Reviewed live on bookshow by Ro Bennett 30th May 2013
I don’t think this book is in print any longer. I got a 1977 second hand version from Amazon for £3.99 but noticed there were two new, printed in 2002 for sale at £417.96!! The cheapest new were two 1996 reprints for £52.92
Reshad Feild was born Richard Timothy Feild - n.b. spelled Feild not Field in 1934) As a young, upper-class Englishman, he was educated at Eton and served in the Royal Navy. In the early 1960s he was a founding member of the popular British folk trio The Springfields with Dusty Springfield and her brother Tom.
As well as being a folksinger he has been a stockbroker, copywriter, art and antique dealer while undertaking his spiritual quest which led to his interest in Sufism. Sufism is the mystical side of Islam. In his best selling autobiographical novel The Last Barrier, Feild gives a fictionalized account of how he met Bulent Rauf who is described as a gentleman, a mystic, a world-class cook, archaeologist, writer and translator. In the book Rauf is called Hamid.
On the back cover it says that despite it being a work of fiction, Reshad Feild has lived the experiences of this book. In 1969, Feild meets Hamid, an antique dealer in London, who he describes as tall, well over six feet and heavily built and discovers that he is a Sufi teacher. This enigmatic man invites him to come to Turkey and so Reshad, an ardent spiritual seeker gives up his antiques business and sets out on a journey that changes his life.
Much of the book I found disturbing. Reshad seems a gentle, sensitive, sincere but gullible person whilst I found Hamid to be a deeply unpleasant bully. His treatment of Reshad was harsh, punitive, abusive, cruel and uncaring, alternating with occasional praise and apparent warmth and kindness. Hamid claimed this was necessary to force Reshad to ‘shed the deadening preconceptions of his past, break the shackles of the rationalising mind and perceive the reality lying below the surface of things.’ I would call it schizophrenic or psychotic behaviour and it left Reshad an emotional, physical and mental wreck.
Fortunately he also met some lovely, caring, warm, generous people, including an ancient man called Dede and his wife whose kindness and hospitality knew no bounds, and a mysterious Sheik who teaches him the ways of the Dervishes. The whirling dance or Sufi whirling that is associated with Dervishes is a ceremony performed to try to reach religious ecstasy and Reshad was very privildged to be able to take part in it.
Apart from Hamid, the overall kindness and respect Reshad experienced restored my faith in my own experience and understanding that most Muslims are friendly, generous and warm people.
Despite it all, Reshad found the whole episode invaluable. Since then, he has been teaching the essence of the universality of Sufi teachings, making them available to people of all religious and spiritual backgrounds. He has published more than a dozen books, some of which have been translated into many languages and has exercised a huge influence amongst Western seekers over the last forty years.
Feild earned a doctorate in psychological counseling and has run several esoteric schools in England, Canada, the United States, and Switzerland to help people embarking on the path of transformation.
It was an interesting, often disturbing but thought provoking read.