Dervish Retreat Center

About the Turn

The Mevlevi order is a Sufi order (sometimes called the whirling dervishes) that is known throughout the world. While you can now read books, listen to CD's and see videos about whirling dervish and their founder Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi (1207-1273), you cannot "know" what it is to turn in the mystical contemplation of the divine. For this you need a teacher and a guide. You also need a sincere determination, as well as physical, emotional, and spiritual strength to achieve the states of enraptured absorption that the Dervish experiences.

The training takes about a year of practicing every day to gain insight into what it is one is actually doing, and a lifetime to refine and perfect it. The teacher (Sheikh/ Sheikha) must be able to transmit the unspeakable to the student. The student, in turn, must surrender parts of him/her self that the ego guards fearfully. The Sheikh must be patient, cunning, intuitive, inspiring, and demanding for the student to "leap over his/her shadow".

The steps themselves are few and simple, but like a top, unless you are perfectly centered, you cannot disappear into an infinitesimally thin axis so that everything you take yourself to be is whirling around you, and you are that existence which has no physical residence. This is the way of the Dervish. This is what Dervishes call "True Love."

The word Dervish comes from the roots dar, meaning door, and vish, which can mean contemplation or meditation. The contemplative Dervish sits on threshold of the phenomenal and noumenal worlds -- being in them but not of them.

The Sufi or Dervish Path

Sufism is an insight into the True Identity and a dedication to live in accordance with that understanding. The Whirling Dervishes have practices which clarify the subjective self as a mistaken interpretation of sensation and perception. The Sufi disavows that identity when seeing that the objective world and subjective self are unified as perception in consciousness. The traditional Sufi stories and poetry are handed down by the Sheikh or Sheikha and the Murshid or Murshida. The aspiring Sufi or Dervish student receives a transmission via sincere listening, so that the intuitive and emotional, as well as the analytical faculties are activated. Dervishes are asked to contemplate and meditate to comprehend Who It Is that sees through the eyes and hears through the ears. When the Dervishes or Sufis say, "Allah is closer than your jugular vein," it is because these mystics realize the impulses on the nerves of all the senses and discriminating mind give rise to an objective world and a subjective self, which appear to be separate, however these impulses are the life force or emanations of the Only Beingness.

The following is a poem by Jelaluddin Rumi which points to this:

"Everything you see is an apparition of the unseen.
The forms are impermanent, yet the essence is changeless.
Every sight will return to the unseen.
Every utterance will end in the original silence,
Do not cling to the mirages,
The source they come from is eternal, expanding,
Spreading, bearing endless lives and endless joy.
What causes the sorrow?
When the source is within
And this whole universe is arising from it".

Sheikha Khadija turning
Khadija turning in the Sema of Shebi Arus in 1983
"Sema is humanity's turning to truth and spiritual ascent through reason and love. Deserting the ego, the dervish reaches annihilation in the loved one [which is] perfection (Kemal) and returns to the former state of subservience."

Celaleddin Bakir Celebi

"Sema is to struggle with the notion of one's self, like a dying, bloodstained bird, fluttering in the dust."