The Children was inspired by Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet. A few years ago, in reflecting on this this spiritually moving little work, I was struck by two thoughts: first, that it was very unique; and second, that there were a great many topics Gibran left unconsidered. So I was inspired to write a sequel to it and audacious enough to actually follow through.
Below is my offering.
Unfortunately, I do not have any images to accompany it since I am not a visual artist. Maybe someone will one day be inspired to create accompanying images.
In the years since the departure of Almustafa, the chosen and the beloved, the winds of Orphalese had intensified. And with these winds the spirit of the prophet encircled the homes of the people he loved and yet left behind. Upon these winds, that same spirit imbued itself into the expectant women, though the children of these women looked no different than those of any other age.
As these children grew, the people of the city saw in them something both beautiful and fearsome. In these children’s minds were the very words of God, though the people of the city no longer believed in the God of old. In these children’s hands were the kindness and care of the elderly, though the elderly in the city had become bitter. The people of the city, fearful of the children, said: These cannot be not our children. We do not recognize them.
These children found each other and took comfort in each other. They carried the pain of the city within them, blessing it with each step along their paths, giving silent comfort to the city that thought itself forgotten by God and by his prophet. They even stopped using the name “God,” because the word had become twisted with anger like a maiden’s face in a cruel fit.
The time of their initiation into adulthood was upon them and their minds were beset with both joy and sorrow. Their joy was the joy of fruition, of the splendor of the city that they knew Orphalese was one day to be. Their sorrow was the sorrow of knowing that they were only harbingers, that the people of the city may never see the city that was to be. The great sea that calls all things called them here, and it was here that they were to find their solace, here that they were to kindle their fires.
As sun rose on the morning of initiation, the children saw people of the city gather and shout at each other to attend. Not only parents, but distant relatives and even strangers gathered round to witness their entrance into adulthood.
The children were surprised that so many wanted to see them. The people of the city had previously been silent and distant. They asked each other: Is this the moment when we are to lift our heads? Is the time of speaking upon us no sooner than our throats are aged enough to make sound? Twelve years have we comforted each other in our loneliness, twelve years have our eyes been opened to our truth, and twelve years have we waited to speak it.
Will our timbrels and fiddles now be taken into the hands of the Creator to play the music of the stars? Let it not be our words that echo in our throats, but those of the great cosmos itself.
And when the people had gathered and the children had taken their places upon the altar, the priests and priestesses looked upon them and were shaken. They said: We had thought to speak to you wise words that might assist you when you cast off from the shores of this poor city. We had thought that your eyes would be calling to us for guidance. But we cannot bear the ritual to continue so.
Much have we loved you, said the priests and priestesses, but our love was caged by our fear of the mystery we see within you. Truly, you have walked among us as a blessing and we have struggled to find in you aught but a curse. If indeed you are now of age, then we ask of you, speak to us and give us of your truth. And we will take that truth into our very hearts that it may not remain hidden, but rather become the glass through which we might see the distant star from whence your spirits came.
The children, humbled by this request, answered, each speaking in turn: People of Orphalese, of what can we speak save that which is even now moving within your souls?
As they spoke, the light of dawn danced about them and their eyes shone with the brilliance of the rising sun.
One of the younger priests spoke first: Tell us, what is the self that seems so illusive?
The next child spoke:
There is You and there is you. Most of you think that you are you without ever learning that ‘you’ is not the same as ‘You’.
That is You which is vast, which drinks your years in a single draught and then speaks words which you would never fathom to have invented.
There is a center in You that turns the whole world around you. It is unmoved, but it sparkles now here and now there as a diamond shimmers in light that changes.
The center of You is the diamond, and you are the light that changes. The center is Soul. And you are the self. Soul finds its joy in the self. And the self is the lens through which Soul sees the beauty and vividness of the glorious world our Creator offers us. The self is to be the instrument of Soul.
Wherever you go, Soul is always within you, for how can you be separate from your soul? Love your Soul as it loves its self: with undying devotion and an innocent willingness to go where it wills. For the will of your Self is grander by far than the will of your self. It does not lose itself in obsessions and infatuations. It is slow burning, like the embers beneath a hearth fire which give the fire its potency and its durability.
Whereas the will of your self is curious, indecisive, passionate, tinkering, and ever so foolish; the will of Soul is firm, enduring, patient. overwhelming, and ever so wise. Soul is not so boastful that it needs to brag of its deeds to your self. Soul communes at all times with the Creator. It knows what it wants and though self may pester it for clues, it speaks to self only what is necessary. For if self knew too much, it would become boastful and over-proud.
Be foolish, for that is what your self must be. Love your foolishness, take joy in it, and laugh when your foolishness lands you in a pickle. If you were only Soul without self, you could never enjoy the laughing surprise of discovering your inconceivable absurdity.
But as you love your foolishness, be not wedded to the whims of your self. The self is as the wind: flitting, playful, but uncertain. Self loves to stake claims about itself and about Soul, but its claims are as sure and lasting as the teams in a game of sport. When the game is over, let go the claims, for Soul is beyond all claims. It is mirthful in the games of self, but is not bound by them.
As your self passes from one game to the next, remember that there is a direction known to Soul. Trust in Soul’s direction, even if the games of self seem opposed one to another.
The priest rose again and asked: And what of good and evil?
The next child answered:
You can not be Good or Evil by accident. All of us are good and evil, for these are the light and dark within us, but we can not be both Good and Evil.
The Good love to serve all the world. The Good feel the whole of existence as a body and themselves as a cell therein. The Good are not without freedom or without individuality. They do not lose in being Good, but gain. The Good may sometimes find themselves lonely and despairing, but they are never alone and always find faith when despair subsides. The Good carry the glory of the Creator with them to every occasion, however small, for they know that the Creator graces every occasion with Its holy presence.
The Evil love to serve only their own selves. They have trained their selves to be strong and determined enough to enlist their Souls to its will. The Evil seek to become the Creator—and indeed their quest is not misguided, for are they not also of the Creator? The Evil see virtue only in the self, and all else is a tool at the command of this self. And at every occasion, the Evil bring with them the power and dominion of the absolute authority of the Creator within. The Evil are neither vindictive nor compassionate; rather, they are focused.
The good is that in you which longs for harmony, peace, closeness, kindness and above all, love. The evil is that in you which which longs for supremacy, command and power, and its tools are those of control and manipulation, deceit and cunning. The good in you sings when the the sorrowful are comforted, when the hungry are fed, when the sick recover. The evil in you laughs when tragedy befalls an enemy, when the naïve are duped, and takes joy when your gain comes at someone else’s loss.
These have we all. We are not Good or Evil only because we have good and evil within us. We are only undecided.
Some of you imagine that Evil is everywhere, that it lurks round every corner awaiting the moment when your guard is down to strike at your throat. Those who imagine Evil so are afraid that this Evil will infect them like a virus, rotting everything that was once Good.
But such people do not know the strength of Good, nor do they understand that Evil is chosen.
Others of you imagine that Good is everywhere, that there is no Evil except that Good which has lost its way and has become desperate, forgetting itself. Those who imagine Evil so would walk in pits of crocodiles and rattlesnakes unaware that their very lives are in danger.
But such people do not know the strength of Evil, and they too do not understand that Evil is chosen.
If you have chosen Good at the very center of Soul, there is no need to worry that you will lose yourself to Evil. For do you not take joy in the simple act of loving? When you see a child suffering, does your heart not go out to her without hesitation? When you hear of injustice, do you not surge with energy to give your strength to the downtrodden?
When you are Good, you know it. You are as an eagle whose nest is far above the earth. You remember your home, and when you ascend you do so naturally, with the untaintable awareness that your are getting closer to where you most long to be. With each stroke of your great spiritual wings, your self confronts the good and evil within itself, choosing Good.
But the eagle’s purpose in flight is not always to return home. Be not hard on yourselves when you meet with good and evil and you choose not. It is your unique pleasure to enjoy the light and the dark in mixture before returning to your great spiritual home. Relish this pleasure. Do not choose unless your heart—the center of Soul—longs for the choice as a lover longs for her beloved. Do not choose until the mixture of good and evil appears to you as a pallid broth lacking in flavor. For only then will you know that you have received as much nutriment from this solution as it has to offer. Only then will your choice be enduring, for a choice cannot be both powerful and obligatory at the same time.
But when you do choose, remember that you will still choose again. As the eagle must beat his wings many times before reaching the heights of his nest, so you must choose many times and in many different ways before reaching the purity of Goodness which is the key to the lock on your long forgotten home.
Be not afraid that you will choose evil or even that you will choose Evil. The Creator’s glory is ever increased by your very existence, and his only desire is that you follow the relentless pull of your heart. Whether Good or Evil, every path leads back to the Creator eventually.
If you on some occasion choose evil, even if you have already chosen Good, nothing is lost. The eagle often descends and at times even digs in the earth. If your inner being calls for Good, then trust that your momentary choice of evil serves the Good. Trust that you will learn to choose good ever more enthusiastically thereby. To those who have chosen Good, a momentary choice of evil is an expression of weakness, whose root lies in fear, doubt, deprivation, insecurity. Those who deny the reality of Evil do so because they have chosen Good and they know that evil can serve the design of Good.
And what of those who choose Evil?
Evil is carefully chosen. One who chooses Evil is as a student who spends years taking courses in all subjects before deciding on a major. There is no accident which leads to being Evil. Hell is not populated by poor fools who made a mistake and were ever after haunted by guilt. Hell is populated only by demons.
Surely you are asking yourselves, “Who would choose Evil who knows Good?” But you are all inclined to Good who hear these words of ours, for our words can give no gain to Evil. So it is no surprise that you ask the question.
And how is a choice made? Why do you prefer harmony to control, unconditional acceptance to absolute authority? There is no argument or rationale in these matters. We must each feel the sensations of Good and Evil in their purity before we can decide. For have you not once or twice felt the sensation of power that comes with a perfectly executed act of cunning, have you not witnessed another who was absolutely at your mercy?
Those who are Good looked upon Evil and cringed. And this is how the choice is made. Those who are Evil looked upon Good and likewise cringed. And just as a momentary choice of evil feels weak to the Good, so a momentary choice of good feels weak to the Evil. In Evil, there is no place for mutual love, for acceptance, forgiveness, or trust. To the Good, these are virtues, but to the Evil, they are vices. The virtues of Evil are indifference, shrewdness, cunning, control over Soul and others, and ruthlessness.
So I tell you: trust yourself, regardless whether it is self or Soul you choose to trust. There is no right or wrong in your choice except where you choose what you do not want. When you meet with good and evil, let yourself feel them in their fullness. Roll them around your tongue like a delicate chocolate and savor their flavors. Let your palate become sensitive to the feelings that come with the good and evil within. In so doing, you are giving the Creator what it most desires: to immerse itself in the authenticity of your experiences. As you grow in your ability to feel, some day you will finally experience Good and Evil in their purity and you will know what your choice must be.
One of the parents, who thought to test these children, said: tell us about becoming an adult.
The next child answered:
Adulthood comes not with age, title, visage or achievement. Adulthood gives no outward sign of its graceful authority. The signs of adulthood are security, confidence, and respect as the signs of royalty are the throne, crown, and robe.
Security will hold you fast in the rapids and whirlpools that swim around and over you as you exit your childhood. In security lies the tireless love and support of the Creator.
Security comes not from a steady wage, a reliable mate or a sturdy home. These are but rewards won in the discovery of security. No, security comes from a peaceful union between self and Soul. Self cannot alone provide for itself: self is a traveler who depends for his sustenance upon the generosity of the world around him. Self is a street performer who can only play the role she knows, hoping that her audience will be pleased enough to provide. When in all its endeavors the self trusts its intuition, the voice of Soul, instead of scheming and hoarding, then will security be found. When the self embraces the mystery of Soul as the source of security, then wage, mate and home will arise naturally as the oak from the acorn. Find the throne and your kingdom will be built around it.
Childhood can be recounted as the story of your search for security and adulthood begins with the milestone of its discovery.
Confidence impels you forward though the current moves against you. When self submits its will to the will of Soul, it finds that its stingy dreams pale in comparison to the glorious plan of the Soul. The power of this plan commands without effort and walks among those who yet lack confidence as a bull among steers.
Confidence is the Soul worn as a crown upon the brow of the self. As royalty feels the weight and authority of its ancient lineage, so the self feels of Soul’s infinite majesty. As royalty does not forget its authority even if it were dressed in rags, so confidence remembers its dignity in even the lowliest of chores.
But beware those who confuse confidence for the illusion of confidence. The confident admit their errors and their ignorance, for is not denial of these things lack of confidence itself?
In confidence, there is also boundless respect. An adult, marked by security and confidence, sees the Soul in all others. It greets each as equally royal and bestows its blessing upon all. Respect knows no gain from the loss of another and feels no loss from the gain of another.
So seek your maturity in security and confidence and measure your adulthood by your respect for others. Be ruthless in measuring the respect you give and be indefatigable in your quest for the royal union of self and Soul. Respect for all things large and small transfigures you as the robe transfigures royalty.
For when the storm of youth has run its course, the adult newly born will soon find itself capable of accomplishments to match its confidence. Its projects will be as a testament to the wonder of the Creator. And the adult will say, “In the heart of the Creator have I found a glory unmatched and a purpose unflinching. How can I be any less than a messenger to this glory and a servant to this purpose?”
Then a woman, the city’s most trusted healer, stood and said: Tell us about compassion.
The next child answered, saying:
Compassion is love that seeks to understand what can not be understood.
It moves where it is needed, not as an emissary, but as an emigrant.
In compassion, the self moves so close to the other that the boundary separating the two Souls dissolves for a moment.
Compassion is not altruism; it wants the good of the other with no thought of separation between self and other. Altruism comes from duty and principle, not from an unguarded heart.
The injured tend their wounds because the part that is wounded is of the self, not because goodness or rightness demands it. Without the wounded part, the body is not whole. Just so, without the other, the self is not whole.
Compassion is not pity; it sees merit in the other and seeks only to comfort suffering, not to insult it.
The injured can find no healing in condemning and berating a wound. Such medicine can only cause the wounded part to wither and decay. Just so, pity poisons those who suffer.
Compassion has one face, so it can only be sincere. Its agenda is transparent, so it can not be rehearsed.
Many there are who treat their own wounds with either principle or insult, prolonging the sickness whose root is a deficiency of love. So if you would know compassion for others, then begin with yourself, for the sick have no energy to give to others.
Then another woman said timidly, her husband blushing: Please tell us about sex.
The next child answered:
Between two who move as one with each other, a gaze into the eye of the beloved is itself an act of lovemaking. What you call “sex” is only its most obvious expression.
Your teachers and their teachings tell you that sex is to be this way or that way. They give you exercises and positions and tell you how and when to experience ecstasy.
But we tell you when you approach your beloved with your mind full of techniques and obligations, your sex is nearly solitary. Your opinions of what sex ought to be are a wall between you and your beloved.
You and your beloved are the instruments of Self, whose song echoes to the distant corners and rallies the despairing. But you cannot make music from the Soul with a mind full of technique.
Your beloved is royalty. But you cannot show your devotion and adoration if you are lost in remembering the steps of the ritual.
There is no one who can say how you and your beloved are to enjoy each other. If teachers bring you their teachings, then look for the morsels that appeal and reject those that repel. If masters suggest disciplines, then let those disciplines ruminate and wait until you desire to learn their disciplines the way you have desired to learn to dance, or build, or play a game.
Sex with an open spirit will draw your body and mind forward into the will of Soul, just as the inmost desires of your heart draw you forward into deeper dedication to your career, your passions, your family.
The love between you and your beloved is the the very breath that sustains the life of your relationship, and sex is the food that nourishes it.
Practice technique and memorize ritual as the musician practices scales and songs: without an audience. And when you perform, practice not.
If technique you would ask of us, then this we say to you:
When you look upon your beloved, see the beauty, glory, power, and gentleness of the Creator.
Let yourself enjoy the touch and feel of your beloved’s body, for even the flesh is holy. Was it not also made by the Creator? Immerse yourself in the physicality of your act if you must—but do not lose yourself. Bodies are part of what we are, but they are not the whole. When you touch your beloved, touch the mind and spirit as well as the body.
Notice that the imperfections of your beloved are the subtle and whimsical nuances in a perfect sculpture from the Creator’s hand. Can you not see that this is so?
Let every moment of intimate ecstasy be pure and brimming with the wonder of the Universe. What more is there to want?
When your lovemaking is finished and you are sighing in contentment, let the intensity that had once filled your body give way to tenderness and generosity, that the wave of your passion may carry your love into the rest of your life and remind you at every moment of the preciousness of your beloved.
Then a young man surrounded by his brotherhood spoke up: Speak to us about friends and enemies.
The next child responded, saying:
Allow yourself few friends and no enemies.
And what is a friend?
A friend brings you what you didn’t know you needed and tells you what you didn’t know you needed to hear.
A friend keeps distance when your paths diverge and reappears when the two of you begin to long for each other again.
A friend is not like a pet or a baby who always needs attention and comfort. Nor is a friend like a parent or sage who only offers wisdom and guidance.
A friend lives in your heart and you live in his, for you are always at home with each other. He offers his strengths and reveals his wounds, but tests your strengths and nurtures your wounds.
The Creator moves in the heart of your friend and when you look upon his face, the beauty of the Creator’s dance sometimes brings you to tears.
A friend demonstrates his love with every action and your heart aches at such innocent kindness.
A friend will hurt you, but not from malice. He will disappoint you, but not from neglect. Forgiveness will come naturally, so do not resist it.
And what is an enemy?
An enemy is the tree you strike when you lose a game or when your lover leaves you.
An enemy is the mirror you break because you see only ugliness.
An enemy is a rival. In your enemy you see what you lack but want and what you have but do not want.
An enemy is a person who is not a person to you. Your hatred and curses clothe your enemy in a shell of inhumanity so that you can avoid seeing the Creator within. For if you did, your heart would melt into love, even though that selfsame heart may tell you that you must keep distance.
You are surely an enemy to someone else. But that person need not be an enemy to you.
So open your heart to your enemy. Learn to find understanding and forgiveness as readily as you do for your friends. In time, you will see your enemies disappear and sometimes even become friends.
Then the city’s most vaunted poet spoke, saying: Please speak to us about words.
The next child answered:
Do not trust words. They are flimsy and floppy. You may inflate them into many beautiful and sophisticated shapes, but a jester can easily twist them into his own design.
A word alone carries only a shell of meaning. When you speak a word and mean only a dictionary definition, you are not feeding the mind of the person with whom you speak. You give him a bone with no meat.
Instead of words, trust your very life-force. You must breathe this life-force into your words as if they were your own children. Indeed your words are your children, for once you release your words into the world you cannot direct them anymore.
Choose your vocabulary as a painter chooses a palette. If you have the wrong colors, your painting will be jarring or unintelligible. If a word you like to use does not suit the painting you have in mind, then you must remove it from your vocabulary as you remove spoiled food from your kitchen.
Even your greatest words, infused with the most subtle and intense passion, may yet be misunderstood. Be not dismayed. The light of the Sun may blind us if our eyes are not ready to see it, so we are each endowed with eyelids to shield ourselves from it.
Too many words will bore and irritate your audience, but too few will leave them confused. Even so, prefer less words rather than more. Those who are prepared to hear what you have to say will not need many words.
Words that are not spoken as a blessing are spoken as a curse, even if you do not know it. For indifference is a curse nearly as potent as hatred. Let your every word be a blessing, and when you would rather curse, choose instead to sit in silence, so that your curse does not turn in upon you.
One of the city’s councilwomen then stood, saying: Speak to us about reputation.
The next child answered, saying:
There are those of you who say that what others think of you matters not one iota. Others, however, say that your reputation is the only thing that matters.
These two statements are the opposite falsities at the two extremes between which lies the truth.
To know yourself, and live in unflinching confidence and surety, is to be willing to be hated and feared by all. But if you are truly yourself, indeed you will not be hated and feared by all. It is only important that you are prepared for it to be so, that you face the world with an uncompromising authenticity.
Most of you are afraid of your reputation, afraid of what others think about you. You are afraid that what they think is true.
We assure you that what they think is indeed true.
Your reputation is a thermometer by which you may read your own strengths and weaknesses. Everything that is said about you is true of you in some way. These things are not true in the way that slanderers or wide-eyed admirers may think, but they are true in small ways which might be known only to you.
So when you are afraid of your reputation, seek to know it. Foster a curiosity about what others think about you, not so you can change their minds, for knowing your reputation does not change it, but so you can learn about yourself what otherwise would have remained hidden.
You can only change your reputation by changing yourself. When you learn what your reputation is, accept it. Do not try to change the minds of others with words because words that are intended to convince are weak. If you want to change the minds of others, then you must learn what you want your reputation to be, and then become that.
Then an androgynous younger person said: Tell us about men and women.
The next child answered:
To be a man is not merely to be masculine, and to be a woman is not merely to be feminine. Both are found in each.
Masculinity is the concept manifest in the male body, and so with the feminine and the female body. The minds of men and women have access to both of these concepts. As we are more than our bodies, we are also more than the masculinity and femininity of our bodies.
The masculine provides us aggression, physical strength, decisiveness, focus, mental discipline, and analysis. The feminine provides us incubation, retreat, receptivity, emotional strength, comfort, spiritual discipline, and intuition. Some of you say that the feminine is weak and irrational, while others say that the masculine is domineering and insensitive. Such claims fixate upon what is absent in these two concepts.
We do not disparage coffee because it lacks salt. Indeed, if we were to add salt to coffee, it would be ruined. Nor do we disparage a coffee farmer for not also owning a salt mine. When we want salt, we turn to something salty without accusing coffee of imperfection. And when a bitter coffee is wanted, we turn to coffee without accusing salt of imperfection. Just so, when a feminine quality is needed, we turn to the feminine. When a masculine quality is needed, we turn to the masculine.
Our minds are not a whimsical admixture of masculine and feminine. A man is given to masculine strengths as a woman is given to feminine strengths, not merely in body but in mind. When a woman says men are predictable, she indicates that a man’s rational mind is normally strong but his intuitive mind is underdeveloped. When a man says women make no sense, he indicates the opposite. Although there are always exceptions to this principle, these common sayings are well spoken, though unexamined.
A man or a woman who lives according to natural strengths without developing natural weaknesses cannot flourish into a complete human being. A body is complete as male or female, but a mind is not complete without both masculine and feminine.
So you men, consider your woman well: does she have an overabundance of feminine qualities without access to the masculine? Is she unreasonable and catty? Then it must be that you lack feminine qualities that you must get from her. You must learn to be sensitive, intuitive, nurturing and graceful so that she may learn to be analytic, mentally disciplined and self-sufficient.
Or does she undercut your masculinity by “wearing the pants?” Does she dictate your life and make decisions for you? Then it must be that you lack the masculine qualities that she must provide. You must learn to be decisive, direct, courageous and independent, so that she can feel feminine again.
And you women, consider your man well: does he have an overabundance of masculine qualities? Is he controlling and insensitive? Then it must be that you lack the masculine qualities that you must get from him. You must learn to reflect upon your emotions before expressing them, to make your thoughts rigorous, and to be willing to do the dirty work so that he may learn to listen without problem-solving, to attend to your subtle signals, and to treat you like a maiden.
Or does he undercut your femininity by forcing you to make up for his spinelessness? Does he refuse to make decisions or to stand up to you? Does he always ask permission? Then it must be that you lack the feminine qualities that he must provide. You must learn to stand aside and allow him to find his own masculinity; you must learn to be passive and receptive to the flow of your experience so that he may find the freedom to give his experience direction.
No man is complete who is not also feminine and no woman is complete who is not also masculine. Find your completeness, but beware the danger of trying to complete the mind by changing the body: the body cannot be any more than it is, nor can its efforts alone heal the wounded mind. Rather, let the healing of your mind guide the changes in your body, just as your mood guides your adornment.