Read What Is God? by Jacob Needleman Online


In his most deeply personal work, religious scholar Needleman cuts a clear path through today?s clamorous debates over the existence of God, illuminating an entirely new way of approaching the question of how to understand a higher power. I n this new book, philosopher Jacob Needleman? whose voice and ideas have done so much to open the West to esoteric and Eastern religioIn his most deeply personal work, religious scholar Needleman cuts a clear path through today?s clamorous debates over the existence of God, illuminating an entirely new way of approaching the question of how to understand a higher power. I n this new book, philosopher 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? Needleman begins by taking us more than a half century into the past, to his own experience as a brilliant, promising, Ivyeducated student of philosophy?atheistic, existential, and unwilling to blindly accept childish religiosity. But an unsettling meeting with the venerated Zen teacher D. T. Suzuki, combined with the sudden need to accept a dreary position teaching the philosophy of religion, forced the young academician to look more closely at the religious ideas he had once thought dead. Within traditional religious texts the scholar discovered a core of esoteric and philosophical ideas, more mature and challenging than anything he had ever associated with Judaism, Christianity, and the religions of the East. At the same time, Needleman came to realize?as he shares with the reader?that ideas and words are not enough. Ideas and words, no matter how profound, cannot prevent hatred, arrogance, and ultimate despair, and cannot prevent our individual lives from descending into violence and illusion. And with this insight, Needleman begins to open the reader to a new kind of understanding: The inner realization that in order to lead the lives we were intended for, the very nature of human experience must change, including the very structure of our perception and indeed the very structure of our minds. In What Is God?, Needleman draws us closer to the meaning and nature of this needed change?and shows how our present confusion about the purpose of religion and the concept of God reflects a widespread psychological starvation for this specific quality of thought and experience. In rich and 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 the intentional cultivation of this quality of experience is necessary for the fullness of our existence....

Title : What Is God?
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ISBN : 9781585427406
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 256 Pages
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What Is God? Reviews

  • Robin Friedman
    2019-04-03 15:33

    A Philosopher's Spiritual AutobiographyPeople frequently are led to the books they need. I recently read a book by United States Congressman Tim Ryan A Mindful Nation: How a Simple Practice Can Help Us Reduce Stress, Improve Performance, and Recapture the American Spirit about the practice of mindfulness meditation. Ryan's book reminded me of a book about the nature, spiritual character, and potential of American democracy, with all its flaws, that I had read some time ago by the philosopher Jacob Needleman.The American Soul: Rediscovering the Wisdom of the Founders I wanted to read Needleman again and found this book, "What is God?" (2009). The book gave me a broader understanding of Needleman, a Professor of Philosophy at San Francisco State University and a prolific writer. More importantly, the book helped me understand philosophy and the religious search.Needleman's book is largely a memoir about his development as a philosopher and about the formulation of his own religious convictions. In the process of telling his own story, Needleman has a great deal to say about questions philosophers in common with other people ask about religion. The book does not purport to be a philosophical study of religion as such, but rather is intimate in tone and personal.I became absorbed in the book because I could identify with much of Needleman's life. Like Needleman, I was a non-practicing Jew fascinated with religious questions and doubts who majored in philosophy in college. Although Needleman wants his readers to focus on the heart, this work is steeped in books and in philosophy. Here as well, I remember sharing the author's passion for Kant, Hume, Plato, Nietzsche, Eckhart, Jewish mysticism, Buddhism, and William James' "Varieties of Religious Experience". Conversely, a good deal of what influenced Needleman, particularly the teachings of Gurdjieff and his circle, is unknown to me. And Needleman makes no mention of a thinker important to me and to contemporary thought, religious and secular: the excommunicated Jewish philosopher Benedict de Spinoza. Spinoza and Enlightenment influence my own religious thinking in a way that seems to be less important for Needleman. Kant appears to play a somewhat similar role for him.The book focuses on Needleman's lifelong quest for understanding "what is God?" The story is told chronologically in part but skips and moves around to show steps in how the philosopher came to his religious position. A large part of the story is that what comes out at the end or in the process of growth is implicit in the beginning. Needleman states at the outset: "To think about God is to the human soul what breathing is to the human body." Needleman discusses his early years with early experiences of the vastness of the sky and the death of a loved one seemingly contrasted with the religious formalism of his parents. Needleman seems to have been drawn into philosophy as a career by his reading of Kant as a Harvard sophomore. A meeting as a young graduate student with Zen master D.T. Suzuki troubled Needleman in its studied ambiguity but led him to put a purely empirical, scientific philosophy behind him. As a young academic, Needleman received the opportunity to teach a course in Western religious thought which led the way to his personal and professional approaches to religion. He did not return to Judaism but learned immeasurably from Jewish writers and Jewish mystics. Needleman also learned a great deal about Christianity and Christian theology.The book has a tone of speaking closely to the reader. The book's language is rich, with long, descriptive, passionate sentences that one does not always associate with philosophy. The subject is indeed, as Needleman says, the "discipline of the heart". I learned from the passages of self-revelation as well as from Needleman's philosophical discussions of many of the books he has read. Although Gurdjieff receives the largest amount of attention, the book that interested me most was "The Crisis of the Modern World" by Rene Guenon. According to Needleman, Guenon offers a "merciless critique of modernity", a "critique based on Guenon's vision of an ancient primorial tradition from which all civilizations and great religions, including Christianity, had arisen." I need to read Guenon's book.I also was moved by Needleman's portrayal of his philosophy classrooms and his interactions with two students, the first an elderly woman who professed herself an atheist and the second a young man who professed Christian fundamentalism. Needleman seemed particularly drawn to this latter intelligent, dogmatic individual, with his similarities and differences from Needleman himself.Among other things, Needleman made me think again of my own possible alternative life and career path if I had pursued my work in philosophy.The book moves towards Needleman's growing interest in Gurdjieff. His teachings encouraged Needleman to experience God and self in an apparently paradoxical manner. The final part of Needleman's book is devoted to a brief exposition of Gurdjieff's thought together with its practice of Attention. From my initial reading, Gurdjieff's practice of Attention appeared similar to Buddhist mindfulness. Needleman sees a substantial difference, and I am not in a position to disagree. The point of the book, however, is not to make the reader a follower of Gurdjieff. Rather, the presentation is open-ended and is intended to bring the reader to focus on what is valuable and important in the religious search. Needleman engages in what he describes as a method of "indirect communication" he attributes to Kierkegaard. This is a form of writing which was "intentionally designed to point me toward finding the answer not only for myself, but in myself and not on the printed page or in the abstract words of an author."I learned a great deal from revisiting the philosophical life and the search for religion with Jacob Needleman.Robin Friedman

  • Maughn Gregory
    2019-04-01 14:36

    Needleman is one of the few people writing on religion who gets it right: most of the religious traditions of the world have precious insights about what really matters in life, what human beings are capable of, and practices to help us do the kind of self-work that brings spiritual growth. But those insights are often obscured by dogmatic creeds and hubristic mythology, and those practices are often misconstrued as magical rituals for removing suffering and fulfilling unexamined desire. This book is largely autobiographical: an account of how Needleman moved from staunch atheism to a kind of spirituality that isn't quite a theism. One sure way of telling if a religious or spiritual person has integrity is to get their reaction to the "new atheists." Here too, Needlemen is exactly right: Believers and non-believers alike owe the new atheists a debt of gratitude for their function of "the purgation of illusion and fantasy from our concept of God; the exposure of the superficiality of our so-called beliefs; the masks our minds put over our inability to be what we are meant to be.... That bittersweet absence of illusion and self-deception, that empty space swept clean by astringent skepticism and purgatorial self-honesty: here perhaps is a truly sacred space in our otherwise self-deceived, chaotic world." (223)

  • Tom
    2019-04-18 13:23

    This is the story of how an Atheistic Jewish Philosopher comes to appreciate, not just from an academic perspective but from his own experience,the meaning of God and Self. He sees the questions: "What is God" and "What am I" as the same question, one experience, and also one answer, the same answer. As he begins to understand what ancient and more modern wisdom means when speaking of God and of our obligations as creatures made in the image of God, Needleman states: "It is only in and through people, inwardly developed men and women, that God can exist and act in the world of man on earth. Bluntly speaking, the proof for the existence of God is the existence of people who are inhabited by and who manifest God." And "This evidence is perceived by means of what their presence evokes in oneself." He emphasizes the one thing necessary to be a inwardly developed human being and that is "attention." For most of us most of the time our attention is taken, swallowed, by conditioned thinking, emotional reactions, fear, wants, daydreams and imaginary worries. So we don't really exist as I, myself, here. "We do not live our lives; we are lived and we may eventually die without ever having awakened to what we really are--without having lived." Essentially "I am my attention" and for Needleman "one of the names of God is Attention, the Attention that fills the world and the universe and that Man is created to incarnate in himself so that he can freely obey and be as God in the created world of his own body and thereby manifest toward man and nature what is needed from him."Needleman tells a compelling story of his spiritual, his inward development. But he drags the story out a bit too much for my taste, not that I couldn't pay attention of course. I just appreciate the concise teaching in the following Zen tale as recorded by Charlotte Joko Beck:A student said to Master Ichu, 'Please write for me something of great wisdom.' Master Ichu picked up his brush and wrote one word: 'Attention.' The student said, 'Is that all?' The master wrote, 'Attention. Attention.' The student became irritable. 'That doesn't seem profound or subtle to me.' In response, Master Ichu wrote simply, 'Attention. Attention. Attention.' In frustration, the student demanded, 'What does this word attention mean?' Master Ichu replied, 'Attention means attention.' Source: Charlotte Joko Beck. 1993. Nothing special: Living Zen. New York: HarperCollins. 168.

  • Pranada Comtois
    2019-04-24 10:35

    I love Needleman. He's down to earth and unpretentious, though a great philosopher and teacher and he has a deep heart based on the interviews and books I've read. Much of this book has autobiographical anecdotes. Needelman's personal journey from atheist/skeptic to accepting the unknown with new perceptions and trust based on experience speaks to our genuine experience in the 20-21 century as we move toward deeper understandings of the unseen power around us.He doesn't speak from one tradition, though he appears deeply transformed by Gurdjieff. I'd love to open a dialogue with him. I tire of New Age and New Thought sugar water like we get from Chopra, Osteen, Dyer and others. I want solid thinking and Needleman delivers.

  • David Guy
    2019-04-10 08:52

    I read this book on the advice of a friend. Jacob Needleman has taken on a rather large question here, and really he has written a spiritual autobiography, which includes reference to the Gurdjieff work, but I actually think he's written a superb book, and given a wonderful answer to the question. This was one of those rare books where I would read a chapter, then sit down and read it again. It was a very rich reading experience. I felt that his last chapter tried to sum things up a little too much, which must be a temptation for a book with this title. But I really loved this book.

  • Curtis Aguirre
    2019-04-12 09:22

    This is philosopher Jacob Needleman's personal "faith" journey. As the saying goes, "biography is theology," and that is certainly true here. I appreciated his openness and self-probing as well as the lack of dismissiveness of those who do not come to the same conclusions as he does.

  • Phil
    2019-04-22 15:38

    A very written spiritual autobiography, but as an autobiography, the reader, necessarily younger than Needleman, might not understand the contexts in which he is speaking as the backdrop to his thought.He comes from an assimilated, acculturated, secular Jewish background. All he knows about Judaism, he admits, comes from vestigial memories (largely negative) of his immigrant grandparents and their children.When, as a junior instructor, he "discovers" Judaism, he does it thought liberal, secular sources: Martin Buber and Gershom Scholem (who in actual life disliked one another intensely!)Buber's Tales of the Hasidim were already known to be romanticized retelling Of tales ripped out of context.Scholem's knowledge of mysticism was based on his reading of sources and historical contextualizion. (Aside: my favorite Scholem anecdote - When Scholem as a young man arrived ay Jerusalem, someone asked if he would like to meet the venerable Kabbalists who inhabited the Old City. Scholem declined, saying he could read Hebrew as well as they could! In other words, the accumulated practical and non-verbal knowledge was of no interest!)Needleman mentions Maimonides is passing, but did he read and absorb the Guide? Did he look at Halevi's Kuzari?The Zohat fascinated Needleman in the early 1960s, a time when only partial and often inaccurate translations were available.As Judaism was perceived through liberal German (pre-WWII spectacles), so too was Christianity: Bultmann and Barth.Did he read Thomas Aquinas or Bonaventure for another (more orthodox) view?Gnosticism also fascinated him. But the only source available at the time was Han Jonas' then magisterial opus, and the "problem" with his work is that there were at the time no Gnostic texts available, translated or studied. Everything was extracted from ante-Nicene Church Fathers, who saw Gnosticism negatively.Reading other reviews on Goodreads, I am struck by how many praise the book highly, having read it more than once. Are they aware of how constrained and limited his perceptions were 60 years ago?Still and all, the book is a valuable resource, for it does ask the right questions. As for "what is God?" There are as many answers as there are stars in the heavens Needleman looked as a small child at the start of the book.

  • Robert
    2019-04-04 13:25

    After several attempts at a detailed review I will leave you with this. There is a basic problem with this work, the author can almost be described as an adherent to none, apologist for all. A spongy sort of theism much less satisfactory than the way Martin Gardner (for example) works around much of the same vast body of work (mainly Western) and tradition to arrive at a theistic but by most standards unreligious position (that is not aligned with any of the most popular myth systems or any specific organized body of believers), and explaining as clearly as possible why and acknowledging inherent limitations all around, and in readable non-academic prose comparable to this book. As a young adult, Gardner survived and transcended a journey through an ardent and amazingly ignorant obscurantist fundamentalism to arrive at a safe harbor between religion and pure reason. Needleman also seems to come around the opposite way, minus the period of intense misguided devotion to a specific sect, from a non-western, if not solidly atheistic orientation, to a mushy all-accepting position as a Professor of Philosophy. His transition occurred when he reconciled with virtually all the Abrahamic tradition (Islam does not get much mention that I can recall), in particular some of the harshest early Christian writers (when his previous student experience, as he admits, was to burn his copy of Augustine once the ordeal of a class was over) and his own Jewish roots under the compulsion to prepare for teaching a Western Religion course for prospective divinity students at San Francisco State by which he secured a much needed job, and ultimately his career position to date. There is repeated emphasis on the notion of finding and valuing authentic representatives for a belief system that moves the focus from the beliefs themselves to something hard to separate from being taken by the charisma, talent and proficiency of the representative in question, the composite of which is presented as evidence of the real thing, whatever that is. Is the author actually hopeful or even yearning, to find living saints and prophets in his time? In particular, he seems to be interested, if not convinced by, the work of Gurdjieff which is mentioned and re-mentioned more than any other, and the authenticity he found in Lord Pentland (John Henry Sinclair) and Jeanne de Salzmann. (He has authored other works specifically about Gurdjieff and "the work".) Gurdjieff does not deal with God explicitly in his own works (I am taking Needleman's word on that) but at least one of the disciples, de Salzmann, seeks to link the Gurdjieff work with at least elements of Western theism, bringing God directly into the discussion in a way that neither the master nor his other immediate students did. Not mentioned here, there is another noted disciple of a sort, P. D. Ouspensky, whose broke away to expound his own version of these ideas having had some serious differences with Gurdjieff. The details are not too important here, the point is that even this close to the "authentic" origin we already see the division into schisms and sects, and the plunge into revisionism so evident in the other older systems with far more adherents that so weakens, if not invalidating outright, their claims to authentic revelation, truth and a preordained right to dictate to an individual's inner and outer life, notwithstanding whatever good ideas lie buried under the mythic nonsense found in every major belief system.You will not find, nor will the author claim to deliver, the answer to the title question "What is God?". That is to his credit lest his book degenerate into a mere tract. It is only a catchy title. And I do not think there is dishonesty in it, just fuzziness.=====================An Aside, and a Rant.=====================I will say one thing very favorable about Dr. Needleman apart from the work itself. He apparently writes some of his books for use in classes but does not seem to be a part of the present day odious practice of exorbitant price gouging on required texts with obvious conflict of interest that should be a continuously screaming scandal around higher education until it is rectified. The cause is a distorted perversion of a market where not the ultimate consumer, the student, but a related group, the professors and institutions, with either no financial stake or a corrupt one reeking of payola or direct conflict of interest (e.g. the professor wrote the book), is the focus of an expensive and competitive marketing effort whose cost is passed on to the hapless ultimate consumer held hostage by the present day requirements for education, or at least its certifications and merit badges on a transcript, in the job market. It has escalated from occasional nuisance (my mother reported such abuses related the GI bill in the late 40's and 50's) from when I was in school (1970's) to business as usual today. It is manifestly apparent while book shopping to see prices jump from $20-$50 to $120 upward for essentially comparable works, the latter range is obviously for the currently required texts. It is especially galling when the works are slim or voluminously vapid, often politically tinged by ongoing subject area wars, dreck in soft subjects like "education" or the latest retread in a established areas like mathematics (my subject) covering well established core material that has not changed substantially for 50 years or more (is there any need whatsoever for a new Calculus text?) where the impact of actual innovation does not affect core preparation work until well into graduate school or beyond. This is then compounded by frequent superficial revisions making a large body of existing texts worthless on the market, often belatedly reflecting their essential worthlessness on the day they were printed to exploit a captive audience many of whom will be paying back loans to pay for them for years to come. Perhaps this is a pale microcosm of the fleecing that goes on in the corporate state of the USA (in particular in regards to war and high finance), but perhaps it is one on a scale that can be managed and corrected, the "too big to fail" model does not apply to academe, nor can it hide behind urgency of a poorly conceived policy of endless war.

  • Yelda Basar Moers
    2019-04-22 08:47

    Reading Jacob Needleman’s spiritual, yet philosophical memoir What Is God? is akin to watching a slow-paced movie where you know it’s worth watching because you have this inkling that something big, shocking, revelatory—a giant epiphany—will surface at the end like the lost city of Atlantis. But all along you are thinking, where is he going with this? And will he ever answer the question he posed? Three quarters of my way through the book I was still asking myself that question. Patience, I told myself. And that is the same thing I would tell the reader. The book builds up slowly, but in the end delivers the answer to its question.My first impression upon seeing Needleman’s book in the religion section of my local bookstore was that it must be an ambitious work. Needleman, who I had never heard of, was certainly tackling a gargantuan question. When I opened the back flap, I discovered that he was a professor, and not just any professor, a professor of philosophy who had penned over fourteen books. Clearly, he was up to the task of posing and possibly answering such an age-old question. As a philosopher and former atheist-turned man of faith, Needleman’s perspective was bound to be compelling.What Is God? is a challenging read. It requires attention, concentration, maybe even a pencil in your hand. It does not swiftly move by like, for instance, Deepak Chopra’s How to Know God. You really have to pay attention. It’s almost as if you are a student in one of Needleman’s classes, such is his pedagogical tone. The book begins with the chapter “My Father’s God,” where Needleman writes of looking at the night sky with his father when, he says, “something deep inside me started breathing for the first time” and “the whole universe itself suddenly opened its arms to me.” Such is his earliest experience with God, though he eventually turns to atheism. A skeptic of organized religion and original sin (at one point he admits to burning The Confessions of St. Augustine), he believed that religion, in particular, the Judaism of his family, “had nothing to do with the sky full of stars, the still and silent mantis…it had nothing to do with what…I had learned to call God.” So it seems his atheism was not totally devoid of God. What then follows is the course of his career as an undergraduate student of philosophy at Harvard and a graduate student at Yale. Needleman spends many pages sharing the writers and thinkers who marked a profound affect on his philosophical and spiritual life, namely D.T. Suzuki, P.D. Ouspensky, G.I. Gurdjieff and Jeanne de Salzmann. Needleman charts how his faith had developed from reading the works of Immanuel Kant (he devotes an entire chapter to The Critique of Pure Reason), David Hume and others of the Age of Enlightenment, focusing on the power and importance of empirical thought. For Needleman, God can be known through an empirical process, what he calls “higher attention.” By simply focusing, giving one’s full attention, one can engage in higher attention, and thus, God. Higher attention inward may allow one to experience the Self with a capital S, the true self, that deeply quiet higher being, behind the self with a lowercase s, the egotistical me. In the end, this is his epiphany, that God can be experienced empirically, and does not have to be divorced from science or philosophy. Though it is not an easy read, and may not work for the mainstream reader (I found the narrative disorganized at times and the chapter headings random and disconnected), What Is God? is ideal for a philosophical or spiritual reader. Needleman brought back my own memories toiling through philosophical texts in my undergraduate courses: Philosophy of Law, The Age of Enlightenment and Modernism. These were courses that changed my own thinking. “…I learned from my own years of inner work that the great questions of life cannot be answered by the mind alone,” Needleman writes, “but only when they are asked with the whole of one’s being.”

  • Lexie
    2019-03-31 14:34

    One man's philosophic search for God. "What is the inner experience of this search?" is the primary question ... Jacob Needleman applies a lifetime of wisdom into the search, beginning with himself, as a boy, under a starry night ... I cherish this book in part because Needleman admits to once having been "allergic" to the word "God" ... just as I was ... and I realize, from reading *What is God?*, that my "allergy" has been to religion. ~ Masters and teachers who have influenced the author include Jesus, the Desert Fathers, the Gnostics, D.T. Suzuki, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Plato, Buber, William James, the mystics of Jewish and Christian faith, and G.I Gurdjieff. ~ This book is beautiful -- intricately crafted, rigorously and lovingly thought out.Quotes:What is God? What am I? It was the same question, it was one question, one experience.... to begin to understand what God is, demands from the very outset the presence in ourselves of what God is. ... we will discover that the presence of a higher vibration within ourselves is already there ...When thought races ahead of Being, a civilization is racing toward destruction.The "eternal" ... comes toward man through a paradoxical fusion of pure gift from Above and radical inner choice from within ... a paradoxical inner reconciliation of two opposing realities: the eternal and the temporal, the infinite and the finite. That religion at its root is also a great work of the mind was nowhere even imagined. (Needleman thought this in 1962.)The real mind, the real instrument of understanding, is a blending of at least two fundamental sources of perception -- the intellect and the heart; the intellect and genuine feeling. And I was discovering that genuine feeling is not the same thing as emotional reaction.[This] is the meaning of the Christian idea of faith -- an act of pure receiving of the gift.... the idea of God, the word itself, has taken on as many connotations and denotations as there are types of gradations of the human psyche.... both world events and a man's own individual life either more toward a genine aim or, on the contrary, go nowhere at all, repeating, repeating, endlessly, meaninglessly ...By what intelligence did it all appear, an intelligence that embraces even the automatisms of Darwinian evolution on the ground of which everything from a mosquito to a Buddha appears on this earth?Real Truth can never bring despair because the real experience of Truth transforms the knower into everything he had yearned for in vain ...... to think about God is to the human soul what breathing is to the human body.

  • Michelle Leduc Catlin
    2019-04-10 13:48

    I was going to give this complex and thought-provoking book 4 stars, based on my enjoyment. But this book is about so much more than "a good read." It is the most intimate and comprehensive journey of discovery I have ever encountered. It pushed me, frustrated me, challenged me, and ultimately enlightened me. I don't pretend to understand all of it, but I do know that it has earned its 5 stars by expanding my thinking. I'm pretty sure this is not the last time I'll read it.

  • Sonic
    2019-04-18 07:29

    Jacob Needleman speaks with a sensitivity and an intelligence that is extremely rare these days. And he speaks from experience, and not just from his thoughts, or his mind. I have read and loved many (but not all) of Mr. Needleman's books and this one might be his best work and also his most important book.I highly recommend this book for everyone. Mr. Needleman writes with a down-to-earth sincerity that is also unimaginably rare these days, and it informs this book with a depth that is almost unnoticed in his plain, honest and direct voice.And while he does not try to convince anyone of anything (that is clearly not his main objective,) I feel his is a much needed voice in our times, when Atheism is such a popular "intellectual" trend. These things need to be questioned, that is all I am saying.A child may have very primitive and fantastical notions of what the president of the United States is, but just because the child may have very stupid ideas about the POTUS does not meant that the POTUS does not exist. This is my analogy which I paraphrase thus: Just because we may have stupid ideas about something, does not mean that that something does not exist. Maybe instead of dismissing the "thing," what needs to be got rid of, is one's own stupid ideas.This book encourages us to seek and to question.And isn't that what the best books do?

  • Maria
    2019-04-22 09:33

    This is by far the most readable of Needleman's book that I have read. I found it very interesting to follow his journey from agnostic to atheist to believer. I'm not sure he ever explicitly said what he believes God is, but he certainly left me with much to think about.He talks a lot about being influenced by Gurdjieff's teachings. I didn't know much about them and may be interested in reading more.Some things I'd like to ponder further:p196: "It is only in and through people, inwardly developed men and women, that God can exist and act in the world of man on earth. Bluntly speaking, the proof for the existence of God is the existence of people who are inhabited by and who manifest God. Furthermore,... this evidence is perceived by means of what their presence evokes in oneself."p204-206: Needleman discusses "attention" and the idea that "the quality of man's attention is the key to the meaning of our lives and the possible growth of our being."I'd recommend this book to anyone who is interested in considering such ideas and isn't absolutely convinced that they already have all the answers.

  • Rebecca
    2019-04-01 09:38

    A university professor and former atheist recounts the autobiographical story of his developing understanding of human consciousness and its relationship with "what the religions call God." One important idea he develops along the way is "inner empiricism" - in which reasoning is rigorously drawn directly from experience, but the definition of experience is not limited to the five senses we use to relate to the material world. Lots to think about. Having followed him through his story, I still want him to say more and draw out what he means by his answer about what God is. I can't decide if that means he doesn't go quite far enough with it, or if I just need to let it sink in more. But what he says is consistent with my experience, and it is awesome to see philosophical and religious thought within the academy heading in this direction.

  • George
    2019-03-27 12:25

    A must read for anyone wanting to get way beyond the usual answers to the title's bold question. Jacob Needleman is at his best as he recounts his journey into the question "what is God". His answer, which can only be called his living response, gradually unfolds as he discovers over many decades who "He" really is. The reader will also see how his difficult, inner (spiritual) work directly relates to his answer. This book has a quality of honesty and seriousness that helps us understand the relationship between his questioning and his answer, and may very well challenge a reader to begin his/her own approach to the question.

  • Aziz
    2019-04-07 15:36

    Buku separa outobiografi akan pencarian Tuhan oleh seorang bekas atheis yang bergelar professor dalam bidang falsafah. Yang akan kita temui ialah pencarian itu pada akhirnya akan mengetemukan beliau akan Tuhan yang hadir bukan dalam bentuk agama tetapi sesuatu yang lebih mendekati pegangan sufi melalui penerimaan beliau bahawa Tuhan tidak akan mampu dicapai menggunakan akal semata-mata. Walaupun saya tidak dapat memahami semua apa yang cuba dibincang dan diperjelaskan oleh beliau, namun sekurang-kurangnya pembacaan ini menunjukkan betapa watak-watak intelektual barat tidak lagi dapat bersembunyi dalam kepompong sains bagi menidakkan keperluan spiritual sebagai seorang manusia.

  • John
    2019-04-03 10:34

    Well . . . I don't know what to think of the book, though I am suspicious of the gnostic-like sense that his path and its unique struggle (that few can accomplish) is the path to true self-knowing/attention/divinity. At the same time, I do appreciate his focus on how so many of us (often me included) live in a cloud of unknowing, and need to engage in some serious self-examination to break out of that rut.

  • Ian
    2019-03-27 13:50

    a nice summation of needleman's vast experience and exploration of this fundamental and unanswerable question. after finishing it, i was left thirsting and found this passage by Hafiz:"I have a thousand brilliant lies for the question: What is God? If you think that the Truth can be known from words, If you think that the sun and the ocean can pass through that tiny opening called the mouth, O someone should start laughing! Someone should start wildly laughing -- Now!"quite right.

  • Gary
    2019-03-29 11:34

    A philosopher and religious scholar, Needleman writes about his own spiritual journey from atheism to a more complex understanding of the source of all being. Needleman asks: "Who is wise?" His answer is: "one who learn from everything and everyone." This book asks, even answers, many of the basic questions about being human, drawing on a wide range of religious traditions.

  • May
    2019-03-31 14:25

    I enjoyed this so much that I am reading it for a second time.His main point is somewhat hard to grasp--as is the whole concept of Divinity.But its certainly worth the effort. Well written and well organized, he takes youon his journey.

  • Vicky
    2019-04-09 14:31

    To me it is a very important book, there is a concept of understanding big questions without being religious or brought up in one narrow dimension. The book helps to think, to feel and to understand yourself. A great gift of a book.

  • David Tan
    2019-04-19 07:23

    This is the "text book" for the class we held this spring semester at SFSU. The question "what is god" is the subject of the book. JN does not really give an answer, but explores what it means to ask the question from different perspectives.

  • Mark
    2019-04-23 12:44

    Just didn't grab me.

  • Richard Southworth
    2019-03-30 15:34

    Read for the second time. Great Book. Like most of Needleman's writing it left me still thinking I got a lot out of it on this second reading, but I suspect I will read it again at some point.