Childhood and youth of Lucy Marian Goodenough
Memorial of Murshida Sharifa Goodenough
Elise Schamhart et Michel Guillaume
“What is the cause of the different stages of evolution that one sees in the world of variety? There are three principal causes: first, the heritage of the soul, which it has brought from the angelic and from the jinn worlds(9); second, the inherited qualities that a soul possesses, having received them from its parents and ancestors; and third, what the soul acquires after coming on earth. It is these three things which make what may be called individuality, which in its result culminates in a personality".
(Hazrat Inayat Khan – “The soul whence and whither”, Chapter 20)
Murshid Murshid Inayat Khan gave much importance to
“the inherited qualities which a soul receives from its parents and from
The angelic and the jinn worlds - In the Sufi teachings of Hazrat Inayat, and particularly those set out in the volume "The soul, whence and whither", the soul is described as a ray from the divine Source, a ray which first assumes an angelic body, a body of radiance, made of purity and of the light of the plane which is closest to the Source. Next the soul assumes a body descended from the world, or of the next plane, which is a body of intelligent mental substance. It is only after this that the soul incarnates on the physical plane. The "jinn soul" to which Feizi van der Scheer alludes is that of a soul which has received a very strong imprint from the jinn world, to the extent that its attachment to the things of the earth is not always well developed.
First we give the memories of Lucy Goodenough’s sisters, as recounted by Feizi van der Scheer.
Her younger sister wrote:
“Lucy Marian Goodenough, second daughter of Colonel W.H. Goodenough (afterwards Lieutenant-General Sir William Goodenough, K.C.B.) and of Mrs (afterwards Lady) Goodenough, née countess Kinski. She was born on the 25th August 1876 at Weymouth Street, London. Following her father’s various military appointments, Lucy lived at Dover, Shooter’s Hill near Woolwich, Chester, Chatham and the Cape of Good Hope.
“She was a very delicate child, but inclined to take the lead among her sisters. Taught by German governesses until she went to school in London with her elder sister in 1891; a year or two later she was sent to the well known large girl’s school of St. Andrews, Scotland, where she gained a scholarship for Cambridge. She did not take it up, but in 1895 joined her parents at the Cape and took part in the social life of the Colony, hunting with the Cape hounds, etc. She was a fearless rider. After the death of her father in 1898, Lucy lived with her mother and younger sisters in London. During the Boer-war she went again to the Cape with friends for some months. From then till 1914 she travelled a great deal on the Continent, mostly with her friend Countess Silva-Tarouca, who was devoted to her. As Countess Silva-Tarouca was an invalid, they spent several winters at Bozen, and were also often in Sicily. At the beginning of the Great War Lucy spent some time at Le Havre, with English friends, helping in a canteen. After her return to London, she met Inayat Khan”.
Let us open a parenthesis here on an incident noted above, which already allows us to wonder about one of Lucy Goodenough’s character traits: “… she gained a scholarship for Cambridge. She did not take it up”. It must be borne in mind that, at the time, to be admitted to a prestigious university was an exceptional privilege for a young woman. Why did she not accept the scholarship? Did she lack ambition? Was she easily offended, too selective, admitting few friendships, and unwilling to make her way in a crowd of male students? Undoubtedly a little of each. However the hypothesis which seems the most likely is that the early clairvoyance of her spirit showed her that in this direction she would not find that for which, in the depth of her being, she was already searching.
But let us continue.
Her elder sister, Mrs Colonel Soltau-Symons, writes:
“She should have been a boy. She was very independent and headstrong, which sometimes brought her into conflict with the authorities. She had inherited a talent for languages as well as an excellent memory from both of her parents. When she had not learned her French poetry, she took the book five minutes before the lesson, managed to get me to read the piece first, and then recite it quite reasonably well, something of which I would not have been capable. …
“I married very young and saw very little of her. I never heard her speak of any sort of friendship with any man whatsoever. I once heard a vague rumour of a young man dying in hospital and that Lucy was very anxious to see him, but was kept apart from him by her sister. I never heard of any other person with whom she might have been smitten.”
Further on, Mrs Soltau-Symmons wrote : “She was the second child of my parents and for many years she was not in very good health, suffering from coughs and colds in winter.” She says further: “Her childhood was without unusual events, it was an ordinary life of an English child in the country.” And finally: “When she met Inayat Khan she left our family like an arrow”.
Feizi van der Scheer’s account continues:
“During their childhood she and her sisters were brought up very strictly in accordance with fixed rules: no matter what the weather they walked for so many hours, and they would have lessons for so many hours. They were so used to these rules that once when the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VII) came for an overnight visit, Lucy started her practices on the piano at 8 o’clock in the morning, like she always did…”
Murshida Sharifa also recounts these stories:
“In my earliest days I cried and wept so much that all the house declared they had never heard an infant cry like that. But I soon became a most contented baby. There are many things, small events of my early childhood that I remember and that give me such a clear picture of what a child’s mind is at that age; how it feels and understands and does not know its surroundings, and how indeed it is like a traveller in a strange land where much is unintelligible.
“My earliest recollection is of sitting in a sunny meadow, golden with sun and buttercups, and my mother was pointing out to my sister, one year older than I, a heron which she saw at a distance. I so much wished to see, I asked again and again to see it, but my mother could not believe that I knew what a heron was. And at last climbing higher I saw the white bird in the distance. Then my mother, very pleased that I saw something, asked me what a heron was. I said: ‘A bird, a white bird’. This gave me my first lesson in independence. I was not yet two – I was a year and ten months old.” (The Ocean Within – p123)
“Sharifa was very reserved by nature. Even in her childhood she never told anyone when she had toothache or didn’t feel well. She said too that when she heard her mother play a Viennese waltz this made her feel melancholy and that she left the room. It was because of this that the family concluded that she did not like music, and she preferred to let them think that rather than tell them the real reason."
Sharifa’s childhood sensitivity shows in the following incident:
“When I was about five we were one year in the New Forest where very often we played with the children of some friends who were a little older than we were . They were very pleased to play with the babies that we were at that time, and we liked their interesting plays and ways. And this friend of my family was building at that time a summerhouse in his garden. |One day he took me with him to look at it and said: ’Next year we will finish it, and then you and I will come and sit here’. I said: ‘You must finish it this year’. He said: ‘No, next year it is to be finished’. I said ‘You must do it this year, it must be finished now’. He said: ‘Why? Next year is the time’. She replied: ‘Then we shall never sit there’. He said: ‘Why’?’ I said: ‘Next year you will not be here’, and I felt very sad, feeling a change in the atmosphere, feeling it would not come about. General Maurice seemed impressed. He took me back to where the rest of the family were sitting and said: ‘Lucy says next year I shall not be here’. My mother asked my why I had said it. I could not tell, but I felt very sad. At home they asked me again why I had said such a thing, but I could say nothing. A few months afterwards General Maurice died and we never returned to that place.” . (The Ocean Within p. 124).
“Later on she lived in the Cape with her father and went hunting and riding. In fact she didn’t like hunting, but loved riding. She tells of a horse with which she was so much in touch that it knew in which direction she wanted to go without her giving it any prompts.”
« The ocean within » - Collection of articles and lectures written or given by Murshida Sharifa and edited (corrected) by herself.
It must be stressed that for most of her life, and until her Master, Hazrat Inayat Khan, departed from this world, Lucy Goodenough’s character made no concessions, sometimes showing inflexibility, also and especially towards herself as well as towards some members of the Sufi Movement. This caused, as will be seen, much lack of understanding and lasting enmity. The radical change in her character afterwards was unable to make up for these misunderstandings and this enmity.
Be that as it may, what heredity meant for her is shown by the following lines which she wrote when her honour had been grossly attacked, as will be seen in the fourth Chapter of this Memorial:
“I could tell something of the things that interest me in my life. I was born in London in 1876 and am a daughter of General Sir William Goodenough. My father’s family lived in Oxfordshire a long time, having been known there for some time, for there are memorials of knights in this family from the XII Century at a place called Boughton Poges which continued to belong to them till the time of my great-grandfather. They were, many of them, divines of the Church of England. My great-grandfather, Bishop of Carlisle, a man well-known in his day, was one of the first to seek for knowledge by a then new route, taking a great interest in scientific discovery and at the beginnings of research in that line.
“And I am descended collaterally from William of Wykeham, founder of Winchester, and this has interested me for two reasons: one being for the motto he gave to that school: ‘manners maketh man’, so consonant with Murshid’s teachings; the other that he, the friend of Edward the Black Prince, made a great speech from the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral in London upholding and defending the greater scope and greater power, given with the consent of that prince and his father King Edward, into the hands of the more capable and eminent men of the Church. It is unlike the levelling tendency of today, but in accordance with what Murshid has spoken.
“My mother is the daughter of Count Eugen Kinsky and had lived in Moravia and in Vienna until the time of her marriage; Kinsky, in ancient times Chynsky, being an ancient family of Bohemia in which there had been many leaders in warfare and in the state. A Chynsky was one of the four knights who in the battle of Crécy accompanied and surrounded King John of Bohemia who – blind though he was – took part in a battle as the ally of the French. He was slain, his knights with him; and it is there that Edward the Black Prince, finding them slain upon the battlefield, moved by this action of the enemy, took his coat of arms, the three feathers with the motto ‘Ich dien’, which has since been the coat of arms of the Prince of Wales. This story has been investigated not long ago and proved to be historically true.
“I am also descended directly from Prince Kamitz, the statesmand and prime minister of Maria Theresia who took so great a part in history.
“In the Napoleonic wars my great-great-grandfather Prince Kinsky took a prominent part, and at the battle of Aspern, by a manoeuvre executed contrary to the orders given, turned the fate of the battle: the only victory won over Napoleon during the time when his star was in the ascendant. In the Austrian monarchy there was an Order (a decoration), the Marie Theresien Kreuz, which was given only for such an action on the battlefield, contrary to orders and having a decisive effect upon the issue of the battle, and given only after the meeting of the Consistory. His action was so brilliant that upon the battlefield the Archduke Charles, the hero of the battle, took from his own breast the same Order and pinned it upon the uniform of the General.
"My grandfather had first taken a very great
interest in politics, but as the course taken and the decisions made
were quite contrary to his views, he turned his attention to economic
matters. He was known for his extraordinarily prompt wit, and long after
his death people were constantly quoting many situations and events in
politics that he had foretold.”
This concern – or rather: this importance given to the lineage and to the value of such and such ancestor may in the beginning of the last century already have appeared to some as being exaggerated and outdated and perhaps, as we explained earlier, as coming from someone who belonged to an incomprehensible and hardly admissible class.
This was, it seems to us, a total misunderstanding of the depth of this remarkable character. For, from her writings as well as from her life, one senses that Lucy Goodenough had in her depth something like a sacred depot of that which is the most precious of the past: that which one can call the ideal of chivalry: an ideal of rigour, of impeccable morals, with a sense of constancy going as far as sacrifice. And she showed subsequently that she never considered her nobility as entitling her to whatever benefit or privilege. In brief, one can imagine that this young woman embodied this ideal of chivalry. She also inherited, it has to be said, a certain germanic stiffness in addition to her British reserve, and this combination did not make her very approachable.
However, she herself could laugh at this stiffness. One day in a restaurant in Italy she heard one waiter say to another: “That one, she’s a real old stick of bamboo”, not knowing that Lucy Goodenough was fluent in Italian. Long afterwards she smilingly told Feizi this story.
Murshid must have recognised and appreciated Lucy Goodenough’s spirit of chivalry. In his Biography, chapter “East and West”, he says:
“The country which is commercially developed is alone considered to be civilized. Moral or spiritual progress has no recognized standard. The chivalry of the knights is now a story of the past, personality is not seen as important, but authority is. I was very amused once to hear a so-called democrat commit himself to the opinion that; 'It is the moneyed people who must have the charge of money, for only they know how to make us of it to its best advantage'.
For someone come to introduce and establish very different ideas into the collective consciousness of the West, it must have been a remarkable relief to find a soul of whom he could say that "in her he found his own point of view"..
Feizi van der Scheer gives us a last character trait of Murshida Sharifa: :
“She told me once that she never liked her first name Lucy, and as for the name Goodenough, when Murshid was asked who was his best pupil he replied: “That mureed who is good enough, and yet not too good””.
Murshid sometimes couched things with a certain sense of humour...