Impressions from Istanbul: Part 2

  1. Empires of Old and the Kingdoms Within

Historical changes do not come unnoticed and their repercussions do not remain unfelt. Events as evident as the decline and fall of the Ottoman Empire, the aftermath of World War I and the Presidency of Atatürk were clear signposts of the transformation that the Turkish nation would undergo during the first decades of the 20th century – transformation which is still in the making.


The Blue Mosque in Istanbul

In his novel Istanbul, Pamuk manages to trace a parallel between the history of his country and his city and his own personal history by means of an autobiographical account. In Pamuk’s case, the changes and development undergone by his city intertwine with and find reflection in his personal history, both inner and outer.

This reflection has made me ponder on the nature of our personal history and how it unfolds in regards both to its inner and its outer dimensions. How conscious are we of the development of our own inner history, the history of our individual personalities, and how aware are we of its relationship to the all-encompassing Kingdom to which our inner and outer worlds pertain? How certain can we be of their meaning and the role they play in the development of our own personality – their connection to our past, present and future – and the repercussions they have on those around us?

The signposts of our inner landscapes are subtler in their nature and character and might seem more difficult to recognise than those signposts which shape the history and landscape of nations. The pages of our outer endeavours may turn and mark the end of a chapter and the beginning of another in our outer lives, while our thoughts and feelings may linger on, re-living the past and re-enacting ancient glories or lamenting old failures. Consciously or unconsciously, our lives nourish on their own inner history and re-live its joys and sorrows, ever so much kindling that sweet or lurid feeling of melancholy which abides in our minds and hearts.

What value does our past history have in our present and future lives, and under which light should we try to apprehend or even understand it? Can any growth be really attained from looking backwards, and how long should we linger on our memories before taking the next steps into the future?

Considering these reflections within a wider and perhaps more metaphysical context, what remains in our consciousness and what becomes of it after we die and once we take birth on earth again? In which part of the cosmos or of our souls are they now stored or will be soon stored? If they now seem to be forgotten, at least temporarily, what was the purpose of having lived those experiences and having undergone such strong impacts, and what is the divine economy inherent in that self-forgetfulness and perpetual self-search? In the lapse of millions of unions, dis-unions and reunions, where are we to find the One Beloved? What remains of the unions which once existed? What has happened to what seemed to be the joy and beauty and reality of us partaking in the One?