The Art of Meditation
by
Joel Goldsmith
© 1956 by Joel Goldsmith
HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN 978-0-06-250379-4

Joel Goldsmith (1892-1964) was an American spiritual teacher and writer.

He came from a Jewish family and had some Jewish education in a Reform synagogue at about age 12-13. His involvement in Judaism more or less ended at that point.

He later joined the Christian Science Church, ultimately becoming a “Practitioner.” Some years after that, he left the CS Church formally, but as an independent practitioner, continued to apply what he had learned there.

In 1947, he wrote the bestseller, “The Infinite Way.”  It’s still in print today. “The Art of Meditation” is one of several books he wrote afterwards. His themes, well laid-out in “The Infinite Way,” reverberate with consistency in all his other writings.

Some (maybe many) Jewish readers might lack comfort reading Goldsmith’s writings, as he refers heavily to Christian scripture with which they are wholly unfamiliar. I have no problems with this myself. First of all, I’ve grown relatively familiar with Christian scripture over the years. Second — I believe that all spiritual experience is ultimately the same, despite immense differences in how it is described and expressed in various traditions. Still, I must state this caveat: If you are going to be put off by mention of Jesus or other Christian teachers and writers, Joel Goldsmith’s writings might not be for you.

It’s easy for me to read Joel’s books, because I look on what they say as being about personal experience, not about dogma. I learn from them.

In fact, nowhere does Joel seem to say that you have to believe what he believes, other than that God is the only Ultimate Reality, all else being an appearance. In this, he’s not so different from the Rambam. He’s even more similar to essential Kabbalistic and Hasidic teaching. 

What I find valuable in “The Art of Meditation,” and my reason for reviewing it on this blog, is that Joel writes very personally about what meditation has been for him. It’s not about “ideas” alone. It’s about what you do with them personally. We can learn much from what he says.

“When the Soul of man is free, it carries him through Red Seas and desert experiences to the Promised Land of spiritual peace. Freedom is a condition of the Soul.” [1]

Philo would have had no problem with this “allegory” or “midrash.” 

This is one of those moments in which Joel, despite claiming no affinity for Jewish teaching, uses an image that almost any Jew would use spontaneously. In other places, Joel shows a rather stark refusal to look on rabbinic teaching with any warmth. Still, taking the statement on its own, it declares his promise to show us a way to a freedom he has already found.

What brings us to this freedom? Meditation:

“…meditation is for the purpose of realizing God. In meditation, God is revealed as the life of individual being.” [2]

What does Joel tell us that God is? The infinite power that is always part of all of us, always available to each of us: 

“…the Kingdom of God, the presence and power of God, is within. Jesus called this presence and power ‘Father’…Paul, using a different term, said, ‘I can do all things through Christ…’ By whatever name it is called — God, Father or the Christ — it is to be found within.” [3] We can add “Ha-Shem” to the names Joel lists, without any doubt that he would agree.

He is not, then, urging us to “worship” any person, including himself. He is emphatically asking us to find within ourselves that for which we are always — knowingly or unknowingly — searching.

Joel indirectly came out of the “New Thought” movement, of which “Christian Science” was one branch. This “movement” taught that all conditions in our lives are based on our thinking. “Change your thought, change your life” as Dr. Wayne Dyer puts it. But Joel pushes us to something beyond this. He rejected praying or meditating or affirming for a specific “outcome” or “demonstration,” as is typically taught in New Thought: 

“How different that is from doing mental work, declaring or affirming that this or that should come to pass [as I wrote about in my preceding post]…the true attitude with which to enter into meditation [is] — opening our consciousness to God and letting God fulfill itself within us.” [4]

Thus, Joel, unlike almost any other “New Thought” writer, is not concerned at all with “demonstrations,” “healings,” etc. Rather, he is telling us that in meditation as he understands and experiences it, the human mind neither prescribes nor creates the outcome. Instead, it stands silent as the Divine Mind in us brings about the good that we need.

I’ve found this to be true in the deeper levels of Visualization, too. Although I might have a mental image of the Divine creating a desired state, the process really happens when I cease trying to create it in any way and do no more than witness it. I have many times come out of Visualizing with a pervasive sense of being within the Divine — of the Divine in and around me, wherever I was.

Joel gives some general guidelines about meditation, his understanding being that a single, defined method doesn’t work the same way for everyone. Here, again, “The Art…” allows us a glimpse into the mind of a person with his own intimate experience of the process:

“The initial stage of meditation may be a contemplation of God: the beauty of God’s universe, the [natural] law of God, and the activity of God. Our life becomes that of a beholder, beholding the glory of God in all things — in the green grass, in the gentle breeze, in the turbulence of the ocean, and in the calm of the night.” [5

How like the Besht this is!

And how like Rav Soloveitchik:

“…The sun rises – and one sees the Almighty in the illumination of sunrise. The sun sets in an afterglow of haze – and there too one discerns His Presence…It is a feeling – and it must be [personally, directly] experienced.” [6]

Joel tells us that this is where we can begin. Don’t only state that “God created all things” as an abstract, intellectual fact; a quotation from a book you read or a teacher you heard. Take the next step: Spend time each day looking at all things, reminding yourself as you look that God is creating and recreating everything in every moment and remains within the things created.

But this is only a beginning. The ultimate goal is to take your attention off created things altogether, and place it on the Eternal Creative Presence that is always here, always now.

“As we ponder the glory of God, contemplate his wonders, our mind is stayed on God. Fewer and fewer extraneous thoughts thrust themselves upon our consciousness…The conscious thinking mind comes to a stop, and the invisible Presence and Power is given an opportunity to function.” [7]

Joel is sharing his priceless experience with us. He’s not a “scholar;” certainly not a “Jewish” scholar versed in Hebrew and rabbinic commentaries (as was the Besht and all the Hasidic teachers). Yet, his not being a “scholar” is one of his greatest strengths. He is able to give his teachings with simplicity and clarity. As a person of profound spiritual experience, his teaching can do much to illuminate the scholars’ teachings for us. 

A blog post like this isn’t the place to go into greater detail about Joel Goldsmith’s “The Art of Meditation.” It certainly bears close reading. Even more, it bears application in our own lives. I hope to quote Joel in many future posts, sharing what he writes and what I learn from him.

Joel’s intention and hope was that others should have the same experience as his.

_______________________________________________________________

[1] p. 4
[2] p. 13
[3] p. 5
[4] p. 14-15
[5] p. 24
[6] Soloveitchik, Rabbi Joseph; On Repentance; Pinchas Peli, ed.; p. 134
[7] Goldsmith; p. 25