January 21, 2005

Mystery Unveiled

I found something lovely in a book I am reading. It is from a new translation from Jesus’ Aramaic on his teaching on meditation. Feel the beauty floating through and between these lines:

When you want to lay yourself open for the divine,
like a snare that is hollowed out to its depth,
like a canopy that projects a shadow
from the divine heat and light
into your soul,
then go into your inner place physically,
or to that story or symbol that reminds you of the sacred.
Close the door of your awareness to
the public person you think yourself to be.
Pray to the parent of creation, with your inner sense,
the outer senses turned within.
Veiling yourself, the mystery may be unveiled through you.
By opening yourself to the flow of the sacred,
somewhere, resounding in some inner form,
the swell of the divine ocean can move through you.
The breathing life of all reveals itself
in the way you live your life.

8 comments:

Joe G. said...

I'm curious to know which book you got this from. What an interesting translation on the passage where Jesus instructs to pray "in secret" (if I'm recognizing it correctly). Thanks for sharing!

Meredith said...

Hi Joe,
This is from Matthew Fox's One River Many Wells book. You're right, it is from Matthew 6:6, usually translated "But when you pray enter into your closet."

I don't have to tell you how strange the usual translation sounds...
M

Marjorie said...

thank you for posting this, Meredith -- this is truly a book I'd like to read.

Jon said...

Hi, Meredith!

<sigh> I can always recognize a Neil Douglas-Klotz interpretation. It's a stunningly beautiful guided meditation.

However, as one who has studied Semitic languages, I can't help but cringe at the way Douglas-Klotz markets his meditations as "translations," and how he dupes some into believing that he's finally decoded the "hidden messages" (There's a lot of that going around these days!) Aramaic is a perfectly ordinary Semitic language. Almost every word in it is cognate to Hebrew and Arabic, and a sentence in Aramaic is never properly translated as ten to twenty sentences in English. (Klotz actually does go that far in Prayers of the Cosmos, and The Hidden Gospel.)

That said, it is true that Semitic concepts as in verbs and abstract nouns do tend to be "larger" than Indo-European words. For instance, "shalom," "shlama," and "salaam" (cognates in Hebrew, Aramaic/Syriac, and Arabic, respectively) is used as a greeting, farewell, and connotes peace, wholeness, completion, wellness, and lacking nothing.

Depending on context, a simple "Bye!" might be the best translation, like when two Semitic teens meet at a mall. If a departure is more solemn and emotional, "Farewell," would be more appropriate, as it connotes a wish for the hearer to "fare well"--to lack nothing, to be safe and whole, while the speaker is gone. In other words, this one English word almost captures the full meaning of the one Aramaic word, "Shlama."

A step beyond translation is paraphrase. A very expansive paraphrase of a very heartfelt, sorrowful "shlama" might be: "I bid you peace, wholeness, and all good while I am gone, my friend."

An NDK "translation" might be:
"May you be filled with wholeness, may your light shine like the sun, no shadow crossing it as the fullness of perfection itself shines through; may the ocean of all good bear you up and connect us in the illusion of absence, bearing witness to the one whole of which we are all part."

There's nothing wrong at all with such a guided meditation, as long as it's presented honestly, and it seems to me that much in new American mysticism is not.

I think a key to what's going on is we are enslaved to the authority of words. Fundamentalists and Jesus Seminar-ians alike are frantic to know what Jesus "really" said, or what he "really" meant, and NDK can't say "this is my expansive meditation on Jesus' words," but feels he needs to present it as an accurate translation.

One result of this pursuit for the "real" word are that it increases what I call the "halo effect"--our inability to truly see Jesus as one of us, because he was a walking God with a halo, and his words have haloes, too. An example that amuses me is how Fundamentalists would take "I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning," to be a solemn description of his preexistence, and witnessing the defeat of the Prince of Darkness before the "fall of man."

In context, Jesus is welcoming his disciples back after sending them out on their first excursion, and they're overjoyed that they healed the sick and cast out demons. I imagine that he laughed with joy, gave them the first-century equivalent of a "high-five" and said something like, "Dudes, I saw it! You guys knocked out Satan like lightning!"

Another effect is that the quest for perfect understanding of the written word keeps so many of us looking outside for the Kingdom.

Sorry for my pedantic rant. NDK's meditations are beautiful, moving, and helpful to move past literal interpretations. They're great aides to meditation, and discovering the living word--inside you.

Your loving stick-in-the-mud,

Jon

david said...

This seems very similar to Anthony De Mello -- a Christian meditation teacher who introduced the insights of Vedanta to his mostly Catholic students. His book Wellsprings has many similar meditations in it.

Meredith said...

Jon,
Thank you so much for your wonderful rant here. I learned a lot from it, and, as always, I thoroughly enjoy your writing.

In the end, it is the poetry I enjoy. The fragrance between these words swirls around, leaving a delicious scent, taking me to another realm as it gracefully deepens the meaning of the originally offered text.

Thank you, my loving Friend.
M

gratefulbear said...

I agree with Jon's rant: what Neil Douglas Klotz writes are not translations but poetic interpretations. (Coleman Barks does the same thing with Rumi; I don't think Barks even knows the Persian language in which Rumi wrote.) But I also agree with Meredith's graceful response. Many thanks, and blessings, to both of you!

isaiah said...

M-

Many, many thanks for posting this- it is beauty and grace combined. How sweetly and soothingly these words move through the mind.

"Veiling yourself, the mystery may be unveiled through you."

"The breathing life of all reveals itself
in the way you live your life."


This interpretation brings such comfort and peace.