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About Dr. Dahesh

Dr. Dahesh: His Life Dr. Dahesh is a Lebanese author and the founder of a spiritual doctrine—known as Daheshism. His name by birth is Salim Moussa El-Ashi (a phonetic corruption of the word Elisha, in reference to Elisha, the biblical prophet). His parents left Mesopotamia, their country of origin, and went to the Holy land in Palestine where they lived first in Bethlehem, then moved to Al-Quds (Jerusalem) where Salim was born on June 1, 1909. In 1911, they decided to return to Mesopotamia, but overriding circumstances compelled them to stay in Beirut. The father got a job in the American University printing Press and in 1918 was conscripted into the army by the Turks in a compulsory recruitment drive but was dismissed for health reasons. Suffering from tuberculosis, he was sent to the Hemlin health resort in Shabanya, Lebanon, where he died on January 25, 1920. In 1921, the boy Salim and his youngest sister Antoinette were sent first to an orphanage in Ghazir (Lebanon), then to Miah and Miah, another orphanage, and finally into a school in Ayn Karin (near Al-Quds); but his stay in all of these schools did not exceed one year and was the only formal education he received. In 1921, his mother acquired the Lebanese citizenship and so did he on March 7, 1923, about two years later. A retrospective view of his early childhood till old age reveals five striking personal qualities: First, a hungry desire for knowledge. Though being deprived of school education, he never stopped from self-education, immersing himself in the study of the cultures of people, their literature, history and psychology. At first, he used to borrow books from public libraries and pore over them day and night. But later he began to buy books, becoming a bibliophile himself, an owner of one of the largest private libraries in Lebanon. Second, a creative literary talent. He started committing to paper his ideas and feelings in 1927 and by mid 1933, he finished writing his first book The Mysteries of gods (2 Vols). By the end of that same year, he finished his second book The Lyre of gods (2vols), as well as his third book The Repose of Death. He continued writing profusely producing 150 books covering different genres like the lyric, novel, short story, autobiography, epigrams, travel and religious literature. Third, His passion early in life for art, especially painting and sculpture. There is more than one anecdote in his early youth about his infatuation with art. Accompanying his mother on a visit to Jerusalem one day, he saw a painting in a window shop and lingered behind for a while contemplating it. When his mother realized he was no longer by her side, she turned back looking for him and found him standing there his eyes staring with a fixed gaze at the painting; she reprimanded him, dragging him away by the hand. In another reported anecdote, he admired once a picture of a painting he found in a magazine and cutting it out, he kept it with him for twenty years, after which he sent it to its original painter to draw it for him again, which he did. In 1930 he started collecting paintings and by 1976, he owned a collection of more than 2000 works of art. Fourth, unusual spiritual phenomena manifesting themselves at his hands since early childhood that he himself did not know at first their source. Eyewitnesses offered different interpretations: some attributed this power to magic, others to hypnotism—a popular subject at that time—still others to a spiritual agency of transcendent nature. He was called Dahesh (that is, wonderful) a name evocative of these spiritual phenomena; since the Sage Institute in Paris awarded him, in May 22, 1930,a diploma of graduation in psychic studies, he was subsequently referred to as Dr. Dahesh. Also, a number of people attracted to spiritual matters gathered round him. Fifth, A life of successive travels. In the thirties, he made many journeys to the West and to Arab countries: among them are France Egypt, Sudan, Italy, Syria, and Iraq. He recorded his impressions of these journeys and later published them in his books. In August 2, 1962, he embarked on a series of worldwide travels, pursuing a double quest: first, his desire to have first hand knowledge of different societies, their culture, history, geography, architecture, and social life; second, his interest to buy works of art. He recorded his observations and impressions at the time, publishing them in a series of twenty two volumes entitled The Daheshist Journeys Around the Globe. On March 23, 1942, at the age of thirty three, Dr. Dahesh proclaimed in Beirut a spiritual message in which he called upon all people to embrace the ideals, the essence of their religions, not reducing their faith into external shows of pagan-like rituals and practices. Also he urged all to join in to form one human brotherhood, viewing the other as a brother in humanity despite differences in race, religion, or nationality. He declared his belief that humans—like all the other creatures on earth—are subject to a cosmic law system. The just dispensations of this spiritual system apportion to humans their reincarnation on earth or in other worlds according to their deserts. This cycle of reincarnation would come to an end only when they achieve spiritual transcendence by their own free will, integrating themselves into the spirit world. This spiritual message found its way into the hearts and minds of many Lebanese of different social classes and affiliations. It was embraced by a good number of writers, physicians, lawyers, and notables, among them, Mary Haddad, a sister-in-Law of the President of the Lebanese Republic, Bishara El-Khoury (1943-1952). Mary Haddad’s relatives, all of them top influential people, were dismayed at her embracing the new spiritual message. They tried at first to dissuade her from her new belief, and having failed, they started a persecution campaign against Dr. Dahesh first in the days of Alfred Naccash Presidency (1941-43), prior to Bishara El-Khoury’s term in office. The reports of government investigations showed he had a clean record. Thus they failed to file any legal charges against him; but when Bishara El-Khoury succeeded to the presidency, he, supported by some Christian clergy, launched a new organized campaign of persecution against him. At first Bishara El-Khoury tried to devise a legal pretext to persecute Dr. Dahesh. He composed a draft law prohibiting spiritism and sent it to the parliament, which voted against it, and so it did not pass. Still undeterred, he conspired with a sectarian political Party to send some of its members to assault the man, which they did. In consequence, Dr. Dahesh, the victim of the assault, was illegally arrested in August 28, 1944. He was held up in prison illegally and without any trial until September 8, 1944. In the morning of the following day on September 9, he was deported into Aleppo, Syria, then to Izzaz, at the lines of the Syrian-Turkish borders. The deportation orders followed a despotic presidential decree divesting him of his Lebanese citizenship. Unsatisfied still, the President, a head of a corrupt regime, directed the State news media to assault and smear the reputation of Dr. Dahesh while denying him through censorship his right to reply. As a follow up to this besmearing campaign, he commissioned four journalists who published four books crammed with low-life lies against Dr. Dahesh. Dr. Dahesh, however, was able to leave Aleppo slipping back secretly into Beirut, on the night of October 9-10. He pursued a plan to restore his usurped right first by asking his lawyers to raise his case before the state counsel in order to annul the presidential decree divesting him of his Lebanese citizenship. The lawyers tried and failed for one reason that the state counsel is subservient to the will of the President. Then Dr. Dahesh waged a campaign, a war of words, against Bishara El-Khoury and his associates who participated in the crime of persecution against him. He published to that effect sixty five so-called black books and one hundred sixty five pamphlets. In these publications, he informed the public of the nature of the heinous crime perpetrated against him and of the stark violations of the principles of human rights, exposing the rampant corruption of the president and his regime. These black books and pamphlets distributed in secret played a part in turning Lebanese public opinion against Bishara El-Khoury and in ousting him from office in September 1952. A few months after the new president took office, the Lebanese government issued a decree in February 6, 1953, restoring to Dr. Dahesh his Lebanese citizenship. Also on March 24 of the same year, the new president issued a decree annulling the old decree and its order of deportation. Dr. Dahesh’s forced seclusion during the years of persecution gave him time to make preparation for establishing what he called “The Daheshist Museum.” For this purpose, he set up correspondence with many artists buying their paintings or commissioning them to draw new paintings for him after specifying the subject and the exact details of the picture. Also in the same period, he composed many of his literary works. After restoring his citizenship, Dr. Dahesh resumed receiving his visitors and spreading his views by giving journalistic interviews and publishing his literary works. During the sixties and seventies, his ideas received great attention in the Lebanese society, so that many supporters and admirers gathered round him, and public addresses and conferences were held in an effort to study his personality and spread his spiritual doctrine. Soon after the start of the civil war in Lebanon in 1975, Dr Dahesh left Lebanon spending his time in the United States and Europe. By the end of 1978, he returned to Lebanon and stayed for about two years during which he supervised the publication of many of his works. Then again he resumed his travels, moving between the United States, Europe and India. Dr. Dahesh died in the United States on April 9, 1984.

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