Communication, to some, means language, which, they feel, is coterminous with human life. Jagjit Singh, with tongue in cheek, quotes a contrasting viewpoint in his Information Theory, Language and Cybernetic: "The word remains upon the speaker's lips and refuses to go and rest upon the thing, making language an absurd medley of sounds and symbols beyond which flows the world -- an indiscriminate and uncommunicable chaos."
Most of us drop occasionally into such a cynical cesspool, then rise again to exuberant praises of linguistic communication when we come under the spell of a good teacher.
There are some, however, who maintain continuous reserve about language communication, even though they talk quite sensibly when they do talk. I had a friend, Inayat Khan, a musician from India, with a keen sensitivity to human feelings and attitudes. He thought twice before ever expressing his ideas or feelings, which, he said, might have an effect entirely different from what you intended.
He called himself a mystic. He fondled this word. He said it simply means a communicator, one who always communicates, either through or beyond words. We did some work together, which often caused me to criticize him, his associates, his methods. That is, in the beginning I criticized. He never answered with words. He just smiled, and instead of harsh sounds came subtle thoughts floating through the space between us and, bit by bit, I read them so well that, with him at least, I began to employ the same "language".
Is this what may be called diplomacy? Not the kind defined as saying the nastiest things in the nicest way, but a real diplomacy of the heart?
Isn't cybernetics supposed to take care of that? Indirectly, it has helped by showing up our lack of skill, lack of real feelings, showing up all this in a grotesquely exaggerated output. If cybernetics hasn't reformed us, it is beginning to urge us to reform ourselves.
In a class by itself are the new gadgets that register not words or equations, but feelings. The most famous and most notorious of these is the lie detector, which does register feelings and physiological reactions to feelings. That these have been assumed to translate truth or falsehood is a sorry short-circuit in the current of thought and understanding. When, some day, the magnitude of feelings related to truth or falsehood becomes better known, we shall laugh and cry at our once-upon-a-time delusions.
From humanity's dawn, millenniums before cybernetics were thought of, though often using the same trends of thought, some individuals and groups reached amazing feats of communication. Periodically, they closed their mouths and shut off communication by the senses and directed their attention inward, to their own thoughts and feelings, seeking there understanding of themselves, and thereby I understand ing of and with others, even communication with others. Ancient tales and some modern ones tell about people so full of love and of such ardent desire that they penetrated the barriers dividing us and saw, felt, knew other minds. They were called mystics, meaning fakers to some, communicators to others.
An oft-quoted meaning of mystic is "shutter" (Greek), referring to the mystics' shutting their mouths and gazing inwards. To language enthusiasts such behavior seems weirdly unprofitable since speaking is their proof of human qualities. Therefore, the word "mystic" has an odious sound to some. But the mystics do not shut their mouths all the time and when they, do speak, they provide information and harmony since their burning interest is communication both ways and their overriding feeling is love, which may become so strong that it wipes out hate, envy, pride, jealousy.
Some appreciate ancient mystics: Elijah, John the Baptist, St. Francis of Assisi, but shun the modern variety, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, or the Turkish generals and statesmen, or Egyptian scholars, or RadnaKrishnan, India's philosopher and first President, or Dag Hammarskjold of United Nations fame, whom this writer knew from 1936 during his days in the Swedish Government.
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. One of his young pupils told me about the difference between Sam and another would-be teacher, a Zen Buddhist who incidentally was an old friend of Sam. . .
"And this Zen Buddhist travels all over the country lecturing to mass audiences telling them about the futility of talk, in line with Zen theory or idiosyncrasy, yet he talks and talks and that seems to be all he does, while Sam remains with me. He cares. This other fellow moves on and on to new audiences, new triumphs, forgetting the old ones, while Sam stays with me whether he is here or abroad. Sam is like my father, or brother, or son or, perhaps I should rather say, like myself, myself as I want to be. He knows when I am hungry and feeds me. He never argues, never criticizes or preaches. He's just there. I'm taking up my responsibilities in society again because of him, though he never told me to. He just has that confidence in me, more than I have myself. When I took those drugs I enjoyed the feeling of unity, I loved the weird visions but I lost my feeling of responsibility, I didn't care what I did or didn't do. I had no roots. Now I have roots and for the first time in my life I am enjoying them."
"You are working now?"
He flashed me a grimace,
"I am trying to. I am applying in the fields I knew before all these things happened. The employers ask me uncomfortable questions. My past is all that seems to matter to them. Sam comes to my aid every time, telling them I am the finest in the world. So far that hasn't helped, except to keep up my self-respect."
"Missing the drugs?"
"No. With Sam I am enjoying all the same visions, and more of them, without the hangovers."
"How do you eat?"
"Sam has taken care of that. I'm a fixer and custodian in one of the community houses so my wife and I and our four-year-old eat well and proper every day, and feel as worthy of our keep as the other residents, most of whom work on the outside."
That same evening I watched Sam and a fragment of his crowd jubilate through a Shiva dance routine, accompanied by the rarest instruments from many corners of the world. Then Sam read a fiery manifesto, sparkling with wit and fury, from the then-leader of the Buddhist World Fellowship, Princess Poon Diskul of Thailand.
Suddenly Sam turned to me, "Pir-O-Murshid Inayat Khan just appeared to me telling me to share all my experiences with you."
Inayat Khan had been my teacher as well as Sam's. He had left this world forty years ago. Was Sam's remark just a friendly joke to an old fellow-pupil? To him it meant more. Was be right, then? Today practically nobody can tell. To assert one or the other version would be just plain superstition. For we have carelessly neglected certain promising and even essential aspects of living, searching and training, for generations. Sam, along with a few others, have at least taken steps to regain the lost kingdom.
The financial history of Sam's enterprises shows a gradual change. Some of the teachers Sam had met lived off gifts from their pupils. This is customary in the Far East but it was anathema to Sam in the beginning. He would rather give food and even clothing to his pupils, spending of his modest earnings. When later he inherited money, he spent it all on his crowd. Then businessmen among his pupils pointed out that this could not continue, there simply wasn't enough to run the enterprise this way. Sam went along and fees were set for entry into his classes and for instruction.
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.
Late in his career, Sam learned to know and became deeply attached to Pir Vilayat, leader of the Sufi Order after his father Inayat Khan, Sam's first teacher, had passed away. I had known Pir Vilayat since he was ten years old, watched him gradually, courageously, ingeniously take on the burden of the mission his father had prepared him. A mystic in his own right, of unique clarity and beauty, a superb speaker and organizer, devoid of pose, of any sense of self, he reflects his father like the still waters of a lake on a windless night. And so does his brother Hidayat, whose music speaks to your soul.
Sam's friends and pupils lovingly followed and supported Pir Vilayat when their teacher Sam passed away.
Only a fraction of the mystic world has been touched here. One must enter and experience it to appreciate it. We read about Abraham, Ramakrishna, North, South, East, West. These persons or directions are bits and pieces without much sense before they are seen in relationship to each other and our own minds and hearts, as we seek and work toward TRUTH. You are an individual, original and unique, unlike any other, yet one with all, containing within you Abraham, Ramakrishna, North, South, East, West. You are one with all to such an extent that at moments you may know the other's thoughts, feelings, past and present as you know your own. You do not at first weigh these things in your mind or apply them, or accept or reject. You operate at first, in a medium beyond mind. There is no doubt, not even a mental recognition, just a factual knowledge, like you touch steel. You are happy, or rather beyond happiness. You are secure and realize this is the only security.
Now, when I try to garb these experiences in words, I have to let the mind play on them to paint an observable picture. I feel like cheating, I hope the viewer has seen at least part of it himself and so will be able to share and bear with me.
What I am trying to describe is not an imaginary state of mind. It is the same state that permitted Einstein to formulate his scientific outlook and may permit his successors to find and apply the equations Einstein sought but did not find. It is the state of mind that permits a financial wizard to see through the maze of money and accounting to the core of economics. It is the state of mind that permits a healer to see your ailment or his own, and correct it.
A prying Gallup Poll purported to find that ten per cent of us were mystics and had visions of one kind or another. Since most people are shy about gifts or blessings of this kind and would not reveal them to poll takers, may we conclude that most, or perhaps all of us, are genuine mystics?
What do rank-and-file mystics do? How do they spend their days? Michael and Benefsha spend many of them in Jerusalem, in tandem. While one is out there, bringing together Israelis, Arabs and Palestinians to work together, sing together, dance together, the other stays in San Francisco, keeping the home fires burning. They have no capital, travel on a shoe string, speak all languages. Michael, a horticulturist, builds greenhouses around Jerusalem, hoping thus to provide required capital. He also writes furious begging letters to friends and enemies, telling about living on cucumbers and yoghurt to make ends meet.
Some Arab youngsters recently rushed Benefsha in Jerusalem, inciting the crowd to lynch "the infidel". Benefsha is no infidel. She is a sufi, acknowledged by Hebrews, Christians and, particularly, by Muslims as the source and inspiration for all these religions. An old Arab sufi sheik sprang to her side. He had never seen her before, but sufis often recognize each other. He also knew Benefsha was so other-worldly, so devoted to her cause he could do anything physical to her without her even noticing. He pierced her neck with a sword, she told, her eyes widening, while he thundered to the young Arabs, "This is the proof what kind of person this girl is. Come forward, any one who thinks he is a better Arab than she, and we shall see!"
The youngsters fled before the old sheik could try his sword on them. Benefsha could continue her important work more safely than before. Such incidents pave the way toward peace in the Middle East.
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