Sunday, August 13, 2017

OMAR KHAYAAM: THE HEDONIST; THE MYSTIC ;THE HERETIC ;THE SUFI


The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
  Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
  Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.



Khayyam was a contrarian; heretic and a mystic; admired and also scorned. 

 Apostates claim him as their own and Sufi's say he was secretly one of them.

He himself says:

Every group has its own theory about me

I am mine, what I am, I am.

His significance as a philosopher and teacher, and his few remaining philosophical works have not received the same attention as his scientific and poetic writings. Al-Zamakhshari referred to him as "the philosopher of the world". He taught the philosophy of Avicenna for decades in Nishapur. 


But Omar Khayyam was a man of contradictions---startling contradictions.He was a mathematician, a great mathematician, a genius.He invented geometric algebra and binomial theorems.He was a man of reason, a disciple of the Greeks who taught Avicenna philosophy to students and yet ---he knew the secrets of Sufi taverns.

Who could write this but a Sufi?

The secret must be kept from all the non-people
The mystery must remain secret from all fools
To see what you do to other people
The Eye has to be hidden from all the Men.

I have always been amazed by the contradiction of numbers and mysticism in his life; the yin and the yang. 

And the great mathematician became a drunkard, and the great mathematician started talking of wine, of drunkenness, and the great RUBAIYAT was born. 

One cannot believe, reading Omar Khayyam’s RUBAIYAT, that he was a great mathematician. 

One cannot conceive of what kind of mathematician he was because his poetry is so pure. 

How can a mathematician attain to such purity of poetry? 

A mathematician is a logician, he functions through syllogism. He is very practical, he is very objective.

He does not allow his subjectivity to enter into his observations; he is very detached. And mathematics is the only perfect science in the world. All other sciences are so-so; mathematics is the only perfect science. 

How can a perfect scientist become a Sufi?
But now you can understand how it happened. 
The circle of this world is like a ring:
There is no doubt that we are nothing but

Naqsh, the design of its bezel.


When you come to the extreme point of your reason, and if you are still available, not closed — if you have not concluded, this way or that way, if you have not yet become a theist or an atheist, if you still have the awareness that reason remains inconclusive — then you will be taken in by his presence. He will appear as a master and will take you in. And then it can happen in a single moment.


Why was I given life? Why was my seed ever sown?
Why having to leave all alone with moan and groan?
If the universal wisdom received mine on loan

I’d never be born, stay or leave, let it be known.


When one is standing on the boundary, then in a single moment one can enter into the unknowable.


Seed Like these
In cell and cloister, in monastery and synagogue
Some fear Hell and others dream of Heaven
But no one knows that the Secrets of God

Who has planted seeds like these in his heart.

Unlike Rumi, he was cynical and flippant; a skeptic of every ism and yet he knew secrets that only mystics did


His detachment from the world was characteristic of a Sufi but his cynicism about human nature was like a stoic Greek philosopher. 

I sent my soul into the invisible,
Some letter of that after life to spell.
And by and by my soul returned to me
And answered, I myself am heaven and hell.


To understand his poetry emphasis on living in the moment, you need to understand a life spent among court intrigue and the violence in the Islamic world at that time:The Ismaili Assassins from Almut could kill you any time or the king could order you dead because his wife did not like you and if all of these were not enough---- you could be a excommunicated because you wrote something the mullah did not like.

So you lived in the moment because you could die at any moment--at least in 10th century or even now! 

I watched the birds on nature’s stage
Playful, in flight, page after page
Thus opened the doors of my cage
& learnt each moment to fully engage



Ah! my Beloved, fill the Cup that clears
To-day of past Regrets and future Fears
To-morrow?–Why, To-morrow I may be
Myself with Yesterday’s Sev’n Thousand Years.




Khayyam also came under attack from the orthodox Muslims who felt that Khayyam's questioning mind did not conform to the faith. 

He wrote in his poem the Rubaiyat :-

Indeed, the Idols I have loved so long
Have done my Credit in Men's Eye much Wrong:
Have drowned my Honour in a shallow cup,
And sold my reputation for a Song.

The reason Victorians at the cusp of modernity identified with his cynicism and pursuit of hedonism so much was because they like Khayam were scared of the forces scattering their life as well. 
Though initially published as an anonymous pamphlet, once the Rubáiyát was discovered by Rossetti, Swinburne and others, it swiftly became famous. It is said that its effect on Victorian England was no less considerable than that of Darwin's On the Origin of Species, published in the same year, 1859.
Fitzgerald's Khayyam says "Enjoy wine and women and doesn't be afraid, God has compassion," He is painted as an atheist, hedonist; a Persian Byron.When Fitzgerald, a very talented poet, translated.

Fitzgerald had no idea that Omar Khayyam was talking about God, not about a woman.

But was he really talking about wine and women??
The Rubaiyat is one of the most misunderstood and also one of the most widely read books in the world. It is understood in its translation, it is misunderstood in its spirit. The translator could not bring the spirit to it. 


You rising Moon that looks for us again -
How oft hereafter will she wax and wane;
     How oft hereafter rising look for us
Through this same Garden – and for one in vain!

And when like her, oh Sáki, you shall pass
Among the Guests Star-scatter'd on the Grass,
     And in your joyous errand reach the spot

Where I made One – turn down an empty Glass!


Professor Emiritus of Islamic studies at Georgtown, Seyyed Hossein Nasr maintains that it is reductive to establish Khayyam's personal views about God or religion based on a literal interpretation of his poems (many of which are also apocryphal) because he elsewhere wrote a treatise entitled "al-Khutbat al-gharrå˘" (The Splendid Sermon) on the praise of God, where he holds orthodox views, agreeing with Avicenna on Divine Unity.

Rubaiyat were symbolic, and the translator was a very straight Englishman, what in America they would call a square, not hip at all. To understand Rubayat you need a little bit of hip in you.
Before the phantom of False morning died,
Methought a Voice within the Tavern cried,
    “When all the Temple is prepared within,
Why nods the drowsy Worshiper outside?”
The Rubayat talks of wine and women and nothing else; it sings of wine and women. The translators - and there are many - are all wrong. They are bound to be wrong because Omar Khayyam was a Sufi, a man of tasawuf, a man who knows. 

When he talks about the woman he is talking about God. 

That is the way Sufis address God: "Beloved, O my beloved." And they always use the feminine for God, this should be noted. Nobody else in the world, in the whole history of humanity and consciousness, has addressed God as a woman. 

Only Sufis address God as the beloved. 


And the ′wine′ is that which happens between the lover and the beloved, it has nothing to do with grapes. The alchemy which happens between the lover and the beloved, between the disciple and the master, between the seeker and the sought, between the worshipper and his God... the alchemy. the transmutation - that is the wine. 

Rubayat is so misunderstood;  The Sufis call God saki. 

Saki is the woman in the pub who pours wine for the customers.  And Sufis call God “saki” Fitzgerald had no idea that saki means, to a Sufi, God.
He simply translated literally that saki is a woman, and when Omar Khayyam says, “Saki, fill my cup full,” he thinks he is asking a woman to fill his cup full.


And that inverted Bowl they call the Sky,
Whereunder crawling  cooped we live and die,
    Lift not your hands to It for help--for It
As impotently moves as you or I.





4 comments:

  1. Please see my parodic ballad on Khayyam "The Rubaicon"

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  2. You have pointed the question about Sáki. She is a always present picture in the Gazels (from the persian sufi poet Hafiz - Shamz Ud Din Mohammed). I have read Omar Kháyyám, Hafiz and Jami and I´ve been happy - as I am happy with Rumi works. However I´ve been something confused with this question about the wine (forbidden in the Qu´ran). See: I´m a western and so I have not been shocked with this guidance in these persian poetrys, but,,, it´s Islam! Two years after I´ve read Kháyyám and Hafiz, a book of Ibn Arbi has fallen in my hands: Lubbu-l-Lubb and Sirru-s-Sirr (in a spanish translation: "El núcleo del núcleo" - "y El misterio del misterio»). In fourth chapter my doubts about "wine" have been fired, totally burnt...José Ricardo (Brazil)

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  3. Ah, Moon of my Delight who know'st no wane, // The Moon of Heav'n is rising once again: // How oft hereafter rising shall she look //
    Through this same Garden after me? - in vain!. "The Moon of my Delight" it´s othing but The Light. "The Moon of Heaven" is the sky Moon ,meanning the time, temporal (bird-and-death). To our friend illusion and veils are over; He has got The Friend... The end. José Ricardo (Brazil)

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