Crime and Punishment - From the 'Prophet'

"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.

For it is he and not your god-self nor the pigmy in the mist, that knows
crime and the punishment of crime.

Oftentimes have I heard you speak of one who commits a wrong as though he
were not one of you, but a stranger unto you and an intruder upon y our
world. But I say that even as the holy and the righteous cannot rise
beyond the highest which is in each one of you, So the wicked and the
weak cannot fall lower than the lowest which is in you also.

And as a single leaf turns not yellow but with the silent knowledge of
the whole tree, So the wrong-doer cannot do wrong without the hidden will
of you all.

Like a procession you walk together towards your god-self. You are the
way and the wayfarers. And when one of you falls down he falls for those
behind him, a caution against the stumbling stone. Ay, and he falls for
those ahead of him, who though faster and surer of foot, yet removed not
the stumbling stone.

And this also, though the word lie heavy upon your hearts: The murdered
is not unaccountable for his own murder, And the robbed is not blameless
in being robbed. The righteous is not innocent of the deeds of the
wicked, And the white-handed is not clean in the doings of the felon.
< br> Yea, the guilty is oftentimes the victim of the injured, And still
more often the condemned is the burden-bearer for the guiltless and
unblamed. You cannot separate the just from the unjust and the good from
the wicked; For they stand together before the face of the sun even as
the black thread and the white are woven together. And when the black
thread breaks, the weaver shall look into the whole cloth, and he shall
examine the loom also.

If any of you would bring judgment the unfaithful wife, Let him also
weight the heart of her husband in scales, and measure his soul with

And let him who would lash the offender look unto the spirit of the
offended. And if any of you would punish in the name of righteousness and
lay the ax unto the evil tree, let him see to its roots; And verily he
will find the roots of the good and the bad, the fruitful and the
fruitless, all entwined together in the silent heart of the earth.

And you judge s who would be just, What judgment pronounce you upon him
who though honest in the flesh yet is a thief in spirit? What penalty lay
you upon him who slays in the flesh yet is himself slain in the spirit?
And how prosecute you him who in action is a deceiver and an oppressor,
Yet who also is aggrieved and outraged?

And how shall you punish those whose remorse is already greater than
their misdeeds? Is not remorse the justice which is administered by that
very law which you would fain serve? Yet you cannot lay remorse upon the
innocent nor lift it from the heart of the guilty.

Unbidden shall it call in the night, that men may wake and gaze upon
themselves. And you who would understand justice, how shall you unless
you look upon all deeds in the fullness of light?

Only then shall you know that the erect and the fallen are but one man
standing in twilight between the night of his pigmy-self and the day of
his god-self, And that the corner-stone of t he temple is not higher than
the lowest stone in its foundation."

Author - Kahlil Gibran


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