1893 World’s Parliament of Religions. History of Chicago Series.

Join Dr. Chris Stacey for a presentation on Chicago’s 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions, which was held in conjunction with the Columbian Exposition. On September 11, 1893, The Parliament opened with international representatives of the world’s religions present. This program covers the following material:

Part 1: Religious Liberalism in the United States. The basics of religious liberalism. Transcendentalists, Whitman, New Thought, Theosophists, Reform Jewish thought and a turn to meditation in the United States. Serves as a contrasting framework to the religious liberalism of Unitarians and Protestants at the Parliament and as a conduit to the post-Parliament influence of Japanese and Indian religious figures in the United States.

Part 2: The World’s Parliament of Religions, 1893. The who, what, when, how and why behind the creation and implementation of the Parliament. We will examine the intersection between the Parliament and the Columbian Exposition as the apotheosis of the desire to represent the United States as a “New Jerusalem” to the world. Discussion about these concepts raised at the Parliament: the need for an ecumenical movement, the idea of a “universal religion,” the superiority of the Christian faith over all other religions, the role of missionary work, and the need for the formal academic study of comparative religion.  

Part 3: Critiques of Imperialism, Missionary Work, and a Set of Counter-Arguments to the Protestant Worldview. The participation and speeches of Hirai Kinzo (Buddhist, Japan), Anagarika Dharmapala (Buddhist, India), Shaku Soen (Zen Buddhist, Japan), and Swami Vivekananda (Vedanta Hinduism, India). These presentations caused a national media sensation with their critical stance against imperialism and foreign missionaries, and their emphatic arguments about Asian religions as having parity with western Christendom.

Part 4: Legacies of the Parliament: The rise of a “new spirituality” in the United States that put into motion ideas, behaviors, and organizations regarding spiritual practices that are in many ways embodied in what Rabbi Michael Lerner calls today “Emancipatory Spirituality.” We’ll discuss the significance of Sarah Farmer’s Greenacre experiment where mental healers, Hindu swamis, Buddhists and artists congregated to pursue global spiritualism. This section focuses on Sarah Farmer, Swami Vivekananda (Raja-Yoga, Vedanta), Anagarika Dharmapala, (Sinhala Buddhism, Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism), and D.T. Suzuki (Zen Buddhism, Columbia University). We’ll conclude by examining the emergence of religious nationalism based on anti-colonialism.

Date: Wednesday, July 26

Time: 6:30PM Central, 7:30PM Eastern, 4:30PM Pacific

Location: Zoom Video Conference

Cost: Free


July 26, 2023 at 6:30pm - 9pm

Zoom Video Conference

Chicago, IL
United States

Chris Stacey