Douglas-Klotz, scholar and Sufi leader
- uses his considerable Semitic language skills
- to explore the 99 pathways to God,
- each representing a quality of the One.
Douglas-Klotz uses the root Ё pattern system of Arabic vowels</б><и>
- to liberally interpret these qualities as inseparable from many other traditions
- notably the Aramaic tradition of Jesus
- Additionally, his exegeses draw from the tradition of diversity, inclusion and heterodoxy
- that has anchored Sufism since the time of Rumi
Although Douglas-Klotz states that his exegeses are meant to be
- deliberately multi-valent and somewhat enigmatic
- they may prove opaque for many readers
- especially those expecting an accessible how-to handbook for the "modern dervish"
- Despite Douglas-Klotz's early admonishment "Don't worry about getting the point"
- a high level of linguistic technicality is typical of at least half the pathways
- and readers will have to take him at his word when he draws complex connections
Nonetheless, his intriguing insights, meditation tips and, above all, his inclusive spiriti>
- should trump technical details to appeal to readers
- within many religious traditions
- short biographies of Sufi men and women throughout history;
- contact information for Sufi organizations, orders and centers; and
- formal transliterations of the 99 pathways.
Excerpt focuses on the Arabic word "bismillah", a word that Sufis often recite when beginning something new, and which may well speak to those of you reading this who feel called to embark on some inner or outer quest.
When we begin anything new, much is unknown. We have plans, but will they work out? Can we be fully ourselves and still connect deeply with others? Is it possible to keep changing and growing, yet still maintain friendships and relationships over time? Each decision to love, to pursue something passionately, means a step into the unknown.
When we take time to meditate, or breathe momentarily in silence at the beginning of each day or year, each new job or relationship, we confront the unknown. This requires courage and heart. The Sufis often begin something new by breathing the Arabic word bismillah, which can be translated poetically:
We begin by remembering
the sound and feeling of the One Being,
the wellspring of love.
We affirm that the next thing we experience
shimmers with the light of the whole universe.
If we look at the world this way, then the reason we exist – and the reason to begin any journey – is to bring out our full humanity, the unique flavor that we alone can offer to the universe’s still-cooking stew. According to the 12th-century Sufi poet Saadi:
Every being is born for a certain purpose,
and the light of that purpose is kindled in its soul.
Yet as physicists now tell us, we are inseparably linked to everything in the cosmos. We cannot do without each other. So how do we balance an individual with being in a relationship?
Our individuality is a unique gift. Yet, the Sufi would say that the origin of this gift lies within the heart of the equally unique, divine “I Am” that fills the whole cosmos. Every blade of grass says, “I am!” as it expresses its selfhood. We can affirm that we can become fully integrated, fully human beings, deeply in contact with other people, with nature, and with the ultimate Source. It is yet another way of saying “bismillah!”
To the Sufi, each of these pathways is really like an e-mail address of the Beloved, which all go to the same in-box. Of course, the feelings, names, and qualities of the Sacred are really limitless. But finding ourselves capable of a hundred or so different feelings and responses to life is a good start toward self-knowledge and, ultimately, greater joy and fulfillment.
Interestingly, Douglas-Klotz also notes that:
Traditional translations of bismillah are “in the name of God” or “with the name of Allah.” From its roots, the word means, literally, “with, along with, or within (B) the sound, atmosphere, name, or light (SM) of Unity or the One Being (ALLAH).”
In the Aramaic version of the Gospels, Jesus uses a similar expression when he mentions praying “in my name” (b’sheme), which can also mean “with my sound or atmosphere.” He points to a way of prayer native to the Middle East: If I bring myself into the same rhythm of breath or movement as a teacher or guide, that person becomes a door to reconnect me to the remembrance of sacred unity. . . . [And] when we remember to connect our heart to the Heart of the Cosmos, we recall that, as the Sufis say, “God is your lover, not your jailer.”