Memoirs of a Dervish: Sufis, Mystics and The Sixties by Robert Irwin - review by Mick Brown

Mick Brown

Spiritual High

Memoirs of a Dervish: Sufis, Mystics and The Sixties


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This delightfully eccentric memoir begins with one of the most arresting opening sentences I have read in a long time. ‘It was in my first year at Oxford’, Robert Irwin writes, ‘that I decided that I wanted to become a Muslim saint.’ It’s an uncommon ambition, particularly for someone raised as an Anglican, a former pupil of Epsom College and the son of the superintendent of the Holloway Sanitarium. But Irwin, by his own admission, was always a bit of a strange case.

A keen reader of science fiction as an adolescent, socially isolated and, in Philip K Dick’s phrase, ‘a drug-taking paranoiac with religious obsessions’, he ‘dreamed of growing up as a messiah with superpowers’. As a fresher at Merton College he attempted to levitate in the manner described by

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