chapter  8
Dervishes in Dorsetshire: re-alignment with reality
WithFrank Musgrove
Pages 28

This chapter reports a participant-observer study of an English commune of Islamic mystics in the Cotswolds, which was carried out in 1974. The members opened themselves to signals of transcendence. The multiplication of sects in a secularized society is not really problematical. It is not a symptom of a breakdown of modernization. Members of the relatively stable inner core have no outside employment — although within a year or so most or all will have left to resume or take up normal (usually professional) careers. Occasionally one will move on to another commune, or travel in the East. In the eighth and ninth centuries mendicant Arab mystics would appear in coarse woollen garments. The Arabic for wool is suf, and the fakirs, or ascetic holy men, were now commonly referred to as ‘sufis’. The Sufis are dervishes. They are Islamic mystics. But whereas Islam is cold, formal and legalist, Sufism is deeply subjective, ecstatic.