THE DICE GAME OF SHIVA: How Consciousness Creates the Universe

A modern, mystical understanding of God illuminated by theology and science, philosophy and psychology by one of the world’s leading authorities on the mystical and esoteric teachings of Western civilization.

Richard Smoley examines the roles God has played for us and reconciles them with what we today know through science and reason. In the process, the engagingly down-to-earth Smoley shows that consciousness is the underlying reality beneath everything in the universe. In one of Hinduism’s great myths, Shiva plays a dice game with his consort, Parvati, and loses consistently. If he is the greatest god, why does he lose? Through this story, Smoley explores the interplay between consciousness, represented by Shiva, and experience, exemplified by Parvati. He draws on numerous disciplines to offer an illuminating exploration of mind and matter and a provocative understanding of consciousness, the self, and the world.

Praise for The Dice Game of Shiva

While the subtitle could imply grandiose theorizing, Smoley, the former editor of the journal Gnosis and a specialist in esoteric religious thought, has written a commendably modest book. In it, the sacred Vedas of Hinduism meet Western philosophers puzzling out causation, God, the nature of reality and other questions that have given philosophers and theologians of the East and West something to think about for the past few millennia. This history of thought predates contemporary neuroscience and its exciting discoveries about the relationship between brain and mind. It also reaches across the West-East spiritual divide (monotheistic, personal religion versus impersonal, nondual religious thought) to look at patterns, associations and categories that different cultures at different times have used to make sense of the world and the challenges offered by events of the world to human needs for justice and orderliness. This is a serious, almost old-fashioned history of ideas about transcendent and human thought rather than a cheesy come-on about how your thoughts can make you rich, beautiful and successful.
Publishers Weekly, Sept. 15, 2009

In this provocative and persuasive book Richard Smoley pushes the newest frontier in human knowledge. The path he walks is not into a new religion, but beyond the boundaries of all religious systems and into a new and universal consciousness, where new visions of the meaning of life are found. I loved it.
—John Shelby Spong, author, Jesus for the Non-Religious

I have a standing rule: I read anything Richard Smoley writes—and The Dice Game of Shiva proves once again that I'm correct to do so. This book is a profoundly wise examination of the nature of consciousness and its place—our place—in the universe. Smoley's writing is engaging, personal, and elegant. Anyone interested in the origin, nature, and destiny of consciousness should read this important book.
—Larry Dossey, M.D., author, The Power of Premonitions and Healing Words

I loved Richard Smoley’s The Dice Game of Shiva, which thoughtfully deals with conundrums from consciousness to causality. He quotes the Indian dharma master Ramana Maharshi, who teaches the nondual view that it is impossible to be separate from an infinite God, or infinite consciousness. He similarly describes the inseparability of consciousness from the contents of consciousness — thereby dismantling the so-called mind-body problem. And he convincingly attacks the illusion of causality with which we try to order our lives, quoting Bertrand Russell, who says, “Causality is a relic of a bygone the monarchy.”
—Russell Targ, physicist and author of Limitless Mind

This is an exciting, powerful book on the nature of mind and its relation to the universe. It is hard to put down. It is written largely from an Eastern viewpoint by a man who has, here and elsewhere, demonstrated his comprehensive knowledge of the Western searchings. (See, for example, his Hidden Wisdom.) The depth and extent of Hindu psychology and philosophy of mind is little known in the West. This book has been long needed. One cannot read it without emerging feeling somehow "more," an inner stirring and movement in new directions, the same sort of feeling you have when you see Guernica for the first time or really hear the Appasionata. Do not pick it up unless you are prepared for this.
—Lawrence LeShan, Ph.D., author of A New Science of the Paranormal and How to Meditate

The Dice Game of Shiva takes a legendary account of creation and demonstrates its usefulness in the 21st century. This beautifully written book draws material from several disciplines, weaving a seamless fabric that is both original and practical, both timeless and contemporary. There are many "theories of everything" in today's bookstores but many readers will find Richard Smoley's tour de force the most intriguing and the most persuasive.
—Stanley Krippner, Ph.D., professor of psychology, Saybrook University; coauthor, Extraordinary Dreams

The Dice Game of Shiva carries the reader insightfully through metaphor, a breadth of references, and insight into the diaphanous realms of consciousness. Richard Smoley's fascinating examples and challenging thinking invite readers to explore meaning and applicability to their own spiritual journeys. Exploration of the relationship between consciousness and its experience plays throughout the text and draws the reader to a deeper experience of self. I recommend this text for any student of mind and purpose.
—Betty Bland, president, Theosophical Society in America

An enormous tour de force, touching on practically all the major issues and problems of philosophy and religion... well written, stimulating and thought-provoking.
—Ravi Ravindra, author, The Wisdom of Patañjali's Yoga Sutras


Richard Smoley is one of the world’s most distinguished authorities on the mystical and esoteric teachings of Western civilization.

Educated at Harvard and Oxford universities, he worked at a wide range of journalistic positions before becoming editor of Gnosis, the award-winning journal of the Western spiritual traditions, in 1990, a position he held up to 1999. He is the coauthor (with Jay Kinney) of Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions, and of Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition (Shambhala, 2002).

Richard's latest book, The Dice Game of Shiva: How Consciousness Creates the Universe, was published in November 2009 by New World Library.

In spring 2010, Tarcher/​Penguin published a new and updated edition of 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. The second edition contains a new afterword discussing the relation of Nostradamus's prophecies to predictions for the year 2012.

His previous work, Conscious Love: Insights from Mystical Christianity, was published in April 2008 by Jossey-Bass.

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 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.

In June 2006, Quest Books published a new edition of Hidden Wisdom, containing a new foreword discussing the Western esoteric traditions in the light of current events, and containing valuable updates on these traditions.

BMA Studios has released an audio (CD) version of Inner Christianity, read by Richard himself. To order, just click on the link to the right.

Currently Richard is editor of Quest: Journal of the Theosophical Society in America. He is also editor of Quest Books, a publisher of books on spirituality and esotericism, operated by the Theosophical Society. If you have ideas or suggestions for books or articles, please contact him by e-mail at the link to the right.

Selected Works

Spirituality, religion, mysticism, psychology, sexuality
Conscious Love: Insights from Mystical Christianity
A clear-eyed but compassionate approach to the real meaning of Christian love—in all its forms.
Prophecy; occult
The Essential Nostradamus
The key texts of this celebrated prophet, with commentary and biography
Spirituality; Religion
Forbidden Faith: The Secret History of Gnosticism
The story of the hidden mystical stream of Christianity
Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions
A guide to the mystical and esoteric teachings at the heart of Western civilization
Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition
A guide to the mystical and esoteric teachings at the core of Christianity.