From Donaleen Saul Writer, Editor, Creativity Coach. Link to this review on Amazon.com
On the face of it, Letters is the story of 26-year-old Carol Sill’s spiritual awakening as she is transported into the heart of the Great Mystery following the sudden drowning of her seven-year-old son in 1974.
Broken-hearted and seeking spiritual support to help her navigate the dark waters of her grief, she chose – or perhaps was called to – the Sufi path, which had attracted her after reading the work of Hazrat Inayat Khan, the great Sufi who had originally introduced this mystical tradition to the West in the early 1900s. One of the names on a list of North American contacts was 78-year-old Shamcher Beorse, a Norway-born scientist and businessman, world traveler and maverick – a pupil of Inayat Khan’s who heard the cry of Carol’s heart and responded without reservation.
Although described by Sufi master and son of Inayat Khan, Pir Vilayat, as “the esoteric head of the Sufi Order,” Shamcher had no interest in titles, hierarchies or belief systems. He refused to be called a teacher and yet Carol describes how she “exploded in his presence” and how others wept upon meeting him. Under his openhearted and humble guidance, Carol soared “through the winding routes of Love’s progress, growth and development.”
The correspondence that surfaced between Carol and Shamcher is a rare and often euphoric expression of the encounter with The Beloved, impossible to put into words, and yet blazingly articulated by these two Godstruck humans whose love “grew wider than all creation…to feed all in fierce expansive compassionate understanding.”
One of the many gifts of this beautifully written book lies in its generous revelation of the relationship between initiate (Mureed) and elder (Murshid), comparable to that between the famed 12th century Sufi mystic, Jelaluddin Rumi, and the dervish Shamsoddin Tabriz, a profound soul engagement that sparked the ecstatic poetry that outsells all others 900 years later.
These lines from Rumi’s Mathnavi, exemplify the unique relationship between Carol and Shamcher:
Not only the thirsty seeks the water,
but the water seeks the thirsty as well.
What is evident in the correspondence between Carol and Shamcher is that the relationship between Mureed and Murshid is not a one-way transmission between one who knows and one who doesn’t, but a dynamic interchange that impacts both people equally – and everyone else in their lives. The purity of Shamcher’s teaching is revealed in his humble realization that “To me, everyone in the whole world may be called a Sufi or, if not, I may not be one either.” He saw Carol as a unique and gifted person with the capacity of heart to teach others (which she later did for 20 years), who was as much his teacher as he hers: “Your messages, particularly in your last two letters, roll on in majestic melodious rhythms, touching truth and my soul.”
Shamcher had little interest in himself as a Sufi master or even as a human being: “A Sufi may know all the jokes and tricks of a magician but he is more serious than any saint or government economist or garbage collector. And he loves them all with a love so fierce, so bitter, and so sweet that in comparison with this love, the magnitude of it, he himself disappears, and no longer exists.”
It is the omnipresence of that vast Love that is without question the greatest blessing of this extraordinary book, which is as much a mystical transmission as it is a tale that has needed to be told. The Love that carried Carol through the soul storm of grief to the awakening that enabled her “to live outside these limitations imposed upon us in life on earth” is as much ours as it is hers and Shamcher’s.
Letters is Carol Sill’s wide-open invitation to all of us to enter our own heartland and to know “that the unseen realm in which Shamcher and I were communicating has a place within your being also.”