Tag Archives: Suresnes

Sufi Initiation and Early Work of Shamcher Bryn Beorse

As listed in the Autobiographical Information on the early mureeds of Hazrat Inayat Khan:

Bryn Beorse (Björset) (Shamcher) 
In October 1923 when I was 27 years old and had traveled all over India looking for a teacher of Yoga, which I had studied from when eight years old, Sirkar van Stolk telephoned to me in Oslo: Would I translate a lecture to be given at the Oslo University by the World’s greatest mystic? “We know that you have traveled in India …” A Theosophist friend insisted on going to the Grand Hotel together, where Inayat Khan was staying. I was irritated: this friend, too talkative, would ball up my serious interview about how to proceed with the translation – sentence by sentence or a script? Wondering how I would be able to get in my practical questions amid the heavy spiritual artillery fire I expected from my friend, I entered the room, a worried man. – Inayat Khan looked up at us with laughing eyes. “Shall we have silence?” The gentle, sincere, almost apologetic tone of his voice contrasted the startling sense of his words. With a graceful bow he asked us to sit down. We seated ourselves in opposite corners of a sofa and he sat down between us and closed his eyes. So did we… . I woke up, refreshed, when a bell rang. The interview was over, not a word was exchanged.

Next evening Inayat Khan gave his lecture and I translated it, after it had been given in full, without taking notes. People said I did not miss a word. I don’t know how.

I told him I liked his Message but I was already a member of the Theosophical Society and the Order of the Star in the East, so of course I could not join him. “No, of course not.” Four days later he came back from a trip. I said: “I think my membership in those other organizations was a preparation for something to come. I believe this may have come now. May I join you?” “With great pleasure.” Then he gave me practices and initiated me in a railway compartment. The people around us seemed unaware of what was going on.

I had played with God as a lusty playmate from early childhood, so could never be quite as serious and awed as some other mureeds and once, in the middle of the first Summer School in Paris, I suggested to Inayat Khan that perhaps I was not really fit for this life. He reassured me smilingly that I was, and protected me against assaults by other mureeds, in very subtle ways.

Murshida Green had asked us “What does Murshid mean to you?” “Well,” said I, “a friend, an example.” “Oh you don’t understand at all. Murshid is so much more than all that.” That same evening Murshid gave a talk but before he started he looked thoughtful, then said: “Before I start my talk I want to mention that sometimes a teacher’s best friends become his worst enemies – by lifting him up onto a pedestal and making of him an inhuman monster instead of what he is and wants to be: Just a friend, an example …”

Nevertheless, I want to ask forgiveness for my lack of respect. I even once asked Inayat whether we could give up the “Sufi” name on the Message since people misunderstood it for some Muslim sect. He said: “It could happen. But for the time being the name seems right to me, and if we did not put a name on ourselves, others would put a name on us and it might be worse.” More important is that Inayat pushed into my mind worlds of impulses that will take me eons to unravel and use.

When mureeds asked if Sufis should not be pacifists, Inayat replied: “If people of goodwill lay down their arms today, they will still fight: they will be forced to fight, and not in defense of their ideals any longer, but against them.”

In September 1926 I saw Inayat for the last time. I said: “I look forward to seeing you next summer.” “From now on,” he replied, “you will meet me in your intuition.” Then, during the first days of February 1927 I had a strange urge to travel to Suresnes, a three-four day trip by boat and rail from Norway. When I arrived others had had the same urge. Early on fifth February came the answer to why we had come. Now the Message was with us.

Inayat Khan often said “Mureeds who have never met me, never seen me, will often be closer to me than you, who know me as a person”. I am meeting such mureeds, closer to him, every day.

Berkeley, CA. U.S.A. From Shamcher’s autobiographical data. 27th July 1977.

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Death, Physics, Initiation

From An Interview with Shamcher Bryn Beorse

J=Jelaluddin Boru S=Shamcher

J: How about death?
S: That is another reason for the misunderstanding. Death is a different thing than we usually picture it. And death doesn’t come from a disease. A disease may come at the same time, and then people will say, “Oh, he died from cancer.” You can’t prevent death, and why should you want to? That is why healing groups make a great mistake when they say, “These people mustn’t die, we must heal them.” Cancer may be a hideous disease, but there is nothing hideous about death. It is merely a certain rhythm which says “now this form of life is out.”
Many people ask about Inayat Khan’s death. Well, there are many theories, but I see that he had simply lived out his life. He wasn’t physically exhausted or anything like that, in fact he was fresh enough to be able to go to India and live a comfortable last year there, but his life as a constant stimulator of people’s vibrations was finished. So he said as he went to India that he wanted no one to go with him. A couple of disciples disobeyed.

J: Had you intimations of his death before it came?
S: Well, one time he said to me, “Murshid has no more interest” and I had a feeling about it then, and another time when I told him that I was looking forward to meeting him the following summer he said, “From now on, Shamcher, we will meet in your intuition.”

J: Did you say once that he died of a broken heart?
S: No, I never said that, that was —– who said that.

J: Some say that he was poisoned.
S: These are all superstitions. He was very happy that last year, and when he died there was the scent of roses in the room.
J: What are your thoughts on your own death?
S: Oh, I was in it once, when I had my accident, and the doctors told my children that I was dead. And during that time I met my parents and everything was fine, but then I was insolent enough to come back.
That experience of death was a very pleasant thing. My mother and father spoke to me as if I had been there with them all the time. They weren’t surprised, and the whole thing felt like it was just a continuation of a conversation. Probably I had been there before and not remembered it. Or perhaps without being aware of it.
By the way, when you were speaking about the mystic sciences before, were you including the atomic theory and the Quantum theory? I would include these as well. Because when you have a light photon you can explain it mathematically as a wave, that is, you have a certain set of equations which describe it as a wave, but then simultaneously you have another set of equations that describe it as a particle, an entirely different set of equations. So the old physicists say, the ones still bound to the old form of cause and effect, that this is impossible, it can’t be two things. But the Quantum theory people say, “Yes, the two things seemingly opposite are two poles of the same reality…”
In a sense we can explain it like this. Imagine you have a circle. When you look at it from the end it looks like a straight line. So in this dimension it is just a line. But stand it up in the second dimension and it appears as the circle. Now, if you put it in the third dimension you may have a doughnut; cut a line through it, you have two circles, but actually these two circles are just another way of expressing the doughnut in the third dimension.
J: I am always very interested when we talk about the concept of opposites. Isn’t that how linguistics tries to explain language, as a system embodying a relationships of opposites?
S: Yes, language is built on the relationship of opposites, but not so much in Chinese or the other Oriental languages as our own.

J: I found that out a couple of years ago when I worked for a time as a Vietnamese interpreter, Those languages are so much more fluid and less suggestive of what we sometimes call the “subject-object dichotomy”…
A line from Hazrat Inayat Khan has just entered my head here. He says: “Everything is apprehended by its opposite, And that’s why God is so hard to apprehend because He has no opposites.”
S: That’s very good. That’s very true… It is we who are living in the opposites. Good or evil, dark or light…
J: What is enlightenment?
S: Oh, enlightenment, yes. Well, let us just say that enlightenment is something you are looking forward to, and when you reach it then you can begin looking forward to the next enlightenment.
You see, there is always more…
Even God himself gets better all the time! When you have begun to be enlightened you feel, “Yes, I have a lot more to learn, but now at least I am happy because there is no doubt anymore.” And in this state you can look at the mistakes you have made, and passed and know that they are fine, that they belong. So you are enlightened in the sense that your doubts aren’t giving you such trouble, and you are ready to begin learning a thousand things…

J: Enlightenment is the point at which you realize that you don’t know?! Ya! (chuckles)
J: There is something that happens like that in initiation, where you begin to “know that you don’t know” only it’s so sudden that it can be tremendously confusing. After I was initiated by Neaatma at that Canada camp, the same time that I met you, Shamcher, I entered a period of bewilderment in which I felt completely disconnected from my normal habits and routines. Like I am a writer, and I couldn’t get myself to sit down and write, except for brief intense bursts, for about four months!
Now I think that a lot of what was happening to me was that I was learning to communicate without words, what the sufis call “tawwajeh” or heart to heart, and in the midst of this lesson I couldn’t immerse myself in the same old ways of analyzing and describing everything…,
It’s not painful to me anymore. Probably because I am finally coming out of it. But what would you say to someone who is still going through it…?
S: You just have to wait, be in touch with the silences as we’ve talked about, and it will work itself out.

J: Is that all? Do you think it is bad to struggle against it?
S: Yes. That is useless, and will make the experience worse.

J: I wish I understood this more. The point where I stopped being angry with myself for being unable to transmit the images that I was being bombarded with through my pen, to just feeling wonderful about the deep change that was going on in my being.,.
S: You know, this is really wonderful for me to hear. I didn’t realize that the initiations being given by the present initiators could still do that… When I was initiated by Inayat, I hung around in Suresnes for six weeks and then–blam!

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Some Memories of Murshid

My first contact with Inayat Khan was in Oslo. I had just been to India, running around wildly to find a proper teacher. Either they didn’t want me or I didn’t want them, so nothing much happened there. I did join the Theosophical Society out of the feeling that I owed them my cooperation, because they were close to these things. But I was very critical, always very critical of everything.

A man phoned me with a heavy Dutch accent, “We are coming to Oslo with the greatest mystic of the age.” It was Mr. van Stolk. I immediately thought, “Aha.” “And he wants you to translate his lecture.” And I thought, “Why shouldn’t I do it? If he’s the greatest mystic of the age, the least I can do is translate his lecture.”

So I went down to the Grand Hotel, where he was staying. There was a queue, but the secretary, who was Mr. van Stolk, a very distinguished Dutch gentleman, said to me, “Oh, you’re on business, so you can come in.” A man from the queue jumped to my side; he was from the Theosophical Society. He said, “I will go in with you now to make the queue a little smaller, so we can save time.” I thought it was a beautiful excuse, and I couldn’t deny it. I thought, “How can I talk about translating this lecture with this fellow with us? How can we talk about how we should do it, sentence by sentence, or whether I should see the manuscript?” So we went in.

A smiling gentleman came forward and said, “Gentlemen, shall we have silence?” So we sat down on the sofa, Inayat Khan in the middle and the two of us on either side. Complete silence for ten minutes. I had been meditating as a yogi; in this meditation I got nothing but irritation because this fellow was with me, and I needed to arrange for the translation, and the whole thing was confusing. After ten minutes, a little bell rang. Inayat Khan said, “Gentlemen, the interview is over. It has been a great pleasure. Thank you very much. Good-bye.” I thought, “Well, if he doesn’t want to talk about the translation, then it doesn’t need to be talked about.” So I came to his lecture a little bit skeptical, to see what would happen. Then he gave his talk, an hour’s talk. I explicitly remember one sentence, “Those who have been able to transfer their consciousness to the plants and trees in nature know that even the trees in the forest are planted in hope.”

I gave the whole lecture to the satisfaction of everybody. They said, “How can you remember all that?” I said, “Oh, I have a pretty good memory.”

So I talked to Inayat Khan. I said, “I like your message very much; however, I am a member of the Theosophical Society, the Order of the Star of the East.” That was Krishnamurti; he was supposed to become the great world teacher. I really didn’t think that was the way to do it. But I was a member and I thought it was my duty.

lnayat Khan went on a trip to the country, and four days later he was back. I said to him, “I think that those other organizations were a sort of preparation for something to come. I think maybe it has come now. I would like to join if it is all right with you.” “With great pleasure,” he replied. We sat in a train compartment, and he gave me initiation and practices quite openly. Everybody in the train compartment looked as if they didn’t even see us.

The conductor came running in and said, “Oh, you are in the wrong train. This train is going to so and so. You should be in the other train on the platform over there.” In order to reach it we had to run, and Murshid ran very well. On the way we met the conductor who had given us the wrong information. I was about to tell him, “You gave us…..” But before I could say anything, Murshid said, “Oh, hello, I haven’t had so much fun for a long time.”

The Sufi Order in Oslo was instituted with about seventeen mureeds. The leader was an older lady who had a business in baby outfits; she had a beautiful big apartment, and so everything was arranged. But she was quite demanding and always wanted this or that. When I went to Summer School the next year, in 1925, I had prepared a long talk about the impossible situation to give to Murshid. Immediately he saw me and said, “Shamcher! That’s your new name; it just came from God. Isn’t it wonderful? It means sword of the message, or the tongue of flame.” Then, before I could say a word, the thought came to me, “What are you trying to do, talk down this old lady who does the best she can? What does it matter that she bothers you a bit? That’s a good lesson for you.” Of course, he always acted through projection. You can’t just project anything to a person, but you can project what the person is ready to receive.

Once during his last four talks, Murshid talked about mediums, sensitives and psychics. He said, “A teacher never, never talks to a pupil through a medium. If he must talk to a pupil, he does so directly.” He also mentioned that to have contact with the so-called other side is more of a disadvantage than an advantage, because there is just as much cheating on the other side as here, or even more.

Question: Could you describe the Saturday evening darshans?

It was in the Oriental Room, which was his retreat room. He would sit in meditation and we would sit in a chair. When you came in, his eyes would open to look at you; then you would sit down. He would close his eyes and you would close yours. Nothing was ever said. Then, after a while, you would open your eyes and he would be looking at you. There was a great light coming from his eyes. You felt an intense communication, something which could not be expressed in words. We understood when we were to leave. Nothing was ever said or taught in words during any of these darshans. We left with the feeling of having been born again.

Q.: Could you speak about the presence of Hazrat Inayat Khan?

There were many different conceptions about that. Some people fainted in the presence of Murshid. I felt that we were two people in very good communication. I don’t feel awed by any human being, not even Jesus Christ. I feel he was a fine person who did the best he could, but that none of us is perfect. Murshid was always stressing that he was not perfect and that he learned more from his mistakes than from his so-called virtues. I felt very well in his presence. One thing, though, was that if you approached him from behind, that was not the right thing; that applies to everybody, even to a horse.

Q.: Could you say something about the attitude of the mureeds towards Murshid?

There is a story about that. Pir-O-Murshid had a very close disciple, Murshida Sophia Green. He trusted her advice in many matters, especially about ceremonial, as she had been very involved in the Anglican Church. He wanted to use white robes in the Universal Worship, but she said, “Oh, no, that isn’t done; they must be black.” Anyway, one day she called us in and said, “You young people, I want to have a talk with you.” I was very young then. She asked, “What do you think of your Murshid?” Nobody answered. Some of the people who knew her a little better were reluctant to answer. So I piped up, “An inspiration and a friend.” “Oh,” she said, “you don’t understand at all. He is so far above that. We, his close disciples, might be an inspiration and a friend. Oh, no, you don’t understand at all.”

That same evening Murshid was giving a lecture. He walked rather majestically up to the roster. He stood there for a while and then shook his head a little. Then he said, “Before I go on to this evening’s talk, I want to mention that sometimes the teacher’s best friends become his worst enemies. They lift him up on a pedestal and make of him an inhuman monster. And all he wants to be is an inspiration and a friend.” He looked so beautifully at Murshida Green that she smiled and bowed her head.

He always realized people’s tendencies and limitations, and so he wasn’t angry about what people thought. Murshida Green’s talk gave him an opportunity. He always stressed that the messenger is never perfect and that this was shown in his own life.

He was once asked, “Who is greater, Buddha or Christ?” He said, “If I were to judge that, I would have to consider myself greater than either. Do you think that I am?” It was a difficult question.

There was more adoration, almost blind adoration, of Murshid than I am inclined to present. He obviously made a very, very deep impression on people. Some said, “ls he greater than Christ? That was their feeling. It was this great feeling that led some people, after his death, to turn away from any successor.

Q.: What was your reaction when you heard the news of his passing?

On February 27, 1927, it was in the middle of a very cold winter in Norway, and I suddenly felt that I should go to Suresnes. I said to myself, “What is this idiotic impulse? This is the middle of winter, and Suresnes is a summer school, May through August.” Nevertheless, I went, on the ship, and then on the train, questioning myself the whole way. When I got to Suresnes, I was slightly ashamed to be there for no reason, but there were some other people there also; not everybody, but quite a few. We all tried to weigh the issue of why we had come; we didn’t know. In the morning, the message came that Murshid was dead. I felt not so much sadness as a sense of tremendous responsibility. I don’t think I thought of any successor. I knew that Pir Vilayat, who was then ten years old, was a coming successor. But just at that time, all of us were responsible, and it was a very heavy responsibility.

Q.: Could you describe the physical aspect of Murshid?

His walk was measured; it was as though he walked with the rhythm of destiny. If you took a meter stick and measured his height, he was not tall. But he made the impression of a huge being.

* * * * *

by Shamcher Bryn Beorse (in The Message, February 1981)

Editor’s Note: Shamcher Bryn Beorse was a mureed of Hazrat Inayat Khan and a beloved friend of many in the Sufi Order. He passed on last April. In the summer of 1979 he granted a very long interview to the editor, part of which has been transcribed into this article. There is yet more to come.

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