Though commonly mistaken for a Moslem sect, the Sufis are at home in all religions. If they call Islam the “shell” of Sufism, this is because they believe Sufism to be the secret teachings within all religions.
- Sayed Idries Shah
Looking back on Deserts and Mountains the parts I enjoyed reading the most were the passages describing the important Sufi sites of antiquity especially the passages describing Calat Al Hambra in Spain. After reading these passages it is expected that someone may ask that If Sufism is a living tradition why is it such that there are some places where the sufi tradition has taken root and some places where it does not?
The Existence of Sufi School
Sufism is considered to be a nutrient for society. Therefore a Sufis school comes into being like any other natural factor, in order to flourish and disappear, not to leave traces in mechanical rituals, or anthropologically interesting survivals. The function of a nutrient is to become transmuted not to leave unaltered traces.
Sufism is transmitted through the means of a human exemplar, a teacher, the living element. What does this mean for Ali Dogan, the main character in Deserts and Mountains ? What value does going to these important site in the history of Sufism after their hey-day has long gone and the living element is no longer there.
The Living Element
It should be said first that how Sufism is presented is dependent on the time circumstances, peoples, and place.The Sufi school attached to Ibn Arabi for instance has come and gone. Centuries later Sufism may take hold and shape again in a place where it once was but the means of presenting the fundamental truth and experience that we call Sufism.
When I think about the spiritual journey of Ali Dogan I remember all the time these words from Sanai Ghaznavi where he says:
Part of the reason would-be initiates are given the works of the great masters is to see if whether they can pick up whispers at first, but may be whole conversations later, to the point where they can participate in them.
In the heart of the sincere seeker there is a dialogue going on. Some places have a certain energy to them which in many ways amplify this dialogue. Throughout the novel we can see slowly as the inner dialogue assert itself more and more in Ali’s life especially when he comes back to his home, kids and broken marriage.
Much more can be said about the importance of the important sufi sites around the world, and about baraka, a special spiritual grace, that permeates this sacred site that can in many cases can be an accelerant for the aspirant on the path. But what Is more important is to point out the ramification of the inner dialogue in Deserts and Mountains, and the subtle changes in perception and awareness that happen to the main character during the course of his spiritual and transformative journey