Appreciation for religion was programmed into me when I was young--before I had any chance to resist its fascination. My grandmothers were my first teachers. When my mother's mother was 19 she went to Paris to study painting and to experience cultural life there. She stayed in Paris for two years, and it was a turning point in her life. She returned home to create paintings, which surrounded me as I grew up in Los Angeles. She also returned with hundreds of photographs of religious statues, paintings, and other objects, as well as a thirst to take her grandchildren to museums and churches.
My other grandmother was a choir director, and I remember many hours spent in the choir loft, which vibrated from the pedal notes of the organ music. It was through art and music that I discovered the richness of religion. Early experiences like these led me to leave the country after college in order to see the world, and my travels made me recognize how much people and their cultures are shaped by religions. When I returned, I studied religion formally. My MA degree (at St. John's University) allowed me to study the images of darkness in Jewish and Christian mystical literature.
I received a scholarship from the East-West Center in Hawai`i, and in Hawai`i my life began to be influenced by the thought of Asia. For my Ph.D. (at the University of Hawai`i) I wrote on the Hindu and Buddhist mysticism to be found in the writings of Aldous Huxley. I had the pleasure of meeting Huxley's wife Laura in Los Angeles, interviewing people who knew him, and reading his original manuscripts at UCLA. I did graduate work at Banaras Hindu University, and later studied traditional Japanese arts--including kendo, tea ceremony, ceramics, and calligraphy--in Kyoto.
I have practiced meditation at Christian and Buddhist monasteries in Asia, Europe, and the United States. I am currently writing a book for McGraw-Hill on Christianity. I live in Honolulu.