Notes from conversation between Murshida Ivy Duce of Sufism Re-Oriented and Wali Ali on the subject of Murshid Samuel L. Lewis, Murshida Rabia Martin and the history of the Sufi Order.
(notes by Wali Ali. It should be understood that I requested Murshida Duce to allow me to tape record her remarks, but she refused. She did consent to my taking of notes.)
Murshida Duce is speaking. The following is the gist of her remarks following the order in which they came, reconstructed as far as possible from notes and memory:
"Murshida Martin traveled to the Far East (Iraq, Persia, India) in 1947. Pictures of her are available.
In 1927 she traveled to the Summer School at Suresnes. She never talked about this much because it was such a shock to her when it became apparent they didn’t want her. They had an election and elected Maheboob Khan. Once in a private conversation with Murshida Duce, Rabia Martin said there were three reasons why she was rejected: she was a woman, an American, and a Jewess. And then she cried. She explained that she was not crying for herself but because they have broken the hierarchal chain.
Murshida Duce said she had known Samuel Lewis since 1940. "He turned against every woman he ever worked with. I believe he was frustrated. Never knew normal love for a woman; only love for a woman as a teacher."
In 1947 I visited Meher Baba and went to a Universal Worship service at the old metropolitan opera building in New York. Munira Non greeted me, "You must be the Murshida, you have the Buddha brow."
In May of 1948 saw Cushing who told me she felt she had been a bad woman, basically because she had all those papers from Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan and had not done anything to copy them and get them out to people. She asked for money from me to do this, but we didn’t have it to give. I believe those papers later went to Vera Zain. I saw her around the same time and she too complimented me on my brow! But she insisted I was all wrong about Meher Baba.
Murshida Martin’s story. She had a friend invite her to a concert. She was enthralled with the playing. She rushed back to the dressing room, but they had already left on a train to Seattle. This was after the earthquake. Nobody had any money. She felt she had to go. Her husband borrowed the money. She went. This time she didn’t wait for the concert to end. She sent note backstage. Inayat Khan saw her and said "I knew you would come." He gave her the first initiation right then at that moment.
Ali Khan was surrounded by Roman Catholics.
Some people objected to the editing of Pir-o-Murshid’ s words in the Sufi Message. This was based on his statement that it should not be changed because it was "a rhythm which beat on peoples’ hearts."
When Rabia Martin visited Hasan Nizami center in Delhi they made her stand behind a screen when she talked to the group. Hasan Nizami had 13,000 disciples when he died. He said Inayat impressed on him that Rabia Martin was to be his successor. A document was given to this effect as follows: "All praise be to the Almighty Allah and his Prophet, Mohammad, and all his Sahabaas and Auliya-e-Ummat. I, Hasan Nizami, as a Grand Master of the Chishtia Nizamia Order, authorize Sister-in-Silsila Rabia A. Martin to disseminate the Blessed teachings of my Sufi Chishtia Nizamia Order among the people of all religions in the Western World and for this purpose to build Khanqahs wherever necessary and to adopt all means for spreading and teaching practical Tasawwuf (Sufism). I give this letter of Authority because Sufi Inayat Khan, Pir-o-Murshid of Rabia Martin, told me in 1927, seven days before his death, when he came from the West to visit me in Delhi, that he found Rabia Martin most capable of teaching Sufism in the highest degree and that he had allowed Rabia Martin to give the spiritual education in the Western World and that she was his Khalifa (spiritual successor).
Sufi Inayat Khan passed away on the 5th of February 1927, and was buried near my house. According to his will and wish, I give this letter of Authority to Rabia Martin to disseminate the teachings of the Chishties, for which I have every authority, being the Grand Master of the Chishtia Order; recognizing her as the true Spiritual Successor of Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan. In the end I pray to God that Rabia Martin be successful in spreading the Chishtia message of love, harmony, and contentment of heart."
Rabia Martin at Murshid’s request did traveling abroad. She stayed a year or more in South America. She was very successful in Brazil and Australia. Toward the end of her life when she traveled she asked me (Ivy) to take over her students while she was gone. In New York I saw her. She said she was convinced Meher Baba was the Qutb and she planned to go see him. She sent to Australia for a man to go with her. Frances Brabizon came and stayed at Kaaba Allah for a year or almost a year. Murshida Martin got ill and was never able to go. I was horrified when I was told that I was to take over. Felt unprepared. Thought it was a shame that the work would fail. I decided to go meet Baba. My daughter and I went to India. At that time I asked Baba and he said she was the real successor. I told him, "I understand you’re the Qutb and I’ve come for help." He said, "It’s your destiny to do this and I’ll help you." I thought he would send someone to take over. But no, he said "You do it. Be honest and make no claims. I’ll do the work for you." This has always been the case.
In 1952, when he came over he felt Sufi teachings were uniquely suited to Western World. He was very anxious that they be pure so Sufism Reoriented started. He said many of the things we’d been given properly belonged to Yoga. I made the comment HIK was probably so appalled at the ignorance he found in the West he threw the book at them, anything. By that time there were all kinds of claimants, Idries Shah, Vilayat, many others. Baba said he wished to re-orient our work to be pure Sufism. I told him there was lots of trouble with our symbol. The UN would have no symbols in the meditation room. New York Times asked for suggestions for non-sectarian prayer. I sent them Khatum. They wouldn’t publish it, though they published all kinds of things. I knew it was because all the newspapers were edited by the Jews. They felt it was a Mohammedan symbol. He suggested we put a "one" in it. Later when Musheraff Khan visited our headquarters in San Francisco this was the thing he most objected to.
When I returned from India to Kaaba Allah, Ted Rhinedollar, a newspaperman was there. He had some sufi training in Algiers which had upset his Kundalini. He asked me could I do anything. I answered no, he should go back because I had the impression from Baba that one of the poles was in Algiers. He thought I would be an impostor. But felt otherwise on talking to me. He told me stories about Samuel. He said that Samuel had taken papers from the files to his home. We had been paying Samuel $70 a month to put the files in order. And they were a shambles. Ted Rhinedollar also told me, "You know Samuel has also stolen Inayat Khan’s original letters." "Why?" "Because he’s going to hold them over your head to get some important post." Ted found the letters sitting in a box in the middle of the chapel and brought them to me.
Samuel came in that afternoon about five and asked to speak. He called me into the chapel, raised his hands high and said: "I swear before God, Meher Baba is the Avatar, and I give my allegiance to Murshida Duce." I told him, "I’m afraid for you. What about taking these letters and papers. You’re going to set yourself back." He denied it. I was annoyed by the fact that he had been supposed to organize the files and they were in a shambles. All he had been doing was continuing to write his commentaries, which I didn’t want. I told him I didn’t need papers to teach. But the thing that annoyed me the most were his "transmissions" where he claimed to speak in the voice of Inayat Khan, Moses, Mohammed, or Meher Baba. In one instance when he had claimed to have a transmission from Baba standing on a balcony. I wrote to Baba about it and he denied, it. I read Baba’s letter before the group with Samuel there, and told him to stop it.
One day someone came to me and said Samuel had his arms in oil and was performing some ritual, muttering my name and so on. I wrote Baba and he said we had nothing to fear from black magic.
Samuel went to Murshida Martin with some kind of business plan for trade with Hyderabad. He got close to a thousand dollars. Instead he went to Virginia Beach, to the Cayce foundation, and spent time around the East coast. He came to Washington to see me. You know, Murshida is getting frail, he said. You’re the only one who can do her work. "I have no time," I said. I think you should think of it; you are best suited for it," he said.
In January 7, 1949, he resigned from my Sufi order. The immediate cause was that there were two boards of directors of two corporations, the Order and the Movement. Samuel had seats on each one. After all there were only 7 or 8 old ladies. I’d developed a group in New York and Washington. I wanted them to feel a part of things, by having a representative on the board. I think it would be a kind gesture if you or any others that hold two seats give it up and let someone else take it from the East. He resigned.
Kaaba Allah burned down New Years' eve 1949. The insurance had never been upped from $8,000 after all those years and additions. The thing I most regretted losing was a complete cross index of the Sufi writings of Inayat Khan done by Mazafar, Hazel Armstrong’s mother.
I saw him again in 1952. Meher Baba had an accident he planned to have. Sent message to West Coast couldn’t come then and would come later. Samuel came to see me at the Hotel. You really are the Murshida he said and he began to cry. I felt badly, got him a glass of water. He left. My daughter saw him to the elevator.
He had gone to Myrtle Beach in March of 1947 (?) to fix grounds for them. He couldn’t say one kind thing about them. Intellectual criticism, after eating their bread. He became difficult. Baba sent him a telegram: "You should go to Rabia Martin at Fairfax centre for 2 years as your working there will help my work. Show this cable to Elizabeth and take care from her." (Duce suggests care is misprint for fare.)
In August 1953 he received back papers from me. He had never asked for them before. I had no intention of keeping his papers from him. Later when we moved we found more in the files. I offered to send them to him if he would agree to stop sending me letters. I had received 100s of critical letters from him. He promised he wouldn’t write any more. He received back the letters. But eventually he started writing letters again.
In 1965 she asked for papers he’d taken. He said there were none. When Murshida Martin died he offended Etta and the family by insisting on going through the files and getting robes etc. Etta, Murshida Martin’s daughter, wanted to go out to Kaaba Allah, but Samuel would not allow it. She feels he tortured his mother with all his transmissions. Inayat had spoken against such psychic messages in England, Mrs. Duce said.
Mrs. Duce’s husband, Terry Duce was a fellow of Harvard, Near East Inst., A.F.M.E., in government relations with Arabian/American Oil company. Urethia for cattle in India. Samuel had contact with him because of scientific interests. Samuel once quoted him for print in something he’d said off the cuff, and he didn’t communicate with him again. Had no time for the Sufi work. Considered to be pro-Arab by many.
Samuel was a great disappointment to me. (She said this several times.) When he came back from Asia he claimed to be a Murshid and also a Zen priest. I knew it wasn’t true. These are different wheels entirely. He was always interested in power. Vilayat also interested in power. Now they’ve got it.
Other remarks I remember her making: Vilayat came to visit me when we were living in Washington. He rode on bus. Didn’t look well. No money. Young man. Had him go to sleep immediately. Then he told me the land dedicated for the Temple was going to be taken over by the French government unless money was raised. He asked for money. Turned him down; had none to give. My husband couldn’t bear the idea of this poor young man riding the bus back, so he gave him plane fare. We never got any thanks for our hospitality.
When I was in Europe, in Holland, I was delayed deliberately in a bookstore. This was so Baroness von Tuyll could get there. An appointment was arranged with the Baron. He was against all of them, critical of what they had done. But he told me he had a weak heart and only wanted to talk if there would be no fight. I thought that was silly; I had no wish to fight. He asked me for papers of Pir-o-Murshid’s talks in America and other things we might have. He offered a trade. I sent them papers that we had, which weren’t a lot. He sent back only the Gathas or Githas, which we had already had.
Later when none of Inayat Khan’s books were being distributed we offered to do some offset in America. Were given an okay, but time went by and they never really did okay it. Polite runaround. Then nothing heard from them. I later asked Vilayat about this and he said the reason was they were afraid it would all get mixed up with Meher Baba. That’s ridiculous because off-set is off-set, you can only duplicate what’s there.
I caught hell from the Sufi Movement people when Videfain came here because Samuel broke up the meeting and they thought he was one of my people.
Samuel was Rabia Martin’s defender, writing scores of letters to headquarters in defense of her claim of successor-ship. We are not the Aga Khan’s, a hereditary thing.
How does Vilayat justify having two wives. That breaks it as far as I’m concerned.