A Greek God in a Japanese New Religion: Hermes and Buddha Reborn in Ōkawa’s “Science of Happiness”
Wed, April 6, 2011 • 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM • Burdine Hall (BUR) 436A
A lecture by Franz Winter (Institute for Religious Studies, University of Vienna)
The new religious movement Kōfuku no kagaku (lit.: “The Science of Happiness”) is one of the latest developments in the religious scenery of Japan. It was founded 1986 by the then 30-year-old businessman Ōkawa Ryūhō, who claimed to have insight into the truth of the spiritual world. After a rather calm period as a study group of the spiritual messages “channelled” by its founder, it developed into a larger religious movement at the beginning of the 1990's. Its leader began to be regarded as the rebirth of the Buddha as well as various figures of a mythic prehistory of mankind, wherein the Greek God Hermes plays a major role. The lecture aims at explaining this development with reference to the question of the reception of Euro-American “esoteric” traditions and the crucial role of the use of various kinds of mass media in its formation.
Dr. Franz Winter has Ph.D.s in Classics (1999) and Religious Studies (2005), and obtained his higher qualifying degree (Habilitation) in Religious Studies at the University of Vienna in 2010. He is currently a Fulbright Visiting Professor in the Department of Religion at Boston University. His fields of research are the history of contact between Europe and Asia from antiquity to modern times and new religious movements in East and West.