Rumi and the Sema
Trip Start Mar 21, 2005
351Trip End Ongoing
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I died as plant and rose to animal,
I died as animal and I was Man.
Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?
Yet once more I shall die as Man, to soar
With angels blest; but even from angelhood
I must pass on: all except God doth perish.
When I have sacrificed my angel-soul,
I shall become what no mind e'er conceived.
Oh, let me not exist! for Non-existence
Proclaims in organ tones,
To Him we shall return
In the thirteenth century, the Turks were new arrivals in Asia Minor, coming from the eastern steppes. Genghis Khan was on his way west as well, destroying cities as he went. Rumi, with his father, mother, and family headed west before Genghis, trying to avoid his violence.
Rumi eventually settled in Konya, after travels around the Middle East and realizing:
Why should I seek? I am the same as He. His essence speaks through me.I have been looking for myself!
After an overnight train to Konya and months of anticipation for this moment, I paid my respects at Rumi's tomb, having read his poetry and philosophies along the way through Central Asia. He is one of those great beings who has many messages, but they all point one direction.
To our Western minds, perhaps another point is that the Islamic world is not necessarily a violent place, the Koran can be seen from many directions, and that we really have to wonder which side is more violent in the end, if you look at all aspects of violence, from the coarse to the subtle.
In Istanbul, to complete the picture of Rumi and his mysticism, I went to a Sema ritual, known better as a Whirling Dervish mystical dance, where spiritual music filled a performance hall of the Orient Express Train Station, a flute singing like a soul, a drum pounding God's command of creation--"Be!"
The dancers, with their felt hats symbolizing the death of the ego, spun counter-clockwise like the planets, giving everything away, all that they gathered, spiritually, keeping nothing for themselves, their ego was dead and they reunited with Him (they were true Muslims, translated as Submitters to God).
But words are not really necessary here, anymore...