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Sufism and the Way of Blame: Hidden Sources of a Sacred Psychology [Paperback]

Yannis Toussulis
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Product details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Quest Books,U.S. (18 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0835608646
  • ISBN-13: 978-0835608640
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 16 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 454,317 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

This is a definitive book on the Sufi "way of blame" that addresses the cultural life of Sufism in its entirety. Originating in ninth-century Persia, the "way of blame" (Arab. malamatiyya) is a little-known tradition within larger Sufism that focused on the psychology of egoism and engaged in self-critique. Later, the term referred to those Sufis who shunned Islamic literalism and formalism, thus being worthy of "blame." Yannis Toussulis may be the first to explore the relation between this controversial movement and the larger tradition of Sufism, as well as between Sufism and Islam generally, throughout history to the present. Both a Western professor of the psychology of religion and a Sufi practitioner, Toussulis has studied malamatiyya for over a decade. Explaining Sufism as a lifelong practice to become a "perfect mirror in which God contemplates Himself," he draws on and critiques contemporary interpretations by G. I Gurdjieff, J. G. Bennett, and Idries Shah, as well as on Frithjof Schuon, Martin Lings, and Seyyed Hossein Nasr. He also contributes personal research conducted with one of the last living representatives of the way of blame in Turkey today, Mehmet Selim Ozic.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you have read books on Sufism that appeared contradictory, then this work helps to explain why those differences exist. It tracks the emergence of different schools of thought over time and places them in their historical context: showing how they arose as a reaction to the prevailing circumstances of the age. This is taken right up to the present day when the author provides interesting perspectives on the contemporary approaches to Sufism in the West, as promoted by figures such as Hossein Nasr and Idries Shah. The author's chapter covering the relationship between Sufis in Afghanistan and Idries Shah, as well as its implications for how Sufism is adopted within a Western framework, would be useful background reading for anyone who has read Shah's books.

The author does not take sides but lists the differing viewpoints, and there are some well-informed sources. But this book is more than that. It also provides valuable conceptual material about Sufism itself which is thought provoking and which I have not found elsewhere. It is well-written and I would advise anyone who is seriously studying this subject to get this book.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating overview of some aspects of Sufisim 1 April 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The material about Sufism in the Ottoman Empire was fascinating, however the book was marred by some rather partisan, and now discredited comments about other Sufi teachers.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Offers valuable insights into disputed aspects of Sufism 20 May 2011
By Stephen J. Triesch - Published on
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.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A unique book on Sufi practice and history 6 Jun 2011
By Marc Applebaum - Published on
Before reading this review, readers should know that I've studied the malami way with the author and his guide, Mehmet Selim, for well over a decade--so I have a personal stake in the book. I also participated in the interview that is documented in Chapter Eight. Having offered that caveat, I still believe I can offer a fairly objective review since I am well versed in many aspects of Sufi literature, and can draw comparisons.

Typically books on Sufism are written either from a purely scholarly perspective (the excellent work of Izutsu, Morris, or Chittick, for example) or from a purely participant perspective--almost never from a combination of the two. Sufism and the Way of Blame is a unique book in the Sufi literature. For this reason, reviewers like Peter Lamborn Wilson, Kabir Helminski, Robert Frager, and Stan Krippner have been enthusiastic in their praise.

In Toussulis' book we have a traditionally authorized sufi murshid (guide) with family roots in the Levant who is also an experienced, western-trained psychotherapist and university instructor. He seeks to convey the historical foundations and contemplative practices of an approach to Sufism whose exponents typically avoid drawing attention to themselves: the malamatiyya. Having said that, this book serves as a rich, psychologically sensitive introduction to the principles and practice of Malami Sufism in a way that's relevant for current seekers, East or West.

The challenge for a reader is that Toussulis aims to convey the centuries of tradition in which this contemporary school of Sufism is grounded. So the book weaves together Qur'an, ahadith, the Sufism of Ibn al Arabi, Sufi poetry from classical writers such as Rumi, Iraqi, Attar, and Shabistari. The interview in Chapter 8 between Toussulis and Mehmet Selim, focused on the meaning of malami Sufism today, combined with the first English translation of Pir Nur al-Arabi's Risala i Salihiyya would alone make this a book worth reading for anyone interested in how a classical school of Sufism is seeking to express itself in postmodernity. As one reviewer (above) has noted, the book may "lag" in the middle for some because of the wealth of historical detail. At the same time, such a history of the malamatiyya (especially in its later phases) cannot be found elsewhere, except in fragments, so in this respect the book is also a unique reference.
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Sufism and the Way of Blame" 2 Jun 2011
By C. F. Looker - Published on
This is a lively, contemporary, engaging, and thoughtfully felt book, written from many years of living experience of "The Way of Blame", in particular through Mehmet Selim Öziç Bey.
In order to provide a proper context for readers of my review, I should let such readers know the following: I have been a practitioner of the Bektashi Way for over thirty years, and before and during that process was closely associated with Bulent Rauf (translator into English of Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi's 'Fusus al-Hikam with the most important Turkish commentary, and consultant to the Beshara school until his death in 1987). In addition, I have recently have met the author, who was traveling in Turkey, and have also met his teacher, although I had read this book beforehand and had corresponded extensively with the author.

This book gives an insight into the real depth of modern Sufi/Melami 'spirituality' (not a word Yannis Toussulis seems to be happy with). In my own opinion, malamati Sufism aims to assist the growth of psychologically and emotionally mature 'individuated individuals' 'spirituality' in the modern world is something like 'functionality.', This path seems to be suited to a human being in the process of seeking functionality on all levels of being, as well as in becoming consciously awareness of Unity in Multiplicity. The path's aim seems to be to assist a person in becoming a "real human being." The journey of the mystic to 'Union' with God is seen as a preliminary stage before spiritual maturity is rendered useful and fully human. The book is especially significant in opening up the possibility of a wider debate and a direct experience of the relevance of Sufism and the Way of Blame in a modern context.
In [...] reviewer Joseph Azize has written "This is an important book: it is the most accessible serious living study of Sufism I have read since Reshad Feild's The Last Barrier... I say "living" study, because it strikes me that its chief aim is not so much to "detail the relationship between Sufism and the controversial way of blame" it is to communicate some taste of the life of contemporary Sufism. Toussulis achieves this when he presents the interview in chapter 8 with Mehmet Selim Öziç Bey, which demonstrates that there exists in today's Sufism a beneficent and tolerant spiritual dimension which is suited to the needs of the time." I agree with the reviewer.
The book contains a section on the "Spiritual Stations"/ "Maqamat". which is extremely through and interesting and which I know of no parallel in published form. In the traditions I am familiar with from Bulent Rauf the higher levels of experiences are concealed in written texts...e.g. Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi's (through the pen of Jelveti Sheikh Ismael Hakki Bursevi) "Kernel of the Kernel", effectively a synopsis and practical extension of the Futuhat al-Makkiye of Ibn 'Arabi in Turkish (ie Osmanli), on the final pages mentions a sequence of 5 inner experiences but then mentions the existence of a further 5 while stating that they cannot be revealed in writing..."there is no permission". In fact Bulent Rauf did talk about these to us very carefully (I was authorised by him to take direct notes as he spoke). But I believe in writing direct accounts of the stations in Baqa ('Remaining') of Jam, ('Gathering'), Jam-i-jam ('Gathering of the Gathering'), and further 'stations' like Maqam la Maqam ('Station of No Station') and discussion of the Reality of Realities a.k.a. 'The Light/Reality of Muhammed' are extremely rare and very valuable.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A decent completion of a peculiar task 13 Feb 2013
By Vladimir Baranovsky - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Professor Toussulis has put impressive effort and ingenuity into a strange exercise of trying to combine an academic and a personal interest in the Way of Blame. His book is definitely worth the money and his erudition in the area is astonishing, the reader will enjoy many interesting details and pieces of information. Still, this somehow reminds of a person trying to prove that he can be reasonably good at driving even when profoundly drunk. Yes, maybe, - but why?

If you are hoping to find a workable adaptation of Ibn Arabi and Sulami to the contemporary Western world - look elsewhere.
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