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I Am Not I Paperback – April 19, 2016
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Praise for Jacob Needleman
“His lively prose, storytelling skills, and lucid insights draw us into an animated conversation with a brilliant teacher.”
“Striking … takes some really original positions on topics that have become run into the ground by the same discussions and same assumptions.”
“An immensely learned man who is unembarrassed by the big questions that many of his fellow philosophers prefer to dodge.”
“For nearly four decades Jacob Needleman has confronted the central questions of our era in light of the vision that lies at the root of the world’s great spiritual traditions. Needleman’s work clarifies: it takes topics that exist in disparate threads throughout our culture—new religions, esoteric Christianity, the founding mythos of America—and frames them in a manner both sensible and deeply questioning.”
About the Author
Jacob Needleman is a philosopher, author, and religious scholar. Educated at Harvard University, Yale University, and the University of Freiburg, he teaches philosophy at San Francisco State University. He is the author of The New Religions, a pioneering study of the new American spirituality, The Wisdom of Love, Money and the Meaning of Life, A Sense of the Cosmos, Lost Christianity, The Heart of Philosophy, The Way of the Physician, Time and the Soul, Sorcerers: A Novel, The American Soul, Why Can't We Be Good? , and The Essential Marcus Aurelius.
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Jacob Needleman teaches that when we are alone with our thoughts we are in real trouble! But together with others there is hope. Why is this? Because: real dialogue requires people to listen to one another. To truly listen one must step aside from one’s habitual state of mind, opinions, thoughts, and emotional reactions. And in stepping aside we experience our first taste of freedom, of another way of being in the world. When we step back from our normal, everyday self, what one might call our egotistical mind, the mind centered on itself, another mind appears, another intelligence.
This struggle for awakening is possible when two people support each other in their search to remain open. I Am Not I demonstrates the power of this support as the “two Needlemans,” discuss the possibilities of another birth, the birth of one’s True Self, one’s own recognition of “I Amness.” Perhaps real truth and wisdom, Needleman suggests, can only be recognized when we are in a specific state of consciousness that is open, and can receive the wisdom that is always here, even when we are unaware of it.
This awareness and growth of consciousness and attention is paradoxically given to those who are willing to pay the price. What is that price? I don’t think I can answer that question. Perhaps it is a question we each have to answer for ourselves. However, Needleman suggests what some of the first payments are, and they are the “payments” of self-study and search. “Hold your mind. Stop your mind. Just for a minute. Let your mind listen. It will move down into your body all by itself, but only if you allow it to. It will find your heart all by itself” (73).
I Am Not I gave me hope. For that alone it is worth reading and rereading.
Unique from other species, we humans are aware of our being, reflective about how we are and also somehow sensing what we are not yet ... and that we are destined to be. Needleman suggests that conscious existence comes when, “a glimpse appears of the uniquely human yearning to serve ... to manifest that energy in action and understanding.” Our evolving actualizing essence occurs when, “You, I, ... discover the need to serve the energy, uniquely human and also sacred, that starts as the pure awareness of one’s own existence” (p. 42).
“I Am Not I” is written in the curious style of a conversation with one’s self where the wisdom figure and the seeker each speaks from the context of their own disparate current situational perspectives. The deeply philosophical nature of “I Am Not I” can be quite thought provoking.
“I Am Not I” is a recommended read for the growing population of people who are feeling a sense of restlessness in their lives ... and wondering what to do (and how to be) next.
He has previously explored the notion of defeating time by communicating with one's younger self but in this short play he dramatizes it in ways that I found evocative of deep feeling and profundity.
How to present "transcendent" material? Jacob's readers will know the source of much of what is brought here but it is presented with Jacob's unique daring and exquisite ability with language.
I particularly found the conclusion in which he wraps things up particularly helpful.in pointing beyond the intellectual mind to those realms that are almost impossible to describe in words.
As I was reading I had an inner sense of what Ouspensky may have meant by recurrence and perhaps even what Gurdjieff was attempting to suggest to his students.
As with the earlier books, Dr. Needleman interweaves snippets of memoir with potent questions and profound insights about what it means to be a human being and our place in the universe. And, he continues to offer us opportunities to engage with the book on multiple levels — an interesting memoir, an invitation to dialogue with ourselves, a guidebook for awakening to and allowing a higher consciousness into our life.
Yet, there is something different in this book. Something subtle, yet powerful. Dr. Needleman uses the dialogue with his younger selves to directly show us how to shift our thoughts from head to heart and reconnect with our own I-ness. If we choose to be present. If we listen and look deeply.
Dr. Needleman has provided us with a valuable gift, in the form of a simple little book. I highly recommend it.