NPJ Book Review: Desert Wisdom by Neil Douglas-Klotz


Desert Wisdom by Neil Douglas-Klotz (1995)

This is a thought-provoking, scholarly and very accessible study of “Sacred Middle Eastern Writings from the Goddess through the Sufis.” The writings include translations, commentaries and body prayers. The author strives to “cover both wisdom and spiritual practice from the native Middle Eastern tradition.” It’s a useful reference to balance one’s knowledge of the mystics.

In his quest the author provides the threads to the various traditions and the links to the earth and human respect for caring for the earth, the journey of the soul, resurrection and the partnership of humans with each other.

This is a spiritual journey not of dogmas but of the poetry  – our spiritual existence and the timeless questions men and women have about our purpose in life and our physical death. It is a work of contemplation with Islamic, Hebrew and Christian insights – “sharing the words of Native Middle Eastern mystics linked to indigenous spiritual practices that make their wisdom an embodied practice.”

In perspective, the study of mystics “disentangles” the reader from the dogmas of the extremist rhetoric and “sickness of spirit” found in some degree in all religions today and the interplay with politics and greed. The study moves away from the current stereotypes. Desert Wisdom is a work of thoughtfulness amid the chaos of injustice.

The mystics provoke our imagination to ponder who we are and suggest a deeper reflection on life and it’s meaning and our intimate relationships with our neighbors and the need for love. From the Sufi poet Mahmud Shabistari to St. John, from Arabic, Hebrew and Aramaic come words of wisdom that peer into the existence – of God, Goddesses, man and woman, amid the silence of ‘the desert wilderness of our mind where someday we might find ourselves alone except for our prayers.