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Western SufismFrom the Abbasids to the New Age$
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Mark Sedgwick

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199977642

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199977642.001.0001

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Idries Shah and Sufi Psychology

Idries Shah and Sufi Psychology

(p.208) 12 Idries Shah and Sufi Psychology
Western Sufism

Mark Sedgwick

Oxford University Press

This chapter looks at the most widely read Western writer on Sufism, Idries Shah, providing an overview of Shah’s career and his writings. At one level, these simply retell the folk wisdom of the Muslim world, especially through the delightful stories of Nasruddin, and this is one reason for the success of Shah’s books. The chapter argues that at another level, however, they reflect the example of Shah’s friend Robert Graves, who also retold appealing stories to good effect, and the influence of Gurdjieff. The chapter traces Shah’s complex relationship with John G. Bennett and the Gurdjieff teaching. Despite the popularity of his writings, Shah refused to lead more than a few followers, criticizing both those whom he disparaged as gurus, and their followers. Even so, he had a great impact on the Western public. His understanding of Sufism, however, did not survive his death in 1996.

Keywords:   Idries Shah, Writings on Sufism, Nasruddin (Nasr al-Din), Robert Graves, Gurdjieff Teaching, John G. Bennett

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