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Money and the Meaning of Life Paperback – September 15, 1994

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; New edition edition (September 15, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385262426
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385262422
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #189,896 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Philosopher Needleman ( The New Religions ) believes that our obsession with money and compulsion for material wealth undercut personal authenticity: "The money question is formed in us at the very roots of our personality," instilling a narrow attitude of personal gain. If only we would step back and look at the emotional and spiritual effects money has on us, the green stuff could "serve the aim of self-knowledge" and become "a tool for breaking out" of our mental prison, insists Needleman. Then we would appreciate existence as a gift. How to accomplish this self-transformation is not spelled out in this portentous sermon, which draws on ancient Greek and Hebrew views of hell, Christian teachings, the legend of King Solomon, Eastern wisdom, Meister Eckhart, Rilke, Emerson and an analysis of Max Weber and the roots of modern capitalism.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Needleman, a philosophy professor, argues that while we have countless books on making and managing money, there is little published on the relationship between the quest for money and the quest for the meaning of life. While that is often seen as humanity's main weakness, it is Needleman's thesis that in our time the principle of personal gain is embodied in the quest for money. In what seems to be an updated version of the gospel of wealth (complete with solemn quotes from a "businessman," probably Laurance Rockefeller), Needleman concludes that money can be accumulated not only for personal needs and wants, but for higher, philanthropic purposes that can give life real meaning. Recommended for academic and large public library collections.
- Jeffrey R. Herold, Bucyrus P.L., Ohio
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Jacob Needleman, the acclaimed author of The American Soul and Money and the Meaning of Life, is a professor of philosophy at San Francisco State University, and a former director of the Center for the Study of New Religions at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.

Customer Reviews

I'd give it five stars but 1) It lacks an index.
R. Clampitt
The differences in their lives and their attitude to money have been simply amazing.
M. Wyze
I recently put this book on a list of top 15 books that have stuck with me.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Vince Leo on September 2, 2003
Format: Paperback
There are good ideas, interesting asides, and new philosophical propositions to spare in Money and the Secret of Life. The basic premise--that money is a technology invented, not to accumulate wealth, but to realize human potential--is certainly worth our attention. Needleman is best describing money as the great tool of capitalism and capitalism as a great metaphysical system. The problem with Money and the Meaning of Life is that Jacob Needleman set out to write an inquiry into the spiritual potential of money, then sketched out a history of Western religious thought, and ended up writing a first person narrative full of punch lines thinly disguised as surprise philosophical discoveries. Mixing Max Weber, Guradjieff, Maimonodes, King Solomon, and an anonymous businessman (who really DOES know the meaning of life) could have been a rollercoaster ride full of unexpected connections and insights; what it actually ends up being is long-winded, self-conscious, and pretentious. In terms of the capitalist object, a good product, but, word for word, not exactly a terrific value.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By nancy crawford on August 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
I have been on a never-ending search for a higher-paying, more satisfying job/career my entire life believing totally that this would be the answer to many of my life's challenges and problems. Further, I believed that all of these challenges and problems were for the most part being driven by external factors. After reading this book, I appreciate that my search surely was and is about more than making money.
The structure of the book is somewhat like a quilt pieced together of various subject matter, ideas and reflections about money. I had to make an effort to stay with the flow when I couldn't see where it was going. Perhaps this was a strategy the author choose to use and the one that kept me reading to the end.
It's not a book I was able to rush through because as I read the truth of what he was saying presented me with quite an accurate and painful reflection of my own behavior and beliefs about money. I could only read a little bit of the truth at a time because as I recall hearing once, the truth will set you free but first it's going to just about kill you. I had to let it kill me a little bit at a time.
An excellent companion piece to this book and one that Needleman cites is by Lewis Hyde entitled, "The Gift."
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 1, 1996
Format: Paperback
Could there be a subject more charged with the drama of
human life? Each of us lives in some private, personal
struggle with money that to a great extent dictates the
course of our dreams, our search for meaning, and our
compromises with deep Self. If you read nothing else about
money, give yourself the great treat of opening the pages of
this book. You may finally begin to comprehend why, if you
have ever attempted to make money conscious, make it work for
you rather than against you, take it into the domain of
spirit, you have not succeeded. Not succeeded in finding
deep or lasting satisfaction with it: as it squeezes you this
way, frightens you that way, appears, disappears, plays with
your hidden shame, seduces you to give up your heart's
desire for more of it, etc. Beginning to understand why,
you may also begin to have compassion for yourself in the
midst of this journey, this search for The Way, in and
through money. Needleman is fluent, wise, humble, and
provocative as he lays out the foundation of a timely and
really comprehensible thesis about the power of the most
ubiquitous of elements fueling our lives and fantasies,
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48 of 59 people found the following review helpful By R. Clampitt on July 15, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'd give it five stars but 1) It lacks an index. 2) It borders on salve for gilded yuppies much like Chopra's Seven Laws for Spiritual success. Don't feel sorry about making lots of dough, even if it's a immoral occupation - you deserve it was the main message I got. Ok, I know there's more to it than that.
But when the author in Chap 20 says money can buy you everything even love, I was vexed. Or that ethics and morality can be bought and sold like a pair of sneakers. And that unless we buy them, we cannot understand the things we can't buy! So if you're middle class forget understanding higher concepts, you don't got the bucks to buy enlightenment. Hmmm sounds like Sam Walton meets Eckhart meets The Fellowship of Friends. Everything is reduced to transactionalism. No meanings or values only cost.
Your teacher is the Benjamin Franklin in your wallet.
It's odd that Needleman promotes a idea which would condemed by any authentic spiritual tradition in the world.
Overall Prof. Needleman did a good job, but just barely, his style of writing is as usual, excellent. But content wise it is not up to par with his earlier works on philosophy or religion.
The target audience which again seems to be well off folks with guilt trips, yuppies, dot commies, etc. Ought to love it. But start at chapter 20 cause that's where it gets interesting.
If you work hard at a blue collar job skip it, this book is not meant for you. Only wealthy types with spiritual pretensions need apply, since this book is partly derived from seminars he gives around the country based on similar topics for corporate clients.
He also skipped on the psychopathology of wealth and money obsession. Why are so many of the new wealthy class, anti-charity and greedy to the point of amoral?
Read more ›
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