Shills, Spooks, and Sufis in the service of Empire: The Case of the Maryamiyyah

Fritjof Schuon

The Greatest Name shall do its thing, O heart, be of good cheer. For by wile and guile the demon shall never become Solomon. ~ Hafiz

The following is an augmented version of an article that was originally published by CounterPunch on 2 November 2016. The piece was subsequently taken down by its editor in chief only eight days later on 10 November 2016 after a veiled threat of a lawsuit made in email by a former Bloomingtonian member of the Maryamiyyah Sufi Order to CounterPunch.[1] Instead of properly investigating the matter and vetting the article with an attorney suitably informed of the facts — not to mention while completely ignoring a number of emails sent to them, including those by Mark Sedgwick, Zachary Markwith and others, asking them to put the article back up — CounterPunch chose to capitulate to the demands of the Maryamiyyah made through a proxy and so permanently deleted the article from their site. So much for CounterPunch’s claim to being the “fearless voice of the American Left’”![2]

As in the past with other authors and other venues, this now appears to be a set pattern with the Maryamiyyah with virtually any publication critical of them: they will threaten the publisher, the author or both with legal action until the venue or author relent and a critical publication is withdrawn from circulation. Capitalizing on the situation, some American based acolyte-hoodlums of Russian occult fascist Alexander Dugin then took the opportunity of the article’s deletion by CounterPunch to launch an online smear campaign against its author (i.e. myself), making outrageous claims in the process while concocting a litany of allegations out of thin air: outrageous claims and allegations which are primarily meant as a sort of cheap psychological reversal and distraction tactic, a sleight of hand and smokescreen, as it were, from a few of their own eyebrow raising linkages to the American NeoCons via Seyyed Hossein Nasr and the Maryamiyyah which this article very briefly underscores. By inference this later incident in itself further bolsters the case establishing the close contacts between the Duginists and the Maryamiyyah Sufi Order, and thus the Maryamiyyah’s own deep connections to the so-called ‘alt-right’ or — as it should be more accurately phrased — the ‘Fascist Internationale’, not to mention Alexander Dugin’s own linkages to prominent North American based figures and organizations connected to the American deep state.

Be that as it may, in 2014 a former, estranged disciple of Seyyed Hossein Nasr’s — an ex-Maryamiyyah member — first informed me that Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Alexander Dugin and his Eurasianist organization are on quite intimate terms, apparently sharing similar long-term political aims, and not just where their purported Traditionalism is concerned. At the time this revelation struck me as a bit odd since Nasr (and specifically his son Vali-Reza) are staunch Atlanticists — Vali-Reza Nasr being the veritable prized subaltern ornament of Neoconservatism in America[3] — whereas Dugin and his Eurasianism ostensibly (at least where the rhetoric is concerned) stand at the very opposite pole. The more involved and complex details of this Nasr-Dugin nexus is a lengthy discussion better left for another day, only to say that — and as recently outlined in one academic monograph[4] —  this unlikely fellowship may actually have something to do with Frithjof Schuon’s (d. 1998) underlying ideological “Aryanism” with its “de-semitization” of the theosophical Sufism of Ibn ʿArabi: an ‘Aryanism’ and ‘de-semitization’ that Dugin’s brand of occult fascism would very much be in agreement with. Also in brief, there are two other noteworthy pieces of evidence that corroborate what this ex-Maryamiyyah contact indicated: one is Dugin’s own publicly expressed interest in the Maryamiyyah Sufi Order at a 2011 conference in Moscow[5] with the other being his publicized meeting in Iran during 2013 with Gholamreza Avani — Avani being Seyyed Hossein Nasr’s Maryamiyyah khalifa (chief representative) for Iran.[6] But let us turn here now to the checkered history of the Maryamiyyah Sufi Order itself, which Seyyed Hossein Nasr currently heads in its North American branch.[7]

The Maryamiyyah Sufi Order

The Maryamiyyah[8] is the Sufi order created by the Swiss writer and esotericist Frithjof Schuon (d. 1998) which stems from an Algerian sub-branch of the Shadhiliyah Sufi Order.[9] After briefly visiting North Africa in the early 1930s to meet the charismatic Shaykh Ahmad al-ʿAlawi (d. 1934), from the mid 1930s onward Schuon attracted disciples of his own in his native Switzerland while as of 1936 he also began claiming to be the successor to this same Shaykh Ahmad al-ʿAlawi. The actual successors of Shaykh Ahmad al-ʿAlawi, however, have adamantly denied Schuon’s claims and instead maintain that Schuon only spent a sum total of a few days with their master in the early 1930s; that he was barely even initiated into their order, only authorized to transmit the Muslim confession of belief (i.e. the shahada); let alone being the Shaykh Ahmad al-ʿAlawi’s successor. This, and other related controversies, soon led to a bitter schism within the ranks of the Traditionalist school and specifically a personal falling out between Frithjof Schuon and the leading intellectual light of the movement, the Frenchman Rene Guénon (d. 1951).

Stemming from this schism, a recent study in Persian on the Maryamiyyah by eminent Iranian historian ʿAbdollah Shahbazi suggests that Guénon’s premature death in Cairo in 1951 may have even been somehow orchestrated by the Maryamiyyah itself, thus making of Guénon’s demise possibly a murder at their hands.[10] Bolstering the allegation by inference, we have other earlier sources suggesting it also. For example, on page nineteen of a PDF entitled ‘A René Guénon Album’ which is found on the site — above two separate pictures of, first, Frithjof Schuon with Guénon at his bedside and then of the bedridden Guénon on his own — we find this quite suggestive statement: “A strange episode: for six months, René Guénon was immobilized in bed because of a so-called crisis of rheumatism. In fact, Guénon confessed, this crisis was the effect of some kind of malefic forces directed against him by the “adversaries”.[11] Given the timeline here in the specific context of the dissension raging at the time among these two warring factions of Traditionalists, “adversaries” is obviously a reference to the Maryamiyyah and not to those adversaries of the past which Guénon claims he took flight from to Egypt in 1930.[12] Whatever the ultimate truth of the matter, and there is much by way of circumstantial evidence pointing to foul play, there is also no question that had he lived longer Guénon’s rivalry with Schuon would have certainly proven deleterious to the Maryamiyyah’s long-term political interests, especially in regard to its consolidation as the public face of Traditionalism in the anglophone West, not to mention control over a neo-Traditionalist publishing industry the Maryamiyyah subsequently spawned in North America and Britain as well as the political influence and patronage it was to enjoy in coming years from regimes such as that of the Pahlavi Shah in Iran, the Court of St. James in Great Britain and the rightwing American political class of the Republican Party.

Particularly after Rene Guénon’s death, Frithjof Schuon’s Maryamiyyah Sufi Order (based at the time in Basel, Switzerland and now operating almost like a quasi-Masonic order) began spreading among some elite Western intellectual circles, claiming in its ranks some notable figures among the academic Islamic Studies as well as the Comparative Religious Studies establishments of the time (e.g. Huston Smith, Victor Danner, Cyril Glasse, William Stoddart, to name a few). During the 1960s Schuon now claimed mystical visions of the “Divine Feminine” in the naked form of the Virgin Mary who anointed him the Avatar of the Age, the Imam Mahdi, the Return of Christ, the Fifth Buddha, the incarnations of Kalki and Vishnu, etc. Within its specific Islamicate context, Schuon’s claims, his ‘universalist’ teachings, and some of the details of his visions of the divine feminine are eerily similar to those claimed by the Baha’i founder Mirza Husayn ʿAli Nuri Baha’u’llah (d. 1892), with other striking similarities existing between Bahaism and the Maryamiyyah that deserve detailed comparative analyses in its own right. Today both also enjoy a very cozy relationship with the state of Israel — with the former also sharing a cozy relationship with the Gulf potentates as well as the Moroccan elite.

One feature of the Maryamiyyah practice which they are noted for is that they pray to Schuon as well as the Virgin Mary; and, along with offering blessings (salawat) to the Prophet Muhammad and the Madonna, the order also offers daily blessings (salawat) to Frithjof Schuon — a feature of their practice which would certainly scandalize any orthodox Muslim, Sunni or Shiʿi alike. Much of the Maryamiyyah’s teachings and practices also seem to share common elements with the Indian Tantric Left-Hand Path tradition. Schuon’s ‘sacred nudity’ and his spin on the nature of the ‘divine feminine’ would be easily recognizable to any genuine Tantric initiate. Be that as it may, and even under the mountains of obfuscatory terminological mumbo-jumbo that the Maryamiyyah regularly use to conceal the fact, the Left-Hand Path is never mentioned nor is it remotely the ‘orthodoxy’ that Schuon insists upon in his books; but rather it is the very same ‘heterodoxy’ he incessantly decries. To date, the Maryamiyyah have never forthrightly acknowledged this fact or dealt with it in any honest manner.

That said, in 1980 Schuon, his family, entourage and disciples moved from Switzerland to Bloomington, Indiana, and henceforth made it the Maryamiyyah’s headquarters. A series of scandals and public defections rocked the cult throughout the 1980s, and in the early 1990s Schuon was even briefly indicted by an Indiana Grand Jury. These scandals stemmed from Schuon’s “Primordial Gatherings” in Bloomington were scantily clad members of the Maryamiyyah — with Schuon sometimes appearing completely naked donning only a Native American Lakota head-dress — would publicly engage in activities resembling something between a Native American pow-wow, a Sufi majlis and a Tantric maithuna ceremony. However, the scandals were very swiftly covered up and the public prosecutors and attorneys involved against the Maryamiyyah were eventually intimidated and browbeaten by unknown, behind the scenes actors to drop the case against Schuon: a case, I might add, involving allegations by ex-members of criminal sexual impropriety in the presence of minors (including paedophilia and related felonies). Schuon was also accused of forcing some of his leading disciples to divorce their wives, which he would then promptly re-marry as his “vertical” or ‘spiritual’ wives.[13]

Schuon died in 1998 and left a splintered, scandal-ridden organization in his wake with one group gravitating towards the figure of Martin Lings (d. 2005) in the UK — who had served as Guénon’s secretary in Cairo while also being among Schuon’s earliest disciples — with another group congregating around the figure of Seyyed Hossein Nasr in the Beltway area of the United States. More diehard Schuonites stayed in Bloomington, Indiana, and refused to recognize either Lings or Nasr as Schuon’s putative successors and continued with their syncretistic, nudist “Primordial Gatherings” as before.

Nasr, the Maryamiyyah after Schuon and its marriage to Empire

Both Nasr and Lings brought the Maryamiyyah closer to the circles of Western elites. To some degree this was already a process in full swing during Schuon’s own lifetime. But Nasr and Lings each in turn made closer alliances with the British establishment and the American deep state, going so far on occasion to operate in the capacity of covert and clandestine fronts for Anglo-American ‘soft power’ in numerous locales throughout the Muslim world.[14] Seyyed Hossein Nasr himself was already a royalist insider in Pahlavi Iran, especially during the last two decades and a half of the Pahlavi regime, earning his post at Aryamehr (now Shahid Beheshti) University due to his intimate connections with the Shah’s royal court and Farah Pahlavi specifically. It was as a consequence of his royalist connections that he was forced to flee Iran in 1979 following the Islamic Revolution.

That said, while not formally accounting himself among the ranks of the Maryamiyyah, Prince Charles, for example, considers himself to be some kind of soft Traditionalist as well as an avid fan of the writings of Guénon, A.K. Coomaraswamy, Schuon, Nasr and other Traditionalists. It should also be pointed out that the presence of Schuonian Traditionalists among assorted reactionary monarchist groups and organizations is a regular feature of their activities virtually everywhere around the world. This would also explain their proximity to the Moroccan royalty and elite.  What is not widely appreciated is their alleged closeness to the various potentates and elites in the Gulf kingdoms (who are not usually known for their love of Sufism), and particularly those in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Due to his skills and vast connections, some ex-Maryamiyyah members even contend that Martin Lings himself may have been a life-long operative of the British SIS/MI6.[15] Then there is Seyyed Hossein Nar’s long-time association and friendship with Henry Kissinger; the fact that prominent Turkish Maryamiyyah member Ibrahim Kalin has served as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s official spokesman in Turkey for some years now; not to mention the proximity of the Maryamiyyah to the Jordanian royal family and Prince Ghazi specifically who publishes “The Muslim 500” which regularly lauds the policies of the corrupt Gulf kingdoms and celebrates Anglo-American and Israeli policy against Iran and Syria.[16] According to one anonymous contact, long-time Maryamiyyah member Abdallah Schleifer is the Maryamiyyah’s main point of contact with the Jordanian elite and “The Muslim 500” specifically.[17] Schleifer’s connections to US Central Command (CENTCOM) are also publicly acknowledged since he made a 2004 documentary about it for Al Jazeera. What is not widely known is the anonymous contact’s assertion that Schleifer was the person originally responsible for setting up the Qatari media network Al Jazeera in the first place.[18] Certainly the Russian occult fascist Alexander Dugin knows all about these things yet continues in his association with Nasr and the Maryamiyyah, which defies conventional explanation when he, his organization and the Russian state that Dugin advises pretend to stand as geopolitical adversaries to everything Nasr, his Maryamiyyah Sufi Order and these hardcore Atlanticist connections represent.

On the ground in North America, the Maryamiyyah’s rank-and-file is predominantly composed of upper middle-class professionals (monied and college educated) with white upper middle-class converts being the most preferred among recruits. Liberal, left-leaning and anti-establishment members entering the order are often required to become apolitical and focus instead on the “inner life” and forgo politics altogether. But over time they are turned conservative (or, rather, reactionary) and instead made to support the establishment conservatism of the Republican Party. One former member has alleged that Seyyed Hossein Nasr was actively canvassing for George W. Bush among his acolytes during both the elections of 2000 and 2004 and for John McCain in 2008, proving that father and son share identical political views and that the proverbial apple does not fall far from the tree. Be that as it may, so much for the ‘Traditionalism’ that ostensibly seeks to shun the convoluted and corrupt materialist politics of the ‘Reign of Quantity’, especially the politics of the West which Traditionalists are supposed to believe represents the epitome of this ‘Reign of Quantity’ – or, as they elsewhere like calling it, “the system of the Antichrist.” The same contact also reported rampant classism, racism and similar discriminatory, elitist attitudes prevalent throughout the Maryamiyyah Sufi Order together with an almost “congenital hatred” for all forms of liberal/leftwing and social justice causes, issues and charities.[19]

Moreover, to deflect and smokescreen from his own role in the Pahlavi regime, Seyyed Hossein Nasr has even gone on public record recently besmirching the memory of the late leftwing Islamologist ʿAli Shariati (d. 1977), accusing him of having been a SAVAK mole[20]; this, while other former members have alleged that the FBI, DHS, NSA, CIA and other agencies of American law enforcement and the US deep state are crawling all over the Maryamiyyah Sufi Order as either full-fledged members, affiliates or sympathizers.[21] American Traditionalist Charles Upton, who is not affiliated with the Maryamiyyah, stated that, “I can confirm…the allegations from my own knowledge, including those relating to connections between the Maryamiyya and the intelligence community…” later also adding “…One Dr. Majid Naini made that claim to me some years ago that “Nasr is CIA”, and said that he was virtually regent of Iran for about a year when the Revolution was brewing and the Shah was dying of cancer. This confirmed the impression I formed around 1996 when a murid of Dr. Nasr’s bragged to me that she and some of the other fuqara were attending Arabic classes also attended by CIA agents…”[22] This later allegation appears to be confirmed by four recently released Wikileaks cables from 1976 which establish Nasr’s connections to Henry Kissinger and CIA Director cum US ambassador to Iran Richard Helms.[23] According to Markwith, these Wikileaks cables deserve closer scrutiny because they prove Nasr is not merely guilty by association. Rather they point to the fact that he was acting in the capacity of an informant for both the CIA and SAVAK. The documents are between Henry Kissinger — then US Secretary of State for the Ford administration — and former US Ambassador to Iran and CIA director Richard Helms. Nasr apparently approached Kissinger and Helms on behalf of the Shah to target the Iranian intellectual Reza Baraheni for assassination.[24] That same year as these correspondences and meetings occurred (i.e. 1976), SAVAK was exposed for initiating a plot involving the planned assassination of Reza Baraheni and other dissident Iranian intellectuals then residing in the United States.[25]

As a process that began under Schuon, the Maryamiyyah has also firmly entrenched itself within important segments of the Islamic/Mid East Studies establishment of the Western Ivory Tower as well as in parts of the Muslim world, strategically placing proverbial ‘gatekeepers’ in key places, as it were.  Besides Seyyed Hossein Nasr himself, William Chittick, Terry Moore, Hasan Awan, Reza-Shah Kazemi and Alan Godlas are presently just a few of those names associated with the Maryamiyyah at its highest level.[26] And as mentioned above, Iranian scholar Gholamreza Avani, who was also at one time a student of Henry Corbin’s — who, for his part, was either generally aloof, if not hostile, to the views of Guénon, Schuon and the Traditionalists — is the most eminent figure of the Maryamiyyah Sufi Order in Iran today, being Seyyed Hossein Nasr’s khalifah for Iran.

In recent times, allegations of abuse and cult-like behaviour continue to bedevil the Maryamiyyah’s reputation. A noteworthy incident is the one cited by Koslow (and reiterated by Shahbazi in his book) regarding the initial publication schedule for Mark Sedgwick’s ‘Against the Modern World’. Apparently the book was supposed to have been published by Oxford University Press earlier than 2004. Koslow claims that Sedgwick wrote to him in 2004 to say that Oxford University Press had been “…threatened by the Schuon cult with legal harassment [regarding its initial publication draft]. Rather than face the mafioso tactics thrown at him by the Schuon cult, Sedgwick…backed down and published a rather weak assessment of Schuon’s polygamous activities, criminal actions, visions of nude Virgins and delusions of grandeur…”[27] But based on statements made on his blog and in private correspondence with me, Mark Sedgwick’s recollection of the events in question are somewhat less dramatic than Koslow’s account of them quoted above. However, it still remains that the earlier, unpublished draft of ‘Against the Modern World’— a copy which I perused in 2003 — contains much explosive material about Schuon and the Maryamiyyah that were tout court excised in the subsequently published version by Oxford University Press. Besides interfering with publications and their authors, former Maryamiyyah member Zachary Markwith has also gone on record recently claiming similar impropriety in Bethesda on the part of Nasr similar to those Schuon was once accused of during the Bloomington period.[28]

Withal, it should be underscored that Sufism has not always been (nor is it in all present circumstances) in the service of First World imperial, neo-colonial agendas or otherwise irredeemably corrupt to the degree that the Maryamiyyah is. Historically many individual Sufis and Sufi orders have actually stood against Western imperialism, colonialism and their lackeys. Amir Abd al-Qadir Jaza’iri (d. 1883) in Algeria, Shamil Daghestani (d. 1859) in the Caucuses, Umar Mukhtar (d. 1931) in Libya and those Iranian Sufi masters with their disciples who stood on the side of the people during the period of the Iranian Constitutional Revolution (1905-09) and later with the Islamic Revolution of 1979 are just some prominent examples of Sufis who have stood against both authoritarianism as well as the colonial powers of their day.

Unfortunately Western (and specifically Anglo-American) Sufism has increasingly gone in another direction, allying itself more and more with the agendas of Western establishments and the core interests of Empire in the Muslim world (the Naqshbandi-Haqqani Sufi Order is another notable example here as is Ian Dallas and his group in South Africa). This turn to the darkside by organized Sufism in the West may also explain one of the heretofore unnoted factors in the growth of Islamist ideologies and organizations among countless disaffected, marginalized (immigrant) Sunni Muslim communities, since such a blatant infiltration of Sufism by the Western establishment, with the inevitable corruption it brings with it, is unquestionably as big a betrayal of the ‘Tradition’ as Islamism itself is. It certainly also explains why a country like the Islamic Republic of Iran is generally weary of the influence and activities of such organizations as the Maryamiyyah Sufi Order and similar.

[1] The reader is referred to the following blog post, ‘CounterPunch, me and Shahbazi against Mark Koslow and the Maryamiyyah’, (retrieved 1 December 2016); my correspondence with Mark Koslow which led to CounterPunch’s action can be found in full, here:  (retrieved 1 December 2016).

[2] To add insult to injury, CounterPunch has since gone on to give voice to a piece of fantasist, NeoCon anti-Iranian agitprop in the form of an article supporting a violent Kurdish militant group well-known for its ties to Israel and Saudi Arabia, a group which has murdered and terrorized countless Iranian Kurdish villagers and officials; see  and (retrieved 2 December 2016).

[3] See Gregory A. Lipton, “De-Semitizing Ibn ‘Arabi: Aryanism and the Schuonian Discourse,” Journal NUMEN, forthcoming. The article is based on chapter three of the author’s doctoral dissertation, ‘Making Islam Fit: Ibn ‘Arabi and the idea of Sufism in the West’ (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: 2013).

[4] See for example, (retrieved 2 December 2016).

[5] See ‘After the Traditionalist Conference in Moscow (retrieved 1 December 2016).

[6] See and (retrieved 1 December 2016).  Information regarding Avani’s preeminent status in the Maryamiyyah as Nasr’s khalifah for Iran comes from former Maryamiyyah insider, Zachary Markwith, who pointed out the significance of any public meeting of Avani with Dugin as being a veritable meeting of Dugin with Seyyed Hossein Nasr himself personally (private communication, October 2016).

[7] Seyyed Hossein Nasr’s specific circle in Maryland is sometimes also hyphenated as the Maryamiyyah-Nasriyyah (Farasha Euker, private communication, 2014).

[8] Note that the order’s name ‘Maryamiyyah’ is a bow to the Virgin Mary since in Arabic Mary is Maryam.

[9] On him, see Martin Lings A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century: Shaikh Ahmad al-‘Alawi (Cambridge: 1993).

[10] Abdollah Shahbazi maryamiya: az frithjof schuon ta seyyed hossein-i-nasr (Tehran, 1393 solar/2014): 101-2 and passim; online at and‫مريميه-از-فريتيوف-شوان-تا-سيد-حسين-نصر (retrieved 3 December 2016).

[11] No direct URL to the PDF from the site is available. The item must instead be directly searched from their PDF database. For convenience, it has alternatively been uploaded here, , and here, (retrieved 1 December 2016).

[12] The case is further strengthened by the fact that at that time Guénon had been specifically accusing Martin Lings — who had been acting as his personal secretary in Cairo since 1938 and who had subsequently gone over to the Maryamiyyah — of spying on him for Schuon, intercepting and tampering with all of his communications for the Maryamiyyah (charges which Lings, of course, later denied); see, Mark Sedgwick Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century (Oxford University Press, 2004): 128 and 305n56. In other words, two key partisans of Schuon, namely Martin Lings and Whitall Perry, had full control and unimpeded access to Guénon himself personally, his household, office and effects, communications with the outside world, food supply, personal safety as well as any/all medical assistance obtained during this period. As such not only was there a motive by the Maryamiyyah but they also had full access to Guénon himself physically in order to execute any possible nefarious designs they may have had on Guénon’s life. Of course this all being speculative, nevertheless any genuine criminal investigation anywhere in the world today, even if no prima facie physical evidence can presently be established, would certainly look at such facts and its trajectory as being credible enough to warrant further inquiry.

[13] See Mark Koslow, Frithjof Schuon: Child Molestation and Obstruction of Justice, (retrieved 28 October 2016).

[14] Farasha Euker, private communication, 2014. This point was later reiterated in correspondence with Zachary Markwith as well.

[15] Euker, 2014; Markwith, for his part, has also restated the point.

[16] Markwith, 2016; see The Muslim 500 site online at, (retrieved 30 October 2016).

[17] For Schliefer, see the Wikipedia entry on him, (retrieved 3 December 2016).

[18] Private communication, October 2016.

[19] Euker, 2014.

[20] See (in Persian) (retrieved 30 October 2016).

[21] Originally asserted by our anonymous correspondent in 2014. Both Euker and Markwith have confirmed it in their own right.

[22] Charles Upton, private communication, November 2016.

[24] For Baraheni’s biography, see the Wikipedia entry on him, (retrieved 3 December 2016).

[25] See Markwith’s statements in the comments section of the following post on Mark Sedgwick’s blog, (retrieved 3 December 2016).

[26] Markwith, 2016.

[27] Koslow, ibid.

[28] Markwith, private correspondence 2016; see as well his comments on Sedgwick’s blog linked above in n25.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.