The Basics of Spirituality

One should not pass over these things, simply saying they are food. They are in reality a complete civilization. –Abdulhak Sinasi, Camlicadaki Enistemiz (1944)

I really like the philosophy and spirituality of the Mevlevi (a Sufi brotherhood which originated in the Seljuq period, under Mevlana Jalaluddin-i Rumi) because the kitchen is central to their philosophy and daily life. Their rituals value the importance of taking time to cook, something we are missing in the modern age. Many of our ancestral rituals, whatever culture we come from, focused around food and cooking. The alchemical mystery of fire, water, air and earth coming together to create something new that nourishes and pleasures our bodies and senses has inspired mystics and poets, around the world, for thousands of years. Food is an aspect of spirituality that we all easily resonate with.

The kitchen held an important place in the communal life of the Mevlevis, serving as a place of training and initiation. The purpose was not only utilitarian but also symbolic; the process of cooking was held to be analogous to the maturing of man’s soul, in accordance with the well-known statement of Rumi, “I was raw, then I was cooked, then I burned.”

A complex hierarchy of kitchen-related ranks existed among the Mevlevis, and the running of each of their hospices was supervised by a triumvirate consisting of the Kazanci Dede (Cauldron Elder), the Asci Dede (Chief Cook), and the Bulasikci Dede (Elder in charge of Dishwashing). – Classical Turkish Cooking by Ayla Algar (1991) p12.

The Mevlevi are more commonly known as the whirling dervishes. Mevlevi philosophy gets right to the roots of spirituality by focusing on the basics. They put value and invest their energy into two very simple acts; those of eating and moving. Taking care of their bodies with good food, they create powerful physical vessels for generating and holding the energy of God as they twirl. This deep and very real lifestyle is a strong contrast to our modern world, where dishwashers are the lowest paid individuals and whirling or shaking is considered madness. On the other hand, the modern man surrounds himself with cellphones and other electrical appliances without full knowledge of their effect on our health or our ability to use our own bodies to tune into the energies of nature.

Full details of the seven parts of the Sema Ceremony can be found here.

Many quite varied spiritual groups have had sacred movement as a central key in their ecstatic communication with God, the Shakers and Quakers are more well known in our modern Western world. Most indigenous groups practice some type of dance, jumping or, as in the case of the whirling dervishes, spinning to achieve this trance state. Anyone who has tried whirling in the manner of the Dervish–called the Sema Ceremony–even for a couple minutes will quickly be able to attest to the simplicity and ease that a trance state is achieved with this action.

It is interesting to consider the mechanics of these movements. Twirling or shaking increases the magnetic fields in and around the human body. Many such oscillators pulsing together can generate very powerful electro-magnetic fields.

I recently came across a very interesting site by Bradford Keeney that advocates Sacred Shaking as a form of medicine and method for connecting to the divine. The following excerpts from from his site will explain this much better than I can. Please visit his website for more information.

The shaking traditions propose that we most deeply thirst and hunger for an ongoing immersion in ecstatic experience. The source of this shaking bliss is what the Ju/’hoan Bushmen call n/om. They wisely never give a totalizing definition of n/om, but respectfully allude to it being a mystery responsible for bringing forth life’s vitality and acknowledge that its root is open-ended limitless love. When you have n/om, it makes you shake with ecstatic delight.

For members of textually constrained cultures, it is often difficult to loosen the cognitive habits and tightly constructed belief systems that inhibit fully awakened feelings.

We sacrificed our link-to-the-universe-heart for a delusional body-less-head-trip that has imprisoned us far too long.

The Ju/’hoan Bushman hold the oldest spiritual, shamanic, and healing practices on Earth. Unlike most other cultures, they do not believe that “words” can change the world. They give little importance to written or fixed oral tradition, but emphasize the way n/om touches the whole of our mind/body/heart/soul. They see the rest of the world as largely ignorant, blinded by the trickster nature of thought, and starved for the living presence of n/om.

As the oldest living culture they have not harmed the Earth and they have never declared war on other people. Perhaps they offer a true alternative to the language games of other cultural religions, philosophies, and ways of being.

Thinking of this brings me to an interesting video I recently watched which has a beautiful vision for humanity. An Earth surrounded by a beautiful, healing rainbow generated by us. This is the vision I much prefer to dream of and put my energy into. Why waste your time, energy and thoughts on an apocalyptic visions of various types of destruction? As Jose Arguelles points out in the following short video, humankind has the powerful ability to create something incredibly beautiful if we only decide to try.

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