Please read Wendy Schuman’s interview with author and religious studies scholar Huston Smith. If you are fascinated with what joins the world’s great faiths, Smith is a wonderful author–I’d argue the best. His books are comprehensible and accessible. And there’s a warmth to the man, a gorgeous heroism, that radiates through everything he says. Smith was on tour to promote his latest book, which is specifically focused on Christianity, his faith of origin.

Smith speaks of current events and claims that “the secular is dead.” And when Schuman tries to get him to restate his implication that the miracles of the Bible are to be taken figuratively, not literally, Smith skillfully pulls back.

Schuman: So when we talk of the virgin birth, it resonates with something in us about purity, about divinity.

Smith: No, no, don’t try to say it. In ordinary language it won’t work. Something happened. Something happened. And I sincerely believe it really happened. And it was really vital, crucial to Christ. But don’t try to psych it out in ordinary language. Go at it in terms of symbols, which stretch our understanding from the finite to the infinite.

I spent a remarkable day listening to Smith speak in a small room with my husband and other rapt fans and readers at the Omega Institute, in the summer of 2000. And the best moment of the whole day came when Smith, then around 80, was asked what he thought death might be like.

Smith considered this carefully and said, “Well, I think that it will be like staring at a beautiful sunset. And then while I’m staring, I may get the awareness that I am becoming the sunset.” That remark has come back to me so many times. And it greatly diminishes whatever fear of death I might be carrying.

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