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In Memoriam - Huston Smith

Huston Smith
May 31, 1919 – Dec 30, 2016

Huston Smith was an American scholar of comparative religions whose book, The World’s Religions, has sold over two million copies and remains one of the most popular introductions to comparative religion.

Smith was born in China to Methodist missionaries and spent his first 17 years there. As a young man Smith suddenly turned from traditional Methodist Christianity to mysticism, influenced by the writings of Gerald Heard and Aldous Huxley. During his career Smith not only studied but also practiced Vedanta, Zen Buddhism, and Sufi Islam for more than ten years each.  He also developed an interest in the Traditionalist School formulated by René Guénon and Ananda Coomaraswamy, which has become a continuing thread in all his writings.

Due to his connection with Heard and Huxley, Smith went on to meet Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert (Ram Dass), and others at the Center for Personality Research. The group began experimenting with psychedelics and what Smith later called “empirical metaphysics”. The experience and history of the group are described in Smith’s book Cleansing the Doors of Perception. During this period Smith was also part of the Harvard Project, an attempt to raise spiritual awareness through entheogenic plants.  With his help in 1994, Congress passed the American Indian Religious Freedom Act amendment, protecting the use of peyote as a religious sacrament by Native Americans.

Smith was a practicing Christian who credited his faith to his missionary parents who had “instilled in me a Christianity that was able to withstand the dominating secular culture of modernity.”

The larger the island of knowledge,
the longer the shoreline of wonder.