One of the more interesting tests of the pupil is when the Master deliberately lies to you. Sometimes the lie is percepible at once, as in the incident I relate below about the underground stop, but most of the time the lie corresponds so seamlessly to a self-evident truth, such as the wonderfulness of oneself or the incompetence of others on the Way, that one does not realize that one has been lied to for some time, if ever. Such lies as these can be classified under the heading of "disillusionment", in the sense meant by Graf Dürkheim when he says that a Master's basic function is to destroy the disciple's illusions about himself.

There are other more generalized lies which I would call the "legend-builders" i.e., stories told to selected individuals who are sure to broadcast their special knowledge as evidence of their close relationship to the Master. When they can combine both legend-building with jealous revenge, such stories will spread through groups like wildfire. Some of these stories which relate to deeds done in the past, etc., have even found their way into recordings given to gatherings, in fact, most of the stories dealing with Afghanistan or memories of old military campaigns come under this heading.

Nevertheless, like all simple statements, the automatic assumption that these stories are untrue requires some modulation. In the late seventies I once interpreted a conference for the French Ministry of Defense about the so-called "tank threat" the western world would be facing vis-à-vis the Warsaw Pact countries in the year 2000: what was involved here was a perfectly normal Defense technology forecasting exercise that is always updated in order to direct the boffins that do the research. Whan I talked about this to the Master it was immediately clear that he had a complete grasp of tank technology, and various other things like the electromagnetic profile future tanks would need to counter heat-seeking missiles, turret outlines to be adopted in the future, 'fire and forget' technology in which it is no longer necessary to stop the tank to fire, etc. - he knew what he was talking about and the experience clearly came from having been under fire inside a tank rather than reading about it and discussing it in meetings as I had - the difference was palpable. So one cannot assume that the tall stories he seems to be telling are automatically true or untrue: as with anything the Master chooses to say, it must be submitted to intimate personal evaluation.

At the first meeting of our Tarika in 1962, Shah warned about the tendency inherent in small groupings to ascribe Messiah-like attributes to their teacher. Our own Master has both discouraged such thinking in books, while seemingly tolerating it in some people around him, particularly when the form it took was positive celebration. This area of the Tradition is one of the most subtle of its aspects, because it requires a clear knowledge of oneself not to be sucked into this vortex, either for or against.

An intimate personal evaluation of the Master's words is therefore essential. It has to be done in a quiet mood, not in a state of enthusiasm about the "wonderful man who is my teacher" because this very frequently leads one towards self-worship in the sense that "I must be a wonderful pupil to have such a wonderful teacher".

The quality or lack of quality in the Master is not actually relevant to our own development at all: what counts is our perception of what he (or for that matter, she) is trying to communicate. A Master is not judged by criteria of morality, social acceptability, beauty, or position. A Master only exists because of the students and he (or she) lives basically on behalf of their potential consciousness. Our Master may be wonderful or may not be: but what are we in ourselves? What have we learnt? For those of us who have been around a long time, the answer to this question can be scary, because length of service can also just mean going round and round in circles. It is the quality of the students that define a Master, not the Master's relationship to God, from our pupil's point of view that has to be a given.

Now a true Master does not not make this implicit trust easy, and this is a subject upon which I can speak with some authority, having been recently denounced both as a person and as a writer through third parties. The fact that my writing itself contradicts such denunciations will be clear to anyone who can be bothered to read the works in question. Once again, as we have seen many times over, gossip and backbiting have stepped into the space created by laziness and jealousy. A so-called conflict has been whipped up and exaggerated by the conduits that were chosen to spread the word.

Why? Why has such a situation been engineered? My feeling is that it has been engineered on purpose as a teaching situation to enable people to look at their own reactions in the light of an event. Such an event applies both to participants and to witnesses. It applies to myself as the theoretical villain of the piece and to those who pass on derogatory information. Who will identify with the hunters and who with the hunted, and who, like Eichmann, will simply wash their hands and say the result is not their concern because they have their orders? I have my own ideas (which include possible illusions about my own impeccability of intention) but the situation is still ongoing and it's better that I make no further comment, at least for the time being. Unless my teacher excommunicates me in writing, I am still a member of his Tarika. If another serving of humble pie must be ingested, my spoon is ready, it won't be the first time. But censorship is characteristic of a cult.

One of the few things that are true in the short story entitled "How to Betray your Teacher" ("Fictions and Factions" pg. 152) was the evocation of my first one-on-one contact with the Master, when he dunked out his cigar in a cup of coffee. The most significant thing he did at that time, in terms of technique, was to begin to blow hot air at me about "pure esotericism" and suchlike. What I did then was to cut him short and change the subject, I hope in a polite and acceptable manner, because I realized in that moment that he was responding to an as yet unformulated fantasy in my own mind about secret knowledge and suchlike, and the kind of knowledge I really needed was something much more basic about myself and my own motivations. Even though I was full of goodwill and enthusiasm, I only half-understood myself at the time, and what I needed at that time was an instrumentation that would help me know myself better. I had an acute awareness of my own failings in this respect and it was this awareness that led me to refuse the carrot of "special knowledge" that was being held out to me. I don't want to pretend to omniscience here - since that time other carrots have been held out to me and I swallowed them hook, line and sinker.

Now when I say he blew hot air at me, it was not because what he was saying was necessarily an invention or not factually true, it was hot air because it was knowledge I could not assimilate at the time. The lie was not in the Master, it was in the situation between the pupil and the Master.

Was what I was being told about "pure esotericism" true or not true? It may have been or it may not have been, but in fact I have no idea because it was beyond my capacity to assimilate or evaluate at the time, which made it irrelevant to my needs. But one thing made this seemingly minor incident very important to my own future and to my own possibility of growth as a human being. Unlike the high profile acolytes, I never had the illusion that my Master would not lie to me if it suited him to do so: he had started off that way, tickling one of my major fantasies, and there was no reason why this wouldn't happen again. My only protection would be a realistic modesty about myself, because among the first things I began to witness in the Tradition was a pattern of self-aggrandizement in some of the pupils (not all), particularly those who were charged with organizing functions in the Tarika.

My first job in the Tradition was as a salesman-cum-office boy. I used to sweep out the shop every evening and try to balance the cash register - pure nightmare, it was always a few francs off. Half the time I'd make up the difference myself just to be able to go home in the evening - no mean feat on a salary of a hundred dollars a month. The advantage of this situation, which I did not perceive at the time, was that when the Master came to Paris and received the visitors from all over who wanted to see him, I was the doorman who ushered them in. This may not seem to be anything much, but in fact it was a golden opportunity to see how people looked at the teacher: there were the self-important, the masochists, the true believers, the idealists, all came to the Master with whatever idea they entertained about what a teacher was supposed to be, and the Master satisfied them to the best of his ability, because so far as I could see, as many people as possible were to be given a chance. Only in certain cases did he refuse, such as when a Duchess asked if she could be a lesbian and a Sufi and the Master said yes, then she asked if she could be a Communist and a Sufi and the Master said no - not because of the politics, even though he had little personal sympathy with them, but because Communism presupposes a lack of transcendental belief.

Seeing how the teacher modulated his behaviour to each without losing sight of his own objectives was a great priviledge, particularly when it meant dealing with people with whom I had no sympathy, such as the ones that treated me like a flunkey. I remember a character, whom I particularly detested, he was a reformed alcoholic who had been a major Gurdjieffian in his time, it was presumably because of his past status that Catherine asked him to evaluate me in terms of future husbandhood: "That boy has possibilities" he opined, which of course earned him my lifelong hatred. But here again I was forced to re-evaluate my own emotionally-based judgement: he was a man who was a good communicator, and during his travels around South America he was very instrumental in setting up what were to become the Tarikas in Argentina and Brazil. When I saw that happening I had to integrate a very simple and fundamental idea into my own thinking about the Tradition: the people I liked best were not necessarily the most qualified, and it wasn't always the nicest human beings who got a job done. A teacher uses greed to his own ends. One of the hardest things to do is accept that someone you don't like is more competent than you are, and this doesn't just apply to the Tradition.

The other lie took place many years later. I had arrived in London and phoned up our teacher to ask him if I could join the group for the Thursday exercise. He told me that there would be no problem, and where it would be taking place. Did he happen to have the address on him, I asked, and he gave me the address, it was near Holland Park. I asked him if he knew what the nearest tube station was, and without missing a beat, he replied: "Bayswater Road."

"That's peculiar" I thought and I went and found a London street map in order to check out the address and the underground station. It was immediately obvious that if I had gone to Bayswater Road, I wouldn't have had a hope in hell of getting to the exercise on time. The lie had been seamless. But who was the liar here? Was it the Sufi Master, or was it the dumb idiot of a pupil who was wasting the Sufi Master's time by asking him for information that could perfectly well be obtained from a subway map?

Augy Hayter