The World's Religions (2009)
For many people, an awakening brings a new perspective to the topic of religion. For me, having earlier become convinced all religions were doing more harm than good in the world, it was an chance to re-hear the grain of truth at the heart of these texts, a lesson oft-repeated by the nondual spiritual teachers of today. Once it felt safe to go back in water, as it were, I became fascinated once again by these traditions, this time diving into the deeper significance and symbolism contained within these texts and rituals. There is so much human psychology buried in our religious practices and I do enjoy listening to (or reading) an experienced scholar lay bare the multiple layers of lessons about human nature and history hidden within.
“What a strange fellowship this is, the God seekers in every land, lifting their voices in the most disparate ways imaginable to the God of all life. How does it sound from above? Like bedlam, or do the strains blend in strange ethereal harmony? Does one faith carry the lead or do the parts share in counterpoint and antiphony where not in full-throated chorus? We cannot know. All we can do is to listen carefully and with full attention to each voice in turn as it addresses the divine.” ― Huston Smith, 'The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions'Case in point, this classic book by Huston Smith, renown religious studies scholar, popular professor and bestselling author. (Originally published as The Religions of Man in 1958.) In his book, Smith introduces the basic structure and teachings of the most prominent traditions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity and primal religions. His approach to the subject - working from the inner dimensions of each religion rather than their institutional structure - provides the reader with instruction that is factual and informative yet manages to open up the heart of each tradition. I highly recommend the book to anyone looking to introduce - or reintroduce - themselves to the spiritual landscape of the world today.