Kahlil Gibran, 1883-1931, was a Lebanese-American artist, poet, writer, philosopher and theologian. He immigrated to Boston in 1895. He is the third-best selling poet in history after William Shakespeare and Laozi.
Much of Gibran's writings deal with Christianity, especially on the topic of spiritual love.
His poetry is notable for its use of formal language, as well as insights on topics of life using spiritual terms. Gibran's best-known work is The Prophet, a book composed of twenty-six poetic essays. The book became especially popular during the 1960s with the American counterculture movements. Since it was first published in 1923, The Prophet has never been out of print and remains world-renowned to this day. Having been translated into more than twenty languages, it was one of the best selling books of the twentieth century in the United States.
One of his most notable lines of poetry in the English-speaking world is from 'Sand and Foam' (1926), which reads : 'Half of what I say is meaningless, but I say it so that the other half may reach you'. This was taken by John Lennon and placed, though in a slightly altered form, into the song Julia from The Beatles' 1968 album The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album).
Juliet Thompson, one of Kahlil Gibran's acquaintances, said that Gibran told her that he thought of Àbdu'l-Bahá, the leader of the Bahá'í Faith in his lifetime, all the way through writing The Prophet. Àbdu'l-Bahá's personage also influenced Jesus, The Son of Man, another book by Gibran. Gibran did two portraits of him during this period.
Gibran was born in the Christian Maronite town of Bsharri in modern day northern Lebanon. His maternal grandfather was a Maronite Catholic priest. His mother Kamila was thirty when Gibran was born; his father, also named Kahlil, was her third husband. As a result of his family's poverty, Gibran did not receive any formal schooling during his youth. However, priests visited him regularly and taught him about the Bible, as well as the Arabic and Syriac languages.
After Gibran's father, a tax collector, went to prison for alleged embezzlement, Ottoman authorities confiscated his family's property. Authorities released Gibran's father in 1894, but the family had by then lost their home. Gibran's mother decided to follow her brother and emigrate to the United States. Kamila Gibran, along with Kahlil, his younger sisters Mariana and Sultana, and his half-brother Peter left for New York on June 25, 1895.
In the United States
The Gibrans settled in Boston's South End, at the time the second largest Lebanese-American community in the United States. His mother began working as a pack peddler, selling lace and linens that she carried from door to door. Gibran started school on September 30, 1895. School officials placed him in a special class for immigrants to learn English. Gibran also enrolled in an art school at a nearby settlement house. Through his teachers there, he was introduced to the avant-garde Boston artist, photographer, and publisher Fred Holland Day, who encouraged and supported Gibran in his creative endeavors. A publisher used some of Gibran's drawings for book covers in 1898.
At the age of fifteen, Gibran went back to Syria to study at a Maronite-run preparatory school and higher-education institute in Beirut. He started a student literary magazine with a classmate, and was elected "college poet". He stayed there for several years before returning to Boston in 1902. Two weeks before he got back, his sister Sultana died of tuberculosis at the age of 14. The next year, his brother Bhutros died of the same disease, and his mother died of cancer. His sister Marianna supported Gibran and herself by working at a dressmaker's shop.
Insightful Prose, May 6, 2000
By Mary Seale (Northern Virginia,USA)
I first became aware of Kahlil Gibran when I read a poem of his that was on the menu at my favorite Lebanese restaurant. Ever since then, I have sought out his books. The Prophet is my favorite. Several of the "poems" or passages are fully relevant to parts of my life. The book makes one feel good and inspired to do good for others. There is barely an aspect on life that the poems do not touch on-love, marriage, death and all of our own insecurities and doubts about people and life. This would be a good book to give to a friend who is going through a rough time, or just has unanswered questions at a certain point in their lives. The writing is lucid, insightful, and will be relevant for as long as time goes on. The drawings add to an already great work. At my favorite Lebanese restaurant, I not only found good food - I thankfully found Kahlil Gibran.
Simple Wisdom, June 24, 2000
By Bruce Kendall "BEK" (Southern Pines,NC)
This is one of the first (literary) books I recall reading. My mother kept a collection of Gibran's works that she often read. I was curious to see what attracted her, so I looked into them too (I was either eight or nine at the time.) I believe that was my first taste of spirituality and seemed at the time more relevant than what I was being force-fed by nuns in catechism class. Rereading Gibran now, I'm struck by the notion that Hesse must have been aware of these texts before he wrote Siddhartha. They contain many of the same themes: No one else can guide you on your path. You must select your own course. Preachers and prophets are a dime a dozen. True wisdom comes from within. The prophet's teaching on love is particularly relevant to me at this stage of my life:
"For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth. Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself. He threshes you to make you naked. He sifts you to free you from your husks. He grinds you to whiteness. He kneads you until you are pliant; and then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God's sacred feast."
Look into these books. They may appear simplistic to the jaundiced eye, but they may also provide the inspiration you need to see you through life's travails.
The Invisible Revealed, May 30, 2005
By Rebecca Johnson "SeasonedwithLove.com" (Washington State):
I am alive like you, and I am standing beside you.
Close your eyes and look around, you will see me in front of you.
~Gibran's words on his Epitaph
The Prophet captures the teachings of Kahlil Gibran in a comforting story that succinctly touches on everyday topics like love, giving,joy, sorrow, freedom, pain, teaching, friendship and beauty. Within each tiny chapter, profound moments can occur as we are given insight into unfamiliar territory, a place of thought not commonly existing in daily life but familiar to spiritual teachers.
Kahlil Gibran magically explores the connection between sorrow and joy and how the deeper the sorrow you experience, the more joy you can contain. Talking becomes thoughts that can no longer "dwell in the solitude of your heart" so they "live in your lips."
As Almustafa waits for a ship to take him back to the isle of his birth, he climbs a hill outside the city walls and looks out to sea. When his "ship arrives" he is suddenly filled with regret, yet knows he must follow his destiny and return home.
"Long were the days of pain I have spent within its walls, and long were the nights of aloneness; and who can depart from his pain and his aloneness without regret?"
The priests and priestesses ask him to remain in very poetic ways: "Let not the waves of the sea separate us now, and the years you have spent in our midst become a memory."
Almustafa only cries and doesn't seem to speak until a woman named Almitra appears. She is a woman who believed in him and he seems to have great fondness for her. We are not given any insight into their relationship, but his respect for her is unquestioned. She understands he must leave, but asks him to give the city his wisdom. She promises they will pass this wisdom down through the generations.
While viewing pictures of Bsharri in Northern Lebanon, the mountains and the mist are almost a unique doorway into Kahlil Gibran's mind. He lived in a lush region where cascading falls, rugged cliffs and cedar trees influenced his art and writing.
We can imagine his thoughts of home and this book was actually first imagined when he wrote a short story as a teenager. A Bostonian poet, Josephine Peabody, caught Gibran's attention at an art exhibition, and she later referred to him as "her young prophet." She also wrote poems about Gibran's life and how she imagined his life in Bsharri. His life is woven into his writing in the most beautiful ways. He names his book for a woman he loves, and his writing is infused with spiritual teachings and influences from his journey from Lebanon to New York.
The story has an unassuming plot, but the lessons are eternal and the ending is surprisingly tender. I was left with a sense of longing that is still drifting along with me like the mists of Bsharri. The Prophet is not just a book to read, it is a spiritual journey to experience. It may take three or more days to complete the reading of this tiny book. I could only read about a third at a time because it is saturated in wisdom, and many of the chapters want to be read and read again, until they are absorbed into your soul and written on your heart.
"But if you love and must needs have desires,
let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that
sings its melody to the night." ~Kahlil Gibran
Eight Decades Later: Still Relevant, Insightful and Eloquent
These days, Kahlil Gibran's "The Prophet" often gets dismissed as "hippie" literature. Yet, this book had been a bestseller LONG before the 1960s. Enamorato
A very profound, deeply insightful and moving experience! One of my two favorite books of all times. Kathleen Phillips Lewis
One of the ten best books I have ever read. A must for any on the path to Self-awareness. A book of profound understanding of the human dance. William L. Marcus
If God Himself were to give an opinion...
I have read this book over a hundred times in the last twenty years, and have given many copies away to friends and acquaintances. Yvon Ouellette
The Prophet is a very thought-provoking and inspiring book. I purchased it after reading a few pages from a copy that my sister-in-law had, and I knew I had to have my own. MNGal
Walking in Enlightenment
Should we, could we all walk through life in such an enlightened state? What a wonderful peaceful world it would be. Sharyn Abbott
This book will change your life--really.
I only wish I could read the original text. The simplicity and frankness, the blend of respect for the individual and appreciation of spirituality--this is the most astonishing... Slash Pine
As simple as this...
If you can read, then read this book. After that, find somebody who can't read and read it to them. It's that good. W. Alexander
Excellent book by Kahlil Gibran.
This book is simply amazing, whenever I pick it up to read a certain passage I always find something profound and ingenious.