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Wisdom of the Idiots Hardcover – December, 2002

4.8 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"... a Multi-IQ system by which the reader may profit - and be prepared - according to his understanding." -- The Evening News, February 10, 1969

"... a book ... so significant that it opens up a new world of understanding." -- The Inquirer, March 1, 1969

"... hilarious, usually unsettling stuff, whisking away the rug from under our favourite convictions and thinking habits ... the effect is exhilarating ..." -- Tribune, February 5, 1971

"... startling ideas ... both wisdom and fun ... a stunningly lucid interpretation for the Western reader of profound and ancient Eastern thinking." -- Oldham Evening Chronicle

"A book rewarding in many ways ... a stimulation of that part of the mind which is still unpolluted..." -- Kent Evening Post, October 6, 1971

"The book is full of humour, too, not belly laughs but slow, inner smiles." -- Sunderland Echo, January 13, 1972

"While the stories are delightfully entertaining, their real value lies in their potent psychological content." -- The Brook Postgraduate Gazette, March 1973

From the Publisher

A carefully chosen collection of illustrative stories, narratives, and anecdotes, which illustrate experiential philosophy and action training, used in Sufi teaching. The Sufis are the thinkers who called themselves "idiots" in contrast to the self-styled "wise". The stories of these self-styled "idiots" are in fact skillfully designed exercises in which the movements of the characters portray psychological processes.

Widely acclaimed for its entertainment value and psychological interest it gained the citation "Best Book" at the Buenos Aires International Exhibition of Sufi books held in conjunction with UNESCO's World Book Year.

The celebrated writer Nina Epton said in a BBC broadcast: "Seeds that Idries Shah sows in our Western path are chosen by a discerning modern mind, with a profound knowledge of the East and West. The best spiritual traditions, interpreted afresh, are applied by Idries Shah to our contemporary world. This is his contribution to our spiritual equipment - which consequently now finds itself considerably enriched."


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 179 pages
  • Publisher: Octagon Press, Limited; 2 edition (December 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0900860103
  • ISBN-13: 978-0900860102
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.7 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,142,947 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Those who see, within the world's great religions, traces of representations of inner truth and methods of attunement toward it, among great blank spaces filled with outworn ritual and self-serving platitudes, may find that Wisdom of the Idiots goes a long way toward filling in the blanks. Wisdom of the Idiots is full of tales and narratives, most under two pages long, showing religious psychology in action. More than that, they shift our perspective for a moment so that we can see more clearly how attitudes and assumptions disable perceptions and thwart development, in the individual, the group and the community. Once we see this, the way toward a more realistic perception of humanity is left open.
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Format: Paperback
This collection of 94 concise tales trains a spotlight on an array of human foibles and follies, and one reading of them is just not enough. You'll find yourself opening the book again and again--to savor the delicious humor of some selections, to study others you seem to have missed before, to ponder the significance of those whose interpretation isn't obvious. Gradually you realize that the tales have multiple levels of meaning, that they open up new pathways of perception, and that they promote insights not only about other people but also about your own patterns of thought and behavior. When you find yourself wondering just what "wisdom" really is and just who the "idiots" in this world really are, you'll realize how great an impact on your consciousness this little book has made.
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Format: Paperback
Sufis have been called idiots because their knowledge can appear idiotic to peole who are limited to appearances. To learn from this "idiocy" one must go deeper into matters. Wisdom of the Idiots seems to me a course on how to be a successful student. It is also an introduction to Sufi experience. Shah has crafted his book from teaching stories, essays, explanations and quips of Sufi teachers of the last 1,000 years. He works with and through this material producing a Sufi document usable and useful to people of our times and culture.
The material is non-dogmatic and non-moralistic, by turns gentle and gritty. It is thought provoking and funny. I recommend Wisdom of the Idiots if you are a student, formal or otherwise, or if you are considering becoming one.
Najmaini ('The Man of the Two Stars') dismissed a student with the words: 'Your fidelity has been tested. I find it so unshakeable that you must go.'
The student said: 'Go I shall, but I cannot understand how fidelity can be a ground for dimissal.'
Najmaini said: 'For three years we have tested your fidelity. Your fidelity to useless knowledge and superficial judgments is complete. That is why you must go.'
O man! If you only knew how many of the false fantasies of the imagination were nearer to the Truth than the careful conclusions of the cautious. And how these truths are of no service until the imaginer, having done his work with the imagination, has become less imaginative. Shab-Parak
The scraps from the meal of the Emir are larger than the gifts of halwa from the merchant. Timur Razil
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Format: Paperback
This is a collection of Sufi (Islamic mystics) teaching stories. Shah is famous for his many collections of them. I've read 10 of his books. They are invariably entertaining. The Sufi masters are referred to as idiots--they can appear as such to the uninitiated. Reminds one of the story of Elijah and the Hasidic master who asked to accompany him. The proviso was that the Hasid couldn't question Elijah on what he did--or he couldn't continue. They visited an old, poor couple who nonetheless shared what little they had with the visitors. So, Elijah prayed for their only asset (a cow) to die. Then they visited a rich man who treated them poorly, so Elijah fixed a wall in the man's house which was about to fall down. After a number of these episodes, the Hasid broke down and asked how Elijah could act as he did. Of course, Elijah had good reasons (e.g. the wall contained a treasure that the rich man would have found had the wall collapsed and the cow took the place of one of the couple who was about to die). Similarly, the Tibetan Buddhists have had masters of Crazy Wisdom. Some of the stories in this particular Shah collection (and the others too) are understandable; some are more like Zen koans. I found this book among the best of the ones I've read of his. You might also try his Nasrudin books; my favorite is: "The Pleasantries of the Incredible Mulla Nasrudin."
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By A Customer on July 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
Notwithstanding his claims as a sufi, and one one who mediated new forms of knowledge to the West, Shah was one of the great stylists of modern literature. "Wisdom of the Idiots" is one of his greatest books; lucid prose and clear thinking are not usually associated with mysticism but these are consistent elements in Shah's books.
As well as tales which report interchanges between sufi masters and enquirers there are evocative stories. Some such as 'Hope' establish the connections between inner qualities and success; others such as the evocative 'Paradise of Song' suggest 'more selves than one, more hopes than one, more chance then one - up there in the Paradise of Song.'
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