During our visit to Cappadocia we made a trip to the Saruhan Caravanserai to experience the Sema: a traditional Turkish whirling dervish ceremony. As you walk through the ancient courtyard to the ceremony room and take your seat to watch, you realize once again that you are surrounded by history and are witnessing customs that harken back to an ageless time.
The mystic performance reminds one of the religious heritage of the region. Broken up into seven parts, the performance symbolizes the mystic cycle to perfection. By spinning the Semazen enter into a synchronicity with the natural revolution of all things down to the protons and electrons that constitute our reality. The journey of the dervish is to renounce the ego and ascend through love to a state of “The Perfect”. Then, the dervish is tasked with returning to the world and sharing with everything the heightened state that has been achieved.
While they whirl, the Semazen hold their arms extended with their right hands pointed towards the sky to receive God and their left hands pointed towards the earth to symbolize His immanence in all things. As well, between stages the Semazen hold their arms across their chest to symbolize God’s absolute and divine unity. The reed music that is played during the ceremony is also symbolic of the Divine Breath that brings life to all things.
During of the performance there are four salutes. The first is man’s divine birth. The second, is man’s nirvana in the face of God’s greatness. The third solute is the submission to Love. And the fourth, is the charge of the dervish, just as the prophet did, to return from spiritual journey to a position of worldly subservience to God.
The symbolism of the ceremony adds so much to the experience of being there. There is palpability in the understanding that the Semazen are sharing something incredibly personal and there is a sense that they are revealing, as an act of service, part of their souls to the world. They bring their audience in on a divine secret of an esoteric path to God only experienced by the initiated. The dervish experience added so much to our trip and was one of my favorite events during our stay in Cappadocia.