header pic header text

Biography, Autobiography, Journal and Anecdotes

Part II - Autobiography

France, 1913

So I proceeded from there to Paris in 1913. In France, although to begin with I had no acquaintances, still I found some friends on arriving in Paris who really took interest in Indian music, among them the venerable Monsieur Edmond Bailly, who was a lover of India and its music. He by the kind help and cooperation of Lady Churchill arranged our first concert in Paris.

I gave a few lectures on music, with demonstrations, and tried to introduce Indian music in connection with "Kismet", an Oriental dramatic production; in the end I found it could not take. However, my visit to France first gave me a desire to sing once more, since leaving my country. I met many musicians, among them Mr. Walter Rummel, through whom I came to know Monsieur Debussy, the great composer of France, who became very much interested in our ragas. The evening when the ragas were played to him, he always remembered and called it "the evening of emotions". I met many musicians and artists who showed sympathy with the art and philosophy of India, among them Isidora Duncan whose art I found genuine.

My mureed Monsieur A.I. Caillet arranged several lectures at different places on music and philosophy, which met with success, and the poet Monsieur Jules Bois became my mureed, and Madame de Reutern Barteneff, a descendant of an old family of Russia, who is a musician, showed great interest in my work.

At that time my book "A Message of Spiritual Liberty", as yet in manuscript form, was translated by Mlle. Jorys, and the French translation published afterwards by Monsieur Bailly. My portrait in colors (afterwards published in "A Sufi Message of Spiritual Liberty" English edition of 1914) was painted there by my mureed Mr. M. H. Thurburn. Still all these years I was learning more than teaching. I was studying the Western mind, the mentality of the Occidental people, their attitude towards life, religion and God.

Materialism on one side, commercialism on the other, besides their agitation against their Church, and their interest in the thought of their modern philosophers turned Europeans, if not from God, at least from the God of Beni Israel. I found that a man today in the West is agitated, not only against the Church, but also against the autocrat God, Who works without a parliament, and no one before His government has a vote, Who judges people and punishes them for their sin, and before Whom men are supposed to be presented in the hereafter with their lives' records of deeds. The man in the Western world, who cannot stand even a king over his head, naturally rebels against a God to be considered as an Emperor of emperors. The modern man does not want anyone to be superior to himself; a priest, savior, or God, none of them he cares for. If there is anything that appeals to him it is to know of the divine character to be found in the innermost nature of man.

The man today is absolutely against a spiritual hierarchy and therefore naturally against the head of the hierarchy, who is God. In France especially, there are many among the most intelligent people who do not believe in God, soul, or hereafter. And the few who think, perhaps there is something which they do not know, they do not openly admit their belief, fearing that they will appear to be illogical and will not be ranked among the intelligent. They are most anxious to know about the Truth which their soul longs to know, and yet most diffident to show themselves in any way interested or to give themselves in the search of that Truth. It is not their fault, it is the mentality of the day. I had the greatest difficulty to modify my teachings, which are of democratic spirit but of aristocratic form, to those quite opposed to the presentation of the God-ideal in religious form. For me, therefore, there was a ditch on one side and water on the other. The religious man thought he had a religion, I was intruding upon his belief. The unbeliever thought I was interfering with his disbelief, which he continually guarded against any invasions.

This spirit I did not only meet in France, but I found it more or less everywhere, sharing the missionary's fate, while teaching no particular religion, furthering no special creed.