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Daughter of Fire: An Interview with Irina Tweedie Published in Yoga and Life, Vol. 5 - No. 5, Autumn 1990
INTERVIEWER: I've found in your book and in the interviews I have read, your teacher's approach seems more linked to yoga than to Suﬁsm—the idea of chakras, kundalini, atman. TWEEDIE: Yes. You see Suﬁsm and yoga are one and the same thing. They are just words, in wisdom there is no difference. All the teachings are absolutely the same. They are only different paths to the One. Our teacher used to say, "You can approach the top of the mountain from the river, from the highway, from the town, from the sea, but it will always be one top of the mountain." It doesn't matter, and also this wonderful Suﬁ saying, "The roads to God are as many as human beings, as many as the breath of the children of man." He said that to us, it was an ancient Suﬁ saying and it means you don't need to convert anybody. You don't need to say my God is better than your God. Like in Ireland, that I will kill you if you don't believe in my God, what rubbish is that! There is only that Inﬁnite, Nameless, and you cannot imprison it by giving it any name at all. INTERVIEWER: It is also, I suppose, that this is Indian Suﬁsm so the terminology tends rather to be in the Sanskrit as opposed to the Arabic. TWEEDIE: And this is also in Idries Shah's book, in one of his later chapters. He says when Suﬁsm spread, it spread all over the Middle and the Far East, and wherever they were for many hundreds of years they took on the culture of the place. The Naqshbandi branch of Suﬁsm has been in India for many hundreds of years, so they use the words like chakras and mantras and all those Indian expressions. I don't know what name they have for chakras in Arabic. I don't speak Arabic and I don't understand it. You see my training was with ﬁre, which is kundalini. I was tested with ﬁre and I was taken into the path of power, and I can initiate. But you do not initiate—this is the interesting part. I can initiate people in the path of power which is kundalini power—but we do not initiate, it doesn't work that way. It works in another way but it will be far too long to explain and I don't think the general public will understand it at all, this path is esoteric. This is the path of power, the kundalini path, the path of ﬁre. There is no name on the outside of the book on the jacket, just my photograph, like in the German edition, just my photo, the "Daughter of Fire" and "Spiritual training with a Suﬁ Master", that's all. Of course when the book stands in the library on this side there must be my name, Irina Tweedie, otherwise the librarians wouldn't know where they are. But we Suﬁs should write anonymously and it is the most anonymous way I could achieve in the West.
and I was quite new and quite raw. I say. again I use the Indian expression. it is the Beloved of your soul. INTERVIEWER: And you began to get that sense after his death. somebody else had this idea. It is neither the judge. the atman of the disciple is united with the atman of the teacher. You are always aware of . "That little bit that I went through was not spiritual training?" I was furious. he was there. he is still there. in the night? With nothing—with a black hole. the spiritual training began from that moment. because he is one of God. You see. In a deep state of meditation I suddenly realized that I could contact him. We have this state of oneness with the Beloved and it is really a condition of love. But at the end of training the atman. it wasn't me. that is perhaps the best word I can use. we call God the Beloved. Because somehow it is like a commitment. I contact him now while I am speaking to you. there is a saying "that we may place the imprint of our immortality on every passing incident of our daily lives. in the Himalayas. and if you write the word Allah and look there is "Aaa-ooo"—and where is the last "lah"? It is hidden on top as a little squirk. but he was right. I thought now what sort of talk is that—how can my atman disappear! Because nothing disappears. Then you cannot do anything small. The goal of every yoga is to lead a guided life—guided by who or what? You guide yourself. It is as if I would see it through his eyes. Now when he told me that at the beginning when I met him." And I said to myself. . Even the name! . So in this case my higher self is sort of. I was terriﬁed. INTERVIEWER: So you have the constant sense of presence? TWEEDIE: Absolutely. Certain things. Three weeks before he died he said. I can't say it's guided by the teacher because the higher self is the higher self. it's part of the inﬁnite. I had to give all my money away. I had enough money to travel and do everything. it's together. it is not the creator. perhaps. . TWEEDIE: And the mystics. anything miserable. it doesn't disappear. TWEEDIE: Yes. God? I don't know. You see I am in connection with my teacher. it's just united. always. It is like living in the presence of . it's a good idea. I can contact him at any time. "Spiritual training? Rubbish! All that I did I tried to erase your ego." That is your work from the higher self. But with what are you united. Certain things were. of course. you cannot say to the Beloved—we Suﬁs. I think this is the correct expression. INTERVIEWER: Suﬁ poetry is full of the Beloved. He is still there. It was a very dramatic moment. Not mine. There are things which I said because they went through me. He had no physical body any more. when he died I thought he had betrayed me. and my Guru said. My husband was in the Royal Navy and he left me quite a lot. The real spiritual training began in deep meditation. you say in your book. like that. The whole of me was trembling. TWEEDIE: Yes. But God. but "lah" means nothing.INTERVIEWER: It's a good idea. . Not only in meditation. And the word Allah means exactly that. But by being with the teacher it is inspired. God is nothingness. it's not guided by anybody. "Al"—is the article "the". You see. And the real training. and it has continued. certain things not. he was a centre of energy but I knew it was him.
the knowledge which I have acquired. . So it's not only us that say that. we are all trying to reach reality. I just wanted to say it but you said it. because it cannot prove anything. And why should we be afraid. I am a student of comparative religion. TWEEDIE: Exactly. INTERVIEWER: It's like the Sunya (Emptiness) Buddhism and the "No-thing" of Zen. but it is all one. Exactly. We say the lover and the Beloved they are unbelievable. yes. that again recalls the Zen statement that the greater the doubt the greater the enlightenment. we are all in the same boat. you know we are so insecure. fullness alone remains. write down all the doubts. it is a complete fullness. how they write Allah shows that it is "The Great Nothing". because that helps people. and if he doesn't love you. TWEEDIE: Correct. We are all disciples of God. . that is the I and the not I. I ﬁnd it so inspiring. The ultimate security is . according to the people. How can there be no God? Never! But in the moments of oneness where I said there is a complete fulﬁllment. he can't help loving you. For the mind. yes. But nothingness. but whatever I read. And here lies this tremendous wonderful consolation. it loves you absolutely and utterly. because in this moment of union there is no mind. (Laughing) INTERVIEWER: When you started teaching in the West did you ﬁnd much difﬁculty in transmitting ideas which are too Eastern? TWEEDIE: No. The God is you—you cannot see your own eyes. Because the mind by its very substance knows the things from outside itself. we died so many times and we will be born so many times again. there is you and me. TWEEDIE: About four years. He is part of us actually. it's not there. But when you have the union with the Beloved alone in meditation you are united with nothingness. God is everything but nothingness. probably not quite correct quotation—and he nearly was excommunicated for that. we are so afraid. And you see doubts are very helpful. First of all I never considered that I was teaching. you scratch a little bit and underneath is the oneness. like in the Isa Upanishad. You call it different names. everybody has doubts. And here comes this tremendous difﬁculty to explain to people we are mystics of course we Suﬁs. INTERVIEWER: Yes. But this nothingness responds. again. till the milk of his kindness boils up—I quote now Rumi—he can't help it he has to love us. thank you very much. and he told me you will write a book. It's all the same. according to the time. it is for the mind. so completely everything of you because he created you like that. God is a concept which does not exist. we are all sinners trying to do . you will cry and you will cry and will keep crying. it's a feedback. take away fullness from fullness. and Teilhard de Chardin said God experiences and fulﬁlls himself in man—I quote from memory. Fullness. INTERVIEWER: You went through great agonies of doubt in the earlier stages. There is me and the knowledge. not at all. so wonderful. according to the place. he made us.Arabic language is wonderful.
And then he came once or twice to see where his wife is going and he didn't like it. Mrs. We have very little. we are together and the atmosphere is special. my God. travelling a lot. Now people who came to my group at the beginning were from the Theosophical Society and you know how this is the grapevine. one about 60 and one about 29. I wait till I get the order to give it. and he had a very beautiful wife. Not at all. there is discipline and I have two men on the path of power. like "La illaha illa la"? . I mean I need a bigger ﬂat! INTERVIEWER: You said somewhere in your book that there is not much method used. or this practice to another person. But not at the beginning. she used to come to us because Margaret brought her here at the beginning. So if someone comes to me at the beginning. so she used to come but he thought it harmless enough so he didn't say anything. This is of course control of the sexual energy but it is quite private. we just drink tea. and those are Eastern ideas anyway. if I begin to want to give people something or have any desire I create karmas. it has nothing to do with the group and they are going both quite well. and lots of laughter and lots of jokes. there was a time when I gave 150 talks per annum. that works out about every second. I was in the mood then for telling French jokes. are they in Sanskrit or Arabic? TWEEDIE: Both. I do not give mantras. you see. You see. Then there is no discipline of any kind or practice? TWEEDIE: No discipline and yes. I want to remain with you and he just gave me a look as if to say then you must make a jolly big effort. I was lecturing in the provinces. the meditation is beautiful and that is all that there is. There is outwardly no discipline. I was always a member of the Theosophical Society and I was lecturing for the Society. I laughed and I laughed. Little by little I receive the instruction to give this practice to this person. and sometimes they were a little bit . there's nothing. I was so ignorant I said neither would I like to be incarnated. then I do it. INTERVIEWER: The Mantras that you use. This is the Suﬁ gathering. . And so Irene went home and he said to her "what have you been doing?" She said "Oh.better. I don't consider myself a teacher at all. You see. I remember right at the beginning there was an American evangelist I think he was. that you don't actually do very much. that will be hopeless. And what I do I am only perhaps a little step ahead because I made a little more effort that's all. He said he is not going to incarnate any more. third day I gave a talk. INTERVIEWER: That's words you use. Tweedie was telling French jokes. And I didn't ﬁnd any difﬁculties with this Eastern idea. there are practices. You see. He said "What!" Since then he didn't allow her to come anymore. . that's all. I want to remain with my teacher. And one day we were telling jokes. I do not give practices. It was right at the beginning. it's just a happy gathering of people. people just came and we are growing and growing and a big group is coming out. I must be completely without karmas in order to remain with my teacher so I just don't do anything.
really deeply. It's you who did it. And if it is done well the thought must go and there is nothing there. everything is there. We have to do three imaginings." I'll just say to my mind. So that is the practice. and this very beloved human being has no access. As we are made in the image of God there is a place in our hearts where only God resides. When you love. and nothing remains outside. Deeper and deeper and quite deep. where there is stillness. Because you and I and everybody else is made in his image." both. Now we relax and we try to enter this place which belongs only to him. "La illaha illa la" and also Sanskrit mantras like "Om. the place only for him alone. I just pass it on. so you can forget the physical body. and people pray with me and it happens. that is really correct. It happened to me when I loved my husband so much. and this place is of course in the heart. peace and above all love. So it is strictly speaking not a meditation. I receive the instructions to do it and I just pass it on. But I always say I will pray but I won't pray alone. we are there surrounded by the love of God. you can lie down. We are loved. We sit without sitting. deeply love another human being. I have to do something tomorrow.TWEEDIE: Yes. and then people thank me for whatever happens. I am 25 years at that "job. INTERVIEWER: What form of meditation do you do? TWEEDIE: The meditation is not meditation. Because incredible things happen in this group. you pray with me. It's a yogic state to still the mind. I love him. you can sit cross-legged. Our meditation has to lead us beyond the mind to complete stillness. people who couldn't have children get a child and so it goes all the time. If you don't pray with me nothing will happen. you see. The body is completely relaxed. I can say that there is a method which is given to everybody. Just do the third imagining. But when we are sitting still thoughts will come into your mind. but sit cross-legged is really the best. only the human has forgotten it long ago. somewhere you will feel that you are still alone. I said I am so fulﬁlled. And completely relaxed. what is it? This is the place where he reserved for himself. Later. "Stop" and it stops. That is the second imagining. And then of course while we are trying to ﬁnd this place our minds won't give us trouble. somewhere I am alone. Even Ibn Arabi used imagination very much for spiritual practices. And it will really go because the feeling of love which you generate by being in the place of love is much more dynamic than the thinking—that thought will really dissolve. We must imagine that we go deep within ourselves. We are in the place. So there is. Miracles. we are so happy. it's an is-ness really. reserved for him alone. together we did it. I'll give you proof that it is true. and we try to leave the mind behind completely. it's very helpful. I forgot something to do yesterday. any position is allowed. we walk without walking. not even one hair. the human being is all love. We are very similar to Zen Buddhism. It's a state of being. Because it's all one really. But somewhere there is this longing. and it is like that. But I do not give the mantra. When we ﬁnd this place we must do a second imagining. we meditate without meditating. God is love." it won't go. If you say to a human being "stop the mind. physical body and all. It would take a few days to ﬁnd this place. We sit in this still chamber in our heart. I am like a radio. But the human being who just came to me and has perhaps not even an idea of spiritual life can you say—you probably can just still your . I say why do you thank me? I am like a telephone. There we must ﬁnd this place. we are secure. We have witnessed people who have cancer are healed. I did it too. pass exams. people who do not pass exams. nothing will happen. Imagining the thing you get hold of this thought and you drown it with love. And meditation is upon something. you can sit. because the mind does like to do something. Imagination is a very divine thing in the human being. or I have to do a phone call and so on and so forth. Then people come and thank me.
you allow them to sort of ﬁnd their own way. TWEEDIE: We are the arbiters of our destiny. Rubbish! Every method is equally good. and when they need it ask you for guidance. I would like to emphasize it. I imagine. I'm sure you can—but that is one of the methods. INTERVIEWER: That's it. in every country they assumed the culture of that country. because leave the man alone and just give him a little bit of guidance he will ﬁnd him by himself anyway. For example. we've all eventually—I have people in the group who are really very good at it now. if I may use that word. You see. So if they go to Japan they will use Japanese expressions and Japanese meditations. TWEEDIE: Absolutely." So the whole responsibility was on me completely. well. I don't say it is the method. you've got the idea exactly. it's a path to God. he threw me out of India altogether—this is again an ancient tradition. it's my teacher's. Zen method is good. TWEEDIE: That's it. There are no such things as a royal road to God. kundalini method is the same. goodness me! We try to get rid of conditioning and here we condition ourselves much more. you have to meditate in that way. And it helps. I sometimes ﬁnd the vegetarians are more conditioned and more dogmatic than anything else. The main purpose is to get rid of all the techniques. Suﬁsm is neither a religion nor a philosophy. do it. INTERVIEWER: Too much technique can have the opposite effect in leading people in completely the wrong direction. in apparent anger the teacher throws you out. that's all. It's not mine. And whatever I asked him he would say. INTERVIEWER: "Drown the thought in love"—that's beautiful. not only out of his presence." Don't tell me you have to sit in this position. that's it. It's a path to God. It's terrible. this you mustn't eat and this you must do. that part of the culture which suited them. That is an important statement.mind. INTERVIEWER: So with your pupils. I asked him should I remain vegetarian? He said. All those things are not very important. The rest will come by itself. INTERVIEWER: No. when he threw me out of India. "I'll leave it to your discrimination". you must chew the food I don't know how many times. from one man to another before he even ﬁnds where the school is. Just do this practice to try to ﬁnd that place within you. Guruji used to say "Leave the man alone and he will ﬁnd God in his own way. You see. all of them will lead you if you are sincere and if you do it. "I'll leave it to you. more than the religion. no method will help. You see. . TWEEDIE: Exactly. it makes you responsible for what you do. yes. raja yoga. If you don't do it. It's neither a religion nor is it a philosophy. that would be stupid. you have to do this. In some of the books one reads about Suﬁsm it gives the impression that it's very secretive and the seeker has to go from one place to another. I often think that this is a very strange way to go on. And wherever they went.
. You can't reveal it because you have no words and you can't go back because it's not worth the going back to. This statement—"of those who make the journey no news returns". so I quickly take a large lovely red ball.TWEEDIE: I found it also. I just was looking for words. INTERVIEWER: Nothing more to be said. you have put it beautifully. It's not true. I say. It is a secret. . That's all really. trying to light the matches. INTERVIEWER: In the sense that it can't be said. Oh my God! Now if I take it away it will begin to shout and to cry and I don't want it to cry. TWEEDIE: In a sense that it can't be said. You get so many wonderful things. that is the statement. the human being loves secrets. that this life is zero. A little child plays with matches. thank you. how wonderful—you know like children. the mother comes into the room. I give another very banal example but it's a good one. That's what the teacher does to the disciple. The values are completely changed. "Darling. You have nothing to go back to and you have nothing to say. isn't it lovely?" The child drops the matches and takes the ball. it's a secret do you see. . Now I thought. TWEEDIE: Nothing more to be said. a very good analogy. it's playing. oh! You are entrusted with such incredible secrets that you can't reveal them. but . oh! it's wonderful.
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