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The Dice Game of Shiva: How Consciousness Creates the Universe Paperback – November 3, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

While the subtitle could imply grandiose theorizing, Smoley (Forbidden Faith), the former editor of the journal Gnosis and a specialist in esoteric religious thought, has written a commendably modest book. In it, the sacred Vedas of Hinduism meet Western philosophers puzzling out causation, God, the nature of reality and other questions that have given philosophers and theologians of the East and West something to think about for the past few millennia. This history of thought predates contemporary neuroscience and its exciting discoveries about the relationship between brain and mind. It also reaches across the West-East spiritual divide (monotheistic, personal religion versus impersonal, nondual religious thought) to look at patterns, associations and categories that different cultures at different times have used to make sense of the world and the challenges offered by events of the world to human needs for justice and orderliness. This is a serious, almost old-fashioned history of ideas about transcendent and human thought rather than a cheesy come-on about how your thoughts can make you rich, beautiful and successful. (Nov.)
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“This is an exciting, powerful book on the nature of mind and its relation to the universe. It is hard to put down.”
— Lawrence LeShan, PhD, author of How to Meditate

“In this provocative and persuasive book, Richard Smoley pushes the newest frontier in human knowledge. The path he walks is not into a new religion but beyond the boundaries of all religious systems and into a new and universal consciousness, where new visions of the meaning of life are found. I loved it.”
— John Shelby Spong, author of Jesus for the Non-Religious

“I have a standing rule: I read anything Richard Smoley writes — and The Dice Game of Shiva proves once again that I’m correct to do so. This book is a profoundly wise examination of the nature of consciousness and its place — our place — in the universe. Smoley’s writing is engaging, personal, and elegant.”
— Larry Dossey, MD, author of The Power of Premonitions and Healing Words

“I loved Richard Smoley’s The Dice Game of Shiva, which thoughtfully deals with conundrums from consciousness to causality.”
— Russell Targ, physicist and author of Limitless Mind

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: New World Library (November 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1577316444
  • ISBN-13: 978-1577316442
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #681,298 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, 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Gary Reiner on November 24, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's about time!! Finally, someone, i.e., Richard Smoley, has done an excellent job putting together a book about the very heady topic of consciousness, made accessible for everyone (yet not simplistic), regardless whether one is a novice or journeyman. From start to finish, Smoley uses easily understandable language to explain various theories of consciousness down through the ages, including questions of how and why, and sums up the essence and what it means to modern man and his world.

Throughout the book, there are two intertwined threads, that of discussions from: 1)the world of philosophy (including references to Plato, Kant, and Schopenhauer), and, 2)the world of spirituality -- with detailed explanations from the Samkhya (dualism) and Advaita Vedanta (nondualism) schools of thought, and references to Esoteric Christianity and Buddhism. Additionally, there are references to science and its stand on issues. I particularly liked the explanation of the myth of the Dice Game of Shiva and Parvati as an explanation of consciousness, nature, and realization.

Smoley's presentation is a breath of fresh air -- I have spent years reading books about the details of various topics he brings up and have not come across as clear a presentation as his.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Carl Strasen on December 2, 2009
Format: Paperback
I was fortunate enough to find this brand spanking new book at our local library, and I thought I would spend some time raving about how great it is. What I particularly liked was that the author is able to meld insights from vastly different backgrounds with stunning insight. It would be too easy to dismiss this book once you get the basic theme, it is much more than that. It is a valiant defense of the mystery of consciousness against the onslaught of reductionistic materialism via Oxford's linguistic analysis in philosophy, the current fad of neuroscience and artificial intelligence in computer science. I thought the discussion of consciousness in view of Western philosophy was particularly valuable, and I share the author's doubts that science will ever explain consciousness. If you ever share the spiritual experiences that you find invaluable with others, and find yourself feeling a fool at the hands of your hard nosed, aggressive materialist friends: read this book!

I should also mention that it is a beautifully published and printed book with numerous well documented quotes throughout which is will be a big help for further exploration of the subject. I hope it is hugely popular, it stands head and shoulder above the self improvement drivel that I find in long rows at our local big box bookstore.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia Sue Larson TOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 22, 2010
Format: Paperback
The Dice Game of Shiva tells the story of the Hindu god Shiva, lord of the universe, and his consort Parvati who learn a game with dice. Interestingly, Parvati wins round after round to the point that she cleans Shiva out... down to his last item of clothing... until he retreats to the wilderness. There is much more to this story, yet it captures an essential core sense of the eternal dance between universal consciousness (Shiva) and experience of the world (Parvati).

Richard Smoley writes with the intelligent voice of the Harvard and Oxford graduate that he is, and better yet as a professor who passionately loves the topic of consciousness as viewed from every philosophical and spiritual lens known to man. Smoley has a rare gift for describing ineffable concepts articulately and elegantly, such as when he writes, "It is this higher love, which Christianity calls agape and I call 'conscious love,' that reflects the insight that the Self at the center of one's own being is exactly the same as the Self that lies at the core of everyone else's as well, human and nonhuman, animate and apparently inanimate."

Smoley explores one of the six "orthodox" darshans of the Hindu sacred texts known as the Vedas, the Samkhya, weaving it together with Western ideas from philosophy, science and religion. Samkyha analyzes reality into its fundamental components, while Yoga is a system of meditative practice for spiritual liberation, and Vedanta is a way to detach ones awareness from physical being to a knowingness that all is as One.

Even as physicists currently seek a "Theory of Everything," humans pursue a comprehensive answer for the true nature of reality, the meaning of life, and the relationship between universal consciousness and worldly experience. The Dice Game of Shiva takes us on a mystical philosophical journey full of fresh new insights into who we truly are.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Fuller on November 24, 2009
Format: Paperback
Having tacitly approached Consciousness through the framework of Esoteric Christianity in 'Conscious Love', Smoley now sets his sights on this now popularly burgeoning Science through the lense of an Indian Myth. Shiva and Parvati, Lord of the Worlds and His Consort respectively, have their apparent eternal lovemaking interrupted by a trixter figure who introduces the two to the game of parcheesi. As the two begin to play the game, Shiva very soon recognizes although He can win maybe a couple of games in a row, He is the Big Loser when matched with Parvati. Shiva, you see, taken subjectively, represents pure Consciousness, the state that exists in the premoments of waking when one is All with the World and there is no duality to speak of. Parvati, again taken subjectively, on the other hand quickly entices Shiva into duality and all out multiplicity and soon has Him believing He is what He thinks and feels. Besides all this, there is the mode in which Shiva and Parvati interract, this being causality, and more satisfying to me, synchronicity, or as Smoley presents it, 'constant conjunction'. Though Smoley reduces perhaps what could be a very complex subject, Consciousnes, to these three aspects, Pure Consciousness, entrapment in the 'World', and the mode by which this interplay takes place, there is no shortage of interesting and even expansive elaborations to be made. Feel constantly caught up in Life? Ever feel trapped like you can't escape? Let Smoley give you a few pointers on finding a way to step back and even transcend your daily thinking that just may keep causing you conundrums. Very good read and highly recommended!
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