A dervish was informed about a sheikh and his disciple who were sitting lost in recollection of Allah. He went there and found them both sitting with their faces turned in the direction of Mecca. He saluted them thrice, but they gave no answer. He remained standing and prayed with them the afternoon and evening prayer. He then asked them for some spiritual advice. The younger replied: “We do not possess that tongue which gives advice.” The dervish remained standing there three days and nights without sleeping. Then the disciple, again raised his head and spoke: “Go and seek such a man, who will give thee that counsel which is conveyed by silence and not by speech.”
“Seek knowledge even unto China.”
Saying 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 state.
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.
My teacher 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 activity.
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.
Meher 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 and freaky.
There are different types of masts. One mast is more blessed with divine qualities than another. Some are peaceful, while others are hot-tempered.
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.
The second important experience for me happened during a visit to the 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.
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.
Two days 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.
In the 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, she vanished.
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.
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.
Even 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.
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.
matters. Never criticizing anybody nor desiring anything for himself, his mind seemed completely deprogrammed. I never saw him performing any of the prescribed prayers, nor did he observe fasting during the month of Ramazan. Although he never said that he was teaching me, his activities in relation to me were always significant. One afternoon he showed me a hole in the side of the tomb. “Inside is a snake,” he said, “sometimes it comes out and circles around in the mausoleum.” That night he made me move my bed near the hole to do zikr and sleep there with my head on the protruding base of the tomb. Throughout the night I heard noises inside the hole, but did not see the snake emerge. At one moment the noises intensified and came nearer. Cold sweat was on my face. The noises produced fear in me and the zikr energy. But the fear became absorbed by the energy, fortified it and resulted in a trance. I was so entranced that I knew that I would control the snake. I did zikr with the purpose of going out of my body, but the noises prevented me from doing so. When I told the fakir about the noises, he coolly remarked: “Yes, the snake is there.”
From Meshed I traveled south to Baluchistan.
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 B).
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 heart”.
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 recognizing.
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.
“That you come to this place when you are sleeping is good. When you die you will be safe.”
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 tomb of
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.
The 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 clean.”
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.