Leaders destroy followers and followers destroy leaders

That photo of Marrakech's celebrated Jemma el-Fnaa was taken by me a few weeks ago. One of the books that illuminated my visit to the Red City was Stephen Davis' To Marrakech by Aeroplane. Stephen is best known as the biographer of Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley and the Rolling Stones, and ghost writer for Michael Jackson, but he also collaborated with me on a two part feature about the Master Musicians of Jajouka, who come from the Rif Mountains in the north of Morocco.

Performance artist Brion Gysin, who was a long time resident of Morocco, played a pivotal role in bring the Master Musicians to the attention of Brian Jones, and it was the Rolling Stones' posthumously released album of their music which introduced the Master Musicians to an international audience. To Marrakech by Aeroplane, which is rich in anecdotes about Brion Gysin's Moroccan circle, is published by Inkblot Publications, and that Rhode Island based independent publisher has also made available Brion Gysin's previously unpublished manuscript Living With Islam which dates from the 1950s.

In his introduction to Living With Islam Theo Green of Inkblot Publications stresses that “One must remember Gysin did not become a Muslim. He felt all religion should be taxed out of existence”. Despite this Gysin paints a largely sympathetic portrait of the faith, and his prediction of a dangerous tension between traditional Islam and Western culture raises the status of the slim volume above that of a historic curiosity.

But it is Brion Gysin's observation that: “As in other Holy Books, one can find a text to suit one's need of the moment; but it must be realized that Islam is essentially a war-like religion, as is any structure of opinions which is authoritarian” that I found particularly perceptive. My many Muslim friends will no doubt argue vociferously that the Qu'ran does not condone violence. But that is not my point. Based on history it can be argued that any structure of opinions - particularly religious dogma - is war-like in the sense of being confrontational, and as we have seen recently that includes Tibetan Buddhism.

Many from Kabir and Ramakrishna to Aurobindo, William James and Krishnamurti, have argued the case in their different ways for a religion of no religion which recognises an ultimate Truth but refuses to apply authoritarian structures to that Truth. Even the visionary 12th century Muslim philosopher Ibn Arabi warned against dogma that impedes the beautiful play of the divine. As Krishnamurti told us: “ All authority of any kind, especially in the field of thought and understanding, is the most destructive, evil thing. Leaders destroy the followers and followers destroy the leaders. You have to be your own teacher and your own disciple. You have to question everything that man has accepted as valuable, as necessary”.

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