My swirling fascination

A few years ago I bought a CD called “Trance.” The cover had minimal artwork. There was some vague, mystical wording which I have completely forgotten. I still have the CD but the case and the album sleeve are long lost. The CD contained 3 tracks, each quite long and made up of different examples of music as an extension of and guiding path to religious “ecstasy” and inner expression.

The third track captured my imagination. It was of Turkish origin, a slow, gentle flute-based meditative piece which builds gradually in tempo and is said to accompany practicing Sufi whirling Dervish dancers. The little booklet explained briefly the practice of Dervish swirling and included a photo, similar to this:

The album description explained swirling as a religious physical meditation structured around the rhythmic spinning in accordance with the rotational nature of the universe. The physical meditation brings the practitioners to the precipice of perfection as part of a Muslim religious ceremony called “Sema.” Through the music, speaking with God, and whirling, one can work to shed the ego and become the “unmoving” center of the universe.

According to a Sufi description of the dance I found at Wikipedia:

In the symbolism of the Sema ritual, the semazen’s camel’s hair hat (sikke) represents the tombstone of the ego; his wide, white skirt represents the ego’s shroud. By removing his black cloak, he is spiritually reborn to the truth. At the beginning of the Sema, by holding his arms crosswise, the semazen appears to represent the number one, thus testifying to God’s unity. While whirling, his arms are open: his right arm is directed to the sky, ready to receive God’s beneficence; his left hand, upon which his eyes are fastened, is turned toward the earth. The semazen conveys God’s spiritual gift to those who are witnessing the Sema. Revolving from right to left around the heart, the semazen embraces all humanity with love. The human being has been created with love in order to love.

video courtesy of

On the surface, the focus of Dervish whirling appears to be movement (which obviously it is) but as I heard explained by a Dervish dancer, the “essence of whirling is non movement.” The locus of the universe as one spins and revolves in sync with Solar System is the very center of the whirler, this unmoving center. And here is where one can discover absolute “equilibrium” (my term).

For absolute equilibrium is the godlike state religions aspire to. Ego is purged; one hand calling to the heavens, the other to earth. As you spin and the flute’s sounds swirl gently but persistently through your soul, the world spins faster and faster…then, in a moment of perfection and ecstasy, you are still. Your inner self. Serenity falls and blankets your still being as the world spins by; you are the unmoving center.