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Encyclopedia > Huston Smith

Huston Cummings Smith (born May 31, 1919) is among the preeminent religious studies scholars in the United States. His work, The Religions of Man (later revised and retitled The World's Religions), is a classic in the field, sold over two million copies, and is a particularly useful introduction to comparative religion. May 31 is the 151st day of the year (152nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1919 (MCMXIX) was a common year starting on Wednesday (link will display the full calendar). ... Religious studies is the designation commonly used in the English-speaking world for a multi-disciplinary, secular study of religion that dates to the late 19th century in Europe (and the influential early work of such scholars as Friedrich Max Müller, in England, and Cornelius P. Tiele, in the... The Major religious groups of the world. ...



Smith was born in Soochow, China to Methodist missionaries and spent his first 17 years there. He taught at the Universities of Colorado and Denver from 1944–1947, moving to Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri for the next ten years, and then Professor of Philosophy at MIT from 1958–1973. While at MIT he participated in some of the experiments with entheogens that professor Timothy Leary conducted at Harvard University. He then moved to Syracuse University where he was Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion and Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Philosophy until his retirement in 1983 and current emeritus status. He now lives in the Berkeley, CA area where he is Visiting Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Suzhou (Simplified Chinese: 苏州; Traditional Chinese: 蘇州; pinyin: Sūzhōu; Wade-Giles: Su-chou; sometimes seen transliterated as Su-chow, Suchow, or Soochow) is one of the most famous cities in China. ... The Methodist movement is a group of denominations of Protestant Christianity. ... The University of Colorado at Boulder (CU-Boulder, UCB officially[2]; Colorado and CU colloquially) is the flagship university of the University of Colorado System in Boulder, Colorado. ... The University of Denver (DU) is an independent, coeducational, four-year university in Denver, Colorado. ... Washington University in St. ... This article needs additional references or sources for verification. ... Mapúa Institute of Technology (MIT, MapúaTech or simply Mapúa) is a private, non-sectarian, Filipino tertiary institute located in Intramuros, Manila. ... Entheogens are psychoactive substances that have traditionally been used in a religious context, such as psilocybin-containing mushrooms and Peyote cactuses. ... For the American baseball player use Tim Leary (baseball player) Timothy Francis Leary, (October 22, 1920 – May 31, 1996) was an American writer, psychologist, advocate of psychedelic drug research and use, and one of the first people whose remains have been sent into space. ... Syracuse University (SU) is a private nonsectarian research university located in Syracuse, New York. ... Berkeley is a city in the San Francisco Bay Area of northern United States. ... Sather tower (the Campanile) looking out over the San Francisco Bay and Mount Tamalpais. ...

During his career, Smith not only studied, but practiced Vedanta Hinduism, Zen Buddhism, and Sufism for over ten years each. He is a notable autodidact. This article includes a list of works cited but its sources remain unclear because it lacks in-text citations. ... Hinduism (known as in modern Indian languages) is a religious tradition that originated in the Indian subcontinent. ... A woodblock print by Yoshitoshi, (Japan, 1887) depicting Bodhidharma the founder of Chinese Zen. ... Sufism is a mystic tradition within Islam and encompasses a diverse range of beliefs and practices dedicated to divine love and the cultivation of the heart. ... Autodidacticism (also autodidactism) is self-education or self-directed learning. ...

As a young man, Smith, of his own volition, after suddenly turning to mysticism, set out to meet with then-famous author Gerald Heard. Heard responded to Smith's letter, invited him to his Trabuco College (later donated as the Ramakrishna Monastery) in Southern California, and then sent him off to meet the legendary Aldous Huxley. So began Smith's experimentation with meditation, and association with the Vedanta Society in Saint Louis under the auspices of Swami Satprakashananda of the Ramakrishna order. Mysticism (from the Greek μυστικός (mystikos) an initiate (of the Eleusinian Mysteries, μυστήρια (mysteria) meaning initiation[1])) is the pursuit of achieving communion or identity with, or conscious awareness of, ultimate reality, the divine, spiritual truth, or God through direct experience, intuition, or insight; and the belief that such experience is one... Henry Fitzgerald Heard commonly called Gerald Heard (October 6, 1889 - August 14, 1971) was an historian, science writer, educator, and philosopher. ... This article needs additional references or sources for verification. ... The Vedanta Society is a branch of the Ramakrishna Mission. ... Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (Bangla: রামকৃষ্ণ পরমহংস Ramkrishno Pôromôhongsho), born Gadadhar Chattopadhyay (Bangla: গদাধর চট্টোপাধ্যায় Gôdadhor Chôţţopaddhae) [1], (February 18, 1836–August 16, 1886) was a Hindu religious teacher and an influential figure in the Bengal Renaissance of the Nineteenth century. ...

Via the connection with Heard and Huxley, Smith eventually experimented with Timothy Leary and others at the Center for Personality Research, of which Leary was Research Professor. The experience and history of the era are captured somewhat in Smith's book Cleansing the Doors of Perception. In this period, Smith joined in on the Harvard Project as well, an attempt to raise spiritual awareness through entheogenic plants. For the American baseball player use Tim Leary (baseball player) Timothy Francis Leary, (October 22, 1920 – May 31, 1996) was an American writer, psychologist, advocate of psychedelic drug research and use, and one of the first people whose remains have been sent into space. ... Begun by Dr. Timothy Leary and Dr. Richard Alpert, the Harvard Psilocybin Project was a series of loose experiments in psychology conducted by Leary and Alpert. ... This entry covers entheogens in the strict sense of the word (i. ...

He developed an interest in the Traditionalist School formulated by Rene Guenon and Ananda Coomaraswamy. This interest has become a continuing thread in all his writings. The Traditionalist School of thought (not to be confused with Traditionalist Catholicism), attained its current form with the French metaphysician René Guénon, although its precepts are considered to be timeless and to be found in all authentic traditions. ... René Guénon (aka Sheikh Abd Al Wahid Yahya) (1886-1951) was a French-born author, philosopher, and social critic of the early 20th century. ... Dr. A.K. Coomaraswamy // Life of Dr. A.K. Coomaraswamy Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy (22 August 1877 Colombo - 9 September 1947 Needham, Massachusetts) was the son of the famous Sri Lankan legislator and philosopher Sir Mutu Coomaraswamy and his English wife Elizabeth Beeby. ...

In 1996, Bill Moyers devoted a 5-part PBS special to Smith's life and work, "The Wisdom of Faith with Huston Smith." Smith has produced three series for public television: "The Religions of Man," "The Search for America," and (with Arthur Compton) "Science and Human Responsibility." His films on Hinduism, Tibetan Buddhism, and Sufism have all won awards at international film festivals. Bill Moyers Bill D. Moyers (born June 5, 1934 as Billy Don Moyers) is an American journalist and socialist public commentator. ...

His latest DVD release is The Roots of Fundamentalism - A Conversation with Huston Smith and Phil Cousineau.


The World's Religions
  • The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions, 1958, rev. ed. 1991, Harper SanFrancisco, ISBN 0-06-250811-3
  • Forgotten Truth: The Common Vision of the World's Religions, 1976, reprint ed. 1992, Harper SanFrancisco, ISBN 0-06-250787-7
  • Beyond the Postmodern Mind, 1982, reprint ed. 1989, Quest Books, ISBN 0-8356-0647-3
  • Cleansing the Doors of Perception: The Religious Significance of Entheogenic Plants and Chemicals, 2000, Tarcher/Putnam, ISBN 1-58542-034-4, Council on Spiritual Practices, ISBN 1-889725-03-X
  • Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of Disbelief, 2001, Harper San Francisco, 1st ed.:ISBN 0-06-067099-1, reprint 2002: ISBN 0-06-067102-5
  • The Way Things Are: Conversations with Huston Smith on the Spiritual Life, 2003, University of California Press, ISBN 0-520-23816-8 (cloth); ISBN 0-520-24489-3 (paper)
  • Buddhism: A Concise Introduction, with Philip Novak, HarperSanFrancisco, 2004, ISBN 0-06-073067-6
  • The Soul of Christianity: Restoring the Great Tradition, 2005, HarperSanFrancisco, 1st ed. ISBN 0-06-079478-X
  • A Seat at the Table: Huston Smith in Conversation with Native Americans on Religious Freedom, 2006, University of California Press, ISBN 0-520-24439-7 (cloth)

Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (429x648, 54 KB) book cover image taken from the book publishers site This image is of a book cover, and the copyright for it is most likely owned either by the artist who created the cover or the publisher of... Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (429x648, 54 KB) book cover image taken from the book publishers site This image is of a book cover, and the copyright for it is most likely owned either by the artist who created the cover or the publisher of...


"Religiously conceived, the human opportunity is to transform flashes of illumination into abiding light."

"Institutions are not pretty. Show me a pretty government. Healing is wonderful, but the American Medical Association? Learning is wonderful, but universities? The same is true for religion... religion is institutionalized spirituality." — Mother Jones November/December 1997. The American Medical Association (AMA) is the largest association of medical doctors in the United States. ... This article does not cite its references or sources. ...

External links

  Results from FactBites:
MeaningofLife.tv (3961 words)
Huston Smith: That name has spun off from Aldous Huxley's book about that which stresses the mystical dimensions of religion and there's a saying that mystics speak the same language and it is true that if not identically at least more in more the same message.
Huston Smith: Well the Buddha was very diligent in recognizing that Nirvana could not be described in everyday language and all of his descriptions are it's not this it's not this (()) but he used one positive word, he said Nirvana is bliss.
Huston Smith: Well I'm a little disturbed by earlier you said is it a comfort to you and then now you say reassurance well yes it is but that patronizes the basic religious stand which is not though the charge is made over and over wishful thinking.
the synoptic view of Huston Smith (3143 words)
Smith points to the fact that this 'scientism' is not the common philosophy of all modern scientists, but that a large number of scientists in the department of physics (and their number is getting bigger by the day) have a totally different scientific outlook.
Smith gives the impression that every kind of religious feeling is meaningful, but religion can also be primitive, aggressive, nationalistic, a banner for political conflicts and like Freud said, a devise for projection of childish needs of security.
For when Smith tells us that in the ten most recent years the selling rates of religious books have doubled (Smith 2001 p.155), he neglects to tell us that these modern religious books are very different from their ancestors in pre modern and modern times.
  More results at FactBites »



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