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Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions Paperback – June 25, 2006

4.7 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The editors of Gnosis magazine present a fascinating primer on Western religious traditions. Since the early 20th century, seekers in America "were seized with a passion for the lore of mystic Asia," the authors explain in their introduction. Meanwhile, Western traditions seemed to slip out of vogue, especially in the recent realm of New Age spiritualism. But there is much magic and wisdom to be found in Western traditions, claim Smoley and Kinney, who have embarked on an ambitious mission: breaking down the fundamental differences between Eastern and Western traditions and then extracting the best of the West for today's seekers.

Because the editors are diligent about keeping the narrative accessible, clean, and intelligent (they are magazine editors, after all), this weighty material reads exceptionally smoothly. Starting with "Jung and the Discovery of the Unconscious," each chapter delves into the intriguing--and often little-understood--mysteries of the West, including Shamans, Alchemy, Hermetism, and Sufism. --Gail Hudson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

For many years, spiritual seekers have turned East in search of the wisdom of Buddhism, Hinduism and other Eastern religious traditions. Smolley and Kinney, editors of Gnosis magazine, contend that the wisdom so eagerly sought from these Eastern traditions has been readily available in Western esoteric traditions. In their introduction, the authors note that "esoteric traditions are concerned with transcendence.... [E]sotericists say it may be possible not only to reach God in the next life, but to experience him in this one." These traditions emphasize self-awakening to inner wisdom. According to the authors, esoteric spirituality teaches that such an awakening brings great clarity and insight into the meanings of dreams, myths and symbols. The opening chapter explores how Jung's idea of the collective unconscious and his discussions of alchemy spurred new interest in Western esotericism. In subsequent chapters, Smolley and Kinney offer engaging and lively histories of esoteric movements, ranging from Kabbalism, magic, Wicca and neopaganism to shamanism, alchemy, hermeticism and Sufism. Each chapter provides a historical overview, an introduction to the major beliefs and practices of the movement and comments on the reasons spiritual seekers might find that particular esoteric tradition attractive, closing with an annotated bibliography. Smolley and Kinney's handbook provides a useful introduction to the many varieties of Western esotericism.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 430 pages
  • Publisher: Quest Books; Revised ed. edition (June 25, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0835608441
  • ISBN-13: 978-0835608442
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #858,640 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Stephen Triesch on August 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
Richard Smoley, former editor of the (lamentably) defunct magazine "Gnosis," has written an excellent introduction to the Western Mystery Tradition in all of its major forms: Hermeticism, Wicca, esoteric Christianity, Sufism, and "the Fourth Way," among others. As always, Smoley is balanced, objective, fair, and - above all - sane. There is nothing of the fanatic or obscurantist about Smoley, and he blends a wide knowledge of the field with bits of humor and insights gained from personal experience.

Smoley is an excellent writer - intelligent and engaging, without being pedantic or superficial. I have only one caveat about this book: those already familiar with these topics - including former readers of "Gnosis" - might find that the book covers familiar territory and offers little that is new. Still, even these readers might find it useful as a reference. But for those new to these topics, you couldn't do better than start with this book; Smoley is a trusted guide in a field too often inhabited by quacks, cultists, and uncritical enthusiasts.
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Format: Paperback
In the flood of psycho-spiritual babble books, this one is a quiet winner. Like the magazine Gnosis which the authors edited and published for many years, this book is intelligent and well-balanced and shines a much-needed light on musty areas of Western spirituality. I found it very useful, especially the annotated bibiography for each subject - sufism, Gurdjieff, alchemy, shamanism, etc. And where else would you find out the real reason why Hitler didn't invade England...? Highly recommended!
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Format: Paperback
The authors have accomplished a rare feat by being simultaneously sympathetic yet impartial in describing such a broad range of spiritual teachings. They provide succinct but nuanced descriptions of these teachings, along with each's history and relationships to other teachings. Also included is much sage advice for those who may wish to pursue these paths, and annotated references for additional reading. This has clearly been a labor of love on Smoley & Kinney's part. It is well worth reading for anyone with the slightest bit of interest in spiritual matters, whatever their religious preference.
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Format: Paperback
Excellent resource to have on hand if you're exploring the many mystery traditions out there. One of the best ones I've read in that it tries to present each tradition positively and more or less objectively. The authors try to find ways to explain at least a part of most of the systems in Jungian terms, which gets a little old if you don't think that Jung has the best system around - but the histories, facts and stories are well worth reading. Having so many traditions described in one volume is great!
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Format: Paperback
In a way I've been waiting years for this book, without knowing it. I had some knowledge in some areas of esoteric, spiritual studies, but no overall sense of the field, no real sense of the interconnectedness and no real understanding of, for example, the Kaballah, or ritual magic--until this book! WHat's great about it is the objective tone, the sheer *readability* of it, and the insight. These guys, as editors of Gnosis magazine, apparently had access to all kinds of people and sources and they used them intelligently. This is the first 'survey' of the esoteric I've seen that made me feel like here's someone who really understands their subjects deeply. Sufism, mysticism, the occult, gnosticism, Gurdjieff--it's all there. And it's so well written, so not-boring. They've knit together what was fragmentary in my mind--but they're not superimposing some spiritual agenda of their own. Really useful.
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Format: Paperback
You've got questions - Smoley and Kinney have the answers. They won't tell you the meaning of life, but they will give you an excellent resource regarding where to look. The Western Inner Traditions have been shrouded in mystery, secrecy, and misinformation until the publishers of Gnosis Magazine came along and put together this wonderful compendium of the often confusing, often hard-to-find spiritual teachings of some of the greatest underground thinkers of all time. They've truly dug deep to bring you one of the most concise, well thought out guides to the spirituality of the west. Each chapter's discussion ends with a detailed reading list selected by the authors which will be a tremendous help to all those who who want to know more, but are bogged down with so much to choose from as we enter a perpetually "New Age" of spirituality. This book is for everyone, from the mildly curious, to the would-be initiate of some esoteric secret society. From Jungians to Wiccans, Gurdjieff to Kabbalah, Sufis to Alchemists, this book has all the seekers of gnosis under one cover. Give me to a friend.
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Since the 1960's the West seems more interested in the Eastern Spiritual traditions than its often neglected own (kind of a reverse on the Western secular culture that is making inroads in the East!). The authors/editors of this book had their first go at at least making Westerners aware of their rich tradition native to their own culture with their magazine Gnosis. In each issue of Gnosis a particular theme was taken be it "Paganism" "Freemasonry" "Esoteric Christianity" or somethig else. In that issue they collected articles, book reviews and interviews dealing with that subject. The issue would be an excellent survey, complete with resources if one wanted to learn more on their own. Unfortunatley the magazine fell on hard times, and is no longer being produced, but the authors have hardly been hibernating -- this book is a fitting legacy to the magazine - with themes and traditions explored and written about in greater depths, generally, than the magazine.

Anyone who is interested in learning about the various Western traditions, some of which are right in front of us, and some are hanging on a thread -- this is just about your only resource! Grab on to it!
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