Operationalising Ziraat

an essay by Firos Holterman ten Hove

Vice-President for Ziraat in Europe

Autumn 2019


Die Operationalisierung von Ziraat, Ein Essay von Firos Holterman ten Hove, Herbst 2019

During my conversations with Ziraat members, I noticed how many of us struggle with the question of what Ziraat actually stands for. What are our goals in Ziraat and how do we want to achieve them? Ziraat is experienced by many as something difficult to understand.

We speak of operationalization when we make a concept tangible through our actions. The word goes back to the Latin noun opus, which means "work".


What are we doing in Ziraat? This question about doing seems legitimate to me because in the lodge we commit ourselves to action, to work. What is the nature of the work with which we can grasp the concept of Ziraat?


When Pir Vilayat brought Ziraat to the public about 40 years ago, his announcement to us candidates for admission to the lodge was: "Welcome are those with a connection to agriculture". In his lecture "The Meaning of Ziraat" (printed in The Message, vol 7 no 5, May 1981) we find an urgent warning of a global catastrophe and, in a nutshell, all the elements for building a new way of dealing with nature, especially an agri-culture with respect for nature (see appendix for the

complete text).


Below in italics are the single sections from Pir Vilayat's message with my explanations on their possible implementation.


While freemasons have been celebrating the rituals of building „ the temple“, the edifice which forms the cornerstone of present-day civilization with its emphasis on industry, Hazrat Inayat Khan foresaw that the day will come when humans will fall back on a still deeper juncture upon which all life is built: agriculture.


The Ziraat Lodge has quite some similarities with the rituals of Freemasons. In the circle of students around Hazrat Inayat Khan at the beginning of the 20th century in London there were active Freemasons. Murshida Green, responsible for the development of Ziraat, had been a student of Annie Besant, a famous English theosophist who had made Freemasonry accessible to women.


Both Sufism and Freemasonry have freedom of faith and conscience as their ideal. Both are aimed at the whole of humanity and dedicate themselves to respect and kinship. Both know the powerful effect of symbols. The statement of a 20th century Freemason "The goal itself is the inner transformation of man, the retrieval of the lost logos and the experience of embedding in the shadowless light" could just as well be attributed to a Sufi.


There is, however, an essential difference: Freemasonry orients itself around temple building, Ziraat on agriculture.


The history of the masonic lodge goes back to the stonemasons who built the cathedrals in medieval Europe. Pir Vilayat makes it clear that today's global culture, with its industrial conquest of the world, is based on a tradition of building churches and, further back, temples. For the encounter with the holy, buildings had to be erected. Outside the walls the profane reigns, inside God reigns. Outside, the laws of matter apply; in the protected interior, the spirit should manifest itself. In today's stage of development of this 10,000 year old cultural period, the necessity of maintaining a spiritual interior is meanwhile experienced as obsolete. What remains is the absolute supremacy of materialism with a boundless unleashing of capitalism and an unknown ruthlessness against our environment.


But ... when Dharma is in decay, the messenger comes.


In the Ziraat impulse, Pir-o-Murschid Hazrat Inayat Khan makes a revolutionary spiritual reversal: the divinity of the natural world surrounding us is placed at the centre of activities; the divine spark in us human beings can be experienced by turning reverently to nature. As Pir Vilayat says, this is a deeper layer in our being. A new chapter in the development of mankind was announced in 1919! The goal is not the creation of buildings, in which the divine could be experienced, but the cultivation and preservation of the surrounding and inherent nature.


Ziraat is about agriculture. Plants are at the centre of the activities. In the evolution of creation there has been a radical reversal before: in a vegetal age, plants produced oxygen by absorbing CO2; in the following animal age, animals began to absorb this oxygen and excrete CO2. We humans are just reaching the limit of the animal state. We must and will acquire a vegetal way of life. The global task is to absorb CO2 instead of setting it free. This developmental step is foreseen by the Sufis: in "A Sufi Message of Spiritual Liberty" Hazrat Inayat Khan outlines the phases of human development. After humanity has fully lived out its animal being with the accompanying egoism, the next thing it will learn is to develop the plant layer in its being with the associated altruism.