Smith, Huston (1919 - )
Educator and media figure in world religions. Smith, in his compact classic, The World’s Religions (1991, formerly The Religions of Man, 1958), reveals many of the insights and problems inherent to the comparative study of religion.
Choosing to place more emphasis on religious experience and less on historicald data, Smith tries to stimulate thought on several age old questions: Why are we here? What gives meaning to our lives? Is there something beyond the world of the senses? What happens after this life?
Not opposed to organized religions, Smith says their group aspect makes them a “mixed bag”:
Like any term religion can be defined as one wishes, and if one links it to institutions, I think religious institutions are indispensable, but they’re clearly a mixed bag, and we’ve had the wars of religions; but I tend to think this is the nature of institutions and people in the aggregate. What government has a clean or perfect record, you know? (Smith, “The Psychology of Religious Experience” in Jeffrey Mishlove, Thinking Allowed video series: http://www.thinkingallowed.com/smith.html).
In a sense, Smith could be seen as a forerunner to another leading interpreter of religion, Joseph Campbell, whose psychological approach to the spirit has sparked worldwide interest and debate. » Aton, Illness
On the Web:
- “‘RUMI: Poet of the Heart,’ an award-winning 60 minute film produced and directed by Haydn Reiss, featuring Coleman Barks, Robert Bly, Deepak Chopra, storyteller and mythologist Michael Meade, and religious historian Huston Smith.”
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Watts, Alan (1915-1973)
No one really knows just who the British-born Alan Watts was. Scholar, writer, Tantric yogi, ex-Catholic synthesizer of Eastern and Western beliefs–all would apply.
An innovate teacher, Watts mastered the art of spontaneity. His wit and enthusiasm made him one of the leading advocates of mystical introspection.
His abundant charms, however, may have been garnered at the expense of rigorous thought.
For example, one of his arguments about the West “not getting it” is developed from simplistic assumptions.
In his video, Time: The More it Changes, Watts says that Western psychologists used to explain human behavior in terms of instinct, and now – 1972 – people tend to speak of “drives.” He then provides counterexamples to suggest the opposite, saying that he’s not “driven” to eat or have sex, but rather chooses to “identify” with these activities.
The problem with this argument is that not all psychologists see human behavior as solely motivated by “drives.” Even Freud, whose idea of the libido is often viewed as excessively instinctual, recognized the importance of social forces in regulating biological drives.
Meanwhile, twentieth-century existentialists argue that what makes a human truly human (and free) is the “gap of nothingness” that stands between drives and actions (or inaction). And religious people speak of “grace” that may override drives.
But Watts did popularize and provoke. In 1968 he admitted to taking five different types of psychedelic drugs to learn about mysticism.
I myself have experimented with five of the principal psychedelics: LSD-25, mescaline, psilocybin, dimethyl-tryptamine (DMT), and cannabis. I have done so, as William James tried nitrous oxide, to see if they could help me in identifying what might be called the “essential” or “active” ingredients of the mystical experience.
Alan Watts, “Psychedelics and Religious Experience,” California Law Review, Vol. 56, No. 1 (Jan., 1968:74-85), p. 75.
As the following demonstrates, Nordstrom and Pilgrim take an extremely dim view of his ideas.
Watts’ mysticism is deviant because it seeks perversely to undo mystical experience. This is done by inferring from the fact that mystical experience is not ineffable, that there is no separation between the spiritual and the physical, which eventually is transformed into the view that the spiritual and the physical are virtually the same thing, which Watts calls his “spiritual materialism”…[this] both precludes the possibility and obviates the necessity of mystical experience. What is perverse about Watts’ mysticism, in a word, is that it is antimystical.
This would not be so perverse were it not for the fact that Watts considered himself to be a mystic, as remarks like “I am a shameless mystic” and “a mystic in spite of myself” make clear.
Watts is a strange and confusing combination of a man-of-letters and a mystic, who used his extraordinary articulateness and literary ability to undermine mystical experience by rejecting the sense in which such experience is ineffable. What one is left with, unfortunately, is, as Zen master Rinzai once put it, “words and phrases, however excellent.”
Louis Nordstrom and Richard Pilgrim, “The Wayward Mysticism of Alan Watts,” Philosophy East and West, Vol. 30, No. 3 (Jul., 1980: 381-401), pp. 381-382.
Love or hate him, according to legend Watts predicted a flash of lightning which would accompany his death. At the moment he died, a local Druid’s bell apparently rang out in town, off schedule. Later, a lightning flash hit the cable leading to the bell.
Similar paranormal phenomena are said to have accompanied the death of Carl Jung, another prominent innovator and advocate of an East-West synthesis. » Confucianism, Ego, Id, Superego, Taoism, Wu Wei, Yogi
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Adi Da (aka Free-John, Da 1939- ) Originally Franklin Jones, Adi Da is an American guru born in Jamaica, New York. He has also gone under the names of Da Free-John, Bubba Free-John and Heartmaster Da.
Adi Da claims to have reached enlightenment at age three years. In their Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions and the Occult, Mather and Nichols note that this achievement did not last. In his college days Adi Da explored different forms of hedonism, to include LSD and open sex.
To this criticism Adi Da replies that his activities were an essential stage within his path of discovery.
Adi Da also says he is an incarnation of the Brahman. Like many New Age enthusiasts, he denigrates organized forms of Christianity. And like most Hindus and devotees of Hinduism, Adi Da counters the Christian claim that Jesus is the only son of God.
For Adi Da Jesus is one of many avatars or “incarnations,” not unlike that which Adi Da, himself, claims to be.
But Adi Da is not just critical of organized Christianity. He, in fact, contests all organized religions, claiming the truth of the spiritual quest may be found in one’s own heart.
To realize this apparent truth, veils of selfishness and ignorance must be recognized and dispelled.
Ironically, his California group gatherings and North American tours exhibit many of the characteristics of organized religion, with Adi Da at the center.
Listed in several cult and manipulation internet indexes, Adi Da has founded the Free Communion Church/Dawn Horse Fellowship and Laughing Man Institute.
While claiming to be beyond any particular system, he studied under and has theological affinities with several Hindu gurus, the most salient affinity being the belief in reincarnation. It has also been suggested that he possesses psi abilities and can read the thoughts of his disciples, an alleged ability known as siddhis in Hindu and Buddhist belief systems.
Some call Adi Da a religious genius, others a profound theologian and yet others suggest he’s the head of a “dysfunctional organization” for sincere but sorely misguided seekers (Source » http://www.adidaarchives.org ).
On the World Wide Web:
- http://www.adidam.org/ (Official web site)
- http://wilber.shambhala.com/html/misc/adida.cfm/ (Mixed opinion)
- http://guruphiliac.blogspot.com/2005/06/big-adi-daddi.html (Negative opinion)
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