We visit Topkapi Palace, entering the Gate of Salutation. The Topkapi Palace was primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans for about 400 years (1465-1856) of their 624 year reign.
I looking for an image that will touch you in the place that connects you to the unseen world. Most objects in this tourist attraction are mundane (porcelain, clothing, historical artifacts, kitchenware) but the “holy relics” are spiritually powerful. I learn that photography is prohibited.
Security is tight. There was a robbery in 1999 and a terrorist attack in 2011. Guards keep watch in every room, prohibiting photographs. They are extremely vigilant, putting their hands in front of people’s cameras and shouting loudly whenever a tourist attempts to take a photograph.
Karen is extremely clever and takes various photos when the guards are not watching but I decide to merely observe. The photos I include have been downloaded off the internet, taken by previous tourists, I suspect.
We see swords and the bow of the Prophet Muhammad. We also see
swords of the early Califs and Sultan Sulieman.
We see a saucepan of Abraham and the turban of Joseph. Should I let go of my skepticism? Many fake relics were produced during medieval times. Can Abraham’s saucepan touch your heart? I wonder what sauces were prepared. What was the recipe?
We see the staff of Moses. Although suspicious medieval relics worked miracles, I doubt this one will part the ocean in your heart.
We also see King David’s sword, Muhammad’s footprint, a piece of the tooth and hair from the beard of the Prophet Muhammad.
We see the arm of John the Baptist. It might be authentic. It certainly is old. According to Byzantine sources, the hand of John, used to baptize Jesus, was transferred from Antioch to Constantine in 956. Visitors mention seeing it in the late 12th century and in 1404. I let go of my skepticism. I see a way for this to work. Baptism represents a new life.
The Ottoman conquerors recognized and valued this relic since both John the Baptist (Yahya) and Jesus the Messiah (Isa) were considered prophets. They later offered the John relic, or part of it, to the Christian Order of the Hospitaliers, but it may have been returned in the late 16th century. No one can say for sure. The precise origin of the relic is uncertain. Other claimed pieces of John the Baptist exist in Russia, Egypt, and Greece. Relics, such as this one, can work miracles without being authentic.
The Topkapi relic is protected in a Venetian reliquary with fingers showing the gesture of blessing. The image confers this blessing to you.
I will explain to you how this blessing will occur. You need not believe. I will believe for you. The blessing comes through both Christianity, Islam, and spiritual forces deeper than human understanding. Here is how this story unfolds:
We pay to see a tourist attraction, a performance by Whirling Dervishes (Mevlevi), followers of Mevlena Jalaleddin Rumi (1207-1273). The dervishes perform a ritual (Sema) which has become a tourist attraction to such a degree that we are allowed to take videos and photographs. Although this performance is not exactly the same as those done by ancient dervishes, I let go of my concern about this. This one works.
The whirling dervish musicians play a ney (like a flute), a tanbur (a lute-like instrument with a long neck), and an ud (a type of lute).
The dervishes wear tall hats, representing the tombstone of the ego. They listen to the trance-inducing music.
They bow, wearing black jackets which represent the physical tomb.
The performance represents a spiritual journey. The dervishes remove their black cloaks, revealing their white skirts, representing the ego’s shroud.
Their crossed arms represent the number one, God’s unity. The right hand is directed to the sky, receiving God’s benevolence. The left hand poits toward the earth, blessing those who watch. You are watching. You are blessed.
By whirling, they affect their consciousness. By watching, your consciousness is affected. This makes you think about consciousness.
The performance consists of a series of stages. They have begun a new stage and you can see a dervish extend his hands upward from the crossed arms position.
The dervishes twirl in fixed position.
They bow in conclusion.
Lao tsu writes (chapter 57):
“If you want to be a great leader,
you must learn to follow the Tao.
Stop trying to control.
Let go of fixed plans and concepts,
and the world will govern itself.
The more prohibitions you have,
the less virtuous people will be.
The more weapons you have,
the less secure people will be.
The more subsidies you have,
the less self-reliant people will be.
Therefore the Master says:
I let go of the law,
and people become honest.
I let go of economics,
and people become prosperous.
I let go of religion,
and people become serene.
I let go of all desire for the common good,
and the good becomes common as grass.”
Do not worry about connecting these words to modern political situations. Lao tsu lived in ancient China; we should not make assumptions about cause and effect.
There is a kind of magic involved in letting go. The dervishes let go of their egos. There is magic in doing this. How does the blessing come to you? You have been exposed to the idea of letting go. Your thoughts are a cloud of desire, sensation, suffering, planning, memory and they swirl around in your mind. When you focus your mind, the dust settles.
Set aside time each day to let go. The dust settles and you perceive your inner being. This is a pathway to experience the unseen.