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Biography, Autobiography, Journal and Anecdotes

Part II - Autobiography

England (again), 1914 - 1920

Owing to the war, the mind of every person in England was taken up by the thought of war, and the voice of peace at that moment was a dissonant chord to the ears of many. In answer to my call for peace I often heard people say: "Kill or be killed." Neither could I do much in the way of presenting music, nor could much be done in philosophy. I spoke a few times at the "Higher Thought center", which was kept alive by Miss Callow and her friend Miss Hope, who became my mureed. By the kind sympathy of Lady de la Warr a series of lectures was arranged at the rooms of the Royal Asiatic Society, where Lady Muir Mackenzie presided. But the war had paralyzed people's minds.

It seemed as if there was nothing to be heard except war, war, war, the cry of war coming from every side. I cannot forget the time when I spoke for about six months continually to no more than three persons as my audience. Yes, with patience and with hope I carried on my work. Several times I entertained the wounded Indian soldiers by playing and singing to them. My first English mureed, Miss Mary Williams (Zohra), came to London to assist me in my work and proved her devotion by serving the Cause, at the time when the Order was a quite helpless infant.

In order to publish literature as we liked, we started a Sufi Publishing Society in England, which was given into the charge of Miss Williams, who brought out a book of some ideas from my lectures, called, " Pearls from the Ocean Unseen". Besides the work she did as sub-editor of the Sufi Magazine, she has been a sincere and devoted mureed and a most enthusiastic worker for the Cause. By this Publishing Society my poetical works were brought out, "Diwan", "Hindustani Lyrics", and the "Songs of India", which were rendered into English by Mrs. Jessie Duncan Westbrook. My "Confessions" were published, written by Miss Miriam Bloch, a treatise on the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam by Mr. Bjerregaard was also published by this society.

I found at that time of difficult beginning a mureed, Miss Goodenough (Sharifa), who stood as a foundation stone for the building of the Order. In Miss Goodenough, who was afterwards made a Khalifa, and then was promoted to be a Murshida, I found that spirit of discipleship which is so little known to the world and even rarely found in the East. Besides, I traced in her my own point of view.

Miss Goodenough has proved by her career firmness and self-sacrifice for the Cause, to which she has devoted her life. There is certainly truth in the idea of heredity, which today people seem to ignore. Although in estimating a horse they still give great importance to heredity, yet they do not for man. Though retiring, exclusive and remote by nature, and independent and indifferent in appearance, which has turned many against her and caused many troubles, she has many pearl-like qualities hidden under a hard shell. She has proved worthy of confidence in the working of the Order and has been patient through all difficulties that we had to meet with continuously on our way.

 She brought out my ideas in the series of books named: "The Voice of Inayat", three volumes of which are named: "Life after Death", "The Phenomenon of the Soul", and "Love Human and Divine". But besides this she has collected, preserved and produced the record of my oral teachings and guarded them from all corruptions. She has kept them for the coming generations in the most authentic form, which act of service the sincere followers of the Message will retain gratefully in their memory.

Miss Janette Steer, the well-known English actress also took interest. I made the acquaintance of Dr. Wallace, Miss Mabel Thomson interested herself in the Movement for some time. Miss Benfon became a mureed, and took interest in Indian music.

Thus began the work of the Movement, which gradually grew, some hot, some cold, some warm and some lukewarm. I found the heart of some flaming, some glowing, some flowing, and some frozen; many came and went their way.

Among those who came later was Miss Shirley, who showed great enthusiasm in the beginning and did much for the Cause for some time before she retired. Miss Margaret Skinner has been helpful in many ways. Miss Khatidja Young, a most devout and faithful mureed, came afterwards and assisted me enthusiastically in the extra activities of my work. Mrs. Hanifa Sheaf has been a devoted mureed, who proved faithful under all circumstances.

A center was established in Southampton by the help of Miss Williams. I started the activity of the Movement in the North of England later, where I first spoke at the Theosophical Society, organized by Mr. Clifford Best, whose brother Shabaz Cecil Best became a mureed and showed a great enthusiasm in the work and was ordained a Cherag in 1921, who now [Dictated summer 1922] represents the Message in Brazil.

In Leeds Miss Aileen Fletcher took great interest in keeping together the group which was founded in the house of Mrs. Brotherton. Mr. Dickson, in Leeds, has assisted the Movement continuously.

Among a great many mureeds in the North Dr. O. C. Gruner, a scientific genius whose speciality is blood-research, took up the study of Sufism with great interest and showed himself worthy of Khalifship, which was given to him in 1922 in recognition of his great study, patient working and insight into human nature, with his religious outlook on life, which is the most important thing in the path of Sufism.

My books: "In an Eastern Rose Garden" and" The Way of Illumination" have come out through the most enthusiastic efforts of Dr. O. C. Gruner.

In the North of England I extended my activity round Leeds by starting a group at Harrogate, where my mureed, Mr. King, lived, and in Sheffield, where it was organized by an old Theosophist, Mrs. Chappel, under the care of Mr. Mitchell. In Sheffield I made the acquaintance of the well-known English writer Edward Carpenter, who was greatly in sympathy with my ideas.

It is well-known that it is difficult to make one's way to the Court in England. Several times efforts were made by my friends to carry the Message to the Court, but it was always found difficult, even if it had been through music. However, once Queen Alexandra was present at my performance of Indian music, but apart from that there was no way open to bring the Message to the English royalties. I have discovered for myself that the King of England was not interested in India for its art, poetry, philosophy, or music. The Duke of Manchester heard most attentively of my ideas, but took no step further. I always remember the advice of Lord Lamington, that in order really to succeed in England one must do the work quietly. And the more I worked the more I realized the truth of his good advice. Lady Lamington had inaugurated the anniversary celebration of the Order in 1920. Lady Harding was most interested in the idea of brotherhood that the Sufi Message had to spread. She had greatly thought of the Indian armies who helped in the war, and she wondered what I thought of the attitude of the Indian nationalists. I said: "Neither can the nationalist grasp the attitude of the internationalist, nor can an internationalist understand the attitude of a nationalist. The ideal of one is like an ocean, that of the other is like a lake."

Lady Cunard gave a reception, to introduce me to present Indian music to the society of England at Lord French's house. Sir Thomas Beecham was present there, but the only opportunity to present the music of India at the Opera was given me in "Lakme", at the French-Russian Opera season by the appreciation and enthusiasm of my friend, the well-known Russian singer, Mr. Rosing. We became friends with Madame Emma Nevada and her daughter, Mignon Nevada, a singer with a great future. My cousin, Ali Khan was taken up by Mme. Nevada, who trained him for grand opera, for she saw in his voice a rare quality of tenor.

So far the Order had consisted of one mureed here or there, there was no proper organization, nor was there any society formed. But at this time the interest of some mureeds enabled us to take a house where private lectures could be given to mureeds and their friends. A Khankah was established in Ladbroke Road No. 86, in Kensington; throughout the war we were there.
Perhaps many think that between 1910 and 1915 there was ample time for the Sufi Order to grow and flourish. But it is not so; during the war it was just like wanting to cultivate a desert. And even after the war it became difficult, for conditions turned from bad to worse. The little warmth that the war had produced in the feeling of humanity, even that vanished, and hearts became cold by the later effect of war. Therefore, the Sufi Order had a difficult time from the beginning of its work until now. However, the seed was not yet sown, all that time was given to the tilling of the ground.

It was Madame Gabrielle Strauss, who went to France after the war, who created interest for the Cause in Paris, and for the first time we were able to form a group in Paris in 1920. Among my mureeds there were Madame Slatov Portier, Colonel Guillon and Professor Trossard.
Among the royalties of India whom I met in England, was the Maharaja of Kishan Gar, Prince of Rampur, and Princess Taraway of Indore. But my great happiness was that of seeing the Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad of Baroda, whom I saw again after a long separation of twenty years. Seeing our Maharaja brought to my memory my youth in Baroda, and that garden of genius, the gardener therein is the Maharaja himself. The Maharaja was very much interested in hearing about all my traveling and experiences after leaving Baroda. And on his kind suggestion I have taken up this work of writing the autobiography, containing my life-work and experiences in the West.

At that time many were interested in the work of the Order: the Rev. Dr. Walter Walsh, the leader of the Free Religious Movement; Professor H. M. Leon of the Societe Internationale de Philologie, Sciences et Beaux Arts; the Rev. Dr. John Pool, Principal of the International College of Chromatics; Mr. Edmund Dulac, the artist; Mr. Pickthall, the well-known writer; Mr. Skrine, I.C.S.; Sir Mirza Abbas Ali Beg; Sir Probha Shankar Patni of Bhavnager; Sir Gupta and Mr. Sen; Shahzade Aftab Ahmad Khan; and Mr. Laszlo, the painter and Sir Robert Bridges, the poet laureate; Lady Berkly; Lady Towbridge and Lady Constance Stewart Richardson were visitors at the Khankah. Sir Frederick Smith from South Africa was in London then, he became very much interested in the subject and became a mureed, also Mrs. Fitz Simon. We had some more mureeds from South Africa, among them Mr. and Mrs. Gubbins and Mr. and Mrs. Bodmer. Afterwards I met Dr. A. B. Scott, who showed a great interest in the Sufi teachings. His earnest study and deep understanding of the Message made him worthy of Khalifship, which was given to him in 1923. He was also ordained a Cherag, and helped to spread the Movement in his country.

There came a time that it was necessary to make a Trust, and the Order was legalized and made official. By the rising wave of enthusiasm of a mureed, we then were situated in Gordon Square in a much more suitable house, more convenient in every way; but at the falling of the wave it was ended.

Differences among my loving friends threatened our Movement with a break-down, and caused the removal of Khankah to Geneva. At that critical moment Miss Dowland (Nargis) came to its rescue, and our infant Order was given into her arms when leaving England, recognizing in her the hand of God. Miss Dowland is now [Dictated summer 1922] the National Representative of the Order in England. Her capacity in working had made the Order increase in members, in organization much better than ever before.

The Sufi Publishing Society, which was dying away, was made alive by Miss Dowland, who called it "the Sufi Book Depot", and brought out "The Bowl of Saki", "The Message", "The Inner Life", "The Alchemy of Happiness", "The Mysticism of Sound" and "Notes of the. Unstruck Music" and "The Soul Whence and Whither". Besides she wrote "Between the Desert and the Sown" and "At the Gate of Discipleship". The self sacrificing devotion with which Miss Dowland has worked in England will always remain in the history of the work of the Order in England. Those who have assisted Sheikha Dowland in her work concerning the Order are the Misses Wiseman, Miss Wentworth Sheilds (Cheraga ), and Mr. Mitchell (Cherag).

Miss Green (Sophia), who was a Theosophist for most of her life, a special pupil of Mrs. Besant, and who through Theosophy came to recognize the Truth sent in the Sufi Message, was made a Khalifa in England, and then was promoted to be a Murshida, who during my absence watered the plant which I had sown in the soil of England, proving thereby worthy of the work entrusted to her. The inspiration and efficiency she has shown in presenting the Message to her people, her sagely character, with her receptivity to the Message, has been of great importance to the Cause. Her assistance in bringing out my works has been of immense value.

She has been the first to help me in founding the Church of All, the religious activity, which was introduced in England by her. She was ordained the first Cheraga, and carried out the work most satisfactorily. She edited the Magazine "Sufism", which has succeeded the periodical called "The Sufi", which had come out before. Her booklet, lately published, is called "The Path to God". She wrote a pamphlet called "Human Personality".

Before my departure my English mureeds gave me an address. I left England in 1920, and settled in France.