btripp_books (btripp_books) wrote,

why, lookie there!

Gee ... that doesn't happen too often, now does it? My knocking down two books in two days, and three in a week! This aberrant quirk was brought to you by a manual-feed printing project that needed my on-going, but not constant attention today that allowed me to read 4 pages for every thing I had to feed into the printer. Given that I'd already started the book, and had a couple of "reading opportunities" later in the day, I had just enough book time to finish up this one.

And, oh, those Sufis! Over the years I have read quite a lot of Sufi material (primarily the ISHK books, in various series), and they're always working some angle. This book, Lucy M.J. Garnett's The Dervishes Of Turkey is great example. First of all, it's not cheap ... this little 5"x7.5", 200-page book currently goes for a whopping $35.00 on both the ISHK site and on Amazon! That certainly sets up "expectations" of the value of the information enclosed, doesn't it? However, countering that is a somewhat blistering review of it in its own Foreword by noted Orientalist author Omar M. Burke, including such barbs as:

"...hundreds of books on Sufism exist, most of them completely out of tune with Sufism itself ... because there is a public for them, not because they have anything more than entertainment value"

"... Ms. Garnett clearly has almost no knowledge of any Eastern language, certainly not of Persian, Arabic, or Turkish beyond the most elementary."

"Other grotesque mistakes abound"

"One of the most useful aspects of this book is to show just how near-illiterate Western writers and 'specialists' were."

"In whole sections, there are errors on literally every page."

"... may of the errors which appear in orientalist and other literary work during the 20th Century appear to have been copied from this book"
... and so on. Pretty odd to have a book savaged in its own pages, isn't it? Especially a book that they're charging a premium for. And a book that, having been originally published in 1912 would have likely faded off into obscurity long ago were it not for ISHK keeping it in print.

Ah, but this is a Sufi book, so things are rarely as they seem. After all, the late Idries Shah's "The Book Of The Book" is still in print, and for $25 you can get a nice hardcover book with a few pages of text about the book and then a couple of hundred blank pages. Wow, "how Zen!" ... no, just those wacky Sufis and their teaching methods. So, let's see ... the current book is very highly priced, yet is ripped apart for its many faults, yet still in print way after it should have had any impact ... what's the deal? I do, of course, have a theory.

I suspect (rather strongly) that in the pages of The Dervishes Of Turkey there are a few key concepts that the folks at ISHK/Octagon wish to have available. Now, in reading this I found some very interesting points, some which would be familiar to the readers of Aleister Crowley, some that would be (oddly enough) familiar to the fans of Jack Chick's tracts, and some that just struck me as "oooh, that's interesting" (like the idea that there are Djins who are "spirits of the letters" which make "word magic" work). However, the one thing which I think keeps this in print is the author's discussion of the "Axis", or the one "teacher of the age" (and the various hierarchical systems below him). As many considered Idries Shah just such an "Axis" in his life, the sections in this book regarding that station might be their way of defining/promoting that stance, without having to outright declare it to be the case. Again, this is my "take" on the situation, but I'd be surprised to find that my suppositions here are too far off base!

Anyway, it's a pretty decent read, the late-1800's writing style is not such that it bogs you down, and the book is certainly full of interesting stuff. Is it worth $35 to pick up a copy? Well, I "needed it" in my library ... however, you might be better served by borrowing a copy from your local public library.

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