What keeps us separate in life has often been religion throughout history, fueled by the business and politics behind every religous movement. At a point in time when much of the world is shifting away from organized religion towards individual spirituality, or giving up altogther, there is also an undercurrent of interest leading to greater tolerance and understanding of similarities in the three major religions. Neil Douglas-Klotz, PhD., an internationally known author and scholar of religious studies and psychology, will lecture Thursday, April 14, on the shared wisdom inherent in the Abrahamic traditions of Judasim, Christianity, and Islam, as a way to point us all in the direction of peace.
Douglas-Klotz will engage the audience in Thursday's exploration of these connections entitled "Our Spiritual Origins: Shared Practices of Peace," a lecture topic relevant throughout his book The Genesis Meditations: A Shared Practice of Peace for Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Regarding the book's purpose, Douglas-Klotz says, "We all share creation stories. Let's focus on the beginning that unites us, rather than on the later endings that have divided us." His motivation to guide others towards unity is apparent in the citizen diplomacy trips and educational exchanges he has traveled the world for.
Douglas-Klotz' presence in Boise serves the dual purpose of promoting his latest book, The Sufi Book of Life. A student and follower of the Sufi tradition for several years, Douglas-Klotz decribes himself as, "A Christian Sufi. Or at least a Sufi with Christian leanings." The Sufi Book of Life is an comprehensive companion to those already on a Sufi or spiritually diverse path, or those just beginning. It's split into 99 sections, each a page or two of 99 ways to know yourself and transform your life.
Traditionally, Sufism is known as an offshoot of Islam (in the same vein as Christianity has multiple forms), and thus it has as much claim to the original concepts of Islam as any other aspect of the modern centralized religion. "We tend to associate together religion, dogma, and devotion," Douglas-Klotz says. "Devotion is a primary element of Sufism, but this ancient tradition is not dogmatic. The messy parts of life are included. Sufism attempts to grapple with all the paradoxes in life." He believes this is why the spiritual practice appeals to so many, a logical phenonmenon as the Sufi poetry of Rumi is the most widespread English poetry currently in circulation.
Sufism is also inextricably linked to nature. "It's about the ripeness and rhythm of coming into the divine, not about beliefs or signing up for beliefs," Douglas-Koltz says. "If you want to know how life works, look at nature. In Aramaic what's good is what's ripe, what's bad is what is not yet ripe, or is ready for the compost," he continues, referring to one message of Jesus when translated correctly from Jesus' native language of Aramaic. Douglas-Klotz is an expert in ancient Semitic languages like Aramaic and its dialects, Hebrew, and Arabic, which lends to another of his books, Prayers of the Cosmos, a well received but initially controversial book where he reworked common phrases of Jesus through accurate Aramaic translations.
"The only thing a Sufi would say is that it's important to remember the reality we all share." Douglas-Klotz says. "There's a greater reality behind everything we see." As he explains the difference between good and evil through Sufi eyes, "Light means that which we now know, which leaves a lot of unknown-what we don't know is the darkness." Quoting another Sufi, he says, "'Life is evolving right now-predictions are just forward projections.'" Douglas-Klotz will supply less insight into future predictions and more insight for arriving at a position of peace now, in his lecture Thursday and subsequent workshop this weekend.
Lecture: Thursday, 7:30 p.m., $5, First United Methodist Church, 717 N. 11th St., 345-3441. Meditation Workshop: Friday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Esther Simplot Arts Academy, 516 S. 9th, 761-5399.