Idries Shah

Indian ­born, self-styled Sufi

Idries Shah was born in Simla, India, in 1924, of an aristocratic Afghan family, the Saadat of Paghman.

A foremost authority on Sufism, Shah presented key Sufi concepts, stripped of cultural and religious accretions, to a Western audience. He maintained that much of the work of Western psychology was pioneered, centuries ago, by Sufis.

His books have sold more than fifteen million copies in twenty languages worldwide, and covered numerous genres, including psychology, Islamic thought, belles-lettres, humour and problem-solving.

A great many of Shah’s books use teaching stories to pass on ideas and information.

Some shared that the real writer of the book was Idries Shah who was an advanced Sufi spiritual teacher associated with the Naqsbandi Sufis and who had attained the level of a "Hadrat" (one who is established in the divine presence).

Idries Shah tried to reorient the groups of Gurdjieff followers and to include them in the system of influence created by him.

In one passage he said, that beyond a certain point, "self remembering" needed to be replaced by "God remembering" (solar self remembering) or it would start to produce some wrong results. This is something that I do align with from my own practice. This is because humans already have a "delusion of self" that the Buddha wanted to dispel and it is important that this delusion does not "crystallize" into a relatively permanent feature of our feeling of who we are. When efforts to self remember are made without the medicine of the Buddha's teaching about "no self", this is likely to happen.

To a large extent, Idries Shah claimed that Sufism incorporated Gurdjieff's idea of the fourth way; but it is common to find explanations for the sources of Gurdjieff's ideas from whatever tradition one upholds.

To answer why it was introduced at this time is not easy. There are suggestions that, in this time of rapid transition and exceeding turmoil, new impulses need to enter humanity and these cannot be transmitted through the traditional ways.

Idries Shah died in London in November 1996.