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Studies in Comparative Religion was founded in Britain in 1963 by Francis
Clive-Ross (1921–1981) and is the first and most comprehensive English-language
journal of traditional studies. The journal was published under the name Tomorrow
until 1967, when it was changed to its present name. Four quarterly issues per year,
containing over 1,200 articles in total, were published during the first 25 years
of Studies in Comparative Religion’s existence, before its publication was
interrupted in 1987. William Stoddart served as the assistant editor for most of
F. Clive-Ross clearly explained the journal’s goals in his introduction to the first
Studies in Comparative Religion is devoted to the exposition of the teachings,
spiritual methods, symbolism, and other facets of the religious traditions of the
world, together with the traditional arts and sciences which have sprung from those
religions. It is not sectarian and, inasmuch as it is not tied to the interests
of any particular religious group, it is free to lay stress on the common spirit
underlying the various religious forms.
One of our primary aims is to meet the need for accurate information created by
the now world-wide interest in the question of “ecumenical relations” between the
great religions, by providing a forum where writers of proven authority can exchange
views on various aspects of religious life, doctrinal, historical, artistic and
mystical, not forgetting the element of personal experience and reminiscence.
By collecting accurate information about the great religions under their many aspects
and rendering them available to interested readers we feel we are fulfilling a very
pressing need of our time and also contributing in a practical manner to the cause
of inter-religious understanding. If there is to be an effective measure of this
understanding at any level this can only be on the basis of accurate presentation
both of teachings and facts. An ill-informed benevolence is no substitute for genuine
insight, based on information that is neither willfully distorted nor confined to
the surface of things.
In this manner we think that we are best serving the interest of our readers in
their search for truth.
As Seyyed Hossein Nasr noted, “When Studies in Comparative Religion began
its publication, major traditionalist writers such as Schuon, Burckhardt, Pallis,
Lings, W. N. Perry, and many others were alive and/or also still intellectually
active. For every issue the editor had a choice of riches hardly imaginable three
The writings of these authors eventually came to the attention of Jacob Needleman,
a professor at San Francisco State College who was also the editor for the entire
series published as “The Penguin Metaphysical Library”. Needleman became so interested
in this intellectual current of thought that he edited a book, The Sword of Gnosis,
containing essays from Studies in Comparative Religion and published it as
part of the Penguin Metaphysical Library. Needleman wrote in his Foreword to The
Sword of Gnosis:
One of the most interesting intellectual developments of the 1960s was the publication
in England of a periodical called Studies in Comparative Religion. When it
first came across my desk, it had seemed to me merely another gray scholarly journal—an
impression that was only strengthened by its stated purpose of presenting essays
concerning “traditional studies.” Like many Americans, I was put off by the very
word “tradition.” But I pressed on because I had heard that this journal contained
some of the most serious thinking of the twentieth century.
And in fact I quickly saw that its contributors were not interested in the hypothesizing
and the marshaling of piece-meal evidence that characterizes the work of most academicians.
On close reading, I felt an extraordinary intellectual force radiating through their
intricate prose. These men were out for the kill. For them, the study of spiritual
traditions was a sword with which to destroy the illusions of contemporary man…
All I could have said definitely was that they seemed to take metaphysical ideas
more seriously than one might have thought possible. It was as though for them such
ideas were the most real things in the world. They conformed their thought to these
ideas in the way the rest of us tend to conform our thought to material things.
Perhaps it was this aspect that gave their essays a flavor that was both slightly
archaic and astonishingly fresh at the same time…
Readers of this volume will certainly find in the writings of Schuon and those he
has influenced completely new perspectives in every aspect of religious thought….
Very probably, it will seem to the reader that until now he has ignored an entire
dimension in his thinking about tradition.
That these writings bring something that has been entirely lacking in Western
religious thought is therefore not open to question. But that is not the court at
which their work deserves to be judged, nor would they wish it so. Something much
more serious is at stake than merely renewing the comparative study of religion
throughout the land….
The Sword of Gnosis identified a particular group of authors on tradition,
bringing together for the first time—for North American readers—the writings of
what in academic circles were soon to become known as “Traditionalists” or “Perennialists”.
The Sword of Gnosis was reprinted by Penguin numerous times throughout the
1970s, ’80s, and early ’90s and a newly revised edition of the book is forthcoming
by Fons Vitae. In due course, this book stimulated a much larger debate in American
academia about the merits of the Traditionalist point of view, including the ideas
of the Perennial Philosophy and the “transcendent unity of religions”. This intellectual
current of thought eventually became known as the “Traditionalist School” or the
“Commemorative Annual Editions” for each of the first 25 years of Studies in Comparative
Religion will be republished as proofreading is completed. Each Commemorative
Annual Edition will contain all of the articles, editorials, and letters to the
editor in the exact manner as the four quarterly issues that were published in the
respective years. These commemorative editions are available for purchase on Amazon.com,
and the World Wisdom Internet site.
2007 marks the start of the 26th year for Studies in Comparative Religion,
which is now located in Bloomington, Indiana and sponsored by World Wisdom. The
overall goals of the journal remain as they were originally stated more than forty
years ago by F. Clive-Ross. This second phase includes both an on-line and a paper
The free on-line journal and comprehensive archive contains the following features:
- A free on-line archive of all the issues of Studies in Comparative Religion
dating back to 1963. All of the more than 1,200 existing articles have been scanned
but proofreading is not yet complete for all of the articles. Additional articles
will be posted on-line as the proofreading is completed.
- Database search functions by subject or author.
- The “key word” search engine is powered by Google, thus allowing detailed key word
searches throughout this entire historic archive.
- “Pop-up definitions” are provided by the Dictionary of Spiritual Terms, which allows the reader to click
on highlighted foreign or technical words to obtain short pop-up definitions.
- Free on-line subscriptions to new issues of the journal.
All articles featured on Studies in Comparative Religion.com have been enabled to
make use of Answers.com AnswerTips. AnswerTips are small information bubbles that
define any word or phrase when it is double-clicked. AnswerTips offers fast facts
on 4 million topics provided by Answers.com when one double-clicks on any word,
without opening a new browser or following outbound links. AnswerTips deliver instant
definitions, explanations and facts including biographies, tech terms, geography
Definitions of technical terms contained within articles are provided by DictionaryofSpiritualTerms.com. Any word with an available
definition is underlined. Simply click on the underlined word to view a short definition.
Click on the “more information” for a longer definition from the main Dictionary
of Spiritual Terms website.
Studies in Comparative Religion was the first journal to use the “Feathered
Sun” design of the Plains Indians as its logo. Frithjof Schuon wrote this explanation
of the symbolism of the Feathered Sun:
The Feathered Sun... is found on buffalo hides used as cloaks and occasionally as
a background for ceremonies. The Sun is composed of concentric circles formed of
stylized eagle feathers; the resulting impression is particularly evocative in that
the symbol simultaneously suggests center, radiation, power, and majesty. (The Feathered
Sun: Plains Indians in Art and Philosophy [Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom
Books, 1990], p. 100.)
During its first 25 years, Studies on Comparative Religion had its offices
in a wing of the Clive-Ross home in Pates Manor, Bedfont, near London, which dates
its origins to the 15th century. Standing in front Pates Manor are, from left: Francis
Clive-Ross, Catherine Schuon, Frithjof Schuon, Martin Lings, Leslie Lings, Whitall
Perry, Barbara Perry and Olive Clive-Ross. Photograph c. 1965.