The Fatimiya Sufi Order and Ayahuasca
The Fatimiya Sufi Order stands unique in its place as a Sufi order with Ayahuasca as a central sacrament. This may be the first Sufi order to utilize the medicine in its rituals, as well as the first mystery school that utilizes Ayhausca in accordance with Islamic and pre-Islamic religious metaphors. The order's founder plans on taking the medicine back to his homeland, Iran.
Originated by Iranian-born N. Wahid Azal in 2005, the Fatimiyas utilize Ayahuasca as their central sacrament, in a syncretic esoteric order that glorifies the archetypes of Islam, as the Santo Daime does Christianity. However, this is only the shell, says Azal. What is most important is the message inside (something I think Padrinho Sebastio may have agreed with). Or in Azal's words, “the exoteric aspect of Islam is merely a symbol to be contemplated rather than simply to be followed for its own sake, since for me behind this symbol there is a deeper esoteric truth that is necessarily beyond all creeds.”
Azal was initiated into Sufism in his twenties, after leaving the Bahai faith he was raised in. Azal professes to follow his own “personal gnostic religion of salvation” which he terms NUR, meaning “light.” I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions.
Prop: How did the Fatimiya Sufi Order come into being?
Wahid: The Fatimiya Sufi Order was born within an Ayahuasca experience I had in mid 2005. In this session La Madre -- whom in its Fatimiya context is referred to in its Iranian denotation as the Simorgh, the Fabulous Gryphon -- epiphanized for me as Fatima Zahra', Fatima the Radiant, namely, the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad. She gave me the directive within this session to begin the (capital 'W') Work of the Fatimiya. Most importantly it was in this session where She revealed in Arabic the Fatimiya formula of the shahada, translated as “testimony,” and made me utter it thirteen times, which is la ilaha illa allah fatima wajh allah, “there is no god but the Godhead, Fatima is the Face of the Godhead.”
Years before, however, and specifically on the night of my Sufi initiation, I had dreamed of Fatima who had likewise initiated me in the Mundus Imaginalis, or the Imaginal World. I dreamed I had entered the sacred precincts of the Ka'aba, in Mecca, on a Night of the Full Moon and there was no one there but me. The doors of the Ka'aba suddenly opened up and a female voice bade me to enter the inner sanctum of the Ka'aba. I entered the Ka'aba and there seated dressed in emerald green and wearing a white headdress, with the words Al-Hayy, translated as “the Living” written in Arabic on the headdress, was Fatima. She bade me to sit in front of Her and then commanded me to open my mouth. Laying next to Her was the double-edged sword of 'Ali, Zu'l-Fiqar. I opened my mouth and She grabbed my tongue and pierced it with Zu'l-Fiqar. Instead of pain, however, I felt ecstasy and was transported in the next scene of the dream to a dazzling desert landscape whose sands consisted of flakes of pure lustrous gold. I stood in this desert watching the Sun rise and as the Sun rose Fatima's face shone from within it fully unveiled. The higher this Imaginal Sun rose to its meridian, the more it formed itself into various shapes and forms, until it finally became the World Tree, the Tree of Life, or the Tree of Reality as I call it, whose roots reached into every expanse of Heaven and earth. I woke up! This was some 13 years or so before the Ayahuasca session just mentioned and it was such a vivid dream I can never forget it!
What role does Ayahuasca play in The Fatimiya Sufi Order?
The Tea is the sacrament forming the central experiential grounding of the Order's Work. Let me say this, though: we don't call the Fatimiya sacrament 'Ayahuasca'. We call it by its ancient Iranian-Mazdean name of 'Haoma'. This came about some two-and-a-half, nearly three years ago now on the insistence of the Ayahuasca itself during a session. During this session La Madre strongly advised that we stop using the Banisteriopsis Caapi Vine and instead opt from there on out to use the Peganum Harmala, or the Rue, instead. We do continue to use the Vine except only as an admixture now rather than as the base, and the Rue we do use comes directly from Iran. For Light, as I have mentioned elsewhere, we use the Peruvian and Hawaiian chacruna together as well as a local Australian acacia.
Note that the Rue has an old and central role in the Mazdean religion of ancient Iran and continues to do so to this very day amongst Iranian Shi'ites, be they Twelver, Isma'ili or Sufi. The Zoroastrians properly consider it to be the most sacred of their herbs, which they constantly burn in their prayer halls, and in Persian it is known as Esfand, also spelled 'Esphand'. Esfand is a shortened version of the Pahlavi form of the name Esfandmorz who is the Avestan Spendarmat or Spenta Armaiti, (trans. 'Holy' or 'Beneficient Devotion'), namely, the Zoroastrian Archangel of the Earth who is one of the six Amesha Spenta (trans. Bounteous Immortals) or archangelic hypostases of the Godhead Ahura Mazda/Ohrmazd. Spendarmat/Esfandomorz is the first amongst the three specifically feminine archangelic hypostases, or 'holy sparks,' of the Godhead, the other three being male, and in Mazdean cosmology She is considered to be the Earth-Mother with the plant itself as Her Theurgy.
The final national Iranian month of the year, Esfand (29 days between February-March), is named after Her in which month the Esfand plant itself is believed to be at its energetic peak. Our own angelology is somewhat different in its superficial external features from the traditional Mazdean one, but the inner intention is identical. For us likewise the final month of the thirteen-month NUR year is dedicated to the titular angelic-divinity of the Earth who with us is known as Hana'il.
Haoma, which is identical to the Vedic Soma, is of course the ancient Mazdean sacrament which, or 'who,' is simultaneously both the king of plants as well as an angel-divinity or titulary angel (Avestan 'yazata'), this time male. He appears mostly in the later Mazdean theology yet according to this later theology he plays a prominent role in the mission of the Prophet Zarathushtra himself in the initiation of the Mazdayasna ('the Good Religion', i.e. the proper Mazdean name for the Zoroastrian faith). The standing epithet of Haoma is "far from death" and he is known as the "lord of knowledge and power."
In terms of the sacrament itself, connections between it and the Esfand have been made in key texts on multiple occasions, leading one to connect the titulary angelic form of the sacrament as being, as it were, under the general patronage of Spendarmat Herself. Since the six Amesha Spenta (Bounteous Immortals) are really primary hypostases of the Singular Godhead, one can safely make the assertion connecting these titulary angelic-divinities (the 'yazatas') such as Haoma as representing further hypostases of the hypostasis. You will also find a similar sort of scheme in Suhrawardi where he speaks of the 'Mothers' (ummahat) (which are longitudinal or vertically situated archetypal-celestial realities) and the various 'Lords of the Species' (arbab al-naw') (i.e. their latitudinal or horizontally situated instantiations). This is for the basic traditional metaphysical symbolism.
Of course, it needs to be underscored here that the contemporary, mainstream Zoroastrian community no longer use the Haoma or conduct the ritual and liturgical-sacrificial ceremonies they once had around it in ancient times. This is so because, just as with the Vedic Soma, knowledge of it amongst their mainstream was lost a long, long time ago, before the Zend Avesta itself was finally codified in its present form. It is possible there are Zoroastrian mobads (priests) out there that still posses this knowledge. But if they do, it is secret knowledge and one not advertised even amongst the mainstream of the community who know nothing of it. Given this, it is quite a bold claim we are making here in asserting that our Tea represents the Haoma. Nevertheless that is what the consciousness behind it has identified itself as to us on multiple occasions now. In fact before La Madre made us change our base from the Vine to the Rue, She insisted for some years before that the Tea was indeed the Haoma/Soma and so therefore its return to my people specifically. We shall see what the Spirit ultimately intends with all this, but it is my goal to take the Fatimiya Haoma to Iran someday soon, Goddess willing, when the present Islamist regime is no longer there, and to hold ceremony atop holy Mount Damavand in the Alborz mountains overlooking Tehran.
On the practical working level, our 'time', if you would, revolves around the sacrament and the ceremony around it -- or Workings as we call them. We usually drink once every fourteen days, that is, twice every NUR month. Before the actual drinking a usual Working begins with a cycle of recitations involving magical invocations and angelic calls, sacred formulas and prayers (in Arabic, Avestan and Sanskrit), and -- just as with the Zoroastrians and many Sufis in Iran -- the use of the Esfand smoke to purify and sacralize our space. There is also a Fatimiya ritual of the pentagram I formulated some years ago which I always use at the very beginning of this process. It involves a sixfold permutation of a single divine name in Arabic whilst drawing the symbol of the pentagram. We use talismans and amulets, all derived from the Islamic Sufi ruhaniya (white magical) tradition, the three most important being the symbol of the Greatest Name (ism al-a'zam) which in Iran is also known as the Dignity of the Sun (sharaf-e-shams); the Khamsa or Hand of Fatima; and a Talisman which was revealed to me some years ago inside an entheogenic state known as the Solomonic-Ka'aba of Eternity. After these preliminary recitations, which depending on the mood or astrological situation can sometimes take over an hour or more to complete, we drink. When we have drunk we begin the first dhikr (mantra) which is usually 4000 recitations of the dhikr of Ya Allah. We build ourselves into a high ecstatic state with this dhikr and by the time it has completed the Simorgh (the Fabulous Gryphon, our denotation for La Madre) has arrived!
Within the Santo Daime there is systematic openness to the notion of channeling spirits, vis-a-vis the work of Allen Kardec. Does the Fatimiya Sufi Order work with similar belief systems of channeling and "possession?" If so, what ideological forms and archetypes are they ensconced within?
This is both a good question as well as a controversial one that would require more than just a few paragraphs to unpack. But to put it bluntly, we basically reject the Kardecian spiritist template and agree with the arguments offered by Rene Guenon in his The Spiritist Fallacy regarding it.
Kardecian spiritism is popular in Brazil and has been part of its culture of spiritual discourse for over a century now. The Santo Daime as well as many of the other Ayahuasca churches over there have appropriated many of its key concepts and points of view. Not to take anything away from the Santo Daime per se or the other churches, but from any Hermetic (and I would argue any Traditional shamanic) conception of the universe there are grave problems with many of the perspectives offered by Kardecian spiritism as it is conceived. This is not to say that mediumship does not have its proper place in any genuine esoteric work. After all the role of the Oracle has been a central one in many traditional cultures and civilizations, and continues to be in many indigenous shamanic cultures even today. The bona fide shaman in my view is an Oracle. But there is a difference between the traditional Oracle and the modern channeler, and the breed of New Age channeler that Kardecian spiritism has spawned is not a traditional Oracle at all. In other words, these two, the New Age channeler and the traditional Oracle, are definitely not the same thing.
The function of the Oracle is fundamentally a prophetic one in the true sense of that word, and he or she is literally possessed by the spirit or divinity on whose behalf it speaks. This is, in my view, real possession by Spirit when the possession especially is coming from a higher plane, since such possession is really a hierophany, which then makes the recipient of such hierophany a hierophant.
You will also note, for example, that at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi in Ancient Greece the Oracle only prophesied once every seven days and not every day or at the whim of every terrestrial beckoning. Oracles in ancient times were also trained in their roles for long periods of time and were essentially initiated into it. They also exhibited certain unique traits and features different from most average mortals and were usually found quite young. In fact the life of an ancient temple Oracle was no different than that of many Tibetan Buddhist lamas, particularly in those schools of Tibetan Buddhism where a given lama incarnates (tulku) perpetually from body to body in each age.
To put it another way, the Oracle as hierophant and intercessor between Heaven and earth is a shaman-prophet(ess). Modern mediums and the urban cosmopolitan breed of New Age channelers are as far from that reality as one can possibly get, which is why, in my view, the contemporary scene seems to breed endless quackery and charlatanry in that regard. Also the question needs to be asked, what exactly are the contemporary Kardecian New Age channelers opening themselves up to? Personally I do not believe it to be the kind of Spirit (or spirits) that, for example, we meet speaking to Hermes Trismegistus in the tractate Poimandres of the Corpus Hermeticum.
For us, the question is not about 'channeling' this or that disincarnate entity at all, nor do we believe it is the goal of genuine spiritual work to be 'channeling' such beings. Our goal is to attain full realization of our Celestial-Angelic Double, the syzygy or Perfect Nature, what the Western esoteric tradition calls the Holy Guardian Angel. The consummation of this, to us, is what the Alchemical Tradition refers to as palingenesis (alchemical resurrection). To that end, the following Hymn to the Perfect Nature by Suhrawardi beautifully illustrates what our fundamental aims are in that regard:
O Thou, my Lord and Prince, most Holy Angel, my most precious and beloved spiritual being! Thou art my father and my mother, the Sun and the Moon, who gave birth to me in the world of the Pure Spirit, and Thou art my child and sibling in the world of my thought! With divine permission Thou art entirely dedicated to the government of my person! Thou art the one whose fervor intercedes for me before the Godhead, the God of all Gods, to make up for my deficiencies! O Thou who art clothed in the utmost radiance of the divine Lights! O Thou who resides at the summit of the degrees of perfection, I implore Thee, through the One who has overwhelmed Thee with such sublime nobility, who hath bestowed upon Thee such an immense effusion of grace! O precious one, may Thou manifest Thyself to me at the hour of the Supreme Epiphany! May Thou showest me Thy resplendent Face! May Thou be my mediator before the God of Gods in the effusion of the Siniatic Light of mystical Secrets! May Thou lift the veils of darkness from my heart! This I pray in the name of the One who hath claim over Thee and ranks over Thee! I call upon Thee, O Powers and sublime spiritual Angels, O Ye who art the wisdom of the sages, the sagacity of the seers and the knowledge of the wise! Hearken unto me and appear before me and bring me near to Thy magisterium! Guide me with Thy wisdom and protect me with Thy powers! Make me understand what I do not understand, realize what I do not realize and see what I do not see! Turn me away from the dangers that lurk in the ignorance, the forgetfulness and the hardness of my heart, in order to have me attain to the ranks of the ancient sages and inspired prophets, in whose hearts wisdom, insight, vigilance, discernment and comprehension made their permanent indwelling! May Thou also live forever in the innermost recesses of my heart, and never ever separate Thyself from me! Amen.
Can you please explain the role of Henry Corbin in the philosophy of your Sufi order? And what other scholars and holy men and women provide great insight to what you all are about?
The writings and visionary scholarship of Henry Corbin function as the theoretical framework and backdrop behind the Fatimiya's (for lack of a better word) basic 'doctrine'. By theory, however, I am speaking of theoria in the Greek sense of that word, i.e. contemplation. Corbin's spirited championing of the transformative power of the Active Imagination (not fantasy) as a divine faculty -- and, moreover, a faculty capable of a personal salvation within a secular world increasingly beset by totalitarianisms of all kinds -- is basically a gnostic intuition of the highest order and one needed to be more widely listened to. This is so because it is through the Active Imagination (capital 'I') whereby the soul as stranger to itself, and as prisoner within its own cosmic crypt of a materialized world, can ultimately find its unique individuated liberation and so its way back to Itself (i.e. to its heavenly Person or Twin, the Angel-of-its-being, its Daena, Perfect Nature, paredros or syzygy) and thus finally to the Celestial Pleroma of the All-Light.
Indigenous shamanisms the world over would whole heartedly agree here as well. Corbin's personal faith also rested on the trinity of "Earth, Angel and Woman." For us it is the other way around, "Woman, Angel and Earth," but the points of origin and departure remain fundamentally the same. Amongst the Fatimiyun I have often referred to Henry Corbin as a contemporary Magister Illuminatus, i.e. Master of Illumination, shaykh'ul-ishraq.
This is a title the 12th century martyr and Neo-Zoroastrian Hermeto-Platonic Sufi sage Shihabuddin Yahya Suhrawardi is known by, and a rank which according to his Illuminationist theosophy always requires an occupant in the world. While Suhrawardi in his own time revived the Wisdom (hikmat/khirad/sophia) of the sages of Ancient Pre-Islamic Persia through a largely Neoplatonic and Sufi interpretative lense, Corbin revived Suhrawardi's Ishraqi (illuminationist) theosophy of Light, Shi'ite gnosis in all its various hues and the entire esoteric legacy of Iranian spirituality for the world beyond the confines of the Islamic east.
Within his career, spanning some five decades, he had made, as it were, the initiatic pilgrimage to the Orient of Light (mashriq al-nur) through a fruitful academic and literary career which saw his orientation move intellectually from Heidegger to Suhrawardi (microcosm) and geographically from Paris to Tehran (macrocosm). To us, his emphasis on an emanationist metaphysics tempered by ecstasy and the Active Imagination, while simultaneously informed by a sophisticated comparative Angelology that proclaims a path of spiritual individuation, is precisely what the doctor ordered beyond both the paradoxical conundrums of the exoteric monotheisms as well as those spiritual stultifications of secular (post-)modernity or the fluffery of the New Age. In short, Corbin is the Platonist's quintessential contemporary Platonist, and we Fatimiyun are unashamed Platonists!
Henry Corbin aside, amongst the holy figures of the greater Tradition the writings and legacy of the 19th century Prophet-Messiah of Shiraz, Siyyid 'Ali Muhammad Shirazi, the Essence of the Seven Letters, the Primal Point, the Bab, are very important to us. In one sense the Fatimiya is in the greater Islamicate scheme of things very much a Neo-Babi or Neo-Bayani movement.
Babism, or the Bayani gnostic faith, was the original movement or religion that the contemporary Baha'i faith eventually emerged out of in the 1860s as the chief schism. From one point of view, the Bab and Babism was a sort of esoteric Twelver Shi'ite melding with Isma'ilism and Sufism -- something that would have made Henry Corbin salivate had Babism been correctly represented to him. While the Fatimiya's point of departure goes well beyond many of Babism's, at least exoteric, assumptions, we are nevertheless attempting to revive some of its core notions in our own way, albeit expanded beyond its originary suppositions.
For example, in its novel and even radical reinterpretation of the symbolic narrative of Adam and Eve in Genesis, the Bab's early commentary on the Quranic Surah of the Cow (al-baqara) is particularly apropos to what we are about. In it the Bab basically re-narrates the symbolic narrative of the fall of Adam (turning the features of the story on its head in the process) and states that it wasn't due to any sin committed by Eve that the fall occured. Rather the fall occurs because Adam failed to approach his wife in ecstasy in order to recognize her transfiguration as Fatima (or, the Divine Feminine) within the celestial Tree of Reality. In other words, the sin of the fall was Adam's and not Eve's. Let me quote you one of its key passages,
“And a thing may not draw nigh to [anything] beyond its origin. So when Adam drew nigh to the Tree of Reality (shajarat’ul-haqîqa) shining forth from Fatima [i.e. the transfiguration of Eve] by means of the drawing nigh of existence, he disobeyed his Lord, because God commanded him not to approach it, except through ecstasy (al-wijdân). Because at the time of ecstasy the 'thing drawn nigh unto' is the Tree and nothing other than it.” (Trans. Todd Lawson, “The Authority of the Feminine and Fatima’s Place in an Early Work by the Bab,” 2001).
For a 19th century Twelver Shi'ite, even a heterodox one, that is quite a profound Tantric statement, not to mention a statement of narrative not too dissimilar in its features to the Nag Hammadi Gnostic text known as the Apocalypse of Adam. I earlier mentioned Tahirih Qurrat'ul-'Ayn. Together with the Bab, her corpus of remaining writings (mostly poetry with only one or two prose works) are important as are the writings of the Bab's successor Subh-i-Azal. Additionally the collection of the esoteric sayings and statements of the Shi'ite Imams (as well as their treatment by assorted authors such as Rajab Bursi and Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa'i) are continually reflected upon. Two of these are of special note here, these being the hadith kumayl or hadith al-haqiqa (the Tradition of Ultimate Reality) and the khutba tatanjiya (the Sermon Between the Two Gulfs).
Many other figures of the greater Tradition can be mentioned here, but the Hermes Trismegistus of the Corpus Hermeticum (particularly of the Poimandres) is germane as are all the pagan Neoplatonists from Plotinus to Proclus. The 12th/13th century Andalusian Sufi master Muhiyiddin Ibn 'Arabi is also one of our poles (aqtab), not to mention the earlier Persian Sufis such as Husayn ibn Mansour al-Hallaj, Ahmad Ghazzali and Ruzbehan Baqli. In magic and our practice of the Craft, the writings of Shaykh Ahmad al-Buni stand in a league of their own. Within the Indo-Aryan spectrum of things, the Prophet Zarathushtra is considered to be a holy figure by our Order and the Avesta is taken as scripture alongside the Qur'an and other Abrahamic Holy Books, not to mention Shakta Tantra texts such as the Devi Mahatmyam and the Mahanirvana Tantra.
Amongst contemporary Western figures, the writings of the Italian Julius Evola are core to our Work as are those of the Frenchman Rene Guenon. While we take the Neo-Traditionalist perspective represented by Evola and Guenon seriously, I should mention here as well that we are stricly speaking not Neo-Traditionalists and have some of our own philosophical disagreements and beefs with a few salient features of their overall point of view.
What does the future hold for The Fatimya Sufi Order?
Our future is literaly in the hands of the Great Mother, Fatima, the Simorgh. We do however wish to diffuse this Work more widely amongst those cross-sections of the Iranian community open to it, since it is very much needed there, and as mentioned earlier, the dream is one day to hold ceremony atop holy Mount Damavand in a free Iran. We do also envision a continuity to the Work of the Fatimiya after our present generation and to that end I should mention that in many ways what the Fatimiya is attempting to do is to return the sacredotal function of the hierophant back to woman as the holy initiatrix. In other words, within that specific cultural matrix, the role of the High Priest or shaykh has in our view expended itself and so must henceforth give way to that of the High Priestess or shaykha as penultimate intercessor between Heaven and earth. As such, in practical terms, we envision the future leadership of the Fatimiya Sufi Order to be in the hands of women who will take this Work to its higher levels of actualization, the Godhead willing!