Ahl-i-Batin

Ahl-i-Batin

Although they hold the seat of Fate, the Tradition mages know little of the Ahl-i-Batin. Incursions by the Technocracy into the Middle East have greatly cut the power base of the Ahl-i-Batin. While they have weathered much and fallen greatly since their inception, they have yet to disappear or be subsumed entirely by another Tradition. The Subtle Ones long ago mastered hidden arts and misdirection. Perhaps they only conceal their numbers until the time is right.

Background

The Ahl-i-Batin grew out of the combination of the fringe elements of two Traditions as they sought safety from enemies belonging to other Traditions. During the Himalayan Wars of 900-600 BCE, a sect of Handura (that later joined the Euthanatos) fought viciously to expel the Akashic Brotherhood from the lands of the Indian subcontinent. Within the Akashics existed a group of young acolytes and Initiates who all practiced the trade of building and stone masonry. While traveling between monasteries, these young Brothers were cut off from their fellows by a Euthanatos ambush that almost destroyed them as they fled through the Khyber Pass into lands now called Afghanistan.

There they came upon a group of Ecstatic dervishes, and they joined the dance, moved by some unknown impulse. During this passionate, yet disciplined outpouring, one of the Brothers and one of the Ecstatics merged together, blossoming into a two-faced entity called the Khwaja al-Akbar. This entity revealed to the newly formed group the Doctrine of Unity. In the Unity, all pieces of Divinity would be reunited into a whole – ascendant and perfect. The Khwaja al-Akbar called for the group to develope a new path one whose mission was to create a great mandala of energy across the face of the Earth. This mandala would focus Sleeper and Awakened alike on achieving an ascendant state of being. They would find a Correspondence Point of space and time and of Universal Mind wherein all would benefit and become one. The doctrine esposed cooperation and the recognition that all the doctrines of the Path to Ascension hold a certain commonality. All would strive together so that they could overcome their enemies and prosper in unity.

Ironically, their call to unity was interrupted by the arrival of members of the Celestial Chorus incensed by the Ecstatics, and a war party of the Handura bent on annihilating the Akashic Brothers. The Night of the Fana, as it was called, ended in a battle so fierce that the once fertile plain became the Great Desert of Death, which covers most of modern Afghanistan.

The new found Tradition survived, but it did not reveal itself to other mages for centuries afterward, electing instead to work in subtle ways that benefited Persia and other Middle Eastern lands. These mages are credited with creating qanats, underground channels thattransported melted snow across deserts to fill the fountains and water the gardens of great cities. The cities themselves were laid out in mandala patterns linked bya web of trade routes.

Melding their Arts with the revelations of the Khwaja al-Akbar, the Batini dscovered a place outside time and space, a place they perceived as Mount Qaf, the heart of creation. This Realm consisted of a great mountain resting upona plain that surrounded it. The Batini saw the plain as the world of Sleepers, with the rising slopes being mages with ever greater understanding and accomplishment. At the highes levels rested oracles, Celestines and Pure Ones. At the peak lay Unity, the One, which some called Prime and which was thought to embody the Correspondence Point containing all things.

The Batini chose to make themselves partially known in the wake of a series of terrible raids by Marauders and djinni hordes that preyed on travelers in the wastes between cities. Most Batini embraced the faith of Islam as embodying many of the tenets they held dear as mages. The idea of a single, unifying faith and one God both enriched and helped shape their practices and beliefs. Such beliefs led to the formation of a great plan to undo the depredations of the Marauds. Tradition representatives thus awoke to find writtn plans to unify the cities with a web of Nodes linked around a central axis. Accompanying the plan was an engraved invitationto discuss the plan, signed by powerful members of Hermetics, Akashics and Ecstatics. The location was the home of a rich merchant. Such a plan could break the power of the Marauds and stood to benefit all.

Tradition representatives discovered during the meeting that a coaltion of minor Crafts was the originator of the plan, which called for Quintessence to be channeled across the wastes through the prayers and actions of human agents. Sent to a central Node, Quintessence would then be sent back out to the contributing array of Nodes, sweeping across the land as needed and eradicating the Marauders’ hold. Known as the Web of Faith, it performed as expected and raised the culture and civilization even for the Sleepers whose lives it touched.

With its success, however, came a proliferation of religious sects and monor cults formed around charismatic leaders who could tap into the energy of the Web of Faith. Soon, the Traditions begain trying to cut various factions out of the Web, fearing that their reasons for using the power might be lies or that their power would outstrip those of established Traditions. Fearing a bloodbath like that unleashed by the Handura, a few of the true Masters of the Ahl-i-Batin revealed themselves to several Tradition leaders and showed them Mount Qaf. They explained their goal of leading all to the Ascendant Peak of Unity and told them of their continuing fear to reveal themselves so long as the Handura existed. Althought the rest of the Tradition mages remained ignorant of ther true nature, the Batini thus gained some powerful allies and prevented full-scale religious war.

Even though they were scattered, the Batini kept in touch through a netwok of Masters of the Mind Arcana who could pass information from one group to another at the speed of thought. They drew upon a great reserve of Quintessence lying beneath their home regions to power their magic, using the qanat to channel it to create temporary nodes when needed. Both these practices were kept secret from the other Traditions. Batini diplomats helped lay the groundwork for the Council of Ten as well, but when they took their appointed seat they did so as a group of loosely affiliated Crafts called the Geomatric Coalition. Many council members suspected thatthere was more to the Subtle Ones than was apparent, but they believed that they were too disorganized to constitute any threat. Those who knew the truth kept the Batini’s secret.

At the beginning of the 19h century, the Technocracy gained knowledge of the reserves of Quintessence lying beneath the Middle East. The Union attempted to take the region for itself, which resulted in horrific battles. During the conflict, Mount Qaf was shut away from the Earth,and both sides were denied entry to the Realm. Some say that Mount Qaf was destroyed in the battle, sending shock waves through-out the Umbra. Others claim that what is now the Digital Web is the remains of the shattered foothills of that great mountain, which will only be restored on the day of Ascension.

Badly wounded and with no haven available, the leaders of the Batini cut their ties to their Disciples and disapeared, vowing that someday they would return in triumph. Whether the Masters were hunted down and destroyed or went underground and have plans to re-emerge is unknown to Tradition, Technocracy or even their own followers.

Still, rumors abound. Following the World Wars, finding a Batini master seemed impossible. Most hide their abilities and fade into everyday jobs as museum curators, restauranteurs, architects, computer analysts, even shopkeepers and janitors. Some mages claim that certain respected religious leaders in the Middle East are actually Batini. Others note that many Middle Eastern potentates have purchased lands in far-flung areas of the world – lands that hold power within or under them. A few Tradition scholars have noted what the Dreamspeakers and the Order of Hermes recently gained a few converts who espouse a philosophy suspiciously like the Doctrine of Unity. As always, the Subtle Ones remain mysterious and hard to pin down. In light of recent events, as the Technocracy seems to have one the War of Ascension, some among the Traditions look east once again, hoping thatsome unifying principle might emerge from the hidden masters fo the Ahl-i-Batin to once again breathe life into their beleaguered ranks.

Organization

The Ahl-i-Batin are highly organized. Teachers and students gather into khanaqahs or lodges, which might be thought to be trade guilds, secret societies or religious schools. Each has a shaykh (or council of shaykhs) in charge. Students are taught the mysteries and initiated into the Batini upon achieving certain insights. Those who achieve rank 3 in an arcana become Murids, who know the outer mysteries and doctrines, but have no real knowledge of the inner mysteries. Masters become Murshids, who gain access to the full knowledge of the Batini Tradition. Once the group met frequently, though often only through telepathic communication. Since the Technocracy’s triumph, they no longer meet, and communications are sporadic at best. Many have joined the Dreamspeakers or the Order of Hermes as their own group has dwindled. Others refuse to surrender, maintaining their independence proudly. Such individuals have become ever more secretive.

Each khanaqah prides itself onits own initiation rites designd to reward those who pass their tests to become Murids. Those that become Murshids undergo a lengthier trial involving demanding scholarship. Often sacred geometry or mathematical equations that cannot be solved are used as a means to focus the mind and increase understanding for those undgoing th tests. Batini today join whatever religious sect is prevalent in theirarea, usually a variant of Shi’ite Islam.

The Batini draw from hearlers, teachers, architects and followers of odd religious or mystical sects. In modern times, they are also likely to seek among the poor but clever, or approach those with mathematical or musical talent.

Philosophy

Within everyone, even the Unbelievers, there slumbers a piece of the Divine. If these pieces could all Awaken and be brought into unity with one another, all humanity would see the face of Allah and be as one with Him. The wise seek to bring about unity in all that they do. It is the Batini task to work to bring this about. Perhaps if such can be done, men will once again be worthy to walk the slopes of Mount Qaf, where all things are the One that embodies the many.

Failings

The Batini Web of Faith is strong, but peoplehave always been weak. In their attempt to bind everyone thorugh high ideals, the Batini were blind to the parched souls of human shortcomings. They paid dearly for this lack of vision. Corrupt politicians, military exchanges and religious schisms rocked the Middle East and tore apart their foundations. Instead of accepting that some humans will choose evil and depraved paths when given the opportunity for enlightenment, the Batini chose to cut themselves off from all such influences. Batini mages went through difficult and painful rituals to excise from themselves the taint of Entropy, and indeed, many do not use the Arcana at all. Some even claimed to infiltrate the Nephandi due to the incorruptibility of their souls with Entropy removed. Sadly this proved not to be the case. Batini barrabi could and did betray their brothers, while many Murshids lost touch with the natural cycle propounded by Entropy. Only recently have the Batini begun to return Entropy grudgingly to the fold of their studies, and many still feel that destructive and chaotic systems stand against the Unity for which they strive.

Tools and Styles

Most Batini still practice their magic through prayer, chants, music and meditation. Many use higher mathematics to release their minds from mundane thought. Others meditate on religious or arcane teachings and riddles. Some modern Batini embrace the use of modern music (from thrash metal to trance tunes) and frenzied dance (a tradition since the time of the dervishes) as tools to release their magical powers.

The Ahl-i-Batin have always been most concerned with the arcana of Fate and Mind. Their concept of Unity resembles the theory of Correspondence Point, but it incorporates the idea of mind, soul and spirit into the idea of a singular point in space and time. Their study of Mind came as a result of their earliest members’ association with the Akashic Brotherhood. Until this centruy, Mind masters among the Batini served as living conduits for telepathic communications across the Middle East, Central Asia, and Northern Africa. When the Technocracy discovered and destroyed them, they also gained insight into the Truths known to these Batini Masters. Such knowledge assisted the rise of the Virtual Adepts, who adapted it to their own Web.


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Ahl-i-Batin

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