Sufi masters of love

Sufi mastersThe Rosicrucian Foundation in The Netherlands will organize a symposium on the poetry and lyrics of Hafiz, Rumi and Khayyám. The meeting is part of a series to investigate the great oriental movements of wisdom and philosophy.

The delicate Persian lyrics still exert a specific attraction to us. Persian poetry, music and wisdom spread over the continents from China to the West when our ancestors still went at each other with prongs and forks.

Some of the subjects that will be discussed are stories and music about  Layla and Majnun, about Rumi, Shamsuddin of Tabriz, Mirabai, but also Krishna and Jesus. There will also be a small exhibition on Khayyám’s Rubáiyát, showing a number of mystical and sufi interpretations of his verses.

For more information (in Dutch) see: Soefi-meesters van de Liefde: Rumi en Hafez. Perzische bevrijdingslyriek voor het hart

The event will take place on June 13, 2016 in Bilthoven, The Netherlands.

Recent papers and articles

KhayyamwisdomA couple of recent articles show that there is still a living interest in Khayyám’s rubáiyát, and that there is wide range of subjects and aspects left to be studied.

Rebecca Mueller, graduate student at Indiana University, published a paper “Balkan Rubaiyat”, in which she presents two case studies of post-Ottoman translation. The studies concern the translations by Safvet-Beg Bašağić (1870-1934), Omer Chajjam. Rubaije published in 1920, and by Theofan Stylian Noli (1882-1965), a version in Albanian, in 1926. Mueller’s aim is to discuss how these translations can be seen in the context of Western as well as Eastern orientation of Bosnian or Albanian indentity-formation in that period.
Balkan Rubaiyat. The post-Ottoman polysystem between East and West. Rebecca Mueller.
Online available at:

D.P. May, from the Mathematics Department, Black Hills State University, Spearfish, takes a mathematical view on the Rubáiyát: how can graph theory be used to explore the connections between the various quatrains in FitzGerald’s translations.
Complete graphs in the Rubáiyát. D.P. May. Journal of Mathematics and the Arts, 8 (2014), nrs. 1-2, 59-67. DOI: 10.1080/17513472.2014.939526.

Rebecca Weston raised the question whether readers of Chinese and Persian poetry, notably by Li Bo, Khayyám or Hafez, should read between the lines when themes like ‘drunkenness’ or ‘drinking of wine’ occur. Drunkenness is not only a state of physical intoxication, but also refers to a state of spiritual enlightenment, and apart from the view that the reader takes in this discussion, Weston concludes that this unquestionably is an issue for “lengthy debate”.
Implications of Mystic Intoxication in Chinese and Iranian poetry. Rebecca Weston. The Undergraduate Historical Journal, 1 (2014), nr. 1.
Online available at:

The recent translation into Dutch by Paul Claes, Omar Chajjaam. Kwatrijnen (2010) is discussed by Benoît Crucifix, student at Université catholique de Louvain. In this article, the author looks at quatrain nr. XI, to demonstrate the principles and theoretical ideas in Claes’ translation.
Woestijn waar ik dit paradijs aan dank. Claes vertaalt FitzGerald vertaalt Chajjaam. Benoît Crucifix. Filter, 21 (2014), nr. 2.

And finally, Reza Taher-Kermani presents new insights into FitzGerald’s translation practice, to substantiate the claim that FitzGerald succeeded in transmitting an authentic Persian spirit in his Rubáiyát.
FitzGerald’s Anglo-Persian Rubáiyát. Reza Taher-Kermani. Translation and Literature, 23 (2014), 321-334. DOI:10.3366/tal.2014.0162

“The many sided Omar”

That was the title of a reading by Johnson Brigham before the Prairie Club of Des Moines, VedderIowa in 1924. The author explaines that “Omar Khayyám’s nature was profoundly religious, and as a pagan preacher of “righteousness, moderation and judgement to come,” he has a message to millions of our western world who profess and call themselves Christian and yet do not take their profession seriously.”

The title quoted above, could also be applied for the phenomenom of the large number of so called translations and interpretations in which the author(s) is question argue(s) that we have no proper understanding of what Omar really had to say, or that FitzGerald’s translation desperately needs revision. The readers of Omar generally take all this for granted but in some circles these elucidative views had and still have prophets and apostles.

Here we can think of, for instance, Sir Jean (John) George Tollemache Sinclair (1825-1912), who commented extensively on FitzGerald’s translation and pointed to the many flaws and shortcomings therein, in his privately published book Larmes et sourire (1912). And to stay in our days there is the commentary by Abdullah Dougan (1918-1987), who explains in his posthumously published book Who is the potter (1991) that those who have criticized FitzGerald’s translation, all missed the point “that FitzGerald was only an instrument for what Allah wanted to happen”, and that the sultan’s turret, caught in a noose of light, basically “symbolizes the male sex organ”.

I wonder if Omarian studies can be complete without a proper exploration of this hitherto disregarded and undemarcated territory. In a number of articles Bob Forrest took a closer look at some of these works, notably by Paramhansa Yogananda (The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam explained), Louis C. Alexander (The testament of Omar Khayyam) and dr. Otoman Zar-Adust Ha’nish (Omar Khayyam in his Rubaiyat).
These articles, titled “Omariana Eccentrica” part 1-3, are published now on my website, and hopefully, there will be more to follow.