The Sufi Way is written quite clearly, although it is rather hard to find information about its later stages. There are several reasons for this: first, not all reached these stages; second, if a person did not begin the transfer of his experience even earlier, on the final stages of the Way it is quite difficult to speak or write about it. It is all the more difficult to describe what lays beyond the edge of everyday experience, and here one cannot get by without a certain system of coordinates, in which what is described can be placed.
The description of the Way arises as one passes along its stages. In the book by al- Hujwiri, The Revelation of the Veiled, written in the 11th century, there are chapters devoted to disputes of that time that arose in the Sufis’ community. This was a time when Sufism was developing, and the formulation and understanding of the Way which was revealed to them was going on. Now it is rather funny to read this, because it is entirely clear that the arguments about the extreme states of the Sufi, mentioned in al-Hujwiri’s book, and all the disagreements over which they actually arose are nothing more than the arguments of people who are on various stages of the Way. The book, however, is valuable precisely because the living atmosphere of early Sufism can be sensed in it, after which the final formulation of the Way began to gradually disappear and by our time disappeared completely. Everything became prescribed, as if by notes, and although the Way did not become easier from this, the knowledge of its basic stages still prepares the seeker for what awaits him. But to know something at the level of the mind is one thing, and to live it through experience is something entirely different. As it is said, knowing the Way and passing through it are not at all the same thing.
The Sufi way includes within it a stage of purification and development – work with the nafs, to express in its commonly-accepted terms – and the ensuing stages of interaction with God. The first part is spiritual and the second is mystical. The division of this, of course, is arbitrary, because the purification, for example, occurs also at the stage of following the Will of God. The Sufi way presupposes several forms of completely different interaction with God at its different stages; and in this simultaneously is manifested both its beauty and its difficulty. And perhaps it is better to call the events and processes that occur on the Way, not interaction, but growing closer to God; after all, their essence, in the final analysis is exactly such. Later stages of the Sufi Way incorporated two stages of fana and two stages of baqa. Fana means disappearance, and it is internal and external. The external relates to the disappears in a person of his own will (read: wishes), and with this is directly connected the stage of outer baqa, which is characterized by acceptance and fulfillment of God’s Will. I have written a fair amount about this already, and I will not dwell on it in detail here. The stage of internal fana means the transition of the Sufi to the disappearance in God, and of this very little is written, if not to say almost nothing.