|About the Book|
Far from Ottoman Turkey and the Balkans, an expanded farmhouse in southern Michigan provides the secure if improbable setting for Baba Rexheb and his Islamic Bektashi community. This is also the setting for Spiritual Discourse, a study of the processMoreFar from Ottoman Turkey and the Balkans, an expanded farmhouse in southern Michigan provides the secure if improbable setting for Baba Rexheb and his Islamic Bektashi community. This is also the setting for Spiritual Discourse, a study of the process by which Baba Rexheb, a ninety-year-old Albanian leader of the Bektashi order, and Frances Trix, an American student who has studied with him for over twenty years, come to share a common universe of experience and attunement. The focus of the study is one lesson with Baba - a lesson that is rich in poetry and parable, narrative and face-saving humor. As Trix seeks to understand how Baba teaches, she contextualizes the lesson internally in terms of episodes and dialogic patterns, and externally in terms of the societal, personal, and ritual histories it presumes. Overall what is being passed on is not facts but a relationship, for the relationship of seeker and master mirrors that of human and God. Yet on a more immediate level, Baba teaches through a highly personalized, recursive sort of language play that engenders current attention while constantly evoking an ever-growing shared past. For scholars of discourse and interaction, the study contributes the central concept of language attunement - a form of linguistic convergence that operates not at the level of speech community, but rather at the level of dialogic encounter, and that occurs most often among people who have long interacted. For scholars of Islam and religious studies, the study represents a rare application of sociolinguistics to transmission of spiritual knowledge. The importance of oral interaction in such transmission has long been appreciated, but the conceptual framework and methodology for its analysis have been lacking. An ethnography of learning, a sociolinguistics of mysticism, above all Spiritual Discourse illuminates the process of interpersonal encounter. It is a story gracefully and unpretentiously told.