Akbar (Jim) Simmons and Brian Carr—on Murshid Sam—9/1/1976
WALI ALI: I think the best approach is just to go into things chronologically. What we are trying to do is put together on the one hand a comprehensive archive on Murshid’s life and the experiences of people around him, which I intend to draw from—I am writing a biography. It was his intention that a biography be written, and I think there is interest now, so I am going to write it, and then I will feel that I have basically discharged my trust with regard to his writings and so on, and so we are trying to just gather as much information as we can on all the different periods, and, it is quite interesting as you might imagine—many different lives in one life. And I just got a communication from a man in India named Fayazuddin Chishti who knew Murshid from his first visit there in 1956, and he said, "Oh yes, when I first met him he was going around cleaning all the Mosques, sweeping out all the Mosques in Hyderabad." It’s funny, he used to tell certain stories which he would repeat over and over again which people couldn’t understand, and which didn’t seem very important, on one hand, and some other things that actually happened he wouldn’t ever mention, that maybe would have shown him up in a better light or something. He said, "Oh yeah, he was cleaning, he just went around for months sweeping out all the Mosques." Anyway you met him before Brian, is that right Akbar?
AKBAR: I think I did meet Murshid shortly before Brian did.
WALI ALI: It was in 1966 or ‘67?
AKBAR: 1966, and I believe it was December or possibly even November of 1966.
WALI ALI: And at that time he was living on Clementina Street?
AKBAR: Clementina, that is correct; I was introduced to Murshid by, as I understand it, his first disciple Clarke Brown—
WALI ALI: That was Clarke—
AKBAR: Clarke L. Brown.
WALI ALI: Do you know where he is by any way?
AKBAR: Clarke is in Idaho.
WALI ALI: Do you have an address for him?
AKBAR: I think that you can reach him at…
WALI ALI: He’s not in jail is he?
AKBAR: No, he’s not; he’s gone straight.
BRIAN: I reported to Sabira that he said that he didn’t want to talk about it.
AKBAR: I’m not sure; I think that he can be reached, and I can’t swear to it by writing; General Delivery, McCall, Idaho, and I hear from him from time to time—in fact his own personal business, he has gotten into working with turquoise, and he is a jeweler or something.
AKBAR: McCall, I believe that is the correct spelling.
WALI ALI: You were introduced to him by Clarke, and were some other people on the scene at that point?
AKBAR: There was Howard Mussell who I believe was a very early disciple—
WALI ALI: I don’t know that he ever initiated—
AKBAR: He may not have been initiated; I thought he was, but perhaps he wasn’t, and a friend of Howard Mussell’s, a Wayne, who I don’t know his last name, and those were the only three people that I knew of who were in the group when I first came in officially.
BRIAN: They actually supported Murshid.
AKBAR: Clarke would make contributions to Murshid, and I don’t know the monetary…
WALI ALI: His trust at that point hadn’t particularly come through; he was living on a pretty low level on Clementina Street.
AKBAR: That’s right, and he needed monetary assistance, and Clarke provided that, and Howard may have contributed also.
WALI ALI: Howard I think is in the area, but I haven’t been able to reach him.
AKBAR: Once again, the best way to get to Howard Mussell is through Clarke Brown. I believe that Howard Mussell is living up near Santa Rosa on a ranch—he quit his job as an underwriter with an insurance company he had been with for 18 or 19 years in the city; he purchased a small bookstore near the Russian River, I can’t remember, perhaps it is Guerneville, I can’t recall the name offhand. I visited there several times. Clarke was working there two years ago so he can still be contacted, and Wayne is living with Howard Mussell. So you’ve got all those connections, and if anyone knows where Bill Hathaway is in the Sufi group, I would imagine Howard would know.
WALI ALI: I know that some of Murshid’s early disciples and followers were homosexuals, and I don’t know Clarke’s preferences but I know that maybe at a certain point as things developed, it just didn’t seem feasible, for that reason, and maybe a lot of other reasons.
BRIAN: Is Clarke gay?
AKBAR: Yeah, Clarke was to my knowledge he would be classified as gay—
WALI ALI: Or Bi—
AKBAR: Bi-sexual possibly—
WALI ALI: So we got off because this is important to us to run down some of these leads.
AKBAR: I think that one of the reasons that these earliest disciples fell away, and perhaps I should even be classified in that group, is that part of the attraction towards Murshid for these particular consciousnesses was the fact that it was small and intimate and not highly structured, and I personally have never been that inclined toward tightly organized trips.
WALI ALI: Do you recall when he started being called Sam Murshid, not Sam?
BRIAN: Yeah, that was shortly after moving over here, maybe the second week, we came up one night, and I think Murshid said, "Murshid has said that he wants to be called Murshid, not Sam," maybe the second week he moved into Precita because he was always Sam until then.
WALI ALI: That was in ‘67 sometime when he moved in here; I have that date somewhere.
AKBAR: The first time that I recall consciously Murshid requesting—and I always called him Mr. Lewis, I was one of the few that did—to be called Murshid—we had just been on a walk—I don’t know if we had just finished a walk or were going to begin a walk—but it was outside on the sidewalk in front of the residence here, and he said that he wanted to be called Murshid or that was his official title because he had a disciple who had achieved illumination, and that was the key to any Murshid, was when a teacher had a disciple who had achieved that plane of consciousness, and then they were a Murshid, and that’s how I remember it.
SABIRA: Who was he referring to?
AKBAR: He never really said.
WALI ALI: Let’s go back a little bit in the time sequence. You were introduced to him by Clarke, and can you recall your first meeting with him?
AKBAR: Yes, I can recall it—and how it got set up was that I was actually boxing at the time, I was an amateur athlete. I was working for Standard Oil of California and Clarke Brown was working for M.D.S. (Mail Delivery Service) and I happened to be working in the mailroom for Standard Oil at 114 Sansome Street and Clarke was the guy that came up and dropped off the bundle of mail every day. And he took some sort of a liking to me, and started talking to me about various things, and my father had been into Hatha yoga for a number of years and had developed his breath and posture and what not—and Clarke mentioned that he was a Yogi or studying yoga, and that he had gotten his breathing down to one breath a minute—which I found rather astounding, and that intrigued me, and he claimed that he would take me to a yoga teacher and help me to develop my ability with the breath and even athletic prowess, so that is how I first heard about Murshid. At the time I was on the verge of getting married, and a lot of things were going on in my life, and I made tentative dates to go over and see Clarke’s teacher, Murshid, several times and broke them, and felt a little bit guilty about it, and finally about the fourth or fifth try or something, I did manage to get over there, and that was on Clementina Street. And I remember having all these preconceptions about what a yoga teacher would be like and how he would look and the posture he would be in, and the atmosphere—and they were completely blown away.
WALI ALI: I can imagine!
AKBAR: By walking up those little stairs on Clementina, and it was an experience! And it shattered a lot of illusions that I had.
WALI ALI: What was it like in that house, do you recall? Did you know him when he lived on Clementina Street?
BRIAN: Yes, I had recently come back from India, maybe six months before, and I met this fellow called Kirk. And he turned out to be quite a turning point because he was the fellow that essentially introduced Murshid to all the hip scene as it was then.
WALI ALI: That’s right—
BRIAN: Karl and—
WALI ALI: That’s right, I remember he said that—
BRIAN: Then he said, "Come over and meet this old guy, he is really hot stuff," or whatever he said, Apparently he had been at a meeting on the Ashram, S.F. Ashram, Chaudhuri’s place, and Murshid had been sitting there next to him and got to talk to him. By that time Murshid was very sort of straight, he looked like an old man on Market Street; short sleeved shirts and baggy pants—
WALI ALI: His clothes never really fit him—
BRIAN: Right, right—but Kirk was an outrageous fellow with that big curly hair, which is not so unusual these days, but of course then it was most unusual, but still Kirk never became a disciple. He saw some truth in Murshid that he hadn’t come across to the point that he introduced all his friends—
WALI ALI: Do you know was his last name was?
BRIAN: No, no I don’t—.
AKBAR: Moineddin might know his last name because my impression from just hearing things now and then was that Kirk was a very influential person in Moineddin’s life and…
WALI ALI: I think he turned Yasmin on to Murshid also; he must have turned a lot of people on.
BRIAN: He was like the messenger, Hermes, he really changed things around, and he himself didn’t seem to make a commitment like a disciple, yet still he had a lot of appreciation for Murshid.
WALI ALI: And when did this come down? Was that late ‘66 or early ‘67?
AKBAR: Early ‘67 I always thought—
BRIAN: Yeah, early ’67—Haight-Ashbury was really going—not commercialized, it was just the early flower-acid era.
WALI ALI: You were living over there then too?
BRIAN: I was living over on Fifth Ave.
WALI ALI: And so that was a whole new wave of people that started coming around at that point.
BRIAN: The first time that I went—although I didn’t learn this until afterwards—there was, obviously, Howard and Wayne. The last time I saw them was when I was initiated—they never came again. Jim, of the people that were before, used to come pretty regularly, and Clarke pretty regularly for awhile and then gradually faded out, but Howard Mussell and Wayne, that was the last time I ever saw them.
WALI ALI: Yeah, Clarke came back on the scene before Murshid passed away. Murshid said, "My first disciple is coming back around," and Clarke had been in jail and Murshid had written some letters or something supporting him. A number of people had gotten busted for dealing dope. Krishnadas spent some time in jail; Vasistha beat his rap and I don’t know who else got busted.
AKBAR: There was rather a lot of—and I don’t think I am violating any confidence by relating this, but Clarke Brown is the type of personality that wouldn’t even get a parking ticket, and he led a very rigid, absolutely straight existence all his life, and still does, and I believe he is getting pretty close to 50 now, so at the time he was maybe 35, or 37, 38 or whatever he was; he was busted because he kind of fell in with a young guy who like a lot of other young guys who smoked a lot of grass. In order to humor this fellow, Clarke was into growing things, and being a nurseryman, he built a greenhouse and this guy came out and threw a bunch of grass in there and raised quite an enormous crop, and Clarke was just going along with this and I think he knew what he was doing. He knew that it was illegal, he knew it was marijuana, he may have smoked it once or twice, but he wouldn’t get as high as he would off of a martini (quote, unquote), and he wasn’t really interested in it, but then his imagination got carried away, number one with assisting in the fantasy that his young friend had of making a lot of money. So Clarke kind of got left holding the bag as it turned out, and he didn’t really initiate the whole thing, and took the rap, so to speak, for this other guy—
WALI ALI: That was when they were turning out raps for them—
AKBAR: He served, I think, the better part of three years in prison, in Salem, Oregon or something.
WALI ALI: To get back onto the chronological stream—what were those early meetings like? I know they were different from the later ones when people were doing dancing.
BRIAN: Yeah, the interesting thing was that when Murshid first started teaching he was not a Sufi teacher, he would teach a little Buddhism, a little Yoga; in fact, before I got over the idea that I would like to join the group, I didn’t really understand exactly what initiation was, until it actually happened. But before that he said, "Do you want to study Buddhism or Sufism," and he gave me a couple of books to look at, and he was very versatile. And for exercises—it was long before dancing—he would do walks and certain kinds of breathing.
WALI ALI: Did you mention something on the turning point (?) (several voices at one here)—
BRIAN: No, he did many different things(?)
AKBAR: Yeah, because on Sunday night he had like a Buddhist night, and then maybe Saturday…
WALI ALI: But he began to more and more try to fulfill the Sufi line. The Buddhist thing he never organized; he gave out these teachings, but there wasn’t anything as a whole. The Sufi thing, he plugged into the whole—he gave grades of initiation, and he initiated people as Caliphs and Sheikhs, and he gave the whole connection with the whole esoteric study program of Inayat Khan and all that stuff, so he decided to emphasize the Sufi line at a certain point. And of course also, the hospital experience was a turning point—now I want to build up to that because I know you even took him to the hospital.
AKBAR: I did take him to the hospital. I might add a few other things that I observed, Wali Ali, and that was—you asked originally how the first meetings were—it was a hodgepodge in my memory of a lot of different, very colorful characters—in fact I think one of the gentlemen that I vaguely remember, I think later became the Cosmic messiah over on Telegraph Avenue.
WALI ALI: Alan Noonan?
AKBAR: Yes, because I specifically remember him inviting me to his restaurant in the Haight-Ashbury, to have some food and I remember sitting there, and coming from a very straight background, nodding my head in assent, but not really understanding or agreeing with everything that was being said about the experiences people had had, and I remember him talking about…
WALI ALI: Were they into flying saucers at that time?
AKBAR: He was into flying saucers, and other beings, and Murshid would let people talk, and it was more like a sharing experience. My first remembrance of what Murshid had me do, I believe, was when he would talk about the different centers, and then he had us look at our feet and then share the experience, with the group of what we had experienced and also look at different things on the wall, and then talk about what we had seen or what had happened after a little meditation. That is all that I remember of the first meetings, and also the thing that stuck in my mind was that there was a certain amount of—I don’t know if bitterness was the correct word—but there was a certain amount of what might be classified as that in regards to the fact that he wasn’t acknowledged or accepted as a leader.
WALI ALI: As a spiritual teacher.
AKBAR: Yeah, and there was a lot of what I would call political intrigue in that there was bickering and some fighting going on, and I think that that is what eventually led him to becoming more and more of what you might call a traditionalist as far as Sufism is concerned because he gained more and more acceptance as he began to have more influence over a greater circle of people. That’s what I saw, and I don’t know whether that is accurate or not, but Clarke used to talk to me about it, and maybe I got a lot of that second-hand from Clarke.
WALI ALI: He would also talk about his whole family background, with a lot of bitterness.
BRIAN: Absolutely, I remember him saying that he was in pain for the first thirty years of his life. His parents hated him; they called him the "ugly duckling," and he learned to overcome that be projecting his voice with a Rama chant, so here was a fellah who was under tremendous pressure. He probably didn’t look that handsome, he was fairly short, he didn’t come up to expectations of a traditional Jewish family perhaps, and probably with his personality he seemed to meet opposition. He used to say in meetings, "When people oppose me I go high," and so there was probably an adrenaline rush that gave him a slightly altered consciousness that would activate his mind instead his emotions and he would challenge people, and over the years it seemed that he had a lot of enemies—real enemies—for instance at the Zen Center he was banned. He had been to Japan and he had met real Zen people, Suzuki was very gentle fellow, they probably didn’t turn out any enlightened people however, or none whatever. But he was in to Soto Zen, it is very gentle. And Murshid would ask awkward questions.
WALI ALI: Did you ever go over there with him?
WALI ALI: But this is just what your remember Murshid saying about it?
BRIAN: No, I was told that he was banned from the Zen Center; I forget who told me I did go to a meeting with him on the death of God at the University of Calif.
WALI ALI: Oh you did?
BRIAN: And he…
WALI ALI: …he lambasted the professor?
BRIAN: Yeah, and unfortunately the way it came across is in a very loud voice, and he would just tear into these people, and they would just turn off to him. They ignored him; they wouldn’t listen to what he was saying because of—I think he must have said it one time—he didn’t have a well accepted personality.
WALI ALI: No, he didn’t.
BRIAN: He described himself to Gavin Arthur as a rhinoceros, and still, in all, he had a lot of truth to say—he said that he had a "boy-next-door complex" as well. People—because they were so used to him—they didn’t listen to what he was saying, so he made a lot of real enemies, probably even in later years right up to ‘68/’69. If Dr. Chaudhuri’s name was mentioned he would lose control.
WALI ALI: Oh I know! Hayakawa’s another one.
AKBAR: The would-be Senator?
WALI ALI: Yeah, right. He would really be on the case knowing that Hayakawa’s got a chance to get elected to the Senate!
BRIAN: But he saw himself in the Fudo role, in keeping the Dharma pure, and he disliked hypocrisy intensely, and probably that’s what attracted him to some aspects of the so-called hip scene, the young people who were reacting against the hypocrisy of their parents. But still, as Jim said, he was keen to receive a kind of recognition as a spiritual teacher probably because of all the karma of all his previous lives. He said one time he tried to commit suicide four or five times up to the time he was fifty-five.
WALI ALI: I never recall him saying that.
AKBAR: I never heard that.
BRIAN: Yeah, I remember him saying it, distinctly, at a meeting. Gavin Arthur, who knew him very well, said that he never had a successful love affair with a woman, that that was all bottled up somewhere.
WALI ALI: This is something we have tried to find out, whether he ever did really have sex with a woman and found no hard evidence to say that he did.
BRIAN: Yeah, well Gavin Arthur said "no."
WALI ALI: Some people have said "yes," but they haven’t been able to put any evidence down on it.
BRIAN: But here was a personality that was meeting so much pain and struggle and opposition and coming through it all, it must have been like a spiritual boost. He went through it, that’s the amazing thing.
WALI ALI: And what you have had to say is very interesting. I want to go back over a couple of points, also to tell you that we did an interview with MaryLou Foster, who is his cousin, who knew a lot about his family background, and the amazing thing was that everything that he had to say about his family was true, even more so. His mother and his father—they spent 15 to 20 years without addressing each other directly!! They had the two boys, Elliott and Samuel, and the father would only speak to Elliott, he would say, "Tell your mother this and that," and the Mother would only speak to Samuel, "Tell your father this," and so they wouldn’t even speak to each other; they hated each other. They just stayed together for conventional reasons. And that is just the surface of it all. He had the most horrible family scene you could imagine; they’ve started opening or to us and we hope to interview others—MaryLou’s mother Mildred in Texas—it is quite extraordinary and one can understand why he said he felt a special sympathy for these hippies who were reacting to their parents because he had such a tough time with his parents. He could be like an ersatz father or grandfather to them. He could appreciate what they were going through. I think it is a crucial moment in his life when he came in touch with the hip scene, because he had a capacity for changing his personality, changing his way of life somehow. He had several radically different lives, and as you said, when you first met him he was straight in a very sort of basic way. He couldn’t really be straight in a certain way, but he was straight in his whole way of coming on, in his whole appearance and in his whole manner and everything, and I think that the contact with the hip scene, as it was, made some real definite changes in his personality.
BRIAN: That is an important thing for a man advanced in years. He was very adaptable, and that meeting with Kirk, I’m sure was the turning point—which Moineddin should know about—the other one was that his changing appearance occurred equally dramatically when he was here, and he started to dress up, and I believe it was probably Moineddin and Jemila who suggested it that he improve his appearance. He used to turn up to meetings with his fly open. Very sloppy! He used to tell us that for years all these people who dress up were not really there, it was almost a point with him not to look the part of a typical teacher with a beard. But when his disciples became more important then, or when the thing perhaps got larger, I don’t know….
WALI ALI: It is something of a mystery—I think you are close on it, it is hard to put your finger on why he began to respond and change. I think he put his worst foot forward, in a certain sense, consciously, and if a person could see the truth behind it then he could open up to them a little bit, and it was kind of like he was a little bit of a hidden jewel or something, and it was his role to be rejected unless a person could see past his exterior.
BRIAN: Right! That’s a good analysis.
WALI ALI: And in any case, as people began to see deeper and to see behind his manner, that there was a lot of real love and truth, then he began to manifest that more on the exterior also. That’s just my interpretation of it, of some of the change that came down.
AKBAR: Along those same lines, Wali Ali, I remember—because the image that Murshid was projecting at that time was so out of line with what my expectations—I remember quizzing Clarke Brown about it. In fact, in many ways Clarke was a very close teacher to me, and I remember Clarke specifically mentioning that he knew or he thought that Murshid was on the path of effacement where he would consciously and purposely let himself be very slovenly in appearance, and to get rid of his ego—his false ego—so that was one of the things that I always noted, and the thing is in the change in regards to his demeanor and his appearance, I suspect. But of course Murshid always had a longing for a close family, a family that was full of love, communication and intimacy and that somewhere along the line the hippies began to fill that need and he responded to that by filling the needs that they had.
WALI ALI: I am sure that’s quite true. I am interested too in the changes, not so much in appearance as in his manner. Let’s say for example the extremes of not having physical contact with someone, embracing people constantly, and if it is true, or it is certainly close to true that he never had any kind of love life with women. Then that change from that very repressed kind of person to a person who has all these beautiful women—he was playing the role of Krishna in the dance—some very dramatic changes that were going on.
BRIAN: The hospital scene was certainly, because the meetings when he was living on Clementina and living with Mr. Hunt on
WALI ALI: Mr. Hunt didn’t live on Clementina—
BRIAN: Oh, he used to room with Sam—
WALI ALI: He lived here.
AKBAR: He roomed with him on Precita, I, yeah, yeah, maybe he was at Clementina, he was in the back room, he used the back room. I remember now because once in a while there would be an argument or—in fact there are a couple of people that lived right in that building or complex because he used to talk about the old ladies who bitch about all the hippies who started to come into his place on certain nights of the week, and he would say, he made several references as to how he charmed them, or, "You’ve got to convince them that you’re interested in them," or something like that, "then every-thing is alright." So there was little trouble there and maybe Mr. Hunt was in that back room, I can’t recall-.
WALI ALI: He used the backroom here.
BRIAN: He used to be there some of the times at the end of the meetings or at the beginning, and so I assume they had some kind of joint tenancy or some kind.
AKBAR: I think you are right.
BRIAN: Because the day I came and he had been taken to the hospital and Mr. Hunt was in the place, and he said…
AKBAR: He kind of lived in the living room, didn’t he?
WALI ALI: Murshid did?
AKBAR: Yeah, he had—it was like a combination couch and bed affair and…
WALI ALI: Oh, were all his papers there too?
AKBAR: Yeah, it was very unkempt, it was very slovenly, disorganized, and I remember Clarke mentioning at one time that he would try and go over there and wash dishes and clean up a little bit and at one time tried to order the papers, put them in order, and Murshid got very animated because he objected to it—he didn’t want anything touched or moved.
WALI ALI: I remember it was a long time before he ever let anyone handle his papers, and they were in terrible disarray. I have a feeling that was amazing, whenever he would find something he would say, "It’s a miracle!"
AKBAR: It probably was!
WALI ALI: He probably did think that whenever he did find anything it was a miracle.
SABIRA: I recall Ralph Silver saying that he was turned on to Murshid because of the organized disorganization in the house on Clementina. He liked it, he thought it was great—
WALI ALI: How long had you been coming around before he went to the hospital?
AKBAR: When did he go to the hospital?
WALI ALI: It was towards the end of ’67 I guess, I have it in there somewhere.
AKBAR: I guess about a year then, a little over a year, and I remember distinctly that…
WALI ALI: The beginning, about maybe March of ‘67.
BRIAN: Then it must have been six months because I’d only been going for around three months when he’d been in the hospital.
AKBAR: Yeah, if it was in ‘67 then it wouldn’t have been too many months, maybe six months. What happened was: Clarke called me at work, and told me that an emergency had come up—I think he called him Mr. Lewis too—he was sick and needed someone to take him to the hospital, so I left work, and I picked Murshid up on Clementina and I think he thought he had had a cold, a bad cold, the flu, or something that had been lingering on for I think he mentioned two weeks, and I took him to the Chinese Hospital which is where he wanted to go. He directed me, I felt very insecure driving in the city, and we went to the Chinese Hospital and I helped him go into the hospital. I remember a nurse trying to come over and assist him and he refused any sort of assistance, he asserted the role of the master in the Fudo path, and said, "I can do it myself," or "I’m alright," or something, but he was concerned and he called his brother and he told, as I recall, right there on the phone he said, "Listen, I am in the hospital, I don’t feel good, and should anything happen to me I am leaving everything to you." That's what I recall, and after that he went into the hospital and I visited him periodically with Clarke Brown, and there was a very serious point in that stay in the hospital where it was a question of whether or not he would even survive. It was a heart attack; he claimed it was food poisoning, and he never acknowledged the heart attack, but he said it was absolutely food poisoning in one of his travels down the coast to Monterey or something.
WALI ALI: Yeah, I remember him telling the story several times when he said he learned later not to mix blue cheese dressing with wine or something but I know from too many sources that it was a heart attack at that point.
BRIAN: But his attitude might have been relevant in that he didn’t want to psyche himself into it, that it was nothing—
WALI ALI: He didn’t want to give any scope for weakness in his system.
AKBAR: Everything changed. I remember seeing him one visit and he was just starting to come up a little bit and Clarke was asking him how he felt and he said, "Horrible, horrible," He said it was horrible. "You know, I almost lost consciousness, it was horrible." And then he showed Clarke how to expectorate gas. He lifted his legs over his head. Clarke was kind of appalled by that, being rather tidy, but that was part of the Sufi lesson, and then yes, things changed dramatically!! After he got out of the hospital—absolutely!! For one thing he picked up walking on a very serious level, I guess to build up his health or strength again, and it was amazing how quickly he recuperated—seriously, and we started going on these walks into the Haight and Ashbury. I remember vividly one time stopping off at Brian’s house on Fifth Avenue—long walks up hills, very arduous work, although there were exhilarating experiences.
WALI ALI: And he gave people breathing disciplines and so on.
BRIAN: While we were walking uphill and putting the consciousness in these centers that Jim had mentioned that he would lecture on or talking on earlier, so he moved much more into a physically active…
WALI ALI: How many people were going on those walks then?
AKBAR: Initially I think it may just have been myself and perhaps Clarke Brown. If I recall that first walk, it was just the two of us and Murshid, and then as things picked up, and then perhaps as he felt a little stronger, and we were having wonderful experiences with these walks, he opened it up a little bit and the third person would show up and the fourth and probably ultimately the time when things really started to pick up there were maybe four to six people.
BRIAN: Yeah, I would say six at the most.
AKBAR: At the most, that would be on these walks, and I think it was a Saturday morning usually, and I remember it was a very hypnotic effect that the Haight/Ashbury had on me at that time to go through there and see all those different happenings.
WALI ALI: How did people react to you walking down the street in the Haight-Ashbury?
BRIAN: For the first walk, I had hepatitis, I didn’t actually do the whole walk, but I went into the police station with Murshid.
WALI ALI: You went into the police station?
BRIAN: Yeah, and he said, "We want to do this walk for spiritual enlightenment," or some such—and this cop probably didn’t quite understand and he made the remark, "Don’t disturb the animals.”
WALI ALI: Did you speak to the people as they were walking down the streets at all?
AKBAR: No, I never spoke to them—
WALI ALI: Did Murshid?
AKBAR: Murshid would speak to some people if they asked questions or something or—it would almost get into almost a martial thing…
AKBAR: And it got to the point where they became adventures, because we would like or would trip off after walking for an hour or two, or two and a half hours, we would go into a little store or shop, and I remember I bought my first Ankh at one of these shops in the Haight-Ashbury, and Murshid got to the point where he started going into these shops and talking to some of the clerks there and also some of the customers, and it would be very casual. But then he would invite people to the meetings, "This is what we are doing." And he even played with the idea of advertising in the Haight-Ashbury, and I think he nixed it and he said, that he wasn’t going to advertise but he was going to hold like a parade or a walk or…
WALI ALI: And then also he did hold meetings over on Cole Street and did dancing down in Golden Gate Park down by Hippie-Hill.
BRAIN: I got the impression that he himself was probably—prior to the hospital and after—undergoing experiences—he was experimenting with the teachings, not with the fundamental teachings; but with the blood, and also he was considering how far to open the group. First it was going to be very small, no more than 13.
AKBAR: Twelve and possibly 13 disciples.
WALI ALI: I remember David Hoffmaster mentioning Murshid speaking about that in his tape.
AKBAR: Twelve and maybe 13—that was the initial maximum number.
BRIAN: And then perhaps 25, and then perhaps 100, much later on.
WALI ALI: He said, when he was in the hospital—he told the story so many times—he had this experience where he was flat on his back and he saw the whole vision of his work opening up in terms of numbers, and they said you going to be the spiritual leader of the hippies.
AKBAR: Right, absolutely!
WALI ALI: And he told that story so many times, I just wonder, if you remember it at the time when it came down?
BRIAN: He didn’t say that at the time; I think he said that afterwards he often used to mention things such as, "I don’t know, maybe," and he would just sort of say, "I don’t know," or something like that, and then go on to each new thing, to indicate that he was going to give this a try, you see. So he became much more definite in his movement to became the Sufi teacher, but earlier he was trying different things.
WALI ALI: Would you say that he went through a real physical rejuvenation after that—like a death and rebirth, physically in that hospital period? After the hospital he recovered sort of a new vigor in his body that he hadn’t had before?
AKBAR: I would say so because I remember the time, once again being pretty athletic and not too much after he’d gotten out of the hospital, walking up one of these hills right around here and panting and feeling it, and Murshid was not too far behind me and he mentioned that some of his disciples would surpass him in some things. I was amazed at his vitality, and I remember seemingly that in one of the meetings at Precita not to soon after he had left the hospital he did mention—and I don’t know whether it was the first time or he was relating it as a story—that he had made the announcement that he had had a vision, and maybe he even talked to Clarke and me about it before that but—yeah, that seems to ring a bell that before he announced it to a meeting, he’d had a vision while he was in the hospital that he was going to be the leader of the hippies and lead the hippies and shortly thereafter the walks started heading toward the Haight-Ashbury and attracting people and bringing people in on Monday night.
WALI ALI: I know you had a certain wish to expose Murshid more and more to the hip culture, and in some ways I associate music with it. Were you the person who got him to listen to the Beatles or something?
BRIAN: Yeah, that’s right. I played him some of the material, of course—Moineddin did give him some experience too.
WALI ALI: Do you remember what his reaction to that was?
BRIAN: He came over one time, and I had a fairly large collection, a high-fi set. I believe I played him some of the Indian music that was being played by some of the Western musicians, and the Beatles, but after he heard that particular one, he said, "That’s it, I don’t want to hear anymore, don’t play too many things, don’t chop the change around," and that was it, and apparently he’d gone to Bolinas and heard some more.
WALI ALI: And then he was talking about, "If you’d only listen to the words on those songs, they are really…“
BRIAN: I’ve got it quite complete. He said, "What you should do is to slow down the turn table and tell me what happens." Because he was thinking of these turntables that used to go way, way down low and I gathered his idea afterward was so that you could hear every word and transcribe it, and mine would slow down a little, so I thought he was directing me to listen to the tone of it and what would happen, so I wrote a page of notes on it and told him what would happen.
WALI ALI: Yeah, I’m sure it must have had something to do with making out all the words, because he felt like those words were really it, all the business about love and all the stuff in Donovan and the Beatles and all that. He felt that they really tapped into the truth and so he became really sold on the counter culture, maybe because he had never been accepted by the establishment himself and he found a new life.
BRIAN: And it was quite an experience for us—I know it was for me when it was the Walrus, that was the particular song.
WALI ALI: The Walrus?
AKBAR: The Walrus, oh yeah! I remember that morning coming over to your place and having tea and listening to a couple of records and enjoying them immensely and then all of a sudden him standing up saying, "Let’s go."
BRIAN: He went next door to Sheila’s house. That was interesting. I introduced them; She was my next door neighbor.
WALI ALI: Sheila McKendrick?
WALI ALI: I have an interview with her sometime.
BRIAN: Yeah, quite interesting. She was leading a very, very straight life and married to a lawyer and they suddenly got into acid, really, and sort of went off into space.
WALI ALI: Yes I know.
BRIAN: And she went to India and came back as the world mother or whatever. Cosmic mother, but Murshid—with some people he seemed to, in the early days, to try to get them to open up—with Sheila it was like…
WALI ALI: …to try to bring her down to earth a little bit; she was like a fairy. What about other sorts of things, not meetings, that went down in this period? Whether it was things you did on walks, or places you went to or people that you met, or restaurants or whatever, do any anecdotes stand out? Any stories are really jewels. I don’t know if you—did you ever see "In The Garden" book, Brian? The thing that was put out by Lama Foundation? I don’t think I have a copy of it around here. It has sold about 12,000 copies as of right now, it is sort of an anthology of Murshid’s writing with a lot of stories, peoples’ stories, Murshid’s stories in there—when you put a bunch of them together they are just really classics—they are like contemporary Mullah Nasruddin stories or something. What I am asking for is any kind of humorous or other kinds of stories.
BRIAN: A lot of the early ones were recorded by that fellah who, remember he was—
WALI ALI: Tom Mason, is that who you mean?
WALI ALI: You recorded a bunch of meetings—
WALI ALI: I’m not thinking about Murshid’s anecdotes, I am thinking about the stories that he told again and again; things that you recall happening, like one time I went over with him to meet his old work crew at Christmastime. He was going to take a bottle of liquor to his old foreman, and he came rushing in there, and he said, "I’ve got the answer to all the world’s problems." "What is it Sam?" "Clean hearts and dirty fingernails!" And the guy turned around to his crew who were a bunch of riffs, lower types in spades, and grubby guys, and he says, "Gentlemen, you are halfway there!”
AKBAR: Oh that’s beautiful. I was always in sort of awe of Murshid. He had a kind of magic on the level of personal development and power and enhancement and what not, so whenever I saw Murshid I always saw the magician, because Clarke indoctrinated me to the idea that, "Don’t believe what you see," and "Everything this man does, no matter how ridiculous seemingly on the surface it is, has cosmic consciousness behind it. Every move is well thought out, every gesture has a point to be learned." And so, where I was coming from at that time, I was in total awe of Murshid. Some humorous anecdotes may have come up but I probably blanked them out. I know that he had a ploy of—seemingly whenever he was meeting someone, including myself—of inviting them out to dinner, and in suggesting things to them to see whether or not they were open enough to try something new and watching to see what they picked up, to see—everything, in talking about the breath and utilizing it on a practical level he would talk about, he would eventually get to the point where you’ve got to be aware of where the breath is going because your will lose consciousness when you’re driving. He says, "You’ll feel the breath go through your feet and will actually lose consciousness, and so that was as close to humor as I recall, being sort of mystified by some of the things that actually did happen.
WALI ALI: Your don’t ever recall being put into an embarrassing sort of situation by him?
BRIAN: Oh Yeah, yeah.
WALI ALI: I figured you would.
BRIAN: Yeah, because the one thing was he had a very ornery personality, especially on the intellectual side. Politically he was obsessed with communists and I thought about this afterwards—he probably went to Pakistan and embraced the true but the traditional. He probably met a lot of young students also who were fresh out of the University with very Socialistic ideas, and they would be zinging into this guy—they were trying to move the populace in some much more left wing direction—so they would probably harass him, hassle him, in fact I remember that he complained to the American Ambassador who wouldn’t do anything for him because the Communists were out to murder him, and he became quite obsessed. He left because of everything.
WALI ALI: This is in his Diaries.
BRIAN: So he would throw out these ideas—Vietnam was going then—about the terrible Communists in North Vietnam and I would say, "What does it matter if they want to be Communists?" So one time he said to me—it was a whole lot of people at this time when everybody was just opening up and embracing and he got a little annoyed with a challenge of that kind—he said, "Have you ever fallen in love?" I was truthful and I said, "No," and he said, "You wouldn’t know then.”
BRIAN: Still there were those two sides of him. I, like Jim, was in awe of him, but I was never able to accept him on a deep level. I couldn’t get to the point of absorption with a teacher because if you are more intellectually oriented it's our fault, he said, "but you have to develop the heart," and I knew that, but still there wasn’t that level of intellectual appreciation as well as the heart appreciation of mind and heart for me. There was no question that he was a Murshid.
WALI ALI: I’m really happy to get such open rendition of things, because when I came on the scene things were quite developed already, I didn’t really come on the scene until June of ‘68. When I walked in, all the disciples had been disciples for a while—they were about 10ft. high to me. If they said something, I figured, it was like the word from the beyond. That was quite an experience to me when I found out that they were not necessarily giants, because I just assumed they’ve been disciples for a year or something, they must just really know everything. I had something of, let’s say, Jim’s innocence, I had an intellectual background. I had gone through an experience where I just went crazy with LSD, I got really into the egoless state with LSD and I just had a tremendously bizarre series of events in my life which made me so appreciative of Murshid when I met him because he had answers that I needed, in order to balance out my consciousness. I always recall his great love for all these people even when they didn’t accept him particularly—it didn’t even interfere with his flow of love, but I remember being put through a lot of embarrassing experiences myself. I know from your sense of correctness in the social sphere and so on, or whatever it is—hipness or suavity—without making a ruffle of whatever it was—I’m sure you must have some interesting memories in that category.
BRIAN: Yeah, I was into astrology then—and that was the impressive thing about Murshid—I would analyze a chart and try to synthesize it, and he would look at a chart and just flash on it. He caught me one time because I made a mistake and he was concerned to have it accurate, And when it was accurate—this was on Moineddin’s chart—he said, "There’s two readings and check it out." But he could flash on a chart, there is no question about it. He looked at mine and he said, this was before being a disciple. I think he asked me to bring him his chart, he asked me write out ten questions from the second volume of Inayat Khan, it was the on sound and music, and let’s see anyway I forget the third, anyway when he saw the chart he said "Take orders, take advice, take money.”
WALI ALI: Great! That was your chart?
BRIAN: And of course he could see that stubbornness that a lot of oppositions bring a mental kind of thing, and that was always, "I want, you to push yourself," but unless there was that feeling of relaxation mentally it was difficult for me to open up my heart. So I would get very tense in situations like that.
WALI ALI: Where he would be confronting something or somebody.
WALI ALI: Or else we were all at a meeting when…
BRIAN: You are right. And there would be you and Moineddin sitting there and taking notes, and that for me was a situation of a test, and I would switch right off. That was hard.
WALI ALI: Oh, you mean in an interview situation?
BRIAN: Yeah, and then he did the glance with me, like one week, for some obscure reason, before he went to the hospital, I was the only one who turned up, and he tried that time doing the…
WALI ALI: Tawajjeh—
BRIAN: …the glance, and I felt very awkward and he said, "What did you feel?" And, I said "uh-uh-uh-uh, I don’t know I can’t say!"
WALI ALI: That was probably because you didn’t really fell anything.
BRIAN: Well, no.
WALI ALI: You didn’t know how to open up because the whole setting was artificial or something.
BRIAN: Well not that. Because there was no one else there at that time, but it was a whole conflicting emotion/mind thing; I didn’t understand what was going on consequently that would restrict the opening on the emotional intuitive level, and it was rather overwhelming. But one or two experiences I had just personally, was when the meetings were small, and just being on the periphery, I wasn’t the center of attention and then the whole thing, the whole room would flash with light and I would just have an experience like that which were the convincing things for me,
WALI ALI: Were you doing a lot of acid at that time?
BRIAN: No, I had met the Swami Chinmayananda in India and tried the Vedanta trip. It was very, very strict, especially on the social/sexual level, and I was unable to take their discipline. The first time I saw Murshid he asked me where I had been and I related that, and he said, "Good." He was pleased that he always talked about angelic souls and he liked people to be earthy in a way, very down to earth.
WALI ALI: I think maybe he had you tabbed as an angelic soul in some ways, because he gave you the role of Neptune in his Planetary thing, I know, and initially he said, "Brian is my Neptune.”
BRIAN: One of the first questions he asked me was, "Without prejudice, are you a homosexual?" I said, "I never really noticed." He hadn’t had a lot of exposure to the hip scene. I would be wearing light Indian white shirts—it was in fact a very Uranian/Neptunian scene. He would always say, "They’ve got it, but there is no joy, I am going to bring them joy." And that was true as well.
WALI ALI: Do you remember his attitude during that period about drugs and pot and acid?
BRIAN: He never had any particular prejudice; he was never interested in taking them himself. I remember there were two or three out of a meeting of six one week that I had taken acid and went there, and…
WALI ALI: The first time I met him I was on acid.
BRIAN: Oh really?
WALI ALI: Yeah.
BRIAN: At any rate—what was’ that woman’s name? Jennifer was it, Jennie?
AKBAR: Right Jennie, that was her name.
BRIAN: I said, "How was it? And she said, " Murshid got nervous and he went around and just put his hand on peoples’ heads and she said it was like a soft light sort of coming over from all the sort of spacey agitation that you get sometimes. It was like a soft light; she remembered that point particularly. He had picked up on that from people being on acid. He did not know that particular time at that particular meeting that they had taken it.
WALI ALI: Yeah—he seemed to be able to be entirely oblivious of certain things, acutely oblivious. It was amazing how he could be oblivious of certain things. Sometimes in the area of sexual things, of being unaware that someone was on acid or something or some such thing. Maybe because his own consciousness was always far out; his problem was to come down to earth I think. He didn't have any difficulty going high, and his whole work in life had been to sort of to get his fingers into the earth and pull his being down and give it to that to ground. I think because he had been able to accomplish that, he was like a magnet for all those people that were spaced out on acid to bring their beings down to earth in some fashion.
AKBAR: As time went on I think he originally adopted a stance of everything being alright and freedom was what we were all striving for, and then perhaps as he attracted more disciples and what not, he began to form a little bit stronger opinions about certain things. I remember one of the rather subtle criticisms of acid was that he said, "My chief objection to acid is that you lose control over your breath when you are on LSD and I remember him pointing to someone and saying, "Isn't that true?" the person nodded assent or something; "Yeah, that's true, I don't really have control over my breath."
BRIAN: Yes, that's what I remember.
AKBAR: And later on the only other reference that he more or less tacitly didn't disapprove of people smoking grass sometimes was in reference to Howard Mussell—he had just gotten back from Mexico and visiting the pyramids down there, and it had gotten back to Murshid that Howard was going to take some magic mushrooms or something and experiment in psychedelics, and I remember Murshid making some rather, not derogatory, but rather uncomplimentary remarks. In other words, he was disappointed that one of the people who had been one of his earliest followers, was resorting to drugs. He didn't feel that the man needed it, and I think it is much like Carlos Castenada, when Don Juan, using psychedelics, psychotropic plants and what not and initially got to certain states and experiencing something was alright but then once you'd reached it and experienced it, then you shouldn't depend upon it or need it.
WALI ALI: I know he was very much a defender of the people that used it in that period around 1970. Because he said, "You can’t impose both sides, you can't have it both ways," and because he knew all the literature from the ancient Vedas and so on about the use of Soma and all the various things that people had done to go into Divine Consciousness, and the only criticism that I remember him making about it was, "It takes people into the psychic plane but it doesn’t necessarily take them into the spiritual." That's what he used to say about psychedelics.
BRIAN: But I think that Jim is right in that later on he did begin to form more definite opinions, along with developing more structure, because there were a lot more people and certain things became more obvious.
WALI ALI: That was the situation with the ranch—they were doing everything all the time, because LSD, STP, you name it, they did it constantly. I don’t know if you had any connection with the Ranch, actually I have an interview coming up with Don McCoy and Sheila and Sandy Barton and that will be a real circus.
WALI ALI: And he’s going to be there too.
AKBAR: I seem to recall that after awhile there were people that were coming in pretty spaced out. If they were too spaced out, I even recall Murshid asking certain people to leave.
WALI ALI: Because they were too spaced out?
AKBAR: Right, yeah, they were muttering something or they were on their own trip and he might go along with it for a little while but then I remember that once it a while it would kind of jar me because the whole idea was peace, and love and harmony and I remember at least on one occasion Murshid, as far as I can recall, actually getting up and being very strong and saying, "Please leave," "Please get up and leave." And the person left.
BRIAN: And also there was an incident that occurred in the very early days with a fellow called Matthew that I think Moineddin knew as well. He'd become a disciple and it was the only time that he sort of disenfranchised someone, so to speak. I don't know what the instance was but he was very unhappy with him this week, this particular week he exposed this poor guy in front of everyone. He was a very quiet soul, but whatever he had done he passed him over to the Church—
WALI ALI: The Holy Order of Mans—
BRIAN: Yeah, and apparently he did really well there.
WALI ALI: Actually he did well for awhile and then he got booted out of there also.
BRIAN: That was the only time—and then there was—talking about incidents, he had me visit this English Buddhist fellah.
WALI ALI: Jack Austin?
BRIAN: Right, and he told me a little bit about him and—have you been to England?
WALI ALI: I've been to Europe: but not to England.
BRIAN: Okay, imagine it is a very reserved, proper structure especially in the older generation—
WALI ALI: Oh yeah, I can imagine; I've known a lot of Englishmen—
BRIAN: I can just see it happening—Jack Austin recognized Murshid, and, because be had come back from the East, he didn’t sort of have too many preconceptions. He took him along to the Buddhist Society which is a very proper organization. Humphries was the president, and he said, "Can you imagine the situation—there were these very (I forget how he put it, but, the word would be proper, people, he didn't say that then)—but he was Mr. Lewis and he asked questions, and he had this short sleeved shirt on and he asked these questions in his rasping loud voice, and if you can imagine the reaction from these people there. Really! I can see it coming down—Murshid tearing into one of these proper Buddhists!
WALI ALI: Proper Buddhists; oh, I know! There was something in his being that was intensely anti-establishment—
BRIAN: Anti-hypocrisy—he was always…
WALI ALI: Yeah, and he just couldn't stand it, and he would rather blow up himself as well as the other person in order to dislodge it. He didn't have that sense of social poise or position, and he didn't apparently care whether he made a frightful scene or not in that kind of a context. He once described the Fudo thing as being, "The idea is to burn up ignorance, and if you burn up yourself in the process, it doesn't matter." This is good, I think this has been a good example.
SABIRA: There is a wonderful story that Hassan tells about you and the Ranch, and going to take the kiln down, and you're saying, "We are doing this for God and Murshid." Do you remember that story?
AKBAR: Yeah, vaguely I do. It smacked of a military operation, and there was apparently a heavy confrontation between the different camps at the Ranch, and maybe there was even a smattering of violence or a hint of it, and a physical confront, and at that point Murshid appointed me the leader of the of the pre-dawn raid, and I remember taking it very seriously, mapping out a strategy and having my men poised in certain positions, giving them a fiery talk and going in there. And actually it turned out to be very easy.
WALI ALI: You were moving the kiln that Shirin had built to the Khankah in Novato.
AKBAR: Right, because she had apparently tried to remove it, and somebody had physically come out and I think even physically threatened her or something. And so it was very serious and I remember meeting somebody and there wasn't much resistance whatsoever, and the kiln was removed and the operation was successful. But I remember, if anything was humorous about it, it was how serious I took it.
SABIRA: What was the story about you becoming a Khalif? Is that part of the story of Murshid?
AKBAR: As the group got larger, and as things definitely took an Islamic turn, so to speak, Murshid decided that somewhere, or as he might have put it, God decided that names would be given to disciples, and if my memory serves me correctly, I was the first one to receive a Sufi name, an Islamic name, and Murshid—I can't remember whether he told me about the…
BRIAN: No, I remember that he just called you up quite briefly at the end of a meeting, it happened all of a sudden, and he took one of those Pakistani linen caps, put it on Jim's head and said, and he finished the gap across—and he said, "Akbar."
AKBAR: Yeah, I think he told me beforehand that he had arrived at a name for me then, and he was sitting on the couch and he said that I puzzled him and that he was not sure of a name for me, and that he had meditated on it and finally God had said to him that I was Akbar, and that was my name and I took it more or less as almost a secret code name, like this was my real identity because of all the magical and occult connotations with Clarke Brown that I would not make that public, or the title that I have. And I was kind of startled, just sitting in the group because I was pretty introverted even though I might not have impressed people as being that way.
WALI ALI: You always impressed me as being self-contained and powerful, that introversion thing can just really make you impressive too.
AKBAR: It seems like it was a full house and all of a sudden he called me up and I was just slightly embarrassed, and Murshid was always sensitive to that and I don't think that that is why he ever exposed me or confronted me on the level that he may have with Brian or Matthew or some other people because he knew that wouldn't work with me. And he called me up and he gave me the name Akbar, and put a hat on my head, and that was it. And far as the Khalif position or station, I would, as every other disciple, come in and relate to Murshid what I had experienced in practices that I he had given to us, and he would give me these different initiations, and finally, I believe it was over in that art center, wasn't it, at Sausalito?
WALI ALI: It was at that seminary over in Marin County, where those meetings were held—because Vilayat was there.
AKBAR: Right. Vilayat Khan was there and Murshid told me what was happening, and I think he told me beforehand that I had already achieved this 8th degree or, whatever it was and that he was making me this Khalif and he made some remarks to Clarke about it and then it was kind of a humorous thing in that I either arrived late—or I may have been a few minutes late, and I was kind of lingering in the background. Sort of the pomp and circumstance thing where Moineddin had been initiated, I think, in front of all the people as a Khalif and with Vilayat Khan, and then, almost as an aside Murshid turned around and saw me and grabbed my arm and pulled me over, and in the meantime everybody had disbanded and was milling around not paying attention, and he brought me up to Vilayat and said, "Now, here, is my other Khalif," and it couldn't have made a very conscious impression with Vilayat, although he assented to it.
WALI ALI: It was a terribly embarrassing thing for Vilayat as it turns out, because according to the rules of the Sufi Order, only the Pir has the right to make someone a Khalif or a Sheikh, and Murshid was not only doing it, but doing it in his presence. And it was quite a thing for Vilayat to swallow, I believe.
BRIAN: Yes, I wanted to say that that conjures up a very interesting thing for me. Murshid had always, for probably a year, told us about what bad guys the International Sufi Order was—Vilayat Khan, all these people who never knew his father’s teaching. Then there was some sudden political change, and Vilayat turns up one evening and he is sweating, very nervous, and he gives a pretty good intellectual speech.
WALI ALI: That was shortly after I came on the scene.
BRIAN: So I said, "Gee, I'm going to see what this guy's got." So one thing that really stuck, which Paul Reps had confirmed, and another thing was that Inayat Khan had gone back to India with a broken heart, and Vilayat had made some references to his father, so I got up and said, I was rather nervous doing it, but it's my personality, so I said, "Somebody, who has just been here recently, a great teacher, said that your father died of a broken heart." And he was just blown away by it, he didn't know what to say, so…
WALI ALI: Yeah, I recall that.
BRIAN: So Murshid was looking somewhat amused, I think. And the next day he had me over sitting next to him, and just as the whole group broke, he said, "What did you think of Vilayat Khan? I said, "I didn’t think much off him," for that was the truth. But it is funny the way he would do things, though, very interesting.
AKBAR: That always confused me because as Brian said, in the initial early stages of the formation of the group there was that anti-establishment posture, and actually I remember Clarke talking about it more than anybody else because he was constantly talking about Murshid receiving the Baraka from Inayat Khan, and other people not recognizing him and fighting over papers and recognition and what not…
AKBAR: Yeah, and it is a very dim memory, but I even think that Clarke drummed it into me that, Vilayat Khan, Inayat Khan's son, maybe was one of the greatest adversaries of the recognition of Murshid, and that all of a sudden from nowhere it seems, overnight—because Murshid was attracting respectable groups of people regularly—there was a connection made where it was arranged for Vilayat to come and speak—
WALI ALI: Bryn Beorse was instrumental in bringing them together. I don't know if you recall him, Shamcher, a Norwegian fellow, you must have met him.
AKBAR: I don't recall him but I remember that first night that it happened, and it seems like there was some advanced publicity put out that Vilayat Khan would be there.
WALI ALI: Didn't he stay at your house?
AKBAR: He stayed at my house that night; it was a great honor for me, and, there was a lot of preparation for it. I cleaned windows and…
WALI ALI: That was a good deed.
AKBAR: That was a funny incident because I remember that if Murshid asked me to jump off a cliff I would have, and he asked me to clean the windows which was almost tantamount to jumping off a cliff because it was very rickety ladder! At that point I was not that light, and Murshid said, "Clean the windows," and so I cleaned the inside of the windows, and he said, "Clean the outside of the windows," and he brought me around the house and pointed to a ladder and I was saying to myself, "Is that it?" and it looked like it was ready to fall apart, and I remember bringing it out to the front of the house and opening it up and actually seeing things that I thought just couldn't support my weight, and wanting Murshid to hold it, or reassure me. And I started to climb up and I hesitated halfway up. Then I finally went up all the way, but there was some doubt in mind as to whether it would really support me, but I did clean the windows. And I remember Murshid saying that that was very, very important, that it was the most important task was to have clean windows when Vilayat Khan came. So my impression was that he was excited and looking forward to it with great anticipation.
WALI ALI: What he was seeking the most was acceptance from Vilayat. As you said when that came, he was quite willing to accept him, he just had never been accepted by anybody else and he was bitter about it, and I think that when Vilayat came and was willing to acknowledge what he was doing, he was quite willing to…
BRIAN: That said something about his adaptability. Because for us lesser souls having been drummed in, and me particularly that, "These people didn't recognize me," they got his papers, been ripping him off for years, then it’s hard to take for sure.
WALI ALI: That was, I think a very interesting aspect of his character, because he would criticize somebody and then switch over immediately if there was some opening on that person's part, and, as you say, leave people behind who were fixed in their way of dealing with people too. Even some of the people that were some of his greatest bugbears, people like Lloyd Morain and Chaudhuri and Watts and those people that he was always droning on being phonies, when he would actually meet them he would be amazingly open to them, friendly in a real way. He didn't know how to be friendly in an artificial way.
BRIAN: Right! At least they challenged him. There was a fantastic incident at the Church of Mans—this is one I will never forget. It was the first time that Paul Reps had come—Paul Reps and Murshid were on different paths but he always talked about him, and his letters; he taught from his book and this fellow was no disappointment. When Paul Reps first turned up on the houseboat—he just walked in like a silky cat, he was about 80 or so and he said something to the effect that, "I’ve just come here to hear what comes out of the mouth…," and it went on, and Murshid had had a—
WALI ALI: Naturally hip sort of delivery, in a whimsical, not at all fixed in a certain way.
BRIAN: And Murshid came home in the car with myself and Danny who was going there then. He went over and he said, "He is very impressive." And the second time he came the meeting was at the Church of Mans, and Paul Reps was very much like Murshid. In other words he was sophisticated but a no bullshit guy, and he had given this opening address and everyone had gotten very high. He looked at Jemila and said, "Ah, she's got it in her eyes," and the whole meeting was going well, and then there was this fellow in silver robes who deliberately put the question, "What about the Holy Spirit?" And Paul Reps immediately quips back, "I see we have a Christian in the house." By this time, this fellow's disciples were really restive by then, one of them got up and said, "We'd better have this out," and Paul Reps was just ready for another one—
AKBAR: The Crusades—
BRIAN: And Murshid gets up, and here's Murshid who would do just what Paul Reps would do in a similar situation. He played the diplomat, he said, "Now we have to remember spiritual brotherhood," and things like that and calmed everyone down. He was beautiful.
AKBAR: Murshid did that? Murshid said to remember spiritual brotherhood?
BRIAN: Yeah, and that of cooled everything down.
WALI ALI: Yeah, after that meeting they took all of Reps' books and out of the Holy Order of Mans, they did a whole purge on it. Do you remember what else came down? What did he say about the Holy Spirit and so on; when the guy asked him, he just said…
BRIAN: Nothing! He just said, "I see there is a Christian in the house." Obviously saying here's a fellow structuring a question for an answer—
WALI ALI: Yeah.
BRIAN: He didn't need to ask that question; it was not in context, but…
WALI ALI: Hi just wanted to get into a debate around something like that. Or having another view.
AKBAR: This was Paul Reps who was saying this?
BRIAN: Yeah. At that time, if you remember, that little doctor, I think they were claiming to have the incarnation of Jesus, and half of the disciples already in the group were an incarnation, I should have said, and it was a pretty doctrinaire thing, although it was a real new age.
AKBAR: It seemed like a Catholic mass to me. I remember going over on DuBoce or something wherever the first church was—and perhaps it was a wedding or something, but because I was raised as a Catholic it seemed very Catholic in its outward form.
WALI ALI: Why don't you consult your notes and see if there is anything else that you have down that you haven't mentioned.
AKBAR: A question I've always had about this was: I remember Murshid reading "The Path of the Sufi," by Idries Shah, and I never got a clear message on that, although my distinct impression the second time that he talked about it was that he kind of lambasted the book, and said that it is absolutely not true, or something like that, and I don't know—maybe it was that particular book, or maybe it was a passage, or was it Idries Shah?
WALI ALI: It was Idries Shah—the first book that Shah came out with, "The Sufis," Murshid initially liked it because, as he said, it gives me all this publicity, and he was always thinking of things from the personal point of view in that respect. It gives all this publicity to the Sufis, but then, Murshid had friendship and connections with Sufis in the East and basically it was that they had such a dislike of Shah. To them Shah was an anathema to the traditional lines in the East. He represented the whole sort of sophisticated approach to Sufism to them and I think Murshid reflected some of that feeling and also he came to feel that Shah loved mystery rather than some of the simple truths. He said, "Where is Allah in his books?" The teaching that I got in Sufism is that Allah is the only reality and here you get all this mystery stuff and a child can understand that God is the only Reality, and it is made to appeal to complex intellects—if you prefer something complex to something simple even if the simple thing is true. I think that was sort of a combination of those things. He didn't mind accepting Shah initially but then he later saw that Shah wasn't particularly accepted, and wasn't particularly helping—
AKBAR: Does Vilayat Khan recognize Idries Shah?
WALI ALI: He knows Shah; in a sense he grew up with him; Shah's father and Inayat Khan were sort of friends, and as boys he and Shah knew each other.
BRIAN: I remember him saying about Gurdjieff in connection with Sufis, that Gurdjieff was a realized being but that he never left a disciple. At one time he was even criticizing his bosom friend Paul Reps, "He lives off there in Hawaii and I'm here and I'm taking this one…
WALI ALI: He played back and forth with Reps as a love affair and a blast affair on both of their parts, and that was a very friendly kind of thing in that way. When I was in Hawaii last year I made a point to call on Reps and visited him, and he stayed down in the house here recently, and he is in his 80's now, as you said, he keeps his trip together. But he is independently wealthy, he inherited money and he's go it in stocks and he lives off his dividends and he spends his winters in Hawaii and he spends the summers in Canada, and in between he goes to the health spas of Europe. I think that Murshid resented, in a certain sense, that Reps never really had to work hard like he did, that he had things kind of handed to him on a silver platter.
AKBAR: There is something that is rather humorous I think, in my perspective. Once Vilayat Khan got into the group, I sensed that, as Brian once again mentioned, when he first came into the room sweating, and maybe even appearing a bit nervous, recognizing Murshid and kind of reaching a reconciliation or conciliation and then getting involved in the whole group and, like you said, the protocol then was in some sense violated in that a Pir was theoretically allowed to make someone a Khalif or whatever, and Murshid had done it right in front of Vilayat Khan, which was an awkward moment for Vilayat Khan, but he accepted it ultimately. The amusing thing was that some of these Arabic phrases and chants that Murshid had come up with, these dances that he had a wholly Divine inspiration for, apparently slightly butchered the Arabic, and I remember Vilayat Khan, kind of nodding his head in assent, and "Yeah wonderful, wonderful," and then I talked to him on the side and he goes, "I've never heard it pronounced exactly that way, but I guess it's alright."
BRIAN: That was an important point. Murshid had me talk to a fellow called Martin Lings in London who is a—
WALI ALI: Was he old? No? Not really—
BRIAN: I only talked to him on the telephone; he wouldn't give me an interview.
WALI ALI: Oh, you talked to him on the telephone? He is a very famous man.
BRIAN: I said, "Here's greetings from Sufi Ahmad, and he was very clear in the conversation, it maybe lasted 15 minutes, that he didn't recognize anyone who wasn't a Muslim first and had gone through all that thing, and then became a Sufi. And even much later in 1970 when Habibiyya first came—they have an Algerian master—they were actively saying that the Sufi group here—I phoned you up at the time—will cause madness, it's crazy what they are doing. They were trying to show the truth, because there is this feeling in the East—they are very, very traditional—and unless you've gone through and been a Muslim and been converted, and done your five times a day trip, there is no way you can become a Sufi—
WALI ALI: I am well aware of this whole controversy—we fall somewhere in the middle of the whole thing. The Habbibiyya, by the way, left this country, because they couldn't get anybody to go on their trip, particularly over here.
BRIAN: They were extremely devotional.
WALI ALI: Yeah, extremely, they've had more success in England. I won't know what that says about the difference in the psychology of the English and the Americans.
BRIAN: They are more traditional in England, so they would go over to many very set forms.
AKBAR: Did Murshid have a reaction to that, Brian?
BRIAN: Well, he died at that point.
WALI ALI: But he wrote him a bunch of very, very strong letters on this very point in our files to these people in England, whom he respected very much. And he could accept their point of view about the way they had gotten to God. In fact, when Murshid had gone to Islamic countries he had followed the way of the Muslim. He had, in fact, shown his adaptability—when he was in Pakistan he was able to go on the trip, but when he was in India, he went on the other trip and when he was in Japan he went on the other trip.
AKBAR: When in Rome do as the Romans do!
WALI ALI: He was very adaptable in that general way, he didn't find any conflict in his being in terms of practicing these different religious forms. But he wrote some very strong letters about this. He said that Mohammed had appeared to him in person before he ever met an Imam.
BRIAN: Those people, they are not going to hear that sort of stuff, they are very set.
AKBAR: I remember one other rather amusing anecdote here that comes to mind—I never really got the real storyêabout how Murshid he got that gold robe. Do you remember that gold robe he had?
WALI ALI: The gold or the dervish burlappy.
AKBAR: The burlappy robe, and he said, "If you knew how I got this, you wouldn't believe it," or, "This is a miracle." One day he was talking about it—this was when he was starting to give us all robes or costumes or caftans or whatever, and he was quite animated, and there was a group of disciples around him and he turned to them as he turned to me and he said, "And Akbar would have this, but do you know why Akbar won't have it? I would give this to Akbar—" And everybody was puzzled, and, "No, no, no, because it wouldn't fit him!"
BRIAN: One really spectacular incident that I have. Jim reported this to Murshid after I had gotten to the point of feeling too tense to continue. I had a dream a month or two later which was one of the most startling ones. For a start it was a very bright background—Murshid had always taught us to look for your dream if there is dark on a bright background, so I was aware of that. It recognized the place as back here in the hills. There was Jim and myself, and Murshid had gone on a walk, and I laid down, in the dream, on the path, and Murshid moved over the brow of the hill with Jim, and he said, "Where's Brian?" Jim looked back and said, "He is resting, he is just resting." And Jim reported that to Murshid, and I think it was very apropos.
WALI ALI: Did he ever talk to you about alchemy?
BRIAN: Yeah, he recommended a book which I am still following by Titus Burkhardt—
WALI ALI: Yeah, the Burkhardt book—I remember some point about the whole thing—the first thing you do is you extract the mercury, and then the last thing you put back in, and then that represents the intellectual content of consciousness or something like that. I remember that conversation that he had with you, but I don't remember anything more than that about it. But somehow you had been given that commission to study alchemy because you are a chemist.
BRIAN: Yeah, that was very fine—
WALI ALI: What else do you have down there on your list?
BRIAN: Let's see—oh yes, Gavin Arthur! He knew him for ages, and of course Gavin Arthur had mentioned that Murshid way, way back had been studying—it was either with Edward Carpenter, or with Luther Whiteman—I don't know who he was at the time, and they lived an ascetic life in the Dunes, just completely, totally isolated—and I don't know much more about that incident.
AKBAR: He died about a year after Murshid, didn't he?
WALI ALI: Gavin did?
BRIAN: Oh, has he been involved with the theosophists? A typical situation—he told us at a meeting one time that they had put a curse on him—
WALI ALI: The Theosophists?
BRIAN: First of all they tried to get him drunk, and he kept drinking, and he kept his vision in mind and it didn't work, and then they tried to put a curse on him, and he collapsed into a coma, but before he did—and that is what saved him because of his vision and his awareness of God—that was basically the trend of it.
WALI ALI: I don't remember that incident. I remember the one where he, when he was associated with the Meher Baba people and somebody commanded, "If you want to be a Baba follower, you have to die." Do you remember him telling that story? I remember if it was the same story.
BRIAN: I think maybe it was the Baba!
WALI ALI: Maybe it was the same story with different clothes on it—they told him he had to die—and he immediately left his body and nobody understand what had happened, and he crawled into his room or—
AKBAR: Crawled up some stairs or something—
WALI ALI: Yeah—
BRIAN: Oh okay, maybe it was Baba, correction for the tape, because that was the story I was thinking of—
AKBAR: I thought that he meant—
WALI ALI: No, the Princess Matchiabelli was the woman—
AKBAR: Yeah, there was a woman involved—
WALI ALI: Yeah—these women at that period in history, I met some of them. They must have been just the worst tyrants and egotistical kind—getting a little touch of this occult thing and really laying it on others—
BRIAN: He did say about the Theosophists, Madame Blavatsky, in his opinion, was the first and the last Theosophist.
WALI ALI: I remember him saying that too.
BRIAN: His comments on other peoples' trips were sort of relevant to where he was coming from in his own life—I made of list of them—
WALI ALI: Why don't you just run through that?
BRIAN: I think we have just about done that. I mentioned that he'd said that he sat at the feet of Inayat Khan all the time he was here, but that Inayat Khan had become totally turned off from the trip. He'd seen that it hadn't worked, and that was his overall impression.
WALI ALI: His whole pain at the breakdown of the Organization?
WALI ALI: And the people involved—
BRIAN: Oh the organization taking it over—
WALI ALI: Yeah—
BRIAN: So when one of the disciples had brought up a fellow from the South, from Los Angeles, I remember that meeting. Murshid had announced it ahead of time and this fellow was proposing to turn into a non-profit organization. At that time it was still very small and informal, and it seemed like a real big deal, quite relevant; Murshid went out of the room and this fellow made his proposal—
WALI ALI: I think Jack Schultz or something like that—
BRIAN: Yeah, that's right, and one fellow who had been coming with a mustache walked out at that point, and we never saw him again. I made some negative comments, but it is interesting, Murshid was not particularly interested either way, he just liked the movement that the other people didn't.
AKBAR: Marcia brought him up, didn't she?
WALI ALI: Yeah, they were together as a couple—that was one of the difficult kind of tempest in a teapot. His whole money trip was an interesting trip because he would oscillate between this tremendous generosity and largesse and then he would run out of money and then he would become really kind of tight fisted and stinky about it. I don't know if you remember any incidents—
BRIAN: Charging for meetings was an on again, off again thing in the very beginning.
WALI ALI: It's been real good; it has been a lot of fun for me just seeing you guys again and I think we have a real good tape. What we'll do is when we get it transcribed we'll send you copies of it and then you can go over it, and then maybe by seeing it in print your memories will be jogged and you may remember a few little incidents that you would like to fill in different places and send it back to us or whatever. Anyhow, thanks a lot.