Folktales and Science of Our Evolution
by Walter Lang, 1972.
Eight years ago, when a book called The Sufis appeared in Britain and America, a considerable flutter arose in academic dovecotes.
Briefly, the book implied that evolution doesn't just 'happen' but depends on help from 'outside'; and further, that exact knowledge of this process exists but is unsuspected in modern times. This help-- so the idea runs-- comes from a higher level of consciousness, but it operates through people in everyday life. One of the vehicles employed is religion, but it is not the only one. Art and science may also carry the 'injection', as well as some instruments never suspected-- like codes of chivalry, craft guilds, even some kinds of commerce.
The idea is not new, but usually takes a deteriorated form, like the 'hidden masters' of Theosophy, and is dismissed in ordinary thinking as pure fantasy. Where Idries Shah, who wrote The Sufis seems to have scored was in pointing to historical evidence that something of this kind actually happens. He also indicated a curious range of literature which he showed held a concealing meaning. Decoded, this turns out to be both a commentary on the process, and a blueprint of how people who 'rumble' it can co-operate.
Some scholars who had spent a lifetime passing learned judgement on this very literature without ever suspecting that it was in code where caught with their academic pants down.
Now, eight years later, the whole subject seems to be turning into a respectable academic subject. Two psychiatric institutes now use Sufi psychological material; John J. Kermisch, who recruits high IQ individuals, introduced it to the famous Rand 'think tank'; London University has shown a Sufi film at a meeting of scientists, and Sufi stories have been used to illustrate abstruse energy concepts at a physics conference.
In the meantime, Idries Shah has written a dozen more books-- about a million words-- aimed at the general reader. These consist of seemingly simple moral and folk tales with an Arabian Nights flavor. But it is an open secret that they too are in the 'double meaning' category. That they do have subconscious effect is perhaps suggested by their sales-- now topping half a million-- and by their translation into five European and four Eastern languages.
The latest is The Magic Monastery, which mixes classical teaching stories with some in modern dress. These strange little cameos can have an eerie effect, probing gently into deeper levels of the mind and echoing with what might be Conscience. Desmond Morris in a recent broadcast said that they have the astonishing effect of enabling him to make use of his own stored experience.
If there is anything in the idea that cultures in distress are sometimes given a reviving injection, these books would seem to have a message between the lines. They are intended to strike a chord in people through whom the injection could be administered.
Fantasy? Perhaps. But if there is anything in it, one thing is certain-- we could do with some help right now.
from The Evening News, London, Wednesday April 5, 1972. p. 9