Gibran and Self-Liberation

In his sermon on “Poets & Poems” Khalil Gibran defines his mission as Writer.

Poetry, my dear friends, is a sacred incarnation of a smile.

Poetry is a sigh that dries the tears. Poetry is a spirit who dwells

in the soul, whose nourishment is the heart, whose wine is

affection. Poetry that does not come in this form is a false messiah.

(excerpt from Thoughts And Meditations)

Note that Gibran includes poetry as the instrument of the writer and not of the poet only. This distinction is significant since Gibran views poetry as unadulterated literature whose purpose is to assuage the human condition. In this sense, poetry as the writer’s instrument can aid the writer’s role as a social exposer and consequent social reformer. Gibran does this by steering from the conventional stylistic understanding of “poetry” to use the term in a more general sense. When he refers to “poetry” he does not restrict it to a technical definition of verse and syllable. Instead, he concentrates on the poetry of sensation—the sublime perception that blazes truth and reality in their entirety. His writings acknowledge ills in society by the use of allegories, parables, plays, and essays. Thus, if we were to classify Kahlil Gibran stylistically we would say that he is a writer rather than a poet since he experiments with literary modes. However, if we were to classify the essence of these modes we would identify it as Poetry, or “[the] spirit who dwells in the soul”—that is, Poetry being the subtle language of our consciousness.

These role models are intellectuals who range from the ancients—Avecenna, al-Farid, al-Mutanabli, Homer, and Vergil—to the younger generation of Blake, Nietzsche, and Josephine Peabody. Still it is the impact of the Eastern philosophies of Sufism, Hinduism, and Aramaic Christianity that remain intact upon Gibran’s personal beliefs. This is not to say that the Western influences have been minimal. On the contrary, Occidental themes of freedom and democracy are the basis of his writings, but Gibran has remained constantly true to his first teachings and roots.

All of these influences have evolved into Gibran’s personal school of philosophy, Gibranism. The name is post mortem, but its themes of spiritual liberty and salvation were accepted as distinct during the founder’s lifetime. Though Gibran attained public acclaim primarily upon the publication of

The Prophet (1923), Gibranism had made its stance in his initial works.  These volumes include: Nymphs Of The Valley (1903), Spirits Rebellious(1908), and The Madman (1918).

Gibranism is a simple concept. It is a philosophy that instructs compassion and love to attain selfhood and, then, to acknowledge soulhood. Selfhood refers to personal liberation which when reached enables cosmic reunion. Idealistic as it sounds, Gibranism is a practical philosophy. The practicality derives from Gibran’s moral fables and non-fiction essays stating how to pursue a life without despair and hatred. This understanding is accomplished by merging dualities into one meaning: whereas good is evil and evil is good, and pain is pleasure and vice-versa.

Hence Gibran disagrees throughout his writings that pain and pleasure are opposing factions. The philosopher affirms that the two emotions are inseparable, and each is either the by-product or mutual partner of the other. Both sorrow and joy may prompt the sensation of pain. Joy, however, is all the more invaluable in the light of past bitterness or in the light of being so overwhelming that soul and heart yearn to house the emotion. Gibran’s literature celebrates pain as a means of acquainting one with one’s self. Sorrow is a catharsis. Through the healing process one’s awareness becomes more sensitive and ultimately more tangible. To laugh through one’s tears is an underlying theme of the philosopher.

Similarly Gibran justifies the dichotomy that good and evil are one by viewing the latter as a false aberration in nature. He reasoned that since the universe is omnipotent-ly good, evil is an invention by man and so can be eradicated to return the universe in its original state. This attitude conveys why Gibran condemns specific man-made rules in his literature. He rebelled against useless societal laws and organised religion because they fettered man, and in fettering man, fettered the soul. The two end results are incongruous in the natural world.

For Gibran, this bondage of the soul was lamentable. As a philosopher, an understanding of the soul urged him to seek knowledge—that is, to initiate and maintain the passion to live and experience. As a writer, a comprehension of the soul allowed the philosopher facet of his personality to share that knowledge of life with his fellow brothers and sisters, and in the process of sharing learn to love Life and his siblings. And to the man in Gibran, the soul allowed him to first know himself, relieve his negative traits, and then Love himself.

This last aspect is not an egotistical Love for it does not end there. By maintaining honesty with oneself, one can then seek God. Love emerges from that seeking. Gibran did not believe in the established religions, but he did believe in the Divine. This is a Godhead whose spirituality varies per individual.

To Gibran, the spirit represents a God who is not fixed but who grows with man as he is taught Love by his soul and nature. As the individual matures, so do his notions of God and religion. Every man has his own concept of the Godhead who personifies compassion (he is never a tyrannical or seething God).

Gibran developed this analysis from the teachings of Avicenna

(A.D. 980-1370) and the Sufism doctrine, which preaches the union of man and God during one’s lifetime rather than in the afterlife or the future world. Avicenna expounded a respect and amorphism of the human soul. According to the Persian metaphysicist, the soul is immortal, rational, and intelligent. The soul embodies all knowledge, and it is the mind’s responsibility to communicate with the soul. The more perception that one can derive from his soul, the more instinctive and, thus, intelligent he can become.

Almost all of Gibran’s artistic or literary works demonstrate his struggle for intellectual and spiritual clarity with his Divine Spirit. His writings are of a two-fold nature. On one level they are private urgings and condemnations of himself—“I use hate as a weapon to defend myself; had I been strong, I would never had needed that kind of weapon” (The Wisdom of Kahlil Gibran). On the second level, they are public instructions to his disciple-audience:

Love and all that it begets,

Rebellion and all that it creates,

Freedom and all that it generates,

These three are aspects of God …

But God is the infinite mind of the finite and conscious world

(Prose Poems)

In both cases, the writings plead to humanity to forsake bondage and realize self-liberation.

Binda Preet Sahni

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