To SAM: “We are all black bags.”

15 March 1967

My dear Sufi Achmed Murad Chisty Cheleby Samuel Lewis & Brother,

Among many other things, our communication of March 13 indicates you are willing to sacrifice yourself into serving the sufi movement in collaboration with Vilayat and the most humble and brutally proud undersigned and in this line any and all posts of confidence are open to you at your choice. The head of the Brotherhood? It is yours. The head of any other activity? It is yours. It is I who determine those things. Have I ever given the impression of not fully acknowledging and appreciating you? If so tell me when and where so that I may repent and strew ashes over my dinner jacket. (I have no dinner jacket but my suit may do.)

I was catapulted into my incongruous position without my knowledge and now has this enormous power which, also, I shall surrender to you if Vilayat so chooseth. Actually I was appointed by Allah, God, the Unfathomable at the age of 8 to revolutionize the religious temper of the world and I hoped to do it on my own terms, that is, God’s terms. I have temporarily lent a hand to the sufis because they are less errant than many other groups. They are not perfect, not one of them, not the greatest or smallest of their masters and I proposed to Hazrat Inayat we might drop the Sufi name. And one day, if no accident interferes, I shall again cut loose and set the world aflame. Posterity will dig up my past and all influences and say I was this and a that. Actually only God exists. The man in a black bag who attended the student meetings in Corvallis, Oregon had the right idea. The black robes of the Universal Worship is basically the same idea. We are all black bags, if we only knew. Therefore I am not as moved as I should be by all your negative experiences. What do you expect? What did friend Jesus expect? to be tortured to death. Well, he actually survived and was brought to India by yogis. He took in the entire yoga lore in addition to, previously, the sufi lore. Now he is a good teacher to those who tune in.
Love
Shamcher

[Written under a Sufi Movement letterhead.]

(Click here for a random post from somewhere else in this blog.)

God, Spiritual Balance, Groups

From An Interview with Shamcher Bryn Beorse

J=Jelaluddin Boru, S=Shamcher

J: The Sufi path is supposed to be the path of direct experience. To me this means the acquiring of a sense of presence: the presence of God within you, the presence of God coming through your teachers within you, an awareness of the presence of your soul.
S: When you use the word “god” you have to be careful. For instance, many so called ‘great’ mystics say, “God told me this from the other side.” So whenever they hear a voice from the other side it’s God? Well, what kind of God is that?! Sometimes it is a very immature spirit that is trying to get back to this world because this is the only one he understands, and so he will come back to anyone that will listen. These people who are always going around saying that they are in direct contact with God are not the real mystics… What an inadequate expression of God!

J: Perhaps they have made a “god” of the object of their obsessive desire.
S: Yes! That’s why even the word “god” can be misused and is misused. I saw an advertisement in the newspaper once of someone who said, “I talk to God”. Well, isn’t that wonderful, I thought, so do I…
*
J: Superstition, Shamcher, I see as a craving for a higher sense of order significance in one’s life. And I see it arising after a long period of time where one has lacked that kind of meaning and sense of higher significance. So when one suddenly gets a glimpse one seizes on it and says “yes, this is explaining my whole life”…
S: This is what I would call the high form of superstition. The low form is when one has all types of negative interference, and thoughts that tomorrow the world is going to end and you’re going to go to hell.
It is a positive sort of superstition when you feel the urge to expand because you think that you have found a solution to everything. You may get caught up in this, but usually after awhile you finally see that you don’t really know it yet, and then finally you come to the point to where you say, “Well, I don’t know it yet, but it doesn’t matter, I am beginning.” And this is beautiful because you are listening now instead of making assumptions. From that point on you have no superstitions anymore, or at least not serious ones…
A very common form of this superstition is when people read about karma and reincarnation. “Oh yes, now I understand everything!” But each of us understands the concepts of karma and reincarnation in a different way. lnayat Khan was very careful to explain–in a sense explain away–the ideas of reincarnation and karma to us. He said that what most people think of reincarnation is not you, not yourself that was reincarnating, but the mind stuff… Look at Buddha, His whole life was to try and get us away from the idea of karma and reincarnation, so we would not have to be born again here.
*
J: ls the Soul subject to states of obsession?
S: No. The soul is supreme and is always as it is. It is only that the soul forgets itself in the mind that is subject to superstition or obsession.
Of course very few people really live in the soul or remember the soul.
*
J: Shamcher, Inayat Khan stressed moderation in the undertaking of spiritual disciplines, didn’t he?
S: Yes, I could give you an example of what he meant from my worldly experience. . . .
In the dunes near Oceano in California there lived a man who was an abstract painter. He was a recluse and his occupation very well fitted his life. He lived about a mile from me, and whenever I would come walking past he would say, “O, Bryn, Bryn, come in.” And then he would talk for an hour without interruption because he hadn’t mastered the art of being alone and was rather desperate for company. He had exaggerated to himself his ability to live in solitude and now he had to have these outlets. He talked and talked and he would even say things like, “You know that Moon Mullins next door is running up and down the beach stealing all my lumber.” It wasn’t his lumber of course. This shows his unbalance. And the danger of being alone when you are not really capable of it. So many do this. Run up to the Himalayas or something…
I almost succumbed to this in 1959. I was in the Himalayas and I found myself walking up along a streamlet. The water was fresh and fresher the higher I went, and it was so beautiful and easy that I did even feel myself moving after awhile. And I began to think that this was the place that I should spend the rest of my life. Then, just as I was thinking this, I saw a cave, you know, one of those caves where you’d expect a saint to be looking out from the opening. So I said to myself “Oh, this is exactly where I should stay, but how am I to get in?” And then I discovered by climbing higher that there was a way of getting in.
It was really dark. And as I was feeling around I felt something soft that went GRRR-GRRRRR, and then I felt again and it went GRRRRWHHAHHHHHHWHAHHH
and l got out of there.
Later on I looked at this bear, for that’s what it was I think, as something pushed by Inayat Khan to tell me to get out of there and get out in world again. So I went back to the world and began once again to fight for OTECs…
Before this, you see, I had been fighting rather in vain for OTECS. And had had an experience where I was talking to Prime Minister Nehru and a room full of scientists, where I felt that they were listening, and were interested, but that nothing would come of it so I might just as well go on retreat.
But then I got thrown out of that cave. And before I knew it, all of America was talking OTEC, and I was in the middle of it, so there were some very good reasons why I couldn’t just sit in solitude…

J: Didn’t a yogi once tell Pir Vilayat that the holy men in the Himalayas were a dying race because the way for us now is to stay in the world?
S: Yes. They are a dying race because the world is now ripe to take care of itself. It doesn’t need saints sitting back there keeping us in touch. And this is coming! You see young people everywhere, and many old people too, who have become aware of the need for balance in the spiritual realities, of the need for a balance that will make them much more than simply the heirs of religious traditions.
One time the Dalai Lama said that a certain Trappist monk was the only person from the West that he knew of that could meditate, but you see it coming among all the young people around us now, so there is a direct contact with what I would call the stream of the universe among them or at least some of them.
*
J: I understand that Inayat Khan talked about a sort of progression among the Spiritual masters and that since the time of Mohammed, the message that he completed, there is no longer any necessity to use a go-between for enlightenment.
S: Yes. Except that when you say the word “master”: Inayat Khan never used that expression about any human being. And he was the first to say that he was not a master. He would always say, “There is only One master, the spirit of guidance that leads every soul to its destination.” So I become offended when I hear people talk of Inayat as a “master”, of course, though he may have been in a sense the greatest one for us.
I really don’t like this word “master”.
*
J: What is the spiritual path?
S: If one would be facetious one would say that there is no such thing. But if one is kind, and accepts it, one would say that in the line of Inayat Khan, it is annihilation of the false ego.
This annihilation of the false ego is much different and bigger task than is usually realized. For some it may take a million years. Others may seem almost as if they are born with it. Some people work really hard at it and never seem to succeed, and then they’ve apparently got it, until the next day when they haven’t got it anymore!
You know, humans are so crazy sometimes they really succeed! The funny thing is, many times it is the less you try, the better you do. All life is for this purpose, whether one calls it a spiritual path or not. The difference between the other paths and what we call the “spiritual” path is that the spiritual path has an element of knowing and conscious seeking. But then again, for some people, it may not be such a good thing to be conscious of it…

J: So what’s the point of joining any spiritual path or order?
S: So why join an order if you feel like that?

J: No Shamcher, I’m only asking a question.
S: There is every point and no point at all. The person who doesn’t join may be every bit as wise. One follows an impulse, and that impulse is the best one can do at the time.
I know people who are, in a sense, more conversant with sufi attitudes and ways than many of the sufis, yet who would find it a horror to join the group. Others join, of course, and are very successful because they join, so there is no attempt at a general rule here. I myself have always been in doubt about groups: “Should I join or should I perhaps not join?” And after I have joined: “Should I stay in or get out?”
It doesn’t really matter! But sometimes I have felt like I was cheating the people who were not in the group but were trying so hard to get in, while I who was in the group wasn’t really sure that I wanted to be there, so was perhaps giving the wrong impression ..
But then I would decide that to leave would be wrong against all the people who were still in who would wonder, “Why does he leave us now?”

J: It sometimes can be really frightening to have only God and yourself to depend on…
S: Personally I don’t see any difference. I am very happy alone, and I have often felt that I joined with Inayat Khan not to receive comfort from him but for what I could contribute to his movement. Not that he personally needed anything…
One time Inayat was approached by a man who said that he liked his message very much but that he couldn’t join the organization because he had to be free. And Inayat answered him, “Well, I think I am free and yet I am in the organization, but I don’t think you are so free because you are afraid of organizations.”
So if you are afraid to join or not to join, you are not free. If you join as a matter of your own free will, join with the thought that you are doing so because you want to help its cause. Because if you join with the idea that it is going to give you comfort you may be extremely disappointed, because it may not give you comfort. You shouldn’t want anything from the organization. About this you shouldn’t care…

J: But you think it’s all right not to join and just to depend on your own being?

S: Yes. It is quite all right just to depend on your own being. God, to me at least, is all the comfort one ever needs, and more. And I don’t take comfort from anyone else.

(Click here for a random post from somewhere else in this blog.)

Attachments

From An Interview with Shamcher Bryn Beorse

J=Jelaluddin Boru, S=Shamcher

J : Could you give us an example of someone being too attached to fruits?
S: Yes. l have a friend who is an economist. I consider him the finest economist in the United States. He is also a zen man, and interested in Sufism and Yoga.
One day he comes to me and says, “Bryn, I don’t think I will continue any longer.” I don’t give him any response. “Yes,” he says, “I have articles running in the Economic journal, and I have written three books, but nobody listens… Nobody does what I ask…I think I’ll give up.”
Why do you want to give up, I say. Look how hard I have worked all my life. And yet the only thing that I can do is to continue with what believe in for the rest of my life, and the less people who listen the intensely must I work.”
So he says: “But Bryn, you are one in a million, no I mean one in a billion…” But anyway he realized that he had made a mistake by saying that he was going to give up.

J: We have spoken a great deal about attachments. Would you say that even if people cannot dissolve their attachments, they would become much better off if they could simply make them more gentle?
S: I think so, yes, definitely. Too often the trouble is that we want a sudden change into something impossible, we want a pedestal, so that is true. We can develop right here and now, if not perfectly, at least gradually.
*
J: We spoke of disease. Would you say that a person can cure himself?
S: In the first place, whatever name you put on a disease is laughable. People say, “Oh, cancer. That can’t be cured…” Who knows what cancer means? And who knows that that can’t be cured? Everything can be and has been completely cured at different times. And any disease that you can name has been completely cured by some people. The reason that there is so little of it now is that there is so little faith in these things…
There is a sort of faith in medical science, and of course some of the doctors in this field are the finest people in the world. And of them the very finest admit that they cannot answer questions like this, because they only know one dimension of healing and that is not entirely natural.
I know of one of these men, a Dr. Simonton, who has taken on any cancer patient who is given up by regular doctors, and then he makes them develop their thought power–their heart and thought power combined–and then really look at themselves. A phenomenally high percentage have been cured… He has even described cases in which a cancerous growth has diminished in a week or a month into nothing.
Or there is the story of the yogi in India who had his hand cut off by the police who thought he was a criminal. And then the policeman said, “Oh, I’m sorry, you’re not the right person…!” But the yogi told him not to worry about it, held the arm back in place for awhile, sitting there, and in half an hour there wasn’t a sign.
This is the ability the human body has in it. And we have not been utilizing it–though it is perhaps not so bad. Humanity has gone into an anti-spiritual development for awhile to find the “facts” of life, and now, gradually, we are returning to that more keen understanding of what life is all about, and the amazing things that our bodies can do.

(Click here for a random post from somewhere else in this blog.)

The Mystic Sciences

From An Interview with Shamcher Bryn Beorse

J=Jelaluddin Boru, S=Shamcher

J: When I heard you speak on the “mystic sciences”, the I Ching, tarot, astrology, etc. up in Toronto this spring, it kept striking me that you were saying something on a deeper level than that they simply don’t have any value. That they could be aids to developing our insight, but the hold of their attraction over us is such that they have degenerated into something much less than they had been intended to be…
S: Yes. Someone once asked Inayat: “Shouldn’t we sufis get our charts read?” And he answered: “Where are the astrologers?”
That is the whole point.
Swami Yukteswar, Yogananda’s teacher, once wrote a book called the “holy science” that said that Indian astrology, on which is based Western astrology, is about 400,000 years wrong because of a mistake made many, many years ago.
The whole idea of zodiacs, twelve zodiacs–why twelve and not a million?

J: I had this explained to me once that the twelve zodiacs correspond to the six chakras below the crown. That there is a masculine and feminine side to each, and the zodiac was an external correspondence to the pathway of our Kundalini energy…
S: That sounds very good. But some say we have six chakras, some twelve, some three, some four… They are all constructs of the mind, descriptions. Why believe someone else’s descriptions? It is better to wait with a judgment until one has gone very deeply into oneself and seen these things. Then, if you see six chakras, of course for you there are six chakras, and if you see three then of course for you there are three… It is different for each person.

(Click here for a random post from somewhere else in this blog.)

Meditation, Drugs

From correspondence:

But what is meditation? Not just thinking, in fact the opposite. Swami Rama points out two ways of meditation: voiding the mind of all appetites, for food, for sex, for fame, for riches, for achievements. Or concentrating on one point – a star, a guru. He greatly prefers the first. The modern way of concentrating upon a guru may create all kinds of difficulties. It is still a form of appetite. But the guru’s physical form is not the real guru, but rather his spirit, or rather than that again, your own spirit, inspired by the guru, whether he deserves it or not.
This also answers your question about the thumb up transmission of physical force. For people living on that level it becomes important. Also, it may prevent them from advancing further. But it is not necessary that it so prevents a being, if that being can free himself from it later. In a sense it is like drugs. A person may be on a stage where he would never have had a lift except first by drugs, but drugs also prevent him from going on. Except if one day he can free himself entirely from the delusion of drugs. As to such transfers of physical force – to an enlightened being it is no help at all, just a cause for an indulgent smile. To a physically drowned person it may be temporarily good. Again, it may later prevent him from going on.

(Click here for a random post from somewhere else in this blog.)

Spirit World

From correspondence:

The trouble with the mediums, psychics and fortune tellers and the Uri Gellers is not that they talk about “spirits” and “invisible beings” but that they talk about these things wrongly, stupidly, ignorantly and most often proudly. Almost all mediums and psychics are in touch with the most “illiterate” and stupid spirits. There is more cheating and nonsense in the “spirit world” than in this to all of visible world. Uri Geller likes to play with spoons and watches. Most mediums play with sick and dangerous spirits and spirit criminals.

Most of the old taoists, yogis and sufis had structures of the mind to lean on like most people now. A few, very few of the taoists, yogis and sufis on the other hand were living in several worlds at the same time. They saw and could discriminate between beings in the spirit world just like you two can see and discriminate between people you know. And some of us do so, more or less clearly, even today.

(Click here for a random post from somewhere else in this blog.)

It’s Not Enough to Sit There

Should we talk about it at all? Or should we keep meditating upon the light? One sufi, the same Sam Lewis, said, “In order to be a masterful sufi, in order to become really a light, you have to go into the darkness and fight the darkness.” Its not enough to sit there and meditate upon the light and do all these things. Well, if you are concerned mainly with yourself and your progress, that’s all you can do. but if you understand the reality of the whole flowing universe, you are not satisfied with helping yourself, you must bring everybody with you. As it is said in the Buddhist scripture, before the Buddha can go up to heaven he had to have the whole humanity with him. Well this is sufism essentially. It has been expressed as a difference between sufism and yoga. That isn’t quite true anymore because the better yogis also have this view, you must have the whole humanity with you.

So a real yogi or a real sufi isn’t the least bit interested in doing phenomenal things. He is interested in bringing humanity forward – by delving into dirty economics, war-mongering, energy, food supplies.

(Click here for a random post from somewhere else in this blog.)

THE EGG AND I? NO, I AM THE EGG

From the newsletter, Sufis Speak

A beautiful Sufi in the prime of youth complained, “The world is bleeding to death while we sufis are wallowing in self-praise, boasting of achievements, power, force, ignoring children starving…”

So true to the egg and I, but we are in the egg, it in us; we are the egg and it is us, so why not stop, look and listen? If you see children  starving and if you aren’t sure the latest charity begging letter that just came through the mail will solve that matter entirely, would it be wrong, heartless, to pause for a moment and think? Use the grey matter in your nubbin to sort out the threads and figure what to do? You may call it thinking. You may fancy bigger words, call it meditation, which may not make it bigger, really, nor smaller. If you feel the need of force to carry out that meditation, you may squirm seeing how little of the Power of the Universe (which is all yours) you have been able to partake of and use, so you cannot wallow in self-praise to the disgust of this precious young sufi who, on her part, failed to see the striving GOD-embryo trying to charge itself.

As you plod along thus you may see several plots at once, confusing you,  so you end up asking half in despair: Why doesn’t the President do something? We elected him for that, didn’t we? You may have voted for him but also a few millions did. His task is not to follow your ideas exclusively but all the ideas of his voters as far as he can, and with due regard to the accumulated experience and ideas of his bureaucracy. What are those many ideas? Why don’t you find out? And after having found out, nudge the whole system and nation in the direction you think it ought to be nudged, without hurting or antagonizing any one too seriously?

It’s becoming a bit complicated now, isn’t it? You feel not quite up to it? In that case, is it not your obvious duty to elevate yourself into feeling and knowing you are up to it, at least partially? Here then, you have arrived at or are back at analysis — analysis of yourself as well as the egg around you — to enable yourself to tackle the burning problems. It does not mean you wait until you are perfectly prepared before you act, but while acting, you go to school, a mundane school or religious training or even a yoga or sufi training, all with the same intent: To equip yourself to act efficiently.

Among all these training trips, what characterizes the sufi trip? Many things, first that all religions, sciences and efforts are expressions of the same universal drive, the arms and tools and thoughts of GOD. What help is that? It helps you not to waste your time and effort on useless criticism, but to see, understand, encourage and gently lead all sincere efforts. Religion may have lost much of its grip but religious bigotry still has a firm grip and is to blame for much of the starving of children, for the very same bigotry expresses itself in color, race, social strata. A New York Corporation lawyer, my uncle, told me too many of the important company executives he knew thought they, the executives, were a special kind of people, chosen by God or somebody to lead men and that the opinions and needs of the men they were leading did not matter much. With such ideas a society is bound to suffer tension, malnutrition, even possibly destruction. Such dangerous sentiments are thwarted by such groups as sufis, yogis and all who see the spirit permeating all life.

The sufi training or simply the sufi attitude also makes you see the stirrings and movements of thoughts and feelings that make up and move society and the nation. You learn to see why and how the richest nations in the world develop desperate poverty pockets, health hazards, foul air and water and how to correct these things and you can also see which public servants ably perform and who do not.

A yogi, Swami Rama, is presently retained by the Menninger Institution, that prestigious Hospital and Research facility for mental health. His task is to train doctors as yoga preceptors so they in their turn can use the yoga methods to establish communication between a patient’s (or any person’s) deeper divine faculties and the conscious mind. A magazine reporter interviewing Swami Rama asked what he thought of Americans as yoga pupils and teachers, especially the American youth, its future.

“American youth” said Swami Rama, “is the best in the world, you know, with unlimited potential; their deep and strong emotions assure success if properly directed. Emotions are the driving force of life. Unfortunately American youth are lacking essential qualities today.”  “Which qualities?”   “Discipline,” (which he explains, not as a relation to others or to imposed rules but as efficient communication between the inner, deeper man and his conscious mind). “The reason for this is,” continued the yogi, “that the American home has lost its sacred hold on the family members.”

We know that this is the case in some homes, even in some that are called good homes. I never thought it was the case for the majority of American homes. At any rate, I know of sufi homes, and Yoga homes, and homes of no such designation but of the spirit , in which the light shines brightly, in some homes like enormous blazing suns.

Why do Americans go beyond their borders to accept Sufi and Yogi methods? First, because a thousand sects of Christianity, the Hebrew religion and Islam are already with us. It behooves us to acquaint ourselves with the origin and pure aspect of all this, which is sufism for the Western and Near-Eastern traditions and Yoga for the Far Eastern ones. Apart from that, the same truths were already honored by great Americans of the past, by practically all the nation’s fathers, George  Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin who were not narrow sectarians but ‘deists’ which is much the same as Sufis. And the philosophy of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman is essentially the Sufi line. Whitman’s friend and physician Richard Maurice Bucke wrote “…with the flux of cosmic consciousness all religions known and named today will be melted down [into an essence that] will absolutely dominate the race. It will not be [just] part of life [limited to] sacred books, mouths of priests or bibles. It will not ‘save’ men from sins or secure entrance to heaven, will not teach future immortality or glory, for immortality and glory will be in the here and now, the evidence of it in every heart as sight in every eye. Each soul will feel and know itself to be immortal, and that the entire universe with all its good, all its beauty belongs to it forever…”

The same elements are found in the Maya culture, born in the heart of the Americas.

Far afield we find this same spirit in the ancient Chinese culture, claimed by some to be the origin of sufism. The best known evidence today is perhaps the I CHING, the book of changes, that recently captured the fancy of Carl Jung, the prestigious psychiatrist who seeks to combine the wisdom of all cultures. He sees in the I CHING an approach to understand life different from Western Science’s Causal idea, the theory of cause and effect. In contrast he calls the Chinese idea the synchronistic approach and wonders if it isn’t more true. He sees modern Western physicists now approaching this synchronistic concept, realising that to satisfy the more current western idea of cause and effect you had to go to a laboratory, with artificial restrictions, to reproduce the desired results, to make the experiments ‘obey’ the ‘laws’ we thought we had ‘discovered’. The findings of these modern physicists have been with us for millenniums, hidden behind the contempted term “mysticism”. Great scientists and artists of all ages have known.

Truth

From the newsletter, Sufis Speak

The age old search for truth has so far been out-shouted and often  drowned by the more aggressive demand for obedience, conformity, to established creeds or concepts. The Sufi Order and its church-like organ, the Universal Worship, claim TRUTH as its goal and substance — not a “truth” that someone is going to tell you about, but the truth that each one can seek and find, honestly. This, claims the Sufi, is the right and duty of this present age, as contrasted to earlier periods where the majority of humanity did not and could not have such a demanding goal. Various virtues, such as purity, loyalty, compassion, were stressed, and these virtues were good and proper but failed to fully develop under the reign of dishonesty that prevailed.

A devoted people, portrayed in the Sunday funnies, believed a “sacred tree” contained manuscripts and treasures proving the greatness of their people. The King, goaded by his curious woman, chops down the tree and finds it empty. The King has broken the spirit of the people and must die.

Upon exactly such illusions have we lived. We talk about HISTORY. What is history? Concepts of historians, shared by the believers. One day we may discover what, if anything, was ‘true’ of the traditions. This effort is already being made, but we are happy to jump to conclusions long before there are any. Our most wi de-spread national magazine recently wrote, referring to the Dead Sea Scrolls, “Luckily, these documents do not rock our Faith”. Would it have been bad if the documents had revealed that we had been wrong and would have to change our faith, in the light of truth? Actually, they did. And some are changing their “faith” for the better.

The light of truth shines, not only upon religion, or politics, or science, but upon the simple relationship between two or more humans or between man and animal or man and plant. All day long you meet people who tell you with all firmness that friend Bill or Mary are stubborn, stingy, unreasonable, forgetting altogether that they know nothing, absolutely nothing, about Bill or Mary, except that they are living expressions of the eternal Creator and just now expressing exactly what that living Creator wants them to express at just this moment. They will change tomorrow and even in the next second.

One sufi, Inayat Khan said, “Whatever any man or woman does or says to me, I see it as God doing or saying, and whatever I say or do to them, I know I do or say it to God.”

In such a concept there is no room for judgment. A sufi does not judge. Or I must correct myself: Some who call themselves Sufis do judge. Recently a man who called himself a Sufi tore up a robe he was wearing in the service of a Universal Worship, flung it on the altar in a furious resentment over what another, who called himself a sufi, had done. This other sufi had not killed anyone, had not called names. He had loved. Some would say loved too much or loved the wrong one. What made them think they knew, and could judge another man or woman? What do we know of love, even “our own” love?

We know this much, that in the organization of any present state, or nation, there is a frightening starvation of the creative force of love. Young men and women kill themselves daily and hourly to fit into the traditional  patterns. Their longing to serve and build the nation into which they were born is frustrated by a thousand bonds and rules. Their longing to create, in turn, new generations are slapped down, by pills, regulations and abortions, instituted by people who have not even tried to see and observe the pulsation of LIFE seeking always new expression.

Some have managed to emancipate themselves to some measure from the choking influence of established traditions. For example, in communities that are more or less self-sustaining, with their own economics, supply, income, outlay, the members can choose their own l life form. In many such communities there are no pills, no abortions, LIFE is honored, tended, loved, cared for and developed in harmony. Why, say some critics, what about the population explosion?

Another sorry superstition. There are areas in the world where sober limitation of life expressions would be an advantage in cooperation with other, more important efforts. Here in the United States there are vast wastelands that could be cultivated, and inhabited. Our problem is not overpopulation but under-achievement. One prominent food resources scientist, presidential advisor Karl Brandt even goes as far as saying, “Wish I could write a book, this underpopulated world of ours. Many underdeveloped countries need more, not less people to develop a proper agriculture as basis for industry…”

What is lacking is feel for the entire dynamic humanity. Those who have that feel know a thousand ways to feed and house and care for those living now and those who would come, but stilted, twisted theories firmly holding both learned and unlearned minds in captivity prevent the seers from being heard.

The sufis, or some sufis, are not alone in seeking truth. The yogis, nearest cousins to the sufis, have tried through generations. For fifty years, at least, yogis have crisscrossed the United States but the basic concept of truth was so foreign to the majority here that all they got out of the term Yoga was some exercises and what they called, but do not grasp, “transcendental meditation”. The purpose of all the exercises and all the meditations was to foster that concept of truth that permits suspension of judgment, that permits another man or woman to act his, her way without criticism, judgment, demands.

For each single individual is a precious and quite unique creature and messenger from the Creator, who longs for us to realize this.

Titles and Ranks

From the newsletter, Sufis Speak.
Why hierarchies? ls there a link between steps and titles in business, religion and mystic groups?

In the business world the hierarchy of executives, supervisors and indians (sic) is accepted almost without a question. Few notice the gradual change going on. Fewer still read. The musings of some pioneers eyeing a future of independently, operating working crews.

Eric Hoffer, the former longshoreman who became a lecturer of philosophy at the University of California, told us about a road building job in the San Bernardino Mountains above Los Angeles. It was difficult finding workers, so two trucks were sent down to skid row. Unemployed, drifters, winos were picked up and dumped at the site with tools, camping equipment, hardly any instruction. The first day they set up camp. Then they built the difficult road, to the satisfaction of all, in a minimum of time.

During World War II in liberated Belgium a crowd of civilians came to our air field and wanted to help. As an Officer of the Royal air force I was singled out to receive and accept them. My commanding officer shook his head as he looked over the sorry lot, starved, almost skeletons, dressed in rags, rheumy eyes and noses, all looking sullenly down at the snow. I told them I was sure they counted among them men who knew more than any of us the armed forces about the things needed to be done and that I would form no organization, no hierarchy of supervisors and supervised. They went to work immediately without forming any hierarchy among themselves either. When barracks were built the carpenters among them guided the work. When a plumbing job came along the plumbers came forward while the carpenters dropped back into the pool of general helpers. Once a fully-organized engineering unit arrived from Britain and became impressed and dismayed by seeing this unorganized group work both faster and better even though in addition to their work they prepared their own food and attended to all the housekeeping chores that the soldiers had had done for them by others. One day a leak became evident on the air field. Our security failed to solve the problem. Our unorganized Belgians solved it and straightened out our security in the bargain.

Henry Ford, originator of mass production, may have been the first noted industrialist to look carefully at this problem. After a long life of relevant experience he uttered,
“Any group of Americans can usually do a fine job together — until they establish a hierarchy among them. Then usually the the work becomes fouled up.”

Why, then, do we cling to hierarchies?

Most people want to be better than the next man, and when they aren’t sure they really are, a title perks them up. Also, business inherited the idea from religion at a time when the latter was much more powerful than now, more or less commanding our lives. The hierarchies of ministers or priests, bishops, Archbishops and Popes generated corresponding hierarchies in business.

Where, then, did the religious hierarchies come from?

From the Sufis, we are sorry to say. At a time when Abraham, one of the first historic Sufis, tilled h is fields, there may not have been any systematically-developed hierarchy though by and by systems of many and various steps, degrees and ranks were developed. Titles, such as Khalif — Murshid — Pir-o-Murshid, assumed to be various stages of teaching ability and spiritual maturity, given sometimes by an older teacher, sometimes by virtue of heredity and often by procedures that could not be traced, became customary. In the line of Administration the titles were Sheik, Masheik and Sheik-ul-Masheik. The Sufis inspired, successively, the Hebrews, the Zoroastrians, the Christians and the Moslems, so these religions, too, adopted their well-known degrees and titles.

The Sufi titles were established for various reasons. Many Sufis were, or are, convinced there is a real hierarchy denoting spiritual responsibility for various areas of our globe. The titles given to the orders were meant to give a foretaste of the real thing — a means of educating the members to accept the more real titles. Often the effect was the opposite. The titleholders did not always elicit respect. Another avowed purpose was to encourage the members to respect any fellow-being. This is, and has always been, the aim of the Sufi: To see God in every man and woman. If, in the beginning, they could not yet see God in all, it was thought they might be able to see God in the higher ranks who were supposed to be more mature and more worthy of respect. Again, this was not always the case. Respect would often be evoked rather by the untitled and the unpromoted. Confusion would follow.

All this was clear to a great many Sufis of the past and present, who therefore preferred to place themselves entirely outside ranks and titles. They assumed the lowest rank in society, that of the simpletons. They are called Madzoubs in India. Among them are really God-realized Sufis. There are also such Sufis in the West, even among the titled.

History offers examples. First we will look at a group of Yogis, close cousins of the Sufis. They, also, have titles: Bramacharia, Yogacharia and others. A Yogi of history, Shankacharia, gathered his group when he felt his life was coming to an end, for naming a successor. The Bramacharis and the Yogacharis looked furtively at each other wondering whom it would be. Shankaracharia looked over his group, then asked, “Where is Singh?” Singh was a servant and they replied he was in the kitchen. He was brought in, was told he reflected the teacher, and was named the successor.
A famous Sufi teacher in India several hundred years ago had a very distinguished group of pupils, university professors, statesmen, important business men. This teacher held forth about God beyond any form or name and the distinguished group lapped it up. This was their meat. One day the teacher told them he had changed his mind, he was going to pray before a God of form, the idol KALI, a particularly revolting statue. The distinguished professors, statesmen and business men thought the teacher was no longer rational. They all left him, except one young man. “Why did you not leave me also?” asked the teacher. “For one thing, you always said God was everywhere and was everything so he would also be in this image. Besides, I feel and know your spirit.”

This young man was to be known as Moinuddin Chisty, the founder of the Order in which Pir-O-Murshid lnayat Khan was trained and which he refounded in the West, and built into a Universal Message. This western order followed the usual pattern at first, with titles and ranks, although some who were very close to Inayat Khan refused to accept any title or to condone the system and it appears that in the end Inayat himself sided with these.

History has not gilded the systems of ranks and titles. What about the present? Inayat Khan himself gave a new and solemn glow to the old title of Pir-O-Murshid. There are lovely and lovable saints under this title. There are also primitive people with no message for this modern world. There are bread-and-butter men without a spark of spirituality. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of India, during a talk about a school for children of all nations in the lower Himalayas — told me about many titled leaders of religious and mystic groups who mismanaged funds and caused the government untold trouble. Curiously, one of the lady pupils lnayat Khan had made a Murshida, an American, also had trouble with her accounts, so Inayat warned her to have others handle her money matters. She had been so close to Inayat that at some time he seemed to have indicated she would be his successor and later this was understood as a temporary leader until his son, Vilayat, would be of age. When this Murshida came to Suresnes, the Headquarters, after Inayat had passed away, not one would or could accept her. Among the other Murshidas lnayat had named, one commanded all around respect; another one, the Mureeds’ partial respect.

No wonder that Inayat, with his keen intellect and extraordinary sensitivity began to doubt the wisdom of using titles or ranks at all in the order, as his family recently has revealed. When he left for India that last time he is reported to have said, “If I ever come back, I shall concentrate upon my teachings, my books, and forget about ranks and titles.”

There is another basic reason why titles and ranks are unacceptable except as a game. Men do not advance along a common path but each one has his own specific goal and path. There are similarities, occasions for communication, encouragement and help. But in the final analysis everyone is on his own. Therefore common titles and hierarchical generalities are shams. Many Sufis realize this. Those who don’t, who still cling to a title and rank system should retain it as long as they wish but if they try to impose it upon others they will be burdened with disappointments. There are Sufis here in America so far above the average so-called higher ranks in maturity, ambition and talents that related to what some call the twelfth degree they are rather beyond the twenty-ninth. Nobody knows how far they actually are but in the unending numbers game available, twenty-nine is not overwhelming and one may say with certainty that they are beyond.

May we expand on the good old prayer, “Beloved Lord, Almighty God, lift us above the differences and distinctions that divide men, such as titles and ranks…”