A Letter to Huston Smith
June 19, 2008 15:47

A Letter to Huston Smith
from One Taste
Tuesday, February 4

I’m worried about Huston’s health [Huston Smith].  I sometimes feel that he will live another decade or two, then I worry he won’t live out the year.  Ever since Treya’s death, I have tried to tell people how I feel about them before they are gone, before it’s too late.  Treya and I had the chance to do that, but I saw what it did to those who did not.

The amazing thing about Huston is that he was working on the perennial philosophy long before most people had even heard of it.  Years before it became fashionable—multicultural wisdom traditions, the world’s religious heritage, the celebration of spiritual diversity and spiritual unity—Huston was doing the work.

His body is almost transparent now, like a thin, beautiful, translucent tissue.  The last time I saw him he was very frail and fragile, but radiant.  I have the deep suspicion that if you turn off the lights, he might faintly glow.


Dearest Huston,

It was wonderful seeing you.  But when you said, when asked about your health, “The citadel is crumbling,” it had a profound effect on me, which has lingered to this day.  I wanted to write and tell you about it.

The more that Emptiness saturates my being, the more my life takes on a strange “double-entry” type of awareness.  On the one hand, everything that happens—every single thing, from the very best to the very worst—is the equal radiance of the Divine.  I simply cannot tell the difference between them.  It is a mystery, this: that pain and happiness are equal in this awareness, that the most wretched soul and the most divine are equal in this radiance, that the setting sun and the rising sun bring equal joy, that nothing moves at all, in this splendor of the All-pervading.  And when, in touch with that all-pervasiveness, I hear that the citadel of dearest Huston is crumbling, it is simply as it is, just so, and all is still right, and all is still well, and all is still good, and all still radiates the unending glory that we all are.

The other side of this Emptiness—the other part of the “double-entry”—is that, in addition to (or alongside of) the constant radiance of this moment, all the little moments are all the more themselves, somehow.  Sadness is even sadder; happiness is happier; pleasure is more intense; pain hurts even more.  I laugh louder and cry harder.  Precisely because it is all the purest Emptiness, each relative phenomenon is allowed to be itself even more intensely, because it no longer contends with the Divine, but simply expresses it.

And on that side of the double-entry—where pain is more painful (because it is Empty), and where sadness is much sadder (because it is Empty)—when I hear that the citadel of dearest Huston is crumbling, I am overcome with a sadness that I do not know how to convey.

You have meant so much to so many, you have come with the voices of angels to remind us who we are, you have come with the light of God to shine upon our faces and force us to remember, you have come as a beacon radiating in the darkest night of our confused and wretched souls, you have come as our own deepest being to never let us forget.  And you have done this consistently, and with integrity, and with brilliance, and with humility and courage and care, and you have left, and are still leaving, a path in which we all will follow, and we will do so with more gratitude and respect and love than my words will ever be able to convey.

So, you see, I have become a Divine schizophrenic.  I am always, simultaneously, of two minds.  Steeped in Emptiness, it is all exactly as it should be, a stunning gesture of the Great Perfection.  And—at precisely the same time, in precisely the same perception—I am reduced to tears at the thought of you leaving us, and is simply intolerable, it is radically unacceptable, I will rage against the dying of that light until I can rage no longer, and my voice is ragged with futile screams against the insult of samsara.  And yet, just that is nirvana; not theoretically, but just so, like this, right now: Emptiness.  Both perceptions are simultaneous; I know I don’t have to tell you about this; it is so in your case, I know.

And so, on the side of the double-entry that rages against the crumbling of the citadel, I just wanted to tell you, as deeply as I could, what you have meant to all of us.  And to me, specifically, my entire career has marched, step by step, with you never out of the picture.  From that glorious letter you wrote to a young 25-year-old, praising his first book, to your agreement to sign on with ReVision (I told Jack Crittenden that I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing the journal unless Huston came aboard), to giving the eulogy at Treya’s ceremony, which reduced me to tears and made me pretty much incoherent.  On this side of the double-entry, I know I will not do well when the citadel crumbles.

Now you must forgive me for prematurely burying you, and speaking as if your demise were imminent; God willing, it will be decades before we will all gather together to actually speak out loud these types of words as your ashes return to the cosmic dance and your soul returns to where it never left.  But, as I warned you, “the citadel is crumbling” sent such a sadness rushing through me, I wanted to err on the side of getting these words to you now, even if decades too soon.  Perhaps because of Treya, I am more sensitive than most to the “bubble bursting” at just the damnedest times, expected or not.

So do forgive me for delivering my eulogy to you; at the same time, I always liked the derivation of “eulogy”—eu: true, logy: story—the true story.  I send back to you the biggest portion that I can manage of that love that you have freely given to us all and called us all to incarnate.  Your own love, God’s love—you have taught us that they are the sae—I offer back to you, my mentor, my guide, my friend, the man I am least likely ever to forget.

Yours always,


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