It is perhaps our lack of organizational skills prevents us from understanding how religion works

The following is a section from the book The Commanding Self by Idries Shah (ISBN: 9780863040702) which contains a collection of tales, lectures and interviews which illustrates Sufist thoughts.

All human efforts are organised in one of three 'departments':

  • The General and informational,
  • the More Specific or specialist,
  • and the Personally Experiential.

Hence for example: Information about food; organisation of food; consumption of food in that area. In the area of religion, we have information and general exegesis (doctrine), followed by application of religious organisation (rules and worship), and finally, personal experience of spirituality.

All religious systems are based on personal experience (stage one) which has been codified (stage two) and applied to a community (stage three). When the three ranges become confused or if one or other is forgotten, people imagine that the organisation is all, or that the rules are paramount, or that neither of these matters since they are seeking only personal illumination.

When people agitate for personal experience, they may attack institution or dogma, imagining that these are what stand in the way. What they have in fact encountered as problems is the growth of those areas until they claim to represent, extinguish or replace personal experience. What has happened is that the balance between the three elements is lost, not that the one or another of the paramount or interchangeable with others.

Thus: we may know about food or have the apparatus to obtain, taste and digest it. This does not mean that we are organised to do so; or that we can taste it without obtaining it. Similarly, if we have tasted it, this does not imply that we have the information or organisation to recognise or obtain it a second time.

This simple formula is so little known that one almost hesitates to enunciate it. It is, however essential for restoring the balance in access strategy - the retrieval of Truth and awareness of fact.

(from The Commanding Self by Idries Shah)

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