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Posted October 28, 2002
I've had THE DERMIS PROBE (1970) in my book collection since 1973, and I've probably read it a dozen times. It is full of tricks and turns and Chinese boxes, some of which I have just begun to discover. For example: The title, THE DERMIS PROBE, would seem to reference an investigation of skin. And the title story IS a short story about the skin--of an elephant. But what is an elephant? A pachyderm! And what kind of pachyderm is an elephant? One with a proboscis! Before I had even opened the book, imbedded in the title, was the first riddle. Only fragments of pachyDERM and PROBoscis are within the title, because the short story within the book is about the difficulty of seeing a unity when one has access only to fragments. The title, itself, is a model of the story it names! It took me 29 years to notice this little Sufi joke. The story is only 3 pages long, but in a note about it on page 173, where it is presented as an allegory of Sufism, various descriptions by prominent scholars of Sufism are offered, ostensibly to demonstrate that they resemble the theme: fragments don't equal the whole. But the descriptions are of only one to four words each, taken completely out of context (although chapter and verse are cited)--fragments again! Even in the "note" the topic is modeled as information about it is provided. One cannot read any of Idries Shah's books without "doing" Sufism at the same time, because none of them are merely about Sufism. All of them are corporal fragments of Sufism itself! I have made the error of giving away the punch line. But if I had not, you may never have found it, never gotten the "point"! Besides, there are many more secrets in THE DERMIS PROBE that neither you nor I have discovered yet, so I think we can afford one or two cheats. Don't you?Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.