"The totality of life cannot be understood, so runs Sufi teaching, if it is studied only through the methods which we use in everyday living. This is partly because, although the question 'What is it all about?' can of course be posed in a nominally reasonable sequence of words, the answer is not to be expressed in a similar way. It comes through experience, and enlightenment."
Idries Shah (1924 - 1996), born Nawab-Zaba Sayed Idries Shah el-Hashimi, was Grand Sheikh of the Sufis and the eldest son of the Nawab (the Mohammedan equivalent of Maharajah) of Sardana, near Delhi India. He was also the author of a stunning number of scholarly books, many about the Sufis, but others, like the popular World Tales, more intended for general consumption.
His most popular books are probably Learning How to Learn, The Sufis, Oriental Magic and World Tales. Of these, I have only read World Tales cover to cover, and I can't recommend it highly enough. It is not only a fantasic collection of folk and fairy tales, it traces their permutations around the world, so, for example, the version of Cinderella included in the book is actually an Algonquin folk tale which pre-dates European contact.
As a child, my parents owned a coffee-table sized illustrated copy of this book, which has since mysteriously disappeared. While paperback copies are easily available, I would do almost anything to find a copy of the illustrated hardback. Alas, I search abebooks.com in vain.
Here (according to sufis.org) are his complete works:
- Philosophy/Human Thought
- Philosophy/Sufi Studies
- The Sufis
- The Way of the Sufi
- Tales of the Dervishes
- The Book of The Book
- Neglected Aspects of Sufi Study
- Sufi Thought and Action
- Children's Books