Tuesday, July 28, 2020

More on Hakim Bey

In a recent post, I described Peter Lamborn Wilson (Hakim Bey) as a “former Maryami,” and wondered how he had moved from the Maryamiyya to the Temporary Autonomous Zone. I have since had two suggested explanations.

One, provided by someone who knew Wilson in Tehran, is that although Wilson was definitely “in the circle of Nasr,” he was not actually a Maryami. He considered himself a Muslim, and admired Frithjof Schuon—he thought his Transcendent Unity of Religions was the most important book of the twentieth century—but he did not follow any one ṭarīqa exclusively. As well as being in the circle of Nasr, he spent a lot of time with the Ni'matullāhīs (Javad Nurbakhsh had a large following at that time, including foreigners) and was always interested in other, less mainstream forms of Islam.

Christian Greer has meanwhile drawn my attention to the discussion between Arthur Versluis and Wilson (see earlier post) where Versluis asks Wilson about his relationship with Traditionalism, and Wilson responds that he never stopped being a Traditionalist, and just rejected “the party line,” “the rigid exclusivist neo-Traditionalism of the sort that leads to murky politics and interpersonal, interhuman relations.” “Murky politics” might refer to Nasr’s political relations with the Shah’s regime, and “murky… interhuman relations” might refer to difficulties in Bloomington. As the earlier post discusses, Wilson goes on to propose an alternative “even more traditional Traditionalism.”

Further reading: Zaheer Kazmi, “Automatic Islam: Divine Anarchy and the Machines of God,” Modern Intellectual History 12, 1 (2015): 33–64, which looks at Hakim Bey and two other “Muslim anarchists,” and Wilson’s own Scandal: Essays in Islamic Heresy (New York: Autonomedia, 1987) and his Sacred Drift: Essays on the Margins of Islam (San Francisco: City Lights, 1993).


Anonymous said...

I've heard from someone that knew him that he was a *disciple* of Nasr and a Maryami. And I don't have any reason not to believe this person as the two of them were close some time ago.

I've always found the last line of this quote from the Versluis interview curious...

Did Frithjof Schuon ever have any relationship to that or not?

He never was there, but Nasr had close connections with him, of course.

At that time.

How much dirt are we going to dish here? I suppose it's all ancient history now. I'm saying he's [Nasr] still alive, so . . ."

Sounds like a man not wanting to throw his (Spiritual) Father under the bus.

Also, Michael Muhammad Knight (who was Wilson's own "disciple" for a number of years and lived with Wilson at his home in upstate NY) writes in his William S. Burroughs Vs. the Qur'an...

"Peter, who would be described by Nasr as a "gifted American poet" first encountered the Academy while working as a journalist at the Tehran Journal. Nasr offered him a position as director of English-language publications and editor of the Academy's journal Sophia Perennis. Peter had some reservations, as accepting the offer would more or less mean a full immersion into the Maryammiya scene. A Sufi Muslim who accepted Hindu initiations, Peter was fine with the concept of "perennial wisdom" uniting all religions, but the Maryamis still retained there own sense of proper orthodoxy. After several years collecting religious affiliations like baseball cards, joining the Maryamiyya required dropping everything else. But he did, for the better part of the 70's."..."Given the anarcho-Sufi sensibilities of the Moorish Orthodox Church, I have to wonder about Peter's choice to align with the monarcho-Sufism of the Maryamis. "Why'd you go with Nasr over Nurbakhsh?" I ask while Peter's eating his ham on rye. "Nasr taught a more pure Sufism.""

Someone just needs to drive upstate burn some expensive high grade with the man and ask him straight up. Once and for all. Lol

Anonymous said...

An extremely informed and entertaining read from an entire chapter on Peter's early history from poet/writer Jacob Rabinowitz in his, Blame It On Blake: a memoir of dead languages, gender vagrancy, Burroughs, Ginsberg, Corso & Carr; can be read below. It's a fascinating foray into the creation of what would become Hakim Bey, from the perspective of a close friend and confidant of over 50 years.

Some small highlights include:

"Peter had joined a Sufi order, and accepted the guidance of a pir (spiritual master), but the exotic charm wore of and then began the wearisome work of keeping the faith—which Peter described to me as “protecting our common failures of awareness.”"

"At the beginning, Peter was engaged in a genuinely mystical adventure...Peter was really and sincerely religious. He began on the antinomian path with awe and trepidation, unsure whether he’d be halo’d or struck down."

"Peter’s vision of every day as the Day of Judgment, with heaven and hell entirely imminent here, was balanced on the razor’s edge of piety and blasphemy...In my opinion, he really had acquired baraka (holiness) during his decade of Sufi practice. And now he succumbed to one of the classic pitfalls of the spiritual path."

"I loved him for his spirituality, which still shone about him when he returned from Iran, and I watched with dismay and disappointment as this dissipated over the years"

Chapter VI, parts 1-4: Hakim Bey

1: Peter Lamborn Wilson


2: Taz


3: Klingzor


4: In the Shadow of Columbia’s Library


Mark Sedgwick said...

Thank you so much for that! Very informative. Rabinowitz writes well, also. Some more quotes:

"Peter was working his way free of the constraints of orthodox Islam like a butterfly wriggling out of its chrysalis."

"Peter came to his realizations, personal and political, from the context of Sufism, from mystical practice. This 'privatized' his political thinking, and resulted in his rejection of long-term social action in favor of limited and personal, brief and private ('temporary, autonomous') activity."

I can see the logic in the second one. Exoteric Islam is for everyone, and its political equivalent might be the Communist party. Esoteric Islam is for those who go there, as is the TAZ.