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Idries Shah

The Sufis

  • Nastya Richterhas quotedlast year
    ‘The sublime love poetry of the Sufi saints, the wholly practical nature of their teachings, the fervour allied with a deeply underlying sense of mission, of attainment of needs, both spiritual and physical, the confidence of the message and the future of the human race: these are some of the outstanding contributions of this wonderful body, admission to whose numbers conveys the undoubted and abiding sensation of membership of an ancient elect.’
  • Nastya Richterhas quotedlast year
    I was present one day when a Sufi Sheikh in the Near East was being closely questioned by a foreign student of the occult who was desperate to know how he could recognise a Sufi teacher, and whether the Sufis had any Messianic legends foreshadowing the possibility of a Guide who would bring people back to metaphysical awareness. ‘You yourself are destined to be a leader of this sort,’ said the Sheikh, ‘and Eastern mystics will be prominent in your life. Keep faith.’ Later he turned to his disciples and said, ‘That was what he came here for. Do you refuse a child a sweetmeat, or tell a lunatic that he is insane? It is not our function to rehabilitate the ineducable. When a man says, “How do you like my new coat?” you must not say, “It is horrible”, unless you can manage to give him a better one, or teach him better taste in dress. Some people cannot be taught.
    ‘Rumi said: “You cannot teach by disagreement.”’
  • Nastya Richterhas quotedlast year
    The Czech Professor Erich Heller, in his preface to a book which rapidly became a classic of teaching in the mid-twentieth century, touches on the problem of studying literature, and especially of teaching it. He says that the teacher ‘is involved in a task which would appear impossible by the standards of the scientific laboratory — to teach what, strictly speaking, cannot be taught, but only “caught”, like a passion, a vice, or a virtue’ (The Disinherited Mind, London, 1952).
  • Nastya Richterhas quotedlast year
    A Sufi was once asked why the Sufis use words in a special sense, possibly removed from their accustomed significance. His answer was: ‘Rather ponder upon why the ordinary man suffers from the tyranny of words, immobilised by custom until they only serve as tools.’
  • Nastya Richterhas quotedlast year
    The Sufi pattern of words, action and cooperation requires three things: the teacher, the learner and the community or school. Rumi refers to this complex of activity when he says:
    Ilm-amozi tariqish qawli ast
    Harfa-amozi tariqish fa’li ast
    Faqr-amozi az sohbat qaim ast.
    ‘Science is learned by words; art by practice; detachment by companionship.’
  • Nastya Richterhas quotedlast year
    ‘The alternative, which you will not take, is detachment. You see, when we detach, we do not do so in the way in which you do. Intellect teaches you to detach your mind from something and view it intellectually. What we have to do is to detach from both intellect and emotion. How can you become accessible to anything if you are using intellect to judge it? Your problem is that what you call intellect is really a series of ideas which alternately take possession of your consciousness. We do not regard intellect as sufficient. Intellect, for us, is a complex of more or less compatible attitudes which you have been trained to regard as one single thing. According to Sufi thinking, there is a level below this, which is a single, small, but vital one. It is the true intellect. This true intellect is the organ of comprehension, existing in every human being. From time to time in ordinary human life it breaks through, producing strange phenomena which cannot be accounted for by the usual methods. Sometimes these are called occult phenomena, sometimes they are thought to be a transcending of the time or space relationship. This is the element in the human being which is responsible for his evolution to a higher form.’
  • Nastya Richterhas quotedlast year
    ‘A moment ago you were applying for admission to our circle,’ said the Sheikh, ‘and now I have succeeded in confusing you to such an extent that you admit you cannot judge. Well, that is the essence of it. You cannot judge. You cannot use the instruments of carpentry for watchmaking. You have set yourself a task: to find spiritual truth. You have sought this truth in the wrong directions, and interpreted its manifestations in the wrong way. Is it surprising that you will remain in this state? There is one other alternative for you, as you are at present. The excessive concentration upon the theme, the anxiety and emotion which is engendered in you, will ultimately pile up to such an extent that you will seek a relief from it. Then what will happen? Emotion will swamp intellect; and you will either hate religion or — more likely — become converted to some cult which takes the responsibility. You will settle down with the notion that you have found what you sought.’
  • Nastya Richterhas quotedlast year
    Before the stage of conscious development, various indisputable experiences mark certain stages of advance. These give the individual both proof of his progress and strength to continue to the next stage. Unless he receives these illuminations in correct succession, he will stay at a stage of partial awareness or occasional concentration power. One of the least desirable results of such out-of-sequence development is when the candidate is not weaned from dependence upon his instructor.
  • Nastya Richterhas quotedlast year
    The dervish refines his consciousness so that he can become aware of states of mind and conditions of reality which are only crudely grasped by the ordinary mind. It might be said that people are normally aware of intellect only in terms of quantity; of emotion as a quantity. The quality, a subtler side which is nonetheless essential to completeness, is difficult to train or elicit, hence abandoned by most people, who make do with very rough approximations of their total capacities.
  • Nastya Richterhas quotedlast year
    ‘Before the exercises can take place, either the Greater Balance or the Lesser Balance must have been achieved by the candidate. This balance is connected with the fact that ordinary humanity is not able, except for very short periods, to concentrate at all. Rumi, in Fihi Ma Fihi, stresses this, a matter of first importance in any teaching situation:
    Innumerable changes of mood are yours, and they are uncontrolled by you. If you knew their origin, you would be able to dominate them. If you cannot localise your own changes, how can you localise that which formed you?
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