I like this story: I bought it when it first came out in 2009 but I'm only writing this review because some people are wondering about some of the ideas in the book. The author is a friend of Tahir Shah, whose father (Idries) set up some study groups on Sufism a few decades ago along with his older brother Omar Ali Shah.
The Shah brothers had a disagreement and their students had to decide which camp to follow: the older brother's (Omar Ali) more traditional way (which can be found in his books: The Course of the Seeker
and The Rules or Secrets of the Naqshbandi Order
) or the way that seemed more attuned to 20th Century western society (Idries wrote numerous books that can be found on Amazon). The way some metaphors are employed in Twigger's 'Dr Ragab' book it could be interpreted as a supporter of the latter making an unflattering comment about how the former is regarded by some of those involved in this debate as an obsolete path. For example, the exercises which make the main character unwell could be seen as a veiled warning not to utilise the exercises listed in Ali Shah's book The Rules or Secrets of the Naqshbandi Order
. (They are in an older form in Masters of Wisdom of Central Asia
, along with other background material that readers of the Shah corpus might find familiar. Translated from the Turkish from the work of Hasan Shushud, it's a history of some of the figures who could be grouped under the title of Khwajagan ('masters'), only in this they are not being viewed as secret hidden masters, their mini-biographies are listed as points of interest and this book is just the English version of material well known in Turkey. It's now a very expensive book for what it is but the meat of it is discussed in Sufism and the Way of Blame: Hidden Sources of a Sacred Psychology
Back to Twigger's book, there is also the reference to an acquaintance who appears to get in with the wrong crowd and who is last seen boarding a bus dressed in a robe (Omar Shah used to take his followers on journeys designed to have a spiritual component). Those are just two: if you do some research you can find other examples as well as metaphors indicating that an 'old' way of doing things has been supplanted by a 'new' way and so on. The book by someone who studied under both at the time of the schism is useful (Fictions and Factions
) but for an up to date overview I recommend Sufism and the Way of Blame: Hidden Sources of a Sacred Psychology
The water is further muddied by the widespread belief (and the arguments are quite compelling) that some books such as Among the Dervishes
were penned by Idries Shah in the first place. I take no side in this and I hope that those people who read the source material don't either. I gave this book four stars because I enjoyed it very much but the idea that this was yet another part of an ongoing division saddened me. It's sad to watch people continuing to take a pop at one another after all this time (in one of the talks transcribed from years ago and found in The Rules or Secrets of the Naqshbandi Order
Omar Ali Shah is basically telling his students of the faults he sees with his brother's method).
It's a hard knock to learn the background to some of the material that has been so stimulating and beneficial to read and it shouldn't detract from what we can gain from studying this subject. My advice is to leave both sides to it, read the books from both parties as well as others impartially and above all, do your research from an independent standpoint.