Why I wrote Jerusalem Diary

Why Jerusalem Diary?

During the last couple of years, I have been asked why I wrote Jerusalem Diary. This question was often asked by people who knew and liked my literary writing, my short stories and essays, but could not understand my departure from literary fiction and non-fiction. In my mind and heart, I have never departed from my creative writing; I still write and publish my literary stories and essays. I am doing what I have always done: writing from experience and writing about matters that are important to me, that appeal to my soul, to the essence of me. In my case, this usually involves themes of love, relationships, some philosophical reflection and travel. I love travel because it always takes us out of our comfort zone and challenges us to look at the word around us and, even more importantly, at ourselves with fresh eyes. Who am I? What is my life about? How can I contribute? What is our mission in life outside the obvious, if weary, concerns about our survival? Thus, for me, Jerusalem Diary is exactly about that, except that I could add in a theme of crisis there. Most of us go through periods of profound crises in our lives. For me, this happened after the completion of my doctorate. This was no doubt the most confronting spiritual, personal, professional and financial crises in my life. After years of working as an academic, or scooping prestigious scholarships, I finished my doctorate to find myself unemployed, without any money, at the end of a every turbulent intimate relationship, and with no clue what to do about my life. In hindsight this was a classic struggle between old and new beliefs, except in my case it was an extremely intense one as my new beliefs wanted to claim my life but I could not, as yet, give up my old beliefs. It looked like the world was against me, when in fact I was the battlefield for powerful inner struggles, so powerful that my life seemed to come to a standstill. In this moment, I met two Australian men (Steve and Martin) who told me they had found new sites that could be the tomb and house of Jesus. They had made several trips to Israel and, following Gnostic Gospels (gospels rejected by the Church), they had found two sites related to Jesus’ life. To this day, I do not know why my soul caught on fire when they told me of their discoveries. Yes, I was brought up a Catholic in Poland and for the most part of my life from my twenties until my mid-thirties I tried to be a good Catholic but, in the end, I could not accept the church’s dogma and I could not avoid the feeling that what I was taught was an outdated interpretation of Jesus’ life and teachings. In fact, all we were told was that we were sinners and that Jesus died for us and that we should therefore feel guilty. From my early childhood I was exposed to gruesome images of a suffering Christ. It wasn’t until I was in my early thirties that I met a young nun in Toronto who said that the Church focuses too much on Jesus’ death and not enough on his teachings. This thought imprinted itself on my mind, and although I did nothing about it, it stayed with me. To cut a long story short, I left the Church and began looking for answers in Buddhism and Hinduism. I found a wonderful spiritual teacher in the tradition of Kashmir Shavism (a form of Hinduism) who gave me spiritual tools rather than a dogma. I had no need for Christianity anymore … but when I heard Steve and Martin talk about their trips to Jerusalem and Nazareth I could not think of anything else. I was completely obsessed with it, and spend the next few months convincing them to take me along on their next trip to Jerusalem.

The rest is the book I wrote.

If I were to describe Jerusalem Diary to people who have never heard of it I would say it is both a combination of Eat, Pray, Love and The Da Vinci Code. Jerusalem Diary is in many ways like the former because it is a very personal, spiritual-travel memoir. And it is like The Da Vinci Code because of the strong element of adventure. It also debunks dogma and creates an alternative interpretations of Jesus’ life. Jerusalem Diary moves away from his suffering towards his life as a young man and a spiritual teacher. My work is, however, very different from these two books I mention, as it contains all of my scholarly research into alternative scriptures the Gospel of Mary Magdalene and the modern Gnostic text The Urantia Book (the source of Steve and Martin’s inspiration). At first, it was not easy for me to warm up to The Urantia Book because it is a modern source – unlike the Gospel of Mary Magdalene – and does not enjoy the same scholarly status. But it did give me some insights on the possible interpretation of Jesus’ life and, in many ways, was much more attractive than what I had been fed up until then. I am not a follower of The Urantia Book but I respect it as a source of information. And Jerusalem Diary is not a book written by your average Jesus-girl; it is rebellious, it is compelling, and it is alternative in its interpretations.

So you can imagine, when I wrote a book I refer to as a spiritual travelogue or a spiritual- travel adventure, my literary colleagues thought I had lost my mind. Is it so unbecoming of an intellectual and literary author to write about spirituality without cynicism? But, I did have profound spiritual experiences on that trip, even if I am not limiting them to one tradition. Experiences that transformed me at the deepest level of my being. Why should I not write about them? And even, more importantly, share them with people who are open to them and have had similar experiences? When in the preface of my book I say, ‘I dedicate this book to all Seekers’, my editor put in a note ‘Seekers of what?’ From that moment on, I knew I needed to find another audience for the book. This does not mean I will now write more books about Jesus. But I will continue writing about things that matter to me, that pertain to questions of our existence, and spiritual evolution is a big part of it. So here I am …


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2 Responses to Why I wrote Jerusalem Diary

  1. Hi Joanna, i was in the audience at the Theo society the other night and was impressed with your talk. Hopefully I can make it to the Jung society lecture. Hoping to read Jerusalem Diary at the TS library next week. We spoke very briefly after the lecture, i was the guy in the baseball cap. I am having an exhibition of paintings in 2 months in Carlton at the anti cancer society art gallery. It would be great if you can come. Are you into art? Also there will be a poetry reading. Buddhism interests me very much at the moment, but your lecture really shook up very long held misconceptions about Christ, having gone to a really strict Roman Catholic school. I have mentioned yr book to several friends and they are very interested also. Have to run, but hopefully we can connect sometime. cheers, John (Giovanni)

  2. JoannaKujawa says:

    Hi John,
    Many thanks for your feedback. It is good to know that artists can relate to the often poetic and deeply spiritual message of some of the GG – so different from the established religions. It is a relatively new field so I am glad that I can share it with others and I am happy that you enjoyed it :). The Gnostic Gospels were a big discovery for me too and I am surprised how little is known about it among general public. I am looking forward to the next talk on Jung and the Gnostics – it will be a completely different cup of tea, more Jungian and esoteric in its approach. If you manage to read ‘Jerusalem Diary’, I would appreciate your feedback on the blog as well. Thank you for recommending the book to your friends. Hopefully some people can identify with the journey.
    Cheers, Joanna

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