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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Dervish

From the Persian darvshdarvish, meaning “poor” or a “monk.” The Arabic equivalent is faqir which also means poor. The sects of the dervishes emerged in Islam through the SUFI tradition.

There are many sects of dervishes, but possibly the best known is the Mevlevi or Whirling Dervishes, founded by Jalal-ud-din RUMI in the thirteenth century, so called by reason of their movement ritual, used to enhance and direct subtle energy and raise consciousness. Although dervishes often assembled in small groups under a spiritual leader, their purpose was essentially one of a search for individual spiritual enlightenment by means of a contemplative and austere life.

Helena P. BLAVATSKY contrasts favorably the “whirling charmers,” as she terms them, with Hindu fakirs who sometimes subject themselves to “excruciating tortures” (IU I:xxviii) and she quotes extensively from a book by John Yarker, Jr., Mysteries of AntiquityScientific and Religious, which contains information about the Dervishes, especially the Bektash Sect, that suggests some similarities with Masonic furnishing and rituals (op. cit., II:316-7).

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