Down the Rabbit Hole – research notes from Tawwaba
The research process for the biography continues to unearth golden nuggets.
After learning that Murshid was involved as an observer in the 1945 United Nations Conference in San Francisco, which resulted in the UN charter, I began to glean references about the UN in our archives. There I came across various references to a piece of writing by Shamcher Beorse, that related Murshid Sam to Dag Hammarskjöld, Secretary-General from 1953 until his death in a plane accident in 1961.
I reached out to Carol Sill, Shamcher's archivist, who very kindly located this as a chapter in a book called Every Willing Hand. Below is an extended excerpt from this delightful article. Enjoy!
From Chapter 8: Communicators –
By whatever name or method a mystic begins his trek, he ends up nameless, system-less, pride-less, self-less, seeing, hearing, feeling only one all-embracing Being whom, if he uses English terms, he may call God. He may begin as a Sufi, or a Yogi, or in one of the numerous organizations deriving from one of these, such as the Christian churches. Or he may begin all by himself, following no established path or creed.
As he fervently seeks to reach into the secrets of minerals, plants, animals, men, the universe, because he loves, because he wishes to be inside where he may understand, he can no longer stick to one creed, one name or one path not shared by everyone and everything. He does not deny. When with Christians, he tries to talk and behave as Christians do, as long as it is loving and not despising. When with Buddhists, he is a Buddhist, though not a judging one.
When with atheists, he assumes the fine flavor of the philosophical atheist who denies a primitive God but accepts a universal plan and planner. He enters the heart of every man and agrees with him; agrees with his deeper urges, not always with his superficial whims. And this is how he may appear to some as a teacher. He does not teach a doctrine. He only shows each person what this person himself deeply wishes. Many do not know what they deeply wish, so they may be shown by one who has learned to look deeper.
Where do we find this specimen called mystic? Everywhere, in every man and woman. A transparent example completed his life among us early in 1971. He left a thinly spread group, now increasing rapidly, in San Francisco and Marin County, polarized to him as teacher. They live in private homes or in community homes at all levels of comfort or discomfort. Many of them had been hippies and had taken drugs. Hardly any of them take drugs any more even though no one told them they had been wrong taking them. This they say, is due to this teacher, SAM or to their relation to him.
Samuel L. Lewis was a native San Franciscan and a horticulturist. Early he had an urge to find truth or. at least, find something. The theories offered him in religion and science interested him but did not satisfy him. In 1910, an Eastern mystic, Inayat Khan, a Hindu musician of the Moinuddin Chishti order of Sufis, came to San Francisco. In 1923, Sam became his pupil. Though born of well-to-do parents, Sam's independence of spirit shaped for him a tough working-man's life and it was only in his seventies that he could afford to travel. To cover the greatest distance for the least funds, he relinquished all comfort and studied at the feet of many teachers, Buddhists, Hindus, Arabs, Japanese. He did not leave his old teachers as he acquired new ones, but coalesced them into a whole. One of his Sufi teachers in Pakistan dubbed him Sufi Ahmed Murad, meaning he who is endeavoring to fulfill his life's purpose, and when Sam's earth life had been completed, the same teacher redubbed him Sufi Ba Murad, meaning he who has accomplished his life's purpose.
Sam had already acquired a considerable following in San Francisco and each time he returned from his trips he threw himself into his work as teacher and organizer with renewed energy and a wider vision.
Sam's position and work were never a secret. Some say he shouted from the housetops. His contemporary, Dag Hammarskjold of the United Nations, on the other hand, kept his mystic trend hidden from all but a few trusted friends. Many hail this attitude as the essence of wisdom, and in view of Dag Hammarskjold's position, it might well have been. Sam's open door and un-secrecy may stem from a different kind of wisdom, from a different set of circumstances. For one thing, realizing, that if the mystic goods be not now openly sought and coveted, our civilization may face a dim future.
There is another difference between Sam and Dag. While the latter apparently had no specific individual teacher, Sam had many. Some mystics have claimed that you definitely need one teacher on this path. The Hindu mystic and poet Rabindranath Tagore in one of his stirring poems portrays the attainment of divine grace without the the assist of any teacher.
Who was right, Sam or Dag and Rabindranath?
All three were right. Sam wanted to know the world religions and teach them to others, so he needed to be taught. Rabindranath or the hero of his poem wanted to realize God, and who would insult our Creator by saying He is incapable of letting us know Him except through a go-between? The paths, streets and avenues are as many as there are human beings. Each one of us is unique, matchless, incomparable, in the final analysis his own one and only teacher.
The links to his various teachers made Sam international and historical. From the early Sufis, Abraham and, possibly, Chinese alchemists, there is a line of free and tolerant but disciplined thought and feeling down to such more recent teachers as El Ghazali, who at the age of thirty-five reached fame as the outstanding scholar of both Christian and Moslem traditions. At that time, these two traditions might have merged. But, weary of the vagaries of fame, El Ghazali left his sheltered world to roam as an unknown beggar. During his wanderings, he once came to a small town and entered a house of God to pray among the "little people". The preacher wound up his sermon praising "the great El Ghazali, the top scriptural authority", not knowing that this famous man was in his audience.
El Ghazali rose and quietly left, determined not to be trapped again in the web of fame.
Sam had much in common with El Ghazali. He knew the Christian and Moslem traditions well and bridged them. In addition, he knew the Hindu and Buddhist traditions. In Sam's burning heart these were all one.
excerpted from Every Willing Hand: Community, Economy and Full Employment
Wikipedia entry about Hammarskjöld: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dag_Hammarskjöld