Customer Review

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kinder, Gentler Doorway into Huston Smith's Spiritual World, May 6, 2012
This review is from: The Huston Smith Reader (Hardcover)
How can readers find their way into the realm of Huston Smith? This month--the gods willing--he will turn 93. Once the world's most famous guide into comparative religion, beloved as a friendly gatekeeper for millions of curious Americans, Smith now is eclipsed by waves of other writers, filmmakers and teachers. In fact, given the explosion of the Internet and other digital media--the world's great religious traditions now flow directly into our palms, ears and eyes 24/7.

Nevertheless, students who ask for an introduction to our world's diverse spiritual traditions, today, are likely to receive a short list of recommendations including Huston Smith ranked with famous names like Smith's friend Bill Moyers, Karen Armstrong, Stephen Prothero, and Philip Jenkins.

But, where do we start digging into Smith's library of books? His overall body of work is not as fresh or as easy to sort out as the others. What's more, these days, Smith sometimes is chided by critics for trying too hard to make the world's religious communities seem more unified than they really are. Stephen Prothero certainly makes that point, among others. The most recent news stories mentioning Smith's name in major publications like the New York Times reference Don Lattin's 2010 book, The Harvard Psychedelic Club: How Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, Huston Smith, and Andrew Weil Killed the Fifties and Ushered in a New Age for America. Lattin finally pulled back the veil from Smith's own experimentation with mind-altering drugs in the 1960s.

Where do we turn to find the real Huston Smith? His legacy is not helped by the fact that he produced so many books. He wrote more than a dozen. Amazon lists 19 titles that are credited to Smith. Where do we start on that list? Are his earliest books still relevant? Or, what if we choose the more recent Cleansing the Doors of Perception, his 2000 book about the religious significance of drugs? That book is fascinating, but is it the best way to understand his major contribution as a scholar?

Now, University of California Press helps us all with a terrific sampling of Huston Smith's work over many years in this new The Huston Smith Reader, edited and introduced by Jeffery Paine. It includes a very helpful 10-page Afterword by Dana Sawyer, who is working on a biography of Smith.

In 23 chapters, Paine gives us a coherent collage of Smith's life story and passionate interest in teaching the world about the wonders of diversity. Some chapters excerpt autobiographical reflections by Smith. Other sections allow Smith to explain why studying comparative religion matters, for example, in an excerpt from his 2001 book Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of Disbelief.

Yes, the book dips back into vintage Huston Smith, way back in the era when he first showed up on public TV and in then-popular magazines like Saturday Evening Post. A chapter called "The Revolution in Western Thought" begins in the tone of such early-1960s magazines: "Quietly, irrevocably, something enormous has happened to Western man." Perhaps we all can forgive such a style, given the popularity of the Mad Men TV series . Certainly, we agree today that Western woman changed as well.

The Reader takes us through half a century of Smith's work. Thank goodness, HarperOne gave permission for an 8-page chapter near the book's conclusion, called "Reflections on Turning Ninety" from the 2009 Tales of Wonder: Adventures Chasing the Divine, an Autobiography. This is a full journey through Smith's life and thinking.

Thanks to everyone connected with this helpful new doorway into Huston Smith's world! As a journalist covering religion for 30 years, I have interviewed Smith at length several times, collected his works on religion through the years and I can say: Smith's own wise hand clearly rests on this collection. Thank goodness Huston Smith is still with us in early 2012.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

Be the first person to comment on this review.

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
 


Review Details

Item

4.8 out of 5 stars (4 customer reviews)
5 star:
 (3)
4 star:
 (1)
3 star:    (0)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
$31.95 $28.68
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Reviewer


Location: Canton, Michigan

Top Reviewer Ranking: 3,469