Biography of Prophet Author Kahlil Gibran Part 1

About the famous author of The Prophet Kahlil Gibran, biography and history of the Lebanese mystic.


Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931)

The author of The Prophet--the underground bible quoted at both counterculture weddings and John F. Kennedy's inauguration--was a Lebanese mystic who lived off the labor and love of women who worshiped him as the embodiment of the Second Coming.

"I am indebted for all that I call 'I' to women," admitted Gibran. "Had it not been for the woman-mother, the woman-sister, and the woman-friend, I would have been sleeping among those who seek the tranquillity of the world with their snoring."

He was born near the proverbial cedar forests of Lebanon, high in the mountains of the Turkish-dominated Middle East. His mother, the daughter of a Maronite Christian priest, had emigrated to Brazil with her first husband but had returned to Lebanon after his death. Her second husband, Kahlil Gibran, is usually described as a shepherd, but he was actually the equivalent of a cattle dealer in a culture that substitutes lamb for beef. The name Khalil, meaning "the chosen one," was later changed by his son to Kahlil, since this spelling was more euphonious. But the mystic never ceased to consider himself favored.

Young Kahlil was a difficult, restless child who loved the drama of storms and brooded over the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci. When he was 11, his mother left her second husband to emigrate to the U.S. with Kahlil, his half brother Peter, and his two younger sisters. Settling near Boston's Chinatown, the family went to work so that Kahlil, the chosen one, might study.

After he had had a few years of American schooling, Kahlil was sent back to Beirut to finish his education, possibly because he had fallen into the traps of a "wicked older woman." Spending his summer vacations with relatives in the Lebanese mountains, he met and fell in love with Hala Daher, whose aristocratic family had already arranged a more appropriate marriage for her. This rejection, which he felt as keenly as if he had been expelled from paradise, inspired in Gibran a lifelong mission to free the "children of God" from slavish adherence to tradition.

Gibran was recalled to Boston in 1903 because of his sister Sultana's death, and the next year his half brother Peter died of tuberculosis. This was followed by the death of his beloved mother. (Mother, he exalted, was "the most beautiful word on the lips of mankind.") There remained only his sister Mariana, who took in needlework to support her brilliant brother while he devoted his time to painting and writing.

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