Opposition and Legitimacy in the Ottoman Empire: Conspiracies and
Political Cultures by Florian Riedler (SOAS/Routledge
Studies on the Middle East: Routledge) This book looks at opposition to the Ottoman
government in the second half of the nineteenth century, examining a
number of key political conspiracies and how these relate to an existing
political culture. In his detailed analysis of these conspiracies,
the author offers a new perspective on an important and well
researched period of Ottoman history.
A close reading of police records on five conspiracies offers the opportunity to analyse this opposition in great detail, giving special attention to the different groups of political actors in these conspiracies that often did not come from the established political elites. Florian Riedler investigates how their background of class and education, but also their individual life experiences influenced their aims and strategies, their political styles as well as their ways of thinking on political legitimacy. In contrast, the reaction of the authorities to these conspiracies reveals the official understanding of Ottoman legitimacy.
The picture that emerges of the political culture of opposition during the second half of the nineteenth century offers a unique contribution to our understanding of the great changes in the political system of the Ottoman Empire at the time. As such, it will be of great interest to scholars of Middle Eastern history, political history, and the Ottoman Empire.
Florian Riedler is a historian specialising in Ottoman history of the nineteenth century. His current research interests are social and urban history of the Eastern Mediterranean, particularly Istanbul, as well as the history of migration in the Ottoman Empire.
In a recent book Aykut Kansu attempted to re-establish the Young Turk revolution of 1908 as the decisive event at the beginning of modem Turkish history. In creating a democratic parliamentary system the revolution was much more significant than Mustafa Kemal's act of founding the Republic in 1923. As much as this reinterpretation was to correct our understanding of modern Turkish history, Kansu's criticism also was levelled against the common treatment of the late Ottoman period in historiography that disregarded 1908 as the decisive break and failed to assess its significance as a popular and democratic revolution. He singled out the focus on the state and its elites in mainstream scholarship as the reason for this misinterpretation. In this picture there was little place for dissenting voices, conflict or internal struggle over the fundamentals of the political system.
This study will take up the issue of conflict and opposition in the late Ottoman Empire and therefore will examine in some detail a string of conspiracies against the Ottoman government during the Tanzimat era in the second half of the nineteenth century. Surprisingly, these conspiracies lack closer scholarly attention. If they were mentioned at all, the older literature has denounced them either as backwards looking`or appreciated them only as forerunners of the Young Turksn In contrast, this study likes to examine them in their specific historical context rather than judging them in hindsight and see how they relate to existing Ottoman political culture of opposition. The findings will help establish an inventory of politically active groups in Ottoman society other than the state elites and they will reveal the contested issues in the Ottoman political system of the Tanzimat. The conflicting interpretations of the right way to order society between state and opposition, but also between different opposition groups, offer the opportunity to review Ottoman political culture and its development in the nineteenth century.
In the 1960s political scientists defined political culture in the framework of comparative research on democracy and democratic values in different societies. This study adopts a more neutral usage that assigns to the concept of political culture the role of balancing structural and systemic approaches to politics. Consequently, I will highlight the subjective factor in the analysis of political processes and tend to give perceptions of the political actors a broader space. Although the concept of political culture is often criticised as particularly blurry, it helps to thematise at least two interrelated aspects of politics. The first is the importance of (often unconscious) fundamental norms defining a group's basic understanding of politics up to the point of what is political at all. In this sense political culture signifies a deeply embedded form of ideology that has its effect on political decisions, on legitimacy or authority and on the style of political action. The latter performative side is the second important aspect the concept of political culture calls attention to. When examining politics, rituals and symbols that are expressions of an aesthetics of political action have to be taken into account.
A group's fundamental beliefs about politics also include the ways it deals with conflict in society. To capture this notion John Foran, a social scientist working on the causes and outcomes of revolutions (modern as well as historical), has coined the term 'political culture of opposition'. The fundamental thinking of a group about opposition, its legitimacy and its proper forms, define this culture that is fed by a group's past experiences. its expectations and emotions as well as its subjective assessment of a poli-tical situation. In a political system with an established political culture of opposition revolutionary solutions of conflicts in society are said to be much more likely than in other political systems. Especially instructive for this study is Foran's application of the concept to the case of Iran. He examines different forms of opposition movements in the nineteenth century such as tribal risings, tax revolts, religiously driven rebellions like the revolts of the Babis as well as the Tobacco boycott movement of the 1890s. His macro-sociological approach discerns the different classes of Iranian society that supported these movements, highlighting outside dependency as an agent of social change and as a cause for opposition. From the perspective of the Iranian constitutional movement of 1905-11 that established a modern political culture in Iran he classifies the earlier events as driven by a traditional or a transitional culture of opposition. It remains to be seen in how far these categories also make sense in the Ottoman case.
Scholars have used political culture to examine the roots and trajectories of revolutions regarding other historical contexts as well. Perhaps in the most innovative way this has been done in case of eighteenth century France credited to be the founding moment of modern political culture per se. Above all the political culture of the French old regime has attracted attention as the laboratory of new political symbols and terms that devel-oped in the framework of the absolute monarchy, ways of seeing and ordering society, and the development of forms of political contestation like the political press or parliamentarianism.
In the case of Russia, research on the political culture in the 1917 revolution has only just begun. However, historians of nineteenth century Russia were well aware of the changes in the political culture mainly among radical groups that gave rise to revolutionary activities and ideologies that went along with the delegitimisation of the old regime. In Russia the role of secret societies was particularly important in shaping pre-revolutionary political culture of opposition.
Likewise in the Ottoman Empire we find an old regime that changed considerably during the nineteenth century, not least where its fundamental values, political arrangements and symbols were concerned. This study cannot claim to present an encompassing picture of nineteenth century Ottoman political culture. It will concentrate on one particular form of opposition, the conspiracy, that seems to be a natural outgrowth of any absolutist political system where there is no place for a loyal opposition. However, conspiracies can serve to thematise different aspects of Ottoman political culture in general and illustrate its development during the nineteenth century. Particularly through the main historical source on conspiracies, police records and similar documents produced by the prosecuting institutions of the Ottoman state, both the political culture of opposition, but also the political culture of the governing elite come into view.
Small-scale events like conspiracies that, compared to larger social movements of protest, consist of a limited number of participants direct the investigation in a specific direction. Individual motives and choices as well as the worldviews of the historical actors come to the foreground that otherwise would go unnoticed. This can add some important aspects to larger structural explanations of Ottoman politics. Here lies, I hope, the potential of the micro-historical approach offered here.
Moreover, the conspiracies investigated below also testify to the multiplicity of groups politically active in the nineteenth century Ottoman Empire. The study will ascertain which elements of Ottoman political culture they shared and on which fields their different interests and positions in the political system caused differences in their political behaviour.
The remainder of this chapter will introduce the main developments of the Ottoman political system as it formed in the first half of the nineteenth century, paying particular attention to the intertwined issues of power, legitimacy and political style. It is against the political culture of the ruling elites that oppositional culture of secret societies has to be placed. Some general remarks on opposition in Ottoman history and its historiography will conclude the introduction.
While the end of the nineteenth century political system that was destroyed by the victorious Young Turk revolutionaries is signified by 1908, there are at least two dates that are important for its inauguration. The dissolution of the janissary corps in 1826 by Sultan Mahmud II (1808-39) completed a first phase in a process of centralisation of power that is one of the constitutive elements of the nineteenth century Ottoman political system. Traditionally the janissaries of the capital could muster a decisive weight to tip the scales in favour of one or the other political faction. A very important group that could organise opposition to the decisions of the central government and that had a long-standing and vital culture of opposition was thus gone. As a consequence the sultan unlike most of his immediate predecessors emerged as the sole source not only of political legitimacy but of real political power. He could start a programme of reform that was to define Ottoman history in the nineteenth century.
The rise of the civil bureaucracy as a powerful group in the Ottoman state apparatus was closely connected to this programme of centralisation and reform. In a long historical process that had already begun in the eighteenth century the civil bureaucracy (kalemiye, mülkiye), and especially the Sublime Porte with the grand vizier at its head, became an important and at times dominant power centre in the Ottoman political system of the nineteenth century. This dominant position was expressed on different levels: in the creation of new ministries such as the ministry of interior or the foreign ministry that offered job opportunities to the officials from the civil bureaucracy; in the preponderance of institutions like the Sublime Porte over the palace or the army (its contenders in the Ottoman central administration) in determining the general political line of the empire; and last in the dominance individual politicians from the civil bureaucracy exercised over Ottoman politics.
Mustafa Resid Pasha (1800-58) was the first of a string of influential politicians originating from the Translation office at the Sublime Porte who dominated Ottoman politics in the middle years of the nineteenth century. His disciples and successors as main representatives of the process of poli-tical reforms and modernisation were Mehmed Enim Ali (1815-71) and Kececizade Mehmed Fuad (1815-69). Much of the power of this group of politicians rested on their know-how of diplomacy and their close relationship to the European powers that became increasingly important for the empire.
For historians the roughly four decades that the bureaucracy from the Porte dominated Ottoman politics serve as a further subdivision of the nineteenth century. This period known as the Tanzimat era begins with the proclamation of a famous reform edict in 1839 and ends either at the death of Ali Pasha in 1871 or alternatively with the accession to power of Sultan Abdülhamid II (1876-1909).
From a general point of view the Tanzimat meant the continuation of the reforms initiated by Sultan Mahmud II. However, while before reforms had been closely connected to the person of the sultan and his reassertion of power, now they were in a sense generalised to become the official policy of the empire. Previous attempts were brought into a systematic framework, the scope of reforms was widened and new groups became their main sup-porters. It was the common goal of all the single steps and measures taken to render all branches of the governmental apparatus including the Ottoman army more centralised and professional. Additionally, the reforms aimed at creating a modern system of education and law more in tune with the needs of the state and its people. Most fundamentally, the relationship between ruler and ruled, between the state and its subjects was concerned. All Ottoman subjects were to become more equal with each other and vis-a-vis the administration putting the state on a broader basis than before.
It is still an open question to what degree the Tanzimat not only affected the power relations between the different groups in the Ottoman state and altered the institutional structure, but also changed political culture. Scholars whose main interest is modern Turkey often attribute the non-democratic aspects of Turkish political culture to the negative effects of the Ottoman era. Indiscriminately they speak of one Ottoman political culture that is described as extremely state-centred and authoritarian.
As has often been remarked, in such an authoritarian political culture there was no place for loyal opposition. All acts of opposition against the government were rebellions (isyan, fesad, fitne) notwithstanding the tradition of co-opting their leaders to government positions. The reason was the compound nature of Ottoman legitimacy that integrated religious elements and a patriarchal notion of authority.
In the Ottoman political system the sultan from the Ottoman dynasty was the cornerstone of legitimacy. The office was the centre of a rich symbolism and many rituals of power had been arranged around it over the centuries. Especially on the occasion of the death of the old sultan and the enthronement of the new sultan these symbols and rituals came to be displayed. Questions of succession carried important political implications and irregularities inevitably resulted in the formation of political camps.
After the seventeenth century most sultans had ceased to play an active political role, but they remained the ultimate arbiters between the political factions and local power-holders who effectively ran the country. Despite these changes the ideal image of an active and powerful ruler who was the guarantor of a just and well-ordered society remained a stock image of Ottoman political thought.
Habituation and the antiquity of the dynasty became the main assets of the ruler in the face of their periodic loss of real political power which had never resulted in a formal redefmition of their authority. In the early nineteenth century local power-holders tried to gain official recognition of their role in the state. Mahmud II was forced to sign the so-called Deed of Alliance (Sened-i Ittifak), which, however, remained a dead letter because the sultan would not have his role restricted.
Furthermore, the political elite of the Tanzimat never managed to alter the structure of authority in the political system. For example, it proved impossible for them to introduce a Westminster-style cabinet system that would have stabilised the government. The grand vizier as well as other ministers remained the absolute delegates (vekil-i mutlak) of the sultan, who could withdraw office at will.
The only thing that the political elite from the civil bureaucracy could do was to rid themselves of their traditional status as servants (kul) that gave their master, the sultan, not only power over their career and the right to confiscate their wealth, but also legally sanctioned power over their life and death. All these prerogatives were abolished by decree in 1839.
Therefore a recurring question in this study will be how different opposi-tion groups viewed the role of the sultan and how this defined their aims and strategy.
Religion was closely entwined with the dynastic aspect as one important source of sultanic legitimacy. The continuous use the sultans made of such religious roles and titles as for example that of protector of the holy cities of Nava and Medina or gazi, that is the conqueror of infidel lands added to tit lands of Islam (dar ül-Islam), might serve as evidence for using religion as means for authority. Other titles such as Caliph were fully asserted only late in the nineteenth century, most vigorously by Sultan Abdülhamid II who was very consciously trying to manipulate the political culture of Sunni Muslims. This was particularly important in times when factual legitimacy flowing from the subject's prosperity and security were harder to attain, because of the constant decrease in power the empire suffered. Likewise symbols such as the standard of the Prophet, his mantle and sword still plaved an important role in the ritual of ascension of a new sultan. All sultans of the nineteenth century made use of these religious symbols and tines to support their authority. Sometimes this was done consciously; in most cases religious symbolism was a pervasive undercurrent.'
be reforms of the nineteenth century did not and could not touch on the position of the sultan; however, the prescribed changes questioned some oiler fundamentals of the state's legitimacy as far as it could be distinguished from that of its ruler. This mainly concerned the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims in Ottoman state and society. In this regard the reform decree of 1839 itself bears witness to how the legal structure of the empire moved away from the traditional tenets entrenched in political culture. The decree singled out three fields on which the sultan's subjects could expect new regulations: their personal rights, the empire's system of taxation, as well as the military. The new sultan promised to respect and protect life, honour and property of all of his subjects, Muslims and non-Mulims alike, to introduce proportional taxation and abolish tax farms as well as to restrict military service to five years.
lie first of these promises in particular has drawn much attention from contemporary European commentators as well as modem scholars. The pent has been interpreted as a decisive step away from traditional Ottoman legitimacy, giving up Muslim preponderance in favour of equality amoung the different religious groups of the empire." At the same time it has to be acknowledged that regarding its rhetoric the decree remained a fairly conservative document. In its introduction it used the traditional theme of pug the empire's decline down to the non-observance of the sharia and the sultanic law (kanun). As a new twist in this old argument, though, this served as a justification to introduce new regulations resembling numerous reform proposals of the eighteenth century If there were indeed a fundamental change in the basic legitimation, it constituted a long-term trend and was not primarily tied to the decree of 1839. In the decades before its promulgation there had already been very similar statements by Sultan Mahmud II, which can be understood in the framework of his paternalistic conception of office. Only in the second half of the nineteenth century and particularly with the second of the great reform decrees of 1856 did this issue gain a new quality that made it a source for opposition as discussed in the Chapter 2.
Also other fundamentals of the Ottoman political system only changed slowly. While the legal system and the administration saw constant reform during the period, there were few new political institutions that could mediate the political process. Politics remained a prerogative of the elite in the centre; popular participation was at its beginnings and restricted to the participation of provincial elites in the newly founded administrative councils until a first Ottoman parliament was created in 1876.
Constitutionalism was one of the new ideas discussed in the second half of the nineteenth century by Ottoman intellectuals and politicians. The study will ask how this idea was integrated in the conventional thinking on political authority and especially if and how it could become an ideology that fuelled opposition to the government.
In the second aspect of political culture, the style of politics, continuities were even stronger on the surface. As in previous centuries, day-to-day politics revolved around powerful individuals who were eligible for high offices in the centre. They built political factions around their households that were locked in constant struggle by the means of office intrigues, slandering and gossiping. These households had lost their earlier military power since Malunud II had forbidden them to have a military retinue. Poets who were protected by influential politicians played an important role in the political struggle. In this sense also the great politicians of the civil bureaucracy, although they were associated with reform, rationalisation and rule of law, remained patron pashas par excellence. They were regularly criticised for their favouritism and arbitrary decisions by their contestants.
The investigation below will show to what extent the conspiracies were still connected to this form of politics and to what degree they were offering their members other forms of expressing their political ideals.
The history of opposition in the Ottoman Empire is long and colourful. For modern historians instances of contestation like rebellions, revolts, mutinies, urban uprisings or conspiracies are important, because they offer alternative views on Ottoman history. Contestation exhibits the structures of power and the interests that supported Ottoman rule and make it seem less natural and god-given. It puts into perspective the monolithic picture of Ottoman political culture that contemporary chroniclers liked to display for their own reasons.
Rarely has the political culture of opposition concept been used explicitly to analyse the rich history of Ottoman opposition and contestation.
While scholars in general have put questions of power in the foreground of their analysis, questions of legitimacy and political style have always attracted attention as well. The string of rebellions and mutinies that from the late sixteenth century onwards shook the empire have been a particular source of continuing interest and debate regarding their political and social causes and their significance for the development of the Ottoman state and its institutions. Scholars treated the frequent janissary mutinies, revolts of provincial governors and factional struggles in the capital of the post-classical age as examples of a crisis of the elites that resulted in political tensions on three levels: inside particular elite groups as manifest in factional struggle and rivalry between grandee households; between different elite groups over questions of who would have the ultimate decision regarding imperial policies; and, lastly, between established elites and rising groups that tried to change their status and participate in the privileges of the former."
Structurally similar events of political crisis can be encountered in the eighteenth century when also other groups like ulema and the guilds of the capital came to play a significant role. Examples of the consistent patterns of political contestation are the so-called Edirne incident of 1703 as well as the Patrona Halil rebellion in 1730 and the rebellion of 1807 that ultimately brought Mahmud II to the Ottoman throne.
Historians have made reform the main historiographic theme to analyse the instances of opposition and political contestation in the nineteenth cen-tury. In this perspective one of the main questions was in how far opposition meant opposition to the reforms and what vested interests were involved. In a historiographical tradition that saw the founding of the modem Turkish nation state in direct continuation of the reform programme of the nine-teenth century there was a tendency to take the side of the Ottoman autho-rities and condemn such opposition. In this view above all the janissary corps on account of its involvement in the rebellions of 1807 and 1826 was blamed as the ultimate obstacle to progress in Ottoman society.
In a more neutral fashion other instances of opposition to reform have also been examined. The uprisings in the Balkans in the decade after the empire's tax system was reformed in 1839 serve as an example for material interests that, when threatened, could become a trigger for opposition. While landowners and tax farmers defended the old tax system, peasants rebelled to obtain the promises made to them. In the end the peasants' labour duties were abolished, however, the Ottoman government had to pull back on its plans to end the system of tax farming, because the new system proved inefficient. In the relevant decree issued in 1841 it continued its strategy to wrap reforms in a conservative language highlighting the impor-tance of the sharia for the empire.
Other examples for opposition against measures of the Tanzimat come from the Arab provinces of the empire. Regarding the riots in Aleppo in 1850, in Mosul in 1854, in Nablus in 1856 and most seriously in Damascus in 1860 scholars have identified an amalgamation of different reasons as causes for unrest. Besides material interests that were at stake opposition was directed against demands from the centre like the draft or taxation. I Moreover, those active in these incidents defended the preponderance of Islam in society against the ideology of equality of all Ottoman subjects as it was proclaimed by the government.
The issue of slavery in the Ottoman Empire offers a similar example of entwined material and ideological interests causing contestation. British abolitionists had inserted this issue into the Ottoman reform debate in the 1840s. In a rebellion in the Hejaz, led by the Sherif of Mecca and supported by prominent traders, threatened material interests could be linked to questions of state legitimacy. In a fetva obtained from the head of the ulema of Mecca the ban on the slave trade was declared unlawful and the Ottomans were called polytheists (müsrik), who introduced innovations contrary to Islam.
The notions of political culture of opposition in the nineteenth century are best captured in a short article by Serif Mardin. The author stresses that events like revolts and rebellions, far from being mere riots or machinations of power, were displaying the popular understanding of Ottoman legitimacy that rested on a tacit contract between the ruler and the ruled. In this way Ottoman society was defending its freedom as it was understood mainly in religious terms couched in a religious language. Such 'popular rebellions' as Mardin called them followed a typical pattern from gossip to demonstrations to armed intervention as a last resort. They brought together different groups of Ottoman society, disgruntled merchants and crafts-men from the bazar, ulema and, in its military phase, the local janissaries, that united were able to press their demands maintaining their freedom.
According to Mardin the basic elements of this particular political culture of opposition, its thinking on legitimacy as well as its style were still alive in the nineteenth century. Other scholars have picked up on this and have reinterpreted, for example, the role of the janissaries in Ottoman society. The janissaries were re-established as legitimate spokesmen for the interests of society vis-a-vis the centralising tendencies of the state under the leader-ship of an ambitious sultan.
In a similar way to Mardin this study will re-investigate five conspiracies m the second half of the nineteenth century, several of which were also cited in his article as examples of 'popular rebellions'. The first of these to be discussed in Chapter 2 is the so-called Kuleli incident of 1859 staged by an organisation called the Society of Martyrs. Its assumed objective was to Id11 the unpopular Sultan Abdülmecid and replace him with the heir apparent. Because the conspiracy was reported to the government in its planning stage by a traitor, most of its members were arrested and questioned by the police. The surviving interrogation documents allow a close look at the political culture of the involved groups and individuals. The two leaders, a high-ranking Ottoman officer and a Sufi sheikh, are representatives of two important sides of Ottoman legitimacy.
The Chapter 3 will focus on the opposition during the 1860s that grew from the milieu of the low-ranking civil bureaucracy and was embodied by the so-called Young Ottomans. Their articles in the Ottoman press as well as those that were written in European exile offer a picture of established as well as of new ideologies among the opposition to the government. A very interesting aspect regarding this well-researched group was that some of its members originated from a little-known secret society called Vocation. Once again surviving police records allow some insight into the motives and aims of its members.
Chapter 4 deals with the only conspiracy that met with success, namely that of high officials to depose Sultan Abdülaziz I (1861-76). The chapter will examine the plotters' attitude to sultanic authority and the mechanisms of conflict management among the political elite of the empire. Another focus will be on their interplay with a variety of groups and milieus of the capital Istanbul, such as the ulema, protesters on the street and the military, that ensured the success of the enterprise.
The final two secret organisations that are under scrutiny in this study were both directed against Abdülhamid II who had succeeded Murad V in 1876. The so-called Üskiidar Society, the subject of Chapter 5, was organised by the former Young Ottoman Ali Suavi and had close connections to the political milieu of low-ranking bureaucrats investigated earlier. At the same time it illustrates how deeply exterior influences, namely the refugee crisis after the Russian—Ottoman war of 1877/78, could precipitate such events.
The Skalieri—Aziz committee, named after its two leaders, serves as the last example in Chapter 6. Here again surviving interrogation records allow an eye-level account of the motives of the plotters, their personal views of Ottoman legitimacy and the particularities of a political culture that encompassed not only the bureaucracy of the capital, but also the economic bourgeoisie represented by a Greek merchant active in freemason circles. In this opposition group modem as well as traditional forms of political struggle and participation were mixed.
In the older literature these conspiracies were usually judged as to how far they ran counter to the reform policy the Ottoman government tried to implement. However, the nineteenth century conspiracies are hard to bring into line with the teleologic research agenda scholarship on the Tanzimat displayed in the past. The work of Tarik Zafer Tunaya, the father of Turkish political sciences, is a good example of how awkwardly they fit into a picture that scrutinises the Tanzimat`from the viewpoint of the modern, secularist Turkish Republic. In the first edition of Tunaya's seminal work on political parties in Turkey, Türkiyede siyasi partiler, published in 1952, all the above-mentioned conspiracies were treated in an introductory chapter on the Tanzimat, though labelled not as parties but as 'organisations' (taazzuv). Probably because of this unclear classification the second edition of the work appearing 32 years later left them out entirely and started with an account of the Young Turk groups of the late nineteenth century, namely the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), to which a whole volume was dedicated, as the forerunner of the political parties of the Turkish Republic.
Only when oppositional groups during the Tanzimat were conceived as real forerunners of the Young Turk movement, could they be appreciated accordingly. An interesting example is Ahmed Bedevi Kuran's book on revolutionary movements in the Ottoman Empire, Osmanli imparatorlugunda Hareketleri ve Milli Mücadele, 1959. The author who was active in the Young Turk opposition himself was able to align all opposition groups on account of their common enemy, the Tanzimat state.
Such a valuation of political groups opposed to the Tanzimat state was taken up again by scholars like Serif Mardin, for example in his seminal work on the Young Ottomans. With his concept of 'popular rebellion' he avoided a state-centred perspective on political opposition in the nineteenth century and stressed the rootedness of this opposition in the longue durée of Ottoman political thought and practice.
A valuable hint to a wider framework in which the conspiracies and secret societies of the Young Turks as well as their antecedents can be analysed has been given by Thierry Zarcone. Following the diffusion of Freemasonry in the Middle East in the nineteenth century he stressed the process of adaptation and assimilation with an Islamic Sufi culture of secrecy.
The present study will try to situate the five conspiracies under consideration in this context of research. It will try to clarify the elements in each of them that belonged to the traditional political culture and those that annunciated the rupture in the Ottoman political culture and prepared the revolution. The continuities and discontinuities of different elements such as thinking on legitimacy and power, style of political action, forms of communication, etc. were mixed in their own special way with contradictions of their own. Altogether this mélange expresses the unique political culture of the Tanzimat era.
The Age of Beloveds: Love and the Beloved in Early-Modern Ottoman and European Culture and Society by Walter G. Andrews, Mehmet Kalpakli (Duke University Press) (Hardcover)
"The Age of Beloveds is a treasure and a masterpiece. With breathtakingly extensive original research, it is beautifully written, in a style both inviting and impressive. It is the fruit of a lifetime's project to add Ottoman literature to the canons of world literature." -Victoria Holbrook, author of The Unreadable Shores of Love: Turkish Modernity and Mystic Romance
The Age of Beloveds offers a rich introduction to early-modern Ottoman culture through a study of its beautiful lyric love poetry. At the same time, it suggests provocative cross-cultural parallels in the sociology and spirituality of love in Europe—from Istanbul to London—during the long sixteenth century. Walter G. Andrews and Mehmet Kalpakli provide a generous sampling of translations of Ottoman poems, many of which have never appeared in English, along with informative and inspired close readings. The authors explain that the flourishing of Ottoman power and culture during the "Turkish Renaissance" manifested itself, to some degree, as an "age of beloveds," in which young men became the focal points for the desire and attention of powerful officeholders and artists as well as the inspiration for a rich literature of love.
The authors show that the "age of beloveds" was not just an
Ottoman, eastern European, or Islamic phenomenon. It extended into
western Europe as well, pervading the cultures of Venice, Florence,
Rome, and London during the same period. Andrews and Kalpakli
contend that in an age dominated by absolute rulers and troubled by
war, cultural change, and religious upheaval, the attachments of
dependent courtiers and the longings of anxious commoners aroused an
intense interest in love and the beloved. The Age of Beloveds
reveals new commonalities in the cultural-history of two worlds long
seen as radically different.
Excerpt: A portion of that age of Europe and the West that we sometimes call the early-modern period or the late Renaissance was also an age of beloveds, an age of love and sexual activity (given that love and sex do not always overlap) to an extent that is astonishing even to us today in what is often thought of as a lax, liberal, or even libertine era. Beloveds of every sort abounded. Love was everywhere, from attachments to beloveds of the most noble and romantic sort, to the momentary quenching of desire in the arms of cheap prostitutes and the furtive groping and rubbing of young men, to the coquetries of cultured courtesans and beautiful boys who entertained the great and powerful and modeled desire for the greatest artists of the age.
Although we use the term the Age of Beloveds with a somewhat tongue-in-cheek and provisional air, our deeper purpose is quite serious. The terms that scholars use to generalize, describe, and segment the chronology of history, culture, and the world constitute an important heuristic shorthand that enables us to talk economically about stretches of time in relation to characteristics that seem to dominate them in certain places among certain people. Such terms are most useful when we generally agree about them, but usually even our disagreements are instructive. From the perspective of an Ottomanist writing in English, however, the problem with this shorthand is that its terms begin to take on a life and reality of their own. It becomes very difficult to talk outside the boundaries that they set and the expectations that they presume. This is because, to some degree, our terms are useful only insofar as we forget how conditional they are. We are induced to think that there really are such entities as the Renaissance, the early-modern period, the Age of Discovery, the medieval period, the modern period, the West, the East, Christendom, Islamic culture, the Islamic world, and so on. We forget or agree to ignore how much these terms have been shaped by the topography of our scholarly universe, how much their value for us derives from narrowing our focus and excluding things that seem to lead us too far from our expertise and interests. For example, how often do we scholars (Ottomanists included) think of Europe or the West as partially and integrally Muslim and Arabic speaking (as it was in its own west—Muslim Spain—until early-modern times), or as Muslim and Turkish speaking (as it has been in its own east from the fourteenth century), or as partially Muslim and Arabic and Turkish and Persian and Kurdish and Urdu speaking (as it is in most of Europe today)?
In this book, we want to talk about certain cultural and social phenomena as they were made manifest in the urban centers of the Ottoman Empire during a period from the late fifteenth century through the early seventeenth. But we also want to talk about those phenomena in a more general context, as if they were a part of that European period and constellation of phenomena that we call the late Renaissance. Our geographic scope will extend from the Ottoman Empire to Europe, focusing on Italy as representative of a broader, Mediterranean culture, and on England, as representative of cultural developments beyond the Mediterranean. As we will try to show, many of the same things were happening; similarities abounded that transcended cultural and religious differences, often making them seem no more significant than the cultural and religious differences between Protestants and Catholics in traditionally European communities. Yet the fact is that, in trying to show this, all our conventions of naming work against us. We cannot presume to start talking about the Ottomans as though they were just another European power or about Ottoman culture as though it were just another aspect of European culture. It would jar any scholar (ourselves included) to talk about Renaissance Istanbul. We are sure that Renaissance specialists would not particularly welcome an idea of the Renaissance that implies that they ought to know more than a little about Ottoman culture and be as familiar with Ottoman Turkish as many Ottomanists are with French, German, Italian, Spanish, Latin, Greek, and English. We are sure that they would welcome far more information than scholars of Ottoman culture have given them up to now but that they would also argue— quite rightly—that one cannot do everything. Nonetheless, the nature of our scholarly discourse (the discourse of Middle East specialists as much as that of Europeanists), the very terms that we use and the segmentations that we make, often seem to tell us to shut up and go away, to leave European terminologies alone and to stick with Islamic this and Near or Middle Eastern that.
So what can Ottomanists do in our position? Obviously there are a number of possible answers to this question. In our case, we have chosen to get around the terminology problem by inventing our own period, the Age of Beloveds (approximately the middle of the fifteenth century through the first two decades or so of the seventeenth), thereby capturing certain social, cultural, political, and economic phenomena that occurred during that time in a geographic area that covers a greater Europe including England on one end and the Ottoman Empire on the other. Its content overlaps in many respects with what we expect when we say Renaissance or early modern and even With our understanding of general features of very local periodization terms such as Tudor or Elizabethan. The Age of Beloveds is a conceptual tool, a framework in which we hope to talk about some important things from a rather unconventional perspective.
Being unconventional, this book will also be somewhat of a mongrel. Its scholarly genetics will be hazy, and both Europeanists and Ottomanists/ Islamists will often find their subjects explained in simpler language and more naive detail than they are accustomed to seeing. Moreover, to borrow a concept and language from Derrida, we will constantly be reminding our readers in a variety of ways that we will be using some very basic terms sous rature, or, as Gayatri Spivak translates it, "under erasure."" What this means is that we will cross out or erase words such as Renaissance or sexuality by pointing out that they are inaccurate, misleading, anachronistic, and then continue to use them in their crossed-out form because we need them in order to communicate economically. So, if, for example, we were to mention “homoerotic sexuality in late Renaissance Europe," we would intend that it be read "homoerotic sexuality in late Renaissance Europe" to indicate that homoerotic (or homo- anything) and sexuality are words belonging to discourses that did not exist in the period under examination, that the words Renaissance and Europe pertain to the history of certain activities of certain people in certain places at a certain time and exclude the activities of other people in other places at other times even when they seem to be doing and thinking the same things. The invention of the Age of Beloveds is itself one way of putting other periodization labels under erasure.
From a slightly different perspective, we wish to move away from what the historian Rifa'at Ali Abou-El-Haj calls particularism and defines in a passage that could, we believe, easily be modified and made to apply to the study of Ottoman literature and culture:
A general look at the present state of historiography concerning the Ottoman Empire soon makes it apparent that the scholarly cost of particularism has been high, because the emphasis on the incomparability and incommensurability of Ottoman history with other histories has narrowed our perspective and has given rise to many distortions. Ottoman historians are often inclined to treat phenomena that occur throughout the world in vastly different states and cultures, such as, for instance, tax farming, as if they were the outcome of purely conjunctural factors affecting the Ottoman Empire and the Ottoman Empire alone. Ottoman specialists have emphasized the "differentness" of their chosen subject to such an extent that a dialog with neighboring historical disciplines has become difficult if not impossible. We have made our field into such an esoteric one that most of the time other researchers cannot fathom what we are trying to do."
What is true of Ottoman historians has been generally (but not universally) true of Ottoman literature and culture specialists. Our field has been inwardly focused, highly specialized, esoteric, and particularist (or exceptionalist) in the extreme, except as regards attending to relations within a very particularist Islamic literatures field.
If Ottomanist particularism is a problem, however, it is a problem that reflects back from the often-impenetrable surface presented to it by European particularism. In the introduction to the English edition of his seminal work,
The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, Fernand Braudel expressed his discomfort at the inability of European scholarship to account meaningfully for the Ottomans and went on to say: "Today in 1972, six years after the second French edition, I think I can say that two major truths have remained unchallenged. The first is the unity and coherence of the Mediterranean region. I retain the firm conviction that the Turkish Mediterranean lived and breathed with the same spirit as the Christian, and that the whole sea shared a common destiny, a heavy one indeed, with identical problems and general trends if not identical consequences." 2G We share Braudel's conviction and intend to present evidence in favor of it. And we are certainly not alone. In the thirty years since Braudel mused on the subject, and, in fact, in the little more than ten years since Abou-El-Haj's "general look," acceptance of the interrelatedness of Europeans and Ottomans in areas such as trade, economics, monetary trends, and even agriculture has become almost commonplace. Nonetheless, the assumption has remained that culture is a different matter. To say that Ottoman culture "lived and breathed with the same spirit" as European culture is to tread dangerous ground and court general disbelief.
Yet, here and there, doors and windows are being thrown open—most prominently by the brilliant and innovative work of Cornell Fleischer, which will culminate in the forthcoming A Mediterranean Apocalypse. In that work, Fleischer explores the burgeoning of apocalyptic thought and political prophecy in the Ottoman Empire and Europe in a period (1453-1550) that overlaps almost exactly with the height of what we call the Age of Beloveds. Considering that our work was never available to Fleischer and that we were only vaguely aware of the immense scope of his work until he kindly shared with us as-yet-unpublished sections from his book near the end of our writing, it is striking that at much the same time two independently conceived studies should have identified the same general phenomenon—a zone of convergence in which Ottoman and European thoughts and behaviors were remarkably similar — occurring in the same period. This concurrence appears even more striking if one takes into account that the two studies began from widely divergent interests and sources: the one from the literature and history of Ottoman and European eschatological, apocalyptic, and messianic thought, the other from Ottoman and European love poetry and the history of the beloved in the sexual landscape of Eurasia."
Fleischer's work suggests a number of reasons why such a convergence of scholarly conclusions is all but inevitable." The years immediately preceding the turn of the sixteenth century saw the onset of great cultural, political, and social upheavals, from the simultaneous expulsion of the Jews from Spain and Columbus's momentous sailing at one end of the Mediterranean (1492), to the fall of Eastern Christendom's capital, Constantinople/Istanbul, and the burgeoning of Ottoman power at the other. In Western Europe, the appearance of a vastly powerful Islamic empire with an ambitious westward-looking gaze aroused feverish apocalyptic and messianic speculation on the part of frightened Christians, hopeful Sephardic cabalists, and Arabic-speaking Andalusian exiles. Lucette Valensi suggests that the biblical story of Daniel's prophetic interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream is the subtext of a Venetian suspicion that the seemingly invincible Ottoman sultan may be the final ruler of a unified world." This period, which experienced the growth of an effervescent art and entertainment culture featuring lavish amusements and sexual liberty, was also punctuated by the appearance of radical religious reformers — emblematized by Girolamo Savonarola's puritanical tyrannizing of Florence—who combined a compelling vision of the imminent end of days with a concern for a preparatory purifying of the present (including, we might add, an imposition of strict controls on sexual behavior). In the early years of the sixteenth century, the reforming impulse would culminate in Martin Luther's cultural revolution, and three young men with ambitions to universal rule would almost simultaneously ascend thrones from which they would long dominate the age: Francis I (r. 1515-47, France), Charles V (r. 1516/1956, Spain/Holy Roman Empire), and Suleyman I (Suleyman the Magnificent; r. 1520- 66, Ottoman Empire). The political rivalry of the now-unrivaled Ottoman and Holy Roman Empires inflamed by Suleyman's seemingly inexorable advance on Christendom in general and its center in Rome in particular served only to heighten eschatological speculation and speed the development of messianic discourses surrounding the main protagonists. Fleischer argues convincingly that these discourses evolved in an atmosphere of intense mutual attention, in which each side struggled to understand the other, in which even peasant revolutionaries in Germany were aware enough of conditions in the Ottoman Empire to suggest that a true Christian life might be most freely lived among the Ottomans and to find credible rumors that disgruntled Bavarian farmers were flocking to swell the Ottoman armies."
We, in turn, argue that, in this atmosphere, plowed and harrowed by cultural change, religious revolution, and political turmoil, so fecund with a variety of dreams, ranging from the birth of a robust and creative humanism, to the establishment of God's kingdom on earth in the New Jerusalem, to the advent of the Messiah/Mandi and the Universal Monarch (sahib-kiran), who would establish the unified dominion of the one true religion, there emerged an intense interest in love and the beloved. It does not seem surprising to us that love, and especially the idea of an overwhelming, self-sacrificing love, should rise to special prominence in the context of absolute monarchs who wielded tremendous worldly power and were associated in the minds of many with`eschatological and even incarnationist notions. Radiating out from the needs and attachments of dependent courtiers and back from the hopes and dreams of anxious commoners, desire for the attention and benevolences of the absolute ruler and an absolute God formed a turbulent confluence that generated an aura of meaning bound to the peculiar beloved of this age, not only to the ruler as beloved, but to beloveds of every sort.
It is the aim of our project to explore a resolutely nonparticularist view of this beloved. We intend to show that, in Europe and to the east, across the wine-dark sea, in the urban centers of the Ottoman Empire and especially in Istanbul, a period, especially from the late fifteenth century through the first half of the sixteenth, was an age of love and beloveds. We hope to show that this culture of love was, not only aesthetic and artistic, but also political, dynamic, and historical, that love and sexuality and poetry did not exist in a sphere divorced from the other concerns of life and livelihood. We will see that, among the Ottomans, famous beloveds were cataloged in verse, city by city. They were the centerpieces of brilliant entertainments, the stuff of gossip and tale, the companions of powerful, wealthy, and learned men. In their image, the traditional high-culture love song, the gazel, was rescued from a sterile Persianizing classicism and given new life in Ottoman Turkish. Poetry, poets, and parties flourished in a prosperous elite society.
The public face of this beloved was often that of a beautiful young man. This book attempts, among other things, to introduce this beloved—and his female counterpart—to our readers and to introduce him, not as a stranger representing the deviant lusts of some past or distant Oriental "others," but as a beloved of his age as familiar in his androgynous charm to the palazzi of Venice and Florence or the great houses of England as he was to the gardens and kösks (kiosks) of Istanbul.
Taking a slightly different perspective, we argue also that, during this period, power relations of all kinds, from the most personal (adult-child, husband-wife, lover-beloved) to the most public (courtier-monarch, patron-client, even empire-empire), were eroticized on a consistent pattern. That is, they were imagined in the forms, the language, and the metaphors of love. This is as true for Europeans as it is for Ottomans. From our perspective, it is in part the residue of this internal, discursive linking of love and power, love and dominance, that grounds the Orientalist eroticization of relations between the West and the Middle East that Irvin Schick so perceptively reveals in The Erotic Margin. From our point of view, it was easy for the West to eroticize its relations with the Ottoman East because that East had already eroticized its own social and political relations, in some degree through the agency of literary scripting. The erotic was everywhere available for Western scholarship and the Western imagination to discover in the East. But it seems equally true that the European West was drawn to imagining its relations with the Ottoman East in terms of an erotic discourse because the internal discourses of power in the West were similarly and as powerfully eroticized. Conceptualizing relations of dominance and submission in erotic images cut both ways. Western Orientalism had its counterpart in Ottoman Occidentalism. There is plenty of evidence, for example, that the sixteenth-century Ottomans saw their relations with Europe most obviously symbolized by sexual dominance over a "frankish boy" from the European neighborhoods in the Istanbul suburb of Galata. When critical Europeans called Venice the Turk's courtesan, they were imagining political relations in equally erotic terms.
We should add that our forays into Europe are not intended to enlighten Europeanist scholars of the late Renaissance on matters about which they have far more extensive knowledge than we can claim. Our goal is to suggest a framework (or a number of possible frameworks) in which early-modern Ottoman and European literatures and their social contexts can be thought about and talked about together. We hope that we will, thereby, encourage people with an interest in Europe to take the Ottomans into account, to ignore the particularisms and exclusivities projected by Middle East specialists, to use translations as a window into Ottoman culture, and to contemplate comparative and cooperative studies.
In taking a comparative European perspective, we also recognize that we are deviating sharply from the usual practice of Middle Eastern literary and cultural history, which tends to look eastward from Istanbul and to view Ottoman society and culture in the context of Persia and the Arabic-speaking world to the south, with the unspoken assumption that all this has very little to do with Europe and the West. We must say that, on the surface, the reasons for taking the eastward-looking perspective are compelling. It is true, for example, that early-modern Ottoman elites saw their primary cultural influences as coming directly from Persia and the historical culture of the Arabs and that many of them complained bitterly about the favored treatment that any literarily inclined visitor or refugee from Persia received from Ottoman patrons of culture. We have only to cite the well-known couplet from the poet Le`ali to exemplify the general attitude:
Acemun her biri ki Ruma gelur Ya vezaret ya sancak umagelur
Each and every Persian who comes to Ottoman domains expects a provincial lordship or viziership for his pains
Early-modern Ottomans would have rejected as absurd the contention that they behaved as much like Europeans as they did like Persians. And, as we have already pointed out, it would be equally as difficult for us to assert that Europeans or Ottomans were consciously imitating one another. Nonetheless, we are suggesting that there are informative and interesting commonalities to social and intellectual life in the Mediterranean world that extend far into Europe and the Middle East and transcend perceived cultural and religious boundaries. Such commonalities do not represent "essences" —universal things that are the biological property of all human beings. Likewise, they do not necessarily depend on obvious borrowings, exchanges, hegemonies, or imperialisms, although such certainly occurred." War and trade, religious conflicts, poems and stories, all are among the ways in which groups are induced to think about each other, to grow like each other, to capture and captivate each other in both concrete and metaphoric ways. However, conditions that apply globally—for example, economic and demographic conditions, weather, disease, the availability of natural resources, modes of production, general models of rule— appear to have the effect of predisposing societies to similar patterns of relationship and behavioral modes in the sociocultural sphere. So, in the end, Ottomanists and Middle East specialists will likely be as uncomfortable with some aspects of this study as Europeanists will be with others. We hope that the discomfort will be spread about evenly. If both groups are uncomfortable but find something of value in their reading, we will be satisfied.
As a final note, it is also our very tentative suggestion that the androgynous or multiply gendered beloved of early-modern times becomes a vehicle for expressing the desire of men (and women) for a new congruence between sexual desire and intellectual and spiritual companionship as well as a representation of the aspirations of women to full participation in the life of their societies. Out of the turmoil of the late Renaissance, out of the violence, the sexual oppressions, the male-centered, "phallocentric" cultures, and the eroticization of power, stumbles the prototype of a very modern beloved and the first inklings of modern thinking about relations between men and women as well as between men and men, women and women. Strange as it may seem, this is something that can, perhaps, be seen with greater clarity in the view from Istanbul, where modern (and European) assumptions about the West are constantly challenged and our vision is neither clouded by overfamiliarity nor obstructed by imaginary boundaries.
Beauty And Love by Seyh Galip and Victoria Rowe Holbrook (MLA Texts and Translations: Modern Language Association) Companion volume in Turkish: Husn u Ask by Seyh Galip and Victoria Rowe Holbrook (MLA Texts and Translations: Modern Language Association)
Holbrook's brilliant translation of the greatest Turkish romance brings Galip's dramatic imagery alive while making ingenious use of Ottoman mete for the first time in English. Her introduction is the finest brief treatment of Islamic mysticism in existence. Her profound knowledge of Sufism clarifies the philosophical vocabulary of the tale, and her modernized spelling of the text breaks with transliteration tradition to to make her work accessible to all readers of Turkish—Orhan Pamuk
Likewise her translation may well aid in the revival of appreciation of Ottoman poetics and the mysticism of love. The girl Beauty and the boy Love are betrothed to each other as children. But Beauty violates the custom of the tribe by falling in love with him, and Love must undergo the trials of a journey to the Land of the Heart to prove himself worthy—a journey to realization of both his and Beauty's true nature.
The Turkish verse romance Beauty and Love, written in 1783 by Seyh Galip, head of an Istanbul center of Rumi's order of the Whirling Dervishes, is an innovative interpretation of the Islamic love tale as a story of the action of God's qualities in the world. With its stunning imagery, fast-moving plot, and nonchalant, erudite humor, it is widely known as the greatest work of Ottoman literature.
In her introduction Victoria Rowe Holbrook discusses the heritage of Ibn Arabi and Rumi in Ottoman thought, the traditions of verse romance and allegory, Indian style imagery, and Galip's political loyalties.
Excerpt: Seyh Galip's Ottoman Turkish romance Beauty and Love seems a familiar tale.1 The story of a hero who matures through trials to win his beloved`is universal. That the hero is named Love and the heroine Beauty seems a recognizable allegory. But that is only partly true.
The writing of Turkish romances in rhyming couplets had become rare in Galip's time. Beauty and Love, finished in 1783, is short for the genre. The classics often ran to five or six thousand verses. Galip, characteristically boastful, made it clear that he considered his contemporaries mediocre and his work to be in the line of the greatest romances of his predecessors, whom he named. In retrospect his contemporaries have been judged undistinguished, and Beauty and Love is widely considered the greatest work of Ottoman literature. In fact Galip handled his tradition in such a way that his work is both an innovation and a summary of it. Integrated into the work are many of the tradition's major themes and debates and their historical development. In this way Beauty and Love can be the best introduction to Islamic literature there is. The work is short, because it is highly condensed—he referred to stories, themes, and arguments his readers knew and didn't need recounted, only indicated. That this is done with a sense of humor, often wild humor, and virtuoso fun is another pleasure. The work is an extraordinary mixture of wide-eyed fairy tale and formidable erudition.
Galip was born into an Istanbul family that for generations had been closely tied to the Mevlevi dervish order, named after Mevlana Jelaleddin Rumi, the famous mystic poet, presently the best-selling poet in the United States. To call Rumi a mystic does not evoke the breadth of work typical of the Muslim sages known for writing many volumes in verse of ethical teachings based on a distinctive ontology expounded in tales. That ontology`was not named; rather it was generally assumed, so much so that it could almost be called the medieval Muslim worldview, but not quite. It still remains a way of seeing things, and it was never so unquestioned that it could be said to characterize the age or the religion. It was elaborated early in Muslim history and was always disputed, even as it became more widely accepted as time went on, especially in the Ottoman Empire. In Ottoman times the ontology was associated with Ibn Arabi and his Turkish school and sometimes referred to by the term vandet-i vucut ("the unity of being"). It is the ontology of the unity of being that accounts for much of what would not, to a reader untutored in the tradition, be familiar about Beauty and Love.
Galip wrote in the Turkish tradition combining the teachings of Rumi and Ibn Arabi, or perhaps more accurately in many cases, interpreting Rumi through Ibn Arabi. Rumi was born in Balkh, settled in Anatolia with his family as a youth, wrote in Persian, and died in 1272. Ibn Arabi was born in Murcia, traveled widely throughout much of his life, wrote in Arabic, and`died in Damascus in 1240. Together they were the most powerful influences on Ottoman religion and literature; Ottoman thought became organized in ways Ibn Arabi initiated, much as Christian thought remained for centuries organized in ways Saint Thomas Aquinas articulated. Galip was born in Istanbul in 1758, appointed Seyh of the Galata Mevlevi House in Istanbul in 1790, and died in 1799. To say Beauty and Love was written in that tradition means specific things for interpretation of the work, and Galip made these criteria explicit by way of his allusions.
Love and Beauty are allegorical figures, but not just allegories of qualities; they represent God's qualities. They are not exactly allegories of God's qualities because everything in the world is made of God's qualities and represents them in something like an allegorical manner. As the Koran tells us, everything in the world is a sign of God. So an allegory of God's qualities can in a sense be a description of reality. Love's journey is that of all humanity through stages of being, each stage having its proper realm. Love meets a demon who wants to eat him, a witch who wants to marry him, and an illusory Chinese princess who traps him in her Fortress of Forms. There is an allegory of the composite soul as understood by medievals here: the vegetal soul, whose functions are assimilation and growth; the animal soul, characterized by lust and anger; and the rational soul, whose weakness is that it can be duped by logic. The Chinese princess looks exactly like Beauty, and therefore it is rational for Love to believe she is Beauty, but according to the tradition, truth, ultimate reality, is beyond intellect in the realm of spirit, with which the subtler levels of the soul, itself the result of a mixture of spirit and body, overlap. This sort of allegory—a journey through the microcosm—was quite popular from the twelfth century on, but not as part of a romance. Some of these allegories included a full journey through the body, soul, and spirit, while Galip, in characteristically shorthand manner, focused on the journey through the soul. Its extension, a journey through the macrocosm, was also not part of romance tradition and is found in Beauty and Love.
This is partly what I mean when I say Galip integrated the historical development of his tradition into Beauty and Love. By situating these elements within his work, Galip picked up a trend in romance tradition where it had been left in the sixteenth century by Fuzuli, whom he considered the last great romance writer in Turkish. That trend was the allegorization of the old love tales. But in eighteenth-century Istanbul, allegorization had long since come to be understood in light of the unity-of-being ontology. In Fuzuli's Leyla and Majnun love between a man and a woman is a likeness of real love, that is, between humankind and God; Fuzuli's lovers are never united because the real ending of the story is not their union. Galip's lovers are united in the end because we are always already in the real—a novel conclusion for the romance genre. Through references and allusions Galip calls up the older love tales and the reader's expectations of them, all the while superimposing I an interpretation in harmony with later Ottoman philosophical development that prepared the way for a new conclusion.
The macrocosmic counterpart to the composite soul is the composite universe, with its sensory realm in layers of earth, water, fire, air, the heavenly spheres, and variously named realms beyond. The demon lives deep in the earth at the bottom of a pit; the witch, between an icy winterscape and a sea of fire; the Fortress of Forms is described in ethereal terms. Love does not follow the path of a journey through the seven heavens, a component common to many works, most famously Attar's Conference of the Birds. Galip did insert a lighthearted treatment of this much-worked theme in a prefatory chapter on the Miraj, the Prophet's spiritual journey; but Love moves directly on to the beyond, as had become customary in later allegories of the dervish path. It is just beyond the seven heavens that the realm of imagination is usually considered to be located. The Fortress of Forms is that place. After that, Love moves on to a realm of abstraction, the spiritual realm where things subsist without form.
Most broadly characterized, the macrocosm has sensory, imaginal, and spiritual realms of many levels, corresponding to the body, soul, and spirit of the human microcosm. All things originate in God, and while they "descend" to embodied existence in the sensory realm, they continue to subsist in the divine realm in a spiritual state. Imagination is a faculty of the soul, its contents, and also the intermediate macrocosmic level that is the domain of the soul, where things subsist as forms without matter, similar to images, in the imaginal state. In this understanding, the contents of the mind are not manufactured by the mind; rather, they are the soul's apperception of forms in the imaginal state, and that apperception depends on the condition of one's soul. The faculties of the soul are located in the heart, which is often likened to a mirror. Worship of God "polishes" that mirror. Thus the images in our minds differ in part according to the clarity of our hearts.
The life of all things begins in the spiritual, acquires form, and proceeds to material existence. That part of the journey is called the arc of descent or outward track. All things return to God, voluntarily or involuntarily. On the journey back, called the arc of ascent or inward track, one returns through the intermediary realm of imagination, where this time one loses material form. In bodily death it is in this imaginal state that one waits in the grave for the resurrection. But it is possible, as the prophet Muhammad said, to "die before you die," called a voluntary death. Allegories of the dervish path describe the inner journey of voluntary death, undertaken in order to realize the true nature of existence while one still has the chance to prepare for bodily death. In Galip's tale, voluntary death is the "alchemy" Love must find in order to be worthy of Beauty's hand. When he burns down the Fortress of Forms and emerges into a realm characterized by the Sacred Spirit, he has completed his journey through the levels of the soul to the point where it connects with spirit. He proceeds on to the Land of the Heart, which he has never really left; the difference is that the faculties of his soul are purified so that his heart can see clearly, and he sees that it is Beauty who is there, that the heart is her domain. He realizes that he has never been separate from her, that he experienced the things he did because his perception was awry. In reality Love is Beauty, as Beauty is Love.
This conclusion accords with the paradigm of love as taught by the early dervish writer Ahmad Ghazzali (died 1226; not to be confused with his more famous brother, Abu Hamid), which Galip received through the Turkish tradition and superimposed on the romance genre, reversing the usual romance roles of male and female thereby. Beauty, the girl, is the first to fall in love with the boy. In Ghazzali's teaching, all relationships are determined by God's absolute love, objectified in the roles of lover and beloved, and beauty is the sum of perfections love possesses. God creates out of love, and so it is of course God who first takes the role of lover, while his beloved creature, turned away from God on the arc of descent, is yet unaware. At a certain point in life, human beings grow in awareness of beauty to the extent that they turn toward God, taking the role of lover on the arc of ascent. The logic of the paradigm, when applied to the romance genre, requires that the role of lover be first played by the female, something which Ibn Arabi is famous for having noticed. The two children in Galip's tale are born into a world in which all relationships are determined by love. Every member of their tribe is passionately in love and interprets everything and everyone as motivated by love. The boy Love is at first unaware of Beauty, and the dawn of his awareness brings about "The Reversal of Events," a chapter that divides the work in two and marks the beginning of his journey, his arc of ascent. At first he is tremendously full of himself and his role as a heroic lover. He becomes progressively humbler as he matures through his experiences, until he realizes that his selfhood has consisted of role-playing. His companion Rivalry is no longer needed. In reality he and his beloved are one and the same, made, as all creatures are, of God's love: unity of being.The character Poetry is both the go-between of romance and the guide of dervish allegory, while also carrying associations common to the logos. But he is something else, special to Galip, which is briefly indicated in Galip's prefatory chapter in praise of God and becomes clear in the Digression on the nature of poetry just after Poetry makes his first appearance in the tale. For Galip, poetry was a path to God, because it is the best form of speech (and since God creates with speech, speech can be followed back to him); because it is imaginative—properly, imaginal, when it is the true poetry he believed in; and because, as he explains in the Digression, it is the form of speech in which poets realize the incomparability of the Koran. The two children find Poetry in the Pleasure Place of Meaning, a garden where their love becomes mutual under his influence, but as Galip characterizes him, he is everywhere. It was customary in allegories of the dervish path for the journey to begin with a meeting with a guide figure in a place outside the city The imagery Galip uses to describe the garden suggests a level overlapping with the spiritual realm. Everything is in a state of infinite expansiveness, eternally, but does have form. It is watered by a Pool of Grace, "a sea of qualities"—referring to God's qualities, of which the world partakes—on which images constantly appear, like "the talent of a pure poet." In Turkish (as in Arabic and Persian), "meaning" is often synonymous with "spiritual" and is coupled with "form," in that all created beings have both inner meaning and outward form, a principle quite a few of Galip's images throughout the work depend on. The children have been schoolmates, learning from Professor Madness that things are not what they seem (thus the one who sees things as they really are appears mad), but it is in the Pleasure Place of Meaning that they begin to communicate. Poetry is the proper go-between for them not only because he is speech, communication, but because he works in form, in imagination, the link to the real. Then, just as the children are beginning to get along, they are separated by Lord Dazzle, the same character who unites them in the end. They must be dazzled if they are to be separated and Love to pursue Beauty (who must appear to withdraw with Modesty's intervention in order to allow for Love's development), and again dazzled if they are to be united, since the real is beyond the intellect, which is also to say beyond words. Poetry is left behind along with all the others Beauty and Love have known.