I am getting deeper into Anatolia's many layers of culture and spiritual tradition. In the middle of the night I saw a statue come alive. The statue was of a bearded man in a Sufi-type hat, holding a lion and a deer or gazelle. I had never seen this statue, but I recognized the animal companions from paintings of Haji Bektash (Hacı Bektaş Veli) an Alevi Muslim mystic and poet who was a contemporary of Rumi and loved to break ranks with conventional religion, operating in the style of a shaman. He wrote that "an hour of meditation is worth more than seventy years of piety." He insisted that truth is not to be found in Jerusalem, or Mecca, or in religious observance, but within. His admirers called him the Sultan of the Heart. A teacher needed in our times.
I had asked for guidance on healing relations, and he showed me that the answer was to embody the peaceable kingdom, by holding people in conflict together in the embrace of a larger healing power, as he embraces the lion and the gentle deer.
He then whisked me over the vast city of Istanbul, under the crescent moon, and showed me the terrible lack of green space, especially on the European side. "They pray to God, but they forget that paradise is a garden," he told me. "You must help them to restore the lost gardens of Istanbul."
All this unfolded before the mornig ezan, the call to prayer, filled my ears, coming from the loudspeakers in the mosque across the street before 5:00 a.m. . I don't know what they think of Haji Bektash in there. Contemporary Bektashis are renowned for flouting convention. They enjoy wine and include women in their zikrs and follow the master's injunction to seek light and truth in the heart rather than in ritual observance.
I settled back in bed. The Sultan of the Heart was not done with me yet. A great white dove fluttered above his shoulder. He wanted me to acknowledge and receive it. "I'm much more of a hawk," I signaled, suddenly aware that a hawk I know well was on my shoulder.
"You can hold the balance," his intent came to me.
I complied. In my second body, in the air above the city, I clasped the white dove to my heart while the hawk, keen-eyed, stood sentinel on my shoulder.
Time for a nap, a little industrial sleep, perhaps?
Not yet. A quiet voice moved in my mind, the kind of voice I have learned to trust and has been the source of the most profound spiritual dialogues of my life.
"You are one of us. You have no earthly order, yet you are one of our Order. You have no earthly guide. Like us, you find the Guide in the only place where the true Guide may be found."
Wine before Mosque photo (c) Robert Moss