Theosophical Encyclopedia

Evans-Wentz, Walter Yeeling (1878-1965)

Orientalist, authority on comparative religion, editor and translator of Tibetan religious scriptures, Walter Evans-Wentz was born in New Jersey to parents who were freethinkers and Spiritualists. He joined the Theosophical Society, Point Loma, in 1902 and was encouraged by Katherine Tingley to pursue his education at Stanford University in California. There he received his Master's degree in 1906 and afterwards continued his studies at Oxford University, where he wrote his first book, The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries. 

During his many travels in the Far East, Evans-Wentz studied for several years in Tibet, where he was ordained as a Buddhist monk. In 1918 Evans-Wentz stayed at the international headquarters of the Theosophical Society in Adyar, where he had discussions with Annie Besant. While in India he met Alice Cleather, a Theosophical writer and lecturer, who was then living at Darjeeling. In 1923 he returned to Point Loma and worked there with Tingley. In 1927 he published The Tibetan Book of the Dead, the first book to describe the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism for the Western public. In this book he submitted evidence that Blavatsky was intimately acquainted with the higher lamaistic teachings.

Evans-Wentz died in San Diego in 1965. His works include The Tibetan Book of the Dead (1927), Tibet's Great Yogi, Milarepa (1928), Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines (1935), and The Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation (1954).

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