The White Buddhist: The Asian Odyssey of Henry Steel Olcott

Overview

Denounced by the New York Times as an "unmitigated rascal" while simultaneously being lauded as a reincarnation of Gautama Buddha himself, Henry Steel Olcott (1832–1907) was friend to Madame Blavatsky, co-founder of the Theosophical Society, and an indefatigable reformer and culture broker between East and West. Olcott helped bring about a new spiritual creation, Protestant Buddhism, a creative creolization of American Protestantism, traditional Theravada Buddhism, and other influences. Stephen Prothero’s ...

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Overview

Denounced by the New York Times as an "unmitigated rascal" while simultaneously being lauded as a reincarnation of Gautama Buddha himself, Henry Steel Olcott (1832–1907) was friend to Madame Blavatsky, co-founder of the Theosophical Society, and an indefatigable reformer and culture broker between East and West. Olcott helped bring about a new spiritual creation, Protestant Buddhism, a creative creolization of American Protestantism, traditional Theravada Buddhism, and other influences. Stephen Prothero’s portrait of Olcott is an engaging study of spiritual quest and cross-cultural encounters.

Indiana University Press

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An important study of a remarkable 19th-century American." —Choice
Choice

"An important study of a remarkable 19th-century American." —Choice

Choice

"An important study of a remarkable 19th-century American." —Choice

Gnosis Magazine

"Prothero has succeeded in creating a portrait of Olcott that will shape future scholarship.... Engaging and succinct." —Gnosis Magazine

Church History

"A meticulous story of a very colorful subject. In the process, [Prothero] assists the understanding of religious pluralism in our current age." —Church History

Religious Studies Review

"The first scholarly biographical study of [this] influential figure; its use of "creolization" theory adds to ongoing conversations about how to understand contact, colonialism, and conversion." —Religious Studies Review

Journal of American History

"Prothero’s study should interest not only scholars in the field but students of Asian religions and American religious history generally." —Journal of American History

Gananath Obeyesekere
...Prothero has furnished us with a much-needed account of Olcott's life and work....Prothero is strongest when he discusses Olcott as an American pragmatist, his antecedents in thinkers like Emerson....We are given a very useful though well-known historical account of [the] Buddhist "renaissance" to which Olcott contributed....I think Prothero's book should be read by students interested in Theosophy, in American Studies, and in the formation of Buddhist modernism.
Journal of Buddhist Ethics
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780253222763
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press
  • Publication date: 11/29/2010
  • Series: Religion in North America Series
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Prothero is Professor of Religion at Boston University. His books include God is Not One: The Eight Religious Rivals that Run the World; American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon; and the New York Times bestseller Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know—and Doesn't, which won a 2007 Quill Book Award. Prothero blogs for CNN's Belief Blog and has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Newsweek, Slate, and Salon.

Indiana University Press

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Table of Contents

Preface ix

Preface to the Paperback Edition xv

Introduction 1

1 Universal Reformer 14

2 From Spiritualism to Theosophy 38

3 An Errand to Asia 62

4 The Sinhalese Buddhist Revival 85

5 A United Buddhist World 116

6 The Indian Renaissance 134

7 Things Fall Apart 156

Conclusion 173

Abbreviations 183

Notes 185

Selected Bibliography 221

Index 234

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