Supernatural: Writings on an Unknown History

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This gem-like, concise anthology provides thoughtful people with both an introduction to the paranormal and a reason to take a fresh look at it.

 Nostradamus...channeling...Atlantis...divination. Most serious people consider such topics nonsense. But look again. Writing with intellectual verve and a deeply critical mind, religious thinker Richard Smoley explores and reconsiders the supernatural in history and today.

We are often conditioned to think of the Judeo-Christian ...

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Supernatural: Writings on an Unknown History

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This gem-like, concise anthology provides thoughtful people with both an introduction to the paranormal and a reason to take a fresh look at it.

 Nostradamus...channeling...Atlantis...divination. Most serious people consider such topics nonsense. But look again. Writing with intellectual verve and a deeply critical mind, religious thinker Richard Smoley explores and reconsiders the supernatural in history and today.

We are often conditioned to think of the Judeo-Christian tradition as the only valid, historically accurate, and rational spiritual philosophy. Occultism, magic, and the esoteric are, by contrast, considered illegitimate, delusional, and lacking in intrinsic worth. Supernatural challenges this prejudice, revealing that Western occult traditions are richer and more historically impactful than most of us imagine. The book reveals hidden diamonds and neglected ideas that characterize the magical tradition in the West.

For any reader, at any level of experience, who has ever been curious about an arcane subject – from psychical powers to secret societies – here is a book that gives a complete yet precise, critical, yet serious, and always respectful account of topics from the unseen world. Supernatural is a brilliant primer to the occult and magical traditions of the West.


“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

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The religious world is, and has always been, populated by both traditional practitioners and those who seek outside the halls of respectability for insights and wisdom that come only from a sincere search for what has been called “ancient wisdom.” Smoley, an editor for Quest Books and for Quest: Journal of the American Theosophical Society, has compiled a fascinating series of brief glimpses into the lives of some of the major players and their ideas and beliefs. Some are recognizable: Nostradamus and the Masons, for instance. But others will be less familiar. 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. From the ancient Hellenistic thinkers to the modern phenomenon known as “A Course in Miracles,” as Smoley shows, religious adventurers have been discovering their own paths to the Infinite. (Feb.)
Kirkus Reviews
A skilled sampling of spiritual and religious subjects. Though most of the essays have been published in the New-Age spirituality magazine New Dawn, their collection captures the restless mood of the last quarter of the 20th century--a time, Smoley (The Dice Game of Shiva: How Consciousness Creates the Universe, 2009, etc.) writes, when hope for a "massive awakening of society" once bloomed. Throughout his prolific career, Smoley has plumbed the depths of consciousness, transcendent thought, Gnosticism and religious history, and here, he turns his eye to subjects fresh but not unfamiliar to him and his audience. Skeptical views on future forecasting and of Nostradamus' "spotty" success record are as pensive as his assessment of the hidden "secrets" of The Da Vinci Code. Though a lack of material evidence has kept the drowned, lost continent of Atlantis little more than a glorified fable, Smoley notes that it remains a cautionary reminder of potential eco-disasters. Most affecting and resolute are short appraisals of metaphysicians, the history of Masonry, light and dark magic, the popularized power of positive thinking, and a chilling chapter about a Swiss psychologist who believed Hitler, and Germany at large, was, at one time, possessed by a malevolent entity. Smoley theorizes how esotericism came into mainstream popularity through these brief but plausible interpretations of the occult and, though mired in conjecture, these subjects are truly spiritualistic food for thought. To the author, they present opportunities to increase consciousness and improve the world without leaning on prognostication and "feeling the need to terrify ourselves into action." A learned, highbrow approach to matters mystical and extrasensory.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399161827
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 2/7/2013
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 630,989
  • Product dimensions: 4.90 (w) x 7.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

One of today’s most highly regarded writers on esoteric topics, RICHARD SMOLEY is a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Oxford. He was a longtime editor of the venerated spiritual journal Gnosis. Smoley is the author of books including Inner Christianity, The Essential Nostradamus, and Forbidden Faith: The Secret History of Gnosticism. He currently works as editor of Quest Books and of Quest: Journal of the Theosophical Society in America. He lives in Chicago.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 30, 2013

    Supernatural: Writings on an Unknown History, Richard Smoley, Ta

    Supernatural: Writings on an Unknown History, Richard Smoley, Tarcher/Penguin, 2013, $12.95
    Atlantis, Freemasonry, 2012 conspiracies, Nostradamus. These are some of the subjects Supernatural addresses in its collection of essays. Each essay provides a glimpse into what many call esoteric topics and some brush off as complete nonsense. An unbiased analysis is presented, illustrating how traditions outside of the Judeo-Christian paradigm have more historic impact than most of us realize. It also challenges scientific materialism, a world view governing much of the mind of the West. Readers with interest in subjects ranging from psychic powers to secret societies will find interest in Supernatural’s explanations of the mysterious and the misunderstood.
    — Kristy Musalo, New Connexion Journal

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  • Posted September 24, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    This is a decent starter compendium for any person interested in

    This is a decent starter compendium for any person interested in further exploration into the wondrous world of the supernatural. Author Richard Smoley has put together the perfect compilation briefly covering topics such as prophecy, demons, and Atlantis and tries to debunk many of the poorly translated and toxic views  people have spun upon many of these topics throughout history, such as the mysteries seen in Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code, in which Brown doesn’t hesitate in trying to disprove the accusations that Mary Magdalene was a deeply immoral woman.

    What this book does lack is any real type of depth on any of the topics covered. It is written more along the lines of a college thesis and truly is in need of substantially more sources for each topic. I wasn’t sure if the point of this book was to convince me of any truths behind the topics covered, or to just convey the idle thoughts of the writer.

    “Given all this, how can you make a connection between this vast world within and mundane reality?”
    While I have an extraordinary collection of books on the supernatural, I am not sure I would have purchased this specific title to add to it. It is just simply too vague and not informative enough or sourced enough to ever reference for research or writing. My advice is to just borrow a copy from your local library or find a used copy somewhere.
    *This book was provided in exchange for an honest review*         
     *You can view the original review at Musing with Crayolakym and San Francisco & Sacramento City Book Review

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