"His power came from some great reservoir of spiritual life else it could not have been so universal and so potent, but the majesty and beauty of the language with which he clothed it were all his own." -- Claude Bragdon
On January 6, 1883 Gibran Khalil Gibran was born in Bcherri, Lebanon. He was the son of Khalil ben Gibran and Kamila. He had two sisters, Mariana and Sultana, a half brother, Peter, who was from his mother's previous marriage. They were part of the Maronite Catholic Church. Gibran Khalil Gibran's father was a shepherd who had hardly any intellectual impact on Gibran. His mother was the one who played a huge role in the "intellectual maturation" of Gibran. His first education came from her at home. His mother was a very smart woman who was a polyglot. She could speak Arabic, French, and English. She also had artistic talent for music and came from a very prestigious religious background.
In 1895, Gibran's brother Peter, wanted to go to America, the land of opportunity, to get away from his step-father who was leading their family to poverty. At first Kamila would not let Peter go but eventually came to the conclusion that Khalil, and his two sisters would also go with Peter and Kamila. Khalil's father refused to go and stayed in Lebanon to take care of their small property that they owned. There were some sources that stated Kahlil's father went to jail for tax evasion.
Once they arrived in Boston, everyone else but Khalil went to work. He was forced to get the education that his parents never got. During his two years at the public school he recorded higher scores than his American classmates. It was here that teachers began to see his genius. At this time his teachers suggested he shorten his name to Kahlil Gibran from Gibran Khalil Gibran. This was soon how his American friends referred to him.
Kahlil soon wanted to return to Lebanon to "cultivate his native language and become acquainted with Arabian erudition." 1 He got permission from his mother and Peter to return. Peter soon would pay for Kahlil's education at Madrasat Al-Hikmat (school of wisdom) that is today located in Ashrafiet, Beirut from 1896-1901.
It was in 1900 that Kahlil started to draw great Arabian thinkers that he was studying even though there were no portraits of them that existed. At 18, he graduated from Al-Hikmat with high honors and went on to Paris to learn painting.
In 1903, Kahlil received a letter from Peter that his sister Sultana died of Tuberculosis and that his mother was also very sick. His mother died of Tuberculosis as well as Peter a few months after he returned home to them. His mother was a very important person in his life as well as Peter and his sisters. They have all impacted his life in many ways.
During the following years Kahlil painted, designed book covers and wrote in Arabic many short essays. In 1908, he went to Paris again and studied at the Acedemie Julien and at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. Miss Mary Haskell, a very good friend of his, financed his studies and "was his first patron and benefactress."1 She was an American school headmistress in Boston who supported talented young orphans.
Around 1912, Kahlil moved to New York to the famous studio apartments. He lived there until the end of his life. At this time his fame was growing extensively. In 1923, The Prophet was published. It is one of his most well known books that has now been translated into over twenty different languages.
On April 20, 1920, a new literary circle was formed. It was called the Arrabitah (the Pen-Bond) and Kahlil was president of it. "Kahlil and some of his other literary friends broke away from the stagnant traditional prerequisites of the Arabic verse by proposing as early as 1920 a new poetic form called "prose poem.""1 The purpose of this group was to modernize Arabic literature and to promote this newly conceived idea among the Middle Eastern writers. Other writers in the Arrabitah was Mikha'il Nu'aima, Iliya Abu Madi, Nasib Arida, Nadra Haddad, and Ilyas Abu Sabaka.
Kahlil Gibran died on April 10, 1931 after a long struggle of being terminally ill with liver disease, possibly from his excessive drinking.
ON SELF KNOWLEDGE
From The Prophet
Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights.
But your ears thirst for the sound of your heart's knowledge.
You would know in words that which you have always known in thought.
You would touch with your fingers the naked body of your dreams.
And it is well you should.
The hidden well-spring of your soul must needs rise and run murmuring to the sea;
And the treasure of your infinite depths would be revealed to your eyes.
But let there be no scales to weigh your unknown treasure;
And seek not the depths of your knowledge with staff or sounding line.
For self is a sea boundless and measureless.
Say not, "I have found the truth," but rather, "I have found a truth."
Say not, "I have found the path of the soul." Say rather, "I have met the soul walking upon my path."
For the soul walks upon all paths.
The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
The soul unfolds itself like a lotus of countless petals.