Thursday, October 6, 2011

I love Jerry

... even though he writes the same book over and over: a continuing theme in multiple variations.



This time it is 'God' and episodes from his, Jerry's not God's, biography that illuminate his grappling with, 'What is God?'

First, out with the gripe, you do sense that you could lift whole paragraphs, indeed chapters, from this particular book and land them with minimum editorial effort into any of his previous books, without anyone, least of all me, noticing!

That aside - the feeling of intellectual deja vu - each of his books though they deal with the same fundamental theme, clothe it in a different context, and illustrate it anew whether this be 'the real nature of Christianity' or 'the meaning of money' or, as in this case, 'the status of God'!

And the fundamental theme is that we come to genuine knowledge of the truth only by a transformation of that which beholds the truth; namely, our consciousness; and, that beholding is a wisdom of both heart and mind. There is here an 'inner empiricism' that grounds knowledge in ourselves according to laws that were known in each and every authentic sacred tradition and need to be rediscovered anew in this, our troubled generation.

Jacob (Jerry) Needleman's vocation is how to do this using the practice of philosophy, philosophy as a restored, functioning 'love of wisdom'.

What is continuously fascinating is how he finds different ways to alert our attention to the way we carry truth, to the 'how' of our holding it apart from its content. Truth, in this Socratic form, is fundamentally ethical - we may differ from one another as to the content of what we believe to be true, but even as we hold those differing 'truths' with a similar awareness that makes us vulnerable, questioning and compassionate (or the opposite, how both reasons and emotions can narrow that 'holding' until we give way to a capturing certainty that sweeps us on our way).

The Buddha and Christ can embrace each other, not because they believe the same things, but they recognise their mutual openness to truth bearing, to being expressions of the fundamental truth of compassionate love of neighbour, of self, and that holds them to an absolute demand and response.

For Needleman truth sets you free for responsible love. In this recognition, he sits in a long and noble confluence of traditions.

And his style accessible, reflective, biographical is a delight. It slips through you until it snags you into pausing contemplation of what it means to be, and what is possible for, a human being.




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