The Author

By David Pendlebury. MA. (Cantab.), MSc. (Brighton). Through reading Arabic and Persian classics in translation, he soon conceived a desire to read some of the better bits in the original. This he continues to do, when time permits. He has combined careers in language teaching (both in England and overseas) and, in later years, Information Systems – with a lifelong interest in the ideas expressed so powerfully in the work of Idries Shah. David was a frequent contributor to the Octagon Press list throughout its existence. From 1980 to 1982 he served as Hon. Secretary of ICR, and remained on its Council until it closed in 2013.


I first came across Ibn al-‘Arīf in 1975, via the study by Miguel Asín Palacios of the Maḥāsin al-Majālis. It was lent to me, together with 1 a number of other classical texts, by a highly regarded exponent of Sufi thought, in the hope that I might be encouraged to produce accessible versions of them in modern English, along the lines of my (much abridged) rendering of Hakim Sanai’s Walled Garden of Truth. He explained that studying the Maḥāsin was indicated for those who had, as it were, stumbled in a haphazard way into areas where they were effectively out of their depth and were in need of expert guidance.

At first sight Ibn al-‘Arīf seems to have thrown away the greater part of the mystical ‘syllabus’; however, this is far from being the case. Paradoxically, the care and attention that goes into the kind of teaching relationship that he and his like are involved in vastly exceeds in complexity the most intricate curriculum that could ever be devised by any conventional educational establishment. The syllabus is there all right: it is a ‘black box’, lodged in the heart of each person, subtly but distinctly tuned and calibrated in every individual case. It can only be ‘decoded’ by personal contact and interaction with those whose hearts have been similarly activated. An exclusive reliance on ‘one size fits all’ pronouncements, applied across the board, regardless of time and place and the make-up of the people involved, is a sure sign of an authoritarian system that can at best only produce extremely limited, static social benefits of uniformity and order – nothing that can adapt and evolve as historical circumstances change – as they inevitably will.

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The above introduction was taken from the first paragraph (found on page 3) and the final paragraph (found on page 50) of the article. You can download the entire article here to continue reading the pdf.