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What Is God?

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...

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What Is God?

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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.
 

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Editorial 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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781585428472
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 12/30/2010
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 251,449
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

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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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 My Father's God 3

Ch. 2 Who Am I? 16

Ch. 3 God and the Mind 28

Ch. 4 God and the Mind II 39

Ch. 5 Beyond the Hollow Mind: The Idea of God 65

Ch. 6 The Question Within the Question 85

Ch. 7 Return to the Miraculous 95

Ch. 8 What Is a Human Being? 102

Ch. 9 And What of God? 109

Ch. 10 The Critique of Pure Reason 116

Ch. 11 Echo from the Future 123

Ch. 12 The Cave of Absence 136

Ch. 13 The Atheist 141

Ch. 14 The Fundamentalist 149

Ch. 15 Tuesday 161

Ch. 16 God and the Emotions 167

Ch. 17 "God Sends the Wind, but Man Must Raise the Sail" 183

Ch. 18 Attention 193

Ch. 19 What Is God? 202

Ch. 20 Conclusion: What the Religions Call God 215

Coda 227

Notes 229

Index 233

About the Author 243

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