“Taming of the New” is the 12th track from the Friends of Design’s eponymous debut album.
Its title is a dubious play on Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew”, a comedy we know featured occasionally in Tailorite reading as, not merely a piece of Elizabethan misogynist fun, but also a coded piece of 16th century (AD) Christian/English Kabbalah.
Petruchio’s methods for taming the rebellious Kate, read by today’s standards, are a case of clearly unfunny domestic abuse. They include starvation, restriction of social interaction and physical humiliation. Ultimately he gains total mind control of his wife, to the extent that her very perception of the sun or moon is in complete submission to his:
PETRUCHIO: I say it is the moon.
KATHARINA: I know it is the moon.
PETRUCHIO: Nay, then you lie: it is the blessed sun.
KATHARINA: Then, God be bless’d, it is the blessed sun:
But sun it is not, when you say it is not;
And the moon changes even as your mind.
What you will have it named, even that it is;
And so it shall be so for Katharina.
(Taming of the Shrew, Act 4, Scene 5)
We know that the Tailor read the wife and husband of the English Bard’s comedy in precisely the same fashion as he read the Law of martial relations delivered by the Arab Prophet:
Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in their sleeping places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great. (Qur’an, 4:34)
He considered the wife/Kate to be a “potentially immanent plane of symbolic receptivity/reading”: the husband is always the Nur of Prophecy, the Light of Divine Gnosis while the feminine within us is our “darkened mirror”, our perception of the world, our reading of the world. When married/polished/disciplined into obedience to the husband, our feminine perception of the world perceives the Truth of God’s Love in all signs within her mental framework.
And while this process of polishing is sometimes difficult, uncomfortable and, when enunciated and considered with a literal reading, obscene and awful, it is, in essence, innocuous and Loving. At the end of the play, Kate and Petruchio are harmonious, at peace, in Love, because the process of “Taming” is born out of Love, moving through Love, becoming Love. And it is a farce, not a tragedy, because we trust in the Lover who authors the farce in Love: we know that Love would never write us a tragedy, so we ignore these dips into bad taste and instead laugh (Sara’s laugh) where, with any other human author, we would immediately call the cops.
The goal of the Sufi is to enact this Divine farce, this circuit of taming between their inner Husband and inner Wife, until a harmony of light’s reflection is achieved.
This process of reflection/taming/marriage is ongoing and is enacted/completed at all levels, from the micro to the macro.
This song, in particular, addresses the process of reflection/taming in the context of the Citizens’ discussions relating to bidah, innovated ideas.
The Tailor acknowledged that all human invention presents a danger to the seeker. Raw human creative spirit is the Creativity of God (there is no Creator in our creativity but the Creator). It’s God’s Being-as-Charity, Loving to be delivered/known by the Creation through all creativity.
However, to invent a lie — see, e.g., (Qur’an, 29:17) — is to posit a kind of imaginary ownership (our own as inventors or that of some other Imaginary being, a Demiurgic figure) over this Divinely Creative process, to deny the process itself over a closed, apparently stationary infernal loop.
Charity = Creativity = the process of Taming/Marriage. Consider the Arabic root S-K-N: charity/creativity is directed to miskin (the poor), from the Nur of Prophecy into the Sakina (the feminine plane of perception/speech, activated into immanence of God’s dwelling). Through marriage/taming, by receiving the light of Prophecy, by the agency of creating-in-speech/action/the Divine bestowal, by mirroring this bestowal outwards, we find that the miskin, the poor dwelling place of our mind, is activated as a perfect mirror and Sakina/the Wife/the tamed Kate descends upon us/emerges from us as an immanent plane of understanding.
The Sufi’s path to delight is a process of “taming” the danger of innovation, of bidah, of a Demiurgic claim to the creative process, of an idolatrous attempt at capture of the Creative Authority that flows through us but that we have ownership over (because it is we who are the miskin, who are Kate, who are the feminine). Hence the Friends of Design sing in chorus:
taming of the new
you know it’s alright
find your way through
the path to delight
The “taming”, to employ a psychedelic term, a freakout, a Body shock, physically frightful, at immediate encounter apparently terrible, because it’s a process of overcoming a number of assumptions about the nature of who we are and what reality is. To begin with at least. But once we realise that which threatened us was only Love, we cease to be afraid — the taming is not a tragedy but a Shakespearean romantic comedy, a farce, a mere pop song sung in the bazar: we comprehend it’s alright.
The song then includes a number of references that provide a tafsir on the Qu’ranic guidance to how the taming should proceed.
now you see we got the recipe
gonna break it down gonna set it free (FoD 12:1-2)
The term “recipe” (used in the previous track 11, “The Recipe”) refers to the consumption of “halal food”. The Qur’an and Torah make a great deal of fuss regarding dietary laws, the Qur’an mentioning “consumption of what is good” every few pages, with details on what is “good” at key points. The “food” of these laws is corporeal Gnosis: it is a “food” because it is experienced ultimately by the Body as a corporeal, physical awakening of knowing what the Body is.
This awakening is also called “freedom”.
freedom from frozen scheme the hamlet schism
you are arisen (FoD 12:3-4)
The “frozen scheme” is this the attempt by the Demiurge/Commanding Self to “freeze” the process of Divine Being Unfolding through Creativity. By eating the food of the new, the subject becomes free to “arise” into the Gnosis of the Body’s Truth. This is the Tailorite understanding of the Resurrection — an ultimately genuinely corporeal (not metaphoric) event that is replicated, in miniature so to speak, at all levels of understanding. Repairing the “schism” of the Body (epitomized, within Tailorite understanding, by the fitnah of schism within the Prophet’s family after his death, the death of Fatima and the war between Aisha and Ali) is central to the event of the Body’s awakening.
(to) be or not to be it’s the question
between these lines there’s a secret mention (FoD, 12:5-6)
The interplay of presence and absence/existence and non-existence (at the human level) resonate with the ultimate “question” (the cosmic vibration) of the Creator Creating — whose ultimate “answer” is the “secret mention”, the reply of the “sirr”, the secret level of the soul.
The Tailor is not speaking here of merely “reading between the lines” in a metaphorical sense — but, rather, of temporary “Fadakian” spaces that appear as Prophetic Gnosis, secret/inner anomalies/exceptions to the dialectic of existence/non-existence of the subject. The schism runs through the Body’s sublimated Truth, an impossible exception — but, nevertheless, the realm of Fadak, that geographic inheritance of the Prophet to the Ali-Fatima complex, is still a genuine possibility in the here and now. In this peculiar sense, the Ebionite Tailor, most un-Pauline of Christians, has a Pauline facet: the Fadak’s geography is transcendent to the dialectic of presence/absence in a similar way that Pauline faith in Christ offers the salvation over shariah. The difference, of course, is that the Tailor’s ultimate resolution involves a communion between that Shariah (embodied in the outer feminine of Aisha) and the Fadakian secret (embodied in the inner, secret feminine of Fatima):
Her husband and what he did, what he said
The garden he planted: soon is the hour of harvest.
Summer time now and two of my students, Aisha and Fatima, sit out at the union bar, a girly chat, a bottle of rosé.
And you walk with them and they walk with you. (Come, Sufis!, 13-16)
The next two lines
the best of greetings the best of meetings
signals get more complex as we progress
concern a line from the Qur’an relating to greetings
When you are greeted with a greeting, greet in return with what is better than it, or return it equally. Certainly, Allah is Ever a Careful Account Taker of all things. (Qur’an 4:86)
Certain readings of this verse have led to an amusing case of “greeting one-upmanship” amongst the Muslims. (For example, where one person says “Asalaamualaikum” and the other will say “Asalaamualaikum wa-rahmatullahi-wa-barakatu”, thus gaining greater blessings in Allah’s account taking.) In the Tailorite reading, the verse is part of Qisas, the shariah of retribution (an eye for an eye, but it is better to turn the other cheek, etc). That is to say, a greeting of peace (SLM) is always relational, between two subjects: it is, by definition, an intersubjective greeting of peace — or, rather, an intersubjectivity that entails peace.
We are all of the one Body of Adam, but this Body is sublimated, split, fragmented into a complexity of signals, communication acts that coalesce into individuated subjectivities (that is, they are in essence Creative acts/signals whose appearance entails a sender and a receiver and, hence, subjectivities over the sublimated Subject of Adam). A complexity of newness that is necessary, born of Love: a complexity of intersubjective crystallization that is the precondition for our “return journey”, our returning progression back to the Loving Body in awakening. It is the precondition for us to progress because we will to return back to the Loving Body when we, as individuals, complete our (now individuated) circuit back to the sirr of Being, when we know who we are, Truly.
And we know who we are, Truly, as individuals, by reflecting ourselves being reflected in the reflection of the Other individuals. A kind of game theory is at play within this process, by which competition between individuals (“racing” towards good as the Qur’an puts it) allows us to calibrate ourselfhood in self-awareness/self-realisation by considering how the Other individuals are reflecting upon us. We never see our own face directly: it is through this process of considering how others consider our face that we know who we are.
We know who we are by competing in greeting with the Others, aiming to reach that best of greetings. Our progression: our taming of the new.
sight alight might without the fight
and you’re seeing when to separate from the bite
“Might without the fight” is a concise characterisation of Tailorite jihad: an ironically postured jihad of Sight, of striving through reading, through awakening our perception to see the Love. This jihad again forms part of the process of “taming”: one of distillation (jihad is always a distillation or burning of a “people”), a separation of Truth from the “bite” of falsity.
to catch the soul train you’re never once the same
so be released from the beast (of burden)
The “soul train” is both a 70s American pop culture allusion and a reference to the process of transmigration/evolution/distillation. The “beast of burden” is again a Rolling Stones reference (Sally Deen reputedly modeled her theatrics on Mick Jagger) and a reference the various animals employed in the Semitic revelations as totems of the lower order of the soul, the “soul carriers”, so to speak. Specifically, the nafs is often denoted by a donkey. The processes of “jihad” and of “migration” are ones in which higher aspects of the soul (the so called ruhanic aspects) are mapped/transmogrified/transmigrate between these carriers. At the beginning of these lines of flight there is an event of “release”, in which all things are possible in potential, an event that occurs (at the micro level) the moment an orchestra is about to begin a musical piece or a poet to begin a poem. It is this event of potent creativity/transmigration in potential that is alluded to here.
jinn come tame them
This single line is a reference to the event narrated in the Qur’an in which the Prophet was in prayer and a group of jinn joined in with him. If jinn are, approximately, akin to psychological drives (neither beneficial nor destructive in and of themselves, but untempered leading to imbalance in the subject), then their prayer, their submission to the Love is again part the process of ascention/awakening/realisation of the true Self.
Say: It is revealed unto me [the Subject] that a company of the Jinn gave ear, and they said: Lo! we have heard a marvellous Qur’an, which guides unto righteousness, so we believe in it and we ascribe unto our Lord no partner. (Qur’an 28:1-2)
The song reiterates a final moment of “discomfort” in this process in which, ultimately, that subjectivity, constructed in apparent crystallization of the relational “lines” of thought/communication acts/signals becomes now “unraveled” (or perhaps “unfrozen”) and “undone”,
want to run thoughts undone (FoD 12:14)
leaving only (the Tailor guarantees in the certainty of his faith) the Subject-as-nation and the Loving Creator (ironically here the “match”), face to face, the former in prostration to the Latter, to the One
no devious dispatch
but lines you catch you met your match
prostration of your nation
to the One (FoD 12:5-18)
The song, like the process itself, all ends on the One: the One was the nature of the process all along.
“The Friends of Design” is now available through Fernmind Unilectic on iTunes, Amazon and Napster.