Philosophy professor gives himself spiritual pep talk in new book

Philosophy Professor Jacob Needleman in his home office

Jacob Needleman, a philosophy professor at SF State since 1962, sits in his home office. Photo credit: Gospel Cruz.

“Among the great questions of the human heart, none is more central than the question, ‘Who am I?’” Jacob Needleman approaches meaningful material with frankness in the introduction of his most recent book, “I Am Not I” (North Atlantic Books). A professor of philosophy at SF State for more than 50 years, Needleman tackles life’s existential mysteries through a unique dialogue between his 82-year-old self and his younger counterparts at progressing ages, offering them the illuminating wisdom he has amassed over decades of pursuit.

How does rejecting our certainties liberate us? What does inner consciousness truly mean? Needleman acts as guiding counselor to his young self, Jerry, who seeks answers to these questions in the author’s shortest title on profound concepts to date.

“I Am Not I” is a departure from Needleman’s previous tomes on philosophy due to its feasible-for-teens language and arrangement into play form. A graduate of Harvard University, Yale University and University of Freiburg, he pioneered an in-depth study on diverse, alternative faiths in his landmark text, “The New Religions,” published in 1970. The Harvard Bulletin called it “a vital study of a phenomenon that has dramatically altered the lives of those it has touched.” He has written 20 books on philosophy, life purpose and God, but “I Am Not I” is his most personal achievement yet.