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.
"If ever a work of philosophical ideas arrived at a time when human events make it not only timely but urgently relevant, The American Soul is such a book." -San Francisco Chronicle
"So literate it comes close to poetry...[This] book makes you think and rethink most of the ideas you ever had about the stunning people who give American history both its exceptionalism and its commonalities." -Martin Peretz
San Francisco State philosophy professor and author Needleman (Money and the Meaning of Life) invites readers to contemplate the deeper spiritual meaning of the American legacy of "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." Finding a deep resonance between the founding principles of this country and the ancient spiritual quest for an inner liberation, Needleman proceeds to examine and "remythologize" the founders and some of their great deeds. Subjective rather than academic, at times lyrical, provocative, and profound, Needleman's new work infuses contemplation with a child's sense (a sense that most of us share) of boundless faith in a place "that accepted one's true inner self, one's inner good will, one's real wish to serve..." The reader is asked to consider Franklin's courageous experimentation ("...the man played and worked with lightening!"), Washington's restraint retiring from the army and later from the presidency rather than exploiting his matchless popularity and political power, Jefferson's brilliant articulation of the value of community, and the sheer gravity and awareness in Lincoln's face. Each man is presented as embodying a different facet of the inner freedom and integrity that is achieved only as one learns to live in accord with conscience that is, with a deeper self that is, Needleman says, allowed to develop in this country. While Needleman clearly finds much to love about America, he balances our light with our darkness, our genuine good will and spirituality with our great crimes of slavery and the genocidal abuse of the American Indian. Decidedly not for strict materialists or historical literalists, Needleman's latest work gives open-minded readers a new set of spiritual role models and much valuable food for thought at a crucial moment.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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May 28, 2003
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