Idries Shah worked with ideas and through ideas, instilling them in the minds of his readers. He speaks little or almost nothing about feelings – they do not interest him at all. On the other hand, he knows a great deal about ideas and their influence and perception. He speaks about the mind and works with the mind, with how it can be correctly tuned, prepared for the perception of certain higher ideas and for the Work, thanks to which a person may acquire insight. Insight is also mentioned in passing, without details. Here and there, Shah speaks about Love, but that occurs extremely rarely. After all, the love of the Sufis is turned toward God, and Shah practically does not approach the topic of God, and I would say he even avoids it in every way. But Sufism without God is not even an absurdity but some sort of surrealism.
If we accept the version that the chief goal of his Work was the separation of Sufism out from under Islam, then everything that he did becomes understandable. The declaration of the existence of a Tradition which emerged long before the appearance of Islam served the same purpose, and everything that was said or not said by Shah was also dictated by it. The end, as is expected, justifies the means.
Whatever Shah wrote or did not wrote about the existence of a Tradition penetrating everything, all educational texts and in general all information about Sufism was taken by him from that very “Islamic” Sufism. It is as if there were no Sufi teaching materials outside of it at all. I fear that the Tradition existing outside of Islam conceived by Shah for achieving his purpose – creating the opportunity for the independent development of Sufism in the modern world. It was making Sufism free from the influence of orthodoxies and traditions formulated in already degenerated groups and orders. There exist testimonies in which it is said that Shah considered the further development of Sufism in the East impossible. Moreover, he supposedly claimed that in the East, such a situation would soon come about in which Sufism could disappear entirely. If we take into account that these claims were made in the 1960s or 1970s, Shah apparently turned out to be right. That is, what is happening now in countries where Sufism was born and developed could hardly be called a favorable environment for achieving the living mystical Work. So Shah may have understood his mission as a salvation of Sufism from final degeneration.
Shah wrote a fair amount of the degeneration and the signs of the degradation of groups of the Sufi persuasion. It can be said that quite a bit of his legacy is devoted precisely to how to distinguish true Sufi teaching from false, and the real Work from its imitation. Thus, Idries Shah created the opportunity for distinction between those who will find the true teaching and real working group. He left instructions and placed landmarks for those who want to go on the Way which he himself described. Or to be more precise, described the conditions in which this Way could be begun.
Proceeding from all of the above, it becomes understandable why Shah could not provide a practical part in his teaching. All the practices of the Sufis, except, perhaps the practices of awareness of oneself, were connected to Allah and the Koran’s understanding of Being. That is, to Islam, out from under whose shadow and influence Shah tried to bring Sufism. In order for new practices to appear which were not as “Islamic” and did not require the affiliation of Sufis to Islam, seekers must appear, capable of perceiving Sufism as an independent mystical movement. Precisely the Work of Idries Shah should have created the conditions for their appearance. But when people came who were prepared to perceive Sufism anew, then the person appeared who seemed to provide new, not so “Islamic” practices and Knowledge expressed without constant references to the Koran. Thus, as I understand it, was the original plan of Shah’s Work. Although life, as it often happens, made its unexpected correctives to it.