Hidden Wisdom, A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions

By Richard Smoley & Jay Kinney

Many spiritual seekers over recent years have been attracted to the lure of Asia and oriental belief systems, without giving much thought to the rich and varied mystical tradition that the West offers.
Richard Smoley and Jay Kinney, editors of the journal of mystic spirituality Gnosis (which ceased publication last year), have redressed the neglect afforded to the Western spiritual tradition by writing Hidden Wisdom, A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions.
Hidden Wisdom will appeal to those seekers who have heard of terms such as Kabbalah, Gnosticism, Sufism, the Gurdjieff work, Jung, Shamanism, Alchemy, Hermeticism, and Rosicrucian and wanted to learn more about these teachings. The book will also appeal to students who just want to get an overview of Western mystical traditions, possibly as a precursor to a deeper study of a particular belief system. Smoley and Kinney concentrate on teachings that offer something for the seeker today, presenting the core principles of a particular belief system, and appending a suggested reading list at the end of each chapter for readers interested in pursuing their studies in more detail.
Hidden Wisdom is written with clarity and accessibility, with the essential features of each belief system condensed into an involving narrative. Smoley and Kinney have striven to present their research impartially, steering as they say a middle course between unthinking credulity and unthinking skepticism and offer a perspective that is respectful but not servile.
The authors of Hidden Wisdom cover a lot of ground from their introductory chapter on Carl Gustav Jung through to Witchcraft, Brotherhoods, and Hidden Masters. They note similarities and cross-overs in apparently separate beliefs. For example they discuss the 22 paths of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life associated with Tarot cards, and the similarities between some of Gurdjieff's teaching, Jungian ideas and the Sufi practice of self-realisation. The concept of similarities accords with the metaphysical outlook called Traditionalism delineated by Frenchman Rene Guenon which states that all revealed religions are relatively true, united beneath their cultural differences by universal metaphysical truths.
Hidden Wisdom includes a thoughtful introduction contrasting the differences between Western esoteric traditions and Eastern mysticism. It explores the pitfalls that can beset the spiritual seeker faced with a plethora of diverse and sometimes contradictory schools and teachings.
Smoley and Kinney conclude their book with an equally thoughtful analysis on the New Age movement which incorporates many of the belief systems explored in Hidden Wisdom, but has its own twist on some of them. They write:
Many speak about the New Age as if it had a creed like Roman Catholicism. But the New Age is more an atmosphere than an ideology. What unites it to the extent that anything does is the pair of ideas: that spirituality is a matter of individual experience, and that humankind is presently undergoing a collective awakening.
Some see this dynamic tension between striving for personal growth and collective awakening as irreconcilable. They argue that the individual will not need to do anything because the shift in consciousness will happen anyway. Smoley and Kinney tackle this dilemma and offer a solution which lies in the artful balance of work for one's own sake and work for the sake of the larger whole.
This book will appeal to any seeker beginning on their spiritual quest through Western Inner Traditions. It recognises that illumination takes many forms, just as each person is unique. Smoley and Kinney have written a book long overdue. For any seeker interested in the Western inner traditions this book is rich source of information.

- Fiona Willson

New Dawn Magazine



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