Kanya Kekumbha April 15, 1976 (was Norman McGhee)
KANYA: Let's see if we can try to put together a little information about Brother Sam if we can. First of all, I don't perceive that Sam is dead at all; so if he were to walk in the door right now, I wouldn't evince any surprise, because my consciousness and his are still in tune—not in any mystical, spiritual sort of community sense but just the realization that man does not die. The spirit within is eternal; you just take off your coat from time to time and change coats and things like that, and everything is mellow. Sam and I have known each other for many lifetimes, so our consciousness when we met was the same as when we split. I was just the same as it always has been, so we recognized each other.
SABIRA: When did you meet?
KANYA: I don't know; I'd have to sit down and analyze it; when you know somebody, how do you remember when you met them—last night, the day before yesterday? I suppose there had to be a chronology, because it had to be in the fifties, because that is when I went to California. It was probably '57 or '58.
SABIRA: Do you remember what he was like then?
KANYA: He was like the same as he always was with me; he was kind of an eccentric, young/old man. Eccentric because he wasn't going downtown and working as a junior executive; he wasn't a corporate executive, he wasn't a bum, he wasn't a dummy—he had a lot of information—but he wasn't "normal." So that's how I met him and that's how he has always been to me.
SABIRA: Do you remember what he looked like?
KANYA: Yeah, he looked like a Jewish gypsy!
SABIRA: You just ran into him on the street, or you went to a meeting or what?
KANYA: Oh, I don't know, you run into a certain group. I was out there studying at the American Academy of Asian Sciences, where Alan Watts was the dean—and there was a nice Jewish man by the name of Ginsberg who changed his name to Gainesborough, and they were into the politics of having an Asian thing to wait until trade with the East opened up. And then they had all of these interesting, quasi-bizarre types like Alan Watts, and Ernest Wood and a couple Indians and a Chinese, and a Japanese—so I fit right into that group because I was living there. So one day the vibrations were being dispersed and there we were, and I can't really recall when I met Sam; it wasn't like, "Hey, I'll have to get to know this guy, it's going to take me 20 years." No, the same relationship that exists today if he were to walk in existed then when I met him; so it was obviously a segment of a circle. And then for some reason he kind of like adopted me, because obviously I might have been a little different in that I was interested in things that a lot of people weren't—particularly a lot of black people weren’t interested in—in studying, you know. I can't think of more than 2 or 3 black people that were studying at the Academy at the time. So as a result of that, we became friends. He must have also been attracted by the fact that I have since corroborated that I've been Jewish in a past life, so I've got a Yiddish-kupf; I'm a schwarza with a Yiddisha kupf, as they say, so that's an interesting vibration too, particularly so as Sam must have known—I'm sure he knew—that the ancient Hebrew people were black, and that the Jews of present-day America have actually purloined the history of the ancient Hebrews and re-made the history so as to make it read the way it has, but the Jewish history and the Christian history—if you think that Watergate was a bunch of bullshit, wait until you read the true history of Christianity and Judaism. And the books are finally out now; he had a mind that knew things like this. And I had a mind that knew things like this, even though I didn't know that I knew things like this.
SABIRA: He claimed that he came in knowing those things, and you probably did too.
KANYA: Of course! But we forget them! Schools put us to sleep, Yeah, after 12 years of school, and 13 years of college, I knew nothing, absolutely nothing, except I knew that what I had learned in school was not what I wanted to know, that's all I knew. And now that we have opened up a little bookstore, and a school, we changed our diet, we began to meditate a little bit, and now the balance is coming back up. You're an old soul yourself, you should know that. Who are you?
SABIRA: I don't know; I haven't found out yet!
KANYA: Oh, well you should find out; I could help you.
SABIRA: Were you aware that he knew that you had had all these lives?
KANYA: No, we never got into it; I never talked to him about it; I never even thought about it—but now that I am beginning to remember some of my past lives, it seems obvious that this is the case. Like even today there can be people—like you and I are not strangers; we have a rapport going that I don't suppose is normal—so we've known each other in past lives, and as a consequence, what's the point of sitting down and introducing each other all over again? Does it have to take 20 years to get to know somebody?
SABIRA: So were you into astrology then, and was he talking about his ideas, which were at that time very unusual—of how you combine the breaths and the walks and put all this together to find out what one is.
KANYA: Sam did a horoscope of me somewhere in that period of '58, '59 or so. And he always impressed me in a double way. First of all, I never felt that he had ever studied astrology; but second of all, he acted as if he had. You know what I mean, there are people who don't seem as if they know very much, but they do.
SABIRA: He had a lot of theories when he went to the Far East in 1956 and his theories were corroborated. He would meet people, and they would recognize the particular ideas that he had—where no one in America had recognized them.
KANYA: Have his ideas all been corroborated? I doubt it.
KANYA: He had billions of ideas! I'm sure there were some that did happen, and some that didn't happen.
SABIRA: We have files of things that haven't been published yet.
KANYA: How could you publish them? He used to live at the typewriter. He would type night and day, typing a little bit of everything.
SABIRA: Yes, and did he ever discuss with you the particular ideas of his of using breath, the elements, reading a chart and telling a person what their walk was just by reading the chart—that was phenomenal.
KANYA: He sat right there on that same couch you are sitting on when he did that, right here in this room.
SABIRA: Can you relate some of the things that happened here then?
SABIRA: Did he tell you who you were and what your astrological walks were?
KANYA: Yeah, he told me astrologically what they were, but Sam and I had a kind of existentialist relationship, we just would—it's like if you walk by a tree, you are friends with the tree, right? But you don't necessarily stay for a long time and talk to the tree. Sometimes you do, but usually you just meet in passing; and I myself am perplexed as to why Sam used to write me so much. I don't know if he wrote everybody with equal vigor, but I know that I never have received in my life that many letters from any one individual, and I kept them. Do you know anybody that he sent this many letters to?
SABIRA: A few.
KANYA: That's unusual for me, because that's all I can tell you.
SABIRA: There were certain people that he wrote to that he valued their opinion; he also was interested in them, and he got something out of writing and receiving letters back.
KANYA: I never could figure that out; I am only now appreciating the fact that I wasn't aware of it. But I never had actually figured it out. Now you say there are others—I never knew whether he wrote like this to everybody or if he only wrote like this to a few. Who were the others?
SABIRA: Oliver Reiser, Dr. Huston Smith, Saadia, Paul Reps, Shamcher Beorse—
KANYA: Oh, that many; There are a lot already.
SABIRA: There's a lot, but there are more that he didn't write that many to.
KANYA: Like 4 billion more maybe?
SABIRA: He said of himself, "I am known as the man who writes the longest letters and makes the shortest speeches." When did he make you his godson; how did that come about?
KANYA: I don't think we went into it formally; I just think I was his godson, that's all. We just sort of had that kind of relationship where in some strange way he was sort of watching over me; and in some kind of strange way I was picking up on some things he had to say.
SABIRA: What did you talk about?
KANYA: If I had to analyze it, we'd actually just be talking about everyday things—"hey, listen, this is some strange weather we are having out here” and then he might explain to me how the weather is the function of the crops and the fertilizer and all that sort of thing. You do have Scorpio rising?
SABIRA: Yeah, but—
KANYA: That's beautiful; you know, Scorpio is represented by the eagle—which is the only bird that flies directly into the sun—and you have that capacity—you used to be a wizard.
SABIRA: I was told I was a monk.
KANYA: Then you were a wizard-monk.
SABIRA: What about these things on possible romances in Sam's life?
KANYA: I believe Sam to have been a celibate, although he never gave off the vibrations of a sexually aggressive man. If he wanted to grab a woman, it was a grab like you’d grab a piece of furniture and move it over to the other side of the room. I've never seen him amorous.
SABIRA: In one of your letters you said, "I was of the opinion you were going to be married."
KANYA: Oh, I was actually sardonically speaking—like, hey man, what's happening, like I just thought you were going to be married—he would always talk about things like marriage, but almost as if it were a political occasion rather than a romantic one. And I never heard him honestly and truly mention that he was going to get married; it was always sort of figuratively speaking. Am I making any sense here?
SABIRA: Yeah, a great deal; that fits in with everything we know so far. we've been trying to find out if he had any sexual needs—
KANYA: I never felt the vibrations that he was even interested.
SABIRA: The stories of his early life with his parents are really something— it probably would have been difficult for him to relate—
KANYA: But of course he chose those parents, don't forget.
SABIRA: Right. He felt that that was how he could learn to bridge the generation gap for the work he had to do later.
KANYA: And bridge the Jewish gap.
SABIRA: And the Jewish gap.
KANYA: That's a very important gap. You have to go through death to become entirely human, and that's the job we all must do.
SABIRA: He was 70 years old before he was really recognized—maybe a few "Kanyas" but there weren't many who could see into him or understood him. A few of the older people like Gavin Arthur. Can you say something about him?
KANYA: Oh yeah; Good old Gavin: Gavin was like a throw-back to the '30's or something; he would always be living in the '30's, or somewhere around there. And he had all these relics: symbols, and astrological signs and pictures pasted up in a most colorful manner—standing in old milk cases, standing up—that sort of thing. And a few homosexual lovers lying around, and picking up old wine bottles that they had just drank them all the night before. Gavin was quite a character. And you know, he was almost the fall of the Roman Empire personified in the Western world.
SABIRA: Did you and Sam and Gavin get together?
KANYA: We did; Gavin used to have a house out there in the Haight-Ashbury district before it became the drug district in which I lived. It was called the global house and Sam used to come by—he might have even lived there, I'm not sure. I know at one time I lived in a house on Fulton Street where Sam lived—I was on the third floor and he was on the second floor.
SABIRA: We thought maybe the family lived on Fulton & then moved to Harrison?
KANYA: No, but he lived on Fulton Street, he rented a room from a young girl; there used to be 3 or 4 young students living about—or young adults—and we sort of had a commune, sort of a semi-type of non-sexual commune.
SABIRA: What was Sam doing in those days?
KANYA: He was just typing there?
SABIRA: He wasn't into gardening?
KANYA: Oh yeah, every once in awhile he'd go out to Marin county and get his hands dirty—you know, he liked to scruff around, get his hands dirty— he had very strong kind of hands. He used to kind of dirty his fingernails so that they looked like they had been into the dirt, and they had been.
SABIRA: There's a story we have about Sam going to his boss and saying he'd figured out how the problems of the world could be solved: "Clean hearts and dirty fingernails."
KANYA: That's it; that's what he had. And he was friends with nature; she was his girl friend—you know, plants have certain vibrations, and there are those that are in tune with them and those that aren't. He was in harmony with them.
SABIRA: Did he ever talk to you about this?
KANYA: We talked silently—words are not necessary for a certain kind of communication. We could converse without saying a word.
SABIRA: What kind of politics did you talk about with him? What views did you and Sam share?
KANYA: We shared an Aquarian interest; we recognized without really going into great detail that mankind is mankind—and let's get everybody together, please; That's all; we were aware of all the stupidities of both the Jew and the Black, and all the racist groups, you know; Sam did not see what color you were, it wouldn't have made any difference; you could have fifty people all black, fifty people non-black, it's all the same—so that's the way I feel too.
SABIRA: Did you have any ideas about the Tree of Life when you met him?
KANYA: In a nascent stage, I'm sure. You see for a long while I was always trying to find out what my role in life was, and school was of no use to me and the careers that I chose were actually just stop-over points in which I could only last the maximum of two years, and I'd wreck it and have to leave that. And so I was into trade when I knew Sam, but I knew that what I was doing was not what I wanted to do with my life. And so Sam maybe saw further—in fact I have a tape-recording of a record, a horoscope that he did for me.
SABIRA: So you weren't actually initiated? Were you a joiner?
KANYA: No, it was more one of brothers in work, you know. I wasn't going to irritate him so why would he initiate me? (much conversation follows).
SABIRA: When was the last time you saw Sam?
KANYA: I don't know; it seems like yesterday. Maybe 10 years ago; of course I can show you the last date on the last letter, but it must have been here somewhere because I do recall him coming to New York around 1970. But I just don't remember things like that.
SABIRA: Do you remember going to restaurants with him? Did he make you angry at any time? What were some of the things that happened? Some of the things he did were outrageous—
KANYA: Yes, he was certainly outrageous—but you see "outrageous" in my context is normal; You see I don't see it because I'm outrageous myself. I suppose just being here would be outrageous—this apartment and here I'm smoking funny cigarettes and things like that—that would have been outrageous—can you imagine what your parents would have done with that information? Right now or twenty years ago? You are outrageous, so since they think you are outrageous, they've given up on you, right? So that's the way Sam would act—and essentially we did things outrageous all the time, (much conversation)—hey, look at the letters, I'll think of something.
SABIRA: Are there any of the letters that we can have?
KANYA: The whole thing of one's personal correspondence is a gray area; we kind of analyzed the letters for you there—dates and stuff—you can have a copy of that—
SABIRA: These are amazing—
KANYA: Yeah, it's amazing that I would keep them like that, but I only keep things that are unusual; and I thought it was unusual that he would write me so religiously, so I kept them and before I knew it I had all those letters.
SABIRA: How did you feel when a letter would come?
KANYA: In some cases, I would feel, "I wish Sam wouldn't write so goddamned much. He is drowning what he has to say, and it is almost a burden to get a ten-page letter from Sam." Then I have to answer it, and read it and try to understand what it says, and he was super loquacious, to put it mildly. But I read everyone religiously, but there are some parts in his letters that I have to leave for future generations to interpret. They are very interesting to me, too, because they mark my own path of development. And so as I read the letters I can remember where my head was at.
SABIRA: Have you read the things that he has written, what has been published?
KANYA: What has he written?
SABIRA: Oh, "The Rejected Avatar," "This Is The New Age In Person," "The Lotus and the Universe," "Towards Spiritual Brotherhood," "The Jerusalem Trilogy."
KANYA: Any in paperback?
SABIRA: Oh yeah, the last was "The Jerusalem Trilogy."
KANYA: Have you read them?
SABIRA: Oh yeah.
KANYA: Do his books read like his letters?
SABIRA: Some of the poetry—how can you put it into words—some of it could tear your heart out, some was ponderous, some showed his erudition—they had to have been channeled from a Higher Source. They became books after he died; Wali All had a lot to do with publishing them. Did you ever participate in Sufi dancing?
KANYA: Maybe. I remember he was always trying to get me to dance, but I have always been one who is very reluctant to dance—you see being a triple Virgo we have difficulty doing anything but mental work. I shouldn't say being a Virgo—being me—so I've seen him dance. As I said, he danced right in this apartment.
SABIRA: Can you describe that?
KANYA: It was sort of like marionette dancing a little bit, kind of like Pinocchio; in his cute, little childish way he would hop and skip around. Like a little marionette, puppet, no, a leprechaun. Sam was a leprechaun, is a leprechaun, and you know, from one level of consciousness it embarrasses you to have a leprechaun dancing around.
SABIRA: Did he just get up and do it?
KANYA: Whenever he felt like it, yeah.
SABIRA: Did he ever talk to you about his trips to the Far East?
KANYA: He told me about the work he was doing on world hunger. Exactly what he was saying I can't recall, plus the fact that I was so heavily involved in my own little whatever it was, I didn't have time to think about these things. I haven't spent any time at all thinking about things relating to Sam other than the fact that maybe occasionally he might wander into my consciousness, because I might see something that he gave me or some book or something. I have several things around here that he gave me—as a matter of fact, a beginning astrological library that he sold to me for $100, that was books that he had inherited.
SABIRA: He got you interested in astrology?
KANYA: He didn't got me interested in it, but he made it available for me to read a tremendous amount of books on astrology, rare books, for very reasonable amounts. He had all these books that he got from someplace—inherited them or something—and he sold me a whole astrological library for $100—so I had a chance to read some books and get into astrology further. He used to read hands, too, if I remember correctly.
SABIRA: Did he read yours?
KANYA: Oh sure.
SABIRA: What did he say, do you remember?
KANYA: No. Before you came, I attempted to prepare myself by looking through all that material, but it has just slid by my head, because I'm immersed in my own mshugena.
SABIRA: Did you ever meet Saadia?
KANYA: I don't know, I might have. Who is that, a man or a woman?
SABIRA: A woman.
KANYA: Does she have another name?
SABIRA: Saadia Khawar Chisti—she is a woman whom he knew that became his god-daughter—he met her in Pakistan.
KANYA: Have you interviewed her?
SABIRA: No, we haven't been to Pakistan. (much conversation). You don't happen to know the whereabouts of Bill Hathaway do you?
KANYA: No, He (Sam) was pretty good friends with Claude Ehrenberg. Do you have his name?
SABIRA: We don't have that name. What was he into?
KANYA: Claude was the custodian of the academy. And so they probably talked about pruning the flowers in the back and Mill Valley, and maybe about money. Claude had a little money and was going to put it into something, and Sam had some contacts with some the money people around, because he had a brother who was in business, isn't that true?
SABIRA: As far as we know, the brother didn't actually work, but the father worked at Levi-Strauss for 65 years.
KANYA: Wasn't the one of the founders?
SABIRA: He was a vice-president; I don't know if he was one of the founders, there was a grandfather who was supposed to have been the man who invented the copper rivet that helped Levi-Strauss Company become famous. That has only been corroborated by the family, however.
KANYA: Sam was the most ego-maniacal man that I've ever known, he really was—and that, if anything, I think, is what made Sam the kind of person that turned people off—because unless you were talking about Sam—but he wouldn't ever shut up. He would be like an airplane flying over; you can't turn the drone of a jet engine off. It just drones one, right? And that's the way he would be, loud.
SABIRA: You said that you could communicate silently—
KANYA: I'm into meditation myself, but we really admired each other's audacity. (much conversation).
SABIRA: So he was an ego-maniac was he? Did he bore you sometimes?
KANYA: Sometimes. It was very interesting; there were times when I didn't know if he was a jackass or a genius; I'm still not sure.
SABIRA: Could you say how he might have influenced your own life?
KANYA: First of all he helped me to recognize that there were other crazy people too, and that is important to know, because you think along these lines and you cannot find anybody else who does, and then you more and more suspect that the people are right—that you are out and out crazy. So you need people like Sam to help you know that you are sane; And California of course is full of nuts; you walk down the street in San Francisco and people say hello to you, but in New York that is insane, completely crazy; you can't do that here, but I do it anyhow. I was sorry to see that Sam had passed on because I've always had a feeling that he and I had work to do together. You see, I am building my commune, you might call it; I see myself getting involved in getting a large piece of land and people-ing with people that I choose. See Sam would have been one of the ones that I would choose. It's like a communal idea I've had in a tropical land where people can live like nature designed them to live, just like brothers and sisters, and then like humans—meditating and working together, teaching skills, etc—I have some information about it, I'll give you some. I want to go to Brazil, get several hundred acres of land; I already have the people picked out from all over the world to put on this land to demonstrate to the world what living together could be like.
SABIRA: There are some communes like that in the U.S.
KANYA: Not like this. Most of the communes you go to here—the vibrations are very strange; there is not much love in these communes—there is a lot of hostility—it's really very interesting—people so angry— and we want one where there is nothing but love. We have that vibration up in the store, among our family that works up there—and I have at least 125 people already picked out that could live together demonstrating to the rest of the world what communes are all about. Now I have to get back to the store (much conversation). We have problems with the store; it is falling down around our ears and the state is trying to take it away and get a parking lot there, so we have a psychological problem of putting money that we don't have into a building that we don't own and maybe still be kicked out—so now we are going completely crazy and are fixing it up just as if we were going to keep it, on a slap-desk low budget. So we are spending a couple of thousand dollars trying to fix it up, and we’ll see what happens. Sam would definitely have been one of the people—
SABIRA: Sam himself lived the impossible dream—
KANYA: We are very similar in that respect, and I just knew that at some future time we would have been working together on something. We were straight across the board, we were equals.
SABIRA: He probably used you, in a sense, as a sounding board in his letters, because you could answer from a different place than the others he wrote to.
KANYA: Yeah, what I got from Sam was that was somebody that I could tell my wildest ideas to and it wouldn't knock him down; he would just relate to them, "Yeah, that makes sense." So that would be good for my head, and I suppose that in some other way I was good for his head, because he couldn't say anything to me that would flabbergast me; what could he says, "Let's fly to the moon." Come on, then, let's go, man.
SABIRA: He used to tell people to "do something, and if you fall flat on your face, pick yourself up and do it again." That's why people loved him, and also found him controversial too—he would do, things that they couldn't understand—
KANYA: Do you know how he died? He was so wiry, you know.
SABIRA: He fell down the steps in the house he was living in. A lot of people don't know why he died—his family was a very long-lived family.
KANYA: How old was he?
SABIRA: 75. Nobody knows just what he died of: uremia poisoning or whatever.
KANYA: Any foul play suspected?
SABIRA: There are some, who feel that the hospital might have been inept.
KANYA: No, I mean involved with the fall—
SABIRA: Not in a sense of anyone being there—there are lots of stories. Maybe he was supposed to leave so the Sufi Order could come together, so that he could do work on the inner planes—we don't know. Everyone has their own story of what it was like when he passed.
KANYA: Was anyone in the house when he fell?
SABIRA: I don't think so.
KANYA: He was alone?
SABIRA: I'm not sure.
KANYA: I never saw him fall down.
SABIRA: It doesn't fit with what we know about him, since he was so light on his feet and sure-footed, and always knew what he was doing. (Talk about being in hospital).
KANYA: Was he conscious?
SABIRA: Partially conscious.
KANYA: Oh, he had a brain concussion then?
SABIRA: We haven't seen the autopsy report; no one knows absolutely sure. The family was angry, they were thinking about brain surgery but that didn't happen because the family and the Sufis didn't want it to. He was in two hospitals: S. F. General and Chinese, and he died at the latter. And people would experience light and peace when they went into his room after he passed. And certain members of the Sufi Order received a very strong transmission from Sam and were able to carry on the functions of the Sufi Order.
KANYA: And now it is really going!