It's funny. I read Sufi texts with such innocence. I just plop a book open and I'm like, "What's my lesson for today?" I don't expect anything. I just read.
Then, I question. I draw parallels. I question again.
I comprehend a particular angle one day, and then something completely different the next.
When things get quiet, I put the book down.
Things are quiet now. I may eat a little something. I may sleep. I may even read what Mr. Shah has to say one more time.
Real teaching starts with the Guardians, Lords of Knowledge and Understanding. It does not start with Love, Effort, or Action, because real love, effort, and action are made possible through real action.
But when too many even slightly covetous people appear or remain in a community, they turn methods into beliefs, and believe what they should practice.
There are two conditions which can lead to the perishing of a group. In the first, there is too much insincerity in the people in charge. In the other a little insincerity spread among all the members constitues the equivalent of one or more wholly selfish people.
The insincerity-flaw retards the progress o the leaders and of the others alike. Only searching for self-examination can reveal it to them. If it were not for this flaw, they and the community would have arrived at their destination. It is well known, of course, that the worse the degree of self-esteem, the less able is the victim to detect it, or even contemplt it.
To revert to the behavious of the infected group:
These individuals and their followers choose thoughts and actions which themselves smother most of the hope of success in human fulfilment. They may try to form a permanent organization to aim for enlightenment. They probably subject everyone to the same exercises and observances. Forgetting the orginial intention, they turn practices and illustrative tales into a sort of history, which they try to teach. If they possess literature and contemporary memories of teachers ('masters'), they use them to bolster a belief in thei own rightness and the corrections of their procedures. They frequently use but a single method of interpretation of literature and tradition, training people and not enabling them to become illuminated.
The Centre by this stage has effectively disappeared. The work has instead bcome a kind of kingdom, intent upon conserving but not knowing what to conserve. The leaders and their adherents remain frozenly attached to its body, making it a place of imitation which conserves minor or irrelevant outward forms. They generally esteem, under other names, raw emotionality.
Concurrently, there comes into being over-veneration of men, of groups and legend, and hostility towards others, and sometimes impatience. What was originally a unity splits into groups of varying interpretation or concentration, generally useless, and observations which are inacurate. By this point almost all reality and potentiality have departed. The community has been effectively invaded and possessed without this development having been registered by its members. The truth may be obscured by the continued use, by the 'lame' community, of words words and outward aspects, biographical reminiscences, and other facets of the orginal knowledge. Certainly its members will believe that by these tokens they are continuing on the right path.
Their only hope of retrieval is in the excercise of concentrated efforts towards sincerity.
This pattern is one reason why from time to time the Guardians must emerge and announce to the possessors of ears the renewal of the high tradition by means of apposite working. By now, naturally, to the strayed ones, these words will sound strange or inimical, like the speech of reason seems to the demented - absurd.
One result of the condition is that without intending it the Guardinas incur, variously, both over-enhusiastic support and also opposition to themselves in different sections of their audience. Both reactions are unpromising, if expected, signs, just as objectionable as apathy.
Working together the parties must overcom these tendencies if success in reviving the teaching is to be achieved.
This is the story of every age upon earth. The only real variant is the time-span during which this behaviour takes place.
Those who have only little knowledge, and think that have more than that of ordinary folk, are no less open to reason and to teaching than those who have no knowledge at all of the Tradition. This irony is a further complication.
And yet they are better able to make progress in the Way once the outer husk of ageing has been softened. They sometimes retain potentialities whose presence involves us in a chance to offer rescue. It is in the furtherance of this duty, based upon our knowledge of the Tradition, the teaching and the conditions of parties (groups), that we can exercise skill, action, love, and effort.
When the husk of people or groupings is too hardened, such individuals and communities will remain like hard nuts which are being rapidly carried down a river, heedlessly.
The water of compassion and understanding will not be able to soften them enough to help them sprout into seedlings before they reach a dam where they will pile up, abandoned and, unfortunately, uncomprehending.
- Nawab Mohammed Ali Shah, "Nishan-i-Ghaib"
The quoted text is from Idries Shah's "Way of the Sufi." It was recently returned to me.
I am glad it was.