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46 of 57 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Needleman's New Book is a Personal Memoir, December 24, 2009
This review is from: What Is God? (Hardcover)
What is God? by Jacob Needleman is written as a memoir and exploration of the author's personal search to answer the questions: who am I and who is God. His story begins when he was a child, continues in the 1950s and 60s and concludes in the present.

Needleman is a philosopher and uses philosophical reasoning to examine Judaism, Christianity, various theologians and a touch of Buddhism. He adds examples from the college classroom and quotes from various texts. Most important is his personal work with Gurdjieff groups. George Gurdjieff was a Greek-Armenian mystic and spiritual teacher who lived from 1866 to 1949. Followers often meet in groups and this is where Needleman articulates his experience of God through the practice and inner work of connecting to higher Attention.

After reading the book I concluded that too much was missing in this important exploration of God. Why? I wondered. Needleman certainly had access to texts and people who know God. Needleman was born before the experimenting baby-boom generation and may not have experienced the renewal movements within Judaism, Christianity and Islam (Sufi) that were prevalent the past 40 plus years. Then there are the practices and meditations of Eastern religions and teachers, the practice of "initiation," the real "born again" experience, ecstatic prayer, and many stories of mystics who know God... all this was missing.

Needleman's personal quest concluded with his understanding of the teachings of Gurdjieff, the practice of Attention and an experience of God. This is fine for a memoir, but the reader needs more to know about God.

In both the first and last chapters Needleman shares a few gems. The most important is the discussion and exploration of how the human mind asks fundamental questions (who am I and what is God) which the mind alone cannot answer. Genuine thought about God both demands and supports a definite change of consciousness within oneself - a definite glimpse of the experience of "I am." He goes on to illustrate that it is only the soul of man that can say in truth "I am."

Philosophic inquiry is given primary attention in the book and Needleman's questions are thought provoking. He discusses how religion and the idea of God in our times have often been replaced by scientific, purely humanistic thought and that our exploring mind is intrinsically atheist.

The book belongs to Needleman. It is his memoir that he shares with readers.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 23, 2010 4:47:43 PM PST
Jeeprs says:
well with respect, nobody is going to be able to give you those answers. You need to find them.

Posted on Aug 16, 2011 5:20:55 AM PDT
Lee St Clair says:
Also, with respect, a personal memoir of a search won't include those areas that the author didn't experience.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 16, 2011 6:09:20 AM PDT
The book is not labeled as a "memoir" -- that is my biggest gripe. Even good memoirs include rounded factual information -- Needleman is very knowledgeable.
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