Presented by Murshida Vera Corda 1986
Let us have a few moments of silence before we begin.
Towards the One,
the Perfection of Love, Harmony, and Beauty,
the Only Being,
united with all the illuminated souls
who form the embodiment of the Master,
the spirit of guidance.
Speaking about oneself gets harder and harder. I have not reached that stage when I start reminiscing about the good old days when it all began. Maybe that is a good sign that I will be here a little bit longer. When you start talking about yesterday like it is today, then you have arrived.
I suppose it all began because of Murshid Sam. On the first day when I met him, in the first two minutes that I faced him, he initiated me—without my knowing anything about Sufis, without any introduction to the Order in San Francisco, which was then a flourishing one on the 400 block of Sutter—save only that I had met Inayat Khan at 5 years of age and again when I was 10 in concert, and that is all I knew. Except that my father had always read Hafiz, Rumi, Sa’adi, and Omar Khayyam. Poetry was part of our home life, as was a great deal of music because my father was a concert violinist. So I suppose I did have an introduction, come to think about it, but the day I met Murshid Sam and he initiated me into the Sufi Order really changed my entire life. It immediately placed me within the Sufi hierarchy before I knew or had been taught anything about it. So I suppose that is what we will talk about today; those people who are oracles, who are born to the oracular field and who have a calling to it during an age when it is sorely needed. So I came in to the early work of Murshid Sam when he and I were both mureeds of Murshida Rabia Martin.
Murshida Rabia Martin had taken her initiations at the Summer Schools of Hazrat Inayat Khan and had been the first murshida in charge of American Sufi work. She was also a founder of the famous Metaphysical Library, here in San Francisco. And as we must always do honor to our teachers, I do honor her. She was the first to give me the one-to-one teaching at her home every Saturday on Fourth Avenue in San Francisco. In the Depression you did not take street cars, you were lucky if you could hike one way and had a dime to get back. I think that the biggest treat was knowing that I would have this great kosher lunch when I got through with it. My concentration was in my stomach.
The first thing that she taught me was Kabbalah. The second thing was the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and the last was the Tibetan Book of the Dead. You will see as we go along how so much of the oracular work is related to the kabbalistic teaching. Remember that we don’t want to confuse mediumship with the work of the oracle.
I had spent perhaps a couple of years in that work when Murshida Martin said, “it is now time for you to appear before the order and teach.” Remember there were not a lot of nice receptive faces like those we see here or even among my peers. There were a lot of very mature Sufis, khalifas, and sheikhas from the day of Inayat Khan, mureeds who had been to Suresnes and learned at the master’s feet. It was absolutely overwhelming to me and I do not think that I would have been able to do it except for Murshid Sam who always sat in front of me and said, “Ignore everybody and talk to me.” I talked to him. That made it real easy. I talked to him and it all went off all right.
It was about the elements and he had asked me to teach intensely on the mineral kingdom. So that is how I got started on this path, and as you know I’ve never forgotten, even with the kids, the close attunement with the kingdoms of God and the close kingdom relationship to elements and elementals.
My work then continued in the San Francisco Sufi Order. I was initiated as a sheikha on one New Year’s Eve, just before my marriage to my first husband who was also a Sufi. It was almost the beginning of World War II, and a very traumatic time for those Jewish people who were still able to escape from Germany, Austria, and the middle European countries and get to America. Of course the older Sufi gave refuge and helped in any way possible.
From that time on, files from the Sufi Order were open to me and I was given books of the Gathas, Volumes 1 through 13. These were given to you from your guide, strictly guide to mureed. At that time there were no publications that you could read or get hold of easily so your teachings came directly from your teacher. It was not like today when you are exposed to everything openly and you have easy access to most teachings. I think Cambridge University Press was the only publisher putting out anything by a few authors who had been to Tibet or for readers interested in Eastern philosophy or works translated from Far Eastern languages. The Sufi Order was a good source for that. During those years I became a real Sufi student. I had the metaphysical library to go to, which aided a great deal in opening the Sufi work to me. Murshid Sam often picked me up and took me to visit Joe Miller and the people at the Theosophical Society. There was a rich store of material in that big building at that time. I met and was aided by those people.
You often hear of the peace work of the Sufis—as you know they are not into fighting and may not be outwardly patriotic about supporting the country. There was no propaganda given out at all but from the day after the strike on Pearl Harbor, all Sufis found themselves involved in war work of some kind, including Murshid Sam. I went to work for the Navy Department. Murshid Sam went to the Army and down on the docks.
Everybody was involved in it. Many people signed up, including my husband who went into Air Force work. The whole Sufi Order was broken up until the war was over.
Of course, when the war was over there were many people who came back damaged mentally and psychologically, especially young men. Murshid Sam initiated 26 people at Ka’aba Allah following that war. There were mureeds whom I had never seen before. And as initiates they came in at a difficult time in the Order, when we had been separated for so long. All those years at Ka’aba Allah, where the rock is today, we were meeting every weekend. Friday evening you would leave San Francisco by ferryboat and go take the Keystone train up to Larkspur or Fairfax and hike on up to Ka’aba Allah. There you spent the entire weekend. It is where Murshid Sam started the children’s work with the children of that generation of sheikhs and sheikhas. He began his first work in the outdoors teaching in nature. I never saw him teach children or young people other than in nature. It was a joyous and happy time; we have treasured memories of those weekends at Ka’aba Allah. Murshida Martin was naturally the teacher when she was there, but she traveled a great deal and Sam was then khalif, the leader of that order.
He was terrifically centered on young people and rather soured on the grey-haired ones stuck in the old ways. He was always pushing to allow more freedom of exploration and discovery on the children’s own part and less of the reading and studied manner of the older generation of Sufis. When Sam wanted to punish them (punishment and discipline were mentioned in those days), he would send them up to the second floor of the upper house (which has since burned down so a new building stands there today). The foundation of the original house lies where a huge oak tree is today. The earliest work that Khalif Sam gave to those of us called to the path of the oracle was to work in trees. You picked a big tree, climbed up it, and did your work there, so your concentration, contemplation, and meditation took place in the large trees. In those days, above Fairfax there were meadows, and only horses roamed up there in a grove of madrone and oak. We each seemed to have our own tree and went to it to do our work. It was a very pleasant and wonderful introduction to the work that those of us who were named to it by Murshid Sam continued all of our lives, most of it silently, quietly, and within. During the 1970s, when I was in Marin County, the training school was opened there and 11 or 12 credentialed teachers had to be in residence there. People came from all over and we lived together in that big house and worked together all day. During that time the oracles who had been named by Murshid Sam in that region began to meet regularly in my room and the work advanced very well.
We got very deeply into the Greek oracles and oracular work, perhaps too deeply, because Pir Vilayat came to me and asked me to stop the oracular work. We were all (both SIRS and Sufi Order West) one large family then under Pir Vilayat’s guidance. Today, shopping for guides and faiths is more prevalent, but in our day that was not the case: you had a guide whom you followed as you attuned to the hierarchy within the unity of religious ideals. It was not an obedience laid on you, it was an obedience by your own choice. When you had a guide, you did not disappear. If you wanted to climb and advance in the order then, not like today, you advanced under someone’s objective view of what your mecum was; to this day, any one of us can go to a sheikh or sheikha and say, “How do you see my makam?” We cannot see our own state except in a flash, as in a mirror. We cannot see our makam.
So I followed what my teacher told me to do without any argument and ceased the outward training. The fact that it stopped on the outer plane did not mean that it stopped on the inner plane. The receptivity still came through to those seven people who had been doing the oracular work. I have been in contact with all of them throughout the years, save one whom I have lost contact with.
The work has gone on quietly, inwardly. And it has been a wonderful reinforcement to have us so scattered throughout the United States as we have been, because one can see very objectively if what you are receiving is legitimate. For example, we find that on the same new Moon phases, these people are receiving on the same beam. It is encouraging and reinforcing to have that assurance—that what you are doing does work and is legitimate, regardless of the latitude and the longitude where you live.
I consider those 30 years under Murshid Sam’s guidance to be the greatest privilege that an individual can have, and it does not diminish as the years go on. The Sufi work has led me into seven orders within the United States. Some I joined, others I taught or served whenever I was called upon to do so. In comparison, I can see the prophecy of Murshid Sam and the natural oracular ability that recycles in soul and spirit, as he was far ahead of his time. If he had come into it at the stage of the game where we are today, he would have been recognized everywhere immediately. But he was like most prophets who are ahead of their time: they find a small, close group who appreciate (if not understand) them, and who are so charged and inspired by them that they stay with them and are honored to be in their presence.
I think that the ten years when Murshid Sam went through madzub stages were very hard years for him. There were very few who were such faithful, divine lovers that the occasional idiosyncrasies of his behavior did not disturb them. And for those who were that close and inwardly receptive to the message that came through are enjoying the blessings that went on after his passing to this day. For example, it is wonderful at this time to see the work of feeding people all over the world who are suffering through famine. Even in his own time, Murshid Sam had advanced ideas about herbs and natural foods to feed, for example, the people in Asia. He was so dedicated to peace work, so deeply and totally engulfed in that from the beginning—from the first meetings of the United Nations in San Francisco. It seemed quite mad to those who were not attuned to him, because his ideas were so far-reaching that those with smaller minds and less awakened consciousness were not ready to accept them.
Of course that is still happening. In regards to the oracular work, Murshid Sam read seemingly so little on it and yet gave such great prophecy. He foresaw the women’s liberation work; he foresaw the spiritual work of women in the brotherhoods and sisterhoods of the world; and he saw women’s place in government, which is certainly happening today. He believed in it and said that it would be a matriarchal society again, if we waited to see it happen. That is extremely encouraging to us who, today, are—by request of beloved Moineddin—bringing the work of the oracle forth again in our time, in our day.
I want first of all to address you as human beings. So I don’t want you to think, “Well, why am I, a man, sitting here listening to a woman’s message?” This message is given to the feminine within the masculine. It is given to the balancing of the two polarities, whether we call it jelal/jemal or yin/yang, or whether we address it in psychological terms. This is in a very different context than it was in the early days of Murshid’s work. Nevertheless, Jungian psychology has deeply affected many of the sciences, and it has deeply affected spiritual work throughout the world. We know today that we have to recognize the anima and animus within our own beings, further integrating masculine and feminine within each of us. I will also give a little bit of oracular insight as to where we are going and where we can go, and how this work can be reinstated into the life of the community.
Let us begin with the subject that I have been asked to address today: oracles. This brings us directly into the issue of women’s rights, as it is today. And that means that we have to think, as women: have we really gained a victory, or have we lost something? Time was when the power in the home, the power of the mother, was very great; and although she might not have a hand in the outer world, she certainly had it within her own home. Now, as we look at the sisterhood situation, we see that we have lost a lot of power. We have certainly lost the inner power: the power to be listened to; the power to guide spiritually; the power to have foresight of the path that is clear to our hearts and to our inner convictions; and the power to be listened to by the male and to be followed by the community at large.
This has made the new age irksome, in reality, because instead of paving the way to all the freedoms that we thought the women’s work would bring, in a way it has closed us off. Our voices have been muffled. We have been working in communities where the male leadership is extremely strong, and it is not only in the Ruhaniat. I travel across lines, and I find it wherever I go. The woman’s voice is only now beginning to be listened to, probably because we are coming closer to the millennium; closer to an end of an age and to the beginning of a new universal brotherhood/sisterhood of humankind—which, of course, the modern tribulations are bringing about.
The oracle sees today’s tribulations in a much different light than most of us usually see the death and destruction, the cruelty to children, the breakup of families, and the suffering that war, starvation, and famine bring: the devastation brought by people fighting each other for the political upper hand within the borders of a country. Of course, this is the very thing that ruined the oracular work, which dominated world governments for thousands of years—6000 years, in fact—and went to pieces around 264 A.D. and has not yet been recovered.
So when we say that we are introducing and reinstating an oracular work that we wish to see grow and blossom and become a reality again, we are doing something amazingly avant-garde. It will take a lot of dedication and a lot of self-abnegation to get to the point where we can see the feminine quality in the male body, and where we recognize it and aspire to let it blossom within those of us who have the female physical body. The patterning of women by mother images to sublimate behaviors that would dominate a male’s world, step out into a male’s work, has been turned right over in our time. The fight to have equal pay for equal work, to be able to enter politics, to be respected in any powerful role, and for this to be reflected in gender-neutral wording has been a long struggle for women. It has been a hard fight and it continues to be so, as we continue to see the feminine as belonging to a type of physical body by which we are captured. Then we will continue to have separate communities honoring either the male over the female or the female over the male, which is not the way it was meant to be. The ancients knew this and practiced equality.
Now is time to restore the oracular work. It is a time when the power stolen from us 6000 years ago must be restored; a time when, through choices and the consensus of opinion regarding women’s needs, balance and equality between male and female is attained. In the 1980s it is going to happen—from listening within and following oracular reception, it will begin again. So when a human in a male form has an intuition and goes into the silence and feels strongly in his heart that some path must be followed or act should be done—although it may hurt every bone in his body to turn against the reasoning, mental aspect of his life—he must follow it. And if he doesn’t follow it, he will be pushed to follow it against his very will. This is the way it works today.
What is an oracle, then? What are the definitions of an oracle? The dictionary gives a Christian and a Hebrew background of the oracle. It comes from a revelation from God to priests and priestesses. We can say that many of the Old Testament prophets were priests and oracles. They saw within, in a way that does not necessarily mean they were mediums, but were attuned to conscious reception— reception that comes from within and cannot happen without utter devotion and attunement to the divine beloved. They practiced receptivity of the heart and not of the mind.
The divine knowledge that came through priests who are referred to as pagan gods and goddesses was for the enlightenment of humanity, for the knowledge of humankind. Only in modern American usage are oracles professed to be infallible predictors—or, as Wali Ali used to call them, “The Experts.” It is not necessarily a systematic philosophy. One could not be a dabbler; this work does not allow one to go from one philosophy to another, or one order to the other. It demands staying in one place and getting hooked—as though you were a fisherman in the cosmos and threw out your line and it got hooked onto something, and you held on and you played it, regardless of the tides of time, until it became hauled in, brought in as part of your heart; as part of your higher intellect. Then you could say that you are in the oracular sea of consciousness, and it will begin to come to you. Today we might say that computers are oracles in industry, much because that same process goes on within the human mind, within the brain; the perceptions of one who throws out his hook, pulls it in, and sets down that information will never be any better than the purity of the receptor and the consciousness of the receptor’s mind to enter the correct facts on the computer of his or her inner being. You know what happens when computers are not correct, right? You get computer numbers you never heard of, you find yourself wondering, “What did I do wrong?” because whoever fed it into that computer must have fed it in incorrectly. That is why it demands a complete purity of purpose and keen concentration.
I would like to give you some personal experience. Because who am I to come before you and make the statement that we are going to open the doors to this oracular work which has been closed all these years? That takes a lot of ego or courage, neither of which I really have. But I’ve never doubted the message of the archangels as the messengers of God, because their presence has been with me for so many years. That is where it has to begin, because the archangels are the messengers of God. Whether we are seeking in Christian or Hebrew, or any of the great testaments of the world’s religions, we find this to be true. One must be in contact with a messenger of God before one can give those responses to the devotees.
So a question must be posed, as it was from the early times of the first oracles. Out of that question came a response. Now the ancient world’s view of this was that one must prepare oneself, purify oneself, learn to listen from within. Each country had oracles in the days of the classic myths. Each country had its priest and priestesses. And of course in those periods, when male domination existed in politics and over the world, the hierophant came in as the male interpreter of the feminine message. And how many of our problems today came because of this—that the woman’s intuition has to be analyzed, deciphered, and transmitted through a male mind. So this is not a time when the hierophant will be reinstated, but a time when the message has to be received directly and given directly. We saw what happened in Egypt, where prophetic messages descended to being involved with the pharaohs. This totally ruined the work of the oracles and priests, and was again taken apart by the hierophants, who controlled Egyptian politics and the pharaohs of that day.
We must learn something about those days, about ancient Greece when the oldest Hellenic oracle, Dodona, the Mother Goddess, was consulted in Epirus, Greece. We must know the meaning of divination, which has many interpretative methods. I think that you will recognize that so much of our Sufi teaching, which we never thought of as connected with the oracular teaching, is a part of it. You may not know that the rustling of the leaves of the red oak tree was an early interpretation of the influence of the god Zeus. Please begin by seeing it in light of the Sufi teachings of Hazrat Inayat Khan, where these gods and goddesses are manifestations of the attributes of the Divine Being. This may just free you from worrying whether this might be superstition or how it is connected to human understanding. The consciousness of the Divine Being is finding His way within our hearts and our beings in order to expand the consciousness of His own creation. From the Sufi viewpoint, for all our unfinished qualities, God hopefully is still working within each of us—and that for all of our preconceived ideas, we have within our hearts the residence of the Divine Being. And in His residence, He expands the consciousness of that which He has created—just as the artist, in making pottery, painting, or creating textiles, never knows the value of his or her own work until it is fed back objectively from the outer world. That is the criterion that either makes one a success or a failure in one’s own mind, or one who never was awakened to the beauty of creation at all.
To take that attitude is to be gentler with ourselves, not so judgmental of our failings or our wishes for what we could be or we might have been and yet we are not. This comes from getting outside of the fact that what you think you think, what you think you feel, what you think you are aiming at as the goal of your soul’s life is the illusory part. Because when you get the lower self out of the way, then you find out that the Divine Being does indeed reside within your heart, does change your life, move your life, and makes you go ways you would never have gone if doors had not been slammed in your face. Looking back from this point in my life, to every tragedy—and I assure you, there were great ones—from this perspective I can say, “Ah yes. That is why the door was slammed in my face. If I had not had that accident at 22 years of age, I would have still been a dear old ballerina, sitting in a chair teaching little kids how to do their pliés.” And yet it led me into the world of illustration and design, because I could not do anything else during that long convalescence. I would spend 30 years in the arts and become a teacher, the last thought in my mind. But you see, God had other plans when he slammed that door in my face. I had to become a teacher. Every single thing that happens to you in life that stops you from fulfilling what you think is your dream, your life goal, is happening to turn you about and point you in a direction you would never have gone. Why? So that the Divine Beloved, in creating your being, can more fully understand what He has created in you and how that consciousness and expansion helps Him understand the purpose of His own creation of humanity. It immediately lifts you into the feeling, “My, I am important. There is something in me very precious and very wonderful, because God is learning even through my inadequacies, my mistakes, my ego battles. He is learning something about what He has created, how it is received in the world, where it is going, and how is it going to change humanity and make us indeed one family in the parenthood of God.” That understanding has to come with tears, by a type of individual crucifixion that awakens one to a divine purpose within one’s own very limited world and very limited life.
Let us say something about another method besides the rustling of the leaves of the red oak tree, and I believe in that very much. Because I remember a night, or I should say an early morning hour, perhaps 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning, when I stood on the corner of 29th and Mission Streets with a young man I had known as a child, since I was nine years old. We had just come from a hospital where his cousin, and my childhood love, had put a bullet through his brain, had hemorrhaged all night and was given very little chance of living. He had killed his stepson and seriously injured his wife. We were in terrible shock, exhausted from this night of watching his hemorrhages and praying and concentrating for whatever divine wish the Divine Being had. Because we knew, when we were praying for him to survive, we knew what he was going to face. It was not an easy thing to concentrate for, to work for, and to finally just relinquish all within the love of the Divine Being, and the will of Allah.
I remember what it was to stand there, exhausted and waiting for the early morning conveyance, the last early morning streetcar to go over the Chancery Street hill. A great pile of oak leaves was blown up there; and I recall standing and looking at this big pile, which the street sweepers had swept into a pile to be picked up by the trash collectors in the early morning. Hearing the rustle of those leaves, I thought, “How strange, where is that wind coming from?” and I looked down and saw this whirlwind pick up this pile of leaves, twirl it up, and set it back down. As the rustle of those leaves came in the wind, I heard the words, “This is the man you will marry.” I was sure he heard the same thing and later, he told me he had heard it. We both turned and looked at each other as if we had never seen each other before. We knew each other from childhood and had never thought of each other in a romantic way. We were in terrible shock and grief and exhausted when that came about. At the time I did not think too much about it; but later, when I became involved in studying the oracles, I found out this is one of the earliest meanings of interpretation: in the mysticism of sound, possibly such as leaves rustling, the voice of the Divine Being or guardian angels or messengers who speak to you from within can give you a prophesy, which is infallibly correct.
Another method is the tripod, which most of you know about because of the oracles of Greece—we think of the Oracle at Delphi. The oracle of Ephesus sat on a tripod in a cave or above a deep crevice in the earth, out of which came sulfur or steam or whatever. The priestess sitting on that tripod was in a state of consciousness in which she saw and heard the divine voice speaking out of that cave or crevice—and one might say, like speaking in tongues is today in many of the Christian Pentecostal groups—where the person who does the speaking doesn’t have the vaguest idea of the words’ meaning, but the hierophant or interpreter interprets those words for all to receive. This is another type of oracular work, in the Christian context. So the oracle Apollo was involved with this type of receptivity. When we say “the Pythia,” we do not mean Pythia as a title or as a name. We mean that the Pythia was the oracle who was the receiver of this message from the angelic beings, not the interpreter.
The Greek oracles also had another mysticism-of-sound method of delivery, through the striking of washbasins. It was much like the sound of striking a gong today, listening to its “OM”: you follow that tone as it goes on and on, and you are lost in that mysticism of sound. Many people listening to Chinese gongs, or even little brass ones, find—for the first time in their lives—that they are hearing a message within the sound.
A Sufi practice of listening is like this: Place a thumb in each ear so that the ears are closed; index fingers alternately close each nostril with each breath, so the breathing is changed from one nostril to the other; the lips are sealed with the middle fingers; and one listens within, with the eyes crossed and lifted and looking back down into the pituitary and hypothalamus areas of our head.
According to Inayat Khan’s teaching, we receive 10 different sounds that come to us as a result of that practice through the years. I have been at it for 50 years, and I tell you honestly today that I have received only 8. So it is not something you will discover overnight. It does come with practice in a strange way, such as hearing the striking of a gong when there are no gongs around you; or the sound of the trumpet when there is no one playing the trumpet; or like other sounds you may receive: like a door being slammed or the sound of something being rattled. You do not know whether it is chains or perhaps something else, but it sounds like something in an old-time prison that is rattling or pushing, with iron fittings. If you do not know where these sounds are coming from, you may question your mental state. You wonder, “What am I receiving here in the middle of the day, while I am working or out in the street? I am receiving these sounds, and what does it mean?” But you may be connected again with receptivity to the mysticism of sound. As to what these messages mean, I have never in my Sufi life heard anyone interpreting what I was hearing or what it meant, only that “yes, we do hear those sounds and they are a part of those practices. They have an oracular background to them.”
The end of the oracles came about 219 years before Jesus was born. An army general razed the Temple of Zeus to the ground with swords and axes and great stones—totally ruined it. The reign of the oracle at Delphi, which had influenced history for many thousands of years, came to an end. Its annual acts and rituals—its theatre, stadium, drama and parades, the presentation of the great feast days that lasted from seven to nine days—also ended. The entire act of rejuvenation through purification—through pilgrimage to the oracle, asking one’s question and learning what the future course of one’s life could be—ended. Today, though, we have a somewhat similar practice when we go to a guide and pose a question. The teacher might give us the answer or might suggest readings that could lead us to the answer we seek, or practices by which we might discover what we seek within our own being. So that same thing was done in an earlier time in a different way.
I want to say some more about the hierophants. In that time, in the beginning of this work, they were interpreters of sacred mysteries, and they were totally dependent upon the purity and refinement of their inner senses to receive and interpret what they received. They had to be clear. Otherwise, political careers could be wrecked; eventually many were—armies were defeated, and great cities, senates, and governments were toppled. All this happened through questions asked and interpretations given by the hierophants. You may wonder how this could be so. Well, the anima/animus balance within these males was highly developed. The feminine aspect had to be very pure, receptive, and delicately listening inwardly. They had to be removed from involvement with the outer world, both its adventures and its rewards had to be let go of, much as we go into retreat today and spend days in silence, doing our practices in nature, tuning to the earth. Of course Gaia, the Earth Goddess, has always been closely connected with the work of the oracle. The feet and the magnetic fields of the bottom of the feet are so connected with Mother Earth. We can cycle earth energy through our bodies by breathing from the bare feet on Mother Earth up to the heart center and out through our arms and our hands, palms down toward earth, thereby healing our being by recycling earth energy through our bodies. While we are cognizant of being on the outer level of the earth we are cognizant of our connection to the core of the earth, which is also being transmitted back to us. That is a significant part of the purifying earth breath—our connection with Mother Earth and the desire to protect her and rejuvenate her in the face of the pollution and destruction of this age.
We need to connect with a sanctuary of some kind. A sanctuary for this work must be built if it is to happen. I feel it needs to be a sanctuary in nature, not in a building. Restoring oracular vision, healing of earth, purification of the air element, and restoring of wholeness to the human being are interconnected. When kundalini practices are properly done, the effect is an easy flow from where the magnetic pole is sitting upon the earth and where the crown center opens at the top of the head, to the Divine Light at the ethers. One circulates the power of one’s sexual energy from the lower centers up through the anahata (heart center) to the crown center and exhales it freely over the aura, where it comes out and down in white light or in rainbows. This practice seals the outer aura and is, I feel, the greatest healing to the emotional body that one can do for oneself. This is also a protection against violent attack of any kind. Attack is not possible when the outer seal of that aura is strong, only when the aura is frayed, when it has been cracked, when it has holes or has been destroyed by trauma, grief, relationship breakups, or by somehow losing the center of one’s being. We must be able to feel this center within our own being. It has to be reinstated before man or woman can be protected and can walk in a dangerous world perfectly sealed from attacks from the outside.
Another practice that must be revived is to become familiar with the Mother Goddess. This means that, individually, we must study, read, and attune to the goddesses, must become familiar with those attributes of Divine Being that they embodied before they emerged on our plane as a goddess. These consist of Isis—Isis is the throne of the oracle, and Isis must be established first—then Danu; Demeter and Persephone, whose mother-daughter relationship is extremely important to understand in our day; Yamanja: Freyja; Shakti; Maya, the earth goddess; Quan Yin; Mary, mother of Jesus but in the aspect of the seven sorrows where she sits at the foot of the cross; and Branwen, who was betrayed by her husband in stories of the Norsemen. Here we are becoming re-acquainted—and will have to be, if we are going to reinstate this work—with these goddesses who were the feminine attributes of the Divine Being in many cultures and religions, some of which are practically lost to the world, but somehow still live within different cultures and societies than our own.
So, Isis, Danu, Demeter and Persephone, Yemanja, Freyja, Shakti, Maya, Quan Yin, Branwen—and Mary will provide the beginning of our studies. How is this study to be restored? Again, I receive, “Go back to the kabbalah. Go to the seventh path. Go to Netzach. In Netzach, we find victory, because that is the inner interpretation of Netzach—victory, and being able to attain to the occult intelligence.” This is not mediumship, not tuning into beings on the astral plane, who frequently—having left the earth either in an accident or sudden death in early life, before the goal of the soul was complete—find themselves out of the physical body without warning. We live in an age of so many bombings, so many terrible unpredictable tragedies that happen to people who have no premonition that the end of their life is approaching. When they are thrown out of the physical body, the best work that the spiritually enlightened person can and should do is to get in contact with that person mentally and send out the message to them, “You are no longer in a physical body; you are in an etheric body, a spiritual body. Go forward, don’t cling here but go on to those heavens and realms where new learning and opportunity, new life is waiting for you.” That has to be received through a medium, that kind of reception cannot be received by oracular vision or oracular work. Realize that difference, and go on to understand that perception with the eyes of the intellect is the true oracular work. The eye of the purified awakened oracle looks at the forehead of another human being and sees the condition of the lights manifesting upon that forehead, from the center of the eyes up to the “inner eye,” to the two worlds that are on the left and right side of the hairline to the fontanel.
How does one become aware of these things? First of all, by purification of the breath, and also purification of the word. Because in the beginning was the word, and the word was the creation of God, the first creation of the Divine Beloved. The word has to be pure. When I travel to different centers, it shocks me to hear leaders talking to themselves or explaining the problems of their lives with what I call “gutter language,” which I learned as a child growing up in the slums south of Market Street. This language comes from frustration because one does not have the language to express one’s inner feelings accurately. It comes out in other than beautiful mental pictures. This is inconsistent with attaining to a purified intellect and receiving inner teaching. Purer language comes from purity of the word. Purity of thought comes about when we do not allow ourselves to look at symbols in a negative way.
I recently received a wedding invitation with a beautiful painting of the bud of an iris inside. It looked like it had all the unfolding of its beauty and its light and life ahead of it.
I found myself wondering, will it open up into a great beautiful flower? Or will the open flower have insect bites and broken petals from the wind, or burns on the edges from the power of the sun? Nobody knows. You see, all beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But the eye of the beholder cannot become filled with beauty until the mind of the beholder becomes purified. Tuning the mind, the higher intellect, so that one sees the beauty—that is the balancing taught by Inayat Khan. Love, he placed first; harmony, second; beauty, third. Beauty is paramount, absolute in the development of our oracular vision.
PRACTICES OF CONTEMPLATION:
We seem to practice so little contemplation today. I am in the middle of doing a series on Crystal Healing, beginning with contemplation and concentration. The earliest work of Inayat Khan, teaching children or beginning mureeds, was on contemplation of flowers and fruits. This seems to have been forgotten; I see it too seldom. When Moineddin was leading the Ruhaniat and Sufi Order (we were one order at that time) in San Rafael, he taught a weekly class consisting of contemplation and then a concentration, followed by a short meditation on either an element or an aspect of nature’s beauty. It was wonderful training and I not only enjoyed doing it in his class, but I took it home and I did it all week long until we met again. It was and still is something we should do. We must reinstate contemplation of the kingdom of nature, of elements of the beauty of creation within nature. To contemplate a flower should precede any attempt to meditate. Simply contemplate.
What does contemplation mean? It means to empty one’s mind of any preconceived idea and simply gaze at the flower—its periphery, its form and shape, how it goes into the center. If it is a flower, its sexuality, manifesting in the very form of the pistils and stamens. Seeing its color and its radiation of light, especially in its petals, its essence, its perfume. Before we do any further work on meditating upon it, first we contemplation it. We have forgotten so much about contemplation in the search for beauty and purity and meditating prowess, but this has to precede all advanced practices if the work is to be restored and be valid.
And then there is the work of faith! The Sufis refer to faith as iman, from Islamic terminology. If you have ever worked on that theme when you were doing the work of the Universal Worship, you know how differently the world’s seven great religions and their testaments interpret faith. It is a tremendous study and one that is imperative to all beings, because we have to constantly heal and rejuvenate ourselves, redo our entire being—and it begins with faith. Faith, first of all, that we can do it—that we can endure it, and that after the endurance we can really attain to it, gain mastery over it, get above it. This takes faith. You may say, “Yes, but Hazrat Inayat Khan taught that this is the third step in belief, whereas Kabbalah teaches it is the seventh.” In Volume 9 of the Sufi Message volumes of Hazrat Inayat Khan, starting on page 56, you can get an inkling of the depth of this teaching. It is what the oracle believes makes the insight valid, and this belief has to be built out of a system of contemplation and concentration, always maintained in an atmosphere of purity of mind and of word. This means that you have to live up to the commandment that you do not use the Lord’s name in vain. This is a real easy one for the animus in our beings to use under frustration. We hear it often. That has to be stopped, if the work is to come through in its pure form.
Our belief in our receptivity must be restored. Validity means to prove to yourself in the silence by your inner reasoning, not by a teacher, not by a guide, not by a group of people you studied with or met with, but by individual work within. That is the work of the oracle. It can never be in group work, though we all may meet together and agree on what we believe, it is individual practice and discovery within our heart of the validity of what we perceive with our higher intellect.
Next comes conviction. With conviction you can be strong, feel confident in your insight, and you can be objective in that it doesn’t matter if anyone else listens to that which you see. Your evaluation, which is intellectual, is not where it is coming from. The oracle work comes from a different space entirely; and when that space is reached, there will be a tremendous rejuvenation of the Sufi message of Spiritual Liberty. Because it is the very basis of the teaching of belief and faith in what one receives, and it brings that strength that we hope each and every one of us on the path will eventually individually attain to.
One of the hierophants, the male interpreters, was Selli. The work of the feminine oracles departed from clarity and purity, and politics entered. Differences of opinion about the way things should be or ought to be came into the picture, and destroyed the inner work. Progress was not made; instead of progress, there was the great cycling around the circle, starting again and coming back again to the same point. How many of us have seen that repetition within the Orders we have been in, when there is never a time when the consciousness is pushed up and raised to another octave so that we do another cycle of realization? We say, “Oh Lord, we are making the same mistake again, over and over again. Open my eyes that I may understand the wisdom of what I have suffered through.” For if one does not get wisdom out of the suffering, what is the purpose of that suffering? Crucifixion? No, that is not the answer, not to the one who progresses on the inner path.
The Temple must be built within. The temple is within the heart of the man or the woman.
The temple is built by two methods, beyond what I have said to you so far in the preparation. The building now is built from the light practices, which come from the connection with the Holy Spirit. Jesus taught that “After I come, one greater than I will come: the Comforter, The Holy Spirit.” And that is working; it always has been working. We have to find a way of reaching up to that and bring the quddus down through the fontanel, through the hypothalamus, through the pituitary gland, and letting it strike down into our hearts. Like when we do the zikr of the bow and arrow, which comes from our will placed at that very high point and driven down into the base of the heart. Then it rises with effulgence like a fountain of light, illuminating our intellects, illuminating our insight, making sure that which we know, which we believe in, which we confirm by faith to live in our lives, we progress upon.
We must learn about the Mother Goddesses, as we progress on this path, as we begin this teaching, as we strive to understand in more depth the qualities within ourselves that are the divine qualities of God manifesting within our own beings. In other words, we begin to see the attributes of the divine beloved blossoming within our own hearts, or, one might say, as a bud opening its petals and making us aware of its full-blown beauty, while at the same time the network—the stem reaching down into the kundalini—that network at that point connects the whole humanity, the whole brother/sisterhood as one. The realization that we are indeed more alike than different cannot come unless we start at the top and work down. It does not begin on the earth and work up. It works from higher intellect, that reasoning within one that gives the conviction to put the holy spirit, the power of the quddus to work in our hearts and in our lives. And to make it flow as we do in the quddus/wahabo, when the river of life flows toward us and past us; and as Pir Vilayat teaches it, on the way back is the zephyr, a diaphanous cloud, a mist going back to its source above the river of life, which flows again toward us and past us. We become one with the power of the holy spirit meeting the river of life and flow with it in our lives and in our beings.
Out of this comes a constant faith within ourselves, a constant realization that we are always dying and always being born again. Every day is a rebirth, every morning you wake up is another day that you are reborn to experience again the entire world, the entire beauty of the creation of the Divine Being in you, around you, within you. When you go back to the goddesses and learn their attributes, you recognize some facet of them in your own being. For example, you may study the life of Isis and every one of you will have the same realization. You will discover within that story a being who really lived on this earth at one time, who was a true historical figure before she became a myth. This is a story by which we can pass on the idealization of the soul’s goal in this lifetime.
From the archangels, we need to study Elohim, because in the Kabbalah the letters “YHWH” refer to Jehovah in all the Hebrew teachings. In the teaching of the Kabbalah it is the seventh of the ten sephirot, but in Inayat Khan’s teaching it is the third. In the Bible, if you read 1 Samuel, 28:13, you will read about the woman of Indor who tells the soul what to do. Many times, this is referred to in translations incorrectly as the witch of Indor, which—closer to our time—gives us a picture of the witch hunters back in Salem. There is a beautiful phrase there, which says, “I saw Elohim ascending
out of the earth,” and it was this power that gave life to Adam, according to the teachings of William Blake. There are wonderful engravings he has done in many of the old books, where you see Adam getting this life right from the earth itself, from the mother goddess of the earth. In those cases, the planet connected with that (for those of you interested in astrology) is Venus. And for those of you who want to know the virtue: it is unselfishness. No one becomes an oracle who has not learned to give generously of their means, whatever their ability.
I think it is one of the beautiful things in Sufism that I have never had anything stolen from my house, and I think that one of the reasons is that if someone says, “I like something, I love and admire that,” and I own it and it is not a part of a series that I am teaching from, I give it to the person at once. You must give freely. Learn to give freely of that which you have. If you do so, it will turn and come back to you, though not from the person whom you gave it to. This is a hard lesson to learn, because you think, “I have loved this person, these people, this group, this order. I have given so much of my life, my work, my love, and my dedication”—and it never comes back through them. It comes back from the last source you would think or imagine. It cycles. And that is what is meant by “unselfishness”: learning not to expect back from that which you served or to whom you gave, but knowing that it will cycle back.
The spiritual experience is the vision of beauty triumphant. This is oracular work: it is a part of the glory of the Divine Being, which is manifest in the practices of majid, mawjud, majeed, These practices express and embody the glory and sublime beauty of the Divine Being, and the planes of consciousness that we may experience over many years of meditation. It is that type of beauty, of glory that comes to you through the sephira in Kabbalah. The oracular love of the deities we study opens doors to the further understanding of the glory of the Divine Beloved. People work for years in the Sufi Order, doing Sufi practices, yet never attaining to this understanding; many times they will say to me, “I have had so many initiations and I really put my heart into this. What is it that I am not realizing, why am I not having this experience?” If I take them back to Kabbalah and we go through the sephira, we find out why. They have not understood step 1, step 2, and step 3.
I feel that the oracular work should begin here. This is the basic teaching, which I am giving you only in outline form today from my first inspirations, from my early experiences in the oracular work. I find that with oracles throughout the United States who write to me and tell me what they are doing, what they are discovering, and how it is happening, that we are all receiving similar knowledge at the same time. What greater validation can there be than that although we live all over the planet and—without telephone calls or any knowledge of what the others may be doing or receiving inwardly at that time—we find that we are all on the same beam and we are all receiving at the same time? This is the real validity of the oracular work: the idea that we can tune to essences—the perfume of a flower, the rose for example, and experience the same fragrance at the same moment. I heard stories through the first generation of mureeds of Hazrat Inyat Khan—and I, myself, have had the experience with older Sufis traveling on streetcars in San Francisco, in the early days. They would turn to me and say, “Do you have rose perfume on?” I would say, “No, I thought you had.” We would look around and see that it was not in front of us or in back of us. We would go into silence and say, “Ah, it was Murshid wasn’t it?” It was Murshid’s presence. How beautiful. The fragrance is there, and it comes to you to validate the presence of our Murshid and those divine beings, with their divine attributes. This type of experience goes back further than we have books to historically record it. Since the beginning of time, those who have been in the oracular work have experienced such things.
There are other perfumes too. As a child I used to have bronchial asthma attacks. Sniffing tincture of benzoin under little tents was the remedy. I always thought that these attacks happened because I wasn’t getting enough oxygen—I had wonderful experiences, going out into other planes, but when I studied Kabbalah and learned the seventh sephira, I found out that it was the fragrance of tincture of benzoin. This fragrance is a part of the Divine Essence that comes to the inner senses to validate the states we are in.
The last perfume is red sandalwood. Many of us know this fragrance from its incense. The Kabbalah associates it with the lynx, the wildcat with those long tufts of hair coming out of its ears. Perhaps you have seen one on a nature program—I hope you watch these, but maybe you are not recycling yourself back to your toddler stage, like Murshida is. (I never miss watching “Wild Kingdom.” I always wanted to see an elephant like the one they showed flapping his ears.) The living portraits of those wild animals can really thrill and impress us. I’ve also seen a golden hawk on that show.
Yesterday, I had an experience of the golden hawk as I drove into Salinas on my way here. When I was about eight miles south of my town, Gonzales, I looked up at the telephone wires and saw a golden hawk. Previously I’d pointed out these golden hawks to a Sufi friend who was also delighted with the sight because they are so rare in this valley. We see many red hawks but very seldom a golden hawk. It came down and flew right next to the car window. As it flew by, it turned its head and caught my glance—the hawk looked right into me, which thrilled me immensely. And after, it followed the car for two miles. When I looked up I saw it swoop away and fly back over the valley to the hills. This is the golden hawk of the seventh sephira, which brings His message.
I happen to believe in the healing power of the wings of birds. I love it when I enter a house and the host brings me birds’ tail feathers, or waves them at me, or uses them to swoop incense across me, as we do at SIRS camps. They bring the golden wings of the owl, as they do in the Native American work, and waft incense at us with an owl wing as they walk around the circle. This is part of the awakening of the olfactory nerves to healing and to the enlightenment that comes in understanding the seventh sephira of Kabbalah. I am giving you only the seventh, as I feel it is the foundation for renewal of oracular work from the Judaic tradition. That is called the Netzach, the seventh path.
We will now study concentration and visualization. This is a basic part of our teaching and so necessary for anything we want to accomplish within the Order. We must be able to sit together, male and female, and converse openly. We must go into silence and visualize healing differences of opinion and unifying our path. We must clarify the direction where we need to go. And it is the conviction of those present that if these visualizations are predominantly in agreement, they can and will manifest, because we have not only transmitted it to the higher spheres but have pulled the vision of what it could be from the chain of the masters, from the hierarchy. We allowed it to live within ourselves, and then expanded it to the group. That is the ideal, and that is the dream, and that is what it is going to be.
We come now to bringing polarities together. It must begin with the female form of perfection. You may see it as the Venus de Milo, or you may see it as a centerfold in Playboy Magazine, because the ideal perfection of beauty in the feminine form is in the eye of the beholder. What may be gross to one is beautiful to another. Looking at a highly muscularly developed female on TV is not the perfect feminine form to me; it does not please me. We cannot all appreciate beauty with the same eyes. I cannot ask others to see through my eyes. We each must find our own ideal female form to concentrate on as the perfection of feminine beauty. The Greeks saw it in the Venus de Milo, also known as Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, which is based upon the perfect human form of the beloved divine feminine. This is a necessary starting point for visualization. The color amber that you may receive inwardly in kundalini practices when you raise the deep red from the lowest sexual center to the beautiful amber tone in the anahata belongs with the visualization and concentration on the perfection of feminine beauty.
The most beautiful symbol, I feel, comes from the Christian tradition, and Pir Vilayat often gives it. Murshid Sam also gave it to us many years ago, when we were very young. We would look at this image of the Christ holding a lamp before him, and Murshid Sam would say, “And in that lamp is your heart, the flame of Christ, which he holds before his heart.” This was such a beautiful visualization, and it is so thrilling to hear now, many years later, Pir Vilayat giving the same concentration of the lamp held before the heart of Christ. It does not belong to a master, it does not belong to a time or a place, it belongs to the message of God, to the realization of purification and the perfection of qualities that exist within the heart of every man and every woman. Each of us, whether we are predominantly male or female in form, have that yin and yang within us, have those jelal/jemal energies to balance, which bring true realization of faith as it manifests within our own beings. Every test of life is reaching to mastery over that experience, even though at that time you might only be able to say, “I survived, victory.” The real initiation is the survival, which can often lead to mastery.
Another great symbol used in the time of the knights, which is not so popular today because we are not so much into knighthood, is the girdle—that wide girdle worn by knights above their armor, high at the hip level, over that part connected between lower and upper anahata. The girdle was also worn by the ladies, but much lower on the hips, tied over the pubis and hanging down.
A third symbol is the rose—in its unfolding and in its perfume. You must learn to recognize symbols in nature, as they aid you in recognizing symbols everywhere, in calligraphy, in white magic, as well as in nature. I find it so beautiful when a young child says, “Oh, Murshida, when I came home from school yesterday, there were hugs everywhere and they all had wings on and they were flying.” One parent said to me, “Oh, this is terrible. I think this child needs to see a psychiatrist, as she is seeing these things everywhere she looks.” This is everything we strive for, seeing these symbols in nature. This is where it begins. You must practice seeing these symbols.