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Richard Smoley's Biography

Member Info

Feb 2008

    Richard Smoley is one of the world’s most distinguished authorities on the mystical and esoteric teachings of Western civilization.
    Richard Smoley was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, in 1956. He attended the Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut, and entered Harvard in 1974. As an undergraduate, Smoley was managing editor of the university’s venerable literary magazine, The Harvard Advocate, and edited an anthology entitled First Flowering: The Best of the Harvard Advocate, 1866-1976. Featuring prefaces by Norman Mailer and Robert Fitzgerald, the book was published by Addison-Wesley in 1977.
    After taking a bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in classics at Harvard in 1978, Richard went on to the University of Oxford in the U.K., where he edited The Pelican, the magazine of Corpus Christi College. He took another B.A. in the Honour School of Literae Humaniores (classics and philosophy) in 1980, and received his M.A. from Oxford in 1985.
    The most important part of his stay at Oxford came from his contact with a small group that was studying the Kabbalah, one of the mainstays of the Western esoteric tradition. It was here that he was first introduced to many of the ideas he has discussed in his books and articles.
    After two years at Oxford, Richard moved to San Francisco in 1980. During this time he continued his spiritual investigations, working with teachings ranging from Tibetan Buddhism to A Course in Miracles. He was also a member of the board of directors of the San Francisco Miracles Foundation, an organization sponsoring the work of A Course in Miracles.
    In 1986, Richard started writing for a new magazine called Gnosis: A Journal of the Western Inner Traditions. After four years of writing for Gnosis and a brief stint as managing editor, he came on board as editor in November 1990. In his eight years as editor of Gnosis, he put together issues of the magazine on subjects as diverse as Gnosticism, Freemasonry, G.I. Gurdjieff, and the spirituality of Russia. In 1998 Gnosis won Utne Reader’s award for best spiritual coverage. In May 1999, Richard’s book, Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions, coauthored with Jay Kinney, was published by Penguin Arkana. (A revised edition was issued by Quest Books in 2006.)
    Richard’s book Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition, was published in fall 2002 by Shambhala Publications. An audio version read by Richard is available from Berkshire Media Artists Inc. The award-winning literary magazine The Sun featured him in a lengthy interview on Christianity in its September 2003 issue.
    Richard has also worked as editor for Faith.com, a Web site on religion and spirituality, and as managing editor of Lindisfarne Books, a highly respected publisher of titles on the spiritual traditions. He is a consulting editor and frequent contributor to Parabola: The Journal of Myth and Tradition. He has served as guest editor of Science of Mind magazine, and works as a consultant for the New Century Edition of the works of Emanuel Swedenborg, sponsored by the Swedenborg Foundation in West Chester, Pennsylvania. He is a frequent contributor to the Australian magazine New Dawn. He presently lives in western Massachusetts, where he teaches philosophy as an adjunct professor at Holyoke Community College. He is also editor of Quest Books, operated by the Theosophical Society in America.
    In January 2006, Tarcher/Penguin published The Essential Nostradamus, Richard's guide to this fascinating but elusive prophet. The Essential Nostradamus contains fresh and accurate new translations of Nostradamus's key prophecies, as well as an evaluation of his work — and of prophecy in general.
    In April 2007, Harper San Francisco (newly rebaptized as Harper One) released the paperback edition of Richard's Forbidden Faith: The Secret History of Gnosticism (originally published in hardcover in 2006). This is an accessible and engaging history of the secret currents of Western civilization — including Gnosticism, Manichaeism, Catharism, the Rosicrucian legacy, Freemasonry, Theosophy, and much more. It also explores how these currents have shaped modern trends and thinkers ranging from William Blake to C.G. Jung, and, in more recent times, Philip K. Dick, Harold Bloom, and A Course in Miracles.
    Richard’s latest book, Conscious Love: Insights from Mystical Christianity, is scheduled for publication in April 2008 by Jossey-Bass. Richard has also written a novel entitled The Gospel of Matthias, which tells the story of Christ in the context of esoteric Christianity. It's currently unpublished; if you'd like to get a copy, please contact Richard by e-mail.
    Richard lectures and gives workshops throughout the United States. Organizations that have sponsored his talks and workshops include:
• The New York Open Center
• The Friends of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, New York
• The California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco
• The Kabbalah Society, London
• The Theosophical Society in America
• Nine Gates Mystery School
• Zen Mountain Monastery, Mount Tremper, New York
• The Lumen Foundation, San Francisco
• The Bodhi Tree Bookstore, West Hollywood
• The Swedenborg Foundation
• East-West Books, New York
• Pioneer Valley Anthroposophical Society, Hadley, Massachusetts
• The Kabbalah Society of East Tennessee
• The Seven Rays Institute Conference, Mesa, Arizona
• The Mythic Journeys conference in Atlanta, sponsored by the Joseph Campbell Foundation


Anderson Literary Agency, New York

Veritas Literary Agency, San Francisco

Recommended Links



Harper One



Quest Books

New World Library (forthcoming