Interview with Murshida Vera Van Voris—February 20-1972
Note: At the time of this interview, Murshida Vera was a Sheikha in the Sufi Order and refers to herself as such during the course of the interview.
WALI ALI: All right, now let’s begin at the beginning. When did you first meet Samuel Lewis?
MURSHIDA VERA: This is Sheikha Vera Van Voris telling you some of the memories that I have of our beloved Murshid Samuel Lewis. It was in the spring of 1937 that I met a very inspiring woman who was then secretary of the Index of American Design, the head of which was Mrs. Armstrong—Nora Adams Armstrong, the wife of the great New York illustrator and publisher, Sidney Armstrong. She had just returned from work with the Navajo Indian children that she had devoted most of her life to, and had started out under government tutelage as the head of the new Index of American Design. I was working across the hall in the photographic department and saw Hazel Armstrong every day. We had an immediate attunement and liking for each other, and it wasn’t long before she invited me to her apartment, which she shared with the Khalif a, Dr. Davida Herrick. Davida Herrick and Hazel Armstrong were of the same generation as our Murshid. And they had grown up in the Sufi work, living in the old Khankah on Franklin Street in San Francisco and later at Kaaba Allah at Fairfax. It was at her home that I first met up with the work of Inayat Khan, his music and a few recordings which we then had and felt deeply attuned to it, because I had had early psychic experiences with Murshid Inayat Khan, as a very young child, five years of age. And I had never seen him in the flesh or knew that he lived in the flesh; and when I saw pictures of him in Hazel Armstrong’s music room, it just turned me on. I was thrilled to know that this person really lived and what he was and what he stood for and immediately was attracted because of that to the Sufi literature and the Sufi work. Hazel Armstrong started me out in the Gathas and the preparation to become a Sufi. My young husband, Don Clark, whose Sufi name was Arjuna, also was active with me in preparing for the Sufi work. But, because of my experience and background, Hazel soon felt that she couldn’t handle me. She would just tune out or go into a state of questioning me, and I wasn’t getting anything out of it. She said, "Be patient. Your teacher is going to be here in a few days." But the few days went into many weeks. But finally one day Samuel Lewis returned from his trip, and she set a specific time and date for me to come to the Sufi headquarters on Sutter Street to meet him. I came in, not knowing what to expect. I hadn’t any idea—no one had told me a thing about Samuel, who he was or what he was or anything. So it was a great surprise. But the minute I saw him we recognized each other immediately and went towards each other and enfolded each other in our arms, and both of us were overwhelmed with emotion. It was as though we had been separated for centuries and all at once we again met. And neither one of us could put it into words or explain it. Perhaps I can’t explain it to this day, but I’m sure that we knew each other in India and that we had been very closely aligned, perhaps in a brother-sister relationship—at any rate, in a blood relationship where we were of the same generation and very close in our thoughts and our love for each other. He initiated me immediately following this, without any speech or explanations. Our meetings were always emotional: we were either weeping or very joyous or dancing or—we would go into this state immediately we met, and that set the key for the whole thing. The whole visit would be on that immediate note that we felt when we first met each other or sat before each other. Samuel immediately took Arjuna and I to Fairfax. We were working during the week. I was then starting to paint for the Index of American Design and had to be there part of the week; but I spent perhaps four days a week at Kaaba Allah and three in the city where I had to be at the old Washington School Headquarters. Every weekend on Friday evenings all of the Sufis got on the ferry boat and we went over to Fairfax.
And we met in what was called the lower house on the property, in the biggest room on the property, second to the chapel. This room was kept bare to the center; it had a large fireplace; it had a dining alcove, and a large kitchen led off of this room also. We all sat in a circle—the older mureeds sat in chairs; all of the younger ones sat on cushions on the floor and Samuel would always see that I was opposite to him. He wanted me in front of him. I might be across an auditorium or across a room, but he would always give me the eye—and we had excellent mental telepathy—and I knew what he wanted me to do. He would give me only a little nod of the head, but I knew I was sitting in a wrong position; and I’d move until he bowed his head forward and I knew I was where he wanted me to be. This, I think, had something to do with polarities; that there was a positive-negative polarity between us, and if we were in alignment whatever happened would not be a direct attack on him. It would be put into a Kemal state where the individual could not continue that attack. In my first meetings with Samuel in the Sufi Order, I realized that he was having an inner battle with the older mureeds. When I say, "older mureeds," I mean those who had been the young disciples of Inayat Khan at Suresnes, and later in New York and the Cleveland Center and finally in San Francisco where they settled at Kaaba Allah under Murshida Rabia Martin’s tutelage. And that was a Khankah—the so-called upper house—the house that burned was the house that the older mureeds lived in. They were all grey-haired or white-haired. And I was a young woman when I came into the Order. They lived up until the time of the Meher Baba entrance on the scene, and then they seemed to die one after the other. They just all left this plane around the same time, and those Sufis are all buried in a Sufi plot in a cemetery in San Rafael, I believe.
To continue, Samuel and I had a great deal in common in the dance. I had danced for ten years, and we did a lot of dancing together at a time when we didn’t have dances as you have today. The dervish dance did not come in yet, was not popular in this area. But we danced, with each other. Samuel would just simply stand up in the circle and lift up his hands and start, and I would stand up, and we would dance. And everyone else sat and looked at us, which we weren’t conscious of, I guess. But, looking back on it, I wondered why everyone else didn’t get up and join us. But we didn’t invite them; they were probably too flipped by what we were doing.
But in these days, the older mureeds would say that Samuel was a canary bird. And he was hopping up and down on a perch and getting nowhere. Well, they simply did not understand the dances of Shiva which, of course, took in that type of leg and arm movement. And it was what we were—the meditation I was picking up psychically was that. And I never asked Samuel, but I’m sure that’s what he was picking up too. At any rate, that was the type of dancing we did. We had three groups there: this group in the twenties, the very older mureeds, and the very young mureeds.
WALI ALI: Did Murshida Martin live at Kaaba Allah?
MURSHIDA VERA: Not at this time. She had lived at Kaaba Allah in the early days. And she rode horseback up on those hills and picked out that property and developed it right from scratch. And then, gradually as the work went along, they financed these buildings. The older mureeds put a lot of money into this. They put their fortunes and their lives into it. And they deserved the love and respect of the younger group. But, unfortunately, they put up a block against the younger generation’s growth and tried to stick to the old formulas that had come from Suresnes, I guess—I don’t know where this had come from. But they wanted to sit in a room and they wanted to be preached at or talked to; they didn’t want to experience. We wanted to experience; we wanted to dance and to paint and to work on the flowers and on the gardens. Everything we wanted to do we wanted to be active in doing. And the older mureed had a different concept of getting the work. Now, I’m not downing this, because with these older mureeds…
Previous to my becoming a Sheikha, Samuel took me into what was sort of an entrance hall between the front and the back of the upper house. And this room had all of the files—locked files—with the entire Sufi papers—everything that Inayat Khan had written—and most precious materials, all of which burned in the fire later. The library was there, a large Sufi library which took in all four walls. And this was a place that the older mureeds loved to read in and to work in. And every afternoon at 3:00 they opened their bedroom doors, which led off of a long hall from this library, and each one sat in his room with his Sufi book; and each one read aloud from the Sufi books, whatever he was currently on. The droning here was like a hive of bees, each one doing his own work on a different level.
Samuel and I would come up to the library, plug our ears, and march through as fast as we could out to the other part of the house. The upper house at Kaaba Allah had a ground floor entrance in the center that you went up to on one little flight of stairs. Off of this were some outdoor screened rooms that various mureeds slept in. Then you went into an area that had a little sitting room and the small apartment and kitchen that belonged to Hazel Armstrong’s mother. And she was the traveling companion of Rabia Martin on all of her trips to South America and other parts of the world to spread the Message.
SHIRIN: I have two questions: first, were any of the buildings on the property when it was bought?
MURSHIDA VERA: I don’t know that, because when I came the buildings were already there and in excellent condition. The buildings that were later furnished along the fence on the adjoining property opposite the opposite fence to where the rock is, were long low buildings. And they were right on the borderline of the property and were bought at the time of Meher Baba’s expected visit and were furnished for him, but occupied by an attorney that Hazel Armstrong was serious about, was going with.
WALI ALI: When was this?
MURSHIDA VERA: When did Meher Baba come into this picture?
WALI ALI: I’m not sure; sometime in the 1940’s, wasn’t it?
MURSHIDA VERA: I would have to look that up. It seems to me that it was at the end of the war years, towards the end of the war, that he came in. Because I was living with Mary Chase, a Sufi, who had been the housekeeper at Kaaba Allah; she and her mother had been cook and housekeeper. And Mary Chase came to work and do war work in San Francisco, and lived with me on Telegraph Hill in my apartment. And it was at this time that they were doing all this refurbishing over in Kaaba Allah for Meher Baba and trying very hard to get me active in it. I couldn’t see it at all.
WALI ALI: I don’t want to take up that topic directly. What I’m interested in now is, let’s say, the history of Kaaba Allah.
MURSHIDA VERA: All right. Now, I do not know what happened before I came at Kaaba Allah, except that it was going full force when I entered it, as a young woman. The rose garden was as large as this room, and we were trying to expand that to three times that amount, which eventually happened.
SHIRIN: Did it seem as if the buildings were made for the purposes that they were put to use, or…
MURSHIDA VERA: I suppose they were, by that generation. The chapel was on the second floor, above this apartment of Hazel’s mother. You went up another flight of stairs; to your left as you went up that flight of stairs would have been the library I described to you, and a long hail with the older mureeds’ rooms off of that, and the bathroom facilities. To the right was the large chapel. The chapel, again, was occupied by chairs in rows, and we never were allowed to open that up and dance or do any of that work there. That was always done in the lower house, in what was the meeting room or open living room. Although Samuel and I danced many times alone in the chapel, but never with the group. The prayers, of course, were always said there, and the speakers would speak in front of the altar there. Healing services were held there. I recall only once that we had Universal Worship there. Universal Worship was always given in the Sutter Street headquarters in San Francisco. And most of the lectures and meetings were given there.
SHIRIN: Are any of these buildings still existing in Fairfax.
MURSHIDA VERA: The lower house and all of these little shacks that were refurbished for Meher Baba are. That property was bought at that time with the money from Murshida Duce and the princess, other people interested in Meher Baba.
WALI ALI: The period that we’re talking about—your entrance on the scene—is about 1937, and then when World War II came, I suppose the picture changed at Kaaba Allah.
MURSHIDA VERA: Yes, it changed—well, I don’t know what happened at Kaaba Allah because we were all pulled out of the Khankah life to serve. The young men went to war immediately: Arjuna and probably four or five others; Dr. Tuffey immediately went into the medical work, as did Dr. Davida Herrick; Hazel Armstrong moved out to the end of Monterey Boulevard and opened a knitting shop, where she had little Sufi meetings that I could attend to. We were all working different hours; and, as I went into the Naval Training School at Bethlehem Steel as an artist, my life was twelve hours a day. Our lives changed drastically because of the war.
WALI ALI: What we want to talk about first is the period from 1937 up to the change that took place at the war. So we’ll concentrate first on this period in detail.
MURSHIDA VERA: All right. Perhaps I should talk some more about what happened then at Kaaba Allah.
WALI ALI: Let me ask you a couple of questions, and then when you start talking, you can answer them in the course of your talk. About how many people were involved in the Sufi work at that time? How many young mureeds? What was a typical day like at Kaaba Allah? And was Murshida Duce at Kaaba Allah? What did Murshid Samuel Lewis do during the day at Kaaba Allah?
MURSHIDA VERA: Murshida Duce was never at Kaaba Allah. Murshida Duce was a secret mureed of Rabia Martin. She went to Berkeley to train her. We knew that; she told a few of us—she told me, anyhow—that she was going every week to train this very wealthy woman who refused to be known in the Order, who did not, for political or financial reasons, wish to be known as a Sufi. Yet she was giving her private lessons in Berkeley. Now, we didn’t know how serious this was, or what she had in mind. Evidently she had in mind from that point that Murshida Duce would take over her work, though she was at that time in good health. There was no reason to feel that she would later have cancer in her shoulder, to my knowledge. But she trained her secretly. How much of this she told Samuel I do not know. Things were going along very well.
At the time when she had the cancer in her shoulder—this must have been in 1945, because my little daughter was about a year old, she was just toddling around at that time—was when Murshid Martin came to see me. And she then had large pads and bandages on her shoulder. And she visited me in Glen Park in my little cottage and told me about Meher Baba and told me how much I was needed in the work and that she wanted me to come back and serve in this work; and told me of the superiority of this man, of the fact that he was a seventh plane master, and our Murshid Inayat Khan was somewhere low on the scale in comparison to this great man. Well, you can imagine that for a person who had met Inayat Khan in the spirit body at five years of age, it was a tremendous guidance in my entire life work before I ever knew that he lived on this plane; I could not accept this gradation of mastery which was foreign to all which we had been taught in the Sufi Order. That is, that we are in tune with the hierarchy, that the hierarchy has to do with the heart attunement with the master and his master and his master before him. One does not step up by staircase levels, but one attunes by the heart and the spirit; and this puts us in the states which we are in, and this gives us the initiations which we have attained before our master ever puts the sign on our forehead or our heart. And immediately something closed for me. I simply could not accept it, though I tried hard to be polite and loving and attuned to her, which I always was.
At Kaaba Allah, when Murshida Martin was on the property, things ran in a very routine manner, as routine as one could make Samuel and the younger mureeds. We would have about 25 young ones—I mean teenagers—that Samuel and I would be in charge of: I in the girls’ apartments, he in the boys’ apartments. But this didn’t work out too well, because we were climbing all over the place. We would be having meditations at 12:00 at night or 2:00 in the morning in the girls’ rooms. (laughs ) The older mureeds up above could look down and see those lights and look in the windows; their hair was standing on end, and they were sure that Samuel and I were leading them down a devious sexual path, which of course was not true. It was all full of joy and full of fun, and there was never any of that. The great tangle of love-life problems came with the people of my generation. Every Sufi was in love, and no Sufi was in love with one person. Everybody was in love with at least three: This entanglement never brought on any extreme jealousies among the men; they seemed always to be able to get along well and work together and not have any terrible arguments or fights or feelings against one another. But with the women, it was another thing. The girls became very serious on this, and they would study the Sufi work very closely to back up all of their love notes with quotes from Murshid—and Murshid, I’m sure, never knew he could be quoted in so many different ways!
WALI ALI: By Murshid you mean?
MURSHIDA VERA: Inayat Khan! All of this Samuel seemingly paid no attention to, as if he didn’t see it and he just didn’t recognize it at all. Everyone’s life went their own way. He interrupted and involved himself with all of them with love and understanding and criticized none of them.
WALI ALI: Now, these teenagers, about twenty or so people involved, did they live at Kaaba Allah?
MURSHIDA VERA: No, they came on weekends only, and they were children of mureeds. They were all children of mureeds. I don’t ever recall anyone being there that was not related to a Sufi.
WALI ALI: Had they received initiation, these young people?
MURSHIDA VERA: At that time, I don’t think any of them had been given Bayat, but I really don’t know. If so, Samuel had done it privately. We took turns with these young people; all was not group work. When you came in there would be a retreat schedule posted on a doorpost of every room in both buildings, so that wherever you entered, on every level, you could read it and see what was going to happen at a certain hour in that building. And the first thing you did after you put your baggage down was to go and find out what was happening in the upper house and what was happening in the lower house.
But, regardless of what you wanted to do, or chose to do for that weekend, you were expected to rise when Samuel gave the call and to get yourself to the chapel, and in a hurry. So most of us just put on our Sufi robes and our sandals and went up there. And, by the way, I see something happening now that Samuel was dead against at that time, and that was that never did you expose your feet to concrete. He felt and preached to us all, "You are losing your magnetism when you put your feet on concrete or on asphalt, but take off your shoes whenever you can get on wood, and on earth, and on grass. " Which we did. We all did our practices on the Sufi paths and in the houses. We wore tobbies then a great deal, and they were not as popular as they became as beachwear a later.
So we have all come in now, wandered in, some of us on Friday night, some of us very early Saturday morning, but the younger mureeds always come on Friday. As soon as we can get away from work we hie it down to the ferry boat and over to Kaaba Allah. The minute we get off the train, off with our shoes. And we walk on the dirt borders, seeing as how we were never supposed to walk on the concrete. But we could manage that way to get the biggest part of the way up to Kaaba Allah without it. But Samuel would always be on the upper terrace looking down: "You’re doing it again!" when he’d see us in bare feet coming up the asphalt on the last turn of the road. He didn’t want us to have our feet on this pavement at all. So he would come up, and you’d run up the stairs, thinking you were going to see Samuel, but you didn’t. He’d disappeared. You would just see him through the trees and the bushes, waving his hand at you, and then he was gone, like magic. But you wouldn’t see him then until dinnertime.
We had a big gong, on the front of that building, which was always struck by Hazel Armstrong; and when you heard that gong, you got yourself in your robe and came down to dinner. It was the day of what’s called hot pants now, of course; we’d all be in our hot pants when we were there, with as little clothes as possible, which really shocked the older mureeds. And they made it so that you had to wear your robe when you came to the dinner table. They were not about to see you like that. So we early learned to have our Sufi robes handy—there was a big banister on the porch at the upper house, and we’d all throw our robes over it.
WALI ALI: Did everyone have a robe?
MURSHIDA VERA: Everyone had a robe.
SHIRIN: Were they the same?
MURSHIDA VERA: Peach color; apricot was the great Sufi color used during Inayat Khan’s days at Suresnes, and he wore a great deal of the apricot, and we all copied that.
SHIRIN: You had a choice of making your own robe?
MURSHIDA VERA: I can’t remember that you made your first robe. A robe was always given to you by your initiator; when you were initiated, you were given a robe. Sometimes it was very poor material, sometimes it was patched. I’ll have to bring over my Murshid’s shawl and show you what was given to me when I became a Sheikha. And it was full of holes and gold wool, and it had the Indian embroidery on it, that tarnished years before, and nothing can look so bad as tarnished Indian embroidery. And I looked at it, and I thought, "Oh my, how am I going to stop the moths?" And Samuel, who was present, laughed; and as soon as the initiation was over, he took me aside. He said, "I know, you were worried about that sieve, weren’t you? (laughs) And I said, "Frankly, yes. How do you stop the moths?" He said, "Don’t worry," he says, "you fight them with a needle." I said, "How?" He said, "By the time you patch all of those holes, all of your sins will be worn out. You will have worked them out." (laughs) I said, "You’ve got to be kidding!" "No, I’m not kidding," he said, "the ancient Sufis believed that as you darn the holes in your robes, you expiated the sins of your life before your initiation—your lives, not your life, but your lives before." And I said, "Oh, Samuel, you don’t believe in reincarnation!" He said, "I can only quote you what my Murshid taught me. Reincarnation is a fact, but we do not teach it!”
So I darned, and when you see it, you’ll see I’ve still got a lot of holes to catch up on, so my sins are not expiated, perhaps not in this lifetime anyhow (laughs). However, we didn’t wear these ritual robes then, but we wore the light cover; they didn’t have nylons in those days, they had rayons—some time I’ll bring you the first one that I wore over there as a young woman. But many of them were built very much like the Japanese kimonos. Some of the girls wore the Japanese kimonos, the light silk ones. The young girls—thirteen, fourteen-year old kids seemed to like those. The ones that were in their early twenties always wore the Sufi garment, which was all in one piece and went over the head. And it was done on yardage that had a little slit at the neck, and then you’d hold out your arms, you would simply sew from here down to the bottom. The type of thing they wear today for lounging? That was the type of thing that we liked, because you could just shove it over your head.
SHIRIN: Oh, a kaftan. So it was like a triangle.
MURSHIDA VERA: Yes, that idea, because you could slip it over your head quickly. And that’s what we wore. But the ones that were given for initiation usually opened down the front. If Murshida Martin gave them to you, they had openings down the front. And all those that she brought from India and from the great holy places of the Sufi poets which she visited in her lifetime, and they were given to her, had a great deal of Sufi mantrams in the Urdu stamped or painted down the shoulders, running down the shoulders, over the breast and down to the knees. They never wrote anything below the knees. That, no doubt, meant something, but I didn’t figure out what. But that type of robe was famous for her generation; the older mureeds wore that type that came from India or Persia and no doubt had been given to them by their initiators.
But, anyhow, all the robes would be hung on this big banister, and when you heard that gong you ran like mad and got that on you and ran down the path and down the stairways, which were winding, until you got to the lower house porch, where you wiped your feet before you came in. There were heavy mats there, hand-woven mats, and you always wiped your feet before you came in. Because the floor of the meeting hall was carpeted—and so we would always wipe the dust off our feet.
Then you came in, and you came to the table, and you stood, much as you do at the Catholic and Anglican retreat houses. You did not sit for the blessing. You stood behind your chair until the Murshid entered. If it was Murshida Martin, she entered first, and then Samuel entered. He was a Khalif then, and he sat at the foot of the table and she sat at the head. If she was not there, Murshid Samuel sat at the head of the table. They were long refectory tables, with straight-backed chairs, carved-back chairs and you stood behind your chair until the blessing was given. And a mantram was also given for that day, which was usually a reprimand. It seemed to us, the young ones, that we were always being reprimanded, that whenever we’d gotten off too wildly we were given a quotation to cool us down. That may not have been so, but we felt it was given with that in mind.
When we sat down, Samuel would soften this; when the conversation began, he would always soften this with his own talk and interpretation which might be about what the Chinese are doing this week in Chinatown in San Francisco or, "I saw somebody roller skating backwards at the rink last night." And they would go like this; they would be completely disjointed stories that you’d think, "What in the world is he talking about?" And then when the silent parts came and people were eating, you’d be trying to mull over in your mind, "What was he thinking? What was he talking about?" (laughs) And then, bang! you had it! It was always something for the younger generation. And then, as soon as we got out of there, we’d say, "Hey! Did you understand what he said?" And they’d compare notes, and sure enough, the biggest amount of us had all got the message, which was so hidden in this jumble that the older generation never knew what he was talking about (laughs). And we felt very wise and it sort of encouraged us.
Now, your duties were given to you when you came. The retreat lists told you what room you would have. Your name would be on there and you would be assigned to a certain room. The first part of the years there I worked with the younger kids, and I was always assigned to the girls’ quarters, which was in the lower house on the second floor. This was a three- story building, the lower house was, and still is. The last time I was there, it was still very much the way it was at the beginning. It had this outdoor porch faced on the garden; behind that was the big meeting room, the dining area and the kitchen. You went up a staircase to the top floor: that floor had nothing but bathrooms, the housekeeper’s apartment, at the end of that hall: open rooms, and bathrooms on that whole level, for the young girls.
WALI ALI: Was the housekeeper a mureed?
MURSHIDA VERA: Oh yes, everybody there was an initiate. Then if you wanted to go to the bottom floor—because this was built on a hillside—you would have to walk around the side of the building. And there was an entrance at the lower end, where the driveway to the garages were. You would come off of that driveway and come up to this back entrance. This was an apartment where either an older mureed lived in or Samuel lived in. A lot of the time, as I remember, that was his apartment; and no one, unless you were called there, ever was allowed in that apartment. I was in there only once, and it was a most unhappy experience which I’ll tell you later, about when Samuel lived there.
I first met Murshida after she came back from her South American—and she was a square woman who was like a block, to me. And she was strong-looking, masculine-looking, a deeply mental woman who had striven hard for her early learning. It came in a different way than it came to this younger generation. It came intellectually and by mental discipline And her husband was an importer of oriental art goods, and she had an endless amount of money to devote to the work. She was completely and absolutely devoted to Inayat Khan. When she went to Suresnes, she was so different from all the other mureeds, who were many of the others who became Murshidas following her. You see, she was the first Murshida. Inayat Khan made her a Murshida before any of the others. And no doubt she deserved it, because she worked so hard to attain the entire teaching, intellectually. And she had the money to put the centers into work. And her devotion, heart devotion, was so sincere, could not have been denied. But her personality and her outer approaches were intellectual.
Now, in the days of Murshida Goodenough and Murshida Green, these were women of extreme spiritual qualities, esoteric qualities, deep, always in some state of the inner planes. And the young Dutch sisters, who spread the work in Holland, were very young mureeds at that time, and Inayat Khan gave them a great deal of the esoteric work. Then he sent Fatha Engle and Mary Kushi, who was made a Sheikha by Maheboob Khan, I believe, and who became my last teacher in the later days— after the Kaaba Allah and Meher Baba affair broke—then she became my guide and teacher for a period of time. Not exempting Samuel, but our paths went different ways at that time for a while. Anyhow, you can understand that when she came to Kaaba Allah, she built everything the way Suresnes was built. She planned everything, and everything was run there the way Suresnes was run during the early days of Inayat Khan's work.
Samuel had not been to Suresnes, and his reception with Murshid Inayat Khan, despite the things that I read in the latter days—I do not believe this was true—because of everything that Samuel ever talked to me about. And he had had also an experience like I had had; we had both had extreme experiences on the spirit plane with Inayat Khan. Samuel, in his early days, now, at the time when he was gardener and Major Do and second Murshid Khalif and manager of Kaaba Allah during Murshida Martin’s many travels, was very much receiving on the spiritual plane. His messages, his commentaries, the work which he gave to us, was all dictated from the spirit. And he was down in the little apartment down below, and you’d hear that little type-writer going faster than anyone could ever type, and the reams of material that was coming out—to every level, to every age level, to every interest on Kaaba Allah: from things like how to ride horseback and meditate, to thinks like how to do the Dervish dances on roller skates or on ice skates, or how to hike and, while hiking, heal oneself, to climbing trees, and retreats from the world in treetops for young people—fantastic subject matter! Such breadth of view—of course, a human being could not do it!
Samuel was not a human being, and anyone who tries to approach him that way starts off on the wrong foot, because you find him Yiddish, you find him pushy, you find him insulting, you find him over-egotized, you find him a man who’s going to plow through whether you like it or not. But if you meet him and looked at him as in the spirit, then you would understand that here is a man who has a work to do, in a very short lifetime, a tremendous work to do. He has to meet all generations, all age levels, on their level, never on his own—this he would never do. His teaching, in his spiritual life, he met you on your own level—and sometimes that level was a low level, in those days of great poverty in the depth of the Depression. Whatever that level was, Samuel could ignore your being hungry. You could come there, as many times we did, without food all day—Samuel would never see that you got something to eat. He would take you on a hike, and he would pick an herb here to give you and an herb there to give you, and he would talk to you. And soon you ended up on the rock, and you sat down with him. And then he would transcend you out of the flesh totally and into the spiritual body. And you would have the most marvelous experience with him—some spoken, some meditating, some merely holding his hand and watching the sunset from the rock. And you would come down totally filled. You would not feel hungry, you would not feel weak, you would not feel depleted, and you would feel a fulfillment of all three of your bodies, the subtle body, the spiritual body, the mental body—complete harmony. Then you entered for your evening meal, and you weren’t even thinking about physical food. And this was not only my experience, because I speak to you as a person who had a great deal of inner experience; but it was the experience of quite earthy people, who also at that time were hungry.
Murshida Martin was extremely generous—those of us who did not have the money were never kept away from Kaaba Allah. When you were assigned to your room from the retreat sheet on the front of the doorsills, you then went to your room. Right inside of your room, on the door, would be posted you own instructions, which would tell you what you were expected to do. You were not asked what to do, you were assigned. And Samuel made these assignment. But they were—you just wondered, How did he ever choose these? Because many of us he hadn’t seen since Wednesday, when we would meet at the Sutter Street headquarters for an evening of whatever he was teaching at that time—and yet he hit it right on the nail for everyone. If you were physically low that week, he would have you assigned to working in the earth. If you had a whole lot of sexual energy that you didn’t know where to place, you’d be working on the rock pile, digging up bamboo, or planting fences. He had it planned for you so that you used your energies in a way that you would gain something in the spiritual body, no matter what: if you were using the physical, you still would end up in the spiritual body by Sunday night, I can promise you!
And there was great work going on at Kaaba Allah. We were leveling the ground where the clotheslines were. This was the only flat area on the grounds, and it was adjoining the fences where the little low buildings which were later bought for Meher Baba were located, that border of the property. And we had leveled that. Now, this was a great place where we could do our dancing and our games. We played lots of games with these younger children. Samuel's games were original and they were always in the circle, and they were always big group things that everybody did. Everybody was pulled in. No matter what age you were, if you went down there, you got hauled into it and you had a great old time. And we took down the clotheslines, which made the old ladies roar, and wrapped them on the poles so that we had even a bigger area. And it was as large as this whole house, this area, that had hard-packed dirt, and it was lovely—bare feet felt great in it. So this is where we had slot of our playing went on there.
But then the upper gardens, above the rock and below the rock, were heavily overgrown with bay trees and grass and bamboo, scattered bamboo. And Samuel decided to transplant it; we would dig up the bamboo, which was everywhere, and get it along that border, so that there would be privacy from private homes above there that could look down on it. He always felt a fear of these outside people looking at us, watching us—an apprehension, not a fear, an apprehension. And I think it was preliminary to the burning of Kaaba Allah, when those were the people who made the great attacks on him and claimed he had set fire to the upper house.
WALI ALI: When did Kaaba Allah burn?
MURSHIDA VERA: I don’t know that year. I wish I knew the year that it burned. I was traveling and returned from New York to hear that it had burned, and Samuel was in great disgrace and had been really pushed out of the Order. And everyone was furious; all the older mureeds were furious with him.
WALI ALI: Did people really think that he burned the place?
MURSHIDA VERA: Well, these people claimed—he was the only person on the property. And these people who were on adjoining property there were friends of Murshida Martin from the early days, when they bought there and built there at the same time. They claimed that they saw him enter that lower room. There was a great oak tree that grew there, huge oak tree, and it went up and wound around to the third floor where Murshida’s apartment and my apartment—or whoever was her maid or her servant chosen for that month would live in that apartment. But I was there most of the time, and took care of her clothes and her robes and the burning of her incense and the scattering of the rose petals—everything was ritual. Everything that had been done for Murshid’s apartment in Suresnes, I had to learn those methods, and they were used on her apartment.
Samuel cared not at all for that. He lived so much in the spiritual body that, if it hadn’t been for Hazel Armstrong taking care of him, he would have forgotten to take a bath, change his clothes or put on a sweater. I’ll tell you some incidents of this forgetfulness of the physical body, which was hilarious when we were young, and sometimes embarrassing too, to those of the older generation. But he was really cute on that, and these older people just didn’t understand it. They were shocked at it, and they would always quote Murshid Inayat Khan, who always wore his slippers, who always had his robe on, who always combed his beard and his hair, who always had the light shining around him. And here was Samuel—frockless, dirty, unkempt, not giving a hoot for the physical body—and it really shook these mureeds to the bottom. I can’t remember that it ever bothered any of us; we always thought it was amusing and funny and just cute. We all got a big bang out of him. But the older generation surely did not.
Anyhow, after you were assigned your work, then this is what you had to do for that whole weekend. Now you might be assigned the job of gathering up all of the young people, or the children up to twelve years of age (they were called children at Kaaba Allah)—all those under twelve you gathered up and you got them to working, either on building the flower leis, which would be ten inches across and you made these big leis, and long leis, that were always draped over the entrance of Kaaba Allah. By entrance I don’t mean the lower entrance that we come up from the station, but I mean where the road wound around the rock, and still winds around the rock today. You hike around the upper road, there; and there was a gateway leading down to the library of the upper house, by a short path as wide as an ordinary garden, and that gateway my father had built. And it was made of huge timbers—two huge timbers and had a great crossbar that had the Sufi symbol carved on it. And you entered through that gate. If you drove your car, of course, you had to park up by the rock, or on those little narrow edges next to the road there. You’d leave your car and then you’d enter through the upper house and come down to the lower house.
But the great oak tree came over that house, so that on the third floor, if you were in my apartment, you could hop out of the window and climb down the oak tree, which was the way I entered and left most of the time in those years. I don’t think I ever came up that staircase any more than I had to. Also, you could get out when you were supposed to be there and do what you wanted to do—which I loved—under the rock and down the little building and the new bamboo fence. A little creek ran through there and we wanted to have just a wild meditation garden, with nothing planned other than the natural herbs and plants that grew, and transplanting them so that they were in a place to give us privacy. There were natural rocks there and natural swings—so many natural places that you could sit and meditate right in the rock or in the trees. It just seemed to be made for young people’s meditation, and we used that area a great deal. All of the young people loved that part of the property. Murshida Martin loved the under part of the rock, the face of the rock that faced the lower house. And that is where her ashes were supposed to be placed—because that’s where she always wanted to be buried, under that rock, or within that rock, but whatever happened at her death I don’t know.
When you had your duties, you knew what you were supposed to do, but you would have dinner that evening. Dinners at Kaaba Allah were very different than anything we later served or had in the Sufi Order. Your main meal was in the middle of the day, and in the evening it was like a supper. And you had different kinds of marmalades and natural grain breads, and there was always plenty of buttermilk, milk and tea—herb teas. I don’t remember that we drank a lot of China tea; it seemed to me we had mostly herb teas, which many people gathered, or they were given to the Order. I know we didn’t buy them; they came from within the Order. But I wasn’t part of that at that time. I had other duties.
But, anyway, to have a flower lei over that gate on a Sunday morning was sort of a must. When it was time for chapel in the morning, Samuel would be out there, sometimes at 5:30 if he wanted you to go horseback riding or hiking, but it would be very dawn’s early light. He would get outside of the girls’ dorm, in that garden at the side of the lower house, and he would sing—oh, "Pirates of Penzance" (laughter) or any one of those that happened to hit his mind. He was off on that tack at that time; he’d start singing. Well, of course, it would take two minutes before we’d be up to the window and yodeling it back to him.
SHIRIN: That’s what he’s doing right there. (looks at picture)
MURSHIDA VERA: Is he really?
SHIRIN: At my wedding—he’s singing the wedding song from Mikado, is it?
WALL ALI: No. No, it’s from the Lord High Chancellor who’s always giving the brides away—
MURSHIDA VERA: Oh, yes! (laughs)
WALL ALI: "And one for him and one for him, but never, never one for me!”
MURSHIDA VERA: (laughing) Oh, yes! Boy, I’d love that! And he’d have his hands out, just like that. Of course, he was a very young man, and he’d usually have on his dark slacks, his bare feet, and always a white shirt, open down to his stomach. (laughter) And sometimes his prayer beads or sometimes just flowers that—when we worked on the flowers we’d usually make a lei for Murshid. I'd always see that I made a lei for him, or some of the girls did; and then we’d pick one of the youngest ones that he was currently spending a lot of time with, to put it over his head and kiss him. And this was never a Sufi kiss; it was a smack-on, which would always give Samuel great pleasure.
WALI ALI: (laughing) That’s a real Sufi kiss.
MURSHIDA VERA: He would chuckle and he’d laugh, and he’d get such a big kick out of these young ones being in love with him. Well, someone was always in love with Samuel. You never got very far in the Sufi work before you fell in love with him. And this was a very serious thing. The young ones simply would not tolerate anybody around him when they were going through this love stage. And Samuel seemed to recognize this, and he would pick them for private walks and private horseback rides, and he would get this mureed to himself a great deal of the time, while the rest of us would, just in disgust, throw up our hands. There he goes again? We’ve got to share him another weekend!
But Arjuna, my young husband, was a very quiet young man, but he was very interested in—deeply interested in—the breathing. And Samuel spent a lot of time with him working on levitation. And he and Samuel would sit, would go down below the rock there. And they were big rocks we were trying to move; I mean they were perhaps three by six feet—they were boulders! And they had to be moved. Well, the boys would put down planks that they’d nailed together with cross bars, and they’d roll these rocks onto this sort of a lever. And then it had to be lifted, so that it could be carried to where they wanted to put it in this bamboo garden. And Arjuna would always be on one end and Samuel on the other end, and sometimes if Yon Wood had come over from Europe, he would be down there, working with them too, on this levitation. And at our parties we would practice levitation.
SHIRIN: Someone who lies down and everybody lifts them with their fingertips?
MURSHIDA VERA: Yes, and somebody would cross hands and then sit down, and the person would sit up, and Samuel would say, "All right?" (a strong and loud inhalation is taken) And everybody would inhale like the roof was coming off. But they didn’t lift people only to here—they were good! They could lift them right over their heads. And it was really a sensation when you were the person being given the ride on breath. It was lots of fun; we had lots of fun doing that. And the levitation went on and on. Murshid was away; when she came back, she put a stop to it right away. She said, "You are off on something that is far from what Inayat than taught, and we are not going to have any magicians around here, period." (laughter) Put we didn’t care, because big work in the garden had been done by breath on levitation; whether she liked it or not, it was done, and that’s how it was accomplished. We had no wagons, no sleds; it was all done by the breath.
So that would be the work Samuel would do with the young men. Then you would go to the chapel, the first thing in the morning after you were awakened by this yodeling, and bathed—you were expected to wash your hands, feet and face. This was the rule.
WALI ALI: Standard ablutions.
MURSHIDA VERA: That’s right. Before you went to the chapel. And you were to wear your tobbies until you arrived there, not to track the dirt into the chapel. And then you went into the chapel—usually the older Mureeds who lived on that floor would he there meditating before we entered, so we’d all enter late. And then you would all rise as Murshida cane in, and you did not sit down again from the tine she entered the room. And the prayers were said—Saum, Salat—and whatever else they had in mind to be done that morning. The regulation prayers were done. Then a Zikr was always sung on an empty stomach, which the young ones hated for one reason and the old ones hated for another. The older ones wanted their coffee before they started, and the young ones wanted to get off to hike or ride before this work and breakfast routine began; and this was just something they didn’t feel was necessary to do, but you did it either way; you had Zikr on an empty stomach.
WALI ALI: Who led Zikr?
MURSHIDA VERA: Samuel, always. He always led the Zikr. Murshida Martin would follow. But he was always a great chanter and he had a fine voice for it. And sometimes he would be in a different mood entirely, and we would be taken off into Hindu chants, or he might be in a Buddhist mood, and you’d get the Zen chanting—it depended on what mood he was in, as to what he did. But whatever it was, it seemed like people didn’t enter in. It seemed to me we did a humming, like you took a breath and you hummed, and Samuel carried it. We all didn’t enter in. He led it.
And then, as you left there, if you were assigned to certain work for the breakfast—you went to help put food on the table, or whatever you were assigned to do. But Samuel, if I was there, he’d usually give me the sign: "I have something for you," he would say "and you and you." And he’d just point to you; and then that meant that you would follow him. And you went out the front door at Kaaba Allah, and you then did "Ya Hayy Ya Haqq" out to the rock. And this was done in single file, and Murshid Sam always led the way, and everybody else came behind him. Sometimes, if you had a close friend, you held that person’s hand, and you did it together. He never objected to this. But the path wasn’t wide enough for anything else.
But there were times when we had tremendous experiences. When Murshida came back from South America, I had been up at 4:00 in the morning with all of the young ones; and we sat on the front porch of the lower house, and we made garlands, yea big around. And those garlands were just draped over every entranceway. And we had tons and tons of marigolds, a beautiful orange color with all the greens—it was just delightful. And they were on everything, along with the Sufi ribbons, which we had cut gold letters out of and pasted on there with the different welcoming Urdu or Muslim signs for these welcoming words, Sufi words. And we had them all over the property. And I had made little bows and tied them onto bushes going all the way out there, which said, "Allah ho Akbar," or some Sufi phrase. I had them, oh boy, on every hush leading out to the rock. And I thought something was needed to welcome Murshida when she first went to the rock, where Samuel was trying to build a chapel. And it was a little round pergola with a pointed roof—it was a pergola wit lattice work, and we had planted passion vines there. Somebody had donated these. They never took root on that rock. That was against Samuel’s will; he told them they wouldn’t, but they insisted that’s what they were going to have, so you didn’t argue with the older mureed, who had the money to do it. You let him waste his money, as Samuel would say, and convince himself, which he did. But, anyhow, the pergola was nice, and this is where we went to have our own little mantras that he would give in the morning to those he chose to go with him. And after you got out into this little chapel the lattice work gave you some privacy from the highway. The brick will, the "wailing" wall, wasn’t built yet; so that there was an open space there, to the road, and this gave you protection from people who were not in the Order who might be coming up there, that driveway.
Out the morning that Murshida Martin came and walked out there—and I had been so worried that she not have anything to welcome her on this path—and as she walked out, all of the bushes bowed. And everyone saw it. Every bush on that path bowed down as she arrived and went to the rock. And I felt it was one of the highest spiritual moments I had ever seen her in. When she came back down to the lower house and sat down in her chair, I saw on the right side on a cushion at her feet, and Samuel sat on a cushion at her left. And everyone else was in a circle. The older mureeds, like Maria Phelps, and—oh, many of the others—sat there with a smirking smile on their lips; and afterwards she said, "I thought I’d die when I saw you and Samuel sitting at her feet." And this struck me badly. From that point on, I divided myself mentally, and I became completely Samuel’s mureed. Because I felt that they had missed the boat. All the years at Suresnes with Inayat Khan, all of the lifetime living in Khankas, and all of the money of their life work, which they had freely given to Kaaba Allah, was to be washed down the stream by the lack of recognition of the spiritual body. And I had to make my choice. I felt impelled to—very, very strongly so, so much so that when I went to the rock with Samuel the next time, I told him that today I had been divided from the older mureeds; never again can I love them, because they have made a distinction and a difference at a time when you have taught us that the first rule is there be no distinctions and differences among mureeds, that this is the number one ruling in the Order: that, regardless of age, of creed, of race, of color, of money, or poverty, within the Order there are no distinctions. You are all mureeds of Inayat Khan, you are all the beloved of Allah, you are all one in the spirit of the Message, you are on in the Message. And they had divided us by their criticism—mental, intellectual criticism of the mureed who chose to sit at the feet of the master.
However we might disagree with Murshida Martin, intellectually or any other way, we never ever felt our loyalty was not hers. One of the reasons Samuels work was found so late in life was not because he wasn’t practicing it or had the self-realization and the exploitation of that outwardly. He did have it, and he did not, in those days, have this terrible ego-tramping, this crucifixion that he referred to last night in the lecture. He was speaking of himself. He had been crucified in the spiritual body, in the subtle body, and it had been going on for years at Kaaba Allah but it came to its big head at the time that Murshida Martin got the cancer and no doubt knew that she had a limited amount of time to live.
Then—she then didn’t have the good grace—and may Allah forgive me for making this statement to you, but I feel since it so influenced my Murshid Sam’s life that I must tell you the truth of the matter, as I saw it and as I lived it. Samuel was a Murshid; he was a Murshid by discipline, by realization, by practice, by recognition of the entire Fairfax community, not just the Sufi school. He put it to work among the populace, among all the young people in Fairfax, regardless of religion, in all the churches which he took us to visit on Sunday mornings. At 10:00 or 11:00 all the young people would gather together with Samuel, and we would visit a church of his choice in Fairfax. Sometimes it would he Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal, Catholic; we visited every parish in that area. And we were taught, a Sufi enters any church of God, any house of God, and behave as that denomination behaves. He honors God in that manner. And when we went to the synagogue, we honored God in that manner, and we sat separately. When we went to the Quaker meetings, we sat separately and honored it. And we learned, by experiencing these different congregations, the love of God expressed in so many different manners. But always behind it, at the heart of it was one truth, one message; and when we came back, Samuel would give us the heart of that message in that religion’s own texts. And then he would swing back and immediately quote from Inayat Khan, so that you would see that Inayat Khan’s message also was the same message, in a different age, in different words, in a different teacher.
And this taught young people the oneness, the unity of religious ideals as the books never could have, because we were living it with him, experiencing it and seeing it. All of these ministers, all of these priests, and all of these men respected Samuel, accepted him, welcomed us into their parishes. The donation was the same—many of us didn’t have money; Samuel would always have a little bag full of money, an before we came to the synagogue, or the church, or wherever we were going, he would say, "This is the time when we give back to Allah that which he has given to me." And you never knew where he got the money, because he never had anything except what was given to him; he had no salary, you see. And you put out your hand, and everybody got the same thing; sometimes it was a nickel, sometimes it was a dime; there were times when it was even a quarter but this is what you dropped in the plate; and you never went in there without it. If you had money, you would say, "I don’t need it, Samuel, I have my own." "Never mind, it’s not mine." And he insisted that he touch the coin that you gave. And you, in turn, were allowed to give that back to Kaaba Allah, if you had it. But you took his coins that had touched with his hands to give to these denominations.
Then you were prepared ahead of time. When we were walking down there, he would tell you something about this denomination, about their way of worship, about how to behave. There were young people there that had never walked into a Catholic church before in their lives, or a Greek Orthodox, or didn’t know how to behave in a synagogue. He told you how to behave before you entered. He said, "These are the manners, your manners of worship; these have nothing to do with your talking to God. When you talk to God, you speak one language, remember that. There’s only one language for God; there are many forms of worship." And this was a marvelous experience for all of these young people, and for myself, too. When we came back from that, we would be silent. There was never any talking on the way back; Samuel would start a mantram, and he would quote from Murshid, and then he would quote from their texts here and there, haphazard; here and there he would throw it out as you walked along, and then you went back. And then, when you went back—we had an early lunch at Kaaba Allah—oh, I’d say around 11:15 or something like that, you’d have the lunch.
Immediately following that lunch Murshida Martin would sit in her chair, everybody would sit in a circle, and she would give her talk; and all the old people fell asleep, which were her mureeds, all fell asleep while she was giving the message today. Nobody ever fell asleep with Samuel, believe me! (laughter) Ever! You might be dead, but you didn’t fall asleep! But anyhow, following this, there was never any talking. She went to her apartment, I went with her, prepared her for her afternoon nap, and left her and went to my own apartment; where, if I felt like working , I did, on my own; or, if I didn’t want to be alone or write or whatever I was doing, I’d then climb down the oak tree and join whoever was over in the young people’s garden, where we had to be quiet, So this was the time when we didn’t work, we either meditated or talked softly with each other. Sometimes there were big holes where we’d taken the big boulders out of and we threw leaves in there and we’d lie in these holes, see? So it would give you a chance to be with whoever you were at the moment enamored of, without having everybody know it. But none of this was on a—I can’t say it wasn’t on a sex basis, but I mean it was not—it wasn’t heavy lovemaking, you know what I mean? You might lie there in each other’s arms, or hold each other’s hands, but we didn’t seem to have that. Of course we were all accused of this, you see. This was all "promiscuity," to the older mureeds, who would say, "That’s what you’re doing!, I know what you’re doing." We were protected, though they were never there because they were always sleeping. They were loaded from overeating at noontime. Samuel always said, "Take all you want, the table is laden." Believe me, they did. He said afterwards, "Isn’t it funny that those of you who are doing the hard work and who are really starving are the ones who are eating the least." We said, "Yes, our stomachs are shrunk and theirs aren’t." They were eating every day, three meals a day!
Anyhow, after this afternoon quiet period or nap time and the afternoon lecture, then you all came cut into the sun; and everybody was allowed then to get into their sun suits or as brief as you wanted to. There was a little crescent court, maybe, oh eight steps higher than the lower house’s porch, and you could walk up there and the older ones would sit in the lounge chairs and sun themselves, and all the young ones would be lying around on towels or sitting in the garden or talking or something. But this was the tire when the mureeds traded friendship and talk. And the talk was always full of jokes and they had all kinds of Sufi jokes that they told; it was really a hilarious time with a lot of laughter and a lot of fun among the mureeds. And sometimes the flute was played here and if someone came from the East and had the sitar or any of the oriental instruments, they would play. If there was anybody in Fairfax who was visiting there from Europe or Asia, they were invited up. And this was teatime. They came and played music. And I don’t remember that we ever danced there; there were stones there—it was laid with big blocks of stone, this courtyard. But, anyhow, this was our outdoor afternoon visiting time. This was after the nap time or the quiet meditation time. Teatime came off; supper was never served until dark.
You ate supper and you left on Sunday night. Immediately following supper you went down to get the train. So, it was usually beginning to be dark when we would sit down to this supper and then leave. And at the end of the supper Samuel would stand at the door. Your baggage was always ready to go. Following this tea, everybody got packed to go back home, whatever you were taking back home, and you put it on this outside porch, and it was left there until you left. And then you went back into this meeting room or living room, and when everybody was more or less organized, then we walked single file up to the chapel. And up in the chapel then we had the last of the prayers. I think it was just short prayers, and mostly the Zikr again was sung. You left after Zikr in silence. Everybody kissed everybody, said goodbye; but it wasn’t in language: it was in gesture, or by kissing or hugging one another. But everybody greeted each other as you left. Usually the older mureeds stood at the doorway; the very oldest, the three oldest ladies, always stood together. And Samuel would to returning to the city with us, and we would be saying goodbye to these older mureeds as we left.
WALI ALI: He didn’t live full-time at Kaaba Allah?
MURSHIDA VERA: He did when he was a gardener and when Murshida was away. But he had this Wednesday night, he had the meetings to take care of, so he usually left on Sunday night, stayed through Wednesday, and then came back to Kaaba Allah. He was usually gone the first part of the week when he had business—the Sufi business and the running of the center—Hazel Armstrong was the full time secretary of it San Francisco.
WALI ALI: Is she still alive?
MURSHIDA VERA: No, she died at Kaaba Allah at the period, here I was through with my travels and I was married and I had my baby; and I was living at the new house which you visited on Hilaritas. It was just built, and we were living in that house. Then it was decided by the Sufi Order—the Board, I think, had gotten to a point like this. And Maria Phelps was on that Board, and she and Samuel were just at odds, but proper. Her daughter, Gladys Coto and Samuel had a love life that went on for many years. They were very close. They had a great love and attunement between them, although she married a pharmacist. But he had known her before that marriage. And all through those years he was a guardian, mentor and father to her three children by her first tragic marriage. The children had come out from the East during the depth of the Depression with a crate of oranges and old tin Lizzie, no food or anything, based on faith alone. They had become mureeds in Cleveland, I believe, when Gatha Engle was the head of the Cleveland movement, or center. And they came out from there. Then they came to live at Kaaba Allah. They had no food, no money, nothing; and Murshida Martin took them in at Kaaba Allah as housekeepers and cooks, and anyhow they were there. And Samuel knew these children very well, and very intimately. The youngest child was born with club feet after she married the pharmacist here. The two oldest ones, Shirin and Nadine came out from Cleveland; and then Gladys married and had this little girl who was born with club feet. And Samuel was very close to Gladys in advising as to the procedure of how they would heal this child, what was to be done for her, the final decision on the surgery. The first surgery was done—which was done against Samuel’s wishes—but other people influenced them, at the last minute, and they felt that they should have this one tendon cut. It was later decided it was a mistake, and they put the child in braces. Both Samuel and I fought this terribly, because it was so cruel to see these heavy braces on this tiny child two or three years of age.
And we got her at Kaaba Allah, we would always manage to get Gladys aside in the rose garden and say, "Gladys, get those things off of her!" And she’d get their off of her; and then we’d hold her by the hands and walk her without the traces. And Samuel did much healing by hands and by earth and by water on this child’s feet and legs, and great progress was made. Maria was a music teacher (the grandmother), and she was constantly with this child. And she was also the librarian at the Sufi Center in Can Francisco. So every day little Virginia was with her in the Sufi Center, and all the Sufis surrounded this child with love and healing. She was an adorable little child who suffered agonies in silence. And we all loved her very dearly. And she grew up to be a very fine pianist and, I understand, married. I’ve never seen her since she grew up.
But anyhow, those years Samuel did a great deal of healing with the children and with this family and this child, in particular. He was deeply devoted to this child. The oldest girl, Shirin, became WAVE in the first bunch of WAVES, and she went to Seattle, Washington and her plane crashed. She was landing are she hit high-tension wires and her boyfriend, her fiancé, who was also a pilot and, I think, an instructor of hers, came out to the plane, and he said she was in perfect position—pilot’s position. Her hand was down and her hand on the stick, and she was just killed instantly. Samuel grieved deeply over this. The body was brought back, and he had a service in, the Coto’s home, and Oh, his grief over Shirin’s passing! He had been father, mentor, healer to these children, and Shirin was such a beautiful girl with her pale honey blond and brownish hair, beautiful china blue eyes, a lovely smile and just the most delightful teenage girl you’d ever know, very close to me. Shirin and I built the friendship seat, which is still on Kaaba Allah, on the rock at Kaaba Allah. He felt terrible grief over her, but I could not attend any of this. I couldn’t stand to see Samuel in the state he was in. I couldn’t stand to see him shook all to pieces and weeping. They said that the funeral service that he gave for Shirin was an agony for everyone there; everyone was weeping, and Samuel was in a state for two weeks. He just had a horrible time getting over it. Madine married and lives in Marin County, I understand.
But anyhow, this work that he did with the children in those days was a healing work, and many of the ideas that I have and that I have put to work with the retarded children, with children with all kinds of physical and emotional problems, are things that I saw our Murshid do, and that he explained to me, or that served—that I saw what he was doing, psychological and spiritually. And he worked by suggestion to a great degree. But Samuel's idea of suggesticology (which I want to say something about at this healing meeting) was the opposite pole to what Dr. Lasalov uses, because Samuel hit it from the opposite pole. He would strike you with something so ridiculous that you would be utterly shocked, and you would say, "What is that man thinking about?" Fine, he had you it a state of mind where shock stooped you from thinking what you were thinking. Then he would turn around or the other hand and he would give you a positive suggestion, one positive line! Then he would hit over on the other angle at which he would make it personal: "I, I, I!" He would talk personally. And you would think, "What is he talking about?" Are then you’d try to concentrate on him. Fine! Then he’d hit you again with a positive suggestion. Back and forth you’d go. The positive suggestion; Samuel, the ego of Samuel speaking—back and forth he’d hit you—then another ridiculous statement over to the left. Totally disorganized and disoriented to what he was talking about. Much of what he had in the introduction of last night’s lecture, when you thought, "Is the man going to get on the subject or is he going to forget what he’s talking about?" (laughter) Then he’d hit you with "I, Samuel," then this positive statement about Paul, right on!
You see, he made you work mentally, and he still did in these last lectures as I heard last night he had the same method, still: confusion, which stopped you from thinking what you were thinking. A positive statement based on Scripture, unchallengeable, enlightened; immediately back to the Murshid "I," the ego saying, "I am the Murshid, this is what I personally think, or my personal experience….’’; back to the suggestion. Exactly what Lasalov in Bulgaria has found to be the great new healing method, of which he says that without it you cannot even investigate ESP: "You have to have this, or you don’t understand FSP." Samuel always had that. I cannot remember a Sunday morning at Kaaba Allah when he was not getting the ridiculous, the sublime, the ego of Samuel. This was his method of teaching. And you cannot place him as a physical man with a modern attendance and a modern vibration and a modern goal, because he had no goal of modern man. He cared nothing for success, he cared nothing for appearing great before the public. He cared only that you recognize the Message.
And later on, when the School of Asiatic Studies was going and all of the Sufis of the old school that had grown up under Samuel and Murshid Martin were considered to be utter idiots; they would have lectures on Sufism based upon texts from the State library: I swear they had absolutely nothing to do with the true message of Sufism; and these men with PhD's behind their names would get up there and spout off to a good-sized audience of 50 or 80 people. Only, when the question-and-answer period care, Samuel was hopping around like a flew on a chair, he could hardly sit still. He would manage to get in the back and you would hear that breathing. And I’d say, (I would be in the center of the place) "Oh, Samuel’s here, he’s getting warmed up. Oh, are they going to get it!’ (laughter) And they would—come the questions, right on, bang! Spiegelberg would be "Gr-r-r. How can we get that man out of here? Why does he attend these lectures? Lewis is here. Did you hear him come in? Get him in the back, get him in the other room!" Of course, nerve of this worked. Samuel got in, he ploughed in all square feet on the floor, shaking the place. By his meditation alone he shook the place. And then the question-and-answer period would come. Well, of course, Samuel would start in and each of us would ask a question which would rip him apart. And the thing would be just a hot and heavy deal, and they’d get angrier and angrier as they got pushed to the wall. This was true of Watts too; that’s why I asked you what had happened to him because in the early days of his message, when you had to pay a good fee to get in the Palace Hotel, or rent a room to hear him, Alan would be taking off with greet erudition upon the intellectual side of Zen; and Samuel would crack in on the question-and-answer periods and just take his well-planned-lecture apart. And this he did with all of the different sects, except, I would say, only one, Vedanta. But, of course, in Vedanta the swamis were never trying to intellectually overwhelm you. Their mantrams and meditations were just not something that you could tear apart, or would want to tear apart. And we always enjoyed the times that we went there; I don’t say that Samuel was recognized in a way to include him in their services, but there was always spiritual acceptance, let’s say it that way.
WALI ALI: It wasn’t this personality game: "I am the expert up here lecturing on Oriental Philosophy.”
MURSHIDA VERA: None of that. There was none of that, none of that at all. But the experts were experts intellectually, and they came with their college degrees. It was then that I told Samuel, "Samuel, after this depression is over, I should get my degree; we must have somebody in this Order that can put them flat. We shouldn’t just stand here and take this.' And Samuel said, Well, we’ll see, we’ll see. These things are not important. Let’s get the spirit body going and all this will fall into place." He would never listen to me on that; he couldn’t see it at all.
WALI ALI: of course, now he has disciples that are professors in universities, even at Berkeley and Harvard.
MURSHIDA VERA: That’s true, you see. But remember, in those days he had disciples then; I mean Bryon Hood was made a Sir by Queen Elizabeth. He was in the Consular Corps as a Secretary; he traveled all over the world. He was a young man who came as often as he could to Kaaba Allah and to San Francisco, and he brought with him the Message and friendships and other people from the widest possible political backgrounds, and the Sufi message with it. Adlai Stevenson, who was a Sufi also—much of his work was brought to us. And we had very great musicians, people who were very high in the Symphony and so forth, who came with the message. My father was a concert violinist. Many people came there who brought the world to Kaaba Allah, and they were Samuel’s mureeds; they followed him; they were interested in his Message and his interpretations. But then, nobody was talking about "What ground do you stand on, Samuel?" Everybody was alive who had been at Suresnes, everybody knew that Samuel had been in America during that time. He never had the money to go to Suresnes, to have that privilege. He was always home holding down the fort, doing the teaching, taking care of the Order or the Pacific Coast, while Murshida ran off to the glory and the recognition all over the world. But he was extremely faithful to her. Much of what I tell you now is hearsay, but it came from the Board Members of the Sufi Order at that time, and I feel—since they all had the same thing to say—I feel it was legitimate. Samuel was never told until Murshida’s deathbed that this secret Murshida Duce, who was trained in Berkeley, without a name, who had never been brought to Kaaba Allah, or introduced to any of us, as to be the Murshida to take over the Order. Everyone was in a state of shock; the idea that the years of service and teaching and the putting himself in the most awful position that could possibly be imagined, in standing for Murshida’s claim to be the Pir of the entire Order. He was her disciple, she was his Murshida. He was pledged to be her spiritual guide and her psychic mentor. In the years when Samuel was receiving psychically practically day and night and was going through his psychic training, not through an earthly master, but by the inner masters, he was advising, at Murshida Martin’s behest, every decision she made. Just before I became a Sheikha and right following it, I was living at Tenth Avenue and Irving, and I had to walk through the park to get over to Ashbury. There was no money for carfare, so I would take my big dog and hike over through the park to Murshida Martin’s. When I got there, she knew that we were half starved, and she would give me jelly and bread and tea. And then we would go into the front room.
Murshida Martin would sit me down in her beautiful living room, filled with the art that she had collected all over the world, and would then question me as to the psychic messages brought to her by Samuel in the name of Inayat Khan. This was extremely shaking for me, and I just didn’t know what to do about it. I would just insist on going into a short meditation and then answer her on my own ground. It shook me very much to have to give her an opinion about a psychic message brought by my own teacher.
SHIRIN: Were you a Sheikha at that time?
MURSHIDA VERA: Just previous to it, and after it; both previous and after this initiation. She seemed to be going it two ways. The things that Samuel was telling her to do, she was trying to carry out intellectually. And perhaps this is where the trouble began; because if you are going to receive on the psychic plane, then you have got to be answered on the psychic plane. You surely cannot use the psychic, put it into the intellectual, and then try to make decisions out of it, decisions for the benefit of the Order. It was at this time that I said to her, "Murshida, I feel that we should have our own meditations together; and please, if you wish to bring on these things regarding the messages from Samuel in Inayat Khan’s name, don’t ask me the validity of it, but allow me to bring you my own message, and make your own decision of the two." And this is how I got around criticizing what Samuel might be doing, or what might be coming through to him, which was never handed to me straight; I’d pick up the papers here and there and know in reading it that this is the language of Murshid. And, although Samuel is receiving it, it is not Samuel who is typing it; it is not the message of Samuel; it is Inayat Khan’s message. And there was this long period of his psychic training from the other planes, which Murshida Martin used and misused for (I say, personally, my opinion is that she misused these message) she took them and used them to rule the outer work. And she made up her mind—made decisions at that time which were not right. I say they were not right in regret, because of what happened to the Order from that time on. It should have been that each person was exposed to these messages. If he had a message for him, he should have taken it and put it to use. If he did not have that message, let it pass over. But, at any rate, Murshida Martin should not have used Samuel to bring her the psychic answers to her pressing problems in the Order. This, I think, is always a mistake; no matter how you may doubt yourself, get your own attunement with the Presence, which was our Murshid Sam’s rule of life. And he had it in his lecture last night. First, practice the presence of God; all other things will come to you as they are meant to come. And this is the way he lived his life, and the way he taught me, and the way I’ve lived mine; for better or for worse, it’s been at least devoted to that principle. And I have no regrets on it, as I know Samuel had none, in his own personal life. He would have done it the same had he to start all over again. I too would say I’d do the same thing. But, in practicing on a psychic plane, many things can come in. Now, Murshida Martin doubted her own wisdom.
WALI ALI: Was this just towards the end of her life that these doubts came in?
MURSHIDA VERA: I don’t know.
WALI ALI: I remember Murshid Samuel speaking about how she got into trouble psychically when she went to India and after she came she was somehow…
MURSHIDA VERA: Oh, is that right? Well, you see, I had never known her before then, personally. She had been a Murshida, but she’d been traveling all over. I never met her before the time I told you that she came back and all the bushes bowed to her, and Samuel and I were in a hal state.
WALI ALI: That was from South America?
MURSHIDA VERA: True. No, I think it was with her Indian trip, too. I think she came back from India too—I was there at that time when we had a big to-do—and the same procedure that I described to you went on. Always we went to the rock, and came back, and she gave her message.
WALI ALI: She was recognized by the Sufis in Ajmer when she went to India.
MURSHIDA VERA: She was recognized all over the world, and she had the robes to prove it and the papers to prove it, the great documents and all. She had it. But all this time I was saying to her, "Send Samuel to India; Samuel must go to India. Stay home, work the Order here, and let him go. You must send him, because only there is he going to be straightened out on what you are saying. The psychic is driving you batty." And he was doing things which nobody in the Order could guide him on. He had no teacher.
Bill Hathaway, who was a very dear friend, and Erica Hathaway, his wife, and Bryon Wood, Arjuna and myself were very close friends. They lived in our home, in our Khankah set up on Tenth Avenue; and whenever they were in this area, I went to Santa Barbara where Bill’s family had a villa and lived there a good deal of the time with them—part of the year with them—when I was not painting or dancing or on tour. And then I would come back to San Francisco. At that time the messages that we received in our meditations were strongly on the Buddhist line. Samuel was not on the Buddhist track at all; he was totally on the Sufi tack. We decided that we wanted to visit Senzaki in Los Angeles, and we got up very early at dawn one morning. The boys had gathered four-foot-long irises, blue irises, the most exquisite things. Mrs. Hathaway senior, Bill’s mother, had found us a great long floral box to arrange them in, and the boys were taking that. The girls, Erica and I, had nothing to take, and we felt so upset about it. I said, "Never mind, Erica, I am going to do the lotus dance for him, and I will dance and we will present this; you chant and I’ll dance. Fine. We didn’t tell the boys anything about it. And we went down to see Senzaki, and he took us into the little shack by the railroad track, and saw him and had tea with him and meditation with him. And he was terribly upset as to the meditation method that Samuel had taught us. "No, you do not sit on the floor, you sit on a chair," says Senzaki. So we sat on a chair. Everything that Samuel had told us to do he was against. He simply didn’t like our approach, which was a Sufi approach, no doubt. But when it came to the dancing, that really sent him. And, of course, he loved these irises, and his servants in the house, or whoever these Japanese ladies were, did the most exquisite floral arrangements while we were having our meditation. I just have never seen anything like it, what they did with those flowers in that short amount of time. Then Senzaki said, "What do you want to see?" I said, "The art." "Fine," he said. Much of the great art that you later saw in the San Francisco museums had been shipped over here, to protect it from the Japanese invasions which they feared; and this was all in an old tin warehouse: exquisite Kwan Yins and Buddhas, ancient, gorgeous things, bronzes as tall as I was, just exquisite things. He took us in this warehouse and showed us these things, and here were all of the postures and, to boot, more than I had taught. And then after that I walked with Senzaki and Erica and Bill walked behind us, and he talked to me all the way back. And we went back to this little chapel where I did my lotus postures that I knew, and he taught me all the postures in one session, just like that. And then when we came back, I did this dance for Samuel, and Samuel then went to Senzaki and began his serious work with Senzaki. I did not. I read Senzaki’s books, but I did not. You see, when Senzaki had first come to San Francisco’s Chinatown, he was in bad with the Chinese regime. And had they known he was here, they would have killed him. So he worked as a cook in Chinatown, and only a few of us—closest Sufis or people very closely in the spiritual work—knew where he was and who he was. And even when we visited him at the railroad tracks, he was living as a very poor man in a shack, completely hidden. No one knew that he was there, or he would never have lived. Because the Buddhist Orders were out to kill him in a hurry, if they could, and he had some terribly frightening experiences to protect himself against their views.
SHIRIN: Now, which one is he? (looking at picture)
MURSHIDA VERA: That’s Senzaki there. And, at this time there was Sister Domadina, who lived in the Palace Hotel of San Francisco, who was a Buddhist nun; she was teaching speech correction to Mrs. Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt. Her public speaking, and her great career later in the public eye was dependent upon Sister Domadina. Sister Domadina was a Rockefeller, and she had given up the great fortune of the Rockefellers and had gone to China to become a Buddhist nun. She still wore the habit and had the shaved head when I met her. Again, I was the person who made the introduction, who made the contact, through my dancing, first of all, also through speech and singing, voice. And Sister Domadina at that time told me that she was in a back brace and quite restricted, critically restricted, physically, that the Buddhist way was one of silence; and, at a certain point, unless you had a rap on the crown of your head, they did not feel that the centers were opened. This all came about because Maria Phelps, who was a great Sufi teacher in the Gathas and Gathekas—don’t misunderstand me about her going around on the Board later regarding Samuel’s psychic behavior and Murshida Martin’s accepting the outer running of the Order financially by Samuel’s psychic messages, which she would not accept as being Inayat Khan’s work at all—this was the alter ego of Samuel, and that’s the way she looked upon it. So you can see that the situation was hot and very differentiated, mentally. Those of us attuned to his method of teaching and training, of course, were completely wrapped up with Samuel; we could take no other choice. Although I loved this family and spent a great deal of time with them, still there was a parting of the ways where any criticism of the way I had been raised came up; and I was very bitter about her telling people in the Order, including her interview with me, that my centers had been opened too young and could not be closed, and therefore I was in a bad way to ever make advancement beyond a certain point. This I could not accept, because I had been a yogi—I had taken yogic training before I ever became a Sufi, as a very young woman. And I knew differently; I knew that the prana, the life force, was always working; that if a center was opened too young and that light and energy from within was shocking out of that center, there was still a polarity, as Samuel had always taught us. There was no such thing as a hopeless human being.
WALI ALI: He was able to take people that had been rejected all over in the later days and just open them up.
MURSHIDA VERA: True, but he knew polarities; that’s how he could do it: by the walks, by the breath, by the taking the person where you are. Samuel says, "I don’t care about what the ideal is; give me a man where he is, and let me find that polarity for that man, whatever his state is. And that other center (there is no such thing as a single chakra; there is always a paired chakra)—give me that man, and let me see him for where he stands, and I can give you that polarity, if that man can, by his breath, his discipline, his walks, his dancing, his singing, balance that within himself, he’ll have the answer. I give only keys; I have no miracles." Didn’t he say that in the lecture last night? What seems to be a miracle. And did he ever live that in his teaching.
WALI ALI: Let me bring up a couple of things, because this is something that Murshid Samuel and I talked about—let’s say, the psychic period at Kaaba Allah. He said, "I am not just allowed to talk about it, and I wasn’t allowed to talk about it at the time." He says, "What was actually happening was that I was being called on by the Hierarchy to have a function in the war." He said one of the things that he was willing to say is, "All these bodies, these people that were being executed in the gas chambers in Auschwitz, he was called on to take the souls over to the other side.”
MURSHIDA VERA: True. Now, this is what happened at that period. There was a mureed called Mrs. Green, who was Jewish, who had a very beautiful home out in the avenues. Mureeds would meet at this home quite often. During the time that we were meeting there, we decided to have a party; and our parties were always in costume. We came in Sufi dress, the ancient Sufis, the ancient Sufi poets or dancers or poetesses, characters like Shirin and Khusrau and Majnun and any of the ancient poetic figures of the Sufi poetry, we dressed up and we came in our costumes. We were having such a party one evening at the Green’s home when four of the Jewish people smuggled out of Hitler’s Germany and smuggled into the United States and who came in on a ship and were smuggled out to the Greens unexpectedly came. They were immediately ushered in, looked at us in awe and fear and trembling, and were taken to a back bedroom. That back bedroom happened to have my wraps in there and many of the other Sufis’ cloaks that were worn that evening. Late in the evening, when we were ready to go, I went into that room to get the cloaks, and these people who were huddled together, looked in fear at me and got down on the floor and crawled under the bed. And I thought, "What in the world is wrong with them?" They were guests; we were not told who these people were, but we could tell they were just from Europe by the way they were dressed, and they did not speak any English. So I immediately went out to Green and said to her, "I don’t know what I’ve done, but I’ve done something; these people are in fear of me, and they’re under the bed. And what shall I do?" And she said, "Oh, Vera, come in here." And she took me in immediately, and she told me the story of them. She said they had been locked in attics in Germany, and later in Holland, and we’ve just gotten them out. Any sounds at all make them feel that they are going to be put in a wagon and taken to be eliminated. And Samuel was there, and I thought, "Well, why hasn’t Samuel been told?" I says, "Does Samuel know?" And she said, "I don’t think so; I didn’t want to make any announcement in front of all these Sufis." There were over 50 Sufis there that evening. I went and got Samuel: "Samuel, come here." I took him in the bathroom and slammed the door. I said, "Do you know about those people?" He said, "I know what they look like to me." And I said, "Well, you’re right." And I told him what had happened. And I said, "She has locked them in that back room because we’re here, and she’s going to keep them there until we go. And I don’t think this is right. These people are frightened to death." "Oh," he says, "I never heard of such a thing." So he went into the kitchen and immediately got Mrs. Green and went into that back room; and soon you could hear the mantrams going, and Samuel was working with them. So this was my first, and his first introduction, then, to the problem of these people, that I know of; I had not heard anything about it. From that night on, this is what Samuel was teaching at Kaaba Allah. I, in turn, coming from a Dutch family with some Jewish blood, and having had all of my grand-mothers that Samuel knew so well (my grossmer)—all of her sisters and family had been wiped out trying to escape from Holland during the bombings, on bicycles; and many of them had been shot with glass tubes, which went into their brain and killed them like that. I had not been able to get in contact with any of my family over there, and we were pretty sure they were wiped out, from the messages we got going on the inner planes and through "Yon" and other Consular people who were Sufis—they got into these countries and got messages back to us. We were pretty sure they were all wiped out, so I had very strong feelings. But I also had strong feelings against the German Jews, because my grand-mother and my relatives told me that they had fought the German Jews on the principle of buying up all the bakeries and all the small businesses, until they controlled them. When the Nazis came in, they resented this owning of property by so many Jewish people, and instead of the Jewish people immediately backing up and fronting somebody else, they kept on buying up all the land that they could buy up and buying up all the businesses that they could buy up. Well, this, of course, put them right on the open firing line when the Nazi purges began. And the Jews in Holland were saying, "Flee now! Get out of there!" And Baroness von Strohl and her husband, who were Consul Generals from England and Africa, got out by the skin of their teeth. And when they came to the Bay Area they too warned against this. And I felt that Murshida Martin and her connections with the Jews in the East and her relatives, her son-in-law’s Jewish background there, and the contacts with the Sufis as well as the Jewish people there, that they were doing totally the wrong thing. Now, Sam immediately got to work on this, beginning that evening when the first refugees were found under Greens’ bed; and he started to work for these people, on the inner planes, immediately. And, of course, he was highly trained psychically at that time—and he was receiving on the psychic plane. And Murshida Martin was putting it to work on a material plane right away; interpret, bring it down, put it to work here. You cannot do that; that is the wrong approach. And everything that Samuel wanted to do, she was putting to work in a different interpretation; and they were just going at opposite poles to each other.
WALI ALI: Yes, I see. She should have also been working in the higher…
MURSHIDA VERA: She was working, but she was working in a different way. Remember that Murshid had said that her husband, who refused ever to attend the Sufi functions or be a Sufi in any context with her work—he gave her all the money, all the freedom in the world to work, but "I’m a businessman; I make the money, you place it where you want to." Murshid Inayat Khan had said, "Do not push him. He is the rind of the orange. Don’t push him; don’t struggle to change his place. He is functioning as he should function for this Order." So he was never present, ever, or had anything to say about the Order, whatsoever. Samuel and Murshida ran it. And she met and knew Samuel when he was very young, probably eighteen or seventeen years of age when she started her training with him; he was a very young man. His first initiations or contacts with Murshid, either in the spirit or otherwise, I don’t know which, were when he was nineteen—only nineteen when he had those first initiations. And she immediately put him to work as her secretary, her mentor, her psychic receptor. And she insisted that he go that path. And she placed him on that path from the very beginning, because she herself lacked it, and he had it, naturally.
He didn’t have to train for it; he had it; he came with it. And this, which started off so well, ended up very badly when she decided at the end that she was going to bring in the silent Murshida she’d been training and give all the work of the Order over to Murshida Duce. And Murshida Duce immediately came forth with the Baroness and the three old gals that had all the money.
WALI ALI: Princess Matchabelli—
MURSHIDA VERA: Princess Matchabelli, and the other was a Rothschild, wasn’t she?
WALI ALI: I don’t know.
MURSHIDA VERA: I don’t know. I didn’t meet them because I didn’t want to meet them. I had absolutely cut it completely. Now, Samuel was still completely faithful to the Murshida; she might be going downhill and off the brink, but he would not desert the boat. And he was over at Kaaba Allah and still initiating right and left; many young men then were attracted to him. They were plowing through those halls, tramping up the stairs. Hazel Armstrong was in that first bedroom on the chapel floor slowly dying of cancer in the shoulder. (It was interesting that both of them should have had these centers afflicted.) And Dr. Davida Herrick came to see me and said, "Vera, you’ve got to go see Hazel; it’ll be your last visit—you’ve got to go." And, oh, I put it off and put it off, and finally I got myself in a state to go, and I was determined to bring joy to her; and there’d be no weeping or goo-goofing or any of that stuff—I simply wouldn’t go unless I had myself in a total spiritual state, which I got myself into after about a 48-hour retreat and Sam was backing me up on it which I’ll say one thing: he was 100% there. But the whole time I was there he and these guys were just ignoring Hazel’s condition, tramping up and down the stairs, making noise which caused terrible pain in her shoulders. And I was so angry at him I could a wring his neck. I never saw Hazel again, and we did have a beautiful meeting, and a happy one; it was about 20 minutes that she could stand it before she had to take further medication. And I was so against that, and so was Davida. We said, "Why does she bring in this medical stuff at a time when she should be able to get into the spiritual body and stay there during those seizures?" And then I talked to Samuel; I said, "Samuel, this is the most terrible thing, that you should allow these nineteen or so young men to tramp through that house when you know she’s in intense pain." He said, "I have no sympathy with people who have the out in the spirit and who insist on taking the physical path. Finis." He would not ignore it. He said, "If it’s bad enough on the physical, it’ll force her into the spiritual." Well, I don’t know what happened; I left Kaaba Allah with this feeling—I had never been there and seen such disruption.”
SHIRIN: This is what happened with Moineddin too.
MURSHIDA VERA: The houses had been bought for Meher Baba, they were being painted and fixed up, and Meher Baba was coming, but he didn’t show up on the dates he was supposed to show up. And the Order was up like this waiting, and then down and then up like tight waiting for the great appearance of the avatar.
WALI ALI: Was Rabia Martin still alive?
MURSHIDA VERA: Yes, she was alive, but she was in her own home with her own physical problems; she was not controlling it. And Samuel had the full go, the full control of Kaaba Allah, all the initiations, the running of the Order, the whole thing. And he was then relieved from gardening duties; I don’t know who was doing it. I guess it was going wild or something. But, anyhow, I left Kaaba Allah for the first time just really shook to the floor. I thought, "What has happened to the Order?"
WALI ALI: What year around was this now, Vera?
MURSHIDA VERA: Oh, I wish I knew the dates that this happened—it was after the war. My husband had been sent overseas; I was alone with the baby, and the baby wasn’t nine months old—‘44 or ‘45, I would think it was. Alan was born in ‘43, and so this must have been the two years following her birth that this was happening. Maybe later than that—it might have been up to ‘47, because the new house had just been built, and Samuel had come up and we had paced off the foundations and selected those lots—Samuel had selected those lots—and the house had been built under meditation. And he had come up and blessed the house, and then he immediately went on and initiated every type of person; and he initiated people who were psychically off the beam and with emotional problems and had been cracked up by the war. And as fast as he initiated the problems, he’d send them to me; and all at once I have 30 mureeds all psychically off the beam and taking them in. Now, pretty soon Maria Phelps and the older ones are saying, "She is a witch. She is practicing witchcraft." I felt I was practicing white magic. I felt the only thing that I could do was give them the tasawwuf and hang them on their necks. And that I build the circle of light, meditate the circle of light, and when it was meditated strong enough that's when I sat down, they would sit within that circle. Now, there was no string on the floor; it was a pacing that I did with the Sufi practices, and did hour after hour in bare feet, in meditation, to get that circle of light so implanted—as I said, we had the floors bare and waxed because I danced on them; everyone danced in the house. And that light had to be right so that when we faced the East and I sat on my meditation cushion, they would automatically stand within that circle without having been told they were within the circle of light. And this is how I healed; but I also made tasawwuf and put them on their necks, and I used the Urdu and the Sanskrit symbols, and I used those symbols that said, "There is no God but God, who is Allah," "Allah ho Akbar," and the other Sufi incantations that were the highest I knew or could write. These I had been taught to write by Bill Hathaway who’s always been a great linguist and I used them for that purpose. And I had many books on alchemy and on Paracelsus and on every type of mental-emotional healing that could be done. And none of this was spoken to Samuel except we were in close touch by the telephone. He was holding down Kaaba Allah; I was holding down San Francisco. And they were coming fast and furious; and at that time I thought, "What am I going to do?"
WALI ALI: Had the Order been in some sense severed, then, by this time from what was happening in Geneva and Europe and also had it been turned over to Meher Baba by this time?
MURSHIDA VERA: No. I’d have to say I don’t know, because I did not go to see Murshida Martin on her deathbed. I was one of the people that didn’t pound at the door. But I understand Samuel was pounding at the door day and night; he had that family furious with him—the Mayhees, that is Murshida’s daughter and son-in-law were furious that he was pounding her for decisions on her deathbed. And none of us understood why, but I can understand why later: he’d been hit with the idea that here she is installing this Murshida Duce and going whole hog out for a woman nobody in the Order had ever met. I couldn’t take that; neither could the Tuckeys, neither could any of the educated and advanced people who had the titled of Khalif, Masheikh-ul Sheikha, Sheikh, the other titles. None of these people could take the idea of a complete strange woman coming in and you’re supposed to put your life in her hands. Why? Because her eyebrows meet? Now I went for my interview down at the Palace—wherever she was staying in one of the big hotels, I don’t remember which—and these people sitting on the floor out in the hallway, waiting to see Murshida Duce. I phoned her and told her, "I’ll be there at a certain hour; I wait 20 minutes and no longer." And I meant it. Nobody is going to get me to sit on the floor like a servant, waiting for someone that I never even met who’d been shoved down my throat. I just was furious about it, like Samuel. So I went there, and she came. Samuel hadn’t been told when my interview was, but he arrived ten minutes after my interview. And she immediately spread out on the bed every picture she had of the great Meher Baba, and she gave me the work with tears running down her face of the avatar of the age, "This great soul has come, and you as a Sheikha, all people, should recognize him, serve him and give your life to him." "But," I said, "but what of Inayat Khan?" Every once in a while, "What of Inayat Khan?" "What about the Message in America?" "Well, has Murshida deserted the message of Inayat Khan? His first American Murshida?" The subject was changed, changed, changed. "Oh, Vera, you must sit down for a moment of meditation." I thought, "Oh boy, here it comes, Meher Baba." "No, not Meher Baba, Samuel—what shall we do with Samuel?" He was the big worry. "What shall we do with Samuel?" I said, "Don’t drag him into this; let him do the universal work, right now, in the world: the situation in Asia, all the humanity is in such a mess; let him do that work. Don’t pull him into this. Leave him alone. Don’t bring him in here; he’ll cause trouble for you and what you are trying to do. And he has a work completely outside of this." She was just trembling. Her servant had come in and told her that Samuel was out in that hall: "He wants to see you in the presence of his mureed, of his Sheikha." And I was in the middle of the thing, and they came in: Samuel with his eyes popping and weeping and she with the tears streaming down her face: "Yay, Meher Baba!" And Samuel: "The Message! The Message!" (laughs) And I in the middle quaking in my feet and thinking, "What is the answer? How am I ever going to get these two calmed down?" Both in their own hysteria. "What is the date that Meher Baba is coming? Let us quiet down and decide—when is he coming?" Well, this big date was set for him to come, and I said, "Well, let’s all just have peace and quiet and rest on this. When the Master comes, he will of himself prove himself, one way or the other." And I had no other answer, and left.
Then I went home; Ruth Chase was living in my home. And they had separated, this mother and daughter team that was killing each other with the mother overwhelming this girl in her forties who had never been one inch away from her mother in her life. Finally we got them weaned apart, so she got a job as a telephone operator in one of the women’s hotels on Geary Street, and the mother was away from her for the first time in her life. But she was rude to me! I became the mother-image, you see? And I said to Samuel, "I just don’t know what to do about this, because Ruth is insisting that I meditate every night with her on Meher Baba." And he says, "What harm? Go ahead. Are you attuned to me? Do you love me?" I said, "You know that, Murshid. There’s no question of that." And I called him "Murshid" years before he had anything but a Khalif’s feel, because I saw him as a Murshid. And I knew he had attained to it, and alone! He addressed me as "Sheikha," and I addressed him as "Murshid." He was, already; what were they waiting for? And this was a terrible slap in the face. This man had given his life to this woman, then secretly pushes the whole thing into the hands of Murshida Duce. He was the Murshid; he should have been the head of that Order. And here she was going off half-cocked.
Well, I don’t know how Samuel came to do it, whether through the pressure of the Order or what, but he felt that he should recognize the Avatar, sidestep the Murshida, recognize the Avatar. And, after all, this was what I had advised the two of them to do, that there was nothing to do but to wait until the Avatar arrived; and if he was the Avatar, all things would be settled in place. Then we began these meditations—Ruth began, and every time I sat down to meditate with her, here would come the shadow of Meher Baba. And it was, "Do you feel it? Oh, my heart!" And the tears running down her face. What did I feel and see? A black shadow, and a black hand coming between us. And I said, "But if this is the Avatar—I had given my life to the Message since I was five years old—is this the Avatar coming to me with a big black hand, dividing me over my heart, and the feeling that my breath is being stopped?" After about a week of this, I said, "Ruth, I have to tell you my experiences. I cannot accept this Avatar. I am sorry." "Oh, Vera, you of all people, how could you?" I said, "Because I have to go by my inner experience. All my life it’s been this way. And I’m sorry if I’m wrong. I’ve got to go down on my own experience. I cannot deny the inner voice." And so she said, "Oh, you’ve got to see Samuel." So she went and got a hold of Samuel. And Samuel had a conference with me, in which he just put it to me. And I told him, I said, "Samuel, do you remember how many times you have told me in the past of your spiritual experiences; they conflicted terribly with the Order’s outer work?" Yes, he remembered. I said, "What did you do?" He said, "I followed the inner voice, without deviation." "Right." And I said, "You have to give me the grace to do the same." So he kissed me. He said, "I do. It’s not my way; I’ll still be at Kaaba Allah." I said, "Fine. I’ll still be on Hilaritas." And this was one of the two breaks that we had in our life. And that was one of them.
The other break came when the older mureeds were being put in institutions after they’d given their fortune and their life to the Sufi Order. And Murshida was dead, and these three old ladies then had to be cared for at Kaaba Allah; Samuel felt there was no one there to care for them, and he made the decision that they would be put into homes. I felt strongly against this, coming from a Dutch family where we cared for four grandparents until their death and where we scrubbed up the hemorrhages of two of them from cancer until they died; and every member of the family devoted themselves to their elders. No charity and no other person cared for our old ones. And to have them give their lives and then be put into old people’s homes….
WALI ALI: Murshida Goodenough ended up in an institution.
MURSHIDA VERA: That’s right; there were others, many of them. This was nothing new, but from my family background, I could not accept it. We did not treat our older people that way in my family. And I took my physical family’s rule of order to my spiritual order, right or wrong. I felt this was the wrong thing to do. And the older mureeds, the Tuckeys and others who were professional people, were shocked that Samuel made this decision. And he had the power to make it. Well, it didn’t last; they died almost immediately, all three of them. They just couldn’t take being away from the protection of the Khankah and living in big institutions; I think two of them were in paid institutions; the other one had to be put in a [?] home, and they put chains on her legs and chained her to an iron bed. And I went every day and meditated at the foot of her bed for the release of her soul, nothing else—until she was released. And I felt that this should have been faced by the Order. Let’s not say Samuel, but the Order owed these people; their lives and their fortunes had been given to Kaaba Allah, and they deserved more than treatment at death; that was my feeling at that time. Then, of course, Samuel was doing the universal work; he was working on the psychic plane, he was in the spirit body, and he was working in the prisons, in the Khankahs, in the strongholds of Europe to bring the light to protect the people that had to flee. This is what he was working on, to try to aid the humanity, to save the humanity. And he was right; he had to make a choice, and that choice drew him further and further away from this Meher Baba. Then Meher Baba finally arrives, decides that he is not going to come to Kaaba Allah, after all the money and work, and the property had been bought for him; and he goes off down south to Florida with his three girls and gets in an accident, gets furious at America in general, and takes off for home. Then he decides that he’s going—on the inner circles now, they will deny this—but the truth of the matter is I know that Meher Baba tried to get his voice back, and I know the people who tried to help him in Europe; and he could not get his voice back, after all those years of not using it. They say today he chose not to; that is not true. He couldn’t; he wanted desperately to. And, like our own Murshid—I mean Inayat Khan—who gave his first message through music alone, no words; and he reached a handful of people, including Murshida Martin, who really got the Message through music alone, and who later said that if he had to do it over again, he would have put his message into books and would never have faced the people and the lecture platform, that he should have put it into the books. And I have letters in my possession from Inayat Khan so stating. But, to me and to the mureeds, they felt that the music was it, because there he hit the heart of those who were ready.
WALI ALI: And now the music is really coming out again, in a wonderful way.
MURSHIDA VERA: Right. Now it’s coming back again, and it should; because there the initiation was of the heart, immediately, through the sound, through the mysticism of sound, and through the touching of the heart center. And it began where it should begin; it didn’t begin in sex organs; it didn’t begin in the head; it didn’t begin in the Vega nerve; it began in the heart. And the development of those mureeds was instantaneous and terrific, as it will be today, because you’re starting from the main center.
But then, here they were with this great decision to be made. I was decorating the gate for some big to-do, which I don’t exactly remember what it was; and I was up on a ladder, and all the young girls had been sent down to the lower house to finish off another two feet of the garland that I needed. But I was up on a ladder, putting it up, and when I was through, I sat up on top of the gate, waiting for them to come back with the garland. And one of the older mureeds, a white-haired mureed who had been a teacher, came up to the gate and stalled to talk to me? And tears were running down her face. Samuel had really read her off, and I don’t even remember what he read her off on, but he just had her in tears. And my great love and devotion to these old people, which I had all my life. If you’re old, if you’re a dog, or if you’re a kid, I’m a sucker (laughs); and I’ve always had it. Here was this old lady with the tears running down her face, crying to me at the way Samuel had treated her and had banned her to her room, and she had to stay there for two weeks. She was not to be allowed out of her room as punishment. And I was just indignant. And Samuel came up while we were talking, and he was furious with me—he could stamp around and his eyes were popping—the only time I ever saw him angry with me in my whole life, and I immediately was angry with him. And I just told him "No, Samuel, you cannot treat these old people this way. I am not going to stand here and allow you to punish them. One does not punish." And he was cracked by me; I was standing above him, sitting on the Sufi symbol, and the power was coming through me, and it cracked him up. He began to cry and ran down to his apartment.
WALI ALI: This was after the whole Meher Baba thing had started, or…?
MURSHIDA VERA: No, this was previous to that Meher Baba thing. I was telling you about the second time that I’d had a set-to on an intellectual—where I was really angry at him and he was really angry at me. And I went and got my husband, and I told him what had happened. He says, "Get your suitcase, we’re leaving." This was my first husband, Donny. And so Donny got the suitcases, and we went and walked down the road to the garage area where we’d left our little car, and Hazel met us halfway down. And she said, "Where are you going?" We said, "We’re leaving, and we’re leaving for good." And she said, "You cannot do this. Samuel is weeping; he is completely in a collapse. You cannot do this to him, Vera; you have got to see him." And I said, "Well, I won’t see him on that note. I will not go in there and confront him and have a knock-down and drag-out with my teacher; I just won’t do it. And I’m in no state to be talked to. I can’t see him banishing an old woman like that, who only the week before had appeared with her hair—it was about the length of mine, only she wore it tied in the back with a little black bow like maybe colonial men would have looked, with a little curl—and Murshida Martin had read her out before the whole Order in circle, telling her that she was too old to look like that. And everybody just acted as if they were slapped in the face when she said that. It was the most rude thing that Murshida Martin ever could have said in public to a woman who had given her fortune and her life to her? But this was the sort of thing that was going on in there, complete disregard for the heart and feelings of people who’d given their lives to the Order. The thing was just completely off the beam. It was no longer the Message.
WALI ALI: It just had gone off the beam.
MURSHIDA VERA: Gone off the beam. And Meher Baba was coming in; they were all being influenced by the coming of the avatar, long before it was Meher Baba—the avatar was coming! All these messages were coming from every source: the avatar is coming. And, of course, when Meher Baba came on the scene, he was it! Denying the fact that they had within their presence a man who was going through the state of the avatar; he went through a madzub stage. Samuel was as madzub as they come; he was completely off. I knew nothing about madzub, never heard of it. Then somebody gave me this book by Meher Baba—the great he was doing with the madzubs. I read that, and I said, "Ho, Samuel’s been doing this for years! He’s madzub, and they don’t even recognize it in their own midst, but they’re going to India to adopt another one? He is going through the state of the avatar, and they didn’t even know it." And I didn’t know it; don’t think that I felt I was superior, because I didn’t. When it hit me, it was the shock of my life, to realize that, yes, here is the state of the avatar, and he is here, and you kneel before him. And the rest of my life never entered a room where Samuel was present without sitting before him, humbly. And I will, within spirit, to the end of my days; because he was so head and shoulders above anything that anybody has recognized. He was working for the humanity on the plane of the avatar; and all these mad things, like feeding Asia—the things he referred to last night in his lecture: the humanity, his personal, psychic, spiritual destiny was the work for the humanity, the whole world, not us, not me individually, not you, not any of us as a small group, but the humanity.
WALI ALI: This was his work.
MURSHIDA VERA: Right up here, his whole work this was. And I’m sure if we knew his phrase given to him by Murshid, it would have been for the brotherhood of man, in some way. I don’t know that phrase, but I know his life, and I know what it was; it was for the brotherhood of man.
WALI ALI: We’re back again with Vera, and where shall we begin? We were talking about the incident at the time of Rabia Martin’s passing and the way Murshid was caught in the middle between her and Murshida Duce and so on.
MURSHIDA VERA: Perhaps Rabia’s passing finished an era in the Sufi work, because all of the letters—a good many of the letters, which I have, written by Samuel in defense of Murshida Martin’s position as the rightful Pir of the Order, being the first Murshid so initiated by Inayat Khan, was a work which Samuel never should have been put to work at, looking back at it. I think that it divided his ego, and from the lecture I heard last night, it was never ever integrated again. It forced him to serve a purpose for her too many years of his life, so that he never again was able to pull that together, which he had had up to nineteen years of age. And this, I think, was a very great pity, because he was on the path of the making of a Murshid; his whole life showed the building of a Murshid right here, putting it to work in a modern international city with the greatest of opposition one could have, the greatest of racial prejudices, to begin with, and especially during the years of the Nazi regime, building up to that period, there were so many people who were asleep at the switch as to what was really happening in Hitler’s Germany; and we were so fortunate to have Bill Hathaway’s father having been a Consul General all of his life, a Secretary in this work to President Wilson who wrote a tremendous work predicting the entire Hitler program ten years before that war which was silenced by our State Department. And we were just so very fortunate to have Bill and to know this family personally, and to know that this was all coming about; it was all planned, it was all heading for it. So we had warnings, and had Murshida Martin been the inner listener instead of one trying to the last to fulfill her claim, and having Samuel devote years of his productive life in typing nothing but defenses for her, for her desire to reach that level. Only after she made the trip to India and was recognized by different holy orders on her own ground and had a hundred people or more trotting behind her wherever she got off of a train, did she finally come to any feeling of being recognized on her own ground. Of course, she demanded this world for Pir recognition, you see. She didn’t start at all on a spiritual plane for the humanity, as Samuel did; she didn’t start on the plane of working in your own back yard as the rest of us did, but demanded and spent her whole life trying to prove and claim the Pir-ship. And this was just a great pity; but I feel that she has been drooped as if she didn’t exist. She influenced so much of our Murshid’s life that something definitely should be done on the life of Rabia and the work that she did in America. Without her fortune and her money and her devotion and her travels and her art collection; without her building and setting up Kaaba Allah and the people that it attracted to the Pacific Coast, we would not have what we have today. We do owe her a debt. And one should never judge the way the hierarchy works. It was done with the knowledge of the inner planes, and there was a purpose in it, though I feel, personally: I feel that Meher Baba shattered the Order and that only with this generation has it begun to relive on a right plane. But perhaps it was meant to be. As Samuel said, "I don’t weep for Kaaba Allah, because that which had to be destroyed was destroyed, and then which is to be rebuilt will be rebuilt." And when I went to the rock with him after the fire, he said, "Quit crying. Quit weeping. It was all destroyed before the fire anyhow; you know that.”
WALI ALI: That’s right.
MURSHIDA VERA: And I said, "That’s true, Murshid, but all of the memories, all of the great art that was destroyed in the chapel." The collection of a lifetime had gone up in flames in one evening, could never be replaced. And, as an artist, this meant so much to me. And then our Murshid Sam said to me that it would be reclaimed and rebuilt by another generation; and so that prophecy I have not seen; I don’t even know who owns Kaaba Allah now. Samuel predicted to me that the school would be reclaimed in Fairfax and that I would see in my lifetime the rebuilding of Kaaba Allah.
WALI ALI: You see that poster of the Sufi Choir? Over there, for their performance that’s coming up? Do you recognize that place?
MURSHIDA VERA: My goodness, yes. Isn’t that wonderful!
WALI ALI: This was taken right up by the Rock of the Prophet.
MURSHIDA VERA: So it’s coming back.
WALI ALI: And people go up there and meditate all the time even though the property is owned by others; but now, I understand, Pir Vilayat is in the process of starting a Khankah-ashram-type situation—it probably won’t be in that physical place, but at the same time it may be the same spirit.
MURSHIDA VERA: Gee, I wish we could reclaim the rock.
WALI ALI: I don’t know what the legal money side of it is.
MURSHIDA VERA: I just can’t understand how the people who have it now would have any use of the rock. The rock itself had just such tremendous meditations, and Murshid Inayat Khan himself stood upon that rock and dedicated the Temple of the Western World off on that point. That it would not at some time come back into the hands of the Sufis?
WALI ALI: I think we should look into it. We use it, and we consider it a shrine, regardless of who it belongs to.
MURSHIDA VERA: Yes, that’s true. As a shrine, it would be wonderful if it could again come back into the hands of the Sufi Order. Do we have a separation between Sufi Order and Sufi Movement now in America?
WALI ALI: Yes, this is correct. The Sufi Movement is supposedly headed by Fazal Khan, who is a young man in his late twenties; and I believe the grandson of Inayat Khan. And they have all this money and organization centered out of Geneva, and also apparently appealing to older people and putting a lot of emphasis on Universal Worship and so on. So there is still a division between Sufi Order, which is headed by Pir Vilayat and Sufi Movement, though the Sufi Order is undertaking all the elements of the Sufi Message that were included under what was called the Sufi Movement: the Universal Worship, the Brotherhood, the Healing and so on.
MURSHIDA VERA: I see.
WALI ALI: We should get back to what we were talking about. Since you brought up the subject of Rabia Martin, would you have anything more to say? You said you took care of her personal quarters; why don’t you give us a report just on her—
MURSHIDA VERA: On what we did, would that be good?
WALI ALI: On what you did, how she taught, something about her personality or her history and so on, anything you feel that you wish to give.
MURSHIDA VERA: Rabia gave us the world that she met on her trips. This is what I personally got from her outside of my personal meetings with her, which were always based on a comparison of my psychic opinion of what Samuel was bringing forth. I was never exposed to what he was bringing forth, but I had to give the answers purely from the psychic, so it was an inner reading that she was demanding of me each time. And I personally never knew if I was right or wrong, and I later felt that I should have found some way out of that, that this was a psychic misuse of any talents I had, and something that never should have been done to me, or to anyone, or even to Samuel; it was not the right thing. But I suppose that when one lacks one’s own psychic or inner vision, then one has to depend on someone else to do it for one; and this may have been her reason for that. But when the point came of doubting the validity of Sam’s messages, when those messages became personalized punishments against old-time Sufi members, this set very badly with the old-timers. And this made great complaints brought to Murshida Martin’s door, and great upset and frustration on her part. Now the messages that I received at that time were, "Send Samuel to India; get him there." And, of course, I don’t know what made the trend that he should not go to India, but he should be sent to San Francisco City College and trained in horticulture. And then he went into gardening and off onto that tack, which led him into the feeding of starving Asia, the period he spent on that. And I saw a great deal of him when he was at City College, because I lived in that area, and he used to come up to the house.
WALI ALI: And what about the date; do you have idea of placing the time when he was at City College? It was before he ever went to Asia, which was 1956, I know that.
MURSHIDA VERA: I would say maybe in the early ‘50’s. We just have to check with the College as to the year that he graduated from there. No, I can’t place that date in anything that happened within my family that would place it exactly.
WALI ALI: Never mind the date—let’s talk about those years, when he was at City College.
MURSHIDA VERA: When he was at City College, he worked in the nurseries on the flats, and he was deeply interested in seeds, in grasses and grains that could be used to feed Asia; he did a lot of work with seed catalog people in our country and contacted some of the heads of these firms in research that would make possible the use of our hybrid grains and crops that could be used with the simple plowing and the simple irrigation of those countries; this is what he was working on at that time. How many letters that he showed to me! Unfortunately, I didn’t take seriously enough to put down names; or the names didn’t connect with any of my contacts, so that I don’t recall them today. But he did a great deal of correspondence, a great deal of work. He was present and active in the first session of United Nations in San Francisco; many of the Sufis attended that. I went to one session with him, but somehow I was off on something else. To me it didn’t seem to be the important thing it was to Samuel at that time; he was just deeply wound up in United Nations when it met in San Francisco. And he followed this [?], to my knowledge, all of his life he was deeply interested in United Nations; but as he grew older he was deeply interested in mostly what they were doing for Asiatic people and—they were not doing for the Asiatic people. And he foresaw the Vietnam debacle with the French people and the great starvation that would hit the lower classes and he was hopefully working to prevent that type of starvation, mass starvation, which we are seeing today.
SHIRIN: Or not seeing.
MURSHIDA VERA: Or not seeing, yeah. But, during those years that Samuel was at the nursery at the City College, he was so beyond what the people in the class were doing that I understood from other students who I knew or met or who were connected there with the President of Cogswell Polytechnic College, where I had graduated from, and lifetime friend of the President of City College at the time Samuel was there—it was at a time when my marriage broke up, and I had to make a decision of how I was going to raise and support these children, so I went to City College to see that President for advice on the better way for me to go or where I should specialize from that point on, trying to walk away from the arts which were at an all-time low, which I knew I could not support these two children on that, or I felt I couldn’t. They discouraged my going toward the teaching field, the people that I consulted at that time. But when I went to Samuel down in the greenhouse and told him nothing about the interviews I’d had on the hill with the administration; and he was just working in the soil, and I was sitting on a box next to him watching him work on separating young plants; he went into the subject as if he had been with me the whole time and I had just walked out of the office (laughs) as he did so many times; and picking up the conversation from there, he went on to tell me that I should look away from the city and look unto the hills. And I took this as an interpretation that I should go to the hills and left Hilaritas and went up to Nevada City, which I never should have done because I landed in the house which the branch of the American River that flooded Yuba City ran under during the floods and washed out all of my costumes and lifetime belongings—all my dancing background just wiped out the back door with the river (laughs).
WALI ALI: We get these initiations of the elements. Isn’t it interesting—the fire element, there’s a destructive side; the water element, there’s a destructive side and so on.
MURSHIDA VERA: So, all of the elements had their initiation on me, and of course I misinterpreted totally what Samuel had told me, because he did not mean that to me. Now I am where I’ve done the work which he had meant me to do in the beginning, to look into the hills, to be a in a valley where I was looking to the hills, but not going to live in them, which I had misinterpreted. And he also was very much for my continuing the mental healing and very much against my putting myself in any physical contact that would deplete me physically. And, of course, I went through years where everything was drawn out of me physically, and I was just giving and giving and giving and depleting myself in a way that he was very much against.
WALI ALI: How was he supporting himself at the time when he was going to City College?
MURSHIDA VERA: His family, I understand, and he told me personally, that his family had agreed—the father and mother had had a reconciliation where Samuel was concerned. I knew Fuchsia, his mother, very well, and Samuel took me to meet her when I was a young girl, before I was married to anyone; he took me to his home and introduced me to his mother and then to his brother and to his father. And his father approved very much of me, but I’m sure his father was looking again for me to balance Samuel, which of course I wasn’t thinking of balancing Samuel at all; I thought he was plenty all right the way he was! (laughs) So that didn’t ever blossom out very much. And then Samuel asked me to attend his father’s funeral with him, which no other mureed did, to my knowledge. There were other mureeds there, but they did not walk with him and weren’t with him at the funeral; I was. And I know Samuel’s feeling; he was terribly upset for his mother and tried to hold her together mentally and emotionally, which he did a very fine job of. And he was terribly against the fortune, the bronze casket, that his father had that type of a funeral at a time when he could see the money going to much better spiritual use. Then, following the funeral, following this period, Fuchsia’s own mental health became very poor a year later, say, a time later.
But at the immediate time, he held her in good lieu; then the family went through this forgiveness theme, Sam’s own family, at which they decided—or he agreed with his father that he would agree to go back to college and get this education that they wanted him to get; his father wanted him to have a profession. He didn’t want his son just to be a Sufi spiritual leader; that just killed him, that this boy would not get down to being financially minded and getting down to the practical side of life.
WALI ALI: Apparently, when he graduated from high school he wanted nothing better than to go to college, but he wasn’t interested in business, so….
MURSHIDA VERA: He got involved in the spiritual work so early in life that when he got out of high school he was already deeply involved in the spiritual path, and here they were trying to place him on a mundane path, which he fought with his whole being. That fight went on and on for years, and when I first came to the Sufi Order, his family were going hot and heavy at him, and Murshida Martin was going hot and heavy on her end.
WALI ALI: He said, "Thank God they couldn’t get together—that’s what he said! (laughs)
MURSHIDA VERA: That’s right! If they ever got together, they would have destroyed him—I was just going to say that.
Murshida Martin was a Jewess that gave a lot of money to Hadassah, that turned Hadassah down to develop the Sufi Movement. And this was, in the Jewish community, unbelievable! That this woman, from such a fine family, with all this good background should turn away from Hadassah and put that money into Sufi work … horrors! So Samuel sort of happily went his own path, ignored the whole thing and went down the middle. But every once in a while the family would get on him and crack him up and he’d be in tears and all schook for weeks: and then it would die down and they’d let him go his own way again. But they let him go his own way because he simply gave up the whole thing.
WALI ALI: His mother was a musician or something?
MURSHIDA VERA: She was something else! You’d have to hear Fuchsia on the piano to believe it. I’d say that she had the strength of three men, and all of it came out on those keys. It was tremendous power in those little hands and this little bird-like alive, vital person who would bang away and stop in the middle and say, "Vera, come here. Did you know my son is named Samuel; do you know why? (laughs) And she would tell me the history of Samuel and how; she said, "They said he was born out of wedlock, but" she said, "don’t you believe it. He was born a prophet, and he came in the spiritual body first." She realized what her son was, and she would tell me and…
WALI ALI: She might have told you, but she never let him know that she felt that!!
MURSHIDA VERA: …and Arjuna said, "She’s mad! Why doesn’t she tell her son this?”(laughs) He would hear this in the rest of the house; and afterward, he’d say, "She’s mad! She tells the world, but she doesn’t tell her own son." And I said, "Well, she’s not telling the world, she’s telling me." And he says, "Well, it’s the same thing; if any woman tells another woman (laughter) you’re telling the world!" But, anyhow I would tell Samuel, and he’d say, "Yes, I know; she has told me; she has told me about my conception and my birth. Yes, she knows that I am a prophet. She knows I was born as a prophet." Well, I said, "Why doesn’t she influence your father?" He said, "She tried to, and you see what it’s done to her?" (laughs) So that probably a lot of her nervous mental problems were due to battling her husband for her son.
SHIRIN: What was he like—what kind of a man?
MURSHIDA VERA: He looked nothing at all like Samuel. I would say that the other son looked more like the father and that they had these real strong masculine figures, heavy bone structure—I wouldn’t say very tall men, but they both, the brother and the father, were physically of a strong build. And, of course Samuel, when I first knew him, was very delicate; he had nothing of this strong body that he built through the years by practices. But he had a delicate bone structure; he was thin and…
MURSHIDA VERA: …and intellectual and esoteric being, all head. And, speaking of all head, I’m speaking of the ones on his shoulders. During the time that Arjuna and I were first married we lived on 20th and Diamond Street and we lived on the top floor of a flat that overlooked the Bay and the bridge. And if you weren’t young and strong, you couldn’t stand it to climb up that amount of stairs; so we didn’t have to worry about the old ones—they wouldn’t climb. (laughs) We had only the young ones who came there, and we would have tremendous parties in this house; and one night we were having one of the first parties we had after I joined the Order. And all the young people were there, and Hazel Armstrong and a few of that middle age group were there; and Samuel came late. And, of course, the front door was always left open so anyone could come in and out on the top floor; and there was a long hallway leading back to this big room adjoining the kitchen where we had the big part of the party. And I had all the young ones there—Shirin and Nadine and all the Phelps kids, and the whole bunch of children that were children related to Sufis, and they were all sitting around on the couches and the chairs. And we had a fishbowl, which was turned upside down for an oracle; and we had towel turbans—if you were the swami, you had to put on the turban. And then you had to look into the fishbowl and you had papers that everybody had their question and their name on it, and you picked up a paper—if you were the swan, you took the paper and you looked in the fishbowl and told, predicted for this person, gave him his fortune. And these fortunes were just hilarious; everybody told all the dirt they knew about anybody else (laughs). And we were all laughing and having a great time when Samuel came, and he looked and he said, "What are you going? This is all wrong! Vera should be the swami." And he walked over to me and snatched this turban off the person, wound it around my head, and went out to fill the fishbowl with water and put it right side up. And he said, "No, put your mind on this and stop this nonsense." He says, "Excuse me," and he marches in the hall; and nobody’s paying attention to him. I’m scared of the fishbowl, (laughs); what am I supposed to see or do? (laughs) Where’s Samuel? Please come and save me! Samuel had taken off his coat; he was in his pants and his shirt. And he comes marching back through this door from the hallway with his fly open and his penis hanging out, zipped in? The penis zipped into the fly!
WALI ALI: Oh, God.
MURSHIDA VERA: (laughs) Here’s the Phelps gal there who sashays over to the door; she’d been in the kitchen, she had an apron on. She holds out the apron, stands in front of Samuel; Samuel is totally unconscious of the whole thing, marches right into the circle!
WALI ALI: (Laughter)
MURSHIDA VERA: I didn’t know what was going on, and she is certain; and doing zippering movements over the shoulder. What is she trying to tell me? I just couldn’t get it; I knew it was something. And she’s got this apron out? And all at once she swishes the apron aside, like this, and I look (laughs), and I got the message. "I got the message," I said, put down the fishbowl, grabbed Samuel around my arms like this, and began kissing him. He says, "What’s going on? Stop this! I’m being attacked!" (laughs) And I sashay him out, backwards, through this door. I said, "Samuel, your zipper! All those kids could see you." "Oh, he says, "What zipper?" and ”Oh! That!" (Laughter) Zips down, pull, zips it up! (laughter) marches back in. I looked at Hazel; God, we were in a cold sweat, looked at all the kids' faces. No, they just hadn’t seen anything at all; they were totally unaware of it. But, old Mrs. Phelps was furious; "Oh!”she says, "the very idea! Think of that, what those children would have thought! Just think of what could have happened!" she said, "If I hadn’t walked out of that kitchen when I did. I saved the day!" She gave herself full credit for it. So that was just the joke of the Order. But this is typical of the states that Samuel was in; he was totally unaware of the physical; it simply didn’t exist. He was in the spirit body; he was working in the spirit all of the time, and the physical body was just simply not recognized. And I think this was true all of his life, so that in the low points of his life, when he should have been retreating and been on his own retreat, free of teaching mureeds or giving the Message, he would plow on, not even recognizing his physical states. Ant after the years of Hazel’s death, when there was no one to knit his sweaters, take care of his dirty socks, care for him physically and see that he did what was right for his physical body, no one cared about his physical body. When I visited him during the time that he was living down by the dry-docks in this little shack with the screens on it, and flies all over, everybody bringing him fruit and gifts, and the flies—just droves of them on top of everything. Sammy in his sheet, meditating away, and all of the boys sitting around with him, completely unaware; he wasn’t being fed, he wasn’t being cleaned up and they were just taking it from him. You know: absorb, absorb, take from the master every instant of the way. And nobody there to protect him or do anything for him. And this is what brought on these savage, sudden attacks of physical depletion—they just absorbed everything possible. And he didn’t have this opportunity to retreat from it. No one reminded him to. And he himself was totally unaware of the physical.
SHIRIN: Do you know something about the findings in the hospital?
MURSHIDA VERA: Only what I heard from other people; they said that he was the most frightful patient that ever lived. And I could see why; because they were imposing a physical regime on a man who was in a spiritual state. And this was a most terrible thing; he evidently didn’t have anybody around him to protect him; and when it was told to me, it was over. I was not contacted at a time when I could have gone to him.
SHIRIN: The thing is, he says it was one thing; and we find out from the medical doctors that it was another thing.
WALI ALI: But she means the first time, not the last time.
MURSHIDA VERA: No. The first time; this is true. But I never heard what was really wrong with him.
WALI ALI: The doctors say it was a heart attack, and he always said it was food poisoning. I don’t think he wanted to alarm us about it.
MURSHIDA VERA: No. I think, on the contrary—I just don’t think he was conscious of it. Really. Because he simply refused to turn into his own body. He absolutely refused.
SHIRIN: That’s what I wanted to know.
MURSHIDA VERA: And when he worked with me as a young woman, when I had five miscarriages, one after the other, when I was married to Donny, Samuel would come to me in the middle of the night, three in the morning, whenever it happened—all I had to do was call my Murshid and he would appear—Samuel would always say to me—he’d get everybody out of the room, anyone that was around he’d get out of the room—and he’d sit down with me on top of the bed, get on top of the bed—and he’d say, "Vera, you can get out of that physical body, and I demand that you do." And that way he could roar. I’d say, "I can’t take my arms off the bedposts; I’m just in too much pain." And he said, "Nonsense!" And he would whack his hands on the crown enter of my head, (she claps, indicating what he did)—not my head; he would hold his hands above there and he’d give (claps) a whack like that. And then he would start a mantras, and he would demand inwardly, "Follow the mantram." And the minute I could get my voice to meet his voice, I was just out of my body like that, and free of it. But I could never do this in the presence of my husband; I could never do it in the presence of anyone except my Murshid. But he demanded that of me; and I’m sure he demanded it of himself, because Samuel never taught anything that he didn’t do himself. If he couldn’t do it, he wouldn’t ask you to do it.
WALI ALI: Let me tell you something; I just remembered something that happened once, during the period when I was living here. I had gone out for a short walk and he was in the kitchen doing some work. Somehow, through a series of—something fell on something else and hit something else, and a whole kettle of boiling water fell on his shoulder. And when I came back into the house—this had just happened—and one of the girls who was here was there. I saw what he did—he just took this deep breath, and he held it; and then he continued to do that. And he didn’t express any pain or anything of the kind. And it was tremendous—the scar was there for months, a tremendous thing; but he just got right out of it, by the breath.
MURSHIDA VERA: Also Samuel always taught in regards to pain, to my own pain—when it was something that I went through—he would say to me that one must meet water with water, fire with fire. Whatever the element is, you must meet that element head on in order to relieve yourself of the pain and to start the healing—the system itself, battling it from within. You don’t do it on the outside. You don’t put salves or anything on the outside. Water [?]
SHIRIN: I remember, during my natural childbirth….
MURSHIDA VERA: … that he held to that.
SHIRIN: He wasn’t there. He was in the hospital at the time, but the kind of breathing we use is a water breath. During the whole process, and that’s the only breath that works.
WALI ALI: This is a subject we’ve gotten into, of course, natural childbirth. Our woman now are very capable and able to do it very well; this knowledge has just come in.
MURSHIDA VERA: This is marvelous.
WALI ALI: Now, I want to find out a little more about his family, because you’re one of the few people that knew them personally. He became reconciled with his father on his father’s deathbed, and then he opened up his—[?]. He says his family always preferred his younger brother Eliot.
MURSHIDA VERA: He said this all of his life, that Eliot was preferred. But Eliot looked a lot older than Samuel even when he was young. And Eliot always had the expression in his eyes that made you figure that any contact he had with you had to be evaluated on what your contact was with Samuel. And, no doubt, he felt the spiritual superiority of this brother, of Samuel; and would not recognize the physical side of him at all, was ashamed of him physically and ashamed of his work and ashamed of his attitudes and actions and everything else. But Samuel, physically, and in his inheritance, was like his mother; he did not look like his father or have the strong physical build of the father or Eliot. And he was an older son; and in a Jewish family one expects that older son to be something special where his father is concerned. And Samuel simply refused to be it, or maybe he couldn’t he it; maybe he and his mother were so in tune from the beginning that he never could be attuned to the father in the way the father wanted him to be. And he had a plan for Samuel’s life, and Samuel did not fit that plan from the time he was a boy. And his scholastic ability, his pride in Samuel’s progress through high school was very great, and Samuel was a marvelous student and had tremendous grades at Lowell and was a brain from the viewpoint of everyone I ever met who knew him when he was in Lowell. And that he would throw this out the window to go to this nutty spiritual path was inconceivable to his father and the more he fought it, the more the Hierarchy seemed to have its plan for Samuel, to dominate his life and to guide hip on the psychic path. Now, how he got open to this psychic stuff, I don’t know, but I would feel from my own experience with children, and from the lessons he gave me in regards to my children, that it was very early established between the mother and Samuel.
WALI ALI: He said that in the first couple of years of his life he had all sorts of experiences and even was able to remember the Bible and read from the Bible and do all sorts of things.
MURSHIDA VERA: Right.
WALI ALI: And then later he forgot it and then remembered it.
MURSHIDA VERA: He was a reincarnated prophet; that I know. Fuchsia told we that she knew he was a prophet when he was horn. And the father, of course, having the traditional Jewish orthodox feeling for the son, accepted this and believed that Samuel would go that way. That was fine, so long as it was within his orthodox concept. But when Samuel reached the year of his majority and had his own experience—and he forgot all about what he came with; he forgot his former incarnation; he forgot the prophet that was. And he became a child on this plane, searching and seeking for his own Murshid-ship. He stepped from the set-up prophet to the teacher of the masses, of the humanity. Then this long hard battle to attain that, and the finding of Baba Martin, his first teacher; the coming through the Theosophical movement—he was trained in theosophy, early; he made strong contacts with the astrologers and the theosophists in that area (Murshida Martin founded the first metaphysical library it San Francisco). He contacted her through the metaphysical books, and they became deep intellectual friends when he was very young. And when she found Inayat Khan and entered the work with that, it was a very natural thing that Samuel carry right along with that. Then the metaphysical library was given up for the Sufi work; the Khankah on Franklin Street was established; the Sufi headquarters on Geary and Sutter (the first one I was involved with was on Sutter Street); these places opened. And Samuel was a young man, vibrant and alive intellectually, and known by all art circles—drama, dance, art circles all knew him. And he attracted that type of person. And they came to the center, to the great art shows we had—of the Asiatic art brought back by Murshida, gathered and imported by Murshida Martin’s husband, and gathered on her travels. And these tremendous shows would be crowded; 200 people jammed into those large rooms. Mr. James, Mr. Gump, people of the highest order of art and craftsmanship, and leading buyers; all of the intelligentsia, of the creative world of San Francisco met at these great art shows or teas that they had there. The Universal Worship was attended perhaps by 25 people, but the art shows, the teas, the soirees that they gave would be jammed to the doors. You could meet any of the creative people of the day; the heads were there: people in drama, in theater would all be at these Sufi doings on Sutter Street. And they were tremendous evenings that gathered together a great many of the creative people of this area. And Samuel was always in the center of this, organizing it, setting it up; he had Hazel always to be his right hand on carrying out anything he wished: the colors of draperies, the textures, the costumes, the food, every detail he planed ahead of time. And he just simply gave it out to Hazel, and it was taken care of, like this, by Hazel and Davida and those girls that worked for him; they did all that for Samuel and carried it out for him the way he wanted it. So he had a tremendous set-up there, and I say myself that I think for Samuel, the breaking up of this deal and taking it to Fairfax, putting more concentration on Fairfax was when the depth of the Depression hit; and it was felt that the mureeds should be solidified and aided on the spiritual basis; to bring us to a Khankah and to get us together as much as possible seemed to be the way for us to go, in a deep depression, as there was then. But the headquarters still went on, and Mrs. Phelps was still the librarian there every day, five days a week, and Hazel at this center a couple of times a week. They took turns, and they were well-dressed, culturally adept people who could handle it. And the books were being given out and were constantly loaned out to many many people who were not Sufis and who used that library. And it was a fine library, because it probably had the cream of what Murshida Martin had gathered in the old metaphysical library on the Eastern Philosophy. It had been brought to that library.
WALI ALI: Instead of looking at particulars, looking at the general sweep, let's say, of Murshid's life and, as you say, the building of the teacher….
MURSHIDA VERA: To me it's the building of a Murshid. He came as a prophet; he was born a prophet, with full recognition of the Scriptures and the whole story of the time of Samuel, the time of the Prophets; he came with the full knowledge. This knowledge was gradually veiled from him, so that he forgot all of the Old Testament and all of that he had lived, and he became a novice. He became a beginning raw reed, searching for the Path. And in finding his Path, the Path was not one to be accepted by his family; it was in absolute opposition to what the family had planned for the oldest son of a well-to-do prominent Jewish family. When he met Rabia Martin, she was of the Jewish heritage; and she gave him Father Abraham, the beginning of the Sufi tradition in Abraham. And this he could accept, and it was natural for him to accept this. And he immediately became the protector, and she became the mother-image, recognizing him in his spiritual state, having solidity, having a definite goal and a dedication, with the ability and desire to give her fortune and her wherewithal and her time to the Sufi Message. It was already Samuel's message, because he came with full knowledge of what the Prophets had predicted. And he had in him the strong sense of right and wrong; to have the guts to get up and call anyone—I don't care if it was the mayor or the Vice President, or the Governor of the state—he not only wrote them letters, but confronted them in person, when they were spiritually doing something against the prophecy, or against the Message. And he would confront them and tell them; he would state it right to them.
WALI ALI: Because this is the path of the Prophet; this is what the prophets had to do in their own time.
MURSHIDA VERA: That's what the Prophet is for, and always is for. But he went through the Naqib, the Rassoul, the Nabi; he went through these various stages in his own development. His spiritual guidance from within, or call it the Hierarchy, despite his Murshid, and he became absolutely beyond the point of his teacher s hand—he was beyond them in the beginning, probably, but he would get them distracted, because they could only go so far with Samuel, and then he went so far beyond them, he just drooped them. They couldn't keep up with him. And if they couldn't keep up with him, they themselves became distracted and began first weeping about it and gnashing their teeth, and then they'd escape. And I believe that a lot of Murshida's travels were purely and simple escapes from Samuel so she could recoup herself and come back and know what in the world should she do. But, when advised from the inner planes what to do—at least, let us say, what I received, whether it was legitimate or not; the psychic reception I had when asked to make these decisions was always that Samuel should be sent to India and that he should be taken out of her mureed-ship.
WALI ALI: Of course, after he did travel in the Orient and was recognized over there and met masters over there, then everything opened up for him over here eventually.
MURSHIDA VERA: Then he came back with an entirely different thing; he was recognized an initiate. And from my viewpoint in readings and studies of all the masters that have lived in modern times…
I don’t know of anyone else in the history of the world, to my knowledge in reading and books, that could ever compare with what our Murshid went through. It’s really extraordinary, because he brought all of the spiritual progress of the whole world right here to San Francisco and the Western world. And it grew—we saw it grow and we saw him develop through it all. It was a tremendous, wonderful experience.
WALI ALI: We haven’t talked about the last few years of his life and how you saw that.
MURSHIDA VERA: The last years of his life you probably know more about what went on in this work here than I. When I came back to San Francisco, at the time of the flower children coming here, I went to Golden Gate Park to just escape from all the things that were expected of me socially, and I just had to get away. When I went to the playground I had nephews with me who were old enough to play in the playground alone, and I gravitated over to the hill where they were doing the artwork with the chalks given to them by the city. And it wasn’t very long before I just had to sit down with the chalks because they were doing only parts of pictures and parts of symbols. And I had to give them; you couldn’t just have a heart and not have it with wings. And the winged heart just naturally had to go into the crescent and the crescent into a star. So I did the Sufi symbols on the side-walk there and walked away. And every day when I brought my nephews to play for a week there, I went to that same area. And as I walked around I found somebody who was working on that symbol, sat dawn in silence and picked up a chalk and worked with them. And as I gave them the key in drawing, they could follow it through so that, in their own way, each got the symbol.
Now, Samuel comes along. I didn’t visit Samuel; he didn’t visit me—there was no connection. Samuel comes along soon after that, walks through the park, sees the Sufi symbol. Ah, you people are uninitiated Sufis! And he picked them up, picked the first as up who had done the Sufi symbols on the walks, and they were the first to have Bayat along the flower children, and it was the beginning of his work there, no doubt. I don’t know, because I wasn’t there, but he told me himself that he was aware that the seed of the Sufi symbol had taken sprout in their hearts and that "You have been up to your old tricks again," he said to me. I said, Whatever do you mean?" "That you have always expressed the completed picture, but then you walk away and let me pick up the work!" It was a sort of a compliment and a reprimand. And that was all that I had to do with that. I knew nothing about it from that point on until Samuel had written to me and told me about his god-daughter, about his god-son, about the different people that he was working with, about his view on hallucinatory drugs. And he asked what was my feeling about it—I was at Sacramento State College at that time—and what was I running into on the LSD.
I was very closely involved in the psychology department there with Doctor O’Hara, and he had an incurable liver disease, but worse than that, he had slipped down to the point of suicide; and he had a young wife, deeply Irish Catholic, with a young son. And he asked me if I would come and give him art lessons in his home. And at that time I was working on Jung and the mandalas, and I had made many of them and had done my own mandala. And I brought my mandala to San Francisco to visit Samuel and set it up before him. So this right away got him going on this writing to me about the kids that I knew in the college who were experimenting with psychedelic drugs, and they were all going off with these older women—my age. And getting involved in the bed life and being kept by these women. And I was not about to have any part of that at all—I thought this was really shocking that these women were misusing a force. The kids were open, and these women were walking in on it. And many of than were my friends in the college, and I had some real hot set-to’s with then; I just would not go along with it or treat it lightly or friendly or anything else. I think these women were just disgracefully off the line. And I wrote to Samuel about this, and then he wrote back to me and told me the work that he was doing. He said—and last night you referred to it in the lecture—that I would hope that you would not go this way, but I would not tell you not to. I will merely show you a different way. And this is where he felt that I should organize the work in San Jose to put these people on meditation—the ones that I knew and were associated with. But when I started to do this, these women, who were also friends of mine, felt that I was breaking up their love life. And it was getting near summer, and they took the boys and took off on trips with them. Of course, what happened is that by the end of that summer they were dumped I flat on their so-and-so’s and were back gnashing their teeth, weeping, and the psychology department all shook up, and Dr. O’Hara was fighting his own battle and trying to take them on. And I definitely feel that his ultimate suicide—(he died by asphyxiation—he just put the hose on his car and inhaled deeply) and I really believe these women brought it to that point.
WALI ALI: Well I guess, Samuel said a lot of his life karma or development had to be facing women who had certain kinds of—I don’t know how to call it—hysterical or psychic or unconscious kinds of behavior patterns, and he was put into inferior positions to them and had to go through all kinds of things in this way. In some ways what he says is that towards the end he was able to reconcile all these experiences.
MURSHIDA VERA: I don’t know. I never was with him in anything like that except his mother’s nihilistic way—and that he had to contend with for years, I know. Now, as far the Sufis are concerned…
WALI ALI: His mother, and in a certain sense the Murshida Duce thing and…
MURSHIDA VERA: Oh, probably, but you see I washed my hands of that entirely. And I traveled; during that time I was in Virginia Beach and deeply involved with the Cayce records. And I was painting the astrology charts which were shown at Virginia beach and got so deeply involved with the astrological point of view, of trying to study all the masters again with the understanding of my own teacher, Samuel. I was trying to understand what is mastery in our time? What do the charts of the masters look like? And how are they connected in the hereafter? I wanted personally to understand this—don’t ask me why, I haven’t any idea. But I got deeply in it and I spent an awful lot of time studying it and learning it. Samuel used to always go and see Fritzi Armstrong, and of course Fritzi probably was part of telling Samuel that I was a witch, in the work that I was doing. But the work I was doing was certainly on the path of light and healing for the mentally disturbed and had nothing to do with her satanic witch-worship or the stuff she went off on.
WALI ALI: Yeah, he didn’t think very much of her.
MURSHIDA VERA: I know he wouldn’t, but he knew her from the old Theosophical days, so that was a friendship that it back to his youth, long before I ever met up with him. But at the Manly Hall lectures, where Sam and I would meet many times—and many of those lectures we went to together, especially on the Dhyana Buddhists—I knew that Sam would have to go back to the Buddhists, that somewhere along the line he’d have to walk away from Sufism; because he had a tremendous lesson to learn there. And his first interest in that was the building of the Buddhist temple, which he felt these people would do and what the Sufis were supposed to do at Kaaba Allah in fulfilling Murshid’s dedication of the ground to the Temple on the Rock and that they never had fulfilled, because they were unwilling to get down and contribute labor, work and doing. They wanted to sit on their fantails, meditate, and the holy beings were going to do it all as a miracle, which they can do and could have done, but what evolution would there have been for these mureeds? They wanted it handed to them on a golden platter, because they sat and meditated before a master. And Samuel was not about to be used or misused that way. He didn’t argue with them—he got to a certain point where he fought with them, had a good fight with them, they all became hysterical, he washed his hands of the whole bunch, went down to work the Buddhists and did what he wanted to do. And he didn’t have any trouble doing it because they were already on that beam anyhow. I think that probably somewhere after I had seen Sister Donnadina and Senzaki—that he’d made good contacts there.
WALI ALI: Well he met Senzaki from way back. He knew him for a long period of time.
MURSHIDA VERA: I don’t know. As I said, I never went there with him, but he must have known—as Senzaki lived in Chinatown—he must have known him at that time. We never discussed him until afterwards, of course, than I did the dances and Samuel saw them and was just all for it. In every way he thought it was great. But I could not see the violence that Sister Donnadina went through. When she was whacked over the head she fell down a tremendous staircase in this temple and broke her back and for the rest of her life she was crippled, came back and became a speech teacher.
WALI ALI: Well, this is all—
MURSHIDA VERA: So I mean there are orders and orders, and she evidently contacted one of those orders, you know what I mean?
Wali Ali : Yeah, exactly.
MURSHIDA VERA: And Samuel had his own power, and he never contacted that type of an order or went through that evidently. Of course, he was on a different path. He wasn’t on the path of renunciation. He was on the path of fulfillment. And when you take one who comes as a prophet and who has his own development as a Murshid to be attained to, he has to go through all the stages which Murshid lays out in Vadan and Nirtan for us. And he did go through these stages, one after the other. And looking back at it—which at the time I did not—I was too busy living it, living my own life and experiencing it, and I did not have the knowledge of the Sufi Message as a whole, as a teacher, to look back on the Gathas and the Sangathas and to see the study of the elements and the breaths and the way that a man develops from one stage to another—I didn’t see that overall pictures which I saw later. But looking at it later, and especially in my last meeting in the flesh with Samuel, when I came here, when you did the dances of the breaths, and Samuel was saying to me inwardly, "Look, I have a disciple who can do it all. Do you remember, Vera?" And I did remember, and I saw as I watched you dance and watched you do the practices, I saw reeling before my inner eye all the years that San struggled to get one person after another, through one terrible strained stage after another—and here in one short hour I saw one disciple who was going through it 1-2-3, just like that at the command of the Master.
WALI ALI: And there were lots of people; finally this new generation was the one that he was waiting for to be very receptive to him.
MURSHIDA VERA: And so he wrote in his stories. But I wouldn’t say that they were receptive to him as that is an injustice to Samuel, but that they were receptive to the Message which he became the embodiment of.
WALI ALI: Yes.
MURSHIDA VERA: He so went through all these stages that when I saw him at the end, the last visit, there was the cowardly lion of Oz, joy beaming from his eyes. He had attained it. The whole thing was there, and it was as if he were saying to me, "Oh, we used to play at this, didn’t we? We used to costume ourselves and play. Well, here I am, your old cowardly lion, in the flesh." And it was an attainment. He had attained it. And he had passed on his word. And he had been able to live to give it to an age that had reached rock bottom. And the greatest thing that Murshid said to me was in regards to my own children, "If you let everything else go in the world, Vera, never forget love. Make love the center of your teaching of the children." And I have in my house and in my classroom a winged heart and it says on it, "First comes love," because that’s what Murshid gave to me: First comes love; all else will follow. And when I say "love," I do not mean sexual possession, involvement, encirclement and stifling Me-My-Mine. But I mean love as our Murshid knew it, the giving of self to the nth degree so that there is no physical self left. Never mind the destroying of the ego; don’t concentrate on that. Just give of yourself and your talents and your being to the exclusion of all else, and you will find that love has dominated your life. But it has to come by the Grace that Murshid spoke of last night, the Grace of God: all else you can talk about—what’s more important than all of it? Grace, he said. When someone said, "Love," then someone else said, "Grace." He said, "Who said that? Who said that? It was you, Wali, wasn’t it? Yes. Grace. Because you don’t get it, you don’t give it, you don’t demand it—it comes, like the rain from heaven; you never know when, but it just comes. And that Grace is the real answer. Oh, that was a wonderful lecture, wasn’t it? The summing up of his own life in that lecture—it really was—if you go back from there, you have it.
"When did he become a Murshid?" I said to myself. When was his initiation outwardly as a Murshid? In India?
WALI ALI: This man in Pakistan gave it to him, and then Pir Vilayat recognized it.
MURSHIDA VERA: Is that so? Well, that is so interesting.
WALI ALI: And he said it was only given to him after he was able to show that he had two illuminated disciples. It’s not given on the basis of the other thing.
MURSHIDA VERA: This is true. Yes, so he said so many times that one’s illumination is very hampered if one is a female, he said to me one time. And I said, "Why?" And he said, "Because you’re always propagating." (laughs) And I said, "What do you mean, Samuel?" He says, "Well, at are point or the other, you are. (laughs) It’s so much easier when you’re a male." I said, "Well, how do I escape from that? I can’t help what sex I’m born with." "Oh, I wasn’t speaking of sex, you know that." You see, so he set me straight in one sentence. (laughs) He said, "Have you never heard of Jelal and Jemal?" And I said, "Oh:" (laughs) "Yes," he said, "Are you attaining to the Kemal state, or are you still on one end of the teeter-totter?”
WALI ALI: And the only thing I'm sorry about is—we got the lectures on First Corinthians an tape, but the lectures that he gave there on The Gospel According to Thomas, which happens to end with this very thing. The disciples objected, why should Mary Magdalene be with us? She’s a woman. And Jesus says, "I will make her a man." (laughs)
MURSHIDA VERA: There’s the polarity again. Don’t forget it. You can do it. All you have to do is get out of breath, and you’ve got it. But this puts the whole sex picture in a totally different picture. The way Murshid taught it was so very different than the way my generation was practicing it.
WALI ALI: Yeah, this is a question that I think we’d like to get into, because the evolvement of the whole sex idea and …
SHIRIN: … and its whole orientation is so different today. There are so many facets.
MURSHIDA VERA: This is what I mean by a Murshid. When you attain to the state of the Murshid—now I don’t speak from personal experience, but by reading and association with Samuel through all those years of actually learning and observing him develop and being able to see psychically, being born with insight to see his aura, to see anyone’s aura, and to see the states in the aura that he went through, the states of his energy body, the states of his emotional body, working, playing through that aura all the time, the carrying of the great Atlas that he became, this great world that he carried on his shoulders, bent over, just previous to the time of the flower children. When I would see him on the streets in the Civic Center near the Library and call out to him and couldn’t catch up with him, a bus would come in front of me—something would stop me physically, and he would be gone. I couldn’t catch him; he turned a corner and had gone into a building; he was out of sight. And I’d be time and again so upset that I was so close to him and couldn’t touch him. But I would always see that, the bent-over shoulders, the small overcoat, and this big aura filled with the world; he was carrying the world on his shoulders, this big globe that he was carrying just previous to the time when he had to work with the flower children. And then I thought—afterwards, when I saw him the next tine—"Oh, this was the meaning of this? To be able to set down that world and straighten up his body again and be able to be the Murshid. That he carried that weight with him in his psyche, in his aura, right up to the time when he met the generation that he could unload it on, that was ready to accept him. But, as you say, he had gone through all these facets. Now, in his own life, there was a girl named Mollie whom his family had picked for him before I came on the scene; and he was engaged to Mollie for quite some time, and this was the girl they wanted him to marry. And she was an attractive Jewish girl that the family loved and wanted him to have. Well, I never—and nobody else ever got out of Samuel—what happened to the big romance with Mollie. But he spoke of Mollie always.
WALI ALI: I think he told me a couple of things about it, about how it broke up. She wanted him to be an orthodox Jew.
MURSHIDA VERA: Oh yes, that’s why the family approved.
WAIL ALI: And he even tried, but he had association with some—well, for example, one Jewish fellow who’d married a Gentile and who was something of a Kabbalist and gotten interested in Vedanta and so on. And she said, "Well, I’m going to ask the rabbi what he thinks about this man." And he says, "Please, whatever you do, don’t ask." Because he said he could see in his vision what this would bring on, for the Jewish people, for them to judge this man on a spiritual basis. Well, she did, and then the judgment came down. This was a sort of a place that a lot of conflict came up, I know, in this relationship.
MURSHIDA VERA: For goodness sake, is that what she did? Well, he never would come to that point and he would just laugh it off and it would always be in a group of young people who would be horseback riding or walking, skating, doing something. And when Samuel first started his work in Fairfax with the young people on the skating rink, he took all the kids of the area—it didn’t matter who they were—he just got out there on the floor and he just organized them all and had them all skating in the circles and doing the formations, and he was doing the breaths and he had the community absolutely— the older people of the community were not Sufis—up in arms, because he had such power over their youngsters. And they certainly didn’t recognize him; they thought that any teaching like the Sufi school, which was teaching all religions, was nothing. Even I, with my own personal contact with the Muslim missionaries here, came to that point where they just challenged me directly on Samuel Lewis because, saying that you are nothing; you Sufis are nothing, because you will not became orthodox Muslims.
WALI ALI: Yeah, this is the old game.
MURSHIDA VERA: You see? So, I went to Samuel right away on that, and he confronted that fellow, and they really had it out, because Sufism does not stand on that. That’s ridiculous. Murshida Martin had given it on the basis of Abraham in all of her teachings at Kaaba Allah. One did not trace oneself back to the world of Islam. We have the Sufi poets, don’t misunderstand me; we dramatized them and danced them and sang about it and had a great deal of theatrics on it. But in no way at all were we given to believe that the work of the great Rumi and Hafiz and Saladin and Omar Khayyam least of all, the great Sufis of that period were the beginnings of Sufism. Never: But it was so interpreted, and the Muslim s brought this out very strongly and especially when the mission was established here.
WALI ALI: If we can go back to this sex thing just a little bit, because it is something of interest.
SHIRIN: What was the role that he envisioned for women in the New Age? Do you know anything about that? I know he wished them to attain the same heights as men, spiritually. At least I felt that.
MURSHIDA VERA: I have a different understanding than you have. I can only tell you my in understanding and my own teaching and realizations with our Murshid: that he did not see sex as a male and a female, The physical body you were he was not even aware of or seeing, and what he saw was you in your spiritual body. He saw your magnetic aura next to your skin, next to that he saw your emotional energy body, and he saw your emotions playing through that body. Now he read strongly through the eyes; he had very strong magnetic eyes, and he used those eyes wide open at the entire world. Never did he mask that gaze; when he wished to mask that gaze, he pulled the inner curtain down, but never did he close his eyes in my years of work with him, with men and women in any kind of a group. If he saw a man who was off on a feminine tack, he would get with him, work with him on the opposite pole; he would start the Jelal practices, and before that man knew it he had flipped him over to Jemal. And he would get the breathing, the walks and the breathing practices going with this person, and especially the work of the legs and the feet on the earth, and it wouldn’t be long before this person, unbeknownst to himself, would have hit the other polarity. Now he came across a woman who was on the masculine tack, he would hand her over to a feminine teacher at once, and then he would work through that feminine teacher, but never directly. He disliked the personal contact, the physical contact with the physical body of the female.
WALI ALI: He got over this the last a years of his life.
MURSHIDA VERA: Did he?
WALI ALI: He did these Krishna dances.
MURSHIDA VERA: Well, in my time he didn’t like it.
WALI ALI: Do you think he ever got into the physical sex thing at all in his own life?
MURSHIDA VERA: No, I do not. I think he got through it in the evolution of the prophet, yes. But you see, he came having already completed it. I’ve told you the experiences that I’ve had with him, little things that I thought which showed up very plainly where he stood on the physical when he was a young vibrant man. And his physical body was just not present. I don’t think he felt it. I don’t think he was aware of it. It was just something that he went along with, but it was his grace to be blessed by people who cared for his physical body, that looked out for the necessities of his life, and I don’t mean sex life. Because, of course, anyone that uses their legs in dancing and in skating and in jumping and his dances in those early days were not the kind of dances that you learned later in life with the smooth wonderful leg rhythms. That didn’t exist—it was all hopping. Like they said, "He’s a canary bird; he’s hopping up and down; he’s hopping from one perch to the other." He was working vertically, not horizontally. Now, anyone who does that in the dance, I can tell you that if you’re doing elevations and you’re working of the toes and you’re hopping up and down, the sexual centers are depleting themselves in a different way. You do not have the releases of the physical body bothering you; they are not gathering up in certain glands of the body, because you are constantly pushing that force to the earth and to the heavens. And this Samuel always did, in all of his work on elevation and all his dancing in his early hippie-hopping around at Kaaba Allah that was so-called canary behavior. He was jumping up and down. He was elevating his body, and he would get tremendous elevations in the walks with me, when he would do the walks, and elevate himself as much as Nijinsky did, from a straight position directly up in the air and had that power of the breath that he didn’t go higher than I went. He wasn’t getting any more elevation than I was with all of my body training, with all of the background of breathing and practicing. But he had the power of the breath to hold it when he got up there. And that’s the whole trick: it isn’t how high you go, but how can you hold that breath so that you don’t come down with a plunk? And he never came down with a plunk. He went up there, held that breath and seemed to soar up into space. So the way you use your feet is the way your legs are working, the way your sex organs are working. There was a constant relief through the prana going down into the earth and being extended up into the arrow which put him on a basis totally removed from very few men. I would relate him more to Nijinsky than anyone else. I think Nijinsky had the same key, and he knew what Samuel did. And we had a mutual friend named Vivian Wall who’s a very great natural dancer and teacher in the San Francisco area, and she was a disciple of the barefoot dancer—what’s her name? The first one to take off her clothes and use the veils.
WALI ALI: Ruth St. Denis?
MURSHIDA VERA: No, before her.
SHIRIN: The one who was strangled by her scarf?
MURSHIDA VERA: Yes, strangled by her scarf.
SHIRIN: Isadora Duncan.
MURSHIDA VERA: Isadora Duncan. She was a disciple of Isadora Duncan. Many times Sam and I would be at her studio, and I danced with them once in awhile to loosen up, to get away from the stifling routine of the ballet—it would do me good to express part of myself in that way.
SHIRIN: The thing is, I felt in Murshid a kind of a nostalgia, a romantic nostalgia.
MURSHIDA VERA: For that time?
SHIRIN: No, that he never married or that he never had a partner in this life.
MURSHIDA VERA: This was, I’m sure, of his own choosing, because there was never any young girl who came into the Sufi Order, or any young women including myself, that did not at a certain time fall deeply in love with Murshid.
SHIRIN: He always said to me, "Well, I have to be very careful with these girls, I have to be very careful." He never let it get lower than a certain plane. But I always felt as if in some way there was a longing in him.
MURSHIDA VERA: This might have been so, because even Murshid Inayat Khan, who was married to a first cousin of Mary Baker Eddy, an extremely beautiful and etheric woman when he married her—I mean all during her years of marriage to Inayat Than, this very high spiritual basis was maintained through the conception and birth of these children, including Vilayat. Yet, after his death when she went with her daughter to Paris and did the nightclubs and went down to the other plane, seeking a fulfillment that her marriage and her life with Inayat Khan had not fulfilled, evidently. Why would she have done that? To the shock of all the young Sufis that I knew in Paris who knew and saw this behavior, and they all considered that the oldest daughter, the one who was killed in the French underground work—what was her name?
MURSHIDA VERA: Noor—she was the prize; she was the one who had inherited the real spiritual light of Inayat Khan. She gave herself for the French underground, and Vilayat was secondary to her. She outshone him during her life, which may have been why he was a late bloomer, spiritually speaking.
SHIRIN: I know they were very close, as brother and sister.
MURSHIDA VERA: That’s right—they were, very deep, very close. But I don’t believe that people who have that relationship—I mention this not as any criticism at all—but Samuel was aware of this relationship of Murshid’s and of the great burden it was on a woman to be the wife of a Murshid and a teacher and the true spiritual ground one had to stand on and stand away from so that he could be all things to all types of women all over the world, that they might attain to their illumination. But how many women can stand to give their husband to that? And he realized that when you do that, you certainly crucify a woman. If you’re going to be a husband and a father, there’s somewhere along the line that as a Murshid and world teacher, you have to walk away from it—you belong to the world. You can’t take them with you. You’ve got to go off and have your own realization, your own life. And this must be a crucifixion to the ones that you love and leave behind. And I don’t think he ever wanted to do that, or ever wanted to get involved in that. His part was not that.
WALI ALI: No, it wasn’t. And, in a sense, what Shirin says I know is true. He did have this longing, and we talked about it. If you read his diaries it comes up time and again. And he was told by certain spiritual teachers that he should merry and, in fact, that he would marry.
MURSHIDA VERA: He turned that down of his an free volition, because he could have married Hazel Armstrong, and she would have been happy to serve that; and his turning away from allowing her to care for him—now, that was not based on a sexual basis—but his turning away from that, going into this retreat of life caused her to have this shocking alliance with this attorney, and whom she brought in there to occupy Meher Baba’s quarters—but he turned it down. And, of course, Sam said he would never judge anyone’s sexual behavior; he would walk away from it.
WALI ALI: I’m going to give you a poem called "Salome" by Murshid and you tell me what you think of it. I won’t say anything more, but I bet I know what you’re going to say.
MURSHIDA VERA: Samuel told me at that time—I went to him and I said, "Oh, Samuel, why are you letting this happen to Hazel? Do you know what kind of a men this man is?" And he said, "Tell me." You know how he was—he put you right on a pin when you made a statement like that. I began to cry, and I told him, "Well, Donny could not have sexual relations, and we were married for five years and lived a celibate life. And when Donny went overseas to the war I became extremely ill, and the family doctor finally got at the crux of the matter. He said, "This is wrong. You must annul that marriage and get out of it at once. You are having uterine tumors, and they are caused by your emotional state, and there is no consummation. It’s just boil, boil, boil and bang! This is backing up and causing these tumors all the time. If you don’t, you are going to have to lose part of your body. Quick, right now. And naturally, right away I spoke to the Bishop—Bishop Block—faced him with it, and he said, "You must not. You must not annul the marriage." A bishop said, "Don’t annul this marriage. You must divorce this man, by mutual consent. Get an attorney, go to him, and by mutual consent have this marriage ended. But do not annul it, because if you do you have to state the grounds. and this sensitive man will be marked by it. And you mist not do that to him, you will destroy him. He’s speaking of Arjuna now. So, listening to the bishop, I then went to the Sufis, talked to Sam about it. Samuel said, "You must talk to Hazel. Hazel has a friend who is an attorney." "Is he a Sufi?" "No, but he is deeply attached to Hazel." So I went to Hazel and told her.
"Oh yes, I’ll introduce you to him." This was the man, the boyfriend I’m telling you about, who later occupied the grounds over there and never married Hazel and sucked the Sufi Order dry at a time when they could hardly afford it. Hazel than turned her back an Sam and aligned herself with this man, trying to bring Samuel to his knees. Well, ridiculous. Who’d know what she was thinking about because Samuel world never think on that grounds anyhow. Instead of waking Samuel up, she got herself into her neck and threw her centers off and took cancer in her shoulder, and that was the finish of her. But, at any rate, that was her way of trying to make Samuel wake up to her. Her mothering and caring for him and nursing him and knitting for him and doing his washing and smoothing out his problems with his mureeds and everything else was a devotion and a love, but I’m sure that he could have had a very happy marriage with her, and he turned that over.
And in turning me over to this man, that’s another story that I would have to tell you, but I had an experience with this man in an elevator which just frightened the life out of me. And when I got out of that elevator, I ran into the room and got out of there, and I thought, "Oh, how could Hazel ever have anything to do with a man on this plane—he was a frightening individual. But, of course, I went bank to Samuel, and he stood on his feet and his hands were out at his sides as he could, and they were just shaking, shaking. And he said, "Dismiss this from your mind. Dismiss this from your mind at once. It never happened. You never faced him. It never happened to you." And I said, "But I can’t, Samuel," and I was just weeping. And he said, "You can and you will. I take it on. Come here." He put his hands on my shoulders, stood close to my body, inhaled and demanded that I inhale with him. I went into a state. I don’t know what he did, but when I came out of it, the thing was done. I never again had any fear, any feelings about it. I can tell it to you as at the time it was an experience that just shocked me to the ground, and especially for my dear friend, great love, Hazel, that I was upset, frightened and terribly upset. And Samuel said to me later, "You know why she has this, don’t you? You know the laws she disobeyed, knowing better." He had no sympathy at all. He wouldn’t even walk in there—he could relieve her of this pain, he could heal her. "I don’t touch this at all. It’s out of my hands, out of my hands.”
WALI ALI: He said that this certain kind of moralistic basis—this is one of the greatest things he had to overcome in his own personality, his tendency—being naturally born with a certain sense of, let’s say, call it the Ten Commandments or whatever you want to call it, these kinds of high codes of ethics.
MURSHIDA VERA: I don’t know. To my knowledge, his behavior in the closest relationship I had through all those years, he always lived it.
WALI ALI: He lived it all right it was a question of seeing others…
MURSHIDA VERA: He lived so within the law that it never even bothered him. I never at any time ever saw him that I would feel that he went through the temptations we went through. His temptations were on a different plane. But he sure didn’t have them on a physical plane.
WALI ALI: That’s right, and this is the thing. What he had to get past was getting other people….
MURSHIDA VERA: I’ve seen girls just weeping over Samuel. I mean they would be so crazy over him, and, as I said, he’d drop them like a hot potato and take on another mureed who needed him in another way, and they would go through hell because he would just drop them suddenly. And their love and attachment to him was so terrific, and he would say to me, "You know, we have to wean babies, don’t we?" He saw this as a weaning process. He says, "Of course, there’s the slow hard way or there’s making up your mind you’re going to wean them overnight." He said. "I believe it should be done overnight." And that’s what he did.
WALI ALI: And the funny interesting thing—irony or whatever—is when the age difference became so great—he wasn’t any longer like a father; he was like a grandfather. I mean he was 70, and his disciples were 25.
MURSHIDA VERA: But they were still falling in love with him. In my generation they did, they all went through this falling in love with Samuel, and then they’d get dumped and they’d get out of it and then have a good…
WALI ALI: No, this didn’t happen.
SHIRIN: I don’t know whether he made it that way or…
MURSHIDA VERA: He probably learned how to handle it.
WALI ALI: And instead he came back in the other way. Then he was able to have physical contact—kissing all the time, hugging, doing these Krishna dances where he would play the part of Krishna and he would take the girl…
SHIRIN: And totally impersonal—on very high plane.
MURSHIDA VERA: You see what I meant when I said to him right here that day? I laughed at him and said, "You better watch out; the girl will be falling in love with you! And he just smiled because everybody fell in love with Samuel somewhere along the line. And at one time, when we were both so wrapped up in Gandhi and Madame Gandhi’s place in his life. And I was reading all these things and would sit down with Samuel and say, "Samuel, listen to this, listen to this: And I’d read Gandhi to him. And he would turn around and say, "Yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking. I know what you’re planning." (laughs) I thought, Oh this would be terrific; gosh, to be married to Samuel, to share his life, and protect him and care for him—this would be the greatest thing in the world. And he just "Yes, yes," and steered that away and steered me right to Arjuna! (laughs) But when I took him on a walk at Kaaba Allah, and I was just near to distraction, and I said, "Samuel, you know I’ve got to divorce Arjuna. I’ve got to give him up," he said, "Oh. Oh no. This must not be." He was so upset that day. He took me on a long hike and did 150 practices and he came back and took me up on the rock and I was all shook up, terribly emotionally disturbed. And he said, "Well, now, you don’t have to worry," he said. "You’re not going to have to face this the way you think you’re going to have to face it." He said, "The world karma is going to take care of the whole thing. Just sit tight." What in heaven’s name is he talking about?! And what was it? I think four weeks after, Pearl Harbor. And of course that was it. Pearl Harbor came, he signed up that day in the Navy and he was taken. Our lives were separated by death. And the papers had already been signed, but I never went back in that office. I never walked in there. And I walked directly to Hazel, and we were on a streetcar going down to the ferry to go to Kaaba Allah. And I told Hazel what had happened, and Hazel did not accept it. She simply didn’t accept it. I had had an hallucination, this was a psychic experience—it never happened.
WALI ALI: What? This conversation you just reported?
MURSHIDA VERA: Yes, this attorney friend of hers had attacked me in this elevator, and she would not accept it. I said, "Hazel, do not get yourself involved with this man, please. You don’t know what you’re getting into." And she just wouldn’t accept it at all. So I got off of the ferry boat and took another streetcar back; I didn’t go to Kaaba Allah. And that’s about all. I can’t go over there and face this man, and Samuel hadn’t had an opportunity to get him off the property—which he did; he got him off at once. But I knew that she would never forgive me, and she doesn’t forgive Samuel for that.
WALI ALI: Yeah, this is the kind of thing I think that he was talking about, where he faced this kind of sexual energy or whatever it was. It’s certainly something our society has had to go through and we’re still going through.
MURSHIDA VERA: I don’t know how he evaluated it. But he was in this instance that I know of very much a believer in the Ten Commandments.
WALI ALI: Oh, I know he was.
MURSHIDA VERA: And he could not stomach any attack on a woman by a man. It was out of the realm of his realization. He simply couldn’t conceive of such a thing happening, ever. And he felt that this was brought about by our civilization forcing male-female relationships too closely together, that there was a place of retreat for a man, and there were times when women should be with women and men should be with men and that that was the only protection they had. It was never carried out in our Order; we were always mixed together in everything we did, regardless of sex. But I know in his own talks to me that he expressed so many times that cur civilization did not allow the woman to retreat and be among women at certain times of her life; and that it was a good thing and a thing where women should be with women and should have their retreats without men being involved. And it just never was carried out, but those were his wishes; that’s what he would have done. And he always would put these retreats on you at a time when you needed them, if you were a woman; I don’t know what he did with the men. But I know to me, many times he sent me in positions of retreat —without it I would have collapsed. And he gave me that opportunity to be alone and to pull myself together and be protected.
SHIRIN: I know his opinion of Muslims having more than one wife was for a woman’s protection. The Western world doesn’t see it that way, of course; it sees it as a matter of exploitation. But in reality it is a means of protection, when women don’t have more than one child every five years.
MURSHIDA VERA: That’s right. And they do not have a constant sexual pressure.
SHIRIN: They share the work.
MURSHIDA VERA: And they have this protection and respect all of their lives. They are never divorced and set out to be smeared the way that women in our society have.
WALI ALI: He did try very hard to keep couples together.
MURSHIDA VERA: Oh, yes.
WALI ALI: This very wedding…
SHIRIN: Oh, I know, incredible. (laughs)
WALI ALI: This was this very funny thing that happened—I don’t know if we need to record it or not—because everybody knows the story—but Shirin and her husband—had the ceremony already been performed?
SHIRIN: No. It was a Buddhist wedding because—I don’t know, maybe because the ceremony appealed to us, and there’s a place where—apparently Murshid had spoken to the priest and said that he wanted to say a few words at a certain place in the ceremony and Reverend Wagner stopped the ceremony in an appropriate place and turned to Murshid and asked him if he had anything to say—I think it was where if anyone is opposed to the union—
WALI ALI: I don’t remember that. No, everyone thought he was just going to give a blessing.
SHIRIN: A blessing. Oh, right. We all thought he’s going to say something to bless the marriage, and he just put on a completely Jelal state and said, "I will not bless this marriage unless…." And here I am floating about two feet off the ground, and it wasn’t like I crashed down or crashed up—I just crashed sideways about two miles. And it wasn’t a come down—it didn’t bring anybody down because he was in a state of just complete power. And I don’t remember the words….
WALI ALI: I remember. He just said, "Some people are working on this thing and it’s a wonderful thing, getting married, and then people think about pl splitting up and you’ve got to work on a marriage." He says, "I’m not interested. If these people are interested, I will bless this marriage, but these people working on it better not split up." Or something like that.
SHIRIN: He wouldn’t bless the marriage unless all who were there stayed together. And they did for a while.
MURSHIDA VERA: We are normal people talking about someone way beyond us, and it is most difficult for us to see a person like this in perspective. It’s very difficult for me to see him in perspective, looking back through all the stages he went through and thinking of the times when I stood opposed to him thoroughly in what he did, and when he stood his ground and weathered the thing, constantly mailed me letters telling me of what was happening to every one of his mureeds, when I really got of patience with him and told him that he—Samuel, these people that you are initiating right and left with all these problems, and they are making problems in my marriage, because that which is demanded of me, to get these people out of these hysterical states, my husband does not tolerate and does not want these people in our hone in the few hours that he’s home. He doesn’t want these people there with their hysterics and their demands on me; and it is making trouble in my marriage. And Samuel just was so—he said, "Well, I may have initiated these people, but they are your mureeds and your responsibility. Don’t ask me to make these decisions." And I just thought, "Boy, he just washed his hands and leaves me high and dry."
But of course he was washing his hands of having anything to do personally with it. He worked for me and with me behind the scenes at all times, but he would not do it. He demanded that I get up and face it. Then, of course, if I hadn’t done that I never could have been the teacher that I later became. I could not have stood the emotionally handicapped child, elementally retarded, all jammed in together. At one time I had 80 of them in an institution on Cambridge Avenue here in San Francisco, and to try to organize anyone, to even protect—self-protection, I never even thought of.
When other teachers were spread-eagled against fences I had no problems. Samuel told me what to do when you enter, and get yourself on this breath—do not enter that front door unless you have it well-established. When you enter, forget it. And I did. I never entered that door until I did have myself thoroughly in that vibration. I entered there and I went through some terrifying experiences and never was touched, never was injured, was divinely protected.
WALI ALI: I have one more question before we just stop, not with the sense that we’ve finished, but that maybe some time in the future we’ll look back and do some more. After Murshid fell down the stairs and was taken to the hospital, in the middle of the night a few days later I got a phone call from you, and I would like you to tell me—at the time I don’t know if you told me whether he had come to you in your spiritual body, or someone else had told you about his accident?
MURSHIDA VERA: No, no, no. I knew nothing. I had no contact with anybody regarding what had happened to him. I called you at a horrible hour—wasn’t it 10:45?
WALI ALI: Oh God, it was 2:00 in the morning.
MURSHIDA VERA: 2:00 in the morning? Oh, I don’t know –
KHADIJA: Oh yes, because I answered the phone.
MURSHIDA VERA: Oh, how terrible. I was completely unaware of where it was, but I had gone to bed and had gone to sleep. I woke up suddenly, and just sat up in bed and realized that Samuel was standing at the foot of my bed, and just as much in the flesh as he could ever be, in his robe, and looking right at me; and I addressed him; he called me; I heard his name; he called me three times. And I sat up and looked at the foot of the bed, and he was standing there. And I didn’t realize it was the middle of the night, and I was just thrilled to death that he was there and began to talk to him, and then my conscious mind said, "This is impossible!" I denied it, and immediately the manifestation in the physical body went into the spiritual body, into light; and I knew that he stood in the spirit body, talking to me. And that disappeared, and then just the feeling of ice cane slowly down through each center of my body, and I thought, "what has happened to Samuel? This is terrible." I immediately got up and got my address book and called this number? And I said, "What has happened to Samuel?" Or something like that.
WALI ALI: When I got to the telephone you said to me, "Is Samuel all right?" And you said, "Because he just has come tone in the spirit body, and I wonder if he is all right." And I said, "Well, he fell down the stairs.”I told you what had happened.
MURSHIDA VERA: He was whiter than a [?] fire.
WALI ALI: Of course, there’s a funny side of this story which was that Jessica; when she answered the telephone—of course it was the middle of the night—she comes back into the bedroom, and she says, "It’s Che Guevara on the telephone.”
WALI ALI: I say, "Well, all right, I’ll take that.”
MURSHIDA VERA: She must have thought I was completely mad. (laughs)
KHADIJA: I was perfectly serious—
WALI ALI: No, she thought—the revolutionary, Che Guevara?
MURSHIDA VERA: Yeah? (laughs)
KHADIJA: I really didn’t—I wasn’t conscious of any of that—I was still asleep.
MURSHIDA VERA: Oh, dear. I received my impression at about 11:00 at night—
WALI ALI: This is, of course, a very unusual experience—was this the first time that he had—
MURSHIDA VERA: It was not unusual in my life—unusual where Samuel was concerned, yes. But he always would come at the most amazing time. He just appeared in the flesh as if he was the answer to a call—if I thought about his mentally—
WALI ALI: When you say "appeared in the flesh," you mean actually physically—he would just come.
MURSHIDA VERA: He would appear at the house, yes. He would just come. He’d come to the door, or he’d come into the house and just be standing in the doorway. And it would be at a time when I was in trouble, when I needed him, for some reason, and he would be there. And this was just accepted—it took me a while to get the idea that it wasn’t. I'd been used to him coming in time of trouble, but I wasn’t in trouble. There was no reason for him to come; the minute I began saying in my mind, "This can’t be. This is not possible," then, of course, he went into the light. And I realized that he had come to inform me and to bid his farewells to me. And I felt very strongly his blessing. There was always this enfoldment in my relationship to him. If I stood before him or sat before him—many times I saw my aura, which is an extreme thing, to see one’s own aura. And I would see my aura—the fingers of my aura out like this. And I would see his own aura always hooded like the cobra—his own aura had always a hood over it and his hood would come out and envelop your head, and mine would go out and envelop his shoulders. And this was just a tremendous feeling to every center in my body—this fluttering, feeling of fluttering wings and then a warm slow vibration would envelop me, like you were being enveloped by warm air on a completely nude body—a very wonderful feeling, and Murshid has always come that way—since his passing. I will know if I get a glance of the bending of my aura outward, it will always be followed with the feeling of the light, the hood—the light hood enveloping me, and then the feeling of tingling and the warm feeling. Then I know his presence is there. When I stood at the door before I came in here and the dog came out and barked at me and I put out my hand, and the dog licked every finger of my hand? And so many times when Samuel and I had been away from each other for a long time, and I’d first meet him, he would always take my hand and kiss each finger—just the fingertip. And it was just as though through the dog he was saying, "Welcome," and greeting me.
WALI ALI: Well, you haven’t met his cat. We still have Murshid’s cat here—he’s quite a character.
MURSHIDA VERA: You do? Oh, that’s right. I had a cat named after Samuel. Did I tell you about what happened just before my last visit with Samuel, here, when you did the dance? Do you remember my telling you about Samuel, the cat? And Samuel, the cat, just came to me in the early morning hours, came up and talked to me and —this was just such a wonderful cat—it would just come and press its mouth against your cheek like a human kiss, and walked out, and I looked at it and I saw that cat walking out the door, and the fur, it was like light. It was so etheric; it was so old and etheric the way it walked out. It was in its spiritual body—it didn’t walk out in its physical body. I thought, "That cat is not going to last long, and I never saw it again. Then I talked with Samuel about it. I was so upset over the years—22 years of living with Samuel and dragging him to Kaaba Allah and dragging him home—he always came with me? (laughs) And he was named after Samuel. We had quite a ceremony when he was baptized. It was a big joke. (laughs) We use to save all the rose petals on Kaaba Allah—every rose that bloomed we’d save—we’d put them in a jar, a bag, or a jar of some kind. And then these rose petals were always used when we were welcoming a Murshid or Murshida or some person who had a high title in Sufism and came to visit from Europe or anywhere. Well, we would always scatter the path where they were entering—we’d always put the rose petals out so he walked in on rose petals.
And so we had these rose petals. And Samuel had the jar of rose petals that he was bringing out the door, and I was sitting out there on a stone terrace with chairs with the kids waiting for him to come and baptize the cat Samuel, see? Samuel canes out of the door with the rose petals, trips, and the crock bustled, and all the rose petals landed on him: ”Stop! Stop! I baptize you Samuel! (laughs) Away went the cat! (laughs) Things like this were always happening; they were so funny! That was how Samuel got his name. He was baptized, all right. (laughs) So Samuel said that…
WALI ALI: He says he’ll be born again one day.
MURSHIDA VERA: Yes, he’ll be born again.
WALI ALI: And he said the same thing about this cat—this cat disappeared for a year and then came back.
KHADIJA: And my cat—when I moved into the Khankah, before I even moved in, Murshid told me, "Now, remember that your cat might disappear, there are so many cats out there, when you bring your cat out into the country." I said, "I'm prepared for anything." So he went away on a trip to New York or somewhere, and just right after he left, she split. And she was gone the whole time he was gone. A couple of weeks after he got back, we came in from the Wednesday night meeting, and Fatima—the babysitter has Numa sitting on her lap, and the cat’s been gone about three or four months. And so he blessed her, and evidently she’d come back. But he had told me beforehand that she was going to disappear.
MURSHIDA VERA: Whenever Samuel was teaching in a circle at Kaaba Allah, the cats would come in. Mary Chase always had a cat of her own and she kept him in the kitchen. But, wherever the cats were, they would all come in and sit next to Samuel—so many times he looked like an Egyptian god sitting there with the two cats, one on each side, straight backed with their heads up like Seth (the god Seth), and they sat on either side of his knee while he was teaching. When it was over, they’d plunk down and go to sleep. But while he was teaching, the cats would sit completely upright, just like two images on either side of each knee. This would happen so many times, it was fantastic.
WALI ALI: Why don’t I go see if we can find Nassim, and we still stop it now for the time being.