In Sufism, the "Way of Blame" refers to an emphasis on uncovering and exposing one's own egoism, hypocrisy, and false piety, an approach which often renders the practitioner vulnerable to condemnation from others who see their own faults thus exposed by a kind of reflection, as it were. Although the "Way of Blame" is initially an individual predisposition, it has led to the formation of "schools" and groups who make it their defining feature. Known alternately as qalandars and malami, these individuals and groups often convey the impression of flouting the laws of Islam, often at their peril, even when the antinomian behavior is only apparent and not real. (The author makes it clear that the "Way of Blame, in the hands of an unscrupulous practitioner, can merely be an excuse for license and unbridled egoism.) At their best, however, these groups merely try to strip religion of the various trappings and conceits which feed an unconscious but powerful sense of entitlement and vanity.
The book is roughly divided into three sections: (1) a discussion of the "Sufi mystique", of claims of the existence of "hidden masters" and secret brotherhoods, and of the arrival of Sufism in the West; (2) a discussion of the history and lineages of individuals and groups claiming to practice the "Way of Blame"; and (3) a discussion of the "Seven Stations of Wisdom", the stages towards God-realization, and Sufi psychology. The author concludes with a brief discussion of Sufism's possible future and role in the West, particularly the United States.
The first section discusses the impact of several men who introduced Sufi (or quasi-Sufi) ideas into the West: Hazrat Inayat Khan, Idries Shah, Gurdjieff, and John G. Bennett. These men are all controversial (in varying degrees) yet Toussulis evaluation of all of them seems eminently fair and balanced. (Omitted from ths discussion are the Englishman Reshad Feild and his Turkish mentor, Bulent Rauf. This is unfortunate, since Rauf was an apostle of the ideas of Ibn al-Arabi, whose influence is pervasive in the traditions dealt with in this book.) Toussulis also addresses the issue of the relationship of Sufism to Islam, and whether there is any evidence of a pre-Islamic Sufism.
Toussulis also discusses the claims of the so-called "traditionalist" school, as represented bt such individuals as Seyyed Hossain Nasr, Fritjof Schuon, and Martin Lings.
The middle section of the book traces the history of the malami groups, and their interaction with both civil and religious authorities (which, in the Islamic world, are often difficult to distinguish). As the book arrives in the 20th century, we meet several men who are apparently the direct representatives of the author's personal lineage.
Finally, there is a discussion of Sufi psychology and the various stages of development of the personality as it moves towards higher levels of integration and spiritual wisdom.
This is a valuable book on a misunderstood topic, and although I thought the middle, historical section lagged a bit, I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in Sufism, particularly as it has been presented in the West.