Interview: Inner Christianity and Esotericism With Richard Smoley

Richard Smoley is a consulting editor to Parabola magazine and the author of several books on esotericism, religion, and spirituality, including Supernatural: Writings on an Unknown History, How God Became God: What Scholars Are Really Saying about God and the Bible, and Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition.

During the 1980s, Smoley was a writer for the respected esoteric journal Gnosis, and in 1990 he became the journal’s editor. Under his editorship, Gnosis released issues on Gnosticism, Freemasonry, G.I. Gurdjieff, the spirituality of Russia, and more.

We spoke to him about the spiritual crisis of the West, alternative spirituality, and inner Christianity.  Continue reading “Interview: Inner Christianity and Esotericism With Richard Smoley”

Drawing on Different Traditions

We tend to think of the ancient world as having many distinct religions, all somehow pure and authentic in themselves. But the truth is more complicated, of course. Muslims, Christians, and Jews debated each other at times, and their religions influenced each other. Platonism also influenced these three religions, or at least their more mystical and esoteric schools of thought. Moreover, even in antiquity people often practiced different faiths, having, for example, to be a part of the state religion, for example, while practicing their own religion in their own lives. In the modern era, in Freemasonry, we find the influence of Hermeticism, alchemy, ancient Egyptian culture, etc., in the “higher Degrees.”

Today, whether ancient or modern, dead, obscure, or having millions of members, every religious tradition is available to us in some way, even if only through books. It is an odd thing to see, but esoteric schools, such as Martinism and those following the teachings of Armenian mystic G. I. Gurdjieff, virtually inaccessible two decades ago, now regularly appear on the net, including in my social media streams. Continue reading “Drawing on Different Traditions”

Physical Strength as The Basis of Enlightenment

physical-strength-spirituality“First of all our young men must be strong. Religion will come afterwards,” said Swami Vivekananda. “Be strong, my young friends; that is my advice to you. You will be nearer to Heaven through football than through the study of the [Hindu religious text of the Bhagavad] Gita… You will understand the Gita better with your biceps, your muscles, a little stronger.”

We in the West have inherited the Christian image — and I would say, largely a false image — of the spiritual or enlightened man: self-sacrificing, passive, slender, and in a sense anti-physical.

Where Christianity has declined or disappeared, this image and the assumptions of the religion — equality, a focus on — or a belief in — the poor and the outcast, and strong suspicion of the physical body, especially physical strength — have become the major motifs of politics.

But the traits we associate with spirituality and intelligence are not necessarily accepted by either non-Western or pre-modern cultures.  Continue reading “Physical Strength as The Basis of Enlightenment”