Huston Smith

Huston Smith, Ph.D. (1919–2016) was born in China to Methodist missionary parents. After his doctorate from the University of Chicago, he began his long and prominent career as a scholar of world religions. He taught in many places, but had his longest tenure as Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion and Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at Syracuse University. He is best known for his best-selling book, The World’s Religions,with over 3 million sold and still a classic text in universities and general study in religion. As a young professor at Washington University, he televised popular lectures on religion for NET, the pre-runner to PBS. Those early educational broadcasts are credited with introducing the American public to the fascinating study of world religions.  Bill Moyers, a leading PBS figure, devoted an entire TV series to Smith’s life and work, The Wisdom of Faith with Huston Smith. Smith’s own film documentaries on Hinduism, Tibetan Buddhism, and Sufism all won awards in international film festivals. His book, Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of Disbelief,won the Wilbur Award for the best book on religion. He was recognized for his contributions to humanity with awards such as the Courage of Conscience Award from the Peace Abbey. Smith published at least fourteen books in his illuminated career, including Cleansing the Doors of Perception: The Religious Significance of Entheogenic Plants and Chemicals, The Soul of Christianity, Tales of Wonder: Adventures Chasing the Divine, and Live Rejoicing! Though he remained a Christian throughout his life, his personal quest took him deep into the practice of Vedanta, Sufism, Zen Buddhism, and Judaism. After his experiments with entheogenic substances, he was an advocate before the U.S. Congress for religious usage of peyote on behalf of the Native American Church.

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