Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Persian Philosopher in Damascus

Of ancient Gods and new


I cannot tell the fate of this man, nor can I say what shall befall His disciples.

A seed hidden in the heart of an apple is an orchard invisible. Yet should that seed fall upon a rock, it will come to naught.

But this I say: The ancient God of Israel is harsh and relentless. Israel should have another God; one who is gentle and forgiving, who would look down upon them with pity; one who would descend with the rays of the sun and walk on the path of their limitations, rather than sit for ever in the judgment seat to weigh their faults and measure their wrong-doings.

Israel should bring forth a God whose heart is not a jealous heart, and whose memory of their shortcomings is brief; one who would not avenge Himself upon them even to the third and the fourth generation.

Man here in Syria is like man in all lands. He would look into the mirror of his own understanding and therein find his deity. He would fashion the gods after his own likeness, and worship that which reflects his own image.

In truth man prays to his deeper longing, that it may rise and fulfil the sum of his desires.

There is no depth beyond the soul of man, and the soul is the deep that calls unto itself; for there is no other voice to speak and there are no other ears to hear.

Even we in Persia would see our faces in the disc of the sun and our bodies dancing in the fire that we kindle upon the altars.

Now the God of Jesus, whom He called Father, would not be a stranger unto the people of Jesus, and He would fulfil their desires.

The gods of Egypt have cast off their burden of stones and fled to the Nubian desert, to be free among those who are still free from knowing.

The gods of Greece and Rome are vanishing into their own sunset. They were too much like men to live in the ecstasy of men. The groves in which their magic was born have been cut down by the axes of the Athenians and the exandrians.

And in this land also the high places are made low by the lawyers of Beirut and the young hermits of Antioch.

Only the old women and the weary men seek the temples of their forefathers; only the exhausted at the end of the road seek its beginning.

But this man Jesus, this Nazarene, He has spoken of a God too vast to be unlike the soul of any man, too knowing to punish, too loving to remember the sins of His creatures. And this God of the Nazarene shall pass over the threshold of the children of the earth, and He shall sit at their hearth, and He shall be a blessing within their walls and a light upon their path.

But my God is the God of Zoroaster, the God who is the sun in the sky and fire upon the earth and light in the bosom of man. And I am content. I need no other God.


Your thought advocates Judaism, Brahmanism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. In my thought there is only one universal religion, whose varied paths are but the fingers of the loving hand of the Supreme Being. In your thought there are the rich, the poor, and the beggared. My thought holds that there are no riches but... life; that we are all beggars, and no benefactor exists save life herself.

Many a doctrine is like a window pane. We see truth through it but it divides us from truth. I love you when you bow in your mosque, kneel in your temple, pray in your church. For you and I are sons of one religion, and it is the spirit.

Gibran Khalil Gibran
* Bsharri, Lebanon, 6 January 1883 - † New York, 10 April 1931
Poet, painter, philosopher.
Variations on the spelling of this Arabic name include Jubrãn, Gubran, Jibran, Kahlil and Kalil. It is written جبران خليل جبران from right to left.
Merging Eastern and Western philosophies, Gibran was influenced by his Lebanese childhood, his adopted America, and the time he spent studying art with Auguste Rodin in Paris. Read how he lost his first name, made his first fame, and more in a short biography. Shorter still, but no less illustrative of the artist is this quote

“In one drop of water are found all the secrets of all the oceans; in one aspect of You are found all the aspects of existence.”
Lebanon had been convulsed by religious violence only twenty years before his birth, but for Gibran the underlying unity beneath the various forms of religion overruled all differences. As a student he even drew up plans for a opera house to be built in Beirut with two domes symbolizing the reconciliation of Christianity and Islam. The dream eventually bore fruit, albeit only on paper, in Almustafa, "the chosen and the beloved", who is the main character in his best known work. The Prophet is said to be the second best selling book in the United States, after the Bible.

Gibran's influence on popular culture in the twentieth century cannot be overestimated. When the American president John F. Kennedy in his Inaugural Speech famously cautioned his fellow countrymen

“Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”
he was quoting from The New Frontier which Gibran had written thirty six years earlier:

“Are you a politician asking what your country can do for you or a zealous one asking what you can do for your country?”

4 comments:

C said...

My God is Jehovah. The God of all gods. The God who sent His own Son to die on a cross for me, so that he could become sin and sickness for me, so that I may live with no sin and no sickness here on earth, through the blood that He shed. For there is no other way to the Father, but through Him, the one who is Righteous but who because unrighteousness, for me. This is love. Through His Grace, I am saved. :)

Walt said...

Although I want you to see that the Creator is far too great to be measured by any religion. As long as whatever you believe does not contradict you hart your soul will be at peace residing in the Divine Love that perpetually flows like a river throughout all of eternity.

Seek out your hart, and let truth and love be your guide, for the true path is not to be found in any religion except in the omnipotent love from God alone. A love so powerful that it surpasses all our understanding, being both reciprocal and unconditional. When I say that I love you, it is not really my love to give; for love has only one source, and that is the Great Spirit. Love is the true religion.

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