Spirituality is typically associated with religion, occultism, sacred texts or holy sites. What about jokes? Could they be “spiritual” in some way? The great poet and mystic Jalaludin Rumi thought so. He coined the phrase “Special Illumination” to stress the importance of humour in metaphysical experience. This is also the title of a pioneering work on the subject by Idries Shah, first published in 1977. This outlandish little book is riddled with jokes and how to learn from them. Throughout history jokes have survived and spread even in the most inhospitable societies. Like the basket in which baby Moses nestled, some can protect and transport something precious & delicate that may, in time & under the right circumstances, develop into something of critical importance. The intriguing jokes in this little book are almost like exercises. They can challenge our fixed ideas and preconceptions, increasing our flexibility. As mirrors they provide opportunities to observe how we react to them. Shah says that many are dynamic templates or patterns; working blueprints of the mind.

Here are a couple to ponder:

Belief  The master was at the height of his harangue. “And if I were to tell you anything of what I really, deeply know, you would not believe me. If I were even to hint at the truths which are understood by those who have attained to Truth, you would scoff; if I were to give you any statement of the amazing realities behind what you imagine to be reality, you would not credit it…” A member of the audience held up his hand: “Surely you cannot expect anyone to believe that?”

No Service, No Charge A Man went to a physician, feeling very much out of condition.“Ah, yes” said the doctor, “ you must do this and not do that; you must eat this and drink that…” and he droned on for a time. Presently the patient started to walk out. “You haven’t paid for my advice,” said the leech. “Ah but I am not taking it!”

Read Special Illumination for free here You may also want to look at the hundreds of Mulla Nasrudin collected by Idries Shah. This wise fool of eastern folklore holds a special place in Sufi studies.