Technical note

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:54 am

I have made a link to ‘mybrainisafleamarket’ in the link section: it is based on the search box and will generate all of MBFM’s posts in a kind of sub-blog effect.
I will do the same for SK. \
(and anyone who wants to generate their own sub-blog).

Thanks to MBFM for all the good contributions.
As this material gets googled it will attract viewers (and I will at some point do some of my custom web promo to alert people to the material).

MBFM: sufism: jungle/rose garden, & more on Burton

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:49 am

From Saintly sufis, and sufi hyenas, 2008/08/31 at 9:54 AM

It gets murky. According to Richard F. Burton, there were Sindhi Hindus who were followers of Sufi Pirs. And Christopher Ondaatje made a long visit to Sindh in the early 1990s, retracing Burton’s itinerary and wrote a book entitled Sindh Revisited: A Journey in the Footsteps of Captain Richard F Burton, described a massive three day festival in honor of Lal Shah Baz in Sehwan. It has been celebrated in honor of this Sufi saint for many hundreds of years, and Ondaatje noted that both Muslims and Hindus attended, and many customs at this event were derived from Hinduism.

But…and there is a very big but, this may not be the same as easy going western ecumenism. When Burton was in Sindh, it had been ruled quite despotically by Muslim princes and there was constant pressure on Hindus to convert. Burton described how very powerful many Sufi Pirs were, that even local princes deferred to them.

So if one was a member of an oppressed minority religious group, such as being Hindu, it would have been prudent to become a follower of a Sufi Pir-one needed protective alliances whenever one could get them.

And Burton noted that in Afghanistan Hindus visited their Sufi Pirs at night…hardly indicative of ecumenism.

As for Sindh, Burton wrote that cockfighting was the favorite sport among Muslims and that prior to the British takeover, a Hindu never dared go near a cockfight–he would have risked being circumcized on the spot–what amounted to forcible conversion. And when describing Hindu education in Sindh, Burton wrote that while Hindus were eager to learn Persian (the necassary language for anyone determined to get a job in the local government), virtually no Hindu dared to attempt to learn Arabic–there would have been immediate and heavy pressure to convert.

All this is available in Burtons book, Sindh and the Races that Inhabit the Valley of the Indus.

So in an environment with such heavy ambient pressure to convert to Islam, a Hindu’s affiliation with a Sufi Pir may have been at least as much for social protection as for spiritual edification–at the very least.

In fairness, Burton wrote that the Muslim overlords of Sindh, especially the Talpur dynasty that were overthrown by the British, disdained all forms of book learning not directly tied to religious studies. The Emirs found that they lacked the skills to administer their territories and record their revenues, and were forced to use the services of Hindu accountants and clerks, who rose to positions of high eminence, despite the religious tensions. In this atmosphere of tension, the Hindus in sheer self defense, accumulated what wealth they could, and became money lenders.

One incentive the Muslims had for hounding and massacring their Hindu neighbors out of Pakistan during the partition was that this literally cancelled many outstanding debts, and a lot of valuable property was appropriated.

Getting back to nemos thesis, it is far more honest to warn a novice that one cannot separate Sufism from Islam and that if you insist on getting into it, you must eventually must content yourself with being a dabbler in sufism, picking and choosing as you please, or if you insist on going into it in depth, you must convert to Islam.

At least then your seeker will be in a position to make an informed choice–and know that he or she is entering a jungle.

At least say, ‘You are entering a jungle, not a rose garden.’

In jungles one knows one must pack mosquito nets, water filters, take anti malaria medication and a well stocked first aid kit–and even then, there are no guarantees.

But telling someone Sufism is a safe and lovely rose garden means they leave the snake bite kit at home and have nothing in hand in event of treading upon a krait or cobra in the darkness.

On Idries Shah

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:10 am

On Idries Shah, from Androids In Love

Feedback on Shah’s book, The Sufis (1964): Wow! For me this was like discovering a second Carlos Castaneda: I found the book mystical, easy-to-read and mind-expanding, and kudos to Shah for being the primary introducer of Sufi to America in the 1960s. What I most liked about the book: My first window to the sheer awesomeness of Sufi, particularly the stories of the trickster Mulla Nasrudin. I liked discovering the source for your blind men and the elephant metaphor, and maybe your usage of the word “initiatory,” which I haven’t seen elsewhere. I’m hoping to take a class in the whirling meditation in the next year or two, and I’ll keep an eye out for more Nasrudin stories.

Also like Castaneda, Shah’s real-life behavior sometimes seemed at odds with his writings. For instance:

* Shah claimed “senior descent from Muhammad” in the “male line of descent.” Actually none of Muhammad’s male children survived, so there is no male line of descent. All Muhammad’s descendants come from his daughter Fatima Zahra. It is not impossible that Shah is descended from Fatima (though there is some evidence to the contrary), in which case he is one of an estimated 1 million+ Sayyids.

* On page 14 of his book The Sufis, Shah provides the only citation for his controversial claim that “it is authoritatively on record” that Sufi predates Muhammad, Islam and the Qur’an: the Kitab el-Luma. Although Shah does not reveal the full title or author, almost certainly he is referring to the oldest and most definitive written work on Sufi, the Kitab al-luma‘ fi ’l-tasawwuf (The Book of Lights; The Quintessence of Sufism), written by Abu Nasr al-Sarraj al-Tusi (?-988 or 989 A.D.), which in fact traces Sufi exclusively to Muhammad, Islam and the Qur’an.

high-trenhouse.jpgBennett’s home reflected wealth and taste

* Beginning in his mid-to-late-30s, Shah began claiming to be the Qutb (”hub” or “axis”), the secret leader of the worldwide Sufi movement, and that he had been trained in Sufi since early childhood by his father. However, in Shah’s earlier published autobiographical work Destination Mecca (1957) he wrote that his father wasn’t interested in Sufi, and Shah himself never even met a practicing Sufi until he was into his 30s. It wasn’t until Shah personally witnessed the financial success of Gurdjieff’s neo-Sufi group that he retroactively became a lifelong Sufi. Before then Shah wrote poorly-selling books about oriental magic and witchcraft, avowing the reality of, for instance, the ectoplasmic Mungo force and the magical powers of Himalayan leopard powder.

* Just as Castaneda’s authority rests on the alleged Don Juan, Gurdjieff’s authority rested on the alleged Sarmoung Brotherhood (widely thought to be Gurdjieff’s remix of Blavatsky’s trend-setting alleged Ascended Tibetan Masters). With Gurdjieff dead since 1949, the book Teachers of Gurdjieff came out in the mid-60s, written by Rafael Lefort (generally assumed to be Shah writing under one of his many pen-names, though no one can prove it). The author of the book claims to have met Gurdjieff’s Sarmoung Brotherhood, who now believe that Gurdjieff had failed and Idries Shah is their new chosen Messenger.

djamcolour.jpgBennett’s Djameechoonatra or Djamee

* Less than a year after secretly self-anointing himself as the new chosen Messenger of the Sarmoung Brotherhood, Shah approached John G. Bennet. Bennet owned Coombe Springs, a seven-acre estate in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, where he ran his Gurdjieffian Institute for the Comparative Study of History, Philosophy and the Sciences. The grounds included a Djameechoonatra or Djamee, a sort of temple to Gurdjieff (the term is from Beelzebub’s Tales, meaning “the place where one receives one’s second being food”). Shah presented Bennett with a document supporting his claim to represent the Guardians of the Tradition, aka the Sarmoung Brotherhood (Bennett had already been suitably impressed by Teachers of Gurdjieff, which he didn’t realize Shah had ghost-written). He said the Brotherhood wanted Bennett to prove his dedication by signing over the entire property to Shah, who would become their new teacher in the Gurdjieff tradition. Within a few days after Bennett handed him the property, Shah banned Bennett and his students from the grounds. He then sold Coombe Springs to a housing development (who immediately destroyed the Djamee), pocketed the cash and split.

* Shah generally dealt with the frequent problem of being caught in a fib by stating his First Rule of Esoteric Systems: “Misleading information is included in order to divert unsuitable people. This is a ‘filter’. It includes behavior on the part of the esotericists designed to annoy or otherwise deflect the unsuitable.”

Primary Source: Madam Blavatsky’s Baboon; A History of the Mystics, Mediums and Misfits Who Brought Spiritualism to America (1993), by Peter Washington

Saintly sufis, and sufi hyenas

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:14 am

The previous critique of Gurdjieff by a ‘sufi’, like it or not, demonstrates something that those who dabble in ‘sufism’ should be aware, or ‘wary’, of. You CAN’T move in sufi circles without finally getting suckered into the Islamic conversion route. So why bother, that’s not an option with modern seekers, save in a few artificial cases.
Anything else has to be done on the sly, mostly with useless results.
The whole game is rigged, and should be avoided. The dismissal of Gurdjieff is both right and wrong. A religion as bloodsoaked and violent as Islam is taken as preferable, the platform to the ‘real’ mysticism, to the mere minor devilry of a Gurdjieff, who at least sized up the situation and ‘took the money and ran’, with the resulting confusion in his legacy.

Gurdjieff nonetheless probably missed a component of something here. In any case, the game is deceptive: anything off color that slips into the public domain is ‘gnostic’, while all those saintly ‘real’ sufis, reeking with piety, are the true mystics. Wow, what a nice cover.
Stop pulling my leg.
Gurdjieff tried to create something new and independent, but clearly the siamese confusion is impossible to clear up.

Find another business. This one is corrupt.

There is a lot of material at Darwiniana on ‘sufi hyenas’.

So don;t be an asshole ‘kafir’ mucking about in all that ‘ou la la’ Rumi stuff thinking you’re one of the gang.

How do we know Muhammed wasn’t a front for just that gang of ancient gnostics bent on world domination. Muhammed the first sufi, c’mon, guys. We have our propaganda detectors on.


A sufi critique of Gurdjieff

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:06 pm


An individual made some comments about Gurdjieff, spiritual authenticity, the significance of certain powerful experiences, withdrawing from an alleged silsilah, the process of spiritual seeking, and the relationship between worldly success and the spiritual path. The following is a reply to those concerns.
Read the rest of this entry »

More on enneagram

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:04 pm

Some commentary on the enneagram
Read the rest of this entry »


On Schopenhauer

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:08 pm

Here is a passage on Schopenhauer that many should find interesting.

  • From Dale Jacquette’s The Philosophy of Schopenhauer, remarkable for revealing the latent potential of ‘transcendental idealism’.
  • Schopenhauer’s philosophy often gives the impression of having been composed expressly for the purpose of reconciling the phenomenal will to the inevitability of death. All the apparatus of his main treatise, the fundamental distinction between the world as Will and representation, the concept of thing-in-itself as beyond the principium individuationis, and fourfold root of the principle of sufficient reason, can be understood as contributing to a moral, metaphysical and mystical religious recognition that death is nothing real and hence nothing to fear. If Schopenhauer is correct, he proves that death is not an event, and hence altogether unreal. Death is not an event in the world as representation, but is rather an endpoint or limit of the world as representation, and in particular in the first-person formulation as my representation. The world as representation begins and ends with the consciousness of the individual representing subject. At the moment of death, all representation comes to an immediate abrupt end, after which there remains only thing-in-itself. An individual’s death is not something that occurs in or as any part of the world as representation. Nor can death possibly be in or a part of the world as thing-in-itself or Will. There are no events or individuated occurrences, nothing happening in space or time, for thing-in-itself, and in particular there is no progressive transition from life to death or from consciousness to unconsciousness. If with Schopenhauer we assume that there exists only the world as representation and as thing-in-itself interpreted as Will, then there is no place on either side of the great divide for death, no possibility for the existence or reality of death

    Bennett on the two ways

    Posted in Uncategorized at 3:43 pm

    Link to Sufism, Gnosticism and Religion.

    There is a lot to say here about this essay, cited from: Ibrahim Gamard, but I am treading on somewhat difficult terrain, so I will make some tentative commentary.
    The author is giving some significant advice, which Westerners simply won’t take: make your ‘sufism’ sit under the umbrella of Islam. That’s unrealistic advice, at this point, but raises an issue that lurks behind the Ouspensky/Bennett reactions to Gurdjieff.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    More on origins of Sufism

    Posted in Uncategorized at 3:14 pm

    From Sufism, gnosticism and religion, 2008/08/29 at 3:01 PM


    Two different authors on origins of Sufism:
    Richard F. Burton quoted from Sindh and the Races that Inhabit the Valley of the Indus:

    ‘It is still doubtful whether the source of it may be traced to Persia or to India: the date assigned to the establishment of the community called the Essenis, who may be supposed to have borrowed their mysticism from the Zoroastrians, shows that Central Asia held such tenets at a very early period, and the philosophical works of the Hindoos prove that ancient Indians had made great progress in them. Orthodox Muslims generally trace Tassawuf back to Hindustan….There is certainly a wonderful resemblance between Tassawuf and the Vedantic system, and the modern Indian’s opinions concerning the efficacy of Jog (penance and abstinance) exactly contain the Sufi’s ideas of Riazat. Both believe that by certain superstitious practices, the divinae particula aurae in man so emancipates itself from the tyranny of impure matter that it acquires supernatural powers of metamorphosing the body, transferring the mind to men and beasts, forcibly producing love, causing the death of foes, knowing what is concealed from humanity, seeing spirits, faeries, devils…

    ‘But’ Burton cautiously concludes ‘human nature always presents a general resemblance; and among similar races, in similar climates, and under similar circumstances, the same developments maybe expected and found to be exhibited. The prudent archeologist will probably be inclined to believe that the tenants of Tassawuf and Vendatism are so consistent with man’s reason, so useful to his interests, and so agreeable to his passions and desires, that thier origin must belong to the dark beginnings of human society.’ (R F Burton, Sindh and the Races that Inhabit the Valley of the Indus pages 199-200 published 1851)

    And in 1898, RA Nicholson in his Selected Poems from the Divani Shamsi Tabriz, (RumI) wrote ‘While the vexed problem as to the origins of Sufism
    does not call for discussion here, a few remarks concering its historical development and the various elements of which it is composed may be helpful to the student..

    ‘The early Sufis–they were not yet distinguished by this name–showed, perhaps under Jewish and Christian influence, a strong tedency to asceticism. Self control, self sacrifice, patience, boundless trust in God, all the virtues of a Bernard or Thomas a Kempis animate their zealous and devout, if somewhat narrow and practical aspiration. They were not in opposition to Islam but formed an extreme wing of the Orthodox party. The pantheistic influences in which full-blown Sufism delights are foreign or at least unfamilar to them…This ascetic type belongs especially to the Arab race.

    (MBFM comments: These early Arab proto-Sufis sought to adore and submit to God, not aiming to merge with God or discover their essential identity with God. These were dualists)

    Nicholson continues:

    ‘Hand in hand with the Persian revival under the Abbasids came a new current of ideas. Speculation takes bolder flight and essays to reconcile the creature with his Creator, to bridge the Chasm between finite and infinite.Duh l Nun is said to have introduced the doctrine of ecstacies and mystical stages and Sirri Saquati that of unification…Junaid systematized and developed this knowledge and composed writings on the subject. Shibli carried it to the pulpit and proclaimed it openly. In 309 AH (AD 900s) Mansur Hallaj was executed for asserting his identity with God.’

    ‘Sufism then, is no exotic growth but shoots up like a tender plant in the desert…the rapid expansion of the Mohammedan empire brought about a corresponding diffusion of culture. Greek philosophy was introduced, Aristotle, colored by Alexandrian commentators, appeared in Arabic.(through this diffusion of culture) ‘Zoroastrianism, Buddhistic, Christian and other elements may have gained entrance.

    Nicholsen then contended that in the case of Rumi and much Sufi metaphysics resembles key concepts from Plotinus.

    Nicholsen, pages xxvii to xxx, introduction to ‘Selected Poems from the Divani Shamsi Tabriz’, published 1898

    Sufism, gnosticism and religion

    Posted in Uncategorized at 2:12 pm

    SK sends me a link from rickross.com and here is the link to some material they incoporate, a significant essay by someone in the Islamic/Sufi world.
    This essay, although I neither vouch for nor necessarily agree with it, tells us something about how ‘sufism’ is understood in the Islamic world. It is a revealing essay, if you can understand it.
    The depiction of ‘gnosticism’, although not entirely satisfactory, rings a bell here.
    In any case we can see that many Moslems are in the same boat as Westerners trying to grasp the nature of sufism inside their culture, save only that it has been adapted to the world of Islam. The Gurdjieff phenomenon is anomalous in many ways, and in any case the question of ‘soul’ is completely confused by all parties. This essay needs further discussion, but I should note that if you followed the discussion at Darwiniana last year you will find my discovery of an analogous viewpoint, expressed differently: that needs explanation.
    His discussion of Bennett is also of interest.
    This will need another post, let this author speak for himself first (I don’t endorse his views necessarily).
    I have never travelled in an Islamic culture, discussions of sufism thus being mostly figments, and this article suddenly shows at a glance some clues.
    [The whole rickross page has a profusion of material]

    Why Gurdjieff’s “Fourth Way” Teachings are not Compatible with the Mevlevi Sufi
    by Ibrahim Gamard, 11/6/04, revised 12/3/05
    The Present Confusion
    The following article is intended to share information, based on the author’s conclusions after studying this subject for many years. Though it may be controversial, the intent is to stimulate respectful discussion–not angry debate. And the aim is certainly not to blame or condemn individuals currently involved practices based on Gurdjieff’s teachings. After all, a number of contemporary Mevlevis in Western countries were themselves trained through such teachings to some extent, and report that it was quite helpful in preparing them for the Mevlevi dervish path.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    More on AC

    Posted in Uncategorized at 1:57 pm

    From Andrew Cohen, 2008/08/29 at 8:55 AM


    For some descriptions of AC. Tarlo and Andre van der Braak both mention how important it was to give this guru presents. Flowers had to accompany notes, especially if you were grovelling and apologizing.

    (quoted from a discussion board for Premies–former followers of Guru Mahraji/Elan Vital.



    Someone on the ex-Premie message board wrote:

    Date: Mon, Jan 01, 2001 at 22:24:06 (GMT)
    From: Kelly
    Email: None
    To: Disculta
    Subject: re that idiot Andrew Cohen

    Hi Disculta’
    I have a friend who is seriously into Andrew Cohen, a friend I respect very much. Since my own awakening from the cult trance, I have been thinking about him a lot. I’ve read a couple of Cohen’s books and am both impressed and concerned. Can you give me your take on this? I don’t want to take too much of your time, but what’s with the idiot?
    love Kelly


    Date: Mon, Jan 01, 2001 at 22:43:21 (GMT)
    From: Disculta
    Email: None
    To: Kelly
    Subject: Don’t go near him!

    He (Cohen) used to operate around here – used to hold his satsang in my old yoga school in fact, and I know several ex-followers. He is a big sleaze. My ex-husband used to work in a fancy men’s clothing store……

    (click the link to read the rest)

    Disculta then made an intersting observation:

    “When I first moved to California, I had someone cleaning my house who really seemed like a premie.

    “She had that humble, selfless, low self-esteem energy about her.

    I asked her who her guru was (which quite took her aback) and it was him. (Cohen)”

    This confirms Andre van der Braaks descriptions of life in the early days of Cohens organization. Most members worked jobs cleaning houses, so they could free up the maximum time to be with Andrew or do the practices demanded of them.


    Another link, for later…

    Posted in Uncategorized at 6:33 pm

    SK sends me a link from rickross.com; We can go into this important set of articles later.

    Cohen and Poonja, from MBFM’s link

    Posted in Uncategorized at 4:48 pm

    Here is the material from one of the links MBFM provided:
    Concerning Maharshi, Poonja (aka Papaji), Gangaji, and the Seekers Scene [http://forum.rickross.com/read.php?12,12906,58790]

    Ramana Maharshi’s name is invoked for legitimation purposes by quite a few who seek to create resumes for themselves and it appears a key stem in this ‘resume pedigree’ was someone named HWL Poonja who went by the name Papaji among those devoted to him.
    Continue: Read the rest of this entry »

    Andrew Cohen

    Posted in Uncategorized at 4:13 pm

    From Cohen is the sneaky one, 2008/08/28 at 1:11 PM

    The amount of documentation on AC is extensive.

    Yes, Andre van der Braak published his very informative memoir Enlightenment Blues, after 11 years of being tossed around and abused by AC. Andre was also the first editor of Cohen’s publication, What Is Enlightenment? magazine. A v B’st time with Cohen covered the period from 1987 to 1998.

    But prior to that time, there is another account, written by Cohen’s mother, Luna Tarlo, entitled The Mother of God. Tarlo was a disciple of her son’s for about two to three years 1986-1989 and gives a fascinating description of how her son was before he encountered the guru in India who allegedly enlightened him, provided Cohen with a story line useful for getting prospective listeners to sit down and listen to him.

    Following Luna Tarlos’ book, there was just one description of life within Cohen’s group/s:


    Details mentioned in both the Tarlo and van der Braak accounts a ndthe one on the Freedomofmind.com site hang together quite well–there is a high degree of what a statistician would term ‘inter-rater reliability.’

    However, from her vantage point as Cohen’s mother and former follower, Tarlo gave some remarkable information:Andrew always, according tohis mother, had craved fame. He had explored a variety of spiritual options before going to India. And…within a month or so of Cohen’s alleged enlightenment at Poonja’s hands, he was both charismatic — and cruel.

    Following the two books by Tarlo (1997) and van der Braak (2004), a blog was authored by Hal Blacker, a former Cohen devotee and also a former editor of Cohen’s magazine.

    This blog contains a staggering amount of information for the years after 1998, years during which Wilber became associated with Andrew Cohen–and has continued to associate with him.


    During the time that Wilber has associated with Cohen, Cohen’s magazine, What Is Enlightenment? has morphed into a house-organ for Wilber’s philosophy and has become increasingly abstract and jargon ridden. It is quite interesting to look at back of WIE issues and see how high the editor turnover has been.

    HWL Poonja, known as ‘Papaji’ told Cohen to go out and teach–after just 2.5 weeks of dialog. This guru, HWL Poonja later rather claimed he had never enlightened anyone.

    (There are scattered reports that many former followers of Ranjneesh left bereft and disoriented after their disgrace and death, took up with Poonja)

    Go here and read the July 7, 2008 entry entitled “Concerning Maharshi, Poonja (aka Papaji), Gangaji, and the Seekers Scene. Poonja apparently told quite a few people they were enlightened and sent ‘em out to teach. One man, Karl tells how Poonja sent him forth to teach shortly after telling this same thing to Andrew. However, Karl had the humility to take stock of himself and decided not to be a guru. It is a most interesting description of a path not taken


    However, the one thing Tarlo does not tell us is exactly the full menu of spiriutal options her son might have explored before he went to India. Right after being ‘enlightened’ by HWL Poonja, Cohen reportedly demonstrated a formidable talent for crushing opponents in debate–quite brutally.

    One cannot learn that out of the thin blue sky. It may be that Cohen somehwere took lessons on salesmanship and verbal judo, possibly through some kind of heavy duty encounter group or one of those marathon weekends where you get your head pounded on and are not permitted bathroom breaks.

    Perhaps Andrew may have learned some verbal aikido/judo methods via this route before going off to India. Then later, under cover of receiving some vague enlightenment from a guru, may have utilized verbal judo he had learned through boring American human potential encounter groups and attributing it to a romantic Indian source.

    Again, we can only guess. But we can be sure that most seekers never think to fact check. Gurdjieff claimed he found his stuff in a conveniently untraceable monastery. All one needs is the right cover story and one can get people into a room and activate what psychoanalyst Ornstein has termed the ‘curative fantasy’–something that is partly conscious and partly unconscious. If you can embody a person’s ‘curative fantasy’ you can seem utterly magical, because you will attract and then carry a charge that jumps from that person’s unconscious–and that carries their deepest hope for healing, transformation, even salvation.

    Enlightenment Blues

    Posted in Uncategorized at 4:11 pm

    I should note in passing, after a Kant reference, that Enlightenment Blues ends with a discussion of Kant’s theme of autonomy, a subject anyone caught in a guru game should consider.