What Is God?

What Is God?

by Jacob Needleman
     
 

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In his most intimate and revealing work, religious scholar Needleman cuts a clear path through today's clamorous debates over the existence of God, bringing an entirely new way of approaching the question of how to understand a higher power.

In this new book, Jacob Needleman-whose voice and ideas have done so much to open the West to esoteric and Eastern

Overview

In his most intimate and revealing work, religious scholar Needleman cuts a clear path through today's clamorous debates over the existence of God, bringing an entirely new way of approaching the question of how to understand a higher power.

In this new book, Jacob Needleman-whose voice and ideas have done so much to open the West to esoteric and Eastern religious ideas in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries-intimately considers humanity's most vital question: What is God?

With rich, vivid examples from his experiences in the classroom and other walks of life, Needleman draws us closer to the meaning andnature of this question-and shows how our present confusion about the purpose of religion and the concept of God reflects a widespread psychological starvation for a specific quality of thought and experience. In varied detail, the book describes this inner experience, and how almost all of us-atheists and believers alike-actually have been visited by it, but without understanding what it means and why its intentional cultivation is necessary for the fullness of our existence.
 

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Needleman has put out a powerful and deeply personal book about his lifelong effort to connect with God using both his head and his heart...a rare book that manages to be both skeptical and inspiring."
—San Francisco Chronicle

"A thought provoking amalgam of philosophy, interpersonal psychology, and religious thought."
—Library Journal

"Although the subject matter may at times seem challenging to the casual reader, the author's informal, chatty style makes it appealing to anyone interested in exploring spiritual matters and following one distinguished writer's quest to develop some understanding of at least a trace of the essential nature of the Divine."
—Retailing Insight

"An erudite, challenging text full of difficult questions"
—Kirkus Reviews

Library Journal
With his new work, Needleman (The American Soul) gives us a kind of follow-up to his 2008 book on individual morality, Why Can't We Be Good? He remains, for better or worse, the most devoted and effective contemporary exponent of G.I. Gurdjieff's thought and references him throughout. For Needleman, as for Gurdjieff, "God" is an illusion of our religious imagination; the true God is a kind of energy perceptible only as it appears within humanity. VERDICT This is a thought-provoking amalgam of philosophy, interpersonal psychology, and religious thought best suited for the nondenominational or nonaffiliated seeker.
Kirkus Reviews
Memoir about coming to grips with the concept of God. Though born into a Jewish family, Needleman (Philosophy/San Francisco State Univ.; Why Can't We Be Good?, 2007, etc.) grew up without an interest in religion and eventually became an atheist. He spent his young adulthood in complete disdain of religion-one night he burned a copy of St. Augustine's Confessions-preferring instead to seek truth through the great works of philosophy. However, an early teaching job forced him to begin reading about Judaism and Christianity, and what he learned surprised him. An encounter with the works of Jewish philosopher Martin Buber especially impressed him. Though Needleman did not agree with the theism of the writers he was exploring, he admitted that their teachings were worthwhile. The author narrates a nostalgic, occasionally tedious and angst-ridden intellectual journey, vividly recalling the authors and ideas that helped form his worldview, including metaphysics, Zen Buddhism, Immanuel Kant and many more. Needleman also describes classroom experiences that shaped his understanding of God. Ultimately, it was the writings of the Armenian spiritual teacher George Gurdjieff and the influence of Gurdjieff's protegee, Jeanne de Salzmann, that most influenced the author. Their teachings led him to see one's attention as foremost in spiritual experience, and "higher attention," a sort of energetic self-awareness, as the closest thing to history's concept of God. Though Needleman declares that these conclusions are not mystical, readers may find only a semantic difference. An erudite, challenging text full of difficult questions, but it answers the title question with little more than a whispered answer.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781585428472
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/30/2010
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Needleman has put out a powerful and deeply personal book about his lifelong effort to connect with God using both his head and his heart...a rare book that manages to be both skeptical and inspiring."
—San Francisco Chronicle

"A thought provoking amalgam of philosophy, interpersonal psychology, and religious thought."
—Library Journal

"Although the subject matter may at times seem challenging to the casual reader, the author's informal, chatty style makes it appealing to anyone interested in exploring spiritual matters and following one distinguished writer's quest to develop some understanding of at least a trace of the essential nature of the Divine."
—Retailing Insight

"An erudite, challenging text full of difficult questions"
—Kirkus Reviews

Meet the Author

The acclaimed author of The New Religions, What is God?, The American Soul, Why Can’t We Be Good? and Money and the Meaning of Life, Jacob Needleman is Professor of Philosophy at San Francisco State University, and former Director of the Center for the Study of New Religions at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley. He lives in Oakland, CA.

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