Current work in Baha'i philosophy.
Instructions on the sex drive, from 'A Course in Miracles', a book written by Helen Schucman offering many similarities to ancient esoteric teachings, and like a synopsis all such efforts at present.
Some key sections from the book 'Tarot of the Bohemians' by Papus.
The tetractys, interpreting the enneagram from the point of view of the samkhya philosophy of India.
In this page I'll be adding commentaries to passages from various contemporary authors, like Paulo Coelho, Idries Shah, Anthony de Mello, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Edward de Bono, Friedrich Nietzsche, etc.
In the book 'The Way of the Sufi', in the first part, Idries Shah writes the following:
THE STUDY OF SUFISM IN THE WEST
Some of the strongest ridicule, still maintained in some circles, to which Sufis have been subjected, is due to their having stressed in their classics the dangers of obsessions being implanted in people, and to their having pointed out the undesirable nature of indoctrination and emotion being confused with spiritual gifts, to the horror of religious enthusiasts. Only in the past few decades have other people come to know better than the clerics.(1)
The especial secondary problem here, too, is that although scientists will, rightly, await verification of this material, or try to investigate it, gullible occultists will crowd around the Sufi who speaks of these things as deriving from Sufism, urgently demanding, as of right, magical knowledge, self-mastery, higher consciousness, hidden secrets and the rest.
For the Sufi, these trustful and sometimes unbalanced people can be more of a problem than the sceptics. The believers create a further problem because, baulked of easy magical knowledge, they may quite quickly turn to those organizations (well-meaning and otherwise) which seem to them able to satisfy this thirst for the unknown or the unusual; or to offer 'short cuts'. It is not to be denied that we use this phrase - but always with qualifications: 'Adepts have, however, devised short cuts to an attainment of a knowledge of God. There are as many ways to God as there are souls (selves) of men.'(2)....
Junaid of Baghdad (d. 910) answered conditioned minds thus: 'None reaches the rank of Truth until a thousand honest people testify that he is a heretic.'
In Arabic: 'Al-turuqu illahi ka nufusi bani Adama' (see Sirdar Ali Shah, Islamic Sufism, p. 211).
from the Penguin Compass edition, pag. 24)
If the phrase quoted is supposed to offer sufficient or even adequate qualifications to 'short cuts' to 'a knowledge of God', it would seem that Shah subscribes without qualifications to the view that all men ascribe hearsay to God, since the mayority of men seem to rely on hearsay. He moreover seems to subscribe to the view that well-meaning organizations exist and provide 'easy magical knowledge', so perhaps we should not be surprised to find that, according to him, our abilities to ascribe hearsay to God is part of the 'difficult magical knowledge' possessed by the true Sufi?
Given such a beginning (in part one) of the book 'The Way of the Sufi', it is not surprising that in the rest of the book Shah presents sayings that are supposed to act as a direct revelation from God on the mind of the reader. He begins naturally with the creation of man himself, from the sayings of Ghazzali:
MAN WAS MADE FOR LEARNING
A camel is stronger than a man; an elephant is larger; a lion has greater valour; cattle can eat more than man; birds are more virile. Man was made for the purpose of learning.
from the Penguin Compass edition, pag. 62)
As this is, without, that is, explaining the purpose of Ghazzalis' learning, we're to summarize that the only thing man learns is that which differentiates him from animals, which is reasoning. Reason itself tells us that animals evince these qualities without reasoning about them. So unless the quote also tells us the reason for which man learns these qualities, or if he learns them at all, we are to suppose that he also evinces them without reasoning, or for his own particular reasons, which in effect would actually pose a hindrance to him. He would, in effect, be inferior to those animals. The other explanation is that this is directed to someone who is prone to accept the need for sayings that appear to come directly from God Himself, so that the phrase 'Man was made for Learning' means to say something like 'There is a being called 'man' who was made for 'learning''. Something like ordinary information which he is to take a fresh look at, imagining that God is telling it to him.
It is moreover not surprising that Shah runs into the problem of most people who attempt to speak like God and can't therefore understand why they are not God. Why, in a word, am I subject to suffering, if I am God? Shahs' solution, if indeed it can be called that, appears in part three:
THE ROGUE, THE SHEEP AND THE VILLAGERS
Once there was a rogue who was caught by the people of a village. They tied him to a tree to contemplate the suffering which they were going to inflict on him; and went away, having decided to throw him into the sea that evening, after they had finished their day's work.
But a shepherd, who was not very intelligent, came along and asked the clever rogue why he was tied up like that.
Ah,' said the rogue, 'some men have put me here because I will not accept their money.'
Why do they want to give it to you, and why will you not take it?' asked the astonished shepherd.
Because I am a contemplative, and they want to corrupt me,' said the rougue; 'they are godless men.'
The shepherd suggested that he should take the rogue's place, and advised the rogue to run away and put himself out of reach of the godless ones.
So they changed places.
The citizens returned after nightfall, put a sack over the shepherd's head, tied him up, and threw him into the sea.
The next morning they were amazed to see the rogue coming into the village with a flock of sheep.
Where have you been, and where did you get those animals?' they asked him.
In the sea there are kindly spirits who reward all who jump in and "drown" in this manner,' said the rogue.
In almost less time than it takes to tell, the people rushed to the seashore and jumped in.
That was how the rogue took over the village.
from the Penguin Compass edition, pag. 141)
The moral, if indeed it can be called that, is that people will put themselves into harm even with the knowledge that no good will come from it.
What are the consequences of this theory? Does it define us as human beings? This is answered in part five:
THE MAGIC HORSE
A king had two sons. The first helped the people by working for them in a manner they understood. The second was called 'Lazy' because he was a dreamer, as far as anyone could see.
The first son gained great honours in his land. The second obtained from a humble carpenter a wooden horse and sat astride it. But the horse was a magical one. It carried the rider, if he was sincere, to his heart's desire.
Seeking his heart's desire, the young prince disappeared one day on the horse. He was absent a long time. After many adventures he returned with a beautiful princess from the Country of Light, and his father was overjoyed at his safe return and listened to the story of the magic horse.
The horse was made available to anyone who wanted it in that country. But many people preferred the obvious benefits which the actions of the first prince provided for them because to them the horse always looked like a plaything. They did not get beyond the outer appearance of the horse, which was not impressive - just like a plaything.
When the old king died, the 'prince who liked to play with toys' became, by his wish, the king. But people in general despised him. They much preferred the excitement and interest of the discoveries and activities of the practial prince.
Unless we listen to the 'lazy' prince, whether he has a princess from the Country of Light with him or not, we shall not get beyond the outer appearance of the horse. Even if we like the horse, it is not its outward shape which can help us travel to our destination.
from the Penguin Compass edition, pag. 217)
The moral, again, if indeed it can be called that, is that people in general will never benefit from higher aspirations, however much it may appear to us that they do.
The reader may be beginning to wonder, 'well, what's the catch'? Why such negative thoughts? To what end will someone declare humanity to be inferior to animals? Shahs' answer is in part seven:
THE CELESTIAL APPLE
Ibn-Nasir was ill and, although apples were out of season, he craved one.
Hallaj suddenly produced one.
Someone said: 'This apple has a maggot in it. How could a fruit of celestial origin be so infested?'
It is just because it is of celestial origin that this fruit has become affected. It was originally not so, but when it entered this abode of imperfection it naturally partook of the disease which is characteristic here.'
from the Penguin Compass edition, pag. 278)
There are two things to note in this tale. First, 'someone's concern with celestial apples blinded him to the real benefits of the apple, causing him to protest. Second, Hallaj reaffirms the celestial origin of the apple, but implies that the knowledge of its origin and possible benefits is hidden. In other words, the 'real' benefits of the apple are its 'celestial' benefits and all real benefits are in fact celestial benefits. The latter exist only as nice words meant to help us along towards the realization of the former, and the realities are defined by anything but celestialities.
In the book 'Learning How to Learn', in the beginning of the eighth part, Idries Shah writes the following:
What is the harmonisation of a community through what is called the 'Coming-Together' method?
This is the major perennial reason for the cyclic emergence of living teachers. It is they alone who can restore harmony and balance in circles and individuals which have sacrificed these things in the search for continuity and reassurance in the hope of stabilisation.
Were it possible to attain the object in a systematised way, the means to do so would have been enunciated and recorded many thousands of years ago: just as the laws of ordinary material stability and performance are recorded and employed in physics or in applied arts....
from the Penguin Compass edition, pag. 228)
Even if by 'circles and individuals' Shah means only such as an individual may encounter in his own life time, the 'cyclic emergence' of teachers, or any other phenomenon, is not bereft of a system that sustains it.