The heart of spirituality with plenty of details, too.
When I was in college and later hanging out in the East Village in the '60s and '70s, I wanted to read a book that could give me a basic understanding of the world's major religions, along with brief histories and an explanation of their terminology and key figures. A book that would explain Zen koans, kosher food, Hindu gods and goddesses, Christian fundamentalism, the difference between Orthodox and Conservative Jews, the meaning of the Tao, Ascended Masters, reincarnation, mesmerism, auras, astrology, Atlantis, and shamanism. Huston Smith's "Religions of Man" was a good start but didn't have nearly enough detail to satisfy me, and had nothing at all on New Age beliefs. In "The Joy of Sects," I have written the book I wish I'd had back then.
I have tried to be openhearted and yet provide plenty of facts, names, and illustrations; to incorporate the latest scholarship, yet make the book fun to read while conveying the excitement I feel about spirituality. And so I included sections on not only great spiritual traditions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, but also many smaller sects and movements, from the Baha'i Faith to Zoroastrianism, and much of the New Age too. I based my work partly on the belief that people should be as well educated about religions and belief systems as they are about art, literature, science, or politics. In fact, I find it odd trying to understand the world or our own lives without understanding the multitude of ways people through the ages have sought to know the Divine element in themselves and in the universe, and to communicate with that Divinity. But I also admit to being fascinated by little-known facts, moving spiritual tales, and the revealing interconnections among different traditions.
For instance, did you know that Muslims count the Gospels and the Psalms of David among their sacred scripture, along with the Holy Quran? Or that they revere Abraham, Moses, John the Baptist, and Jesus Christ as great prophets? Did you realize that although Hindus worship many different manifestations of the Divine in both the male and female form, from Shiva to Kali, they are essentially monotheistic, believing these forms to be expressions of the One God, much the same way Christians view the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity? The more we know about other religions from around the world, the harder it is to be intolerant of what at first blush appear to be odd, unconventional, or even off-putting beliefs.
If you share my curiosity about the spiritual, if you are studying world religions in high school or college, or just carving your own spiritual path and want to know more about the paths others have followed and are following, then I believe that you will find much to enjoy in my book. I invite you to communicate with me and let me know what you feel about my book.
A member of the Authors Guild, Peter Occhiogrosso has written or co-authored 17 books for major publishers, including three New York Times Best Sellers. Since 1991, he has focused primarily on books dealing with world religions, spirituality, and health. Peter also teaches popular online courses in journaling, writing for magazines, and publishing spiritual books.
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