Shaikh Abdullah Isa Neil Dougan, 1918–1987, was a New Zealander who was raised as a Christian, then decided as a young man that he was an agnostic, but for years avidly read works on psychology and spirituality and searched for answers about man’s state.
In his thirties, after serving in World War II and while busy with family and business life, he began to work on himself according to the system of G.I. Gurdjieff, the basis of which was Gnostic and Sufi teaching. He continued to seek knowledge and eventually came under the guidance of a teacher in Afghanistan who initiated him as a Naqshbandi Sufi and gave him the spiritual name ‘Abdullah’.
Some years later Abdullah completed a forty-day fast while travelling in India and Afghanistan. This marked a significant stage in his inner development.
Abdullah taught, mainly in New Zealand, for twenty years. His approach was always to find out what he could, understand the truth for himself and present it in as simple a form as possible. His own inner development increasingly informed his teaching.
Abdullah (right) and his Sufi teacher,
Abdul al-Qayyum, Afganistan, 1974
In his book Voices from the Gnostics (Gnostic Press, 2019) Abdullah states that the fundamental teaching of the Gnostics is that man has the possibility of spiritual evolution. Abdullah believed that the purpose of man’s existence is to come to a realisation of God, to go back to the Source knowingly, that life on this planet is a unique opportunity given to a human being to perfect himself and eventually become an individualised aspect of God.
‘There is only one truth – the Gnosis of Life; the truth is universal, it is God. When it is all boiled down, everything is God, but being able to say everything is God does not help a person cope with himself. As enquiring human beings we are trying to gain some understanding, and to understand we need to have ideas that are relevant to us so we can live life according to a certain system.’ (Voices from the Gnostics, p. 9)
Abdullah endeavoured to provide a system that enabled each person to find the truth for himself. The basic method of working he advocated was to make the body obedient, the three brains – the intellectual, emotional and moving-instinctive-sex centres – passive to the spirit, and to destroy the ego. To accomplish the fundamental task of making the body obedient Abdullah recommended starting by fasting one day a week and struggling against desires of the body. In the course of making the body obedient the need to balance the three centres becomes apparent, and the ego, or idea of oneself, will be seen to be closely related to the body. The only way to overcome the ego is to identify oneself with the spirit. This is a long and arduous task which must be tackled with vigour.
In order to follow a spiritual path one-pointedness is needed: Abdullah emphasised the need for practical action, to know what you are doing and keep doing it, not just talk about it. ‘... man’s work towards self-perfection ... involves constant struggle – the struggle to wake up and be aware of his state, to go against the desires of the body, to continue to aspire to know God, to purify his motives, to quieten the mind and to selflessly serve. The energy created by this struggle goes to feed and develop his spirit. This is how man pulls himself up by his own bootstraps, raises his vibration.
'Throughout the work the aim is not to become some sort of superman but to recognise and become merged into God’. (Voices from the Gnostics, p. 21)
Abdullah left a significant body of work setting out his teaching. Books available from www.gnosticpress.co.nz (some available as downloads) include accounts of his personal quest, question-and-answer sessions held for his pupils, discussion and elucidation of Taoist, Buddhist, Gnostic and Islamic teaching, and paintings that illustrate the perennial ideas.
Further titles exploring the works of major Sufi poets are in preparation.
The cover of Probings is from a screen print by Abdullah, Victory to the Truth.
Everything is God. Everything is vibration, the whole of existence is vibration, and is therefore God.