Chapter 1: The Tale of the Sands
We enter today into the world of Sufism. It is a world, but not a world-view. It is a transcendence, but not a philosophy of transcendence. It does not preach any theories, it simply gives you practical hints.
Sufism is not speculative. It is utterly realistic, pragmatic, practical. It is down-to-earth, it is not abstract. Hence, it has no world-view. And also, because it is not a system, it does not systematize knowledge.
A system is a complete explanation of existence. Sufism is not a system; it has no explanation for existence, it is a way into the mysteries of existence. It does not explain anything, it simply points to the mysterious. It leads you into the mysterious. Sufism does not demystify existence. All systems do that: their whole work consists in making the unknown known, destroying the mystery, destroying the wonder. Sufism leads you from one wonder to another, deeper into the wonderland.
It is not a system because it never gives any complete explanation about anything. It gives only very, very small hints, flashes of insight. It does not spin and weave philosophies; it spins and weaves stories, anecdotes, metaphors, parables, poetry. It is not metaphysics, it is metaphor. It is a finger pointing to the moon. You cannot understand the moon by analyzing the finger. But if you follow the direction with sympathy, if you fall en rapport, then you will come to see the moon. The finger is not the moon, the finger cannot be the moon, yet the finger can point the way.
The Sufi stories are not philosophical. They are just gentle hints, whisperings. Sufism does not shout, it only whispers. Naturally, only those who are ready to listen with sympathy - not only with sympathy, but empathy - only those who are ready to open their hearts in trust and in surrender can understand what Sufism is.
Only those who are capable of love can understand what Sufism is. What is its message? It is not a logical analysis; neither is it as illogical as Zen. Sufism says to be logical is one extreme, to be illogical is another. Sufism is just somewhere in the middle, neither logic nor illogic. It does not lean to the left or to the right. It is not absurd. It is not logical like Socrates and it is not absurd like Bodhidharma. It says Bodhidharma and Socrates only look different, but their approaches are the same.
In fact Bodhidharma is more logical than Socrates; that’s why he stumbles into illogic. If you go on following the line of logic sooner or later you come to a point where you see logic is finished, but the journey continues. Bodhidharma is a Socrates who has gone the whole way and has come to that borderland where logic stops but life continues. Bodhidharma looks different but the approach is Socratic; it is intellectual. Zen is very much against intellect, but to be against intellect is still to be intellectual. Zen is anti-philosophy, but to be anti-philosophical is to be philosophical: that is your philosophy. Sufism avoids the extremes. It follows the middle, the exact middle, the Golden Mean.