Who was Shamcher Bryn Beorse?
Shamcher Beorse has been well-described by Carol Ann Sokoloff as "the ideal of what a contemporary western mystic can be -- an activist, an artist, a spiritual guide -- working in all realms, the scientific, the literary, the political and the spiritual."
Some of us who knew Shamcher have gathered and digitized some of his documents for this archive, so those who haven't met him have the opportunity to get to know him through his words. He often quoted Inayat Khan who said, "A book is a dead teacher." Nevertheless, this site contains articles, excerpts from his writings, correspondence, photographs, memoirs and memorabilia.
The archive is being continually updated. If you have any photos, memories or comments, please contact us through http://shamcher.wordpress.com/
An excellent introduction to Shamcher's approach can be seen in this transcript of a talk he gave to a group of Transpersonal Psychologists in California in 1977.
NOV. 16, 1977
TALK TO TRANSPERSONAL PSYCHOLOGISTS.
I'm surprised and delighted to see so many. I wonder, are you all 'transpersonal'?
There's one man who knows you all are.
We must begin with history of course. And I'm beginning with the father of Louis XVI of France. He was not Louis XV, history is more complicated than that in France. In fact, the French say, "History is a story of what didn't happen, written by people who weren't there." Now the story is that Louis XVI's father was preparing coffee one day, and he was saying, "What would life be without coffee?" And then he thought a while, "What is life really with coffee?"
Well, this is the story of sufism, also the story of yoga, of zen, of all these people who wonder what it is all about. In that sense, there is no difference between sufis, yogis, zen, Lao Tzu and all these teachings. And there's a lot of people with no such label on them who are just as eagerly seeking and perhaps just as successfully. It is such a sufi I consider myself to be. Now, there is a difference, a slight difference - a sufi is one who wants to do his seeking and his doing in the whirling life, in the city streets, in the offices, in the factories. He doesn't want to sit in a cave.
I was a yogi from eight years old, they tell me in India when I tell about my dreams at that time, very silly dreams. And from sixteen I was reading very strenuously and I went to India to find a teacher. I travelled around the Himalayas and everywhere and didn't find anybody, came back to Norway. Incidentally I was born in Norway without any visible link with any of these things but I had this feeling in me. So I thought, Oh, all right, I'll concentrate on my engineer's career and don't worry about these things anymore. So there was a telephone call: a Dutchman said in a heavy accent, "We have a man here, the greatest mystic in the world, and you are requested to translate his lectures at the University."
So I went down there in this hotel room and there was a big queue before his door but being on business, to arrange the lecture, I was permitted in outside of the queue, and one man jumped from the queue, he was a very talkative theosophist and said, "I'll go in with you, Bryn, so that the queue becomes a little smaller." "That's all right" I said, "That's a very nice thought." I thought, how can I discuss this with Inayat Khan with this talkative fellow sitting at my side. Inayat Khan came, it was the first time I saw him. He walked like a prophet and said, "Gentlemen, shall we have silence?" So we sat down on the sofa with each one of us on each side, complete silence for ten minutes. Then a little bell rang. "Gentlemen, the interview is over, it was so delightful." I met Inayat Khan afterwards and I said to him, "You know, I like your message..." But first I must say that I went to the talk and I sat there a little bit sour and thought, he hasn't made any arrangement and what is he expecting me to do? So he gave his whole talk, and I went up there and talked, and they said, "You remembered every word, how could you?" Well, that was the first little miracle, perhaps, or perhaps just natural. I thought I must have a good memory.
Then he went away and came back after a while. And I said to him, "You know, I told you I was a member of these two organisations, the Theosophical Society and the Order of the Star in the East." "Yes." "Now I think those organisations were a sort of preparation for something to come and maybe that's come now. Can I join you?" "Oh yes, with great pleasure." So half a year later we met in Suresnes, which was a Summer School. Every summer he had three-month summer school in Suresnes, at other times he travelled.
So the first time he saw me he said: "Shamcher!" I said, "Shamcher? What's that?" "It came right from God now. Isn't it wonderful? It means the Sword of the Message, the Tongue of Flame." Well, I thought, it wasn't very descriptive. And he gave me a little photograph of himself and he said, "Now there are certain practices." He also gave me the zikar, "La el la ha el alla hu" which many sufis here think is a great secret but in the east they sit and do it on the curbstones all over the streets so it isn't that secret.
And then he gave me this photograph and said, "You may look at this photograph and concentrate on me in your meditation." And I thought, what nonsense! A photograph! But while I was thinking that, a man came running. I didn't know him, a man came running. Click, clack, his boots on the street. "Oh, Bryn, Shamcher, Inayat Khan wants to see you right away. I am sorry." So I run back, and he said, "Oh Shamcher, I am so sorry I gave you this photograph, that's not for you. You should think about the great teachers of the world: Buddha, Christ, Mohammed, Krishna, and so on. Think of them as one composite teaching from the Almighty." Well this, I understood later, had a little bit of significance.
There is a tradition among sufis in the east, that first you are what they call fana-fi-shaikh, you dissolve yourself in the vision of one single personal teacher, and you see him as a representative of the divine, of God. Then when you have gone through that for a while, you advance to understand the principle of teaching expressed through the great religious teachers like Christ, Buddha, Krishna, Mohammed. And then when you get tired of that, you concentrate on the eternal God, the void as the physicists would say, the great void from which comes all life. You can't think of anything but God Himself and that is fana-fi-lillah or fana-fi-allah.
But a lot of people don't go through these three stages from stage to stage. All people, for instance who have a scientific trend wouldn't at all think of meditating upon one teacher and seeing the ideal in one single teacher. It isn't natural for them, nor is it natural for them to think of Jesus and Buddha and so on as such great unusual beings; at least for some of them it is not natural. They see the void, they see the space and they worship it even in their physics.
And this now brings me into a little bit of history again. If you follow sufi traditions, the Mevlevis for instance, which stems from Jelalludin Rumi, the Qadiris, the Tassawufs, all these various organisations, according to Inayat Khan they go back to the time of Abraham at least and maybe further back. Its a very old thing which wasn't always called "sufi". And even the idea of presenting a message officially as a sufi message is supposed to be that old. It never was expressed before Inayat's time. It was not expressed in the message of Jesus which was for a small community in Judea in Israel. It was not expressed by Mohammed, although many Muslims say that it was. It was not expressed in India.
But now the world is one whole globe. We recognize each other, we know that there is a globe and we are on this globe. So now the understanding of religion has to be universal. So Inayat Khan was given this task by his teacher Sayed Madani. He was told, "You have been trained in the Chishti Order of sufis, but you are not the head of the Chishti Order, although you are a very well-advanced musician and sufi saint, but you are not to be the head of the Chishti Order, that's someone else. No. You are going to the West and for the first time in sufi history you are talking about sufism in the sense of a universal worship in which are included not only the immediate sufi traditions of the middle east, which include Zoroastrianism, Christianity, the Hebrew religion and Muslim, also the great religions of the far east, the Hinduism, the Chinese when it is convenient, Buddhism. And so of course he met wild resistance.
A recent friend, who is a doctor of religion and philosophy in three countries, said, "The sufi name stems from about 200 years after Mohammed. The Shiite division, which didn't understand Mohammed's message right, split from the main body and were afraid to be persecuted so they went to India, and there they developed the Chishti Order and other orders and eventually it was called Sufism after 200 years." That is one version of history. Another version is Inayat's, that the sufis stem even from Abraham and maybe before it. Far east was also involved.
In Istanbul, I met Ali Fazul Bey, who was one of the greatest scholars I ever met anywhere in the world. He had been the head of all Egypt's libraries. And he said, "Oh Bryn, Shamcher, you are a sufi, that is interesting because then we can be very good friends because I am a sufi too." So I said, "Well, Ali, that's nice to hear but you may not be a sufi in the sense I am because to me sufis are a very old tradition, from the time of Abraham. "Oh yes, Shamcher, but that's exactly how it is, and it is such a pity that so many of my Muslim friends and able scholars cooked up this false idea that it is a thing that started after Mohammed's time and it belongs more to Islam than to other religions. That's a complete false failure. And the most surprising thing he said that western scholars who are supposed to be so accurate and so clever that they have fallen for the same canard, as they say in French, the same fake idea that sufism only stems from the time of Mohammed.
So here you have various versions of history. And what do we know? I'll tell you exactly what we know: None of us know anything. We have to go back to the French: History is the story of what didn't happen, written by people who weren't there.
But the idea that sufism is so old is a very good thing for the development of the world as it is now. It is a happy way of expressing it. So I stick to that until I'm knocked down.
Now I mentioned that one of the characteristics of the sufi is that they keep out in the world and don't retreat. Sometimes a sufi does retreat. I'm not sure it is right. I never did. I sometimes fast, I have gone for weeks at a time not eating. I continue to work, just as ordinary, and I am just as strong - a little bit better in my mind. And then I start eating very slowly. In the beginning I ate a lot the first time I tried, and that's not so good.
But one non-sufi, I don't think he ever heard the name sufi, has a very good expression of this idea which I take the liberty of reading. This man is Tristram (?) Jones, and he travelled a little sailing boat over the world, and travelled on the lowest and highest lakes - the Dead Sea in Israel and the Titikaka Sea on the top of the Andes mountains. And he describes when he had to lug and cut the jungle plants in South America to get the little boat through. It was impossible, they starved and they worked night and day. So he said: "Why did we carry on against such impossible odds? The answer when it came at last, was simple: by not struggling we would simply be going against nature. We were made to fight against nature by the very thing we were fighting: nature itself. Here was man's destiny: to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield, not to give way to sentimental claptrap, insidious temptations. Not to retreat into ourselves, hoping to find the reason. Nature knows no reason. (That's a pretty good thing. A sufi would say the same. Reason is a way of science in the past, not even of scientists who are very modern.) Nature knows no reason. Not to be content to sit in a mental or spiritual cave, while all around us nature, the very reflection of ourselves, runs riot. We are here. This is our situation. If we don't like it, then Jesus Christ Almighty let us claw and struggle and bite our way out of it because it will not change itself. That is the game. And we must play or go under."
However the yogis, or the most representative yogis in the United States of whom I consider Swami Rama - is a great adherent and promoter of Inayat Khan who quotes him continually in his books and so do his doctor disciples. And Pir Vilayat talked and took part in the yoga conference. So even the yogis go along with this now and admit that the sufi message of today touches also them.
There is a need now to tell about how this organisation operates today. Inayat Khan in the first place I want to stop here and say: don't listen and think that you mustn't interrupt. Interrupt anytime you have a question. If you break off my thought, so much the better. I want to have continual change and exchange. I try to see what you like to hear, but I may see very wrongly. Even I am not perfect yet.
So Inayat Khan had a son, Vilayat, his eldest son. And he has a younger son, Hidayat. He had a daughter, Noor, and another daughter, Claire. Noor became almost a saint in France because she was wiring messages to the London headquarters from France, was captured by the Gestapo and beaten to death in jail. Vilayat also took part in the war, in fact, his father asked him before he died, "What will you do, Vilayat, if France goes to war?" "Well," said Vilayat, "I will look at it, and if it is a just war, I'll take part." "Son," said Inayat Khan, "You eat the food of France, you will fight the wars of France."
So when WW2 broke out he took part and so did I. And Ali Khan who had taken over the leadership, waiting for Vilayat to be of age, said to me, "Oh you can't use Vilayat you know, he is mixed in politics." "What do you mean by that?" "Well, he took part in WW2." Many other things Ali Khan said that made me feel he had not much clear idea about Inayat's message. And I helped Vilayat at that time to take over, and gradually he had managed to take over the whole thing and something called the Sufi Movement continued under Ali and later Musharaff Khan who was Inayat's brother. And later again Fazal who was the son of Hidayat. Complicated.
Now while Pir Vilayat led the Sufi Order, I was a friend of Sam Lewis, who in San Francisco made quite a career for himself as a mystic and murshid. And I liked him, he did a lot for these young people except for the fact that he called himself murshid which I think is a useless title. So I said - and he wrote very unpleasant articles about Vilayat and all the others of the family. And I said, you are writing about things you don't have any idea about, wait, we will try and meet Vilayat and then you will see. So Vilayat and he came together, I had to press Vilayat a little bit too before this happened, and then they immediately fell in each other's arms and became very good friends and everything was recognised from both sides. Until now. Pir Vilayat made a declaration saying that eveyone who uses drugs should now resign from the Sufi Order (incidentally we will come back to this thing about drugs if you like. I'll now tell the story..) and those leaders who don't want to enforce this should also resign. And the people of SIRS became very offended and perhaps not so offended, but anyway there was a split.
Hidayat, on the other hand, has started a Federation for the Spreading of the Sufi Message. He says all titles, and all hierarchy is nonsense at this time. Sufis of ancient orders may have used titles in order to be acceptable to kings, rough kings and dictatorial governments. Here in America it's certainly not necessary and it's certainly not good. And from Canada comes another thing, which I will read a letter just received - from my good friend Carol, a girl in Edmonton in Canada, who has been very much aware of what's going on, and she says:
We, the undersigned sufis of Edmonton in the province of Alberta in Canada, reached the sufi world through the message of Inayat Khan. So we are a nucleus of the brotherhood of all beings, united in the Only Being. The Only Being is the universe, is God. Humans, animals, plants, bacteria, all other beings including the events appearing as bodies or objects on earth, in the solar system, the galaxies, the entire universe. (Here, you know, she is touching the new science of physics, which says there is no particle in this universe, there is no body, there are no fixed objects, there is only relationship, or a changing, or you could call it an event. An electron cannot be pinpointed as a particle - it is not. It can be pinpointed as a process, as an event. And if you try to pinpoint its place you lose its momentum; if you try to pinpoint its momentum you lose its place. So it goes on..) We are members of the Sufi Order, headed by Pir Vilayat, and accept as equal members all of this Order and respect the tenets of that Order at all times. Pir Vilayat was the initiator of some of us. We equally are members of the Federation of Sufi Groups formed under the friendship-guidance of Hidayat Khan, and all members of these groups are members of equal right, accepted by us. We equally are members of SIRS, based in San Francisco and established by Samuel Lewis, and now headed by Moineddin Jablonski, and all members of this organisation are accepted equally with us. We are members of and accept the members of each and every sufi group in the world, every religious group, every group of any other character, every individual of any type, human, animal, plant, mineral, or in the terms of modern physics, event. All these form the brotherhood in the fatherhood of God. All titles, all ideas, all structures of any mind are respected and honored by us, though not held sacred. Only one is sacred: the Only Being.
All right. I am a member of this, I am a member of Pir Vilayat's sufi group, I am a member of SIRS, I am a member of Hidayat's group. I am equally charmed with all of them. And to me, this is the Sufi Message, of today, whatever these groups do I don't criticize, and I respect it but I don't hold it sacred. And I consider this the most promising and most interesting expression of Sufism. I can't even compare it with the ancient sufi orders.
One head of an ancient sufi order, of the Mevlevis, Suleman Dede, came here and said, "You know this Inayat Khan's Message is the real sufi message of our day." Not all sufis say that. Sufis in the middle east, many of them, are very critical. They were critical of Inayat Khan and his teacher, Sayed Madani, who incidentally is a direct descendant from the Prophet Mohammed, said, "Don't you dare criticize my favorite pupil Inayat Khan. He is bringing the sufi message as it should be brought to the world today."
Nobody has any questions?
Q: While you are talking about some of those political aspects of the different sufi orders, what is your own position on Idries Shah and his particular sect and what is being done with those groups?
A:Yes, that's very interesting. Idries Shah is a favorite author of mine. I have read both his books. I know that he is not very sympathetic to Inayat Khan. In the first place he is a Muslim, and he made fun of some Americans who tried to go to Kaaba without being Muslims. He is...I respect him. I wrote to him and he didn't answer, which was insolent. It doesn't appear to me that he has the heart that Inayat has.
Inayat once used this expression: There was a man who was drowning, and a hand came and said, "I will help you." Who are you?" said the man. "Well, I am the Master." "Master, what's that?" So came another hand, "I am your murshid, your personal murshid." Oh, yes, yes, that is who."
And so there is another story: A faker came from the other side and said, "Do you recognize me?" " Well," said the man, "Your face looks like my murshid's face, when he lived." "Yes, yes, and my voice?" "Your voice seems like my murshid's voice." "So am I not your murshid?" "No," he said, "The heart doesn't talk the same language."
Idries Shah has no doubt done a lot to spread the idea of sufism. He has told these wonderful stories of Nasruddin and these other stories. Even if you read a man like Jelalludin Rumi, his Masnavi for instance, you find many things that you don't necessarily have to accept. But one thing I liked: He had a son that he couldn't handle very well, and so he said, "Son, I am now sending you out to the desert to a sufi master who is so great that I am not worthy of untying his shoelaces." This man, Rumi, was a great statesman, and everyone considered him the greatest man of the time, so this must be some guy. So his son was sent out in the desert and he had a really rough life with Shams Tabriz, who was this man. And he told Shams Tabriz that my father said that I would come to a man who was so great that my father wasn't worthy of unloosing his shoe ties. "Yes," said Shams Tabriz, "Exactly." So he was there for a whole year, went through all the tough work in the desert to keep alive, and serve his teacher. And so the teacher said, "Now I am sending you back, to a greater teacher, who is so great that I am not worthy of untying his shoelaces." So the son was sent back to his father. It is the sufi way to express oneself this way. It is perhaps one of the things that makes one transpersonal.
I want to wait now until somebody comes with a question. Then I have to go on a little bit........"
". . . (so and so is) taking over my whole group, what am I going to do?" I said, "I am coming, but please understand, he is a great sufi, let him do whatever he likes." So I came there and so I began first, (he wanted to hear what I had to say) so I began with a history such as I have told you now. And so he said, "Shamcher, I am not so very interested in the history. I just want to know what was the relationship between you, Shamcher, and your teacher, Inayat Khan." That's a very good point, that's the real essence of sufism: what is the relationship between the mureed and the teacher. And I understood what he was aiming at, so I said, "You are touching a very critical point. I know that in Egypt and in the Middle East, the relationship between a pupil, a mureed, and a teacher, is a very devoted one. The mureed forgets everything in the contemplation of and in the memory of his teacher. He does everything the teacher says without a question. In the west, we don't exactly have that kind of attitude. There are a few that can do it; I could never do that. But Inayat Khan was gracious enough to accept us as we were.
I would even go so far that I once asked him , "I see a great message that you're bringing here but why call it a "sufi" message, most people think thats a sect of the Mohammodans. Why not drop that name?" And he smiled and he said, "Yes, maybe someday we will. But I was trained in the sufi tradition, and it gave me a lot and I feel like keeping the name for the time being at least. And besides, if you have no name, somebody else will give you a name and it may be worse."
When you look at the whole sufi world, let's say 40 million people, its a pretty poor presentation I've given of a little part of the sufi movement today. You must have some questions.
Q: Yes, would you speak about the hierarchy?
A: Yes, the hierarchy. What do you understand with that, when I say hierarchy? Well, what I understand with it is - first the president, he is the top. And then under the president come the cabinet members and then come all the lawyers and consultants to the cabinet and all the sub-cabinet members: the undersecretary, the assistant secretary; that's a hierarchy. And they start out with 200,000 for the president and down and down until they come to some people who know something.
In religious organization, for instance in the Theosophical society, and in churches too, I began to consider the hierarchical buildup in any such organization as a pyramid with the top down. The head hierarchical big man of any religious organization has to and is forced to uphold certain dogmas, certain beliefs. Beliefs are only structures of the mind, they are nothing worthwhile. In the Theosophical society you find a beautiful common herd, some of them very ingenious, most intelligent and full of heart. But the top people have always been quarrelling about certain dogmas, whether Krishnamurti was a world teacher, or whether it was someone else or it was nobody, things like that. So to me hierarchy is something they use in some religious organizations for some purpose, good or bad. But it is not necessary any more. In fact, the less you can have of it, both in the civil world of presidents and cabinet members, and in the religious world. I feel that hierarchy is a hindrance, both for spiritual realization and for spiritual growth.
I was very upset when people began calling me murshid. There is no such name for me. Inayat Khan is sometimes called Master. Some of his friends and disciples call him master, that offends me very much. There may be a master in shoe-making, or in machining in a machine shop. There is a certain mastery in engineering sometimes, although it is amazing what nonsense a physicist or an engineer can express when he wants to disprove something he does not believe in. But in the spiritual area there is no mastery. Certainly not yet. Maybe in 5,000 years. When I look at humanity, including myself, I am struck by the great primitiveness of our thoughts or ideas. The way we cling to dogmas, structures of the mind.
In fact the mind is a very dangerous part of the human being. Insects run out of a tree at a certain time, completely obedient to the space command, to the command from the great One Being. But humans interfere with this with the mind. They think, "Oh we don't think we should do like this, and now we will predict the future." Some even go and predict the future. A man in my working place said the other day -- I had began to talk about such economists as Adam Smith and David Ricardo and John Stuart Mill and said isn't it amazing that we still have to read this stuff in school, as if it had any value. -- "Yes," he said, "is there any economist who knows anything?" "Oh yes," I said, "I know at least seven who have a very clear picture." And so I mentioned some of them.
So there are people who are clear, there are people who know. But most people in science, in religion, and in society in general are living with their structures in the mind. The physicists are perhaps the only scientists that are, some of them, that have completely freed themselves of this. When they try to come down to a final object or subatomic particle they find that there is none.
I was in a mental hospital once, a friend was being examined. And they had a physicist, and this psychiatrist said, "And do you know what he believes? He believes that this table doesn't really exist, but there are a lot of atomic subparticles that jump up against the subparticles in the hand that jump down."(laughter from audience). I was sitting there in the audience and I said, "Pardon me; but this man is completely correct." The psychiatrist said, "Bailiff, tell this man to get out." And so I said, "Oh I am sorry, I won't go out, you have to carry me out. But beside me here is an atomic physicist who can say that what I said is correct." So this is the way science operates. These were two scientists, psychiatrists appointed by the state or whoever to decide this man's fate. I said, "This man may be crazy, but he is not crazy because he says this." So this is how our society today operates, with an enormous amount of ignorance and arrogance.
I know about it from the energy field. We are talking about energy. For fifty years we have had energy solutions that would provide all the energy we would want, cheaper than nuclear energy today and completely free of pollution. They don't do it. Nuclear physicists, Nobel Prize laureates, come and tell us, "That can't be done." Seven major universities and any number of private companies know that it can be done and have described it for ages, for decades. The president doesn't know it, or seems not to know it, maybe he is sold to some oil interests or something, I don't know. The energy czar who was defense minister before, he doesn't know it.
This is the way we live today, in an extremely dangerous and primitive society. This is the way man lives. Not the animals, but we have this mind that so far disturbs everything. A human body and a human psyche is administered and kept in shape by any number of very faithful servants which you can call elementals or spirits or whatever, not visible to the naked eye. The man who lets these beings govern his body, he is kept in health. But the mind comes and says, Oh no, there is something wrong here; he gets completely nervous and he upsets all these faithful servants who are trying to keep the body in order. And he goes to a healer, and the healer may heal him and everything is forgotten again - go on to the next thing, next silly thing.
That is why transpersonal has a meaning, transpersonal meaning: Don't look at your ideas and what you think is your person. You are not that person, but you think it is. Listen sometimes to all these beings that operate in you and through you.
And one thing Inayat Khan was particularly serious about: He used the four last hours of his time with us to talk about mediums and spiritualists. He said that a teacher never ever talks to a pupil through a medium. A medium has access, has some connection with spirits, yes. But which spirits? The worst, the spirits that cling to the earth. There is more cheating and more nonsense and more ignorance and more misunderstandings on the other side than on this side. And so why do people run to, even sufis, run to spiritual soothsayers and ask for advice on how to lead their lives? There is nobody else who can decide your own life than yourself.
Nobody else. And this running after teachers in America, and in Europe for that matter, is not the least bit of help. It is a disfavor, it is something that diverts you from your own life line which you should try to find out for yourself. And you lean on a teacher. To me, to my concept, it is not necessary to have a teacher.
I have heard of several of the teachers who have talked here. One was Swami Radha, whom I respect from some of the things I hear. And then I heard that she was in Rishikesh and the good old Babaji came jumping across the river to wash her stuff in some pail. And first I thought, Well, that was nice of him to show her this miracle, but then I thought, why was she so weak of faith that she had to have this old man come running across the river to wash the pail? Or maybe she wasn't of such weak faith, maybe he just had some pleasure in doing it. I certainly ask questions when a person gives that sort of ... I was in the Himalayas too, and I knew about Babaji, and was sort of glad that he didn't. Sometimes when I came across a new hill, I said, "Will he come? His big face here facing me?" Fortunately he didn't. I would have considered it a bit of a back slap for myself if that happened
We are looking for miracles, we are looking for spirits, we looking for things from the other side, more worth than the side here. Inayat would sometimes tell about people, for instance there was one man in a village in India where there was an elephant stampede. And everybody said, "Get out of the way, the elephants are coming." But he stood up and said, "Swami, swami," and he was knocked down. So his teacher came, "Why didn't you go with the others?" "Oh, I was praying to God." "But don't you understand that your friends around you are God too!"
Q: I have heard that love is a very central idea in the sufi tradition, and I would like to hear about love and the path of the heart.
A: That is very true. I have talked too little about love. Yes. Inayat Khan would use this expression, "The mind and the heart (and the heart means love, the feeling), the mind and the heart are like the two wheels on a carriage. When they are equally ...
(tape side change)
In other words, the sufi says, in contradiction to most people now. He says mind is the only thing that matters, and she is only a woman, she only has feelings. The feelings are just as important and sometimes more important, but you also have to develop the mind. So the mind and the heart in combination is the vehicle that brings you forward. Also there is the story of the pupil, the mureed who saw that his man was not his murshid even though he had the same voice and the same appearance because he didn't have the heart.
And we felt the heart very much in Inayat Khan. And I feel that if the heart had been more developed among the sufis, his followers, there would not have been so much splitting. So I am more than anything with the sufi groups that accept everybody.
Also there is a development in the heart qualities between two people, and by heart is meant unconditional acceptance of the other party. For instance, men and women who love each other, if the man sets any conditions and says, no she is not treating me the way I want, then he doesn't know love. Or if a woman says that about a man. Love is only possible, love is only expressed when there are no conditions. You don't ask the man to be different or the woman to be different from what they are, accept them as they are.
And another little illustration of this: There was a man who was sitting in the desert, meditating, and then a girl came swishing by and was singing. And he said, "Girl! Don't you see you are disturbing my meditation." "Oh," she said, "I'm so sorry, excuse me. I was going to my sweetheart and I didn't see or hear anything else." And that is the right kind of love.
And another story is about the great yogi who was meditating and there was a little bird up in the air, disturbing with some singing. So he shot out a flame that burned the bird to a crisp. And then a voice came from heaven and he thought, "Ah, I have done something marvelous, a voice came to me." And the voice said, "Go to such and such a villa, knock at the door at such and such a number and you will meet your teacher." "My teacher? Why need a teacher?" So he went and rang the bell, no answer, so he rang the bell violently. So a woman's voice answered from the second floor, "Take it easy. I am no bird." Then she came down and said, "I know why you are coming. You are coming for the teacher." "Yes," he said, "Is your husband here?" "No," she said, "I am your teacher, and you need one."
I met a very mature lady the other day, I mean a mature spirit, and she was studying a specific line of the Christian church. And somebody was talking about Buddha, and Krishna, and I said, "Would you use some of that in your thesis or in your talks?" "Oh yes," she said, "But not with the name." Very wise. That's sufism.
Q: I am very interested in the teaching that says that the sufi tradition goes back to Abraham, Ibrahim, or even before. I'm curious whether there are specific indications of before.
A: Yes. There are, but all these things are in the minds of the people involved, you don't find it in any books as far as I know. You know that's the thing here, I was at a Teach-in with Barry Commoner and Elsberg today. And so we had a very good talk about ecology. Then he came to energy on which he was very ignorant, and so I had a chance to say afterwards that yes we have alternative energy systems that are quite ready to go today and on the other hand the photovoltaic idea that Dr. Commoner mentioned will take a long time to be developed. The moderator said, "Well thank you Mr. Beorse, now we must talk more to find out why there is such difference between what you say and our references." And I said, "References." And they all laughed.
There was a singer in India by the name of Tansen who by many had been called the greatest singer but he never sang for audiences. But one young man heard him and said, "Oh it was so wonderful, may I bring the king because I am his friend?" "No please, don't do that." So the man went and brought the king, and when he came Tansen had disappeared, never to be found again. So I mentioned this to somebody, and they said, "Tansen, who is that?" "Well he is an Indian singer. My teacher told me about him." "Oh no. He didn't exist. I don't find it in any book." There are a lot of things that I am pretty sure of that are not to be found in any book. And I don't know that there is any book that says ... Of course there are many books by Inayat Khan, who says that sufism stems to before Abraham, that's a book that says so but there is not what you call a proof in it.
Q: I'm not looking for the book or the proof, I just wanted to hear more of the story that's told.
A: Yes. Among other things, this is said: that Abraham offering his son Issac to be burned is a sufi symbol. It means that he's offering his son, his personality to be burned. It is transpersonal. And at the same time, I cannot and will not insist that one or the other historical report is correct.
I must admit something: Until very recently I thought I knew. And suddenly I discovered that, no, really, I don't know. And I don't think anybody else knows either.
I had the very intense discussion with a good Moslem the other day about this. He said, "The future is such and such." I said, "Well, I'm sorry but I don't think it's possible to predict the future. In fact I hope nobody would. But here in America we predict. The communists predict the future, and thereby nails us to the past. The doctors predict the future and say a man will die in three days (he actually lives for thirty years). The psychologists predict the future, the politicians know all, predict the future. The future is to be made. It's made by us. We can decide today what the future will be. We don't predict it, we make it. Even God Himself doesn't know the future." "What are you saying! In the Koran the future is outlined for a million years to come." "Well," I said, "I'll read it under your study, but to me that doesn't mean much."
It is not that God cannot know the future, but it is that God created us to make the future. And I consider all these sensitives who predict the future as very harmful. There was a sufi in the nearby town who said to me, "Shamcher, you must move out of that district. There will be an earthquake, I feel it." I said, "Well, I have a stronger feeling than you. The earthquake will not come." And it didn't come. And he said, "How do you know?"
Q: Shamcher, there has been quite an interest here on death and dying. People here are working with cancer patients, etc. and I know you have gone through your own experience which I find a delightful story. If you'd care to I'd like you to mention some things about your experience and how you see...That experience is often talked about in the sufi literature, about the conscious dying.
A: Yes. In 1965 I was travelling to work in my car and at a certain point I lost consciousness completely, and continued to travel, which I am proud of, for two and a half miles on a crooked road without any incident. But then either somebody struck me from behind or I got an idea in my head, so I ran into the woods and the car went around several times and I was thrown out. The state patrol came and somebody said, "We must get this man to the hospital." "Oh no, he is deader than a doornail." So we came to the hospital, the first hospital they said, "No, we don't accept corpses, and besides we have no good man for the head." So we went up on to another hospital. Incidentally, I had been waiting three hours for an ambulance. One came from Keyport where I worked, and they said, "No. We aren't interested in this. This didn't happen on the station." So finally I came to the hospital and the doctors told my children, "We are sorry to say your father is dead." And I did confer with my mother and father just as if we had been talking forever and ever, nothing special, nothing welcoming me, just as if we had been together forever, and probably we had. And I had a lot of interesting experiences, and finally had the audacity to come back here and meet the doctors. And one of the doctors said, "Oh, that was a miracle, you were really dead." So I said, "What else can I expect with such good doctors as you are?" "Oh no," he said, "it wasn't us, it was something up there."
I have several fears in my life. For instance, I fear torture. I have never been exposed to it but during World War 2 I was very close to it so I figured out how I would make it. But I have never feared death, in fact, I always felt a sort of welcome with the thought of going to the other side, which is not a riddle for me. It wasn't before this and it wasn't afterwards.
So death has no sting for me, and that is not only me. In World War 2 whenever there was a suicide mission, a mission that was considered impossible (Mission Impossible, you know) there were hundreds and thousands of volunteers. They couldn't take all of them. I was in some of those suicide missions, and I thought: what a wonderful thing - I am now forty - I began WW2 44 years old - and was 49 at the end. And I thought: this is just the time to go, I have lived, I have loved, I have seen life. What a wonderful thing to die as a hero. But it never happened. So I had to go through this accident to get through a little bit of a death experience.
In the sufi rituals, whenever somebody dies we have a funeral where we say: the soul is now on its way to a new phase of life, and it is very happy, but he doesn't want you to mourn because that delays him and that worries the soul. And my good friend Gavin Arthur who always talked about his grandfather had been the president. He said, "I'd like to be a sufi to be buried this way." So the sufis have a burial service that emphasizes the happiness and the satisfaction of the soul that departs, and there is no difficulty talking about or imagining death for a sufi or for these WW2 people who were glad to go on the suicide missions.
Whenever I had a mission inside Germany - to save a pilot who had flown down or to get goods that we couldn't find anywhere else, people kept screaming they wanted to go along with us. So it is not at all true what good old Sigmund Freud said that the instinct of survival is the strongest instinct. To some people that doesn't exist at all. I don't know if this is anything to take along for those who talk with the dying, but many people dying need comfort. However now it is the custom to give them LSD. And one who is studying the drug question very seriously said that that is not good at all, because these people will come back...it is an illusion what they feel on LSD. I'm not sure this is true, but I mention it. It's an illusion and they will come back to very hard experiences later if they die through LSD.
I have a friend who was such a drinker that they said, the trouble with you is that you have too little blood in your alcohol stream. Anyway he asked, "Bryn, do you think I should take acid?" "Yes, by all means, " I said, "You have taken so many things, why shouldn't you?" (laughter) So he took some LSD, and he said, "I met my mother, you know!" His mother had been dead long ago. She said, "Well I'm glad to see you, but don't you dare take that again!" "And did you?" I said. "Oh yes, a thousand times."
Now a lot of people it doesn't seem to hurt, but you never know. My own attitude with drugs is this: I saw them all when I was quite young in the far east, and in India, and I saw the result and so on. And I thought: I don't know how drugs affect me or anybody else for that matter, so I certainly don't want to touch this thing. I have one mind, and I want to keep that in order. And I think it is childish...(tape dropout)...I don't take that seriously, I won't play that way. And that is what you do when you take drugs, because you don't know the effect. And the spiritual people in the world pay no attention to what doctors say about that. A doctor as such has no idea. There is a spiritual fact behind drugs. For instance, marijuana and peyote make a demand on you. It depends a little bit on what kind of fellow you are. But they may keep you as a sort of slave of their intent, and there is an intent behind these spirits, there are even people who can see them. So you become bound to a certain way of life and certain things. I don't see why people expose themselves to that.
You know what Ram Dass said: I have taken so many acid things, that there was a big hindrance in my medulla oblongata, so things became stuck there and couldn't get in. But you know the medulla oblongata is the point at the back of the neck through which the divine light is supposed to go into your being, and if that is too blocked it is difficult. As he said: through acid I saw things but I couldn't keep it. I just saw and then had to leave again. Some people think that they have to have that acid initial experience. That is not true. I never had it. Not that. (long silence)
Now everybody is disappointed.
Q: How do you deal with anger.
A: Anger? You know they say, if a saint gets angry, there is an earthquake. But anger of course is lack of self-preservation, and in fact a person who is completely transpersonal couldn't very well be angry. There is nothing to be angry with
Q: Does that apply to sex also?
A: Are you angry when you have sex? (laughter, hoots) Lets talk about sex a little bit. In the first place, there is no such word. The only word is love. And where there is love there could be sex but only as much as the other partner wants, and nothing not a thing more. If you want, for instance, to, what you call it, have sex with a lady, and this is your great desire. And you think, okay, now how can I go about it, what kind of music shall I use? You think I could let her drink some wine maybe? Well, there is no good in it. But if you go to a girl and say, You know I'm your you could do with me what you want because I feel I am completely dependent on you, and you let her decide everything. And what happens is divinely all right, although it may not be from society. And that is love.
One man who was completely confused about sex was Sigmund Freud. (comment: Tell us about it! laughter) He wrote so many books and so many words that people thought he must be a great man. And when I first came to America in '38 there was a complete ignorance and neglect of Freud and I thought: the Americans are really clever, they have left this. And then suddenly after WW2 they were all on their noses down into the ground in obeyance to the Great Freud. I don't know what happened.
A Norwegian doctor said something good about Freud, he said: What is new in Freud is not good, and what is good is not new. Freud took all his knowledge from some Frenchman and some sufis too for that matter. He seems to think that this is a basic thing with man. It's not a basic thing. It is possible for a very young soul to be completely in peace about sex. He will use it when he is supposed to, when he marries and the girl expects it and they want to have a child. There are many people in the world today who never have sexual relations except when they want to produce a child. I must say I have great respect for them. There are other people who feel that it is a pleasant way of spending the time, and maybe that isn't too bad. But there are other people who become criminals in the pursuit of this and sometimes it is society's fault.
We are a difficult place to live for many kinds of people. And a study was made recently on rapes, and it was found that the people who rape mostly don't succeed. They are unable to get the right kind of situation and they get crazy with lust but they don't know how to satisfy the lust and whatever happens is really nothing.
Our society of course has been very hypocritical about these things, and very often what happens is just as much the fault of the social rules and laws as of the poor individuals who try more or less clumisly to attain their goal. But a sufi should, they don't of course, reach the transpersonal situation of not being mastered or dominated by his desire, whether sexual or otherwise.
Inayat Khan sometimes told the story about a yogi who was living in celibacy but suddenly a great queen fell in love with him. So he felt that, yes, I have to respond to that. So he was married to the queen and lived with her - performed excellently, the queen was very satisfied - after a while she was tired of him. You know, a dry yogi with his many theories and so on. So she said, I don't love you any more. And he said, Of course not. Fine, thank you very much for your beautiful assistance, for all you have done for me, goodbye. And so he left as happy as he had been before. Marriage itself is a social institution. And for social convenience it is often a very good thing to have a marriage certificate. It isn't divine but it is socially acceptable and sometimes socially beneficial. People sometimes come to me and say, "You know, this girl didn't treat me as she should." Well, how does he know how she should treat him?
Q: I am curious; you were talking about the idea of energy, and I can't even conceive of what energy is. What is the concept of energy?
A: Yes. The concept: There are two systems of energy that could be built today, and in three or four years you could have all the energy you want. One of them is the Ocean Thermal Difference. In the ocean, especially in the tropical oceans you have a sun-heated surface that is 40 degrees farenheit warmer than the temperature about 2,000 or 1500 feet down. This temperature difference can be used in a steam engine. You put a steam engine in between the surface water and the deep water and you have power.
When you mention it, it sounds like, "huh, a loose idea." It has been done. We built three plants of that type at the University of California - I and the faculty built it. And a Frenchman, Georges Claude, built a plant in Cuba in 1930. These things show that this can provide all the energy that we want. We should develop this. Only a thousandth of the energy available from that source is enough to build all the energy we want to the whole world. That is one way.
The other thing that is already built, has been tried and tested, is wind energy. You can have windmills on land or you could have them on floats out on the ocean. And the naval captain, Heirnomous, who is also professor at Amherst University in Massachusetts, he is expert in both these things. He says, "On land it may be a nuisance to look at, on sea - when you see a thing on sea you like it, it is like a bouy. You always like to see things at sea." So we can build them out at sea to catch the westerlies with power for half the United States. This is available anytime.
So when people talk about banning nuclear power plants, it has no effect unless they tell about the alternatives. I had a chance to talk about that today, when Barry Commoner and Elsberg talked. And they had some other very complex energy systems that they talked about. So I mentioned this.
And when we had perfected this at the University of California and nothing happened, I became so disappointed that I thought of doing what I very often have thought of through my life. When I travel, I look out the window, in a train for instance especially, and see this mountain there, could there be a cave there where I could sit and spend the rest of my life? So the other year in 1959 I was up in the Himalayas, at Yoshimath, the last station before the holy Badrinath. I walked along a stream up up toward the top of the mountain. As I walked the water became more and more delightful, it was so revivifying I had a feeling I flew. There was no hindrance, no tiredness. And suddenly I saw a cave, in from a vertical mountain wall, and I thought, this is exactly the kind of cave where a great saint sits, I wonder how to get in? So I came up higher and saw there was a funnel down into it. So I lowered myself, excited. So I come down to the bottom and I began to feel around. There was something furry. Strange. So I tried again. Whoomp. I better get out of here I thought and crawled out as soon as I could. So in this case a Himalayan bear became my teacher.
He says I should sit down, I don't know if I am irritating people by standing.
Q: What is your understanding of why Barry Commoner didn't respond to your energy system?
A: The funny thing was the day before my friend Sabira had been at his talk in Marin, and she had said to him, "Would you like to study this OTEC?" "No no, that's too concentrated." So I felt I had to come back at him today, and of course he couldn't say anything, I had all the facts. What should he say? So he looked very angry, I am told. But that doesn't matter. I gave another little half cake, I said, "I want Barry Commoner as the ecology czar in our government. But not as the energy czar. I want Professor Hieronymous of the University of Amherst as the energy czar, he knows about energy. Of course," I said, "I know too, but I am 81, I don't want that job." Do you feel that I have attacked Commoner too violently? Are you his friend?
Q: No, I am just curious. I am wondering what your thinking is as to why people don't respond?
A: Yes, and also he was talking about what he called photovoltaics, which is a way to get electric currents out of a difference in cells. About that particular system, Professor Hieronymous once said: The government are working on photovoltaics because they know that that is one system that can never be successful. This was a system Barry Commoner advocated as the only system for the future. I didn't mention that, because that would have been too much of a shock for him. But I said, you know, your photovoltaics, in all respect to it, that will take a long long time to develop. There is a certain advance now, in that they find they can use porous cells which are cheaper. But even with that, it will take many years before this is practical.
Q: Except with satellites and defense applications.
A: Yes, but in satellites you have the trouble of bringing them down to earth and they say now, the people who advocate that system, say that from the satellite they can bring it down with an efficiency of 54% but that is unheard of - a few years ago it was 5 or 10%. so I went into that. And they make so many assumptions. One part of that is 6%, another is 10%, all these percentages are very very doubtful. I think you will find that if you go into it, or won't you?
Q: Well, my point is that the government has been into that for other reasons. The only reason they got interested in solar power it seems like is because they needed it for the military. Far away sites and so forth.
A: That may be one reason, but do you think it is close to realization?
Q: I can't say, I don't know.
A: My feeling is that it isn't. I have been at all the conferences where they explained it and looked into their computations.
Q: Shamcher, I'd like to go further with that comment. What do people have to be thinking about in order to be pursuing energy systems like oil, that's going to be gone? Why are we in this consciousness where we are fighting a hopeless battle?
A: Yes, that's a very good question about energy because people are ...the organization of companies and governments are such that in order to keep their jobs which is very important with the great unemployment at present, those of presidents and for ditch diggers, to keep their jobs they have to keep true to the company policy, whatever that is.
Westinghouse has so many millions, almost billions invested in nuclear, not only that but they have promised delivery on nuclear fuels for a price that they can't any longer keep. So even if they keep on with nuclear they will probably die. But they have a hope of surviving if they are permitted to keep on selling nuclear stuff and selling nuclear plants. So a president may very well reason as such: "If Westinghouse and all these big firms go broke, what will happen to our government? It is already pretty bad." It is a short-sighted policy and doing all the wrong things, but it is a policy that they can't escape. Only we, who are outside of it, don't really care too much if some of these companies go broke, but care more about the future of humanity, we can take a different point of view. And have to. And we should ask every congressman before we elect him (we don't do that now, that's our big fault) - every congressman that is up for election, we should ask: what do you think of that? Tell us. And if you don't, out. And also, we should ask every congressman what they think of their own salary, whether it should be up from 43 to 58,000. Because we could tell him, I have tried to live for 43,000, it works.
I had a friend, an economist who knows what can be done with the United States economy, and I said, "You know, you can talk your head off but you have to run for president and then you will be famous and then people will listen. You may not be elected, in fact it is almost sure you won't. But the very fact of running and showing the 60% of Americans who never vote that it is possible for a serious man to run on a serious program, would be so important that it might change the whole nation." And he said, "Yes." He is a man who has just retired from a very responsible position; he was Science and Economics Advisor to the United Nations. And he wrote and sometimes gave the great speeches of the United Nations General Secretaries such as Hammarskold. And they thought what a great secretary he was, he gave wonderful speeches - actually it was John H.G. Pierson who wrote it and gave it. So he had had that position, and he said, "Yes, Bryn, you are right, I really ought to." And then he comes a little later and said, "I can't, Bryn, my wife won't let me." Maybe she didn't do the right thing. Was that love? I wonder.
(Discussion follows to end of tape)