by ‘abd al-Ghoosh
The image of the Sufi serves most of all as a kind of bait.
Real Sufis set it out for instructional purposes because it draws the attention, the greed and craving for excitement of the selfstyled “spiritual, and NOT religious” personalities. But then real Sufis, at least when they are at work in the West and not at home in their walled and shaded irrigated gardens in the Muslim countries, also do not go around in yard-wide mauve and pink silk turbans festooned with peacock feathers and rhinestones. Nor are they as a rule accompanied by retinues of small catamites waving palm-frond fans and panniers of smoldering incense, and bearing their jaded languid masters on gilded litters. Of course when any of this is pointed out to the enthusiastic here the latter are most often annoyed, and at the end of the day why shouldn’t they be? After all, now what will become of “my” precious sense of unique individuality?
This is the paradox of the whole matter of Sufism, or of any esoteric system for that matter.
The image of wisdom especially when it is of foreign insights is powerful and compelling to certain personalities. So much is this so that people fail to notice that actually — effectively — to be wise here at home, and to be able to do things “behind the scenes” so to speak, is more often than not a matter of never ever being noticed particularly by anyone around them at all.
Yet so eager are these spiritual folks for new possessions and imported sources of excitement that this simply cannot be gotten across, least of all in any words of warning. This is especially so because so many bring inappropriate social needs to the transaction and above all want — expect! — to be seen as wise in the eyes of their own locals.
This sort of ambition while it might well make for fierce sentiments of misunderstood alienation also is often accompanied by power or ego fantasies. For example there is the blissful question of getting over on everyone in life who ever put them down, whether at work or at home, or even back in high school.
Naturally, the people who did all of the putting down are not bothered by this craving for wisdom, they get plenty of satisfaction from the social struggle in the first place and, in any case, have no notion of what use any sort of “secret tradition” could possibly be. What good is anything that you have to keep to yourself anyway? After all, the sociable make perfectly satisfactory Democrats and Republicans and sports fans and, so, they are in fact doing their real duty to life just by being themselves, anything and everything useful but “wise.”
In short, and rightly so, ordinary folks as far as wisdom goes, whether real or any of the fake varieties, “just can’t see it.”
So what becomes of the disappointed spiritualists?
Well, there are plenty of new spiritual crazes coming down the road every day, and many find their way to these.
After all, these dissatisfied individuals among us, whatever else may not be quite right about them, are more-or-less all “sincere seekers.” So the new fads and cults do offer them plenty of excitement and emotion, are nowhere near as hard on the ego, and in fact some systems are “intermediary” and designed to serve underneath the glitter to get across over time some of the above points in a more gentle way. Even so, the demand for curly bell-toed slippers and flying carpets is very real. There is therefore a persistent small element who continue clamoring to be admitted as paid-up Sufis, and full-blown Pillars Of The Age and Magnetic Poles Of The Eon, and the real problem then of course for the experts is what is to be done with these?
The usual solution is to put the more literate ones to work, writing about it….
[Emmett R Smith
[all transcription-rights reserved
[10 August 2008]