Blake and Gibran: Change Through Enlightened Education
The situation that exists today calls for a certain action based on a real consciousness of what life is supposed to be about.
Kahlil Gibran, the spark of poetic genius in the early 20th c., wrote:
All things in this creation exist within you, and all things in you exist in creation; there is no border between you and the closest things, and there is no distance between you and the farthest things, and all things, from the lowest to the loftiest, from the smallest to the greatest, are within you as equal things. In one atom are found all the elements of the earth; in one motion of the mind are found the motions of all the laws of existence; in one drop of water are found the secrets of all the endless oceans; in one aspect of you are found all the aspects of existence.
Like the mystic William Blake, the Christian yet eastern-inspired Gibran thinks that there is an entire human soul distributed to partial souls, and that man is an entity in his soul as well as in his body, and that God rests in the mind and moves in the air.
In fact, Gibran associated himself with Blake. Gibran told his closest friend: “I shall be happy when men shall say about me what they said of Blake: ‘he is a madman’. Madness in art is creation. Madness in poetry is wisdom. Madness in the search for God is the highest form of worship”.
Thus, the message that Gibran transmits is simple: regardless of what others may think, without fear, to have the confidence to know ourselves (as the ancients told us) as created beings, and as such to rise up and utilise what has been given us within to evolve into the beings that were intended.
However, much of the science world chose to ignore this message to the soul - not only from Blake and Gibran but many other sources too - and pursued the study of outward things to create a false evolution. The process of that thinking has taken us through two World Wars, a Cold War, and much else besides of a very harmful nature. For many, many years, man has been, it seems, at war with both his own self and with nature.
Dr. Suheil Bushrui wrote (1995):
Gibran’s depiction of nature represented a new departure in Arabic literature. In classical Arabic poetry, influenced by the desert way of life, nature was viewed as a force to be reckoned with; and when the Arabs moved to the more fertile regions of the north and across North Africa to Arab Spain, nature was treated as an ornament that was descriptive. Gibran, however, saw nature as invested with a life of its own with spiritual, emotional and intellectual dimensions; for him it was the link that binds us one to another, within it flowing a divine energy which is the perfect expression of the internal rhythm of all being. To commune with it was for Gibran akin to a religious experience. He regarded human life and the life of nature as complementary, sustaining each other in perfect symbiosis, which is the message of Shakespeare in The Tempest.
Through his book The Prophet and all his works, Gibran teaches people what ought to be our values in all aspects of life. He represents a wider vision into the essentials of ethics and religion. Moreover, Gibran leads the people to a re-evaluation of the existing morality.
His willingness to moderate the struggles and conflicts and to build a perfect society was not directed towards achieving power or political position in society, as all politicians and priests do, but to build social stability, to draw patterns of peace: he called for a spiritual life-style. Analysis reveals that subtexts of The Prophet start with Love as the foremost point of departure throughout life in order to gain peace.
But what does this all mean in practical terms?
Shakespeare, Blake and Gibran were most definitely not alone in their thinking, but they are perhaps the best-known conveyors of it in the western world. Because they have been brought into western consciousness, we perhaps think that 'the west' has a monopoly of such wisdom.
But far from it; the very ancient civilisation of India (properly called Bharat) built its way of life on such philosophy - it was conveyed through their scriptures, the Vedas and the Upanishads, and such was the power of that philosophy that it permeated the thought of luminaries such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Schopenhauer, Robert Browning and Mark Twain. Not to mention René Guenon, Frithjof Schuon and others.
1400 years ago, the Islamic Qur'an was made to include this statement:
And indeed We have created man, and We know whatever thoughts his inner self develops, and We are closer to him than (his) jugular vein. (Qur'an 50:16).
Much earlier still - and perhaps more intimately - the Indian (Bharatiya) practise began from the standpoint:
God is closer to you than your own mother. He is more friendly and more kindly to you than your own father.
Thus, the Bharatiya parents of a child sacrificed all they had in love and other necessities to bring up their child in its early formative years but then handed the child to a guru to bring up the child to be closer to God. When the guru had done his job, the child entered society.
At the end of that process, these three persons only expected that the child should be a good person, that he should be happy and that he should lead a peaceful and satisfying life. The parents and the teacher thought like this for the highest welfare of the child, not about themselves. They expected nothing in return for all the services that they rendered to the child. In Ancient Greece, there were comparable methods of education, designed to bring out the true nature of the child.
Unfortunately, as time passed, some kind of selfishness crept into the Bharatiya way of life. The goal of life became transformed into thoughts of material achievements in this world. A mother started expecting that the child would return the mother's love and do all kinds of things that she might require when the child had grown up. A father started thinking that when the child had grown up he would become richer than the father and that he would provide all the comforts and conveniences for his old age. Similarly, the guru started thinking that, ‘for the education that I impart to the child, he will pay me a hefty fee and look after my life and conveniences’.
This pattern of thinking exists throughout the world now, but there are people who have sought to re-install the ancient ways in order to re-create a truly moral society to combat the feverish graft towards material expansion at the expense of nature and the spirit. The Climate Change situation, plus COVID, will now, surely, re-ignite a search for a holistic solution.
First and foremost, in south India in particular, there is a strong movement to retore ancient values of this kind, and this will be heard more of in the ensuing decades. It will have a great impact on world thought, in time - that is certain.
In the West, there have also been moves afoot over the years to arrest the drive towards materialism, but such efforts - though popular to minorities (often thought to be 'cranks') - did not make a significant breakthrough. One person whose thinking had a large impact in Europe was the Austrian, Rudolph Steiner: he created and influenced schools of thought to create holistic thinking in society, and one man who became greatly influenced by Steiner was an Englishman, Sir George Trevelyan, who came to be known as an elder statesman of the New Age movement back in the 1950s and through to the 1980s.
It was Trevelyan who ran a series of adult education courses over the mentioned decades that benefitted the lives of many people, and he created a link with the Findhorn community (about which click here). Alas, the Glastonbury Festival is what is commonly thought to be solely representative of the New Age movement, but that is not what was intended.It is in children's education where there is the main need for holistic thought to be installed: the children represent, of course, the nation of the future. There are some movements in the UK in this direction and a refreshing speaker on education is Sir Ken Robinson, who I have mentioned before and who appears in a number of Youtube videos.
It is not a purely political nor an intellectual approach that is needed in the education of our children, but a refocus on the proper direction of humanity and to move away from the object of simply higher marks, higher recognition and higher awards and rewards for the child. It is the purpose of life that needs to be transmitted more than anything - all else follows.
Be aware, however, that all this - all the events that have been and are unfolding in history - has been happening within the overall expectation of the ancient Indian time span described as yugas. We are now in a Kali Yuga - the least spiritual age - but though the worst things happen in an age such as this it is also an age of hope, as it presages the coming of a Golden Age. Some call it the Second Coming. To enter that age, however, we should make an effort to be prepared; to be sufficiently conscious to be able to accept the glorious transition that will come.
If our education does not take into account the forces that quantum physics has begun to reveal - relating to the influence of the universe on us; that everything is energy - then we are reducing education to a mechanical formula, despite the heartfelt efforts of the teachers. That way of education is removed from spiritual reality and therefore it is a system that induces a false perception of who we are - it enforces the idea of materiality rather than energy.
Hence the need for personages such as Krishna, the Buddha, Jesus and Muhamed to provide direction - but most of us only understand the outlines of the direction of these Masters. We do not try to perceive their inner truth, which is based on the key requirement of absolute love.
In religious studies, the effort of western education is to artificially compare each religion one to another - not to transmit an understanding of the core and unifying truth of all religious paths. The study of philosophy is generally towards the western, sterile, form.
As a pointer to the real role of education, the poet Keats said: "I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart's affection and the truth of imagination".
As to man's consciousness, it is to the poet that we seem to have to return to time and again to be re-stimulated on this topic. Gibran wrote:
Said a tree to a man, "My roots are in the deep red earth, and I shall give you of my fruit."
And the man said to the tree, "How alike we are. My roots are also deep in the red earth. And the red earth gives you power to bestow upon me of your fruit, and the red earth teaches me to receive from you with thanksgiving."
In Gibran's unfinished work, The Garden of the Prophet, he wrote:
And then Mannus, the inquisitive disciple, looked about him and he saw plants in flower cleaving unto the sycamore-tree.
And he said: "Behold the parasites, Master. What say you of them? They are thieves with weary eyelids who steal the light from the steadfast children of the sun, and make fair of the sap that runneth into their branches and their leaves."
And he answered him saying: "My friend, we are all parasites. We who labour to turn the sod into pulsing life are not above those who receive life directly from the sod without knowing the sod.
"Shall a mother say to her child: ‘I give you back to the forest, which is your greater mother, for you weary me, heart and hand’?
"Or shall the singer rebuke his own song, saying: ‘Return now to the cave of echoes from whence you came, for your voice consumes my breath’?
"And shall the shepherd say to his yearling: ‘I have no pasture whereunto I may lead you; therefore be cut off and become a sacrifice for this cause’?
"Nay, my friend, all these things are answered even before they are asked, and like your dreams, are fulfilled ere you sleep.
"We live upon one another according to the law, ancient and timeless. Let us live thus in loving-kindness. We seek one another in our aloneness, and we walk the road when we have no hearth to sit beside.
"My friends and brothers, the wider road is your fellow-man.
"These plants that live upon the tree draw the milk of the earth in the sweet stillness of night, and the earth in her tranquil dreaming sucks at the breast of the sun.
"And the sun, even as you and I and all there is, sits in equal honor at the banquet of the Prince whose door is always open and whose board is always spread.
"Mannus, my friend, all there is lives always upon all there is; and all there is lives in the faith, shoreless, upon the bounty of the Most High."
Here, more than in any of his other works, Gibran establishes the true relationship between man and nature. With his view of heaven in a dewdrop and the phenomenon of the stars themselves speaking to him, the prophet of Gibran’s Garden is the ideal man in the ideal world: a world in which nature is both his mother and his sister.