WALI ALI: This is Paul Reps speaking:
REPS: The history of Sufism is ages and ages old. It's from the beginning of time, the Sufis say, and the Moslems think it's a segment of Islam. But when Murshida Martin, who was initiated by Inayat Khan, went to—I think it was India and the Holy Land, she found the traces and the bases of Sufism in the Hebraic—in the old Hebraic; so she felt that Sufism was much older than Islam, that it stemmed from the Hebraic tradition; so it's rooted in the past. And Inayat Khan brought his message of Sufism to the Western world. And he previously had been a very much respected musician in India, and he gave up his music in order to teach his message, which he called The Sufi Message; and it was certainly from his heart. He couldn't call it Islamic because the Western world was antithetical towards Islam; and yet it seemed to have traces of Islam in it; as it did to the Hebrews, traces of the Hebraic tradition. He delivered this message through speeches; and instead of music, which he had already played, he began to teach or deliver the Sufi Message. Now, this message was from his soul, and he was the most remarkable man I ever met. And so it was as if one's soul were speaking all the time. And we would ask him, and he would say, "Call me Inayat," because he was completely humble and completely at peace and completely relaxed and completely concentrated at the same time. His eyes were concentrated to one point, which was outside his body a few feet; but he looked right through your forehead all the time when he talked to you. And yet, at the same time, he was utterly at ease and said nothing for himself; he was always letting you do the talking and drawing you out. But he was certainly practicing what we might now call “Sufism,” or the mind on the breath, or however you want to interpret it.
And this kind of a presence, with this great gentility and kinglike bearing and rather tall body and complete modesty simply overcame those who had never seen anything like it. They were very much impressed and extremely touched by his sympathy for them, and everyone felt, “Here, at last, is the one person who understands me thoroughly." And feeling that way, with such love, why, they felt, "Now I am really right." You see? "Now I am really right." And the contact and the message dug so deep in their system that they felt, "I am really right; but the other people may be wrong." And so all of these various appointees and representatives of Sufism in the different countries began to have that kind of feeling, and they began to get at odds with each other. There was no end to these odds; and when Inayat Khan passed away, then his brother and his cousin both felt that they, individually, bore the message.
Vilayat was hardly born, and Inayat Khan, or Murshid, as we called him, said that Vilayat would have a very hard life. He did have a hard life because everyone was in these political differences all the time. And, as far as I'm concerned, he only told me to help Murshida Martin. I was glad to do that, but she was beyond help because she always had her own opinion and her own viewpoint. So she stormed into Europe, expecting them to receive her as the real Murshida, but there were other women Murshidas appointed in Europe, and they didn't go for that at all.
She initiated Sam Lewis; but later on she had differences with Sam Lewis. And before she passed away she gave her materials to Mrs. Duce, so what a mess it was! So it was impossible for me to help her in any way. So I simply kept out of it because I felt if there was to be so much assertion and quarreling, that this was beautiful Sufism turned into anti-Sufism. I proposed not to be anti-Sufi; so I just lived a simple life in my own way. And Samuel was living in his own way; so I would periodically and forever be writing, encouraging him. I encouraged him to go to India and all the rest of it. Since Sam had a very hard life himself in his family, I felt very deeply in sympathy with him. And then later—he always said he was not on the Murshid line at all, not on the teacher's line at all—but the young people of America turned him into a Murshid. So he got converted into a teacher instead of the line that he always thought he was on, which was maybe a defense of the Message or something.
But this Message business is something—like if you feel you really should do this then there's something speaking through you to do this, whatever it is; and that's kind of your Message, see? And so, Inayat Khan felt very deeply, "I must put God first. I must turn to the Only Being, because these Westerners are not doing this, and this is what they need." That's what he expressed, and this is what is called his Message. But his Message was his Being, the way he felt about it. And I suppose that he had had a very heavenly mother and a heavenly family life, so there was a lot of love surrounding him since early childhood. And so, it might have been the greatest Message ever; it might have been the Message for the times. It was certainly a most beautiful expression which then, people began, strangely enough, to quarrel over.
Now we come to a living expression of the Sufi with the young people, and there's no quarrel whatever, you see? So times change and people change, and the old folks go and the old folks went, still believing each one was the one right one. And so now we have, beautifully enough, a more living interpretation of the Sufi Message.
Inayat always said, "Call me Inayat," but no one dared to call him Inayat because they were overcome by him; they were overcome by his presence. I drove him around twice at Murshida Martin's request, in my car, from San Francisco to Los Angeles. I was with him continually, and when he would interview people—he'd see anyone who wanted to see him—I would usher them in, person after person for ten minute or longer interviews. So in that way, I was more or less rather close to him.
He was and is a very great teacher. Unlike all the other teachers, the teaching was humble instead of assertive; it was very humble instead of assertive. However, he had initiates which he gave various ranks to, and they fought so much, that when leaving for India he said, if he came back again to the Western world he wouldn't have anything to do with these ranks, you see, because it was misused.
So, this is my simple experience with Inayat Khan. I didn't get into the differences of the views of the Europeans at all. I visited, I think it was the cousin of Murshid who at once wanted to give me charge of America, so I left that place.
Once when I was driving—Murshida Martin in the back seat and Murshid in the front seat—from San Francisco to Los Angeles, she scolded so much about the woman Los Angeles representative that he couldn't bear it anymore. So he said, "Now I make Reps in charge of Los Angeles."
So I turned to her and said, "You must stop talking now." So he had a difficult time. But more difficult than that, I think he realized his life span and he only lived to be—what was it— 42 years old?
WALI ALI: 47, I believe.
REPS: 47, and I think he realized his life was short. And I asked him, "Murshid, why do you organize?" And he said, "Just to reach people." He wanted to reach more and more people. He said to me, "How do you find these wonderful people to bring to me?" But those were young people. There was a time in Chicago when he had an office with his name on the door and received people that way. He was searching for ways to reach people.
Now we have a guru on every street corner, but it's easy for them to reach people because people, young people, will come to them. And who wants anybody but young people to come? The old people are all grooved; they're all set in their grooves. The young people are joyous, and the old people are possessive. So this joyousness is receiving all of the gurus from the Orient, good or bad, it doesn't matter. So the times are completely changed. And I'm talking too much … please ask me a few questions.
WALI ALI: Maybe I should. I'll ask you a few questions and … we’ll go from there. Did Inayat, experience during his life time these difficulties in his own organization?
REPS: Oh, he said to me (he said to Murshida Martin in my presence:) "I can name the loyal people on the fingers of one hand." And he said, "They have taken my organization completely away from me."
WALI ALI: This is what Murshid Sam Lewis reported in his interview with Inayat Khan
WALI ALI: I just saw the recent issue of Sufis Speak; they have several postcards from you in which you report something that's come up in several letters to Murshid: a conversation that you had with Inayat Khan about the prayers. Would you like to say something about that?
REPS: He said, "Do you know, it is amazing that Sirdar is making the prayers so that they'll be just rightly formalized." This amazed me that he said such a thing and at that time I couldn't understand what he meant. Years later—it took me years to understand that simple statement—[I realized] he meant this: he was so honest and his prayer was directly from his heart to Allah, or to God. And then Sirdar, the Dutchman, with his wife, Saida, worked hard—and Sirdar worked hard for years—to formalize all the prayers. Now when you formalize them, you make the wording exactly right, and you make the movements exactly right, and then they are official. But—that's good to do, because that leaves that to other people—but with Inayat Khan, who originated them, his origination was not toward other people but toward his Source of Being, which is just the opposite. That's why he was so innocent about that statement. And if you know the Dutch—the Dutch are so strong in organizing and so strong in having everything right, that the young people in Holland want to get out of the country as soon as possible. They don't like this dominant strength … of the older people.
WALI ALI: I understand Amsterdam is the one exception….
REPS: Is it?
WALI ALI: … which has now become quite an international youth city.
REPS: So, anyway, Sufism was organized. Now, after Inayat Khan passed away, I would go to visit Sirdar in the Hague, year after year sometimes, and he was absolutely convinced that Inayat Khan had been poisoned. He said Miss Stamm was with him when he passed away, and he had gone to an English doctor and the doctor had given him some medicine, and he took one of these pills and it poisoned his intestines. When Miss Stamm phoned the doctor, he said, “If that's the case, give him another pill.” Sirdar was convinced that the English had decided to eliminate Inayat Khan because he was too much of a threat as a world teacher. This is a shocking situation, but I thought there may be some validity in it because [on] the night of his death I was in Los Angeles and it deeply affected me. I could feel that something was happening. It may have been something else; it might have been convulsions or something, or indigestion, but anyway that was the way Sirdar felt about it. Some years before when Inayat had suddenly to leave England….
WALI ALI: You say, “had to leave”?
REPS: Yes, he had to get out immediately because his life was threatened, so he just left suddenly. Sirdar knew this, he knew this had happened, and Sirdar said that this poisoning had happened in the whole line of the Khans for some time back. So, take it or leave it for just what he told me; if that is the case, then Murshid subconsciously foresaw or forfelt his passing.
WALI ALI: Hmm. Now, what about Murshida Martin? How long did you know her?
REPS: Oh, I knew her for maybe ten years or more. she was very faithful to Inayat Khan, and she was his first representative here in the West and the only person he knew. She was very much attracted to him, and her husband was too. Yeah. But she was a stormer. She would continually complain, vigorously complain, that people should be different. I myself don't want to harbor any complaints in my nervous system, so I didn't go for that, particularly. In fact, I didn't know how to handle it. I would tell her, "Don't complain,” but that's not…. (laughter)
WALI ALI: (laughter) I know, it adds more … I know. Was she a real teacher?
REPS: No, I think she was formalized; I think she had formalized a method of teaching people, and I think in that time there was no idea of how to teach, really, except through: "I will give you certain practices, and you will do these practices, and then you come and I'll give you more practices.” That's called esoteric.
WALI ALI: Mmm-hmm
REPS: Yeah. But that might work; and it might be, as some thought, that Murshid's practices and the practices of his brother and his cousin were the things that unfolded their whole inner nature. It may be that, but it may be that we have nothing to do with what unfolds our inner nature; it just unfolds. So, at that time, why, there was nothing like there is now; however, there was … people were immensely drawn to Murshid, and he would give them the different practices to do and that rather cemented their connection with him. But the connection was already made when they met him, and the practices were accessory to that. In other words, it's more electronic than it is formalistic or verbal.
WALI ALI: Yeah. Exactly. Electronic, magnetic.
REPS: It's something that happens instantly; something we're born to, perhaps.
WALI ALI: Why are people so much more receptive today than they were in those days?
REPS: Because they're young; they're young people, and the culture of the Western world has broken down and people see there is no culture. They want a culture, so they turn to the Orient.
WALI ALI: Young people weren't attracted to the Message at that time?
REPS: A few were, but they didn't know anything about it; it just wasn't in their hearts. So, suddenly the whole world changes and all Hindus began to take rebirth in the Western world and they had [a] different mind. It's amazing … how could we explain the change of mind in the world? It's hard to explain. Some people say drugs did it. But it's a complete change of mind that's come into the world. It's like everybody has discovered that killing is of no use; or poisoning the air and the food is wrong; and therefore we have a possibility of admitting we're wrong and getting right. As the older people die off … maybe the young people will make a new world. If they don't, there won't be any world. Maybe a new, younger mind has come into the world and things are going to get better as they get worse. Of course, the future we don't know: that's a conjecture.
WALI ALI: Let me jump to Murshid Sam Lewis….
WALI ALI: How long did you know him as a man?
REPS: I don't remember, years (laughs).
WALI ALI : A long time?
REPS: Oh, a long time, yes. Hmm … maybe forty years.
WALI ALI: He did a lot of writing.
REPS: An immense amount of writing.
WALI ALI: He wrote a number of poems, one of which is named “Saladin,” and I believe this was your name [which] you received from Inayat Khan,
WALI ALI: … which makes [for] a couple of questions: Why did you stop using the name Saladin?
REPS: Murshida Martin told me that was a secret or private name and I shouldn't use it publicly. That was her idea of it. I accepted her idea in that respect. And then, why should I have a foreign name publicly when my given name was Paul? Is this honest? Or do I propose to reject the past and my root from my family and assume another root? And how can other roots, later roots uproot the former roots? I'm a person that likes to be completely honest, so I don't think decorative names are necessary, at least in functioning with the public. I can call myself Flaubert or something, but that's a poetic name; that's personal enjoyment. So I don't think it's necessary to have foreign names. Of course, each name is really foreign. And there is an old tradition in the world that when a person grows up enough to get some kind of inner teaching, then they are reborn and therefore they should have a new name. But this is irrelevant to me.
WALI ALI: I've gone over some of the correspondence [between] yourself and Sam Lewis for a number of years, because this makes for interesting reading … how did Sam change over the years?
REPS: He blew hot and cold. Sam was kind of a prophet, a kind of a Jewish prophet, out of time, and there was no one to agree with him. His family didn't agree with him, Murshida didn't agree with him, yet he had this inner light. So he just kept changing, but always from his own inner light. It was very nice, very nice to see. His writings are too abstruse, too abstract, so I don't go for them so much, but he felt they were his inspiration.
WALI ALI: He said he offered to dedicate the poem “Saladin” to you but you declined.
REPS: I don't remember that. I don't remember. It might have been, but I totally don't remember it. I think the poem is not something that communicates to me clearly. My position is just as an individual to meet another individual and try to be as clear and as honest and helpful as possible to that other individual, whoever he is.
WALI ALI: I think [that] in line with your describing Murshid Sam as a Jewish prophet out of time; certainly he was preoccupied in his poetry and a lot of his thinking with the Holy Land and with somehow redeeming the prophecies of the Old Testament.
REPS: That was later in his life, not in his early life. That came along later as the Holy Land developed in their situation. That came later; that was an added attraction that came to him. He had an inner drive, an inner realization, and it was typically Hebraic; it wasn’t Islamic at all. And yet, as I said before, it’s the same thing. The Muslims, of course, killed the Sufis because they didn’t want anything better than what they had. There’s been a lot of difference there.
WALI ALI: This is a breath of fresh air. There are still organizational differences. As I say, a lot has come together, but a lot has not. And now the world is opening up to the Sufi Order; some with a more traditional setting coming in and doing things their own way. Inayat Khan presented a teaching that was universal and not wedded to any particular approach. But now I think … we made contacts … these people are of course connected with the Mevlevis; and we made contacts … there are Bektashi groups in the United States, there are Naqshibandis in the United States.
REPS: There are? Really!
WALI ALI: This is happening today.
REPS: People are desperate for wanting to know what to do, and so they grab hold of these inner teachings because it gives them something to do, rather than nothing. They can't just sit down and dream or smoke. They want some justification for their life, so they grab at all these inner teachings and say. "Oh, this is good because I feel it's good.” You see, we get so many of them and so many teachings, nobody will know which is which. (laughs) But it all comes back to me. I've got to be honest and simple and direct in my own life, and if I want an inner realization it's got to come out my integrity, not out of my knowledge and not out of my skill in inner life observations. And it's got to come with physical health and physical simplicity. And all of these characteristics you, particularly, have because you've got health and directness and happiness, and this is what I call Sufism. I don't call Sufism something that's initiated or that's secret or that's private or that has a private name, I call what you are Sufism. So stick to it!
WALI ALI: All right, I will! (laughs) Thank you.
WALI ALI: When you say this, then I have only to thank Murshid Sam Lewis and the grace of God … or whatever way you want to put it. Because he had something. And very often he had the habit of making the worst possible impression on people … and, let's say, someone like myself, I'm a Cancer, so I'm a little bit more receptive in a certain sense and thus feel the other person. But there was something behind him, even when he made a bad impression, there was some force; you mention this protective …
REPS: Yeah, that force was his intent; his intent was pure; his intent was very pure. He was going to do people good. And this pure intent showed through, and no matter [whether] he scolded or didn't scold, it was this pure intent that couldn't help [being] helpful. But people didn't see that.
WALI ALI: Finally, young people saw it, because they could see past the outside.
WALI ALI: I think that's it. Let's jump to another sphere, maybe the same sphere: Nyogen Senzaki.
REPS: I met him in San Francisco, introduced by Samuel Lewis, and he was judging a canary show, and there he was with these canaries … or guarding them. I knew him there slightly. Then he decided to move his Mentorgarten to Los Angeles. I was living in Los Angeles, so I was the first one who received him there, and from there he started his little meditation center which he called Mentorgarten, in Los Angeles, and continued until he passed away.
WALI ALI: You've seen the account of his meeting with Inayat Khan, that he wrote.
WALI ALI: Of course, when you get into the history of Buddhism you come into the same problems of ego assertion and organization on the one hand….
REPS: But Senzaki-san knew very well the hypocrisy of the Zen teachers in Japan who had secret wives and secretly got money from officiating at funerals and marriages and putting on the act of Zen instead of the actualization of Zen; and he would periodically scold them very strongly in his letters. And then the young man Soyen-san wrote him about joining a monastery and Senzaki-san said often it was all right to go into a Zen monastery but not to die there. Soyen-san went in and became the head of Engaku-ji monastery. He received me in Japan, as others did, and had a whole house there for my poems and a very friendly relationship. But he didn't agree with Senzaki that he should get out of the official life. After Senzaki-san died he asked permission to give up his temple and go and live the life of a Zen monk in Los Angeles; succeeding Senzaki-san. But they wouldn't give him that permission, so he didn't disobey them. So …
WALI ALI: Senzaki-san didn't practice much ritual or much….
REPS: He had his … he was half Chinese and half Japanese, so he had the Chinese perception of the formalism of Japan, which he scolded. And yet he liked the ritual of the meditations, so he had his own little meditation and his ritual, and it helped him to come to his realization. I always felt he didn't convey how do it. Maybe it's impossible to convey. But he had no function; I think he felt how to do it is just come and be around my fragrance and pick it up silently. But I felt that he lacked the communication of how to get hold of this realization. So I felt there was a bridge that he didn't quite cross. But that's neither here nor there, because he had what pupils he had, and I helped him as I could. He touched the hearts of many Americans, and after all, perhaps that’s all we do; touch a few people's hearts. Maybe we're not supposed to have more than five friends in the world. Maybe we're supposed to live simply. He told me the same realization Buddha had, he had come to that, which is very nice, but I didn't comment on it because there was no explanation of how [one] actually came to it. Well, the answer [is] through meditation. Through still-sitting and through putting the attention in the abdomen and watching the breath and not thinking; stilling the mind, that's very good, that's all along the way; but if you look into Hui Neng, the Sixth Patriarch and Huang Po and the rest of them in China, why, they were rebels when they got their inspiration, and so they had to flee to protect their own lives, those people. It’s a kind of a radical thing when a person gets an original inspiration. Look how radical it was when Inayat Khan should come to the Western world and teach Sufism instead of—why didn't he teach Islam? But if he had, then the Islam[ic] people would have taken him in and praised him. But they didn't want to praise him when he was just teaching his own Sufism, because that's retrograde Islam, see? So any man who stands up for himself and really becomes himself, he's surrounded by many people, hundreds, who have not done that; and then those other people say … they begin sometimes to be against him because they're jealous of what he's been able to do. But take it or leave it, everybody's got to be themselves sooner or later. Isn't it so?
WALI ALI: Who else can you be?
REPS: The rest is decoration. I don't think you can decorate. I think you must just be yourself. But my viewpoint is my viewpoint, which is very radical too. I believe you must just be yourself. So I'm Reps. So I write these books on poetry, and I help Senzaki with Zen Flesh Zen Bones book, but that centering is entirely original on my part. There was nothing like that which is in Zen Flesh Zen Bones in the last part—there was nothing like that in the original tattered manuscript. I made it. So Laksmanju didn't teach me; all he did is hand me some tattered papers, and I remade them. And it's obvious that I remade them because the tattered papers in the original had, apparently, a sexual teaching all the way through, and at that time nobody would take sex as a method of emancipation. So I had to cut the sexual positions out of it and call it “Centering”—I named it Centering—so it was my production. Then I went on to these other books and made my way … anybody foolish enough to waste a lifetime making poems and pictures … you see? But this is my way. So, everyone has got to be themselves if you want to be happy. You can be someone else and be pretensive and be official and be a good organizer, but that won't earn you happiness. How about that?
WALI ALI: What happens when the Message is growing so much and there's so many more receptive souls around that you don't see how you can refuse them, to let them inside of your heart, so to speak….
REPS: You can't refuse to let anyone inside your heart, but if you can confess to them that the organization is not the heart, then you'll clear it with them. But if you're going to exploit them in organization, then you're going to make yourself unhappy, and eventually them, too. So it depends upon your intent and your guts and your integrity as to whether you'll meet them person to person or organization to person. So, let us have less organization. Of course, that's the same question I asked Inayat Khan: "Why do you organize?'' And he said immediately, "To meet more people." He didn't organize for any esoteric reason, but to meet more people. This came out spontaneously, at once! So it must be true. Because what a man ejects spontaneously is usually what he really means. Lets us know that organization is just a function, like we have to organize to write a letter: we have to have an address and say, “write me here”; we have to have a telephone number, even if it's the wrong number, something. So all this organization … there's nothing wrong with it. But, for us to believe that we can get happiness through organization is a mistake.
WALI ALI: Oh, I think this is certainly true.
REPS: If we organize and if we televise and if we advertise, we're on the way of unhappiness, not the way of happiness. My viewpoint is that I will not stay in a room where there is poisonous cigarette smoking and I will not stay in a room where there's television being shown, because it's x-rays, and x-rays disrupt the whole natural system. So let us all get back to our origins and live simply and eat simply. Now a few years ago, which I'll tell tonight, I hope. In Napa (California) there was a big earthquake, a big earthquake. And they had to put all the psychiatric people out in a tent. And they put them in a tent, and lo and behold, they all got well because they didn't have any walls around them anymore. And the psychiatrists got well too. And then they put them back in a new building. They all got sick again. So what we need is nature. What we need is not walls, but nature. Let us put walls, if want to in our houses, but have canvas roofs. But the architects are not there yet; they missed the message of Napa. Bucky Fuller has almost a tent-like construction but he has nothing of the idea of returning to nature. We must have as our sweetheart a potted plant, and wherever we go we must take this potted plant and ask it, “Do you like to be here, darling?" And if it wilts we get out too. (laughs)
WALI ALI: That's like the canary …
REPS: (laughs) How about that! They've used birds that way to detect poisonous air. (laughs) So my viewpoint is quite simple and quite natural; but it's antithetical to organization. I'm not against organization, but … I think we can be happy with organization, if we realize what it is.
WALI ALI: I know what you're talking about: organization is simply another ego, like any other ego.
REPS: Of course it is.
WALI ALI: It sets certain limits to allow certain functions to happen, to build up energy.
REPS: Now, let us put ourselves in the position of Vilayat. He feels that his life is only limited in years and he wants to reach as many people as possible. So, he's saying inside himself the same thing that Inayat Khan said. But we'll all reach just the people we need and no more and no less.
WALI ALI: Did you take initiation from Inayat Khan?
REPS: Yes. But when I met him and when I was with him, that's the initiation. The formal initiation, the giving of Zikr and the rest, that's the formal part of it, that's the follow-up, isn't it?
WALI ALI: As far as I'm concerned, it [is].Whenever you're able to make a connection is the initiation; it can happen in that form or in any other form.
REPS: Of course, of course. Really. And of course everything in cosmos is all interconnected and it's all touching each other, so it's all One. It's One Being. And that's why you can learn from a child. But not many people can learn from a child. Well, that's your fault [that] they can't learn from a child, because you never showed them how, see? (laughs)
WALI ALI: We’re starting a school, by the way, it's only in the stage of training the teachers or beginning to get a picture of what it's going to be. But we'll begin at the nursery level with the idea of having a system, or a non-system, of education, in which some of the things that Inayat Khan teaches and some of the things that we simply receive are put into practice.
WALI ALI: I wonder if you have any suggestions about how to have a New Age school for kids.
REPS: Oh, the kids will show you that, not me. That'll come to you easily.
WALI ALI: Oh, it's coming. It looks very good.
REPS: That's wonderful. You just voice it. You ask for it and it'll come to you. You ask me, but how about just asking, before you ask me. Or ask about twenty me's, see? Then one will come up with it. The asking produces the answer, because the answer is all wrapped up in the question. And then you ask the question and then you unwrap it and there's the answer. No matter who it comes from, it's there. It's living. That's the living teaching. Of course, there's also the very interesting relationship between yoga and Sufism and Zen in that way.
WALI ALI: Things are just happening so much now; it's simply geometrical progression. It's like rolling a ball; it's started rolling and who knows where it's going to roll to? It can only be good; the intention is good, and so on. Some of the people … when you look at your limitation[s] you think, "Oh god, I can never do anything.” And then when you look at the other side, there's nothing to do.
So, let's see. Can you sum up a little bit? Is there anything you would like say? Let's say, look at the man, Samuel Lewis; what remarks in general would you make about him?
REPS: I think he was a man of very pure intent, and I think he was very perceptive and could see through present actions to future actions. I think he was born to … born in the feel of the old prophets. And I don't think his family or many people appreciated who he was or what he was doing. I think he worked hard because he felt this. [He] wrote too much and typed too much. I had hundreds of letters from him; he would just pour out these letters. Finally I got too many. I realized I was taking too much of his energy, just sending me letters, so I forbade him to write me except for a certain number of times a year, which he didn't like. He was very nimble with his perceptions through his fingers by the typewriter.
WALI ALI: Amazing. He must be one of the most prolific correspondents of modern times. I was his dictating secretary the last two years: a lot of those letters he would verbalize, and I would take it down at the typewriter while he was talking.
REPS: Uh-huh. So that's a better way, right?
WALI ALI: Yeah, he said in the end he found that he did his best writing in those last times, when he didn't have to be aware of his hands. I think something came out in his speaking style. It didn't come out in his writing style, except in some instances in his inspired poetry. Now some people are going to publish some lectures that he gave on St. Paul, in mystical Christianity and they have a life to them that doesn't necessarily come through in….
REPS: Inayat told me that the Mysticism of Sound was an immense manuscript, and they worked it down and down and down….
WALI ALI: Murshid's lectures are going to be published.
REPS: Oh, I see.
WALI ALI: We have some materials of Inayat that have never been published. But there's a whole library full of esoteric things that he either wrote or were taken from his own writings….
REPS: It'll be abstruse, kind of, won't it?
WALI ALI: Yeah, pretty abstruse; a lot of practices and things of this nature. Now, to Murshid Sam Lewis, he felt this was the key to the opening of the Message at the time … and he felt his birthright, so to speak, had been jerked out of his hands when these things were taken out of his possession by Ivy Duce; or a lot of them, at a certain period in his life; and it was only in recent years that they came back this way.
REPS: I don't know how to interpret the burning up of Kaaba Allah; that whole house burned down.
WALI ALI: You were there … not when it burned, but you had been there.
REPS: I had been there, I had visited there. I don't know how to interpret that. But I would interpret it that if you have too much writings, why then you might as well burn them up! I think that the teaching of the future will be functional. I think it'll be in pure function.
WALI ALI: I don't know, it happens in a lot of ways. Sam started a lot of stuff. He never got started with his words; he got started in the walk and the dance. And now the singing is coming through as well.
REPS: That's wonderful. And this seems to communicate much more. I want to tell you, they had this … an Earth Day, or one of these large gatherings that happen all the time, up in Davis, last weekend. Swami Satchidananda was there, Yogi Bhajan, the usual crowd of gurus. Swami Satchidananda wouldn't be there except the young people made him there, because he couldn't get into New York or the United States. They swarmed the Customs people with so many letters that they let him in; gave him a permanent residence here. So, it was those letters, he told me, that did it. There's the youth again.
WALI ALI: This is right. Te funny story that came to me or, not so funny, illustrating that function is the key is that Yogi Bhajan stood and looked at this audience of some 2,000 young people and said, “You've been poisoned," he says. “Where is all this love and communion and brotherhood and so on that you had three years ago? It's not here anymore. You're just sitting here like dolls,” and so on. And he put his message across. This is what he had to say. And after this, the Sufi Choir, our group, got up and performed. After they had done about two numbers—they performed for about an hour—everybody was up and dancing. The whole … there was such love and communion and so on and so forth.
REPS: Isn't that wonderful!
WALI ALI: So this is it—it couldn't be more direct. People have heard a lot of words….
REPS: Yeah, that's right. But now, if it is that much of an advance, you must admit it can be improved.
WALI ALI: It has to be improved. When we stop growing we die.
REPS: Therefore the problem is how to communicate not only through dancing but communicate one's deepest and most intense and pure feelings through movement. And this is not through imposed beat and melody but through after the beat or before the after. Yeah, a nice problem.
WALI ALI: It's a tremendous problem when you have … it's easy when you have twenty people, it's hard when you have a hundred; when you have a thousand it takes some sort of mass miracle for it to happen right.
REPS: Mmm-humm. Perhaps you can take a dance and give it and then you'll say, “Now, you've seen this dance, which is better than words, and you've heard it and you've participated in it. Now we're going to refine it and do the same thing again and refine it.” And then do the same thing again and refine it more. So, then you'll come to functional refinement through movement and through dance, and through sound. Perhaps you can do it that way.
WALI ALI: This is one way, I know. We try this in a lot of—something like what you're saying, we do. And it has to be better. It's very difficult—it's easy when people come back; then they begin to refine their own being, and consequently they can enter into a refined state. What we find at these large meetings we have in Sausalito, a lot of people there each week, new, or have only been around a few times—and it takes about the whole meeting to get everybody really together. Then, by the end of the evening, then you can really feel. Then you say, “All right, now it's time to go home.” Well, not really. It's the time to go into meditation.
WALI ALI: I don't believe … one thing Sam never did was bore people with long talks. We wrote long letters and maybe bored them that way, but when he gave talks he was always conscious of his audience, not getting into this overburden of word factors.
REPS: Maybe you can divide your room up into two or four sections, then maybe you can take your dance and give it, then stop it short and give it again, and stop it short and give it again. Maybe that way you can get through to them quicker or better. If you can't handle three-hundred … when I talked there, I wanted the three hundred to do something. They couldn't see me at all. So it's all over if there's no way to even see the speaker.
WALI ALI: This is growing in two ways. We have small classes, and to me they're my favorites … and this is for people who are interested in getting into it in a deeper way. And then these other meetings … the funny thing is, the big meetings attract more people and more people; the small classes stay about the same size. (laughs) It is funny, but that seems to be the way it is. So we figure, well, there's something that's being communicated to these large numbers of people….
REPS: Yeah, and it gives you an income, doesn't it?
WALI ALI: Tremendous. We have no complaints that way, no complaints. We practically live off this meeting in Sausalito.
WALI ALI: Once a week it pulls in 200 people.
REPS: The thing is, to figure out how to make it better with a big group and I think you’d better divide the group and then say, “This group will now do this, and this will do this, and this will watch this when they’re doing it.” And then what I like best about it, you never overdid any dance. The one I saw … it was not too long. The thing is, just like food, eat a little less than you want. But if you eat a little more than you want, then it becomes heavy on you. So, if you dance them a little less than they want, that’s good.
But I think if you danced them a little more than they wanted, they would feel, I don’t want to go back. So I think if you’ll organize it very clearly, say exactly what you’re doing and the time you’re going to do it in; and then they’ve heard what the organization is. Then they can come back again for the next time.
And if the group is too big, divide them into two, have one group sit and feel the music and the other group move. Then, this group sits and feels the music and the other group moves. But, by “feeling the music,” to get the spirit of it; not just the beat and the melody. So, the way you do that is to give the beat and the melody and then the next time you give the spirit of it. “Now, do you feel the difference between this beat and melody and the spirit of it?” See? And then, if you divide the group into two, what we’re trying to get is to refine ourselves through this movement and music. Here is the refinement and here is the beginning. And then they’d say, “That guy is teaching us.” So, it’s like a school; so they go back again, because they’ve learned something. But just to throw the dance itself, alone at them, while they may enjoy it, it’s not the inner teaching so much. How about that?
WALI ALI: The dance gradually takes people into ecstasy; they get high. But the refinement doesn’t necessarily come just by entering into this vibration. What seems to happen with some people is they begin to notice they just feel a little bit better.
REPS: That’s wonderful! Of course!
WALI ALI: And they say, “There’s something behind it.”
REPS: Yeah, that’s beautiful! Yeah, that's beautiful. Just imagine! There are people who are tired of school and tired of words; that's wonderful. What’s Vilayat say about it?
WALI ALI: He loves it. He, in a sense, was the father and Sam was the mother of these dances. I first came around when he and Sam met—they hadn’t met each other before—and I came for the first time the week before that happened. We came and Vilayat spoke over at 410 Precita. He started talking about the whirling of the dervishes. This was fine, but it was just more of a talk … it was words. Then, a month later, Sam started receiving these dances. He said, “I got impregnated! Now I’m getting all the forms to put it into manifestation." You see? And then the whole thing changed; it just … things blossomed after that.
REPS: Because Sam wanted to perform, instead of talk, about them. Ah, wonderful! Have the dances dulled down a little with the lack of love on the part of the young people, or not?
WALI ALI: I think that lack of love is on the part of … people aren’t worshipping gurus as such as they used to. You don’t simply hear, "Oh, here is the great teacher up in front of me. Now I’m supposed to worship.” People are thinking, “I’ve had a few experiences and this is all right, but it’s still more words. Let’s do something. Let’s be something.”
REPS: Oh, I see.
WALI ALI: I feel people are more mature. Yes, they've been burned a little bit.
WALI ALI: They’re more mature.