Omar Khayyam and Max Stirner

Translated by Ulrike Hirschhäuser

Those who mean to understand poetry will have to visit the land of poetry. Those who mean to understand a poet will have to visit the poet's land.

J.W.von Goethe



Maybe I already heard someone mention the name of Omar Chajjam while I was going to school in Turkey as an adolescent. Maybe, but I am not sure. I was rather familiar with such names as Rumi, Hafiz, Yunus Emre etc., strictly speaking, I met with Omar´s poems after reading Max Stirner´s book entitled “The Ego and its Own“, or let´s say while reading this book.

At once I sensed these two philosopher´s points of contact. However, at that time I viewed Stirner´s philosophy from a different angle, i.e. from a totally rationalistic angle. The same went for my reading Chajjam, because this study mode required little effort. It is basic to traditional methods of thinking and learning with which young people have to cope.

At that time I came across a “comparison“ between Stirner and Chajjam only once: The author named H. Stourzh once mentioned Stirner´s name in connection with Chajjam in his book “ Max Stirner´s Philosophy of the Ego“, but he only did so very shortly and only in passing. I became aware of Chajjam, but as there was only little information about him available, I did not pursue the matter any longer. Then the problem of having to struggle with numerous social constraints arose and thus I refrained from this venture.

It was years later that I did not only begin to understand Chajjam as a poet, but also as a poet-philosopher. Naturally I also began broadening my knowledge of eastern and oriental philosophies as well as western philosophies. This enabled me to look through the traditional, i.e. strictly rational mode of thinking. Stirner had criticized this mode of thinking, which has no likes in occidental countries, yes it is in fact “the only one“ of its kind, i.e. singular.

In his essay “Stirner´s Critics“ he wrote, “What Stirner says is a word, a thought, a notion; what he says is not what he means, and what he means is inexpressible.“[1] Thus Stirner had set a trap for himself, which he was unable to get out of easily and which he did not want to get out of either. But this unluckily kept everybody from defining the inexpressible. Stirner, Heidegger, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Scheler et al. did not suffer from the existing political and social laws. They rather suffered from the constraints of rational thinking whose laws had great power over people; what is more German philosophers were constrained by particular German ways of thinking. Nietzsche wrote, “To think German-style, to feel German-style – I can achieve everything, but this exceeds my strengths.“[2] Stirner was right when declaring this nation to be one tyrannizing her children.

Those intellectuals knew very well that certain modes of thinking and certain theories enchained them, and they dragged those chains along with them all their lives, their books give evidence of the rigid and neurotic way in which they thought and felt. Heidegger subdued his drives by his articulateness and his linguistic sophistication, he literally drowned in an ocean of words. Social constraints are barriers built up by reason, which is considered to be omnipotent. Therefore each rationalistic alternative has been and will be an idea tied to reason, reduced to common logical principles, and it will be compulsive. This recognition was the one that made me devote myself to Stirner´s philosophy properly, it was then that I realized that man can be a prisoner of his reason. Heidegger called for help, shouting, “ We can only learn to think if we radically get rid of the nature of traditional ways of thinking!”[3]

It sounds very mystical and promising, but the sounds of his words suggested a golden cage which was hard to escape from. Heidegger himself: something existing as an object turned into something existing as a thought, stayed there and did not proceed any further. And Heidegger himself, some being whose structure of existence being a limited One only amounts to Being-In-The-World. The basic structures of his concrete Ego as One in an objective world of things permit him to sneer at the animal inside himself in order to cope with it, in order to defeat it. The abstract object changed into a concrete subject by means of perpetual thought processes. It became a subject which only vegetated as a prisoner of a particular logic in the dusk of occidental gods. The victory of the speaking animal, that deficient being, which is one of God´s misprints , too, over nature made it end up at the edge of its own abyss. It seems as if this was man´s special position in the universe, the climax of God´s creation. The animal-like, rational, reasonable beast, which “outdid” everything known so far, called for Superman´s lap both rather excessively and hysterically, and in  the end, con- structing something supernatural and posing as a metaphysical being, flew to the God of the allmighty. A thinking being, which transcends itself – a person like Caesar endowed with Christ´s soul, a horrifying vision of an ideal type of human being determined by Christian and philosophical ideas assuming a typical occidental shape.

But though the attempt was made “to harmonize sufferings and happiness“, the western world failed completely in doing so. Finally, their children suffered from being turned into gods. Those fixed ideas have not been done away with yet. On the other hand the western world presented a special image to the rest of the globe coming as the result of its cryptic position, an ambivalent image, indeed. A great many people headed for that image to catch up with non-western ideas, sometimes overemphasizing the gap by integrating things alien too excessively and thus menacing to destroy what was alien to them.  There is hardly any philosophical and literary evidence which does not violate what is alien. Goethe may be a true exception to the rule in this respect. Yes, his “Divan“ is indeed an unambiguous west-eastern one and free from any demands of a universally valid logic. This is the fundament on which I would like to introduce the reader to the following writings. Hopefully, the reader, too, will find something congenial in my lines.

[1] Parerga. Kritiken. Repliken edited by Bernd A. Laska, Nürnberg 1986, p. 149

[2] Friedrich Nietzsche: Ecce Homo. Edited by Kroener 1990, p. 339

[3] Martin Heidegger: Was heißt Denken. (Thinking: what does it imply?) Edited by Reclam 1992, p. 9



Back to Main Page