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Works by
Huston Smith
[May 31, 1919 - ]

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Profile created October 22, 2007
  • A Seat at the Table: Huston Smith in Conversation with Native Americans on Religious Freedom (2006) by Huston Smith with Phil Cousineau, ed.
    In this collection of illuminating conversations, renowned historian of world religions Huston Smith invites ten influential American Indian spiritual and political leaders to talk about their five-hundred-year struggle for religious freedom. Their intimate, impassioned dialogues yield profound insights into one of the most striking cases of tragic irony in history: the country that prides itself on religious freedom has resolutely denied those same rights to its own indigenous people. With remarkable erudition and curiosity--and respectfully framing his questions in light of the revelation that his discovery of Native American religion helped him round out his views of the world's religions--Smith skillfully helps reveal the depth of the speakers' knowledge and experience. American Indian leaders Vine Deloria, Jr. (Lakota), Winona LaDuke (Anishinaabe), Walter Echo-Hawk (Pawnee), Frank Dayish, Jr. (Navajo), Charlotte Black Elk (Lakota), Douglas George-Kanentiio (Mohawk), Lenny Foster (Dine), Tonya Gonnella Frichner (Onondaga), Anthony Guy Lopez (Lakota), and Oren Lyons (Onondaga) provide an impressive overview of the critical issues facing the Native American community today. Their ideas about spirituality, politics, relations with the U.S. government, their place in American society, and the continuing vitality of their communities give voice to a population that is all too often ignored in contemporary discourse. The culture they describe is not a relic of the past, nor a historical curiosity, but a living tradition that continues to shape Native American lives.

  • The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions (1958, 1991, 2006)
    Originally titled The Religions of Man, this completely revised and updated edition of Smith's masterpiece, now with an engaging new foreword, explores the essential elements and teachings of the world's predominant faiths, including:

    • Hinduism

    • Buddhism

    • Confucianism

    • Taoism

    • Islam

    • Judaism

    • Christianity

    • and the native traditions of the Americas, Australia, Africa, and Oceania.

      Emphasizing the inner -- rather than institutional -- dimensions of these religions, Smith devotes special attention to Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, Sufism, and the teachings of Jesus. He convincingly conveys the unique appeal and gifts of each of the traditions and reveals their hold on the human heart and imagination.

  • Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of Disbelief (2001, 2006) -- Winner Wilbur Award for the best book on religion published in 2001
    His most recent book, Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of Disbelief, offers a timely manifesto on the ur gent need to restore the role of religion as the primary humanizing force for individuals and society. Weaving together insights from comparative religions, theology, philosophy, science, and history, along with examples drawn from current events and his own extraordinary personal experience, Smith gives both a convincing historical and social critique and a profound expression of hope for the spiritual condition of humanity. Despite the widespread belief that these are halcyon days for religion and spiritual awareness, Smith shows how our everyday worldview is instead dominated by a narrow scientism, materialism, and consumerism that push issues of morality, meaning, and truth to the outer margins of society and our lives. In fact, he finds that too much of what passes as religion these days is actually a privatized and ungrounded debasement of true religion.

  • The Soul of Christianity: Restoring the Great Tradition (2005)
    In his most personal and passionate book on the spiritual life, renowned author, scholar, and teacher of world religions Huston Smith turns to his own life-long religion, Christianity. With stories and personal anecdotes, Smith not only presents the basic beliefs and essential teachings of Christianity, but argues why religious belief matters in today's secular world.

    Though there is a wide variety of contemporary interpretations of Christianity—some of them conflicting—Smith cuts through these to describe Christianity's "Great Tradition," the common faith of the first millennium of believers, which is the trunk of the tree from which Christianity's many branches, twigs, and leaves have grown. This is not the exclusivist Christianity of strict fundamentalists, nor the liberal, watered-down Christianity practiced by many contemporary churchgoers. In exposing biblical literalism as unworkable as well as enumerating the mistakes of modern secularists, Smith presents the very soul of a real and substantive faith, one still relevant and worth believing in.

    Smith rails against the hijacked Christianity of politicians who exploit it for their own needs. He decries the exercise of business that widens the gap between rich and poor, and fears education has lost its sense of direction. For Smith, the media has become a business that sensationalizes news rather than broadening our understanding, and art and music have become commercial and shocking rather than enlightening. Smith reserves his harshest condemnation, however, for secular modernity, which has stemmed from the misreading of science—the mistake of assuming that "absence of evidence" of a scientific nature is "evidence of absence." These mistakes have all but banished faith in transcendence and the Divine from mainstream culture and pushed it to the margins.

    Though the situation is grave, these modern misapprehensions can be corrected, says Smith, by reexamining the great tradition of Christianity's first millennium and reaping the lessons it holds for us today. This fresh examination of the Christian worldview, its history, and its major branches provides the deepest, most authentic vision of Christianity—one that is both tolerant and substantial, traditional and relevant.

  • Buddhism: A Concise Introduction (2004) with Philip Novak

  • Cleansing the Doors of Perception : The Religious Significance of Entheogenic Plants and Chemicals (2000, 2003)
    Huston Smith, one of the world's most respected religious scholars and author of
    The World's Religions, now offers Cleansing The Doors of Perception, a course-correcting assessment of the connections between entheogens, religious experience, and the divinely inspired life.

    The entheogens are plants and chemicals that have been used, some of them for thousands of years, and are being used today around the world, as means for going beyond the ordinary and encountering the sacred.

    The greatest single impediment to understanding the entheogens is "psychedelia": the entire range of cultural baggage dating from the 1960s, from Day-Glo painted minibuses to lava lamps, tied together by the implicit belief that the most important use of entheogenic mushrooms, peyote, and their chemical cousins is to have a perpetual Happening.

    Cleansing The Doors of Perception aims to undo that confusion. It does not restate the extreme claims of the 60s about liberation through intoxication; rather, it asserts that those claims were profoundly mistaken and helped cause some people to lose their spiritual way. It communicates the key role that entheogens can play when used in contexts of faith and discipline, and it sets out what the entheogens show us about the nature of mind and spirit.

    Smith explains that he has kept his eye on this issue throughout the last 40 years of his career because he shares Aldous Huxley's opinion that nothing is more curious, or to his thinking more important, than the role that mind-altering plants and chemicals have played in human history. "My intent," writes Smith, "has been to produce a work that touches on the major facets of its enigmatic subject as seen through the eyes of someone (myself) who, given my age, may have thought and written more about it than anyone else alive."

  • The Way Things Are: Conversations with Huston Smith on the Spiritual Life (2003)
    Working with Phil Cousineau, Smith has recently completed a collection of over thirty interviews he has given over the last four decades. This book will reveal the roots of Smith's search for the fundamental mystical truths at the heart of religion.

  • Islam: A Concise Introduction (2001)
    The world's premier authority on religious traditions presents a concise and timely guide to the history, teachings, and practice of Islam.

  • One Nation Under God: The Triumph of the Native American Church (1996), Huston Smith and Reuben Snake, eds.

  • Gregorian Chant: Songs of the Spirit (1996), Huston Smith, ed. with Don Randell, Contributor and David Wakely, Photographer

  • The Illustrated World's Religions: A Guide to Our Wisdom Traditions (1995)
    Retaining all the beloved qualities of Huston Smith's classic The Religions of Man and the current fully revised and updated The World's Religions, this stunning pictorial presentation refines the text to its wonderful essentials. In detailed, absorbing, richly illustrated, and highly readable chapters on Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Islam, Judaism, Christianityand primal religions, we find refreshing and fascinating presentations of both the differences and the similarities among the worldwide religious traditions. The approach is at once classic and contemporary, retaining all the empathy, eloquence and erudition that millions of readers love about the earlier editions, while being edited and designed for a contemporary general readership. This delightful marriage of winsome text and remarkable pictures vividly brings to life the scope and vision of Huston Smith's expertise and insight.

  • Forgotten Truth: The Common Vision of the World's Religions (1976, 1992)
    This classic companion to
    The World's Religions articulates the remarkable unity that underlies the world's religious traditions

  • Huston Smith: Essays on World Religion (1992), M. Darrol Bryant, ed.

  • Beyond the Post-Modern Mind: The Place of Meaning in a Global Civilization (1982, 1989, 2003)
    "Rationalism and Newtonian science has lured us into dark woods," says Huston Smith, "but a new metaphysics can rescue us." In this new revised edition, Smith explores the "dark woods"—modernity—which can be characterized by a loss of faith in transcendence. Through his fourteen critically acclaimed essays, he invites us to step outside our current Western outlook to see our worldview in perspective. He distinguishes between the "traditional" worldview that placed God at the center of the universe; the "modern" view in which science ruled; and the "postmodern" view that doubts whether the universe makes sense at all.

    Smith begins by tracing the course of Western civilization that has brought it to the postmodern period. This enables him to establish a vantage point for viewing the Modern/Postmodern scene, and then to examine several aspects of contemporary culture, such as science, theology, education, and the humanities. In the final chapters, Smith offers suggestions for moving out of the woods and into a twenty-first century that affirms the ultimate truths of love, the human soul, and the Divine. With a new preface and a new final chapter, this edition proves to be a guiding light in a time of doubt.

  • The Religions of Man: Our Great Wisdom Traditions (1965)

  • Music of Tibet: The Gyuto Multiphonic Choir
    Click here to purchase from A Gems Tone Non-profet Project.  All proceeds exclusive of actual production costs benefit Gyuto Tantric University through the Dalai Lama.
    The style of chanting heard on this tape was introduced into Tibet from India (where the art has long been lost) by Marpa in the eleventh century. In 1474, Gyuto was founded (along with Gyume) as one of the two Tibetan monasteries that were dedicated to using this mode of chanting for the ritualistic transmission of the most ancient, sacred, and esoteric teachings of the Buddha. The extraordinary vocal abilities this chanting requires first came to the West’s attention in 1968 through Huston Smith’s The Music of Tibet (Anthology Records), and it is from the masters for that disc that this CD was recorded.

  • The Roots of Fundamentalism: A Conversation with Huston Smith and Phil Cousineau
    After watching this interview, you may find yourself asking whose side Huston Smith is on. In the present atmosphere of "with us or against us," Smith’s informed and dispassionate take on Fundamentalism falls into neither familiar, comfortable camp.

    The occasion for the interview was a Phil Cousineau article, entitled Why Fundamentalism Matters, for Parabola Magazine. The interview begins with Christian Fundamentalism, a topic Smith came to, in his own words, "loaded for bear," having just written the book The Soul of Christianity: Restoring the Great Tradition. However, the topic develops into fundamentalism as it manifests itself in religion in general.

  • The Wisdom of Faith with Huston Smith: A Bill Moyers Special
    For half a century Huston Smith has immersed himself in the world's religions, seeking to understand their hold on the human heart and imagination. Now, Bill Moyers talks with Smith about how the six great religions -- Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity, Judaism and Islam -- differ, and what they hold in common.

    Richly embellished with art, architecture, music and poetry from around the world, the series leads you to an understanding of the common heart of religious experience. Smith relates how he discovered the mysteries of multi-phonic chanting during a sabbatical among Tibetan monks. He discusses the intertwining of opposites, the key to Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. Smith offers his interpretation of the meaning of prayer in Western religions, and speaks of the difficulty of achieving spirituality today. He sees all of the world's religions offering windows to the same transcendent truths. Titles are: "Hinduism and Buddhism," "Confucianism," "Christianity and Judaism," "Islam," and "A Personal Philosophy."

  1. A Personal Philosophy
    This program summarizes and distills what we have learned about the great religions in this series. Smith's lifetime of experience and study helps him to go beyond the differences between each tradition. He shows how the cultivation of virtues valued by all religions -- intelligence, compassion, creativity, truth, beauty, and goodness -- can lead to transcendence. In the many faces of God he has contemplated, Huston Smith sees no conflict. He believes them all to be windows on the same transcendent truths. All wisdom traditions ultimately make the same claim, that everything emanates from an absolute perfection.  

  2. Christianity and Judaism

  3. Confucianism
    Born in China of missionary parents, Smith learned about Chinese language, culture, and religion while growing up near Shanghai. Smith explains how the intertwining of opposites is key to understanding the great religions of China -- Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. Smith shows that Eastern religions provide "an emphasis on direct experience and a method for attaining that." He introduces yoga, which he has been practicing for 50 years, as one such method.

  4. Hinduism and Buddhism
    This program explores the two great religions to come from India.

    The historian of religion can find almost anything he wants in India, enacted with intensity. What remains is to carry its insight into everyday life.

    Smith uncovered the mysteries of multiphonic chanting among Tibetan lamas, previously unknown in the West. Characterizing these chants as "the holiest sound I have ever heard," Smith reveals the chanting to be a form of meditation. Smith spent ten weeks with a Zen master silently meditating 8 hours a day, where he derived insights that help the viewer understand the way of Zen Buddhism.

  5. Islam

Note: This series can also be bought it its entirety at the PBS website.

  • The Sacred Unconscious
    At the height of his extraordinary career, a man who exemplifies the virtues of the spiritual path speaks of some of his own transforming experiences and insights.

    With anecdotes, humor, radiance, and a twinkle in his eye, a giant in the field of world religions shares profoundly personal experiences which have changed his life. Speaking at Kentucky's Cathedral Heritage Foundations' Festival of Faiths 2000, Professor Smith observes that the Festival's theme, Healing Mind, Body, and Soul "comes down to who we "are"-the recovery of the original divine station." Professor Smith describes what he considers to be the "deep lying elements" for understanding the healing of mind, body, and soul. He answers the basic questions of "who we are" by providing an insightful analysis of the four levels of the unconscious, the most important being the sacred which, he maintains, is linked with God as our "imago Dei." And, he recounts his own transforming experience of this place of Beauty, Bliss, and Joy, which each of us knows in dreamless sleep. Were the mind, body, and soul not re-charged or "healed" every night by direct contact with the Divine, we could not endure our lives. Professor Smith believes we must think more highly of our "selves." Additional treats are his mention of a personal hero: Wendell Berry, and his moving tribute to Ram Dass/Richard Alpert (Be Here Now), whose paralyzing stroke gave him the "gift of suffering": closeness to God and the dismantling of the "persona." But what is most moving about this precious footage is the wise and luminous presence of Huston Smith himself, a man who clearly embodies the virtues of the spiritual path.

    Note: This video is available from Fons Vitae.

See also:
  • Paths beyond Ego: The Transpersonal Vision (1993), Frances Vaughan and Roger Walsh, eds.
    Aldous Huxley, Bill Devall, Charles Tart, Christina Groff, the Dalai Lama, Daniel Goleman,
    Fritjof Capra, Georg Feuerstein, Huston Smith, Jack Kornfield, Jayne Gackenbach, John Welwood, Ken Wilber, Kenneth Ring, Michael Murphy, Ram Dass, Sri Aurobindo, Stanislav Grof, Stephen LaBerge, William James and many, many more.

  • Timothy Leary: Outside Looking In: Appreciations, Castigations, and Reminiscences (1999) by Robert Forte
    A memorial volume to one of this century's most colorful and pioneering figures in the consciousness movement

    A wide array of individuals from all stages of Leary's life provides a comprehensive view of the man and his impact on American culture

    One of the most influential and controversial people of the 20th century, Timothy Leary inspired profound feelings--both pro and con--from everyone with whom he came into contact. He was extravagant, grandiose, enthusiastic, erratic, and an unrelenting proponent of expanding consciousness and challenging authority. His experiments with psilocybin and LSD at Harvard University and Millbrook, New York, were instrumental in propelling the nation into the psychedelic era of the 1960s. From the 1980s until his death in 1996 he fully embraced the possibilities of freedom offered by the developments in computer technology and the instant communication made possible by the Internet.

    The essence of Leary's life has often been reduced to the celebrated formula of "Turn On, Tune In, and Drop Out." The wider implications of this esoteric call to communion have been lost, just as the multifaceted nature of Leary's personality was obscured by the superficial spin put on his life and ideas. In this book a wide array of individuals from all stages of Leary's life, friends and foes alike, provides a more complete view of the man and his impact on American culture.

    It is still too early to know how posterity will judge the man and his ideas, but Timothy Leary: Outside Looking In shows that Leary was often so far ahead of his time that few could follow the extensive range of his thought.

    Includes Appreciations, Castigations, and Reminiscences by Allen Ginsberg, Andrew Weil, Hunter S. Thompson, Huston Smith, Ram Dass, William Burroughs, Winona Ryder, and Others.

  • Higher Wisdom: Eminent Elders Explore The Continuing Impact Of Psychedelics (2005), Charles S. Grob and Roger Walsh, eds.
    Psychedelics have been a part—often a central and sacred part—of most societies throughout history, and for half a century psychedelics have rumbled through the Western world, seeding a subculture, titillating the media, fascinating youth, terrifying parents, enraging politicians, and intriguing researchers. Not surprisingly, these curious chemicals fascinated some of the foremost thinkers of the twentieth century, fourteen of whom were interviewed for this book. Because no further human research can be done, these researchers constitute an irreplaceable resource. Higher Wisdom offers their fascinating anecdotes, invaluable knowledge, and hard-won wisdom—the culmination of fifty years of research and reflection on one of the most intriguing and challenging topics of our time.  Includes interviews with Albert Hofmann, Alexander T. Shulgin, Ann Shulgin, Betty Eisner, Gary Fisher, Huston Smith, James Fadiman, Laura Archera Huxley, Michael Harner, Myron J. Stolaroff, Peter T. Furst, Ram Dass, Stanislav Grof, and Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

  • The Road To Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries (1978, 2004) by Carl A. Ruck, Albert Hofmann, Danny Staples, Huston Smith, Jeremy Bigwood, Jonathan Ott, and R. Gordon Wasson

  • Hallucinogens: A Reader (2002) by Charles Grob
    It's been forty years since Timothy Leary sat beside a swimming pool in Cuernavaca, Mexico, ingested several grams of the genus Stropharia cubensis, and experienced a dazzling display of visions that led him to herald the dawning of a New Age. And yet, from the counterculture movement of the 1960s, through the War on Drugs, to this very day, the world at large has viewed hallucinogens not as a gift but as a threat to society.

    In Hallucinogens, Charles Grob surveys recent writings from Donald M. Topping, Gary Fisher, Glenn H. Shepard, Huston Smith, Jeremy Narby, Lawrence Bush, Myron J. Stolaroff, Ralph Metzner, Rick J. Strassman, Roger Walsh, Terence McKenna, and Thomas Riedlinger -- illustrating that a reevaluation of the social worth of hallucinogens-used intelligently-is greatly in order.

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