|Pronunciation:||ahl' ee' bah-teen'|
|Faction:||Council of Nine Mystic Traditions (1466-1922), Independent|
The Batini are a group of Arabian mages that practices mainly magic with a strong focus on subtlety. Former holders of the Seat of Correspondence and a founding member of the Council of Nine, they withdrew their membership in the late 20th century in order to focus on the maintenance of the Web of Faith and the protection of the Middle East against the Technocratic onslaught.
In the Dark Ages, the Batini have a Foundation of al-Ikhlas (Awareness of Unity), supporting four Pillars called Ubbadan (Faith): al-Anbiya (Mastery of Fate), al-Fatihah (Mastery over Minds), al-Hajj (Mastery of Space), and al-Layl (Mastery of Secrecy).
The Ahl-i-Batin, or Subtle Ones, are living embodiments of the highest accomplishments of Muslim culture – philosopher-naturalists who seek the hidden Unity that underlies all things. Masters of the intricate patterns that make up God’s creation, the Ahl-i-Batin fulfill a variety of functions in their native lands: scientists, explorers, diplomats and even assassins when necessary. The Subtle Ones use their remarkable understanding of connections to move about as few mages can, seeing and doing things that others cannot. Possessing knowledge of interest to all who have magical power, the Ahl-i-Batin are nevertheless shunned and viewed with suspicion, sometimes even among their own peoples. Their vision, which transcends the here and now and seeks to find commonality in all things, sparks the very divisiveness the Subtle Ones strive to overcome.
The Ahl-i-Batin were the first ones to postulate the existence of the Tenth Sphere, which they called Unity. Other magical traditions, like the Order of Hermes, burrowed the term from them following the exchange of knowledge after the Crusades.
No one – not even the wisest sages of the Ahl-i-Batin – knows how old the sect truly is. Tradition among the Batini holds that their history stretches back untold thousands of years into the past. There is no proof of such vintage, but it is held nonetheless for the Subtle Ones believe that current incarnation of the sect is the re-founding of much older one that died out millennia before.
Early History Edit
The greatest of the Batini sacred texts, the Mushaf al-Isra (or “Great Book of Passage Through Night”) claims that the Subtle Ones are fragments of a powerful entity known as the Kamil, or “Perfected One”. For reasons that are unclear, the Kamil had no contact with the world for thousands of years. It was during this time that the original Ahl-i-Batin ceased to be. Then, one night in 514 BC. – known as the Night of Fana – the Kamil returned to the world and the Batini along with it.
Of course, the sect didn’t spring into being immediately. Rather, it was the result of a combination of factors that, according to the Batini, reveal their Doctrine of Unity in action. On the Night of Fana, there was a great conflict. Adherents of two warring magical traditions fought against one another, with one group pursuing the other into a vast, green meadow where the others expected to destroy their foes. The hunted mages found that the meadow was already inhabited by another group of adepts, whom the Batini call the Darwushim. While waiting for their pursuers to arrive, the hunted mages joined the Darwushim in a magical ritual of dance and motion, one that summoned an entity which would become known as the Khwaja al-Akbar.
The Khwaja al-Akbar was the fusion of two men, on from each magical group involved in the ritual. Suffused with power, the Khwaja al-Akbar spoke and affected the world around itself. For a few moments, all of space became one and Unity was achieved among all the men and women present at this event. Space broke down and became one in a moment of ecstatic union that has never been repeated since. During the event, the Kamil, freed once more, manifested itself in everyone present. Then, the Khwaja al-Akbar disappeared and the men who composed it returned to their former selves. Yet they, like everyone else present, were changed forever. Their original affiliations meant nothing compared to the greater Unity they had experienced. The Ahl-i-Batin were born.
The newly formed “Interior Ones” spent the next few hundred years estabilishing the lands of China, India and Persia, although they proved most successful in Persia. There, they established six distinct schools, called khanaqas, each of which taught its student a different aspect of the Unity the sect hoped to achieve. These early Batini became deeply involved in many aspects of Persian life. In particular, they were revered as masters of self-discipline and sought out as teachers of both etiquette and diplomacy. The Batini also became involved in politics and attempted to institute reforms within the Parthian administration that would lead to greater unity. These reforms were partly successful and culminated in the formation of Neo-Persian, or Sassanid, Empire in the third century A.D.
Dark Ages Edit
In its efforts to achieve Unity, some Ahl-i-Batin looked in unusual places. One such Batini was Ishaq al-Jannani who, around A.D. 100, began to cooperate with the Nif’ur en’Daah, an Infernalist sect of mages. Unfortunately, Ishaq becomes so enamored of the Infernalist’s ways that he adopted them, renaming himself Ishaq al-Iblis. He became the first Devil King and turned against the Subtle Ones – violently. In the process of hiw own corruption, he did the same to the kanaqa he led, which soon ceased to be part of the Ahl-i-Batin forever.
In order to defend themselves against the new threat from within, the Batini leadership created the Qutbs, who used their powerful mind-reading magic to monitor the thoughts of Batini. The Qutbs rose to prominence as the sect grew and eventually became judges within it. A few decades later, the Ahl-i-Batin authorize the training of assassins to be used against their corrupt brethren. So successful are these assassins that their abilities enter legend – and sully the good name of the sect in the eyes of some outsiders.
The Ahl-i-Batin nevertheless soldiered on in their quest to influence cultures and societies toward Unity. According to Batini tales, a Qutb encountered a certain man and saw in him great destiny, although he possessed no magical ability. This man, who would become known to history as the Prophet Muhammad, wrote a holy book, the Qur’an, after receiving its words from God through the agency of the angel Gabriel. The religion he founded – Islam – had many beliefs in common with the Doctrine of Unity and in fact spread those beliefs throughout the world far better than the Ahl-i-Batin ever had.
Some Batini would later claim that no unenlightened merchant could have founded Islam without magical assistance. Stung by the realization that the Prophet had succeeded in preaching Divine Unity better than they, these reactionary mages simply refused to accept that their Fellowship did not have some hand in the foundation of Islam. The current majority, however, accept what seems obvious to them –that God Himself chose an ordinary man to spread the Doctrine of Unity not through the esoteric learning of the Ahl-i-Batin but through the simple beauty of a new religion. Instead of claiming credit for the intervention of the godhead in bringing a new revelation to mortals, most Batini mages did what they could to encourage Islam’s spread.
And spread it did. Within a couple of centuries of its birth, Islam was knocking on the doors of Europe and would likely have made ever greater inroads had it not been opposed by mages of other sects, particularly the Messianic Voices. Even so, the Batini could take pride in what the new faith had achieved in so short time – in particular, the development of a rational and scholarly culture that preserved and passed on ancient wisdom. Under Islam, the cause of Unity was advanced through scholarship. Many important elements of the Doctrine of Unity passed into other cultures – including Christian Europe – through the medium of philosophical and theological texts. So powerful were the ideas contained in these texts that the Messianic Voices could not censor them, try as they might. In this way, European civilization benefited from the fruits o the Batini influence on Islam, even as it opposed the religion that had nurtured them.
The Ahl-i-Batin likewise influenced the cause of Unity through ther unceasing efforts to fight against the Devil Kings. The Subtle Ones recognized early that Infernalism was a path to be avoided and that it offered mages nothing except corruption and death. In this effort, they made common cause with other magical traditions – yet another part of their plan for Unity. Batini texts on combating evil also found their way into European hands, although, ironically, Commoners and mages alike turned some of these against the Subtle Ones.
Despite such setback, the Batini remain convinced that the cause of Unity is worth pursuing. The 13th century has so far proven uneven in following through with its promise. The Reconquista in Iberia has grown more intense, as Christian forces make a final push toward eliminating Islam from the Peninsula. In a similar vein, the Crusaders have turned against Christianity and Muslim forces are whittling away at the remaining European states in Outremer. Politically and philosophically, there is very little chance of true Unity in the sense that the Batini seek it. Yet, there’s also no question that the world is becoming smaller and that exchanges between societies and cultures are growing in occurrence and magnitude. Could it be then that the turmoil of the present age is but the birth pangs of a more unified one to come? The Ahl-i-Batin certainly hope so and endeavor to ensure that hope is not misplaced.
Modern Nights Edit
The Ahl-i-Batin have a formal structure, as they consider structures to be an important means to understanding the Unity they seek. Their structure serves two purposes: instructing new initiates (called mutasawwif) and instituting a system of government for the entire sect. Broadly speaking, the Ahl-i-Batin are divided into five khanaqas or lodges. Each lodge teaches a slightly different interpretation of the Doctrine of Unity, but all endorse the overall mission of the sect without the infighting that’s typical in the Order of Hermes, for example. The khanaqas instruct initiates in the ways of the Ahl-i-Batin (called tariqa) and its purpose in the world.
Initiates who complete their training are known as murids and are instructed in the deeper teaching of the sect. In particular, murids are taught the magical incantations that allow the warping of space and distance to the will of the mage. Once these incantations have been mastered, the murid is tested by a judge (called Qutb) who is a master Batini and possesses the ability to read the minds of others. A murid judged favorably by a Qutb if he shows an understanding of sacred geometry and mathematics, two discipline considered to be essential to understanding the nature of Unity.
The next rank in the hierarchy of the Ahl-i-Batin is murshid, which can be attained only after years of study and perseverance. In the meantime, new murids leave the khanaqas and join a smaller type of lodge known as a zawiya. Zawiyas typically consist of three to eight mages who work together in the pursuit of common goals. These Batini function somewhat like a monastic group, sharing household and scholarly duties. Occasionally, a zawiya admit non-mages into its membership to serve as assistant to the mages, but this is not the norm, particularly in the Dark Medieval age.
Individual zawiya act a according to their own interests, which may mirror those of the sect as a whole but do not have to do so. Indeed, there is very little coordination between zawiyas, and this is by design. According to traditional practice, Batini do not know one another outside their own zawiyas. This helps to strengthen the relationship between members living in a particular zawiya. It also helps to preserve the secrecy of the Ahl-i-Batin, who find themselves beset by enemies on multiple fronts. Unfortunately, this structure has the unintended side effect of making it easier for Infernalists and other dark mages to infiltrate a zaqiya without notice.
Despite their unusual organization, the Ahl-i-Batin function reasonably cohesively, much more so than outsiders might suspect. Disputes between khanaqas are rare. When they do occur, they are largely resolved in a reasoned, logical fashion. Batini treat such disputes not as evidence of disunity but as an occasion to explore the limits of diversity within Unity. Particularly acrimonious disputes (which do occur from time to time) are adjudicated by Qutbs, whose decisions draw on the interplay of tradition and innovation to come to a just solution. Consequently, the Ahl-i-Batin have shown a remarkable ability to adapt and survive, even in the face of determined opposition.
The Ahl-i-Batin adhere to a collection of beliefs usually referred to simply as the Doctrine of Unity, as if that rubric somehow explains the sum total of their ideals. In fact, term presents only a caricature of the Subtle Ones’ philosophy, emphasizing certain elements and downplaying others. Admittedly, the Batini also do this themselves, but a fuller understanding of their philosophy requires more than a short summation.
The Doctrine of Unity has its ultimate basis in the absolute monotheism of the Ahl-i-Batin. This belief, of course, sees a public manifestation in Islam, which rejects even Christian Trinitarianism as incompatible with a belief in only one God. The Batini, of course, have no real interest in sectarian disputes, as they believe that all religions are but pale reflections of the Unity they see in God. Nevertheless, there is a marked preference for the unadulterated monotheism of Islam. Most Batini argue that Muslim monotheistic doctrine provides simpler base on which to build than more baroque ideological structures, such as those found in Christianity and Judaism. It is thus the perfect vehicle to advance their cause.
Not surprisingly, the Batini have a rather heterodox relationship with religion of any sort, including Islam. Many Subtle Ones are Muslims, but not all are. Even those who do adhere to the faith do so in a fashion that would probably elicit condemnations from many devout believers. This is especially explicit in their understanding of God and His connection to the Kamil. Although God is the supreme principle of the cosmos and the creator of the Kamil, He is separated from His creation, whether by choice or by the nature of the cosmos He created (this is a point of contention within the Ahl-i-Batin). That’s why the Kamil is necessary; it is a conduit through which the divine can approach creation, as there is no other means to do so.
The Kamil thus function as a repository of all knowledge and divine enlightenment. Human beings, whether mages or otherwise, are manifestations or extensions of the Kamil. They are physical entities that, through experience, may gain access to the wisdom contained within the Kamil. Only that part of the human soul that has contact with the Kamil has any sort of divine spark or hope for immortality. The rest is simply a shell, a material vessel, that passes away with the body at death. This vessel includes such things as memories and emotions, meaning that they are perishable and do not transcend the higher soul’s return to God.
Needless to say, this is an unusual view, one that is condemned by most believers in Islam and other monotheistic faiths as incompatible with their deepest tenets. The Batini for their part, hold that this view does not threaten personal immortality in the least, only the unsophisticated version of it that is held by unlettered believers. Moreover, they point to the writing of many natural philosophers than Aristotle (the Master of Those Who Know) in their defense.
The Batini hold that the purpose of human life and the Unity they seek can be achieved only through the absorption of the higher soul into the Kamil, which is itself a part of God. True enlightenment is the return of all things to the Creator through a process of systematically forgetting that there is a difference between individual souls and the Kamil through which they acquire their knowledge of higher things. The renowned subtlety of the Ahl-i-Batin is, in fact, a consequence of their quest for Unity. The Batini look for wisdom wherever it can be found, seeking a means to further erase the distinctions that prevent human beings from recognizing their fundamental connection to the Kamil.
At the same time, the sect realizes that it’s impossible for any single individual to acquire the knowledge necessary to complete the path of return to the Creator. To do this, one must rely on the aid of others. The Ahl-i-Batin encourage cooperation between members of their sect, as well as between other groups, some of which might even be opposed to one another. The process of sharing information aids in overcoming the artificial boundaries that separate individuals from the Kamil. Only by transcending these boundaries does it become possible to achieve true enlightenment.
Paradoxically, Batini philosophy also stresses the importance of self-knowledge, which is to say that, in the end, others can aid one’s quest for return to the Creator only so far. Without the proper mastery of oneself no amount of assistance will bring about the level of knowledge necessary to dissolve the separation between the self and the Kamil. Consequently, asceticism is an integral component of the Batini philosophy. The belief is that the denial of one’s physical desires leads to an understanding where the self truly lies and what it consists of. This in turn leads to an understanding of the self’s relationship to the Kamil and thus to God.
The Doctrine of Unity is a hard path to follow, for it simultaneously urges the abandonment of prejudices and the self. It is predicated upon the belief that all human beings are children of God and should return to him through intellectual pursuits that encourage recognition of this fact. In both the Muslim and Christiand worlds, these two beliefs are not typically conjoined. The denial of one’s physical desires is a common element to both, but that does not lead to a denial of the self. The Batini, of course, reject this characterization as missing the central point of Unity: that it denies only that which is not truly the self. Man’s true nature is found in his higher soul, not in those things that prevent him from seeing the essential unity and connectedness of all things. Nevertheless, this belief is a difficult one for many to accept, which has contributed to the Ahl-i-Batin’s limited success of late.
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