In July 2021, Neil Douglas-Klotz gave an inspiring Awakin Call: Breathing life into words, prayers, and scriptures. A renowned teacher, scholar, author, and musician who specializes in the native traditions and ancient Semitic languages of the Middle East, Douglas-Klotz shared with this Awakin community his personal discovery of what he calls the “Aramaic Jesus” — or Jesus before the religion of Christianity — and guided some moving meditations in Jesus’s original words and sounds.
Now he returns to share this wisdom even more deeply, both as specific to Jesus’s culture and time, and to its relevance today. Douglas-Klotz’s most recent book, Revelations of the Aramaic Jesus: The Hidden Teachings on Life and Death, released in October 2021, is the culmination of his life’s work over 40 years. By examining the “heart talks” of Jesus — the Lord’s Prayer and the Beatitudes — he addresses universal themes and challenges like, How do we respond to the critical state of the world, individually and globally? How do we find renewal and healing amidst challenging times? How do we keep our hearts open? Or more fundamentally, who am I? What is my purpose?
From his previous call in July 2021, Douglas-Klotz provided a glimpse into the Aramaic Jesus’s hidden teachings on prayer and its power to transform, beyond words or concepts:
At different times, Jesus's disciples would ask him, “How should we pray?” It's in the Gospel of Thomas, they ask him, and different times in the gospels. And at one point he says this prayer in words [The Lord’s Prayer].
At another point, he just says, as I mentioned earlier, pray b’shemy – with my, or within my “atmosphere.” So that's a prayer without words. That just means "In Jesus's name," although there's nothing wrong with saying, "In Jesus's name," because that can be a powerful invocation for a person for whom it is, or protection. I don't want to downplay that at all.
But he's really saying, “Pray within my atmosphere, within my feeling, yet within. Do like a spiritual gestalt with me and sit within me or let me sit within you. And then pray.” So that's prayer without words. And the word prayer itself in Aramaic, I'll just finish up with that, actually doesn't indicate — it doesn't mean saying words. It means just to open oneself, shalutah, open yourself, hollow yourself out, create space within yourself. And then Big Reality fills in.
I enjoy chanting and meditating with people, particularly with the words of Jesus in Aramaic, or words from the Qur'an in the Sufi tradition. These are some of the many doorways to what Jung calls the real Self. Middle Eastern traditions call this the soul, ruh or ruha, a "breath" that is always on and continues from before our birth to after our death. Touching this breath is the best antidote for the materialism and selfie/selfish culture that surrounds us and which has led humanity to damage the earth to a serious degree.
The moment I first began to haltingly chant the words of the Aramaic prayer of Jesus (the so-called "Lord's Prayer") in late 1981. My body began to hear music it had never heard before and make movements it had never seen. Then a voice came that said, in effect, "share this with others."
I have had so many I can't begin to list them. The kindness of life teachers like Bryn Beorse, an early radical economist, solar engineer, and Sufi. The wisdom of my own spiritual teacher Moineddin Jablonski, and the Rev. Frida Waterhouse, who both stressed the importance of "illuminating the shadow" even when it wasn't accepted in most spiritual circles (early 1980s). The blessing received from meetings with the Dalai Lama and Mataji Krishnabai in India (1979), Suleiman Dede and Shaykh Muzaffer in Turkey (1978). The ongoing enlightened integrity of Shaykh Fadhalla Haeri. Gratitude for them all!
A visit to the Iran and the sacred sites there. Praying for a change there!
Work and live every day to erase any perceived wall between "spiritual" and "everyday" life. Eyes open with integrity!