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"Bektashism means to Bektashis different things. According to their capacity to understand the truths are given. The apprehension of truth in the individual Bektashi will, therefore, depend both on his own ability to see spiritual truth and on the quality of life and thinking of the one who has been his Mürsit."[1]


Short Background

During their migrations westwards from Central Asia the original religious concepts of the Turkic peoples - too often simply referred to as shamanism - were influenced by the religions of the peoples they met and thus became mixed with Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Islam and Christianity. Their final Islamization took place in regions where Sufi mysticism had grown strong. Individual mystics had gathered pupils around them and in this way a number of religious brotherhoods or dervish orders had appeared and spread. Their creeds gave proof of considerable variation, and several of them were heterodox, emphasizing the religious experience leading to direct knowledge of God or union with /absorption by God. They attached less importance to the fulfilment of external observances as regular prayers, fasting and pilgrimages. This meant in practice that the adherents regarded themselves as following a Tariqat, a religious 'way' and consequently not any more being strictly bound by Sharia, the Islamic law. For this reason they were accused of heresy by formalistic and law-abiding Sunni Moslems. The soil seems to have been fertile in Persia, where Shi’a Islam enjoyed a growing influence and from there the teachings spread with the Turkic peoples into Anatolia.

To the most interesting liberal orders, originating in Shi’ism, belongs Mevlana ("the dancing dervishes") and Bektashi. The first-mentioned has been more oriented towards urban population while the followers of the Bektashi Order until the foundation of the Turkish Republic mainly were to be found in the countryside. The origin of the Order is fairly obscure but according to tradition its futute founder, Haci Bektashi Veli, was sent in the 13th century from Khorasan to Rum[2], where he attracted many followers.

The Seljuks and the Othmans were founders of state and tried to obtain control over the Turkic groups of nomads following their trail. The Turkic tribes dominating the border areas between the Persian and Ottoman empires were to a considerable extent  known as Kizilbash, i.e. Redheads, after the headgear; a designation nowadays replaced by Alevis or  Alevites, (not to be confounded with the Alawites, Arab-speaking adherents to related beliefs, belonging to a group of its own, living in Syria). Haci Bektashi Veli is recognized as the founder by most Alevis, who today, according to their own estimates, constitute at least a quarter of the population of Turkey.

In the year 1502 Shah Ismail decided that a liberal form of Shi’a Islam should be state religion in Persia. He was warring with Sultan Selim over the drawing of the boundary lines beteween the two empires and the Shah enjoyed the support of his fellow-believers. Before the decisive battle the Sultan killed tens of thousands of Kizilbash-Alevis in Anatolia. The survivors retreated to their villages in the mountains and from then on avoided contact with the Sunni environment and state. Shortly afterwards the Sultan proclaimed himself Caliph, i.e. head of all true (Sunni) believers, which rendered it necessary to break with Shiite heresy. In Persia it did not take long until the Shah proclaimed Sharia, and at the middle of the 18th century the Kizilbash are considered to have been assimilated by Persian/Iranian Shi’a.

Alevi and Bektashi

In Anatolia the Kizilbash survived in spite of persecutions and discrimination and their affiliation to the Bektashi Order without doubt contributed to this effect. The role of the Bektashis is complicated and difficult to analyze. On the one hand the Order constituted a protection for the Kizilbash-Alevis and developed its line of  mysticism to a tolerant variation of Islam with obvious influences from religions in the vicinity, not least the command to 'love thy neighbor'. On the other hand the Bektashis were, especially during the earlier centuries, religiously militant and had been entrusted the conversion and education of the young boys, who regularly were forcefully recruited in the Empire's Christian parts in order to become both Jannisaries and civil servants. In the service of the Bektashi Tariqat the dervishes were not bound by the Koran's Sharia prohibition of both conversion by force and for a Muslim to be the owner of Muslim slaves. Through the Corps of Jannisaries the Order exerted a strong influence on state authority until 1826, when they were mercilessly crushed by the Sultan because of their resistance to the modernization of the armed forces following Western examples. The Bektashi Order lost all its influence, which was taken over by the orthodox, conservative and power-conscious Naqshibendi Order. Towards the end of the 19th century the Bektashis could slowly reactivate  and supported the reformist ‘Young Turks’.

These antagonisms are still discernible in the country. Atatürk's establishment of the Turkish Republic led to the emancipation of the Alevis and their integration into the new secular state. The suppression of the religious orders confirmed this development as it made the Alevis believe that they no longer needed protection. But the orders hibernated and the contemporary religious renaissance is essentially an expression of the regained influence of the Naqshibendis. The insufficient adherence of the Alevis in following the formalities prescribed by Sharia still make them heretics in the eyes of the Islamists. The burnings to death which were reported in the media as taking place in Çorum, Kahramanmaras and Sivas in the 1970s and 1990s were directed against the Alevis.

The term Alevi denotes primarily the rural population embracing this creed or outlook on life. Since the establishment of the Republic they are migrating to the towns. Affiliation is inherited and the children are automatically initiated in their teens through special rites, whereby they are promoted from Sharia (the Law) to Tarikat (the Way). The tradition used to be mainly oral. Bektashi denotes laymen or dervishes who after studies and trial have been admitted to the Order or Brotherhood. Mystics can be initiated in two higher degrees, Marifet (Insight) and Hakikat (Truth) which lead to union with God.

Insufficient sources

Because of persecution, the rites, articles of faith and creed have been kept secret and it is still difficult to get a grasp of Alevism. The oral character of the tradition has led to a scarcity of written sources. As a consequence of the development of society and the obvious need of the Alevis to arrive at a recognized position, the secretiveness is gradually abandoned and replaced by a struggle for equality. As opposed to the dogmatic insistence on orthodoxy and formalities of the militant Islamism - both Sunni and Shi’ite – the Alevis demand respect for the individual’s outlook on life, reject servile respect for formalities and stress the importance of the religious message, for the sake of clarity here summarized in the words 'love thy neighbor'.[3]

Tuition by a Mürsit

When I arrived at the Ankara embassy in the beginning of 1990 my attention was almost immediately drawn to the Alevis, the reason being that street life deviated from my prejudices. I  had expected to meet a well educated and secular, western rather than westernized establishment and a numerous, more tradition-bound islamic majority with their roots in the Anatolian countryside. So I did, of course, but too many women, clearly not belonging to the establishment neither carried traditional clothes, nor the 'islamic uniform', i.e. a wide cloak reaching to the feet and kerchief - and furthermore, did not turn away their faces when meeting strangers in general and men in particular. They also gave the impression of being ‘western’ rather than ‘westernized’. To obtain information on this phenomenon proved to call for both patience and perseverance. In those days the numbers and role of the Alevis in Turkish society was not only not paid attention to outside some academic circles but even their existence was downright denied.[4] However, a member of the embassy's local staff turned out to be a Bektashi - he had been initiated after having married an Alevi - and could give me first hand information at a general level. A year later I happened to engage as language teacher a retired senior civil servant who was a senior member of the Bektashi Order and the language instruction became totally overshadowed by discussions on religious questions, mainly on Alevism-Bektashism, and they continued until I left Turkey in 1995. During the conversations, which took place in private, I regularly took notes.

As already said the literature on the topic is scanty. Turkish press contained sporadic articles which were difficult to trace and had to be translated. Generally speaking they only treated the role of the Alevis in society. On their creed there was virtually nothing, probaly because of taqiya, the right to hide one's real beliefs in a hostile environment - which consequently are totally unknown or misjudged by other Turks.

     As regards foreign literature I at a relatively early stage only met with Kehl-Bodrogi's pioneering work, published in 1988. Only at a rather late stage did I get hold of Birge's basic description and analysis from 1937. The latter one duly deals with the neo-platonic element. But this historical relationship made no part of the instruction I received, which rather sought to establish a direct link to ancient Egypt. I found Dierl's newer (1985), more descriptive than scientific book only after my return home.

The present text aims at showing how the creed was introduced in an individual case, adapted after the pupil's religious background and experience of life. The intention is to limit it, to the extent possible, to rendering the words of  my Mürsit, the teacher and to avoid references to different authors. It is furthermore a first attempt to systematize the instruction received and is mainly dedicated to the emanation chain. This means in practice a concentration on the heritage of (the withhold) elements from the neo-platonic world of ideas. On the other hand the manifold references to the prevalence of historical and cultural influences from other sources, not least shamanism, are not rendered. Neither is the interpretation of words by the numerical values of their letters. Without any doubt the method of instruction aimed at gradual enlightenment and only to a certain level. For this reason the following annotations can hardly avoid being both incomplete and sometimes contradictory.

The Concept of God

The concept of God is a natural starting point. To begin with, it was difficult to grasp but experiences from non-western civilizations facilitated the comprehension. Already in the Iliad it is obvious that the gods are not almighty. When Achilles and Hector are fighting their last combat Zeus holds up his golden balance[5] and learns that his favorite Hector will die – obviously, there exists a higher level of decision. The Confucian societies of the Far East are considered to lack a god, but the changes of dynasties were taken as manifestations of the Will of Heaven, which Man could only follow; and chairman Mao is quoted to have said before his death "…when in due time I shall meet God…". The old Turks had also a concept of the God of Heaven. In African societies, pejoratively called animist, there exists a clear concept of  God, who however is not personal and no more concerned with the fate of individual Human Beings more than of individual beasts. These type of beliefs contain the concept of God at different levels, a supreme God beyond the reach of man and lesser gods/idols whom Man can reach by prayers, sacrifices and rituals, which often degenerate to superstitious practices.

The Bektashism I learned about seems to contain a concept of God at different levels, but none of them to be considered as idols. It seems doubtful that Man can influence any level. The higher level is beyond comprehension and reach. The lower level is an emanation of high-level-God and man in his turn an emanation of that emanation. Man's influence seems doubtful but he shall be guided by inspiration from the lower-level-God.


Reincarnation is only vaguely  mentioned by Birge as well as Dierl[6] and then mainly on a prophetic level as e.g. Ali - Haji Bektashi Veli. On the other hand Kehl-Bodrogi mentions the theory of 1001 reincarnations.[7] In the teachings of my Mürsit reincarnation played an important role as the principal mechanism for man's improvement, which is the task and goal of mankind. He insisted upon them taking place at intervals of 2000 years.


The different levels of emanation from God are rendered by Birge and Dierl.[8] I received a similar instruction but gradually and with reference to the philosophy behind the Vedic sacred writings, the Old and the New Testament, the Koran, and of Buddhism. It was underlined that there only exists one and the same religion and that each cult usually degenerates into establishing a priesthood and a hierarchy, using its real or presumed and, as time passes, invariably degraded knowledge to control fellow men and societies in order to obtain privileges. Consequently new prophets emerge to preach the original message, which briefly can be summarized as 'love thy neighbor'.

The tuition mixed vocabularies and names from several religions and thus, at least initially, gave a rather bewildering and sometimes contradictory impression. This was probably intentional, first as part of a probation and later because the parts and parcels of the instruction should be given in a certain order, whereby new elements could invalidate the ones given earlier. However, it contained a clear chain of emanation from the Universe and God to spiritual man, man on earth, animals, plants and mineral.


But somewhere between God and man there existed different catgories of angels - arche, archangels and angels - whom I had great difficulty to integrate into the chain. Apparently they had originally constituted 'mankind' in earlier 'worlds' or civilizations, possibly connected to other planets. As spiritual beings they belonged to a higher level than man but on the other hand they represented failed 'worlds' and are for this reason used as God's messengers or with the task to assist man.[9] (Cf. God's order to the angels to worship man, which Lucifer refused.) With 'failed' is meant that these creatures /men from earlier 'worlds' did not succeed in carrying out God's command to develop their 'world' to perfection. Angels on different levels may thus have been 'Perfect men' (see below) in earlier 'worlds'. Spirits from ordinary beings in these 'worlds' may, in accordance with their qualities, also exist either as assistants or as tempters, leading men astray. In any case it seems difficult to classify these different angels as parts of the direct chain of emanation from God to minerals in our present world. A hypothetical explanation will be rendered below. Both Birge and Dierl mention angels in connection with the chain of emanation.[10]

The Chain of Emanation

The instruction of my Mürsit regarding the chain of emanation and the place of man in it can - in a certain connection with, but quite simplified compared to, Birge's and Dierl's schedules - be summarized in the following levels:

1. God /Universe

2. God/Truth

2b/3a. Perfect man

3b.  Spiritual man

-          -          -          -          -          -         

On earth:
4. Man     
5. Animals     
6. Plants     
7. Minerals     


The levels will be commented upon in reverse order:

7, 6 and 5 require no specific explanation. A movement upward by way of reincarnation so to speak belongs to the system. Animals, at least, were said to be guided by 'spiritual selves' (see 3b below), not individually but for the species - an information which appears alien to the system and perhaps can be explained as a part of the gradual character of the instruction.

4. Man on earth; human beings as we see and know them on earth belong to this category. They are reincarnated in accordance with their behavior as outlined below under 3b. If their lives have not been up to measure a reincarnation downwards, to animals, is feasible. The fate of an evil man might be the disintegration into atoms to be dispersed in the realm of minerals.

3b. Spiritual man - the spiritual self; every man on earth is an emanation of an astral, shining or spiritual self. This spiritual self is androgynous and sends time and again part of itself down to the earth as a man/woman on earth with the task to improve itself in different incarnations as man or woman, in different social positions etc, in order thereby to develop into higher degrees of perfection. It is to be hoped that each reincarnation leads to improvement. The ultimate goal is to become a 'Perfect man' (see below).

It seems that the spiritual self is God on the lower level, to whom man directs his prayers. The spiritual self seems to be the voice of conscience, i.e. possibly the Holy Spirit of  Christian Trinity; cf Christ's word that crime against the Holy Spirit is the only unpardonable thing.

3a/2b. Perfect man has achieved what a Christian would call freedom from sin. At this level man on earth is completely united with his spiritual self and fully initiated - indicating that  there exist lower degrees of initiation at level 4. To be fully initiated means to be united with God at level 2 but obviously with the option or duty to be reborn time and again (cf. Mahayana Buddhism).

A Perfect man is not submitted to but the master of the laws of nature, a quality which e.g. would explain the miracles performed by Christ. A fully initiated can move unhindered in time and space (cf. shamanism). Other examples of Perfect men are Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Mohammed and Ali. Possibly this level corresponds to the ‘Son’ of Christian Trinity.

On the earth there are always simultaneously about 300 Perfect men (or 366 corresponding to the number of days in a leap year). The unknown period in the life of Christ is explained by tuition and initiation in the 'Temples of Egypt'.

Some fully initiated seem to live a secluded and secret life in celibacy and avoiding all worldliness. The words of the Bible 'to cast pearls before swine' relates to the necessity to hide the inner meaning of the religious teachings for the ignorant masses, who lack capacity to understand them. Perfect men like Christ and Buddha seem to have been criticized for having disclosed too much.

As mentioned above it seems difficult to find a place for the different angels in the chain of emanation. They could, however, be regarded as Perfect men from earlier 'worlds'. As such they should have achieved union with God, which is also valid for Perfect men in this world. Consequently they should all belong to the same level in the chain of emanation, i.e. 2b/3a.

2. Truth is God as intelligible to the man on earth. Possibly this level corresponds to God Father of Christian Trinity and Allah of Islam.

1. God is inconceiveable; he is the Universe, present everywhere and consequently  immovable.

If it is a correct interpretation that the levels of emanation are seven, it could be connected with the fact that some Bektashi buildings have an octagonal shape, possibly referring to the seven imams plus Haci Bektashi Veli. The teachings described above seem to indicate a belonging to seven-imam- rather than twelve-imam-Shi'ism.[11] Nowadays the belonging to the twelve-imam-branch seems not to be questioned, which perhaps could be explained by a habit grown out of taqiya, as little importance is attached to religious formalilties which are rejected by principle.


The concept of Trinity was recurrent and should perhaps be interpreted as a way of facilitating the reception for a Christian pupil. Anyhow the concept remained unclear and is rendered here only tentatively.

1. God the Father (cf. level 2 above) seems to be a God of Heaven beyond reach and not a personal God, and accordingly taking no interest in the lives of individual human beings.

2. God the Son seems to correspond to Perfect man who has achieved union with God, i.e. level 3b/2a above, represented by i.e. Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed and Ali according to denomination. Could these be compared to saints or angels?

3. God the Holy Spirit seems then to correspond to the Spiritual Self, the Voice of Conscience, guiding man on his way to perfection and union with God.


Does the phrase "I am the truth, the way and the life" reflect these three levels?  How the central role given to Man in Bektashism is highlighted, was illustrated during the Alevi Days of Culture, which was organized in Stockholm in March 1997 by Alevis living in Sweden. The headline of posters and programs read 'God is Man'. This expression becomes intelligible when seen against this background.

In the Shi’a Islamic context Trinity is composed of Allah, Mohammed and Ali, whereby Ali is given the dominating role - like Christ for many Christians. In the Bektashi context God seems to be beyond reach and Mohammed is clearly eclipsed by Ali. Mohammed often appears as identified with Ali to such an extent that it was difficult to avoid the impression that it was done in order to avoid the embarrassment of neglecting him. These aspects of the instruction were scanty and unclear and it shall not be excluded that I have over-interpreted them in order to arrive at a comprehensible picture. 

Love Thy Neighbor

This phrase is the essence and core of religion and the measure after which human progress is evaluated. Dogmas and rituals are worthless; Confucius is reported to have said that it is possible to get ordinary people to follow but not to understand (cf. the parable of  'pearls for the swine' above) . In the same spirit Sunnism, like other formal religious prescriptions, the Ten Commandments and rules regarding praying, fasting, forbidden food etc are regarded as belonging to the law which the masses shall be forced to obey by complying with formalities and dogmas. By initiation to a higher degree of  knowledge and awareness and thereby learning and understanding the essence and core of religion Man is no longer bound by these formalities as contained in e.g. Sharia. He is then enlightened enough to follow the way by obeying the voice of conscience and thus to proceed on his own by carrying out the religious commandment not to harm fellow men but to love his neighbor. This teaching contains a social obligation of striving for the general well-being and welfare of mankind, imperative also in the political field. Everybody's task is to improve himself through the reincarnations in order to arrive at the goal, to become Perfect man.

Alevis in modern Society

The anti-dogmatic character of Alevism-Bektashism should again be underlined. This means that it is neither able nor has the intention to formulate an established dogma. The foreign visitor to the yearly pilgrims' meeting in the small town of Haci Bektash in Cappadocia is welcomed by all men - and women who take part on equal terms - with a striking sincerity and warmth, because he or she by their presence profess a like-minded outlook on life.

Internal Groups

A Turkish scholar working in France has distinguished four main groups among contemporary Alevis, which cautiously show their distinctive features in modern Turkey.[12]

The first is mainly represented by the urban population and emerged during the Republic. It has for decades  belonged to the political left and regards Alevism as an outlook on life more than a religion. The followers hold ritual unions of a religious character and have also established cultural associations named after Pir Sultan Abdal. Man enjoys a central role as illustrated by the phrase 'God is Man' quoted above in the context of the Trinity.

The second group is more directed towards heterodox mysticism and stands closer to the Haci Bektashi Brotherhood. St Francis of Assisi and Mahatma Gandhi are considered better believers than many a Muslim. The tuition given by my Mürsit above belongs to this category.

      The third group regards themselves as true Muslims and are prepared to cooperate with the state. It adheres to the way of Jafar as-Sadiq, the sixth Imam. Its concept of God is closer to orthodox Islam but as the two groups already mentioned it considers the Koran to have been manipulated by the early Caliphs in order to eliminate Ali.

     The fourth is said to be under active influence from official Iranian Shi’a, to be confirmed adherents to Twelver Shi’a and to reject Bektashism. It follows Sharia and opposes secular state power. Information on strength and location is not available.

The new Challenge

As a consequence of modern times the Alevis have left their villages and been integrated in towns. In these circumstances the oral traditions and beliefs must find new forms to be kept alive. It is no longer possible to flee back to the mountains in order to escape persecution but on the contrary it has become necessary to define and defend the convictions held and to be prepared to fight for recognition and respect by the Sunni environment. Consequently Alevism is experiencing a difficult process of adaptation from oral to written tradition, from protection by isolation to exposed participation in society. The resistance they encounter from the side of orthodoxy must not be underestimated[13] as it, as illustrated above, does not shun bloodshed and arson. The Alevis meet consequently meet a double challenge: they must simultaneously  organize themselves for their own protection and survival without in this process losing their soul by building their own hierarchy and by establishing dogmas and a "true" belief of their own.

On the Neo-Platonic Roots of Bektashism

The central theme of the tuition given by the Mürsit contained two main elements: the chain of emanation and the development to Perfect man by reincarnation. These concepts hardly concord with the image of God the Creator of the monotheistic religions. It was, however, claimed that the Bible and the Koran contain hidden messages (Batinism) proving their views and that these are explicit for the initiated. These messages become much less hidden if they are put in their context, i.e. the Hellenist conception of the world which dominated the region and the epoch where and when Christianity and Islam emerged. A concise review of their prevalence in Hellenist philosophy is enough to demonstrate how the ideas rendered above incorporate Alevism-Bektashism into an interesting context.

In the chapter on the relationship of Bektashism to other beliefs Birge mentions rural Alevism, Sunnism, Shi'ism, shamanism, neo-Platonism and Christianity.[14] He underlines that the mysticism prevalent in Bektashism as well as in Islam in general to a great extent is inherited from neo-Platonism. He traces the tradition by way of Ibn al-Arabi (1165-1240) and Ibn Sina (Avicenna 980-1037) to Plotinos and further back to Plato and Pythagoras. It should in this context be stressed that from the point of view of  Sufism it is no question of inheritance or tradition but of an experience lived through by each individual Sufi in person.[15]

The Hellenist culture was widely embraced by the peoples of the eastern Mediterranean and belonged to the prey of the Arabs when expanding under the banner of Islam. The works of the philosophers of antiquity were available in Syria and were translated into Arabic, later to return after this detour to the West. The prevalence in Anatolia of neo-Platonism in the times of Julian the Apostate is affirmed by Norwich, who also calls attention to the Persian king Chosroes' enthusiastic welcoming of the Greek philosophers and scholars who ended up in Persia after emperor Justinian's closure of Plato's Academy in Athens in 529.[16] The reception in Persia of the heritage of antique knowledge is confirmed by Hourani, who also stresses the importance of Ibn Sina and Ibn al-Arabi for teaching the theories of emanation and of  Perfect man. He also draws attention to al-Biruni's (973-1048) comparison of Greek and Indian thinking.[17]

The inspiration originates with Plotinos who calls Everything's origin 'the absolute and irrevocably One'[18] (the Good), from which the world emerges 'like concentric circles in diminishing clarity, perfection and existence' and 'pluralism streams out of unity'[19]; also described with the words that 'the world forms a series of diminishing spirituality'.[20] It should be added that the flow of emanation is double - one downwards from God and one upwards returning to God.

Aristotle imagines a series or a chain from pure matter to pure form. The highest principle is immovable and identified with God, whose ‘activity is thinking about his own thinking’.[21] This aspect was absent from my Mürsit’s tuition but reminds of Dierl's description of God at the highest level as lacking knowledge of himself. God's will to get to know himself takes the shape of the chain of emanation.[22]  With Aristotle the theory of Perfect man is also to be found, who distinguishes him from the morally good man: "The most perfect human fulfillment is found to lie not in moral action … but in intellectual contemplation".[23] In the present context this would imply a) that Perfect man by thinking is united with God and b) that the morally advanced man follows the way (Tariqat) while Perfect man has risen beyond these stages to truth (Hakikat).

Plato supported the idea of reincarnation: "The soul having led a sensible, pure and righteous life and liberated himself from the dross of sensualism, will after death move there (i.e. to the world of ideas). But the soul who has been submerged in sensualism must be purified through a number of reincarnations, until being worthy of rising to his original home."[24] Also in Phaedrus there are clear portends of the theories of emanation and of Perfect man.[25]

The theory of transmigration is followed back to Pythagoras (6th century BC), who is supposed to have learnt it in Egypt or the Middle East.[26] In this way the circle is closed  to the repeated references of my Mürsit to the origin of the creed in the Egyptian temples. Thus the attention is drawn to oriental and also shamanistic influences on the Alevism-Bektashism. This lies outside the framework of this survey, the aim of which has been limited  to illustrate the possibility or likelihood of neo-platonic ideas having survived in Anatolia until our own time, and not only within the framework of intellectual Bektashism but also in the popular Alevism.




Ahlberg, Alf: Filosofiens historia, Stockholm 1952

Aristotle, Ethics,  J. Barnes ed., Hammondsworth (Penguin Classisc) 1976

Bektachiyya. Études sur l'ordre mystique des Bektachis et les groupes relevant de Hadji Bektach,  A. Popovic & G. Veinstein ed., Istanbul 1995.

Birge, John Kingsley: The Bektashi Order of Dervishes (1937), London 1965.

Cornell, Erik: Turkey in the 21st Century, Richmond 2001.

Dierl, A.J.: Geschichte und Lehre des anatolischen Alevismus-Bektaschismus, Frankfurt a.M. 1985.

Fowler, H.N. ed.: Plato with an English Translation, Loeb Classical Library, Cam     bridge, Mass. 1953

Homer, The Iliad, quoted Swedish ed. Lund 1946

Hourani, Albert: De arabiska folkens historia 2nd ed. (History of the Arab Peoples), Furulund 1996.

Kehl-Bodrogi, Krisztina: Die Kizilbas/Aleviten. Untersuchungen über eine esoterische Glaubensgemeinschaft in Anatolien, Berlin 1988

Landqiust, John ed., De filosofiska mästerverken (The Philosophical Masterpieces) (re-ference to Plotinos), Stockholm 1953

Norwich, J.J.: Byzantium: The Early Centuries, Harmondsworth (Penguin Classics) 1990  

Shah, Idries: The Sufis, New York (Anchor Books) 1971.






Author Bio:

Ambassador Erik Cornell is Co-chairman of Cornell Caspian Consulting. He is a retired Swedish foreign servant, a former Ambassador to Turkey, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Senegal, Mali, Niger, Guinea, Gambia, Mauritania, Liberia, Sierra Leone; and also serves as representative of Sweden to North Korea and the FAO in Rome. This article was first published in Swedish in Dragomanen, the Yearbook of The Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul.




[1] Birge, p 101.

[2] The parts of Anatolia, which were conquered from Byzantium, were called Rum; e.g. the founder of the Mevlana Order was called Celaleddin Rumi, i.e. the Roman Celaleddin.

[3] A more exhaustive description can be found in relevant chapters of my book Turkey in the 21st Century.

[4] My question to the dean of the Faculty of Divinity of Ankara University regarding the presence of non-Sunni groupings in Turkey received a characteristic answer: "There aren't any!".

[5] Homer, Iliad XXII:212.

[6] Birge p 131, Dierl p 69.

[7] Kehl-Bodrogi p 19 & 142-3.

[8] Birge p 116, Dierl p 65-72.

[9] Compare God's command to the angels to worship man, which Lucifer refused.

[10] Birge p 117, Dierl p 71.

[11] Cf Dierl p 26.

[12] Faruk Bilici: The Function of Alevi-Bektashi Theology in Modern Turkey, lecture at a seminar on Alevism held at the Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul, 25-27 November, 1996.

[13] See e.g. Bumke in Bektachiyya p 115.

[14] Birge p 210-18.

[15] Idries Shah p 161.

[16] Norwich p 94 & 228.

[17] Hourani p 60f, 135-140  & 42.

[18] Plotinos in Landquist p 378-9.

[19] Ahlberg p 143.

[20] Landquist p xi.

[21] Ahlberg p 156.

[22] Dierl p 66

[23] Aristotle, Ethics; J. Barnen' introduction p 40.

[24] Ahlberg p 143.

[25] Plato, Phaedrus in Fowler p 471, 479 & 483.

[26] Ahlberg p 43.