on November 29, 2009
Everything is God is a book with a great deal of heart. The reader can easily tell that Jay Michaelson is a very sincere thinker on Jewish matters and in the wider world of spirituality. With this in mind, it is easy to forgive the book some of its shortcomings. For one, the work is not overtly Jewish. Michaelson quotes Hindu and Buddhist sources far more than traditional Jewish ones. The reader gets the impression that Michaelson is more comfortable in that world. Second, the book is organized in a way that does not help the reader access this difficult subject matter. Michaelson should have thought more about the arrangement of his materials. With that said, this is a grounded and beautiful work. Michaelson presents a picture of God, spirituality, and Jewishness which appealing, productive and humane.
on November 14, 2009
There is a growing segment of Judaism which is nondual in nature -- it joins other nondual paths such as Buddhism, Vedanta Hindusim, Sufism, and nondual Christianity as a specific iteration of the universal. Nonduality is found at the summit of nearly every mystical tradition in the world.
Everything is God: The Radical Path of Nondual Judaism is groundbreaking in its scope, intellectual honesty, and devotional fervor. The book is divided into two sections: theory, and practice. Throughout are many quotes from Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta, the Baal Shem Tov, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Rabbi Arthur Green, and other nondual luminaries.
Reading Everything is God is a blessing -- discovering the language and methods of nondual Judaism provides insights into delving deeper into other traditions, in particular Vedanta Hindusim. And, it is refreshing and rewarding to begin to understand that Judaism and other nondual paths are enriched, not impoverished, when they come in contact with other traditions.
on August 5, 2010
For the traditional Jew on the spiritual path, there are few contemporary books that can help him or her find his way toward reconciliation of organized religion, rationality, and spirituality . This is one of them, and is a highly recommended read.
There are many different layers to this book. For one, the book can serve as a guide to other teachings and readings. Michaelson is clearly a scholar of this highest order, and the wealth of knowledge that he brings is vast. Every other page, I found myself looking up online another name, adding more and more books to my Amazon queue, as I try to take in the big picture of the spiritual path.
Second, after Michaelson explains the nature of non-dualism, he shares, with much detail, how non-duality within Judaism has a rich history. He shows how such an understanding follows the mystical traditions of Kabballah and the devotional inclinations of the Hasidic movement, and more. While non-duality may not be your mainstream Young Israel Judaism, it isn't beyond the pale either.
Last, Michaelson describes how a traditional observance of Halacha today is not entirely inconsistent with such a non-dual understanding. While Hasidic Rabbis were somehow able to reconcile a divine Torah and the commandments with non-duality, Michaelson's approach is very different and doesn't invoke a divinely given Torah -- he sees observance of Mitzvot as acts of love toward one's non-dual God. "Stupid" acts, he calls them, but valuable practices nonetheless.
This last section is the most practical one, and the one that left me with the most questions. While I respect Michaelson's approach and methods of reconciliation, I doubt that it could work for many people other than philosophers of Michaelson's ilk. For the non-philosopher, such as myself, one's response is more likely to be, "ok, I get it, but still - wear tzitzit every day?"
In summary, the book led me to realize the devotional path to enlightenment (Bhakti) is well served by religion. But the path of knowledge (Jnana) is far more difficult. I still can't help but wonder - why would a seeker of spiritual truths choose, or stay with, Judaism? Are there not better systems -- Buddhism, Vedanta or better yet, non religious approaches such as Harding's Headless Way -- that are specifically geared toward helping a person along the spiritual path -- and that these might be better approaches? Why struggle to make it work in a religion where spirituality is a fringe movement and where one has to write a book whose title alone, incorporating the word "Radical", attests to the hoops that one must go through to make it work with the truth that one has come to discover?
This book is a wonderful read to those who have been "awakened" and have learned a bit, either through books or experiences, and are now looking to explore spirituality in the context of Judaism. I can't promise it holds all the answers for you, but it is a worthwhile part of the journey.
on January 4, 2011
Thank you Jay for helping this Judeo-Buddhist touch the depth and the summit of my faith of origin. This book, Everything is G-d, is nothing less than a homecoming for Jews like myself who have embraced the non-dualistic traditions of the East to seek personal growth and fulfillment.
Gary Reiner has articulated my profound respect and love for this book. Having grown up in the era of "A Serious Man," Judaism was a convention rather than a spiritual path that could illuminate my life. As so many other Jews of my generation, I found that "path with a heart" within Vipassana Buddhism. My "Rabbis" were Ram Dass, Jack Kornfield, Joseph Goldstein, James Baraz and Sharon Salzberg.
Having savored a touch of mysticism through my meditation practice, I remained alienated from the Jewish identity inculcated by my parents and extended family. During an arduous and devastating time in my life, I miraculously overcame some of my aversions and suspicions towards Chabad, an accessible school of Hasidic practice. I discovered a form of Judaism that spoke to the non-dualism of Hashem that was congruent with my "Buddhist values."
Everything is G-d is a great opus of the human spirit. It is philosophical, it is poetry and it is practical. It satisfies the mind, the heart and yes, involves the body. I will read and reread this book to gain a deeper understanding of the concepts and wisdom. I gratefully appreciate Jay Michaelson's fierce authenticity and revelation of his true Self.
Rumi wrote, "If you open your love to the great Love, you will be helping many people that who you will never see or never know." This book solidified my commitment to the lineage of seekers and finders who pass on this love.
on December 3, 2010
It made me go back to my book shelf and dust off my old copy of Baruch Spinoza's Ethics. And there, I found "God" (whatever that is)... I had somehow forgotten.
This book is like a spark that re-ignites the search for the connectedness of everything. And indeed, Everything is God, I just never knew of this connection to a Radical Path of Non-dual Judaism. I had always come to this realization obliquely, raised in the tradition of Black Elk, the Upanishads, Vedas, and the early Catholic Mystics.
Now I need to go back and read Einstein, Sagan, Eckhart, Rumi and all the others that had an almost pantheistic (atheistic ?) idea of "God" - God does not exist as a separate entity, because God is infinite and you cannot make something separate from the infinite.
on June 20, 2013
Nonduality is a concept usually associated with Eastern contemplative traditions. Here Michaelson illuminates how Kabbalistic descriptions of reality embody the same impressions of unitive consciousness. His knowledge of diverse practices, genuine insights and lucid writing style make this a key addition to the study of "advaita" as we'll as Kabbala.
This is one of the best sources I've ever encountered from any tradition on the subject of ultimate reality, consciousness and the ground of being.
on January 21, 2013
This is a superlative work. Jay Michaelson here uses a plethora of Jewish sources; from the Tanakh to the Tanya and much more besides to support the nature of God and the meaning of nonduality. The first half of the book explores the context, rationality and theological underpinnings of nonduality through a Jewish lens, whilst in the second part, he applies this theology, this nondual Gospel so to speak, to our daily lives.
This book is well referenced to a great many scholars and a diverse variety of texts. I found it useful as a lead into other works, such as those by Moses Maimonides and various Hasidic writings. He is brilliant on his explanation of terms such as: ein sof, sefirot, devekut, elohim and a wide variety of others. Jay explores many concepts, for instance, the basic notion of "opening the heart" on p123, when he says, "opening the heart inevitably awakens us to suffering and to the mandate to alleviate it. But more than that: in Heschel's nondualistic cosmology, God is resident in all faces; God suffers through the sick, languishes through the impoverished, and, in the bodies of all who are stricken, demands a response from us. Love of God inevitably leads to love of people." Thus, he beckons us to transformation. Wow.
Curiously, for those readers of Zizek's work: "Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism" and their ilk, I found this work of Jay's surprisingly useful in places. In particular, as both works focus first on what reality is (or isn't), they both share the same primary conceptual issue - "existence itself". Here in "Everything is God", we have the simultaineous concepts of God as being (i). behind the veil, (ii). as the veil and (iii). the one who sees the veil, whilst in Zizek's we have an exploration of the veil as "all there is and nothing else", fascinating!
on February 20, 2013
I have not finished reading this book. The approach is radical and requires concentration and repeated readings, at least in my case. The book was suggested by my Rabbi after I mentioned another book, not yet published, on Shamanism - a book that I found most interesting. I would highly recommend this book for anyone who is searching for God and who is not satisfied with the usual approaches provided by most organized religions.
on June 5, 2013
This book is dense, deep, and thoughtful. It confronts many of the challenges that intelligent, well educated people have with the belief in G-d. It is also highly personal and shares the authors personal struggles with faith and how he resolves them. Not an easy read, but worth the effort. Tell your Rabbi to read it too!
on February 25, 2013
Jay Michaelson's writing is always clear, insightful, inspiring and informative. I have enjoyed other of his books and his columns for Huff Post, but this book is my favorite for pure spiritual inspiration and guidance.