A Book by a Seer

JESUS, the Son of Man. By KahLil Gibran. (Knopf)

IT is probable that anyone who has sincerely appreciated Kahlil Gibran’s work, both in writing and in drawing, will be indeed to suspect that his is one of the finest spirits now among us. In all of his six books, including one devoted entirely to drawings there is to be felt a strange white light of vision that transfigures common things. This statement sounds like twaddle, no doubt; but something very definite is meant. Often in reading Gibran, or in poring over his drawings, there come moments when the hard and life-denying surfaces of things seem to thin and flow like gauzy veils, revealing unsuspected verities beyond. And this, too, many sound like twaddle: but give yourself wholeheartedly to Gibran for awhile, and see.

Jesus has been having quite a literary vogue of late, but is it not in the spirit of the vogue that Gibran writes of Him. Surely no other now writing in America is better gifted in all ways to realize the deeper meaning of the Christ story than is Kahlil Gibran, the Syrian.

The scheme itself of “Jesus the Son of Man” is illuminating, even though not a word of the text be read. It is based upon a fact that is the source of all our human confusions — the fact that all light from without breaks upon the understanding of each one of us as through a refracting medium, and the color of the light we see is determined largely by the angle of refraction that is ours. Here Jesus is beheld, not as some absolute Understanding might comprehend Him, but in many ways as many men and women of widely varying temperament and experience could have judged Him. Seventy-nine such fragmentary and distorted views are here set forth. It is as though all had looked at white sunlight, each seeing no more than some variation of the seven split-up rays. Each of the 79 speaks certain that he or she is revealing Jesus as He was, and what each reveals is self.

Strange discords and stranger music break from the next as the voices of the witness change and there are many outbursts of the true lyric fury such as few poets in any generation ever achieve.As in the former books of Gibran, the text is supplemented with drawings. They are not illustrations of the text, but rather illuminations of the informing mood.