Raw, adjective: 6. ignorant, inexperienced, or untrained: a raw recruit.

I revisited this Mother Jones interview with renowned religious scholar Huston Smith the other day, and in the time since have found my thoughts frequently returning to it, running over and again through Smith's nuanced reflections on physics, Native American religion, and religious syncretism.

If you're not familiar with Huston, you owe yourselves a few hours with his work. For anyone interested in a syncretic, progressive melding of the world's great wisdom traditions, Smith's always been your go-to guy. I was lucky enough to hear him speak in Berkeley when I was a grad student, and though he was fragile and visibly physically weak, his mind was yet sharp, and his spirit strong. In spite of his 90-some years, the man retained that radiant vitality typical of someone who's sought and found and continues to identify as a student of the world and a seeker of wisdom, every day beginning anew.

Check out this piece from the late 1990s. If you don't have time to delve into any of Smith's more dense books, this interview offers a glimpse into his signature thoughts, particularly in terms of his opinions on "cafeteria-style" religion and the fascinating parallels between Native American peyote rituals and the Christian Eucharist. I love the way my fellow PK (!) has found basic themes to express the potential beauty of the pure ethical intentions behind often-oppressive religious institutions. Smith says
I know many of my students are what I have come to think of as wounded Christians or wounded Jews. What came through to them was dogmatism and moralism, and it rubbed them the wrong way. What came through to me was very different: We're in good hands, and in gratitude for that fact it would be well if we bore one another's burdens.
That's it, really. Simple, eh? A mindset that tosses away all the moralistic dogma and just emphasizes how mindful living might "help us behave decently toward one another." When you reduce your religious emphasis to compassion and right relation, all the institutionalized and codified bullshit just kind of fades away. Beautiful.

The World of Religion According to Huston Smith (Mother Jones)


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