This twenty-fifth anniversary edition of The Last Barrier has a foreword by Rumi translator Coleman Barks and a preface by Reshad Feild whose lifelong mystical search has taken him around the world to Zen monasteries in Japan, the Himalayas in Nepal, and Gurdjieff and Ouspensky schools in England. He has been a stockbroker, a naval officer, and a performer with a British pop group. 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. He is best known for his submersion in Sufism as chronicled in The Last Barrier and several follow-up volumes.
In 1969, Feild meets Hamid, an antique dealer in London, and discovers that he is a Sufi teacher. This enigmatic man invites him to come to Turkey and so this ardent spiritual seeker gives up his antiques business and sets out on a journey that changes his life. Hamid wants Feild to give up his head trip: “You have read for years, and where has it got you? Your head is filled with masses of ideas and concepts, and you yearn for experience that others on the path have had. Before your true nature is understood all those ideas and concepts must melt away. No books the only book is the manuscript of nature, the lesson is life itself. Live passionately! Who said that this path should be so serious that there is no joy in it? This is the most exciting adventure possible, and it should be enjoyed.”
Despite this encouragement, Feild finds it very difficult to set aside his ideas and to surrender to God. Hamid teaches him the Sufi practice of breathing and then asks him: “How many times a day do you remember to say thank you? You are completely dependent on God and it is to Him that all thanks are due. Until you can be grateful you will always be in separation from God.”
Another notion that Feild has a hard time giving up is the idea that he makes things happen by his choices. Hamid teaches that nothing happens by chance and God is behind everything. All human beings have to do is trust in divine presence and action.
Reshad is often taken aback by his teacher’s harsh responses to his efforts. At one point Hamid says: “Waste is the only sin and everything follows from that. Sin is a lack of knowledge, so if you want to understand, you must listen.” The author travels with his teacher to Ephesus and the place where Mary, the Mother of Jesus, went to live after the crucifixion. Hamid reminds him that in every Muslim mosque there is a prayer niche devoted to her.
But the high point of his journey comes when he visits the tomb of the mystical poet Rumi in Konya: “I had entered into calm waters after a storm that had lasted all my life.” He is enthralled when he participates in a Sufi zikr, chanting the name of God, and watches a dervish do the distinctive whirling turn of the Mevlevi order that traces its roots to Rumi. He is warmed by the kindness of Mevlevi Sheikh Suleyman Dede, who tells him: ”How wonderful are the ways of God, Who manifests for each of us what is necessary for the moment.”
The Last Barrier is a fine primer on the mysteries and enchantments of the Sufi path and the ways in which a teacher gives his student just what he needs at the perfect time.