The question of sufism is tricky and I have never had an opportunity to explore or visit the ‘mainstream sufi movements’ which appear to be benign gnostic groups. But the realm of sufism takes in a huge terrain, overlaps with hindu legacies and has an ominous dark side, with many fringe cases and/or hidden mainstream fronts. I recommend the tale (no doubt with a hidden sufi influence) of Lord of the Rings with its extreme take on occultism: never use the One Ring, ever. The tale is not useful in any practical spiritual method and there are many sufi occultists who don’t follow the advice given. But it is true that the rare cases of occult knowledge seem to drift into strange forms of evil, as if to vaunt the ‘bad guy’ aspect. Notable are such strange cases as Gurdjieff who openly confesses to his own demonic aspect. He wasn’t kidding. If you are a modern secular humanist who believes in freedom and modernity you have no business with sufism. I was vulnerable here years ago because of figures like Idries Shah who promoted sufism in a unique format a generation ago with dozens of books which I read avidly. Because of his ‘soft sufi porn’ I fell into the trap, mostly with figures around the so-called (jewish) sufi E J Gold, another devil of the Gurdjieff type and very dangerous to his chosen victims. He spoke of jewish sufis and mixe sufism with Aleister Crowley in a mixture of poisons and the result can be deadly. Human sacrifice would seem slightly out of date but not for dark side sufis. Gold even writes about it with total disinformation in his trashy book, Sacrifices.
Let us note that even Christian monotheism is basically a totalitarian cult based on torture. The device of torturing people to death is explicitly theological. The problem here is the ambiguity of sufism as gnosticism and religious extremism and a fanatical religion. The overlap is genuinely open to paranoid creeping flesh.
Torture baraka, and fascist death strategies lurk in this strange occult realm which I must strongly suspect is connected beyond sufism to the recent resurgence of outright fascism. I saw the connection many years ago in the Gold circle which had a seminal group of jews with nazi armbands, naturally denounced by Gold to keep up his front (he was connected to the founder of the San Franscisco ball and seems have self-financed with such shady enterprises). One of Gold’s tricks is to use the Book of the Dead (Tibetan, then his own wiseacring American Book of the Dead) to promote the idea of death in life, of Bardos in ordinary life. The idea might be worth considering until it becomes the fascist brand. A close look at Gurdjieff shows the birth of the idea of the concentration (death) camp in his indirect invocations of death energy and the creation of living death ‘bardos’. I have no idea what basis in the equally insidious legacy of Tibetan occultism there might be.
My point here is to second the critques of Islamophobia by such as Juan Cole, but on the left I would say don’t be fooled. As a secular humanist and/or socialist you are not welcome in the sufi realm. There is no reason you can’t study if historically. But never affirm you have joined the sufi cult. To be sure nine of ten will have no problem, but the secret world of victims is terrible and beyond legal restraint. Let’s be glad: success in occult subjects is very rare so the probability of pious gnostics being pious is good.
Gurdjieff indirectly sounded the warning, and Ouspensky, his dupe, promoted the early basis of fascism we see now. They may have been mere pawns in some larger unseen set of groups. He was a brilliant fellow but was suckered into creating a permanent bestseller for a rogue sufi occultist. HIs In Search of the Miraculous has created a huge cult in the modern secular sphere. We can see this influence also in figures like Bannon with their fixation on the code of Manu a la Ouspensky. Gurdjieff is a puzzling failure: with a normal goodwill and a commitment to help he could have created a modern understanding of consciousness. But such was the monumental hatred of modernity of such people that they could not produce a benign version of their methods and in the division of exoteric and esoteric a booby-trapped teaching that isn’t a teaching but flypaper on the Dark Side. The visible figures ‘point’ to unknown areas and groups/traditions is strange places and times from the mountains of Afghanistan to gosh-forbid places in the Caucasus, Tibet being its own related case. If you are impressed by images of people now doing yoga and/or meditating for ten minutes in photo ops for yoga journal check out the fact that Tibetans have meditated to extremes in caves for centuries, millennia, and could retool to produce dark side ‘bad guys’ on an assembly line.
Perhaps the work of Juan Cole on Islam can have its own benign influence, but the ambiguity of monotheism still haunts its present. The history of monotheism is forgotten by modern secularists and/or ‘secular’ pseudo-christian dead drops who manage to get to church on time, on Sundays.
If sufis/moslems (which is which) don’t like secularists they really dislike, apparently, CIA agents and the film Body of Lies with Leonardo de Caprio, which could be Hollywood trash shows the collisions of CIA agents in the middle east, and only by the grace of Hollywood happy endings does the captured agent not die by torture using surgical instruments.
Source: Taliban “Islam” versus the Islam of the Prophet Muhammad and the Qur’an Although I have great respect for Cole’s commentary on the left I have also been a bit puzzle…