|Apr 29, 2020||15|
Welcome to the remembrance issue!
Today is the 40th anniversary of Shamcher’s passing, a time to take some of his ideas and approach into our own life paths. Let’s share our gratitude for all that Shamcher did in his lifetime, and his mystic contact through the Sufis that brought him deeply into the world of economics, energy, employment and more. He brought together the Sufis from different streams, initiated and encouraged the Sufi effort in Canada, and his influence continues to be strongly felt today.
In memory, Shamcher Bryn Beorse, April 26, 1896 - April 29, 1980
My Dad as a Father
by Bryn Beorse Jr.
The first 20 of my working years were spent as a journalist -- and Bryn Sr., or Shamcher as Sufi friends say, seemed to enjoy writing with a certain ambiguity at times. I'd say some of you might have this impression from reading this series.
My dad was happy with my journalism work, where toward the latter part I would even manage the editorial page of a smaller daily newspaper while the editor in chief was away. He saw it as a way to be heard in the world, where he felt he had not had the impact he had hoped for. His books were generally self published. Nonetheless, in journalism the onus is on the writer to get the message to the readers as unambiguously and clearly as possible.
My take on the purpose of the ambiguity in my dad's writings was to encourage the reader to put real effort into crafting one's own path to worthwhile objectives. With my dad's hints. Somewhat, you get what you give. At the least, challenging one's own brain, rather than leaning on any apparent easy answer that offers. I think my dad's key concern for me was I should work as hard as need be to be "the master of my own mind."
The power of will was part of that. For example if the sign says "no", in some cases you can ask, discuss the situation, and find another solution. Or just get a pass to go forward. My dad believed - in his time - in getting around the usual barriers by writing letters directly to the government official concerned, the CEO or author, or university leader in charge.
Sure, often this didn't work, but surprisingly often, with a good letter, it did. A good letter revealed some diligent effort. For an example he said he landed the best job of his life at the University of California sea water lab simply by this letter writing outside the usual channels. There is plenty of documentation of the value of 'social risk taking.' But it's hard to go there for many of us. Some study said the quiet ones more often have the answers and the loud ones less so. The point is to be assertive and also have something to say.
I suppose I would say that 'speak up' and 'go for it' would be a couple of his strong suggestions. Of course as a teen I was at times embarrassed by this when he would ask if my car would not need any more work ever after an expensive repair. But the mechanic smiled and spoke to the topic pleasantly.
My dad lived his principles of finding his own answers to problems. My mother Evelyn had a chronic mental illness - paranoid schizophrenia - diagnosed as originating with post partum depression after my sister Daphne was born. He observed that the psychiatric approaches of the time were not particularly effective for this and he tried to avoid hospitalization, something she hated. It was the time of shock treatments, for example. At times California and Washington states required hospitalizations and required we children not be exposed at home so we had to stay elsewhere than home. He brought Evelyn to India to try non-traditional approaches at one point.
These efforts showed dedication to doing the right thing, and to experimentation both in a scientific way and in Eastern mystical forms also - keeping an open mind.
Bumper sticker on his last car - an old Buick that burned to the ground before he stopped driving. "Scientists who care."
He volunteered at the Richmond, CA University of California Berkeley sea-water lab after he retired. I picked up his things there after he passed, and a scientist with an Arnold Schwarzenegger accent explained to me that Bryn Sr. was not the greatest engineer or scientist, not the greatest writer, nor any of a number of things, but was in combination of all things, truly exceptional.
I knew that my dad had gone to pilgrimage sites in the Himalayas, first Badrinath, then higher in the mountains. In pursuing Sufism he had recognized a key philosophical problem with the reported 30 some religions claiming all others are false. That we are expected to believe that the worship culture of a small portion of humanity, where you'd have to live in the right place, and guess the right group to join, offers critical advantages for which you must pay certain people to tell you these things. They interpret for you, of course, since proof is no more than a matter of opinion.
This past summer Brenda and I went on a trek in the Himalayas, and included a visit to the pilgrimage town of Muktinath, Nepal to capture a sense of what my dad was looking for. Its revered by Hindus and Buddhists.
The trekking company we chose was owned by a devout Nepali Hindu who is friends with Brenda's cousin Karen, and the trek was the "Upper Mustang trek and cultural tour." We also talked to the schoolmaster of the Buddhist monasteries in Lo Manthang, the ancient walled city capital of this region of Tibetan culture in Nepal. My dad was fascinated by Tibet also. In Lo Manthang Tibetan Buddhism is practiced without Chinese control.
My observation was that religion is tremendously important to people in Nepal, as it is many other places. Ritual and blessings are avidly sought. Buddhists and Hindus from India and Nepal flock to Muktinath and its holy waters and temples -- some walking on bare feet from far away, most using the paved road for the bus ride from the Jomsom airport, a few arriving at the helicopter pad.
This brought up one of the other great lessons: Empathy. A feel for why people seek. I learned a lot of empathy from my dad. As a journalist I could comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Later as an information technology careerist I could make tech work for people. I told them it was the tech, not them that was falling short. In my 20s I found volunteer firefighting and emergency medical technician work in a fire department ambulance intensely satisfying. As a mountaineer I liked to bring others along to see the wonders and experience the journey to windy summit views.
My dad always said never be an engineer, as he was. Then when I pursued other paths it turned out he didn't mean it. Ambiguity does have its price. But I did eventually do engineering sorts of work on very large computer systems, making sure your information would come up in minimal time among millions of records and that the data was safe.
He did intend that I pursue my own path, and invest in it. A certain ambiguity helped fuel that. We can't ask others to do it for us.
The family returns from several months in Switzerland, (around 1957), embarking from Cherbourg France to New York on the liner Queen Elizabeth. Shamcher left, Bryn Jr. in front, Evelyn right and Daphne behind.
A Teaching Letter
Shamcher carried on a vast correspondence, and often kept copies - first carbon copies, then photocopies which he spread out freely to others. Not all his letters were copied. This one is a photo of one sent in by Judith Popiel for us to share.
“This Will Succeed”
from Vakil Forest Shomer
During the first half of the 1970s, there was a five-year period during which Shamcher was living, with his wife and children, across the water from Seattle where I lived communally overlooking Lake Union. He was occasionally invited to our household events, or would even drop in.
During one of those visits, early in 1975, alone in conversation together he encouraged me to talk about the project I had just undertaken: the creation of a nonprofit organization for the preservation and circulation of the heritage seeds of our regional horticulture (Abundant Life Seed Foundation). I had just received Federal tax-exempt status for the project.
(Shamcher) “Will there be members?”
“What is the cost of a membership?”
With that, Shamcher produced a $10 bill from his pocket and said, “This will succeed,” thereby becoming the first person to join the infant Foundation.
That organization continues to exist today, 45 years later, though it underwent revision in 2003, with a different name and slightly altered purpose.
And my occupation continues to be “seedman” via the home-based native-seed business I have operated for nearly 30 years.
About the future, Shamcher said “God is still making up His mind.” From this life lesson I understand that the stronger our intention, the more certain God’s mind will be made up in favor of a positive future.
“In Unison with the Will of God We Will to Have Peace."
- Hazrat Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan, as given to Samuel L. Lewis (Hazrat Murshid SAM)
by Nirtan Carol Ann Sokoloff
I realize with a shock that this April marks forty years since Shamcher left this planet as a physical presence. I remember when I first had the privilege of sharing a conversation with him, June 1977 at a Sufi gathering outside Toronto, Ontario. I went back to my tent that night and felt the very strong presence of Inayat Khan (which I had not experienced before) and also received from my intuition the message, "Three years." Indeed the spiritual friendship with this magical being with the bright blue eyes did last (in human form) for almost exactly that amount of time. In those three years I developed as a person and as someone on the sufi path.
From Shamcher I gained, without real words, the understanding of the work and teachings of his own teacher, Inayat Khan. As someone who was about to step into what, at the time, I considered "a more authentic sufism" (meaning an Islamic approach) I understood from Shamcher that the universal sufism of Inayat Khan was a new message for this time, which he had been instructed to share by his own teacher, Murshid Madani. I returned to that fold. Shortly after meeting Shamcher I travelled to California where my father was in poor health and eventually died. Shamcher welcomed me often in the small Berkeley, CA apartment he shared with his wife Evelyn, as he worked at the university to build an Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) model. He also arranged for me to stay with local sufis in San Francisco. Through Shamcher I learned about environmentalism, solar energy and government corruption. He was a fine example of that sufi ideal, "in the world, not of it." I was one of a team involved in the founding of the non-profit 'Alternative Directions in Energy and Economics.' (ADEE) at his suggestion. Because he had pioneered a large solar energy technology, OTEC, capable of providing plentiful, clean and low-cost energy, Shamcher was aware that that there were many alternatives available to the wasteful and expensive fossil-fuel derived energy and economic approaches. He worked tirelessly to inform everyone that governments were ignoring such options.
Today I shake my head. It is forty years later. Our civilization is on the verge of extinction all because these alternatives have never had a chance to show their worth. How is it possible that so many decades have elapsed since pioneers such as himself tried to awaken humanity to the need for a different way? I wish the non-profit ADEE had kept going, that we had done more to continue his work. Somehow we all got lulled back to sleep and now we have been rudely awakened by impending disaster. There is a sufi prayer that speaks of the prophetic figure as "Warner of coming danger, wakener of the world from sleep." Shamcher surely tried. The fact that so many stayed sleeping has been a tragedy... or almost.
I remember Shamcher saying "There isn't an Energy Crisis. There is an Ignorance Crisis." Despite seeing clearly "the darkness of human ignorance," I never remember Shamcher giving in to despair. He spoke often of how those who make predictions, "Rob God of his options." Perhaps forty years later we are ready to understand what he understood, ready to wake up to the part we must play in creating a world in which our children and grandchildren and those not yet born may live in a safe, clean, healthy environment with a political and economic system which is supportive and illuminated. Thank you Shamcher. We love you and miss you and remember you always.
Beyond the Mind: Intuition and God’s will
A few excerpts from correspondence showing Shamcher’s approach to life
How do you know you are doing God’s will? It is not a command from outside. Waiting for that seems useless to me. As a child I had a very clear concept of GOD as a playmate full of fun and vigor but as I grew older and saw how many strange concepts hid under this name I stopped using it.
Early in my career I went to France, studied the Ocean Thermal Energy Systems they were working on. In the US the navy sent a psychiatrist to “talk to me” when I proposed its implication. I escaped the guys in the white coats, got the University of California to work with me for six years proving the stuff. We did, then jealousy and arrogance shoved us out of recognition until in 1970 (I had started in 1948) the oil price rise caused the National Science Foundation to ask reports (after research) from all kinds of firms and universities and now it is claimed to be the only right energy system for the future — still fought mercilessly by Oil and Nuclear interests and capital.
Did I know in 1948 I was doing God’s will? Yes and no. But now I say “Planet earth sent me to France to investigate. Planet earth is a bit sick and tired of misused and oversued [sic] oil and nucleonics.” The same with economics. I worked on without knowing clearly why since 1933. Now I am supporting the few (6-7) US economists who know what we ought to do and the best of them tell me, “Bryn, you are one in a million — no one in a billion.” Incidentally he is also a saint, zen, sufi and yogi.
God’s work? As you take it. I did not know. Now perhaps I know. It comes from God in yourself. It comes when you don’t demand it, don’t demand to know, when you look at yourself relaxed. Or perhaps not at all. Said a pupil to Inayat, “But what if we don’t know whether we progress spiritually?” “If you know” said Inayat, “You don’t.”
Your recent undated letter was such a shock to me I am hardly able to write yet, but I try. Don't you know that I have nothing to do about my own life, where I go, when, what I do, where? Secret agents of the British, the USA, the Russians, the Chinese, the Nazis understand. They have no rights over their own lives, where they go, what they do. If they disobey, they are quickly eliminated.
Who commands me? Not the British, not the USA, not the Chinese, not the Nazis, not the Arabs. Who then? The Voice. It is not me at all. I don't know who it is; from whence it comes. I just have to obey it. I had to go to NY and Washington DC. I had to see certain people and places - not of my choice. Good old friends who certainly expected to see me didn't. Not even a vice President of Mobil Oil.
Now you say you can't see where I could possibly have an excuse for not coming? I need no excuse for anything. I am coming when the VOICE says so, not when I or you say it. That has no influence whatever - except intense pain. When you so choose.
Also I cannot accept any transportation or other cost from you or anybody else - except when the Voice tells me so. Also, I can never accept that any body of people wants to hear or see me. That is pure nonsense to me. So how could I ever accept any money for my travels from them? Seattle was another matter. They wanted my FAME, thinking I had it. So they offered transportation cost. They never paid it but they offered it. For a "famous man" attracting audiences. So the voice commanded "Accept, and hassle them if they don't pay, but never get involved (emotionally) in that hassle yourself.” So it did and did.
Shahabuddin Less and Shamcher Beorse, late 1970’s
by Sabira Scott
Sabira had been very close to Shamcher in the later years, when he lived in Berkeley. She was his assistant, secretary and close friend who took him to the beach every week for a run along the sand. After he passed away she collected some of her memories, and here are just a few:
“He is a most exquisite voice, a voice that all the world encompasses, voice of Brahma, voice of oceans…” (Buddhist scripture)
DREAM OF SHAMCHER’S DEATH
We were at a meeting. I heard someone say that Shamcher had died. I rushed frantically aver to where he was, and found him lying on a couch covered with a huge glass box. I pressed my head to the glass. He opened his bright, blue eyes — looked at me and smiled. He seemed to be saying, “There is no death, see, I am still here with you. Do I not smile and wink at you?”
WILLING OF THE BODY
When Shamcher made out the papers willing his body to science he wrote in the space that said, ‘”How is your health?” “IMMACULATE,” In the space that said, “Race,” he wrote “WHAT IS THAT?”
“When I die, Sabira, I will not reincarnate. I will have become dissolved in the Universe.”
Shamcher as a Cherag, Universal Worship at the Canada Camp in Ontario, late ‘70s
Gathering the material for this week, I felt the pressure and burden of what to select and include in this significant issue. Then this clip from Shamcher’s archives came to hand, dissolving all concerns:
Yes, we are in and out of each other all the time and I am so thrilled that you realize it. No, you are not mixed up or anything like that only, you are beginning to see the fallacy of words and word concepts. Whatever we say, in so many or so few words, it is untrue, unsafe, un-beautiful. So many are formulating beautiful poetry - so good, so nice, but not really true, nor really anything. When you feel and know truth you fidget for you cannot express it - except by parables, hints, eyes, that suggest and to the right ones: distinctly.
For the Urs, this morning Saadi Douglas-Klotz sent over an article by Shamcher that he found in Murshid SAM's archives. I’m including a snippet of it here:
Special thank you to this week’s contributors.
Photos: Queen Elizabeth family photo sent in from family photos of Bryn Beorse Jr.
Shahabuddin with Shamcher, and Shamcher as a Cherag sent in by Judith Popiel, photo credit Sa’adi Rothenberg
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The Shamcher Bulletin is edited by Carol Sill, whose newsletter, Personal Papers, is HERE.