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Interview with Professor Eric Ormsby on Between Reason and Revelation

24th January 2013
Editor & Translator: Professor Eric Ormsby

“Between Reason and Revelation: Twin Wisdoms Reconciled” is the first English translation of Kitab-i Jami‘ al-Hikmatayn, the final known work of Nasir-i Khusraw, a great eleventh-century Ismaili thinker, poet and Fatimid emissary.

Written in the year 1070 CE, during his exile in Badakhshan, the work is presented as a learned commentary on a long philosophical poem, written in the previous century, and sent to Nasir by the Amirinfo-icon of Badakhshan, ’Ali B. al-Asad, asking the philosopher to explicate it. In doing so, Nasir ranges over a huge span of topics from logic and language to the nature of the physical world, spheres of the highest heavens, and most importantly, the hidden spiritual realms: the esoteric (batininfo-icon) as well as the exoteric (zahirinfo-icon).

In this interview, Professor Eric Ormsby briefly introduces Nasir-i Khusraw, reflects on his own engagement with translating Jami‘al-Hikmatayn into English, and comments on the merits of Nasir’s thought in his time as well as its relevance to contemporary debates in philosophy and religion.

The questions answered by Professor Ormsby are presented below:

  1. Who was Nasir-i Khusraw? (00:11)
  2. What inspired you to translate a thousand year manuscript into English? (03:19)
  3. What were some of the challenges of the translation process? (04:36)
  4. Who is Nasir addressing in this book? (06:13)
  5. Which aspects of the work do you find conceptually innovative? (10:00)
  6. How is his thought relevant to us today? (11:38)
  7. What gaps in scholarship does this work address? (13:15)