Reason and Passion

by Kahlil Gibran

Original Language English

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 your 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 your 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.

I would have you consider your judgment and your appetite even as you would two loved guests in your house.
Surely you would not honour one guest above the other; for he who is more mindful of one loses the love and the faith of both.

Among the hills, when you sit in the cool shade of the white poplars, sharing the peace and serenity of distant fields and meadows -- then let your heart say in silence, "God rests in reason."
And when the storm comes, and the mighty wind shakes the forest, and thunder and lightning proclaim the majesty of the sky, -- then let your heart say in awe, "God moves in passion."
And since you are a breath in God's sphere, and a leaf in God's forest, you too should rest in reason and move in passion.

-- from The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

This is such an interesting section of Kahlil Gibran's "The Prophet," especially the way he emphasizes the positive nature of passion. Religious and spiritual traditions, both East and West, have a tendency to want to control or even suppress passion. Passion is sex. Passion is emotion. Passion is powerful, intense, turbulent.

Gibran acknowledges that "passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction." Passion, without limitation or conscious guidance, can become a chaotic, consuming force in our lives. But he does not say we should get rid of passion or that reason should subjugate it. He speaks in terms of balanced, integrated use of passion in our lives.

Passion is the engine in our lives. Gibran gives us the image of a ship: passion is the ship's sails, and reason is the rudder. The sails catch the power of the wind, propelling the ship forward. Passion is power, vitality, life!

But movement without direction is, at best, meaningless and, at worst, can lead us onto rocks. That is why we need the rudder of reason to intelligently use the power of passion's movement so that we can reach our destination.

One is not "good" and the other "bad." Both reason and passion are necessary. They must be understood, brought into harmony, used effectively to balance each other.

This may sound like a bit of a tangent, but I'm reminded of the imagery of the Christian Nativity. In the traditional iconography, we see the infant Christ on a bed of straw in a manger surrounded by animals. In the gospel tale, two animals are mentioned specifically: an ox and an ass. Why those two animals? Esoteric Christian teachings sometimes explain it this way: the ox (an ancient symbol of Venus), represents sensuality and passion; the ass can be seen as embodying either the ego or the reasoning mind. What are they doing in this image of divine birth? Notice that they are not suppressed; the ox and ass are not chained or slaughtered. No, they rest, they are at peace, tamed by the presence of the Christ child. More than that, they are actually protecting the infant, giving him their strength. As one 20th century Christian teacher phrased it, "They are warming the Christ child with their breath." Viewed this way, the nativity gives us an image not of suppression, but of harmonious integration of the energies of life in support of the awakening soul.

I especially like Kahlil Gibran's summations at the end--

"God rests in reason."

"God moves in passion."

Movement and stillness, when we balance both we have discovered how to dance!

Recommended Books: Kahlil Gibran

The Prophet The Beloved: Reflections on the Path of the Heart Broken Wings Jesus the Son of Man Kahlil Gibran: His Life & World
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Reason and Passion