Sweet Lunacy: Divine Intoxication in Sufi Literature


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“Divine Intoxication” is a common theme in Middle Eastern poetry. The “wine” on which the seeker becomes “drunk” is nothing less than the nectar of love. Such “inebriation,” however, often produces unconventional behavior, even hints of madness, marking the lover as one apparently lost to the ordinary world. In this mood, Kahlil Gibran wrote: “Only an idiot and a genius break man-made laws and they are the nearest to the heart of God.” And so, the poetry written by or about these “drunkards” is often saturated with perennial wisdom, with stark reflections of the truth (in vino veritas), and with a variety of prayerful longing that is found throughout all mystical traditions.

Sweet Lunacy contains works by some of the most well-known mystical Sufi poets from the 11th through the 14th century, including Rumi, Attar, and Jami. But the reader will also meet lesser-known authors here whose messages, both unique and fresh, are equally inspiring. The poets in this collection are those who, for reasons which might not seem altogether reasonable to our everyday mind and logic, were willing and able to question this mystery called life and, unwilling to accept readymade answers.

Vraje Abramian, born in Iran and a native speaker of Farsi, has worked to keep his translations as close to the meaning and cultural flavor of the originals as possible. He has researched “Wise Fools” in various cultures/religions in the Near, and Middle East, Central Asia and India. While anecdotes, folk-tales and stories about spiritual ecstatics are abundantly present in Sufi literature particularly, no other single work focuses essentially on such profound lunacy and intoxication as this one does.

Following the Introduction, the book is divided into three parts: The Obstacle (Mind); The Battleground (Heart); and Deliverance (The Journey). Abramian has included poems and stories within each section that bring the reader’s attention to these key distinctions in the mystical process.

While the subject matter is rare and refined, the author is clear that every human being nurses within his or her heart a nostalgia, remote and nameless, a longing for something they cannot express. This fine collection is valuable not only for the refinement of poetic content but also for the spiritual guidance of the great mystics whose voices are made available herein. Sweet Lunacy is a must-have for lovers, seekers of truth, and connoisseurs of beauty alike.

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