Tahir Shah, son of famous Idries Shah - was a remarkable individual and renowned writer on his experiences. Among those I consider very ground-breaking are described in 'Sorcerer's Apprentice' of which is written (see Wikipedia):

"As a child in rural England, Tahir Shah learned the first secrets of illusion from an Indian magician.[1] More than two decades later he set out in search of this conjurer, the ancestral guardian of his great grandfather’s tomb. Sorcerer’s Apprentice is the story of his quest for, and initiation into, the brotherhood of Indian godmen. Learning along the way from sadhus, sages, avatars and sorcerers – it’s a journey which took him from Kolkata to Chennai,[2] from Bangalore to Mumbai, in search of the miraculous. A quest for the bizarre, wondrous underbelly of the subcontinent, Shah’s travels lift the veil on the East’s most puzzling miracles. Revealing confidence tricks and ingenious scams, Sorcerer’s Apprentice exposes a side of India that is often hidden from the eyes of visitors, perhaps because of the limits of their own observation."

A friend of his, Doris Lesing, wrote in The Times "Shazam! No more illusions Tahir Shah's first book, Beyond the Devil's Teeth, describing mad landscapes and surreal events, had readers muttering:
Now come on! This couldn't have happened."

But it was all true. Faced with mountebanks, murderers, thieves and madmen, most of us are indignant or run away, but not this traveller. He meets whatever chance throws in his way with a smiling and apparently artless readiness, and is not above matching effrontery and guile.

This book's genesis was the arrival of a vast and hairy Pushtun at the author’s father's house. This visitor was the keeper of the tomb of the great warlord and mystic Jan Fishan Khan, an ancestor of the author's. He had dreamt the boy was in danger of falling into a well, and so he had felt compelled to come himself to warn him. "Rest assured," he barked, "that I shall not stir from this place until the threat is vanquished." With which he laid his pallet outside Tahir's bedroom door, where he spent his nights on guard, while his days were spent instructing the 11-year old boy how to eat crushed electric Iightbulbs, plunge his arm into boiling oil and other magical arts. Weeks passed. Then a chemical trick went badly wrong, blackening the faces of his audience, and Hafiz Jan hastily departed back to his vigil at the sacred tomb.

Twenty years later, Tahir Shah decided to resume his study of magic under Hafiz Jan. From him he went from one magician, godman, guru, saint, to another, across an India it is safe to say that no well-conducted tourist or even amiable hippie has ever glimpsed.

In an eating house in Calcutta, a brilliant cook transforms decaying vegetables salvaged from refuse heaps into food poor people come for miles to enjoy. There is a processing factory where corpses that have escaped the ghats and have been thrown into a field to feed dogs and crows are transformed into nice, hygienic skeletons for scientists and colleges. An official hangman stays awake for nights before an execution, praying for him or her, and his pride in his work and the compassionate devices he uses to ease the criminal into another life are chronicled here.

This kind of experience was prescribed by a master magician who took Tahir Shah on as an apprentice and subjected him to horrific ordeals - a process caricaturing certain mystic initiation rites. The trouble was, Tahir found himself on the road to masochism, beginning to enjoy swallowing and regurgitating potatoes and stones (a magician must have control of his stomach muscles), shifting soil with a teaspoon, swallowing soap to achieve high temperatures and a thousand other indignities.

Restored by the use of the Western critical eye, he set off on further adventures, accompanied by a child "with a salesman's tongue, a forger's fingers, a gambler's nerve" who spoke faultless English, passable Italian and German, and could communicate in a dozen Indian languages. He insisted on teaching the author how to make beauty products from lavatory bleach, used tea leaves and grease scraped from door hinges; concoct aphrodisiacs from mango skins and suppositories from soap; and the art of selling dirty drain water as Ganges holy water.

In India there is a craze for the Guinness Book of Records and unpleasant and difficult feats of all kinds were being attempted, in the hope of achieving immortality, by many of the people they met. One fifth of all Guinness mail comes from India, and the book is published in four Indian languages. One record is for inscribing a grain of rice with 1,749 characters. Who can blame Indians for confusing fact with miracle with this kind of thing going on?

This very funny book is for lovers of the picaresque, but while laughing, you soon realise how thoroughly it debunks all magic and magicians, godmen, gurus and phoney avatars. Not an illusion remains, not even Uri Geller's, but I confess to a pang on seeing that great showman Houdini brought down. There is something pretty ignominious in discovering that he was so bored, he took a book with him to pass the time while awestruck and anxious crowds waited, imagining him struggling with straitjackets and heavy chains inside submerged barrels and locked trunks.

But magicians need not worry. Here is the tale of a famous holy man whose miracles include making rain and cooking rice without a fire. In India a vigorous rationalist movement aims to rescue the populace from superstition. Four rationalists arrived during a session where miracles were coming thick and fast, and they explained them all, while the holy one, wiser than they about human nature, only sat and smiled. The exposé over, the crowds returned to their horrific diseases to be cured.

The funniest scene is a contest between magicians, in public, outdoing each other in chicanery. Even the crowning feat, levitation, turned out to be fakery. Shame. "

(The above illumines at least one aspect of the delusions and wilful deceptions that are constantly practised in India and other Eastern countries. As I have pointed out already in numerous connections, all the collected techniques of attracting and exploiting followers in the guru and godman tradition in India have been handed on through millennia to successors. Probably to a greater extent than any other priesthood in human history, the Vedic tradition and its many subsequent branches and departures is the first doctrine leading to methods of control and manipulation, subjugation to gods, doctrines, gurus and so on. Whatever the actual beliefs and dogma involved, Indoctrinating and manipulating the perceptions of seekers, spiritual aspirants and followers through supposed ‘miracles’ or ‘leelas’ runs throughout this religious tradition (as others too), in this case starting from the fantastic mythology of the ancient scriptures and texts like the Ramayana, the Srimad Bhagavata and the Mahabharata. There are most diverse and subtle variants on the behavioural methods and psychic techniques of of dominating others and providing clever rationalizations for all untoward events or other anomalies that crop up.)

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