Johan Nilsson is a PhD in the history of religions at the Centre for Theology and Religious Studies, Lund University. Nilsson's primary focus of study is esoteric and occult movements active during the 19th and 20th century. He has recently successfully defended his doctoral dissertation, As a Fire Beneath the Ashes: The Quest for Chinese Wisdom within Occultism, 1850-1949.
At SASNET, Johan works on his grant proposal on "The reception of South Asian religion in Swedish Theosophy".
At the turn of the 20th century Theosophy was something of a trend among artistic and intellectual circles around the world, and, although the movement was only moderately successful in terms of membership figures, Theosophy became, for a time, culturally very influential. Originally founded in New York, at the end of the 19th century the Theosophical Society opened local chapters all around the world. Theosophy, however, would soon become especially active in India and Ceylon. This was, in part, a consequence of the societies particular interest in the religions of Hinduism and Buddhism. According to the teachings of Theosophy, all religions of the world contain religious truths believed to have been inherited from pre-historical times. Hinduism and Buddhism, however, were believed to have preserved the tradition of ancient wisdom to a higher degree than other religions.
Globally, Theosophy was an important context through which concepts, practices and, to some extent, social networks related to South Asian religions spread in Europe and America in the early 20th century.
In 1889, the Theosophical Society was established in Sweden, opening local chapters in several cities, Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Lund, among them. Swedish Theosophy impacted the cultural and scientific life of its time, provoking positive and negative reactions from artists and scholars in the early 20th century. Little is known, however, about the interest Theosophists in Sweden took in Buddhism and Hinduism. With the support of SASNET Johan will prepare a project tracing the reception of South Asian religion in Swedish Theosophy.
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