Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The prodigious Work of the Sufis: Book review

The Sufis (2014) by Idries Shah
The Sufis by Idries Shah offers a wide overview of the historical development of the Sufi Way, through the works of individual masters (many of whom were highly successful polymaths), schools and orders, and through a whole host of fields in which they were engaged or through which their work was projected, such as religion, ethics, learning, science, the arts, traditional psychology and (not least) humour. Though it came to maturity in the classical Islamic era, the Sufi Way (which may be thought of in part as the esoteric heart of [exoteric] religion), it is said to have been a vital "yeast" or leaven in societies since time immemorial.

The Sufis shows the extraordinary and largely unknown or unsuspected influence and shaping of society, of what some term the "Ancient Teachings" or the "Secret Doctrine", not only in the East but also gradually diffusing throughout Medieval Christondom, a process which continues to this day, being re-presented as ever in accordance with the needs of time, place and people.

There's little point in reading out a list of the many topics covered by the chapters in the book, but suffice it to say that the Sufis influenced or were behind a great many of our institutions, or that these institutions are relics of previously dynamic Sufic operations. At random, then, we can see this Sufic influence in our poetry; literature; mythology; magic; alchemy; freemasonry; and in the Troubadour movement (with the concept of chivalry, romantic love and hence much modern music that has come along in its wake).