Lawrence E. Sullivan



Emeritus Faculty


Emeritus Professor of Theology 


World Religions and World Church

Research and Teaching Interests

Lawrence E. Sullivan is currently serving as Professor of Theology and concurrent Professor of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame. Prior to his move to Notre Dame, he served from 1990 to 2003 as Director of the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard University and Professor of World Religions at the Harvard Divinity School He is a widely-respected authority on the native religions of South America. He specializes in the study of ritual in post-colonial settings, especially religious beliefs and practices centered on health and healing in various religious traditions. A graduate of St. Francis College in Milwaukee and the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, he served in a Roman Catholic religious order before matriculating at the University of Chicago, where he studied with Mircea Eliade and Joseph Kitagawa and took a Ph.D. in the comparative history of religions in 1981. Dr. Sullivan, who had earlier taught at Chem Chem College in the Congo (then Zaire), lectured at Chicago for two years before becoming an associate professor of the history of religions at the University of Missouri in Columbia. After a year of research in Japan on ritual medical systems, he returned to the University of Chicago in 1986 and was named a full professor of the history of religions there three years later. In 1990, he accepted the appointments at Harvard. Dr. Sullivan has held research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the University of Missouri Research Council, the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), the Buddhist Association of China, the Japan-United States Educational Commission, and the Fulbright Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Templeton Foundation, the Marsden Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Fetzer Institute, as well as the Henry Luce Fellowship. A past President of the American Academy of Religions (AAR) and a former deputy Secretary-General of the International Association for the History of Religions, he has been the University Lecturer at Arizona State University, Woodward Court Lecturer at the University of Chicago, the ACLS's and AAR's American Lecturer in the History of Religions, the Ingersoll Lecturer at Harvard University, and a visiting professor at Villa I Tatti, the Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence, Italy and at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. In 1993-94, he served on the expert review board convened to submit recommendations to the U.S. Departments of Justice and The Treasury in the aftermath of the federal assault on David Koresh and the Branch Davidian community in Waco, Texas. A member of the editorial boards of ten academic journals, he is the author of some sixty-five scholarly articles, the editor of thirteen books, and the Associate Editor of the sixteen-volume Encyclopedia of Religion, which received the Hawkins Prize and the Dartmouth Medal from the American Library Association for the best work in any category of publishing. He is Editor of Religionsgeschichtliche Versuche und Vorarbeiten, the oldest continuing European book series on the history of religions. His acclaimed study, Icanchu's Drum: An Orientation to Meaning in South American Religionswon the Association of American Publisher's award for the best book in philosophy and religion and an ACLS best book award. The 12-volume Religions of Humanity book series, which Sullivan wrote with Julien Ries for a high school readership, received the 2000 Hans Christian Andersen Prize for the Best Series in Children’s Literature. Dr. Sullivan developed the concept and contents for the Museum of World Religions in Taipei, Taiwan, which opened in November 2001.


Recent Publications

Books (Series): Nature and Rite in ShintoThe Cosmos and Wisdom of TaoismThe Religious Tradition of Judaism;The Scope of CatholicismThe World of IslamMan and the Devine in HinduismThe Church of OrthodoxyThe Many Faces of BuddhismThe Religious Spirit of the NavajoThe Theses of ProtestantismThe First Centuries of ChristianityMan and the Sense of Mystery (Chelsea House Publishers, 2002).

Book: Stewards of the Sacred (American Association of Museums and Harvard Center for World Religions, 2003) (conceived and written with Julien Ries for high school leadership - was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Prize).

Book: Icanchu's Drum: an Orientation to Meaning in South American Religions (won the prize for the best book in philosophy and religion from the Association of American Publishers and the American Academy of Religions).

Book, Associate Editor: Encyclopedia of Religion, 16 vols. (Macmillan, 1988) (received the Dartmouth Medal for the best work in any category of publishing from the American Library Association).