About Murshid Samuel L. Lewis

Samuel L. Lewis, 1896-1971

Samuel L. Lewis was an amazing human being. Dubbed “Sufi Sam” by a newspaper columnist in San Francisco, CA in the 1960’s, and also known as Murshid S.A.M. (Sufi Ahmed Murad Chisti, Chisti being a specific Sufi lineage, and Murshid being a title given to a spiritual guide)

He studied with Hazrat Inayat Khan, Swami Papa Ramdas, Mataji Krishnabai, Nyogen Senzaki and other inspired teachers of our times. Immersed in the sacred writings of the world’s many religions, and in frequent communication with many of their leaders, as well as secular leaders, he was recognized as a Master of many diverse spiritual paths.

Though his life teachings are many, Murshid is probably best known for originating the Dances of Universal Peace. First introduced in the late 1960’s, the Dances have affectionately been referred to as “Sufi Dances,” “Dervish Dances” and “Angelic Dances”. The Dances were born of S.A.M.’s work with Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan, whom he described as “the first person to ever touch my heart,” and Ruth St. Denis (American pioneer of modern dance), who Murshid named as his inspiration to teach through movement.

Murshid began teaching, through Spiritual Walks and Dance, the young people who began seeking his guidance in 1966. At the time of his death in January of 1971, only about 30 Dances were in existence. The world had Murshid in his role as “The Spiritual Leader for the Hippies,” for only four years, yet his message of universal religion and unifying mystical experience continues to grow and spread around the planet. There are currently many more than 500 Dances of Universal Peace, danced in more than 50 countries, true testimony to how these Dances so deeply touch the human heart.

The Dances are dedicated “to the Temple of Understanding, which is committed, as was Inayat Khan, to providing a house of prayer for all peoples” (quote from Murshid Wali Ali Meyer in the introduction to Mansur Johnson’s book, Murshid).

Murshid SAM was also a soil scientist and horticulturist concerned with feeding the world's hungry. He endeavored to improve the quality and quantity of food production planet-wide by promoting organic gardening, seed exchange, seawater desalinization and desert reclamation.

To heal the wounds of violence and war, he practiced a simple, yet profound peace plan inspired by the spirit of Jesus: "Eat, dance, and pray with the peoples of the world."