Category Archives: News from Neil

New Beatitudes Chant CD released from world music group ‘Sofia’

2 February 2017

A few years ago, Gospel singer Timothy Frantzich, whom I met at a Robert Bly conference, asked if he could arrange my Beatitude chant melodies for a small choral ensemble. That new creation is now here–a world music collaboration by the group ‘Sofia’ in Minnesota, USA: Timothy Frantzich, Carin Vagle and Dean Magraw.  Beautiful voices, splendid guitar, flutes, percussion and a rhythmic, meditative experience to carry you through the “Beatitude Way.”

Here is a short extract from the third Beatitude, “Tubwayhun l’makikhe d’hennon nertun ar’ah”–ripe are those finding their natural inheritance of strength and healing from nature–and their original nature. This is the one usually translated “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.”

You can find out more about the recording as well as links to purchase it in either CD or iTunes format here:

www.sofiasings.net

Later today, I am doing a live interview with Janet Conner on Unity Radio on the Beatitude Way, applying it to life today as we find it. The Beatitudes are an eyes-open prayer, calling us to awaken to what is important in life right now–“what is really ours to do?”

You an listen live here:

http://www.unity.fm/program/TheSoulDirectedLife

The archive of the recording will be online here, probably by tomorrow (Friday 3 February):

http://www.unity.fm/episode/TheSoulDirectedLife_020217

Happy Candlemas and Imbolc to all!

Neil

 

 

 

 

New Offerings from the Abwoon Network and ARC Books

Dear Friends,

I am happy to announce the following new offerings at the Abwoon Network store site. My thanks to a number of friends who helped make these possible, including Richard Abdul Haqq, Jelaluddin Sturm, Katie Shroth, Jim Gentles, Jannat Granger and Farid Granger.

Love and blessings for the New Year!

Neil

Audio Downloads:

25% discount on all audio downloads at the site until 6 January 2017.

Use this code (once per person):  NEWYEAR17

Vectors of Love

Vectors of Love Live Workshop

A weekend workshop from April 2015 with one of the early trials of the ‘Nomad’s Way’ theme I have been working with. Also includes: the relation of our earliest human memories to some of the “Beautiful Names of Allah’–qualities we already possess, but may have forgotten. Also: the four Daroods that were given to Murshid Samuel Lewis by Sufi Barkat Ali, taught as both chants and Walks. 12.5 hours total: 

http://abwoon.org/downloads/vectors-of-love-workshop/


Sufi Stories LiveSufi Stories Live, Volume One

I have gone rummaging through my archives and begun to unearth some of the best live recordings of Sufi stories and world wisdom tales that I have shared over the past decade. The first volume contains: Mullah Nasruddin’s Jobs, Mullah and the Parrot, The Goldsmith’s Daughter, Mullah’s Missing Donkey, Sufi Stories of Mariam and Jesus, The Shaykh and Halva and Jonah’s Zikr and Story.

http://abwoon.org/downloads/3075/

New Books:

original_meditation_sm

Original Meditation:

The Aramaic Jesus and the Spirituality of Creation

By Neil Douglas-Klotz

A new paperback edition of  “Genesis Meditations” with original cover art by Murshida Fatima Lassar and cover design by Jelaluddin Sturm in Berlin. “One of the best spiritual books of the year”–Spirituality and Health

Today apocalyptic predictions and images dominate popular culture and social media. Yet for most of our history, human consciousness focused on the mystery of beginnings, not endings. Our ancestors felt that the most powerful energy and clearest vision for the future  could be found at our inception.  They meditated on stories of the Great Beginning as the way to go forward.

http://abwoon.org/originalmeditation/

 

A Book of Self Re-education

By Raden Ayou Jodjana

Foreword by Neil Douglas-Klotz

A Book of Self Re-education is a treasure house for all who wish to explore the creative essence of life in the substances of their bodily form. Raden Ayou Jodjana (1888-1981), beloved student of the Sufi Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan and devoted wife of Prince Raden Mas Jodjana, the great Jananese dancer, here expresses the inexpressible teaching of these two great masters as a step-by-step guide to waking up fully inside our human bodies.

http://abwoon.org/a-book-of-self-re-education/

We Need Your Help for an Important Project

7 September 2016

 

Dear Friends,

I’m writing a personal letter to the Abwoon Network to ask your help in completing the project to restore the dargah (gravesite) of Murshid Samuel Lewis in New Mexico. Whatever you may or may not have read about this in past, I would request a few moments of your time to consider the following, some of which you may not have heard before.

As one of the first practicing inter-spiritual mystics of the 20th century, Murshid Samuel Lewis nurtured his own spiritual life with three simple things: retreat, pilgrimage and a deep, inner connection to his teachers. The three went together. Throughout his life, he travelled on retreat or pilgrimage to visit living teachers or absorb their living presence at a sacred site. While there, he received the inspirations that formed the basis of his life and work. Whether it was his study with Buddhist Zen teachers, with Swami Papa Ramdas or with Christian mystics and Sufis, he always felt that genuine spiritual work for peace resulted from living experience and vision rather than ideas and concepts. The Dances of Universal Peace and spiritual Walks—the culmination of his work—were sparked by a vision that he received at the dargah of the Sufi saint Selim Chishti in India. Shortly afterwards, when Murshid S.A.M. visited Ruth St Denis, his spiritual dance teacher, she confirmed the vision.

Likewise, the International Dances of Universal Peace Network, in the form we have it, resulted from a vision received by this person at the dargah of Murshid S.A.M. at Lama Foundation in New Mexico in October 1982. Along with this, at the same time, came the vision that led to the first Aramaic Dances for the Prayer of Jesus. Following this, I began to do the scholarly work that led to my first book, Prayers of the Cosmos.

This vision happened during a month-long pilgrimage led by Murshid Wali Ali Meyer, during which about twenty of us rebuilt Murshid S.A.M.’s dargah, which was falling into decay due to its harsh surroundings. The vision was confirmed by my own teacher, Murshid Moineddin, as well as by meeting my spiritual sister Murshida Tasnim Fernandez, with whom I began the Dance Network.

All of you reading this who are engaged in some way with the Dances or the Aramaic Jesus work will find that it is because of one or both of these visions, which resulted from pilgrimages to a dargah.

All things fall into decay eventually. Some things worth keeping need to be maintained and sometimes rebuilt, with effort and sacrifice. Sacred sites around the world have been made sacred by combining earth energies with the group devotion of a community of people who sacrificed to keep a particular portal between the worlds open for those coming along later.

Of course, anyone can receive a vision anywhere, under any circumstances. But it is no coincidence that more of these occur at sacred sites, which are kept alive by a field of group devotion, effort and sacrifice.

Some years ago, we again reached the point where Murshid’s dargah needed to be completely rebuilt. When I visited the dargah in August 2014, it was clear—from comparing its present state with what we had designed and rebuilt in 1982—that the site had already substantially eroded into the hillside. This was no one’s fault. It resulted from a combination of factors. First, the 1996 fire at Lama changed the drainage and ecology of the hillside. Second, the changing demographics of our Dance and Sufi commuities: we got older and less capable of the heavy lifting we did 34 years ago during the rebuild or by which we maintained the dargah in the ten years following during our annual summer Dance camps. Third, the changing demographics of the Lama community in the last decade: during this time the average time a permanent resident remained in the community shortened dramatically from ten years to five to its current two. With such a quick turnover, more immediate survival needs in a wilderness community take priority.

While some people like the image of our dargah gradually fading away, to me this attitude reflects laziness rather than an enlightened attitude to impermanence. Valuable things are worth reusing and reviving, rather than simply throwing away—an attitude our superficially impermanent consumer society promotes.

An additional factor: if you burrow into the internet news, you will see that Sufi sacred sites around the world are being threatened and destroyed by extremists of all sorts–in Africa, East Asia and the Middle East. These include the very dargahs that Murshid SAM himself visited. We may well be in a situation where sacred lineage portals like ours can only survive in the West for the moment, much as Tibetan Buddhism is surviving in exile from its historical homeland.

dargah423x300

 

We are now in the final phase of the dargah restoration, which will be complete by summer 2017.

For the final push we need 300 people who are willing to donate a total of $1000 over the next three years (2016-2018). That’s about $333 a year, less than what most of us spend a year on workshops, retreats and camps.

This one is ours to do. It cannot wait for another generation. One can come up with all sorts of excuses why it can’t be done, or shouldn’t be done, or could be done differently. Having studied the budget and plans in depth, as well as the whole history of the dargah’s maintenance and the Sufi Ruhaniat’s communications around this with Lama Foundation (which began more than 20 years ago in Pir Moineddin’s time), I’m convinced that this project is being done in the most cost-efficient, maintainable, ecological and beautiful way possible, in consideration of the long-term benefit to both the human and natural communities involved.

After our own Dance circles are forgotten, the dargah will be there, hopefully to provide visionary inspiration for a whole new generation of Dancers, who may need to revolutionize what we’re doing in the same way that the Dance Network did ten years after Murshid S.A.M.’s passing. At that point, Murshida Tasnim and I began the Dance Network with $500, and look where we are today.

Please join me in making the pledge mentioned above and manifesting this. Here is the link:

http://www.ruhaniat.org/index.php/work/dargah-project

If you can give more, give more. If you can give less, do that. Every person who puts in some energy, and makes some sacrifice in the name of devotion, helps clear the channel for others. We can talk about “paying it forward” as much as we want, but this is one practical thing we can actually do to help sustain the future of the Dances—and the living interspiritual work that Murshid SAM began—for coming generations. Don’t miss the opportunity to say you helped make this happen.

Love and blessings,

Neil Douglas-Klotz

Fife, Scotland

 

New book release: Illuminating the Shadow

Moineddin Illuminating Cover Lay_6 kompl print.indd

 

Illuminating the Shadow:

The Life, Love and Laughter of a 20th century Sufi

Moineddin Jablonski

Edited and with an introduction and notes by Neil Douglas-Klotz

Sufi Ruhaniat International, 392 pages, $18.95

 

For the past four years, I have been working with a team on a collection of the articles, interviews, correspondence and other writings of Murshid Moineddin Jablonski (1942-2001), my spiritual guide.

As the book Sufi Vision and Initiation did for Murshid Samuel L. Lewis, we wanted to allow Moineddin’s own words, woven together, to reveal his own very human and inspiring life story. The completed book is something between autobiography and found “actuality”—-combining all of his more refined writing and spiritual commentary, as well as interviews, letters, emails and unpublished poetry. These prayer-beads, threaded together, reveal the necklace of service and devotion that formed the last thirty years of his life, from age twenty-nine until his passing at fifty-nine.

The book is now out, in both printed and ebook formats. Below you will find the book’s description, a few of the many endorsements and some short excerpts.

The whole process has been very inspiring, and as several of the endorsements say, putting all of the pieces in place have allowed those of us who knew Moineddin to see him in a new way. For those who never knew him in the body, it introduces the wisdom of his life and teaching to a wider community.

To order the book in the print edition, please go to this url: www.tinyurl.com/illuminatingshadow

The price is US $18.95 plus shipping. Using this website estore maximizes the return for the Sufi Ruhaniat. The only royalty being paid is going to Moineddin’s four children. If you live outside of the USA, just use the slowest shipping and ignore the dire predictions of how long it will take. After several tests, the slowest shipping delivers the book to Europe in about a week. We will also have copies at the Ruhaniat European Summer School in July.

For the Kindle ebook edition, please go to your local Amazon site.

May all we do return to praise the One!

Neil Douglas-Klotz

===

Illuminating the Shadow collects the Sufi writings of Moineddin Carl Jablonski (1942-2001), the spiritual successor of Samuel L. Lewis, founder of the Dances of Universal Peace and originator of a branch of the Chishtia Sufi lineage currently called the Sufi Ruhaniat International.

The book weaves autobiography, letters, poems, articles and interviews to provide a unique glimpse of an illuminated Western-born mystic. Jablonski faced enormous inner and outer challenges as he sought to establish an authentic, living Sufi tradition in the West.

“A book of subtle messages which will challenge and inspire any serious seeker, regardless of ethnic or religious background.”

Muneera Haeri, author of The Chishtis: A Living Light and co-author with Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri of Sufi Links

“This book illuminates, in his own words, the life of a gentle and gifted soul. Over the three decades I knew Moineddin Jablonski we enjoyed many intimacies, including countless hours of music-making, the study of Sufism under his guidance, and open, spacious darshans. I thought I knew him well. But in reading Illuminating the Shadow I received a newly clear, coherent picture of the whole man in all his glories and tortures, and I’ve come to love him as never before. Thanks to this savvy presentation of his writings, Moineddin’s vision can now light the way for many more seekers of the realized life.”

W. A. Mathieu, author of The Listening Book and Bridge of Waves

“…a rich compendium of anecdote and teaching of the eclectic and universalist shaman, Moineddin Carl Jablonski, direct heir to Samuel Lewis, Sufi and Zen master. Illuminating The Shadow is an important read for anyone interested in the Light and Shadow of our human story, and the journey of the soul. Douglas-Klotz adds to the current mystical wisdom stream with this poignant exposition of the life, love and laughter of this Sufi leader and humble practitioner.”

Mariam Baker, author of Woman as Divine: Tales of the Goddess

 

Excerpts:

The Kidneys of Our Hearts (Letter, 1980)

“There is nothing but Love, and if we feel the brief crucifixions that improve our fana let us keep Allah foremost in our heart-breath. It is all a process, at once enlightened and eternal, and also a gradual awakening according to our innocence, strength, purity and love. But until these latter become entirely of Allah, instead of “ours,” there will be more need for some little pain.

“Also, the world’s condition is being poured through the kidneys of our hearts. Why should it be otherwise? We asked for this before the beginning of time.

“Now let us be who we are.”

Lessons from the Book of Love (Letter, 1983)

“Many of the lessons we must learn are hard lessons, and many we make hard. Some others may be easier to master, and our own ease makes them so. But all of our lessons, and we are here only to learn them, are given out from the Book of Love authored by the Hand of God.”

The Flavor of Murshid S.A.M.’s Transmission (Interview, 1992)

“I think the essential qualities of the Sufi Islamia Ruhaniat Society (SIRS) can be found living in the hearts of the Mureeds as: Sincere seeking; devoted practice; deep inner experience; universal vision. We are developing in our own lives the God-realization not only of Murshid S.A.M. and Hazrat Inayat Khan, but of all the Illuminated Souls, male and female, of all times and places and cultures and schools.

“Does that sound extravagant? It isn’t really. The Sufi invocation is our basic and primary teaching. We encourage a strong, vital and open approach to personal and spiritual wholeness. We are not afraid to be ourselves. We are daring in our quest to reach beyond ourselves. Presently we are learning the difficult lessons of love in the schoolhouse of Earth, but truly we are citizens of the starry Cosmos … What can I say?

“Our Sufi initiation and practice unite us as sisters and brothers on the spiritual path. We’re a family. We love. We fight. We’re eclectic. We’re open. We’re innovative. We’re a lot of things the more orthodox Sufi schools say we shouldn’t be. God bless them, but we are who we are. As to the future, we will continue to eat, dance and pray with the peoples of the world—and with each other—as the simplest and best means to unify hearts and create peace. We will also utilize the tremendous love our community has developed to organize compassionate and focused responses to the suffering of homeless people, people with AIDS, and other victims of personal and collective catastrophe. In short, we will become more committed and active in addressing the growing helplessness and hopelessness felt by so many in our society.”

Yesterday’s Dream (Interview, 1992)

 “We are indeed entering a new era of humanity, a time of massive inner and outer change and growth. Earth herself is giving birth to what she must become. Upheaval—personal, societal, and geologic—are the labor and birth pangs which will create greater consciousness of spiritual reality for all. As each one of us is moved into Soul-consciousness, and we are being so moved, we will select our own modes of spiritual realization. What we now know as ‘Sufism’ will become vastly expanded and transformed. It will be like the reported meeting of Inayat Khan and Nyogen Senzaki. They entered samadhi together, ‘and Sufism and Zen became like yesterday’s dream.’”

 

End of Year Greetings and News from Neil

Dear Friends of Abwoon,

Millennia before humans invented myth and religion, we lived in a state of profound interconnection and inter-being with our environment and with the “great mystery”  that we intuited was behind it.

"First Human" --original artwork by Fatima Lassar for "The Genesis Meditations"

“First Human” –original artwork by Fatima Lassar for “The Genesis Meditations”

Over the course of time, lifespans became longer and more focused externally. Gradually life’s choices became more complex (for instance, with the discovery of the seed and agriculture), so we invented story, prayer, ritual, religion and spiritual practice to remind ourselves and future generations of the important things in life–things we had previously remembered without these tools.

Because it is life’s nature to discover things, by trial and error, we began to focus on the tools rather than the inner remembrance. The tools became ends in themselves, distracting people from the sense of inner fulfilment, purpose and  healthy relationship they were developed to help us recall. The remedies, as it were, often became toxic.

Faced with innumerable ecological and political crises, it may be time to do a “cold start” of our cultural computer, in order to repair some of the mental and emotional viruses that have infected us.

We cannot return to the state of being nomads, wandering through time in a precarious existence before agriculture. We can, however, begin to recall those shards of memory, flickers of healthy consciousness that predated our relentless drive to find the “hidden treasure” outside instead of within us.

For instance, even two thousand years ago, at the time of the Aramaic Jesus, we could not say to a friend, “I’ll meet you there at 3:15.” It was impossible to distinguish minutes or seconds. No one wore a sun dial or hourglass on their wrists. For Yeshua and his Galilean community, even the length of an “hour” changed each day according to the amount of daylight. So one was always aware of the sun, moon and seasons in a more profound way than we are.

We are now near the turning of the seasons (in either northern or southern hemisphere) and what most of us mark as a “year.” During these times of change, we can focus with more respect and love on the turning of our own breath. Can we turn away from unnecessary habits of fear and anxiety? Are we holding on to something we no longer need? Is life’s passion within us drawing us toward something unexpected in the next cycle?

Personally, I am completing another multi-year project of editing the letters, interviews, essays and unpublished poetry of my spiritual teacher Pir Moineddin Jablonski, who passed in 2001. Like my first long book, Sufi Vision and Initiation (1985), which created a type of autobiography for Murshid Samuel

Pir Moineddin Jablonski at Lama Foundation

Pir Moineddin Jablonski at Lama Foundation

Lewis, the founder of the Dances of Universal Peace, this new book has also presented many inner and outer challenges. Whenever one dives deeply into the life of someone like Murshid S.A.M. or Moineddin, one begins to resonate deeply with their challenges and opportunities in life. That vibration creates ripples, waves and storms that need to be navigated before one arrives at safe harbour.

Having designated Moineddin as his spiritual successor, Murshid S.A.M. passed unexpectedly in 1971. At the age of 29 Moineddin then needed to discover what a spiritual successor is, or is meant to do, and to somehow hold together a community of self-defined non-conformists, all at the same time that he continued to discover himself (and battle kidney failure). It makes for an deep, sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic, continually inspiring, personal story as well as an unique record of how one person helped an inter-spiritual Sufi lineage make the transition into the postmodern world.

Here is a short except from one of the letters Moineddin wrote to a mureed in 1991:

There is nothing but Love, and if we feel the brief crucifixions that improve our fana [effacement and surrender] let us keep Allah foremost in our heart-breath. It is all a process, at once enlightened and eternal, and also a gradual awakening according to our innocence, strength, purity and love. But until these latter become entirely of Allah, instead of “ours,” there will be more need for some little pain.

Also, the world’s condition is being poured through the kidneys of our hearts. Why should it be otherwise? We asked for this before the beginning of time.

Now let us be who we are.

With the help of a number of Moineddin’s mureeds and friends, we hope to have the new book, Illuminating the Shadow, ready to be announced in the early spring.

My own travel schedule is a bit different in 2016, in that I am only coming to the USA once, in the autumn (I will be coming at least twice in 2017, however, including an Easter Retreat in Northern California at Bishops Ranch.) My only public event in 2016 in North America will be in my “home” community of Columbus, OH, October 21-23, entitled Nomad’s Way: The Original Spirituality of the Human Being. Returning to St. Martin DePorres Center, I will explore the themes at the beginning of this letter,  using walking meditation, breathing and body awareness, silent meditation, Dances of Universal Peace and other spiritual practice, drawn from my current and previous work.

With the exception of a return visit to the South Africa Sufi community, the rest of my schedule is in Europe next year. I am hoping to finish a number of other projects that have been cooking for some years, as well as to spend more time in the garden here in Scotland. A short list of events is below. You can see all of them in calendar form online at abwoon.org.

Many thanks to all of you who have purchased my mystery novel set in Yeshua’s times, entitled A Murder at Aramegddon.  The second in the series is in process. For those who have yet to make their acquaintance with it (or who would like a copy for a friend), you can order it at 35% discount if you input this code (TRVSMAKJ)  and purchase it at the following site: www.tinyurl.com/armageddonmurder. In addition, you will find a new Aramaic Jesus seminar download available at abwoon.org, entitled “Resurrection of Life.” Feel free to take a 50% discount off of this or any of the other Abwoon-only audio programs or recordings (not Sounds True!) at the abwoon.org site using this code at check-out: NEWYEAR16. Both codes are good until January 10.

From the whole Abwoon Network, we wish you all  a healthy New Year, full of renewed purpose, free from unnecessary fear, ready for life’s always-unexpected adventures!

Love and blessings,

nsig

 

 

 

Neil Douglas-Klotz

PS.  If you want to be updated whenever I post a new blog, please sign up in the box in the left hand column entitled “Join Our Mailing List.”

 

2016 Schedule as of 31.12.2015:

(All events in English unless otherwise noted.)

 

February 12-14: Flüeli-Ranft, Switzerland (Aramaic Jesus Sesshin, in German)

February 19-21: Crewe, England (Secret Path of the Heart, annual Spring Renewal Retreat w/Murshid Tansen)

March 4-5: The Hague, Holland (Aramaic Jesus and the Sufis)

March 9-16: Cape Town, South Africa (Sufi Interspiritual Conference) http://www.sfhfoundation.com/

30 April – 1 May: Hamburg, Germany (Aramaic Jesus, German language)

May 26-29: Allanton, Scotland (Sufi Way of Blessing with Pir Shabda Kahn)

June 17-19: Anam Cara, nr Inverness, Scotland (Green Sufism)

July 2-9: nr Hamburg, Germany (14th Ruhaniat European Summer School)

October 15: Bridge of Earn, Scotland (Beginner’s Guide to Beginner’s Mind: Interspiritual Meditation)

October 21-23: Columbus, OH (The Nomad’s Way: The Original Spirituality of the Human Being)

October 27-30: Columbus, OH (Path of Healing, Module 3, closed to newcomers)

November 17-20: near Berlin, Germany (Sufi Mureeds Retreat w/ Murshidas Sophia and Baraka, in German)

December 2-6: near Oxford, England (UK Sufi Mureeds Retreat)

 

All details online in “Workshops” above,  and new events are constantly updated at abwoon.org

Dances of Innocence, Dances of Experience

(The following article was written for the Dances of Universal Peace International Newsletter for its “Elements of Mastery” series.–Neil)

 

When we talk about mastering the Dances of Universal Peace, we might assume that our beautiful practice is like a door we wish to enter and that we simply need to find which keys fit. Perhaps that’s true when we begin to learn the original Dances of Murshid Samuel L. Lewis, which hold a great deal of his direct transmission and baraka. But Murshid really left us an “unfinished symphony.” The Dances have changed and evolved over the past 45 years. As they change, they prompt further change in us. Looking back as well as ahead might help us see more clearly the challenges and opportunities we face today.

“What must remain is the sacred phrase….” Given Murshid Samuel Lewis’s expression of the centerpoint, the number of phrases exploded rapidly in the first ten years.  The original Dances mainly represented the Sufi and Hindu traditions, although Murshid clearly planned for more but did not complete them (for instance, a sketch for the “Moon Dance of Goddess Isis,” which appears in his writings). In the first decade, we saw new Dances birthed representing the Zoroastrian, Buddhist, Sikh, Hebrew, and Christian (Aramaic and Greek) traditions with some tentative attempts to honor native traditions.

These new outer doorways, however, opened new inner worlds. Concentrating on an unknown sacred phrase requires one to confront the depths of oneself in a new way. Each “tradition” carries a bundle of impressions, full of both light and shadow. When a person has the courage to ask, “use us for the purpose that Thy wisdom chooses,” this necessarily includes the willingness to face what might arise within oneself from the reflection of that part of humanity in the soul’s mirror. Chants that go deep require more than words, music and movements. They evoke a feeling-attunement, a type of channeling that can be the equivalent of the shamanic journeying of pre-religious cultures. This why we always experience long-lasting mantric Dances more strongly when led by the originator, or someone who has danced frequently with her/him. The inner pathway that the Dance creates is like a vapor trail in the unseen; the words, music and movements are like the Zen “finger pointing to the moon.”

When one approaches a phrase from the ancient world, one that has no living religious tradition, one can be opening a proverbial Pandora’s box. It is much easier to sing a pleasant English song that appeals to the emotions, for instance, than look Hathor in the eye. One can find oneself needing to literally “heal” an archetype before it is redeemed and shared. C.G. Jung wrote about his experience of this process:

If the archetype, which is universal, i.e., identical with itself always and anywhere, is properly dealt with in one place only, it is influenced as a whole, i.e., simultaneously and everywhere. Thus an old alchemist gave the following consolation to one of his disciples: ‘No matter how isolated you are and how lonely you feel, if you do your work truly and conscientiously, unknown friends will come and seek you.’ It seems to me that nothing essential has ever been lost, because its matrix is ever present with us and from this it can and will be reproduced if needed. But those who can recover it have learned the art of averting their eyes from the blinding light of current opinions and close their ears to the noise of ephemeral slogans.”

–From Miguel Serrano, C.G. Jung and Hermann Hesse: A Record of Two Friendships.

There is a reason, for instance, why no one has wanted to take up the Norse-Scandinavian god/goddess tradition, given its history of misuse by National Socialists in the 20th century. Yet this, and similar work remains to be done, if we have the courage to undertake it.

Likewise we have discovered that when a native tradition feels itself oppressed and colonized, it can see someone outside the lineage chanting its phrases as just another manifestation of cultural theft. “First liberate us, then we’ll hold hands in the same circle you do.” Most Dancers may not understand how their “universalism” can be seen as oppressive, yet it’s something to which we need to be sensitive.

Looking back, expanding the range of chants and traditions also required that we widen the range of movements and genres of music used. In Dances that penetrate deeply into the psyche, the movements are not mere decorations layered over pleasing music. They articulate the feeling of the sacred phrase in a powerful, non-verbal way. This required Dance leaders (who dared) to go deeply into their own body awareness and discover the roots of holding, rigidity, presence and absence that prevent them from responding authentically to the transformational effect of a phrase. What is an authentically free movement? Similarly, new types of music helped us express new depths of feeling inherent in sacred phrases. The overall effect can accomplish a type of psychic surgery in one’s soul. We can go still further in this direction.

We also learned that merely adding more fast breathing and quick energy did not always cause lasting change, at least not for the better. If dancers wish to skate on the surface, experiencing only the “buzz” or “high” of a new Dance, then they might miss the opportunity to allow the surgery to work. The self of habit (which the Sufis call the nafs) can quickly adapt to any new experience without change. “Wherever you go, there you are.” For years, people fled the Dances to join Sufi zikr groups, often because they didn’t want to feel the prodding to look at the variety of their inner world, the foibles and fables that make us who we think we are. Zikr, like a “pure wine” washes all of that variety away and can allow us to see ourselves more objectively, from the point of view of Unity. But zikr, too, can be experienced as only a surface “high.” And in all cases the self returns, waiting to be dealt with. Somehow or other our soul-force wants to witness more of life’s perfection—the so-called divine attributes—in all of our desires, needs, celebrations and complaints. Alternatively, the self can divert itself chasing the rainbow outside in new forms of addictive activity.

The growth of the Dances from less than 25 to more than a thousand may seem uncontrolled. No doubt, some Dances stay for a season then disappear like flowers that don’t self-seed. But where Dances remain they have arisen in response to specific cries from the soul of humanity. The early Dances channelled baraka and life energy; they addressed a real need for Murshid S.A.M.’s early circles to explore the inner life with love, power and effervescence in community–“joy without drugs.”

Like the process I described above—turning from outer variety to inner—the next generation of Dances began to touch very human, everyday life experiences. Not the ‘peak’ experiences but the the ‘trough’ ones:  grieving, feeling confused and acknowledging parts of one’s subconscious that had been neglected. As we expanded beyond the circles that birthed the Dances and Walks, we began to engage those in therapy, halfway houses, addiction programs, and a variety of gender, sexual equality and protest movements. And in fact, many of us were them or became them.

We also expanded outwardly to different countries. The Dances brought us together in a type of “spiritual Esperanto”—a shared feeling-language beyond our usual languages and cultures. That created (and creates) a burst of life energy when one leads them in a new country. But again, paralleling the “settling” process I described above, in the next phase we began (or  in some cases, are beginning) to acknowledge the very real differences in various cultures and the unique gifts and burdens that each carries in its “group nafs.” In this phase, we must leave behind the inner (and perhaps unconscious) identification as a universalist missionary and be present to see the very real and often nitty-gritty needs we face when we are away from home. Perhaps it’s better to help one group or a few in which one invests time in learning the language and culture, than hop from country to country gleaning adulation and new highs. Better the slow organic compost than the quick, inorganic growth stimulant.

What about looking ahead a bit? How does the future call to us now? What challenges face us as we seek to keep the Dances living rather than as a parody of their past?

The early Dances featured the simple, acoustic folk music of the 1970s and the people that gathered in person to celebrate it. That era has passed, and we are challenged by a culture that values highly-processed, digitized music, largely manufactured by media combines and shared virtually. One finds hope in the indie and world music scenes, which keep the vitality and creativity of live music vibrant. Can we stop imitating or cloning Dances that worked in the past and genuinely allow new forms of music to transmit the living essence of sacred phrases today? Even zikr can become a form of ‘creative anachronism,’ a sterile performance art, if we don’t allow real feeling now to take us in new directions of the soul. Authentic feeling always communicates, heart to heart and soul to soul, as Hazrat Inayat Khan says.

Equally challenging is the increasing phobia to simple touch in Western culture. This is inculcated into everyone for fear of being labelled ‘abusive.’ No doubt, decades of real physical abuse have been covered up, especially on the part of celebrity and authority figures (both popular and spiritual). However, this does not negate the need of human beings to learn simple, compassionate touch–not pushing or pulling, not taking from a person more than they want to give nor giving them more than they want to receive. The Dances have a great potential for teaching this type of somatic hygiene, if we can create the conditions where people feel safe to simply join hands. The 20th century psychologist Wilhelm Reich noted in the 1930s that totalitarian governments assert their authority first by discouraging or prohibiting people from reaching out and connecting—physically—with one another. Text-to-text does not carry the power of body-to-body.  Repeatedly, recent research shows that the younger generation is taking fewer drugs (mind-altering or otherwise), having less sex, feeling more depressed and doing more self-harming than any previous one. All of this reflects an ever-increasing emphasis on virtual rather than in-person, embodied life.

Paralleling this, world interfaith movements in much of the world have become increasingly ‘balkanized,’ for want of a better word. Instead of being willing to eat and pray (much less dance) with one another, interfaith representatives appear on panels representing fixed positions that attempt to exaggerate differences rather than find common ground. This belies the fact that in the real world, there are multiple Buddhisms, Christianities, Islams, etc. And on the grassroots level, as Hazrat Inayat Khan noted trenchantly, every person is really his or her own religion. One poll showed that slightly less than half of the people in the US feel that organized religion is a big problem in the world, and the other half feel that their own organized religion is the only way. Where I live in the UK, and in Western Europe in general, there are now many more people who identify with ‘none of the above’ than with any named religious or spiritual tradition. Can we begin to contemplate something like ‘secular spirituality’ in any sense of real depth rather than intellectual lip service? Without being a caricature, what would a secular spiritual Dance look (sound or feel) like?

Likewise, even within our ‘home’ tradition of Sufism, we find a much greater variety in the world today. We enjoy and celebrate our flavor of universal Sufism. Yet not every Sufi in the world is a universalist, Rumi-loving, pacifist. Some genuine mystics, like the Christian liberation theologians of South America, must live under intense cultural and political oppression. They need to go deep in one well rather than dig many. For instance, a Middle Eastern Sufi sheikh in exile might be holding together a community’s whole culture and manner in the hope of returning home when the influence of Islamism wains. Other Sufis (for instance in Bangladesh) have formed political parties, which disagree greatly with one another. Others are involved in armed liberation movements of one sort or another (as are Aramaic Christians in northern Iraq). It’s safe to say that not all Sufis are mystics, not all mystics are Sufis and many genuine mystics—of any label—may not feel they have the luxury to outwardly proclaim universalism. A Westerner trying to force-feed it to them may not understand that for the potential recipient it comes with baggage ranging from McDonalds to the World Bank. And that can be life-threatening, depending on where one lives.

All these current trends challenge our usual way of ‘doing’ the Dances of Universal Peace. What opportunities does the world today present?

Well, the digital era not only takes away, the digital era gives. Without the advent of email about thirty years ago, we could never have built the international Dance Network. The new tools have allowed us to make recordings, videos and descriptions of the Dances available much more widely and much quicker than ever before. The new tools also allow people to connect with one another more easily or to find a Dance circle.

On a deeper level, the development of the internet itself only expresses humanity’s nascent desire to feel globally, to recognize suffering on the other side of the world and to realize that we live in one, interconnected ecosystem called the earth. Can we allow these real concerns, which reach beyond and beneath established ‘religions,’ to begin to shape new types of Dances and Walks? Can these practices assist human souls to find authentic journeys of return that do not merely focus on outer conditions, but help transform their inner experiences into realization? Are we prepared to be channels for Dances that redeem the inner ecology,  that evoke the “zero-point field” or that celebrate the cellular membrane (see epigenetics)?

This is not simply a matter of making up new English phrases that offer humanist ideology in honey-coated music and movements. That’s already been tried and found lacking. As I indicated, many old mantric phrases wait to be explore, redeemed and shared. But we can also use established phrases with new attunements (for instance, traditional Sufi zikr is being used with an ecological attunement in Islamic boarding schools throughout Indonesia). Are we willing to, as Joe Miller used to say, really feel without sentimentality? That would call for something akin to Murshid Samuel Lewis’s practice, which originally helped spark the Dances:

“When I saw 600,000 homeless in Karachi, I went almost mad (or maybe it was becoming sane)—what to do! The events leading to  mass hysteria and migrations still go on and will go on, undisturbed by any and all political philosophies or whomsoever. An editorial never saved anybody’s life, and editorials have led to wars and massacres.” (September 26, 1962, Sufi Vision and Initiation, p. 313.)

Imagine that Murshid lived before instant, global news feeds via the internet. Now we are exposed to similar suffering on our screens every day, and blogs and tweets one-a-penny. What would he do? More importantly, what do we do, or more accurately, what is ours to do? Instead of “joy without drugs,” perhaps what we need today from the Dances is “hope and courage without sedatives.” An alternative response would be to mouse-click and change the page, but that weakens our concentration and quickly erodes our ability to stay with one feeling longer.

We can easily become side-tracked in either idealism or despair. By outer conditions, which sometimes seem dire, or by the inner world, which offers a lifetime of psychological (pre)occupation. Perhaps the ability to hold all these opposites in our hearts a bit longer, breathing “Toward the One,” would free up some hidden life energy that is currently tied up in pushing one or the other extreme away.

We can be comforted (mildly) that this is simply the human condition. For instance, William Blake, the 18th century English visionary poet, embraced both sides of life and expressed it creatively in verse. In “Songs of Innocence (1789),” Blake writes tender, idealistic lines like:

Little lamb who made thee

Dost thou know who made thee

Gave thee life & bid thee feed

By the stream and o’er the mead….

 And:

All must love the human form

In heathen, turk or jew.

Where Mercy, Love & Pity dwell

There God is dwelling too.

In his “Songs of Experience,” he changes his tune:

Cruelty has a Human Heart

And Jealousy a Human Face

Terror, the Human Form Divine

And Secrecy the Human Dress.

And:

Tyger, Tyger, burning bright,

In the forests of the night;

What immortal hand or eye,

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

When the stars threw down their spears

And water’d heaven with their tears:

Did he smile his work to see?

Did he who made the lamb make thee?

            Can we face the world as it is and respond creatively, with what is truly ours to do? The Dances have helped millions of people, but lives changed are not measured on any economic or social network index. Might not a healthy goal be to help a few people and help ourselves at the same time, avoiding both grandiosity and self-abasement?

Can we move with both our dances of innocence and our dances of experience? If we can, while smiling at and in the world, then perhaps we can begin to talk about mastering the Dances of Universal Peace.

–Neil Douglas-Klotz, September 2015

 

 

 

 

Murder at Armageddon: The Volatile First Century in the Holy Land

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“The scribe Shemuel ben Yahayye sat down heavily in the dust, hearing a waterfall that didn’t exist….”

 

Over the 25 years that I have been talking with people about the Aramaic Jesus, I am often asked questions about the life and culture of Yeshua’s listeners.

As I investigated this, I became increasingly intrigued with the history and ecology of the time and place called by many the “Holy Land.”

If anything, what I found was decidedly un-holy.

On one level, I found many similarities with life today: an enormous disparity between rich and poor, many people taxed into destitution, corrupt officials and bureaucracies, great empires clashing over trade routes and spheres of influence, networks of spies and bandits, other-worldly visionaries, renegade scribes (like our computer experts), and underground revolutionary and terrorist cells.

Stepping back further, I found enormous forces rising from underneath people: two gigantic tectonic plates pushing together, forming a “great rift valley” that creates earthquakes and unusual ecological features. For one thing, enormous aquifers—huge underground lakes—formed under the area now called the West Bank. In ancient times, and even more so today, water can become as valuable as gold. And well worth going to war over.

The ecosystem at Jesus’ time was very diverse, much more so than today. Far from being a desert, a large part of Galilee was a wetland, complete with lions and wild animals no longer there. In the early 2000s two other colleagues and I visited many of the natural areas that Jesus walked, surveying the remnants of the ecology and natural world that he and his listeners would have experienced. Almost all of Yeshua’s teaching occurred in nature, not within four walls.

As I described what I had found to various audiences over the years, I pondered the best way to communicate it. Scholars clash over their interpretation of much of the archeology and anthropology of Roman Palestine in first century CE. Some of the best known scholars of the “historical Jesus” seem to reap a bonus from their publishers and the media for keeping the whole story as safe as possible, that is, fitting within a scenario that doesn’t threaten Western Christianity’s side of the story, with clear (and imaginary) demarcations between “Christians” and “Jews.” At the same time, I found other scholars who were not afraid to tell a different story: one of a volatile time and place, with many diverse groups clashing over how best to rid themselves of an oppressive empire and its collaborators.

Perhaps using fiction was a way to engage people. As I began to tell more Sufi and other teaching stories in my seminars, I enjoyed the experience of spinning a yarn. I also enjoy reading historical fiction and mystery novels in my spare time. Think Tony Hillerman or Rex Stout in first century Roman Palestine. So another story gradually began to form in my subconscious:

A murder at Megiddo, an ancient pagan site later reputed to be the site of the apocalyptic Armageddon at the end of time. A group of revolutionary scribes. A fictional back story for Judas Thomas, the reputed author of the Gospel of Thomas (and other gnostic Thomas books), as well as for Ioannis-Yehohanan, the reputed author of the Gospel of John. Plus: an extended family influenced by ancient matriarchal pagan culture that saw itself as the savior of the Israelite people.

The first novel, part one of a planned series, is now finished, and you can read about it (and even order it) here:

www.tinyurl.com/armageddonmurder

If you’re in North America, this is the best place to order the book (at least for me). If you live elsewhere, just go to one of the international Amazon sites, where you will shortly also be able to find the Kindle ebook version.

I wrote A Murder at Armageddon under a penname, so that no one should be in any doubt that this is work of fiction. Having said that, it is as accurate as I could make it to the life and times of the volatile first century in the Holy Land.

I hope you enjoy it….it makes a good summer read, if I do say so myself!

Neil

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A Murder at Armageddon: A Judas Thomas Mystery (The Judas Thomas Mysteries Book 1)


 

Chants, Meditations, Teachings, Stories–New Index to Audio Online Now

Dear Friends,

An amazing new resource went online today in the Library section: an index with live links to audio of some the major chants, meditations, teachings and stories that I have shared in seminars over the past five years.

This volunteer project was accomplished  by Jannat Granger in the UK, assisted by our own webmaster Chris Granger. The current index includes the three retreats currently available for sale in the online store (Green Sufism, Aramaic Jesus and the Sufis and Way of Renewal: Healing Pathways of the Heart) as well as the class on  healthy boundaries and self-protection I led in 2014 at our Ruhaniat European Summer School (Walking Our Path with Strength and Peace).

There are free live links to the audio in the Summer School class. Just click and listen, or download.

The links to the three classes in the online store take you to the page for that e-course, each of which also now features a contents list for the workshop. We have reduced the cost for all three courses today by $10, so each is now only $15. Three for less than the price of two.

The plan is to add more free and paid content to the index in the next few months. Stay tuned….

To find the index, go to our Library section here.

All the best,

Neil

New collection of Aramaic Dances from the last decade posted today

Dances of Universal Peace and chants 

related to the I Am audio teaching program

and the book Blessings of the Cosmos

These 20 dances follow the order of the story I tell in the I Am Sounds True program (published in 2011) and include the following in the list below. Most of them came through in past ten years.  In general, I now see the ‘I Am’ Dances in the context of the progressive story of Jesus’ inner transmission to his disciples before he departs, as told in the Gospel of John. I have updated a number of older ‘I Am’ Dances (like Inana Lahma d’Hayye) with new write-ups and alternate movements from what I previously posted. Finally, I have added some Dances to sayings in the book Blessings of the Cosmos (2006).

My thanks to Mary Qahira Richardson and Ellen Bush for the lion’s share of the work drafting and putting together the descriptions of the movements and commissioning and checking the musical notation involved. Others who helped in this work were Jo Jibrila Curz and Munira Elizabeth Reed, whose annual summer Abwoon Dance group ‘test drove’ a number of the descriptions for clarity. Thanks to them all and to the One!

You can find a pdf download (59 pages, in US and A4 size) of the whole file in the Library. If you find these write-ups helpful, please consider making a donation for the upkeep and maintenance of the website via PayPal at: payment@eial.org

–Neil

Inana Lachma d’Hayye (“I am the bread of life,” John 6:35)/

Inana Nuhre d’Alma (“I am the light of the world,” John 8:12)

Ninhar Nuhrakun, Qadem Bney Nasha (“Let your light so shine before men,” Matthew 5:16).

Inana Thara (“I am the door,” John 10:9). Chant followed by Dance

Shelu wa Nethyahb l’khun  (“Ask and it shall be given you, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you,” Matthew 7:7).

Inana Raya Tauba (“I am the good shepherd,” John 10:14).

Ina wa Aby (“I and my father are One,” John 10:30)

Inana Nuhama wa Hayye (“I am the resurrection and the life,” John 11:25).

Shimeny Khaotham (“Set me as a seal,” Song of Songs 8:6, Hebrew)

 Ina d’Tayeb l’Khun ‘Atra / Hayye d’Alma (“I go to prepare a place for you,” John 14:2 / Renewable life energy).

Kyrie / Inana Urha Partner Dance (“I am the way, the truth, and the life,” John 14:6).

 Nahaseh Adam (“Let us create man in our image, after our likeness,” Genesis 1:26).

Abba Abada Haimanuta Alaha (Uniting our own creative ‘works’ with the creating Source, together with grounded trust in Sacred Unity. Key words from John 14:9-12).

Shlama l’ki (Mariam) Shlama (“Ave Maria” in Aramaic, Luke 1:28).

Inana Gepeta wa Aton Shibishta (“I am the vine and you are the branches,” John 15:5).

Det Haboon Had l’Had Aykanna d’Ena Ahebtakoon (“Love one another as I have loved you,” John 15:12).

Alaha Abaru “Become Passersby” (Words from Gospel of Thomas saying verse 42 together with remembrance of Sacred Unity).

Alaha Hedi / Hayye (Sacred Unity, rejoicing, guidance, key words from the Beatitudes in Luke 6:20-26 / Life energy).

Alaha Nyach (Rest and be renewed in the arms of the Holy One! Key words from Matthew 11:28 in the Syriac Aramaic version).