I recently came across this passage in the book al-Ira’ah by the Tijani scholar Hajj Lahsan Ba‘qili, and it moved me deeply; I feel that had I read this some years ago, it would have given me immense benefit and saved me a lot of anguish; but that was not Allah’s will. Nevertheless, I reproduce it here in case it may benefit others and save them from falling into a demonic snare which has claimed many a Sufi aspirant over the centuries. The Sheikh says:
(The passage uses certain expressions of more use to Tijani disciples; I have taken the liberty of modifying them, so that it is of more use to those who are not members of that particular blessed order, as I am not)
…Many times people are initiated by a sheikh or muqaddam who has spiritual blessing, but then meet someone else who is more qualified, and renew their initiation with him, and then they neglect their relationship with the first one even though he was the one who first brought them into the order and began their blessed path. And they might even slight him by saying, “I was initiated by so-and-so,” naming the second, and when you press them they say, “I entered the order at the hands of so-and-so,” speaking of him as though he is unimportant and distant. By neglecting the first wellspring of their success in the order, they end up suspended halfway: neither disciples, nor otherwise. They are like someone who makes ablutions for the midday prayer and then retains his state of purity until the afternoon prayer: it is recommended for him to renew it anyway, for the sake of performing a recommended act, so he renews his ablutions. But if after he prays he remembers that the first ablution was actually nullified before he made the second, his prayer is invalid. It does not matter that he made ablutions the second time, since when he did so he only intended the blessing of it, and not to cleanse himself of his impure state, and nothing more. Likewise, when someone renews his initiation with another sheikh but still remains tied to the first initiation without honoring it properly, his initiation is invalid and no one else will benefit him, even if he were to meet with every sheikh in the world. The only way to avoid this is to repent and explain the reasons for the separation, and be given permission by the new spiritual guide; and then his intention should be to enter the order from the beginning again. And you find that those who go through this endure many difficulties and suffer from worry, sorrow and paranoia.