PRAYERS OF THE COSMOS: Meditations on the Aramaic Words of Jesus

PRAYERS OF THE COSMOS: Meditations on the Aramaic Words of Jesus

by Neil Douglas-Klotz
Harper & Row, San Francisco. 1990; hardcover.

Prayers of the Cosmos contains the Lord's Prayer, the Beatitudes, and three biblical passages in the Aramaic language and then translated into English free verse. Commentaries follow each passage, and after many sections a “body prayer” is included. The use of these body prayers is to assist with re-establishing harmony in all creation.

The Lord's Prayer is considered especially useful in the movement toward harmony by Douglas-Klotz, who perceives that Jesus presented it to all of humanity and all of creation in the interest of unity in the world. The meditations frequently contain a recommendation for utilizing them with a partner, although this is optional. There is often an earthy quality about the meditations, and many of these passages go beyond inner peace to peace in the community.

Douglas-Klotz maintains that humanity has tended to assume an intellectual and metaphorical viewpoint toward the words of Jesus, while the universal, or mystical, viewpoint has been neglected. He considers that Jesus the mystic would have included all the layers of meaning that were inherent in Aramaic. Thus the “kingdom of heaven” becomes the kingdom within as well as that among humans and other entities in nature.

Some of the meditations recommend the intoning of certain sound s from the Aramaic language in order to enlarge on the use of “the many facets” of the ancient language. The writer finds that the rich “sound-meaning” of certain words in Aramaic has similarities to words used in native Middle Eastern chants for thousands of years.

The author is committed to viewing Jesus as a mystic, a feminist, and an environmentalist. Lacking an inclusive term as a substitute for “kingdom,” he used queendom alongside it. He translates the Aramaic word for neighbor as a coming together to form a bond among all humans, plants, and animals. He ties this in with the Sufi stages of evolution by which the division between self and God disappear, Douglas-Klotz relies on the work of George M. Lamsa and other contemporary scholars who have found evidence that the New Testament originated in the Aramaic language. 

Douglas-Klotz' English versions admittedly are influenced in form by the poetry of Walt Whitman and William Blake. The resultant free verse creates some pleasing lyrical lines from the words of Jesus, while taking nothing away from the beauty of the familiar language of the King James Version of the Bible.


Summer 1991