numbers of meetings where it would be just a number of series of questions where you would ask a question and he would just throw it right back at you, and you would ask a question and he wouldn't deal with your questions in the same way he would deal with other peoples' questions—he would throw it right back.
RENEE: Not only that, but he would use my questions as a teaching device, he would immediately recognize that it was useful for something else. He would see its potential and he would say, "We are not discussing that this lesson, we will talk about it next time, and like he never failed to do its it wasn't one of those things like a parent says to a child, "Oh I'll tell you all about that later," and they never do kind of thing. He would start out the very next session and everybody there would be aware of it, they would know that that was going to happen, so they would be thinking about it during the week. And oftentimes my question wasn't my question, it was their question, because I would be picking up on a whole lot of things—
WALI ALI: But there were a lot of things that he simply didn't want to go into I think.
RENEE: But he always did, that's what I am saying, there never was anything that he didn't want to go into, it was only something that he decided it wasn't time for yet.
WALI ALI: I remember him throwing things back at you all the time—
RENEE: Do you remember him solving them the very next time?
WALI ALI: My impression was that a lot of it was what he considered to be sort of the product of an over-active mind, and his teaching for you was to throw it back to you so that you could develop concentration, this is what I understood by a lot of it. I agree, he would always take things up, he would come back around to things later and bring things up very often in a very concentrated way when people had questions that were off the subject, and he would say, "We'll present a lesson on that theme." I know that the time—one time you went over there and you went to work at Murshid's house one day and you had this big argument.
RENEE: No there wasn't any argument, there was a scene—there was no opportunity for any fighting or any argument or anything else.
WALI ALI: Can you describe that occasion because I heard it from him and I want to hear what you remember.
RENEE: I think it was Fatima wanted me to come over and do some work or something and I was in the kitchen and she gave me some apples to cut or something. And Sam came muddling out into the kitchen doing goodness knows what, therefore it obviously wasn't what he was there for, he was there to say something to me. So he started talking to me about Japan and the war and the bombing and all that stuff. He was going on about it, and I said, "That's all a lot of crap more or less." I may not have said those exact words because he was talking about karma in relation to wars and things like that, and I said, "I don't care about that nonsense; that's a lot of crap, don't give me that nonsense, karma does not apply to babies, and I am not interested in that foolishness." And he started screaming and yelling that he was my spiritual teacher and everything, and looking back on it I feel I feel I was really being tested, the utmost pressure was being put on me to see whether I would give in to an authority that was finding reasons for explaining away war, and that is the only conceivable thing that I could think of about that. And in the course of it he said, "Put that down." I hadn't even started, I had this apple and sitting there with this apple and this knife and this horrendous hurricane explosion is going on, shrieking and hollering, screaming at the top of his lungs, "I am your spiritual teacher," as though that was supposed to mean something which it didn't to me, I wouldn't care who anybody was; it wouldn't make any difference to me; he could have said he was King Kong and I wouldn't have listened because the subject was one in which I had conviction! I didn't care about any kind of logic or nonsense like that, and nobody was going to tell me that there was any kind of logic or any kind of sense to babies getting all burned up in atomic what-have-yous and things, and it was not that I couldn't see, until—for instance I am able to see that the people of India and China got out from under colonial rule because Britain was so busy with the Nazis and because they were doing such bad things like burning up millions of Jews that the British couldn't go along with them and had to fight them because they could see the same thing was going to happen to them, and so they withdrew all their troops that were doing things to keep other countries unfree. And it works out that there is this mandala, this over-all plan when you get up high enough, but that is not where I am. I am here; I have to do what is happening, and so I certainly didn't do anymore kitchen work after that.
WALI ALI: Did he ask you to leave at that point?
RENEE: No, no, he never asked me to leave—
WALI ALI: But you left?—
RENEE: I up and left and went home and wouldn't speak or eat or anything for about three days—
WALI ALI: Yeah, I remember—
RENEE: And at the end of three days, he started "Hallelujah the Three Rings." He didn't call it that yet, I don't think, but he brought this manuscript to this class that I was taking in Intentional Communities, called "Glory Roads" and gave it to the teacher, and he spoke in front of the class.
DAVID: And you invited him to come to speak there, right?
RENEE: Yeah, right, and he came and spoke and the whole thing was about peace. He talked about his peace plan that he had had for many, many years, that nobody was interested in, and I certainly was interested in it, that was very clear, but nobody was going to talk me out of being interested in peace plans. I could tear the building down, it wouldn’t make any difference to me, I didn't give a damn, because I was not interested in peace for emotional reasons, or intellectual reasons or anything like that; I was interested in it for purely selfish reasons. I had no desire whatsoever to participate in any form of exterminating people from distances with large machines or any of that kind of stuff.
WALI ALI: Joshua was involved with the Sikhs—were you both with the Sikhs—he was involved with something at San Francisco State?
RENEE: I am a third generation pacifist, my father worked in world peace work.
SITARA: Who is Joshua?
WALI ALI: Joshua was Renee's husband.
RENEE: Thomas Joshua—yeah, he had been in jail when he was 17, over peace—
WALI ALI: Yeah, he was always part of that peace movement somehow—
RENEE: Not only that, but we were married in the peace movement because he almost got put out of the peace demonstrations because they wanted it to be a particular way. The problem was that so many people that worked with peace or what they considered rational solutions or intentional communities is that they end up doing the same thing on the reverse end of it. It isn't really any change, it's just take another one and they make villains, a different batch of villains, and Thomas Joshua was not interested in seeing anybody punished or, he said he didn't want to railroad anybody, but he didn't want anybody railroaded unless he personally did it himself because he was mad at them one to one; he wasn’t interested in organized doing anybody in, including Hitler. That wasn't even the issue as far as he was concerned.
WALI ALI: Do you know where he is by any chance? We are trying to contact everybody.
RENEE: Doesn't Saul have contact with him? Saul told me the last time that he had seen him. His father is Robert Sager, and his mother teaches at Columbia, and his father works for H.I.P. the N.Y. City administration.
WALI ALI: I lost touch with him after he left the University of New Mexico.
RENEE: They do have an address: they own a co-op on Central Park W. so it is sure to be in the N.Y. phone book. Sabira asked me, but I was reluctant for obvious reasons to contact him at this time.
WALI ALI: But to go back to this, because I remember right after that incident Murshid used to have his classes over at Cole Street.
RENEE: Oh, then there was that other thing—
WALI ALI: He came over there and you were there by that time.
RENEE: And that was weird too. He wouldn't let me come in.
WALI ALI: He wouldn't teach as long as you were going to be in the room.
RENEE: It was only once though that it happened. It was really funny,
WALI ALI: And then he walked out with Nasima and Daniel and took a walk because you wouldn't leave, or something, is that right?
RENEE: Oh no, I didn't go in, I sat in the living room.
DAVID: He may have gone for a walk, but she never went into the room there.
WALI ALI: Oh I thought—
RENEE: No, I never disobeyed or made a scene on somebody else's turf, I don't go into other people's houses and break their rules—
WALI ALI: You would sit in?
RENEE: Yeah, I would just do that in my own house; it isn't appropriate to mess around in other people's scenes. I think that was what he was fishing for. See, over and over again Sam tried to get me to come out and do things a lot more openly than I did. It kind of interests me that you say that you felt he was giving me lessons to improve my concentration, because the impression that a lot of people had was that my concentration was only too good, but that the object of it was not always exactly what Sam desired.
WALI ALI: I think he was able to desire with people their own desires, It is curious, with his godson, Norman McGhee, I don't know if you ever met him. He is a man who has a fabulous bookstore in Harlem, and the interesting thing to him was that he thought of himself as crazy but Sam wouldn't go along with it. And he didn't have the kind of intellectual reserve, in one sense, of trying to focus people's desires; he just didn't go along with it. But I remember one letter he wrote that must have been shortly after you came on the scene; it said something about the woman who just came around, Renee, and she was—
RENEE: I didn't just come around when you were there; I had been there for quite some time when you were there.
WALI ALI: I am talking about in the Diaries—
RENEE: Oh, oh!—
WALI ALI: A part of a letter—it couldn't have been too long because if you met him at Mentorgarten it was already 19—he didn't move there until the end of 1967 that he moved to Precita. And in any case there is this letter where he said, "This woman just came around named Renee—"
RENEE: To whom, Paul Reps?
WALI ALI: No, just to somebody—he would usually keep a copy as a Diary entry, “And she could be a superwoman if she would only learn something about the breath and learn how to master that.”
RENEE: Yeah, well, that was the whole thing. He wanted me to take physical actions—it was just horrendous, because later on, after the whole dancing thing was well underway—Sam would just grab me physically and Mansur would get on the other side—they feel like brick buildings or something—and they would absolutely start hauling me and getting me in to do dance stuff, that I didn't particularly want to do. Then I would get into it and I would want to do it because…
WALI ALI: Why didn't you want to get into it?
RENEE: There were disadvantages to it, I am not interested in anything. The thing that I told you before, I see forms shifting and changing all the time, why the hell should I get excited about it? There will be something different the next week anyway. And so Sam spent a great deal of time getting me to manifest some on the physical plane that I wasn't particularly interested in wanting. My solution to everything was to just leave it alone and go away, let it do whatever it was going to do, if people wanted to behave….
SITARA: Did you, or do you now, understand where he was coming from why he was trying to get you to act?
RENEE: I don't think he tried to, I think he succeeded.
SITARA: Oh you do?
RENEE: Yeah, he wanted something and he got it, which was his habit.
WALI ALI: Yeah—
RENEE: Also mine; as I was saying, it was like a perfect match, he did exactly what I do—
WALI ALI: How would you summarize Murshid's effect on your being. How would you place him in relation to the other beings that you have been involved with? How would you summarize his effect on your being? And his impact as a teacher—
RENEE: I didn't experience it as an effect, the experience was one of being cause not the effect.
WALI ALI: Can you spell that out a little?
RENEE: I had a whole lot of things happen with me all during my growth that were extremely difficult for anybody to understand but me, and so I didn't bother to try to get anybody to understand them. It was simply a waste of time, I simply performed whatever service was needed in any particular situation. If it was necessary to work with a skill or a hammer, I went and learned it, so that I could do it, so that I could fulfill what was needed in a situation, and if somebody saw me as a chemist, they never knew that I was an artist, and they didn't know that I sang, they didn't know that I was raised in an art colony or that my religious attitudes were at all unusual. There was no way for them to know that. I never even opened my mouth until I was 26 years old. Never said a word about anything, just sat around and watched everything, and when I did speak up it wasn't personal. For many years the only time I ever talked was to give a speech or what amounted to a lecture and I never referred to myself and nobody knew what I was. People didn't know if I was intelligent; if they would meet me at a party, they would just think I was some dumb good looking girl. When I was younger they didn't know I was a chemist. And, I kept everything, every single little thing complete and intact in itself; never bothered anybody with all the rest of it, and Sam was the only person who went to any pains to—even when I was married—to people they weren't aware of other sides of me—Sam was the only one who went to any trouble at all to see it in its completeness and to share it with me and to acknowledge its usefulness to be many-sided, and to acknowledge that. That was a spiritual practice when my father was taking me to place after place when I was a child, it wasn't because he was crazy, it was because he was advanced. It was a very advanced spiritual practice, and it was because he had contact with people like my father who himself had contact with people like Sam had. And there has been a movement in the world ever since people came out of the caves, probably, for more people to see all religions as one, and not only all religions but all ceremonies, all celebrations—there isn't that much difference in a joyous occasion that has dancing girls on the stage and a solemn religious rite—really. If you get up there where you can really see it and there is no reason, ever to make any distinction between war and peace, communally above it all, but what happens is you get caught up in it if you don't and you can't really afford to mess with what has to do with the devil, and even if the devil doesn't exist, you still can't mess with it, that's what it amounts to. Because I remember one time somebody came to me and she had been to Olompali at the commune there, it sounds very interesting to know how the Olompali thing, and Katie Cramer had also lived in the tepee outside of Esalen down in big Sur for quite awhile, and she was a very unusual person, and she had gone to see Anton LeVay just once and got pulled in or something like that and was going under and came to us for help, and I had no experience at all of what to do about somebody who feels they are getting into satanic masses or something because that just wasn't—I've done a lot of things—but that was just one thing that I didn't have too much experience in; now I understand that too. But at the time I didn't, so I am sure it happened so I would understand it. And Sam said, "Don't, don't pay any attention to it, just go, Allah, Allah, Allah," and tell her to do the same thing, and if she doesn't like it, she will go away, and she did. She went to Spain, and when she came back nobody heard anything more about the church of Satan. It didn't happen, but she did get dysentery in Spain. It was that simple, she removed herself from what she claimed she couldn't remove herself from, and I think that was one of the reasons why Sam told me to go to Egypt, and told me to go to Unity Temple too. On the surface, more remote things you couldn't find—Unity Temple, it was a very establishment kind of looking place—
WALI ALI: He told you, he physically told you?
RENEE: Oh yeah, he physically told me, you see, he never told me anything much, the only practice he ever gave me was—
WALI ALI: He never formally initiated you, did he? He just sort of—
RENEE: He said that I already was—
WALI ALI: Yeah, right—
RENEE: He said I already was his disciple—
WALI ALI: Yeah—
RENEE: And that's why I wonder whether if he had seen me as a child, because I used to be around at different places, like where Ruth St. Denis and those people worked, because we started one of the first—I don't know, maybe it was the first stock company, I don't know. But Columbia University started a stock company up in this little own where we had this artist's home—the summer theatre—this was where they have all these summer theatres. Students from Columbia would come up there and do get credit for being in the theatre in summer and people like Ruth St. Denis were involved in all of that kind of stuff, and she was an avant garde person and my father had friends in all of those different things. It was inevitable that anyone who wrote peace plays, all those people…
WALI ALI: What was your father's name?
RENEE: His name was Wesley Paul—and he wrote pamphlets and things about peace—and all of those people, were very, very concerned about peace, and we were all involved with Quakers and, other things and without exception these were anti-war people, all these creative people and just as Martha Graham is today—she doesn't go around saying, "I am a pacifist," that is not the point, the point is that she is always there to support anything that helps bring about peace.
WALI ALI: There are a number of people, if I can jump off the subject—
WALI ALI: There were a number of people—I know that you introduced Daniel Lomax to Sam—
RENEE: Just about everybody who is doing everything now, that's the really weird thing. Everybody who did anything creative for some reason was somebody I brought around, and I didn't even know myself—
WALI ALI: Who all did you bring in? Do you recall?
RENEE: I'm sure they do, you want me to name everybody?
WALI ALI: On one hand there was a nucleus—
RENEE: No, there was a nucleus there, but they were like university people—
WALI ALI: Moineddin and—
RENEE: Moineddin and Mansur, and they already had some contact with people from second city through Nancy Fish, which is how I got to the scene—
SITARA: You got here through Nancy?
RENEE: No not really, but I am saying that Selma probably heard about it—
RENEE: Yeah, Selma who is the one who told me about it. She was a Tarot teacher whose old man was an actor.
WALI ALI: You were in the what, the God's Eye Theatre, is that right David?
DAVID:/RENEE: Yeah, yeah.
WALI ALI: That's how you ran into Sam?
DAVID: Yes and no—
WALI ALI: For awhile he did a few classes—
RENEE: He saw me performing on Haight St.—
WALI ALI: Do you recall that, David?
DAVID: What happened was that I met Renee and we came—
RENEE: And I didn't—
DAVID: And we got involved at The God's Eye and Renee brought me over to see Sam, and Sam asked me what I was doing, and I said what I was doing with The God's Eye and like that and he asked me what religion I was brought up in and just a series of questions he usually asked. And then from that point on he thought about having classes with people from the theatre.
SITARA: He did?
DAVID: He did, and invited John Robinson over here, yeah, and some of the other people that were in the play.
RENEE: There are enormous numbers of people around the San Francisco area in the arts who were exposed to Sam and did not become his disciples that we brought around by the dozens.
DAVID: It was in that class that he gave me the one spiritual practice—doing Toward the One and bowing the heart and the head. He gave us that practice, and then we moved—and then I dropped out of the theatre and we started our own theatre. And he came over to one of our classes once while we were doing some improvisational stuff and joined in the class that I was teaching. It was very upsetting for me, because he really got off on puns all of a sudden in the middle of the class. And we were doing things and he really took off on a pun jag, and it was very difficult to continue the exercises while everybody was getting off on his puns. So that was kind of the end of that one class.
RENEE: But that same thing where you first saw me, that's how Daniel Lomax met me too on Haight St.
DAVID: In God's Eye'?
RENEE: No where you first saw me and I didn't see you and—a year before that.
RENEE: See I was performing there and I was running a booth.
WALI ALI: Yeah, I remember that you always running a number of booths.
RENEE: At the iron Mouth. The booths, I ran them regularly every week, and I also ran stuff over at the Howard church. They had like a coffee shop called The Park and I was running a party night & a jazz night & food and stuff and I was messing in the kitchen—
WALI ALI: Did you ever—did you live at Olompali for awhile?
End of side one, reel one.
RENEE: We went to take a class in acting at the University of California Laguna Street extension. The reason I did that was that Sam had taken me there to go to a class in Egyptian symbolism and sat with me all through the class even though he had taken it before.
DAVID: That was also the time we had taken the intentional communities class too, right?
RENEE: Yeah, right. And we took the Intentional Communities class and he came and spoke there, and so then we signed up for this acting class. Because he was very interested in having us work with theatre. He kept saying that he wanted to do theatre, and I didn't, know why he cared, but I never questioned those things. Even if he hadn't been a very high spiritual person and he had said he wanted to do it, I would have been willing to cooperate because that is just my way. If somebody wants something and I know how they can get it, certainly you aren't going to say no, you'll make the cross connections to facilitate it. So every time that anybody who was in theatre or into any music or stuff like that showed any interest at all, I brought them around to see if he liked them. And he always liked them.
WALI ALI: Do you know more about what his idea was in those classes? How long did they last, anyway?
DAVID: That was Amertat, right?
RENEE: Yeah, Amertat, Fred Cohn—he made the movie later.
WALI ALI: Right.
DAVID: Was that the same class….
WALI ALI: Yeah, in that spiritual drama class that he was, you brought those people over there.
RENEE: Yeah, we knew Saul on our own; Saul behaved terribly when we first met.
DAVID: Frankly I don't remember exactly what he said about the….
RENEE: He tried to throw us out as we were going in the gate at Olompali with a load of books, and said that he and the other guys were going to burn them, and now he ended up with a bookstore … .and that's the kind of thing that happens all the time.
SITARA: So he had put Fred Cohn in charge of this drama class? Is that what—
RENEE: No, no, Fred was just the one who made Sunseed, that's all—
SITARA: What was that performance list? I want to hear about it—
RENEE: It was John Robinson—
DAVID: Yeah, it was John Robinson, from The God's Eye theatre—
RENEE: No, he didn't play any of the parts, but he did it himself, he taught it.
SITARA: How many of there were you?
DAVID: There weren't very many of us, in the—
RENEE: In The God’s Eve Company
DAVID: In the company—the whole company didn't show up, there was only, maybe five or six of us that showed up, and there was that one spiritual practice that I remember that he gave. The rest of the time I can't remember—
SITARA: To everybody?
DAVID: Yeah more or less, and the rest of the time what he talked about was—I can’t remember him talking specifically about theatre; he didn’t talk just about theatre, he would just be going on in his usual course, describing what was happening with him and what—
RENEE: He was very interested in Steve Gaskin and we made contact with him for Steve Gaskin to meet him and everything and Chet Holmes and all those people.
WALI ALI: That was at the Family Dog.
RENEE: It was this guy Richard, I can't remember his last name, we always called him Richard Xanadu.
WALI ALI: Yeah, I remember him.
RENEE: Because he sold shirts at a place called Xanadu’s.
WALI ALI: Yeah, he lived over on Cole Street.
RENEE: And he was in Big Brother and the Holding Company.
RENEE: He lived with them.
WALI ALI: Oh he lived with them!
DAVID: He was almost their manager I think.
RENEE: Yeah, he was one of the group that made their performances possible.
DAVID: Yeah, arranged things for them or whatever—
RENEE: He did everything and shop and did all kinds of stuff.
WALI ALI: There were two Richards—yeah, I was thinking first of the other guy, now I know who you mean. He was gay and he…
DAVID: Both the Richards were gay—the one was like a banker.
RENEE: Yeah, he worked for one.
WALI ALI: Oh I remember, when he first came over to meet Sam he called up his mother in New York who was in the social register scene and got her to check him out in the social registry or something—
RENEE: Whenever we met anybody who seemed at all theatrical or who was interested in either money or in producing something theatrical or in acting in it or filming it or anything, anybody we came across we would just bring them around to Sam, because Sam said that he wanted them, so we brought them by. And it accumulated quite a few people over a period of time.
WALI ALI: I know Sam—I recall him saying on a couple of occasions, he was the perfect jinn type, I don't know, but when you want them to do something they won't do it, and when you least expect it they will come and do you a great big favor.
RENEE: I don't respond to pressure! And in a way, that is why he would do what he did in the classes because I would do the same thing. Somebody would bring something up and they would be very insistent on getting an answer, and I would say, "Okay, next week," so that's what he would do to me, same thing that I did. And that's why I would always call him a mirror-Murshid.
WALI ALI: Did he send you to see To-Lun, or did he recommend a number of people to go over to see?
RENEE: He took us there—
WALI ALI: He took you there—
RENEE: Every week we went—
WALI ALI: Oh I recall, and that was right when—
DAVID: That was right when I showed up—
WALI ALI: That was right—
RENEE: Didn't you ever go there?
DAVID: I went there but not with Sam—
RENEE: Oh I went there for a couple of years—
WALI ALI: He took you there, but he wasn't giving talks at the time, was he?
RENEE: No, he went there-
WALI ALI: Yeah, he went there—
RENEE: Fatima and Moineddin and Mansur—
WALI ALI: But I recall Joe Miller gave talks over there for awhile, because that was right shortly after I—
RENEE: We went over there to meditate—we went on Tuesday nights—and that was a weird thing—up all these horrendous flights of stairs.
WALI ALI: Oh I remember the flights of stairs.
RENEE: And see, I had been very ill and that's why I was so recalcitrant about moving around and everything; it hurt, I was recovering from—
WALI ALI: And so his idea is to get you to walk up six flights of narrow stairs in Chinatown—
RENEE: But at the same time he was worried that maybe it would be bad for my heart so he was always trying to work out things for me to do that would keep me moving but wouldn't overdue it, and I would try to do the stairs, and try to almost run up them with the fear that I wouldn't even make it, and To-Lun would be up there grinning away. He never would say a word, he could try to speak English and he doesn't; he speaks Chinese. And finally one day after years of this, it seemed like it had been going on every Tuesday; do this horrendous thing tearing up this steep three flights of stairs in this grimy little place in Chinatown. I got to the top and he grinned at me, and here I was all red and puffing and To-Lun grinned away and he said, " S-l-o-w-l-y, s-l-o-w-l-y," and then he doesn't say anything else for another two years. And he and Sam were really something together, I remember we went to this Wesak thing, did you go to that at the First Congregational Church?
WALI ALI: Yeah, I was there.
RENEE: It was when he had first ordained all these young people.
WALI ALI: And everybody gave a five minute speech on the Dharma.
RENEE: And it just went on and on, and I was singing away in Chinese because I had To-Lun on one side of me and Sam on the other and they had gotten so loaded I was singing in Chinese—I don't know any Chinese, but I was singing the whole damn thing all the way through. This great siddhi is being exhibited which were not me in the least (?)—
WALI ALI: You were up there on the stage that day?
RENEE: No, I was down in the front row.
WALI ALI: Oh I know, you had the program with you because I remember….
RENEE: I was singing in a perfect … five notes away like Chinese harmony—regular like a Chinese musical performance—
WALI ALI: I remember the high point of it—
RENEE: I musically performed in Chinese style in the Chinese language without knowing any, thanks to To-Lun and Sam amusing themselves on either side of me shooting the juice through.
WALI ALI: I remember the high points that evening had two high points for me, Renee; one of them was watching the children to see how—
RENEE: Yeah, that was also very funny when the little three year old girl at one o 'clock in the morning, and she should have been exhausted, gets up and sort of out does all the ancient Chinese in the place for her courtly Chinese bowing and everything else—
WALI ALI: And the other thing was Vocha Fiske, who, as the evening wore on more and more people left and everybody that would stand up and speak would say how the roots of the people who were left there were really strongly rotted—and there weren't many people left. And the people that were left were just shallowly rooted, you understand—these people had really good roots. And I was sitting there and I was thinking about this story of Ram Dass about the one guy who was left at the end of the all night Kirtan because the singer was standing on his blanket. I was supposed to drive Murshid home and he was up there on the stage so I couldn't get away, so Vocha Fiske turns around—she was partially deaf and deaf people talk so much louder—and she says, "Wali Ali, when you are as old as I am, and you've been to as many Buddhist ceremonies as I have, you'll know they are a frightful bore!”
RENEE: The thing was, it's funny and so were all these things including that scene in the kitchen. I regard that scene in the kitchen that Sam made when he practically roared the walls down and stuff as very high theatre, really high theatre, really super funny.
WALI ALI: Do you recall, David?
RENEE: And my reaction is super funny too.
SITARA: Yeah; she didn't really tell, I wish she would.
DAVID: What, your reaction?
RENEE: Yeah, when you told me—
SITARA: Your reaction when you walked out the door and you said to him—do you remember—remember you said, "Okay," you said, "but not the children and the mothers."
RENEE: Yeah, that was all I was interested in, I had refused to consider anything logical or anything else at all. I was not going to concede any karma connected with babies and of course technically babies have karma. I don't give a damn, they don't have it as far as I am concerned.
WALI ALI: You were in the middle of this to a certain extent—I remember because I happen to for some reason remember when after Murshid ran his trip down in Cole Street and he said he wasn't going to talk if Renee was in the room, then he went over to you, it seems like, and he said something, because he knew you were…
DAVID: I was feeling bad that day—
RENEE: That was about my living with both David and Thomas Joshua, I remember now. He said, "Not two, one," and he stood there and he shrieked in front of the room, and he said—I couldn't come in—
DAVID: And his statement to me, he asked me—
RENEE: I was living very openly with both of them—
DAVID: He asked me, "What's the matter with you?"
RENEE: That's what that was about, Wali Ali—
WALI ALI: That's the first time I've heard it—I do 'recall him saying something to David about.
RENEE: He stood right up there in front of everybody and said, "Not two but one."
WALI ALI: But the main thing finally was not express opinions, and to sit in silence and meditate on the whole thing. Part of it was his own feeling of being tested in his role of being a spiritual teacher. He was very conscious on the one hand of the authority of it and on the other hand his sense of how it worked. And I remember that somehow or other you felt like you must be in the middle and questioning it and so on and so forth. He came up to you and said something about maintaining silence,
RENEE: He said, "What's the matter with you? Why are you behaving this way? Renee has two husbands instead of one."
DAVID: Everything he said to me made sense to me at the time—
DAVID: The way he would talk and everything he said was just so simple; there wasn't any argument or unclarity about it. The only thing that he said to me that I found interesting that day that I remember was when he asked me what was the matter with me, because, like at the time I didn't think anything in particular was the matter with me. And, however, at some level, of course, I was dissatisfied with my lot in life and so he was just, for the record putting it out there "what's the matter with you?" You apparently aren't thinking things, and so then we would go on with these other things about being silent and stuff—
WALI ALI: Of course—
RENEE: You didn't remember that that was what that was about? That that was what I was outside for?
WALI ALI: I there's some—I recall that it was right after the business about the Hiroshima and I
RENEE: No, he was being very protective and he was concerned about the situation I was in with David and with Thomas Joshua, and they were both behaving very badly. They were not getting along, let’s put it that way, they were hustling and Thomas Joshua finally left.
DAVID: Yeah, Joshua and I didn't relate.
SITARA: So you thought that the whole thing with Japan had been resolved by his bringing out the peace plan?
RENEE: I thought that it had already been resolved and that nobody would listen to him and that he had been waiting all along for somebody who would really stick to it, that he had been disappointed over and over again—that he had tried to put forth his peace plan and that nobody would stand behind it—that they always got distracted and always got into some religious trip instead, and were unwilling to see the sacredness of peace completely apart from any visible means of religious support. And I felt that he felt that peace was a religious thing all by itself and that it did not require religious support behind it because it was religious to be peaceful. That is the whole point of Islam—it means peace, and that was what his "Glory Roads" were, that people should have no war because religion cannot flourish where there is war and you can't go to the holy places and meditate spending all your time running around getting blown up or blowing other people up and you don't really work on yourself to bring out your highest nature.
SITARA: Are you saying that you felt that that incident—
RENEE: That incident—I found a test, a trial that he had been disappointed before, he had tried before. Like in my father's generation, when he was a young man same as my father was, my father had worked for world peace force and had ended up with the second world war and then the Korean war, I never knew anything but war from the time I was four. And the first movie I ever saw when I was three years old, was a Quaker movie about the rape of Nanking that was shown in our place—a little baby screaming next to a dead body in the street. The Japanese—
WALI ALI: The Japanese in China, yeah—
RENEE: Yeah, and he knew that and he knew that the one area that I would have the hardest time overcoming any prejudices would be about the Japanese things, because they had done such unbelievable atrocities. I don't know whether you know anything about it but the Japanese camps and Japanese behavior toward their own citizens and toward their own children and everything else was culturally so atrocious. And we had conquered the Japanese, and they were like a subject people to us, in a sense. We were occupying Japan and everything.
WALI ALI: You said that he and To-Lun were something together: do you recall any incidents, anything that happened during the times that you were there, how Sam was in that situation. Whether—anything that went down between he and To-Lun, what the general atmosphere was?
RENEE: Oh, they were real buddies, I think. To-Lun just always acknowledged him completely.
WALI ALI: I remember the one thing that he later got on their case about was this claim that they were the first to bring the Buddha Dharma to America.
RENEE: They are an orthodox, fundamentalist group. The Gold Mountain Monastery is like The Southern Baptists—
WALI ALI: I understand—
RENEE: And Christianity. It's the channel that preceded Zen. Bodhi Dharma did bring it to China from India. It didn't come from China to America—they don't count Japan—it went from India to China. If it went to Japan, it went to Japan from them. They don't see the Japanese Zen as a separate thing and that is just something they regards like the way the Baptists regard the Unitarian Church, that's just some splinter group over there, it has nothing to do with anything really.
WALI ALI: I recall the speeches on that Wesak day, everyone was saying this was the first time and this and that and the other—
RENEE: This was the first time that they had ordained non-oriental Chan monks that were Westerners, and they had to take them to Taiwan to do it. There were no provisions made for ordination on American soil, and now they are doing it on American soil. Gold Mountain Monastery now, and some monastery in New York or something now has the right to ordain Chan monks on American soil but they did not before that, and they did not acknowledge that—
WALI ALI: Anybody else's ordination was legitimate under the rules of the….
RENEE: It wasn't a question of what was legitimate; it just doesn't serve the same function as theirs does. I don't think that southern Baptists, for example, find that Unitarians are not legitimate, they just claim that Unitarians are not doing the same thing.
WALI ALI: Maybe they've changed since I grew up in Mississippi! I agree, there is a lot more tolerance at work even in the Fundamentalist sects than there was twenty years ago.
RENEE: I think you will find that very high people don't get into that, it isn't To-Lun himself that gets into that, and when you read these translations of his work that sounds like that you have to consider who is doing the translating and how easy it is to elicit, what it is that you want to hear over and over again. Nobody sees their teacher, they only see themselves, what they are translating and publishing as To-Lun is themselves. Your spiritual teacher—if he is any kind of teacher at all—is just like a clear channel for your higher consciousness to come back like a boomerang and hit you in the face until you get the message.
WALI ALI: I think that certainly is a very apt description of the thing that Murshid was with you.
RENEE: He was the mate that your heart has designed, and whatever flaw you found in it, you needed to get to work on your own heart to change.
WALI ALI: Is there anything else?
RENEE: Whether you were male or female, it didn't make the slightest bit of difference because it was not a sexual matter, it was sex like with a capital S, it was like the whole damn thing, not any little minor bus trip or anything.
WALI ALI: David is there anything more you would like to add, any incidents that you happen to remember or anything you—
DAVID: The time that he gave me these beads, for instance, was kind of interesting because there was one of the scenes in the upper room in the Khankah. We were sitting around and then all of a sudden he just pointed over—seemingly all of a sudden—he pointed toward somebody and said, "Come on up and sit in front of me," and so one person came and sat in front of him and another person came up, and then he looked over at me, and I was sitting there, curious, and kind of jealous that I wasn't being called up there. And so he looked over at me and said, "You might as well come up here too." And so then he got out the beads he had that bunch of beads, and he took the string out and handed it to the first guy, very kind of formally with some nice words. And then he looks at me and like just literally threw the beads at me, and said, "Here, you take this."
DAVID: And the first time that I heard that formally I was a disciple was at first by Thomas Joshua.
DAVID: Yeah. And he said go over there and sit down there—and there was nothing about like being initiated, or anything like that. He never said that was or anything, and it was like I was muddling over in my mind where we were and what the whole thing was all about, and so one day I asked him I asked him, I figured I said like something "Am I your disciple or what, what's going on here?" And he said, "You are a mureed, that's what you are." And that's all there was to that. That's all I wanted to know, and that was it.
RENEE: I was never quite sure what was going on either because like he would do these things like saying everybody who wasn't his disciple should get up, and if I started to get up he would tell me to stay. And nothing had happened or anything. Thomas Joshua went through some ceremony finally, and it was a very elaborate thing. It was some kind of tray with stuff to drink on it, all kinds of stuff and everything, and I got bored, it was like at the Chinese Wesak thing, he was getting bathed in the Chi or whatever, and didn't seem to have anything to do with me, and on the way home afterwards, Thomas Joshua said, "You didn't pay much attention, did you?' I said, "I was thinking, I was meditating or something." That was always my excuse, "I am meditating." Everything is meditation but I am not doing it. And he said, “I asked him if that was for you too," and he said, "You were his disciple before you got there." And I don't know what he meant by that. And so then later on he just ignored me whenever I tried to pursue the subject or anything. He just did things like screaming at me, "I am your spiritual teacher." There didn't seem to be any room for discussion. And I always wondered why everybody has all this elaborate structure that seems to be going on now.
WALI ALI: It's not very elaborate; the thing is that…
RENEE: But you have some kind of ranks or something—
WALI ALI: He did it, he didn't do anything to you, he did it to other people—we certainly didn't invent it, I can assure you.
RENEE: He gave me stuff to read, enormous stacks of all kinds of stuff in brown envelopes to read which occasionally I read, and he gave me a "Zen Flesh, Zen Bones" book and he gave me a Sufi Message and stuff and told me to carry volume II around with me of the Sufi Message and bring it to class every time, And then they never did anything with it except just bring it there, and the only thing he ever told me to do was the first thing that was listed in the back of "Zen Flesh, Zen Bones." And I said, "How will I know if I did it?" He said, "You'll know." And I said, "That sounds crazy to me." And he said, "Never mind," and so I went and did it and it worked!—about two days later. It was just something about where you breathe out before you breathe in, realize! Doesn't that sound kind of ridiculous? I ask you, really! But it wasn't, it was just trying. Everything was esoteric for me in the situation. I don't really find anything that isn't esoteric. I would never say the thing…
WALI ALI: The what? The Sufi Invocation?
RENEE: Yeah! I used to stand there; and later on there were hundreds of people all saying it and I’d stand there and I wouldn’t say it. The reason I wouldn't say it is because it had a line in it about the illuminated souls, and it didn't say anything about the un-illuminated, and I thought it was undemocratic. And then finally one day I decided that there weren't any un-illuminated soul anyway, and then I started saying it. And the whole thing was always like that. I was always standing there not saying things until I decided that it applied to the situation, and just about anything will apply to any situation if you put your mind to it.
DAVID: Didn't he come over to the Haight Street store?
RENEE: Sure, lots of times, he came over with Saadia; we had a weird scene once. Saadia found every little knitted bag in the place; she poked through everything, she was on a knitted bag hunt; she found six little crocheted bags and took them back to upstate New York, to Ithaca for some reason. He came over to bless it, and he blessed the theatre we had when we had the Dream Theatre.
SITARA: He related to women as daughters and sisters, and as mothers as consorts even sometimes, what was your role, if there was one main one as a woman in your relationship with him?
RENEE: I experienced Sam as like a complete lover, and I thought everybody else did too. He was very much into the Krishna thing. I remember asking Sam once—not for my benefit—I didn't need to know what a Sufi was, but people would ask me. He was always telling me to go around to all these people who didn't know a damn thing about Sufism and bring them to him for this or that so that then they could arrange a meeting for him to talk to 3000 people when they didn't know what Sufism was or he was, and I would just go do it. And they would say, "Who is he; what is it?" And there I would go stumbling around, so I asked him one day, “What am I supposed to tell them? What is Sufism?” And he said, "Tell them, 'It's that nothing but God exists!'" So how could they answer that? There was no discussion possible, and then they would have to come and see him themselves, and they would end up doing what he wanted. And there would be a holyman jam or a meeting in the meadows, or whatever it was and then of course once it got going it became standardized so that no gathering was complete without some Sufis there to help raise the level. And in those early days when people who knew absolutely nothing about it, it was entirely on the basis of his personality. In other words, he insisted that things be put into practice and there was not any excise that the person was not religiously oriented or didn't know that they were God or didn't know they were mystics or anything that had nothing to do with it, you were supposed to go get and bring them there to do what they were supposed to do anyway. So I did!
WALI ALI: Okay, thank you very much. I think this has been very useful.
RENEE: For close to half a century my life had been preparing me to do the work that I had done. While my senseless life that looked so scattered and strange to other people because it included things like being a bio-chemist and then into acting, and being the beatnik and all these disparate things was exactly what was needed for his work.
SITARA: Okay that’s what he did for you, but you Said, "I knew I gave you my estimate of who he was," remember?
RENEE: He was the person I was working for all along; I feel that my entire life before I ever met him was training for what he wanted me to do, and then when it was time he arranged for me to see him physically and told me to do it and I did it.
DAVID: Tell them about the experience with Ruth St Denis.
RENEE: Which one?
DAVID: Any of them; if there is more than one tell both of them—the experience you had with—
RENEE: Oh, the mystic one—but see now, Sitara, you are asking me to get into a whole lot of non-physical things too. Now, I was sitting in front of Sam one day, and Ted Reich was to the left of Sam, I remember, and I was meditating. I am always sitting there meditating; some people call it day-dreaming. There was a picture on the wall, and I didn't know that was Ruth St. Denis at the time, I knew that I knew who she was, that she was some dancer but I didn't know that that was the Ruth St. Denis that he was talking about, because the last time I had seen Ruth St. Denis was when I was very young. And she was in some kind of white flowing, Kwan-Yin robes or something in that particular picture. And I was sitting there and all of a sudden she came down off the wall, in the photograph and she brought me this lotus. When I was a little kid, when I was four years old, I could hardly wait to go to sleep at night, because every night I would go to sleep and I would step in this boat—it was sort of like a gondola—and it would go to this underground grotto, and I would step out and all my friends would be there. And I thought that that was when I was awake, and that during the day I was asleep, and I couldn't wait to "wake up" and go to this place there. And they all had different costumes from all different periods. It was just like Haight-Ashbury was later on in '68, and it was all lights and costumes and all my friends were there, and we had a marvelous time all night, and then I had to go home in the morning. So I thought she was giving me this lotus to go across the water, and maybe I was going to go to the same place where I always went to where all my friends were, but instead of going in the water, it went right up in the air, and it flew all over the world. I was sitting in this lotus that was flying all around the world, and I was looking down and people were dancing, and forming all these mandalas. Do you remember that I told you that the very first thing that I ever spoke to Sam about was mandalas. They were forming these mandalas with their bodies and with voices and singing, and everywhere I went it was all this beautiful, what turned out to be Sufi dancing, but I didn't have that word for it then, or mantric dancing or anything. I didn't have a term for it, just what it was, and so I got sort of startled and came to when Sam said something sharply to me. He used to do that, he used to break me up all the time, and I told him what I had just seen, and Ted Reich reached in his pocket and pulled out a telegram and said, "This is from Ruth, we just got word that she died today." And I don't know if it was the next day or a couple of days later, Sam came in and he said that he had just had a vision of a dance and the only time we had discussed dancing before that, I used to say, "How come we don't whirl if we are dervishes?" He would say that we were dervishes. So I'd say, "If we are dervishes, why don't we whirl?" Oh, and the other thing was, when I first came to the meetings, I brought my auto harp and a whole lot of little instruments to play, I always did. See, one of things I did at the I Am Now is that I had a whole basketful of small instruments, and I would hand them out and get people to play with them themselves instead of just sitting there listening like lumps so naturally when I came to—
WALI ALI: Yeah, I remember that bag-wheel.
RENEE: Oh you do remember it, yeah, and so Sam was very formal in the meetings, like he would have a little recess and I would get a chance to pass out all the goodies,. and people would get interested and play little bells and flutes and things, and particularly the people from over in Marin were into making flutes too. And Krishnadas was a dancer and he would get up and dance, and then we would do it after the meeting was over, and Sam would always ignore us, and then finally this one night, after he had walked away, and we were still being allowed to do it for awhile, he same back and he said, "That horrible noise sounds pretty good from a distance," or something like that. And he had always acted as if we were just making a lot of noise. He came back; something about it had attracted him finally; he decided there were possibilities there.
WALI ALI: Of course when Daniel Lomax came over he would play the guitar.
RENEE: Right, and so gradually what happened—
WALI ALI: Oh and you (David) played the guitar too—
RENEE: From these small beginnings there came about a more expressive situation.
SITARA: I remember how I got to that….
RENEE: It added to your physical needs and also through mental needs people began to dream and envision things.
SITARA: I think you were talking about all the teachers that you have been involved with before in one sense, and I was trying to get into how you knew Sam amongst all those.
RENEE: You see Sam was like all of them. Sam was able—not was, is—I don't experience him as absent. He is a Rabbi; he is a Lama; he is a Priest; he is like a Shaman, a magician, all of those things, he made jokes about all those things. I remember he used to do this insane act—this was before he was wearing Sufi robes most of the time—just a regular business suit. He would roll up the cuffs on his pants and stoop over and hop up and down like a monkey and pretend to eat a banana and tell everybody it was a spiritual practice that they did at the Hanuman Temple in India, and that they ought to try it and things like that, and stuff like that went on all the time. I remember one time I came in with a couple of kids and he sang the entire song, Yama-Yama Man, from the musical comedy from the thirties called, "Sunny," only it just so happens that it is an extremely esoteric song, Whether it was in a musical comedy called "Sunny," which also had "Look for the Silver Lining," or something in it or not—because the Yama-Man is like the bogey-man, and just like Inayat Khan wrote a play called "The Bogey-man."
DAVID: It was also God of Death—
RENEE: Yeah right, and so there was never any level at which he was at a loss in the vertical dimension of things, and there was never any ethnic situation that he was unable to relate to in a horizontal dimension, and many people are capable of giving you the direction you need and practices that are Toward the One, many people are capable of giving you the dimension that you need in practices that are toward each other, but very few people are capable of integrating them, and having that perfect balance between the two, which I consider to be the Christ experience. And so over and over again my personal convictions were supported and my confidence in humanity was increased. I had had a lot of experiences that made me shrink away a lot, and I think Sam did too; he talked about that a great deal, about difficulties that he had in childhood of getting accepted. And so I had personal experiences of, for example, of Christ over and over again with Sam, it was never that I particularly saw him transfigured; I saw everybody else transfigured, I was always seeing everybody else transfigured. It was just that everything was transfigured around him, which I am sure is what being with Christ is like—everything is transfigured. It isn't that Christ transfigures or is transfigured, it's that the whole schmeer is a Light and like I remember one of those first few weeks when I was in the Mentorgarten, I said that I enjoyed that front room upstairs because it reminded me of the tree house that I used to climb up into when I was a kid, and Sam was just delighted, because that was what he wanted it to be—he had set it up to be a tree house. And the simplest practices that he did, like breathe out as much love as you are capable of, breathe in as much love as you are capable of—or whatever small thing that it was, was like Archimedis saying, "Give me a lever and I'll move the earth." He never made anything look heavy, it never looked intellectual, it never looked even impressive, but it did the job, and that is exactly the way the great avatars have always functioned as far as I know. They were simple people who made the veil between worlds and between people within any one world thinner. They erased the separation, and it doesn't make any difference whether it is said on the level of Kabbalah, or on the level of Christian mysticism or on the level of Islam or Zoroastrian and similarly Egypt. He was very, very advanced in extremely difficult Oriental things, and they knew him very well, even over at the university in the classes on Egypt, Dr. Collona, and had known him for years. He knew everybody—
WALI ALI: He took courses with you also?
RENEE: Yeah, he went there with me, he sat there with me in the class to see what I flashed on.
DAVID: Have you been to San Francisco State?
WALI ALI: San Francisco State —yeah we are going to get her over here—
RENEE: He had me study what she put out, all these slides and he studied me while I studied it to see where I was at, like a Doctor doing a diagnostic workup on you. He sat and watched what I flashed on on all these Egyptian things, and I really did a lot of flashing too, and he went to—I know that he spent just as much time on everybody else as he did on me, and so you can't measure it on the material level because he went to endless pains with me as far as I experienced it, but at the same time he was doing the same thing with other people. So it has to be magical; it has to be not in the realm of material possibilities because how could he devote that much energy and attention to hundreds of people at once, and each of them felt that personally they were getting all of his time that they needed.
SITARA: I think he devoted as much time and energy as the accommodation of that person was—
RENEE: I am saying that it wasn't real time, like with a capital R. There was no time and space measurement possible for the kind of work that he was doing. He really was Krishna, and Krishna was able to make it with hundreds of cowgirls at once, or cowboys or whatever. And so he did have a fantastic control of those illusions that we know of as space and time. And he had a fantastic control over himself because he waited for exactly the right time historically, and exactly the right place in San Francisco in 60-something to do exactly what he did, and he had all these people converge that had the qualities already developed that were needed for the situation on Precita Avenue. All of a sudden here were all those people on Precita Avenue from these very—it was like a Renaissance group—from these very unusual backgrounds. There were people there who were into physics, there were people there who were into theology, there were people there who were belly dancers, there were people there who didn't know anything at all except how to work with small children, there were people who didn't know anything at all except how to do yoga or drills or stuff like that. He just continually rounded out every dimension so that the thing was a beautiful mandala formation. Why on earth was I taking training with a Jungian analyst at the same time that was going, to Sufi meetings at the same time that he had me taking Egyptian classes and going over to Reverend Lois Robinson and reliving past lives. Really! Who would think of a combination like that? Except somebody who knew exactly what they were cooking—to put that many spices in it isn't because they are playing games, it is because they are making a very elaborate confection.
WALI ALI: Have you ever read "The Patchwork Girl of Oz"?
WALI ALI: I just had a flash if you are thinking about—
RENEE: That's my Shakti, there is no doubt about it, and the patchwork came in for reasons just like all this clothing from India with that cosmic seed on it that is one half of the Yin/Yang symbol, and it is also the apostrophe on the Hebrew letters on the Kabbalah, and it is also the drop of the fire of life of the Zoroastrians. And I remember asking Sam once about the scene and he just sat there and played dumb, wouldn't answer me, and then he would keep bringing other things up where it would appear in front of me, in all these different forms. I said, "Why is it that all these people over there on Haight Street are freaking out on that shape, that seed shape?" You know what I am talking about, don't you? It is a paisley, it is a paisley shape.
WALI ALI: I know what you mean.
RENEE: And he wouldn't answer me but then the next day something would come up that would involve some kind of Yang/Yin symbol; I would look at it and I would see that there was the paisley shape, or something would come up….
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