In September of 1970, twenty-year-old Ehud C. Sperling walked into his favorite bookstore in Greenwich Village, “Samuel Weiser’s Inc., Specialist in the Occult, Orientalia, and Metaphysics.” He had become discouraged with his studies of physics and mathematics and later psychology and decided to leave college and pursue his interests in the occult, hermeticism, ancient Egypt, the mysteries of consciousness, and the spiritual traditions of the world. Ehud had gone through the experimentation and radicalism of the 1960s and knew for a certainty that there was more to life than ordinary reality. He was a frequent customer at Weiser’s bookstore, which was, at that time, the largest bookstore in the world specializing in the subjects of his interest.
On that day in September, Ehud decided to ask the owner of the bookstore and publishing company, Donald Weiser, for a job. With Donald’s acceptance of Ehud as a staff member, the seeds of Inner Traditions were planted in the soil of book selling and publishing.
At that time anyone who was interested in researching, studying, or practicing any of the occult arts, yoga, oriental philosophy, and hermeticism was bound to pay a visit to Weiser’s when they were in New York City. Ehud got to meet many interesting and unusual people during his stay at Weiser’s.
Donald’s first love was antiquarian bookselling, and it turned out that the basement of the bookstore contained one of the largest and oldest collections of occult literature in the world. Ehud would spend as much time downstairs as was possible, looking through the hand-illuminated manuscripts and ancient texts on alchemy and magic. Many of the first editions that represent the basis of published literature in this field were located in the basement at Weiser’s. Ehud would travel with Donald to buy antiquarian libraries and learned to appreciate the craft of bookmaking as well as develop an extensive knowledge of the fundamental literature at the basis of what would later become Inner Traditions.
While working at Weiser’s, Ehud became very interested in the works of French Hermeticist and Egyptologist R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz and his wife, Isha Schwaller de Lubicz. Having had an interest in Ancient Egypt since childhood, Schwaller de Lubicz’s teachings on sacred science enflamed Ehud’s young mind.
One day André VandenBroeck, at that time the only living student of R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, walked in to the bookstore. André had come to the store to see whether Weiser’s would carry his newly printed Philosophical Geometry. André explained to Ehud how his book was an extension of the work he had done with Schwaller de Lubicz.
Ehud in turn told André of his deep interest in Schwaller’s work, and a friendship between the two developed, which would later lead to Inner Traditions publishing the complete opus of R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz. André confided in Ehud that he had promised Schwaller de Lubicz that he would translate all his works from the French and get them published in English. Ehud began to imagine how he could help André in the great work of publishing The Temple of Man, Schwaller’s monumental work on the temples of Luxor and Karnak.
Another meeting at Weiser’s, this time with Robert Lawlor, brought this vision closer to reality. Robert came in to Weiser’s bookstore one morning to buy some books to take with him on his trip to India to help build Auroville, a community of devotees of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Robert and Ehud exchanged recommended reading lists and discovered their mutual interest in Schwaller de Lubicz. This was a very monumentous meeting in the history of Inner Traditions. Robert had spent a number of years studying with André VandenBroeck, and both Robert and his wife, Deborah, had gone to France to study with Schwaller de Lubicz’s daughter, Lucy Lamy. These encounters in the bookstore were to have a significant impact on the development of Inner Traditions and its publishing program. Many years later when the publishing house was firmly established, Robert introduced Ehud to Lucy Lamy in the south of France, where she maintained her late father’s household, including his extensive library, homeopathic lab, and original manuscripts. This was the beginning of what 28 years later became full publication of R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz’s opus, The Temple of Man, in 1998.
In the fall of 1973 André VandenBroeck approached Ehud about a publisher friend of his that was establishing a company in New York. Maurice Girodias, the founder of Olympia Press and the publisher of Hendy Miller, Lawrence Durrell, and Nabokov, was opening an office in New York and wanted help with the publication of the works of Sri Aurobindo. André asked Ehud to leave Weiser’s and join this publishing venture. Ehud agreed on the condition that they would also publish Schwaller de Lubicz and other important esoteric works.
As it turned out, Maurice did not have the funds to publish Sri Aurobindo let alone Ehud and André’s mammoth Schwaller de Lubicz project. Maurice informed Ehud that it would be necessary for him to do popular mass-market paperbacks to help pay the way. The works of Schwaller de Lubicz would have to wait. Within a year, Ehud had published his first international bestseller, Pyramid Power, along with a number of other popular titles. He decided to leave Olympia Press and start his own publishing company, Inner Traditions.
So in June of 1975, the offices of Inner Traditions opened at 377 Park Avenue South. Almost as soon as the offices were open, Ehud was approached by Bantam Books, Warner Books, Simon and Schuster, and other major New York publishing houses to do his publishing program with them. They had noticed his success with Pyramid Power and were looking for someone who could bring them into this field of publishing, which they knew nothing about.
In 1976 Inner Traditions signed a copublishing agreement with Warner Books. Ehud now had the opportunity to work with a major New York publishing house and have his books reach a wide audience. Ehud started the Destiny imprint for these titles. The first of the Warner/Destiny Books came out in the summer of 1976. Pyramid Power was reissued under the Warner/Destiny imprint as was The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace D. Wattles.
While Ehud was working at Weiser’s he had read Wattles’s book, published more than 100 years ago, and its message of creative thought as the key to financial success inspired him to start his own company without any financial resources being readily available.
Inner Traditions continued to copublish with Warner Books for another six years, during which time Inner Traditions developed its own list of trade paperbacks and hard covers independent of Warner. By 1978 Warner/Destiny Books had millions of books in print in more than 30 countries.
In 1978 Inner Traditions started its Schwaller de Lubicz program with the publishing of Isha Schwaller de Lubicz’s Her-Bak: Egyptian Initiate and Her-Bak: The Living Face of Ancient Egypt along with other important works in the Western Esoteric tradition, which was the company’s initial focus. The year 1979 saw the publication of Sexual Secrets, the company’s first major book on Eastern practices. It became an international bestseller, published in more than 20 languages. The following year Harish Johari came to visit Inner Traditions in its offices on Park Avenue South. Ehud and Harish developed a friendship, which would last the rest of Harish’s life.
Harish was interested in publishing a cookbook, and Ehud told him that wasn’t possible because Inner Traditions did not do cookbooks. Harish said, “Well never mind. Come to a feast I’m preparing tomorrow night down in Greenwich Village.”
That night Ehud had a dream that reminded him of an Indian who had entered Weiser’s bookstore some 10 years earlier and demonstrated a secret technique using sound to induce trance. He had tried out this technique on Ehud. It left a very strong impression.
During the wonderful Indian feast that Harish Johari prepared, Ehud mentioned that although it seemed ridiculous to ask, by any chance did he know this particular Indian.
Harish said, “Yes, of course. He was my student and lived in my home.” Ehud then said, “Well, whatever you would like to write, we’ll publish.” Harish in turn encouraged Ehud to develop Inner Traditions’ program in Indian religion and philosophy, and Ehud spent many years visiting with Harish and his family and traveling the north of India with Harish.
From the time of their first meeting in 1980 to Harish’s death in 1999, Inner Traditions published 11 books by Harish Johari. Their personal and professional publishing relationship was the impetus for Inner Traditions’ extensive program in Eastern religion, philosophy, and practices.
In 1985 Inner Traditions celebrated its 10th anniversary at Green’s restaurant in San Francisco. The event was hosted by the distinguished professor of religion Huston Smith, and there was a performance of Bharat Natyam dancing in keeping with the growing Indian theme at the publishing house. Ehud had a very strong interest in alternative health practices and was devoted to their use in his own life. He published his first health book, The Art of Aromatherapy,in 1978. When Ehud introduced this title at a sales conference the sales reps laughed. Now you cannot walk into a spa or health facility anywhere in the world without finding aromatherapy treatments. In 1984 Ehud approached David Young, the head of Thorson’s Publishers Group, the largest publishers of alternative health books in England, about starting a U.S. company. David (who is now the head of Hachette U.S.) and Ehud agreed to establish Thorson’s Publishers Inc. to publish health titles from Thorson’s U.K. as well as original works from U.S. authors. This was the beginning of what was to become a major emphasis for Inner Traditions’ publishing program and later the creation of the Healing Arts Press imprint. By its 10th anniversary the publishing house had outgrown its offices on 377 Park Avenue South, and Ehud was looking to make a change. On August 1st, 1986, Inner Traditions, along with Destiny Books and Thorson’s Publishers Inc., moved to their new home at One Park Street, Rochester, Vermont. A beautiful Victorian house sitting on a historic village green was renovated to house the publishing company.
The little town of Rochester sits nestled in the middle of the Green Mountains of Vermont and provides not only a home for the publishing house but also a setting reflective of the company’s values and aspirations.
When David Young decided to sell Thorson’s U.K. to HarperCollins in 1988, Inner Traditions took over all of the Thorson’s U.S. titles and together with its own Inner Traditions alternative health titles launched Healing Arts Press. Inner Traditions had already published many significant and innovative holistic and alternative health care titles, including Evening Primrose Oil and Multiple Sclerosis by Judy Graham. Under the Healing Arts Press imprint, Inner Traditions continues to publish groundbreaking works in alternative health, such as Biogenealogy, Medical Herbalism, The Acid–Alkaline Diet for Optimum Health, The Estrogen Alternative, and Gentle Birth Choices.
In the late 1980s Ehud and Inner Traditions were asked to join in the founding of Social Ventures Network. The founding of this organization brought together like-minded entrepreneurs who had a commitment to business as a route to social responsibility.
Inner Traditions was already actively involved in social responsibility and the Green Movement with the publication of books such as Genetically Engineered Food: Changing the Nature of Nature, with a preface by Ralph Nader, which exposes the dangers of this technology to our food supply. The book was sent to every member of the U.S. Congress as well as various state legislatures. Inner Traditions also explored the benefits of using hemp as a substitute for trees in making paper, building materials, and medicines in The Great Book of Hemp. The publishing house imported hemp paper from China in an effort to realize its dream of printing on tree-free papers—a goal that still needs to be accomplished in the book-publishing industry. Ehud brought his friend and Inner Traditions author John Perkins into SVN, where he became an active member and eventually launched his international bestseller, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, from his contacts at SVN. John and Ehud had traveled on numerous occasions deep into the Amazon jungle to Shuar territory, where a series of books by John Perkins unfolded: The World Is As You Dream It, Shapeshifting, and Psychonavigation.
Much of the shamanic activities in the Amazon centered around entheogens, and Inner Traditions became the leading publisher in the world in this subject area, with titles like Plants of the Gods by Richard Evans Schultes, the father of modern ethnobotany from Harvard, and his protégé Christian Ratsch, who published his Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants with Inner Traditions.
Inner Traditions has always recognized the incredible legacy of traditional knowledge that comes to us from European culture. Quite unusual for an American publisher, about 25 percent of Inner Traditions’ publishing program is translated from French, German, Spanish, and other European languages. Having published translations of R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz by André and Goldian VandenBroeck from French early on in its publishing program (Sacred Science in 1982 and The Egyptian Miracle in 1985), Europe was a regular source of substantive material for Inner Traditions. During one of his trips to Paris, Ehud was introduced to the great orientalist Alain Daniélou. They immediately struck up a close association, and Inner Traditions became Alain’s primary English-language publisher for the rest of his life. Days before he passed on in 1994, he received a copy just off the press of his last work published by Inner Traditions, The Complete Kama Sutra, considered the best translation of this classic of world literature. Alain Daniélou’s Kama Sutra joined what is the most extensive list of titles on sacred sexuality and Oriental sexual practices in the world.
Whether translated from a European language or originating in the English language, sacred science and new science has always been an integral part of Inner Traditions’ publishing program.
Whether it is Robert Temple’s Sirius Mystery or Rupert Sheldrake’s The Rebirth of Nature, science and its understanding of the cosmos is a key avenue into our understanding of reality and consciousness. The recently published The Biology of Transcendence by Joseph Chiltton Pearce and Ervin Laszlo’s Science and the Akashic Field include cutting-edge science as it applies to a greater understanding of the meaning of life, connecting us back to our ancestors and their spiritual, sacred science.
In 1989 Robert Lawlor visited the publishing house in Vermont, and the beginning of a new and intense collaboration began. Both Robert and Ehud puzzled over what came before the great civilizations of Egypt, China, and India. Ehud traveled to Tasmania, Australia, to work with Robert on his groundbreaking Voices of the First Day: Awakening in the Aboriginal Dreamtime. At the same time Inner Traditions’ publishing program was launched in Australia. What followed was a series of important works on Australian aboriginal culture and, arguably, one of the most important lists to show the importance and cultural view of the oldest continuous culture on Earth. Voices is certainly one of the most important books on indigenous culture that Inner Traditions has ever published; it gives us a key to understanding the world before architecture, agriculture, and animal husbandry. What is often called the Golden Age of man could very well be the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of the Australian Aboriginals, as explored in Voices and subsequent Inner Traditions’ books on their culture.
In 1993, and in conjunction with Lasser Press of Mexico, Inner Traditions launched Inner Traditions en Español, its Spanish-language program, focused on some of Inner Traditions’ best titles. The titles are translated into Spanish and distributed throughout the Americas. Two years later, Inner Traditions launched its Inner Traditions India program, a series of titles that are printed in India specifically for the English-speaking Indian market. This made Inner Traditions’ books affordable for the Indian reader and continues to be an important part of our publishing program.
The year 1995 was very important and expansive for the publishing house. The company had run out of office space and was now running a satellite office near the original building. We decided to double the office space and built an addition to our building that included renovating the barn that at one time housed the stagecoach for Rochester. In renovating the office, we followed the advice of the Messenger of Beauty Nicholas Roerich, who said, “Through beauty we conquer.” By beautifying the publishing offices we strove to enhance the creativity of our endeavors.
Later that year, Ehud made his first trip to South India. Prior to this trip he had spent all his time in India with Harish Johari in the north of the country, visiting sacred sites, sadhus, and babas. When he traveled to the south a series of extraordinary events led to a correspondence with, and marriage to, Vatsala Ramnath, who was then living in Madras. The story of their correspondence, engagement, and marriage was published as a book by Ten Speed Press entitled A Marriage Made in Heaven.
After moving to the United States, Vatsala became an Inner Traditions author and has published a series of children’s books on Indian mythology, the most popular of which is How Ganesh Got His Elephant Head. Before moving to the United States, Ehud enrolled Vatsala in T. K. V. Desikachar’s Yoga Mandarim in Madras (Chennai). A few years later in 1999, Inner Traditions published Desikachar’s The Heart of Yoga.
Desikachar is the son and lineage holder of Krishnamacharya, one of India’s greatest yogis, and The Heart of Yoga is one of Inner Traditions’ most important yoga books.
In 1996 www.innertraditions.com was launched. As soon as the first web browser Mosaic was created, Inner Traditions registered all of its domain names and began constructing its first website. New technologies and the Internet have become an integral part of our publishing endeavor. Giving the world access to and references on all of our titles has made the job of introducing readers to our books much easier and more direct.
On Christmas day of 1998 the movie Patch Adams by Universal Studios, starring Robin Williams, was released. This movie, which broke all records for a Christmas opening, is based on the Inner Traditions nonfiction title Gesundheit by Patch Adams, M.D. It was the company’s first experience of the wave of interest a major motion picture can create for one of its titles.
In the year 2000 Inner Traditions acquired Bear & Company, which was founded in 1980 by Matthew Fox in New Mexico. With the publishing program of Bear & Company now a part of the Inner Traditions family, our publishing endeavor was strengthened in the area of Native American culture, alternative Christianity, New Age, and healing arts.
Bear & Company had published the groundbreaking Vibrational Medicine by Richard Gerber, M.D., as well as the works of Barbara Hand Clow, who ran the company with her husband, Gerry, for 20 years. Barbara’s recently published The Mayan Code, with Inner Traditions • Bear & Company, is one of our top titles, along with other books on the Maya and 2012 that Barbara and Gerry pioneered. After Inner Traditions took over the editorial role at Bear & Company, we began publishing the original works of Zecharia Sitchin, one of the leading authorities on Sumerian writings. He has given us substantive and authoritative writing on the Anunnaki and the early stirrings of the human experience, and in the Spring of 2009 Inner Traditions published his latest works, an encyclopedic guide to seven books in The Earth Chronicles series, The Earth Chronicles Handbook. When Dan Brown was researching his bestselling The Da Vinci Code, he came across Bear & Company’s author Margaret Starbird and her Woman with the Alabaster Jar and Goddess in the Gospels. Dan Brown included a discussion of these books by the characters in The Da Vinci Code, and the books became bestsellers for Inner Traditions • Bear & Company.
Surrounded by Alex’s art, our authors, and publishing friends and colleagues, we were able to reflect on a 30-year history and the more than 1,000 titles we now had in print. Later in the summer we had an additional party for our staff and their families at Shelburne Farms.
In 2009 Inner Traditions continued its practice of social responsibility and environmental consciousness by having solar panels installed on the Inner Traditions offices in an effort to reduce energy use.
The Hacienda Rio Coté Project
In the summer of 2007, we started planting trees. Both Inner Traditions and Bear & Company have had a long tradition of and an activist approach to the environment, the Green Movement, and social responsibility. The Hacienda Rio Coté project was started as a way to give back to the earth some portion of the great bounty that we have received from it. The Hacienda Rio Coté project has acquired land in Costa Rica adjacent to the Rio Coté National Forest along the Rio Coté, which flows from Lake Coté, once an active volcano the depth of which is unimaginable and which is famous for a flying saucer sighting recorded by a Costarrican mapping plane. We planted more than 56 different species of trees to help restore the watershed and reforest the farms that were acquired for this project. The project is completely funded, supported, and administered by Inner Traditions • Bear & Company.
The trees have been planted in conjunction with the school children of Cabanga, a rural two-room schoolhouse five kilometers from the project. The HRC effort includes a nursery where seedlings are gathered from the primary forest, a contract with the Costa Rican government for the preservation of the primary forest that has remained untouched on the properties, and a reforestation effort for the areas that have been inappropriately cleared over the years for livestock grazing. At the same time we’re engaging the community and the local Ticos (Costa Ricans) to make the project viable for their community. HRC’s goal is to maintain and extend natural biodiversity, preserve watersheds, reduce erosion and river degrading, protect animal and insect habitat, and preserve the primordial beauty of the tropical rain forest for future generations.
Started back in 1975 in a small office in New York City, Inner Traditions • Bear & Company now has 11 imprints and, as of January 2009, more than 1,200 titles in print across a wide and eclectic range of subjects. The company is considered one of the largest and oldest publishing houses in the world devoted exclusively to the subjects of spirituality, esotericism, and alternative health and healing. Its founder and publisher, Ehud C. Sperling, has often been asked, “What is your role as a book publisher?” He replies, “To seed the dream of humanity. We must determine the worthiness of the author’s ideas, publish them, and then watch. Every book has its own life, its own destiny. Our work is to put the finest ideas into the hands of our readers and let destiny unfold.”