Who are you, Lord my God, and who am I? 5


The idea of self-observation as advocated by Carl Jung and included in the New Year Seasonal reflection post, is also seen by Jacob Needleman as part of ‘attention’ and being attentive as a way he felt he could experience God. But despite his deep knowledge of different religious practices – including the contemplative tradition, and despite his great efforts following different teachers over decades, he writes that he still could not experience God. In fact, he says he didn’t really know what it was that he was unable to contact. The struggle continued, and there were occasionally what he describes as ‘good moments.’

Listening to Jeanne de Salzmann who was a close pupil of Gurdjieff, and later leader of the Gurdjieff Institute, Needleman felt:

‘For one fleeting second or microsecond, an indescribable, subtle force gently touched every cell in my body, every hope in my heart, every question in my mind. Or should I say simply, something truly sacred appeared in me and disappeared even as it appeared like a thousand particle of silent light. My heart joyfully rested; my body surrendered all its tension; my mind stopped as wind stops for a second when it changes direction. I am. … [and] in that very microsecond, she [de Salzmann] quickly turned her eyes to me, and said simply and undramatically, “That was a good moment”.’

Such good moments of experiencing this greater energy did reoccur, but always fleeting, vanishing almost in the very moment that they appeared and bringing with them a joy for what had been given, and a sorrow that it could not be held on to. For Needleman this greater energy is God, and it contained more authority than anything else in his life. He then understood how God is manifested in the lives of greatly awakened women and men who have received the inward God of consciousness – some within the confines of a religious tradition, and also in some legendary or even mythic figures:

‘There is the endless line and endless number of lines of guides and teachers stretching from the beginning of history to the present, including the great lineages of Buddhist sages and saints, many acting in the world here and now around us. And from within our own Western culture there exists the prophets and rabbinic masters in the long history of Judaism, and the saints and mystics of two thousand years of Christianity. And much, much else, always and everywhere in the life of this planet, our earth.’

It is through God-inhabited people that God can act as God in the world in mercy, divine justice and compassion. It is from the experience of God, ‘that great inner Divine Attention’, that love can touch us, and through us manifest non-egoistic love.

The way to find out who God is and who I am is then a way, a guided path, the inner work, leading step by step to the ability to receive what ‘the religions call God.’ And all along the way there is help from others who have walked before us – ‘the vertical chain of being stretching between God and the earth and even below the earth – in a word “Jacob’s Ladder”.’