Michael Suleiman on Murshid Sam—10/28/76
WALI ALI: What do you remember about your first meeting with Murshid? Was that the Darshan over here, did you come over here that night? I remember we were all teaching at San Rafael at the Synagogue—
MICHAEL: I think Murshid used to give Darshan fairly often, but not regularly, but fairly often. And I don’t remember whether that was the first time or the second time that I came over—I think the time that you are tuning into is the first time that Banefsha came alone and got Darshan from Murshid.
WALI ALI: Right—and you didn’t come over on that time?
MICHAEL: I didn’t come over on that time; I came over the next time.
WALI ALI: What was the place that you were coming from?
MICHAEL: I was just here in San Francisco.
WALI ALI: Were you on a very, a real Jewish trip?
MICHAEL: I wasn’t on a real Jewish trip, but I had spent time and had experiences in Israel, and before I came to Murshid, Judaism was the only kind of spirituality, the only way to God that I knew. I was really interested in Kabbalah and I realized that Murshid knew more about Kabbalah than anybody else I had ever met.
WALI ALI: What made you come to that conclusion? Anything specific that you remember?
MICHAEL: No, actually there was nothing specific, because I never came to a Sufi meeting, Sufi night, it was only Dharma—oh that’s what it was. Somehow by coming to Dharma night I realized that just by listening to this guy talk about Hinduism and Buddhism I was learning more about Kabbalah and Judaism than I had ever learned in my whole life, and that’s what the first mental interest was.
WALI ALI: Had you studied with Shlomo part of that time?
MICHAEL: Yeah, I had studied with Shlomo, I studied at a Yeshiva, but studying with Shlomo at that time wasn’t a disciple/guru relationship.
WALI ALI: He hadn’t even gotten the idea of starting his Yeshiva at that point, later he got much more into the study side of things then he was in the late ‘60’s; that is just my impression—
MICHAEL: The thing was he didn’t have the material—he only had two or three—really I think he had four really strong students—disciples—right?
WALI ALI: Aryeh was one of them.
MICHAEL: Aryeh was one; and then there was another one that is in Israel, and another one—I don’t know what he is doing now. so I was studying with Shlomo and we were going to the House of Love and Prayer often, but not real often, And then Banefsha said, "Melvin took me to meet this guy, you ought to come to meet this guy." So there I was, and then we started to go to meetings, especially in Marin County and on Sunday night Dharma night.
WALI ALI: This was what, toward the end of ‘68?
MICHAEL: This was towards the end of ‘68, it was, I think March of ’69—
WALI ALI: It must have been March because I met Murshid in June of ‘68 and—
MICHAEL: And then you started teaching school that year.
WALI ALI: Yeah, I guess that was that next September. Did you go up to the dedication of the Khankah in Novato that occurred that year?
MICHAEL: Yes, I think I did—
WALI ALI: I think that was right, I think that you went out there after Sunday (?)
MICHAEL: For the maypole festival at the Khankah—wasn’t it?
WALI ALI: Yeah
MICHAEL: I went to the maypole festival, I want you to know that that was the time that I really saw that Murshid had an understanding of the esotericism of dance.
WALI ALI: What gave you that impression?
MICHAEL: At that time we did the maypole dance, and I’d been studying symbology, but I got an understanding that this was like the inauguration of him as a spiritual teacher of the hippies, and he used the dance to bring that down, and I don’t know if that is the right word—inauguration—but I think that’s right.
And I’ll tell you a story—one time, I was going to City College, and this was second semester at City College, and I was real low on priority of choosing classes, and it was the end of the Sunday night meeting here, and it was upstairs, and Murshid was just starting to turn on the TV or something and I said to him, "Murshid, I really have to get these certain classes because otherwise I’m not going to be interested to keep going to school, so give me a mantram to get these classes." So he yelled at me, "Inshallah," and I didn’t know if that was a mantram or what. And I got every class that I wanted to, no problems. They were all the classes that get filled up the first ten minutes by all the people with priority. I got every class at the exact time that I wanted it—like I just felt that I had this blessing that carried through the whole semester. That is the only semester that I remember in going to that school, other than my gardening experiences.
WALI ALI: I actually remember him shouting Inshallah at you down the stairs. The impression that I had was that you had asked him for a spiritual mantram. I didn’t hear the part or remember the part about to get in to certain classes. He gave it to you kind of angrily and as an afterthought, and then you just sort of left, and then he shouted it at you as you were leaving like he got it and then he gave it to you as you were going out the door or something. Because I remember another incident with a fellow when we had those meetings over on Cole St.—he was the guy I brought over from the post office. He came and we had been doing chanting, and all of a sudden, he heard about Maharishi or something, and he came up to Murshid and he said, “Can you give me a personal mantram," and he just looked, "What in the hell do you think I’ve been doing for the last period?" and he turned to him and said, "All wood is not fit to be made into a statue of Mercury"—and he said, "and the guy left in a huff." But I remember him shouting "Inshallah" at you as you went down the stairs. He always said that he had the impression of you that he would say, "Very angelic, very angelic person.” And I never knew what he was talking about, or where he saw that.
MICHAEL: I know where he saw it—when he was alive that’s all I was—angelic; I had never really earth-planed until years later. Also, it was clear I think that I was six years/eight years younger than everybody else around.
WALI ALI: Yeah, I think that is probably so.
MICHAEL: But I remember the time that he was supposed to turn over all his scientific material to me, and I came over—I was supposed to be here at ten o’clock in the morning—I really spent the whole morning moping around and indulging myself in all the things—all my desires, and I didn’t get here until like a quarter to twelve, right? I didn’t call or anything, and I walked in, and I thought, "Murshid has never yelled at me before, forget it, I’m going to get it this time," and Murshid said, "Oh, you’re just in time for lunch," and we sat down and we ate lunch and he said, "Okay, I’m busy now," he had to go to the store or something, and that was all, and then in about a couple of weeks later he left for New York, and then he came back and he passed over.
WALI ALI: Did he ever turn over those materials to you at that time?
MICHAEL: No, he never turned over any materials to me.
WALI ALI: My impression of the scientific materials was that there wasn’t like a box that said "Scientific Materials." There were his notebooks from his courses, but I know that people have asked for things at different times; I have never seen anything that was specifically a whole bunch of writings of Murshids on scientific matters.
MICHAEL: It was in the magazines, and articles that he had clipped out.
WALI ALI: Not things that he’d written, but things that he had collected?
MICHAEL: Right, just different references that he had made in his Diaries, and the only way that I got them—I don’t know if you remember bringing me three or four boxes of just magazines and miscellaneous papers and everything, which it took me months to read everything, and finally after I read it, it was like I had the feeling that I had walked in his footsteps, so I had a certain touch with his concentration and the way he was looking at things, and what he was looking at things for and what he was trying to do both physically and from a spiritual point of view.
WALI ALI: Would you like to say something about that?
MICHAEL: Yeah, alright. First of all I think that he did a lot of work on the inners, that was he saw something—like a Darshan—he brought it out, so that it developed, and he was also especially interested in communication. He loved to connect one person to another, and I think he felt himself more as a kind of catalyst to bring out certain things then to actually do the work or actually do the research. He much preferred to go and find out what someone else was doing, and he would say, "Oh yes, I know someone else who is working on some other related product or project," and connect those two people and let the fertility of their creative energy and expertise bring something through.
WALI ALI: What about specific projects that were sort of his babies in that area? Do you have an impression of anything in that area?
MICHAEL: Yeah, I know of course that he was interested in having Opuntia cactus or prickly pear cactus grown in arid lands, to be used as a juice, and he was also interested in date palms, and eucalyptus. One of his operating theses was that there were a lot of California native plants that were adaptable to other areas of other countries and California had used these commercially. That’s the whole thing with the cherry trees, that there are certain cherry tree plants that adapt themselves to California. That could be introduced in other countries, and given certain different varieties, and matching certain different soils, they would become commercially viable. The cherry trees he was interested in not only for the fruit but also for the organic matter—to help build up the organic matter in the soil.
WALI ALI: Yeah, this is good; I’d like to get into even more of this because I feel that you have some knowledge in this area that will really be helpful.
MICHAEL: Okay—with the cherry trees especially, his idea was to take California natives, Prunus Lyonii was one of them and to use this as a root stock and to graft on top of those commercial cherry tree tops, and he felt that that would be suitable for an introduction, especially in the Middle East and India and China. He had this concentration of Japan, China, India, Pakistan, and the Middle East agriculturally. And he felt that because they were ecologically similar areas that the solutions to their problems could be similar also.
He used to talk about the difference between the realists and realism, with realism being a philosophy and realists dealing with what's actually really there or what really could happen, and then kind of in the same tone he would talk about the ecologists who get all excited about all sorts of things and have no basis whatsoever, no scientific basis whatsoever, and those scientists that dealt with ecology or the inter-relationship between different plants and their environment.
WALI ALI: We had an interview with Harry Nelson some months ago, and it was interesting
MICHAEL: Yeah, you should have sent David to do that interview.
WALI ALI: We got an interesting interview with him. He wouldn’t let us use the tape recorder, he was real funny. He said, "You can take notes, but I don’t want anything to do down on tape." We asked him what his impression was of Sam as a gardener a scientist and he said he thought he was a talented potsherd so to speak. He said, “He came up with some very strange ideas like he was growing greenhouse tomatoes in countries that were very hot," but he was basically saying also what you were, that he was trying to get things started, but he was really…
MICHAEL: Of course it turns out that tomatoes and cucumbers are the most suitable plants for greenhouses which wasn’t known when Murshid was alive.
WALI ALI: Nelson’s point was, "Why grow them in greenhouses when you have a hot climate; what was the point of wasting all that money growing them in greenhouses?"
MICHAEL: They have a hot climate in Abu Dhabi but they spend millions of dollars to grow them in greenhouses now.
WALI ALI: Why?
MICHAEL: Because they don’t have any moisture.
WALI ALI: That’s the reason I brought it up, I want to get some, impressions about some specifics that he was concerned with besides the fact that he was a catalyst that was always trying to connect up people with knowledge that may not be in communication with each other.
MICHAEL: Of course—is it alright if I talk about Harry Nelson for a minute?
WALI ALI: Yeah.
MICHAEL: His correspondence shows Murshid’s point of view entirely different—you get the feeling that Murshid wrote to him never expecting any reply mostly, and if anything it was four or five lines reply from Harry Nelson that only dealt with what Murshid had referred to scientifically, and I think oftentimes he just writing plant lists of what plants he saw in the area at that time and he addressed it to Harry Nelson, and it was really for his Diary, not really for Harry Nelson personally, but it was for whatever he felt Harry Nelson stood for in the akasha.
WALI ALI: Yeah, I think that is a really important point, because that helps one to understand a lot of his correspondence.
MICHAEL: The way he dealt with the world
SABIRA: Because Nelson said that he felt the letters were just showoffs, and something like that.
WALI ALI: Sabira asked him about all the scientific terms, because we asked him what was his impression of him as a scientist or gardener or whatever, and he said, zero/zilch—what about his grasp of all these terms?
MICHAEL: I know that one thing that Murshid did was, he used to go to classes just for the sake of regularly taking up a concentration. In my terms, he is a seven kind of person, like he wants to study something so he goes and takes a class in something related and that helped him tune in to what he wanted to get out of the class, not what the class was giving but what he wanted to get out of it, or what he wanted to put into it.
WALI ALI: Now that's a good example of what Nelson said, he had one course in which everybody had to write a paper describing a tool, and giving a sort of description of the use of a tool or something as you would to someone who didn’t know anything about it—and he said, "Sam wrote about a hoe; about the hoe—it as the biggest bunch of garble I ever saw—he didn’t say anything about the hoe."
MICHAEL: I know Murshid used to write him about his dervish experiences too.
WALI ALI: Yeah, he mentioned that in the letters too.
MICHAEL: Also, Murshid wrote him some poetry about different trees which I may even have a copy of that, if you are interested.
SABIRA: He wrote Harry about everything, he was sounding off on what was going on politically in Japan and if that was the day to write Harry, he didn’t care—it wasn’t always about horticulture.
WALI ALI: What about events that came down in your life in relation to Murshid, that you look back on as teaching experiences and things that really opened a door? Do you remember any particular events or stories?
MICHAEL: His death probably opened the biggest door; of course there was a whole thing in the hospital. First Banefsha and I weren’t allowed to visit him in the hospital, then all of a sudden, no one had time to visit him and we were there for 18 hours a day, and then there was a crisis time when the doctors were screaming about how evaporated he was—he didn’t have any moisture in him. He wouldn’t drink and someone didn’t want him to take IV’s or something—and he wouldn’t drink anything, so since I was working at New Age and I had a key to New Age, so I went and I got some organic juice—apple juice or papaya juice or something, and I came and I gave it to Banefsha, and I said, "Here, give it to him to drink," and she couldn’t get him to drink. So I took it and he screamed at me, and I held it and I held his hand on the cup, it had a straw, and I screamed at him—I screamed at him in Arabic, I said," You’d better drink this or you’re going to be sorry." He got up and he drank half a glass and put it down and then conked out again. I think he giggled and then went back into the coma. Then a couple of days later they moved him to Chinese hospital. He was the first person that I ever watched die—I was really surprised, like how cold he was from the minute—because we were there like right before—ten minutes before he left for Chinese hospital, and then he went to Chinese hospital, and then I think he was there for a couple of days or something and then he passed over. He was real warm when we saw him. He was only for about 36 hours in Chinese hospital. Anyhow, I remember we left him that night and he was real warm, and then we came back right after he had passed over. I was working at New Age then and someone called New Age, and Moineddin and I and Hassan, James, I think was working there. And I wasn’t sad —if anything I was happy—not that he had died but that was the feeling—I just kept getting, "It’s going to be alright." Of course I really thought that he was just tricking everybody and that he was just going to be back in shape in 12 hours or something.
WALI ALI: I know Mansur was convinced of that for days.
MICHAEL: Yeah, I know, when he verbalized it, it certainly struck a feeling that was familiar in me and I know that Abd ar Rahman thought so too. He called from Tucson and said, "Don’t touch him, don’t do anything, don’t put him in the refrigerator—he’s just in some state of samadhi—that such and such guru had been in—and I remember that, but anyhow I do remember that that struck a very familiar feeling and so—at that time I was still very angelic and I understood right away that I had gotten the certain trainings, especially transmission in Zikr, and a special transmission in RamNam, but also things like the heart sutra and I understood that—"You just stick with this and you’ll be alright for the rest of your life." I got that very definite feeling and a visualization which is unusual for me too. Then we took him to the morgue, and we sat at the morgue. I can remember as the hours went by that his spirit left very slowly from his body—it wasn’t like he was there one minute and then gone the next—every hour was like he was there a little bit less in the room and more in heaven, and it was really good for me because as he went up I kind of went with him, because I was in touch with him. Then finally when we were sitting there—I don’t know how long he was dead, but…
WALI ALI: I know there was a whole period of like three days in the morgue while we were contesting their wish to do an autopsy and they couldn’t do anything with him until after the hearing took place, or whatever it was down at Superior Court.
MICHAEL: I have a feeling that this was very soon after he went to the morgue. As soon as we got his body out of Chinese hospital and into the morgue, for a few hours I think that we were there—Banefsha and I—and I really had this experience of him leaving his body, and infusing into the world and after that, that’s when I understood Kabbalah, I finally understood these mysteries called Merkabah—and right after that I understood it not from a mental understanding and a kind of transcendental logic but direct understanding.
WALI ALI: Do you recall any other out of the body experiences of a definite nature after that time?
MICHAEL: I remember when I went to teach the Rabbis of the San Francisco Kabbalah, and when I finally got the go-ahead, I ran out of the Jewish Board of Education and I was just skipping along about six feet high. That was one of the few times—the other time especially was when I got married, that was really out of the body, and I was laughing, but I wasn’t laughing because of me, I wasn’t happy because of me, I wasn’t enthralled because of me—it was because of Murshid, it’s like Murshid was happy, so he was happy through me and it wasn’t me that was happy—I was just there—I remember that. And similar things happened sometimes later on when I went to talk to the Egyptian government—I met the Secretary of State there. Do you want me to tell that story again for the benefit of the tape?
WALI ALI: Yeah.
MICHAEL: Okay, is this—you want to know about Murshid?
WALI ALI: Yeah—the interesting thing is Murshid’s biography does not stop—so many people have had out of the body experiences of Murshid manifesting in different ways at the Maqbara and elsewhere—in dreams, and I think it is worthwhile to get some of those down also.
MICHAEL: Okay, I was in Egypt to do "Hallelujah the Three Rings" work and I was especially doing scientific work, so I had no idea where to start, so I started at universities and did something which I had done often—and that was, just go walk in and meet people at the university from gardeners to professors and just say, "Hi, I am interested in what you are doing," and just try to have guidance to make things happen. So I did that and then very soon after I was introduced to the government Agricultural Extension Service and within about 48 hours they had arranged an introduction to the Secretary of State of Egypt. And the thing was I really didn’t know what Murshid wanted to have done—I had some ideas but I really didn’t know what he wanted me to do. I felt like I had this golden opportunity budding, so before I’d left for the Middle East, I had gone to the University of California library which was one of Murshid’s old places that he used to go, and they had these reports that different universities make about what they are doing, and then they send ten copies to the library, right? The library files one or two then throws the rest away, so I went through the throwaways at the library, and I picked out maybe six or seven brochures, and I had these in my briefcase when I went to talk to the guy. One of the things was drip irrigation and they brought me into this office—this was inside this military secrecy office and I got in there and I really didn’t know what to do. The guy says “Hello I’m glad to meet you. You are welcome in Egypt. What can I do for you?" No one had told me in advance what I was supposed to be doing, so I didn’t know, so I reached into my thing and I said, "I have this report I thought you folks would be interested in, it’s about drip irrigation." He says, "Drip irrigation, that’s exactly what we were talking to the Ford Foundation about." So now, of course, drip irrigation is almost the panacea for all Southern California agriculture as well as Middle Eastern agriculture. It is the thing that is happening. And, of course I attribute it purely to Divine Guidance and Murshid’s concentration that that experience came down. I remember walking away and saying, "Geez, you’re walking a lot like Murshid."
WALI ALI: He certainly did that at universities and so on, just leading by the seat of his pants, so to speak.
MICHAEL: Also it has to do with plugging into a concentration that is there in the akasha and then taking it on. I don’t know if that is a real experience of Murshid doing it, but it is certainly like that.
WALI ALI: Let’s go back a little bit in time, if you will please. Do you remember anything with Murshid and any other teachers like Shlomo or anybody else? Were you around for any of that, anything that sticks in your mind?
MICHAEL: I used to chauffeur Murshid—I was always driving him to different book stores, book stores and shopping especially, and I remember he went shopping, he used to buy the most dented cans. It was like he was looking for the rejected cans and the rejected vegetables. I had that impression of him when he was shopping, at least with me, and I also remember that we used to go into the bookstores and he would do—what he was doing in bookstores of course—I would follow him around and watch to see what he was picking up, and I would just give him space to do what he had to do because I was just the chauffeur and he was the cat who was doing everything, so I remember—I used to pick out all these books, and I would say, "Pick me out a good book about Kabbalah," and he would say, "You go pick a book out," And I would show him ten books at a time and each time he would say, "No, not that book, not that book, no not that." Finally said, "Oh now I understand, Murshid, what you are meaning to tell me is that there is no book about Kabbalah!" And he says, "Yes, that’s right." Then a week later he bought me the books of the Zohar about Kabbalah—
WALI ALI: Yeah, I remember when he gave you those books. He signed both of us up for that Kabbalah course—a typical sort of thing that he would do was to sign somebody up for a course—do you remember anything about that?
MICHAEL: No, I remember he was going to come talk there and he never came, or if he came I would [?] but I think that he just had us go there to get a background; he didn’t expect us to get any sort of transmission, but just to get a background. Mikey Shur was the teacher.
WALI ALI: Gee, I don’t know what else to ask—I remember at your wedding which of course was filmed
MICHAEL: He total ignored me at the wedding. I arrived with Banefsha, and all the sudden Banefsha is gone so is everybody else and Murshid is leading this whole troop of people singing Gilbert and Sullivan, and I followed, because what was I going to do, go back to the car?
WALI ALI: I remember one funny story that happened that day, in relation to you. You must have come up there and gone back to the car to get something, because Murshid turned around and said, "Where’s Michael?"
MICHAEL: Right, that’s what I did—I walked in to tell Murshid that I was there and then when I came back to get Banefsha I walked in and Murshid was in the middle of leading some of the dances—or milling around ready to lead some of the dances—and he turned around and he yelled at me, "This is the clearest vision I’ve ever had in my life," or something like that.
WALI ALI: Yeah, right—I remember what happened—it’s a funny story, because you’d obviously come up there and gone back to the car or something. He’d seen you, because he turned around while you were gone and he said, “Where’s Michael?" And I said, "Michael hasn’t gotten here yet." And Murshid said, "I. just saw him," and this other person said—I don’t even remember who it was—he said, "No, he hasn’t arrived yet." And Murshid said, "He was wearing a yellow robe, it was a vision—it’s the clearest vision—I just saw him—it’s a great blessing!" So then you must have come up after that and he said that to you.
MICHAEL: Far out. I wasn’t there at that point. I didn’t know what to make of that—I said, "I’m very glad for you,” and I didn’t feel anything except the minute he started screaming at me my whole body was in this aura of golden light.
WALI ALI: The other things you remember chauffeuring him around—how did he react to your driving?
MICHAEL: One time he said to me, "Go this way, go that way." I said, "Look Murshid, I’m the driver, you tell me where you want to go and I’ll get you there," and from then on he just always sat back and we went and after that he never even gave directions; even if I didn’t know where I was going he wouldn’t give me directions But now I am a taxi-cab driver. All the time I go places where I don’t know where I am going, but he never told me that I was going too fast.
WALI ALI: No, I don’t think a person could go too fast except when they were looking for a parking place, then he was always complaining about people trying to find parking places and going too fast and not slowing down enough to find a parking place.
MICHAEL: I always have a parking space right in front of where we are going.....
WALI ALI: But I don’t think you could have gone too fast for him, he always wanted to go fast and go through lights and jump ahead of people—
MICHAEL: I heard the exact opposite story, that he warned everybody in Marin, "Don’t go over 55."
WALI ALI: I know, his relationship to the different people driving him around is always funny and different.
MICHAEL: The feeling I always had was that this was like the Chariot card in the tarot enacted—that’s the feeling that I had. I just felt like I had this fragile egg in my car and he just spaced out; he didn’t say mantrams or do anything that was perceivable, he just spaced out, and I drove him around there. But when we got there, all of a sudden he was dynamic. He always went to someplace for a purpose. He would always tell me where we were going and we went there and never got side-tracked.
WALI ALI: Yeah, but he was always trying to combine a number of errands though; if he was going to be doing the errands in a certain part of town he would…
MICHAEL: Oh yeah, oh it was Uranian—the whole thing—it was first one and then the other and another, he never told me the plan ahead of time.
WALI ALI: Did you go to universities with him or just bookstores?
MICHAEL: No, bookstores and shopping a lot, and not so much to meet people and not so much to the universities—
WALI ALI: You waited some time before you took initiation?
MICHAEL: Yeah, I waited a long time—that’s a good story. I never really felt like I had to join everything—everybody was in this club like and this is how I looked at it—I certainly felt friendly with everybody and I liked everybody, but I didn’t see what was the sense of joining some club—I could go to all the meetings that I wanted to go to, and I was happy. So finally—after about being around Murshid about a year, or maybe a little less—I had this realization one day that everybody else had been going to the same class that I had, the same amount of times, but for some reason they had all shifted gears, and I hadn’t shifted gears and I realized that the only difference was that they were initiated, and I had been known in high school for cutting off my nose to spite my face or just getting mad at some teacher or some authority figure, right? And then saying, "Too bad, I’m not going to have anything to do with it," and not getting the good benefit out of it too. I figured, "I am done with that pattern," so I asked Murshid, "Murshid, will you initiate me?" I said it kind of intrepidly, I guess, very meekly, he just said, "Sure!" And that was it! The next week I got initiated. I remember he gave us cake and apple juice. I always used to remember the tea that was served at the Dharma night meetings, it was like that one cup of tea, one small cup of tea, was enough for the whole week. It was the best tea going, I remember that very strongly. As a matter of fact, after that, when I heard about the Japanese Tea ceremony, I was surprised that they had a whole ceremony, that we sort of got the blessing in one cup of tea!
WALI ALI: What would you say, just to get your overall feeling, how would you sum it up—what’s your impression of Murshid as a man or as a teacher? How would you, if you had to sum him up in a few sentences or a paragraph, what would you say about him?
MICHAEL: That’s impossible because he’s like your teacher in life so every breath he’s there—it’s impossible, you can’t sum it up. it’s different all the time, sometimes he says, "okay you can do it," and you are sure that he is going to say "no you can’t"; sometimes you are sure it is okay and it turns out to be not the right thing at all. So I can’t say. All I can say is that he’s always there.
WALI ALI: Any areas you feel that we have left blank?
SABIRA: The Three Rings?
WALI ALI: What’s your memories in relation to that?
MICHAEL: I remember this meeting under the apple tree or the plum tree at Subhana’s house and I just couldn’t believe that he was laying this whole big thing on six people—the only thing that I thought we could pull off was putting acid in the water supply but maybe we had enough sophistication to pull that off—that’s the only thing I thought that we could ever pull off. So it was like he put this whole big concentration in these six young kids' hands.
WALI ALI: All I can remember about that day is he was so raging mad because he had just suspended Mansur that he was absolutely transfixed with anger or whatever it was.
MICHAEL: I remember we didn’t say too much at that meeting—and the way he did it was, he just let us do it. He never told us to do anything. As a matter of fact, we had to ask him what he wanted us to do, and then he didn’t really tell us. He’d say, "Go look in my files; it’s all in my files," and he never told us what to do. But anything we did blew my mind how big it was as far as he was concerned. Remember when we did that Arab dinner, as far as I am concerned it was just a bunch of people that I called off the street to get them to come up there—but to him it was like world news.
WALI ALI: Yeah, again, it is that same thing we are talking about—it was the way the world revealed itself to him, how every event was seen on the big picture and I think it was really important that people of their own initiative around him were doing—any little event like that was tremendously important to him in the occult world—
MICHAEL: It wasn’t just us—anything that any of his disciples did that was positive he was for it, and he put all his energy and all his juice into it. If they wanted to have a pottery kiln at the Khankah, Ya Fatah, he wanted it to succeed, do you know what I mean?
WALI ALI: Right, that was one thing—I remember he took an axe and he was going to chop down that bench that Jelaluddin Cave had spent weeks building up there—he actually was going after it with an axe because people had lost the priority of their projects or something.
MICHAEL: I never heard that one, but I do know, I remember that he used to—first of all (about Three Rings), he was very jealous then that non-disciples didn’t work on the projects—the only non-disciple that he ever let work on the projects was Carlos—
WALI ALI: Who later became a disciple—yeah,
MICHAEL: And, of course, Van whom he didn’t want to work on Three Rings because he wanted him to do gardening—
WALI ALI: Yeah, he had a definite idea. If you did what his vision was that you were supposed to do, then it was Alhamdulillah, but if you were wanting to move to Novato and he saw you in the city, or if you were wanting to do research on the Three Rings when you were supposed to be working on the garden in Novato, then he was really upset.
MICHAEL: But it seems that most of the time most of the people did most of the things right, and he was just right there to give you positive energy. I remember when Banefsha was teaching and she was having trouble in teaching, something they said—they were going to fire her or something, she called him up and she came over, and she was crying. He said, "Okay, come on in and sit down in the kitchen."
He took me out in the garden to learn how to pick potatoes, and I guess that is how he got himself centered. He came back and everything worked out alright in the end.
WALI ALI: Why don’t I give you a copy of this tape that was done a long time ago; it’s a little bit of Shabda, but mostly Banefsha, and it might trigger some things that you might want to write down or something and we’ll give you also a transcript of this when it is done. And when you look at it there may be things that you will want to fill in when you see it down on paper.
SABIRA: How’d you and Murshid get along, Michael?
MICHAEL: I was always like the third party to everything that happened. I was just there observing everything, and the only time that Murshid ever gave me energy was every Sunday night, at least once or twice he would turn to me and look at me with such a look that I knew exactly that he was talking to me—he might have been talking to the whole room, but he was talking exactly to me at that time and that was my concentration for the week.
SABIRA: What do you mean when you say third party, who was the second party?
MICHAEL: Whatever was happening, maybe it was dinner at the Khankah, and everybody was at the Khankah and I was there also. Of course Murshid talked to me at times when we were driving, when I was chauffeuring him around.
SABIRA: Do you remember any of those conversations?
MICHAEL: I remember one time he told me that Banefsha didn’t have to do spiritual practices but I did, and that’s the one I remember really clearly—I know right where it happened.
SABIRA: Why did he say that?
MICHAEL: I don’t know why he said it, but that’s what he said.
SABIRA: Did he counsel for you and Banefsha—did you come to him with problems about anything—your marriage or Three Rings or anything in which you needed help? What was it like for the two of you and Murshid? Do you feel like getting into any of that?
MICHAEL: I remember he used to counsel me with Banefsha and I always came there with the idea that I was going to surrender to anything; I was ready to get totally bowled over by these two heavy people. I felt, for sure, forget Michael, we are going to write him off as a has-been, so I was ready to surrender to anything—whatever Banefsha and Murshid worked out—fine with me. And I was always real surprised about how he was so fair, and as a matter of fact he was always overly supportive of me and wanted to hear a lot more of what I had to say and a lot less about what Banefsha had to say—that always surprised me. I remember that one time Banefsha and I were having a fight and I was living somewhere else at the time, and that was alright with Murshid, except that he wanted to make sure that I had all the files and all my books. “You work out everything else between you, but just make sure that Michael gets his files and his books”
SABIRA: Did he tell you before he died that he wanted you to continue the Three Rings—all of you?
MICHAEL: Of course, he told us that all the time that when he was finished, he said, "I’m finished, I’ve done my work, now you are supposed to take over," he told us that all the time.
SABIRA: I was curious about something way back in the tape, you said that the Dharma night reminded you of Kabbalah or vice-versa. Can you say a little more about that, how did you connect them?
MICHAEL: What I said was that by studying Hinduism and Buddhism I learned more about Judaism and Kabbalah.
SABIRA: Then just comment on that.
MICHAEL: I learned about three bodies instead of about a lot of customs and ceremonies and history, and Murshid did a funny thing. See, my first interview he asked me, "What are you interested in?" And I said, "I am interested in learning Kabbalah." He said, "Okay, come to Monday night meeting." A couple of months later he sent me to this gardening class on Monday nights, so I used to come on Sunday nights or Saturday night dance class and he would say something, and sometimes he would lead a meditation, and then say, "Okay, are there any questions?" And after you got done doing a meditation with Murshid you never had any questions, and then the meditation would be over and there would be a space of time. And all of a sudden I would say, "Murshid, I have a question," and it was like the whole room would freeze, because he used to always say, "If you have a question you ask it at question time." But I never had questions at question time, I always had questions ten minutes later, but he let me ask them, he never got mad, but I don’t think it was right, I don‘t think it was courteous to do it, I just never had any questions. Some of the questions I had, he would say, "Okay, that’s a question for Sufi night, come back tomorrow for Sufi night," and I would sit there and say, "Murshid how could you do that, you sent me to gardening class on Sufi night." And I never got any answers to those questions.
SABIRA: What was the Saturday night dance class like for you?
MICHAEL: It was like you did these things—some of which were ridiculous and some of which were just for fun. At the end of the night you were high and at the end of months and months you were transformed; that’s the way it worked. It was really kind of like going to school—just by being there you get it.
SABIRA: How were you transformed? What do you mean?
MICHAEL: I don’t know how I was transformed, to tell you the truth. I really don’t know, I have never cognized that—concretized it.
SABIRA: What has happened since Murshid has passed on in your life as far as Murshid. Has he come to you in dreams or visions or how do you use what you learned?
MICHAEL: He just comes all the time in terms of a feeling. It’s a feeling of Murshid, and a visualization—not like a vision but like a visualization—like a memory, that kind of visualization. I remember one time we went to this fantastic dinner at Sophia’s house, and Murshid came and they gave him two or three hash cookies to eat, and Sophia says, "Murshid these are hash cookies and we want you to eat them," so he ate them and there was no difference. I think Amertat got stoned but Murshid didn’t. He wasn’t a bit different—
SABIRA: I think Baba Ram Dass tells a story like that—
SABIRA: The guy was so high anyway it didn’t make any difference, is that pretty much like it?
MICHAEL: I don’t know if that was it or not—he just overpowered it; it didn’t affect him at all, he was just on a different wave length, But he used to say that—he went to this psychedelic conference in 1967 and—Wali Ali can give you the exact quote about it—he used to say it all the time—especially during the days of the Haight-Ashbury, that all the psychologists thought he was totally sane and all the psychedelic people said that he had all these experiences that all the psychedelic people were describing, he’d had all those experiences without psychedelics. Then I remember one time he told Wali Ali and Banefsha that as far as he was concerned that the date palm was the highest psychedelic, the roots from date palm trees. One time we worked for months, for six weeks gathering stuff for the whirling dervish bazaar, for a rummage sale to work during the bazaar to benefit Hallelujah the Three Rings.
SABIRA: That would be the 1970 one?
MICHAEL: I guess it was the first one or the second one, and we worked really hard real long hours and we made all this money and the next day I found out that Murshid took all the money. I was mad about that for months. I just recently had an understanding that he took the money.
WALI ALI: Yeah, I remember he took the money from the rummage sale for the Three Rings—in fact he demanded the money, and I know what my understanding of it was: that he was trying to take the Karma on himself and give it some positive juice instead of the fact that there were disagreements and things going on in relation to the Three Rings people at that point
MICHAEL: Yeah, I think that that had something to do with it; I also think that he felt that he deserved payment for his work in New York and he wanted some energy back for that, and I think also that…
WALI ALI: Oh yeah, he had originally had the impression that that bazaar was going to be put on by the Three Rings or something and then he had some problem with Banefsha around that period of time—or you and she were having something or there was something that came down; anyhow it flipped over in his mind about the bazaar—nobody else had seen it that way—but he had seen it that way, and so that was in response to that—also it was in response to some of that karma. And I think that you are right, he certainly wanted to get some payment for his service in New York.
MICHAEL: I think also, didn’t he use some of the money to buy materials to get the ladies to make dresses to send to Pakistan?
WALI ALI: No, that was a different thing. This was remember just a rummage sale, the bazaar then was going. That was because the bazaar itself after it changed over in his mind—it was all supposed to be a benefit in his mind, so when the Three Rings thing didn’t happen, it was the East Pakistan relief and then that was the money that was taken out of the straight profits of that bazaar—I think actually a $100 was actually sent to Pakistan.
MICHAEL: His action was definitely a cleansing and karma and a forcing of surrender.
WALI ALI: Yeah right, because he wanted to see, "How are you going to fight me on this one?"
MICHAEL: But no one really fought him.
WALI ALI: That was good.
MICHAEL: Okay, are we finished?
WALI ALI: Yeah, I think we are finished.