Kahlil Gibran Essay
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But Gibran was primarily a poet and a mystic in whom thought, as in every good poet and good mystic, is a state of being rather than a state of mind. A student of Gibran’s philosophy, therefore, finds himself more concerned not with his ideas but with his disposition; not with his theory of love but with Gibran the lover. That Gibran had started his literary career as a Lebanese emigrant in America, passionately yearning for his homeland, twentieth-century and intellectual may, perhaps give a basic clue to his disposition framework.
To be an emigrant is to be an alien.
But to be an emigrant mystical alienation is added poet is to be thrice alienated. To geographical from both conventional human society at large, and estrangement also the whole world of spatio-temporal existence. Therefore such a poet is gripped by a triple longing: a longing for the country of his birth, for a utopian human society of the imagination in which he can feel at home, and for a higher world of metaphysical truth.
This Gibran with the basis for his artistic creatitriple longing provided vity. Its development from one stage of his work to another is only a variation in emphasis and not in kind; three strings of his harp re always to be detected and towards the end of his life they achieve * Al-Majm? ‘ah al K? milahli Mu’allaf? t Gibr? nKhal? lGibr? n,Beirut 1949-50 Sand and Foam, New York 1926 ThePropbet, New York 1923 The Forerunner,New York 1920 Jesus the Sonof Man, New York 1928 The Earth Gods,New York 1931 1 TheProphet, 33. p. 56 almost perfect harmony in his master-piece, The Prophet, where the home country of the prophet Almustafa, the utopian state of human existence and the metaphysical world of higher truth become one and the same.
To The Prophet as well as to the rest of Gibran’s works, Music can be considered as a prelude. Published eleven years after Gibran’s emigration to Boston as a youth of eleven, this essay of about thirteen pages marks the author’s debut into the world of letters. Though entitled Music, this booklet is more of a schoolboy’s prosaic ode to on it. As such, it tells us more music than an objective dissertation about Gibran, the emotional boy, than about his subject.
The Gibran it reveals is a flowery sentimentalist who, saturated with a vague sees in music a floating sister-spirit, an ethereal nostalgic sadness, of all that a nostalgic heart is not and yet yearns to be. embodiment of the whole essay, both in style and in spirit, is the Representative following quotation, in which he addresses music: “Oh you, wine of the heart that uplifts its drinker to the heights of the world of imagination;-you ethereal waves bearing the soul’s phantoms; you sea of sensibility and tenderness; to your waves we lend our soul, and to your uttermost depths we trust our hearts.
Carry those hearts away beyond the world of matter and show us what is hidden deep in the world of the unknown. “‘ Between Mztsic of 1905 and The Prophet of 1923, Gibran’s writings as well as his thought seem to have passed through two stages: the youthful period of his early Arabic works, Nymphs of the Wally, Spirits Rebellious, Broken Wings and A Tear and a Smile, published between 1907 and 1914, and the relatively more mature stage of Processions, The Tempests, The Madman, his first work in English, and The Forerunner, his second, all leading up to The Prophet.
It is only natural that in his youthful stage Gibran’s longing in Chinatown, Boston, where he first settled, for Lebanon, the country of the first impressionable years of his life, should dominate the two other strings in his harp. Nymphs of the Vallg is a collection of three short stories; Spirits Rebellious consists of another four, while Broken names and Wings can easily pass for a long short story. Overlooking dates, the three books can safely be considered as one volume of eight collected short stories that are similar in both style and conception, even to the point of redundancy; in all of them Lebanon, as the unique 1 See “al M? ? qa” al-Majm? ‘ah in al-K? milah (The Complete Works), vol. I, p. 57. 57 of mystic natural beauty, provides the setting. The different heroes, though their names and situations vary from story to story, are Khalil Gibran in essence one and the same. They are unmistakably the youth himself, who at times does not even bother to conceal his identity, speaking in the first person singular in Broken Wings and as Khalil in “Khalil the Heretic” of Spirits Rebellious. This first-person hero is typically to be found challenging pretenders to the possession of the body and soul of his beloved Lebanon.
These pretenders in the nineteenth and early twentieth century are, in Gibran’s reckoning, the feudal lords of Lebanese aristocracy and the church order. The stories are therefore almost invariably woven in such a way as to bring Gibran the hero, or a Gibran-modelled hero, into direct conflict with of one or another of those groups. representatives In Broken Wings, Gibran the youth and Salma Karameh fall in love. But the local archbishop frustrates their love by forcibly marrying Salma to his nephew.
Thus Gibran finds the opportunity, whilst his love of the virgin beauty of Lebanon, to pour out his singing anger on the church and its hierarchy. In Spirits Rebellious, Iihalil the heretic is expelled from a monastery in Mount Lebanon into a raging winter blizzard, because he was too Christian to be tolerated by the abbot and his fellow monks. Rescued at the last moment by a widow and her beautiful daughter in a Lebanese hamlet and secretly given refuge in their cottage, he soon makes the mother an admirer of his ideals of a primitive anticlerical Christianity and the daughter a disciple and a devoted lover.
When he is discovered and captured by the local feudal lord and brought to trial before him as a heretic and an outlaw, he stands among the multitudes of humble Lebanese villagers and tenants and speaks like a Christ at his second coming. Won over by his defence, which he turns into an offensive against the allied despotism of the church and the feudal system, the simple and poverty-stricken villagers rally round him. As a consequence the local lord commits suicide, the priest takes to flight, Khalil marries the daughter of his rescuer, and the whole village lives ever afterwards in a blissful state of natural piety, amity and justice. John the Madman” in Nymphs of the Valley is almost a duplicate of Khalil the heretic. Detained with his calves by the abbot and monks of a monastery simply because the calves have intruded on its property, John, the poor calf-keeper, accuses his persecutors and all other men of the church of being the enemies of Christ, the modern pharisees land 58 on the poverty, misery and goodness of the very people prospering like himself in whom Christ abides. “Come forth again, o living out of your Christ,” he calls, “and chase these religion-merchants For they have turned those temples into dungeons where the temples. nakes of their cunning and villainy lie coiled. ” 1 Because he was social order uniinspired with sincere truth under a domineering to sincerity and truth, John was dismissed as a formly antagonistic madman. It is easy to label Gibran in this early stage of his career as a social reformer and a rebel, as he was indeed labelled by many students of his works in the Arab world. His heroes, whose main weapons are their eloquent tongues, are always engaged in struggles that are of a social nature.
There are almost invariably three factors here: innocent romantic love, frustrated by a society that subjugates love to worldly selfish interests, a church order that claims wealth, power and absolute authority in the name of Christ but is in fact utterly antichrist, and a ruthlessly inhuman feudal system. However, in spite of the apparent climate of social revolt in his stories Gibran remains far from deserving the title of social reformer. To be a reformer in revolt against something is to be in possession of a positive alternative.
But nowhere do Gibran’s heroes strike us as having any real alternative. The alternatives, if any, are nothing but the negation of what the heroes revolt against. Thus their alternative for a corrupt love is no corrupt love, the sort of utopian love that we are made to see in Broken Lf/ings; the alternative for a feudal system is no feudal system, or the kind of systemless society we end up with in Spirits Rebellious; and the alternative for a Christless church is a Christ without any kind of church, madman in the kind of role in which John has found himself. Not being in possession of an alternative, a social reformer in revolt is instantly transformed from a hero into a social misfit. Thus Gibran’s heroes have invariably been heretics, madmen, wanderers, and even prophets and Gods. As such they all Boston, drawn represent Gibran the emigrant misfit in Chinatown, in his imagination and longing to Lebanon, his childhood’s fairyland, who is not so much concerned with the ills that corrupt its society as with the corrupt society that defiles its beauty.
What kind of Lebanon Gibran has in mind becomes clearer in a relatively late essay in Arabic, in which his ideal of Lebanon and that of the antagonists whom he portrays in his stories are set against one another. vol. 1 Al-Majm? ‘ahal-K? mila, I, p. 101. 59 The best that Gibran the rebel could tell those corrupters of Lebanese society in this essay entitled “You Have Your Lebanon and I have Mine” is not how to make Lebanon a better society, but how beautiful is Lebanon without any society at all.
He writes: “You have your Lebanon and its problems, and I have my Lebanon and its beauty. You have your Lebanon with all that it has of various interests and concerns, while I have my Lebanon with all that it has of aspirations and dreams … Your Lebanon is a political riddle that time to resolve, while my Lebanon is hills rising in awe and attempts Your Lebanon is ports, industry majesty towards the blue sky … and commerce, while my Lebanon is a far removed idea, a burning emotion, and an ethereal word whispered by earth into the ear of heaven …
Your Lebanon is religious sects and parties, while my Lebanon is youngsters climbing rocks, running with rivulets and ball in open squares. Your Lebanon is speeches, lectures and playing while my Lebanon is songs of nightingales, discussions, swaying branches of oak and poplar, and echoes of shepherd flutes reverber1 ating in caves and grottoes. ” It is no wonder that this kind of rebel should wind up his so-called social revolt at this stage of his career with the publication of a book of collected prose poems entitled A Tear and a Smile.
The tears, which are much more abundant here than the smiles, are those of Gibran the misfit rather than of the rebel in Boston, singing in an exceedingly touching way of his frustrated love and estrangement, his loneliness, homesickness and melancholy. The smiles, on the other hand, are the expression of those hitherto intermittent but now more numerous moments in the life of Gibran the emigrant when the land of mystic beauty, ceases to be a geographical Lebanon, in his imagination into expression, and is gradually metamorphosed a metaphysical After such rudimentary as his homeland. ttempts short story “The Ash of Generations and the Eternal Fire” in Nymphs Gibran has of the Valley, expressive of his belief in reincarnation, managed in his prose poems of A Tear and a Smile to give his homesickness a clear platonic twist. His alienation has become that of the human soul entrapped in the foreign world of physical existence, and his homesickness has become the yearning of the soul so estranged for rehabilitation in the higher world of metaphysical truth whence it has originally descended.
It is for this reason that human life is 1 Ibid. , vol. III, pp. 202-203. 60 expressed by a tear and a smile: a tear for the departure and alienation The historic analogy and a smile for the prospect of a home-coming. of the sea in this respect becomes common from now on in Gibran’s writings: rain is the weeping of water that falls over hills and dales from the mother sea, while running brooks sound the estranged “Such is the soul”, says Gibran in one of happy song of home-coming. rom the universal soul it takes its his prose poems. “Separated course in the world of matter passing like a cloud over the mountains of sorrow and the plains of happiness until it is met by the breezes of death, whereby it is brought back to where it originally belongs, to the sea of love and beauty, to god. ” 1 When Gibran’s homeland, the object of his longing, was Lebanon, his anger was directed against those who in his view had defiled its beauty.
But now that his homeland had gradually assumed a metaphysical Platonic meaning, his attack was no longer centred on local influences clergy, church dogma, feudalism and the other corrupting in Lebanon, but rather on the shamefully defiled image that man, the emigrant in the world of physical existence, has made of the world of God, his original homeland. Not only Lebanese society, but rather human society at large has become the main target of Gibran’s the second stage of his career. isgust and bitterness throughout This kind of disgust constitutes the central theme in Gibran’s long Arabic poem Processions of 1919 and his book of collected Arabic essays The Tempests of 1920, his last work in Arabic, as well as in his first two works in English, The Madman of 1918, and The Forerunner of 1920, both of which are collected parables and prose poems. The hero in Gibran’s poetico-fictional title-piece in The Tempests, Youssof al-Fakhry in his cottage among the forbidding mountains, becomes a mystery to the awe-stricken Only to neighbourhood.
Gibran the narrator, seeking refuge in the cottage one stormy evening, does he reveal the secret of his heroic silence and seclusion. “It is a certain awakening in the uttermost depth of the soul,” he says, “a certain idea which takes a man’s conscience by surprise at a moment and opens his vision whereby he sees life … projecof forgetfulness, ted like a tower of light between earth and infinity. ” 2 Looking at the rest of men from the tower of life, from his giant God-self which he has so recognized at a rare moment of awakening, Youssof al-Fakhry sees them in their forgetful day-to-day earthly 1 Ibid. vol. II, p. 95. 2 Ibid. , vol. III, p. 111. 61 to existence, at the bottom of the tower. In their placid unwillingness lift their eyes to what is divine in their natures, they appear to him as disgusting pigmies, hypocrites and cowards. “I have deserted people”, he explains to his guest, “because I have found myself a wheel turning he right among wheels invariably turning left. ” “No, my brother,” adds, “I have not sought seclusion for prayer or hermitic practices. Rather have I sought it in escape from people and their laws, teachings and customs, from their ideas, noises and wailings.
I have sought seclusion so as not to see the faces of men selling their souls to buy with the price thereof what is below their souls in value and honour In “The Grave-Digger”, another poetico-fictional piece in The these men who have sold their souls, and who constitute in Tempests, Gibran’s reckoning the rest of human society, are dismissed as dead, though in the words of the hero, modelled in the lines of Youssof alFakhry, “finding none to bury them, they remain on the face of the 2 earth in stinking disintegration”.
The hero’s advice to Gibran the narrator is that for a man who has awakened to his giant God-self the best service he can render society is digging graves. “From that hour up to the present”, Gibran concludes, “I have been digging graves and burying the dead, but the dead are many and I am alone with nobody to help me. ” 3 To be the only sane man among fools is to appear as the only fool among sane men.
If life, as Youssof al-Fakhry says, is a tower whose bottom is the earth and whose top is the world of the infinite, then to clamour for the infinite in one’s life is to be considered an outcast and a fool by the rest of men clinging to the bottom of the tower. This is first English work, The precisely how the Madman in Gibran’s his title. His masks stolen, he was walking naked, as Madman, gained every traveller from the physical to the metaphysical is bound to be. Seeing his nakedness, someone on a house-top cried: “He is a madman. Looking up, the sun, his higher self, kissed his naked face for the first time. He fell in love with the sun and wanted his masks, his no longer. Thereafter he was always physical and social attachments, known as the Madman, and as a madman he was at war against human society. Processions, Gibran’s long poem in Arabic, is a dialogue between two voices. Upon close analysis, the two voices seem to belong to one and 1 Ibid. , vol. III, 106. p. 2 Ibid. , vol. III, p. 11. 3 Ibid. , vol. III, 15. p. 62 the same man: another of those Gibranian madmen, or men who have become Gods unto themselves.
This man would at one time cast his at people living at the bottom of the tower, and eyes downwards raise his voice in derision and sarcasm, poking fun at consequently their unreality, satirizing their Gods, creeds and practices, and ridiculing their values, ever doomed, blind as they are, to be at loggerheads. At another instant he would turn his eyes to his own sublime world beyond good and evil, where dualities interpenetrate giving way to unity, and then he would raise his voice in praise of life absolute and universal. is to achieve serenity and peace.
That To achieve self-fulfilment Gibran and his heroes are still mad Gods, grave-diggers and enemies of mankind, filled with bitterness despite their claim of having arrived at the summit of life’s tower, reveals that Gibran’s self-fulfilment this second stage of his work is still a matter of wishful throughout rather than an accomplished fact. Too thinking and make-believe with his own painful loneliness in his transcendental preoccupied quest, Gibran the madman or superman, it seems, has failed hitherto at the summit, but also to not only to feel the joy of self-realization recognize the ragedy of his fellow-men supposedly lost in the mire instead of love and compassion, down below. Consequently people could only inspire in him bitterness and disgust. The stage of anger and disgust was succeeded in Gibran’s development by a third stage, that of The Prophet, his chef d’? tlvre, Jesus the Son of Man and The Earth Gods. The link is to be found in The Forerunner of 1920, his book of collected poems and parables. To believe, as Gibran did, that life is a tower whose base is earth and whose summit is the infinite is also to believe that life is one and indivisible.
For the man on top of life’s tower to reject those who are beneath, as Gibran had been doing up to this point, is to undermine his own height and become lower than the lowest he rejects. Thus one of Gibran’s poems in The Forerunner says, as though in atonement for all his Nietzschean revolt: “Too young am I and too outraged to be my freer self. “And how shall I become my freer self unless I slay my burdened selves, or unless all men become free? ” … How shall the eagle in me soar against the sun until my fledglings leave the nest which I with my own beak have built for them. 1 1 TheForerunner,p. 7. 63 Gibran’s belief in the unity of life, which has hitherto made only and at times confused appearances in his writings, has intermittent now become, with all its implications with regard to human life and conduct, the prevailing theme of the rest of his works. If life is one and infinite, then man is the infinite in embryo, just as a seed is in itself the whole tree in embryo. “Every seed”, says Gibran in one of his later works, “is a longing. 1 This longing is presumably the longing of the tree in the seed for in the actual tree that it had previously been. Every self-fulfilment seed therefore bears within itself the longing, the self-fulfilment and the means by which this can be achieved. To transfer the analogy to man is to say that every man as a conscious being is a divine seed; is life absolute and infinite in embryo. Every man, therefore, according to Gibran, is a longing : the longing of the divine in man for man the divine whom he had previously been.
But, to quote Gibran again, “No longing remains unfulfilled. ” 2 Like the seed, he Therefore every man is destined for Godhood. bears within him the longing, the fulfilment which is God, and the road leading to this fulfilment. It is in this context that Gibran declares in The Forerurcner, “You are your own forerunner, and the tower have built are but the foundations of your giant self. ” 3 you Seeing man in this light, Gibran can no longer afford to be a gravedigger. A new stage has opened in his career. Men are divine and, therefore, deathless.
If they remain in the mire of their earthly existence, it is not because they are mean and disgusting, but because the divine in them, like the fire in a piece of wood, is dormant though it needs only a slight spark to be released into a blaze of light. it is not a grave-digger that men need, but an Consequently, a Socratic mid-wife, who would help man release the God in igniter; himself into the self that is one with God. Therefore in this new stage Gibran the grave-digger and the madman gives way to Gibran the and the igniter. rophet In The Prophet of 1923, Almustafa “who was a dawn unto his own day” sees his ship, for which he had waited twelve years in the city of Orphalese, returning to “bear him back to the isle of his birth”. The people of Orphalese leave their daily work and crowd around him in the city square to bid him farewell and beg for something of his 1 Sandand Foam, p. 16. 1 Ibid. , p. 25. 1 TheForerunner,p. 7. 64 he answers their various before he leaves, whereupon knowledge on subjects of their own choosing. uestions It is not hard to see that Almustafa the Prophet is Gibran himself, who in 1923 had already spent almost twelve years in New York city, the city of Orphalese, having moved there from Boston in 1912, and that the isle of his birth is Lebanon to which he had longed to return. But looking deeper still Almustafa can further symbolize the man who, in Gibran’s reckoning, has become his freer self; who has realized the passage in himself from the human to the divine, and is therefore ripe for emancipation and reunion with life absolute.
His ship is death that has come to bear him to the isle of his birth, the Platonic world of metaphysical reality. As to the people of Orphalese, they stand for human society at large in which men, exiled in their spatio-temporal existence from their true selves, that is, from God, are in need in their God-ward journey of the guiding prophetic hand that would lead them from what is human in them to the divine. Having made that journey himself, Almustafa presents himself in his sermons the book as that guide. throughout Stripped of its poetical trappings, Gibran’s teaching in The
Prophet is found to rest on the single idea that life is one and infinite. As a living being, man in his temporal existence is only a shadow of his real self. To be one’s real self is to be one with the infinite to which man is related. Self-realization, therefore, lies in going out of inseparably one’s spatio-temporal dimensions, so that the self is broadened to the man’s only extent of including everyone and all things. Consequently in self-realization, to his greater self, lies in love. Hence love is the path theme of the opening sermon of Almustafa to the people of Orphalese.
No man can say “I” truly without meaning the totality of things apart from which he cannot be or be conceived. Still less can one love oneself truly without loving everyone and all things. So love is at once an emancipation and a crucifixion: an emancipation because it releases man from his narrow confinement and brings him to that whereby he feels one with the stage of broader self-consciousness with God; a crucifixion because to grow into the broader self infinite, is to shatter the smaller self which was the seed and confinement. For even as Thus true self-assertion is bound to be a self-negation. love crowns you”, says Almustafa to his hearers, “so shall he crucify 1 you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. ” 1 TheProphet, p. 15. 65 love, which is our guide to our larger self, is insepConsequently arable from pain. “Your pain”, says Almustafa, “is the breaking of Even as the stone of the the shell that encloses your understanding. fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know 1 pain. ” Thus conceived, pain becomes at once a kind of joy.
It is the joy of the seed dying as a tree in embryo in a process of becoming a tree in full. and unheeded which is really painful. It is only pain misunderstood self is God, then anything that gives us pain is a witness If our larger that our self is not yet broad enough to contain it. For to contain all is is thus an to be in love and at peace with all. Pain truly understood to growth and therefore to joy. “Your joy”, says Almustafa, impetus “is your sorrow unmasked. The deeper that sorrow carves into your 2 being, the more joy you can contain. ” If pain and joy are inseparable, so are life and death.
In a universe that is infinite nothing can die except the finite, and nothing finite can be other than the infinite in disguise. Death understood is the pouring of the finite into the infinite, the passage of the God in man into the man in God. “Life and death are one”, says Almustafa, “even as the And what is to cease breathing, but to river and the sea are one … free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and 3 seek God unencumbered. ” If life and death are one even as joy and pain, it must follow that life is not the opposite of death nor death the opposite of life.
For to live is to grow and to grow is to exist in a continuous process of dying. Therefore every death is a rebirth into a higher state of being, in the sense of “the child is father to the man”. Thus in a Wordsworthian chain of birth and rebirth man persists in his God-ward continuous of himself until ascent, gaining at each step a broader consciousness he finally ends at the absolute. “It is a flame spirit in you”, says Almustafa, “ever gathering more of itself. ” 4 Similarly, nothing can happen to us which is not in fact self-invited, If God is our greater self, then nothing can and self-entertained. efall us from without. Says Almustafa: 1 Ibid. , p. 60. 2 Ibid. , p. 35. 3 Ibid. , pp. 90-91. 4 Ibid. , p. 97. 66 “The And And And murdered is not unaccountable for his own murder, the robbed is not blameless in being robbed. the righteous is not innocent of the deeds of the wicked, the white-handed is not clean in the doings of the felon. “1 If God is our greater self then there can be no good in the infinite universe which is not the good of every man, nor can there be any “Like a procession”, evil for which anyone can abjure responsibility.
Almustafa, “you walk together towards your God self. ” says “… even as the holy and righteous cannot rise beyond the highest which is in each one of you, so the wicked and the weak cannot fall lower than the lowest which is in you also. And as a single leaf turns not yellow but with the silent knowledge of the whole tree, So the wrong-doer cannot do wrong without the hidden will of you all. “22 It would follow that the spiritual elevation of a Christ is part and parcel of the material villainy of a Judas Iscariot. For in God Christ and Judas are one and inseparable.
No man, therefore, no matter how elevated, can be emancipated into his larger self alone. An eagle, however high it can soar, is always bound to come down again to its fledgelings in the nest and is until they too become strong of wing, doomed to remain earthbound and the same is true of an elevated human soul or a prophet. So long as there remains even one speck of bestiality in any man no other human soul, no matter how near to God it may be, can be finally Like the released emancipated and escape the wheel of reincarnation. n Plato’s allegory, he will again return to the philosopher-prisoner cave, so long as his fellows are still there in darkness and in chains. Gibran’s Prophet, as he prepares to board his ship, says: “Should my voice fade in your ears, and my love vanish in your memory, then I will come again. A little while, and my longing shall gather dust and foam for another body. A little while, a moment of rest upon the wind, and another woman shall bear me. “3 In literary terms, this moment of rest upon the wind for Almustafa was brief indeed.
Only five years elapsed on his departure from 1 Ibid. , p. 47. 2 Ibid. , pp. 46-47. 3 Ibid. , 105. p. 67 Orphalese before he was given birth again; not by another woman, as he had foretold, but by Gibran himself. His name this time was not Almustafa but Jesus. Jesus the Son of Man, Gibran’s second book after The Prophet, appeared in 1928, the first being only a short collection of aphorisms under the title of Sand and Foam. To the student of Gibran’s literary art, Jesus the Son of Man may offer some novelty, but not so to the student of his thought.
Gibran in this book tries to portray Christ as he understands him by inviting to speak of him each from his a number of Christ’s contemporaries own point of view. Their views combined in the mind of the reader are intended to bring out the desired portrait. But names, places and situations apart, the Jesus so portrayed in the the book is not so much of the Biblical Christ, as he is the old Biblical a new development Gibranian Almustafa. transformed into another Like Nazarene who Almustafa he is described as “The chosen and the beloved”, after several previous rebirths is come and will come again to help lead men to their larger selves.
He is not a God who has taken human form, but an ordinary man of ordinary birth who has been able through spiritual sublimation to elevate himself from the human to the divine. His several returns to earth are the several returns of the eagle who would not taste the full freedom of space before all his fledgedesire”, says lings are taught to fly. “Were it not for a mother’s Gibran’s Jesus, “I would have stripped me of the swaddling-clothes and escaped back to space. And were it not for sorrow in all of you, . I would not have stayed to weep. I Therefore Gibran’s Jesus was neither meek nor humble nor characterized by pity. His return to earth is the return of a winged spirit, intent on appealing not to human frailties, but to the power in man which is capable of lifting him from the finite to the infinite. One reporter on Jesus says, “I am sickened and the bowels within call Jesus humble and me stir and rise when I hear the faint-hearted and when the that they may justify their own faint-heartedness; meek, for comfort and companionship, down-trodden, speak of Jesus as a worm shining by their side.
Yes, my heart is sickened by such men. It is the mighty hunter I would preach, and the mountainous spirit 2 unconquerable. ” Gibran’s Jesus is even made to re-utter the Lord’s prayer in a way 1 Jesus The Sonof Man, p. 19. 2 Ibid. , p. 4. 68 to the heart and lips of Almustafa, appropriate teaching man to himself to the point of becoming one with the all-inclusive: enlarge “Our father in earth and heaven, sacred is Thy name. Thy will be done with us, even as in space …..
In Thy compassion forgive us and enlarge us to forgive one another. Guide us towards Thee and stretch down Thy hand to us in darkness. For Thine is the kingdom, and in Thee is our power and our fulfilment To dwell further on the character and teachings of Jesus as conIn The Prophet, Gibran the ceived by Gibran is to risk redundancy. thinker reaches his climax. His post-Prophet works, with the possible exception of The Earth Gods of 1931, the last book published in his lifetime, have almost nothing new to offer. s a collection of The Wanderer of 1932, published posthumously, and sayings much in the style and spirit of The Forerunner of parables 1920, published three years before The Prophet. As to The Garden of the in 1933, it should be dismissed Prophet, also published posthumously as a fake and a forgery. Gibran, who had planned The Garden outright state of being and of the Prophet to be an expression of Almustafa’s after he had arrived in the isle of his birth from the city of teachings Orphalese, had only time left to write two or three short passages for that book.
Other passages were added, some of which are translations from Gibran’s early Arabic works, and some possibly written by another pen in imitation of Gibran’s style. The result was a book to Gibran, in which Gibran’s attributed are poetry and thought to a most unhappy state of chaos and confusion. brought This leaves us with The Earth Gods as the complete work with which Gibran’s career comes to its conclusion. And a fitting conclusion it is indeed. The book is a long prose poem where, in the words of Gibran, “The three earth-born Gods, the Master Titans of Life” hold a discourse on the destiny of man. is career was a poet of alienation and Gibran, who throughout strikes us in The Prophet and in Jeszrs the Son of Man, Almuslonging, tafa’s duplicate, as having arrived at his long-cherished state of intellectual rest and spiritual fulfilment. Almustafa and Christ, who in Gibran’s reckoning are earth-born Gods, reveal human destiny as being man’s gradual ascent through love and spiritual sublimation 1 Ibid. , p. 60. 69 towards ultimate reunion with God, the absolute and the infinite. It is possible that Gibran began to have second thoughts about the philosophy of his prophet towards the end of his life.
Otherwise why is it that instead of one earth God, one human destiny, he now presents us with three who apparently are in disagreement ? Shortly after Jesus the Son of Man, (libran, who had for some time been fighting a chronic illness, came to realize that the fates were not on his side. Like Almustafa, he must have seen his ship coming in the mist to take him to the isle of his birth and in the lonely journey of towards death, armed as he was with the mystic convictions Almustafa, he must have often stopped to examine the implications of his philosophy.
In his farewell address to the people of Orphalese, Almustafa saw his departure as “A little while, a moment of rest upon the wind”. But what of this endless cycle of births and rebirths? If man’s ultimate destiny as a finite being is to unite with the infinite, then that destiny is a virtual impossibility. For the road to the infinite is infinite, and man’s quest as a traveller through reincarnation is bound to be endless and fruitless. ‘ Therefore comes the voice of Gibran’s first God: “Weary is my spirit of all there is.
I would not move a hand to create a world Nor to erase one. I would not live could I but die, For the weight of aeons is upon me, And the ceaseless moan of the seas exhaust my sleep. Could I but lose the primal aim And vanish like a wasted sun; Could I but strip my divinity of its purpose And breathe my immortality into space And be no more; Could I but be consumed and pass from time’s memory Into the emptiness of nowhere. “‘ In another place this same God says: “For all that I am, and all that there is on earth, And all that shall be, inviteth not my soul.
Silent is thy face, And in thine eyes the shadows of night are sleeping. But terrible is thy silence, And thou art terrible. “2 1 The Earth Gods, 3. p. 2 Ibid. , pp. 5-6. 70 If man in his ascent to the infinite is likened to a mountain-climber, then these moments of gloom and helplessness only occur when he casts his eyes towards the infinitely removed summit beyond. It is not so when he casts his eyes downwards and sees the heights he has already scaled. The loneliness and gloom then give way to optimism and reassurance.
For a journey that can be started is a journey that can be concluded. Gibran on his lonely voyage must have turned to see There we hear the this other implication in Almustafa’s philosophy. voice of the second God, whose eyes are turned optimistically downwards. His philosophy is that the height of the summit is a part of the lowliness of the valley beneath. That the valley is now transcended is a reassurance that the summit can be considered as already conquered. For to reach the summit is to reach the highest point to which a valley could raise its depth.
Man’s journey to God is therefore a journey inwards and not an external quest. The second God says to the first: “We are the beyond and we are the most high And between us and the boundless eternity Is naught save our unshaped passion And the motive thereof. You invoke the unknown, And the unknown clad with moving mist Dwells in your own soul. Yea, in your own soul your redeemer lies asleep And in sleep sees what your waking eye does not see. … Forbear and look down upon the world. Behold the unweaned children of your love.
The earth is your abode, and the earth is your throne; And high beyond man’s furtherest hope Your hand upholds his destiny. “‘ Yet in Gibran’s lonely journey towards death, a voice not so pessimistic as that of his first God nor so optimistic as that of the second from the youthful past of is heard. This voice, coming perhaps Broken Wings and A Tear and a Smile, though not part of Almustafa’s voice, is yet not out of harmony with it. It is the voice of someone who has come to realize that man has so busied himself philosophizing to live it.
Rather than the climber about life that he has forgotten terrified by the towering height of the summit or reassured by the lowliness of the valley, here is a love-intoxicated youth in the spring meadows 1 Ibid. , on the mountainside. p. 22. 71 “There is a wedding in the valley. “Brothers, my brothers,” the third God rebukes his two fellows, “A day too vast for recording. … We shall pass into the twilight; Perchance to wake to the dawn of another world. But love shall stay, And his finger-marks shall not be erased. The blessed forge burns, The sparks rise, and each spark is a sun.
Better it is for us, and wiser, To seek a shadowed nook and sleep in our earth divinity And let love, human and frail, command the coming day. “‘ Thus Gibran concludes his life-long alienation. His thought in the twilight of his days seems to have swung back to his youth where it first started. It is a complete cycle, in conformity, though perhaps unconsciously, The tenacious cedar tree which was with his idea of reincarnation. Gibran the Prophet went back again to the seed that it was: to love, to wake to the dawn of another world. “2 human and frail-“Perchance N. NAIMY 1 Ibid. , pp. 25-26. 2 Ibid. , pp. 38-41.