Olcott, Henry Steel (1832–1907)

Henry Steel Olcott, as cofounder and first president of the Theosophical Society and as an advocate for Buddhism in both East and West, was a highly influential figure in the globalization of religion.

After investigating fraudulent suppliers for the Union Army during the Civil War, Olcott became a lawyer and a journalist in New York, also maintaining a long-standing interest in spiritualistic phenomena. In 1874, he met the Russian émigré Helena Blavatsky at the site of such alleged activity in Vermont. The next year they, together with several like-minded companions, founded the Theosophical Society. Designed initially to study ancient and modern mysteries, theosophy also promoted a primordial ancient wisdom believed to underlie the religions and philosophies of the world. In his 1875 inaugural address as ...

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