"Seek knowledge even unto China."
attributed to the Prophet.
A hot wind blew from across the Amu Darya
over the plains. I directed my steps towards a dried mud structure raised
on a mound, which housed the tomb of a dervish. In front of the building
on a platform facing the open doors of the shrine a man with a gigantic
black turban sat praying, his palms turned upward and his head and upper
body slowly swaying from left to right. Close to him were sitting two men,
their eyes blackened with kajal. None of them seemed to have noticed my
arrival. I knelt behind the man with the big turban and closed my eyes.
Something compelled me to imitate his swaying movements. Slowly I felt the
compactness of my body fading. I registered subtle energy waves penetrating
my head and chest. As I became pervaded by that psychic energy the disturbing
power of my train of thoughts vanished by itself.
When I opened my eyes
the man in front of me was still praying. I stood up, went inside and kissed
the tomb. On the walls hung several calligraphies, prints and photographs
of sanctuaries. The form of the tomb looked like a crouched animal. It was
modeled by hand with mud. The animal-like tomb had a strong presence. I
went outside and asked one of the men, who was holding a dervish axe, the
name of the enshrined saint. He replied: "Hazrat Sultan". I slowly
walked away, stopping several times to look back at the mud structure. On
the main road I caught a horse carriage going to Kunduz.
"Nothing kills the conditioned self, except
the shadow of the master."
My interest in visiting tombs
was roused in India in an old mausoleum in which resided a fakir (Fakir
(Arab.): an ascetic, poor in worldly desires and material possessions).
I met him when I was roaming about in a necropolis. Standing near the entrance
of a domed mausoleum he smiled in an amused way and asked in English: "Do
you want to see my place?". Inside were two tombs. The charged atmosphere
struck me at once. "You like some tea?", he said, and without
waiting for an answer he began to light a small kerosene stove in a corner
of the mausoleum. The main saint's grave over which a catafalque-like construction
had been raised stood in an oblique line near the main entrance. The other
tomb was a heap of earth delineated with clay bricks. As the fakir noticed
that I was feeling the vibrations, he designated the great tomb and said: "He
is very powerful". He put a kettle on the stove, came forward, lifted
the cloth that covered the grave and suggested that I should contact its
surface with my forehead. When I did so, instantly I became aware of a high
concentration of energy in my head. I remained for some time in that position
enjoying the energy.
The tea was ready. Apart from the stove, some tea
cups, a reed mat and a blanket he possessed nothing. Perceiving that I was
looking at his few belongings he explained:"Whatever I receive in the
daytime, I give it away before evening." We both smiled as an expression
of mutual understanding.
I went to see the fakir again. We became friends.
He informed me that the mausoleum had been built to house the remains of
a prince. The saint and other persons had been interred later, at different
periods. Nobody knew his name, until one night the saint had appeared fib
the fakir and revealed his identity. The tomb was not a popular place of
pilgrimage. Till the time of the fakir's predecessor the place had been
infested with snakes and scorpions. Only a few people, mostly dervishes,
visited the mausoleum for its subtle atmosphere. When the fakir had settled
in it, people had flocked to him, but when he did not perform miracles and
when the tomb did not manifest any healing qualities, they had stopped coming.
Only after weeks did I discover that except for
drinking several cups of tea and eating only a few spoons of rice and vegetables
or meat a day, the fakir was not taking any food. Questioned about it he
said: "If I eat too much I feel weary."
I had taken the habit,
whenever I visited the fakir, of lifting up the cloth that covered the tomb,
to touch the grave with my forehead and concentrate for a while on the strong
energy that seemed to emanate from it. I had tried other concentration methods
before, but only rarely had I obtained the same powerful effect. With the
tomb it was different. As soon as I contacted it I felt subtle vibrations
and could accumulate them to such a density that any interfering thought
processes were neutralized without effort.
One day the fakir invited
me to spend the night in the mausoleum. He did not say anything specific,
but alluded that perhaps some 'powers' could be revealed to me. The invitation
happened on account of a dream in which the saint of the tomb had given
him a hint to do so. Pointing at the grave he said: "He likes you."
Whatever action or decision he had to make he always consulted the dead
saint or listened to some inner voice. He told me that he saw the saint
in visions, dreams or during out-of-the body projections. Some nights a
whole congregation of saints from another dimension gathered at his place.
They came to sit silently, communicating with him without the use of words.
That particular evening I brought with me flowers and incense and put them
at the head of the tomb. I had not eaten much that day as the fakir had
told me that the best preparation for a spiritual exercise was "to
eat little, talk little and sleep little".
The fakir began reading
extracts of the Qoran in a loud voice. Next he intoned phrases from another
book. We were both sitting cross legged and facing the main tomb. From the
very beginning of his recitations I had been repeating incessantly a long
sentence in Arabic that he had dictated to me the day before. His only instruction
had been: "Recite the sentence and stay awake as long as you can. Fight
against sleep, but when you feel too tired you can go to sleep. Do not go
outside the mausoleum on any account."
Hours passed and nothing
happened. The fakir had become silent and had covered his head with a white
cloth. I did not know whether he was awake or asleep. No longer being able
to sit upright, I stretched myself Out on the floor and kept on reciting.
I must have fallen asleep for a little later I woke up, stood up swiftly
and directed myself towards the door with the intention of going to the
latrine. I tried to open the door but was unable to do so. As I examined
the lock I suddenly remembered that the fakir had told me not to leave the
mausoleum. While I attempted to push the door I saw to my great surprise
that my hand and forearm had gone through the wood. I looked over my shoulder
and saw my sleeping body lying on the reed mat. I also saw the fakir enveloped
in his cotton cloth. I looked again at the door. There were a few moments
of hesitation and indecision and without my willing it I moved towards my
sleeping body and entered it backwards. There was a slight shock, some resistance
and the next instant I sat up leaning on my elbows, looking around. The
fakir seemed asleep. I had been out of my body. I experienced that being
out of the body is as different from dreaming as dreaming is from the waking
The next morning when I opened my eyes the fakir was out. He came
back with a glass of milk in his hand for tea. Commenting the events of
the past night, he said: "Whenever you recite the phrase that I gave
you it is as if you are lighting a flame. Having become a light you attracted
the attention of the saint of the tomb and he came and looked into your
heart. He can do different things according to the spiritual condition of
the one who is doing zikr (Zikr (Arab.): recital, remembrance. Doing
zikr is a spiritual exercise consisting of the repetition of a given invocation.) "He
took you out of your body to help you and show you something. Maybe you
must learn to walk in the other world just like in this world. Traveling
to the other world is like an examination. If you feel some difficulty it
means that your heart is not clean. One should acquire the ability to remain
conscious while dreaming and leaving the physical body. But first the heart
must become pure. Because of death man's heart is full of fear. Because
of fear man veils his heart. As long as there remains a spark of fear in
the heart one knows that one has not reached Perfection. Some men are afraid
of occult phenomena because they are commanded by fear, but they should
not shun them. On the contrary they should be worried when strange things
do not happen to them. Occult phenomena are signs that your hidden faculties
are developing and that you are contacting other worlds and forces. But
do not look for them. Do not make them the object of your search. They occur
concurrently. What counts is that the heart becomes clean. And doing zikr
helps you in purifying yourself. Zikr cleans the heart. It works very slowly.
Much patience is required."
When I asked him a method for developing
astral projection, he dictated to me over the course of a month several
phrases in Arabic which I had to recite in a well defined order. The opening
phrases were long while the rest consisted of short syllable words. The
recitations were either verses from the Qoran, or had been transmitted orally
to him by elder dervishes or had been given to him in dreams. Some opening
phrases I had to repeat eleven times. At the end of the invocation I had
to recite a short sentence endlessly till I fell asleep. A specific body
posture or breathing technique was not required. If I woke up at night I
had to continue its recitation and when possible I was to recite it even
in my dreams. The first results of these interminable recitations were flashbacks
from my youth or an enervating lucidity that kept me awake all night. Gradually
the frequency of dreaming increased, making me understand that I was dreaming
continuously even when I was awake. It happened that I became aware in
my dream that I was dreaming and that I became an onlooker of my own dream
and began to analyze it. In some cases my consciousness became so clear
that the dream ended in waking up physically as well, but mostly the dream
contents clouded my mind and kept me enchanted as in ordinary dreaming.
I concluded that this is what happens at the moment of death and after:
either we remain conscious throughout the process or we become helplessly
overpowered by dreams and thought forms.
None of the contents of my dreams
was of any interest to the fakir to whom I narrated these results of my
nocturnal exercises. He would not answer any of my questions if he was not
inspired by the entombed saint. Once he said: "It is good to have dreams;
while dreaming there is always a chance to learn about one's mind."
At the end of my first stay with him he gave me a zikr to stop my mind from
wandering when being in a crowd or having disturbing thoughts. Together
with the zikr he gave me a metal bowl, which had been standing on the tomb,
and from which I had to drink water every morning and evening after reciting
a specific formula, "to remove all difficulties and diseases".
Looking back at the period when I began studying higher knowledge I remember
how I was a purist who asserted that magic and ESP had nothing to do with
it. I considered every mystic who had extraordinary experiences as unreliable.
I did not perceive that all the authorities on esotericism whom I contacted
were stuck on the level of intuitional-intellectual self-hypnosis. To me
there was no relation between higher knowledge, magic and ESP. I could
not conceive that extraordinary phenomena are indications that inner faculties
are developing, without which real knowledge is unattainable.
in Europe whose mysticism was rooted in Neo-Platonism and German traditions
pretended to have experiences transcending ordinary thinking. But when I
discovered that he had completely repressed his emotions and instincts
and neglected to transmute them in the totality of his being, I went in
search of methods that included the integration and transformation of the
emotions and instincts.
But to free oneself of the entanglements of one's
own thought constructions requires more than making the resolution to do
so. When for the first time I met a wandering dervish in 1963 in Abarghu
in Central Persia, I was prevented from contacting him by my preconceptions.
The old dervish sat near the entrance of a wayside inn, dressed in patched
clothes and was muttering prayers. His only belongings were some sort of
a ceremonial axe, two books and a begging gourd that stood in front of him.
Looking at him my preconceptions called up thoughts associated with folklore
and superstitions. What I needed were exceptional circumstances that would
break up my habitual mind-patterns and throw me out of my conditioned self.
It was not until I had my first unexpected experience of the unseen that
my conceptions changed. The first one happened in a small village in South
India and the second in the Topkapi Palace and Haghia Sophia in Istanbul.
I was traveling in South India, visiting temple cities, ashrams and holy
places. In Tiruvannamalai I heard of a mad man residing in a small village
some thirty kilometers away, a chain smoker who had stopped talking years
ago and who was being worshiped by the local people. Though the man was
known never to take a bath and to feed himself in a very irregular manner,
periodically swallowing large amounts of food followed by long fasts. His
physical condition was excellent. I had become dissatisfied with verbally
initiating teachers and hierarchical religious organizations. Out of sheer
curiosity I decided to go and witness such an uncommon form of religious
I had to take a bus till a crossing and walk four kilometers
along a river. It was monsoon and the path was flooded at several places.
When I reached the hamlet, I was immediately surrounded by people. A young
man who introduced himself as the local teacher offered me his help. Two
boys holding up garlands of flowers tried to put them in my hands and shouted: "One
rupee, sahib, one rupee!". The teacher led me to a thatched shed where
I saw an old man sitting. I felt very tired from walking in the damp heat.
The people, who followed every movement I made annoyed me very much, but
as I approached the old man the villagers stayed behind. All looks were
on me. I took a one rupee note from my pocket, handed it to one of the boys,
received a garland of flowers and stepped towards the shed with the intention
of offering it to the old man and leave the place as soon as possible. The
baba (Baba (Persian): literally the word means father. Title given to
a holy man.) was not sitting in any particular posture and all the
noise and excitement of the crowd did not seem to affect him. His fingers
were full of rings. My bad mood was countered when I put the flowers over
his head and bent over him to adjust the garland: I noticed a strong fresh
perfume, totally different from any natural or artificial scent I had ever
smelt. I had expected a bad odor as I had seen a huge pile of gifts and
offerings dumped behind him in the small unventilated backroom of the shed.
Pilgrims give him flowers, fruits, cigarettes and money, which he accepts
unconcerned. Normally in the hot and humid monsoon time the offerings should
be a stinking and rotting heap. He had not changed his position. He was
just sitting, nothing more. The teacher told me that he rarely left his
dwelling. The baba did not seem to be preoccupied with anything or to be
ruminating about what to do next, he had stopped making projects and indulging
in mind-games in relation to himself and his fellow-men. If any traces of
memory were left in him they had been dissociated from emotion. He was now
smoking a cigarette a devotee had presented to him. When a woman handed
a banana to the baba he quietly refused. She left it in front of him. Still
puzzled about the strange perfume I stepped some paces backwards towards
the middle of the village road. All the time the baba had not been looking
at me. I watched him more closely and saw a slight twinkling in his eyes.
The next moment I felt something like an inner warmth developing at the
place of my solar plexus. The heaviness due to the oppressive climate faded
away. I heard the voice of the teacher say:"He smiled at you, this
is very good". My uneasiness and haste to leave the place had vanished,
the presence of the villagers did not matter any more. Drinking a glass
of tea with the teacher, he informed me that the old man was a majzoob,
named Poondi Baba, who had been seen wandering in the area for over twenty
years. Nobody knew from where he had come. Not talking to anyone, never
begging and never harming anything he seemed to be just a good madman, until
an extraordinary occurrence made him famous.
For some time Poondi Baba
had been sitting on a sand-bank in a riverbed. Heavy rains began pouring
down. The water level rose dangerously, but the baba remained unmoved on
the sand-bank. One morning the whole riverbed was flooded, the baba had
disappeared and everybody thought that he had been washed away by the torrential
waters. When the water level fell after twenty days, some farmers who were
wading with their buffaloes through the water found the body of the baba
buried under the sand. As the body was not showing any sign of decomposition
they began removing the sand. Great was their astonishment when the baba
began to move his body as though he was awaking from sleep. He stood up
and walked away. From that day on people began to look for his company and
started venerating him.
When I walked back to the crossing the warm feeling
in my solar plexus was still there. It had a benevolent effect on my whole
condition: I felt strong and very lucid. But what was most remarkable was
that my own thoughts and the behavior of people could in no way affect my
high mood. It was as if an inner organ had flowered and was radiating a
non-emotional energy. This state lasted for about three days, then it slowly
decreased and evanesced.
At that time I was ignorant about masts and
majzoobs or divinely intoxicated persons. Up to my encounter with Poondi
Baba I had thought them to be deflected yogis, instead of understanding
that their patterns of conventional behavior had been shattered by an overpowering
influx of higher energies and by a gradual absorption into deeper psychic
realities. I did not know that certain masts and majzoobs are vessels of
strange subtle forces and are capable of transmitting that energy to other
persons by merely looking at them.
The difference between a mast and
a majzoob is that the majzoob's ego has been completely extinguished by
divine powers. In the mast persist traces of his ordinary ego. The majzoob
abides in the stage of total annihilation of the ordinary ego.
Baba writes (W. Donkin. The Wayfarers. p. 6. Sufism Reoriented. San
Francisco 1969.): "The average man of the world has only an appearance
of balance, because he can often effect a provisional adjustment between
the warring elements in his mind." The adjustment of conflicting tendencies
that he succeeds in achieving for some time, is based upon a working compromise
between them. This working compromise enables the average man to bring his
outward behavior into conformity with the established conventions of society
; and because he fits into the average pattern of responses and reactions,
he gives the appearance of balance. The working balance of compromise that
the average man is able to strike between the conflicting inclinations of
his psyche, is dictated by the exigencies of the situation. It is not determined
by a careful evaluation of conflicting tendencies. The result is that the
balance is only temporary, and is accompanied by a sense of partial frustration.
The mast is seeking a higher and a more lasting balance of mind. He has
taken in his own hands the task of intelligent psychic readjustment and
new experimentation. This task is very different from the theoretical manipulation
of ideas. It involves the courage to face oneself with unfailing honesty
of purpose. It involves also the necessary intense ardor for bringing about
the practical overhauling of the contents of the mind. The spiritual yearning
for lasting Truth brings about in masts a complete unsettlement of the working
balance of compromise that is characteristic of the average man of the world.
In order that the mind may arrive at a true balance of understanding, any
previous provisional balance of compromise has to be considerably disturbed.
Conventional thought patterns repress the functioning of higher organs of
perception. With masts and majzoobs these patterns have ceased to obstruct
and hinder the actualization of spiritual qualities. Divinely intoxicated
persons can communicate with ordinary individuals via dimensions and channels
of which these individuals are unaware. Because of a continuous subconscious
communication between individuals, masts and majzoobs can influence the
collective mind of humanity positively. But the reverse also happens, thought
forms of ordinary people can enter the mind of a mast and make him agitated
There are different types of masts. One mast is more blessed
with divine qualities than another. Some are peaceful, while others are
Some masts and majzoobs astonished me by living in extremely
unhygienic conditions. They never take a bath and only eat food they find
in the streets and by not being affected by it at all. Other majzoobs almost
never seem to sleep or eat, yet they look healthy. It is possible that their
psychic energy is so powerful that it protects their physical body against
microbes and viruses. Having become free from ordinary patterns of thinking
that block the inner and outer energy circuits, they either are able themselves
to generate the energy necessary for sustaining their body by some unknown
process or have come into contact with fields of higher energy.
important experience for me happened during a visit to the Topkapi Palace
Topkapi Palace in Istanbul
My visit to the Palace had no special purpose. I
had to wait a few days for a friend and had plenty of time to spend. Sauntering
from hall to hall I came to stand before the small room called 'The Pavilion
of the Holy Mantle' in which are preserved relics of the Prophet.
The Pavilion of the Holy Mantle
It is the only room in the Palace where visitors
are not allowed to enter. I was skeptical and wondered whether the caskets
really contained relics of the Prophet. Looking through the grilled door
I gradually became aware of an unusual energy which manifested itself in
my body. Unconsciously I must have associated the strange force with the
place where I stood, for I remained gazing at the caskets for a long time.
Finally I decided that I had somehow paid too much attention to such dubious
objects and left. With the upsurge of the energy I noticed that my perception
of people and objects had become finer and deeper. To my surprise I found
out that I could read the minds of persons I met, not with any mode of thought-formations,
but with some unknown inner organ of direct perception. Also my own thoughts
became more objective and clear.
At a given moment near the gate of the
Palace, while I was attentively analyzing and observing how a certain perception
entered my mind and what sort of reactions it caused, I unexpectedly shot
out of my body and saw myself walking in front of me. I thought that I could
perhaps succeed in objectifying the contents of my mind as well and went
on concentrating tenaciously on the process of thought associations, at
the same time fixing my gaze firmly at the back of my head in front of me.
I acted with inexplicable Knowledge; there was a slight blur - everything
disappeared. No sounds. The next moment I saw inside my head in front of
me an intricate and endless structure ramificating itself in complicated
and unending interrelated nuclei and configurations. The intermingling of
the patterns was incessant and infinite and although their activity seemed
boundless, they formed a closed circuit. I was fascinated by the enormous
complexity of my mind and at the same time perplexed to see that my thought
structures were leading nowhere. There was no way out with mere thinking.
A psychic tension erupted that switched on fear and which made the whole
situation unbearable. I looked away from the vision; my mind flashed out.
My exteriorized body coincided again with my physical body. The event was
accompanied by a strong release of emotion. The vision burned itself in
me. In a few minutes I had learned more about being the slave of my thoughts
than in years of reading and thinking.
From the Palace I walked in the
direction of the Sultan Ahmad Mosque. Everything looked glorious as if just
created. Instead of going to the Sultan's Mosque I turned right and entered
the Haghia Sophia.
In the dim lit entrance hall I was surprised to
find myself amidst a panicky crowd of old men, women of all ages and children,
all shouting, crying and supplicating for help and mercy. They ran in all
directions pursued by soldiers who were killing them with their swords.
The ground was covered with corpses and screaming wounded victims. There
was blood everywhere. In this horrible vision of a massacre I also saw tourists
coming and going. The dress of the victims was definitely Byzantine. Near
the walls the scenes were more clear than in the center of the hall. When
I moved, the vision did not fade away.
These experiences in 1971, six
months after my visit to Poondi Baba, in the Topkapi Palace and the Haghia
Sophia were the commencement of a succession of non-ordinary encounters
and happenings. The afternoon of the following day, while strolling in the
streets south of Sultan Ahmad, I saw a board on the wall of a half ruined
building, which read: 'Uzbekler Tekkezi', meaning 'Convent of the Uzbeks'.
Only the ground floor and a minaret remained. The
door was open ; I went inside, climbed a wooden staircase and stood in the
burnt out meeting room of a dervish convent. Driven by some urge I approached
the mehrab, took a flake from the stucco covering and ate it. The windows
overlooked a beautiful mosque. I decided to visit it. Its atmosphere was
so subtle that I became entranced. Only years later did I come to know that
its walls contained a small piece of the stone of the Kaaba.
later my friend joined me and the same night we took the train for Konya.
While visiting the convent of the Mevlevis, my friend became overwhelmed
by a short ecstasy and made some whirling movements. Next to him an old
Turkish peasant stood praying. The scene was very solemn and contrasted
sharply with the attitude of the other visitors.
That night I had an
intense bright dream in which I was traveling from Afghanistan to Bukhara.
I was crossing a semi-desert steppe landscape on foot and leading a horse
by the rein. The horse carried provisions and a precious Tibetan statue
on its back. An inner voice told me that the statue was not well attached,
but I neglected the warning. Suddenly the statue fell from the horse and
broke in a hundred pieces; at the same moment my heart also broke. The breaking
of my heart caused a mixture of fear and joy to emerge from my innermost
self. Looking around I saw a tall old man dressed in a black cloak observing
me. His appearance expressed a state of peace and complete equilibrium.
I recognized immediately the archetype of the Sufi in him. I calmed down
and woke up. This was the first of a series of apparitions I was to have
of the same old sage in dreams, in the astral world, and in this world.
The following days we made a frantic search for dervishes and finally got
the address of a man named Suleiman Dede. He was living in a small house
in an alley with his wife and received us in a very friendly way. Notwithstanding
the fact that we knew only a few words of Turkish and that the old Sufi
did not understand English we had an uninterrupted conversation for more
than an hour. It was as if a third unseen person was translating and transmitting
telepathically to our respective minds what was being said. We did not understand
each other word by word, it was more the meaning of each sentence that was
conveyed. He informed us that among the relics preserved in the Topkapi
Palace was the hood of Uwais al-Qarni.
We left Konya in high spirits
and traveled to the south coast. In Mersin on the terrace of a tea house
we met a man who told us about an old khaja belonging to no particular dervish
order. The khaja was famous for his healing powers and other spiritual gifts.
He was also reputed to have killed his own son because of grave misbehavior
with the help of jinns in his command and to have been summoned to Ankara
because of rumors saying that he was producing gold by alchemical means.
The man narrated us a story illustrating the non-ordinary way of acting
of the khaja. Once the khaja and some visitors were talking about man's
state of mind. The khaja told the men present to take their knife and said: "At
my command you will close and open your eyes." They closed their eyes.
After a minute he said them to open their eyes. They saw lying in front
of each of them a cucumber. The khaja then told them to put their knife
on the cucumber but to be careful not to cut it. Again he ordered the men
to close their eyes. When they opened them a second time they saw to their
great amazement that their knife was on their own thumb. The khaja explained: "When
you first opened your eyes and saw the illusory cucumber I showed you man's
actual state. When you realized that your knife was not on a cucumber but
on your own hand I showed you man's state at the Day of Judgment. I created
this illusion by the power of my mind to show you the power of the illusions
in your own mind."
From Mersin we hitchhiked by several trucks to
Lake Van. In the wide rolling plains on the plateau the dark brown earth
lay barren and on top of the mountains snow was already visible.
ruins of Old Van after a visit to the tomb of Abdur Rahman Baba, my friend
met a dervish in splendid traditional attire. He walked slowly past him.
When my friend made up his mind to speak to him he had already disappeared
behind a ruined house in the dead city. The encounter so impressed my friend
that he persuaded me to search for the dervish. We roamed a whole day in
the ruins and the castle, revisited the tomb and questioned all persons
we met, but to no avail, the dervish had vanished.
These events and others
narrated below in the text made me arrive at the conclusion that I had come
into touch with a circuit of entities hidden from our ordinary sense perception.
Some Sufis go so far as to state positively that these entities govern the
world (see Appendix A). Besides these entities there is a hidden
network of causes and effects which determines almost all of our actions.
To underestimate these hidden causes and to boast of personal freedom in
the choice of our actions and thoughts is absurd. The entities interfere
directly in our life or work through the hidden network. An important event
can be known weeks in advance if one is able to read its presages in dreams
and singular incidents.
There exist, distinct from the Sufi circuit,
hidden circuits of other mystical brotherhoods as well. It is not unusual
that two circuits or more manifest themselves in the life of a man. Personally
I had experiences wherein two circuits revealed themselves in the same event.
This was evidenced by the fakir on different occasions. One of these experiences
occurred after I had been reciting a zikr for hours to leave my body. When
I succeeded, I met a Tibetan tulku child of about three years old. To my
great surprise I recognized in the features of the child's face my former
Nyingmapa guru, Kangyur Rimpoche from Darjeeling, who had died some years
before. So great was my joy that I reached out for the child to take it
in my arms. But before I could touch my reincarnated guru, he levitated,
rose above me, and began to bump his forehead softly on mine with such psychic
power that I had to lower my head.
During an other out-of-the-body journey,
I encountered a veiled woman dressed in the patched cloak of the wandering
dervishes. She wanted to seduce me. After some hesitation I approached her
and having come close to her shining eyes she unveiled her face, disclosing
a big Tibetan turquoise encrusted in her right cheek. Turning her cheek
with the turquoise in it in front of my eyes and smiling significantly,
It is erroneous to assume that the Sufi circuit originated
after the advent of Islam. Many other Sufi traditions have existed prior
to the Prophet's time. Ibn al-Arabi relates that once when he was visiting
the Kaaba, he beheld a huge astral figure making the circumambulation of
the sanctuary and heard him reciting: "Truly, we have been, for many
long years, engaged walking round this Holy House, but you are only doing
it now." On hearing these words Ibn al-Arabi formed a desire to know
who the figure was. So he fixed him with his eyes, after the manner called
habs-i-nazar (holding of the sight) and when he had ended his circuit
and desired to depart, he was unable to do so. Finally he came near to Ibn
AI-Arabi and feeling that he was the cause of his detention, he begged him
to allow him to depart. Ibn al-Arabi answered him with the words: "Bismillah
ar-Rahman ar-Rahim. I will allow you to go only after you have let me know
what kind of being you are, and to what tribe or people you belong."
The astral figure replied: "I am of mankind." Ibn al-Arabi next
asked him how long it was since he left this world. He replied: It is now
more than forty thousand years." Surprised, Ibn al-Arabi added: "You
say it is so long, whilst it is only six thousand years since Adam's time,
and yet you state that you are of mankind?" He answered: "The
Adam you speak of was the father of the human race, and though since his
time only six thousand years have elapsed, thirty other worlds preceded
him." In the Traditions of the Pride of all Beings, our Prophet and
the Sovereign Ali, it is said, "Certainly Allah created the Adam you
know of, only after the creation of an hundred thousand others". And
I am one of these (The Dervishes. J. P. Brown. p. 334. F. Cass &
Co. London 1968.)."
Sometimes it was very difficult
for me to enter a shrine or a mosque because as a rule non-Muslims are not
admitted. Usually when I told the keepers about my interest in Islam they
let me in, but in countries such as Morocco and Iran it was impossible to
enter a sanctuary without risking trouble. In remote places in Afghanistan
it more than often happened that my western clothes were considered improper.
Mostly in spite of the obstacles and difficulties, I managed to get in.
Once having traveled to Mazar-i-Sharif in Afghanistan to visit the shrine
of Hazrat Ali, I was denied access to the inner sanctuary.
shrine of Hazrat Ali
I was only allowed to circumambulate it from the
outside. The third day after my arrival I got up early and walked to the
shrine fully determined to enter it. I decided to try to make myself inconspicuous
by suggesting to myself that I was a Muslim and not to emit any other thoughts.
When I reached the main gate I had hypnotized myself in the desired state
and knew with certitude that I would succeed. Repeating a zikr I passed
all the guards without being detected, being careful not to make any contact
with the eyes, as serious trouble could ensue if I were discovered. Neither
did the shoe keepers remark me when I took off my shoes. Only once in the
narrow hall leading to the tomb did I look for a few seconds in the eyes
of a man; immediately I looked away, concentrating on my zikr. Nobody stopped
me. I stood for about ten minutes in front of the tomb and then left.
Finally, it was decided that I should become a Muslim.
One Friday at
noon, I entered an important shrine in Afghanistan accompanied by my friend
Mahmud. The precincts were crowded with men performing their ablutions,
talking together in small groups, or just waiting solitary for the call
to prayer. While I was taking off my shoes some men approached Mahmud and
inquired about my person. As always there were hostile vibrations and Mahmud
patiently began to inform the men about me. Especially when he mentioned
that I had just come back from a pilgrimage in Uzbekistan the atmosphere
changed and I had to answer endless questions about the condition of the
holy shrines there.
After having paid our respects to the Presence of
the shrine I followed Mahmud to a quiet corner in the garden where his sheikh
was seated amidst his disciples on a terrace of tamped earth. The garden
was a grove of tall pine trees, intersected by many rivulets. The sky between
the tops had as usual its bright blue quality and the air because of the
altitude was almost ethereal. The sheikh, a heavily perfumed and noble looking
old man, welcomed us with a smile. We both bowed before him and kissed his
hand. He made an inviting gesture to sit near him. As he had a special liking
for Mahmud, they soon were engaged in a vivacious conversation. After some
time the sheikh addressed himself to me and said:"It is very auspicious
to have come to our place and it is very good for you to become a Muslim."
There was a complete silence. The sheikh closed his eyes, raised his hands
palms turned upward, and murmured an invocation. He prayed a long time.
Then he took my hands and began to make stroking movements as if he were
applying some invisible substance on them. Again he spoke a sentence, put
one hand on my chest and the other on my back, pulled me gently towards
him and embraced me. All bystanders congratulated me, shook my hands, kissed
me and shouted: "Mubarak ! Mubarak ! Be Blessed !" Among the group
were a wandering dervish and two women dervishes wearing black veils. They
also came forward to embrace me. One of the women was so ecstatic that her
veil was wet from tears. From the mosque came the call to prayer. After
the prayer a circle was formed and a boy with wild eyes was brought before
the sheikh. He took the boy's head between his hands and blew his breath
in his face. The child's wild eyes grew fixed and glazed, he grasped his
ears and began to utter a zikr resembling the rasping of a saw: "Ya-Hu
! Ya-Hu ! Ya-Hu !" All the while his body made awkward jerking movements.
As the sounds became more raw, it looked as if his breath would fail and
suddenly the boy fell down in front of the sheikh. A heavy secretion of
saliva appeared on his mouth and his body was shaken by spasms. One of the
veiled women shrieked. The sheikh closed his eyes and prayed, then gave
a sign and an attendant came forward who lifted up the unconscious boy and
carried him away. Mahmud explained me that the boy was a mast and that the
sheikh was helping him. Next, all who were present followed the sheikh inside
a large room to execute the habitual exercises. The exercises consisted
of standing in a circle and doing loud zikr combined with a breathing technique
and jerking movements. The exercises lasted for about an hour. In the beginning
I was exhausted, but afterward I felt tremendously energized. I stayed
for about a month with these Sufis and during that period Mahmud taught
me how to pray and instructed me in the faith and customs of Islam.
after I had become a Muslim, it was not always without harassment that I
visited a holy place. Once in Meshed, in East Persia, inside the tomb chamber
of Imam ar-Reza I was attacked by a fanatic.
Imam ar-Reza tomb
It was during Muharram time when the Shi'a Muslims
mourn the martyrdom of Hussein and when their religious fervor attains a
fever pitch. It is a period when groups of young men dressed in black walk
in procession carrying green standards and banners and shout: "Ya-Hussein
! Ya-Hussein !" On the day of Hussein's death they slash themselves
in a state of trance with small long knives. A superior of the Bast (Bast:
popular name of the sanctuary of Imam ar-Reza) had brought to my attention
that at this time of the year many fanatic believers from outside Meshed
were in the sanctuary and that there was some hazard in going inside now.
But as I insisted, the good man appointed three guards in uniform to accompany
me. One guard walked ahead and the two others remained at my left and right.
There were thousands and thousands of pilgrims. All went well until we had
managed to enter the golden doors. The shouting and praying crowd was in
such a frenetic emotional state that tears sprang out of my eyes. From among
the turbulent mass I felt a man's eyes on me: his fierce face expressed
hate. He advanced in my direction and yelled menacingly: "America !
America !" His hands tried to grasp me. One guard pushed him off; the
second guard moved closer. The enraged man made a second attempt and was
again repulsed by the guards. At that moment a coffin was brought inside
the tomb chamber and caused such a crushing pressure that the man was carried
away in the stream of bodies.
In Mirjaveh I was witness of an incident
between the Iranian police and a Pakistani dervish and his attendant. The
dervishes had no passport or any identity papers. The attendant explained
that on account of a dream they intended to go to the Golden Shrine in Meshed.
An Iranian customs officer said: "In our religion we have no qalandars
(Qalandar (Pers.): wandering dervish with little concern for orthodox
opinion)." When I replied that they used to have many, he answered
with contempt: "This is an affair of the past." The qalandar wore
about forty kilos of chains and iron bangles around his neck, arms and ankles "to
become indifferent to pain." Their spiritual master was Lal Shah Baz
Qalandar who died in 1274 at Sehwan. It was sad to see the qalandar and
his attendant walk back to the Pakistani border.
In Multan I saw a majzoob lying on the pavement
in front of the town hall. His noble face contrasted sharply with the expressions
of the normal people passing him. Looking straight into his eyes I caught
a glimpse of a most strange spiritual state. It was entirely different from
anything that I had experienced so far. No description in words is possible.
Back again in India I revisited the fakir in his mausoleum. I liked the
directness, simplicity and humor with which he spoke about spiritual
To keep control of the astral body was not easy to achieve. Especially the
whooshing sound that accompanies projection often drew me back. On several
occasions when I succeeded, I was attacked by horrifying monsters. They
fell upon me so violently that I lost control, shot back into my body and
woke up. The fakir explained these attacks as being examinations. He himself,
before gaining full command over his astral body, several times had to fight
a lion without losing control and without following any impulse to reenter
his physical body. The last time that he had to fight the lion, an old dervish
appeared and asked him: "Why do you beat my lion?" The fakir replied: "Because
he disturbs me." The dervish then called the lion and they both disappeared.
The fakir commented: "I never saw the lion again. It meant that only
from then on my heart was free from any fear and desire. Only from that
moment was I able to die. Otherwise I could not have been victorious. Therefore
to be able to keep control in dreams and other worlds is very important.
It is the only way to know if your heart is really clean. The cleaning of
the heart is not easy. Many veils have to be removed. When your heart will
be less veiled powers will enter it and you will be able to do 'zikr with
real heart'. Then conscious projection will be easy. Now most of the time
you are doing ordinary zikr. This is good to neutralize the activity of
your ordinary mind. But to do 'zikr with real heart' involves that you contact
and generate a hidden energy. You have to be completely transfused by it.
It gives immediate power over your mind. To be empowered by it is absolutely
necessary to overcome hindrances and obstacles in both worlds. But first
the heart must be clean when you contact secret powers." (see Appendix
That night his invocations gave such a pressure on my heart
that I thought an artery was about to break. With this new experience I
came to understand what he really meant when he spoke about "a clean
Another night, while sleeping, I heard the fakir calling
me twice by my western name. Turning myself quickly towards him I saw him
asleep. In the morning he told me that he had dreamed he was sitting among
an assembly of dervishes. One of them began calling a name: "Muhammad
Allah udDin ! Muhammad Allah ud-Din !" A person from outside the assembly
responded to the call and entered the circle. I was that person. "This
is your real name." said the fakir.
During the same period I had
a dream that called up strong feelings of déjà vu. I was moving rapidly,
almost flying, across a landscape composed of salt steppe and rock desert.
The red desert covered with .enormous rocks containing blue and green veins
was extremely beautiful. Next I arrived in a town of East Turkestan. Walking
in the main bazar street a dervish of the qalandar type came up to me and
uttered the name of a mazar, which I immediately forgot. What was remarkable
about the dream was the strong feeling of having been there before and of
Then a period of disappointment set in, as if I had never
done any practice at all. No more astral projection, not even dreams occurred.
The fakir did not seem concerned. I continued with my zikr exercises. One
night I began to dream again. It was ordinary automatic dreaming in which
I took an active part without having objective knowledge, till suddenly
a voice shouted: "Stop dreaming !" I woke up and began to do zikr.
you come to this place when you are sleeping is good. When you die you will
There was political turmoil in Southwest Asia. Borders
were closed. The overland route to Europe was blocked. I asked the fakir
how I should travel.
Four days later he had a dream wherein he saw me
on a ship bound for Arabia. Personally I had several dreams about Mecca
and Medina, but which I was unable to remember in detail. Only one astral
projection did I remember clearly. I was sleeping in a two room bungalow.
I went out of my body and while I looked at the walls, a wall of each room
became transformed respectively in a wall of the Kaaba and a wall of the
I waited a few weeks but the overland route remained
closed. I paid a visit to the Saudi Arabia embassy and obtained in less
than twenty-four hours a transit visa for two weeks.
In Bombay I boarded
the 'Dwarka', a British passenger ship. Together with an old Irishman and
three Arabs we were the only cabin class passengers. I left the ship in
Dubai and traveled via Qatar and the desert highway to Jeddah.
next morning I told the fakir about the voice. He said: "Most dreams
are a continuation of everyday thoughts and actions. So long as the heart
is not clean it is impossible to have real dreams. First the heart must
be clean. If you have ordinary dreams it means that you are still preoccupied
with ordinary things. Doing zikr also eliminates ordinary dreams. Both in
ordinary dreams and in real dreams you have to wake up in your dreams without
waking up physically. Your body must remain asleep. In ordinary dreaming
you see the real state of your mind and in real dreams secrets are revealed
to you. Going out of your body when your mind is beset with ordinary things
only can result in deformed visions. You must do zikr without any special
purpose, with as little sleep as possible. Your heart must become thoroughly
I had been absent from the mausoleum, visiting shrines,
for about a month. When I came back the fakir informed me that he had seen
me several times flying through the air in my astral body and coming to
sit and sleep near the tomb in his mausoleum. I told him that I was not
aware of these trips. He said: "One goes on many astral journeys without
having knowledge of it."
While I made preparations in Jeddah to
go to Mecca I was told that it was impossible because my visa did not mention
that I was a Muslim. I was referred to the office of the governor of Mecca.
But as it was Thursday afternoon all government offices were closed. At
a police station I was told to go to my embassy for a letter attesting that
I was a Muslim. While I walked through the center of the city thinking about
my problem I came to stand in front of a reception office for pilgrims.
Inside were two men, an Arab and a Pakistani. I explained my problem to
the Pakistani. To him everything seemed even more insurmountable. But while
I was talking with him all of a sudden I received a shock: I had dreamed
exactly the same conversation in the same setting months ago. At that time
the dream had rather the atmosphere of a nightmare. I had become conscious
that I was dreaming while I was still dreaming and it had cost an immense
effort to wake up. I realized now that the Pakistani was unconsciously trying
to ensnare me more and more with problems. This was his state of mind. Just
like in the dream I had to wake up from this waking dream. In the midst
of an explanation I stood up, thanked him for his information and left.
I made straight for the bazar. In no time I bought the prescribed ihram
robes of unstitched clean cloth and took a taxi to the International Muslim
League on the road to Mecca where I had left my luggage. I took a bath,
donned the ihram robes and hailed another taxi for Mecca. It was March and
the desert between the hills was all covered with young green shrubs.
I passed the two control posts, beyond which non-Muslims are not authorized,
without difficulties. Here I was finally in Mecca, in the 'navel of the
earth', at the place where Adam the first man to go in search of himself
beheld the vision of the Throne of Allah and recognized it as a reflection
of his own purified heart.
Repeating incessantly, "Labbaik, Allahuma,
Labbaik, Here I am, 0 Lord, Here I am." I entered the precincts of
the Kaaba by traversing the five hundred meters long hall that connects
the rocks of Safa and Marwah. It was like entering an immense heart. The
kiswah or cloth covering the Kaaba was partly rolled up, revealing the golden
and silver doors of the House. It were these splendid heavenly doors which
afterward attracted me again and again.
After doing my ablutions I began to circumambulate
seven times the Kaaba, starting each time from the Black Stone. As it was
not the period of Haj, there were not too many pilgrims. After kissing the
Black Stone I went to pray at the Magham Ibrahim, a place where Ibrahim
stood when he was directing the construction of the Kaaba. Then I walked
seven times between the rocks of Safa and Marwah. Walking in this broad
hall I had the feeling that I was simultaneously in a preeternal temple
and in some future science fiction like sanctuary. I was above all very
much impressed by the subtle and majestic quality of the atmosphere that
reigned around the Holy House.