Intuition and Sufism

In Sufism, there is a method of teaching known as ‘scatter’. This means that its principle ideas are conveyed, quite deliberately, by indirect and apparently absurd means. From a logical point of view, this is unnecessary and misleading. From an intuitive point of view, this makes perfect sense.

Such is the influence of logic that, if an unorthodox idea is presented to us in the form of an argument, we will automatically reject it. Scatter sidesteps this by presenting ideas out of context and by indirect means. In this way, an idea may be considered on its merits before it is automatically rejected.

Another method employed in Sufism is the use of humour to reveal the absurdity of conventional logic. The most well-known example of this is the Mulla Nasrudin stories – or a wiseman who appears foolish:

‘A king had a gallows built outside the city gates. Anyone who wanted to enter had to state their reasons. If they told the truth they were allowed in; if they lied, they would be hanged. First up was Nasrudin.
‘Why do you want to enter the city?’ asked the Gatekeeper.
‘To be hanged,’ said Nasrudin.
‘That can’t be true,’ said the Gatekeeper.
‘If it isn’t,’ said Nasrudin, ‘Then hang me.’

It is interesting to note a joke has two meanings – the one presented at the outset, and the hidden punchline. A joke appears absurd until the punchline is delivered and then suddenly it makes sense. In this respect, a joke is like an insight, where we suddenly see something from a new and unexpected point of view. Idris Shah, who wrote extensively on the Sufis, had the following to say about the Nasrudin stories:

‘The Sufis, who believe that deep intuition is the only real guide to knowledge, use these stories almost like exercises.’

If we are happy with our present knowledge – of the world, of ourselves and others – then conventional logic is fine. If we suspect there is more to the world than meets the eye, it is because our innate intuition points to the hidden in life. Like humour, a sudden insight can reveal what was always there, but unattended.

Innate intuition however will not take us far. We need methods, practice and training, to enhance and develop that innate sense into a practical ability. This is what Sufism is about.

I am in the process of setting up Intuition Workshops here in Bath. For those who are interested in learning about intuition and its methods, the workshops may be of interest. The link below provides more details:

(Artwork: Nasrudin riding a donkey backwards)

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