Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Jacob Needleman

Professor of Philosopher, Lecturer, Author

"To approach the living question with the mind alone is impossible. The intellect must be coupled with feeling in order to stir a person to authentic inquiry. Real philosophy recognizes that ideas have sensations and emotions connected with them, and that one responds to them with the whole of oneself."

"More and more, we are all becoming aware that our lives are being lived for us by influences that, however numerous they appear, are in fact only so many reflections of one kind of movement in the life of man, a movement toward externals, toward needs and gratifications that, however justified in their own right, become destructive when they pretend to represent the whole meaning of human life."

"Concepts are, so to speak, problem-solving devices, the internal equivalent of technologies; they are the technologies of the mind-machine. Concepts, theories, hypotheses, distinctions, comparisons—all these may be taken ultimately as instruments for organizing perceptions into logically consistent patterns called explanations. But they do not and cannot awaken in man a new quality of feeling or perceiving, a new organ or faculty of awareness. Concepts are no more nor less than tools by which man combines or analyzes that which he already knows through perceptions. If man's perceptions are limited mainly to the external senses, concepts can do no more than organize the material collected by the senses. Concepts can never reach beyond the level of perception at which man lives. Ideas, on the other hand, evoke, support, and require a higher level of awareness itself."

"To search means, first, I need Being, Truth; second, I do not know where to find it; and third, an action takes place that is not based on fantasies of certainty— while at the same time a waiting takes place that is rooted not in wishful thinking but in a deep sense of urgency"

"We lose our time because we lose our attention."

"In our time and culture, the battlefield of life is money. Instead of horses and chariots, guns and fortresses, there are banks, checkbooks, credit cards, mortgages, salaries, the tax authorities. But the inner enemies remain the same now as they were in ancient India or feudal Japan: fear, self-deception, vanity, egoism, wishful thinking, tension and violence."

"I want to understand what, precisely, it is in ourselves that prevents great truth from penetrating into our lives and therefore which prevents us from acting ethically in the only real sense of the word. Ethically means acting and being in the service of what is the true greatness of oneself as Man. I've studied many aspects of our culture from this perspective - science, education, medicine, religion. But now I see that in our society, in our world, it is our relation to money that needs to be understood. If great truth does not enter into our relation to money, it cannot enter our lives."

"Man must have results, real results, in his inner and outer life. I do not mean the results which modern people strive after in their attempts at self-development. These are not results, but only rearrangements of psychic material, a process the Buddhists call 'samsara' and which our Holy Bible calls 'dust'."

"Time disappears into outer action or inner impulses. Into doings, cravings, or dreamings. But human time is conscious time. And this has been lost, destroyed. In its place there is now animal time (doing, moving about, preying on others, eating, building, killing, etc. ); plant time (dreaming, languishing, imagining); or “mineral” — that is, mechanical — time: the time of devices such as clocks and computers. What we call logical thinking is often just an internal version of these lifeless machines. Implicitly, we even take pride in the mechanicity of our thinking when, forgetting the metaphorical origin of the usage, we refer to a computer’s “intelligence.” This is mental time, “mineral” in its rigidity and sterility. We lay this logical cement over organic life out there and in ourselves. Carried to its extreme, this becomes the mindset that measures the whole of human life solely by the “bottom line."

"If money were more important to us we would understand how it influences everything in our lives. Love and hatred, eating and sleeping, safety and danger, work and rest, marriage, children, fear, loneliness ... think of where we go, how we travel, with whom we associate ... The money factor is there, wrapped around or lodged inside everything. Money is the raw material out of which we build our lives. But because we don't take money more seriously, we have come to know the price of everything and the meaning of nothing."

"Among the great questions of the human heart, none is more central than the question, ?Who am I?? And among the great answers of the human spirit, none is more central than the experience of ?I Am.? In fact, in the course of an intensely lived human life ? a normal human life filled with the search for Truth ? this question and this answer eventually run parallel to each other, coming closer and closer together until the question becomes the answer and the answer becomes the question."

"Ask yourself what is your understanding of the influences acting upon us ? of the universal laws in nature? What are your thoughts about that? And the teachings of religion ? the idea of faith, obedience to the higher, responsibility for others and oneself, the deceptions and revelations of sleep and dreaming, the very idea of man?s place in the living, breathing, sentient cosmos, our place on our planet, the demand for morality, the nature of animal instinct and intuition within us and around us, the function and the meaning of pain and pleasure, the idea and the experience of consciousness and conscience, the subtle nourishment in the air we breathe, the food we eat, the genuine and the fabricated needs and desires of the body, the powerful influences of symbols, the cosmic and intimate force of sex, the inevitability of death, the illusion and the reality of time? Working like this, and maintaining the fundamental attitude of sincerity about yourself and your discoveries, you will become disillusioned not only with your certainties, but with the structure of your mind itself. You will realize that what you need is not new beliefs, new information, new theories, but an entirely new mind."

"Stay with the contradiction. If you stay, you will see that there is always something more than two opposing truths. The whole truth always includes a third part, which is the reconciliation."

"Elias died from leukemia, at that time incurable, just before his fourteenth birthday. In the months that followed the onset of his illness, I would meet with him in the quiet music room at the back of his house, facing a large, carefully tended, sunshine-filled garden. As his illness progressed and he grew weaker, my feeling about his mind deepened. He spoke openly about what awaited him and regretted only that he would not live long enough to understand everything that he wished to understand about the universe. But somehow, doubtless because of the more frequent appearance in us of shared conscious presence, his death eventually, in the years that followed, brought me more hope than grief, the hope that arises from the ?sound? of a truly sacred consciousness calling to us from within ourselves. I see now that it is the intimation of this quality of hope that I have all along been trying to bring both to myself and to my students and readers in the face of the illusory hopes and inevitable pessimism so characteristic of our era."

"Real ideas open the mind to the heart, to the heart of the mind, to another level of reality within ourselves? This is the taste, the beginning, of inner freedom. Only fools imagine that freedom means getting what one happens to desire. Real freedom begins with obedience to a higher influence ? a higher, finer energy within oneself."

"The struggle to exist, to not disappear in this moment, is the advancing root of the struggle to exist throughout the whole passage of time. We need to help each other in this struggle. You by asking, I by struggling to respond. This is the law of love, which rules the universe."

"This is the beginning of sincerity. Because you are struggling, your question begins to deepen? What you will discover, always for the first time, always new, in the fleeting moment of wonder ? before that moment is captured by the ambitions of personality. You, I, in that moment, will discover the need to serve the energy, uniquely human and also sacred, that starts as the pure awareness of one?s own existence. And even as this idea ? this beginning idea ? of what is human, even as this idea of what is man, begins to appear ? even in that fleeting moment of the pure awareness of my existence given now by a great idea ? in that moment in front of a living idea, an awakening idea, a glimpse appears of the uniquely human yearning to serve; the need appears, the need to obey that energy, the need to attend to it, to be nourished by it, to receive the help that comes then and only then, when you are objectively obliged to give, to serve, to manifest that energy in action and understanding. It is only that energy of conscious existence that gives you, a human being, real strength. The energy that is the total awareness of one?s own existence is ? or can become, can be? the strongest energy in human life."

"What is higher in yourself? That way of thinking about the question is the beginning of the answer ? because it involves a real idea which has been handed down to humanity over thousands of years? At such a point you yourself will find the answer ? not as a thought, but as an experience. You will for a moment become the answer! You will not only have a taste of real freedom; you will for a moment be freedom."