Remembrance by Tillinghast, Jamshid and Mary

at Baba and Chalice Maize’s—Jamshid & Mary Tillinghast—interview May 12, 1976

QUESTION: Can you describe the first time you met Murshid?

JAMSHID: I’m not sure of the year, it must have been ‘68 and that was before Murshid had a beard. He looked really different. It was when Amin and Amina lived in their old house before they moved into the present Garden of Allah. And he was leading about 8 people in Sufi dancing, 8 or 10 people. And then we all went over to Alan Watt’s houseboat in Sausalito. Paul Reps was there and we all did Sufi dancing with Paul Reps. That was nice.

QUESTION: What was your impression of Murshid on that 1st meeting?

JAMSHID: I didn't like him.

QUESTION: Why didn’t you like him?

JAMSHID: He had a certain kind of gnome-like quality about him. Something about the way his face looked.

QUESTION: Did those feelings ever change?

JAMSHID: I grew to appreciate him more later on after I got to know him. Here’s something I should probably tell you, I went through an interesting thing—I’m trying to remember the exact year—

QUESTION: There were only a few short years that it all happened.

JAMSHID: Right, it was a few years back and a bunch of my friends were getting initiated by Murshid and I didn’t want to. I didn’t think it was my time to get initiated. So I went on a camping trip. It was an interesting thing that I went through because I was camping by myself in a place called Desolation Valley. And I had these real intense dreams about Murshid And I figured I should come down out of the mountains, back to SF to be initiated by Murshid. And I did. I’ve always felt that that was one of the things about him that people experienced a lot—this direct pull—a real strong magnetism. Drawing them into doing things through dreams, things like that. One thing he used to talk to me about a lot was books, literature. He knew all the romantic, 19th century writers, all the great writers. So he was always talking to me a lot about that. But poets, I wasn’t into the poets he liked. He liked Tennyson, Whittier and he was really into Whitman too. But one thing that’s always been an interesting paradox to me is that a lot of people think that part of Murshid's teaching was that people shouldn't study things, read or think about things too much. He himself was really into that. He was constantly reading books and he took adult education courses practically every year his whole life. He was really into learning a lot of things and it seems interesting; I don’t understand why people think he didn’t want us to develop our minds. I think that’s an important point, because he was constantly doing that himself. He was always learning.

QUESTION: What kind of things was he learning, What books did he read?

JAMSHID: Various things. One thing that he did was take a course in modern poetry. He began writing some things in this style, Wall Ali has some of these poems that he wrote in the modern poetry style. I thought that was real interesting.

MARY: I actually met Murshid through his mureeds before I met him. And I got engrossed totally with it. I only knew him for a very brief time, the last month of his life. One of the things that really impressed me about him was his many different faces. The totally different parts of his personality. I was attending meetings and he was there and I really wanted to meet him. It was really funny, I didn’t know what I wanted to ask him and he was very short and gruff with me. He asked for astrology charts and looked at them briefly and just grunted. Then he started asking questions like on an application blank: did you go to college? You know, background questions. I responded very weirdly. He asked, "What did you major in?" I said literature. He asked, "What do you read, what do you like?" I said I liked everything. "What else are you interested in?" Music. "What kind of music do you like?" Oh, all kinds. He insisted that I get more specific, he started naming things, just throwing ideas out, yelling at me. "Do you like Shakespeare?" Yes. "Do you like Thomas Hardy? Do you like…." and I’d have to say yes or no to all these different things. With music he listed some things and then demanded, "who else, who else?" And I said, "Oh I just like all kinds of music." "Like Frank Sinatra?" "No." "Like Tony Bennet?" "No." And he really blew my mind. It was a short interview, but he made me realize that I was in a space of “Oh everything,” doing a lot of LSD and really wandering and in a place where everything was all the same. And that is how I was living my life then. He ended the interview by looking at his watch and seeing what time it was, picking up a bowl of walnuts and began cracking them, stuffing them in his mouth, turning on the TV and watching a football game. Shortly after that I began singing in the Sufi choir. The last time I saw Murshid was at the Whirling Dervish Bazaar, and here I saw some totally different faces of his. One was that he was so proud of his kids. He was in this very paternal place. And that was his big thing, that the bazaar had been done and he was really pleased. At the end of the evening the choir finished singing and it was very joyous. Murshid came walking up to me with quick steps and smiled and kissed me. And then just walked away. That was when I met this aspect of him that most of the woman shared and that was that he really was Krishna, pure Krishna. Here he was, an old sloppy kind of grossly mannered man and I was totally in love with him. And it was like he was a lover. This quality was shared by all the ladies. That was my last personal experience with him.

JAMSHID: One thing that he was into that I think was really good was that he felt that when you travel this is the way you should do it: you should eat three really good restaurant meals a day. And I agree. I think it is the key to really comfortable long range traveling. Get about 100 miles in and have a good hardy breakfast, then a real good morning drive, good lunch and so on. It really works and I think that should be recorded. Mostly when I saw Murshid would tell me how busy he was. You would have maybe fifteen minutes to see him in an interview and he would spend about ten  minutes telling you how busy he was. You’d just sit there while he’d tell you all this stuff about how busy he was.

MARY: I had a dream about him—actually two or three dreams with Murshid in them—the year after his passing. I was standing on a hill overlooking a beautiful Marin County type view with a large meadow and there were thousands and thousands of people Sufi dancing in the meadow at the bottom of the hill. I was standing next Murshid and I was a little concerned. I said “What now?” He laughed and said “Look” pointed to the dancing people and just walked away.

JAMSHID: One thing that Murshid said to me, and I still don’t understand this, is “There is someone you should really meet. This person is the key to your…." I can’t remember his exact words, but he gave me the name of this guy, do you know the post master general of SF? Ever heard of him? A Chinese man, Lim Po Lee? He’s the postmaster, right. He has a big suite of offices at the main post office. So I made an appointment with him and went to see him. I really didn’t know why I was there and he didn’t know why I was there either. But Murshid had said that he had had the same Chinese teacher. He was really a nice man. I’ve thought about that a lot. Murshid

QUESTION: Murshid thought you should meet this man?

JAMSHID: Yeah, I actually had this interview with him in his office.

QUESTION: What did you talk about?

JAMSHID: We talked about Murshid.

QUESTION: What did he say about Murshid?

JAMSHID: He said, “Yeah, Murshid was his friend.” He didn’t have too much to say and I really can’t remember. But I never knew exactly why I was there meeting him. Recently I wrote to him, about six months ago, and asked him what the chances were about getting a job at the post office. I got back a real interesting letter from him. It was kind of inscrutable oriental style and it said that you had to get into the post office by passing the civil service exams but once you got in the chances for advancement were great. So I guess I should be working for the post office. That’s far out isn’t it? To just send you out to meet some guy. Murshid was into things like that. He liked to go and have meetings with people. He really liked to take a bunch of people and walk in places. You’d just all go in and sit down.

QUESTION: Did you regard it like an exercise in meeting someone totally unexpected? Did you dress up and prepare for it?

JAMSHID: I didn’t really. Mostly it was not knowing why I was there. And I never asked Murshid about it. But you never know about something like that. It is the kind of thing that could really be useful to you. To have it come along unexpectedly into your life, something never thought of, like the guy who met Howard Hughes out in the desert. When I was traveling we’d go into a big city like Tehran, and it was far out, it was real interesting to see. I was meeting a guy, Seyed Husain Nassar. He was a famous Muslim scholar, a Sufi. And he wasn’t too impressed when I told him I was a disciple of Pir’s, but when I mentioned Murshid he really brightened up. He said, “Oh yeah, I used to have long talks with him." It was real interesting how Murshid could connect with a lot of those people, particularly by mail. People over there, they are into letters a lot more than we are here. When I was in Pakistan I met Pir-o-Murshid, Sufi Barkat Ali, He looked a lot like Murshid and Murshid looked a lot like him. I recognized a whole lot of similarities. It was funny, they really looked so much alike. He was an old army man, used to be. He looked like a Colonel or something, he had this military manner. Murshid turned him on to writing letters. He’d never written letters much before and Murshid told him about keeping a typewriter. Now he writes a lot of letters. He has a typewriter and a couple of rubber stamps for his coat of arms or something. That is a guy who is really interesting. He was a amazing person to meet. About 300 yards away from his place, it’s like a Sufi Ashram, there is a platform where this old guy sits. And he goes “Baa, Baa” all the time. People would go over and talk to him and he’d just go “Baa, Baa” and that’s all he’d do. And I said who is that? And they’d say this guy is a Madzub. And he sounds like a sheep. Those people over there, they’ve got so much faith. Sufi Barkat Ali got into his car, the universal joint was wearing out and they went on a very long trip and whatever was suppose to go wrong with the car didn’t happen. All those guys over there all remember Murshid.

I hope what they don’t do in this book—I got the impression in Sunseed, if you watch Sunseed you got the impression everything Murshid said was like a pearl of wisdom and everything he said was right on. But in real life, actually the things he said, you’d hear them a lot. You’d hear them over and over again. He loved to repeat himself. Meeting after meeting, he’d just ramble on. And so that’s really a good thing to record. It wasn’t like every time he spoke he was coming up with something new and far out. A lot of times he was saying things you’d heard many times before. People got tired of hearing it, but for those hearing if for the first time it was interesting. Then people would say, like Amina, I never listen to what he says. People would work out things like that.

CHALICE: I know I worked out something like that once. I’d been coming to meetings for a while, sitting with his disciples around him when one time I began to feel extremely embarrassed, for myself and all of us. It was like he was talking to us at the level we were projecting, so he had to repeat things over and over. Even sometimes it seemed he’d use this voice which sounded a lot like the Maharishi, who was very popular at the time. When he’d talk in that voice I always felt like he saw us in the image of scattered hippy love children and that this was the way he was trying to reach us. I would sense our limitations and feel humiliation, which was probably real good for me.

MARY: He definitely was right for us. I just can’t imagine our connecting with him at any other time. He was so weird and so were we. We were weird enough to accept him. He had such an outrageous personality. And if you just looked at him, without knowing him or loving him, he looked like a strange sloppy old man—maybe even lecherous.

JAMSHID: A lot of people thought that about him at first. People would say that to me. I never thought that there was anything lecherous about him. I never thought he had anything going on that level. He was just too old.

BABA: I felt through Chalice what you said earlier, Mary, about Murshid being like Krishna.

MARY: Oh yes, all the women around him felt that way. They were all in love with him.

CHALICE: It was wonderful. One of the best things I’ve ever experienced. It was such a pure love of the heart. I’ve loved deeply, but this went beyond anything I’ve ever experience. it was a real opening to the greatness of the heart. It was a marvelous gift that he gave to all of us.

BABA: I went to a meeting with Chalice in San Anselmo. It was my first time. I didn’t know it but I had hepatitis at the time and I was feeling really strange. We got there early and stood around with a few others waiting for the door to be unlocked. I was very self-conscious and was staring at this poster which was tacked on the door. Murshid arrived with Hassan. He jumped out of the car, the door was unlocked and he hurried inside. We all entered and began hurrying up the stairs after him. After the meeting had started, he said “Did any of you see the poster downstairs on the door” “What did it say?” And I couldn’t remember what it had said, even though I’d been staring at it. Then he said, “Everybody go down stairs and look at that poster and see what it says.” So we did and the poster was something about Vietnam, prisoners of war or veterans I can’t remember now. Then we all went back inside. He said “Think of this, they are there and you are here.”

CHALICE: He really liked to test us like that. I remember something similar that happened at the Mentorgarten. A group of us were upstairs before Sunday dinner. He passed around a photograph of a group of men. There were about twenty of them in the picture. They were dressed in suits and religious robes. Murshid wanted us to study the picture. He passed the photograph around. Each person studied it carefully. I seriously tried to notice something unusual about it. It looked like most group pictures, tall ones in back, short in front with Murshid in the middle of the front row. Apparently they had been meeting together; they looked like leaders of various religions. Murshid was really enjoying our studious approach and he kept chuckling while we handed the picture around. When everyone had looked at it, he said “Okay, what’s wrong with the picture?” People suggested different things and were wrong. Murshid started laughing and said “Can’t you see, no one is happy, no one is smiling. Here are all these teachers, ministers, priest gathered together in the spirit of religious harmony and peace and no one is even smiling.” And of course Murshid was the only one who was.