Author Jacob Needleman, the constant atheist, begins to bend, but he understands that God cannot be known by the ordinary self. The awakening of the true self – the Self – is necessary. In fact, the search for God without a concomitant search for one’s Self is fruitless, and even counter-productive. Belief, or the preparation for belief, is impossible without having first experienced the real “I.”
Sometimes the search can lead one to “the deepest possible experience of the truth about oneself,” Needleman says. The experience can be harrowing, after which one can only bow one’s head in sorrow. But the steady and fearless contemplation of the truth is what Gurdjieff called “work on the self,” and it is only through inwardly developed men and women, Needleman says, that God can exist “in the world of man on earth.”
Once one begins to understand his inner Self, he sees that it is far different from his everyday self, but also that it has been there all along. And just as he develops a newer, and deeper, conception of his self, he may develop a new conception of God.
The new conception that Needleman is inching toward is that God needs man — not just any old man, but awakened man — in order to act as God in our world. So divine justice, to take an example, might not be able to enter the world if there are no men or women capable of acting as its instruments. In short, God will not be God in our human world until man becomes Man – what he was created to be.
Needleman, the avowed skeptic, has described in this book how disbelief has laid the groundwork for belief – has been necessary to it. God, a source or power or force that needs us as much as we need it, has been made ready a place in our heads and our hearts by, paradoxically, a skepticism about “God.”
“Might we allow ‘atheism’ to challenge our passive, hypocritical, or superstitious beliefs in order to make room for ideas and thinking that can nourish the human soul in the way that breathing nourishes the human body? Might we allow honest atheism without seeding into our culture…toxic concepts…? I mean ideas that deny the higher nature within ourselves that is still calling to us; concepts that smother the sense of wonder, the sense of the Higher in nature and in ourselves…Such toxic concepts are now everywhere, presuming to be realistic only because they fight against an equally toxic religious arrogance.” – Jacob Needleman, What Is God?