I have just reread Idries Shah's Tales of the Dervishes. The 82 tales from Sufi teaching of the last thousand years include current material. Shah calls it "work material". These vivid and vital accounts are communications, really. They invite the reader to experience the challenge and mystery of Sufi lore and teaching. I was surprised to find that after ten years, I still remember nearly every tale: the feel of the words and drama as well as details of action. The characters, though often odd and unlikely also seem oddly familiar. Their escapades stimulate emotional as well as intellectual involvement. The outcomes seem at once impossible and inevitable. We are reading about ourselves here: the lucky time when we got it right and all the missed opportunities.
After each tale Shah gives historical notes and useful comments.
STRIKE ON THIS SPOT
Dhun-Nun the Egyptian explained graphically in a parable how he extracted knowledge concealed in Pharaonic inscriptions.
There was a statue with pointing finger, upon which was inscribed: 'Strike on this spot for treasure.' Its origin was unknown, but generations of people had hammered the place marked by the sign. Because it was made of the hardest stone, little impression was made on it, and the meaning remained cryptic.
Dhun-Nun, wrapped in contemplation of the statue, one day exactly at midday observed that the shadow of the pointing finger, unnoticed for centuries, followed a line in the paving beneath the statue.
Marking the place he obtained the necessary instruments and prised up by chisel-blows the flagstone, which proved to be the trapdoor in the roof of a subterranean cave which contained strange articles of a workmanship which enabled him to deduce the science of their manufacture, long since lost and hence to acquire the treasures and those of a more formal kind which accompanied them.