header pic header text

Biography, Autobiography, Journal and Anecdotes

Part II - Autobiography

America (again), 1923

I set out on a journey to America again in March 1923, at the invitation of Murshida Rabia Martin, who had continued the re-echo of the Sufi-call which I had once struck upon the gong of the heart of America during my first visit to the United States.

I had to leave Europe confronted by a great many difficulties, as I had the care of little seedlings not yet grown to be plants. In the ship through the rain and storm the Message was felt by people traveling from different countries to the States, having different opinions, who became my friends one after another, up to the moment that we arrived at the point of our destination. By this time almost all had become my friends. No wonder my soul would have sought, after seeing for itself, this phenomenon of the spirit of universal brotherhood.

I was unfortunately detained, as the quota of Indians was completed for that month, and had to visit Ellis Island. And I was glad to have had that experience, to see to what extent materialism has affected nations. It seems so contrary to the attitude of the ancients of welcoming a foreigner as a brother and treating him most kindly in every way, that he may not feel that he is in a strange land.
As nothing disappoints me, this reception affected me but little. They would not have me any longer than a few hours only. I was to stand before a tribunal, they asked me many questions in connection with myself and my work. And I, whose nation was all nations, whose birth place was the world, whose religion was all religions, whose occupation was search after truth, and whose work was the service of God and humanity, my answers interested them, yet did not answer the requirements of the law. In the end my mureed Mrs. Marya Cushing, who was arranging my visit in New York, came to my rescue and answered all their questions to their utmost satisfaction. They seemed in the end much impressed and embarrassed, and immediately exempted me from the law of geographical expulsion.

While coming out of this house of welcome, I saw my old friend Mr. Logan, eagerly awaiting my deliverance. By the time I saw him the whole United States had heard of my arrival through the newspapers, and many sensible people I found were greatly annoyed and embarrassed, detesting this inhospitable and most abominable behavior of their country to foreigners, especially those from Asia. No doubt, they have their reasons, but there is no good thing or bad one, which has no reason to support it.

On arriving in New York I began giving a series of lectures in the city of New York for different Societies interested in philosophical subjects and was glad again to see the smiling face of my friend in music. Dr. Reebner. My old mureeds, Mrs. Eldering, Mrs. Logan and Miss Genie Nawn, came to see me, a meeting which was most delightful to us all. As the time was short in which to visit several places in the States, I soon proceeded to Boston and gave some lectures to the Societies interested in metaphysics. I was pleased to see Dr. A. C. Coomaraswami at the Art Museum of Boston, the only Hindu, I think, who occupies a fitting position in the States. Boston seemed to me a miniature of England in the States, the people reserved, cultured, and refined, and yet difficult to get closer to.

After my short visit to Boston I went to Detroit where the Message met with much response.
Then after paying a short visit to Chicago, I went to the West. California in the month of March was a spring queen, heavily laden with nature's beauty. And an automobile drive that my kind friends Mr. and Mrs. Wolff gave me from Los Angeles to San Francisco was a heavenly treat indeed, as if my soul was enjoying its delicious dinner which nature alone can serve. I could hardly say a word, I was so full of it. There were mountains, and there was sea at the same time, and clear sky with smiling sun above it. Nothing better could one wish. On arriving in San Francisco I had the longed-for meeting with Murshida Rabia Martin, whose joy in receiving me in her home was boundless.
I had welcome calls from Mr. Martin, Mr. George Baum, Mrs. Rebecca C. Miller, Miss D. Hepburn, Mr. Samuel Lewis, a.s.o. Many interesting people I met in San Francisco, as Philip Hackett, Mrs. Havens, Mrs. Long and Dr. Barnes.

I gave a long series of lectures at Paul Elder's Gallery, on philosophy, music and poetry to a most appreciative audience. Murshida Rabia Martin, to whom was the credit of the most successful arrangement, was then made Siraja. Mr. G. Baum was made a Sheikh, Mrs. Miller Khalifa and Cheraga, and Mr. Baum, Miss Hepburn, Mr. and Mrs. Duffy, and Mr. Willebeek le Mair were made Cherags. The Movement there was charged with a new life, hope and courage. I had a great joy in watching this development.

While in San Francisco I went to Santa Rosa to pay a visit to America's great horticulturist, Luther Burbank and was most delighted to see that not only fine arts and spiritual culture, but even the work with the earth can elevate a man to that serenity and simplicity and love which this scientist's soul expressed. This was a proof added to many other proofs I had in my life of seeing glimpses of the divine perfection in the souls who have touched in some form or other perfection in their life's avocation, whatever it may be. In conversation I enjoyed hearing him say that "I treat the plants as human beings, I feel among them as amidst friends." For this notion to me was as a bridge between science and mysticism, at the same time it was a promise that science in its full rise will some day be completed by mysticism. He told me he was busy at the time trying to take away the thorns from the cactus, and asked me what I was doing. I humbly answered: "My work is not very different from yours. Sir, for I am occupied taking away thorns from hearts of men." Thus we came to realize how a real work through matter or spirit in the long run brings about the same result which is the purpose of life.

I then visited Santa Barbara on my way to Los Angeles, accompanied by Murshida Martin and Khalif Connaughton, and was glad to speak before some appreciative audience, and to form a little group in the home of our beloved Khalif Mr. Connaughton.

Mr. and Mrs. Connaughton were made Cherags.

At Los Angeles several lectures were arranged at the Embassador Hotel. Many people responded to the Message, which is due to the most enthusiastic spirit of Noor Jahan, Mrs. Sarah Wolff.

Mr. and Mrs. Wolff and Mr. Edfar Conrow were made Cherags.

I met there with my friends Mr. Mirza Assad Ullah and his son. Dr. Farid.
It was a great pity that the time was so short, and I had to leave them soon in having only created interest in that place.
I then paid a short visit to Chicago, where I saw Mrs. Durand, and gave a series of lectures to a very small circle of people, where my mureed Mevrouw Eggink-van Stolk had kindly assisted me in my work.

I left there the Misses Bennetts as the friends of our Movement in Chicago.

I was urged by my friends to visit Detroit again, and so I did, and found everyone nice and kind and the fire that I had kindled was flickering.
Among those interested in the Message Mr. and Mrs. Lowe, Mrs. Venable, Mrs. Hurst, Mr. and Mrs. Hobart, and some others helped to form a group to begin the work of out Movement in Detroit. Mr. Bagley was of a great assistance to me during my visit to Detroit.

Mr. and Mrs. Hobart were made Cherags.

Once speaking at a club on the problem of the day, I was very much amused to see what attitude the people had in the beginning of my talk, and how it gradually changed, that in the end many of them who were quite against religion or spiritual ideals, were entirely won over.
I had an amusing conversation with an elderly man. He, while paying me compliments for the talk I had given, declared: "I like Jesus Christ, because he was not a Christian."

On coming to New York again, I gave a series of lectures at the ending of the season; but, no doubt, to a very appreciative audience. I paid a flying visit to Philadelphia and gave a few lectures to a most crowded audience, full of appreciation. Alas, my stay there was not long enough to accomplish something worthwhile. Mrs. Sitara Coon had arranged my visit in Philadelphia so successfully. A group of the interested students was founded in New York by our Representative Mrs. Marya Cushing, the Cheraga, and the work of the Order was given in the charge of our Sheikh and Siraj Mr. Shaughnessy. A committee of the above mentioned two workers and Mr. Crowley was formed to look after the Movement. Mr. Whitehouse was made a Cherag.
I had to leave New York too soon to the great disappointment of my mureeds and friends, in order to carry out Urs, the season at Suresnes. I left New York on June the 9th, accompanied by Mr. Fatha Engle, a mureed who followed me to Europe.

I found America progressing more rapidly upon the lines on which it is active than my friends in the East can ever imagine. If there is anywhere that the international ideal finds response it is in the United States, it does not mean that there is no feeling of nationalism there. The germ of this disease is to be found everywhere in the world just now. In the name of nationalism it is sectionalism that is being cultivated in the hearts of humanity, unhappily to their great disadvantage in the light of truth. America, in spite of its nationalism, has, so to speak, a natural tendency towards the international ideal. There was a great spirit of antipathy, especially in the West, towards the Japanese. But when they had an earthquake in japan and many families destroyed, America was the first to help. There was a greater response to their President than could have been anticipated.

For spiritual things their love is growing every day more and more. There are so many things to attract their attention, right and wrong both, that they cannot always make out which to accept and which to reject. Many therefore, go from one thing to another, and get so accustomed to moving on, that they do not feel contented with one thing. That is where is the contrast between the extreme East and the extreme West. The people of India have their Vedantas, the people in China have Buddhism; for ages they never can get tired of their religions. It is the ever-moving life in America which keeps people so restless that one cannot find peace anywhere. And yet so many different spiritual Movements seem to have been born in the United States and carried successfully to the ends of the world.

The great difficulty I found in the United States was to make the Message audible, for I felt as though blowing a whistle in the noise of a thousand drums. Anything good or bad should be brought before the people in a grand manner, and if one cannot do it, then, however valuable the Message, it will not find any response. The newspapers upon which the publicity of such things depend, first ask in which hall the lecturer is going to speak before asking on which subject he is going to speak. As the exponents of truth very often lack the goods of the earth, they have always difficulty to present themselves properly. For instance, Coue went there with his most simple idea, which in the East even a man in the street would not stop to hear, for he would say, it is something which we have known for thousands of years. But because his coming was advertised for six months and the halls which cost many dollars were engaged, his voice reached the whole United States. For me, therefore, there was no reason to feel that he Message brought to them was too simple for them to respond to, but on the contrary, it was too deep, in spite of all its simplicity, and without a proper advertisement, which is necessary for that land.

The newspaper plays the most important part in the lives of the people there. A man would rather go without bread than a paper. The world there moves directed by the people before or behind, as it may be. The tendency of the press today seems pessimistic against what may be called good or spiritual.

The attitude that the Press in the United States takes is queer. Everything spiritual is treated by the Press lightly in order to please the multitude. Therefore the only source by which to reach the public, seems to be almost a closed door for an earnest exponent of truth. Many reporters from the press came to me and had a conversation. My answers which they got to their questions, if they had been put in the papers would have had so much influence upon the mind of the people. The difficulty was that if a reporter happened to be an understanding and appreciative young man, still he had to show his report to someone else at the office before it was accepted. And if he did not spoil the report, then his chief thought it was too serious, for his readers something different must be put in. It is a kind of profession that the press has taken to distort every good thing and to make light of something which is serious. These tactics of the American press are followed more or less by the press in Europe also. After long conversations that the reporters of the press had with me, who seemed so interested and deeply moved by them, when the report in the papers was published, it was as if the flesh of a living person had been carved off and the skeleton were presented before all. In doing so they do not feel that they are doing any harm to the spiritual truth, nor do they mean to do so. They only think that they are doing good to both: bringing the speaker to the knowledge of the people anyway, and amusing the mob at the same time, which is ignorant of the deeper truth. Their main object is to please the man in the street. The modern progress has an opposite goal to what the ancient people had. In the ancient times the trend of the people's thought was to reach the ideal man. Today the trend of the people's thought is to touch the ordinary man.

I must admit that in spite of all my difficulties I was not disappointed, for I never allow myself to be disappointed, fully convinced in my heart that Truth alone is victorious in the end. The devotion that my mureeds have shown me, the appreciation shown to me by my friends and the response from the thinking souls that I had during my stay in the United States, all encouraged me greatly and made me feel happy.