The Ahl-I-Batini of Cairo

The Ahl-I-Batin have a long history in Egypt, but have suffered greater losses than any other tradition. Still, they remain the undisputed experts on the shadows of Cairo - they founded the city.

The Darwushim

Tarot Card: Three of Questing
God: Amun
Symbol: A circle written in sand
Animal: Desert cat
Thing: Coarse cloth

The Darwushim are the batini mystics who do not concern themselves with organisations or the politics of the mundane world, although ideologically they are somewhat on the side of the choristers (who tend to ignore them as long as they do not try to spread heretical ideas among the congregation). They concentrate on their mystical vision of unity with God, usually living hermit lives in the desert.

The Brethren

He who dare to lift the veil and to violate its secrets will reach the ultimate of Knowledge and Power

Tarot Card: Ace of Questing
God: Thoth
Symbol: "Unity" written in Arabic calligraphy
Animal: Weasel, Ibis
Thing: A book

This group, dating back to the 9th century, unites hermetic, gnostic and sufi thinking. They have in the past been one of the strongest links between the batini and the Order of Hermes, strongly supporting the Library of Alexandria (in fact, they were its guardians for a long time and still work closely together with the hermetics and Alexandrian Society in that city), but also deeply involved in the Ismailiyah, the Ismailite sect of Islam.

They revealed their existence in the late 9th century by spreading Rasail Ikhwan al-Safa (The Epistles of the Brethren of Purity), but never worked openly. Instead they prepared the way for the Fatimid invasion of Egypt, secretly hoping to harness the mystical power of the land. In fact, their long-range plan was to create a new caliphate organised after their hidden knowledge, a mystical empire that would rule the centre of the world. They convinced the rulers to found al-Khaira (Cairo) south of the delta so that they could harness the rich nodes in the area. Allied with the Architects of Divine Measure they built many mosques and the citadel to focus the quintessence into divine patterns.

But their rise to power created opposition among other mages, and the Cult of Nun rose against them. Suffering from subtle attacks and intrigue from the outside and nephandic corruption from the inside their grand scheme crumbled. To escape their enemies some fled into Persia or India, others hid in plain sight in Egypt.

For many decades, the Brethren bided their time, planning their next move. They infiltrated the mamuluk slaves who were becoming the de facto rulers (in many cases they simply bought child slaves and indoctrinated them from the beginning, creating fanatically loyal allies in the court), using them at first to influence politics and then to write politics. Unfortunately the mamuluk government was both unstable and violent; soon the Brethren found themselves enmeshed in the infighting on all sides, and their own alliances made the situation even worse. The different cells of Brethren spread across Cairo and Egypt couldn't coordinate, and instead began to fight. The struggle continued for centuries, the once powerful Brethren becoming little more than a minor conspiracy in a kingdom wracked by intrigue.

When the Ottoman empire invaded, the last remnants of the true Brethren vanished into the Library of Alexandria, and the remaining power-mongers began to coalesce into two fractions, the Dhu 'l-Faqariyyah and the Qasimiyyah. As they Bays grew in power, the struggle grew hotter, and the sides began to splinter again into vicious infighting. The Technocracy was secretly using this to prepare for their next step: the conquest of Egypt.

The technomancers had in secret already made alliances with some of the Brethren, promising help against the other fractions in exchange for minor support. Their real plan was to leak the information in order to start infighting when Napoleon Bonaparte landed. It didn't work perfectly; the Brethren, other Batini and Choristers realised who the real enemy was and began to fight back together. But the seeds had been sown, and the treachery soon blossomed into an internal struggle that effectively removed the Brethren from the political arena for several years. That was enough for the technomancers to consolidate their power in Egypt, and to insert their man Muhammed Ali as ruler. He efficiently wiped out the remaining Batini resistance and began to bring Egypt into the technocratic world.

During the nineteenth and twentieth century the Brethren have slowly, slowly made a comeback. They have in many ways learned from their fatal mistakes, and instead seek to influence things from the shadows instead of standing behind the throne. They are divided into three main groups: the Brethren of Purity and Balance, the Scholars of Light and the Ismailites.

The Brethren of Purity and Balance represents the "reformist" political and economical manipulators, doing their best to manipulate the shadows of Cairo. They are powerbrokers, fixers, plotters and politicians. Up until recently they did well by acting as middle-men in deals between different groups, selling occult artefacts or services to other magickal groups and generally acting like a big information network. The rise of fundamentalism has however placed them in an unenviable position where just about everybody is demanding them to take a side, and if they take a side they will betray many of their secret alliances.

The Scholars of Light are descended from the Brethren who joined with the Library and have devoted themselves to the study of the unity and magick instead of practical politics. They are intellectuals and thinkers, and have in the past worked closely together with the choristers. But today the fundamentalists are pressuring them strongly to join in the jihad or be destroyed. The Scholars are desperately trying to find a way out, but it is clear that sooner or latter they need to take a side. They still have a presence at al-Azhar, although the fundamentalists are forcing them out there too.

The Ismailites are in many ways the most conservative group, trying to bring back the grand visions of the Fatimid era. They are attempting to unify all the dispersed Brethren through the return of Aga Khan to Egypt, a secret signal for the faithful to join together again in unity. The eventual outcome of this scheme is uncertain, especially since the fundamentalists are pressuring the Ismailites to become more mainstream Muslims (to them, the Ismailites are ghulat, heretical extremists).

Jamal Haroun, Go-Between for the Brethren of Purity and Balance

Jamal was born in a small village near Luxor. His father worked his way up from errand boy to tourist guide to shopkeeper, freeing the family from a long history of poverty. Jamal even went to school before going in his fathers footsteps as a tourist guide - and smuggler. The village people had always known the temples, tombs and monuments in the region intimately; once their ancestors built them, and other ancestors had plundered them. By rights they were theirs, so why not earn a little on the side by selling some finds? Jamal used his position as a tourist guide to find prospective buyers (mostly rich westerners, easy to fool) and to get certain packages through airport security. He did well, his wit and charm was a perfect combination in his line of business.

The world of discreet trade in ancient Egyptian objects has many players, and one of them discovered Jamal. He was good at what he did, but he held the potential for something more. He was invited by one of his Egyptian customers to Cairo, to meet some new, well-connected business contacts. That meeting changed his life; he suddenly realised how petty his earlier ambitions had been, and what a challenge the shadows of Cairo promised. Over a period of several years he travelled between Luxor and Cairo, transporting certain objects, people and messages between very unexpected individuals. It was a form of training, giving him the insight into the real goings on and the contact needed for his ambitions to really reach fruition. After a while he had established his position, and settled down in Cairo as a general go-between, fixer and contact person. His allegiance was not so much to any special group as to the game itself, the wheeling and dealing in the shadows, illegal clubs and on hidden cafés.

Jamal is a charming, witty man who loves to play the subtle and inscrutable Egyptian gentleman to naive westerners (and the even subtler Ahl-I-Batini to naive mages). In reality he is a man who loves to be in the midst of things, to act as an arbiter or fixer in no matter how small deals or intrigues. He really likes people, especially if he feels he knows their weaknesses and quirks, and manages to get along with most others. He has had some run-ins with the fanatics of Muhammad's gang and is cautious about Mme Granboul-Ponty, but otherwise he thinks he can deal with the backstage of Cairo quite well. He is of course dead wrong, but would quite likely manage to improvise well even if he found out the real depths - there is nothing he likes better than to instantly adapt.

Quote: "By the grace of Allah, I happen to have a relative who happens to have a house most suitable to your needs. And, amazingly enough, he is willing to rent it out since he is going on holiday. Surely a most amazing coincidence, yes?"

The Zada family

This upper middle class family is centred around the imposing bulk of professor Sadi Zada, a historian at Cairo University. It is a large, boisterous and active family with branches just about everywhere, connections and allies in the strangest places.

Professor Zada has himself contact with several magickal groups, most notably the Scholars of Light, where he has a high rank. He is not a major mage, but rather a skilled historian and thinker who is more interested in how things are, was and will be than how they could be. He is doing his best to protect the Scholars (and himself and his family, mind you) from the attacks from the Shayks, but it is an uphill struggle and several of his friends have been jailed, persecuted or murdered. He is gradually reaching the unpalatable conclusion that to save what he believes in the Scholars need to ally with a greater power - but the only alternatives at present are the Technocracy and the Shayks. If the liberal choristers could be united with the Scholars and Brethren against the fundamentalists, then they could stand a chance, but lacking cohesion and leadership this is unlikely.

Quote: "I was arguing about that with Istafan yesterday. He also held that it was a political solution that..."

The Architects of Divine Measure

I am the great God in the divine boat... I am a simple priest in the underworld anointing in Abydos, elevating to higher degrees of initiation... I am grand Master of the craftsmen who set up the sacred arch for a support. Thoth to Osiris, the Book of the Dead
All things are measured The Quran (54:49)

Tarot Card: Four of Pattern
God: Imhotep
Symbol: An octagram (two interlocking squares)
Animal: Ant
Thing: A compass

The links between architecture and magick date back to the time of Imhotep, and have always been strong in Egypt. The architect- mages of ancient Egypt practised their art for at least 2000 years before being eclipsed by other traditions and changing politics (it appears likely that the Messianic Voices of the Celestial Chorus worked against them, since they felt it was wrong to attempt to channel divine power through mere stone). But the architects had spread to other lands, and their teachings took root among the batini.

When the Arabs conquered Egypt, they returned and began to build anew, hiding their skills in mosques, citadels and channels. They explored the old ruins, relearning many forgotten skills. Deciding to keep the sacred truths hidden from all others they thoroughly erased all traces of them in Egypt, destroying old temples and removing the hieroglyphs covering the pyramids; their motto was "The secret shall be secret". Through the crusades and wandering masons their secrets still spread to Europe, where they led to the formation of the Craftsmasons (who eventually helped form the Order of Reason). But the knowledge of how to channel Quintessence using Quanats and how to create new nodes remained hidden.

During the Mamuluk and Ottoman rulership they slowly dwindled, with the occasional resurgence. During the British occupation there was a brief resurgence as the Architects came into contact and assimilated a dynamic group of British freemasons; they built the Garden City to "test" the old magick (creating an unique environment of flowing quintessence) and the neo-pharaonic tomb of Sa'd Zaghlul, which was in fact a fully functional mini-pyramid in central Cairo. Unfortunately their activities were noted by opposing groups, and during the next years the Architects were forced underground.

The Architects have never had much power over mundane society, preferring to keep their secrets to themselves. Instead they have relied on other groups of mages seeking their help in rechanneling quintessence and locking reality in place. For the greatest secret of sacred architecture is how to use buildings on powerful nodes to enforce the paradigm they were built in, something both the builders of pyramids, mosques, cathedrals and skyscrapers have used, consciously or not.

Today the Architects of Divine Measure is a dwindling group; few new buildings are built according to their teachings, and the Technocracy has acquired most nodes. Still, they hang on and await the day when sacred architecture will again rise to the skies. Most members are old architects, builders or geologists, watching over their hidden libraries and studios. In fact, they are slowly forgetting the true nature of magick, becoming just protectors of their old traditions.

Their headquarters is the home of Qansuh Shaqra, an old and obscure architect living in the suburbs of northern Cairo, in a large and strange villa with a small tower (he designed it himself, according to the principles of sacred architecture; it is supernaturally very well protected even if it looks odd). Qansuh is one of the students of Mustafa Fahmi, the architect who built the tomb of Sa'd Zaghlul, and his appointed successor as leader of the Architects. In his house they keep some of their sacred scriptures (including some very old and powerful copies of ancient Egyptian texts that many mages would be willing to kill to get, had they known about them. The Architects, on the other hand, do not understand their significance), sculptures, models, maps and tools. Most of the members are older architects, but when dealing with other groups (which is very rare nowadays, they are completely out of touch with other mages) they send their youngest member Yusuf Mina who is just middle-aged.

Sacred Architecture

In Plato's Timaeus, there appears the earliest known equation of the Creator with the 'Architect of the Universe'. The Creator, in the Timaeus, is called 'tekton', meaning 'craftsman' or 'builder'. 'Arche-tekton' thus denoted 'master craftsman' or 'master builder'. For Plato, the 'arche-tekton' crafted the cosmos by means of geometry. Baigent & Leigh, The Temple and the Lodge
The Pyramids speak the language of geometry
The basic idea of sacred architecture is to give geometric relations physical shape, thus linking the physical with the higher realms. By choosing the right ratios and shapes, the building can be given almost any magickal function just as if it was a permanent magickal effect. The power lies not so much in consecrations and ceremonies (although they are commonly used too) but in the structure itself - as long as it is sufficiently complete it will have power and resonance.

Sacred Architecture was discovered/invented by Imhotep, who used it to structure the then rather unstable reality of Egypt and to give his king a truly eternal afterlife. He not only discovered how to channel Quintessence in stone and geometry, but also how to create new nodes by building pyramids and how to dedicate their power into different magickal effects. He also realised one of its dangers: if buildings with the same magickal ratios were built accidentally aligned, they would become linked. This could overcome distances, but it could also lead to unexpected and dangerous side effects as resonance spread. That was why he ordained that the knowledge of sacred architecture was to be kept secret - as long as a single group controlled it, there was little chance of misuse.

The basic trick is very simple. Each building contains a number of ratios between lengths (such as the ratio between height and width, the ratio between the diameter and height of pillars etc) and angles. Some of these ratios are important, and if two buildings share the same ratios or have ratios that lie on the same line in a abstract, possibly multidimensional space determined by the structure of the building, then the two buildings will be linked. Certain ratios also link the building to certain high umbral concepts, and if done correctly these concepts can be invoked. The most obvious such ratio is the golden ratio, which symbolises stability, perfection and harmony.

Designing a building along these principles is a complex art, since by just fixing a few major ratios many unwanted angles and correspondences might appear (this is why some of the early pyramids failed, they had the wrong angles). Many secondary ratios are needed to correct this, making the building more complicated.

During the construction, certain rituals are commonly use to reinforce it. Some of them are just basic utility-magick for strengthening it, removing flaws from stones and ensuring stability. others are more esoteric, aimed at tuning the building to its magickal purpose. The most well-known ceremony is laying down the foundation stone: the construction starts with consecrating a single, perfect stone expressing the three fundamental ratios and placing it at the metaphysical foundation of the building. In the past, it was often filled with quintessence from a sacrifice. Another important ceremony is placing the cornerstone: this completes the magickal structure (or part of it), activating it and giving it power. Often this was done with a similarly consecrated stone.

In Egypt, the most obvious examples of sacred architecture beside the pyramids and some of the temples (which have set down significant ley-lines between them) is the mosques that channel the quintessence into the Web of Faith. Through more than a millennium the Architects have worked on this elaborate system, creating a pattern of stability and belief that rivals the Pattern of the pyramids (what the later lacks in size and number of nodes is balanced by its sheer power and simplicity).

One arabian invention was the secret language of arabesques; these abstract patters can be designed to contain ratios and angles relating to high umbral concepts, and thus convey secret messages. Many of the buildings created by the Architects are marked with these inscriptions, hidden in plain sight.

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