Saturday, October 3, 2015

Philip Jacobs: Dance of the Dervishes

AN INTERVIEW with Paula Marvelly,

How Rumi’s spontaneous turning led to a centuries-old tradition

“Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.” 

IN AN INTERVIEW with Paula Marvelly, Philip Jacobs, resident Sheikh of the London-based The Study Society, discusses Advaita, Sufism and the turning ceremony of the whirling dervishes, and in particular the way in which sacred dance can be a direct means for accessing, and becoming one with, the Divine. The accompanying film, Only Dance, shows the ceremony in action.

PM: In your [unpublished] autobiography, The Pathless Path, in the part where you describe when you were a child, I was struck by your response to nature, aesthetics, and the visual world; above all, how sensitive you were.

Philip Jacobs: At school, I never knew what was really going on most of the time because I am not an academic. But I have always been intensely visual, as you say, so I just responded very intensely to any visual stimulus.

In terms of finding a career, the only thing I was really good at was painting so it meant my career direction just had one path to go down, which was an art career. There’s a Joseph Campbell quote, “Follow your bliss.” If you follow your bliss, doors open for you where you didn’t know doors were going to be.

And that’s just so totally been my experience. The more life goes on, the more I am just amazed at the precision of it. What an absolutely precise drama it is. Even down to when I lost my farmhouse recently, already this place I am now living in had just become empty, so you learn to trust life’s process.

Looking back on life, it has been like that all the way along; the next stepping stone appears just before the last one falls away.

PM: What is it about painting that so liberates you?

Philip Jacobs: When I am painting, I just get so happy. It’s like when I learnt to meditate. Why I can relate painting to meditating so well is that I become quiet and a great happiness emerges from inside.

So having painting as the way I earn my living is a bit like meditating or playing all day for the past thirty-six years. I do textile designs mostly; I used to be design director of a big furnishing fabric company and then in the early 1990s, minimalism came in, so no one really wanted nice chintzy fabrics anymore, so that gradually fell away.

I have a friend called Kaffe Fassett; he was a fellow whirling dervish and at the moment, he and I work for Westminster Fibers and we design fabrics, mainly for the patchwork quilting market, chiefly in America but also around the world. I really love that. With furnishings, I was a little limited to what was going to work on a sofa or as a pair of curtains; with this, I can completely let go and have a lovely time.

PM: I was recently reading David Lynch’s book, Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness and Creativity. He started life off as a painter and then moved into film. Just like what you are saying, Lynch realized that initially, all he wanted to devote his life to was painting; that’s all that mattered to him, and everything else was secondary. Painting was the raison d’être of his life. Lynch also said if you love something, everything will naturally fall into place. But he also said that you have to really love it; you can’t be half-hearted about it.

Philip Jacobs: That’s very true. You have to love it and then totally devote yourself to it. Then, as a by-product, the money will follow.

PM: That’s also what Lynch said, that you don’t have to worry about the money. But it’s a hell of a leap to trust that the money will follow because so often it doesn’t, which then raises the question, is one devoted enough?

Philip Jacobs: The way I see it is that life is an already-constructed movie, so in your movie, it has to be constructed that you will be an artist from the outset. Then you have the love and devotion, and then you work very hard. But when you are working hard at something you love, it doesn’t feel like working, it just feels like playing. So you are having a great time trying to develop lots of different ideas, and in a strange way, you get looked after one way or another.

The Study Society

PM: What is your role at The Study Society?

Philip Jacobs: My role is to be in charge of the whirling dervishes and the main ceremony, called the mukabele. We also have other activities like drumming groups, music groups and poetry groups, which are under the umbrella of the dervishes. Lots of young people are starting to come into the classes and be a part of the group, and as a by-product they start to access their true Being.

PM: In Sufism, is the turning a very specific aspect of the teaching?

Philip Jacobs: Sufism is the mystical branch of Islam, within which there are lots of different dervish orders. The particular one we are connected with is called the Mevlevi Order of Dervishes, founded by the great Persian poet and mystic, Jalallu’ddin Rumi, in the thirteenth century. He spontaneously went into a whirling dance; his immediate family then formalized it into the ceremony, the mukabele, which means “coming face to face” and which has been preserved right down to the present day.

In 1925, the then ruler of Turkey, Kemal Atatürk, wanted to modernize Turkey and thus he wanted to ban all dervish orders, all fortune tellers, anything which he felt was holding Turkey back from being a modern Western nation. So all the poor dervishes had suddenly to go underground because they could be imprisoned if they turned in public.

In the late 50s, turning was starting to be allowed again, but only as a government-run tourist attraction. Some of our older Colet House members were invited out to one of the ceremonies in Konya, Turkey, and they caught the eye of a Sheikh, Resuhi Baykara, who was presiding over the ceremony. They invited him back to come and teach the turning in London; he went and asked the head of his tradition, who said to him, yes, you must go.

So in 1963, he came over and taught the ceremony; he wanted us to keep it exactly as it had always been taught and practised in Turkey. What was happening with the tourist-attraction dervishes was that they were changing it and doing different music, using strange-coloured robes, and cutting bits out to make it more appealing.

So our job is to preserve the original method and the tradition as it had always been taught. Then he made Dr Roles, the then head of The Study Society, a Sheikh. He did this, he said, “because of the light in his eyes.”

PM: What is the point of the turning?

Philip Jacobs: The technique for the Mevlevi turning we teach is very precise. The learning of it is probably the most physically demanding thing anyone ever does in their lifetime; they say it is comparable to childbirth, so I am told. It is very difficult. It is very demanding physically and very demanding emotionally. When people come along to do it, we interview them first and see if they are suitable; we also do a medical questionnaire.

It’s amazing to watch people in the process. The whole technique is about opening the heart but before that happens something must take place; there is a dervish phrase, bash kasmak, which means “chopping off the head”. During the process of training and the ceremony, the rational discursive mind gradually starts to fall off and you can actually see this happening to people.

Some people struggle against it but when it happens, they start to look physically younger, and in particular, ladies become more beautiful. It’s like a falling in love process that happens. It doesn’t happen to everyone in the training; for some, it takes a long time and they have to do it for several years before it happens. But for many people, you see it happen during the process of the training. That’s why people do it; it’s such a direct route for accessing the great stillness that is your true nature.

With the turning, there is so much to attend to within the movement, there’s no room for any sort of random thoughts; you can’t turn and think random thoughts. When you bow into the turning room, the bowing is called bash kasmak; that’s when your head is chopped off. Because it is so difficult to get through the whole ceremony, you have to completely surrender and let go of the sense of your separate self being the doer.

The journey of the ceremony is like life; to get through it, you have to hand over to something much larger than yourself. Because of the one-pointed attention, all your daily life completely falls away. I have turned for thirty-six years. I have been through a number of major romantic traumas during that time! I remember on one of the worst days of my life after a romantic trauma, I went and turned and at the end of the ceremony, I was just so happy. I knew I was having a terrible time but I could see it was down there somewhere, and that’s why I love it.

PM: Is the turning like meditation in that it builds up a residue of stillness?

Philip Jacobs: Yes, it builds up an accumulative energy. In Sanskrit, it’s called sattva, the energy of being, which gradually permeates you. With the dervishes, after a good mukabele, you have a beingness that is palpable afterwards for many days.

If you do it on a regular basis, it’s almost like the beingness becomes your background. It’s not really giving you anything new; rather, it is showing you what was there already but you were looking for something else.

Rumi and Shams of Tabriz


PM: Could you speak about the relationship between Rumi and Shams of Tabriz, the maverick and mystical dervish. There’s that wonderful story about when they first met, Rumi was reading some books and Shams asked Rumi what he was doing, to which Rumi replied, “Nothing you would understand.” Then Shams threw all his books into a well, then retrieved them and they were all dry. Rumi asked him what he was doing, to which Shams replied, “Nothing you would understand.”

Philip Jacobs: Rumi had been an academic philosopher and was ripe for meeting the great mystic, Shams of Tabriz. When they met, it was described as the meeting of two oceans, which is a metaphor I rather like. That’s when Rumi’s heart opened and he “found” himself.

Shams was supposedly murdered by Rumi’s followers; Rumi became totally distraught and this is when all the poetry flowed out of him, in the Mathnavi and the Diwan-e Shams-e Tabrizi.

The actual teaching contained within them is identical to Advaita; it’s a nondual teaching with a very strong heart emphasis.

PM: So essentially, there is no difference between Advaita and Sufism.

Philip Jacobs: There is no difference.

PM: Traditional Advaita people would say they are not the same!

Philip Jacobs: They are the same. They are “not two”. When I give talks, I slip in and out of Advaita metaphors and Rumi metaphors; they fit together so well and they are both saying exactly the same thing.

PM: Rumi has become over glamorized, I feel. Apparently, he is the most published poet in the West, outstripping any other poet, even Shakespeare. But his poetry is often used in a romantic context, when it’s not really talking about that at all.

Philip Jacobs: That’s right, it’s not. Coleman Barks, the American poet, does his own renditions of Rumi, which are absolutely beautiful but they are often little cross sections of Rumi’s work. He often absorbs a poem and then retells it in his own way. It’s his translations that have led to Rumi becoming the most popular poet.

In Persia, they absolutely adore Rumi. In the last couple of years, we have been attracting lots of Persians from the London Persian community; we have our own Farsi version of the Mathnavi group that meets at Colet House on Tuesdays. We also had a big Rumi celebration festival recently; we had poetry in the morning and then all afternoon, we had Persian musicians playing their music to drumming and turning.

Essentially, the teaching is that you have a temporal identity in time and then there is your inner identity, which is often referred to as the heart. At first, it appears that our heart is the still centre inside of us; in the training, at first, what normally happens is that the pain body, as Eckhart Tolle refers to it, comes to the surface. You can see that; people start crying, get angry, and so on. That’s all fine, you just have to let that pass.

The pain body then starts to dissolve away, rather like sediment rising, and people start to access what they call the heart, the stillness, which lies behind the psyche and the thoughts and feelings. When that happens, people start to look visibly younger, they soften, and the falling in love process happens. That’s stage one.

Stage two is when you discover that the heart isn’t just inside you. Everything you perceive is in the heart and you start noticing that everything you are experiencing and everything you are perceiving is actually taking place within this still centre.

PM: I guess that’s why people love to go dancing in whatever form it may take because that kind of movement means you are effectively renouncing your mind.

Philip Jacobs: Yes. There are so many things that people do, like extreme sports, where you get taken to the edge of yourself, like mountaineering, for example, which is all about re-accessing this underlying stillness.

With the dervish ceremony, the whole of the teaching is symbolically embedded in the ceremony, so it’s like a metaphor. It’s very lovely.

continue reading HERE


Friday, October 2, 2015

Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh - The Ocean

An endless ocean,
         All water,
              All water

    You are limited
         And so you assume it limited

    Your images are inside of you
         But they do not belong to you

    Like; the planets, and the galaxies,
         You are a hidden particle
              Who are you? You are non-existent

    And everything that belongs to you
         And your earth
              It is all nothing in nothing

    He was present from pre-eternity
         And continuously repeats itself until post-eternity
              A wave is silent, another one appears

    Drop the shape, break the form
         The shape of mind
              The form of this dream of existence

    Listen to the ocean
         The true song of creation

    That there was ocean and nothing else
         And now there is ocean and nothing else.

Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh - The People of Loving-Kindness

We are the people of Loving-kindness-leaders,
     guides of one another.
From the purity of Love’s footstep,
     we are helpers of one another.

though in body separate, we are all
     but one spirit,
Soul and spirit, heart and possessor of hearts
     of one another.

We are all one people,
     without “you and I,” only “we,”
All equal, all Love, all beloveds
     to one another.

But for us, no one is allowed
     to enter our courtyard.
We are chained to each other, all sympathizers
     with one another.

Each one would sacrifice himself
     for the other here.
All are candles and moths, all flowers and garden
     for one another.

Our assembly, no doubt, is the solitude
     of companionship.
All are drunk and sober
     from one another.

The armies of the self
     have fled from us,
For we are all fellow soldiers here, all commanders
     of one another.

Our pain requires
     neither doctor nor remedy.
We are all the cure, all the sickness
     of one another.

If you call someone here,
     all will say “yes,”
For all have one name; all are companions, vigilant
     for one another.

O Nurbakhsh it is from being without
     “I and we”
That we are the desire and the customer
     of one another.


Excerpt from Divani Nurbakhsh Sufi Poetry 



Sorupa Saram (The Essence of One’s Own True Nature)

Benedictory Verse Addressed to the Self

May the unique Self, which appears as various objects in the same way that gold takes the shape of the mould into which it is cast, be our support and guide for composing this work, Sorupa Saram, which proclaims that the nature of the world is only consciousness.


2 Since the three kinds of differences do not exist, everything is only consciousness. The certainty of the existence of consciousness is stated in this way.

Since there is nothing at all that is different from consciousness, the five elements, along with the five senses and the five organs of sense, all these are consciousness only. Whatever is in the beginning, in the middle and in the end – all these are also consciousness. The indescribable illusion is also consciousness. The one who perceives everything and the act of perceiving are also consciousness.

3 Question: Is there a logical way of concluding that everything is consciousness alone?

Answer: Yes, there is.

All the world’s diversity, which derives from the misperceptions of the mind and which appears to be real – is it not the witnessing consciousness alone? Hence, everything – beginning with liberation and including purity and impurity, joy and misery, that which is and that which is not – is only being.

4 Question: If all is being, do objects appear as one’s own Self, which is being-consciousness-bliss?

Answer: Yes, they do.

In whichever direction I look there is absolute perfection. The real nature of all the holy waters is blissful consciousness. The real nature of all the verses praising the Lord is bliss. Apart from me, what other form can exist?

5 Question: Is the above statement merely verbal or is it experienced?

Answer: It is experienced as well.

My Guru instructed: ‘Sir, the world appearance and its substratum – all these are you. There is no one who does not say “I”. Therefore enquire thoroughly into the “I”.’ If this is known intently and thoroughly [one can say] ‘I myself am pure consciousness’. Hence, I am the primal entity.

6 Question: Which entity had this experience of the Self, and when did the experience arise?

Answer: It is experienced by myself and the experience is ever-present.

I saw my real nature as pure consciousness. I see only myself, and not the great multitude of the world. Simply because I had not looked at myself thoroughly, did I at any time cease to exist?

7 Question: If everything is only the Self, why are the names many?

Answer: The many names do not make the Self multiple.

Since everyone abides as ‘I’ and declares himself to be ‘I’, right up to Iswara there is nothing other than ‘me’. The same person is addressed differently as son, brother and father; but for that reason will the body of the person become different?

8 Question: If so, the known and the knower will be different.

Answer: No, they won’t be different.
It is my Self who remained as the [seer] ‘I’. Those objects that were rejected as ‘not I’ – these too are my Self. It is like someone who goes to sleep at night as himself, manifests [in dream] as the form of [the seer and] the world and then wakes up as himself.

9 Question: What is the inherent nature of the Self that shone as everything?

Answer: It is ‘shining by itself as itself’.

The Self that shines as the body, as the beloved soul, as all the actions, as ignorance, as the enjoyment of true knowledge, as the blissful reality and as the one consciousness – that indeed is my own real nature.

continue reading the full text here:  Sorupa Saram

Rumi ♡ - I and thou

Blessed time! when we are sitting,
I and thou,
With two forms and only one soul,
I and thou.
Fragrance, song of birds, they quicken
When we come into the garden,
I and thou.
All the stars of heaven hurry
to see us,
And we show them our own moon,
I and thou.
I and thou without words, without
I and thou -
In delight we are united,
I and thou.
Sugar chew the heaven's parrots
in that place
Where we're sitting, laughing sweetly,
I and thou.
Strange that I and thou together in this nook
Are apart yet thousand miles, see -
I and thou.
One form in this dust, the other
in that land,
Sweet eternal Paradise there. . . .
I and thou.

{Divan 2214)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Joan Ruvinsky - Just this...

picture  Giorgos Tsamakdas

 just all its simplicity......welcoming what is here already......not coming......not going......obscured even by seeking......

So we meet in the paradox of apparent teachings, retreats, trainings or gatherings, to celebrate and explore this nameless presence that we are. At first, there is the tendency to accentuate the myriad of practices the yoga tradition has developed, to focus on concepts like nondual, true nature, awareness, self-inquiry or other-inquiry.

But all this activity eventually leads us to a giving up. And in this surrender what is revealed is seen to be what has always been here, before the search began, during its full intensity and after its cessation. The task turns out to be ceding to stillness, and in that stillness the recognition of just this.

Falling back and resting in what is so familiar that it has been overlooked during all the body sensing yoga, during all the pranayama, all the yoga nidra and amidst all the dialogues, amidst life itself, we find our self simply sinking back into just this.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Courtney Dukelow - Queen of Nature

I once caught a glimpse of a Light
more beautiful than a thousand Suns.
When She lifted Her veil,
I wept in the profound Sacredness of Her translucent Soul.
I was embraced by an astonishing compassion in which we are all held.
This is the Light of the World.
The dazzling Queen of Nature,
encompassing us in radiant Grace.
Each glimpse — renders my Soul speechless.
What remains is a burning prayer:
"May we once again return Life to the Sacred.
Remembering Her ancient ways which unite us all
in the absolute miracle of Love.
Here. Now.  This beautiful planet Earth." 
- See more at:
I once caught a glimpse of a Light
more beautiful than a thousand Suns.
When She lifted Her veil,
I wept in the profound Sacredness
of Her translucent Soul.

I was embraced by an astonishing compassion
in which we are all held.
This is the Light of the World.
The dazzling Queen of Nature,
encompassing us in radiant Grace.

Each glimpse — renders my Soul speechless.
What remains is a burning prayer:

"May we once again return Life to the Sacred.
Remembering Her ancient ways which unite us all
in the absolute miracle of Love.

Here. Now.  This beautiful planet Earth." 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Hafiz - Silence

A day of Silence
Can be a pilgrimage in itself.

A day of Silence
Can help you listen
To the Soul play
In marvelous lute and drum.

Is not most talking
A crazed defense of a crumbling fort?

I thought we came here
To surrender in Silence,

To yield to Light and Happiness,

To Dance within
In celebration of Love's Victory!


Fred LaMotte - Pilgrimage

Make the pilgrimage
into your own heart.

Why travel to Mecca, Benares,
Jerusalem or Rome?

The motion of blossoming -
that golden swirl 

of Allah's most intimate gaze,
Christ's most healing gesture, 

Shyam's inebriating dance -
redounds with divine amazement 

in every atom or galaxy,
lavender frond or breath.

Is there a single infinitesimal

in all of space and time
that does not overflow 

with the nectar
you thirst for?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Chuck Surface - Is one “enlightened”...

Is one “enlightened”
If one has experienced the end of space, time, objects, and self,
And yet continued to exist as formless Pure Being?

Is one “enlightened”
If, upon returning from Heaven, one is Illumined with Bliss?

Is one “enlightened”
With the cessation of identification with the manifest form –
Body, mind, and the felt sensation of personal identity?

Is one “enlightened”When one feels one's self expanded as all that is?

Is one “enlightened”
When one feels one's Self to be That Great Mystery within which, from which, as which, all that is, arises?

Is one “enlightened”
With the cessation of identification even as That Great Mystery within which, from which, as which, all that is, arises?

Is one “enlightened”
When one feels one's self to be neither expanded as all that is,
Nor That Mystery within which, from which, as which, all that is, arises?

Is one “enlightened”
With the the advent of Fullness, Completion, and the cessation of grasping?

Is one “enlightened”
When one’s manifest form emanates Grace?

I would never use a word implying such lofty finality,
Or allow others to use it on my behalf.

For it seems folly at the least, and delusion at the worst,
To ever plant a flag, and declare the summit.

My experience in relationship to The Great Mystery,
Is one of...

Endless Enlightening.

Shabistari - Atoms

Know the world from end to end is a mirror.
In each atom a hundred suns are concealed.
If you pierce the heart of a single drop of water
from it will flow a hundred clear oceans.
If you look intently at each speck of dust
in it you will see a thousand beings.
A gnat in its limbs is like an elephant.
In name a drop of water resembles the Nile.
In the heart of a barley-corn is stored a hundred harvests.
Within a millet-seed a world exists.
In an insect’s wing is an ocean of life.
A heaven is concealed in the pupil of an eye.
The core in the center of the heart is small
yet the Lord of both worlds will enter there.

Rafael Stoneman - Empty Space

 The voice in my head
has a lot to say about
the past and the future
the voice in my Heart
has nothing to say at all
In fact, there is no voice
There is what many call love
But I have no name for
what IS
When I enter the Heart,
I disappear
I become nothing
Its as if the person falls asleep
And the Empty Space
Wakes Up