Tag Archives: Idries Shah

Direction of the Possible

changedirection

Man can live the most amazing things if they make sense to him. But the difficulty is to create that sense. It must be a conviction, naturally; but you find that the most convincing things man can invent are cheap and ready-made, and are never able to convince him against his personal desires and fears. — C.G. Jung, The Essential Jung: Selected Writings, p. 90

Teaching Cartoon-Possibilities

One day the Nasruddin went with some men a-fishing. They cast the net into the sea, and the Nasruddin cast himself into the net. ‘O Nasruddin,’ said they, ‘what are you about?’ ‘I imagined myself a fish,’ he answered.

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Teaching Cartoons: Structure and Shifting

freewillor

shift-happens

bonus:

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Interlude #1 Perfume

Stephen Calhoun, fine artist, Cleveland Heights, Ohio

Bardo, A (Stephen Calhoun, 2015)

Indivisible

Forgive & let go
open the head
free the heart

be wary of vengeance
a life for a death

if you can’t
see anyone entire
there’s no one
there

not even you
aha aha

death is a giving up
risen as having gone
to be

the theatre of art
the spirit of fact

what you don’t know
give into

what the mind thinks
happens

(Vincent Ferrini, The Pleroma, 2008)
Kenneth Warren wrote the Introduction.

Pomegranates

A young man had finished his schooling and thus was hanging around the house.

His mother told him, “It is exactly the right moment to figure out what you are going to do with your life.”

The young man nodded his head. He also decided to get out of the house and spend more time in the village and observe what was going on every day there–because he hoped he would discover a clue about what he was to do.

For most of the next month he did exactly this. Over those weeks he found himself gravitating to a healer, a specialist in the ills of the back and spine. He observed people barely able to make it through the front door because their pain was so bad. He observed people returning after their treatment too. He figured these were follow up visits. These people were apparently free of back pain.

One day he announced to his mother,

“I’m going to ask the good back doctor, Dr. Fine, if he will take me on as an apprentice.”

His mother turned to him and nodded.

The young man felt good about his decision. One morning he knocked on the door moments after he had observed Dr. Fine arrive for the day’s consultations and treatments. He asked the doctor if he might need an apprentice. The doctor thought for a long moment and replied:

“Yes, you can join me as a student. All you’ll be required to do is watch closely, and, hold all your questions until I come to feel you have spent enough time watching.”

The young man thought to himself, ‘Simple enough,’ and nodded, and told Dr. Fine,

“Thank you very much!”

Over the next several months, the young man arrived everyday at the same time, put on a white lab coat, and, dutifully watched Dr. Fine work with, and on, his patients. As his time being watchful grew, the young man’s list of questions began to shrink.

Then one day, a middle-aged gentlemen somehow dragged himself into the examination room in a terrible state and in pain so great it was hard to watch. But Dr. Fine took a history, had the man lie down and rest, and then sent him home after asking him to make an appointment for a week later.

The young man was surprised by this case. All the previous worst cases looked the same: Dr. Fine would take a history, do an examination, have the patient lie down and rest for an hour, and then he would give the patient a quarter of a pomegranate. He would direct the patient to eat a tenth of the pomegranate each morning. Finally he would schedule a follow up to take place three weeks after the ten day course.

The young man had been Dr. Fine’s watchful apprentice long enough to see how wonderfully effective the pomegranate cure was for the persons stricken with the most terrible back afflictions.

This case was different. At Dr. Fine’s request, this same patient came back three times, and, each time he was sent away without the curative pomegranate. Finally, on the fourth visit, Dr. Fine gave the man the usual course of pomegranate.

A month later this same patient strode through the door for his follow-up appointment. He declared himself ‘a new man,’ and Dr. Fine nodded his affirmation.

The young man bit his tongue. Still, when Dr. Fine closed up for the day, as both stood on the small front porch, the young man turned to Dr. Fine and put to the good doctor his very first question,

“I have to ask this question, for I am disturbed to observe you give your worst cases the pomegranate medicine on their first visit, yet this patient today was made to wait a month. Why?”

The doctor put his hand on the young man’s shoulder,

“You see, every case is actually different, and is unique in its own way. The patient today presented a very difficult case and, likewise, the treatment recognized this, for where many unique cases are resolved by the pomegranate and healing regimen, in this man’s case, his difficulties could only be resolved by time and pomegranates.

With this, Dr. Fine, nodded, turned in the direction of walk home, and departed for the day.

(Adapted from a cassette recording of a presentation of Idries Shah.)

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Teaching Cartoon: Anachronism

Sufi teaching story

version. original: The Pleasantries of the Incredible Mulla Nasrudin

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Development

Dervish Dancer No. 3
S.Calhoun – 2013 – Dervish Dancer No. 3

A boy, very attached to his pet pig, one day decided to enter it in a horse race. Much to his dismay the pig finished last and suffered the ridicule of all the horsemen. The boy was quite surprised, for, as he told one of the horsemen: “it makes no sense that a pig as fast as she was when she was a piglet shouldn’t grow up to be even faster!”

(I first heard this on a cassette of a lecture by Idries Shah.)

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Secrets Revealed

I noted recently via a google alert that lectures of Idries Shah, taken from a series of hard-to-obtain cassettes, have been made available on the web site, The Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge. Ishk.net is ostensibly the web of home of all things ‘Shah.’

The wikipedia article on I. Shah seems to me fair enough; and, I’ve been tracking his work for 20+ years. Shah, who departed the worldly coil at 72 years-of-age in 1996, was a controversial figure. His effort to promote in the west an accessible and cosmopolitan Sufi-inflected regimen for self-development and spiritual growth was the most notable among the several such original efforts which unfolded in the mid-sixties.

The controversies are many, yet I won’t go into them. This isn’t my purpose today. It’s enough to mention that Shah could be termed a neo-Sufi, whose project unhooked Sufism proper from it’s narrow traditions, and, whose own bona-fides remain murky. Still, during a time when Sufism itself was an exotic arrival on the nascent counter-cultural scene, Shah enjoyed patronage, was an entrepreneur, and, was a prolific writer. Any notoriety he gathered in didn’t prevent him from, for a time, becoming the face of Sufism–the foremost Sufi.

Sometime in the late eighties I worked part-time at a group home for the mentally disadvantaged. My boss, Jim, was surprised I had heard of Shah. Shah was Jim’s main man. He told me he had some tapes he wanted to loan me. He brought them in, a set in a box entitled if memory serves, Wisdom of the Secret. Shah reminded me of Alan Watts: great voice, humorous, compelling.

I must have listened to those eight tapes twenty times. I took to enjoying Shah’s books, especially favoring the many that contained teaching stories, including the series of books with the tales of Nasruddin. To this day, these materials penetrate my own sense of experiential learning. I have learned even the surface of some of the so-called story-based applications may provide surprising reconfigurations away from habit, cognitive error, blind spots, etc..

(Later, I became very interested in Shah’s career and its notorious moment as cultural ripple in a specific historical moment.)

Four of Shah’s lectures may be streamed or downloaded as mp3s. I’m familiar with them already because they first appeared as single cassettes. I recommend all of them. My favorite is Overcoming Assumptions That Inhibit Spiritual Development. From the intro,

So one must learn to be flexible, one must learn to question assumptions, one must learn to put up other assumptions than one’s customary ones to study things…some of the things are, for example, our narrative materials which I have published… Now various points of view on these produce a certain kind of flexibility. Trying too hard doesn’t work, trying to make out what they mean doesn’t work because this material is instrumental not indoctrination.

There’s also an interview in four parts on youtube.

Here’s Part One.

Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

A year ago I put together the ten parts of other videos and posted it. I wrote then,

He was a walking library of Sufic esoteric material, yet, he also brought these traditional secrets to proto-new age stages in the sixties. He walked a weird razor’s edge in maintaining that these materials could retain their power even when stripped of their context, as long as the context of the user was precisely calibrated to these bare-of-context materials!

Video 48m Happy Nous Year

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Teaching Cartoon: Paranormal

Nasruddin - Delusion

Story from The Pleasantries of the Incredible Mulla Nasrudin, (Idries Shah.) h/t Max Cannon’s cartoon franework Build Your Own Meat.

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HAPPY NOUS YEAR

Get the Flash Player to see this content.

On youtube there is a series of videos, apparently excerpted from a longer documentary, that features the renowned-in-his-time counter-cultural figure, self-proclaimed Sufi, misterioso teacher, charlatan, Idries Shah. I joined the ten parts and present it here; 49 worthwhile minutes beckon. Pay attention!

My string of adjectives is not intended to underplay Shah’s reputation, such as it has been able to be sustained. He was a walking library of Sufic esoteric material, yet, he also brought these traditional secrets to proto-new age stages in the sixties. He walked a weird razor’s edge in maintaining that these materials could retain their power even when stripped of their context, as long as the context of the user was precisely calibrated to these bare-of-context materials!

Speaking of post-modern Sufis, I recommend the volume by Ian Almond, Sufism and Deconstruction. A comparative study of Derrida and Ibn ‘Arabi, (2004:Routledge.) A rigorous mysticism, moved toward the subject drilling deeply beyond it’s (his or her,) self, cannot be about fixing identity.

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