Welcome once again to the circle of friends around the fire, here at the Caravanserai. This issue, our conversation is more sober; the end of September and the beginning of October saw several well-known Sufis pass away, two on the same day. Of these, only one, Munira van Voorst van Beest, was known personally to me, but I am certain I will miss her.
For years, Munira was the Biographical Department, presiding over vaults and filing cabinets full of memories in the little house across the road from Fazal Manzil in Suresnes. Murshid gave his message before the tape recorder, and so the archives are filled with many versions of his words, some taken down in short hand, some written out in long hand after the lecture, still others typed from notes since destroyed. Not surprisingly, they vary considerably, and that variation was a sign of human weakness Munira would not accept. Murshid said what he said; any other version had no right to exist.
I last saw Munira, a tall woman with a glittering eye and relentless concentration, last August, after the Summer School, and she took the opportunity to spear Caravanserai with the intensity, I could say, of a hunting heron. The article by Murshid in issue number four on the divinity of art, where had it come from? No source was given—had I come across a paper she did not have? Her eagerness was all the sharper because the first few words were the same as a lecture on which she had been working, but then it became something else entirely. Her curiosity was alight.
Alas, my reply did not satisfy her. I could tell her that it came from a book called 'Supplementary Papers,' but the original date or location of the lecture was not given. She wondered if perhaps it was a combination of several lectures, partly because it was somewhat longer than the typical talk by Murshid. In that case, she would be looking at tracking down several sources, and might even have stumbled across some missing paragraphs from something already catalogued. Eventually, we passed on to other topics, but the matter was not forgotten. Two days later, she telephoned as early as she thought decent to tell me exultantly she had found it. "I went down this morning, and just opened a file, and there it was!" A lecture in 1920, perhaps at Wissous, taken down by Dr. O.C. Gruner. I'm afraid that with that, her interest fell off sharply, because she did not much care for what Dr. Gruner did to Murshid's prose. No change was really acceptable to her, and Dr. Gruner imposed his own style so freely in an effort to spread the Message farther that she found him mostly beneath notice Munira was a specialist, and like most specialists, she was not particularly accommodating. She could be unmoving and difficult; especially when it came to a matter of principle, and by the end of her life, her principle was exclusively the preservation of Murshid's 'voice' for the centuries to come. It may be hard to reconcile her scholarly stubbornness with the Sufi's proverbial ability to have more than one point of view, but she had found work she was uniquely fitted for, and she devoted herself completely to it. After years of practice she could read Sakina Furnee's faint pencil shorthand, on now yellowing paper as easily as if it were clear text. She knew the hands and minds of a the principal note-takers, and knew how to relentlessly strip away their own personal inclusions from the original inspiration, the words of Hazrat Inayat Khan.
Unfortunately, there is no-one else quite as keen and stubborn as Munira, not yet, anyway, and she will be sorely missed.
The God Ideal and the Spirit of Guidance
Hidayat Inayat Khan
Murshid's Words: On Brotherhood
Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan
Modern Sufi Views of the Afterlife
Nuria J. Lawrence
Karamnavaz van Bylandt
Poetry From South Africa
Padmani Burt /Peter Philip
Mysticism in Daily Life
Wali van Lohuizen
Earth and Sky - M
A Search Into the Meaning of the Universal Worship
Music: Song to the Madzub
Noorunnisa Inayat Khan
One article in this issue deserves a brief note, that of the late Karamnavaz van Bylandt on The Present. Karamnavaz was a Dutch mureed of many years, and served for some time as the executive supervisor of the Sufi Movement. This article is a reprint of a talk given at an eariler Summer School, passed on to Caravanserai by Murshid Karimbakhsh Witteveen.