Sufi stories contain several levels of meaning and work like psychological mirrors in which the reader may see himself and reality reflected, and come to better understand both.
The movements of the characters in these stories portray psychological processes, and the story becomes a working blueprint of those processes.
In this book, the ‘idiots’ are Sufis and are called this because their wisdom penetrates to a depth which renders it inaccessible to the merely intelligent or academically knowledgeable.
Arthur Deikman, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pioneer investigator of mystical states from a scientific point of view, studied under Shah and wrote extensively on functional approaches to mysticism. He writes:
‘The questions, “What is the purpose of living?” and “Why do I exist?” haunt modern Western civilization and the absence of an adequate answer to them has given rise to the “illness” of meaninglessness or anomie. Psychiatrists, themselves, are afflicted with this same illness, partly because the problem of the meaning of life is solved by a special type of perception rather than by logic – psychiatry is trapped by its commitment to rationalism.
‘Sufism, on the other hand, is a tradition devoted to the development of the higher intuitive capacity needed to deal with this issue. By taking advantage of the special science of the Sufis, Western civilization may be able to extricate itself from its dilemma and contribute to the development of man’s full capacities.’