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Ed Jewett
01-23-2012, 03:57 AM
music video: Avaz-E Dashti, The Silk Road Ensemble
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNCiZrsV7IE

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The Sufi, in short, is aiming for a development, not to produce conditioned reflexes. He is teaching, not training. He intervenes, to provide the right stimulus at the right time for the right person. Such an activity is seen as chaotic by those who cannot perceive its purposefulness; just as the way of life in some open societies feels unbearably disorderly to those who have escaped from regimented ones: something which frequently happens today.


The tendency to seek reassurance and regularity is common to all human beings. This is reflected in their cleaving to oversimplified systems. It explains why many people are drawn to organizations which offer authority and certainty. There is nothing wrong with order and discipline: indeed, these are essentials to all human groupings. But the misuse of this proclivity in areas where it does not apply attenuates or delays progress. It results in the uncomfortable feeling, even among the most regimented, that “there is something else…”.


And yet exposure to strong discipline does not of itself produce as a reaction a necessarily wholesome affinity for truth. It is noticeable that coercive, regimented or rigorously intellectualist societies throw up weird cults and aberrations, providing both the supply of and the demand for certain emotions.…


The Sufi insists that the adherence to traditional forms is not a spiritual activity at all. It is only in recent years that the Sufi has been able to call upon the insights and experiments of the sociologists and psychologists to establishing current terminology, and hence an acceptable form, the fact that very many “people of the spirit” are only religious in the sense that they have been conditioned to feel certain emotional responses. And that such people are, anthropologically speaking, little else than members of a tribe. These facts, written down and asserted centuries ago by Sufis, are now thought by modern thinkers to be a great new discovery…


The supposedly devout are, in Sufic terms (as well as in the new understanding of contemporary workers in the social sciences) cultists but hardly people of the spirit in the Sufic sense.


The use of authority figures, canonical literature, liturgy, exercises, special clothes, and similarly standardized elements, are now plainly seen as ingredients in training systems which differ, one from the other, only in the ideas and symbols used.…


The “deluded Sufis”, down the centuries, are those who have taken temporary teaching situations, parables, and the like which are stretched to apply as perennial “truths”, “exercises” and the like. This kind of development, or hypertrophy, has taken place in other projections than that known as Sufic. Indeed, it is this which is responsible for the existence of a large number of cults and religious bodies which are generally believed to be authentic and authoritative. In reality, the fossilization which is represented by such groups is the antithesis of a spiritual school. Instead of developing people, it imprisons them, as genuine Sufis have never tired of pointing out.


So far has this process gone that, in most cultures, the imitation has all but driven out the original. The result is that, examining certain religious cults (some of them involving multiple millions of people and possessing great influence) nobody could be blamed for believing this degeneration to be religion itself.


Recently, explaining this attitude to a famous spiritual leader, I received the answer: “But it must be true: otherwise so many people would not have believed.”


He had, clearly, not heard of Gresham’s law: bad money drives out good.…


[Even] Among the Sufis, the development of “orders” gives us a conspicuous example of the process which I’ve been describing. Of all the major “paths” among the supposed Sufis of today, not a single one is traceable in its foundation to the man who is named as its founder. Each came into being only after his death, formulated from some of the specific teachings employed for local purposes, and soon turned into a cult.…


All [these] distortions–and more–which have persisted in Sufic–and other–teachings are due to the presence and activity of the commanding self. [The Sufis refer to the action of the mixture of primitive emotionality and irrelevant associations which bedevil would be observers as the commanding self. “It is only since the 1950s, with the discovery of the far-reaching effects of conditioning, brainwashing and attitude engineering, that a subjective nature of virtually all approaches to knowledge has been perceived to the degree to which the Sufis, for centuries, have tried to establish. The Sufis have always taught: “examine your assumptions; avoid mechanicality; distinguish faith from fixation”.]


There is no intention of destroying or undermining the commanding self. But the Sufi activity insist upon asking: does it command you, or do you command it?


Music from Silk Road Journeys: When Strangers Meet

The Silk Road Ensemble

Text from the first few pages of

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http://www.amazon.com/Commanding-Self-Idries-Shah/dp/0863040705.

James Ruby
01-23-2012, 06:40 AM
...of Idries Shah. He was a wonderful humanitarian writer. I particularly enjoyed The Magic Monastery and his illuminating book on the English. Incidentally, he was a friend of Abdul Haq, brutally murdered by the Taliban.