“Authority Flow” is the 8th track from the Friends of Design’s eponymous debut album. It is what Sally Deen would refer to as their “Ringo” track — the one song on the album that features the Tailor on lead vocals with the Matronita playing the backing chanteuse.
The song is primarily concerned with the seeker subject’s relationship to the Awliya Allah, the collective “friends”/”allies” of God. These Friends feature within esoteric and exoteric Islamic organisational hierarchies on the basis of their mention in the Qur’an
Unquestionably, the Friends of Allah: no fear/threat upon them and they will no grieve, those who believe and are conscious. For them are good tidings in the life of the world and in the hereafter. No change is there in the Words of Allah (kalimati lilah). That is what is the great success. (Qur’an 10:62-64)
The Friends of Allah are yattaquna, a word meaning conscious in the sense of a fearful awe/reverence (in consciousness of the Infinity of Love, as distinct from the fear-of-threat that the verse promises is not upon the Friends), in the related sense of possessing taqwa, God-consciousness-as-piety.
The breadth and scope of the awliya — who’s in and who’s out — was, at the time of the Tailor, a point of contention amongst the Muslims and, specifically, groups professing to Sufism. Some called the Awliya an elect group of saints and teachers, others a level of Islamic practice accessible only after long discipline under a teacher, others “merely” a desirable level of piety embodied by the majority of Muslims in general.
Of course, since the Verandah Vanguard brought Tailorism into the mainstream, utilizing these very nasheeds as their weaponry, as we enter into this very Tailorite century, each one of us a Tailor-unto-himself, there is no longer any dispute and we all understand that all of the above is partial truth.
“The Sufis”, the saints and teachers, the lineages of gnosis and chains of transmission from Prophecy to us — this elite hierarchy does indeed constitute the Friends of Allah. And the Friends are corporeal, Real beings that can be encountered in the here and now. But these “Friends” are encountered, by definition, within the Symbolic/Imaginal realm of Reading, the space the album repeatedly refers to as “the dreamscape”.
Initiation into the Friendship is not the means by which one learns to Read, in the same way that, say, joining a Masonic lodge might assist in career opportunities: rather, learning to Read is the pre-condition, and Reading correctly is the flight/initiation into that Friendship. Rather than being a group of teachers who confer gnosis upon the seeker, to encounter them in their corporeal Reality is gnosis.
The song, like the name of the group itself, brings a hip-hop braggadocio sensibility to describe this process of encounter through reading. (That said, we know that the Tailor’s braggadocio was always supreme in its irony.)
The Tailor is joined by the Matronita in chorus, with the Geographer’s subtle guitar funk in play underneath:
get over to window
our Authority flow
i think you know
The “window” is the crack in signs/language/perception/our heads/our houses/our soul through which the Nur of Allah can enter. Their “Authority” flowing through these cracks is the Words of Allah — the kalimati lilah of (Qur’an 10:62-64) — is the pure Speech/Words of God that constitute the Body of the human subject. It is as if each sign has a window through which the actual Word (meaning) of Allah shines through, if we look at it/Read it in the correct fashion. The possessive is deliberately ambiguous regarding who is in possession — either a Hallajian hip-hop claim or else a Russian affectionate posture (“our Sophia”). Either way, an audacious claim on intimacy with these Words: but for the Gnostic, the Beloved in immanent form (wherein the Words are Read everywhere, shining through all signs) is often intimate and personal, and we know that the Tailor, like those ecstatic Rabbis and Sheikhs of old, took things to greater extremes with his crypto-erotic poetry.
The song addresses all systems, from an entire ummah, to the components of an individual soul to the very words in a text: “communicating agents” are a metaphorical reference to software agents in computer science, computational units possessing limited forms autonomy, mobility and memory, collaborating through communication as a collective to achieve particular goals according to set (but possibly evolving) rules. The nation/text/individual is understood not as a unity, but as a multiplicity of such agents in communication, evolving, like cells in a body, or nodes in a network, into a state of “knowing”, gnosis, the light shining through their Window.
The Tailor then shifts voice and speaks as the subject in relation to the Friends:
i never had the least notion
that this monadic of mine
could enter a state of union
with friends of design
The first line is a reference to the Gershwin brothers’ song “I’ve Got a Crush on You”:
I’ve got a crush on you, sweetie pie
All the day and night-time give me sigh
I never had the least notion that
I could fall with so much emotion
(“I’ve Got a Crush on You”, 10-13)
The original song concerns an urbane Lothario who boasts of his eligibility (“How glad the many millions of Annabelles and Lillians/Would be to capture me”) and his ability to remain a free bachelor, then turning to contemplate his first real Love (“But you had such persistence, you wore down my resistance/I fell and it was swell”).
Here the Tailor is playing the same Lothario-as-seeker-subject, contemplating now his movement from urbane bachelor into a surprise entrance (the entrance is always a surprise, that’s what makes it fearful) into the space of Love, the space of the Awliya Allah. The “bachelor unit” is referred to in third person as “this monadic (substance) of mine”, the monad taken from Leibniz and Deleuze rather than the earlier Gnostic or Greek connotation. The bachelor unit/monadic substance’s entrance into the space of the Friends is also a kind of retort against those who felt his philosophy was “mere solipsism”. The monad is, like a node in Indra’s net and also a software agent, both a unity-unto-itself and a reflection of the totality of Creation: any coordinated act of “communication” or “relationship” between one monad and another is mere appearance — a generated, secondary felt effect of each monads’ encapsulated functionality/totality/universal reflection. The monad, in this way, is a kind of logical predicate those domain of apparent application (whose apparent relationship) is the totality of creation (including the very act of its own predication, self-referentially).
That is, through an individual meditation on the monad as utter encapsulation, through unpacking each monad in its reflective encapsulation, to grasp this totality contained within its isolation (solipsism), we grasp the totality of interconnectedness, we become interconnected. The monad as a surprise “birth”-day present: its unpacking is the surprise. Mere solipsism doesn’t do the process justice: the Tailor is talking about subatomic solipsism, through unpacking the subatomic, essentially disconnected monadic substances of the human/text/ummah, we can ultimately join the ranks of the Friends, and enter into pure, total interconnectedness. A monadic network is the Awliya Allah’s nature. (The monad itself encapsulates historical, geographical, spatial forms of extension – they are appearances, secondary functionalities of its reflective containment. This is why Sufis can speak directly to Saints from distant lands, centuries past or centuries future.)
This entrance begins with Islam, in its true sense of a (dynamic) Journey/Path/Reading of Peace.
but once along the journey
on the path to peace
i stumbled upon a fountain
for my thirst some relief
The self is driven upwards to the source of the soul’s emanation, the Fountain Kauthar (from which the four rivers derive):
Indeed we have given you Al-Kauthar
So pray to your lord and sacrifice
Indeed, your enemy, he: the one cut off. (103:1-3)
Entrance is always serendipitous, accidental, a leap of faith, a surprise: hence the bachelor subject’s “stumbling” to the fountain.
After drinking from this fountain, joining the party with the Friends, the subject exclaims:
if music be the food of Love
then give me excess
beyond a state of knowing
no one can possess
The first two lines are a Shakespearean misquote — Orsino, another bachelor, this time not a happy one, pondering the nature of his love:
If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it; that surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
(Twelfth Night Act 1, scene 1, 1–3)
The Tailorite spin is a misquote, but also a consistent misreading: the “food of Love” is the body of the Christ, it is manna, it is the halal food of the Qur’an, it is Divine Gnosis. And Gnosis is musical in form: the Sufi cries out now for excess (the root of Kauthar having a connotation of “abundance”, “overflow”), not to consume the music, but, rather, to be consumed by it — not to a naive fana of the selfhood, but, rather, to awaken the Real subjecthood from its slumber, the “appetite” (nafsic drives) sickening and passing away. This is why the subject moves “beyond a state of knowing/no one can possess”. Beyond human, personal knowledge, now subsisting within/on/in accord with Allah’s Knowledge (that which “no one can possess”). Personal knowledge is always relative, a particular monadic configuration. While Allah’s Knowledge is absolute — but because it is possessed by “no one” — its approach is purely relative, local and dynamic by the very perennial nature of the Knowledge. .
The approach to that Absolute Knower itself is something that “almost” transcends Time by embodying, living/breathing/singing in (musical) Time: a temporally relative, dynamic non-perennial formulation, with the consequent individual form of relative gnosis configured in transmissive chains of alliance within the communion with the Awliya Allah. The subject joins the party “along the edge of Time”, drinking a transfinite, intra-temporal elixir of Gnosis: the subject drinks from the Divine Drinking-itself. And, following the traditional Islamic formulation, everyone is welcome, everyone ends up at that bar, eventually, with Time.
when you come across that party
along the edge of Time
come in and drink that knowing
with the friends of design
“The Friends of Design” is now available through Fernmind Unilectic on iTunes, Amazon and Napster.