Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Masters of Wisdom

It is an historical fact that a major role in the transformation of Central Asia was played by the society or brotherhood of wise men known as the Khwajagan or Masters. Though they were Muslims and commonly known as Sufis, their doctrines and methods differed radically from those of the Sufi schools of Arabia, Africa and Spain. The Khwajagan are seldom mentioned in books on Sufism, though their successors, the Naq’shbandi, are the most numerous and influential Sufi community in the world. The reason for this is that Sufism has been known in the West mainly from literary sources. Most people have heard of the great Sufi poets, Nizami, Hafiz, Jellalludin Rumi and Attar, and the names of the great philosophical writers, such as Muhyiddin ibn Arabi and Iman Gazali, are almost equally well known. The Khwajagan wrote very little except practical manuals until the fifteenth century.

Who were these men, so little known in the West, and yet so influential over five centuries? The Masters did not spring from nowhere. Long before they appeared, a powerful stream of spirituality was flowing in Central Asia. When Zoroaster lived in Balkh, the ‘Mother of Cities’, in the sixth century before Christ, he inherited a still more ancient tradition. The earliest hymns of the Aryan people contain convincing evidence of having been composed in the far north ten thousand years ago. I believe that a continuous tradition can be traced back for more than thirty thousand years when Central Asia was a fertile region, the meeting ground of different cultures, far more ancient that those of Egypt, Mesopotamia and India which arose six or seven thousand years ago.

Gurdjieff: Making a New World

John G Bennett

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