The life and being of mystics always remains a mystery even for those who know them personally, and those who know them only by books and recollections manage to understand them even less. The life of mystics is overgrown with fictions, and in fact some of them are created by ill-wishers and others by followers for whom it is hard to keep from falling into the temptation of exaggerating their Teacher’s virtues and abilities. Slander is accompanied by starry-eyed fantasies and projections; vilification goes hand-in-hand with deification. Great mystics are never perceived by people unambiguously, and therefore all kinds of things are written and said about them. People judge mystics according to their experience and notions and here, of course, we cannot expect profound understanding. The deeds and behavior of mystics provide some with a basis for judgement of them and others for imitation, but the essence of their message and activity usually remains undisclosed. Without one’s own mystical practice and experience of the Truth, it is generally impossible to properly understand the Work of mystics.

Nevertheless, their message and methods of work with students require thought and understanding; after all, numerous people take them as the basis for their own search. Time will put everything in its place, and now it is already possible to see what has become of followers of this or that Teacher and what the Work begun by them has turned into.

The sketches presented in this book contain practically no full biographical information of any kind about the lives of its subjects. They are devoted to research about their mission, message and what the Sufis call the Work. I wrote about those whom I consider to be really great mystics although not all of them are recognized as such. I didn’t begin to limit myself to only an analysis of the activity of specific Teachers, but included in the book several essays on the later stages of the Sufi Way and methods of transmitting knowledge. In my view, they enable the reader to understand more fully and deeply the situation in which any real mystic finds himself. In this book, I propose answers to many questions that I know for sure torment many seekers. I hope that it will be useful to them as for all those in general who are interested in the Way – in the widest most sense of that word. After all, the experience of the Work of every mystic is the most valuable knowledge, available to us in an ordinary state of perception.