A Theology of Love
Reimagining Christianity through A Course in Miracles
A spirituality based on love, not fear
In the West, theology has almost always meant Christian theology—a hodgepodge of beliefs that are hard to make sense of. Why, for example, should an all-loving, merciful God have gotten mad at the human race because someone ate a piece of fruit six thousand years ago? And why would he send part of himself down to earth to be tortured to death? These beliefs, stated baldly, are nonsensical. Millions of people are realizing this and losing their faith. The time has come to reenvision Christian theology without contradictory teachings laced with fear. It is time for a theology of love and miracles.
Richard Smoley reframes Christian theology using logical, consistent, and easy-to-understand teachings of unconditional love and forgiveness. He draws inspiration not only from the Bible, but also from Hinduism, Buddhism, Gnosticism, and from esoteric and mystical teachings, such as A Course in Miracles and the Sefer Yetzirah, the oldest known Kabbalistic text. He explains how the “fallen” state of the human condition, not one of sin but of oblivion, leads us to experience the world as flawed and problematic—not wholly evil, but not wholly good.
Citing philosophical wisdom from Kant, Blake, Jung, and Gurdjieff, alongside cognitive science, Smoley reveals how it is not the world that is flawed, but the way we see the world. Sharing key teachings from A Course in Miracles, he shows that our fear-based mind-sets—often filled with anxiety, suffering, and shame—lead us to feel separated from God when, in fact, we are all extensions of a God of infinite love and light.
Offering a path to help you regenerate from the “fallen” state and see the real spiritual world and loving God that lies behind it, the author provides ways for each of us to craft our own self-consistent theology. He also lays out a vision for the future of spirituality, a path for present-day religion to transform into something higher and more universal.
A fascinating series of brief glimpses into the lives of some of the major players and their ideas and beliefs. Taken as a whole, this short work offers the reader an easy to understand introduction to traditions and ideas that have informed the world for centuries. —Publishers Weekly
I have a standing rule: I read anything Richard Smoley writes. —Larry Dossey, M.D.
Smoley . . . is adept at unknotting the paradoxes of spiritual traditions and making new connections across centuries and languages .—Library Journal
He is one of the liveliest, most intrepid, and most gifted explorers of the spiritual landscape writing today. —Ptolemy Tompkins, author of Paradise Fever
With scholarly precision, [Smoley] revisits Nostradamus, The Da Vinci Code, Atlantis, Freemasonry, A Course in Miracles, New Thought, and many other famed repositories of “secret wisdom." Fair and clear-eyed, he communicates what his research unearthed in a surprisingly lively style. He speaks honestly to his readers as he recounts, elaborates and debunks. It makes for an intriguing read as well as excellent reference material. —Anna Jedrziewski, Retailing Insight
While the subtitle could imply grandiose theorizing, Smoley ... 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
—From the Introduction
Though love is a perennial topic for writers of all kinds, much of what is written about love is simplistic and unsatisfying. In Conscious Love, Richard Smoley—an expert on the esoteric traditions of mystical Christianity—incorporates insights and wisdom about love from noted thinkers in literature, art, philosophy, sociology, cultural criticism, and even neurology. This remarkable book offers a blueprint for infusing conscious love into human relationships.
As Smoley explains, among the world's religious traditions Christianity has a distinctive focus on love at the very center of all its teachings—love of God and love of neighbor. Although love has existed as long as the human race itself, it was Christ who posited this mysterious force as being the center of experience. Yet what that love means and requires is not altogether clear—even to Christians. Richard Smoley reveals that a true understanding of love requires exploration of the deepest teachings of Christian mystery and the unconditional love at the heart of the universe. In Conscious Love, he reflects on how that kind of love can transcend the bargains and negotiations that are characteristic of what he calls transactional love.
Heady, eclectic and bold, Smoley's latest book is a thoughtful treatise on humanity's vaulted and elusive bond: love, that which ""unites self and other."" Kin in structure to C.S. Lewis's The Four Loves, Smoley looks at romance, marriage, families and friends, but goes deeper with chapters to explore social justice and forgiveness. Much emphasis is placed on the transactional "exchange" basis of most love relationships. In Smoley's seemingly cold eye, this is not necessarily a shortcoming, but more a direct biological and social assessment of the way things are. Each love type has redemption because "each type of love contains a sort of gamut that runs from our basest impulses to our highest"" Agape, or conscious love, "enables one to relax the sense of self and other" and move toward a "sense of the cosmic Christ." Befitting his education at Harvard and Oxford universities and his post as Quest Books editor, Smoley's reach of sources and metaphors is exceptionally broad, strong and scholarly. Fresh and utterly devoid of syrup, the book renders a sublime image that distills love's evanescence, pain, beauty and joy. Contemplative readers, who need not be Christian, will find much new food for thought here. --Publishers Weekly
What is the nature of the prophetic tradition in the West, and how does Nostradamus fit into it? The Essential Nostradamus provides a sourcebook on this life and message of one of history's most peculiar figures.
This volume offers a host of advantages over other collections of Nostradamus's work. Many commentators have taken serious liberties in their translations, confusing the matter of what the prophecies actually said. The Essential Nostradamus presents a fresh, scholarly, and literal translation of Nostradamus's Middle French, allowing readers to make their own determinations about the prophecies' relevance and accuracy.
The book also supplies detailed commentary on Nostradamus's key verses, with a sharp eye toward the political and social events of his era. An authoritative biographical essay--highlighting Nostradamus's separate roles as physician, astrologer, and prognosticator--rounds out the volume. A final essay suggests why prophecy continues to be such a source of fascination today.
The Essential Nostradmus is now available in a new edition with a discussion of Nostradamus and 2012.
Forbidden Faith: The Secret History of Gnosticism traces the Gnostic legacy from its ancient roots in the Gospel of Thomas, discovered in Egypt; early Gnostic communities in the Roman Empire; and the Manichaeans of Central Asia.
The book also shows how the Gnostic legacy was publicly repressed but survived underground in various forms of Christianity, surfacing again with the Cathars, a mysterious group of retics who inspired the tradition of courtly love but were wiped out by the Inquisition.
Since then, the Gnostic legacy has survived into the modern era with the help of the Jewish Kabbalah; the Freemasonry of our Founding Fathers; the poetry of William Blake; the Theosophists; and the psychology of Carl Jung.
Finally, the book shows how some of the key teachings of the Gnostics are being revived today in the literary criticism of Harold Bloom, the science fiction of Philip K. Dick, and in popular Hollywood films like The Matrix and The Da Vinci Code.
Forbidden Faith was originally published by Harper One in May 2006 as Forbidden Faith: The Gnostic Legacy from the Gospels to The Da Vinci Code. A paperback edition with a new subtitle, The Secret History of Gnosticism, was published in the spring of 2007.
Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"Tackling the perplexing...topic of Gnosticism has proved a daunting challenge for most who have tried to introduce it to the general reading public. Not so for Smoley, former editor of the journal Gnosis. This clear, concise...primer traces the Gnostic threads of philosophy, religion, science and popular culture from their biblical references through to their 21st-century appearances in novels and film....Smoley reinforces that Gnosticism is, and always has been, here to stay. He paves a wide, clear path to understanding it, accessible even to the weekend seeker."
Smoley...provides a popularized history of the ancient, esoteric religion known as Gnosticism. Drawing on an impressive mastery of the subject matter, he traces Gnosticism from the first century C.E. to the present....A thoroughly enjoyable read; highly recommended."
This intelligent but highly readable work introduces readers to subjects ranging from Kabbalah and Gnosticism to ritual magic, shamanism, Sufism, Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, the Secret Brotherhood, and the teachings of C.G. Jung and G.I Gurdjieff. Suggested reading lists at the end of each chapter make it possible to explore each of these teachings further.
Inner Christianity goes beyond fundamentalism and literalism to explore what is truly meant by "the kingdom of heaven."
In this book, Smoley discusses lost and discarded aspects of Christianity to help the reader understand such issues as: the meaning of the Fall; the work of Christ; the nature of the soul and spirit; what gnosis, or inner illumination, really is. Simple but powerful exercises are also given to give an experiential understanding of these concepts.