John L. Crow is a PhD graduate student in the Department of Religion at Florida State University. His academic training is as an historian in the two fields of American Religious History and Western Esotericism. His interests, however, are wide ranging, dealing with notions of the body within a religious context, the intersection of science and religion, and the development of eastern religions within the western world, particularly Buddhism in the West.
Prior to Florida State, he earned his Master’s degree in Religious Studies, with a focus on Western Esotericism at the University of Amsterdam. His undergraduate degree was in English at Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Georgia. He is currently ABD and writing his dissertation entitled, “Occult Bodies: The Corporal Construction of the Theosophical Society, 1895-1935.”
He has taught a variety of courses at both Florida State University and Tallahassee Community College. In addition to teaching he also assists or has assisted with a number of academic journals including Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture, the Belmont Humanities Symposium Journal, and the Japan Studies Association Journal, and East-West Connections. Appreciating that print journals are not the only way scholars communicate, he is a frequent contributor to academic blog, most notably the Religion in American History. His interest in how Buddhism has developed in American and Europe has led to his participation on the steering committee of the Buddhism in the West group of the American Academy of Religion.
Utilizing his extensive Information Technology background, he has participated in numerous projects combining IT and pedagogy including online teaching and the application of Geographic Information Systems to humanities research. In 2013 he received the Award for Excellence in Online Course Design from Florida State’s Office of Distance Learning and was honorable mention for the Award for Excellence in Online Teaching. He has also implemented numerous open source tools used within academia including the Open Journal Systems (OJS) and Omeka, a online tool for libraries and Archivists.
His primary research areas embrace modern Spiritualism, Theosophy and the Theosophical Society, Freemasonry, Buddhism in the West, and theories and methods for studying the body. My dissertation work focuses on how the human body was understood, described and disciplined by the second generation leadership within the Theosophical Society from 1895 through 1935. The society differed from most traditions in its approach to the human body. It saw the body as a matrix of seven different principles or parts, and embedded within larger continuities of both a personal reincarnation cycle, as well as part of humanity’s evolution, leading from lesser to more spiritual beings. By examining the way Theosophy approached the body we can understand how science, religion and occultism interacted and how these early occult understandings of the body have continued forward to today, informing numerous religious traditions, old and new.