Words, Language and Silence

Welcome to the July 2, 2020 issue of The Shamcher Bulletin, weekly excerpts from the archives of Shamcher Bryn Beorse. If this was forwarded to you and you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do it here:

This issue features a few snippets from Shamcher’s talk at Canada Camp in Ontario, in 1979, and ends with his account of a visionary meeting of scientists and a great sage, from his book Fairy Tales are True.

All I Can Do

From a Talk to Sufis

I am going to talk, always mentioning some memory of Inayat Khan. You may have heard about this person, and I knew him and can't quite forget my experiences. And from that I'll go on to the dirtiest part of Sufism, namely politics, energy, communication with people - all these things. And we'll find out together whether these have anything to do with Inayat Khan or not. Most people in Sufism grow and become big - I have been going down and down all the time. And I feel that I should repay you for sitting here and listening to me now and later I feel that you should go to the treasury and try to get back some of your money for the thing that I am giving you.  

When you have this thing, going down and being nothing, then you look out and you see flaming lights. I am so impressed with people and I look at them and see some  tremendous opportunity. And I can't tell them because it mightn't be realized then they get frightened or proud or something. And besides, I don't know what I see. I don't know it exists, so it is very embarrassing. I just mention this now so if you look at me and think I have something, it is not I, it is you. That is all, that's all I can do. And just forgive me for all my mistakes and stupidity and so on. I'll just talk about these things. 

You know everybody who talks builds up his own images. They are only images - there is something real but you can't express that in words. And we have to give words here, you expect it. So forgive all my shortcomings. Know this: that I know nothing, that all of you are probably further advanced and better people than I am. Nevertheless, I have been asked to talk, so I am going to do it. 

(Canada Camp, 1979)

Different Languages

Now you have seen so many different teachings, different viewpoints presented here, among the Sufis, isn't it confusing? One teaches one thing, one teaches another thing. All the teachings that can be expressed in words are just that. They are sometimes soothing, sometimes encouraging, sometimes depressing, but they are always words. Some of you people know two languages, and some know even more. If you know two languages you know that no word in one language ever exactly expresses another word in another language, even though you may say dark or sombre are the same words, they are not. The subtle difference. And what do you feel when you know many languages? You know one thing that a one language man hardly ever knows: that language is an approach, it tries to express something but it never expresses it perfectly. That is one reason why the Sufi says, "A Sufi has two points of view, his own and that of the other." Does that mean that he is confused? No. It means that the two points of view are really the same, if you go after it. They are two approaches into the secrets of the universe.  

(Canada Camp, 1979)


In Fairy Tales are True, three eminent scientists, Dr. Jacques, Fitzgerald, and Sir James, are taken to the Kumbha Mela by their guide, the narrator of the tale who is very like Shamcher. In this excerpt, they are blessed to receive a meeting with a great sage.

With childlike faith, I reasoned that if the great one I sought wished to see us, he would somehow arrange it. My task was simply to be there, available, waiting until he beckoned, if he did beckon. 

Suddenly, I heard Fitzgerald's booming voice saying, "Well. Would you look at that?" 

His loudness cut through the general atmosphere of devotion and awe. Sir James drew himself up and raised his eyebrows. Dr. Jacques looked baffled. 

We turned toward the object of Fitzgerald's attention. It was a huge bird of the parrot family which perched on a branch of a huge eucalyptus tree. Its pink and white feathers were so bright that they seemed luminous. But the strangest thing about this bird was that it sat completely still as if in utter ecstacy, with its eyes wide open and fixed upon a human face below. 

It was a face which was so radiant that it was difficult to look at its features. It was framed by silky hair which seemed to float down over his wide shoulders. The eyes were of clear, blue fire and seemed to be punching holes in the fabric of creation. This was he for whom I had searched. 

Welcome. Was that word actually spoken? Or was it just a fleeting, sensed impression? 

I looked at the still figure before us and then at my three silent companions who looked back at me in puzzlement. 

There were four empty reed chairs set in the shadows cast by the tree, facing the sage. The four of us sat down. 

"That bird," said Fitzgerald, in an unusually quiet voice. "He seems to be listening for something we can't hear." 

[A free-ranging insightful visionary discussion between the scientists follows…]

I looked at the silent member of our group who sat cross-legged before us. Was he inspiring this conversation? Was he performing as an orchestra leader, directing with rays of thoughts for a baton? If so, the highly intuitive Dr. Jacques was his first violin, Sir James the deep and solid cello bass. Edward Fitzgerald, the whole tympanic section. And what was I? Absolutely nothing, I realized. Only the one who brought them all together – the public relations man. That was all. 

Suddenly the scene expanded before my inner vision. I saw the eminent Yogi continuing the concert and his conducting from his retreat in the Himalayas, for a lifetime or more, now that he had made contact. Or did the concert actually extend backward in time, also? Had he already been guiding the thoughts of these and other persons from his distant abode? Had he just arranged this meeting as a pleasant break in routine or to cement the relationship? 

The great one was obviously not going to give me answers to these questions - why should he? Who was I to warrant even a glance? At the moment my mind formulated the question, his eyes, full and blue and penetrating, fell on me. I realized with an unspoken apology that I already had the answer. 

[The scientists’ discussion expanded...]

“….What, for example, might be beyond thought? Wouldn't those tiny wave bundles be divisible into still smaller bundles? Where would this division end, if ever? Would we finally be able to mathematically define soul – and God?" 

We sat there without talking, each with his own thoughts. Then, a shuffling of feet. We rose to leave. Fitzgerald glanced back, not at the bird this time, but at the sage. 

When an earlier edition of Fairy Tales are True was published in New York, by Hu Press in 1978, it featured this otherworldly original cover art by Qayyum Michael Brain.

The Shamcher Bulletin brings you snippets from Shamcher’s writings that might help frame and context our experience of the world we live in today. In every issue, the text is as originally written, with only a few editorial tweaks if necessary.

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The Shamcher Bulletin is edited by Carol Sill, whose newsletter, Personal Papers, is HERE.

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