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Forgotten Truth: The Common Vision of the World's Religions Paperback – October 9, 1992

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Huston Smith is internationally known and revered as the premier teacher of world religions. He is the focus of a five-part PBS television series with Bill Moyers and has taught at Washington University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Syracuse University, and the University of California at Berkeley. The recipient of twelve honorary degrees, Smith's fifteen books include his bestselling The World's Religions, Why Religion Matters, and his autobiography, Tales of Wonder.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne (October 9, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062507877
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062507877
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #288,318 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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, with over two million copies sold, and it remains a common introduction to comparative religion.

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 to 1947, moved to Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, for the next 10 years, and then served as professor of Philosophy at MIT from 1958 to 1973. While at MIT, he participated in some of the experiments with entheogens that professor Timothy Leary conducted at Harvard University. Smith 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, California, area where he is Visiting Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

During his career, Smith not only studied but also practiced Vedanta Hinduism, Zen Buddhism (under Goto Zuigan), and Sufism for over 10 years each. He is a notable autodidact.

As a young man, of his own volition after suddenly turning to mysticism, Smith set out to meet with then-famous author Gerald Heard. Heard responded to Smith's letter, invited him to 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 his association with the Vedanta Society in Saint Louis under the auspices of Swami Satprakashananda of the Ramakrishna order.

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 that 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, in an attempt to raise spiritual awareness through entheogenic plants.

He has been a friend of the XIVth Dalai Lama for more than 40 years, and has met and talked to some of the great figures of the century, from Eleanor Roosevelt to Thomas Merton.

Smith 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.

In 1996 Bill Moyers devoted a five-part PBS special to Smith's life and work: The Wisdom of Faith with Huston Smith. Smith has also 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. His latest DVD release is The Roots of Fundamentalism--A Conversation with Huston Smith and Phil Cousineau.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
As Huston Smith writes in his introduction to this valuable work, it was some twenty years after he wrote _The World's Religions_ (originally entitled _The Religions of Man_) that he came to understand the "core" worldview common to all religions. That was in 1972, when this book was first published.

It is that "core" view which he presents here. Essentially it is this: there are "levels of being" such that the more real is also the more valuable; these levels appear in both the "external" and the "internal" worlds, "higher" levels of reality without corresponding to "deeper" levels of reality within. On the very lowest level is the material/physical world, which depends for its existence on the higher levels. On the very highest/deepest level is the Infinite or Absolute -- that is, God.

Basically this volume is an attempt to recover this view of reality from materialism, scientism, and "postmodernism." It does not attempt to adjudicate among religions (or philosophies), it does not spell out any of the important _differences_ between world faiths, and it is not intended to substitute a "new" religion for the specific faiths which already exist.

Nor should any such project be expected from a work that expressly focuses on what religions have in common. Far from showing that all religions are somehow "the same," Smith in fact shows that religions have a "common" core only at a sufficiently general level.
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This is a great little book for people that are searching for meaning in a modern world. It looks at the common core of the world's wisdom traditions in a very thoughtful and sometimes even poetic way. It is not really a comprehensive, academic exploration of the world's wisdom traditions, but rather a summary with personal reflections from a man who studied religions all of his life.

The power of this little book is revealed in the language that the author uses to express his points so beautifully. It sheds light on the interiority of the universe in a way that the average person can relate to. In other words, it's not written like a philosophical treatise.

There are some criticisms below that indicate that this book is dated. There is some truth to that if what you are looking for is the most up-to-date, factual and well-referenced book on the subject. However, if you are new to this area, you will find an enjoyable, educational, fascinating and thought provoking journey into the very heart of the world's religions.

Because of the nature of the subject matter, Huston Smith is sharing a lot of his own personal viewpoints. However, as someone who has been exploring this territory for his entire 80+ year life with a best seller on world religions under his belt, he is a quite a credible tour guide in this subject. That is not to say there aren't shortcomings to the book, but he writes from his heart and years of experience, which to me is well worth listening to.

I like Huston Smith's reflections on the shortcomings of science and I think most people will find them good food for thought. Science holds such a place of prominence in our culture that alternatives to the modern and post-modern worldviews are not often entertained.
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Huston Smith doesn't seem like the type to write a subversive book. A highly respected academic and scholar of religion, Smith comes off, in his other works, as the soul of moderation (and by all accounts, he is). Here we see a different side of Dr. Smith, however- for 167 all-too-brief pages, he takes the gloves off.

In "Forgotten Truth", Smith goes on the warpath. His target? All the "sacred cows" of modernity. Neo-Darwinism? Smash. Materialist ontology? Bash. Progress? Crash. In their place, Smith creates a syncretic view of spiritual realities throughout history, and their basic structure- the psychic plane of the shamanistic "spirit world", the celestial realm of angels and archetypes, all the way up to absolute spirit- the Godhead, Sunyata, Brahma. Contesting modernity's "reign of quantity", Smith insists on the superiority of hierarchies of quality.

Smith isn't always entirely convincing, but he does present a daring critique of materialism and neo-darwinism. The appendix, on Stan Grof's LSD research, is also a worthwhile addition.
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By A Customer on November 12, 1998
Format: Paperback
The second semester of my senior year @ Villanova University; I was blessed to have Professor Emeritus Huston Smith for an honor's class: Philosophy and Religion. This book was one of the texts that we read and discussed. It helped me put my Catholic upbringing in perspective and further understand the age old calling of deep unto deep. As above so below. Microcosm mirrors Macrocosm. Ten years later I am learning these same truths over and over again on a daily basis. Thank you Huston Smith.
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