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As Stephen Hawking is to science, as Peter Drucker is to economics, and as Joseph Campbell is to mythology, so is Huston Smith to religion. Tales of Wonder is the personal story of the author of the classic The World’s Religions, the man who taught a nation about the great faiths of the world, and his fascinating encounters with the people who helped shape the 20th century.
For a quiet, gentle scholar, Huston Smith has had the habit of showing up in the most remarkable places at the most historic times. For instance, he was raised by Christian missionary parents in Suchow, China during the rise of the revolutionary Sun Yat-sen and the Chinese Communist Party. On April 25, 1945, Huston obtained one of the rare public tickets to attend the first meeting of the United Nations. He invited Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Washington University in 1956–between Kings Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott and his historic March on Washington. The next year, the university integrated. In the 60s, he was in Cambridge at MIT doing hallucinogens with Timothy Leary and discussing metaphysics with Ram Dass and Andrew Weil. On a trip to Tanzania, Smith would be rescued from lions in the Serengeti Plains by Maasai warriors who took him to the encampment of the world-famous archeologists Louis and Mary Leakey for safekeeping (and a much needed glass of whiskey). Later Smith would meet the Dalai Lama in Northern India (30 years before His Holiness would be discovered by Hollywood and the West), go nearly psychotic while practicing meditation in the most demanding Zen monastery in Kyoto, and just happen to be in a taxicab in Tiananmen Square when the student protests of 1989 broke out. He’s climbed Mt. Athos, he’s gone to Washington, DC to defend the Native American Church’s right to use peyote in their rituals, and hes recorded multiphonic chanting with Tibetan Monks and Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead.
This autobiography tells the story of Smith’s experiences of historic turning points and encounters with many of the people that shaped the 20th century. In addition to the figures above, Smith tells stories of his very personal interactions with, to name a few: Mother Teresa, Eleanor Roosevelt, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Thomas Merton, Reinhold Niebuhr, Krishnamurti, Aldous Huxley, John Kenneth Galbraith, Noam Chomsky, Robert Graves, Saul Bellow, Pete Seeger, and Bill Moyers.
Smith has lived an amazing life, and his great stories of adventure and wonder serve as a travelogue, a popular history of a century of monumental changes, and an inspirational memoir.
Tales of Wonder: Adventures Chasing the Divine, an Autobiography
Author: Huston Smith