“Henry Steel Olcott: From Civil War Veteran to Sinhalese Buddhist Nationalist, a Case Study in International Religious Activism” is the title of an Honors Thesis in History by Jennifer Proch submitted May 4, 2009, at the University of Richmond, Richmond, Virginia. It is now available online. It draws mainly from Stephen Prothero’s 1996 The White Buddhist, Howard Murphet’s 1972 biography, and Daniel Caldwell compilation The Esoteric World of Madame Blavatsky. While it adds nothing new to our understanding of Olcott, it is interesting to see how he is portrayed. Although Blavatsky is mentioned, there is no discussion of Theosophy, or how Olcott understood it or how it impacted his life. It is a fairly straightforward chronology of his life, focusing on his work for the Sri Lankan Buddhists. In this sense, Michael Gomes’ entry on Olcott in Brill’s Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism succeeds in at least providing something of Olcott’s understanding of Theosophy.
“Henry Steel Olcott: From Civil War Veteran to Sinhalese Buddhist Nationalist, a Case Study in International Religious Activism” can be read here.
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