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Lost Christianity Paperback – August 25, 2003
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"An uncommon piece of writing that reverberates . . . in a secret, unnamable, very real place in oneself."
About the Author
The acclaimed author of The American Soul, Why Can’t We Be Good? and Money and the Meaning of Life, Jacob Needleman is Professor of Philosophy at San Francisco State University, and former Director of the Center for the Study of New Religions at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley. He lives in Oakland, CA.
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Language and cultures change over time, so that the original truth becomes overlaid with rituals and practices without meaning. The churches are like all human organizations developed by human processes giving in to the politics of power and greed of leaders, those at the top and misguided persons who think they are doing God's work by gathering converts without having one thought of the necessity for change in themselves.
This is a very useful book for any person who wishes to become real and more than a victim of modern life.
Seeking to rediscover something he feels is missing from the current practice and interpretation of Christ’s teaching, he travels the world interviewing leaders of different Christian denominations. You join him on his quest and his very personal writing style elevates it into an Indiana Jones adventure.
After years of study at Harvard, Yale and in Germany and teaching college courses in Christianity, Prof. Needleman knows the doctrine inside out. Yet, with the incursion of and growing interest in Eastern religions and practices, he senses that a key component of Christian dogma has been left behind over the ages. Why are so many churches, Judaism included, he asks, experimenting with meditation or some kind of “turning within,” as a way to connect with Christ, Spirit, or God?
Although at this point (the book was first published in 1980) Prof. Needleman had already edited a volume entitled The Sword of Gnosis, he doesn’t bring the tenets of Gnosticism into his dialogue. I find this odd as meditation and “secret knowledge” were fundamental to Gnosticism and the early Christian church prior to the Council of Nicea. It would seem that he should know the answers to his question lie in this area.
He is aware that the nexus of his inquiry lies at the intersection of Eastern and Western religion and he does include the writings of Buddhist masters in his research. Personally, I feel he would have been rewarded had he looked further into Hinduism and the point where it overlaps with early Christian teachings.
I can recommend Lost Christianity for the inherently exciting journey of inquiry on which Prof. Needleman invites us. Seekers who have the same questions -- What is missing from my practice of Christian faith? How can I personally commune with God?
-- will do well to also read Paramahansa Yogananda’s eye-opening final work, The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You, published in 2004 by the Self-Realization Fellowship. They offer a boxed, two-volume set of 1642 pages and a 160-page paperback condensation, The Yoga of Jesus, which includes Christ’s “lost years” in India.