Commanding Selfby Idries Shah
'The Commanding Self, ' in Sufic terminology, is that mixture of primitive and conditioned responses, common to everyone, which inhibits and distorts human progress and understanding. This book, while complete in itself as an anthology of hitherto unpublished work, serves to illustrate and amplify Idries Shah's preceding twenty and more books on the Sufi Way.
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THE COMMANDING SELF is for what Harold Bloom, author of THE WESTERN CANON, called 'a strong reader'. It is not for one looking for pre-digested information about what the 'commanding self' might be. In fact, one will find the term, 'commanding self' hardly at all in the book. Rather, the book is an asault on the cluster of responses that prevent real discernment--for example, the demand that the author constantly explain what he is doing along the way. That attitude is of a consumer, not a learner. Each piece in this anthology calls upon the reader to summon most of one's attention just to connect it to the overall theme. The result is a feeling (and perhaps the reality) of emancipation from an inner force one did not even know existed before.
The Commanding Self is the last book published while Idries Shah was alive. It is a wonderfully diverse collection of short bite-size essays and stories that summarizes and expands the ideas contained in his 30 plus books on Sufi thought and action. I especially enjoy the humorous stories that at first blush seem deceptively simple but on subsequent study always turn out to have deeper meanings embedded in them. A Shah interviewer once said that the stories are like 'whole cloth' with a lot of things happening all at once like they do in real life. I have found recurring situations become clearer to me after the memory of a story springs into my mind sometimes months or more later.
The Commanding Self, often referred to as the primitive conditioned animal brain, is illustrated in a number of tales from the newspaper, classical sources, and face-to-face interactions. This conditioning can take the form of over-emotionality, pride, and heedlessness that stand in the way of real knowledge. If you are looking for an entertaining glimpse of the self or the esoteric tradition of overcoming the Commanding Self, this is the book for you.