I had always suspected as a child in India that there was more to Jesus than met either the eye of my father, in those days a fervent atheist who nevertheless allowed he was an “excellent man”, or the equally fervent faith of his unlikely friend the Bishop of Bombay, who bombastically attempted to counter his influence by a view of Christianity that even at the age of eleven I found as dubious as it was doleful.
These were the last years of the Raj – which I survived by disappearing for long periods of the day into the jungle growing not far from our big white bungalow on the edge of Delhi. Wandering therein one afternoon, I came across an overgrown ruin in whose creeper-covered portal stood a semi-naked, black-bearded figure who was to become the third, and most interesting, influence upon my childhood education.
He summoned me in a voice I decided I could trust, asked me about myself, and handed me a chapathi to dip into the earthenware bowl of vegetable curry he had placed between us. We soon became fast friends, and I would visit him regularly for a chat and a chapathi in what he told me was in fact a ruined palace. This Indian gentleman – he never told me his name or asked me mine – shared this abode, I was to discover, with a monkey, a mongoose, and a rather large cobra. Curiously, the snake and the mongoose never showed the slightest inclination to fight. I now put this down to the benign influence of the unusual human being present.
Our talks ranged over many things, and one day he asked me who I thought Jesus was. I told him I didn’t really know – but I liked the sound of him. ‘And do you believe he did all those miracles?” I paused for a while. “I don’t see why not,” I replied. “Good,” he said quietly. ‘And what about your parents?” I explained my father’s position – and to my surprise he nodded approvingly. “My mother never talks about him, but she believes in God.” He nodded again. Then I told him about the Bishop – and he laughed uproariously.
“Jesus – the only son of God? What about you boy? You have it in you too. But you have to make it grow. Like that mustard seed he was talking about. We can all be God’s sons and daughters – if we work for it. Like the man himself did.”
And there was much else he said at our meetings – which I never mentioned to anyone.
Years later, when I had come to this other extraordinary country – not properly appreciated by its inhabitants – my education in the Indian jungle, combined with the influence of mystic Oxford, must, I feel, have helped me to recognise Gurdjieff, and then the Sufis and their connection with Jesus. By the Sufis I do not, as I make very clear in my book, mean “Islamic mystics” – the usual misconception – but masters of an ancient tradition of inner teaching, unbound by culture, free-moving, finding those who truly seek, wherever and whenever they are.
That Jesus is quintessentially such a Sufi master is clear from his distinctive use of stories for teaching purposes, his sayings, and his what the Sufis call ‘action-teachings’, including those actions known as ‘miracles’. I have discovered that Sufism illuminates from within concepts central to Christianity: ‘the kingdom of Heaven’, ‘son of God’, ‘baptism’, ‘resurrection’ – which can then be seen as states and stages in an evolutionary philosophy. The spring into organic life. Their inner developmental potency is liberated. Like an ultra-violet light shone onto the petals of flowers. It reveals hidden patterns normally invisible. I attempt to communicate something of this subtlety in my book.
Reviews of “Jesus the Sufi”
‘l was intrigued but sceptical as I opened it: ‘How can there be a connection between Jesus and Sufism?’ But I quickly became absorbed … that the Sufis regard man as basically asleep raises the possibility that Gurdjieff found this idea in Sufism. From then on was completely in touch with everything you said, and particularly with the spirit of the book.’
‘… beautifully written, inspiring. As I get older I am beginning to understand how misrepresented Christ has been by the Church.’
Rev. Peter Owen-Jones
‘l had the distinct impression of watching the removal of veneer from, literally, an old, master … stripping off the overlay to let the original shine through.’
Andrew Dean: SPECTRUM
‘I read the book with great enjoyment. It coincides with my belief in a lost Gnostic element in Christianity. I shall refer to it in my programme ‘Something Understood’ (BBC Radio 4) in the very near future.’ (4th January, 2009)
‘The author’s perspective enables us to recover a deeper stratum of meaning in Jesus’ words and deeds which often eludes a one-dimensional appreciation. Whether or not this book convinces you that Jesus was a Sufi it will assuredly reward all who explore its message.’
Review in ‘New Vision’, December, 2008.
‘It’s a brilliant, beautifully written text and I learned from it. The book gives chapter and verse as to why Jesus was in the tradition later called Sufi and which many might benefit from knowing since it explains so much.’
‘A superb piece of work … ranging across a wide diapason. It convincingly connects the mystical element in Christianity with the Sufic mystical tradition.’
Edward Campbell Author of ‘The People of the Secret’ (Octagon) and recently Literary Editor of the London Evening Standard.
‘As scholarly as it is spirited, this study, drawing upon a wide variety of sources, offers one a different view of Jesus: not as the founder of a religion but as a teacher of consciousness. There have been many books written about Jesus. If I had to recommend one, this would be it.’
Warren Burnet: Deputy Director, Centre for Extracanonical Studies, Oxford.