The Crafting of a Paper Guru - Kahlil Gibran
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: May 24, 2017 09:37PM

This gives a description that fits well with how many living cult leaders have forged their careers.


Gibran was a fantasizer and fabulist - he needed people to validate him in this. He started with a female patron who was willing to be (let us be blunt)
his sugar momma.

He was sure that a great destiny awaited him. She believed this even more than he, and in the beginning her adulation was probably as important to him as her money.

“Oh Glorious Kahlil!!” she wrote in her diary. “Transcendent, timeless spirit!” When he read to her from an early book of his, she reported that “the invisible” gathered so thickly around her, “lights and sounds came from such far times and spaces, that from center to circumference I trembled with the excessive life-force”—a remarkable response, in view of the fact that the book was in Arabic, a language she did not then understand.

She recorded the extraordinary experiences he told her he had had. For instance, he had intuited the theory of relativity before Einstein; he just hadn’t written it down. Thousands of times, he said, he had been sucked up into the air as dew, and “risen into clouds, then fallen as rain. . . . I’ve been a rock too, but I’m more of an air person.”

Gibran hid his actual past and manufactured a glorious 'foundation myth' for himself - something many gurus do.


Gibran told journalists many lies about his childhood, and, according to the Gibrans’ biography, he seems to have tried these out first on Haskell. He was of noble birth, he said. His father’s family had a palace in Bsharri, where they kept tigers for pets. His mother’s family was the richest in Lebanon. They owned immense properties, “whole towns.” He, as a young aristocrat, had been educated at home, by English, French, and German tutors.

Later, to put distance between himself and his unglamorous past, Gibran moved
from Boston to New York. Gurus, whether literary or real time, tend to pull geographics.


He profited from this, and of course resented it, as he resented the amount of money he had taken from her—by 1913, after five years of friendship, this came to $7,440, equal to almost a hundred and fifty thousand dollars today—but he didn’t tell her to stop writing the checks.

Soon after Gibran became “engaged” to Haskell, he told her that he was leaving town. Boston was a backwater. New York was where the action was. Clearly, he had another purpose as well: to get away from Haskell. He also needed to unload Marianna. If he was to become a major artist, how was he going to explain that he lived with this illiterate woman who followed him around the house with a dust rag? And so, in 1911, throwing off the two women who had supported him through his early period, Gibran moved to New York, and to his middle period. He found a studio apartment in an artists’ housing complex at 51 West Tenth Street. Haskell paid the rent, of course.


there is the pleasing ambiguity of Almustafa’s counsels. In the manner of horoscopes, the statements are so widely applicable (“your creativity,” “your family problems”) that almost anyone could think that they were addressed to him. At times, Almustafa’s vagueness is such that you can’t figure out what he means. If you look closely, though, you will see that much of the time he is saying something specific; namely, that everything is everything else. Freedom is slavery; waking is dreaming; belief is doubt; joy is pain; death is life. So, whatever you’re doing, you needn’t worry, because you’re also doing the opposite. Such paradoxes, which Gibran had used for years to keep Haskell out of his bed, now became his favorite literary device. They appeal not only by their seeming correction of conventional wisdom but also by their hypnotic power, their negation of rational processes.


Gibran was familiar with Buddhist and Muslim holy books, and above all with the Bible, in both its Arabic and King James translations. (Those paradoxes of his come partly from the Sermon on the Mount.) In “The Prophet” he Osterized all these into a warm, smooth, interconfessional soup that was perfect for twentieth-century readers, many of whom longed for the comforts of religion but did not wish to pledge allegiance to any church, let alone to any deity who might have left a record of how he wanted them to behave. It is no surprise that when those two trends—anti-authoritarianism and a nostalgia for sanctity—came together and produced the sixties, “The Prophet” ’s sales climaxed. Nor is the spirit of the sixties gone from our world. It survives in the New Age movement—of which Gibran was a midwife—and that market may be what Everyman’s had in mind when it decided to issue the new collection.

Furthermore, “The Prophet” is comforting. Gibran told Haskell that the whole meaning of the book was “You are far far greater than you know—and All is well.” To people in doubt or in trouble, that is good news. Reportedly, the book is popular in prisons.


By his forties, Gibran was a sick man. He had long complained of a periodic illness, which he called the flu. Now he decided that the malady was not in his body but in his soul. There was a great book inside him—greater than “The Prophet”—but he couldn’t get it out.

He had another difficulty: alcoholism, a situation that may have developed soon after “The Prophet” was published, or while he was writing it. Robin Waterfield thinks that Gibran’s basic problem may have been a feeling of hypocrisy, in that his life so contradicted his pose as a holy man.

In his last years, he stayed closed up in his apartment, occasionally receiving a worthy visitor but mostly drinking arak, a Syrian liquor that Marianna sent to him, apparently by the gallon. By the spring of 1931, he was bedridden, and one morning the woman who brought him his breakfast decided that his condition was dangerous. Gibran was taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital, where he died later that day.

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