[NetBehaviour] Doris Lessing pays tribute to a great exponent of Sufism

marc garrett marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Mon Nov 18 12:27:33 CET 2013

Doris Lessing pays tribute to a great exponent of Sufism

The Times 1994.

Thirty years ago there appeared The Sufis, a book which at once 
announced itself as unlike any other. Hundreds of books by non-Sufis 
appear every year, disappear without trace or wash up on obscure shelves 
in academic libraries. This book was at once "recognised" -- a Sufi term 
which may be summed up by "like calls to like" -- by a remarkable range 
of people, many of them poets. The Sufis is a classic, and was by Idries 
Shah, who represents a genuine mystic tradition -- there are many imitators.

Since then he has written or compiled over 30 books, providing a 
comprehensive experience of the Sufi view of life. The whole body of 
work, together with his reissuing of still relevant Sufi classics, adds 
up to a many-faceted whole. There are people who have taken part in this 
process, book by book. Others have found this or that book useful or 
entertaining. The Commanding Self is both a summing up of a third of a 
century's work, and a development. People who have stayed the course 
will find similar ideas here, but put into a new context or taken a step 
further, sometimes unexpectedly.

"The commanding self" is a Sufi term for the false personality. Their 
contention is that we are all products of ideas put into us by our 
parents, by our culture, by the time we live in, and that what is real 
in us is very small (and precious). It is this part the Sufis aim to 
reach and teach. Some people, hearing that nearly everything they seem 
to be is only a mask made by conditioning, will say, "Well, of course!" 
-- and want more information, while others may feel threatened. The 
picture on the cover is a photograph of an ancient figurine, a 
representation of the commanding self, like a savage dog. "Do you want 
to live an angry biting life?"



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