Born in Waterbury, Connecticut, in 1956, Richard Smoley has had a lively interest in spiritual matters at least from the age of ten, when a great-aunt of his, a nun, took him aside and told him he was “maybe thinking a little too much about religion.”
As an undergraduate, Smoley went to Harvard College, where he worked on the university’s venerable literary magazine, The Harvard Advocate, and edited an anthology entitled First Flowering: The Best of the Harvard Advocate: 1866-1976 (published by Addison-Wesley in 1977), which contained writings ranging from the early poetry of T.S. Eliot, e.e. cummings, and Wallace Stevens to the lyrics of Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane.”
After taking a bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in classics at Harvard in 1978, Smoley went on to the University of Oxford in the U.K., where he edited The Pelican, the magazine of Corpus Christi College. He took a second B.A. in the Honour School of Literae Humaniores (classics and philosophy) in 1980, and received his M.A. from Oxford in 1985.
Probably 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 spending two years at Oxford, Smoley moved to San Francisco in 1980. During this time he also continued his spiritual investigations, working with teachings ranging from Tibetan Buddhism to A Course in Miracles.
In 1986, Smoley 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 dreams, prayer and meditation, and love. In 1998 Gnosis won Utne Reader’s award for best spiritual coverage. In May 1999, Smoley’s book, Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions, coauthored with Jay Kinney, was published by Penguin Arkana.
Smoley’s most recent work, Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition, was published in fall 2002 by Shambhala Publications.
In 1999, Smoley moved to the East Coast, where he has worked as editor for Faith.com, a Web site in progress on religion and spirituality, and as managing editor of Lindisfarne Books/Anthroposophic Press, a respected publisher of titles on the Western spiritual traditions. He presently lives in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts.