The Essential Max Muller: On Language, Mythology and Religion

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Max Muller is often referred to as the 'father of Religious Studies', having himself coined the term 'science of religion' (or religionswissenschaft) in 1873. It was he who encouraged the comparative study of myth and ritual, and it was he who introduced the oft-quoted dictum: 'He who knows one [religion], knows none'. Though a German-born and German-educated philologist, he spent the greater part of his career at Oxford, becoming one of the most famous of the Victorian arm-chair scholars. Muller wrote extensively on Indian philosophy and Vedic religion, translated major sections of the Vedas, the Upanisads, and all of the Dhammapada, yet never visited India. To be sure, his work bears the stamp of late Nineteenth-Century sensibilities, but as artifacts of Victorian era scholarship, Muller's essays are helpful in reconstructing and comprehending the intellectual concerns of this highly enlightened though highly imperialistic age.