Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. John Gordon


The nineteenth century was marked by a great deal of religious growth and change. Throughout the world, religion took on new forms, both with the introduction and expansion of movements like the Theosophical Society, and with the revival and reform of older faiths. Cultural exchange and broader exposure to religious ideals, in the form of missions and education were also important features of the century. At a cursory glance, an American Civil War veteran and a Buddhist monk from Ceylon would seem to share little in common, but during this time of increasing interconnectedness these two figures made contact. Henry Steel Olcott emerged as an important progressive figure, both in the annals of the American Theosophical Movement, and in the birth of an independent Ceylon and Buddhist Revival. Olcott, with his involvement first in the Spiritualist movement, then as the founder and President of the Theosophical Society and later as the first American to formally convert to Buddhism, provides historians of both world religion and political activism an interesting case study.

Included in

History Commons