The Mevlevi Order founded by Mevlana is made up first and foremost of tekyes(tekke) analogous to the monastaries of the West. The first of these tekyes is named for Mevlana and was consi dered as the originator of all the rest. One figure stands out in the early spread of the order: Divani Mehmet Celebi. The celebis or gentle ones who went out to break new ground and make converts saw themselves as disciples of this great master, and an astonishing number of tekyes were established during Divani Mehmet celebi's lifetime and thanks to his efforts; in Aleppo, Egypt and Algeria, on the islands of Chios and Mitilene, and of course on the Turkish mainland. The Galata Mevlevihane is among these latter.
The rituals of the Rumi's followers (Whirling Dervishes) are among the enduring as well as the most exquisite ceremonies of spirituality.
The ritual whirling of the dervishes is an act of love and a drama of faith. It posseses a highly structured form within which the gentle turns become increasingly dynamic as the individual dervishes strive to achieve a state of trans. The music that accompanies the whirling from beginning to end ranges from somber to rhapsodical; its effect is intended to be mesmerizing. Chanting of postry, rhythmic rotation, and incessant music create a synthesia which, according to the faithful, induces a feeling of soaring, of ecstasy, of mystical flight.
The Mevlevi sect belongs to the Sunni or orthodox mainstream of Islam. Its doctrine never developed a revolutionary strategy-and although it was occasionally criticized for its heretical ideas, it always enjoyed the respect of the officialdom.
Many later Sultans, including Mehmed, the Conqueror of Istanbul, were enamored of Mevlevi ideals. The reformist Sultan Selim III was virtually a member. Suleyman, probably the greatest of the Sultans, held the Mevlevi dervishes in high esteem and their semahane(whirling hall) constructed for them as his imperial gift. The hall/mosque stands next to Rumi's mausoleum.
The Whirling Dervishes played a vitally important part in the evolution of Ottoman high culture. From the fourteenth to the twentieth century , their impact on classical poetry, calligraphy, and the visual arts was profound, while music was perhaps their greatest achievement. Since the dogmatists of Islam's orthodoxy opposed music as being harmful to the listener and detrimental to religous life, no sacred music or mosque music evolved except for the Mevlud, a poem in praise of the Prophet, chanted on high occasions or as arequiem. Rumi and his followers integrated music into their rituals as an article of faith. In his verses, Rumi emphasized that music uplifts our spirit to realms above, and we hear the tunes of the Gates of Paradise. The meeting places of the dervishes, consequently, became academies of art, music, and dance. Today, the performances of The Whirling Dervishes includes twelve musicians (on traditional Turkish instruments) and 12 dancers. There is also a master of ceremony. A per formance is broken into two parts with the introduction conducted by the master followed by 3 or 4 pieces of music. This is followed by a 4-part whirling ceremony.
The fundamental condition of our existence is to revolve. There is no object, no being which does not revolve. The shared similarity between all created things is the revolution of the electrons, protons, and neutrons within the atoms that constitute their basic structure. From the smallest cell to the planets and the farthest stars, everything takes part in this revolving. Thus, The Semazens, the ones who whirl, participate consciously in the shared revolution of all existence.
The Sema ceremony represents a spiritual journey; the seeker's turning toward God and truth, a maturing through love, the transformation of self as a way of union with God, and the return to life as the servant of all creation.
The Semazen ( with a camel's-felt hat representing a tombstone and a wide white skirt symbolizing the death shroud), upon removing his black cloack, is spiritually born to Truth. The semazens stand with their arms crossed, ready to begin their turn. In their erect posture, they represent the unmber one, testifying to God's unity. Each rotationtakes them past the sheikh, who stands on a red sheep skin. This is the place of Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi , and the sheikh is understood to be a channel for the divine grace. At the start of each of the four movements of the ceremony, the semazens bow to each other honoring the spirit within. As their arms unfold, the right hand opens to the skies in prayer, ready to receive God's beneficience. The left hand, upon which his gaze rests, is turned towards the earth in the gesture of bestowal.
One of the beauties of this seven-centuries-old ritual is the way that it
unifies the three fundamental components of man's nature; mind, emotion,
and spirit, combining them in a practice and a worship that seeks the
purification of all three in the turning towards Divine Unity.
But most significantly, the enrichment of this earth and the well-being
of humanity as a whole.
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