Henry Steel Olcott

Year of birth : 1832
Education : City College of New York, Columbia University
Website : www.ts-adyar.org, www.theosophical.org

Books by the Master

" The Life of Buddha and Its Lessons " … " People from the Other World "… " Old Diary Leaves: The True Story of the Theosophical Society " … " Old Diary Leaves: The Only Authentic History of Theosophical Society " … " Theosophy; Religion and Occult Science " … " The Buddhist Catechism " … " The Vampire and the Life of Buddha and Its Lessons " … " Outlines of first course of Yale agricultural lectures. By Henry S.  Olcott. With an introduction by John A. Porter " … " Isis in America: The Classic Eyewitness Account of Blavatsky's Journey to America & Occult Revolution She Ignited " … " New The Life of Buddha & Its Lessons: With A Free Bonus of Photos of Buddha From Around the World  " … " The Enlightened Path: A Buddhist Catechism " …  " Karma Lore: One "  … " Ultimate Buddhism Series - 5 GREAT Books! "  … " Character Sketch of Madame Blavatsky " … " A Collection of Lectures On Theosophy and Archaic Religions, Delivered in India and Ceylon " … " The descendants of Thomas Olcott: one of the first settlers of Hartford, Connecticut " … " Golden Rules of Buddhism " … " How to cultivate and preserve celery " … " The Life of Buddha  " … " Madame Blavatsky's Secret Marriage " … " Old Diary Leaves: The Only Authentic History of the Theosophical Society " … " Old Diary Leaves: The True Story Of The Theosophical Society First Series America " … " Posthumous Humanity: A Study of Phantoms " … " The spirit of Zoroastrianism " ... " Spiritualism and Theosophy " ... " Applied theosophy and other essays " …  " The kinship between Hinduism and Buddhism " … " The Theosophical Society and Its Aims " …  " The Theosophy or Materialism Which? " …  " Old Diary Leaves: The Only Authentic History of Theosophical Society " 


Colonel Henry Steele Olcott was an American military officer, journalist, lawyer and the co-founder and first President of the Theosophical Society. Olcott was the first well-knownAmerican of European ancestry to make a formal conversion to Buddhism. His subsequent actions as president of the Theosophical Society helped create a renaissance in the study of Buddhism. Olcottis considered a Buddhist modernist for his efforts in interpreting Buddhism through a Westernized lens.

Olcott was a major revivalist of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and he is still honored in Sri Lanka for these efforts. Olcott has been called by Sri Lankans "one of the heroes in the struggle of our independence and a pioneer of the present religious, national and cultural revival".

Henry Steel Olcott met Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, a Russian aristocrat of esoteric interests and phenomenal abilities, at a séance in Vermont in 1874. They became close friends who gathered about them others of similar interests. In September 1875 the idea of forming a society was proposed, and a committee, chaired by Olcott, began the organization. On October 30, 1875, Col. Henry Steel Olcott was elected President of the new Theosophical Society, delivering his inaugural address at Mott Hall in New York City on November 17, a date therefore taken as the founding of the Theosophical Society.

On December 18, 1878, Olcott and Blavatsky left New York for India, via England, where they organized a branch of the Society. Arriving in Bombay on February 16, 1879, they traveled around India, lecturing and developing interest in the Theosophical Society. Olcott also soon began work to revive and unify the sects of Buddhism. He is especially remembered in Sri Lanka, where he helped to achieve social justice for the Sinhalese. His Buddhist Catechism, first published in 1881, has been translated into many languages and used as a basic textbook in Buddhist schools.

In December 1882, the two Founders moved the headquarters of the Society from Bombay to Adyar, outside the city of Madras (now Chennai). Although Olcott traveled extensively through India and Sri Lanka as well as around the world, Adyar was his home for the remainder of his life. There, in 1894, he founded a school for the children of poor and destitute families, the Panchamas or Harijans. This school is still run by the Theosophical Society and provides a free education for children from kindergarten through high school.

Olcott died on February 17, 1907, leaving behind a legacy of immense accomplishment as a beacon to be followed by the succeeding presidents of the Society. He also left a treasure-trove of written works spanning his entire life, most notably his Old Diary Leaves in six volumes that chronicle the founding and early years of the Theosophical Society.