Sufism and the Way of Blame: Hidden Sources of a Sacred Psychology

Sufism and the Way of Blame: Hidden Sources of a Sacred Psychology Hot

Julie Clayton   May 07, 2011  
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Sufism and the Way of Blame: Hidden Sources of a Sacred Psychology
Number Of Pages, Discs, Etc.
Date Published
April 01, 2011

This is a definitive book on the Sufi "way of blame” that addresses the cultural life of Sufism in its entirety. Originating in ninth-century Persia, the "way of blame” (Arab. malamatiyya) is a little-known tradition within larger Sufism that focused on the psychology of egoism and engaged in self-critique. Later, the term referred to those Sufis who shunned Islamic literalism and formalism, thus being worthy of "blame.” Yannis Toussulis may be the first to explore the relation between this controversial movement and the larger tradition of Sufism, as well as between Sufism and Islam generally, throughout history to the present. Both a Western professor of the psychology of religion and a Sufi practitioner, Toussulis has studied malamatiyya for over a decade. Explaining Sufism as a lifelong practice to become a "perfect mirror in which God contemplates Himself,” he draws on and critiques contemporary interpretations by G. I Gurdjieff, J. G. Bennett, and Idries Shah, as well as on Frithjof Schuon, Martin Lings, and Seyyed Hossein Nasr. He also contributes personal research conducted with one of the last living representatives of the way of blame in Turkey today, Mehmet Selim Ozic.

Editor review

Overall rating 

n Sufism, the "Way of Blame" refers to an emphasis on uncovering and exposing one's own egoism, hypocrisy, and false piety, an approach which often renders the practitioner vulnerable to condemnation from others who see their own faults thus exposed by a kind of reflection, as it were. Although the "Way of Blame" is initially an individual predisposition, it has led to the formation of "schools" and groups who make it their defining feature. Known alternately as qalandars and malami, these individuals and groups often convey the impression of flouting the laws of Islam, often at their peril, even when the antinomian behavior is only apparent and not real. (The author makes it clear that the "Way of Blame, in the hands of an unscrupulous practitioner, can merely be an excuse for license and unbridled egoism.) At their best, however, these groups merely try to strip religion of the various trappings and conceits which feed an unconscious but powerful sense of entitlement and vanity.

The book is roughly divided into three sections: (1) a discussion of the "Sufi mystique", of claims of the existence of "hidden masters" and secret brotherhoods, and of the arrival of Sufism in the West; (2) a discussion of the history and lineages of individuals and groups claiming to practice the "Way of Blame"; and (3) a discussion of the "Seven Stations of Wisdom", the stages towards God-realization, and Sufi psychology. The author concludes with a brief discussion of Sufism's possible future and role in the West, particularly the United States.

This is a valuable book on a misunderstood topic, and although I thought the middle, historical section lagged a bit, I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in Sufism, particularly as it has been presented in the West.

Stephen J. Triesch, amazon Reviewer

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