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Persia’s Mystic: Rumi’s Divan

3 October 2011 No Comment

Gustav Richter (1906-39) 1



This is Gustav Richter’s third lecture on Rumi’s poetry, in which, in language clearly inspired by Rumi himself, Richter analyses the structural and metaphysical aspects of the Divan, as well as the many layers of meaning contained within the imagery. Richter compares Rumi’s poetry with that of the German Romantic poets, in order to examine whether classical and Romantic poetry is able to accommodate the spiritual dimensions of the Divan.

After we have tried to understand Rumi’s didactic poem, it should not be difficult to find the right stylistic measures for an evaluation of his Divan, too. The religious experiences are the same. It is impossible to talk about the whole Divan, thus we will only look at some selected poems. If we could derive a common style from them that describes Rumi’s principle of mystical-lyric form, we could approach a comparison with his didactic poem. In the end we should have a complete picture of the literary Rumi. Since we already have certain knowledge of Rumi’s literature, we can start giving some samples of Rumi’s poetry.

But then I saw my dearest friend, how he was walking around the house, lifting his zither…

The poem has been extended in its length in the German translation from eighteen to twenty seven verses. The Persian poem has caesuras, thus its overall structure seems more metrical. But much more important is the adequacy of the lyrical milieu and its people in both poems. The poet presents us the most beloved. In front of him the host is standing with a jug, which is filled with the wine of heavenly love and highest spirituality. The image has not been prepared. Vividly and dramatically he suddenly steps in. Through the sudden impact of the image we can also feel a higher spiritual movement, which is pointed to by the “host coming in from the darkness”. This is the situation of the poem. Secondly, the characters are moving around themselves in circles. The wish for a symbolic mix-up becomes evident in the beginning:

…he sang to the sound of the Iraqi cither, no he was singing to the heat of the vine.

At this point the visions are still divided according to their concrete value. But slowly the separate poetic strings are becoming tied to each other, as if it was a game.

The Iraqi tone, its somberness together with the stress on the intervals, can be compared to the Doric mood. The fire, the nightly feast, the drunkenness of the singer – all of them are the flames of poetical emotion, which spread quickly and symbolically join to become one pillar of light. The host offers the wine to the singer, this symbol of higher life, and the plot begins magically like a mystery. In this intertwining of the different parts the poet fulfils his poetic goal. Who is holy now? The longing singer or the host who offers the wine of flames (the paradox is deliberate)? The question is not answered, nor asked. The movements of the characters are as intangible as the characters themselves. The divine-personal is revealed in the wine as well as in the two people. Does the poet empty the characters of their true selves? He forms them into a general type, which he idealizes in the end in the synthetic ‘I’ of the speaker: I am the light of the truth – in Persian: shams-ul-haqq, which is meant to be Shams-i-Tabrizi in a literal sense and in a wider sense the poet, who identifies himself with the master. The Persian ghazel gives at the end of the poem the name of the poet. It provides the impetus here to combine all the experiences in one holy name.

Rumi seems to have this goal in all his poems, but he always finds new forms to develop the experience. Here is a second ghazel:

I was at the day when there were neither names nor signs…

The different parts have been taken from the theological-mystical doctrine. Their purpose is to stress the exclusiveness of the mystical ‘I’. First the poet remains in the resigned skeptical attitude of the searcher for the truth, then he becomes happy, for his soul is looking up to the beloved friend and master in whom the being of God and human beings become one.

The richest part in the events is the first part. He expresses the goal indirectly. With almost epical regularity the poet determines his field. He does not find his luck by the cross, in the Buddhist temples, in Herat or in Qandahar. Also, science does not hide the truth. The Persian text points to Avicenna, who does not recognize revelation any longer. But these observations are not theses in the frame-work of a theological doctrine. They originate there but they are used as scenery only, to take in the observer and lead him to the center, which becomes clearer the longer he looks. The message does not contradict the theological attitude of the poet. But the emphasis is not on this, because the positive lines in the end are as undoctrinal as possible. Here the tension is lifted and the listener enjoys the meeting with this intangible self that cannot be expressed with any terminology. How could there be room in this short moment in the mystical world for gradual teaching? The mystical world is being copied so that it might lead us to the final experience. In this manner, each part of the teaching will not lead to an understanding of the logical sequence but to an emotional feeling. Here even more so because the poet is only talking of himself as in time passing. By this intensification of the feeling, which is closely related to the subject, we can take in the unity of the poem. In this stream, symbolical hints like the curl of the friend or the beginning of his name make the symbolic purpose of the speculative language close to the highest experience visible again. The distance of “two lengths of a bow” represents the immediate vicinity to God, a mystical term, which was developed on the basis of a verse in the Qur’an (Sura 53,8-10). That Rumi includes this place in the circle of his negation, shows better than anything else how little he is interested in the meaning of this image. Through excess he wants to reach his goal of experience in which theological hints will lead to the name of the intangible Tabrizi. This way he aspires to connect the pre-temporary eternity at the beginning with the post-temporary eternity there after.

If we look closer at the interweaving symbolism of the separate lyrical parts, we will find that they show a resemblance to the style of the didactic poem. But the relationship is not the same. In the didactic poem the events made up the basis of the composition. Here they are missing. There, we stepped into time and from it into timelessness. In the relation of the secondary to the primary we found the order of the poetry of the didactic poem. Here we cannot find the same effect of the image. Space and time-bound impetus are missing. With a strong rhythmical employment of the senses, the poet puts parables and diction immediately and heroically into empty space. Indeed there are images, characters and colors, but the connection of space and time is not given in the manner of the didactic poem. Metaphors and histories have the function of a secondary style in the Divan. The poetical tension of condition and uncondition remain thus well-preserved. We can feel the metaphors much more strongly this way. But the lyrical goal is striving for order. This order is simply brought into relation with the participating ‘I’.

One could also speak of the participating ‘Thou’. Something personal is meant in the experience of the poems. We are being admonished, people appear as examples, requests become interwoven with the images. They are not rounded up into one concrete impression. They are organized by the enthusiasm of the subject. We listen to the poet and speak along with him. We do not just accompany his observations. This empathising and imagining is a necessary requirement for the poetical intake. We make the impression of the poem concrete. The poem becomes an act and is thus bound. Where are the final verses sounding to? Are they really a conclusion or just randomly there? Is the poem a truth or just a sum of verses. The subject makes it more than a sum of verses. It seems to lead from timelessness to time. The subject provides space and time. This is the opposite way to the didactic poem. It has to be taken in connection with the needs of the participating society.

We already spoke about this society in the first lecture. It is exclusive, has its own rites and pattern of education for artistic-religious contemplation. We know the dance of the Derwishs. They are turning on their right foot with the sound of certain instruments. Recent travelers speak especially about the flute, violin, drums, tambourine and kettledrum. These special dhikr-exercises represented the peak of life in the order and were thus not practiced very often (maybe twice a month). Only people who had passed a certain time of preparation were allowed to participate. The acceptance into the order was signified with the reception of the dress of the order. The high hat of the Derwish is characteristic here, as you can see them on Turkish coins. On top of the long sleeveless overthrow, jacket and coat were put and a belt attached. After the initiation the members of the order lived in single cells and they gathered together for religious exercises. The aim is to be ecstatically unified with God by the way of meditation, dance and music. It is difficult to judge where the limits are between religious art and esoteric skill. Music and dance belonged together in profane art even before Rumi. People were also dancing to poetry. The exercises of the people of the order were often linked with the local customs. We have evidence that Rumi did the same in Asia Minor. Thus the mystical exclusive society includes some popular traits, too. During the dance the mystics reached a condition of euphoria, which allowed them to take part in the divine unity. Holy people were supposedly able to reach such a state day and night uninterruptedly.2

Rumi’s poems from the Divan must have had a relation to these needs of the people of the order. During the ecstatic dance they were not recited. Words could only be used if they completely submitted to the rhythmic harmony. The need for admiration of the verses themselves would have disturbed the concentration. It would be interesting to see if there was an ideal link between the aesthetic-mystical aim of the poetry and the dance of the Derwishes. Mystical contemplation is capable of great tension. Single and joint readings had been common to the people in the order since the beginning. Although they were not bound to a liturgy, they provided a very similar kind of nutrition to the Derwishes.

The rhythmical forms of the poems are thus very varied. They have not been brought into one single form as in the didactical poem. They are a content in themselves, which translates the movement of the spirit in time-relations and feelings of form. The first poem we looked at has the Persian meter mudari. It consists of four metrical feet, of which the first one has two long lengths and one short length, whereas the second has one long length, one short length followed by two long lengths. Then there is a caesura, the third and the fourth feet are like the first and the second: (–v/-v–//–v/-v–). Like all poems in the Diwan, this is a ghazel with double verses which rhyme. The first part of these double verses, which does not follow the main rhyme, has a rhyme between its second and fourth foot. Thus the monotonous sound is interrupted by the changing harmony of its inner members, as you have it in a pearl necklace. The meter seems exiting and free. The language flows easily and enthusiastically. This meter is very popular with Rumi. In most cases there is an alteration, especially on the third foot, which is surrounded by its two long lengths and two short lengths, which slows the movement considerably. Related to this meter is the mudshtath, which Rumi also employs: (v-v-/vv–//v-v-/vv–). It is also divided into two parts by a caesura. Likewise Rumi uses the hazadsh, the basis of the old Arabic verse. In the last poem he used the mutakarib, the epical meter, which we have mentioned already in connection with Firdausi. Its monotony is almost surprising. But the poem is finished before one comes to realize the calmness. I would like to call it a relaxed mystical engrossment as we find it in Rumi’s inner emotional world, too.

Thereby the character of community in the Divan is emphasised. Referring to this individuality, it only disagrees on the surface with the impersonal aim of redemption of the mystics. We seem to be hearing the voice of the poet directly and personally. But does he not describe this divan as the one of his master, Shams-i-Tabriz? Is not the subjective aim of dual experience symbolically and actually bound into a group? The subject does not put his demand singularly and for him self. He places himself at the centre generally: it can replace himself with a certain adequate you. Thus the subjective composition not only faces the side by side appearances of the content, as we have felt in the first poem, but is imbued with a kind of objectivised ‘I’. The personal exchange between the ‘Thou’ and the ‘I’ is a symbol for the impersonal and desired part of the created from the creator, in which, for the mystic, the meaning of the person is necessarily revoked and then transfigured. It is an exaggeration of the self, which breaks the natural bond of cognition of the creature. This is surely a proper analogy to the a-poetic exercises for redemption of the Sufis, such as the dances. All of these display an attitude of the soul that could not be received in such a concentrated way outside of this community.

In the style of these poems, there is generally a sense of community which resonates in everyone who joins the magic circle. This poetry possesses a sense of community and existential power, which we – of course on different grounds – find again in folklore songs. The modest representation of the song and the apparent lack of participation of the subject, has a specific reason: the poetic content becomes so autonomous that it remains intelligible for a certain group of people, whose mental world has been shaped by blood, soil and education. The mental character of this group determines then, as far as it is shared, each component of the style of the poetry. In their number they can be restricted to but a few so that they become meaningless and uncharming. Maybe only in their syntactic change they will remind us of the beginning.

Rumi’s poetry is also existential in its group character. The general expansion of the self creates a representation that can be understood by the group. Surely parts of the poetic expressions, just as those of the dances, have been disassociated from the folklore of Asia Minor. Yet they do not deny their social mission, but transform it into a different form of expression shared by the community. The poetry receives its existential force, of course, from the capacity of the particular stylistic device, which according to their degree of popularity, or their rhythmical or syntactical usage, might fade or become submerged, as in every folklore song. The reoccurring picture of the inn, which makes us sit up due to its exotic idiosyncrasy, does not always have the same effect of experience. Historic research should make meticulous comparisons here and in the meantime these fading constructs will remain an excellent and tenacious witness of the existential factor of this style. In the development of the mystic experience, the poet not only uses the method of negation, but with same elegance, also the positive, enthusiastic listing of value-experience. Let us look for that purpose at a translation by Rosenzweig-Schwanau 3, which is 100 years old.

I am the king falcon of the creator,

And sit on the hand of the Sultan,

Moved by the hand of his power

I flew over the land.

I flew up from the hand of the king,

I saw seven stars shining,

And ascended to the lap of Keivan.

In the hallowed sanctuary

I laid silently on Huri’s chest.

And was, when Adam was not yet born,

Doorman in the grove of pleasures.

High up on the thrown of my majesty,

Was I master of div and peri,

Before Solomon ruled the land.

Often I crossed the ember of the fire,

Ember seemed to be roses only.

One was looking for me in the rose garden,

But the roses hid me.

I came just like a pearl into the treasury of this world

I came yearning for the heaven,

Where I was surrounded by glory.

With the voice of the sun of tebris’

Eternity sings this sweet song:

It was to the throne of the eternal god,

To which I the singer was sent.

Here, also, the poet turns upwards, like in the above counterpart. He places the highest richness of all values into his chest from the very beginning, as if in a cosmogony of his self. He enjoyed the proximity of the Sultan, his divine master at a time in which, with the word of another poem, there were no names, nor signs of named things. The beginningless height and power of his self were protected in the heavens, but this process of uncreatedness is still portrayed as an ascent bound by time. This paradox of message and symbolic meaning is the same as the one that we can see in the divine ego of the master and in the divine king.

There appear to be two rows, whilst in reality there is only one. We direct our eyes to a whole group of things that appear quickly in order to transmit the impression of the height of this poetic experience. We follow the flight of the falcon, we find it in Keivan’s lap, which is in the circuit of Saturn, on the chest of the heavenly Huris at a time when Adam had not been born, or as in the word play of the original, when he was in the Adam, in the nothing. “I came like a pearl into the treasury of this world”. Here already the different sketches are combined into one painting. The processes are so great in imagination that they conjure up a highly singular impression of the stature of the speaker. But here again the subject changes his role with this Tabrisi, just when the self-centredness is at its peak. At that moment, when the process loses the fetters of the time due to the overemphasised value, which is beyond the perception of the natural limits of the speaker, we are faced with this mystical commentary with the incommensurable reference to the eternity. Eternity’s mouth is symbolised by the divine Tabrisi. Equally the positive ascendance in the poetic vision is, similar to the negative one of the other poem, not aim in itself, but preparing devotion for the desired dissolution of the limited value-consciousness. But not all poems have the same form and dramatic upswing. Traits of a contemplative mystical feeling are expressed here and there finely and silently like in an idyll. Two ghazels of this kind:

let the stars greet you yesterday…

I am a painter and I see

forms in front of me..

Here we have two explicit love poems, which symbolise, with the methods common for erotic poetry, mystical courtly love. They are two momentary pictures of the eternal poetic expression. The characters, or a simple situation form the framework. The event is then subjectivised when it comes into being. In both poems the poet speaks about the beloved, but not in sheer enthusiasm. He creates with caution and wise structuring a witnessing, pleading song. But he does not remain with the same picture. In the first poem he bows humbly before the sun, then we see the beloved drinking blood from the wounds of the lover. This mosaic leads to an impression that is well intended. The perception of the lover becomes blurred.

With the change of the locality of the picture, our feeling goes back to the poet. But he steps out of the circle and his concrete limitation. The secret of the child and the heart directs the attention of the listener to a different sphere in which the picture of the beloved, as a necessary metaphorical addition, is silently brought in. The event remains unsolved and undifferentiated, and this is how the mystic genre wants to have it. Therefore it does not remain as an erotic, passionate poem, but goes beyond the eroticism into unexpressable relations, that can excellently be imagined in a religious way.

This is no different in the second poem. He sings for his beloved more intensely and more in the style of a hymn. He compares himself to a painter. In the same way the picture of the beloved becomes blurred in his imagination, so the listener’s imagination of the value-related limitedness of the two characters becomes blurred and only the feeling of the general elevation remains. Thus these poems share the literary aims of the remainder of Rumi’s mystic poetry. But they tend to stay more in the environment that is determined by the erotic situation. They are also not as closely related to the name of Shams-i-Tabrizi as those other poems. However, the allusion to the sun and light in both poems can be seen as direct reference to the master, in order to keep silent about the secret identification with the beloved. These poems are little elegant compositions, which Rumi has composed with the poetic modules of the general lyric and particularly erotic feeling. They seem to correspond with the mystical vision of the Persian in general to such a degree, that they can also be found outside of the mystical compositions. Later on we find the same characters with Hafiz, whom according to his style, we have to see in a completely different light from Rumi. But even in earlier forms, for example in the rubai poems for the rulers, the same forms of poetic expressions are common.

With these occasional poems of Rumi one can see how deeply he is rooted in the tradition of Persian poetry. One very precious characteristic of his poetry is that he purifies the fine and well-known forms of effusiveness and poetic debauchery. The other characteristic is in the more or less emphasised link with the method of mystical expression whose composition and stylistic fundamentals we are familiar with.

Another poem is completely different and distinguished with the power of mystical ecstasy. It expresses the whole paradox of the ‘I’ and ‘Thou’. If anywhere, then here the point of Rumi’s mystical poetry becomes directly visible. Therefore the metre is also richer in motion. The poet uses a ramal of as many lengths as shorts (-v–/vv–/vv–/–) and ends every distich with the characteristic syllable ‘I’ and ‘Thou’: “man ve tu”. The faster the tongue tries to reach this ending, the more the final part emerges out of the metre in a harmonious and succinct way.

Surrounded by our happiness,

We reach freedom, You and I

From the analysis of our examples, we should have recognised that the style of Rumi’s poetry also had to be called mystical in the most general sense of didactic poetry, with which he shares his fundamental and poetic intention. Yet, the term mystical poetry should not be limited to the didactic poem or the Divan. Mystical poetry with Rumi is a literary genre that reveals the religious subject in a rhythmically inspired and aesthetic vision and changes them for the purpose of a characteristic psychic attitude of the participants. How this attitude is determined and of what kind the psychological condition is, depends upon the genre. We have learned to distinguish the didactic element from lyric element in the didactic poem and the Divan. We find a lot that both have in common. The poetic circles are overlapping, but are not congruent. In the didactic poem, the poet looks at the things external to the person of the not-I, which he can find in the imagination of a certain space. He interprets and compares them and himself with them. With relaxed devotion, he sinks into their richness, which he imitates in the conduct of time and space in the style.

Contrary to this, the poet can be found directly under the unlimited richness of the symbolic facts in the lyric poems. He joins their rhythmic movements, which change according to the situation. But through his insistent presence he endows his object with meaning and structure. In every moment a variation of the subject is mirrored. But also this concrete ‘I’ escaped the created individuation and becomes objectivised in the ‘Thou’. In the didactic poem this abstraction leads to dissolution, here the concrete reaches its own dissolution. The latter effects of the style are thus common to both genres.

If we tried to approach this mystical poetry with our Occidental terminology of style, we would probably find that the didactic poem is closest to some degree to our classical genre. The classical genre seems to have a moderate metre, in which the spirit seems to hover over the subject. Reminiscent of this is also the timeless perfection that takes place in the consciousness in every moment in the picture. Apart from the meaning, the unchangeable rhythm, the sustained expression and movement teaches us about the measured distance, that the feelings are sustained with respect to the classical piece of art.

Surely these comparisons can only be made cautiously and basically only with respect to the lyric, whose intention is not even to lead us into the classical realm, for in the lyric the distance of the onlooker is missing completely, since the subject becomes integrated into the forms and characters. Here the poet remains underneath the waves of the eternal life. This is not about the final meaning and the final development of style, for in this the didactic poetry shares the aim with the Divan. But the classical manner of one form seems to find its counterpart in the Romantic manner of the other form. Having said this, Rumi’s poetry has almost two poles, whose wing span is not smaller or less important than the one we can find in the contrast of the classical to the Romantic in the Occident. In this way, of course, we seem to disagree with the German Romantic, namely Jean Paul, in whose opinion Oriental poetry is much closer to the Romantic than to the classical. In reality however, the nurturing soil for the German Romantic as well as for the classical is the Antique (Latin and Greek) style, but the Persian classical and romantic of the mystical genre do not yet share this in any way. The early German Romantics have turned to the Greeks. Does not A. W. Schlegel 4 also appear as an interpreter of Greek art and poetry? And equally Klopstock 5, who boldly broke the classicist verses, used the polyphony of the classical rhythm and thereby got from the Greeks something which the poets of his time, measuring in a classicist way, denied as un-Greek.

The Romantic period did not see man as the centre, instead the never-ending flow of life resounded in the thousand-fold echo of poetry, which was kept alive by the poet like a priest. The Romantic saw this light also amongst the Greek, just as Nietzsche was looking for it with Dionysus. They took their role models from the rhythmical richness of forms in the Greek poetry 6. One thought was that the verse epic of old was contradictory to the free, rhythmic urge of the lyrics. These poems are colourful and capable of development. The lyric poem, due to its brevity, is only given a short time, and the feeling of the listener sounds unexpressed, whereas time is so important for the classical principle. One also saw in the classic style the beginnings of free rhythm, which the Romantics and the young Goethe liked. The new interpretation of the Greek tragedy followed suit. These are also two directions of the European intellect, which, with tenacious consequence stick to the classic and find a parallel in the Orient with the Persian mystical genre that keeps the same distance to the classical and Romantic genres of the Occident.

When we say that Rumi’s lyrical poetry is bound to the subject, this does not diminish the comparison with the super-personal tendency of Romantic poetry. The subject of Rumi possesses nothing of the Occidental personality. In recognition of his highest value of life and his relationship to the conditionless being of God, the poet leaves the restrictive limitations on the self. But since he has to shape the expression of the experience with known appearances, he splits this self several times. Through this symbolic and concrete grouping, the contrasts attain an existential habit that we can also find in the poetry of the folk song. But here we are not allowed to forget the sociological limitations!

Everybody knows how much the Romantic poets of Germany liked to sing folk songs. Görres 7 expresses this beautifully in the introduction to his Teutsches Volksbuechlein or Arnim 8 in the prologue to the Wunderhorn. Surely from there, it is still a far way to go to the poems of Rumi. We have already said that Persian mystical poetry can only be valid in comparison with the didactic poem. The rhythmic swings here are far more at ease and more similar to the Romantic style, but they are still bound and one cannot say that they have any obvious conduct of free verse. But the richness of the metres shows this restless up and down already, that corresponds to the Romantic sentiment. Typical also is the frequent use of the rajaz, this most simple metre and closest to prose, from which the structure of the Arabic poem shall develop. The rhythm, the Romantic echo, which, according to A. W. Schlegel, enables the vision of the infinite, is never missing. But the ghazel does not have the structure of verses that the classical style would demand in the lyric poetry. Goethe, as can be detected in the Westöestlicher Divan, classicised the ghazel through a structuring of the verses.

Even though these comparisons are forcing themselves upon us, they can still not make us forget about the strong contrasts that remain with respect to the Occidental poetry. And this distance will continue to exist, as long as the classical times continue to be more important for us than a set of historical facts. The classical period has educated us to this day to approach poetry with reason. Even in the highest yearning for eternity, the consciousness of the unchangeable structure of values never leaves us. This might only become apparent when translated from its aesthetic form into the practical individual and communal life. But in each scientific research and expression, one never forgets about this similarity. The outer and inner form of appearance of the piece of art itself is, for us, probably already in common with respect to reason, and the metaphorical aspect and the language do not step out of this value structure. Our Romantic trends have not done away with this rule either, even though they have given it its own new, form. The shortcomings also of our Occidental categories have brought about this polarity that is expressed in the tension between the classical and the Romantic. But this has always been an internal expression of the Occidental Bildungscommunity. For the will to structure of the Romantic poets, we can without a doubt point out their preference for the philosophical problems of mathematics and music. A more thoroughgoing approach to this question would certainly reap more and better proof. But those few, who decided to go their own way, so that they renounced the Occidental principle, have been called to justify themselves.

For it is indeed against Occidental and European reason and its history, to strive to follow the will to redemption in forms that escape the terminological and morally (sittlich) identifiable reception. But those seem to be more adequate for the lifestyle of the Near East. The religious-aesthetic aim in Rumi’s poetry is subject to a principle that has never been successful in the West. The results from an analysis of the didactic poetry for the nature of the Persian and partly Oriental poetry, cannot be drawn from a contemplation of Western poetry. In the East the poet achieves development of meaning and resolving of meaning only where and when all things are liberated from their restrictions value-wise. We have tried to demonstrate in our paper, how this is achieved and implemented in the poetry. But also with Rumi there is a structure and an architecture in the limited sequence of pictures and groups of meanings. And even here the strange polarity appears, as in the didactic poem and the Divan that appears again on the level of contemplation in the classic and Romantic of the Occident. But the forceful structuring and thereby the breaking through to beauty, stems most likely from the inclination of the Oriental to a special side of the human mind. Is it the exaggerated consciousness of the religious duty? Or the unusual rootedness in sensual contemplation that succumbs so much to the richness of appearance, that it necessarily crosses the borders of self-limitation. In this sense the art of mysticism would be a tiding of the tragedy of the mind, which is aware of its qualitative advantage from nature, but succumbs to its quantitative forces not without melancholy and pain. If one follows this development to the end, then one can only confirm this quotation from the Westöestlicher Divan:

…for when they long for the distant and always further distant tropics, so is it mere nonsense; at the most nothing but the general term remains under which we can subsume the things, a term that annuls all contemplation and thus all poetry. And so their virtues are in reality the flowers of their mistakes.

But mistakes that history has made. And whose enormity and importance justifies their consideration. What knowledge we can get from the last and penultimate things, could be very beneficial for the scientific investigation of our present tasks and their examination. We have only given a sketch of what should be a more intensive research in this field and should be crowned with the best results that can live up to the most noble endeavours of our nation. Not a comparative colligation of single expressions, but an investigation of interrelated groups, which can eventually also elucidate our terminology about ourselves and renew them in a critical way. Maybe in this way we can correct some of our wrongly guided energies that are carried out in cultural forms and those of Weltanschauung, or can be dismissed from the space in which they demand a position. This could be a task in face of the literary mission of Stefan George.

When there the scientific discussion tries to escape from the suppressive terminology, and terminology itself dissolves in an ethereal-literary pathos, so we are asked whether we are considering to Orientalise ourselves or not. Helplessness and weakness, but also ignorance about a broad field of history of humanity might recommend an answer that does not correspond with our Occidental past. With this reference I have not given the final verdict. We believe that with one look only we can see into ourselves, to explain the closeness of our conscience also when researching the Oriental poetry. For we are trying to live up to the words of Goethe:

Leave it to the common unhelpful masses to praise in comparison, to choose and to dismiss. But the teachers of the nation have to come to a point of view where our general German overview comes to find a pure and unconditional conclusion.



1-This is a translation of Gustav Richter, Persiens Mystiker Dschelál-eddin Rumi: Eine Stildeutung in drel Vortraegen, Breslau: Frankes Verlag uind Druckerei, Otto Borgmeyer 1933, chapter 1. His German translations have been replaced by English equivalents. All the footnotes are the work of the editor as the original has no references.

2- “Such spiritual ecstatic states, which the intimates of Allah enter in performing the movements and whirling of their rituals, are a means to excite and impel their hearts. This is the food of those who love Allah: it gives them energy in their hard voyage in search of the truth. Sayyidna Nabi (saws) says, “The ecstatic ritual of the lovers of Allah, their whirling and chanting, is an obligatory form of worship for some, and for others a supererogatory act of worship – and yet for others still it is heresy. It is obligatory for the perfect man, it is supererogatory for the lovers and for the heedless it is heresy.” (Jelani, Abd al-Qadir, The Secret of Secrets, trans. Shaykh Tosun Bayrak Al-Jerahi. S. Abdul Majeed & Co., Kuala Lumpur: 1995, p.92) Al-Jelani explains that, while for impure hearts mystical music might sound erotic, for the pure of heart it only sounds deeply spiritual.

3- According to Annemarie Schimmel, Friedrich Rückert’s translations of Rumi’s poetry have been much more influential in forming Rumi’s image in German literary history than those of Vincenz von Rosenzweig-Schwannau (Schimmel, Annemarie. Mystical Dimensions of Islam, The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill: 1975, p.310)

4- August Wilhelm von Schlegel (1767-1845) founded the Athenaeum with his brother, Friedrich von Schlegel. He was one of the first critics to see the importance of social evolution in the history of art. According to Said, Friedrich Schlegel’s Über die Sprache und Weisheit der Indier… “seemed to confirm his own pronouncement made in 1800 about the Orient being the purest form of Romanticism”. (Said, Edward. Orientalism, London: 1995, p.137). See Observations sur la langue et la littérature provençales/ Hrsg. Mit einem Vortwort von Gunter Narr: “August Wilhelm Schlegel, ein Wegbereiter der romanischen Philologie” (Tübingen: [Tübinger Beiträge zur Linguistik] 1971).

5- Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock (1724-1803) was important for his influence on Goethe. His epic Messias (1748-73) created a literary storm when it first appeared in the Bremen Beiträge. Klopstock’s genius was lyrical rather than epic. He also wrote rhapsodic, musical Odes.

6- Edward Said argues that the enthusiasm for “everything Asiatic, which was wonderfully synonymous with the exotic, the mysterious, the profound…” was “a later transposition eastwards of a similar enthusiasm in Europe for Greek and Latin antiquity during the High Renaissance”. (Said, Edward. Orientalism. London: 1995, p.51)

7- Joseph von Gorres (1776-1848). As a lecturer on philosophy at the University of Heidelberg, he befriended Achim von Arnim. Gorres also investigated Middle Eastern myths.

8- Achim von Arnim (1781-1831) – otherwise known as Joachim – compiled a collection of folksongs with his brother, entitled Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Boy’s Magic Horn).


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