It was as a young student in high school that I first encountered the scriptures of other peoples, in a class on world religions, which used The Portable World Bible. Instead of historicism, I believe I got the real message, since I did the reading, of the writings themselves, the universalism at their core. And it may have been that I was fortunate in the teacher of the class, who may have introduced me to a new style and way of manhood. Looking back, I see an intellectual man, more sophisticated and nuanced in sensibility.
And then, a year or two later, after more and wider reading, I took a college class that included Huston Smith’s The Religions of Man. That book opened new vistas, ordered things in a new way for me, even as I couldn’t really relate to the instructor, dropping the course before the end. But I had the book. And read it. And re-read it. It was true to my experience. For soon, I had “gone off hiking into Baha’i.” But it was not “too quickly” of a decision. I had spent a few years reading and thinking about virtually every Baha’i book that had been published up until that time, 1976. I searched through several libraries from the suburbs to downtown Detroit to find them, and thought and prayed, prayed and thought, while continuing to read widely in the poets and literature.
It was more than a decade later that I heard of Joseph Campbell, through Bill Moyers’ The Power of Myth on PBS, another powerful influence, one I immediately recognized as true to my experience, re-watching it many times, reading some of his books. By 1982, while I was still in Japan, I had already begun to make notes for The Parliament of Poets. Campbell’s work was startlingly congruent with where I already found myself to be, confirmed me in the direction I would take. But it wasn’t until about 1993 that I had written down, perhaps, I think now, as a result of his interview with Moyers, where I would travel.