12/9/10

The Prophet



The Coming of the Ship
Al Mustafa, the chosen and the beloved, who was a dawn onto his own day, had waited twelve years in the city of Orphalese for his ship that was to return and bear him back to the isle of his birth.And in the twelfth year, on the seventh day of Ielool, the month of reaping, he climbed the hill without the city walls and looked seaward; and he beheld the ship coming with the mist.Then the gates of his heart were flung open, and his joy flew far over the sea. And he closed his eyes and prayed in the silences of his soul.But he descended the hill, a sadness came upon him, and he thought in his heart:How shall I go in peace and without sorrow? Nay, not without a wound in the spirit shall I leave this city.Long were the days of pain I have spent within its walls, and long were the nights of aloneness; and who can depart from his pain and his aloneness without regret?Too many fragments of the spirit have I scatterd in these streets, and too many are the children of my longing that walk naked among these hills, and I cannot withdraw from them without a bruden and an ache.It is not a garment I cast off this day, but a skin that I tear with my own hands
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On Love
Then said Almitra, "Speak to us of Love."
And he raised his head and looked upon the people, and there fell a stillness upon them. And with a great voice he said:When love beckons to you follow him,Though his ways are hard and steep.And when his wings enfold you yield to him,Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.And when he speaks to you believe in him,Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.He threshes you to make you naked
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On Marriage
Then Almitra spoke again and said, "And what of Marriage, master?"
And he answered saying:You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.You shall be together when white wings of death scatter your days.Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.But let there be spaces in your togetherness,And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.Love one another but make not a bond of love:Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts
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On Children
And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said,
"Speak to us of Children."
And he said:Your children are not your children.They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.They come through you but not from you,And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.You may give them your love but not your thoughts.For they have their own thoughts.You may house their bodies but not their souls,For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth...................On GivingThen said a rich man, "Speak to us of Giving."And he answered:You give but little when you give of your possessions.It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow?And tomorrow, what shall tomorrow bring to the overprudent dog burying bones in the trackless sand as he follows the pilgrims to the holy city?And what is fear of need but need itself?Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, thirst that is unquenchable?There are those who give little of the much which they have - and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome.And there are those who have little and give it all.These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty.There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.
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On Eating & Drinking
Then an old man, a keeper of an inn, said,
"Speak to us of Eating and Drinking.
"And he said:Would that you could live on the fragerance of the earth, and like an air plant be sustained by the light.But since you must kill to eat, and rob the young of its mother's milk to quench your thirst, let it then be an act of worship,And let your board stand an altar on which the pure and the innocent of forest and plain are sacrificed for that which is purer and still more innocent in many.When you kill a beast say to him in your heart,"By the same power that slays you, I to am slain; and I too shall be consumed. For the law that delivered you into my hand shall deliver me into a mightier hand.Your blood and my blood is naught but the sap that feeds the tree of heaven."And when you crush an apple with your teeth, say to it in your heart,"Your seeds shall live in my body
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On Work
Then a ploughman said,"Speak to us of Work."
And he answered, saying:You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth.For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of life's procession, that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite.When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.Which of you would be a reed, dumb and silent, when all else sings together in unison? Always you have been told that work is a curse and labour a misfortune.But I say to you that when you work you fulfil a part of earth's furthest dream, assigned to you when that dream was born,And in keeping yourself with labour you are in truth loving life,And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life's inmost secret.But if you in your pain call birth an affliction and the support of the flesh a curse written upon your brow, then I answer that naught but the sweat of your brow shall wash away that which is written
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On Joy & Sorrow
Then a woman said, "Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow."And he answered:Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.And how else can it be?The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.Is not the cup that hold your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven?And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.Some of you say, "Joy is greater than sorrow," and others say, "Nay, sorrow is the greater."But I say unto you, they are inseparable
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On Houses
Then a mason came forth and said,
"Speak to us of Houses."And he answered and said:Build of your imaginings a bower in the wilderness ere you build a house within the city walls.For even as you have home-comings in your twilight, so has the wanderer in you, the ever distant and alone.Your house is your larger body.It grows in the sun and sleeps in the stillness of the night; and it is not dreamless. Does not your house dream? And dreaming, leave the city for grove or hilltop?Would that I could gather your houses into my hand, and like a sower scatter them in forest and meadow.Would the valleys were your streets, and the green paths your alleys, that you might seek one another through vineyards, and come with the fragrance of the earth in your garments.But these things are not yet to be.In their fear your forefathers gathered you too near together. And that fear shall endure a little longer. A little longer shall your city walls separate your hearths from your fields
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On Clothes
And the weaver said, "Speak to us of Clothes."And he answered:Your clothes conceal much of your beauty, yet they hide not the unbeautiful.And though you seek in garments the freedom of privacy you may find in them a harness and a chain.Would that you could meet the sun and the wind with more of your skin and less of your raiment,For the breath of life is in the sunlight and the hand of life is in the wind.Some of you say, "It is the north wind who has woven the clothes to wear."But shame was his loom, and the softening of the sinews was his thread.And when his work was done he laughed in the forest.Forget not that modesty is for a shield against the eye of the unclean.And when the unclean shall be no more, what were modesty but a fetter and a fouling of the mind?And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair
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On Buying & Selling
And a merchant said, "Speak to us of Buying and Selling."And he answered and said:To you the earth yields her fruit, and you shall not want if you but know how to fill your hands.It is in exchanging the gifts of the earth that you shall find abundance and be satisfied.Yet unless the exchange be in love and kindly justice, it will but lead some to greed and others to hunger.When in the market place you toilers of the sea and fields and vineyards meet the weavers and the potters and the gatherers of spices, -Invoke then the master spirit of the earth, to come into your midst and sanctify the scales and the reckoning that weighs value against value.And suffer not the barren-handed to take part in your transactions, who would sell their words for your labour.To such men you should say,"Come with us to the field, or go with our brothers to the sea and cast your net;For the land and the sea shall be bountiful to you even as to us."And if there come the singers and the dancers and the flute players, - buy of their gifts also.
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On Crime & Punishment
Then one of the judges of the city stood forth and said, "Speak to us of Crime and Punishment."And he answered saying:It is when your spirit goes wandering upon the wind,That you, alone and unguarded, commit a wrong unto others and therefore unto yourself.And for that wrong committed must you knock and wait a while unheeded at the gate of the blessed.Like the ocean is your god-self;It remains for ever undefiled.And like the ether it lifts but the winged.Even like the sun is your god-self;It knows not the ways of the mole nor seeks it the holes of the serpent.But your god-self does not dwell alone in your being.Much in you is still man, and much in you is not yet man,But a shapeless pigmy that walks asleep in the mist searching for its own awakening.And of the man in you would I now speak
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On Laws
Then a lawyer said,
"But what of our Laws, master?"And he answered:You delight in laying down laws,Yet you delight more in breaking them.Like children playing by the ocean who build sand-towers with constancy and then destroy them with laughter.But while you build your sand-towers the ocean brings more sand to the shore,And when you destroy them, the ocean laughs with you.Verily the ocean laughs always with the innocent.But what of those to whom life is not an ocean, and man-made laws are not sand-towers,But to whom life is a rock, and the law a chisel with which they would carve it in their own likeness?What of the cripple who hates dancers?What of the ox who loves his yoke and deems the elk and deer of the forest stray and vagrant things?What of the old serpent who cannot shed his skin, and calls all others naked and shameless?
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On Freedom
And an orator said,
"Speak to us of Freedom."And he answered:At the city gate and by your fireside I have seen you prostrate yourself and worship your own freedom,Even as slaves humble themselves before a tyrant and praise him though he slays them.Ay, in the grove of the temple and in the shadow of the citadel I have seen the freest among you wear their freedom as a yoke and a handcuff.And my heart bled within me; for you can only be free when even the desire of seeking freedom becomes a harness to you, and when you cease to speak of freedom as a goal and a fulfillment.You shall be free indeed when your days are not without a care nor your nights without a want and a grief,But rather when these things girdle your life and yet you rise above them naked and unbound.And how shall you rise beyond your days and nights unless you break the chains which you at the dawn of your understanding have fastened around your noon hour?In truth that which you call freedom is the strongest of these chains, though its links glitter in the sun and dazzle the eyes.
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On Reason & Passion
And the priestess spoke again and said:
"Speak to us of Reason and Passion."And he answered saying:Your soul is oftentimes a battlefield, upon which your reason and your judgment wage war against passion and your appetite.Would that I could be the peacemaker in your soul, that I might turn the discord and the rivalry of your elements into oneness and melody.But how shall I, unless you yourselves be also the peacemakers, nay, the lovers of all your elements?Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul.If either your sails or our rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas.For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction.Therefore let your soul exalt your reason to the height of passion; that it may sing;And let it direct your passion with reason, that your passion may live through its own daily resurrection, and like the phoenix rise above its own ashes
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On Pain
And a woman spoke, saying,
"Tell us of Pain."And he said:Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.Much of your pain is self-chosen.It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self.Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquillity:For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen,And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has moistened with His own sacred tears
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On Self-Knowledge
And a man said, "Speak to us of Self-Knowledge."And he answered, saying: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 know 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.
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On Teaching
Then said a teacher,
"Speak to us of Teaching."And he said:No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of our knowledge.The teacher who walks in the shadow of the temple, among his followers, gives not of his wisdom but rather of his faith and his lovingness.If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.The astronomer may speak to you of his understanding of space, but he cannot give you his understanding.The musician may sing to you of the rhythm which is in all space, but he cannot give you the ear which arrests the rhythm nor the voice that echoes it.And he who is versed in the science of numbers can tell of the regions of weight and measure, but he cannot conduct you thither.For the vision of one man lends not its wings to another man.And even as each one of you stands alone in God's knowledge, so must each one of you be alone in his knowledge of God and in his understanding of the earth.
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On Friendship
And a youth said, "Speak to us of Friendship."Your friend is your needs answered.He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.And he is your board and your fireside.For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the "nay" in your own mind, nor do you withhold the "ay."And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart;For without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unacclaimed.When you part from your friend, you grieve not;For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught.And let your best be for your friend.If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also.
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On Talking
And then a scholar said, "Speak of Talking."And he answered, saying:You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts;And when you can no longer dwell in the solitude of your heart you live in your lips, and sound is a diversion and a pastime.And in much of your talking, thinking is half murdered.For thought is a bird of space, that in a cage of words many indeed unfold its wings but cannot fly.There are those among you who seek the talkative through fear of being alone.The silence of aloneness reveals to their eyes their naked selves and they would escape.And there are those who talk, and without knowledge or forethought reveal a truth which they themselves do not understand.And there are those who have the truth within them, but they tell it not in words.In the bosom of such as these the spirit dwells in rhythmic silence.When you meet your friend on the roadside or in the market place, let the spirit in you move your lips and direct your tongue.Let the voice within your voice speak to the ear of his ear;
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On Time
And an astronomer said, "Master, what of Time?"And he answered:You would measure time the measureless and the immeasurable.You would adjust your conduct and even direct the course of your spirit according to hours and seasons.Of time you would make a stream upon whose bank you would sit and watch its flowing.Yet the timeless in you is aware of life's timelessness,And knows that yesterday is but today's memory and tomorrow is today's dream.And that that which sings and contemplates in you is still dwelling within the bounds of that first moment which scattered the stars into space.Who among you does not feel that his power to love is boundless?And yet who does not feel that very love, though boundless, encompassed within the centre of his being, and moving not form love thought to love thought, nor from love deeds to other love deeds?And is not time even as love is, undivided and paceless?But if in you thought you must measure time into seasons, let each season encircle all the other seasons,
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On Good & Evil
And one of the elders of the city said, "Speak to us of Good and Evil."And he answered:Of the good in you I can speak, but not of the evil.For what is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst?Verily when good is hungry it seeks food even in dark caves, and when it thirsts, it drinks even of dead waters.You are good when you are one with yourself.Yet when you are not one with yourself you are not evil.For a divided house is not a den of thieves; it is only a divided house.And a ship without rudder may wander aimlessly among perilous isles yet sink not to the bottom.You are good when you strive to give of yourself.Yet you are not evil when you seek gain for yourself.For when you strive for gain you are but a root that clings to the earth and sucks at her breast.Surely the fruit cannot say to the root, "Be like me, ripe and full and ever giving of your abundance."For to the fruit giving is a need, as receiving is a need to the root.
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On Prayer
Then a priestess said, "Speak to us of Prayer."And he answered, saying:You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance.For what is prayer but the expansion of yourself into the living ether?And if it is for your comfort to pour your darkness into space, it is also for your delight to pour forth the dawning of your heart.And if you cannot but weep when your soul summons you to prayer, she should spur you again and yet again, though weeping, until you shall come laughing.When you pray you rise to meet in the air those who are praying at that very hour, and whom save in prayer you may not meet.Therefore let your visit to that temple invisible be for naught but ecstasy and sweet communion.For if you should enter the temple for no other purpose than asking you shall not receive.And if you should enter into it to humble yourself you shall not be lifted:Or even if you should enter into it to beg for the good of others you shall not be heard
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On Pleasure
Then a hermit, who visited the city once a year, came forth and said, "Speak to us of Pleasure."And he answered, saying:Pleasure is a freedom song,But it is not freedom.It is the blossoming of your desires,But it is not their fruit.It is a depth calling unto a height,But it is not the deep nor the high.It is the caged taking wing,But it is not space encompassed.Ay, in very truth, pleasure is a freedom-song.And I fain would have you sing it with fullness of heart; yet I would not have you lose your hearts in the singing.Some of your youth seek pleasure as if it were all, and they are judged and rebuked.I would not judge nor rebuke them. I would have them seek.
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On Beauty
And a poet said, "Speak to us of Beauty."Where shall you seek beauty, and how shall you find her unless she herself be your way and your guide?And how shall you speak of her except she be the weaver of your speech?The aggrieved and the injured say, "Beauty is kind and gentle.Like a young mother half-shy of her own glory she walks among us."And the passionate say, "Nay, beauty is a thing of might and dread.Like the tempest she shakes the earth beneath us and the sky above us."The tired and the weary say, "beauty is of soft whisperings. She speaks in our spirit.Her voice yields to our silences like a faint light that quivers in fear of the shadow."But the restless say, "We have heard her shouting among the mountains,And with her cries came the sound of hoofs, and the beating of wings and the roaring of lions."At night the watchmen of the city say, "Beauty shall rise with the dawn from the east."And at noontide the toilers and the wayfarers say, "we have seen her leaning over the earth from the windows of the sunset."
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On Religion
And an old priest said, "Speak to us of Religion."And he said:Have I spoken this day of aught else?Is not religion all deeds and all reflection,And that which is neither deed nor reflection, but a wonder and a surprise ever springing in the soul, even while the hands hew the stone or tend the loom?Who can separate his faith from his actions, or his belief from his occupations?Who can spread his hours before him, saying, "This for God and this for myself; This for my soul, and this other for my body?"All your hours are wings that beat through space from self to self.He who wears his morality but as his best garment were better naked.The wind and the sun will tear no holes in his skin.And he who defines his conduct by ethics imprisons his song-bird in a cage.The freest song comes not through bars and wires.And he to whom worshipping is a window, to open but also to shut, has not yet visited the house of his soul whose windows are from dawn to dawn.
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On Death
Then Almitra spoke, saying, "We would ask now of Death."And he said:You would know the secret of death.But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king?Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?
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The Farewell
And now it was evening.And Almitra the seeress said, "Blessed be this day and this place and your spirit that has spoken."And he answered, Was it I who spoke? Was I not also a listener?Then he descended the steps of the Temple and all the people followed him. And he reached his ship and stood upon the deck.And facing the people again, he raised his voice and said:People of Orphalese, the wind bids me leave you.Less hasty am I than the wind, yet I must go.We wanderers, ever seeking the lonelier way, begin no day where we have ended another day; and no sunrise finds us where sunset left us.Even while the earth sleeps we travel.We are the seeds of the tenacious plant, and it is in our ripeness and our fullness of heart that we are given to the wind and are scattered.Brief were my days among you, and briefer still the words I have spoken.But should my voice fade in your ears, and my love vanish in your memory, then I will come again,And with a richer heart and lips more yielding to the spirit will I speak.

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