Omar Khayyam and Max Stirner



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, and “We can only learn to think if we radically get rid of the nature of traditional ways of thinking!”3

1 Parerga. Kritiken. Repliken edited by Bernd A. Laska, Nürnberg 1986, p. 149
2 Ecce Homo. Edited by Kroener 1990, p. 339
3 Was heißt Denken. (Thinking: what does it imply?) Edited by Reclam 1992, p. 9


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 existi ng 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, constructing something supernatural and posing as a metaphysical being, flew to the God of the almighty. 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.


Omar Chajjam and Max Stirner
A Bridge between the Orient and the Occident

“Moreover I don’t want to keep this a secret:
My assessment of three Persian geniuses,
which I made on page 205
has shifted in favour of Omar Khajjam
after taking note of his writings in greater detail.
I regard Omar Khajjam as the most genuine of the three.”4

Ludwig Klages, German philosopher and psychologist Rubai: structural aspects

Omar’s Rubai: Structural Aspects

Omar’s verse has the form of a Ruba’i, pl. Rubaijat. A Ruba’i only consists of four lines. Each Rubai is an independent poem of its own. One of its typical features is its rhyme scheme: The first, the second and the fourth line end on the same rhyme, whereas the third is rhymeless. The fourth line frequently is the most important as it contains the poet’s message. It stresses an emotion, a concept that the poet only alludes to in the preceding lines. The Persian poet named Saeb once stated, “The last line of a Ruba’i hits your heart.” The first two lines must be considered an unfinished poem, the third line functions as a break to develop a new idea, which is an explosive one. Even though the third line suggests a synthesis, the fourth line may contain something deviating from this synthesis. That’s the essence of the art of making a Ruba’i. The fourth line can be a conclusion, or it may negate everything that is expressed in the preceding lines. It can end on a note suggesting meaninglessness, depression, sadness, though the first two lines express contrasting emotions. The concluding line always comes as a surprise, represents the climax, which completes the poem however contradictory the lines may appear.

Omar and Goethe

Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall’s “History of Persian Rhetoric” was available for Goethe when preparing his book “West-Eastern Divan” in 1819. Among those 200 poets introduced by Hammer-Purgstall there were “Omar Chiam’s” name quoted and his 25 Rubaijat. Joachim Wohlleben5, however, rules out the possibility that Goethe occupied himself with Omar intensely. It is an established fact that Goethe never made mention of Omar. We may assume doubtlessly that Goethe’s ignoring Omar when he wrote his “Divan” resulted in the fact that Omar remained unknown as a poet-philosopher in Germany. Joachim Wohlleben deeply regrets Omar’s unlucky meeting with German

4 L.Klages Der Geist als Widersacher der Seele Bonn, p. XI (The Mind As Soul’s Adversary)
5 J.Wohlleben Die Rubajat des Omar Chajjam und die deutsche Literatur. In: Literaturwissenschaftliches Jahrbuch, Berlin 1973, p. 65 (Omar Chajjam’s Rubajat and German Literature. An Unlucky Encounter)


literature and tries to appreciate his real significance for German literature by his own comprehensive work. Wohlleben states that after Goethe it has been Hafiz “who has been the most popular Persian poet. One could put it like that: Hafiz cast a shadow on Omar concerning the German interest in Persian literature.”6

Let me add some ideas that may help the reader comprehend why Omar did not arouse Goethe’s interest, given Goethe concerned himself with Omar at all. As I would like to point out some parallels of the spiritual relationship between Omar and Stirner, which I think to be important to the history of Stirner’s philosophy, this short introduction will be indispensable: Goethe will accompany us on a bridge linking the west with the east.

Hafiz’s poems evoke such passion in Goethe that Hafiz becomes the main character in his “Divan”. Hafiz and Goethe unite and become blood brothers. Goethe vents his enthusiasm for Persian poetry by making the following declaration:

“DO ADMIT IT! The oriental poets
are greater than us western poets.”7

“May the whole world fade away,
Hafiz, with you, with you alone
I want to compete! Let us share
Pleasure and pain like twins
To love like you, to drink like you,
This shall be my pride, my life.”8

To Goethe Hafiz is the incarnation of the Persian poet. According to Goethe Persian poetic language culminates in Hafiz’s poetry. What is the reason for Goethe’s indifference towards Omar? To my mind the main reason is the style and content of Hafiz’s poetry. Hafiz, one of Omar’s successors, followed Omar in many ways, but he primarily wrote ghazals. In contrast to Hafiz, Omar neither wrote ghazals nor arabesques, but only Rubaijat. Undoubtedly Goethe was especially susceptible to ghazals.

Ghazals are love poems and “devoid of” any philosophical content. Any kind of satirical, melancholic and depressive mood is alien to them. In the case of Rubaijat, however, we are dealing with purely reflective poems. What is more, in Omar’s poems the consumption of the world, indignation, rebellion, the autonomy of human willpower on the one hand blend with melancholia, resignation, desperation, pessimism, “fatalism” in a very unique way on the

6 pp. 65-66
7 J.W.Goethe: West-…stlicher Divan, Frankfurt 1998, p. 57
8 p. 25


other hand. Omar’s basic attitudes towards life manifest themselves in these subjects as we shall see later. They signify his philosophical impulse and are a melting pot for his emotions and thoughts. To tell these apart and even categorize them to gain insight into Omar’s mind and to gain orientation in this world seems to be impossible for Europeans. Only an authority would be capable of putting Omar in a place that is worth his achievements, says Wohlleben. Goethe, however, was and still is such an authority.

But unlike Omar, who ended up in self-forgetfulness, Goethe did not resign. In his search of God Omar despaired when looking for a way to comprehend God and he becomes a blasphemer. During his satirical, melancholic conversation with God, Omar is definitely godless, and the nature of his poetic wittiness is determined by sarcasm and a type of humour that shatters everything one can imagine. Both seriousness and wittiness are characteristics of his humour. This can be derived from his basic philosophical attitude, which makes him declare everything to be vain and meaningless, while he continues to be able to laugh at everything simultaneously. Therefore he is a free spirit who is chain-breaking , a rebel who intoxicated by the consumption of wine can give way to his thoughts. He loathes any belief in love and the truth. He thinks the well-ordered world of religious and rationalistic dogmatism to be intolerable. Intoxicated by love, he mocks at any illusive security in life, Goethe, however, trustingly holds on to love and humanity. He is a critic who defends himself, Omar, a troublemaker, who acts quickly and aggressively. He is hostile to any type of authority. Scholasticism and the belief in progress become the targets of his mockery. To Omar everything is vain, nothing is truly meaningful; Goethe means to heal instead. In contrast to Goethe, Omar, disappointed and full of despair, forgets himself and does not believe in any state of human happiness. Goethe’s main characteristic is his ultimate truthfulness, whereas Omar is a skeptic with an agnostic frame of mind.

Nevertheless the kinship between the two poets is plain to see. Goethe created some poems, which do resemble Omar’s. In his poem Vanitas! Vanitatum Vanitas! (Everything on earth is vain.) Goethe’s message reads: “I don’t rely on anything mundane.” This motto was to be the gist of Stirner’s philosophy. Apart from the literary form the content of the poem clearly parallels Omar’s poetry. Being a loving and philanthropic man at first, Goethe gets involved in the worldly businesses of mankind, lives through this and that trouble, takes this road and that, overcomes a lot of obstacles before everything loses its meaning for him and as a consequence he does not want to rely on anything anymore. We may put it like this: I have tried my best in all fields of life, but nothing has been worth the trouble. This, too, is the essence of Omar’s philosophy.

Goethe’s poem conveys his frustrations and his sense of vanity; what Omar is profoundly convinced of and what Omar reveals as his basic attitude towards human life, however, appears to be only a superficial sentiment in Goethe’s case. Thus Goethe’s poem does not reflect any serious conviction, but merely a temporary “disturbance of his emotional life”, which can be cured. This


shallowness becomes even more obvious in his “Tame Xenia”. But in contrast to Wohlleben I can spot parallels with Omar nonetheless. In some of his xenia Goethe at least expresses his complaints about that edifice called world; his criticism aims at Christian and rational dogmatism. But this only happens because his “bottled-up frustrations cannot be sublimated. Therefore the ‘Tame Xenia’ are hardly speculative in any way and much more realistic than Omar’s Rubaijat.”9 That explains Goethe’s shallowness, which is the product of a quickly developing and, as stated above, temporary disturbance of his mind and his emotional life. To put it in Wohlleben’s words: On the basis of this disposition Goethe’s attitude can be regarded as a defence strategy, Omar’s as aggressiveness. Omar attacks the whole world of religious and philosophical dogmatism and this attack will result in freeing his mind from logical thinking at all. But I’m going to concern myself with this later.

Omar and two of his critics:
Chesterton and Pessoa

“One of his critics, whose book I’ve read, is fool enough to label Omar an atheist and materialist. To be either this or that is almost impossible for an Oriental; the eastern world possesses too much expertise in metaphysics, so to maintain anything like will be absurd.”10

Thus Gilbert Keith Chesterton defends Omar’s orthodoxy. An Oriental like Omar will calmly take note of this statement, and laughingly he will pass the cup on to his adversary and will tell him:

Intoxicated by the magician’s wine, it’s me!
Heathen, disbeliever or idolater, it’s me!
Each sect bears its own hatred towards me,
I am my own master, I am what I am.11

These words do not tell anything about the painful bliss of Christian doctrines. Laughing and weeping as human features are attributed to the heart by Christendom, the heart being God’s and Morality’s home. Therefore Christians believe that “there is nothing else but religion that can make man happy.”12 In their opinion drinking wine is a “sacrament” and the ultimate happiness bestowed upon a Puritan soldier in his battle against men. Chesterton belittles Omar’s consumption of wine calling it a remedy for mental and psychical disorders; “Jesus did not make wine a medicament but a sacrament. Whereas Omar does not make it a sacrament but a medicament.”13

9 J.Wohlleben, p. 67
10 G.K. Chesterton: Ketzer (Heretics) Frankfurt a.M. 1998, p. 101
11 Wie Wasser stršmen wir. (We are like water, flowing) Die Rubaijat des Omar Chajjam, Erememiten-Presse 1984, Rubai No. 71
12 Chesterton, p. 105
13 Chesterton, p. 105


Omar renounces God’s grace and renounces wine as a drug. Be it the Bible or cocaine, — that does not make a difference for Omar; he thinks both to be narcotics, which he renounces passionately. The purpose of Omar’s consumption of wine is neither to evoke happiness nor to kill time; he does not drink to forget about his grief or his doubts about the meaning of life. He does not drink for the sake of love, let alone for the sake of hatred.

Fernando Pessoa seems to have a better understanding of Omar’s philosophy of life than Chesterton does, the Christian does. Pessoa’s criticism makes us get closer to Omar’s views of everyday life; “He is content with looking at roses and drinking wine. A slight breeze, a random conversation, a cup of wine along with some flowers, it is those things that the Persian sage ultimately longs for.” 14 In these lines Omar’s spirit comes alive indeed; we might only add: a home of one’s own after the fashion, neither master nor servant.

However, it is the following in which Pessoa really grasps the true nature of Omar’s mind, “Khayyam’s dissatisfaction with life is not the dissatisfaction of someone who does not know what to do since he cannot really do anything or does not know how to do it. Such is the nature of the discontent of those who were born into this world more dead than alive, of those who legitimately depend on morphine or cocaine.”15

Pessoa finishes, saying, “It is the dissatisfaction of somebody who has thought things over very clear-sightedly and has drawn the conclusion that he is surrounded by darkness; who has reflected on all religions and philosophies and then has spoken in Salomon’s fashion: ‘I have realized that everything on earth can be summed up as vanity and a temptation of the human mind...’ “16 There is no doubt about it, Omar is the one who faces life without being blinkered, and he states: everything is transient, do not try to find the truth, that’s an impossible endeavour, it is futile, you will never know why we go from here and why we come here. For Dschemschid’s glass17 will be smashed to pieces in the end. That is why Omar hands us the cup and stresses the relish of drinking wine. Drink it! Drink it! he shouts, for:

These reflections of the world, they’re apparitions,
No sage here will consider them to be true visions
Of life. Enjoy, do drink this grape juice here and then:
all your illusions will become mere objects of derision.18

14 F. Pessoa Das Buch der Unruhe (The Book of Restlessness) Frankfurt 2000, p. 262
15 Pessoa, p. 261
16 Pessoa, p. 261
17 The legendary King Dschemschid owned a crystal chalice, in which the whole world was mirrored, and therefore it was the source of his wisdom.
18 Die Sinnsprüche Omars des Zeltmachers (Omar the Tentmaker’s Aphorisms) Publishers: Insel-Verlag, 14th edition 1998, p. 30


The World as Will and Representation

Notions like pleasure and pain, optimism and pessimism stand for two different “outlooks on life” at first sight. Many philosophers reckon the difference to be very big. Epicurus e.g. explicitly represents eudaemonism and defines eudaemonia as the fulfillment of one’s desires and avoidance of displeasure, but he by no means teaches his fellow-men to give in to sensual pleasures unrestrainedly, because such behaviour might hit back on them and cause pain. In Omar’s case we cannot be certain which view of life he attributes more importance to.

Epicurus’ maxim “Live hidden away” is in accordance with Omar’s joie de vivre propagating the enjoyment of life and its realization in a circle of friends without claiming to change the world. On the other hand Omar cannot avoid pain either. He is not an innately melancholic person, but a frustrated one, who is a rebel on account of pain, but wanting to “overcome” his sufferings. In his book “Max Stirner’s Philosophy of the Ego” H.Stourzh wonders whether Stirner teaches optimism or pessimism. I think the answer also explains Omar’s view of life. Stirner’s eudaemonism, says Stourzh, “ if put into practice will not at all contradict an optimist’s view of and purpose in life, to him passing on life is only natural, nor does it contradict a pessimist’s to whom passing on life is the most fateful question despite all the beauty of life.”19 In fact we shall meet with these two attitudes in Omar’s poetry, too.

To add to a better understanding of the following, we would like to concern ourselves with another philosopher’s teachings, i.e. Schopenhauer’s.

Omar’s gloomy verse doubtlessly reminds us of Schopenhauer’s pessimistic views. Grief, pain, displeasure, hopelessness are fundamentals of Schopenhauer’s way of thinking, they are integral parts of an ideology. And this actually makes him move closer to Omar. In the Anglo-Saxon world philosophers very often even assert that the two are in total agreement. But if one has a closer look at things, one will see the difference, yes, even the incompatible differences between the two. In this context some explanations concerning Schopenhauer’s philosophy seem to be necessary.

Schopenhauer begins his book “The World as Will and Representation” by stating, “The world is only my idea (...) — Should there be any truth that can be pronounced a priori, it will be this.”20

First of all objects are given to us immediately in the form of appearances. The visible world therefore consists of an appearance of things, yes, a Maya. We do not know anything about a thing as such. The thing in itself that remains obscure in Kant’s works is now defined as the will by Schopenhauer.

According to Schopenhauer the will is not only “the world in itself” but also the origin of being human, the source of human existence. Therefore in reality each of our physical acts is a selfish act of our will. It is not his reason, his mind or

19 H.Stourzh, p. 95
20 A. Schopenhauer Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung 1st volume, publishers: Haffmann,1988, p. 31


whatever idea governs man, but only his will. This is the chief and basic motivating force in man.

The will implies neither pleasure nor enjoyment, neither happiness nor love. In Schopenhauer’s works the will is synonymous with suffering and pain. Schopenhauer took an innate, painful will for granted.

In other words man is compelled to suffer. Struggling, fighting, grieving are part of human nature. Schopenhauer even asserts that those short moments of happiness only exist so as to increase our awareness of suffering. Schopenhauer compares his hopeless pessimism with Dante’s Inferno: “ Where else did DANTE find the subject-matter of his Inferno if not in our real world? However when he was confronted with the task of depicting heaven and its pleasures, he met with insurmountable difficulties; since our world does not offer any models for something like that whatsoever.”21 Schopenhauer thinks that the only purpose in life must be that of escaping the will and its painful strivings. The only final escape will be sheer extinction of the will. The three aids to salvation are asceticism, contemplation of the works of art, and sympathy for others. They are to redeem man from his misery.

Many of Omar’s verse, too, convey the impression that we only perceive appearances of a reality unknown to us. It is not in Omar’s interest to name the unknown hiding behind those appearances. Man is unable to figure out the secret of the objective world, to grasp the truth about it, to solve the puzzle. According to Omar scholars are quarrelling in vain about statutes and dogma. Omar’s skeptical conclusion reads: some believe in something, some reject something, but the secret reveals itself to nobody.

Moreover the enjoyment of life is at the center of his philosophy, whereas sadness — declared to be an absolute quantity by Schopenhauer — is fundamental to his teachings. Pain does not only originate in a temporary bad mood, as mentioned above, but penetrates all thought processes.

We also encounter psychical pain in Omar’s philosophy, but it is not fundamental, it is solely part of life. If there is anything that Omar teaches us, it will be pleasure in the first place and we find this teaching objective in Stirner’s work, too, but nowhere in Schopenhauer’s.

Omar can dedicate himself to life with a quiet laughter and a noisy groan. It is important to enjoy earthly life until we sink into eternal nothingness. Enjoying the short period of being human, he creates a paradise here and now. His enjoyment of life contrasts with Schopenhauer’s will , which condemns man to suffer. Because of his desire, which makes him restless, Omar becomes active, while Schopenhauer tries to “extinguish” the will. Omar tries to satisfy his hunger. He passionately yearns for peace, but does not find it; that is the cause of his restlessness. Therefore Omar does not develop a system of thought: to tie anybody to a certain concept is alien to him. It is only logical that Omar is a

21 p. 423


rebel and not a fatalist putting up with pain. He does not believe that human life is predestined, and energetically refers to man’s free will, man’s self- determination and counters Schopenhauer’s determinism by stressing the freedom of will. The Omarian individual lives through the ardor of passions and desires and then slides into nothingness, where everything transient will end. As a poet of the nameless he permits himself to face God to demonstrate his grief, restlessness — this struggle for life and against death. It is an instance of recognizing enthusiasm and despair; an endless dialogue with God between equal minds — that means enjoyment and torture at the same time. All explanations are labeled: useless! by an unbelieving dervish, a scholar without a doctrine, “someone who senses the secret of nature”.

In Schopenhauer the will is a superior force, a malicious demon, which possesses man. Whatever resistance will be useless, man is exposed to it helplessly. Pessimism and misanthropy are characteristic of Schopenhauer’s philosophy, while Omar, though disappointed, but laughing sensually, is wrapped up by nothingness: “Only because of the brief illusion of non- existence! — This is the reason why wise men booze.”22

To use Stirner’s words: Schopenhauer describes his will because of an obsession, a fixed idea that is commonly instilled into men during their childhood. That accounts for perpetual suffering, constant psychical pain. Schopenhauer therefore wants to break man’s will, but Omar longs to be at one with his will.

Conclusion: While their depiction of the world show parallels, the two philosophers clash as to the essence of their philosophies. To Omar the will does not offer an answer to the puzzle named world, but it is the power of being alive that forms the center of his views in terms of an enjoyment of life and which comprehends suffering as being part of life. Omar is careful enough not to reduce the puzzle or man’s recognition of the world to a single concept. That is why he keeps from making any other than that mystifying statement, “each sect bears its own hatred towards me, I am my own master, I am what I am.” This statement takes us into the center of Stirner’s philosophy.

I Determined To Rely On Nothing!

1) A philosophy bordering on the limits of rational thinking

It is the indescribable ego and all its special characteristics that are behind everything. It is the focus of attention in Omar’s poetry as well as in Stirner’s works. Willpower, pleasure, good health etc. everything is part of its nature, but both do not define its nature in detail, i.e. they do not name it. The only motivating force that induces man to live and to develop is his egoism according to both Omar and Stirner, and his own free will, which adds to his uniqueness all

22 F. Rosen, p. 25


his life. Suffering and happiness are results of the efforts of a creative human being, suffering and happiness depend on man’s creativity.

Both philosophers apply all those abilities they have been endowed with in search of the truth. They make use of the material world as well as the metaphysical world. Their philosophy of life cannot be captured by a generic term. The road they follow is not a straight one. It is not based on reason, intellect or religion. Whatever religious beliefs there may be, Kaaba and idolatry, holy cord, Tasbi, rosary and crucifix, they all truly mean slavery. Each individual person is given the opportunity to find himself/herself by detaching himself/herself from dogma and determination by others. Both philosophers represent the freedom of will and their own will opposes all gods and rulers. Consequently all ethical and social standards like right or wrong, good or bad are determined by the ego itself. No matter whether people are faced with religious laws or secular laws or scholarly principles, they all are foreign rules and may imply the oppression of one’s own decision.

Thus a passionate struggle begins against intellectual and spiritual rulers. No brilliant mind, no superior power can enforce limits on man’s thought process, his thoughts are his own and therefore cannot be controlled by anybody else. Each variant of control over the individual may become the target of harsh criticism, be it convictions or enforced philanthropy, fate or whatever state constitution, all those fixed ideas must not govern the individual’s thinking. “In cathedrals, mosques and synagogues man will be robbed of his peace of mind.”23 The individual is free from thought and thoughtful at the same time. Therefore the ego turns into a radical fighter for the freedom of thought. If a thought develops into a constant guiding principle, the individual will be drilled to behave or think in a narrow-minded way, but if a thought is a useful one, it will be welcome until it becomes useless. We, too, should remember that the belief in reason and common sense and its advocates must be strongly criticized after all. It is reason and the firm belief in reason that makes the Bible important to the Christian and the law important to the citizen.

As Omar sees the origin of all human evil in all those ideologies, which Stirner attacks heavily, too, he draws the conclusion that we have to get rid of those detrimental ideologies to create a world free from evil. In other words: the self-centered motivation of man’s own will has to be freed from such ghosts so that his individuality can evolve. An individual’s development does not require any standards foreign to its will, any type of upbringing, but it is to act according to its own free will and is to rebel against enforced organizations like the state and the church, against taboos and everything sacred. Up to Stirner’s time the western world had consisted of suffering and pain for nobody had criticized those standards as fundamentally as Stirner. Now a new era was to begin in which the enjoyment of life became the meaning of life to a greater and greater extent.

23 F. Rosen, p. 28


2) The Inexpressible

In the following section we shall analyze the indeterminable world in which Stirner and Omar will meet once more. In doing so, we shall start out from a non-religious, “godless” mysticism.

According to my own knowledge Stirner was rarely associated with mysticism, while his role as a “social critic”, his “anarchism”, his “Gesellite” views have always been frequently discussed topics. In an industrialized world in which man’s mind is dominated by the mechanistic principles of efficiency his anti- pedagogic and psychoanalytic ideas were disdained.24 There may be some special reasons for this which we cannot discuss here.

After Stirner has denounced the whole world of explanations, of ideas, of philosophies, in short of ideologies as ghosts, as psychical disorders in men, he, to my mind, arrives at a problematic, i.e. empirically speaking very complex conclusion, “It is myself who is the criterion of truth, I, however, am no idea, but more than an idea, i.e. inexpressible.” 25 The living meaning the concrete Ego, body and soul, is, as we have pointed out above, the Ego with a self-centered motivation, with a will of its own, which because of his potential capacities can take possession of what it is capable of to satisfy its hunger with relish. But the indefinable Ego is something different, a phenomenon which cannot be grasped empirically, the all in all, the Ego’s creator; it is its creator and its creation in one. This Ego is identical with God: He is nameless, there is no word to denote everything that his divinity entails. This also applies to Stirner: no concept denotes his entire nature, nothing that he is characterized by is exhaustive enough to sum up his nature. Therefore Stirner consistently states, “I rely on nothing.”26

From this point on Stirner cannot be communicated to anybody anymore. After Stirner has completed his thought, he falls silent. Thus he becomes a mystic: an active individual turns into an inactive individual, the Ego, full of desire, turns into the Ego that dissolves — this is the world of “I am the inexpressible.”

Behind the physical I, which perceives itself and which turns itself into an object, the Ego’s sense of vitality is hiding. Therefore there may be something concealed behind all objects. This, however, is indefinable.

Fritz Mauthner writes about the dilemma of language, “I belong to the world of appearances; apart from that I am - though I am the only one who knows that — a thing in itself, a thing for me. Come on, out with it! What am I as a thing in itself, as a thing for me? Me, me, me! I am me. Language cannot go beyond this

24 Cf. Max Stirner und die Psychoanalyze (Max Stirner and Psychoanalysis) In: Der Einzige. (The Unique Ego) Vierteljahresschrift des Max-Stirner-Archivs Leipzig, Heft 1 u.2 Februar 2001 (Quarterly of the Max-Stirner- Archives Leipzig , issue 1 & 2, February 2001)
25 Max Stirner Der Einzige und sein Eigentum (The Ego and Its Own) Stuttgart 1981, p. 400
26 p. 412


silly tautology, this babble.”27 We have every right to wonder: Does Stirner manage to go beyond this “babble”? He at least realizes his linguistic limits and says that he relies on Nothing, thus facing the imperfection of language. Linguistically speaking that is the only logical consequence. So we are not amazed at the fact that Stirner called language a ghost, too. Mauthner saw that Stirner was a critic of language and wrote, “In a certain though limited way Stirner was the most relentless critic of language... But all misunderstandings concerning Stirner, who crushed the whole world, result from the fact that no language whatsoever can express whether the Unique Ego denotes a solipsist or man after all. This is not Stirner’s fault, but is due to language.”28 Let us unveil the secret. Referring to the Ego as “nothing” , Stirner touches upon a conceptual limit and leaves all ghosts behind.

Now he is sitting there like someone coming from nowhere, hiding his pain behind his laughter, he is smiling at mankind. He knows how to conceal his pain behind bold, cold and calculated words, “If I solely rely on myself, the unique ego, then I rely on something transient, the mortal creator of himself, who consumes himself.”29 The concept of transiency and mortality pervades Stirner’s entire work. But it seems as if he would proclaim transience while laughing coldly. I think his laughter conceals a deep-seated melancholy. The knowledge of the fading away of physical and mental energy, of the creative unique ego’s end, of the decline of all its creations and creativity — this knowledge causes a mysterious pain, which finds its expression in his laughing coldly. This, however, is not the only reason. We must focus on transience, too, because Stirner experiences it as something mystical, too. I’d like to quote Rolf Engert here, who already explained Stirner’s mysticism rudimentarily in 1931, “It is a mysticism of a personalized inner experience, which is caused by the fact that I am creator and creation to Myself and that my Ego can only comprehend the creator in Me, who never fully appears on the scene and will not fully manifest itself in his creations, and can only be experienced in an exceptional situation and can only be grasped by means of the concept of the ‘creative nothing’ “30 Following Mauthner’s example Engert tries to line Stirner up with the mystic Master Eckhart and “the vast religious eastern world”, but he does not explain his views. We will have to inquire into this to find out if it holds true, but I would like to restrict my inquiries to the problem of “godless mysticism”. The question how godless and religious mysticism, which may only be a semi-mysticism, can be combined with each other will be the subject-matter of another study. (In his “Dictionary of Philosophy” Mauthner, by the way, assembles a great many mystics under the heading of mysticism. There he

27 Fritz Mauthner Wšrterbuch der Philosophie (Dictionary of Philosophy) 2.Band (Volume II) Publishers: Diogenes, 1980, p. 373
28 Fritz Mauthner Der Atheismus und seine Geschichte im Abendland (Atheism and Its History in The Western World) 4. Band (Volume IV), Hildesheim 1963, pp. 216 - 217
29 M.Stirner p. 412
30 R.Engert in: Der Einzige , Vierteljahresschrift des Max-Stirner-Archivs Leipzig, No.4 (8) 1999, p. 12 (Quarterly of Max-Stirner-Archives Leipzig)


speaks of “philosophical” respectively of “skeptical” mysticism. Thus he makes the inexpressible a subject-matter of philosophy in order to be able to communicate it.)

Well, the “creative nothing” as a concept, which we have shortly explained above, experiences its limitations and therefore an unknown type of existence, i.e. in an “earthly and heavenly sphere” (Engert) man experiences new creative “possibilities to enjoy his life”. Stirner’s egoism respectively the creation of his ego experiences a dissolution of the ego when faced with its limitations and the concept of “nothing”, whereby Stirner conceives himself as “ a transient, mortal creator who consumes himself.”

Stirner’s mysticism is neither a total negation of everyday life nor does it imply that the unique ego is reducible to its earthly existence. He does not negate the world and the mundane. Stirner does not attempt to reach God or the truth, he does not try to become part of God either, he is God and the truth: God on earth and God in heaven! For only the unique ego is the origin of his creation and mortality. God is the unknown quantity, silence, quietness, origin, creation, perfection, the unnamed. All this applies to Stirner, the unique ego. “No concept expresses what I am”31

Language always refers to objects. It also turns abstractions into objects. Images arising in man’s mind can only become objects of language in a minimalized form. They can and must be communicated within a frame, i.e. communicated as one unit. During this process various ideas come in to being unrestrainedly. The objects vary, too. Unity is a manifestation of order. The evolution of order can perhaps be explained by a very short story: Once upon a time man’s superstitious mind thought the world to be cosmic and to make this condition last eternally the world had to be protected against a demon who wanted to turn the world into chaos. So it was the fear of demons that evoked the unity of thought, that is to say reason. Whatever it was that caused order to develop, since its emergence the human mind has thought in categories and has identified words with objects at any rate. Mauthner tells us about Buddhism, saying, “even the most cryptic statement of Buddhist mysticism is hardly language at all, can hardly be categorized grammatically speaking.”32 This goes for Stirner, too: if we conceive Stirner’s philosophy of the unique ego as an object, then the unique ego cannot be rendered in words, cannot be communicated. If we thought in categories in this case, we e.g. would have to identify “identity” with “missing identity”. This would mean that the divine and the mundane are identical. And this would be a paradox, which we often encounter when analyzing language.

Language mainly consists of contradictions. It starts with the fact that man opposes language but speaks at the same time. To put it in Goethe’s words,

31 M. Stirner p. 412
32 F. Mauthner Lexikon der Philosophie (Dictionary of Philosophy), p. 120


“You need not confuse your fellowmen by contradictions! As soon as you open your mouth you are mistaken.” 33 From Stirner’s point of view silence is a presupposition of being able to experience the ego in its entirety and not only fragmentarily. As soon as somebody enters the realm of silence to learn something fundamental, he will get rid of words and thoughts while experiencing his limitations, so as to be wrapped up by his ego, this “nonentity”. Being silent man undergoes a change, thus experiencing everything, because he strikes every chord in himself. It is then that he enters the realm of the inexpressible, the uncommunicable, the realm of mysticism. The realm of the unpronounceable differs from the realm of reason. A mystic’s empire is devoid of language.

Mauthner tries to explain the inexpressible by “paltry words”: “There is only one world. There is no God beside that world, there is no world beside God. This conviction used to be called pantheistic, strictly speaking: panentheistic (seemingly to preserve God as a person). Why not? It is only words... Why bother about words? ... My self-awareness, the individual’s oneness is a delusion ... Are those words merely philosophical collocations? Wordplays? No, they aren’t. What I can experience is real. And for a short period of time I can experience it, and thus I will forget about the ‘principium individuationis’ , and I will stop drawing a distinction between me and the world. ‘And I will be godlike.’ Why not?”34

On analyzing the words “And I will be godlike.”, we can render them in the following way: Everybody is his own creator. God exists because he does not exist above or outside the world, but in the world and therefore he lives in each human being. God and I are identical beings. The unique Ego is a god beside other gods. However difficult the interpretation of Stirner’s Ego and Omar’s criticism of reason and any search for God may be, both philosophers’ skeptical attitude towards the human mind and intellect, towards authority and whatever type of control of the individual does not only become manifest in their social criticism but also in their mystic experiences. Stirner does not only criticize the forces controlling the individual because of the anti-liberal attitude implied in them and because they are antagonistic towards the Ego. No, this is only the surface level of his philosophy. Stirner considers each word to be a ghost, since each word presents an obstacle to the creation of his ego. “The power of language over morals, over the commonest human habits has never been analyzed as furiously as by Stirner’s fiery speech in “The Ego and Its Own”. To Stirner all abstractions, truths, ideals, in fact all grand words are odious ghosts. He cannot help it, he is forced to hate ... language, too. Those terrifying words, by which Stirner aimed at something on a lower level primarily applies to language: ‘Digest the host and you’ll get it out of your system’. ‘Digest language and you will be free from it; digest all logical thinking, digest your

33 J.W. Goethe in L.Klages p.73
34 F. Mauthner Dictionary of Philosophy pp. 131-132


own word.’35 Mauthner’s words evidently express great admiration for Stirner, though he criticizes Stirner’s “dogmatic view of the Ego”: “The objection that the Ego is an illusion would have severely damaged his edifice.”36 He even reproaches Stirner saying that Stirner does not understand his own conclusion. “He did not understand his own conclusion while laughing that coldly.”37 To summarize Mauthner’s views: On the one hand Mauthner accuses Stirner of not recognizing the ego as an illusion/ an illusionary one, although Stirner views everything else in that way, on the other hand he accuses him of not being aware of his mysticism. Before I try to prove Mauthner wrong, I would like to mention that Mauthner’s assertions are due to the fact that at Mauthner’s time Stirner was mainly regarded as an anarchist. On the other hand Stirner’s emphasizing and conceiving the ego is misleading, therefore Mauthner’s criticism and skepticism is intelligible.

The mortality and what is more the transience of Stirner’s Ego is the very sign of creating nothing. This Ego, this experiencing nothingness are neither part of this world nor of a spiritual world, just because it has given up the idea of its existence. The Ego does not mean anything, it is only an expression of an experience of infinite attributes. It is alive and experiences life. If man is obsessed with an idea, i.e. a fixed idea that is sickening, this will be caused by the domination of one thought. All ideas that take control of man are products of a mental disturbance. So what about the idea of the Ego? “The most modern ruler of this kind is our nature.”38 Stirner’s Ego is neither an object nor an idea, but inexpressible. Thus Stirner has got rid of his ghosts. He relies on nothing, i.e. he is egoless. Stirner’s identification of God and the Ego coincides with the elimination of the distinction between the Ego and the world. That is the experience of the nameless, the unique ego, the mystic. The Ego, God, has ceased to be an object. No ideas and laws, no rules and commandments are valid anymore. For: “All commandments impose laws at the same time, and each law implies the interdiction to overstep limits.”39 So overstepping limits means all laws become worthless. Omar summarizes it in the following way:

The raindrop cries, “The sea! So far away!”
The ocean laughs, “Your grief! So very futile!”
In fact we’re all identical, identical with God —
It is only a tiny dot that separates us:— Time40

Transgressing limits implies that words become unreal and concepts are no longer arbitrary. According to Omar the world of appearances is an illusion, it is characterized by emptiness, so what is hidden behind it cannot be grasped by reason. And as all abstractions ring hollow and do not permit transgressing

35 F. Mauthner Die Sprache (Language) 1905, p. 83
36 Mauthner p. 84
37 Mauthner p. 84
38 Stirner p. 400
39 L. Klages p. 609
40 F. Rosen p. 30


limits Stirner and Omar declare them to be invalid. Concepts are subjected to logical thinking. Man’s real experiences are not logical ones. So they can only be communicated indirectly. The world of experiences differs from the world of concepts. Suzuki tries to explore this phenomenon. He writes, “In the western world yes means yes, and no means no. Yes never means no and vice versa. The eastern world allows yes to transform into no and no into yes; there are no rigid limits between the two words. The reason for this is the nature of life. Only logical thinking does not allow to remove limits. Logical thinking was created as an aid for useful purposes.”41 Whatever concepts rationalists may devise, they will be unable to outwit life. Moreover Suzuki tries to explain the failure of reason, which is in charge of the search for a definite answer, and arrives at a conclusion which coincides with mysticism, “The answer is buried deep below the lowest layer of our nature.”42 Below the surface there is the subconscious called Mu by Suzuki, i.e. the cosmic or ontological subconscious. To the mystic and the unique Ego it is their inner lives where they identify God and the world. That is the essence of Omar’s teachings: the concept of truth has to be eliminated, but not the truth itself. I can experience the truth by being myself, I am my creation, because I am the world. Thus the contrast or difference between me and the world is abolished and both parts are united and become an entirety. Concerning the inexpressible all beating about the bush will come to an end.

Omar leaves the world, which is full of conflicts, behind without explaining its riddle, without “pronouncing any profound word”. The world cannot be explained but only be experienced. We can consider these to be Omar’s and Stirner’s last words.



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41 D.T. Suzuki, E.Fromm Zen-Buddhismus und Psychoanalyse, 1971, p.19 (Zen-Buddhism and Psychoanalysis)
42 Suzuki, Fromm p. 67