Sunday, 25 November 2018

“This is the Home Service calling”: The Sufi Way

“This is the Home Service calling; Home Service calling. Are you receiving us?”

We live in a world inundated with information – of fact and fiction, opinion masquerading as fact, misinformation, disinformation, and misguidance, and we exiles from the Real World are in constant and growing danger of drowning in it, and of being buried and lost, like a hidden treasure, beneath an ever-growing mountain of egotism and globalized sham-materialism.

Perhaps we are not in a position to do much, at the present moment, about the all-pervasive beast of sham-materialism, but as the wise saying goes, “If you want to change the world, first change yourself”. As a part of that more manageable, but nevertheless difficult task – not least the question of how to get in touch with our own self at our authentic core and discover its real needs (as opposed to its desires) – we can turn our attention to how we communicate – with ourselves, with others, and with something transcendent that has risen above our own miserable difficulties.

So, we turn first to facts.

Of course, facts are very useful as correctives to misconceptions or misguidance (if we can sift out fact from opinion, falsity and fake news), and to provide pointers to remedial material and growth – I don't doubt that for a minute. But it needs to be emphasized that knowing a fact such as “Apples are nutritious” is not at all the same thing as actually eating, digesting and deriving nutritional benefits from a fruit. As Alfred Korzybsk is reported to have once said, the map is not the territory, or more accurately in his own words: “A map is not the territory it represents, but, if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory, which accounts for its usefulness.” So the fact that certain fruit are nutritious might be useful in getting us to actually research nutrition and locate and consume suitably nutritious foods; though its limitations would be disclosed if it were to lead a person instead to binge on crisps and chocolate biscuits and eventually become obese.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

The inspired self, and intuition: The Sufi Way

“How will I know if I'm being inspired and intuitive?”

Mind brain connections.
“How will I know if I'm being inspired and intuitive?”

In individual instances, you may every now and again realize that something you've thought, or said, or done, was in some way inspired, and you may congratulate yourself on what you take to be *your* inspiration, or you may assign congratulations to some “other”, perhaps someone who has influenced you, or to a psychic Muse.

Overall, however, you may not think “I'm inspired” or “I'm intuitive” and label yourself as such, in the early stages of such mastery. These instances may be few and far between, apparently random, or sporadic, and the process may well be prone to error.

Let's move on a few years, though, and say that one of your interests is computer programming, which most people would take to be a logical or “left brain” task. After that time, you may be able to look back, and see that in the initial stages, the tasks you set yourself were all very mechanical, approached in a very logical and methodical way, and perhaps that you surrounded yourself with a wall of reference books that you frequently consulted, out of necessity, to “borrow” material, or “just to be sure”. But now, years down the line, instead of being unsure about your abilities, when you are presented with a task, you may know instantly that some way or other the project is feasible, and even if you don't yet know how to complete it, you know whether or not you're likely to be able to find a solution either by yourself or with the aid of others who have already completed similar tasks. While initially it was more a matter of theoretical “know what” (which you can now see is “ten a penny”), now the primary approach is practical “know how”, and you can rest on the assurance that you have successfully completed similar, complex tasks before, and at the same time you realize that you may have to attempt several different approaches to the task, and often hit “brick walls” that you cannot get over, before you eventually complete the task.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Being How to Be: The Sufi Way

Whisperings of Love.
In the course of his lifetime, the thinker and teacher in the Sufi mystical tradition, Idries Shah wrote many books, including Learning How to Learn (a preparatory stage of study); Seeker After Truth; The Commanding Self; and Knowing How to Know. Some of these works alternate between more-didactic passages and narratives, poetry, and specially-designed teaching stories which, like an onion, contain layers of deeper meaning. Other works such as Tales of the Dervishes are collections of traditional teaching stories.

"Learning how to learn", "seeing how to see", and "knowing how to know" are abilities to develop and goals along the way, I would say, toward a more distant and yet immanent goal experienced in the here and now, which is "closer than your jugular vein", as the Sufis would say — awakening and "being how to be", which is a way of Being.

One of the tales first introduced in Shah's seminal work, The Sufis features the wise-fool Mulla Nasrudin, who is tasked with ferrying a pedant across a stretch of water.

Never Know When It Might Come in Useful

Nasrudin sometimes took people for trips in his boat. One day a fussy pedagogue hired him to ferry him across a very wide river.

As soon as they were afloat the scholar asked whether it was going to be rough.

‘Don’t ask me nothing about it,’ said Nasrudin.

‘Have you never studied grammar?’

‘No,’ said the Mulla.

‘In that case, half your life has been wasted.’

The Mulla said nothing.

Soon a terrible storm blew up. The Mulla’s crazy cockleshell was filling with water.

He leaned over towards his companion. ‘Have you ever learnt to swim?’

‘No,’ said the pedant.

‘In that case, schoolmaster, ALL your life is lost, for we are sinking.’