Eugene Herrigel

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Eugen Victor Herrigel (born March 20, 1884 in Lichtenau (Baden) , † April 18, 1955 in Partenkirchen ) was a German philosopher and fan of Japanese archery.


Seminar given by Eugen Herrigel in 1922 in the private apartment of the Ohazama Shueis family. From left to right: Gotô Tomio, Fujita Keizô, Hanako Ryûzô, Ôhazama Shûei, Eugen Herrigel (right from center), Miki Kiyoshi, Mori (Hani) Gorô, Kumashiro Isaburô, Obi Noriharu.

Herrigel studied Protestant theology at the University of Heidelberg from 1907 to 1908 and from 1908 to 1913 philosophy of the Neo-Kantian direction . In 1913 Herrigel received his doctorate from Wilhelm Windelband with a thesis on the logic of numbers . He was also a student of the philosopher Emil Lask (1875-1915), whose writings he published in three volumes after the First World War on behalf of Heinrich Rickert in 1923 and 1924.

In 1922, Eugen Herrigel completed his habilitation with Urstoff and Urform , a work in the tradition of Neo-Kantianism. During this time Herrigel became acquainted with Zen Buddhism and he helped correct the flags of the anthology Zen: Living Buddhism in Japan (1925), translated and introduced by Ohasama Shūej and edited by August Faust .

Eugen Herrigel's first marriage was to Baroness Paula von Beulwitz (* 1893; † August 13, 1924 in Japan). The couple traveled to Japan together in May 1924 . From 1924 to 1929 Herrigel taught philosophy at the Imperial University of Tōhoku in Sendai, Japan . On September 16, 1925, the widower Eugen Herrigel and Auguste L. Seefried (1887–1974) married in Japan.

Since the spring of 1926, Eugen Herrigel and his wife Auguste Herrigel, together with the interpreter Sozo Komachiya, took lessons in archery with master Awa Kenzo ( 阿波 研 造 ; 1880-1939), a Shadō teacher. Awa had developed a new and idiosyncratic style of Kyūjutsu , the daishadõkyõ , an esoteric-mystical teaching tradition. It was this Great Teaching of the Way of Shooting that Herrigel referred to when he meant Zen. In fact, Awa had never practiced Zen in his life. Nevertheless, Herrigel believed that he had discovered the spiritual roots of Japanese culture in the art of the way he had learned, which, according to his understanding of the writings of DT Suzuki, should be almost synonymous with Zen.

After his return in July 1929 Herrigel was appointed full professor of philosophy at the University of Erlangen in Germany. At the end of the year, however, he submitted his work Die Metaphysische Form. A dispute with Kant at Tôhoku University and its double faculty of law and philosophy awarded him the first doctorate ( Bungaku hakushi ) as an honorary award on March 12, 1930 .

In 1938 Herrigel joined the NSDAP . From 1938 to 1944 he was Vice-Rector and from October 1944 to April 1945 he was Rector of the University of Erlangen . From 1940 to 1945 he was a full member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences . In December 1945 he was suspended from duty because of his political past and was dismissed by the American military government in January 1946. In 1948 he was again appointed full professor and at the same time retired.

The grave of Eugen Herrigel and his wife Gusty L. Herrigel in the Partenkirchen cemetery.

Herrigel's grave is in the Partenkirchen cemetery .


In his publications since 1937 Herrigel presented the supposed similarities in German and Japanese virtues , including the willingness to make sacrifices for the fatherland and fearlessness before death. Herrigel wrote in 1944 about the ethos of the samurai : This is how we understand our brave ally in the Far East in all essentials, as it is for us and for him the most sacred conviction that, according to a profound word from Holderlin , no one has liked too much for the fatherland is.

Herrigel's philosophically significant publication after 1929 was the title Zen in the Art of Archery. He had been able to write the manuscript without a profound knowledge of the Japanese language. The work was first published in 1948 after the Second World War .

The book achieved high circulation figures. A translation into English followed in 1953 and into Japanese in 1956. In 2003 the 43rd edition of the German edition appeared. The book contributed to the popular image of Zen in the western world. According to Brian (Daizen) A. Victoria, Herrigel's publication has some typical European misunderstandings; and it also ignores the instrumentalization of Zen in Japanese militarism and German nationalism.


Master Awa awarded Eugen Herrigel the 5th Dan in Kyūdō and his wife Auguste L. Herrigel, b. Seefried, 2nd Dan.


  • To the logic of the number. Dissertation. Buhl 1921
  • Foreword by the editor GS, Volume I, 1923, pp. V – XVI (5–16)
  • Emil Lask's value system. Attempt to present a representation from his estate. In: Ratio , Volume 12, 1923/24, pp. 100-122
  • Approaches to metaphysics in contemporary German philosophy . Lecture, 1925 (not preserved).
  • About Kant's doctrine of the primacy of practical reason . In: Shisou (Thinking), Tokyo, 1925
  • Original material and original form. A contribution to the philosophical structure theory. Heidelberg habilitation thesis 1922. Mohr, Tübingen 1926.
  • Apply, value, ought, norm . In: Shisou (Thinking), Tokyo, 1928
  • The metaphysical form. A discussion of Kant. Half volume 1: The Mundus sensibilis. Mohr, Tübingen 1929.
  • The task of philosophy in the new realm . In: Palatinate Society for the Advancement of Science. 1934, pp. 26-32.
  • National Socialism and Philosophy . 1935. Unpublished typescript, kept in the University Library Erlangen-Nürnberg. In: Zanshin. The Kyudo-Magazin , special edition, 2004, pp. 50–55
  • The knightly art of archery. In: Nippon. Journal of Japanese Studies. Volume 2, No. 4, October 1936, pp. 193-212. English translation by Lutgard Cunningham & Charles Harper ( Memento December 6, 2011 in the Internet Archive )
  • The tradition in Japanese folk and cultural life. A mirror of Japanese cultural life in the past and present. In: The cultural power of Japan . Richard Foester (Ed.), Bibliographisches Institut , 1940 and Die Pause Verlag, Vienna 1942, pp. 14–15
  • The Ethos of the Samurai , in: Field Post Letters of the Philosophical Faculty , Volume 3, 1944, pp. 2-14
  • Zen in the art of archery. Weller, Constance 1948; 2. passed by the author. Ed., Barth, Munich-Planegg 1951; 43rd edition 2003 ISBN 3-502-61115-7
  • The zen way. Records from the estate. Compiled and edited by Hermann Tausend. Edited with an appendix by Auguste Herrigel. Barth, Munich-Planegg 1958; 11th edition 1990, ISBN 3-502-64281-8
    • Paperback: Zen in the Art of Archery. The zen way. Fischer, Frankfurt 2005, ISBN 3-596-50853-3
  • Emil Lask: Collected Writings . 3 volumes. Mohr, Tübingen 1923 (Volume I, II), 1924 (Volume III)


  • Arthur Koestler : Of saints and automata , 1960
  • Gershom Scholem : Zen Nazism? . In: Encounter , Volume 16, No. 2, 1961, p. 96.
  • Herman Glockner : My Heidelberg picture book . Bouvier, Bonn 1969
  • Niels Gülberg: Eugen Herrigels work as a philosophical teacher in Japan . In: Waseda leaves. No. 4, 1997, pp. 41-66 and No. 5, 1998, pp. 44-60. In No. 5, pp. 46–52, information about the two articles that only appeared in Japan.
  • Rodney Needham: Specimen . University of California Press, Berkeley 1985
  • Yamada Shōji: The Myth of Zen in the Art of Archery. In: Japanese Journal of Religious Studies. No. 28 / 1–2, 2001 ( PDF; 258 kB )
  • Matthias Obereisenbuchner: Eugen Herrigel and the Western view of Far Eastern culture . Lecture, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, 22./23. April 2005.
  • Michael Grüttner : Biographical Lexicon on National Socialist Science Policy (= Studies on Science and University History. Volume 6). Synchron, Heidelberg 2004, ISBN 3-935025-68-8 , p. 74.
  • Claudia Schorcht: Philosophy at the Bavarian Universities 1933-1945 . Harald Fischer, Erlangen 1990, pp. 90-95.
  • Shoji Yamada and Earl Hartman (translators, editors): Shots in the Dark: Japan, Zen, and the West. University of Chicago Press 2009.
  • Yoshiaki Yamashita: Eugen Herrigel as a Kantian, in: Philosophisches Jahrbuch 95 (1988) 144–158.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Michael Grüttner : Biographical Lexicon on National Socialist Science Policy . Heidelberg 2004, p. 74.
  2. Gerd Otto-Rieke: Graves in Bavaria . Munich 2000, p. 26.
  3. Herrigel 1944, p. 14. After Matthis Obereisenbuchner: Eugen Herrigel and the western view of the Far Eastern culture , p. 8.
  4. Shouji Yamada, Earl Hartman: Shots in the Dark , p. 82, note 14, letter from Herrigel dated September 15, 1943 to the head of department of the regional training office, Nuremberg-O.
  5. See Brian (Daizen) A. Victoria: Zen, Nationalism and War. An eerie alliance . Translated from the English by Theo Kierhof and Hildegard Höhr. Theseus, Berlin 1999.
  6. Matthias Obereisenbuchner: Eugen Herrigel and the Western view of Far Eastern culture (pdf; 282 kB)