The Sufis
 
 


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The Sufis [Paperback]

Idries Shah , Robert Graves
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"...more extraordinary the more it is studied, because what it states about a subject which is by definition beyond verbalization." -- Doris Lessing, Encounter: Books & Writers, August 1972

"...the best introduction to the body of Shah's work...one is ... forced to use one's mind in a new way." -- Doris Lessing, New York Times Book Review, May 7, 1971

"...vastness of learning and exposition that calls to our patience - and perhaps to our loss if it calls in vain." -- Stevie Smith, The Observer, November 1, 1964

"Important historically and culturally." -- Los Angeles Times

"The book has flashes of what (without intending to define the word) I can only call illumination." -- D. J. Enright, New Statesman

"The first fully authoritative book on Sufism and the human-development system of the 'dervishes'..." -- Afghanistan News, May 1964

From the Publisher

Idries Shah's definitive work, "The Sufis", completely overturned Western misconceptions of Sufism, revealing a great spiritual and psychological tradition encompassing many of the world's greatest thinkers: Rumi, Omar Khayyam, Ibn El-Arabi, Al-Ghazzali, Saadi, Attar, Francis of Assisi and many others.

The astonishing impact of Sufism on the development of Western civilization from the seventh century is traced through the work of Roger Bacon, John of the Cross, Raymond Lully, Chaucer and others. Many of the greatest traditions, ideas and discoveries of the West are traced to the teachings and writings of Sufi masters working centuries ago.

But "The Sufis" is far more than an historical account. In the tradition of the great Sufi classics, the deeper appeal of this remarkable book is in its ability to function as an active instrument of instruction, in a way that is so clearly relevant to our time and culture.

The spiritual and psychological tradition of Sufism was regarded, before this pioneering book was published, as the preserve of ecstatic religionists and a small number of Oriental scholars, who treated it in the main as a minority cult. The false image of Sufism as a mere Islamic sect was changed so much by this book that it is now given serious attention as a psychological and mystical system of extraordinary richness and importance.

Today, studies in Sufism, notably through Shah's research and publication, are pursued in centers of higher learning throughout the world, in the fields of psychology, sociology, anthropology, and many other areas of current human concern.

"The Sufis" is the pivotal work which heralded the revelation of the astonishing richness and variety of Sufi thought and its contribution to human culture contained in Idries Shah's many books on the subject. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

A unique and little-known religion, Sufism follows a mystical teaching and a way of life that has had an enormous though largely unrecognized impact on both the East and West for four thousand years. This authoritative book fills a colossal gap in Western documentation of Eastern subjects.

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 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".

From The Washington Post

"A seminal book of the century."

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

For the Sufi, it is no accident that the "secret doctrine" whose existence has for uncounted time been suspected and sought proves so elusive to the seeker. If, say, communism is a religion without a god, academic study of Sufism without being to any extent a "working Sufi" is Sufism without its essential factor. If this assertion militates against the rational tradition that an individual can find truth merely through the exercise of the faculties with which he finds himself endowed, there is only one answer. Sufism, the "secret tradition," is not available on the basis of assumptions which belong to another world, the world of intellect. If it is felt that truth about extraphysical fact must be sought only through a certain way of thinking, the rational and "scientific" one, there can be no contact between the Sufi and the supposedly objective seeker.

Sufi literature and preparatory teaching is designed to help to bridge the gap between these two worlds of thought. Were it not possible to provide any bridge at all, this book would be worthless, and should not have been attempted.

If Sufism is an adventure, a goal of human perfection attained by reviewing and awakening within humanity a higher organ of fulfillment, completion, destiny, why is it so difficult to assess, to locate in time, to pin down? It is precisely because Sufism is carried out in every community and at every time that it has such diversity - and this is one of its secrets.

Sufis believe that, expressed in one way, humanity is evolving to a certain destiny. We are all taking part in that evolution. Organs come into being as a result of the need for specific organs (Rumi). The human being's organism is producing a new complex of organs in response to such a need. In this age of the transcending of time and space, the complex of organs is concerned with the transcending of time and space. What ordinary people regard as sporadic and occasional bursts of telepathic or prophetic power are seen by the Sufi as nothing less than the first stirrings of these same organs. The difference between all evolution up to date and the present need for evolution is that for the past ten thousand years or so we have been given the possibility of a conscious evolution. So essential is this more rarefied evolution that our future depends upon it.

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