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Theosophy and Buddhism in Sweden

This lecture series is presented by Johan Nilsson (Post-Doctoral Researcher, History of Religions, Centre for Theology and Religious Studies, Lund University). Read more about his research here.


Part 1: The International Theosophical Movement

About the lecture

Theosophy was one of many esoteric movements that emerged around the world during the end of the late 19th Century and today it is generally accepted that the theosophical movements, and, to a lesser extent, the broader environment in which theosophy operated contributed to the global interest in—and in some cases the global spread of—religions with historical roots in India. Theosophy stimulated the interest of Buddhism and Hinduism outside of and to some extent inside Asia.

As a movement, the Theosophical Society grew out of New York city in 1875 before moving to India since the organization felt that the spiritual wisdom existent within India would provide a safe have for its spread and consolidation. Since the original esoteric wisdom of the ancient times played a central part in the rituals and beliefs of theosophy, the ancient established religions of Hinduism and Buddhism became important for its leadership. It was this collaboration, according to Dr. Nilsson, that led to the spread of theosophy in the west in the latter part of the 19th century. 


Part 2: Theosophy in Sweden

About the lecture

Moving on from the discussion initiated in the previous segment, Dr. Nilsson talks about the spread of theosophy in the west and especially in Sweden. Established in Sweden in the late 1880s, formal creation of the Swedish organization was prefigured by the publication of a number of translated Theosophical works earlier in the 1880s, notably on esoteric religions from South Asia like Buddhism.

In this segment, Dr. Nilsson talks about the spread of theosophy in the Nordic regions, highly dependent on the print medium and only later on becoming involved in various social issues. He also talks in detail about the organizational structure of the society in Sweden during this period, and talks about the efforts made by the leadership to establish theosophy within the socio-cultural landscape of 19th Century Sweden. 


Part 3: Buddhism in Swedish Theosophy

About the lecture

In this segment, Mr. Nilsson talks about the emerging interest among the theosophical community in Sweden in Buddhism against a background wherein there existed no Buddhist minority in Sweden and the amount of information available to the general public about religions with south Asian historical roots was low. Talking about an interest that goes back to the beginning of the theosophical society in Sweden, Dr. Nilsson tries to investigate the reasons for this interest, and how it spread through different contexts within the theosophical community in Sweden.