Document Type

Book Chapter

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Publication Title

Spiritual Exploration in the Works of Doris Lessing




Doris Lessing's novels of the early 1970s offer readers a rare kind of wisdom one which has been nourished by Sufism, a form of Islamic mysticism, which she admires. Unlike Lessing's earlier fiction which was simply influenced by the ideas of Sufism, three of her novels-Briefing for a Descent into Hell (1971), The Summer Before the Dark (1973), and The Memoirs of a Survivor (1974)-are literally Sufi fables-that is, symbolic stories, each of which "illuminates truth" (qtd. in Shah, The Sufis 14). The Sufi truth illuminated by these novels is that "life is One," and that because we have long ignored that truth, we now have an urgent choice to make between oneness and catastrophe. In these novels Lessing insists that unless we consciously and actively choose that personal wholeness and recognition of our inherent oneness with others and with nature, which I term "androgyny," we shall destroy all, or almost all, of the life on this planet.

Original Publication Citation

Bazin, N. T. (1999). Androgyny or catastrophe: Doris Lessing's vision in the early 1970s,. In P. S. Perrakis (Ed.), Spiritual exploration in the works of Doris Lessing (pp. 33-42). Greenwood Press.