The man was so surrounded by mystery that we do not even know with exactitude when he was born. And in his own biography he made sure that none could trace his trail through the lands of the Middle and Far East and Northern Africa. And even when he was in the West, he disappeared from sight from May to September of 1935. None knows where he was and where he went during those months.
And even in death he was a mystery. When he was taken to the hospital to his appointed death, here is how he left his apartment at 6 Rue des Colonel Rènard in bright pajamas and smoking, against doctor’s orders, a Gauloise Bleu:
“He sat upright on the stretcher, and was carried away like a Royal Prince! All his family was clustered at the street door (the crusty old concierge was in tears!) and as they carried him across the pavement he made a little gesture, a sort of wave with his hands and said, ‘A revoir, tout le monde!’”And then hours later, in the America Hospital, the Royal Prince died like a King.
Who was this man?
To ask this question is like to ask who was King Arthur or Merlin the Magician or Mullah Nassr Eddin or Saint George or Al Khidir. He was one of those timeless men who weave their ways through time, tradition and myth.
Future generations will find difficult to separate the man from the myth he himself created for us.
But who was this man?
It does not really matter to find the answer to this question. We will never find it, anyhow. What matters to us is to ask the question he invited us to ask:
Who am I?