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Tales of Wonder: Adventures Chasing the Divine, an Autobiography [Hardcover]

By Huston Smith (Author)
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Item description for Tales of Wonder: Adventures Chasing the Divine, an Autobiography by Huston Smith...

Documents the world religion scholar's life and experiences with people who shaped the twentieth century, including Mother Teresa, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Ram Dass, in an account that also traces the adventures he had in pursuit of his influential research.

Publishers Description

Huston Smith, the man who brought the world's religions to the West, was born almost a century ago to missionary parents in China during the perilous rise of the Communist Party. Smith's lifelong spiritual journey brought him face-to-face with many of the people who shaped the twentieth century. His extraordinary travels around the globe have taken him to the world's holiest places, where he has practiced religion with many of the great spiritual leaders of our time.

Smith's life is a story of uncanny synchronicity. He was there for pivotal moments in human history such as the founding of the United Nations and the student uprising at Tiananmen Square. As he traveled the world he encountered thinkers who shaped the twentieth century. He interviewed Eleanor Roosevelt on the radio; invited Martin Luther King Jr. to speak at an all-white university before the March on Washington; shared ideas with Thomas Merton on his last plane ride before Merton's death in Bangkok; and was rescued while lost in the Serengeti by Masai warriors who took him to the compound of world-renowned anthropologists Louis and Mary Leaky.

In search of intellectual and spiritual treasures, Smith traveled to India to meet with Mother Teresa and befriended the Dalai Lama; he studied Zen at the most challenging monastery in Japan; and he hitchhiked through the desert to meet Aldous Huxley, dropped acid with Timothy Leary, and took peyote with a Native American shaman. He climbed Mount Athos, traipsed through the Holy Land, and was the first to study multiphonic chanting by monks in Tibet, which he recorded with Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead. Most important, he shared the world's religions with the West--writing two bestselling books and serving as the focus of a five-part PBS television series by Bill Moyers.

Huston Smith is a national treasure. His life is an extraordinary adventure, and in his amazing Tales of Wonder, he invites you to come along to explore your own vistas of heart, mind, and soul.

From Publishers Weekly
In this autobiography, Smith, author of the revered classic The World's Religions, parts the curtain on his past and says, Look! with the enthusiasm of a childsomething he has not yet lost at age 90. The result is a joyous romp with a favorite uncle among holy places and mysticsthe most interesting of them the author of the book. Born to Christian missionary parents in pre-Mao China, Smith had an insatiable hunger for far away places, peoples and their various faiths. He has spun with Sufi dervishes, begged with naked Hindus, meditated with Zen masters, chatted with Thomas Merton and dropped acid with Timothy Leary. He punctuates these spiritual voyages with stories about his home and family, places he also found the fingerprints of God. Throughout his adventures, he never loses his good cheer or faith in God, remarkable given the untimely losses of a beloved daughter to illness and a granddaughter to murder. Coauthor Jeffery Paines touch is so light as to be unnoticeable, as it is Smith's lively, chipper voice that leads us through his past and into his present. Some friends accused me of whoring after the Infinite, Smith writes at one point. Well, what better whoredom is there? By the end of this book, it is hard to do anything but agree. (May)Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

Citations And Professional Reviews
Tales of Wonder: Adventures Chasing the Divine, an Autobiography by Huston Smith has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -

  • Library Journal - 05/01/2009 page 68

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Item Specifications...

Studio: HarperOne
Pages   209
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.06" Width: 6.36" Height: 0.95"
Weight:   1.1 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   May 1, 2009
Publisher   HarperOne
ISBN  0061154261  
ISBN13  9780061154263  

Availability  1 units.
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More About Huston Smith

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Huston Smith is regarded as one of the most prominent authorities on religions of the world. His classic text, "The World s Religions," has seen multiple editions and has sold in excess of three million copies. He has been the subject of a Bill Moyers PBS series called The Wisdom of Faith and is the author of numerous books, including "Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of Disbelief, The Way Things Are: Conversations with Huston Smith on the Spiritual Life," and "The Soul of Christianity: Restoring the Great Tradition." Jeffery Paine is the author of "Father India, Re-enchantment: Tibetan Buddhism Comes to the West," and "Adventures with the Buddha.""

Huston Smith currently resides in the state of California. Huston Smith was born in 1945.

Huston Smith has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Plus
  2. Spiritual Classic (St. Anthony Messenger Press)

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > General
2Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Leaders & Notable People > Religious

Reviews - What do customers think about Tales of Wonder: Adventures Chasing the Divine, an Autobiography?

A very long wait -- but book in perfect condition  Apr 15, 2010
It took longer than the two weeks allowed. When I emailed to inquire as to delivery, I was told that the book had been 'damaged' at USPS and then replaced. I wish, if true, the company had notified me that the delivery would be further delayed. I am, however, very pleased with the quality of the book ordered and I thank them for that.
A Readable and Endearing Spiritual Autobiography  Mar 23, 2010
Having not read any of Huston Smith's many books on comparative religion, I was concerned that his autobiography could be a ponderous and dense debate of arcane theological concepts. Fortunately, his book (written with Jeffrey Paine) turns out to be an accessible and remarkably personal tracing of the arc of his spiritual life.

Written as a valediction in his 90th year, Huston takes us from his birth in China to Christian missionaries, through his education at the University of Chicago (he earned a Ph.D. in Divinity), and on to his university teaching appointments, his writing, and his unique way of practicing the world's major religions.

Huston described his approach to learning world religion as quite different from detached scholarship. He described his three-pronged approach: (1) Read each new religion's scriptures (the Q'ur'an, The Torah, and so on), (2) Seek out its living authorities and learn from them, and (3) Do the ritual, the devotion and the practices. This allowed Huston to "inhabit" these religions and thus teach and write about them from experience. He was obviously quite successful, for one of his books, "The World's Religions" has sold over two million copies.

This account is also quite fascinating for all the religious and scholarly figures Huston knew and interacted with, including Thomas Merton, Aldous Huxley, Martin Luther King, Jr., Krishnamurti, and Timothy Leary. In fact, Huston participated in some of Leary's experiments with mescaline.

Huston's own life has not been without loss and tragedy. Married to his wife, Kendra, for sixty years, the couple had three daughters, the oldest of whom, Karen, died of cancer. Another daughter, Gael, lost her child, Serena, to a tragic murder in 2002. These were severe tests, but Huston clung to his Christian faith throughout these ordeals.

In the epilogue to his book, Huston has moved from his home in Berkeley, California to an assisted living facility. Now, when people ask him questions about various religions and practices, he confesses, "I have forgotten more about the various religions than I knew in the first place. All that is left of my study of them is ... me." A little later he adds, "Possibly I needed to go through ninety years of life to understand how life itself is the path."

Toward the very end, Huston bids us farewell: "And good-bye to you, dear reader. Writing was to me more than an academic obligation: it was my passion and my refuge. Although we never met in person, you were like a friend, the thought of whom spurred me to my best efforts."

Reading Huston's autobiography will leave you grateful for a religious life well-lived and well-told.
Life Well Lived  Feb 20, 2010
Huston Smith led a very interesting life. He met so many well known and accomplished people throughout the course of his life that I found it fascinating. His life had periods of tragedy and yet so many moments of great accomplishment. He appears to live his values (you can only know from the distance of his writings) and wrote books of great value to others. I was drawn to his story and also inspired by it. It was an excellent read.
A Truly Divine Adventure  Sep 27, 2009
This is an autobiography of Huston Smith. Smith has written 14 books, most notably, The World's Religions. During his career, he taught at Washington University, Syracuse, MIT and U.C. Berkeley.

This is an extraordinarily well written book. Jeffrey Paine of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (formerly a judge on the Pulitzer Prize committee) writes this amazing story of Smith's life.

A fascinating read. Huston claims the soul of Christianity as his faith and became a practicing Muslim, Hindi and Buddhist during his lifetime. The metaphor Smith uses to provide a framework for understanding human existence is the cross:

"Our life in historical or chronological time, measuring and minding, cautious and comparing, forms the horizontal arm of the cross. Our experience of the unqualified, of inner, immeasurable time (or timelessnesss) is the cross's vertical pole. We live in two kinds of time or perspective simultaneously. The horizontal and the vertical are at once quite distinct and entirely overlapping, and to experience their incongruity and confluence is what it means to be human." (p.41).

Huston's life can be characterized by the following phrase:

"to think of how to think the way I do not think," (p.130)

His life explored the dilemma whereby "Once different religions knew about each other only enough to kill or convert one another." (p.51). Smith's life exemplified that the exploration of a varierty of faith persuasions allowed him to tap dimensions of the human experience that he was unaware of. His life illustrated the observation that, "The great changes in history occur, I believe, not through argument but through seeing things differently." (p.106).

This autobiography of Huston Smith provides tangible evidence that great changes in human beings occur, not through argument, but through seeing things differently.

This is truly a divine adventure. I recommend it.
What I would like to be like when I grow up  Aug 1, 2009
Thursday afternoon I received Huston Smith's just-published autobiography, Tales of Wonder: Adventures Chasing the Divine, in the mail. Friday morning I'd finished reading it, and would have done so Thursday night were it not for the ordinary life necessities of sleep, a committee meeting and a dental appointment to go to first thing in the morning. I can't remember the last time I was so fascinated by a book that I read it at a single sitting: this is good!

Huston Smith has just turned 90, and has long been my model for what I'd like to be like when I grow up. He is a gentlemen, a scholar, and one of, if not the, world's greatest authorities on the religions of the world. His classic book The World's Religions has introduced millions of readers to what's good in the religions of the world. While he has the accuracy and objectivity we expect from a professor, though, he doesn't have the dryness or too common air of intellectual superiority, because he actually spent years practicing each of the religions he writes about, to gain direct experiential knowledge of what's good in them.

Tales of Wonder: Adventures Chasing the Divine is a series of intimate and inspiring glimpses of a wonderful man - and his wife Kendra, who is very much a part of the story, keeping him grounded in reality - as he pursues meaning and the good life in modern times. Raised by missionary parents in China, he feels he is basically a Christian, as well as a member of the world's other major religions. When you get to the bottom line, though, his religion, like that of his friend His Holiness the Dalai Lama, is kindness....I can't praise him or his book highly enough...

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