Abdullah Isa Neil Dougan
Abdullah Isa Neil Dougan (1918-1987) was a Sufi Sheikh of the Naqshbandi order. He ran open, Westernised groups, initially based on the fourth way ideas of GI Gurdjieff, with reference to Sufi, Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Through his inner work Abdullah further developed the ideas and subsequently regarded his teaching as Gnostic.
Neil Dougan was born in Longburn, New Zealand, and served in the Mediterranean and North Africa during World War II. Upon returning to New Zealand, he lived an outward life as welder, carpenter, builder, winemaker and finally potter. Located in the Auckland area, he was married twice and had five children and three step-children. He died in September 1987.
In the late 1950s and 60s Dougan participated in, then led a Gurdjieff group that came under the direction of CS Nott. After a time he questioned some aspects of the approach and concluded that Nott and other Gurdjieff pupils were identified with Gurdjieff’s personality. In his quest for the truth he was led first to the Sufi teaching of Hazrat Inayat Khan and then to that of Ramdas. In 1968 he travelled to Europe and then Afghanistan where he met Sheikh Abdul al-Qayyum of Kandahar and Sheikh Ibrahim Mujaddidi of Kabul and was initiated as a Sufi Sheikh of the Naqshbandi order and given the name Abdullah — ‘Slave of God’. From this time Abdullah became the teacher of the New Zealand groups. Abdullah drew increasingly on his own inner experiences to direct and focus his work and that of the groups. In late 1974 Abdullah undertook extensive travel in India, Afghanistan and the Middle East. During this time he completed a 40-day fast on water alone, then went on to Saudi Arabia via Pakistan and performed the Hajj with one of his pupils.
From 1968 until his death Abdullah held weekly meetings for his pupils which took the form of question and answer sessions at which seminal works from the major religions were studied and discussed. Material from these meetings forms the core of a series of books published by Gnostic Press. One of Abdullah’s aims was to make the inner truth within all these teachings more accessible and to show that the one truth is contained in all true teachings. In the mid-1980s Abdullah established The Gnostic Society of New Zealand. based in Auckland, which continues to run the groups in New Zealand. Abdullah’s wife Rosalie directed the groups from 1987 until recent poor health intervened.
Abdullah left a considerable legacy of works illustrating and amplifying his teaching. A number of his books have been published or are in preparation by Gnostic Press; he produced around two hundred paintings and screen prints and wrote a symphony (‘Solar Suite’).
Abdullah’s succinct summary of his method of working on oneself (using Gurdjieff terminology) is to make the body obedient, the name strong and then passive, and eventually destroy the ego. Abdullah directed initial psychological work principally towards making the body obedient to the name part, with an emphasis on developing and balancing the intellectual, emotional and moving-instinctive-sex centres that comprise the name part. Abdullah held that spiritual development came as grace from above; that all we can do is foster the conditions by striving towards objective love through selfless service with the ultimate goal of annihilating self, merging into God. In later years Abdullah emphasised Ramnam, the continual repetition of God’s name in one’s heart, and an active striving towards silence: "The highest thing in the solar system that man can tap into is the silence that comes from the Sun, an extraordinary quality which exists in everything and everybody, but is realised by only very few people. To gain this silence is the acme of our efforts on this planet."
"According to the Lord Buddha (Gautama) one of the main reasons for our being on the planet is that we are dominated by our desires and our craving after them. The main yearning we have is for a body and it is this craving which brings us back to the Earth repeatedly. The body is real enough in the third dimension but is illusion in the fifth. The way out of the rounds of lives and deaths is to know we are not the body but the essential self, call it spirit, soul or consciousness."
"The best way to make your body obedient is to fast. We recommend you fast one day a week, and also try the dawn to dusk fast of Ramadan. Some people find the fast comes easy. They must keep it going for a few years then they will start to learn something. After a while it begins to get very hard. What most people lack is consistency, they can only do a discipline for a little while."
"Prayer wakes you up. Suppose you had been brought up as an agnostic and had a very derogatory attitude to prayer - if you tried to pray you would start to break down the materialism in yourself. Most prayers are petitions, but as you develop, your needs change and your prayers change. When you first start praying, it's I, I, I all the time. You're asking. Later on, you start to get some devotion in your prayers."
One of Abdullah's students, Patrick A Kelly, now teaches Abdullah's inner message throughout Western Europe. Patrick asserts that Abdullah's closest internal contact was the Sage Li Po who worked through the Daoist and Buddhist traditions, and Patrick Kelly has attempted to follow the guidance of these two teachers by merging their inner teachings through the outer practice of Taiji (Daoist Principles in Practice as taught by Huang Sheng Shyan).
- Drury, Abdullah, Islam in New Zealand: The First Mosque (Christchurch, 2007) ISBN 978-0-473-12249-2