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Tales of the Dervishes (Compass) Paperback – October 1, 1993

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Tales of the Dervishes (Compass) + The Sufis + Learning How to Learn: Psychology and Spirituality in the Sufi Way (Compass)
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Product Details

  • Series: Compass
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (October 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140193588
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140193589
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #313,186 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"... a collection of diamonds ... incredibly well-crafted, multifaceted ... likely to endure in the manner of the Koran and the Bible." -- Professor Robert E. Ornstein, Ph.D., Psychology Today, July 1973

"... challenges our intellectual assumptions at almost every point." -- The Observer

"... equal, and sometimes surpass, in relevance, piquancy and humour, the best of the spiritual and ethical teachers of the West ..." -- Kirkus Review, November 5, 1969

"... some really cracking tales ... full of wit, sophistication, irony and commonsense ... completely absorbing." -- Northern Despatch, October 20, 1967

"... these teaching-tales could become a permanent part of the reader's experience ..." -- Geoffrey Grigson, Country Life, October 26, 1967

"An astonishingly generous and liberating book ... strikingly appropriate for our time and situation ... a jewel flung in the market-place." -- Sunday Times

"Beautifully translated . . equips men and women to make good use of their lives." -- Professor James Kritzeck, The Nation

"For every decade we live, we will find another meaning in each story." -- Desmond Morris, BBC - The World of Books

About the Author

As the urgency of our global situation becomes apparent, more and more readers are turning to the books of Idries Shah (1924-1996) as a way to train new capacities and new ways of thinking. Shah has been described as "the most significant worker adapting classical spiritual thought to the modern world."

Shah was educated in both the East and West, by private tutors and through wide-ranging travel and personal encounters - the series of journeys which characterize Sufi education and development. In keeping with Sufi tradition, his life was essentially one of service. His knowledge and interests appeared limitless, and his activities and accomplishments took place in many different countries and in numerous fields of endeavor.

Shah was Director of Studies of the Institute for Cultural Research, an educational organization sponsoring interdisciplinary and crosscultural studies of human thought; a founding member of the Club of Rome; a Governor of the Royal Humane Society and the Royal Hospital and Home for Incurables; and the founder of publishing house Octagon Press.

Shah's landmark book, "The Sufis", invited readers to approach Sufi ideas and test them out. The evident and common sense made it clear that here was a sane, authoritative voice in the wilderness of the gobbledegookish mysticism of the sixties. The lively, contemporary books on traditional psychologies, literature, philosophy and Sufi thought that followed established a broad historical and cultural context for Sufi thought and action. These have so far sold over 15 million copies in 12 languages worldwide and have been awarded many prizes. They have been reviewed by The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Times, The Tribune, The Telegraph, and numerous other international journals and newspapers.

University and college courses throughout the world are employing Shah's books, or works based on them, in a wide variety of disciplines including sociology, psychology and literature.

In 1969, Idries Shah was awarded the Dictionary of International Biography's Certificate of Merit for Distinguished Service to Human Thought. Other honors included a Two Thousand Men of Achievement award (1971), Six First Prizes awarded by the UNESCO International Book Year (1972), and the International Who's Who in Poetry's Gold Medal for Poetry (1975).

According to his obituary in the London Daily Telegraph "it is impossible to assess his influence, and his legacy is incalculable".

He was, it is said, the Sufi Teacher of the Age.

"The most interesting books in the English language." Saturday Review

"A major psychological and cultural event of our time." Psychology Today

"One is immediately forced to use one's mind in a new way." New York Times

The instrumental function of Shah's work is now well established among people from all walks of life. Stockbrokers, scientists, lawyers, managers, writers, physicians, and diplomats have found Shah's literature for human development "extraordinary".

"It presents a blueprint of the human mental structure." Robert Ornstein, Ph.D.

"Extremely useful in teaching students about management and computers." Thomas Malone, MIT

"Idries Shah provides the unique perspective that allows us to assess real motivations and social biases in a more accurate light." E. Neilsen, Attorney at Law

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Pablo R. Vitaver on June 11, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Stories that will shake your assumptions and strict belief in the established, conventional, trusted and safe relationship between cause and effect. These stories, if nothing else, open your mind to a different way of thinking. By doing that, it awakens parts of your brain that normally stay dormant. A fresh look at everyday occurrences, unquestioned practices and established thought-processes. It has an invigorating value. You don't have to 'believe' anything the author says: he is not selling anything, not even ideas. Just read and observe what happens to yourself, since these stories are about you.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Booklover on January 26, 1998
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I first read TALES OF THE DERVISHES thirty years ago, and I've been re-reading them ever since. My daughter preferred these ancient stories to the standard Western fairy tales at bedtime, asking me to read them to her over and over again, which delighted me because I too found them spellbinding. It's easy to understand why they've endured a thousand years because they are perhaps the most beautiful and intriguing examples of the storytelling art that I've ever encountered.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Bill Frazier on February 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
Most books that deal with metaphysics or consciousness are written by people who like to tell others what they have found. We get an individual interpretation magnified and glorified. There seems to be quite a market for such books, which I suppose must mean there is a taste for them. Tales of the Dervishes, a book which contains Teaching Stories from Sufi Masters, is very short on interpretation of Reality, or descriptions of Reality, or categorizations of Reality, and very long on the means to develope one's own perception and understanding. In these pages we find animals and Kings, beggars and fools, a princess, the water of life and many other familar characters and subjects. Watching themes develope and characters interact is like watching a map of human experience slowly develop. What emerges is that you have just been shown yourself.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Warren P. Reier on November 12, 2006
Format: Paperback
I found "Tales of the Dervishes" by accident in a New York City bookstore. What caught my eye was the very striking red-on-white geometric design on its cover. I read the first story (about some fish) but didn't really understand it, so I went on to the second story, called "The Food of Paradise":

"Yunus, the son of Adam, decided one day not only to cast his life in the balance of fate, but to seek the means and reason of the provision of goods for man.

"`I am', he said to himself, `a man. As such I get a portion of the world's goods, every day. This portion comes to me by my own efforts, coupled with the efforts of others. By simplifying this process, I shall find the means by which sustenance comes to mankind, and learn something about how and why. I shall therefore adopt the religious way, which exhorts man to rely on almighty God for his sustenance. Rather than live in the world of confusion, where food and other things come apparently through society, I shall throw myself on the direct support of the Power that rules over all. The beggar depends upon intermediaries: charitable men and women who are subject to secondary impulses. They give goods or money because they have been trained to do so. I shall accept no indirect contribution.'

"So saying, he walked into the countryside, throwing himself upon the support of invisible forces with the same resolution with which he had accepted the support of visible ones when he had been a teacher in a school."

I was completely rapt.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
The more I read these tales, the more I realize that they they do more than simply point the limitations of certain ways of thinking. They also point to alternative ways of approaching life and the experiences offered during a lifetime. Each time I read it, the book offers me new insights, always helping me move to fresh realizations. I cannot overemphasize how these tales have enabled me to focus and orient my mind so as to make it more receptive. The stories in this collection are thus not only enjoyable reads, they are valuable instruments as well. I strongly recommend this book.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A. Paulson on January 28, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After 10+ years of reading the stories in this book, I still come away with a different level of understanding of each story with each passing year. A master storyteller, Idries Shah's writing reaches right into the very thought processes that make you who you think you are and then snaps you into remembering who you really are on Earth and beyond. Like an onion, the stories all have multiple layers. Only with time do they reveal themselves. Good for the beginner as well as the most advanced --
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Caroline Harkins on January 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
I have just reread Idries Shah's Tales of the Dervishes. The 82 tales from Sufi teaching of the last thousand years include current material. Shah calls it "work material". These vivid and vital accounts are communications, really. They invite the reader to experience the challenge and mystery of Sufi lore and teaching. I was surprised to find that after ten years, I still remember nearly every tale: the feel of the words and drama as well as details of action. The characters, though often odd and unlikely also seem oddly familiar. Their escapades stimulate emotional as well as intellectual involvement. The outcomes seem at once impossible and inevitable. We are reading about ourselves here: the lucky time when we got it right and all the missed opportunities.
After each tale Shah gives historical notes and useful comments.
Dhun-Nun the Egyptian explained graphically in a parable how he extracted knowledge concealed in Pharaonic inscriptions.
There was a statue with pointing finger, upon which was inscribed: 'Strike on this spot for treasure.' Its origin was unknown, but generations of people had hammered the place marked by the sign. Because it was made of the hardest stone, little impression was made on it, and the meaning remained cryptic.
Dhun-Nun, wrapped in contemplation of the statue, one day exactly at midday observed that the shadow of the pointing finger, unnoticed for centuries, followed a line in the paving beneath the statue.
Marking the place he obtained the necessary instruments and prised up by chisel-blows the flagstone, which proved to be the trapdoor in the roof of a subterranean cave which contained strange articles of a workmanship which enabled him to deduce the science of their manufacture, long since lost and hence to acquire the treasures and those of a more formal kind which accompanied them.
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