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Action at a Distance

by Dr. Stewart Bitkoff

Why don’t you discuss what your teacher said about his teacher, and learning while asleep? This will help travelers understand something about spiritual schools and how ordinary distance is not an obstacle to learning. In the world of spirit, there is no time, space or distance.

OK. Many things that the teacher said and did took a long time to sink in. In fact, he always suggested that we examine and test every statement and learning principle offered. We were given our natural skepticism and powers of observation and evaluation, as a protection so we might come to our own conclusion. The path was not a system of indoctrination, but a vehicle to learn about self and realize our own individual and unique potential.

Nowadays, many travelers are ‘hung up’ about finding a teacher; someone they can go to everyday or week and learn from. While this is an important aspect of this form of learning and many consider essential, consider the following information about non-traditional learning.

When I questioned my own teacher about his teacher, he thought for a moment, then provided me with an answer that took years to fully understand.

Sam’s Teacher

Sam said his spiritual teacher was Al-Julabi Al Hujwiri, an eleventh century servant of God who is buried in Lahore. After praying at Al-Hujwiri’s tomb which is a famous shrine in his country, Sam was the given the authority to teach.

You have to understand my amazement and confusion at hearing all this. I was sitting with someone who communicated with dead people; someone who had been dead for over 900 years, and he told Sam what to do. On top of that, I was doing things that Sam told me to do. This guy talked with dead people and I listened to him. Now I ask you, who was the crazy person?

As time wore on, I put this account in perspective. Many people believe that although Jesus died thousands of years ago, he is still alive ‘in spirit’ and is able to talk with them in a spiritual way. In fact, many people claim that after ‘praying for guidance,’ Jesus answered their prayers, and on some internal level receive an answer.

So I asked myself, why did I find it so hard to accept the possibility of communication and guidance from an eleventh century servant of God? At the time, I guess my inability to accept all of this was due to my limited understanding about time and distance.

As the years wore on, I learned more about Al-Hujwiri and offer the following:

  • He wrote the oldest Persian treatise on Sufism.
  • His task was to make known facts about the Sufi organization and Sufi mission to the people of India.
  • His titles are: ‘The Selected’ among the Sufis and the ‘The Munificent One’ among the people of India. He is considered among the greatest of Sufi saints.
  • His tomb has been a place of pilgrimage and veneration for over 900 years.

So when we talk about distant learning and feel we have to be in the room with our teacher, in this form of learning, there are different standards and ways of looking at things.


The Sufi is absent from himself and present with God.


Another unsettling way to look at learning is this second point Sam used to make, ‘that the majority of the teaching occurred at night, when we were asleep.’

In our age, we are continuing with the exploration of sleep and what actually happens when we close our eyes for the evening. Where does our everyday consciousness go? All of us have had those strange jumbled dreams. What parts of our consciousness are operating and trying to tell us something?

In my own experience, I have had dreams that have come true; been in mysterious classes where beings of Light were reciting to me from books; and, after a short nap upon returning to normal consciousness, have been startled and frightened as my soul seemingly returned to my body, a fraction of a second late. My guess was that it was supposed to get there just before I awoke and missed the awakening moment.

All cultures have varying traditions about sleep. Some Native American cultures operate under the assumption that a person will have a dream that will foretell the entire course of their life and work toward this realization. Within the context of the spiritual learning, over time, I began to realize all sorts of things were possible. Where does our soul or consciousness go when we close our eyes for the evening? We need to stop thinking in a box, and realize that potentially, the entire universe is our classroom and play ground.

2) Action At A Distance- Insert #2 SFWS

According to Sufi tradition, there is no magic or mystery to miraculous occurrences that the Sufi helps enact; these events happen because of the working of natural laws that presently are not understood by most people, and that intuitively, if the situation requires, the Sufi works with.

This is spiritual science, and it is the birth right of humanity. It involves using spiritual forces such as Light and enabling potentials, through higher guidance, that are present in every situation. Even for the Sufi, exactly how all of this occurs is not completely known; it is a matter of intuitive capacity, and like love, defies complete explanation. Through the Light, the Sufi is able to use natural capacity that others may call miraculous. Surely, to us “everyday people,” some or most of this may seem utterly unbelievable. Consider what I am about to tell you about Sam, and draw your own conclusions!

Halo Effect

Besides being a trained physician who was adept at understanding human behavior, Sam had other skills that could only be termed extraordinary. At times, he appeared to understand the traveler better than the traveler him self. He was able to look into the future and predict events that would come true. Also, he was versed in all religions and understood every occult practice that I ever heard about. This instant access to knowledge, he claimed, was a combination of study and knowing; this knowing was through the Light and was given so he could complete his function.

I guess the thing that was most unusual about him, and something that we often joked about, was that there appeared to be an aura of Light or current of energy emanating from Sam. When we were sitting together and Sam was answering our questions, often we were stunned by the interplay of Light about him. Visually, there seemed to be a halo of Light engulfing him; which emanated and pulsated into an energy pattern, like heat columns rising from the summer pavement, filling the room with Light. This energy was loving, and wise; and when we were in its presence, we knew nothing could harm us.

Now, you may think that these experiences were limited to times when I was inside the office or in Sam’s presence, but that’s not the case. You never can tell when the Light will strike! Awareness is very important, even in your car…

Electric Shock

Because I lived close to the hospital, sometimes, I would go home for lunch and visit with my wife and infant daughter. One day, before starting the car for my return trip to work, I decided to meditate.

With a new baby in the small apartment, often the car was the only place where I could get some peace and quiet. When I closed my eyes, focused inward and began saying the prayer (of submission), it was as if I put my hand into a live electric socket. I was shocked by some force that I can only characterize as electrical. It really hurt and stunned me. In fact, I did not want to try the prayer again for fear the same thing would happen. Until this point, the prayer had always been a source of comfort and joy with a gentle, calming peace attached to it.

Later that afternoon, when I saw Sam, he smiled and said, ‘sometimes the teacher has to be careful how he directs the Light.’ Sam brought up the subject, I hadn’t.

Sam always said that as long as he was alive, no spiritual harm would ever befall any of the travelers. Also, as indicated earlier, he maintained that most of the teaching took place at night, when the traveler was asleep.

Putting these statements together, it appears that the teacher is able to communicate with the traveler, often on a level when the traveler is not aware. Also, that the teaching speaks to a part of the consciousness that is generally hidden. The fact that most of the teaching takes place at night when the traveler is ‘asleep,’ challenges many of the things we know about learning.

Those are two great stories about your time in the first spiritual school. Besides historical reasons, entertainment or curiosity, why should any traveler care about your personal experience? How does it benefit travelers to hear about your encounters or learn that the Light is a living, vibrant and ever changing substance?

You’ve got to be kidding. What happened in the spiritual school, travelers would want to know about this sort of thing, wouldn’t they?

Perhaps. To a certain degree, that might be true, however, the real importance is that presenting this kind of phenomena and material, potentially, will do a couple of things:

  • It will provide hope for travelers that there is a loving and all-knowing force in the universe; it is alive and well, waiting to be embraced through their own soul. Everyone makes a spiritual journey.
  • Reading these encounters, if travelers become envious, may cause them to examine their feelings, prepare, and push further for their own experience.
  • That the binding and creating force of the universe is all love and each traveler has free will to decide their level of relationship with this force.
  • There is a spiritual force in the universe that is concerned about everyone and will help us all make the journey home. This force is independent of religion, and uses religion as one way to present itself

3) Action At A Distance Insert #3- SFWS

Nowadays, with the Internet and so many schools and colleges offering long distance degrees, the concept of learning at a distance is more familiar. However, consider a spiritual school that at a distance is able to assist learners all across the world by offering a body of written material and monitoring outcomes; sending energy to its learners while they are sleeping; and helping provide for the traveler during their daily life, all the practical experience necessary.

For the spiritual traveler, the following information is offered concerning this form of learning; some of which was told to me, some of which is public information and other aspects, over time, I either learned or pieced together.

  • Spiritual Enrollment. Sam indicated that at the point of writing our initial letter to the Society for Sufi Studies, we were enrolled; the period of waiting, six months, for our instructions was used to discourage those students who were not serious.
  • Teacher of the Age. Idries Shah, who founded the Society for Sufi Studies, died in 1996 and was universally considered to be the Sufi Teacher of the Age. This is no insignificant designation, and while this title may be unfamiliar to most westerners, traditionally it is very rarely used and indicates a supremely gifted individual. Shah’s body of written material for the spiritual traveler supersedes all previous written Sufi material; contained in those 20 books which are the required reading, is everything in written form the western traveler needs for their journey. For his later responsibilities, Shah was groomed and educated at a very early age, and this body of material was compiled specifically for our time; in order to help create spiritually developed travelers, who, God willing participate in the world and may help save us from ourselves.
  • Study the Material. Well, I believe it took me well over 10 years to totally familiarize myself with the titles and their material, as indicated in the original letter. After studying this material, all my spiritual questions were answered, and there was no need to further contact the Society with questions. The content of the books, the many stories and jokes tell you what to do; you see there is a whole body of material that is the birthright of humanity and has been collected specifically by Shah and others to help make better travelers, one person at a time. Also, there were different materials (books, CD/DVD) that were offered by the Society that are both interdisciplinary and cross-cultural and helped expand my way of looking at things. Most of this written material and audio/visual products are offered at discounted prices; with the intention of making it all easily available.
  • Learning On Many Levels. Traditionally, the world is viewed as a giant market place and classroom; when the right factors combine, we all can get whatever we need. While my mind was busy reading the books and listening to the tapes, there was another part of me, that on a deep, inner level was busy absorbing and drinking it all in; and, at certain times, helped me see the direct application in my daily life. For example, Shah presents 1500 or so Middle Eastern teaching stories, which are traditional and help the traveler unlock the hidden motivations of everyday activity. These stories, in part, are offered as snapshots of human behavior, and for the reader, work on an unconscious level, so, when we see a parallel of this story in everyday life, we know to expect certain outcomes.
  • Direction from a Distance. Slowly, what I came to realize was just like a traditional distance learning college, in this spiritual school, the progress of individual students was monitored. While in more familiar learning environments, this comes in the form of tests, papers, and assignments: for the spiritual traveler, life is the great classroom and we test out, daily, the specific learning. Also, when we are asleep and our daily consciousness is resting, other types of learning impacts occur: in my own case, I can remember being read passages from books, the activation of individual spiritual centers, and parts of my consciousness talking to other parts. This dialogue between aspects of consciousness was much like what is being represented here. For the skeptic, and you should be skeptical, let’s put this in a different frame of reference. As previously discussed, many people believe that their prayers are answered by Jesus who died well over 2000 years ago. So, why is it so hard to accept, that within another spiritual framework, contact occurs on levels that are not completely understood or reported in our western culture on a daily basis?
  • A Plan for Humanity. According to Sufi tradition, there is a plan for humanity, and the hidden friends are guardians of this plan. Humanity is evolving upward and must freely choose the higher destiny, one person at a time. The hidden friends correct deviations in this plan and daily project the Light into this physical world. This Light is the life giving force and without its presence we would wither and die.

Now, as improbable as this may sound, particularly, as we gaze about and consider all the cruelty, greed, and problems of our current world, for the Sufi, this spiritual presence with its assurances is an ever-present reality. Having embraced the Light, been placed on the path by a living master, and experienced my own spiritual nature, all of this is second nature; because the spiritual traveler has lived it, and realizes that without this guiding presence, the world would be much worse off and become even darker. Spiritually, just as personal interventions can occur, then it is so for all travelers. If the traveler, would like more information about this tradition of hidden guidance see, Ernest Scott, People of the Secret, Octagon Press, London, 1983.

4) Action At A Distance- Insert #4 Ferryman’s Dream

Nestor spoke first. “I am so happy to have you here. Finally meeting my teacher. Again, what do you think of him? Have you formed any further impressions?”

Repeating earlier questions, Emil could see that Nestor was truly happy to have him visit and at that moment felt the deep joy of their friendship. Softly Emil answered, “like a good reporter, I have been keeping notes in my workbook from which to write an article. But to answer your question, no, Vesudeva is not what I expected. He is kind, gentle and seems to be truly friendly.”

“At this point, I must play the role of skeptical reporter and I am not fully prepared to either accept or reject his teachings. However, I’m not sure how to say this, but again there seems to be an aura of peaceful energy about him. I cannot fully put this in words and it is the second time today I have felt this, but when he was talking by the fire, for a moment I thought I felt a loving energy reach out toward me. I do not know how else to describe it and when I looked at Vesudeva, he was smiling as if to say, “Now. Put that into your article.”

Pausing before speaking, Nestor replied, “So again, you felt it? I must say, I am a bit surprised.”

“What do you mean ‘felt’ it? Also, why would you be surprised?”

“Frankly, although I am pleased you have come to learn about Vesudeva, in my heart, I wondered if you would give this opportunity a fair chance and if you were suited


for this learning. I prayed you were but inwardly wondered. Being able to perceive the baraka or grace that is a very good sign.”

“Now, I don’t know if I should be offended? The heathen who is incapable of learning, is that what you really thought?”

“I did not mean to offend. What is important is that you are here, trying to learn and are able to perceive the teaching.”

Emil’s feelings were still hurt by Nestor’s confession that he wondered if Emil could actually learn from Vesudeva, so Emil pressed harder. “Why did you think I could not learn from Vesudeva? You know this hurts me a little. Aren’t I good enough?”

“Please, I did not mean to offend. It was my fear this would not work. I wanted this situation to work for you and prayed that it would. Nothing would please me more than to have my old friend join in the journey. Frankly, this teaching is not for everyone. Most people cannot feel the energy or inward caress of the Light. It is too subtle. Do you understand?”

“No. I don’t know what you mean.”

“You said it yourself. You thought being with Vesudeva a loving, kind energy was reaching out toward you. That was not imagination. That was the inner teaching. When this aspect of consciousness is unlocked the real learning begins. Now, do you follow?”

“Nestor, I think I will need some time with all of this. Thank you again for arranging this for me. Now, I am tired and must get some sleep.”

“Emil, I am truly happy that you have come. I too must sleep, but before sleeping, must pray and meditate. Goodnight old friend.” Then Nestor sat-up in bed, closed his eyes and focused inward.

Automatically, Emil replied, “good night,” but remained awake wondering what Nestor was praying and meditating about. Also Emil was still a little hurt by the ‘holier than thou’ attitude that seemed to be flying about, but tried not to over react.

* * * * * * * * * * * *


After a time, finally Emil fell asleep. Outside their hut, the peaceful river water sang a lullaby to the countryside, and through sleep Emil’s excitement, hurt, and anger faded. Meanwhile Vesudeva continued reflecting the Light across the land and watering the souls of near and distant travelers.

While sleeping Emil entered a dream phase.

Emil found himself seated atop a high mountain peak. He was robed in a white, shimmering cloth, seated with legs crossed, eyes closed, in a classic meditative posture. It was late evening and the dark sky was aglow with countless stars. Each star sparkled in the dark blue night and emitted rays of light that pulsed with a loving, peaceful energy.

As Emil meditated he could feel this energy within himself grow stronger and purposeful. Slowly this energy began to expand and reach out and absorb the part that was Emil. Emil was still there, a part of his consciousness remained, but another part had taken over and was continuing to expand, reaching further outward.

And as Emil pulsed with this energy, which was the same energy that emanated from all the evening stars, he felt himself rise upward and take his place amongst them. In a twinkling of an eye, Emil had become a star to light and brighten the evening sky.

Then as Emil looked back toward the mountain peak, he saw himself still meditating and was one both with that aspect which was earth bound and that aspect that was the Light of Creation.

Both aspects were the same and Emil stayed in this place. The meditating Emil was joined by two other white robed figures. Then these three figures joined their Lights and stayed in this place of union, joy, wonderment and service.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

All the time that Emil slept, enjoying this vision, Vesudeva continued to reflect

the Light across the land and to his students.

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