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One hundred years of platitudes The Prophet is as spiritual as a Coca-Cola advert

Such profit: Khalil Gibran (Credit: Heritage Images/Getty)

Such profit: Khalil Gibran (Credit: Heritage Images/Getty)


June 20, 2023   4 mins

The worst sort of books make you feel clever without actually making you more so. They flatter your intelligence, encouraging you to nod along in smug agreement at some faux deep observation, giving you a sense of achievement without having to do the sort of work that achievement rightly demands. Right up there with the very worst of them is Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet.

First published in 1923, and now a century old without ever having been out of print, The Prophet is one of the best-selling books of all time. God knows why, I want to say. But, unfortunately, I think I do know why. There is nothing people want more than the illusion of sharing in the readily profound. Especially when it is little more than a dressed-up version of what they already know. Beloved by wedding planners and popular at secular funerals, it is the lift music of the Abrahamic traditions. Gibran’s The Prophet is a shallow person’s idea of what deep looks like.

Its aphoristic style is the perfect vehicle for this sort of flattery. You don’t have to read the whole book or concentrate on some kind of extended argument. The promised wisdom is instantaneous: “Love one another, but make not a bond of love. Let it be rather a moving sea between the shores of your souls.” I can feel the ick rising in my stomach.

Gibran has an ear for what profundity is supposed to sound like. He is often doing that thing where opposites are knowingly affirmed: I am a man but yet not a man, they are your children but not your children. Hegel, this isn’t. There is no underlying philosophy.

Born in Lebanon to Maronite Christian parents, Gibran emigrated to the United States with his family at the age of 12. Coming from a place where sectarian religious division was a fact of daily life, he quite understandably developed a life-long hatred for doctrinal religion as opposed to spirituality. For Gibran, as for many in the West today, religion divides, but spirituality unites. His preference for oceanic metaphors of universal immersion into the infinite — the sea, the sky, etc — reach for a sense of the numinous that does not rely upon the kind of theological divisions that have set the Middle East at violent odds with each other.

“I love you, my brother, whoever you are – whether you worship in a church, kneel in a temple, or pray in your mosque. You are I are children of one faith, for the diverse paths of religion are fingers of the loving hand of the one supreme being, a hand extended to all, offering completeness of spirit to all, eager to receive all.”

Gibran’s is the spirituality of the Coca-Cola advert that wants to world to sing in perfect harmony. “I’d like to build the world a home and furnish it with love. Grow apple trees and honey bees and snow white turtle doves.” In this advert, beautiful young people stand in rows to sing, looking into the middle distance, all dressed in white. This is the mood music of Khalil Gibran, often set in stylistic calligraphy on a poster for the bedroom wall alongside the tennis girl scratching her arse.

Gibran, therefore, invites a defence of doctrine. One of the major differences between spirituality and religion is that the former is a first-person-singular experience, whereas the latter is conducted in the plural, we. Religion has churches and doctrines because it represents a community of believers, and rules for the collective observation of what it is to be God-facing.

Religion is more of a practice, spirituality more of a feeling. Not that these are always opposed. Yes, religion without spirituality is dead, a going-through-the-motions kind of thing; but spirituality without religion is some vague inner intensity that has no need to be tested by, or exist in conversation with, the intensities of other perspectives. Religion, therefore, respects the past as a repository of layered wisdom, often codified into doctrine which is a kind of shorthand for collective thought over time. Spirituality, by contrast, is of the moment, and does not easily coalesce into a tradition. Spirituality is the religion of one.

Gibran does have his influences, of course. Into the pot go Wordsworth and Coleridge, Rousseau, Blake, Emerson, something of the style of Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, all stirred up with a heavy dose of Sufi mysticism and the teachings of the Buddha. It is Romantic in its distrust of the city and love of the countryside, pantheistic like Emerson, overly portentous like Nietzsche. A bit of this and a bit of that, all brought together with the heavy hand of the autodidact.

Defenders of Gibran claim that the reason he is sneered at by the literary establishment is that he is popular. That’s not it at all. Stylistically, it aspires to be a kind of spiritual Esperanto, a mess of influences all blended into a cod scriptural style. And if you are going to claim to be writing in the style of scripture, you ought to expect some pretty weighty pushback.

Gibran’s The Prophet is Biblical pastiche. It’s a bit like those who prefer the use of 17th-century language in worship, thus to mimic the King James Bible, but have no interest whatsoever in the underlying message. It’s a kind of knock-off, like reproduction furniture.

Gibran himself was a terrible bullshitter. Coming from a poor family, his father an alcoholic and gambler, he often pretended to be descended from aristocracy, boasting that his family were so rich they kept tigers. The gap between his words and his life was the stuff of tragedy. His biographer, Robin Waterfield, suggests that Gibran drank himself to death on arak, guilty at his own fraudulence.

Gibran never married or had any children. When he died, he left a sizeable fortune and future royalties to his birthplace in the Lebanese hills for the good of the community. But – and this is typical Gibran – this generous humanitarian gesture was so unspecified that the community ended up seriously falling out with each other about where the money should actually go. A committee was set up to distribute funds. As Time magazine reported: “Families split apart in the clamour to win a committee position. Age-old feuds gained new fury and at least two deaths resulted.” Lawsuits followed and, in the end, the Lebanese government had to step in the clear up the mess.

Here, as with his poetry, there was a vagueness about his words that can be variously interpreted. That’s the problem with the aphorism: you think you know what it means until it gets challenged.

So do yourself a favour. Unless you are an 18-year-old stoner, don’t bother reading this silly little book. There is a heady whiff of orientalism in the assumption that this “soulful” style is deep and mystical. John Crace had it spot on: “Then Almata cried, Why is he called The Prophet? And Gibran spoke, It is a misprint for The Profit. For that is what I have made of the Gullible’s insatiable desire for Platitudes.”


Giles Fraser is a journalist, broadcaster and Vicar of St Anne’s, Kew.

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Simon Neale
Simon Neale
10 months ago

An enjoyable hatchet-job on a well-deserving target. I particularly liked the distinction between spirituality and religion, and it struck me that most of the Western Theravadan Buddhists that I know – boomers of my age or above – are as much influenced by The Prophet as they are by anything originally written in Pali. The idea of anything being proscribed as being “wrong” is anathema to them, and a favourite metaphor is “all different paths up the same mountain”. As middle class English liberals, the idea that one might take a stand on something, or adhere to a specific tradition as being “better”, is tantamount to bigotry and would be considered quite rude. Far better to stay safely lofty, and wafty.
I’m also wondering, though, what Giles would prescribe for those who feel spiritual stirrings, but who lack the temperament or the background to engage in that testing and careful thought that the process ideally demands. Are such people advised to rely on religious tradition for ready-made answers?

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
10 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

You mean this distinction: “One of the major differences between spirituality and religion is that the former is a first-person-singular experience, whereas the latter is conducted in the plural, we” and continues with “Religion has churches and doctrines because it represents a community of believers, and rules for the collective observation of what it is to be God-facing”?

If so, I wondered what is to like about it. It seemed like a typical self-justification of one steeped in the Christian religion.

I found this piece rather mean and petty, attacking something that was never intended to provide an intellectual system of belief; indeed something that had nothing to do with belief at all, but more a set of consolatory remarks and feelings. Something that might provide some consolation and relief for those who have no time for conventional ‘religion’ qua system of belief.

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
10 months ago
Reply to  Phil Rees

What I like about it is in the next paragraph, where GF points out what happens when religion becomes devoid of spirituality, and when spirituality does not acquire anything of the religious. They are both bad, and presumably we will consider one worse than another according to our past conditioning.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

Maybe they are both bad in many cases. But which is worse in isolation: 1) ritual and practice without spirit? 2) spiritual presence without any ritual or formal practice?
I’d say the first is usually worse but I’m not sure the second is totally safe either, nor do I necessarily “believe my opinion” unequivocally on this one.
The input of Mr. Steve Murray is hereby requested.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

2) is worse because people experiencing it stick with it, as they are content, however, lacking companions, they often don’t see why their experience of the ineffable ought not be made effable to (largely uninterested) others.
People experiencing 1) have to do more work. Lack of results often motivates them to leave for something else.
Those who stay may become fiercer and less tolerant, but they are not inclined to bother outsiders with any of it.

Last edited 10 months ago by Dumetrius
Simon Neale
Simon Neale
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

The worst one is that which we ourselves are prone to. I don’t think the “religion” aspect is merely ritual and formal practice, but also includes the means of making sense of such experiences we might have.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

Intriguing reply. Which is worse or better might well depend on the individual. I admit that it is unfair to reduce religion to the outward or external alone. It’s common usage, but why this total isolation of “spirit” from “religion”? For many it has become a dreaded “r-word” standing in for everything arid, institutional, hollow, or mistaken about belief and practice. I don’t agree with that.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

Intriguing reply. Which is worse or better might well depend on the individual. I admit that it is unfair to reduce religion to the outward or external alone. It’s common usage, but why this total isolation of “spirit” from “religion”? For many it has become a dreaded “r-word” standing in for everything arid, institutional, hollow, or mistaken about belief and practice. I don’t agree with that.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

2) is worse because people experiencing it stick with it, as they are content, however, lacking companions, they often don’t see why their experience of the ineffable ought not be made effable to (largely uninterested) others.
People experiencing 1) have to do more work. Lack of results often motivates them to leave for something else.
Those who stay may become fiercer and less tolerant, but they are not inclined to bother outsiders with any of it.

Last edited 10 months ago by Dumetrius
Simon Neale
Simon Neale
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

The worst one is that which we ourselves are prone to. I don’t think the “religion” aspect is merely ritual and formal practice, but also includes the means of making sense of such experiences we might have.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

Maybe they are both bad in many cases. But which is worse in isolation: 1) ritual and practice without spirit? 2) spiritual presence without any ritual or formal practice?
I’d say the first is usually worse but I’m not sure the second is totally safe either, nor do I necessarily “believe my opinion” unequivocally on this one.
The input of Mr. Steve Murray is hereby requested.

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
10 months ago
Reply to  Phil Rees

What I like about it is in the next paragraph, where GF points out what happens when religion becomes devoid of spirituality, and when spirituality does not acquire anything of the religious. They are both bad, and presumably we will consider one worse than another according to our past conditioning.

Catherine Conroy
Catherine Conroy
10 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

You could always check the 20th century theologians. They are closer to us in time so can be far more relatable than medieval thinkers (a personal favourite is Teilhard de Chardin). Of note is also Cardinal John Henry Newman in the 19th century.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
10 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

The School of Philosophy & Economic Science? They are quite good at hiding the nasty skeletons.

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
10 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

You mean this distinction: “One of the major differences between spirituality and religion is that the former is a first-person-singular experience, whereas the latter is conducted in the plural, we” and continues with “Religion has churches and doctrines because it represents a community of believers, and rules for the collective observation of what it is to be God-facing”?

If so, I wondered what is to like about it. It seemed like a typical self-justification of one steeped in the Christian religion.

I found this piece rather mean and petty, attacking something that was never intended to provide an intellectual system of belief; indeed something that had nothing to do with belief at all, but more a set of consolatory remarks and feelings. Something that might provide some consolation and relief for those who have no time for conventional ‘religion’ qua system of belief.

Catherine Conroy
Catherine Conroy
10 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

You could always check the 20th century theologians. They are closer to us in time so can be far more relatable than medieval thinkers (a personal favourite is Teilhard de Chardin). Of note is also Cardinal John Henry Newman in the 19th century.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
10 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

The School of Philosophy & Economic Science? They are quite good at hiding the nasty skeletons.

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
10 months ago

An enjoyable hatchet-job on a well-deserving target. I particularly liked the distinction between spirituality and religion, and it struck me that most of the Western Theravadan Buddhists that I know – boomers of my age or above – are as much influenced by The Prophet as they are by anything originally written in Pali. The idea of anything being proscribed as being “wrong” is anathema to them, and a favourite metaphor is “all different paths up the same mountain”. As middle class English liberals, the idea that one might take a stand on something, or adhere to a specific tradition as being “better”, is tantamount to bigotry and would be considered quite rude. Far better to stay safely lofty, and wafty.
I’m also wondering, though, what Giles would prescribe for those who feel spiritual stirrings, but who lack the temperament or the background to engage in that testing and careful thought that the process ideally demands. Are such people advised to rely on religious tradition for ready-made answers?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago

A someone who has both admired and found fault with The Prophet–which I read as a twenty-something ex-stoner–I think there is some justice in this Fraser hit piece. But as others have noted, there is some mean-spiritedness and pettiness in this article too, exemplified by mocking him for the way the beneficiaries of his generous estate squabbled over the funds.
By the way, it is quite easy to go through a text of any length and scope and cherrypick some rotten fruit. I admit I’ve done it (why am I so confessional of late?). I am not suggesting an equivalency in depth or importance, but one can do that with just about any spiritual or religious text, including parts of the Holy Bible; in fact many have done and still do that, as if the seeming lowlights render a work totally useless or ridiculous.
To all who haven’t: Please read the Bible (like all of it, as much as you can stand) for yourself and see what is and isn’t good about it–according to your own understanding, guided or not– as I did myself after being raised agnostic/atheist by two ex-Catholic hippie parents. And if you’re a stoner of any age–or simply someone who isn’t threatened by “exotic” and imperfect books–check out the The Prophet at some point too.

tom j
tom j
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Ok, can you give us an example of something profound from The Prophet? His equivalent of the Sermon on the Mount or Psalm 23 or Lamentations?

Kate Heusser
Kate Heusser
10 months ago
Reply to  tom j

Why?
Can you produce something in a recent work of fiction that is ‘the equivalent of’ Shakespeare or Goethe? If you can’t, does that totally invalidate the output of the 20th/21st century writers?
Granted, The Prophet is a pretentious title for a collection of little insights and comforting saws that, presumably, occurred to a man whose own path through life had a very troubled start. Maybe, to him, these sayings did appear to have come from a greater spirit than his own – or maybe he just realised that marketing them as his own musings wouldn’t sell many copies.
But, if one is going to lay the behaviour of the beneficiaries of his bequest at his door, then every testator who has left an estate to trustees for disposition ‘at their discretion’ is culpable for the family and community feuds that so frequently ensue.
Every petty criticism Fraser aims at Gibran – laziness, shallowness, lack of grounding in a tradition or community, pseudo-intellectualism – applies more than equally to this grubby little article.
To quote one of the most nauseating sayings in currency at present –
when you point a finger at someone, three point back at you.

Last edited 10 months ago by Kate Heusser
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Kate Heusser

Nicely put. Looking through the free Project Gutenberg version I found a few gems and several passages of interest, alongside some platitudes, easy paradox, and paraphrased borrowings. Not as intriguing to me as it was 30 years ago. I was tempted to post the (perceived) gems but it occurs to me they’d still be subject to the mockery to those already so inclined, just like anything.
Perhaps we can look forward to a series of takedown pieces by Fraser and others as certain works turn 100…the index ridiculum? Or maybe we can spend more time promoting what seems good instead of trashing what seems bad. I’ve left myself plenty of room in that direction.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
10 months ago
Reply to  Kate Heusser

Gibran was a kabbalist thats why his writings are wacky and he kind of sold his soul so to speak in order to have the fame he gained from that book – most readers of the Prophet never read anything else of his. He was an occultist who studied under Jung for some period of time – among many other famous artists of his time, which is odd because he proclaimed a great love for his home country but never appeared to make an effort to return

Last edited 10 months ago by UnHerd Reader
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Kate Heusser

Nicely put. Looking through the free Project Gutenberg version I found a few gems and several passages of interest, alongside some platitudes, easy paradox, and paraphrased borrowings. Not as intriguing to me as it was 30 years ago. I was tempted to post the (perceived) gems but it occurs to me they’d still be subject to the mockery to those already so inclined, just like anything.
Perhaps we can look forward to a series of takedown pieces by Fraser and others as certain works turn 100…the index ridiculum? Or maybe we can spend more time promoting what seems good instead of trashing what seems bad. I’ve left myself plenty of room in that direction.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
10 months ago
Reply to  Kate Heusser

Gibran was a kabbalist thats why his writings are wacky and he kind of sold his soul so to speak in order to have the fame he gained from that book – most readers of the Prophet never read anything else of his. He was an occultist who studied under Jung for some period of time – among many other famous artists of his time, which is odd because he proclaimed a great love for his home country but never appeared to make an effort to return

Last edited 10 months ago by UnHerd Reader
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  tom j

No, but can you or Giles Fraser defend every line of Leviticus, Deuteronomy. or Revelations as essential wisdom?
I think the dozens of books bound together as the Bible are far more important and profound than Gibran’s output, but I would also say that of any nameable five authors put together (that is: the Bible, as a whole, surpasses the combined works of any five known authors). The three chapters called the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7, as you know) have transformative potential, even in isolation, I believe.
Interestingly, there are aspects of the tenderness of Psalm 23 and agony of Lamentations in The Prophet. I’m pretty sure Gibran himself was aware of the parallels. You can search them out yourself–or not.

Last edited 10 months ago by AJ Mac
UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
10 months ago
Reply to  tom j

Maybe you should visit before criticising this critique of Gibrans home community, the authors comments are more than justified.

Last edited 10 months ago by UnHerd Reader
Kate Heusser
Kate Heusser
10 months ago
Reply to  tom j

Why?
Can you produce something in a recent work of fiction that is ‘the equivalent of’ Shakespeare or Goethe? If you can’t, does that totally invalidate the output of the 20th/21st century writers?
Granted, The Prophet is a pretentious title for a collection of little insights and comforting saws that, presumably, occurred to a man whose own path through life had a very troubled start. Maybe, to him, these sayings did appear to have come from a greater spirit than his own – or maybe he just realised that marketing them as his own musings wouldn’t sell many copies.
But, if one is going to lay the behaviour of the beneficiaries of his bequest at his door, then every testator who has left an estate to trustees for disposition ‘at their discretion’ is culpable for the family and community feuds that so frequently ensue.
Every petty criticism Fraser aims at Gibran – laziness, shallowness, lack of grounding in a tradition or community, pseudo-intellectualism – applies more than equally to this grubby little article.
To quote one of the most nauseating sayings in currency at present –
when you point a finger at someone, three point back at you.

Last edited 10 months ago by Kate Heusser
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  tom j

No, but can you or Giles Fraser defend every line of Leviticus, Deuteronomy. or Revelations as essential wisdom?
I think the dozens of books bound together as the Bible are far more important and profound than Gibran’s output, but I would also say that of any nameable five authors put together (that is: the Bible, as a whole, surpasses the combined works of any five known authors). The three chapters called the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7, as you know) have transformative potential, even in isolation, I believe.
Interestingly, there are aspects of the tenderness of Psalm 23 and agony of Lamentations in The Prophet. I’m pretty sure Gibran himself was aware of the parallels. You can search them out yourself–or not.

Last edited 10 months ago by AJ Mac
UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
10 months ago
Reply to  tom j

Maybe you should visit before criticising this critique of Gibrans home community, the authors comments are more than justified.

Last edited 10 months ago by UnHerd Reader
Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

To read the Bible is easy, to live its principles is not so easy.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

Amen.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

Amen.

tom j
tom j
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Ok, can you give us an example of something profound from The Prophet? His equivalent of the Sermon on the Mount or Psalm 23 or Lamentations?

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

To read the Bible is easy, to live its principles is not so easy.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago

A someone who has both admired and found fault with The Prophet–which I read as a twenty-something ex-stoner–I think there is some justice in this Fraser hit piece. But as others have noted, there is some mean-spiritedness and pettiness in this article too, exemplified by mocking him for the way the beneficiaries of his generous estate squabbled over the funds.
By the way, it is quite easy to go through a text of any length and scope and cherrypick some rotten fruit. I admit I’ve done it (why am I so confessional of late?). I am not suggesting an equivalency in depth or importance, but one can do that with just about any spiritual or religious text, including parts of the Holy Bible; in fact many have done and still do that, as if the seeming lowlights render a work totally useless or ridiculous.
To all who haven’t: Please read the Bible (like all of it, as much as you can stand) for yourself and see what is and isn’t good about it–according to your own understanding, guided or not– as I did myself after being raised agnostic/atheist by two ex-Catholic hippie parents. And if you’re a stoner of any age–or simply someone who isn’t threatened by “exotic” and imperfect books–check out the The Prophet at some point too.

FacRecte NilTime
FacRecte NilTime
10 months ago

Gibran’s restless creativity deserves better than this petty and ungenerous piece, as even a brief glance at his wikipedia entry will show readers unfamiliar with his life and works.

Dead before 50, Gibran painted, wrote prose and poetry in English and Arabic. He contributed to cultural and political debate from before the Great War through to the collapse of Ottoman rule in his home country. He treated women as intellectual equals.

He wasn’t a prophet, a philosopher or a politician – and he rejected any efforts to claim him as such.

He may not be one of the Greats in his art or writings, but he does rank as one of the ‘silver’ artists.

As a transitional figure he bridged Western and Levantine cultures at a time of historical flux – helping to open up the puritanism of East Coast America, to bring liberal and modernist ideas to greater Syria, and to bring colloquial language into literary Arabic.

Giles Fraser is welcome to criticise the excesses of late sixties/seventies hippy culture all he likes (that poster of the tennis girl is 47 years old.) But to do that he doesn’t need to sound like some narrow-minded village priest trashing Gibran’s work by taking it out of its own time and place.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago

Thanks for that insightful comment. It’s when we have such views as these put before us that Unherd really starts to earn its subscription. That doesn’t make it any more likely i’ll search out Gibran’s writings, but your perspective adds balance in terms of his overall work and historical context.

FacRecte NilTime
FacRecte NilTime
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

that’s very kind, thank you!

FacRecte NilTime
FacRecte NilTime
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

that’s very kind, thank you!

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
10 months ago

Your observations about the Ottomon Empire and his impact on highlighting the problem in the West is not incorrect, but what did Gibran actually do to facilitate the very changes he advocated for and his criticisms which he exported World Wide?

Nothing

Instead he played the “artistic social butterfly” and deserted the very values he claimed to represent

Last edited 10 months ago by UnHerd Reader
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago

Thanks for that insightful comment. It’s when we have such views as these put before us that Unherd really starts to earn its subscription. That doesn’t make it any more likely i’ll search out Gibran’s writings, but your perspective adds balance in terms of his overall work and historical context.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
10 months ago

Your observations about the Ottomon Empire and his impact on highlighting the problem in the West is not incorrect, but what did Gibran actually do to facilitate the very changes he advocated for and his criticisms which he exported World Wide?

Nothing

Instead he played the “artistic social butterfly” and deserted the very values he claimed to represent

Last edited 10 months ago by UnHerd Reader
FacRecte NilTime
FacRecte NilTime
10 months ago

Gibran’s restless creativity deserves better than this petty and ungenerous piece, as even a brief glance at his wikipedia entry will show readers unfamiliar with his life and works.

Dead before 50, Gibran painted, wrote prose and poetry in English and Arabic. He contributed to cultural and political debate from before the Great War through to the collapse of Ottoman rule in his home country. He treated women as intellectual equals.

He wasn’t a prophet, a philosopher or a politician – and he rejected any efforts to claim him as such.

He may not be one of the Greats in his art or writings, but he does rank as one of the ‘silver’ artists.

As a transitional figure he bridged Western and Levantine cultures at a time of historical flux – helping to open up the puritanism of East Coast America, to bring liberal and modernist ideas to greater Syria, and to bring colloquial language into literary Arabic.

Giles Fraser is welcome to criticise the excesses of late sixties/seventies hippy culture all he likes (that poster of the tennis girl is 47 years old.) But to do that he doesn’t need to sound like some narrow-minded village priest trashing Gibran’s work by taking it out of its own time and place.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
10 months ago

I was given this book in my twenties, read it, and promptly forgot about it. It prescribes a universal love which is impossible for humans to emulate (we simply don’t have the emotional reserves to love every single human being on the planet, nor should we be under any obligation to do so).
I would rank it with Redfield’s The Celestine Prophecy and other such New-Agey endeavors.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
10 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

My respect to you for plowing through it to the end. I was, like you given it by an enthusiast for the book, but didn’t have the stamina to read through more than half a dozen pages or so before concluding that it was low grade Muzak rather than celestial Music.

Catherine Conroy
Catherine Conroy
10 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

The Celestine Prophecy came to mind when reading the above article. I can’t understand the success of Redfield’s book but if there had been no woolly mysticism in it, it could have made a great Indiana Jones story.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
10 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

My respect to you for plowing through it to the end. I was, like you given it by an enthusiast for the book, but didn’t have the stamina to read through more than half a dozen pages or so before concluding that it was low grade Muzak rather than celestial Music.

Catherine Conroy
Catherine Conroy
10 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

The Celestine Prophecy came to mind when reading the above article. I can’t understand the success of Redfield’s book but if there had been no woolly mysticism in it, it could have made a great Indiana Jones story.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
10 months ago

I was given this book in my twenties, read it, and promptly forgot about it. It prescribes a universal love which is impossible for humans to emulate (we simply don’t have the emotional reserves to love every single human being on the planet, nor should we be under any obligation to do so).
I would rank it with Redfield’s The Celestine Prophecy and other such New-Agey endeavors.

AC Harper
AC Harper
10 months ago

Bear with me, from Wikipedia:

In economics, Gresham’s law is a monetary principle stating that “bad money drives out good”. For example, if there are two forms of commodity money in circulation, which are accepted by law as having similar face value, the more valuable commodity will gradually disappear from circulation.

I’d suggest that Gresham’s Law applies to supernatural matters too. The platitudes, the deepities, the cod self help, the New Age mantras are the “bad spirituality” that drives out the “good spirituality” of organised religion.
Of course you could also argue that the ‘face value’ of organised religion has slowly been corrupted too, even as it loosens it’s grip. It’s just that platitudes are a handy way of ignoring unsettling ‘truths’.

AC Harper
AC Harper
10 months ago

Bear with me, from Wikipedia:

In economics, Gresham’s law is a monetary principle stating that “bad money drives out good”. For example, if there are two forms of commodity money in circulation, which are accepted by law as having similar face value, the more valuable commodity will gradually disappear from circulation.

I’d suggest that Gresham’s Law applies to supernatural matters too. The platitudes, the deepities, the cod self help, the New Age mantras are the “bad spirituality” that drives out the “good spirituality” of organised religion.
Of course you could also argue that the ‘face value’ of organised religion has slowly been corrupted too, even as it loosens it’s grip. It’s just that platitudes are a handy way of ignoring unsettling ‘truths’.

Vijay Kant
Vijay Kant
10 months ago

I love random articles like this one. Having read a lot of eastern spiritual literature in my teens and then being introduced to Greek philosophy after that, I realised how shallow most of the contemporary writers of eastern spirituality sounded. There is nothing that can beat solid scientific thinking! I would put Rabindranath Tagore, Aurobindo, Jayant Krishnamurthy, et al. in the same camp as Khalil Gibran. They all sound very attractive in teen years, but are found to have no useful substance later on…

Truth by its very nature must be unambiguous, useful and universal.

Last edited 10 months ago by Vijay Kant
Phil Rees
Phil Rees
10 months ago
Reply to  Vijay Kant

But surely those writers are not aiming to offer ‘truth’ in the philosophical sense of verifiable fact – the truth that is unambiguous and universal – but in the sense of ‘what Dostoyevsky gives us is the truth’ or ‘Art is the lie that enables us to realise the truth” (Picasso).

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Phil Rees

Yes. And the conflation of mere data or incontrovertible fact with the whole of truth seems deeply misguided to me.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Phil Rees

Yes. And the conflation of mere data or incontrovertible fact with the whole of truth seems deeply misguided to me.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Vijay Kant

What rigid pragmatism! Your statement is itself one of opinionated preference, not capital-T truth. You imagine you have unfettered access to unambiguous and universal Truth? Or perhaps you mean that anything that can’t be measured or empirically verified to your satisfaction contains no truth at all. That’s not a fact.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Asking if he has access to truth implies that such exists.
Is the surveyor, who tells the shipowner that the ocean he wants to sail on is six inches deep, under an obligation to provide an alternate ocean many leagues deep?
No.

Last edited 10 months ago by Dumetrius
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

I don’t disagree. But your own comment is rather speculative, even poetic.
Vijay Kant exclaimed: “There is nothing that can beat solid scientific thinking!” and gives three indispensable qualities of truth, implying he can discern an unambiguous truth and justly reject most poetry and spirituality wholesale. Where is the usefulness in that?
From my admittedly limited, non-oracular POV, that’s just opinion cloaked in objectivity.
I definitely believe in things I cannot grasp in a palpable or infallible way, including truth (and justice, love, etc.). But I am deeply suspicious of anyone, including a logical positivist or hyper-rationalist, who thinks he or she has unalloyed, unmediated access to a Truth with definite, clearly discernible parameters. There are intimations of Reality, but I do not believe they are confined to one side of a material/transcendent divide or comprehensively possessed by mortals, individually or collectively.
To use our five senses and embodied minds to conclude we know or can perceive all there is to know, or that is real, is a kind of empiricist zealotry to me. A hubristic faith in one’s own mind, or human cognition writ large.

Last edited 10 months ago by AJ Mac
Dumetrius
Dumetrius
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Poetic?
Maybe I ought to write a little book of aphorisms too.
Just need someone to go buy my arak.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

Sure. Just find find the right chemical fuel for your visions and develop a mysterious online “presence”.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

What, like the only person still on MySpace or something?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

I like your sense of humor.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

I like your sense of humor.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

What, like the only person still on MySpace or something?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

Sure. Just find find the right chemical fuel for your visions and develop a mysterious online “presence”.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Poetic?
Maybe I ought to write a little book of aphorisms too.
Just need someone to go buy my arak.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

I don’t disagree. But your own comment is rather speculative, even poetic.
Vijay Kant exclaimed: “There is nothing that can beat solid scientific thinking!” and gives three indispensable qualities of truth, implying he can discern an unambiguous truth and justly reject most poetry and spirituality wholesale. Where is the usefulness in that?
From my admittedly limited, non-oracular POV, that’s just opinion cloaked in objectivity.
I definitely believe in things I cannot grasp in a palpable or infallible way, including truth (and justice, love, etc.). But I am deeply suspicious of anyone, including a logical positivist or hyper-rationalist, who thinks he or she has unalloyed, unmediated access to a Truth with definite, clearly discernible parameters. There are intimations of Reality, but I do not believe they are confined to one side of a material/transcendent divide or comprehensively possessed by mortals, individually or collectively.
To use our five senses and embodied minds to conclude we know or can perceive all there is to know, or that is real, is a kind of empiricist zealotry to me. A hubristic faith in one’s own mind, or human cognition writ large.

Last edited 10 months ago by AJ Mac
Dumetrius
Dumetrius
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Asking if he has access to truth implies that such exists.
Is the surveyor, who tells the shipowner that the ocean he wants to sail on is six inches deep, under an obligation to provide an alternate ocean many leagues deep?
No.

Last edited 10 months ago by Dumetrius
Phil Rees
Phil Rees
10 months ago
Reply to  Vijay Kant

But surely those writers are not aiming to offer ‘truth’ in the philosophical sense of verifiable fact – the truth that is unambiguous and universal – but in the sense of ‘what Dostoyevsky gives us is the truth’ or ‘Art is the lie that enables us to realise the truth” (Picasso).

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Vijay Kant

What rigid pragmatism! Your statement is itself one of opinionated preference, not capital-T truth. You imagine you have unfettered access to unambiguous and universal Truth? Or perhaps you mean that anything that can’t be measured or empirically verified to your satisfaction contains no truth at all. That’s not a fact.

Vijay Kant
Vijay Kant
10 months ago

I love random articles like this one. Having read a lot of eastern spiritual literature in my teens and then being introduced to Greek philosophy after that, I realised how shallow most of the contemporary writers of eastern spirituality sounded. There is nothing that can beat solid scientific thinking! I would put Rabindranath Tagore, Aurobindo, Jayant Krishnamurthy, et al. in the same camp as Khalil Gibran. They all sound very attractive in teen years, but are found to have no useful substance later on…

Truth by its very nature must be unambiguous, useful and universal.

Last edited 10 months ago by Vijay Kant
Simon S
Simon S
10 months ago

Umm, what exactly is the point of this article? Just for Fraser to dump on The Prophet? And thereby snidely attack spiritual traditions and belief systems that cultivate our relationship with a higher realm without the need for a priestly intermediary like him?

Last edited 10 months ago by Simon S
J Bryant
J Bryant
10 months ago
Reply to  Simon S

Yes, this article feels very random. How many people have actually heard of, let alone read, Gibran? Why the splenetic attack on him now? (Oh, ok, it’s the centenary of the publication of Gibran’s most successful book–which raises the next question: Who pays attention to such trivia?).
It’s not as if two millennia of Christianity hasn’t produced plenty of fluffy, esoteric woo (along with plenty of deep theology, to be fair).

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
10 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

But you imply that ‘deep theology’ is obviously superior to ‘esoteric woo’. Why? I’m certain the world has seen far more trouble from the former.

T Bone
T Bone
10 months ago
Reply to  Phil Rees

Oh has it? Are you saying Communism and Fascism aren’t based on Esoteric principles?

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
10 months ago
Reply to  Phil Rees

That is because esoteric woo is either amazingly shallow, or it evolves itself into systems, that tend to self-cancel very early in the piece.

The system will either be totally ineffective and replaced by another bit of esoteric woo, or it is so stunningly effective that the twelve followers strangle their kids & commit ritual suicide.

The systems that survive are mostly actually a disguised bit of of a big religion, eg Hindu cults for westerners -since you can’t convert to mainstream Hinduism, Sufism -you could convert to the mainstream faith but it’s so on-the-nose that no one wants to.

Or they embed themselves within a non-doctrinal system that provides a structure impervious to their esoteric tantrums, like Freemasonry or martial arts, and also – and this is important – somewhere to have meetings.

Bigger faiths tend to attract and align with money and property, and then they become part of tussles over these things, with their involvement often brokered or midwifed by political or racial ideologies & frictions.

At some point, because they attract lukewarm believers, they tone down the extreme aspects and stabilise, at which point they may even become national faiths for a time.

Giles is a representative of one of these, which has reached its endpoint.

I am writing this in a very beautiful little CofE church in a hamlet called Rickling. It has a lovely stain-glass window and is cool in the hot day. It’s a pleasure to still be able to experience what once was.

Last edited 10 months ago by Dumetrius
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

Engaging reflections, perhaps enhanced by the stained-glass you mention. Of course the building never held the True Thing, but gathering and fellowship–somewhere to have meetings as you say–does provide something essential to most, not only in a mob or groupthink kind of way. Permit me to quote Mr. John (“Ozzy”) Osbourne:
“Your higher power may be God or Jesus Christ / It doesn’t really matter much to me / Without each other’s help, there ain’t no hope for us / I’m living in a dream, a fantasy”

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

Engaging reflections, perhaps enhanced by the stained-glass you mention. Of course the building never held the True Thing, but gathering and fellowship–somewhere to have meetings as you say–does provide something essential to most, not only in a mob or groupthink kind of way. Permit me to quote Mr. John (“Ozzy”) Osbourne:
“Your higher power may be God or Jesus Christ / It doesn’t really matter much to me / Without each other’s help, there ain’t no hope for us / I’m living in a dream, a fantasy”

T Bone
T Bone
10 months ago
Reply to  Phil Rees

Oh has it? Are you saying Communism and Fascism aren’t based on Esoteric principles?

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
10 months ago
Reply to  Phil Rees

That is because esoteric woo is either amazingly shallow, or it evolves itself into systems, that tend to self-cancel very early in the piece.

The system will either be totally ineffective and replaced by another bit of esoteric woo, or it is so stunningly effective that the twelve followers strangle their kids & commit ritual suicide.

The systems that survive are mostly actually a disguised bit of of a big religion, eg Hindu cults for westerners -since you can’t convert to mainstream Hinduism, Sufism -you could convert to the mainstream faith but it’s so on-the-nose that no one wants to.

Or they embed themselves within a non-doctrinal system that provides a structure impervious to their esoteric tantrums, like Freemasonry or martial arts, and also – and this is important – somewhere to have meetings.

Bigger faiths tend to attract and align with money and property, and then they become part of tussles over these things, with their involvement often brokered or midwifed by political or racial ideologies & frictions.

At some point, because they attract lukewarm believers, they tone down the extreme aspects and stabilise, at which point they may even become national faiths for a time.

Giles is a representative of one of these, which has reached its endpoint.

I am writing this in a very beautiful little CofE church in a hamlet called Rickling. It has a lovely stain-glass window and is cool in the hot day. It’s a pleasure to still be able to experience what once was.

Last edited 10 months ago by Dumetrius
Dumetrius
Dumetrius
10 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Nine million by 2012, of the original American edition.

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
10 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

But you imply that ‘deep theology’ is obviously superior to ‘esoteric woo’. Why? I’m certain the world has seen far more trouble from the former.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
10 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Nine million by 2012, of the original American edition.

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
10 months ago
Reply to  Simon S

Precisely my view. Fraser looking ugly.

Catherine Conroy
Catherine Conroy
10 months ago
Reply to  Simon S

The book came out 100 years ago.

J Bryant
J Bryant
10 months ago
Reply to  Simon S

Yes, this article feels very random. How many people have actually heard of, let alone read, Gibran? Why the splenetic attack on him now? (Oh, ok, it’s the centenary of the publication of Gibran’s most successful book–which raises the next question: Who pays attention to such trivia?).
It’s not as if two millennia of Christianity hasn’t produced plenty of fluffy, esoteric woo (along with plenty of deep theology, to be fair).

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
10 months ago
Reply to  Simon S

Precisely my view. Fraser looking ugly.

Catherine Conroy
Catherine Conroy
10 months ago
Reply to  Simon S

The book came out 100 years ago.

Simon S
Simon S
10 months ago

Umm, what exactly is the point of this article? Just for Fraser to dump on The Prophet? And thereby snidely attack spiritual traditions and belief systems that cultivate our relationship with a higher realm without the need for a priestly intermediary like him?

Last edited 10 months ago by Simon S
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago

I’d never heard of Gibran, and it appears i haven’t missed anything, but Giles’ gripe with his work raises an interesting contrast that he then falls short of examining properly.

There may well be many younger readers who don’t get the Coca Cola advert analogy too (wasn’t it broadcast in the 1970s i.e. half a century ago?)

He draws a fairly trivialised distinction between religion and spirituality, contrasting one with the other whilst ignoring the most obvious of differences between the two – belief in a deity. His usual “leap of faith” advocacy appears to have erm… taken a jump. Instead, he assigns a kind of cumulative collective wisdom to religion, which does indeed have value but is, in Giles’ hands, the CofE at its most stark naked.

Gibran becomes a kind of straw man then, by which the author seeks to denigrate the human impulse to spiritual exploration of ourselves and our place in the universe. That’s very much a collective trait of humanity, woefully misrepresented as individualism. Gibran’s aphoristic style merely looks like the height of trite.

philip kern
philip kern
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I’m mostly with you, but not entirely. First, I knew of Gibran because I often drive past a restaurant named ‘The Prophet’, so I looked him up years ago. As for the article, I thought he went beyond the trivial in distinguishing between religion and spirituality as something generative of community over against that which advances (or conforms to?) individualism. In a world where people are cats because they feel like cats, a move away from excessive individualism may be of some value.

Last edited 10 months ago by philip kern
philip kern
philip kern
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I’m mostly with you, but not entirely. First, I knew of Gibran because I often drive past a restaurant named ‘The Prophet’, so I looked him up years ago. As for the article, I thought he went beyond the trivial in distinguishing between religion and spirituality as something generative of community over against that which advances (or conforms to?) individualism. In a world where people are cats because they feel like cats, a move away from excessive individualism may be of some value.

Last edited 10 months ago by philip kern
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago

I’d never heard of Gibran, and it appears i haven’t missed anything, but Giles’ gripe with his work raises an interesting contrast that he then falls short of examining properly.

There may well be many younger readers who don’t get the Coca Cola advert analogy too (wasn’t it broadcast in the 1970s i.e. half a century ago?)

He draws a fairly trivialised distinction between religion and spirituality, contrasting one with the other whilst ignoring the most obvious of differences between the two – belief in a deity. His usual “leap of faith” advocacy appears to have erm… taken a jump. Instead, he assigns a kind of cumulative collective wisdom to religion, which does indeed have value but is, in Giles’ hands, the CofE at its most stark naked.

Gibran becomes a kind of straw man then, by which the author seeks to denigrate the human impulse to spiritual exploration of ourselves and our place in the universe. That’s very much a collective trait of humanity, woefully misrepresented as individualism. Gibran’s aphoristic style merely looks like the height of trite.

Suzanne C.
Suzanne C.
10 months ago

I’m so glad someone wrote this. As a Syrian American child, I was introduced to Gibran at an early age. Even then I felt the book was lighter than air, totally content-less, a pale imitation of the Book of Proverbs in the Bible or countless collections of aphorisms from the “East” that were in circulation.
I didn’t realize anyone read him anymore, since the flurry of fancy gift editions meant as housewarming gifts that came out in the 70’s.

Suzanne C.
Suzanne C.
10 months ago

I’m so glad someone wrote this. As a Syrian American child, I was introduced to Gibran at an early age. Even then I felt the book was lighter than air, totally content-less, a pale imitation of the Book of Proverbs in the Bible or countless collections of aphorisms from the “East” that were in circulation.
I didn’t realize anyone read him anymore, since the flurry of fancy gift editions meant as housewarming gifts that came out in the 70’s.

Kevin Jones
Kevin Jones
10 months ago

A strange article. Not sure I’ve even heard of The Prophet, but if I had I must have forgotten.
I suspect Giles is pretty annoyed by atheists who pull random bits out of the Bible to sneer at, yet here he repeating the same trick. Although for all the inanity of those Gibran quotes, at least none of them celebrate infanticide, cruel punishments or rape

“O daughter Babylon, you devastator! Happy shall they be who pay you back what you have done to us! Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!”

Frankly, I’d prefer the “oceanic metaphors” and Coca-Cola adverts myself. And at least Gibran isn’t claiming The Prophet is the word of god, just another work by a flawed human being, which you can find some wisdom in or not, it’s up to you. It’s at worst harmless. I can’t imagine anyone has ever strapped on a bomb belt and ran into a crowded restaurant screaming:
“Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit! Gibran Akbar!”
Also, this reads like a young person doing a “boomer” satire. I’m 50 and already the Athena “tennis arse woman” poster was being joked about when I was a kid. The Coca-Cola advert song was recorded before I was born.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
10 months ago
Reply to  Kevin Jones

I

The Coca-Cola ad was an attempt to identify Coke with pretty looking young people of all races living in ‘harmony’ . Yes it was nauseating , but how much worse are the antics of Giles Fraser’s spiritual boss Justin Welby , as he latches on to black man good , white man bad identity politics , making world self -abasement tours hurling himself In the dust at any site identified with British oppression he can find . to lend himself and the CofE a bit of fashionable cred with those sold on BLM or Antifa .

Khalil Gibran seems pretty harmless , even timeless , in comparison .

Last edited 10 months ago by Alan Osband
Alan Osband
Alan Osband
10 months ago
Reply to  Kevin Jones

I

The Coca-Cola ad was an attempt to identify Coke with pretty looking young people of all races living in ‘harmony’ . Yes it was nauseating , but how much worse are the antics of Giles Fraser’s spiritual boss Justin Welby , as he latches on to black man good , white man bad identity politics , making world self -abasement tours hurling himself In the dust at any site identified with British oppression he can find . to lend himself and the CofE a bit of fashionable cred with those sold on BLM or Antifa .

Khalil Gibran seems pretty harmless , even timeless , in comparison .

Last edited 10 months ago by Alan Osband
Kevin Jones
Kevin Jones
10 months ago

A strange article. Not sure I’ve even heard of The Prophet, but if I had I must have forgotten.
I suspect Giles is pretty annoyed by atheists who pull random bits out of the Bible to sneer at, yet here he repeating the same trick. Although for all the inanity of those Gibran quotes, at least none of them celebrate infanticide, cruel punishments or rape

“O daughter Babylon, you devastator! Happy shall they be who pay you back what you have done to us! Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!”

Frankly, I’d prefer the “oceanic metaphors” and Coca-Cola adverts myself. And at least Gibran isn’t claiming The Prophet is the word of god, just another work by a flawed human being, which you can find some wisdom in or not, it’s up to you. It’s at worst harmless. I can’t imagine anyone has ever strapped on a bomb belt and ran into a crowded restaurant screaming:
“Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit! Gibran Akbar!”
Also, this reads like a young person doing a “boomer” satire. I’m 50 and already the Athena “tennis arse woman” poster was being joked about when I was a kid. The Coca-Cola advert song was recorded before I was born.

Margaret F
Margaret F
10 months ago

What a blast from the past! I haven’t thought about this in at least 50 years. When I was a teen this was very popular with the artsy/stoner crowd. I get it mixed up with the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. As bad as it is, it seems so innocent and harmless compared to the fads of today’s youth. Better to read sappy poetry than to long for genital mutilation.

Catherine Conroy
Catherine Conroy
10 months ago
Reply to  Margaret F

Yes, of course, you’re absolutely right.

Catherine Conroy
Catherine Conroy
10 months ago
Reply to  Margaret F

Yes, of course, you’re absolutely right.

Margaret F
Margaret F
10 months ago

What a blast from the past! I haven’t thought about this in at least 50 years. When I was a teen this was very popular with the artsy/stoner crowd. I get it mixed up with the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. As bad as it is, it seems so innocent and harmless compared to the fads of today’s youth. Better to read sappy poetry than to long for genital mutilation.

Andrew Floyd
Andrew Floyd
10 months ago

“Religion without spirituality is dead, a going-through-the motions kind of thing”- Giles perfectly describes what I see in the shrinking ageing congregations in the churches of his denomination – Hollow phrases, words and songs emptied of any depth or feeling or meaning. Medieval costumes and buildings (beautiful though they be), archaic and overtranslated texts, Victorian pomposity and grandiosity and all the other clobber that the established church tried to sell us. Is it, then, any wonder that some – many – of us sought a personal connection with the divine, rather than some superannuated collective empty observance?
While by no means perfect, nor free from platitudes, writers such as Gibran, Krishnamurti, Ram Dass and the many others in part inspired by Eastern forms of spirituality opened up to my (boomer) generation and subsequent ones the possibility of a personal connection with the divine rather than one mediated by a state-run, repressive, judgemental priestly hierarchy.
Giles dismisses this kind of spirituality as mere feeling, with no practise. I think you should know, Giles, that there is just as much practise in this, as there is in Anglican observance (or there can be)
It’s just quieter. It’s called meditation.

harry storm
harry storm
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Floyd

There is nothing necessarily “spiritual” about meditation (which I do from time to time). And it would be nice if someone actually defined “spirituality,” which I believe is about as real as “gender identity.”

T Bone
T Bone
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Floyd

I think people conflate Metaphysics with Spiritualism and its a meaningful distinction. Metaphysics is basically the idea that there are ways of knowing things that the senses can’t perceive. Spiritualism is more a belief that the something is a divine or cosmic purpose inherent to human life.

Meditation really isn’t even Metaphysical. Its effectively just a breathing practice that calms down the body.

Eastern Spirituality is like a Scientific Religion similar to Spinoza’s Pantheism. It may help one make sense of the world and provide grounding but is it really grounded in objective truth claims or is it just a way of calming down the body by ordering perception?

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Spiritualism, as you call it, may well have that kind of significance for some people (i.e. some cosmic purpose or meaning) but to many others, human spirituality is a biologically-based experience of being part of a universe which we’re only just really beginning to comprehend.
It doesn’t have to have a meaning other than that which we ascribe to it. When i say “we” i mean the entire swathe of humanity, to which the experience of each of us as individuals can contribute.
In essence then, it’s that wish to understand ourselves and the world around us to it’s fullest extent, rather than being misled by creeds, doctrines or dogmas which seek to exploit others by playing on their fears, or end up becoming exploitative even where the initial intent may have been helpful.
That’s a very short version of something that’s very complex; i’m also replying to harry storm’s question around a definition of spirituality. I’m certainly not claiming to have all the answers but i know that i’m at least asking the right questions, and that more people should be less afraid to do so.

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve Murray
T Bone
T Bone
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

You have to analyze words linguistically. Are you versed in Kant’s transcendental idealism?

There’s two forms of statements. Analytic and Synthetic. Analytic statements are synonymous with the definition of the word. “All bachelors are unmarried men” is the common example. To know what a bachelor is, all you need to know is the definition. If I were to say “All Bachelors have all or either two eyes, two ears or two legs” it would be a Synthetic statement requiring empirical observation. I couldn’t just rely on the definition.

The word Spiritual refers to the existence of a literal non-material spirit IE a soul present in all humans. The term is a definition describing a belief in a Transcendent and nonmaterial force inherent to all humans. You can say that in 400 different ways but however you say it, it has to describe those features.

Spirit like the term Transcendent is a religious term that’s been appropriated for secular purposes. Whatever meaning a Secularist ascribes to it is a subjective meaning imposed or amended to the original definition to create meaning out of an otherwise meaningless world.

What I’m claiming is there is an appropriation of religious terms and structure for Secular purposes. As Jordan Peterson says Atheist types act out a religious structure and then criticize it. Atheists like the order and structure of Christian society but don’t like the tenants. But without the tenants, order is nowhere to be found. Atheists in the West have unwittingly realized this

That’s why Atheists can’t detach from Christian terminology and instead attempt to alter and change the meaning of clearly defined terms like “Spirit.” It provides grounding in a world the Atheist actually believes has no foundation. It’s a Mind over Matter trick.

Last edited 10 months ago by T Bone
T Bone
T Bone
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

You have to analyze words linguistically. Are you versed in Kant’s transcendental idealism?

There’s two forms of statements. Analytic and Synthetic. Analytic statements are synonymous with the definition of the word. “All bachelors are unmarried men” is the common example. To know what a bachelor is, all you need to know is the definition. If I were to say “All Bachelors have all or either two eyes, two ears or two legs” it would be a Synthetic statement requiring empirical observation. I couldn’t just rely on the definition.

The word Spiritual refers to the existence of a literal non-material spirit IE a soul present in all humans. The term is a definition describing a belief in a Transcendent and nonmaterial force inherent to all humans. You can say that in 400 different ways but however you say it, it has to describe those features.

Spirit like the term Transcendent is a religious term that’s been appropriated for secular purposes. Whatever meaning a Secularist ascribes to it is a subjective meaning imposed or amended to the original definition to create meaning out of an otherwise meaningless world.

What I’m claiming is there is an appropriation of religious terms and structure for Secular purposes. As Jordan Peterson says Atheist types act out a religious structure and then criticize it. Atheists like the order and structure of Christian society but don’t like the tenants. But without the tenants, order is nowhere to be found. Atheists in the West have unwittingly realized this

That’s why Atheists can’t detach from Christian terminology and instead attempt to alter and change the meaning of clearly defined terms like “Spirit.” It provides grounding in a world the Atheist actually believes has no foundation. It’s a Mind over Matter trick.

Last edited 10 months ago by T Bone
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Being one generation removed from boomer erstwhile flower children, I see both the Beauty and the Vanity (how would we define those abstract nouns?) in the Sixties counterculture. I neither celebrate its overreach nor pretend things were fine in ’64 and that we should have left well enough alone.
Most Westerners who long for a pre-hippie or pre-modern past are straight white guys, like me. Not only, and not only because of that, or only in some blameworthy way, but I think the statistics would bear that out if they were possible to gather reliably.

T Bone
T Bone
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I think 19th century German Idealism (All white males) clearly underpins the philosophy of the Socialist-leaning left. Its a sort of mystical syncretic unity of ideas. So in modern times to assuage white guilt, the avant-garde progressives have tried to integrate multicultural practices into the dominant culture to retain the structure and essence of traditional ideas and practices but abolish the particulars (which shakes the foundation).

As the dialectic has evolved, it’s used Positional Standpoint Epistemology to slowly (and now rapidly thanks to corporate DEI) push out the old cultural customs in favor of “marginalized customs.”

Equity means Fairness but to a German Idealist trying to syncretize culture, it means punishing the “dominant” group to center the “marginalized group.” White Leftists then become “allies” of this centering process which they use to create bureacracies where THEY become the arbiters of fairness by redistributing cultural capital on the basis of innate traits or non-traditional lifestyles.

Last edited 10 months ago by T Bone
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Good points. I wonder if we can find something closer to a middle ground between the militant cultural chauvinism of the 19th-century West (reductively framed) and the self-flagellating, ashamed-to-be-white theatrics of the doctrinaire present-day Progressive.
I know a bit about syncretism, though you seem far more versed in the concept and tradition. I think Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces, which I respect (more interesting in my 20s than now, in my 50s) is regarded as syncretic. In broad terms though, Western culture has always drawn from eclectic sources, with Greco-Roman, Judeo-Christian underpinnings that hardly represent one unbroken ethnic or cultural trajectory.
In other words, there has always been a variety of peoples and influences involved in what is called the West, now more than ever. There has to be some possible, vibrant synthesis that doesn’t involve cultural self-annihilation–nor the performative mix-and-match cultural sampling of some stereotypical far-out hippie or new-ager. I hope so at least.

T Bone
T Bone
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Interesting points. I have not read that book but I’ve come across Campbell in the past few years while studying. It looks like per Wiki that he was influenced by a good deal of German Idealism. (I always like to look at who writers are influenced by. You often see pretty repetitive patterns with syncretic thinkers).

For instance it’s almost impossible for anybody influenced by Marx to detach from Hegel, which is why Marxism and it’s subvariants inevitably become Theology.

I think the best you can do as a culture is bounce ideas off each other and allow the free exchange of ideas. I’m a believer that the overwhelming majority of people want to be kind and fair. The question of defining “fairness” is what animates all our debates. Some people actually think the free exchange of ideas is harmful because hateful or dangerous ideas are disseminated. Of course they would never admit it in these terms but these are precisely the All Knowing Arbiters that impose themselves on us today.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

While I agree with that a vast majority are well-intended at some level, I’d question the percentage of those committed to kindness and fairness. Nearly everyone that’s born has a malevolent and selfish streak, and this fluctuates as some become kinder or meaner over time, while a very rare few begin and remain almost totally good or totally bad. But we can agree that the vast majority have a great capacity for kindness and fairness.
Solzhenitsyn: “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either – but right through every human heart…even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains…an un-uprooted small corner of evil”. (I have a hard time resisting that quote, when it seems to fit).
I also think that societies, like households and neighborhoods, need a sense of common foundation and purpose to underlie our exchanges and interactions. We should instill certain core values and cultural touchstones more strongly in public schools and institutions. And some thing shouldn’t be up for public debate too often. For example, while it is not illegal (in the US) to minimize or deny the Holocaust and express that publicly, I wouldn’t let a denier speak (about that) on a school campus, at least not unopposed.
I think Campbell owes a heavier debt to Carl Jung and the major religions and mythic traditions of the world than to that German crowd, but I admit I don’t know much about that strain of idealism.
I could take guesses but I’m not sure which individuals or groups or institutions you mean by “All Knowing Arbiters”.
Thank you for an engaging exchange. I’ll check back for your reply, if you are inclined to make one, and “see you on the next board”, whether this thread has now ended or not. Cheers.

Last edited 10 months ago by AJ Mac
T Bone
T Bone
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I completely agree with your distinction about human capacity and the perfect description of it by Solzhenitzyn. Of course, I am probably biased towards him because he shared my Faith but the observation is relevant regardless of belief.

I did see the Campbell/Jung connection. That connection also appears to have inspired Spielberg. While I’m not a Star Wars Guy. I’ve pretty much memorized the Indiana Jones Trilogy where you can see the syncretic mix of Spirituality.

Examples of all knowing Arbiters are endless but I’m essentially describing the Stakeholder/ESG model of using the rough outlines of two ancient religions (Hermeticism/Gnosticism) to justify Corporate/Government partnerships following government declarations of Emergency. It’s using seemingly profound ideas to justify an endless funding mechanism.

Effectively they are tapping into the Gnostic disposition to tear down and dismantle civilization and then using Social Alchemy (Hermeticism) to push the world into an “Inclusive, Sustainable” Utopia where everyone shares the same values. A hivemind of sorts. Hermeticism sees all ideas as half truths and all part of one grand idea. So effectively with these two religions, you have Gnostic destroyers and the Hermetics responsible for the rebuilding process.

Unlike Christianity that relies on Faith not Certainty, these religions rely on a group of Enlightened Sages or “Experts” that possess absolute knowledge (Gnosis) to shephard the masses. They know what is true and what is Good so debate is pointless. This is effectively a God Complex. It creates a Magisterial complex of control not unlike the State-run Churches of the Feudal eras.

While it sounds religious and some actually do believe in Universal Oneness, I would assume most pushing it just see it as a way to create more malleable and compliant consumers and consumers heavily reliant on prescription drugs to fix their nihilism.

Last edited 10 months ago by T Bone
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

I know I declared my intention to move on from this comment board, but briefly: While I am a freelance student of the Bible and great admirer of Jesus of Nazareth, I am not an institutional Christian. Neither was Jesus, of course, but an inspired teacher (whatever else he may very well have been) of the Hebrew faith. Rather like Gautama Siddhartha was not a Buddhist.
I think a truly God-inspired message dwells somewhere near the heart of every major religion. My own heart and spirit draws closest to the message of the Gospels, but I care very little about the supernatural aspects of the text, one way or the other. Nor do I think the writings of Paul or other non-evangelist New Testament authors do more than intermittently touch on the power of Jesus.
Every major religion and most individual believers are good at finding a way to make their faith unique and superior. But the True Source–the I AM THAT I AM– cannot be captured by a text or a name. It is universal, and the path is not controlled by any Church.
I don’t say any of this to contradict your faith, nor tell you anything you’ve not heard before, but to express my own views, which are not fixed in place but developed over the course of my thinking and searching lifetime of 52 years.
May the word of God become flesh in our lives.

Last edited 10 months ago by AJ Mac
T Bone
T Bone
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

You are doing what you should do and humbly turning over every stone. I understand exactly where you’re coming from and have had many of the same thoughts in the past.

God Speed!

T Bone
T Bone
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

You are doing what you should do and humbly turning over every stone. I understand exactly where you’re coming from and have had many of the same thoughts in the past.

God Speed!

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

I know I declared my intention to move on from this comment board, but briefly: While I am a freelance student of the Bible and great admirer of Jesus of Nazareth, I am not an institutional Christian. Neither was Jesus, of course, but an inspired teacher (whatever else he may very well have been) of the Hebrew faith. Rather like Gautama Siddhartha was not a Buddhist.
I think a truly God-inspired message dwells somewhere near the heart of every major religion. My own heart and spirit draws closest to the message of the Gospels, but I care very little about the supernatural aspects of the text, one way or the other. Nor do I think the writings of Paul or other non-evangelist New Testament authors do more than intermittently touch on the power of Jesus.
Every major religion and most individual believers are good at finding a way to make their faith unique and superior. But the True Source–the I AM THAT I AM– cannot be captured by a text or a name. It is universal, and the path is not controlled by any Church.
I don’t say any of this to contradict your faith, nor tell you anything you’ve not heard before, but to express my own views, which are not fixed in place but developed over the course of my thinking and searching lifetime of 52 years.
May the word of God become flesh in our lives.

Last edited 10 months ago by AJ Mac
T Bone
T Bone
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I completely agree with your distinction about human capacity and the perfect description of it by Solzhenitzyn. Of course, I am probably biased towards him because he shared my Faith but the observation is relevant regardless of belief.

I did see the Campbell/Jung connection. That connection also appears to have inspired Spielberg. While I’m not a Star Wars Guy. I’ve pretty much memorized the Indiana Jones Trilogy where you can see the syncretic mix of Spirituality.

Examples of all knowing Arbiters are endless but I’m essentially describing the Stakeholder/ESG model of using the rough outlines of two ancient religions (Hermeticism/Gnosticism) to justify Corporate/Government partnerships following government declarations of Emergency. It’s using seemingly profound ideas to justify an endless funding mechanism.

Effectively they are tapping into the Gnostic disposition to tear down and dismantle civilization and then using Social Alchemy (Hermeticism) to push the world into an “Inclusive, Sustainable” Utopia where everyone shares the same values. A hivemind of sorts. Hermeticism sees all ideas as half truths and all part of one grand idea. So effectively with these two religions, you have Gnostic destroyers and the Hermetics responsible for the rebuilding process.

Unlike Christianity that relies on Faith not Certainty, these religions rely on a group of Enlightened Sages or “Experts” that possess absolute knowledge (Gnosis) to shephard the masses. They know what is true and what is Good so debate is pointless. This is effectively a God Complex. It creates a Magisterial complex of control not unlike the State-run Churches of the Feudal eras.

While it sounds religious and some actually do believe in Universal Oneness, I would assume most pushing it just see it as a way to create more malleable and compliant consumers and consumers heavily reliant on prescription drugs to fix their nihilism.

Last edited 10 months ago by T Bone
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

While I agree with that a vast majority are well-intended at some level, I’d question the percentage of those committed to kindness and fairness. Nearly everyone that’s born has a malevolent and selfish streak, and this fluctuates as some become kinder or meaner over time, while a very rare few begin and remain almost totally good or totally bad. But we can agree that the vast majority have a great capacity for kindness and fairness.
Solzhenitsyn: “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either – but right through every human heart…even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains…an un-uprooted small corner of evil”. (I have a hard time resisting that quote, when it seems to fit).
I also think that societies, like households and neighborhoods, need a sense of common foundation and purpose to underlie our exchanges and interactions. We should instill certain core values and cultural touchstones more strongly in public schools and institutions. And some thing shouldn’t be up for public debate too often. For example, while it is not illegal (in the US) to minimize or deny the Holocaust and express that publicly, I wouldn’t let a denier speak (about that) on a school campus, at least not unopposed.
I think Campbell owes a heavier debt to Carl Jung and the major religions and mythic traditions of the world than to that German crowd, but I admit I don’t know much about that strain of idealism.
I could take guesses but I’m not sure which individuals or groups or institutions you mean by “All Knowing Arbiters”.
Thank you for an engaging exchange. I’ll check back for your reply, if you are inclined to make one, and “see you on the next board”, whether this thread has now ended or not. Cheers.

Last edited 10 months ago by AJ Mac
T Bone
T Bone
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Interesting points. I have not read that book but I’ve come across Campbell in the past few years while studying. It looks like per Wiki that he was influenced by a good deal of German Idealism. (I always like to look at who writers are influenced by. You often see pretty repetitive patterns with syncretic thinkers).

For instance it’s almost impossible for anybody influenced by Marx to detach from Hegel, which is why Marxism and it’s subvariants inevitably become Theology.

I think the best you can do as a culture is bounce ideas off each other and allow the free exchange of ideas. I’m a believer that the overwhelming majority of people want to be kind and fair. The question of defining “fairness” is what animates all our debates. Some people actually think the free exchange of ideas is harmful because hateful or dangerous ideas are disseminated. Of course they would never admit it in these terms but these are precisely the All Knowing Arbiters that impose themselves on us today.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Good points. I wonder if we can find something closer to a middle ground between the militant cultural chauvinism of the 19th-century West (reductively framed) and the self-flagellating, ashamed-to-be-white theatrics of the doctrinaire present-day Progressive.
I know a bit about syncretism, though you seem far more versed in the concept and tradition. I think Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces, which I respect (more interesting in my 20s than now, in my 50s) is regarded as syncretic. In broad terms though, Western culture has always drawn from eclectic sources, with Greco-Roman, Judeo-Christian underpinnings that hardly represent one unbroken ethnic or cultural trajectory.
In other words, there has always been a variety of peoples and influences involved in what is called the West, now more than ever. There has to be some possible, vibrant synthesis that doesn’t involve cultural self-annihilation–nor the performative mix-and-match cultural sampling of some stereotypical far-out hippie or new-ager. I hope so at least.

T Bone
T Bone
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I think 19th century German Idealism (All white males) clearly underpins the philosophy of the Socialist-leaning left. Its a sort of mystical syncretic unity of ideas. So in modern times to assuage white guilt, the avant-garde progressives have tried to integrate multicultural practices into the dominant culture to retain the structure and essence of traditional ideas and practices but abolish the particulars (which shakes the foundation).

As the dialectic has evolved, it’s used Positional Standpoint Epistemology to slowly (and now rapidly thanks to corporate DEI) push out the old cultural customs in favor of “marginalized customs.”

Equity means Fairness but to a German Idealist trying to syncretize culture, it means punishing the “dominant” group to center the “marginalized group.” White Leftists then become “allies” of this centering process which they use to create bureacracies where THEY become the arbiters of fairness by redistributing cultural capital on the basis of innate traits or non-traditional lifestyles.

Last edited 10 months ago by T Bone
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Spiritualism, as you call it, may well have that kind of significance for some people (i.e. some cosmic purpose or meaning) but to many others, human spirituality is a biologically-based experience of being part of a universe which we’re only just really beginning to comprehend.
It doesn’t have to have a meaning other than that which we ascribe to it. When i say “we” i mean the entire swathe of humanity, to which the experience of each of us as individuals can contribute.
In essence then, it’s that wish to understand ourselves and the world around us to it’s fullest extent, rather than being misled by creeds, doctrines or dogmas which seek to exploit others by playing on their fears, or end up becoming exploitative even where the initial intent may have been helpful.
That’s a very short version of something that’s very complex; i’m also replying to harry storm’s question around a definition of spirituality. I’m certainly not claiming to have all the answers but i know that i’m at least asking the right questions, and that more people should be less afraid to do so.

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve Murray
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Being one generation removed from boomer erstwhile flower children, I see both the Beauty and the Vanity (how would we define those abstract nouns?) in the Sixties counterculture. I neither celebrate its overreach nor pretend things were fine in ’64 and that we should have left well enough alone.
Most Westerners who long for a pre-hippie or pre-modern past are straight white guys, like me. Not only, and not only because of that, or only in some blameworthy way, but I think the statistics would bear that out if they were possible to gather reliably.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Floyd

It’s definitely a “Boomer” Book…

harry storm
harry storm
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Floyd

There is nothing necessarily “spiritual” about meditation (which I do from time to time). And it would be nice if someone actually defined “spirituality,” which I believe is about as real as “gender identity.”

T Bone
T Bone
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Floyd

I think people conflate Metaphysics with Spiritualism and its a meaningful distinction. Metaphysics is basically the idea that there are ways of knowing things that the senses can’t perceive. Spiritualism is more a belief that the something is a divine or cosmic purpose inherent to human life.

Meditation really isn’t even Metaphysical. Its effectively just a breathing practice that calms down the body.

Eastern Spirituality is like a Scientific Religion similar to Spinoza’s Pantheism. It may help one make sense of the world and provide grounding but is it really grounded in objective truth claims or is it just a way of calming down the body by ordering perception?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Floyd

It’s definitely a “Boomer” Book…

Andrew Floyd
Andrew Floyd
10 months ago

“Religion without spirituality is dead, a going-through-the motions kind of thing”- Giles perfectly describes what I see in the shrinking ageing congregations in the churches of his denomination – Hollow phrases, words and songs emptied of any depth or feeling or meaning. Medieval costumes and buildings (beautiful though they be), archaic and overtranslated texts, Victorian pomposity and grandiosity and all the other clobber that the established church tried to sell us. Is it, then, any wonder that some – many – of us sought a personal connection with the divine, rather than some superannuated collective empty observance?
While by no means perfect, nor free from platitudes, writers such as Gibran, Krishnamurti, Ram Dass and the many others in part inspired by Eastern forms of spirituality opened up to my (boomer) generation and subsequent ones the possibility of a personal connection with the divine rather than one mediated by a state-run, repressive, judgemental priestly hierarchy.
Giles dismisses this kind of spirituality as mere feeling, with no practise. I think you should know, Giles, that there is just as much practise in this, as there is in Anglican observance (or there can be)
It’s just quieter. It’s called meditation.

Jill Mans
Jill Mans
10 months ago

I’d never heard of the bloke until I read this – now I think I must seek out this book and read it!

Catherine Conroy
Catherine Conroy
10 months ago
Reply to  Jill Mans

As the book is now in the public domain, you might want to sample Gibran’s writing on Project Gutenberg before purchasing.

Catherine Conroy
Catherine Conroy
10 months ago
Reply to  Jill Mans

As the book is now in the public domain, you might want to sample Gibran’s writing on Project Gutenberg before purchasing.

Jill Mans
Jill Mans
10 months ago

I’d never heard of the bloke until I read this – now I think I must seek out this book and read it!

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
10 months ago

Oh, come on. Where’s the harm?

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
10 months ago

Oh, come on. Where’s the harm?

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
10 months ago

Reads like something written in a fit of professional jealousy. Perhaps Giles should read it again, but with Pachelbel’s Canon playing in the background, to help with the mood.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
10 months ago

I now a have better mood music suggestion for Giles …. I was just out walking, with my ipod plugged into my ears, ABC Classic, and heard music inspired by Gibran. Apparently “The Sydney string-bender’s latest masterpiece completes a trilogy of albums inspired by the influential Lebanese-American writer Kahlil Gibran. Tawadros’s 2009 tour de force, The Prophet, was his tribute to a much-loved book, and had the Egypt-born Australian addressing the poet’s philosophical essays on topics such as pain and passion through exquisitely crafted solo pieces”.

So, Giles …. inspiring to some!

Catherine Conroy
Catherine Conroy
10 months ago

Have you read The Prophet? Giles’ occasional columns (and I enjoyed those he used to write for the Guardian) are definitely superior to Khalil Gibran.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
10 months ago

I think I did … a long time ago. I enjoy Giles’ articles, but am a bit amused by his being so irked by The Prophet. Giles doesn’t give us much description of what the ‘spiritual’ is, but he seems very binary about religion and spirituality; I mean, aren’t we all a bit more fluid these days?

Perhaps Gibran, or the late, great Alan Watts et al. aren’t leading us to deeper experiences, but helpfully reminding us of things not material and in that sense leaving us open to exploring spiritual/religious paths. Can you say that of most Christian churches?

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
10 months ago

I think I did … a long time ago. I enjoy Giles’ articles, but am a bit amused by his being so irked by The Prophet. Giles doesn’t give us much description of what the ‘spiritual’ is, but he seems very binary about religion and spirituality; I mean, aren’t we all a bit more fluid these days?

Perhaps Gibran, or the late, great Alan Watts et al. aren’t leading us to deeper experiences, but helpfully reminding us of things not material and in that sense leaving us open to exploring spiritual/religious paths. Can you say that of most Christian churches?

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
10 months ago

I now a have better mood music suggestion for Giles …. I was just out walking, with my ipod plugged into my ears, ABC Classic, and heard music inspired by Gibran. Apparently “The Sydney string-bender’s latest masterpiece completes a trilogy of albums inspired by the influential Lebanese-American writer Kahlil Gibran. Tawadros’s 2009 tour de force, The Prophet, was his tribute to a much-loved book, and had the Egypt-born Australian addressing the poet’s philosophical essays on topics such as pain and passion through exquisitely crafted solo pieces”.

So, Giles …. inspiring to some!

Catherine Conroy
Catherine Conroy
10 months ago

Have you read The Prophet? Giles’ occasional columns (and I enjoyed those he used to write for the Guardian) are definitely superior to Khalil Gibran.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
10 months ago

Reads like something written in a fit of professional jealousy. Perhaps Giles should read it again, but with Pachelbel’s Canon playing in the background, to help with the mood.

Edward Hadas
Edward Hadas
10 months ago
Catherine Conroy
Catherine Conroy
10 months ago
Reply to  Edward Hadas

Hahaha, yes, thanks for the link.

Catherine Conroy
Catherine Conroy
10 months ago
Reply to  Edward Hadas

Hahaha, yes, thanks for the link.

Edward Hadas
Edward Hadas
10 months ago
Rip Durham
Rip Durham
10 months ago

I won’t argue that Gibran is problematic or that he’s a marvelously deep thinker. But I do kind of take issue with the hatchet job Fraser does on “the Prophet.” This may mark me out as an intellectual or philosophical lightweight, but I like “The Prophet.” I don’t base my life around it or consider it a holy book. It’s certainly not as important as a proper religious text, and I agree that “spirituality” is a catch all term for gobbledygook that some grasp at to fill a vacancy in their lives. But I see “the Prophet” as my father and grandfather did: read a couple bits, a chapter or two, and use it as a starting point for thinking. It doesn’t attach a tremendous amount of significance to Gibran as a luminary (I don’t think he was), but merely as a prompt for thought. If you do that kind of thing right, the old man used to tell me, you leave the prompt behind and see where your thoughts take you, not use the prompt as a guide or template for that thinking.
I don’t know; agree to disagree, I guess.
I will agree with one of the later paragraphs, that the defense bases their argument on Gibran being slagged because he’s “popular.” I think both the dismissal and the defense miss the point a bit. A work doesn’t need to be gospel and doesn’t need to be shit. If Gibran did indeed think he was a spiritual visionary, he was sorely mistaken. But I don’t know that he was an intentionally deceptive malefactor either. He may have been, as I say I don’t know.
But I don’t know that I care either. Grandad, Pop, and I all did and do have the book on our shelves and pull(ed) it down to flip through from time to time. No apologies for that.

PS: I did quite like Rev Fraser’s piece on the lunacy of gendering God. Don’t agree with him here, but the man is a thinker, no argument there.

Last edited 10 months ago by Rip Durham
Rip Durham
Rip Durham
10 months ago

I won’t argue that Gibran is problematic or that he’s a marvelously deep thinker. But I do kind of take issue with the hatchet job Fraser does on “the Prophet.” This may mark me out as an intellectual or philosophical lightweight, but I like “The Prophet.” I don’t base my life around it or consider it a holy book. It’s certainly not as important as a proper religious text, and I agree that “spirituality” is a catch all term for gobbledygook that some grasp at to fill a vacancy in their lives. But I see “the Prophet” as my father and grandfather did: read a couple bits, a chapter or two, and use it as a starting point for thinking. It doesn’t attach a tremendous amount of significance to Gibran as a luminary (I don’t think he was), but merely as a prompt for thought. If you do that kind of thing right, the old man used to tell me, you leave the prompt behind and see where your thoughts take you, not use the prompt as a guide or template for that thinking.
I don’t know; agree to disagree, I guess.
I will agree with one of the later paragraphs, that the defense bases their argument on Gibran being slagged because he’s “popular.” I think both the dismissal and the defense miss the point a bit. A work doesn’t need to be gospel and doesn’t need to be shit. If Gibran did indeed think he was a spiritual visionary, he was sorely mistaken. But I don’t know that he was an intentionally deceptive malefactor either. He may have been, as I say I don’t know.
But I don’t know that I care either. Grandad, Pop, and I all did and do have the book on our shelves and pull(ed) it down to flip through from time to time. No apologies for that.

PS: I did quite like Rev Fraser’s piece on the lunacy of gendering God. Don’t agree with him here, but the man is a thinker, no argument there.

Last edited 10 months ago by Rip Durham
Ben Shipley
Ben Shipley
10 months ago

I read The Prophet, saw the Coca Cola advert on the tube, and even drank a can of the beverage. None of the three experiences qualified as a highlight of a long life, but none of them required much of ann investment either. Pablum has its place in life, tiny though it might be, so why waste any breath knocking it?

Ben Shipley
Ben Shipley
10 months ago

I read The Prophet, saw the Coca Cola advert on the tube, and even drank a can of the beverage. None of the three experiences qualified as a highlight of a long life, but none of them required much of ann investment either. Pablum has its place in life, tiny though it might be, so why waste any breath knocking it?

Paul Hemphill
Paul Hemphill
10 months ago

A fun read. The Prophet might be lightweight tosh but at least it was better than Jonathan Livingstone Seagull. Gibran got it right with Pity The Nation, but. The poem describes Lebanon and indeed any other dysfunctional,divided polity.
Pity the nation divided into fragments,
each fragment deeming itself a nation.

Paul Hemphill
Paul Hemphill
10 months ago

A fun read. The Prophet might be lightweight tosh but at least it was better than Jonathan Livingstone Seagull. Gibran got it right with Pity The Nation, but. The poem describes Lebanon and indeed any other dysfunctional,divided polity.
Pity the nation divided into fragments,
each fragment deeming itself a nation.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
10 months ago

ahhh not David Prophet who used to race a Ferrari back in the 70s?

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
10 months ago

ahhh not David Prophet who used to race a Ferrari back in the 70s?

Catherine Conroy
Catherine Conroy
10 months ago

Very good article. A bit harsh but it needs saying.
In the late 70s, The Prophet was one of the books to read along with Meetings With Remarkable Men, The Teachings of Don Juan, anything by Idris Shah, and Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Having re-read those thirty or forty years later, only Zen/Motorcycle still comes across as deep.
Khalil Gibran is still pretty highly thought of in Bulgaria (where I now live). I guess it makes sense in a country that still admires Baba Vanga and Peter Deunov, but I must admit I was never impressed with him.