Remembrance by Rognlie, Paul

Paul Rognlie—7/8/76

SABIRA: Do you recall when you met Murshid?

PAUL: Yes, I met Murshid through Daniel Lomax; I was living in his house in the Haight-Ashbury, and Daniel was known around the Haight-Ashbury as a guru. He had just started going to see a Sufi Master, and at his instigation we all came over to the Mentorgarten, on a Sunday night probably.

SABIRA: The Dharma night?—

PAUL: Or a Monday, one or the other.

SABIRA: What year was this?

PAUL: This was in the Spring of ‘68.

SABIRA: Who was "we?”

PAUL: Oh, my brother Rashid, myself, and some other people who are not around now—

SABIRA: What happened then?

PAUL: We just trouped in, and the first thing I was amazed to find was a middle-class looking house, and I hadn't been out of Haight-Ashbury for at least a year, and it was quite an adventure just to cross the city. We went into this middle-class looking house, there was the smell of incense in the air and I was amazed that it was practically a straight person’s house or so it seemed, except for the religious pictures on the walls. And we walked into the living room and there were people sitting around the outside and a few on the floor and we sat down, and everybody was just sitting quietly, and they were just a bunch of hippies—so I felt more at home—and in walked this little straight-looking guy with short hair, and he just sat down and started talking seemingly just off the top of his head, it seemed to me. For some reason I liked him right away, and for some reason the sound of his voice was soothing, and I was surprised that he was talking about just mundane things, which amazed me. I had expected to see somebody sitting in a lotus dressed in a robe—he did wear a robe—but there was something about the sound of his voice that I really liked, very soothing. Mostly he just talked, and did a couple of very short meditations, practices, and then about an hour into the evening he said, “My disciples can stay and everybody who is not my disciple has to leave now, so we got up and went outside, and we all had to wait for Daniel to come down because he had the car—

SABIRA: He was a disciple then?

PAUL: I think so, if I remember correctly, and so we kept coming back every week, or maybe twice a week—I don’t know why, maybe the atmosphere, or the sound of his voice. But I was scared stiff of him, just terrified, and I don’t think I ever addressed him directly for at least six months—I never said a word to him or I never asked him a question or anything—I just liked coming and I really wanted to be a disciple, but didn’t dare ask to be initiated.

SABIRA: What frightened you about him?

PAUL: I don’t really know, but he was gruff—he had a way of putting people in their place.

SABIRA: (? not readable)

PAUL: I don’t know if I do; he would ask for questions, and all the questions that people would ask would just seem silly to me too, and in one or two words he would show them just how silly the questions were. I could never think of a question to ask him; if you came with questions prepared, during the context of the meeting, they would just seem silly. But he would get angry if nobody asked him anything, he really wanted people to ask him questions when he had gotten through talking. And if nobody asked questions he would get impatient,’ say “Come on, let's have some questions.” He would be very disappointed if nobody asked him any questions, but it was hard to ask him questions.

SABIRA: Did you participate in the dancing? The walks?

PAUL: There wasn’t any dancing at that time, and there were some walks. I remember he started coming to our house on Cole Street on Sunday mornings and teaching a class—and we would set up a big chair for him in the main room, the biggest room, and get all the dope out of the house. Murshid would come over on Sunday mornings and he’d talk awhile and then we’d go out en masse and walk down the Panhandle and into the Park and dance, and I remember that the first walk that he taught us was to be conscious of your feet—“Feel as though you are caressing the earth with your feet."

SABIRA: When did he start coming to Cole Street—how soon after you met him?

PAUL: I would say soon after I met him, about two months—

SABIRA: Before you became a disciple?

PAUL: Yeah. And we would go into the Park and in front of hippie-hill we would dance, and we were dancing already so I’m not so sure that this wasn’t after Pir Vilayat came the first time. Pir Vilayat came the first time in June of ‘68.

SABIRA: Were you at that meeting?

PAUL: Yes.

SABIRA: Can you describe it?

PAUL: Yes. We were sitting upstairs in the Mentorgarten in the living room, and waiting, and Pir Vilayat walked into the room with Murshid, and Pir Vilayat seemed very nervous, but we were all struck with his presence, or at least we seemed to feel an immediate attunement. I remember that Ajari Warwick was there and Rev. Wagner and Ted Reich—and Pir talked for quite awhile and Murshid just seemed to be sitting there in absolute ecstasy. And then there was a question period and Murshid didn’t say much at all, I don’t remember him saying anything. Then somebody asked the Pir, “Are there any Dervishes in America?” and Pir said, “I think there is one sitting right there,” pointing to Murshid. That’s about all I can remember.

SABIRA: What did Murshid do when that happened?

PAUL: He just smiled.

SABIRA: So then when were you initiated?

PAUL: I was afraid to ask Murshid to initiate me, and so what I did was I didn’t get initiated until the next time that Pir came back, which was Jan. ‘69, the next January, and I asked Pir to initiate me—he did it right here (the Mentorgarten), and Banefsha did the same thing and who is Nasima now, and so we all took Bayat from Pir Vilayat in the living room—

SABIRA: Murshid was there?

PAUL: Murshid was there, and I remember that visit better than the first one. It was down in the basement of the meeting room—quite a few people were there—and Murshid was just standing up there beside Pir Vilayat and he kept saying, “I am not up here for any reason except just to field the questions." He was really giving Pir Vilayat the full respect. People were asking a lot of questions. It seems to me we did some kind of—no, did we do a dance at that point—I am not real clear about just when the dancing started—

SABIRA: It is interesting to me that you were more attuned to Pir Vilayat. Why you had been coming to Murshid’s classes?

PAUL: I didn’t feel more attuned to Pir Vilayat—if anything I felt more attuned with Murshid; I was just afraid of him. I remember one night when he said, “Now everybody who is not my disciple will have to leave now,” I tried to stay and hoped that he wouldn’t notice me—at first he didn’t and I started listening to the disciple’s portion of the meeting, and I said, “Good,” and then he noticed me, and said, “Oh, you’ll have to leave." And I left.

SABIRA: But this was before you were initiated—once you were initiated you were considered as his disciple—

PAUL: Yes, Murshid seemed to accept me as his disciple.

SABIRA: Did he give you a name or was Paul the name you originally had?

PAUL: Yes, it was. No he didn’t give me a name.

SABIRA: It was interesting because on Shabda’s tape he said that he went to Murshid and asked him for a name, and then Murshid said, “With a name like Peter, why would you want to change it?”

PAUL: Yeah, that was it, he had a general policy like that—

SABIRA: When you had a Biblical name—

PAUL: Or were named after a Saint, the same thing—

SABIRA: That makes a lot of sense—but then Shabda did get a name change later on—

PAUL: From Murshid?

SABIRA: No, I think from Pir, but it was much later. One time I recall in the Sunseed Transcripts that Murshid said something like, “Let Paul do them, he always does them right. I remember I mentioned that to you once in pageant class, I wonder if you could talk a little bit about that? He was apparently referring to your mastery or the grasp you had of the dances or the Astrological walks—

PAUL: He couldn't possibly have been referring to my grasp in general, it must have been one particular Planet—

SABIRA: Was there one, does that bring one to mind?

PAUL: It was probably Neptune—

SABIRA: Will you talk a little about that? He didn't say, in the transcript he just said, “Let Paul do it, he always does them right.”

PAUL: It could have been Uranus maybe, he couldn’t have been referring to my general mastery of the Planets—it was just a specific reference I’m sure.

SABIRA: How did it go when you did the dances together and the walks? Did you attune to them easily?

PAUL: Everybody attunes to some Planets more easily than others. In the first place, in those days, I was usually stoned, so I was more attuned with Uranus and Neptune, but not Pluto—you don’t really get into the Pluto state when you are stoned.

SABIRA: What about embarrassing situations?

PAUL: The first one that comes to mind was at one of the Wednesday night meetings at the Theological Seminary in San Anselmo, and we were doing Attribute Walks, and for some reason I leaned over and kissed the girl in front of me on top of the head, and Murshid just blew up. He just blew up, he just let me have it, “If you ever do that again, I’ll—“

SABIRA: Do you know who it was?

PAUL: Yeah, I do, it was Yasmin—

SABIRA: Oh yeah, because in her tape she talks about how she was pregnant and she tells how this person—and I forget whom he said it was—kissed her on the head (we had been talking about Murshid blasting people and getting angry)—

PAUL: He just really let me have it; it was amazing because at first I was petrified and then I felt that I was being blasted with a flame thrower—I got really high.

SABIRA: Why do you think he blasted you?

PAUL: It wasn't because of that one incident alone, it was just that I needed to shatter, I needed a blast; in general I wasn't the most serious type and I wasn’t very much help—he blasted people when they needed it; it did me a lot of good; I got, as I said, really high—it seemed to just burn away a lot of crap—and I didn't even really react—I reacted at first, but I didn’t even really get embarrassed, but just accepted it—

SABIRA: Are there any other incidents?

PAUL: I remember that Ajari Warwick said once—because Murshid would yell a lot at meetings—and he start d yelling, and Ajari said, "He isn’t yelling at anybody in the room.” Murshid had a world-wide Fudo mission—that wasn’t his only mission—but he did have a world-wide Fudo function. Some of these blasts were not necessarily directed at the people who happened to be around.

SABIRA: Do you think it was Inayat Khan speaking to him in some way?

PAUL: I don’t know if it was Inayat Khan or the spirit of Guidance, there was no way to tell who it was that was speaking through him—but I’m sure that it had a cosmic effect—if you were right next to it it felt very intense, but it might have been directed at the other side of the room. I can’t think of too many blasts directed at me. I remember one Darshan, I walked in and Murshid asked me a question and I answered, “First when you walked in I thought that you looked just terrible, but after I heard the magnetism in your voice, I changed my mind,” and at another time, at another Darshan I walked in and sat down and all he did was reach up—my Tasbih was like this (crooked) crooked, and all he did was reach up, he straightened the Tasbih so that the tassel was hanging straight down, and said, “Okay, you can go!"

SABIRA: Wow! How did you take that lesson?

PAUL: It was pretty clear—

SABIRA: Straighten up and fly right—

PAUL: Just balance, it wasn’t a moral condemnation or anything like that, it was watch your balance. I knew that he thought that I was way too spaced out, and of course I was. I remember once that I came—when you take psychedelics you get this psychedelic ego—and you have experiences and instead of surrendering you often tend to get built up somehow. I had been talking with some friends and what they said to me was that the reason that cows are sacred in India is because the magic mushrooms grow in the cowshit. I thought I would ask Murshid about that, and so the next time I saw Murshid and he called for questions, I asked him, I said, “A friend of mine says that cows are sacred in India because psychedelic mushrooms grow in the cowshit.“ And he looked right at me and he said, “No, it is because they give milk!” And then he goes on to talk about how good milk is—looking right at me—and here I was only eating rice and vegetables and was thin as a toothpick and was really spaced, and he was talking about how you really need milk, how good milk is—

SABIRA: You were a devout vegetarian I take it?

PAUL: Yeah.

SABIRA: Did you start drinking milk?

PAUL: I think I did start eating a little bit more—eventually I did, I don’t know if I did it right then. I did start to come down a little bit and cool out. I remember one big festivity in the Park with a huge ring of people dancing. Murshid called to me out there somewhere and said, "he has both come down and gone higher.” Murshid didn’t equate Djinn types of angelic types or being spaced in general with being high or being spiritual, he didn’t equate that with being spiritual at all—because the hippies, of course, tended to ‘think that the more spaced you were and farther out there you were, the more spiritual you were—but Murshid set right out to show us that this wasn’t true—you weren’t spiritual until you were balanced! Or until you could function. Of course in my own particular case—it wasn’t until Murshid left that I really began to apply what he taught—

SABIRA: You mean left his body?

PAUL: Yeah.

SABIRA: Did he put you into a certain category? Did he want you to work on the Diaries or did this come later? Some people were definitely told by him that they were to do certain concentrations. How did it come about that you started doing so much work for Murshid?

PAUL: It was my main interest in life, and still is my main interest in life—and it was just that Wali Ali or somebody asked me to do the Diary work—a few people were trying to do a subject index at that point.

SABIRA: In what way is Murshid your main interest in life? What does this do for your being?

PAUL: I don’t want to be exclusive and say that Murshid was the greatest teacher there ever was, and that nobody else was as good as he was—I don't mean to put it that way—

SABIRA: Say it in whatever way it comes from you; however you feel is what we want.

PAUL: I just think that he really hit the spot, as far as I was concerned, and not only that, there was nobody else who could have done what he did for the young people, and he saw so clearly. Pir-Vilayat is manifesting in the same way, but there was nobody that just encompassed so much as Murshid, that had great intellectual mastery, that was so conversant with the world situation; on all planes—there was nobody who on all planes was so masterful—that had so many irons in the fire, that I am just ashamed of myself for when he was around for being practically no help at all. I had really no conception of what he was doing, what the scope of his mission was, I knew right away from the moment that I walked into the room that this was the teacher for me, but I really had no concept of what he was doing—until I started in on the Diaries and saw all the irons in the fire—

SABIRA: Very few people did, Paul. So you got over being afraid of him after awhile?

PAUL: No, I never completely got over being afraid of him; in the early days after meetings, everybody would go up after meetings and embrace him, and I would always be afraid to embrace him. Once in a while I would, and if you were hesitant he would do the same thing; he would just mirror you; if you were open he would be exactly the same way. If you were veiling yourself or hanging back he would do the same thing—as soon as you opened up he would fly out and open his arms to you and bless you—but you had to take a step forward—

SABIRA: Then “Allah takes ten steps toward you….”

PAUL: Yes.

SABIRA: Did he manifest in dreams and visions—did you have dreams and visions about him?

PAUL: Oh, a lot of dreams—

SABIRA: Will you describe some of those?

PAUL: I remember when Murshid was in the hospital after he fell down the stairs, he appeared to me and he just started embracing me—he picked me up and he cradled me, just embraced me—he took me into ecstasy—he was working on the muscles in my shoulders and he said, “God, these are tight, You’ve got to loosen up your shoulders, there is a terrible block there." He was just carrying me around like a baby, just embracing me, it was a wonderful experience. I don’t know, I can’t remember too many of the details, and I haven’t kept my personal diary up—

SABIRA: He really knew where you hurt and he came right to that place—

PAUL: I remember that I would sometimes come to meetings stoned on acid, and when I was stoned on acid—of course I am sure it is the same with everybody—I wouldn’t think of getting into an automobile or any kind of discordant vibration, it was just unbearable. I remember walking into the Theological Seminary when I was stoned and Murshid would be talking real loud and you would think that the vibrations would be harsh—but stoned on acid, it was just the most soothing thing you can imagine—even when he was yelling it was just soothing, he just bathed you in this feeling of bliss, it was amazing—and for me that was a real test—the acid test! Because you are just so sensitive to anything that is heard and you get around Murshid and you’d just be in bliss no matter if he were yelling or complaining or regardless of what he was doing, it was amazing!

SABIRA: Was he aware that there were people coming to meetings that way?

PAUL: I’m sure he was aware of it. I don’t know whether he was trying to figure out if they had taken this or taken that—or were just in that state—it was pretty much all the same to him. He wasn’t surprised that people were in psychic states, because he was having to deal with them all the time, so I don’t think that he ever felt that this person is on LSD or that person is on that. He was used to it; people were around him all the time like that. People would consider it impolite to smoke right around him, but sometimes people would who were not mureeds or just visiting. I remember one time—he'd seen some people huddling over in the corner in the living room sucking pot—and he said, “Look, if they are going to smoke grass they should do it openly, instead of huddling in the corner they should make big beautiful pipes that they carve themselves and put their heart into it, not hide it.” It was hard to get him to condemn anything—

SABIRA: It’s just like he couldn’t condemn people; he saw the essence, the God, the Divine in people and he just didn’t care about all the outward aspects. I’d be very interested in the things about Murshids personality that you discovered in the Diary, because that is something we haven’t gotten from anyone else. Could you go into that even more in depth? Things that you really felt were Murshid which were so different from someone else—any of your impressions—

PAUL: It was just his ability to go from one level to another and to integrate, really integrate –I’ve never seen anything like it. To him there was just a unity, there wasn’t the spirituality and the material work and this and that; he just saw it all as one, it was s just as sacred for him to be working in the garden of to be working on the world food problems as it would be for him to be meditating on the Buddha or Krishna—for him it was all the same. And his ability to integrate all these levels was unique. In the Diaries, in one paragraph, you have to be very careful not to miss out because he might cover eight or ten subjects, and he might give one sentence which would have more than one subject—and it is perfectly clear to him what he is talking about. And it takes a great deal of attunement and to pick it up—and I don’t suppose anyone does pick it all up . It was so clear; if Murshid would have been in charge of the world, it would have all worked great, because he made it all seem so simple. He really, really embodied Korzybski’s teachings. He really did integrate; he really was not stuck in Aristotelian logic or semantics; of course Murshid was familiar with several forms of non-Aristotelian logic—Oriental forms, and this, of course, added a great deal of richness to Korzybski's work, and I am not really conversant myself with the various Oriental forms of non-Aristotelian logic. But Murshid was in tune with scientists, he got along beautifully with scientists. Nine out of ten scientists, Murshid hit it right off with them, he was totally in agreement with them, and found them extremely useful people.

SABIRA: What I found in a lot of these tapes was that he would approach someone in the very area that they were most interested in, they would be fascinated with him because he was so fascinated with them and interested in them.

PAUL: That’s right.

SABIRA: Did he approach you on an intellectual basis? Did you have discussions with him?

PAUL: No he didn’t approach me on an intellectual basis; he told me “You could be a deep thinker if you weren’t so lazy,” which was true. Intellectually I really didn’t have much to offer, especially when compared with Murshid. I wasn’t in that sort of place; I didn’t really have it deep down, it tended to be only on the surface.

SABIRA: Did that trigger something in you?

PAUL: Oh yes, I knew he was right, but it was several years before I began to put it into practice.

SABIRA: I always experienced you as very deep, but I never talked to you intellectually, couldn’t even, but I just wondered—

PAUL: What looks deep to you wouldn’t look deep to Murshid intellectually—mentally actually he was brilliant—how one person could embody so much intellectually and spiritually! And he found scientists to be in tune with the Divine Unity—there were some who didn’t—but they didn’t reject people or things a priori—they had a tendency in their training to look dispassionately and objectively at that data, observing the facts, then to make their descriptions and draw their inferences from that—rather than making their inferences first and then making the data fit which is what 90% of what the world does—the literary traditions and the liberal arts and so forth—it’s really very shallow—it is all based on a fallacy which is the IS of identity. Of course the whole foundation of “Science and Sanity,” is the rejection of the "I" in identity, to say that this is a table is just an abstraction. It has nothing to do whatsoever on the objective level—and even the objective level that we see or perceive is an abstraction because the scientific event—it’s just masses of particles, but when we see a table it is because we abstract and leave out characteristics.

SABIRA: He could understand all of that because of his background in Buddhism.

PAUL: Yeah, that’s why I said that Korzybski’s non-Aristotelian logic fit in so well with the Oriental grasp. They are the same, like Murshid knew. Of course a lot can be said about the whole heritage of Korzybski, but we are not ready to say it yet, I’m not ready to talk too much about that.

SABIRA: Sometimes we try to get anecdotes and stories, if you remember any of those. It doesn’t all have to be serious.

PAUL: Yeah, I should have come better prepared—

SABIRA: Wali Ali told me that you would remember everything you were supposed to remember, and so what you don't remember probably isn’t important.

PAUL: I remember the first time that Murshid came to Cole Street unshaved, [?] and the Gillette safety razor co." When we used to go on these walks, he used to say, “We are going to make these hippies feel like squares." We'd walk down the panhandle and up into the park and we would dance right in front of hippie hill and we’d walk out and we’d walk right up Haight Street—and there would be a long line of people—until we got to Cole, and then we’d turn down, or sometimes we would go farther up Haight Street I remember one time at the corner of Haight and Ashbury, Murshid pointed to this house, right at the corner of Haight and Ashbury, one door or two doors down on Ashbury Street, he said, “That’s where I lived when I was ten years old.”

SABIRA: How did it make you feel to be in a long line or parade doing walks or whatever?

PAUL: It was fine with me.

SABIRA: You weren't embarrassed?

PAUL: No, I wasn’t embarrassed! At the Haight-Ashbury in those days it was pretty hard to be embarrassed—no matter what you did it was pretty hard to be embarrassed. Every time we would come to someone carrying a musical instrument we would all stop and we would bow—this was part of making the hippies feel like squares. If someone was carrying even a conga drum, we would all stop and we would bow.

SABIRA: What was the reason for that?

PAUL: They were Gandharvas, they were musicians! I remember one time I was with a friend of mine, and we needed to go and pick Murshid up at the Mentorgarten, and we didn’t have any car available. So I got this friend of mine who wasn’t a mureed and who didn’t know Murshid—he was just a stoned hippie—to drive over to pick him up, and I went along. My friend had the radio just blaring. Murshid got into the car, and I was so embarrassed because my friend was being so rude to Murshid—and there was really nothing I could do about it—Murshid was already in the car and I couldn’t say anything. Murshid just asked him, “Could you just turn it down a little bit?” So the guy turned it down a little, it really was terrible. And then when it was time for Murshid to go home, the same guy was going to give him a ride, but then some mureeds were there and they had come in a car. And Murshid said, “If the mureeds can give me a ride, I will ride with the mureeds because we are all one. Whenever I get a chance to be with my mureeds, I take it.”

SABIRA: Did you go to restaurants with Murshid?

PAUL: Yeah, once or twice.

SABIRA: Do you have any stories to tell about that?

PAUL: I remember at somebody’s birthday party at a Greek restaurant, I don’t know the name but there was one downtown that we used to go to, where they have the dancing and so forth. I don’t remember any anecdote—whenever we would go someplace where the waiters and the staff were Middle Easterners or Indians, Armenian, even Greek—Murshid just got along fabulously with them. There was this tremendous camaraderie; they just loved him. Of course in general the people in the East love Murshid and the people in the West didn’t. They appreciated him and understood him. He would walk down the street in Pakistan and they would swarm around him, and the little shoeshine boys would be around him and try to shine his shoes for free. And it wasn’t "baksheesh, baksheesh" trip, they didn’t want to get anything out of him; they just wanted to be with him. He would speak before as many as 50,000 people at a time in Pakistan. And then he would come back to report on his trip; he would go to the Metaphysical bookstore and maybe a half-dozen people would show up.

SABIRA: This was around 1961?

PAUL: Yeah.

SABIRA: Yeah, he would go to a grocery clerk and say, “I’m going here, I’m going there, or I’ve been here or there”—and nobody would even listen.

PAUL: That’s right. It was great for us that nobody would listen to him—because when the young people came around we had the opportunity to listen. And he wasn’t all filled up with a bunch of old disciples—maybe there would have been no chance—

SABIRA: That’s right; that’s why all this had to happen exactly the way it happened. What experiences did you have with his death? Did you go to the hospital?

PAUL: I did not go to the hospital; we had made a list of taking turns sitting with him, and he had died by the time my turn dame. It was quite a shock and a loss, they just all felt pretty lost. For a long time after Murshid died I couldn’t stand to be around anybody who wasn’t a mureed, I couldn’t talk to anyone. I saw nothing of any friends who were not mureeds. I remember going up to the Garden of Allah and just being there to be with the mureeds. It just felt better when we were together. Ajari Warwick came and put us on a big trip—he really scared us.

SABIRA: What did he do?

PAUL: He just said, “What are you guys going to do now? You don’t have a teacher.” Not in these words but words to this effect. Well, Moineddin’s a Caliph and Amin’s a Sheikh and Wali Ali is a Sheikh and so forth, and he goes, “Those are just administrative positions, I have the baraka you may want.” And he says, “If you want the Sufi teachings, I can’t give you that but I have the baraka.” And he just really put us on a trip, and I was just really, really scared and confused until the first occasion that we met down here at the Mentorgarten, a week after or whatever it was after Murshid passed away. There were a lot of people there and we were all just sitting down, and the first thing that happened was that Moineddin sang the Sri Ram the way he used to—Murshid would always call Moineddin to lead the Sri Ram—the call and the response—and as soon as I heard his voice, I just dissolved and knew that everything was fine and my fears and doubts went away.

SABIRA: What other memories do you have or that meeting?

PAUL: That’s all I remember of that meeting. We had to almost guard the body, in fact we were guarding the body, it was in the morgue I guess—because we didn’t want it to be cut up—which they did anyway—the autopsy. I was sitting in there with the body behind this glass viewing thing, and it was amazing what Murshid’s body was like. He looked like a … it was quite beautiful.

SABIRA: Did you touch him?

PAUL: No, there was a glass there.

SABIRA: Yeah, we have a lot of reports that his skin was so translucent.

PAUL: It was translucent—

SABIRA: Just exquisite—

PAUL: Yeah, just exquisite, like a very fine white Jade carving—and without his teeth, I don’t know what it was, but he looked like he was just hurtling through space.

SABIRA: In Joe Miller’s report he says, “You can’t imagine the number of Holy Beings who are in there with him,” some words to that effect.

PAUL: I don’t have that to report, but I do know that the presence was extremely strong, just extremely strong.

SABIRA: Will you tell us something about the Saturday night dance class and how that came about? And how you participated?

PAUL: I don’t know how it came about, it just came about; it was really a wonderful class. We would all bring our charts and Murshid would look at them—and his insight was amazing. He would read it immediately; he would give you different walks; he would give you a walk to overcome the weak points in your chart, and he would give you a walk to use the strong points.

SABIRA: What walk did he give you?

PAUL: He gave me Saturn/Moon/Venus and by looking at my own chart I could see clearly why he did it but it is too complicated to explain here. He would just basically transmute the elements that were in trouble and in difficulty by utilizing the strong points. I saw immediately how he did it by looking at charts after he had given out the walks.

SABIRA: How did he do it?

PAUL: For example, that you had Mars square Saturn and you had a good aspect to Saturn from another planet and then he would do Mars/Saturn adding the strong element which helped the quality that was in trouble. It is very simple, but it is hard to talk about it in the abstract without somebody’s in front of you. He really liked the Gavin Arthur method of drawing the different lines or aspects colors; he really used that.

SABIRA: Wali Ali does too, he uses the colors to tell—

PAUL: And you would have some strengths and some weaknesses and you can transmute elements that are in trouble by adding elements that are not.

SABIRA: Did it work in your life?

PAUL: Oh yeah, in fact I still use it a lot.

SABIRA: Was that a Dharma walk or a Karmic walk or did he do it that way?

PAUL: I don’t remember, but it would have to be Karmic though;  if my understanding is correct the difference between Dharma walk and Karma walk is that Karma walk is where you work out the difficulties and Dharma walk is what you come into the world to do.

SABIRA: Why do you think Murshid came into the world? What was his purpose in life?

PAUL: I don’t know, but it is a good thing he did as far as the rest of us were concerned, His purpose in life was pretty grand; no matter what you said it would hardly be an exaggeration. All I can think of is that prophecy, I believe it is on the Maqbara, “On that day the sun shall rise in the West, and all seeing shall believe." That is no exaggeration at all. And even in mundane terms he was the first American master of any kind of Oriental esotericism, schools of Sufism and so many schools of everything. He was such an integrative force; he was the New Age! He just hit the nail on the head. IS, I should say! That’s why he came into world; it’s pretty grand!

SABIRA: How did he influence your life, Paul?

PAUL: He completely changed it around; he made my life, so to speak. I shudder to think what it would have been without him. I have no idea what he did for my life because it is not a scientific experiment. If we had another one of me that had never met Murshid then we would probably know.

SABIRA: He really was many-faceted.

PAUL: He certainly was. Every person would see different facets. He could be just the most gentle and tender being imaginable and he could be the most abrasive and harsh—seemingly, but as I said, even when he was being that way there was just something about the sound of his voice that was so soothing. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't even know what he was saying, I was sitting there, and after the class I would have had to say that I really didn't know—I was just listening to the sound of his voice, and that is what got me. And if you listened to it on a tape without knowing Murshid, it would sound like a crow or something—but when you heard him, it was just very pervasive, very soft and very soothing—of course it had all capabilities.

SABIRA: Sounds to me like you were picking up energy as well as his voice.

PAUL: Certainly, it was in the atmosphere; as soon as you walked into the Mentorgarten the atmosphere was just part of it. I remember one time—I'd had a very intense, a very strange psychedelic experience—and in the morning as soon as it got light I had to go to the Mentorgarten because there was a class that night, and I was just in a terrible place, and I sat down in the park in front and I couldn't look and they would turn the other direction. As soon as it got light I was out in Golden Gate Park and people would look at me, and they would stop and they would go the other direction. And one person said, "What did you take?" And he walked away. I was in a very weird place; I was communing with all kinds of weird energies. I had gotten food poisoning at the same time, it was a very strong dose of psychedelics from this cookie that this girl had given me—and it was a bad case of food poisoning. And in my Astral sense of smell it was the most rotten putrefaction—so I sat down in front of the Mentorgarten and just looked down, kept my head looking down in the grass, I wouldn't look up and gradually started to feel better. I stayed there all day and it was getting time for the meeting and I walked in, and it was such a wonderful atmosphere, and always the same kind of incense too—sure wish I could find it again—if anybody can remember what kind of incense it was—

SABIRA: You could ask Wali Ali.

PAUL: But I don't smell it around here anymore.

SABIRA: Was it Padmini?

PAUL: It wasn’t that. I ran across it at one point after Murshid had passed, and said, "Wow, that's it, and for some reason forgot to find out where to get it. If I smelled it I'd recognize it right away. The atmosphere was wonderful.

SABIRA: Paul, what about General Semantics and Murshid and that whole concentration?

PAUL: Murshid used to say, in incidents through the Diaries, "General Semantics versus General's Semantics. He referred to the Generals of Semantics like Hayakawa and so forth who were just blocking the way to the teachings of Korzybski and Keyser, and just standing in the way preventing them from being utilized, because they set themselves up or were set up as Mr. Semantics—Hayakawa and so forth. And they had no grasp, no grasp whatsoever of the teachings. As a matter of fact they were in a personality cult, and that is exactly the opposite of what Korzybski was teaching. To be the General of Semantics was exactly the opposite of General Semantics, and that is why I said that Korzybski's teachings are just lying and moldering because of these shallow, Aristotelian philosophers who call themselves semanticists.

SABIRA: Sounds like what Alan Watts didn't do for Zen Buddhism.

PAUL: Exactly! Exactly, the same function. And so, of course, Murshid understood, really understood, the real General Semantics and he used it and applied it. At best he was the only one, and of course nobody accepted this. Of course he had a running war going with Hayakawa and a lot of the other semanticists—the Diaries are full of it. He really wanted the teachings of Korzybski to come out, and I remember at one point in the Diaries he said, "If it's the last thing I do I want to get these teachings out," the teachings of Korzybski—because it makes everything so simple. The natural state of things is universal agreement, and it is just the various and sundry semantic reactions and primitive languages that keep people from agreeing. There is no reason for all the disagreement except linguistic and verbal.

SABIRA: So it was a misconception of communication, is that what he was trying to say?

PAUL: Yes, that is right, but you just can't put that label on it and then stop and say or think that you know what the problem is.

SABIRA: What was it that Murshid was trying to do?

PAUL: I don't know if I can say it in a few words, I am presently trying to master the semantics of Korzybski myself—it’s a long, hard struggle.

SABIRA: What was it that Murshid was trying to extract or purify from this man's writings?

PAUL: He wasn't trying to extract anything or purify them; he liked them the way they were. He just wanted people to go directly to the teachings of Korzybski instead of studying semantics from these fools.

SABIRA: Oh, okay, that was what I was trying to understand.

PAUL: He found the young people instinctively in tune with Korzybski's semantics.

SABIRA: In what way?

PAUL: Because they didn't attach a great deal of importance to their own concepts or—they just had the spirit. They weren't hung up on a lot of institutions and formalities .

SABIRA: This brings to mind a sentence I remember reading in the Diaries about reality vs realism. Does that fit her?

PAUL: Sure it does.

SABIRA: Can you explain that?

PAUL: You know what realism is in literature?

SABIRA: Opinions!

PAUL: You take the grossest and densest elements that you can find and because this is supposed to be real life and this is supposed to be this and this is supposed to be that, but it isn't. Murshid said, "Let's get out of realism into reality"

SABIRA: Oh I see, so that's semantics then?

PAUL: Sure, because most of the world's problems are simply on a verbal level; let us say that the reason that the problems are not being solved is because of blockages on the verbal level. People think, "Oh this is reality, this is the way things are," and that is realism! And that is not true, that is not the way things have to be. But nobody will study anything with an open mind. People have their opinions and they have to make the facts fit their opinions—except for scientists, but they are not perfect.

SABIRA: How frustrating it must have be n to be Murshid to know all of that—

PAUL: Just extremely frustrating!! On any level that you look at it, just frustration. He used to say, "The only thing that kept me from going totally insane was Talbott Mundy, and—was it L. Adams Deck—perhaps, I'm not sure, and this was getting into the international level where he would see all of this. He would see the world accepting Lowell Thomas' version of what was happening in Tibet and ignoring the warnings of Talbott Mundy on Communism. And the same situation in South East Asia with his friend, Robert Clifton—Phra Sumangalo. These were Murshids own experiences world-wide. He had the most amazing adventures in Pakistan and India, but try and report it to the State Department.

SABIRA: In 1956 he was yelling about Nixon, I remember that in the Diaries—Tricky Dick even then—

PAUL: He would say that a newsman or a politician goes somewhere and makes a very shallow tour, shakes hands with a few other politicians or newsman, comes back and reports on the situation in India, that is the situation here. But we wouldn't even bother talking to, for example, the missionaries from the U.S. that have been living there for years.

SABIRA: Did Murshid ever tall to you about his frustration?

PAUL: Not to me particularly about his frustrations. He didn't talk a lot about that sort of thing, you really have to get into the Diaries and be closer to him than I was to really hear and grasp those kinds of complaints. He would do it, but not that explicitly; there were so many details he would leave out. But he would say, "In the Himalayas—it is difficult to get way back into the Himalayas, it is an arduous trip to go way back into the interior and way high into the mountains and so forth—"a newsman at 9,000 ft. equals a Protestant missionary at 12,000 ft. or equals a—"

SABIRA: He constantly blasted the news media, of course—

PAUL: He would say, ”Listen here's another item of not-news,” Jews and Arabs sitting down to dinner together, this is not-news!" Not-news is a hyphenated word; he had a whole list of things which were not-news.

SABIRA: Did he ever talk to you about his Peace Plan?

PAUL: I heard him talk about his Peace Plan; he didn't discuss it with me personally.

SABIRA: What did he say about it?

PAUL: Basically it was really very simple, it was based on just eating, dancing, and praying together. Murshid was willing to pray with anybody; he didn't make people come to pray with him. He would go and pray with devotion in anybody's church or synagogue or temple. And of course this is why the Communists, the Russians, were so successful, especially for example, Pakistan, the U.S. spies or CIA agents, weren't scratching the surface but be Russian were and where would you find them? In the Temples and Mosques, that's where they were; the Russians would send Muslims from the conquered provinces, Uzbekistan and Turkestan and all the Muslim areas that are now part of the Soviet Union—they would send Muslims from there to Pakistan and all the Muslim areas to tell the people how great Muslims had it in the Soviet Union. And they would be in the churches, that's where you would find them. They would be in the Mosques; we would never do that because it is not cricket, it is not fair, it isn't fair, you can't do that. Every time some politician, some Vice-president would go on some World Tour Murshid would have a fit—

SABIRA: About what?

PAUL: He would grind his teeth, and he would say, "This is what gets the news," and it is really all very tragic, it is not too funny, it is really pretty tragic. I think Murshid would have liked Jerry Brown as politicians go just because he doesn't claim to have all the answers. They bring him a complex issue and he says, “That's fine but I'd like to study it, look into it," instead of saying, “This is what I'll do."

SABIRA: Is that what Murshid did, would he say that he would study things?

PAUL: No, but this is in tune with Korzybski; you don't identify the verbal level with the objective level—he called it the unspeakable objective level. You don't identify the verbal level with it, so if you say, "This is the answer," it is a mistake right away.

SABIRA: Murshid said, "I have all the answers, what are the questions?"

PAUL: You can't have preconceived ideas or opinions, you have to be ready to judge any situation that comes up on its own merits on its own individual merits. You can't say, "Oh this is just like that other time," or "These are just like that," you have to just judge each individual case on its own individual merits. You've got to be flexible.

SABIRA: That's is certainly the way he was with people.

PAUL: Oh yeah! Murshid just didn't have any patience with verbal experts like the European professors of Oriental philosophy who were intellectual experts in fields where intellectuality didn’t have anything to do with it. And this was another tremendous blockage equaling the blockage with General Semantics. The fact that all of the university posts in this country until just recently, all of the university posts in Oriental philosophy were in the hands of non-mystics. This is just a tremendous block. And these men were usually Europeans.

SABIRA: They used to have white teachers teaching black students.

PAUL: That’s not so bad. If you don't have the training and the experience then you know less than nothing, and all the verbal information is no help to anyone; in fact it is a handicap, having a lot of verbal information on spiritual subjects. And so this is a blockage that certainly equaled the General Semantics. Of course Alan Watts was into this sort of thing too—Mr. Zen—but these professors from Heidelberg and Glasgow etc.—they would say that there was no such thing as Sufis anymore. There weren't any Sufis in the world, and Murshid would travel and find 50 million, and this was really a sore spot with him. There are so many Sufis in the World, and the U.S. and Western world in general is so ignorant even of their existence, let alone what their teachings are. This is true not only of the Sufis but of all—not only just esoteric schools and Oriental philosophies but all the World's religions, the Western world just didn't really care, or just couldn't go out of its way to inform itself about what 9/10th of the world's population believed, or believes. We have no interest in learning about Islam or Hinduism or Buddhism or any of them. This is a large part of the reason why the world doesn't like the U.S. very much because we are just very fatuous and self-satisfied. We just have a superiority complex, just like the old British have had, and the white man isn't really too interested in what the other colors of people do or think, and this is a large part of the reason why the U.S. is having a very hard time in the World, because we have no respect. I think it is starting to change.

SABIRA: Murshid understood all of this.

PAUL: Of course this is where we lose out to the Communists, because they didn't have any respect for religion either but they would pretend that they did, and they would go in and pray and eat with people to gain their respect. But, the real truth of the matter is that the U.S. has more in common with 90% of the world's population than the Communists ever will because we all believe in a Supreme Being and Divine Unity. Christians are a little confused with the Trinity and so forth. At least we all posit some sort of Supreme Being. It could be the basis of a grand alliance. We could take the power of the Communists right out of their hands. Of course the U.S. would never think of that because it is just not fair—we have to keep the Church and State separated.

SABIRA: We have a long way to go before that happens.

PAUL: There is really no reason why we should be losing out—there are a whole list of places, because we really have a whole lot more in common with those people than the Communists, and should be able to communicate with them, but we don't trouble to inform ourselves about their religion and culture. The misconceptions about other cultures in this country are just amazing. It made Murshid furious that the whole Moghul contribution to the culture of India [?] They teach Indian history and practically leave the Moghul emperors out, and this is probably the most important informative factor in Indian culture. Art history is the same thing also, like he didn't get along too well with the legal Asian Foundations because these people, like Dr. Chaudhuri, and others, would leave out whole sections. They had such an incomplete picture, and they are all preconceptions that really did not have the overview of any of these culture. So Murshid was trying to do it all. He tried to study all the world religions and all the cultures for at least 40 years. He did all of this because nobody else would. He was really trying to do it all.

SABIRA: So that is the reason for this biography, to present this man in all of his many facets so that other people at least have a chance to understand what he tried to do. And his disciples are doing it now.

PAUL: There are many projects that are ongoing, and a lot of them that could be picked up, and should be pick up.

SABIRA: It will happen—

PAUL: I said something about Ajari Warwick that may have been negative, so I’d better set the record straight: I always saw Murshid treat him with the greatest respect, and once at some celebration at the Khankah, Ajari was coming through the front gate and Murshid was way at the back of the yard and he stood up and yelled, "Rinpoche! Rinpoche!" And he stood there and then when he came up, Murshid embraced him. He always treated Ajari with the greatest of respect, and always called him by some title etc. he really made it clear that he thought Ajari was a real teacher.

SABIRA: How is Murshid accepted in the spiritual community?

PAUL: Amongst what I would call the real teachers, he occupied the highest position; with anybody who had even been to one of Murshid's meetings, no teacher would initiate that person without Murshid's permission including Rev. Wagner, and Ajari, and etc. They all held him in great respect, I'm sure.

SABIRA: So you think they all recognized him?

PAUL: Yes, but I don't know if they recognized him completely or not.

SABIRA: Did you ever try to work with another teacher?

PAUL: No, although just under Murshid's auspices; we would often go as a group and visit some teacher, someone who was speaking, but Murshid would actually encourage people to go and sit with To Lun.

SABIRA: Did you do that?

PAUL: No. Or to go to Ajari Warwick—Murshid was very open about it for people to take different kinds of training. I remember that once we all went en masse to take part in the Krishna Temple's big parade that they have every year. A whole group of us went and marched in that. Although I do know that Murshid tried to get an interview with the Swami Bhaktivedanta and he refused, he wouldn't do it.

SABIRA: Do you know why?

PAUL: No, except that [?] disciples, his followers were much more that way.

SABIRA: Something of the same thing happened at the Zen Center, didn't it? Differences between Murshid and Suzuki Roshi.

PAUL: I don't know the local Buddhists in general—Murshid would make sarcastic remarks about, especially in the Diaries, not so much publically. He even referred to them sarcastically as the Buddhist "brotherhood," because there was no local brotherhood, just a bunch of warring factions. Generally speaking, there was no brotherhood, just different sects. Murshid didn't have a high opinion of San Francisco Buddhists or San Francisco Muslims for that matter.

SABIRA: Murshid was ordained then in several Buddhist sects?

PAUL: Quite a few, yes,

SABIRA: Were those the ones that he didn't have the high opinion of?

PAUL: Oh, no, no, most of those schools didn't have any local representatives; if there was a representative, it was Murshid.

SABIRA: So his ordinations took, place in the Orient?

PAUL: Oh yeah.

SABIRA: Oh I see.

PAUL: In Korea, and Japan.

SABIRA: Dr. Seo in Korea.

PAUL: I think he met some Vietnamese Buddhists too.