Wednesday, August 23, 2017 Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

Huston Smith


Religious studies scholar in the United States, notable for the number of religions of which he considers or has considered himself a member.
Huston Smith
In mysteries what we know, and our realization of what we do not know, proceed together; the larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder. It is like the quantum world, where the more we understand its formalism, the stranger that world becomes.
Smith quotes
What a curious portrait this is for the supposed founder of a religion. The Old Boy didn't preach. He didn't organize or promote. He wrote a few pages on request, rode off on a water buffalo, and that was it was far as he was concerned.
Smith
The religions begin by assuring us that if we could see the full picture we would find it more integrated than we would normally suppose. Life gives us no view of the whole. [...] It is as if life were a great tapestry, which we face from its wrong side. This gives it the appearance of a maze of knots and threads, which for the most part appear chaotic.
From a purely human standpoint the wisdom traditions are the species' most prolonged and serious attempts to infer from the maze on this side of the tapestry the pattern which, on its right side, gives meaning to the whole. As the beauty and harmony of the design derive from the way its parts are related, the design confers on these parts a significance that we, seeing only scraps of the design, do not normally perceive.




Smith Huston quotes
Primal time is atemporal; an eternal now. To speak of atemporal or timeless time is paradoxical, but the paradox can be relieved if we see that primal time focuses on causal rather than chronological sequence; for primal peoples, "past" means preeminently closer to the originating Source of things. That the Source precedes the present is of secondary importance.
Smith Huston
A second arresting feature of Jesus' language was its invitational style. Instead of telling people what to do or what to believe, he invited them to see things differently, confident that if they did so their behaviour would change accordingly. This called for working with peoples' imaginations more than with their reason or their will.
Huston Smith quotes
Signposts are not the destination, maps are not the terrain. Life is too rich and textured to be fitted into pigeonholes, let alone equated with them. No affirmation is more than a finger pointing to the moon. And, lest attention turn to the finger, Zen will point, only to withdraw its finger at once.
Huston Smith
The sheer immensity of the human self as envisioned by the world's religions is awesome.
Smith Huston quotes
Confucius saw the human self as a node, not an entity.
Smith
Taoist yogis sought to harness the Tao directly, drawing it first into their own heart-minds and then beaming it to others. Yogis who managed this feat would for the most part be unnoticed, but their life-giving enterprise did more for the community than the works of other benefactors.
Smith Huston
There are circumstances in the imperfect condition we know as human existence when polygyny is morally preferable to its alternative. Individually, such a condition might arise if, early in the marriage, the wife were to contract paralysis or another disability that would prevent sexual union. Collectively, a war that decimated the male population could provide an example, forcing (as this would) the option between polygyny and depriving a large population of women of motherhood and a nuclear family of any sort. Idealists may call for the exercise of heroic continence in such circumstances, but heroism is never a mass option.
Huston Smith
A loving human being is not produced by exhortations, rules, and threats. Love only takes root in children when it comes to them--initially and most importantly from nurturing parents. Ontogenetically speaking, love is an answering phenomenon. It is literally a response.




Huston Smith quotes
[...] if we were to find ourselves with a single religion tomorrow, it is likely that there would be two the day after.
Huston Smith
Sex is the divine in its most available epiphany.
Smith quotes
Mystics of every faith report contacts with a world that startles and transforms them with its dazzling darkness. Zen stands squarely in this camp, its only uniqueness being that it makes breaking the language barrier its central concern.
Smith Huston
Traditionally, every Chinese was Confucian in ethics and public life, Taoist in private life and hygiene, and Buddhist at the time of death, with a healthy dash of shamanistic folk religion thrown in along the way. As someone has put the point: Every Chinese wears a Confucian hat, Taoist robes, and Buddhist sandals. In Japan Shinto was added to the mix.
Smith Huston quotes
The point is not merely that human relationships are fulfilling; the Confucian claim runs deeper than that. It is rather that apart from human relationships there is no self. The self is a center of relationships. It is constructed through its interactions with others and is defined by the sum of its social roles.
Huston Smith
Not only is the destiny of the individual bound up with the entire Church; it is responsible for helping to sanctify the entire world of nature and history.
Huston Smith quotes
Only while they are conforming their actions to the model of some archetypal hero do the Arunta feel that they are truly alive, for in those roles they are immortal. The occasions on which they slip from such molds are quite meaningless, for time immediately devours those occasions and reduces them to nothingness.
Huston Smith
They [Taoists] were fond of pointing out that the value of cups, windows, and doorways lies in the part of them that are not there.
Smith Huston
What are the ingredients of the most creatively meaningful image of human existence that the mind can conceive? Remove human frailty--as grass, as a sigh, as dust, as moth-crushed--and the estimate becomes romantic. Remove grandeur--a little lower than God--and aspiration recedes. Remove sin-the tendency to miss the mark--and sentimentality threatens. Remove freedom--choose ye this day!--and responsibility goes by the board. Remove, finally, divine parentage and life becomes estranged, cut loose and adrift on a cold, indifferent sea. With all that has been discovered about human life in the intervening 2,500 years, it is difficult to find a flaw in this assessment.


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