Mansur Johnson—Memories Of Murshid Sam—6/28/77
WALI ALI: Alright, I’m talking to Mansur, this is June 27th 1977, some six years after Murshid’s death. I’m just going to jump around, Mansur, if that’s alright with you, and you can give whatever answer you like, and if I want to get more, I will ask you some more about it.
MANSUR: My full answer is contained in a book called "Bowl of Sake, Life of Samuel L. Lewis," as well as the authorized biography of Samuel L. Lewis called "Murshid" which is now in progress.
WALI ALI: Alhamdulillah! That makes it a lot easier for me, because as Murshid said, "Mansur is my biographer," and basically what I am undertaking is to write a biography because I thought at some point ago that what you were going to write was not going to be…
MANSUR: You’re writing what I feel is a history; I am writing what I feel is a personal biography in the nature of the “M” who wrote a biography of Ramakrishna from his personal table talk experience. That’s the basis of my work.
WALI ALI: Right. Ok, I certainly want to get some of that feeling into what this person is doing also. It’s true, I want to give the historical background and put Murshid’s life in an overall setting. Are you going to try to take up anything in relation to before he had all these disciples?
MANSUR: One time I asked Murshid something in the kitchen at Mentorgarten about his life; he said, "My past life isn’t important, what is important is your awakening," and so as I said yesterday in Santa Cruz, there is a huge gap in my understanding between the death of Hazrat Inayat Khan and when Murshid went to the East in 1956. I don’t have a clue, although I had a meeting with a man first in Atlanta who used to run the New York center and he tells the story about the time that Murshid came in and asked him how he was doing, and he said, "We aren’t doing so good, we’re not really attracting very many people, we have our own little oasis here, but things, aren’t going so good," and Samuel Lewis told him that he could help him, and this man said, "I’m sorry, I’m not authorized to let you help me, my superiors aren’t open to that.”
WALI ALI: Who were his superiors?
MANSUR: Pir Vilayat was one who came to town that he arranged workshops for—I can’t remember who his initiator was.
WALI ALI: Right. This was not Hugh Dandrade, this was a long time ago.
MANSUR: This was an older man than this, I can’t remember his name, but he is in Atlanta now at the Khankah, and we are good friends, because when I walked in he said, "I feel the spirit of Hazrat Inayat Khan," and he went into ecstasy.
WALI ALI: I had that experience with a Sufi Movement lady from Oakland that had been traveling with Hidayat when I gave a talk at Dr. Chaudhuri’s Ashram this year.
WALI ALI: I couldn’t have felt Murshid more than that day and the Sufi Message of Inayat Khan—so I am going to try and fill in some of that period, though it’s admittedly a most complex task. I talked to Murshida Duce; I know you would be interested in hearing her account of things, and I am going to try and talk with some other people from that period; I have talked to a few people, I have Murshid’s notes. I know he wants a story to be written and I can feel it, and your report of what you are going to do eases my burden.
MANSUR: Did you hear that? Two books!
WALI ALI: Yeah, two books, alright!
MANSUR: The "Bowl of Sake" is finished down to Nov. 26th.
WALI ALI: In the Khankah here we are developing our publishing work, it hasn’t yet struck the surface yet but there is a lot of stuff going on underneath the surface.
MANSUR: I have an appointment at ten o’clock tomorrow with Harper and Rowe, and I am just going to present my whole opus—I have 10 or 15 books and the first one I am presenting them is a children’s book called "Curiosity Liberated the Cat," and then I have my three-volume book of tales of stories from "The Sufi Message," and then I have the index of "The Sufi message." I have those three with me to show them, and then I have "Muta Kubla Anta Mutu, but Pir Vilayat won’t let them publish that unless I exorcise all of Hazrat Inayat Khan’s words.
WALI ALI: We’ll wait until his work comes out and then you can quote his book.
MANSUR: Exactly, that’s what I am waiting to see, in fact I am sending one of my most purest mureeds up to him this summer to ask him why he is asking Mansur to do that.
WALI ALI: It’s just the ins and outs of organizational hierarchy. I want to dive into the past even though I agree that the present is a lot more interesting. It’s just that in order for me to go forward I have to go to backwards in some ways.
MANSUR: Lay it on me.
WALI ALI: Okay. The first question I have is: what was your first meeting with Murshid? What was your first impression of Murshid?
MANSUR: He had just moved into Mentorgarten, perhaps the day before he had stopped carrying things from his place on Clementina Street, which I never visited, to 410 Precita, and I was taken there by Moineddin and Fatima who had bid for my attention when I had asked them to come to the World’s Fair in Montreal that summer, by inviting me to California to meet a man whom they felt could take them where they wanted to go the fastest. And since Moineddin and Fatima and I had been together in Iowa City and had gone the route of wanting to stay high all the time, and failing to do so with drugs, we were open to a higher solution to that problem.
WALI ALI: Right, and so you came out here. I’ve heard this the story about what you guys did and how things happened that way, but what I want to get is when you actually met Murshid what was he doing? Was it in a class, what was your impression? Was he a Sufi teacher or a Zen teacher or a little old man in a rocking chair?
MANSUR: Yes, he had the ordinary old man’s pants and the sport shirt open at the collar and he sat in a chair by the door with a lamp by his hand and he would always turn the lamp on so it would shine in your eyes.
WALI ALI: Oh I remember; I’m glad you mentioned that. People used to think that he did things like that on purpose.
MANSUR: I thought he was.
WALI ALI: I do not believe that he ever did anything like that on purpose.
MANSUR: I thought he was shy and didn’t want everyone to see how bright his aura was.
WALI ALI: If that was the case, don’t you think it was entirely unconscious? A lot of people believe Murshid did this or that trip in order to show some lesson, and I think very often it was just what they said, only in his mind it was much more innocent behavior.
MANSUR: Yes. If you would like me to discourse on Murshid’s mind—
WALI ALI: Yeah, I would, that would be a good place—
MANSUR: At the time, or at least as I understood it fully in retrospect, he needed the light behind his shoulder because he would frequently read from books and there wasn’t a sufficient overhead light if any. The only lighting that was available, I think, was the lamp.
WALI ALI: And he wasn’t one to think about his surroundings in order to get a proper lamp and a proper shade; he would take what was there, and if somebody else brought something that would have served the function better, he probably would have accepted it.
MANSUR: Since then I have been in his condition several times and his condition could be described as a sort of absence from the body, and the resulting manifestations of this are that you could very easily get dressed and forget to zip up your zipper because you wouldn’t have the presence of mind to stand in front of the mirror and check yourself out, which you might have at another time, so Murshid was frequently disheveled because his mind was occupied in other places. This was perfectly apparent. Other people were fond of remarking about his appearance; I was in such close scrutiny and attuned with his mind that I just became as neglectful of his appearance as he himself was.
WALI ALI: Right, I know, because some people with more social consciousness would be embarrassed by his appearance in public, or they might he embarrassed by his singing Grace in a restaurant in public or some other public thing that he did. Did you ever find yourself embarrassed by anything that Murshid did when you were with him in public, and what sorts of things?
MANSUR: I was pretty broad-minded and I always took anything Murshid took as a test to flow with, and I always trusted him completely, and so I was never embarrassed.
WALI ALI: When you were in situations where, even if you took it as a test, you felt like you should oppose what he was doing, right?
WALI ALI: You never felt that.
MANSUR: Never!! I never felt in opposition.
WALI ALI: You never felt in opposition? What about the typewriter—that day when Murshid suspended you—it was in Novato, and at that point you had been having some money problems with him before or something, and it came into the question of the typewriter.
MANSUR: The situation was this: I was moving it from the Garden of Inayat to the Alhamdulillah Ranch across the street, and I indicated to Murshid that I wanted to take the typewriter and he indicated somehow that he expected me to leave it in the office there, and I just rapt out to Murshid that if he recalled, he had taken my old typewriter down to the typewriter place, and he had—using it as a trade-in—bought a new one for me so that I could do work for him, and I recalled this for him and told him that I felt this was my typewriter to do with as I wanted to do and as a result of that, he suspended me as a disciple.
WALI ALI: You wouldn’t call that opposition? What was that?
MANSUR: What would you call that?
WALI ALI: I would call it opposition over a money matter or something—when he came over afterwards, I have rarely seen him like that—he was very upset, and we were right in the middle of a Three Rings meeting. After he left I had everybody sit in the chair that he had sat down in because he was giving off so much energy I wanted people to pick up on it.
WALI ALI: He just came over to announce what he had done. I am interested in this case; that’s an incident, but somehow it came—I want to circle around and come back through it another way—because to me the crucial thing in describing the last three or four years of Murshid’s life is his way of dealing with disciples, because he was extraordinarily effective as teachers go. One maybe didn’t even realize it at the time how his genius of communication, but here was a situation where, as I saw it, you had been for years making financial sacrifices to work as Murshid’s secretary but were beginning to feel less and less like continuing to make financial sacrifices because it was beginning to wear thin in your life, and you had your own needs that you were beginning to feel that you had to meet, and that you couldn’t any longer just constantly overlook your financial interests.
MANSUR: That’s a view of a scholar attempting to sum up a situation, and it reads very good, but it is not in the least bit true, at least it has no reference to any particular mental set that I was going under at the time. I was never in a financial crunch, I think it was the reason why Murshid made me an Nakib way back even. He said, "I can make you Sheikh or make you a Nakib" way back before he gave me his robe, and I never learned until I read spiritual architecture what a Nakib [one who acts as an external spokesman for the mystical brotherhoods] was. And I was always very interested in not paying any taxes and checking out angles like this, and I went to Boston and published a newsletter with tax angles for anybody who dedicated their life to God; this was a culmination of that work which continued as the empire expanded, so to speak. I earned—my first year in Boston I earned $7,000, the next year it jumped to $12,000, the next year it jumped to $l9,000, the next year it went to $23,000, and last year it was $29, 000.
WALI ALI: Right, that’s peanuts compared to U.S. Steel or something.
MANSUR: But it’s one man.
WALI ALI: Right.
MANSUR: It’s one little person.
WALI ALI: And how does this tie in with what we were just talking about? I mean, this is a retrospect view, isn’t it? Is this what you would understand as being like the seed that was being worked through to manifestation? What was coming down between you and Murshid?
MANSUR: I don’t have a clue of what was coming down.
WALI ALI: Alright, here’s my view, to put it in the overall context of things, just somebody trying to understand events and actions. I felt that when Pir Vilayat and Jemila got together it was such a tremendous shock to your being that you were at that point…
WALI ALI: Emotionally shattered in some way.
WALI ALI: Yeah. Murshid felt like it meant that you were chosen for some special role in the world. His point of view was that when a person suffers needlessly it means that God is preparing him for some kind of blessing.
MANSUR: Yes. And he made that known to me too.
WALI ALI: Yes. He made it known to a lot of people that he communicated with. At the same time he had your own being to deal with. I recall, and I could be wrong, but around that time was the time of your first trip to Lama with Murshid, is that right? Or there were things that were coming out shortly after that?
MANSUR: This is a whole history. My esoteric journal which I am going to present tonight is really a portion of what I call my book of impressions; it’s like Walt Whitman’s "Leaves of Grass." And I don’t know, if someone goes through it, sometime they will find it just full of ecstasies like just of the line in the prayer Nabi, "Thy thought giveth me unearthly joy." Someone might call it "Visitations from Murshid.” But, it’s what that guy in Atlanta felt, only he identified it as Hazrat Inayat Khan, but ecstasy is ecstasy, something like that.
WALI ALI: What did Murshid say when you suggested that he do what he had been threatening to do at different times, or mentioning as something which was a possibility which is to form the Sufi Islamia Ruhaniat Society? To break away from Pir Vilayat at that point? Did you make that suggestion to him around that juncture
MANSUR: I can’t buy it, when you say break away from Pir Vilayat; he was never in favor of breaking away from Pir Vilayat.
WALI ALI: Murshid was never in favor of it, that’s correct. What I was saying was that at that point—because you had been hurt by Pir Vilayat, that you felt that that should happen and it made it clear to me and to a lot of other people that Murshid was not that kind of a person to change his friendship or his way of working with somebody based on those kinds of matters, that where he was coming from when he said "yes" to somebody, it was from a much deeper place.
MANSUR: Yes, I think I remember we were driving, we had just finished crossing the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin county and I put it to him just like you said, would this be enough to make him change that, and I had no emotional interest in its adoption or not, but I remember putting that question to him and he indicated an interest in solidarity in spite of that action.
WALI ALI: It always seemed to me that the things that he cared the most about having happen, even though he talked almost incessantly, these things he rarely talked about in the way in which he was trying to shape events from within.
MANSUR: I don’t follow you.
WALI ALI: For example, he used to hint about the Farm being taken over by Pir Vilayat and bought and turned into a school. It had to be some joint effort for a real school of Sufism and meditation and so on. I know he was very interested in that happening, but he rarely mentioned it, you could only see that occasionally it would come out and he would pretend to himself that it was happening even though that nobody that had anything to do with making it happen ever indicated that there was any possibility that it was going to happen.
MANSUR: That’s what you would call a positive thought concentration. And that’s exactly how people in the hierarchy shape the events of the world: by becoming beacons of positive thought solution.
WALI ALI: This is a method that certainly one finds a person like Shamcher using all the time.
MANSUR: Yeah there seems to me to be a difference between assuming something is true and holding that thought in relation to events that are happening and also in trying to influence events.
WALI ALI: Yeah, right.
MANSUR: I found out that I had the authority to influence events at the Canada camp because I told Shamcher that Pir Vilayat made me Hadim [guardian] of the Maqbara at Lama, and again it is like a Nakib, I didn’t know what it was, but it turns out that he said, "Oh yes, Hadim, he can go up and knock on the back of the Emperor,” and he told the story about how there was an Emperor named Ataturk in Turkey who had translated the Qur’an into Turkish and the Hadim went up and tapped him on his shoulder and said, "The Prophet wanted the Qur’an to be in Arabic," and the Emperor made some answer, and I can’t remember the rest of the answers, but then I began to contact Nixon and Carter with this because the solutions to the energy thing, the time for it is right now, right now is the Kemal moment and I am working furiously to influence events in that. Nixon has now been—has three communications from me, and it up to him to contact me through Ayesha, and I have feelers out now in two directions to Carter, and I hope to contact him, as well as speak before the Clamshell Alliance in Boston on July 6th, on Wednesday night, and this is such a crucial issue on the news today. They had a demonstration taking place yesterday in Manchester, New Hampshire of unions that are in favor of nuclear energy because they see 3000 jobs, when in fact OTEC will mean millions of jobs.
WALI ALI: And OTEC is what Shamcher has been pushing in relation to the differential of the water temperatures?
MANSUR: That’s the project that Shamcher brought to America. I’ll give you his address to the Canada camp. If I have a lighter carbon, I’ll give you the lighter.
WALI ALI: You said something before about how working for something in the world might be tasawwuri Murshid, working for some cause.
MANSUR: Yes, I just have many memories of chauffeuring Murshid over on missions, to call at offices, at universities, and businesses, and I could never see any effect coming from all of these innumerable visits and letters, I could never see the effect.
WALI ALI: Do you think there was any effect?
MANSUR: My own secret feeling was that I couldn’t figure out why he didn’t try to be more effective, and why he was satisfied with just this planting the seed, so to speak. Shamcher said that he did die early, and my own picture of him was that he was going through a transformation like all of us were, and he used to describe his transformation by saying, "I am not used to all this love," and he was being transformed by the love, and the transformation—I feel in retrospect—was just beginning, and just as all of us have been subject to Pir Vilayat’s example and manifestation of love, which if anyone doubts, they can see the first pictures that I took of him back at the Ranch when he came there in July 1963 I think 1963
WALI ALI: Were you talking about tasawwuri Murshid in terms of the transformation of his being that was taking place?
MANSUR: Yeah, I feel that he would have travelled more and—this is a just speculation now—he would perhaps have narrowed his interests down, he might have concentrated on the Near East, he might have concentrated on agriculture in India, he right have concentrated on any number of things. If Pir Vilayat was concentrating on establishing Sufi Centers, Murshid would have been perhaps free to concentrate on worldly solutions because he felt he had the solutions to all problems and the only thing that stood in the way was men’s egos. And I refer to that constantly as I embrace further my coming into being as a Sufi teacher, because I am working directly with facing men’s egos, so to speak, in a gentlemanly way, and to me this is the highest possible work for the betterment of the world. But it doesn’t prevent me from trying to see Nixon and Carter and give them information and data. I have a newspaper here that I got on the airplane coming down to Albuquerque, and it is an interview with John Stetson, the new Secretary of the Air Force, and he says that he thinks that the key problem that we have, and the rest of the world has, is oil and gas, and most of it is concentrated in the Middle East and he predicts a war and he doesn’t know anything about OTEC, or he wouldn’t think that oil and gas is a problem. But this is in the highest levels of government; they don’t have the information, and as Sufis—who carry water in the desert, and impress people with their generosity—we’re going to give them the solutions and make them look good in their jobs. And I’m giving it to Nixon, see, as an opportunity to clear his name. I am giving Nixon the opportunity to buy a half an hour of prime time on television, just like he was president, and give an address to the nation, to tell the nation where it’s at on energy, and make the commentators look at his facts and check his facts and he can make instant headlines. And if he can get on and he can produce this plan, in eight years Shamcher and all this can give us everything we want, Nixon is going to turn out to be a hero. And it is in the Sufi teachings that the last note that we strike in our life is the important note, it doesn’t matter how much of a villain or a criminal we have been. If we turn out to be a saint, that’s what counts, and I am giving Nixon this opportunity. And it is up to him to call me, because I know him and I felt his heart when he went out and—I studied Plutarch and the examples of the noble Greeks and Romans—and I just feel that Nixon is a potential great one, who, if he can strike a really positive note will not only clear his name but bring a new era or prosperity to America.
WALI ALI: That would be great for Mr. Nixon.
MANSUR: And America.
WALI ALI: Yeah, right. I don’t care who gets it across, just read this book, A Man called Intrepid, which I certainly recommend to your attention. Paul Reps called it to my attention.
MANSUR: Peter Tompkins, was reading it in Cartagena when we were there.
WALI ALI: It is a good example of how individual initiative and vision changed the course of the world and, and made possible the victory over the Nazis. It is the story of what really happened to especially one man who was head of the whole Secret Service. A lot of these facts have never been able to come out because of the very strict British.
MANSUR: I want to read it, it sounds like Sufi Work, like the work of a Qtub, like the work of the Hierarchy, like the work of the beneficent Forces, like the work of the Forces of light over darkness.
WALI ALI: It was all these things, and there’s about eight pages on Madeleine, Nur-un-nisa Khan.
WALI ALI: And pictures too. It made Reps say that, "Quantity congeals and conceals and why are you folks so interested in building up this organization and centers and making people weak. Inayat transmitted directly to his daughter, Nur, and it is proved by her life and as soon as it gets bigger it gets inefficient." What do you think of that?
MANSUR: The second to last time that I wrote to Reps he wrote back, "Don’t ever write to me again." And so I wrote to him again, and I said, "Like it or not this is the second golden age of Sufism,” and he hasn’t responded.
WALI ALI: You said that when you were at Lama that you found some feeling about what ground it was that you were standing on, what we were, so to speak—when Nur was making his stand and his charges.
WALI ALI: Could you say what that is.
MANSUR: I could just give you the speech that I gave at Lama. The person that had spoken before me was a guy named Zim, whom you probably know, and he had suggested that Nur resign as a permanent member so that he couldn’t intimidate the people who lived at the ISC [Intensive Studies Center] and constantly be dropping the consensus blackball on every single positive proposition that they had for the going ahead of the community. And I stood up and there was a long list of people who wished to comment, because the subject on the agenda that we were discussing was the ISC. I hadn’t said a word until then, and Ram Dass and others had stood up and used this point in the program to make their one speech, and like Ram Dass, I was also leaving tomorrow, and so I stood up anyway, and I told in response to Zim’s comment that Nur [Steve Durkee] should resign as permanent member and I seconded it, and I said, "Yes, Nur can do that," I said, "because when I first came here in 1969 to do a story on Southwest U.S. communities, I interviewed Steve Durkee, and he told me at the time that he was a pioneer and that Lama was the only thing of its kind at the time, and that as soon as other people started doing what he was doing, he would go on to other things." And furthermore when I was here last summer, he said, that he was going to go down and get some land in northern Mexico in Sonoma so he could work all year round and not have to leave for the winters. And then I made five other points and two recommendations, that said—if you want them I can make them now.
WALI ALI: It’s all right—I’m interested in it, Mansur, but I don’t feel like to get it on tape. I can get it from you.
MANSUR: I told them who we were. I had to realize from his definitions that Islamic Sufis were different from New Age Sufis. I find the posters here are saying, "In the Sufi Order of Hazrat Inayat Khan," and I think this is adequate, because the vision is so broad. I heard Shamcher discourse on this in Canada and it gave me a sense of the vision. He said, “Hazrat Inayat Khan represents all the Sufi Orders and Sufi Orders include the Sikhs, the Hindus, and so—it’s just that the idea of having an Islamic Sufi community is a fantastic idea, but Lama isn’t the place for it, and Nur has a fantastic role to fulfill, and being a home away from home for all the visiting Sheikhs to come and they can go to his place. There are people connected with Nur who have been to Ajmer, who say that Chistis deplore what is going on in their name, that Hazrat Inayat Khan’s followers are promoting it. Well, this man’s name is Moineddin; he should be heard in some suitable forum. But it’s just deplorable, at Lama, where these people have certain missions that they sincerely feel, and they are involved in that local politics, so to speak, and it is just giving Islam a bad name. And people said as much, they laughed, but they are very naive in a way, too, they don’t even realize but I’m not letting their naiveté lay. I told Harun that what they are doing is immoral and inconsiderate, and also asked Harun a little Zen koan at dinner time. I asked him what was more important, that Jelaluddin Rumi and Shems Tabriz reach God or that they were Muslims, and he said, “said, "Well, uh, uh, uh," and he got all confused and he said, "it’s the same." So they are just children and they are playing an old religious zealot game and being inconsiderate and immoral and it will blow over like any little stupid thing blows over. Say Allah and leave them to their devices.
WALI ALI: What do you think Murshid’s role is in relation to Islam?
MANSUR: In my final speech, I referred to the letter that he had read from the saint of Salarwala who was Murshid’s teacher, and in this letter he called the dances merriment, and I said, "I have 80 witnesses who danced with me in Toronto and did a love dance that reproduced love,” and I called it "Is love pleasure, is love merriment; no. Love is longing constantly, etc. etc." And I also told them something else about that relationship. I said, “Murshid was supposed to be his student, and he was supposed to be their teacher, and Nur read this letter from this man, but where’s Murshid’s response?” And Nur said, "Oh well this wasn’t to Murshid, this was after he died.” I said, “Yeah, why don’t you read some of Murshid’s response to this man?” I said, “If you look at his response very carefully you would see a very interesting phenomena, that the student was trying to teach the teacher something. The student was trying to broaden the viewpoint of the teacher.” And if you don’t see that and you don’t understand that in relation to Murshid, you are just fooling yourself, that was one of the points that I dealt with because Nur had been presenting all this evidence, right, so I just stood up and knocked it down one after the other. Then Harun stood up, he used to be my chief associate in Los Angeles and now he is Nur’s, he is Nur’s authority, right, and he’s been to a whole bunch of Sufi centers all over the Sudan and everywhere and he’s met real Murshids and he used to be an actor and now he’s got a perfect role, he’s got a beautiful little beard and he’s got the movements of the Sheikhs and he quotes Qur’an and he thinks in Arabic probably, and he’s the one I told the moral in the Shemseddin question to—and why did I bring him up?
WALI ALI: Well you said that he got up to speak after you had spoken—
MANSUR: I answered him as follows, he talked about how Sufis have an inner science that is blah, blah, blah. I said, "Science is not owned by the scientists, there are three esoteric schools in the East, and I named them and I said that they basically have similar inner sciences, but science is not owned by the scientist. No the Muslims can’t claim a science; it is also owned by the Buddhists and the Vedantists. This is all in my final speech at Lama. And I was so grateful to Nur for helping me to clarify all these things, but I did have answers to everything he said, but the fact that no one was listening to anybody made it difficult for the truth to win over. People had cotton in their ears and that was a sign of the immaturity of the meeting, of Nur and his gang.
WALI ALI: I think that question of Murshid and Sufi Barkat Ali is a very good one because the fact is that people think of Murshid as being very Jelali and at the same time he was able to be very receptive, but even when he was receptive, he said, "I won some of my greatest debates by surrender,” but he always knew that the result of it was unity or union and that whatever was going to be exchanged between the beings would be exchanged by a kind of entropy process, and that his acceptance of Pir Barkat Ali was based on Mastery in the spiritual hierarchy, and not based on form and the ways of the teacher in reward to the forms that he had himself learned. But the way in which a person can teach by being on the receiving side was certainly a most important side of Murshid’s character; it was the kind of impulse that made him go to all these classes in universities that he already knew the subject matter better than the teachers, but he would sit in the class—through the student role—in hopes of being able to bring up something that in the interest of truth would move the teacher and the whole class forward. At least this was my reading of it.
MANSUR: Yeah. I’ll buy that. I went to many classes with him, Huston Smith at Berkeley; Beatnik poetry [taught by Lew Welch] at San Francisco extension.
WALI ALI: He had lots of people go to lots of classes.
MANSUR: F. Hecker Colonna just for one visit.
WALI ALI: What about Saadia, how would you describe that relationship? In trying to understand Murshid, in the way in which he could function in different roles and different situations, he used to say “controlled schizophrenia is my secret.” Do you think Murshid was many different people in many different situations? Or that he had one consistent view that could be put down? About such questions as this one or whatever; for example—
MANSUR: Yes, I think so, the latter.
WALI ALI: He usually found that his remarks seemed awfully disjointed at first, but the more that you would see his remarks you would see that he was encouraging you to make a synthesis that he had already made. He wasn’t concerned with verbalizing it, simply the synthesis, but to keep expanding what was being integrated into, it. But I had the impression, for example, that when he went to an Islamic culture he was able to simply become part of it.
MANSUR: Yes, he had. He convinced Saadia that he was a perfect Muslim, and she was so finicky, if he had made any mistakes she would have caught them, but he was no doubt a perfect Muslim at Saadia’s house, performing all the ritual prayers etc. etc.
WALI ALI: How would you describe Murshid’s way of working in terms of his highest function? Could you describe Murshid’s way of working, or something about his function?
MANSUR: Yes. I told this story in Canada how Murshid gave me an insight as to how he functioned. During the war he got it from inside that Hitler was going to bring in psychic forces to help him win the war, and he asked God what to do and God said to bring in higher forces. He would also tell, in conjunction with that story, how, if you had vision, you had to be so strong because when he apparently would visit an astral body or something in concentration camps and witnessed telepathically the murderers and executions, consequently being in that space you experienced all of the anguish. How he may have assuaged the pain I don’t know, but what his function was, besides witnessing, I don’t know. And that brings up his whole work in G-2 which I don’t know anything about.
WALI ALI: Yes, I always felt that what Murshid was able to do in the other world was the prem, or the mastery or the very end result of it; it was just the tip of the iceberg because he was working full time in the next world, and for him to come down was an accomplishment. And the fact that he was so grounded was a super accomplishment because his real being was in ecstasy or gone, and his hardest test was always to hold himself down onto the earth and to have enough consciousness in the body to see things from the point of view of people in the world that they would be able to understand what he was trying to communicate. And the fact that he had this kind of madzubiat realization or you might say that he was one of the hidden ones of the spiritual hierarchy for so much of his life that this makes a lot of things clear in terms of how he functioned. When he actually became functioning as a spiritual teacher he said, “A lot of these things I got by default because others at the time didn’t take up the blessings that Hazrat Inayat Khan was offering or rejected people in their proper roles.”
MANSUR: Yes, that’s it, I’ll put in a yes.
WALI ALI: To me Murshid was a God-realized being who was functioning in the spiritual hierarchy and at this point in his life it became his dharma to take on disciples and prepare them to carry things forward, to continue the message of Inayat Khan, which he always resisted being made into something particular like Inayatism or something of that kind.
MANSUR: I have a vision of the New Age—it’s so radical, it’s the manhood of humanity. People asked yesterday about the universal worship being some religion or something, and it was just what it was and I just told them the Sufi view of religion and how God has spoken to these different individuals with big ears with a hand toward humanity delivering the guidance according to the evolution of the people and their needs in the language of the time. It is all a part of one vast evolution which is centuries down the road but where people are friends with each other and people are friends with everyone and that the sacred relationship that we play at between teacher and pupil is just this perfection of humanity, which all of humanity will evolve and reach somewhere down the road.
WALI ALI: How do you think Murshid felt about his disciples?
MANSUR: I was such a hard-hearted disciple; I never felt anything for Murshid emotionally. I was in the soul attunement and there was no emotional expression, so I didn’t feel anything, besides being so hard-hearted. It wasn’t until I got a heart awakening in Geneva with Swami Ranganathananda that I feel that I got the love awakening, and then maybe I still didn’t feel anything because I was still too hard-hearted, but you can have ecstasies that aren’t of the heart—I was having those all the time with Murshid—I called them soul ecstasies—my journal is full of times when Murshid said, “Alright, now—now you really are going to go upstairs!
WALI ALI: I think that’s a very good observation, because I know, especially with women too, that Murshid gave them more of the emotion they might have needed to, or gave them more of the heart transmission, or gave them more that they could perceive was heart-transmission because it came in a way in which they understood it. And with some people more than others, maybe with people that did have hard natures, or from an alchemical view their substance was very dense to get through. Murshid was so much the person that had to bring it out in the situation which he was in. Are there things that stand out in your mind?
MANSUR: There was the children’s kissing game. It was a lesson for me on vulgarity, obscenity from Murshid.
WALI ALI: What was that? I don’t recall a children’s kissing game.
MANSUR: Murshid got the kids together at a birthday party and there was a kissing game, and he just said he didn’t like obscenity and that’s relevant because somebody the other day asked me, “Do people swear in your Khankah?” They wanted to find out if we were regular guys. Well, Murshid didn’t like obscenity, so “No,” no we don’t swear in our Khankah.”
WALI ALI: Murshid didn’t think too much of pot.
MANSUR: I’ve got Murshid on film talking about grass.
WALI ALI: I was there the day that you were filming. I was in the office; I heard him after the film.
MANSUR: I was trying to bend Murshid into shape; he didn’t want to be bent, that’s the long and the short of the film interview. It was beautiful.
WALI ALI: You were trying to get him to say certain things that he didn’t want to say?
MANSUR: He just made it clear, he said he didn’t care if dope dealers had shiny faces, he wanted to know what we were doing to feed the hungry people in India. It was just another thing. You can work for good or you can work for better.
WALI ALI: Did you see a change in his attitude towards psychedelics from the period when you first started coming? Most of the people who were coming around then were on psychedelics when you first started coming around.
MANSUR: Murshid never had any axes to grind about psychedelics.
WALI ALI: No, the only thing that he ever said was Joy without drugs and he said, “That definitely is not against psychedelics, you can have Joy with drums, you can have Joy with all sorts of things that are called plants that have a natural vitality." There is a lot of stuff in the Gathas on Everyday Life Series I on some of these subjects, and in other places in his writings. I talked to Brian Carr and Akbar and Brian’s perspective was that when things began to get more formal, then he began to get more self-conscious and less interested. Murshid himself went from Sam to Murshid, and that marks some sort of transition in relation to the way in which he was dealing with people. Do you remember when he wanted to be called Murshid instead of Sam?
WALI ALI: I just mentioned that of kind of a symbol of something that was taking place.
MANSUR: My reaction to your talk about drums a minute before, Joy without drugs was the theme. I didn’t feel Murshid had any axes to grind. I felt that his vision was as strange to him as it was to anybody that he was spiritual leader to the hippies. Because he had done all the other things—he had put on suits and gone to the universities and talked to Hayakawa and gone to Mr. Chaudhuri, so why not go to the hippies because he was a little crazy anyway, and he’d been always a freak anyway
WALI ALI: He found some sympaticos or something.
MANSUR: And then this vision came and he wrote about that later that publically in Towards Spiritual Brotherhood, how psychedelics were lesser mysteries and you could consider them as a scientist and he inspired us to stop smoking and we were willing to change our habits because that was his example, so we did.
WALI ALI: Did you find Murshid a demanding teacher?
MANSUR: I began to feel restricted after about three years with Murshid. I began to feel a little uncomfortable in my role as the secretary that he dictated his business letters to, and so it seemed a natural concomitant because of this that he would push me out of the nest, which he did on the way back from the Lama Foundation. This was a story that I told in Canada, a very pointed story I feel because I feel in retrospect it was Murshid pushing me away to protect me from his death, but at the same time I don’t think that he even consciously knew that this was what it was, and I gave this as an example of bad consciousness, sort of like a puppet. I felt that Murshid had gotten a message from the unseen to “Make a fight with Mansur,” and he made a fight with Mansur over no particular reason, over no apparent reason, and as I told people in Montreal, the way between the teacher and the pupil is such a sacred, subtle way that the grossest thing that a teacher can do to a pupil is to tell him what to do, and if this mere suggestion doesn’t affect it and if this thought doesn’t affect it, that the pupil is much lacking, something else is needed. So when Murshid started a fight with me, this was a very clear sign to split, to make a distance, and I was inspired to begin with a marijuana movie, and I took up smoking again, and this was about six months before he died. And when he died I felt that this was the culmination that I had prepared for, and I was ready with Chinese dinners to feast everyone, but everyone was not willing to join in the feast except Banefsha, I think, and a few people. And I agree with the people that say that he did die too young too. He fell down—he slipped on the stairs on the carpet which wasn’t nailed down, and I had a foretaste of this because one time when we went to Marin County and we got out at the poet-lady’s house, and he started to dash across the street, and I just flashed, “Wow! He didn’t look both ways to see if a car was coming,” and perhaps his ears told him that no cars were coming, but I had a thought, “Oh Murshid is going to die accidentally with this kind of behavior and kind of intoxication in life,” and so several times when we were in London I kept him from getting run over by a bus.
WALI ALI: I wonder if he ever drove a car himself.
MANSUR: I never asked him.
WALI ALI: He was a most aggressive back-seat driver, though.
MANSUR: He had a bone to pick with me that was real because I kept driving by the exits off the freeway. I would get spaced out, and he didn’t like that at all, and it was plenty of a good reason to be testy with me. We would sail by our destination. My thing was not getting high; my thing was getting me grounded. Murshid got me grounded.
WALI ALI: We had just an hour talk with Murshida Duce; it wasn’t anything that she said because I knew, pretty much what she was going to say. She filled in some details from her point of view. To her Murshid was one of the greatest disappointments of her life because he didn’t turn out the way that she wanted him to turn out. And he was such a source of problems for her, and she felt to get her karma straight in some sense or another she had to put something on the record, but all that is just immaterial. She gave me some pictures of Rabia Martin that are valuable and some copies of letters of Inayat Khan, though she’s got a lot more that she won’t turn over, even though I suggested trades of certain materials that I know that we have copies of but she says that these things are privileged communications between Murshid and disciple and contain practices and for that reason it shouldn’t come out.
MANSUR: It’ll come out later—
WALI ALI: Oh I’m sure it will come out. Everything will come out, but what I am saying is that it is filling something in that made me understand how desperate he really became at one point in his life, how utterly hopeless he must have felt about the task that he received from Inayat Khan in those interviews. Because you see what those people did was, they finally got through to him to the place where he questioned his whole sanity, his whole basis as a human being. He felt that he had some supplication or humiliation that he was supposed to have to go through. Ivy Duce felt that those flaws in his personality, which he never overcame in one sense—certain impressions of having been wronged, for example—he just built new areas, he didn’t necessarily ever wipe all those things. They would come up in different ways and they gave him a lot of energy.
MANSUR: They would have if he had lived longer, he would have had to drop those things, because everyone’s now growing, and he would have had to drop that. That’s why, when I look at Murshid critically—he used to talk about his faults—and I could never see anything. Now I see his faults like he might have seen them, and I know that he would have evolved with the rest of us, because that’s what we are doing; we are evolving.
WALI ALI: How would you say who he was, what role he had to play in the world, and what his real being was or is?
MANSUR: Murshid was my friend, he was someone who was kind enough to give love to a little orphan in the world who nobody had ever loved—maybe someone had loved—but no one had ever been grand and given me a vision of grandeur. Murshid was as great as me, and all the time he felt so great, and I’d never met anyone great, and then to meet Murshid was to meet myself. The friendship that we shared was and is something that I don’t even think about that much, because he told me to think about God, and so I went crazy for God, and lost my first wife in the process and found love. I began to go through the experiences that are necessary for spiritual souls as—according to Hazrat Inayat Khan—the way that spiritual personalities are developed is by going through it. God doesn’t give anybody burdens that she can’t bear, and women can hear the Divine Voice sometimes clearer than men, and if you can do what your wife wants and make her say that you'll fulfill all of her dreams and be satisfied with the highest of the hierarchy here on earth with your lady—if you can satisfy your lady and still hear your own inner voice and your lady can recognize that you are hearing your inner voice as you ride your high horse off in all directions, and you can get your lady behind you, then you are free to join forces with Shahabuddin and his lady, and Wali Ali and his lady, and Moineddin and his lady, Amin and his lady, and Abdul Rahman and his lady and together it is a manifestation of the Wisdom of God here on earth as a manifestation of life fully manifested with all consideration for every living being. Then the world is at your feet and you work in whatever capacity you are placed in, produce whatever effects you can produce, acting as if your own impulse were good, and right and justice, nobility, and friendship the wish of God, and then you encourage people to make documentaries about Murshid in the form of his disciples, as I’ve done in Canada. Then you manifest it anyway you can manifest it, and it is all because of friendship from Murshid.
WALI ALI: I just want to say, "Yes."
MANSUR: And all the books of my ecstasies will outnumber the books of Rumi’s ecstasies , or I’ll just sign my name and cross Rumi’s name out of all his books, that’s the same thing and just cross out Shem’s name and write me, and I’ll put Shamcher in the place of Rumi. Yesterday at the Universal Worship I read a poem which I would like to read now, I don’t even have to read it all. The last line has to do with the last dance of Mansur at the Canada camp, and Shamcher joined in, and we did the Murshid dance, Ya Hayy, Ya Haqq, Allah, Allah, and instead of doing Ya Hayy, Ya Haqq I wanted to give the blessing to everyone, and so instead of having one at a time come out, I had five at a time come out in a crescent. So Shamcher came out one time and the line is, “I asked with this affliction, but when Mansur you came, all my youth comes back to me.” And Shamcher, all of his youth came back to him as he did Ya Hayy, Ya Haqq—91 years old, all of his youth came back to him because I love him.
WALI ALI: One more final question before we adjourn.
MANSUR: That is it? What is your final question? Who was Murshid? That was the answer to that.
WALI ALI: That was really the answer to what was Murshid to you. What was Murshid to himself?
MANSUR: Me and you, and Pakistan and gardening and Dr. Chaudhuri, and Dr. Hayakawa, and Hazrat Inayat Khan, and the aura around the plants in Golden Gate Park, and the spirit of the universe, the soul of the world, our best friend, our guide and mentor, our beloved.