The Prophet: An Interpretation
Date: Saturday, January 01 @ 00:52:18 UTC
Topic: Book Reviews
The Prophet written by Kahlil Gibran was first published in 1926. Gibran's writings are poetic, yet generally clear, and express some important bits of wisdom. However, despite the bursts of wisdom that dot Gibran's writing there is a patriarchal element that shows, for instance in his reference to God/love as a male entity. I will outline the general flow of the book, and expand and comment on some of the better parts.
The main character Almustafa, who is described as the 'chosen and beloved', returns to the isle of his birth. As he returned, his soul cried out to them, and he said: "Sons of my ancient mother, you riders of my tides, How often have you sailed in my dreams. And now you come in my awakening, which is my deeper dream."
As he entered the city, all the people came to meet him. And the priests and priestess said unto him: "Let not the waves of the sea separate us now, and the years you have spent in our midst become a memory. You have walked among us a spirit, and your shadow has been a light upon our faces."
Others came and entreated him also, but he answered them not. He only bent his head: and those who stood near saw his tears falling upon his breast. He and the people proceeded towards the temple, and out of the sanctuary came Almitra, a woman and a seeress who has first sought and believed in him when 'he had been a day in the city'. She hailed him, saying, "Prophet of God, in quest for the uttermost, long have you searched the distances for your ship….. Deep is your longing for the land of your memories and the dwelling place of your greater desires; and our love would not bind you, nor our needs hold you. Yet this we ask that you leave us, that you speak to us and give us of your truth. And we will give it unto our children, and they unto their children, and it shall not perish."
Speak to us of love: "When love beckons to you, follow him. And when his wings enfold you yield to him. Though the sword hidden in his pinions may wound you ...Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste to the garden... ...Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself. Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; For love is sufficient unto love. Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself."
Many see love as being soft, gentle and flattering, but love is truth and to the uninitiated love can seem cold, blunt and harsh. Love does not accept anything less than our best, and neither does it flatter to reinforce any arrogance, ignorance or poor conduct. Love does not seek to massage egos but acts to encourage people to be the best that they can be. Love does not impose itself on anyone; it has patience and understanding to let people make their own choices and go through their own experiences. Love does not seek to possess, nor would it let itself be possessed. Despite the best intentions, without self-understanding, 'love' can be a form of bondage or an illusion that masks abuse and insecurities. In other words, without seeking to understand the deeper realms of the human/universal essence, people cannot move in harmony with others even if they are sincere.
And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, "Speak to us of children." And he said: "your children are not your children…They come through you, but not from you, and though the are with you, they do not belong to you…You may house their bodies but not their souls."
Children are born into this world, light and free, without the corruption and negative social conditioning that plague their adult counterparts. Too often, parents try to live their life through their children, and thus burden them with false expectations and standards. Activities are imposed upon them, sometimes without consideration of what they like. They need to be given room to explore their own likes, within certain parameters, and develop their own unique creativity.
And a Woman spoke, saying, tell us of pain. And he said:
"Your pain is the break of the shell that encloses your understanding. Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain….Much of your pain is self-chosen. It is the bitter potion by which the sick physician within you heals your sick self."
Painful experiences though they may cause a lot of emotional hurt, help us to better gauge life, as well as to stimulate character refinement. Anybody can row in calm waters but it is when the seas get rough that real character is built. Through the dynamics of natural law (action/reaction), experiences and one's state of being is linked directly to the choices that are made. Each word, thought and deed determines the reality a person experiences. The pain that results from a poor choice occurs to alert persons to the importance of making proper choices. Through experiencing what is not, that we can properly value what is. Experience is the greatest teacher.
And a man said, speak to us of self- knowledge. And he answered saying: "Your hearts thirst for the sound of your heart's knowledge….The hidden well-spring of your soul must needs rise and run murmuring to the sea; and the reassure of your infinite depths would be revealed to your eyes."
Our ancestors have known the importance of understanding the essential nature for many thousands of years. They understood and mapped out the relationship between themselves and the cosmic intelligence. Etched out on temples in Africa is the eternal saying 'know thyself'. Indeed, self-knowledge is the basis of all knowledge. Self is infinite, and encompasses the universe. All the essential elements that are contained in the universe are within, and individuals need only the right keys to be unlocked and unleashed. Thus, to know thyself, is to align oneself with the natural order of the universe. This allows people to get maximum benefits from the very essence of things. However the processes of socialization do not give persons an understanding of their potential, nor does it address the basic realities of human existence. Indeed, the whole purpose of human existence is hidden by many social illusions.
Then said a teacher, speak to us of teaching. And he said:
"No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of your knowledge. If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind. The astronomer may speak to you of his understanding of space, but he cannot give you his understanding. For the vision of one man lends not its wings to another man."
Indeed, history has shown us the danger of dependence on some mystical (usually male) savior. Blind faith to supposed holy individuals or books disconnects individuals from realizing their divinity, thus limiting their potential. The highest teachers operate to allow those interested to empower themselves, and explore the thresholds of their own divine potential. This way people can make far better choices in their everyday lives and realize heaven on earth. It is not necessary to endure the suffering, pain, fear and insecurities that result from ignorance, in the hope of better when you die, or in the hope of some mystical savior coming to rescue everyone. People can work to become more informed about themselves and take charge of their own destiny, without being slaves to social norms, religious dogma or insecurities.
Then a hermit, who visited the city once a year, came forth and said "speak to us of pleasure." And he answered, saying:
"Pleasure is a freedom song,
but it is not freedom.
It is the blossoming of your desires,
But it is not their fruit.
It is a depth calling unto a height, but it is not the deep nor the high.
It is the caged taking wing,
But it is not space encompassed.
...Some of your youth seek pleasure as if it were all and they are judged and rebuked. I would not judge nor rebuke them. I would have them seek.
For they shall find pleasure, but not her alone. Seven are her sisters and the least of them is more beautiful than pleasure.….Oftentimes in denying yourself pleasure you do but store the desire in the recesses of your being. Who knows but that which seems omitted today, waits for tomorrow."
Through the processes of social conditioning, all the social mechanisms such as education, family, and media, directly or indirectly promote the pursuit of material satisfaction/pleasure as the reason for living. So from early, many get trapped by their animalistic instincts, and simply pursue pleasure activities that satisfy their animal desires. The material and sexual obsessions that can be seen presently is a reflection of this. The good part is that by the experience of pursuing these lower desires, persons can learn the higher purpose of human existence and subsequently learn to subordinate their animal desires to their reasoning capabilities and a higher understanding of themselves. This process is more than simply arriving at a logical understanding but rather addressing the psychological underpinnings of our thoughts and behavior. Every step that a person takes towards understanding himself or herself is rewarded multiple times.