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Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition Paperback – October 8, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

While the institutional church has frequently set boundaries limiting what ideas, beliefs, and practices could be considered Christian, Smoley, a former editor of Gnosis magazine, reminds readers that adventurous seekers have always borrowed freely from many sources to enhance their inner spiritual knowledge. Smoley collectively labels these disparate voices "inner" (or "esoteric") Christianity. The writings used to construct this tradition are diverse, ranging from Gnostic gospels and kabbalistic cosmologies, through late medieval alchemical theory, right up to Swedenborgian and New Age teachings. An initial chapter spells out the historical breadth of these traditions, but the bulk of the book offers a contemporary synthesis, providing insight into the deeper, mystical meaning of traditional Christian doctrines. Quotations from the sources are usually more engaging than the synthesis itself, but the author makes the case for listening more closely to an eclectic Christianity's own esoteric voices. Many readers will filter much of the material through a selective sieve of skepticism, but the book overviews a wide range of material and provides a solid introduction to esoteric Christianity for the general reader. Recommended for all libraries.
Steve Young, McHenry Cty. Coll., Crystal Lake, IL
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"A wide range of material . . . provides a solid introduction to esoteric Christianity."— Library Journal

"Smoley traverses a vast continent of belief and practice in this lively guide to Christian esotericism, and he does so with great intelligence and style."—Philip Zaleski, editor of the Best Spiritual Writing series

"We overlook the very heart and soul of Christianity when we reduce it to rules, dogmas, and rigid moral directives. Inner Christianity helps correct that mistake by spelling out, clearly and thoughtfully, the subtle interior mysteries of this religion. This book could help many, Christians and others, find a new level of intelligence in Christian thought and practice. It could change the direction of your spiritual life."—Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul and The Soul's Religion

"In this deeply wise and important work, Richard Smoley restores the realm of inner space to the Christian tradition. Drawing upon a wide range of mystical and esoteric literature and practice, he shows how multidimensional is the Christian message, and how profound its understanding of the nature and purpose of the psyche. In a time of so much change and confusion, this potent book serves as a source of profound guidance and gnosis."—Jean Houston, Ph.D., author of A Mythic Life and Jump Time

"Richard Smoley has rolled away the rock of symbol, myth, metaphor, and obscuration and resurrected the radiant light of an inner Christianity. In clear and vibrant language, he makes the deepest wisdom of the Christian tradition available and accessible to everyone. This book is an empowerment of faith and spirit and will, I predict, become a classic for all who walk the path of Christ in the midst of their everyday lives."—David Spangler, author of Everyday Miracles, Blessing: The Art and the Practice, and Apprenticed to Spirit

Product Details

  • Paperback: 292 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications; 1st edition (October 8, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1570628106
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570628108
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #505,674 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard Smoley is one of the world's most distinguished authorities on the mystical and esoteric teachings of Western civilization.

Richard was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, in 1956. He attended the Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut, and entered Harvard in 1974. As an undergraduate, Smoley was managing editor of the university's venerable literary magazine, The Harvard Advocate, and edited an anthology entitled First Flowering: The Best of the Harvard Advocate, 1866-1976. Featuring prefaces by Norman Mailer and Robert Fitzgerald, the book was published by Addison-Wesley in 1977.

After taking a bachelor's degree magna cum laude in classics at Harvard in 1978, Richard went on to the University of Oxford in the U.K., where he edited The Pelican, the magazine of Corpus Christi College. He took another B.A. in the Honour School of Literae Humaniores (classics and philosophy) in 1980, and received his M.A. from Oxford in 1985.

The most important part of his stay at Oxford came from his contact with a small group that was studying the Kabbalah, one of the mainstays of the Western esoteric tradition. It was here that he was first introduced to many of the ideas he has discussed in his books and articles.

After two years at Oxford, Richard moved to San Francisco in 1980. During this time he continued his spiritual investigations, working with teachings ranging from Tibetan Buddhism to A Course in Miracles. He was also a member of the board of directors of the San Francisco Miracles Foundation, an organization sponsoring the work of A Course in Miracles.

In 1986, Richard started writing for a new magazine called Gnosis: A Journal of the Western Inner Traditions. After four years of writing for Gnosis and a brief stint as managing editor, he came on board as editor in November 1990. In his eight years as editor of Gnosis, he put together issues of the magazine on subjects as diverse as Gnosticism, Freemasonry, G.I. Gurdjieff, and the spirituality of Russia. In 1998 Gnosis won Utne Reader's award for best spiritual coverage. In May 1999, Richard's book, Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions, coauthored with Jay Kinney, was published by Penguin Arkana. (A revised edition was issued by Quest Books in 2006.)

Richard's book Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition, was published in fall 2002 by Shambhala Publications. An audio version read by Richard is available from Berkshire Media Artists Inc. The award-winning literary magazine The Sun featured him in a lengthy interview on Christianity in its September 2003 issue.

Richard has also worked as editor for Faith.com, a Web site on religion and spirituality, and as managing editor of Lindisfarne Books, a highly respected publisher of titles on the spiritual traditions. He is a consulting editor and frequent contributor to Parabola: The Journal of Myth and Tradition. He has served as guest editor of Science of Mind magazine, and works as a consultant for the New Century Edition of the works of Emanuel Swedenborg, sponsored by the Swedenborg Foundation in West Chester, Pennsylvania. He is a frequent contributor to the Australian magazine New Dawn. He presently lives in western Massachusetts, where he teaches philosophy as an adjunct professor at Holyoke Community College. He is also editor of Quest Books, operated by the Theosophical Society in America.

In January 2006, Tarcher/Penguin published The Essential Nostradamus, Richard's guide to this fascinating but elusive prophet. The Essential Nostradamus contains fresh and accurate new translations of Nostradamus's key prophecies, as well as an evaluation of his work -- and of prophecy in general.

In April 2007, Harper San Francisco (now Harper One) released the paperback edition of Richard's Forbidden Faith: The Secret History of Gnosticism (originally published in hardcover in 2006). This is an accessible and engaging history of the secret currents of Western civilization -- including Gnosticism, Manichaeism, Catharism, the Rosicrucian legacy, Freemasonry, Theosophy, and much more. It also explores how these currents have shaped modern trends and thinkers ranging from William Blake to C.G. Jung, and, in more recent times, Philip K. Dick, Harold Bloom, and A Course in Miracles.

Richard's book,Conscious Love: Insights from Mystical Christianity was published in April 2008 by Jossey-Bass.

He has also written a novel entitled The Gospel of Matthias, which tells the story of Christ in the context of esoteric Christianity. It's currently unpublished; if you'd like to get a copy, please contact Richard by e-mail.

Currently he works as editor of Quest Books and executive editor of Quest magazine, both published by the Theosophical Society in America.

Richard has appeared on several History Channel documentaries on prophecy and religious history. He lectures and gives workshops throughout the United States. Organizations that have sponsored his talks and workshops include:
* The New York Open Center
* The Friends of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, New York
* The California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco
* The Kabbalah Society, London
* The Theosophical Society in America, Wheaton, Illinois
* Krotona School of Theosophy, Ojai, California,
* Nine Gates Mystery School
* Zen Mountain Monastery, Mount Tremper, New York
* The Lumen Foundation, San Francisco
* The Krotona School of Theosophy, Ojai, California
*The Bodhi Tree Bookstore, West Hollywood
* The Swedenborg Foundation
* East-West Books, New York
* Pioneer Valley Anthroposophical Society, Hadley, Massachusetts
* The Kabbalah Society of East Tennessee
* The Seven Rays Institute Conference, Mesa, Arizona
* The Mythic Journeys conference in Atlanta, sponsored by the Joseph Campbell Foundation
* Friends of Jung, Kansas City

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By sewyew on November 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
To appreciate my comments it is perhaps necessary to tell you a itlle bit of where I am coming from. I was raised in an essentially non-practicing Eastern Orthodox family, where the church was more of a cultural and identity institution. Combine this with the innate belief in the supremacy of rationality, and I was at a point where I believed that Christianity was nothing more than a social institution with rituals to just perpetuate itself.

Theologically, I felt that the doctrine of original sin was something I could not believe. I also became convinced of the reality of re-incarnation, that Karma is not a "punishment" meted out by a "judge", but a universal principle of justice flowing from the fact that we create our destiny because of what we will into our lives. I thought the "faith only" formula was a socially useful convention, but that it did not answer our needs as intellectually curious human beings. So overall, one can see that by this point, it was hard for me to say I was a Christian according to the orthodox definition.

This led me to read a lot of New Age, Buddhist, Hindu, Gnostic and even some channelled literature. If there was a thread combining these, it was that we are spiritual beings, who can realize our true nature through internal contemplation.

I found this book, curiously enough, in the metaphysical section at a Borders shop, and not among the other Christian literature.

To my mind, the esoteric tradition described in this book starts by acknowledging the gnostic path. That is, inner knowledge of God is possible. It extends this by stating the inner journey is a journey back to our oneness with God and with our true nature.
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By A Customer on November 30, 2002
Format: Paperback
Inner Christianity give a new, powerful view of the Christian faith, its history and the work of self-transformation found within its teachings. Not pedantic, not preaching, just a clear, calm , non-sectarian guide to the inner meanings of Christianity. I have found over the years that Richard Smoley, who edited Gnosis magazine for many years, is one of the very best writers on (sometimes difficult) esoteric spiritual subjects, making them understandable without sacrificing intelligence or balance. I highly recommend this book.
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Format: Paperback
Unlocking the wisdom of esoteric Christianity
In this thought provoking work, the author draws upon a wide spectrum of esoteric and mystical sources to demonstrate how multidimensional the Christian tradition really is. In simple language he brings to light the most profound wisdom of Christianity as a remedy for the loss of faith in these times.
The book concentrates more on the esoteric rather than the mystical strain and claim that the Bible was always meant to be read on several different levels. It is certainly true that the universal truths of esoteric knowledge are expressed just as much in Christianity as in any other tradition.
Part One explores the history of the hidden teachings with reference to hermeticism, kabbalah, Rosicrucianism, monasticism, the church fathers Clement and Origin, plus Rudolf Steiner and Carl Jung. He also looks at modern practitioners of inner Christianity like Stephan Hoeller.
Part Two: The Vision, considers issues like The World and The Fall, Salvation and Gnosis, The Second Birth, Cosmology, The Gospels and the Works of Christ, and the Feminine Face of God. Part Three: Expressions, investigates spiritual practices, love, evil, forgiveness, symbols, sacraments and the secret church.
The afterword includes a list of recommended books with comments, such as A Course In Miracles, Meditations On The Tarot by Valentin Tomberg, The Cloud Upon The Sanctuary by Karl von Eckarthausen, A Different Christianity by Robin Amis, The New Man by Maurice Nicoll and The Rose Of The World by Daniel Andreev. The book includes black and white illustrations, copious notes, a selected bibliography and an index.
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As an evangelical christian, any hint of 'occult' being applied to christianity seems on the surface to be misguided and just plain wrong.

This book, with it's labrynth-decorated cover kept catching my eye though. 'Inner Christianity'. What could a book with that title be about?

Smoley is erudite and more, convincing.

Early christianity was pluralistic, primitive and from what I see, dogma-less and without creed.

The demarcation is that of outer and inner.

The outer is what I, and perhaps you, are most accustomed to, living in the United States.

But the inner, how rich and diverse a picture Richard Smoley presents!

And christianity is not the only world religion with an esoteric tradition.

Islam has it's own in sufism, for example.

As Mr. Smoley points out, the esoteric branches of the world traditions may have more in common with each other than with their own local external religions.

In this day of loud and the brash personalities who somehow manage to come to the fore in modern christianity, Mr. Smoley reveals a thread that has run through the faith since it's conception and before. The voice has just been more quiet and more still than what we have grown accustomed to.
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