Pros:Thought provoking stories, good for meditation.
Cons:May be too spiritual and intense for the less advanced reader.
The Bottom Line: This is a great follow up book for those who liked "The Prophet". Many of the ideas about government and religious authorities are relevant today.
Spirits Rebellious is the book that got Kahlil Gibran excommunicated from the Catholic Church and exiled from his homeland of Lebanon. It is a small book with four short stories about people who defy authority and go against traditions to follow their hearts. The stories were originally published in Arabic in 1908. The powerful Ottoman Empire found them so threatening that they were burned in the market place in Beirut. (1)
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The edition of Spirits Rebellious that I have is a Borzoi Book by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc, copyright 1948, 18th printing March 1979, translated by H. M. Nahmad. Since Gibran died in 1931, this is essentially the same book as the 1999 edition listed at Epinions. The introduction may be different but I am not reviewing the introduction.
The four stories are summarized as follows:
At 18 years old, Warde is married off to a man more than twice her age as was the custom in the late 19th century middle east. He is wealthy and showers her with many worldly goods. After two years she realizes that, even though she has tried, she does not love him and he lacks the depth of spirit needed for true love. Warde leaves her husband, follows her heart, and lives in poverty with a man who loves her and whom she loves. She is criticized by the community but points out to the narrator of the story the various hypocrites who stay in unloving marriages that were forced upon them and then take lovers to fill their needs. Who is committing the greater sin?
The Cry of the Graves
An Ameer passes judgment on a murderer, an adulteress, and a thief. All are condemned to die. After their deaths, the narrator hears the other side of each story from their families. The murderer was protecting his betrothed’s honor. The adulteress was talking (just talking) to her true love after being forced to marry. The thief was trying to feed his children. The Catholic Church took exception to this story because the monks, from whom the thief stole grain, are portrayed as liars.
The Bridal Couch
According to a footnote in my book, this is a true story. Another young woman is married against her will. On her wedding night she meets her true love and tries to convince him to flee with her. He pretends that he hates her. She stabs him. He confesses his love. She commits suicide and they die together. The priest proclaims that any one who watches through the night or buries these two will be banned from the church. This, too, did not go over well with the Catholic authorities.
Khalil the Heretic
This must be the story that really got the Catholic Church in a tizzy. Khalil is banished from the monastery for questioning the monks’ wealth while the peasants suffer. The Shaikh of the village wants to condemn Khalil for being a heretic. Khalil explains to the peasants that they must not allow the Shaikh and the priest to control their lives. This is really Gibran’s diatribe against the tyranny of the Ottoman Empire and the Catholic Church.
The writing style can best be described as poetic prose. These are short stories with just one of them longer than 30 pages. But they are not a fast read. In order to fully appreciate the imagery and message, the stories should be read slowly with frequent pauses for reflection. They may even be used for meditation. Take this passage from Warde Al-Hani, for example.
”All that is on earth lives by the law of its nature, and by the nature of its law are spread the glories and joys of liberty. But man alone is forbidden this bliss, for he makes earthly laws binding to his mortal spirit, and on his body and soul pass harsh judgment,….”.
A person could meditate on that profound line for hours. This book is filled with similar ideas. Here is a thought provoking and very contemporary quote from The Cry of the Graves.
”When a man destroys his fellow, people say that such a one is a murderer. When one set in authority destroys, it is said that this one is a faithful judge.”.
This was written almost 100 years ago, before there was much discussion on the use and abuse of capital punishment.
Kahlil Gibran is probably most famous for his book The Prophet. If you enjoyed that one, you will find this a much more intense but equally philosophical book and a wonderful addition to your collection.
Please note that I used the spellings in the book to be consistent. Ameer is often written as Emir. A Shaikh is often written as a Sheik but I used the spellings that the translator used. “Kahlil” is the author of the book while “Khalil” is the protagonist in the last story. Note the spelling difference. Also, the footnote referenced in the first paragraph is from a biography of Kahlil Gibran cited below.
(1) Young, Barbara, This Man From Lebanon, (a Borzoi Book by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc, copyright 1945, 14th printing May 1967)