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The American Soul: Rediscovering the Wisdom of the Founders [Paperback]

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Item Specifications...

Pages   377
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.97" Width: 5.97" Height: 1.04"
Weight:   0.9 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jun 2, 2003
Publisher   Tarcher
Age  18
ISBN  1585422266  
EAN  9781585422265  
UPC  619580014958  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Examines how the spiritual beliefs and vision of America's founders shaped the country's history and culture and assesses the influence of the spiritual traditions of African slaves, Native Americans, and early mystical communities on colonial America.

Publishers Description
The critically acclaimed work that asks: What was the spiritual vision of the founding fathers-and how can we reclaim it today?

Looking at the lives of America's founders-including Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin-scholar and bestselling author Jacob Needleman explores their core of inner beliefs; their religious and spiritual sensibilities; and their individual conception of the purpose of life.

The founders, Needleman argues, conceived of an "inner democracy": a continual pursuit of wisdom and self-improvement that would undergird the outer democracy in which we live today. Any understanding of America as a nation of spiritual values will in the years ahead require Needleman's work as a point of reference.

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More About Jacob Needleman

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! 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."

Jacob Needleman currently resides in the state of California.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
A vital book  Aug 2, 2007
"You don't know what you have here," A British lover of America tells a shaggy, typically left-leaning group of circa-1974 Bay-area students at the start of this book. "You simply don't know what you have."

Indeed we don't, as Needleman illustrates by the end of this fine book, and it has nothing to do with "patriotism" as often perceived. At this spiritually fraught moment in our nation, this book is a tonic for doubters, and a useful corrective for the smug. While not a difficult read - a high school sophomore would profit from it - this work compels your attention and deserves to be savored one chapter at a time.

Needleman offers us a sober-minded meditation on the spiritual underpinnings of America; the soaring, and deftly revealed, beliefs of the founders (Jefferson, Madison, Washington, Franklin); a fine chapter on Lincoln; bracing chapters on America's two great original sins: the genocide of the Native Americans, with the legend of Hiawatha as a framing device; and the crimes of slavery and racism, with Frederick Douglass brought to compelling life. Tying it all together at the fitting end is Walt Whitman as a bard of a "community of conscience."

With a close, careful reading, a deeper, resonant pattern emerges.

If one is thirsty for inspiration after reading the toxic, persuasive non-fiction books on the current administration and its works (the latest, the outstanding Tragic Legacy by Gary Greenwald), Needleman's book refreshes as an inspiring - and unstinting - reminder of all there is to love in this country.

The nation's greatness, Needleman posits, lies not in its material success, but in the universalist spiritual underpinnings of the "pursuit of happiness," which Needleman persuasively argues is the freedom to discover, in our own ways, the still, small voice in each of us, or, as Lincoln would say, the better angels of our nature. IF European secularism offers us freedom FROM religion, the American secular tradition offers us freedom OF religion, or the recognition that we are each free to explore, or not explore, the divine mysteries in our own, communal and individual ways.

He does not shirk from crimes against Native Americans and African Americans, but goes beyond to a deeper look at their own spiritual traditions and roots, which have blended into the warp and woof of American life. (He does not explore Mormonism, but has a fascinating chapter on the pre-Revolutionary experimental community of Ephrata, Pa.)

This book actually revived my long-shattered belief in American exceptionalism. That exceptionalism is not the brutish sort that much of the world perceives, but a special, carefully thought vision that comes comes from spiritual and philosophical roots in the Enlightenment. It is not simple-minded, or arrogant, or materialistic, or the heedless and even reckless notion of "freedom" that has cost us so dearly.

Needleman concludes with an inviting, modest bibliography for further reading. I read this not as a bibliography but as an invitation, a call to action through service in a humble, open spirit to our communities and our world. We do not need to be mere consumers; we have more power than we know as citizens. We indeed do not know what we have here - we have plenty. As Needleman insists, we ignore that at our peril. This is one of the best books I have read on what it means to be, and why it is special, to be lucky enough to be American.

Yes, the book can get too dramatic and personal at times and can occasionally rankle. In the context of the overall message, though, these are cavils.

I can't help but think of the neglected final lines of the second verse of America, the Beautiful, one that people never sing: "Confirm thy soul in self control; thy liberty in law."

beyond words  Jan 19, 2006
For several years now, when the topic of my favorite book comes up, I say without hesitation, "The American Soul" by Jacob Needleman. Its insights are nothing short of brilliant; his language so sublime I can't help but reread passages for the sheer poetry with which a philosopher in his prime can convey a profound insight.

If only our presidents, senators, and congressmen had this book at their bedsides. We might actually become the America we once imagined ourselves to be.
Learn What the Deeper American Soul is Really About  Sep 21, 2005
Jacob Needleman's book The American Soul is a masterful explanation of a deeper America, an America that has been lost in the shuck and jive of corporate greed, a media managed for misinformation and consensus and the professional wrestling that too often passes for religion in this country. Needleman writes with an elegant depth of Soul that is his subject and so he writes as a true and an especially wise American indeed. His discussion of the heart moving and inspired Iroquois solution to pettiness, greed and violence is itself worth many times the price of the book. If by some stroke of magical good fortune we could get Dr. Phil and others to stay home for a week so we could have greater access to a voice like Needleman's, America might make move toward remembering who she really is and in doing so become once again a beacon for those who seek the freedom to pursue a life of true depth, meaning and happiness, a life that lies beyond the surface freedom to stock up regularly on consumer goods. By all means, buy this book for yourself and for anyone you truly care about. The American Soul allows us to "remember" something essential and profound within ourselves, something that is the very Heart of America-something that we need to pledge allegiance to once again. This book offers profound perspective on what fitness for conscious citizenship is all about.
An Important Book for Americans  Aug 22, 2005
This wise, much-needed book by one of America's distinguished philosophers should be required reading for every American. It goes deeply not only into the great ideals that lie at the heart of the original American vision, but also into its crimes throughout its history. "The crimes of America are as much a part of its meaning as its ideals," Needleman writes, "and to embrace one without the other will lead us nowhere." Needleman shows how it is only through awakening to the real meaning of such ideals as liberty, individuality, self-determination, and conscience that we can "become genuine men and women of the soul."
A "must read" for anyone who calls themselves an American  Feb 26, 2004
This book captures what our founders had in their minds and hearts when they envisioned what America could be. While we have strayed substantially from the original ideals, and lost sight of the original "American Dream," reading Needleman's words reminds us of what possibilities we are sitting on. We still have the potential to become as great, as free and as inspiring - to ourselves and all the world. All we need to do is get ourselves back on track. This book offers reminds us of our roots and instills visions of new possibilities. This is the kind of American I want to be!

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