The World’s Parliament of Religions

The World’s Parliament of Religions

The East/West Encounter, Chicago, 1893
Richard Hughes Seager
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 10/26/2009
Format: Paperback 17 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-22166-7
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Conceived as a magnificent display of the major religions of the world, the 1893 Parliament sought to unite "all religion against irreligion." A singular moment in the creation of a more pluralistic religious culture in America, it introduced many Americans to Eastern religions and meditative practices such as yoga. Some in the Christian community saw the gathering as a sign of the approaching fulfillment of the missionary’s hope to evangelize the world, while others saw a divided Christendom under threat from the religions of the East. Richard Hughes Seager explores this fascinating event in all its complexities and, in a new preface, summarizes recent research and reflects on religious pluralism in an age of religious extremism.

Author Bio

Richard Hughes Seager is Bates and Benjamin Professor of Classical and Religious Studies at Hamilton College. He is author of Buddhism in America and Encountering the Dharma and editor of The Dawn of Religious Pluralism: Voices from the World's Parliament of Religions.


“Conceived as a magnificent display of the major religions of the world, the 1893 Parliament sought to unite “all religion against irreligion.” Exploring this fascinating and controversial event in all its complexities, the author reflects on religious pluralism in an age of religious extremism.”

“Richard Hughes Seager’s valuable 1995 work, now available in paperback, aims to study the 'East/West encounter' that occurred at the World’s Parliament of Religions. Seager is an expert on American religious history, and the virtue of this work for students of Asian religion and history is that it enables us to locate figures like Vivekananda, Soen, Dharmapala, and Gandhi as actors in a social drama taking place in a cultural field where the most explicit issues were internal to the American religious scene. ”
 — H-Asia H-Net

“[Though] it did have its mythic dimensions, [the Parliament] was also a flesh-and-blood occasion that influenced the course of religion in several countries. Richard Seager has done an excellent job of sorting out the myths and the realities and showing why an understanding of both is essential to a proper assessment of the Parliament.”
 — Robert S. Ellwood, Church History

“As a glimpse of the complex problems of cultural and religious pluralism that have spawned wars and political conflict, Seager’s book is a fine introduction to a continuing dilemma of the modern world.”
 — Journal of American History

“This volume should be read by every student of religion and ideas in Gilded Age America.”
 — Choice

“[This] engrossingly written book . . . convincingly shows that the [1893] parliament marked a point of religious and cultural change in North America. . . . This book is clearly the classic work on the 1893 Parliament of Religions—one you will want to keep on your bookshelf.”
 — Hindu-Christian Studies Bulletin

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Catherine L. Albanese and Stephen J. Stein
Preface to the Paperback Reissue
I. A Millennial City
1. The Columbian Myth of America
2. The Midway Plaisance and the Magic of the White City
II. An Ingathering of Nations and Tribes
3. Chicago’s Pentecost
4. On Mars Hill
5. "A Rapt Gaze into the Millennium"
III. Further and Fractious Missions
6. Acts of Apostles
7. Beyond the White City

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