An Unknown World: Notes on the Meaning of the Earth
By Jacob Needleman

I found this one hundred-ninety-seven page book an easy and enjoyable read, packed with informed opinion, with the straightforward style I have found in other books by Jacob Needleman. I could wax eloquent on his comprehension of the entire world of philosophy/spirituality and would if he did not already have the applause of an enormous and loyal audience.

I finished deeply satisfied, and then realized I could not remember much of what he said. That did not seem right.

He uses what I assume is a fictional device of dreams about a deceased friend which dreams interrupt more than clarify his message, and he presents extended pieces of his personal history which do add to the message but, as any story does, also add information off the point that obscures the central objective. In all that I got a little dizzy. Not too dizzy to reach the finish line, but too dizzy to remember how I got there. Since these are some of the features that made the book an easy read, who am I to complain?

To aid you in deciding if you want to explore this further and if you do, to aid you in navigating this forest of interruptions, here is what I see as the central message: The earth itself intends to become conscious. Towards that end, life in its most minimal forms began eons ago, moving through various forms to the ultimate piece of earth, the human, that which is able to be conscious, (if it tries). Our failure to perform may mean the end of the earth, at least the end of anything as redolent with life as the earth we know.

(Once you own the book go to page one-thirty-four and read the lengthy quote from Gurdjieff, not precisely what Needleman will say but close. You can use that text to set your compass.)

Friends of mine have told me how distressed they are by the mistakes in science in a book I had previously reviewed also telling a story of evolution. To my surprise, while granting that their criticisms were most likely correct, (I am unlikely to know one way or the other,) I was unmoved by them.

I hold neither that author nor this one responsible for the science. At one point, back to the time of Jesus or so, our mythology, (for that indeed is what it was,) matched up with the science of the time. Then science continued to develop and the mythology did not. When Jesus ascended into heaven, science said that there was a place up there somewhere where he could go. Now science says there is no such a place. It is possible to hold both “facts” in mind and continue with life, millions of people are doing it.

But Jacob is matching our understanding of the world of the spirit as expressed by the great minds of Western philosophy and spirituality and small dashes of the East with our understanding of the world of the material.

A believable story! Helps my orientation even though I know that this too will pass along with the science that spawned it.

Somewhere around nineteen-sixty-two I read a book on the development of religious doctrine. It knocked me off my feet. I had never thought that doctrine developed. I had accepted that what was taught me in the twentieth century was what had been promulgated in the first. Now I was shaken by the possibility that like everything else doctrine develops, and even more shaken by the realization that this was so obvious I should have always known it. What else was I missing?
I have kept learning the answers to that question for more than sixty years. And now, maybe perhaps we are not the center of this game at all, and the earth has not been given to us for our purposes but it is the earth that has produced us for purposes of its own. How is that for an up-ending?