Paul-Gordon Chandler’s Spiritual Wanderings with Kahlil Gibran
Abbreviated from an interview by Todd Fine in HuffPost, 11/14/2017
Paul-Gordon Chandler holds a unique position within the domain of peacebuilding activists seeking to deploy art to address cultural misunderstanding and conflict. After years of serving as an Episcopal priest in Cairo, Egypt, he founded CARAVAN, a peacebuilding non-profit organization focused on building bridges through the arts between the creeds and cultures of the Middle East and West. This work led him to the Lebanese born poet-artist Kahlil Gibran, best known as the author of The Prophet, as a foremost proponent of bridge-building, with continued appeal internationally that crosses all generational and cultural difference. To understand Gibran’s all-embracing spirituality, Chandler resolved to follow Gibran’s historical path through the places he lived and to contemplate his life and mind, resulting in his new book, In Search of a Prophet: A Spiritual Journey with Kahlil Gibran, published by Rowman and Littlefield. Here I present an interview with him about the book.
(HP) What did you identify in the work and personality of Kahlil Gibran that connects with your passion of bridging cultural difference and demonstrating universal humanity?
(PGC) My own passion for Kahlil Gibran came from living and working in the Middle East and North Africa. I was struck by how enthusiastically he is loved both throughout the Middle East and in much of the West. I began to see him as a supreme East-West uniting figure, and this intrigued me to look more deeply, not just into his life and work, but also into his inner spiritual journey.
It took me all over the world, to museums, art galleries, churches and mosques, and through revolutions and counterrevolutions. I visited all the places Gibran lived, taking him with me through his writings – reading them in the order he wrote them in each place that he wrote them, during each respective phase of his life.
During a time of escalating misunderstanding, stereotypes and even violence between religions and cultures in our world today, I believe Gibran, through his life, work and approach, can be an unparalleled spiritual guide for our times, related to peace, harmony, and the building of bridges between cultures and creeds.
In my book I delve into many passages of Gibran’s writings—both famous and lesser-known—breathing life into this captivating poet-artist who moved beyond religion to the core of a universal spirituality and was a unique blend of East and West. I highlight how Gibran’s voice is timeless and how he embodied a faith that transcended all cultures and religions. His writing powerfully communicates a nonsectarian version of spirituality.
(HP) Your new book links Gibran’s creative and spiritual development with his experience of place — particularly in Lebanon, Boston, Paris, and New York. What did you find in these places that helped you understand Gibran and his unique personality?
(PGC) IN SEARCH OF A PROPHET is not a traditional biography, but a compelling spiritual journey through Gibran’s writings, art, and the places he lived. I began my journey in Gibran’s birthplace village of Bscharre high up in the snowy mountains of Lebanon, among the cedar forests, which breathed life into much of the imagery found in his writings – mountains, rivers, villagers, sages, and a wealth of natural beauty. Although he spent only twelve short years in this magical mountainous setting, it was to serve as the foundation of his spirituality for the rest of his life. When Gibran was 12 years old, he and his family emigrated to Boston. Maturing into young adulthood as an immigrant in America allowed him to tap into the confluence of East and West and to explore the oneness of humanity, becoming a natural bridge between creeds and cultures.
Gibran was given the opportunity to study art in Paris for several years, enabling him to master the fundamentals and discover his own unique style. Paris was a city bursting with creative energy as some of the great Impressionist artists were still around. He was profoundly influenced by the French sculptor Rodin while in Paris. Upon Kahlil’s return to Boston, he began to feel the need for a larger artistic venue in which to develop his talents and New York City became the place in which he spent most of his career.
So, in my book, I lead the reader from the mountains in Lebanon, through Gibran’s emigration to Boston, art training in Paris, career in New York, and to the far-reaching places of influence his writings and art have traveled, such as to Mexico City’s spectacular Museo Soumaya.
My hope is that this profound journey captures the readers imaginations and enriches their spirits, as I explore this beloved poet-artist, who was very much a natural mystic who sought to build bridges and tear down walls.
Paul-Gordon Chandler, an Episcopal priest, is an interfaith advocate, art curator, and social entrepreneur who has lived and worked in the Middle East and North Africa for many years. An authority on Middle East-West and on Christian-Muslim relations, he is the Founding President of CARAVAN, an international peacebuilding non-profit that uses the arts to build bridges between the creeds and cultures of the Middle East and the West. He is also the author of Pilgrims of Christ on the Muslim Road: Exploring a New Path Between Two Faiths and Songs in Waiting.
His author website is: www.paulgordonchandler.com
COMING UP AT THE CATHEDRAL
On Thursday, February 21 at 7pm, we welcome Paul-Gordon Chandler for an evening of literature, culture and a talk titled “Kahlil Gibran: An Unparalleled Guide for Our Times”, based on his new book being released in Paris this month. A book-signing and reception will follow the program.
RSVP required by February 15 to : firstname.lastname@example.org
And on Sunday, February 24 at 6pm, The Reverend Chandler, will also lead a contemplative service based on spiritual readings from Gibran’s poetry and writings surrounded by candlelight darkness, mystical gentle silence, meditative Middle Eastern music, around a centerpiece image of Gibran’s art.
Please join us for these events.