• In his writing about Sufism, Idries Shah did some revolutionary things. Critically, and almost alone, he said that it was possible to divorce the essence of Sufi philosophy from what he insisted were secondary accretions of islamic culture and religion. Moreover, he said, in making this material available to the West, you could not only do this, you must do it. This is because, he believed, you can only absorb materials that are designed for your own time and place. Sufism as an essence may be ‘truth without form’ but, in order to penetrate into the human mind, it must be delivered in a package shaped to fit the receiving culture. ‘When something new enters a culture, there is a period where, like a new object being thrown into the chimpanzee pen at a zoo, all the chimps rush over to touch it, throw it on the floor, fight over it and so on,’ he once told me. ‘We must wait until the dust settles; only then will people be in a position to assess this material.’ My father died in 1996 and the dust is settling fast. He leaves a body of work behind and, on this work alone, he believed, he should and would be judged. This anthology is intended to provide a basic sample of his work, an essential reader, to allow people to do exactly what he would have wished them to do: to think for themselves and to make up their own minds. — From the Editor’s Note, by Saira Shah
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  • Oriental Magic is recognized as a brilliant study of how, what and why people think, in territories extending from North Africa to Japan. Profusely illustrated, the book is the product of years of research and field-work in a dozen different cultural regions. Its scholarly accuracy and genuine contribution to cultural understanding have made it a key text for anyone interested in informal beliefs, and esoteric practices. The work includes material on Indian alchemy, the Arabian Abjad system, on divination and talismanic charms, and it even contains an ancient Brahmin spell for immortality. "The main purpose of my books on magic was to make this material available to the general reader. For too long people believed that there were secret books, hidden places, and amazing things. They held onto this information as something to frighten themselves with. So the first purpose was information. This is the magic of East and West. That's all. There is no more. The second purpose of those books was to show that there do seem to be forces, some of which are either rationalized by this magic or may be developed from it, which do not come within customary physics or within the experience of ordinary people. I think this should be studied, that we should gather the data and analyze the phenomena. We need to separate the chemistry of magic from the alchemy, as it were."
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  • First published in 1957, Destination Mecca was both an ambitious travel book and a work of ethnographic and cultural research. Shah documents a wide range of fascinating journeys, from his quest for the Gold Mines of King Solomon on Sudan's Red Sea Coast, to encounters in desert caravanserais and sojourns with Mediterranean contraband smugglers, to his time as a personal guest of the elderly King Ibn Saud. As readable now as it was more than fifty years ago, Destination Mecca acts as a beacon for young adventurers and for more sedate armchair travellers.
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  • First published in 1957, The Secret Lore of Magic contains within it a series of major source-books of magical arts. Many of them translated into English for the first time, these works are annotated and fully illustrated. The book’s title in itself signalled the fact that the bulk of material in this bibliographical study had never been published openly before. Together with Oriental Magic which appeared in the preceding year, it provided a complete survey of fundamental magical literature, and thus a comprehensive reference system for psychologists, ethnologists and others interested in the rise and development of human beliefs. Both books also introduced the general reader to dependable information about what was a shadowy and confusing subject.
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  • How can it be that the same story is found in Scotland and also in Pre-Columbian America? What can account for the durability and persistence of tales? Was the tale of Aladdin and his wondrous lamp really taken from Wales (where it has been found) to the ancient East and, if so, when and by whom? These questions and more are answered in Idries Shah’s remarkable volume World Tales, which is subtitled, ‘The extraordinary coincidence of stories told in all times, in all places’. In his introduction, Shah remarks, ‘Working for thirty-five years among the written and oral sources of our world heritage in tales, one feels a truly living element in them which is startlingly evident when one isolates the ‘basic’ stories; the ones which tend to have travelled farthest, to have featured in the largest number of classical collections, to have inspired great writers of the past and present’.
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  • In December of 1979, Soviet tanks rolled across the borders of Afghanistan, beginning a period of barbaric aggression that triggered a turning point in modern history. Idries Shah´s brilliant novel chronicles the courageous 10-year resistance of the Afghan people, an epic story of triumph over tyranny that deserves to be immortalized. Kara Kush is the definitive story of freedom fighters. It is a story of patriotism-in-action, mobilized and fuelled not by a mass-media propaganda machine, or the charisma of a single individual, but by a thousands-of-years-old tradition of proud independence, deep love of one´s land, and fierce will to survive. Kara Kush was first published in 1986, at a time when most of the outside world dismissed the Afghan resistance as a rag-tag lot of rival guerrilla factions in a futile holdout against an invincible military machine. With extraordinary insight into human nature and the course of human history, Kara Kush told the real story. According to Shah, almost all of the people in the text of the novel actually exist or did. The accounts of battles and raids, precise military details, and the stories of Soviet and red Afghan atrocities were all from primary sources eye witnesses, participants, defectors, victims, and prisoners. This remarkable book, among all other sources, offers keys to understanding not only this important strategic region, but the very phase in world history in which we find ourselves today. Much more than a novel, even more than a tribute, Kara Kush stands as a model of human vision, leadership, cooperation, and capacity at a time when we need it most. 'I collected this material from freedom fighters, some of them my own relatives, from refugees, and from men and women, fighting shoulder to shoulder, from all over Afghanistan.' —Idries Shah
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  • In his best-selling Darkest England, Idries Shah asserts that the English hail from a little-known place called ‘Hathaby’, but their roots go back much farther, perhaps to the distant Asian realm of Sakasina. Once a nomadic tribe of warriors, the English fled westward, bringing with them epic tales, traditions, and an Oriental way of thought. Shah charts the genius of the English in adopting and adapting ‘almost anything spiritual, moral or material’ for their own use – a faculty that has transformed them from warrior nomads into successful diplomats, businessmen, thinkers and scientists.

    Release date: June 2019

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  • The Natives Are Restless chronicles some of the amazing, amusing, and thought-provoking adventures of the Afghan traveller and writer, Idries Shah, among members of what he calls the ‘English tribe’. It is an enthralling sequel to his bestselling Darkest England, the narrative illustrating his practised eye as an anthropologist. Shah observes how the English see themselves, and contrasts it with how the rest of the world views this eccentric island race. He also speculates on the likely continuing effect of Englishness on the future development of global society, offering unsuspecting parallels between English attitudes and Oriental wisdom.

    Release date: August 2019

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  • The Englishman’s Handbook is the third book in Idries Shah’s best-selling trilogy on why the English are as strange as they are. He examines the ‘baffling phenomena of the British and Britishness’, presenting a manual of handy tips on how to muddle through while visiting English shores. An illuminating and often hilarious read, the book is just as valuable to the British as it is to foreigners. It contains all sorts of extraordinary information on how to confuse foreigners with sheer Englishness, if any do manage to break through the barriers.

    Release date: April 2020

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