Friedrich Max Muller

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Portrait of Müller 1894/95 by George Frederic Watts

Max Müller (in the UK as Max Müller and in India as Max Mueller known; *  6. December 1823 in Dessau , †  28. October 1900 in Oxford ) was a German language and religious studies . Under his direction, the Sacred Books of the East , a 50-volume series of English translations of Asian religious writings, was published.

life and work

Max Müller as a young man

Müller was a son of the poet Wilhelm Müller , whose texts were set to music by Franz Schubert in the song cycles Die Schöne Müllerin and Winterreise . He attended the Nikolaischule in Leipzig and then the University of Leipzig , where he studied philology and philosophy , but also dealt with Arabic and Sanskrit . During his studies he became a member of the fraternity Kochei in 1841 . Here he already published a translation of the Hitopadeca (Leipzig 1844). Then he went to Berlin. In the winter semester of 1844/45 he studied there, together with Paul de Lagarde , Persian with Friedrich Rückert . In 1845 Müller moved to Paris and the following year to London. In 1848 he moved to Oxford. In 1859 he married Georgina Grenfall of Maidenhead from England. He had a lifelong friendship with Theodor Fontane .

In England he published the Rigveda on behalf of the English East India Company with a detailed commentary on Sāyaṇa (6 vols., London 1849–1874). He also published an edition without commentary (London, 1877) and the first volume of a translation Rig-Veda'-Sanhità, the sacred hymns of the Brahmans (London 1869). He convinced the East India Company with the argument that one first had to examine the oldest Sanskrit texts in order to gain an insight into the development of Indian religious history .

Since 1850 Müller gave lectures on literary history and comparative grammar at Oxford University . In 1851 he became an honorary member of the university and Christ Church College . In 1854 he was given a full professorship for new languages ​​and literatures. In 1856 he joined the board of trustees of the Bodleian Library , where he also worked as the librarian of the Orientalist department between 1865 and 1867 . In 1858 he was elected a Fellow of All Souls College , in 1864 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences . In 1865 he became a member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences . In 1868 the University of Oxford established a professorship for comparative linguistics (then Comparative Philology ) and appointed Müller as the first professor of this chair.

Müller did not stop at text editions and translations of the most important sacred scriptures of the Orient, but tirelessly pointed out their importance in books, essays and lectures. In particular, he advocated the establishment of the new disciplines Comparative Religious Studies and Comparative Myth Research . Among other things, he coined the term henotheism . His publications on religion created a lot of unrest in the church hierarchy as they were viewed as a potential threat to Christianity's claim to universality. At the urging of the Oxford movement , he decided not to include the Old and New Testaments in his Sacred Books of the East .

Max Müller, engraving by Doris Raab

Müller analyzed mythologies and myths as an awareness of natural phenomena, a kind of primitive pre-science within the cultural development of humanity. He took a Darwinian view of the development of cultures. According to Müller, the “gods” initially began to work as abstract terms with which one exchanged or expressed ideas. Only later were they personified. So many different names arose for the Indo-European "father god": Zeus , Jupiter , Dyaus Pita . But all these forms can be traced back to the word dyaus , which he understood as “appearance” or “radiation”. This word leads to deva , deus and theos as terms for God and to the proper names Zeus and Jupiter (as deus-pater). This idea later influenced Friedrich Nietzsche .

In the summer of 1872 he gave lectures in Strasbourg. In 1875 he resigned his professorship but stayed at Oxford University to edit a number of translations of the sacred books of the Orient. By 1896, 41 volumes had been published. In 1892 Müller was appointed a member of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen and in May 1896 a member of the Privy Council . Friedrich Max Müller died in Oxford on October 28, 1900.

His works are still used by students of Indology and Sanskrit research around the world. Max Müller is still popular in India today - that is why the German Goethe Institutes in India operate under the name “Max Mueller Bhavan”. As one of the first linguists, he advocated the introduction of a world auxiliary language , preferring Esperanto among the drafts available at the time.

In addition, he wrote the novel (which some see more as a long poem) German Love - From the Papers of a Stranger ( Korean Dogilin-eui sarang ), which was published 25 times by Brockhaus Verlag until 1922 and at times was the most widely read in Korea German literature counted.

As a young linguist, Müller introduced the Sanskrit word “ Aryans ” in the mid-19th century as a name for an Indo-Germanic language group, but through the book Essai sur l'inégalité des races humaines Arthur de Gobineaus (1816–1882) it became synonymous with the superior Nordic “ master race ”.

Müller's 10,000-volume library with a focus on oriental studies was bought in 1901 by the Japanese industrialist Hisaya Iwasaki (1864–1955), President of the Mitsubishi Group and founder of Tōyō Bunko , and donated to the University of Tokyo . The collection was lost in the Great Kanto earthquake in 1923.

Schliemann and Troy

Müller was concerned with scientific, at that time it was called comparative, mythology not about a reference to reality, but about the immanent formal laws of myths of the different peoples and traditions. In Homer's Iliad , Müller believed that the real theme was a battle between the sun and the clouds, and compared the Iliad with the Nibelungenlied , which he also denied a historical core. In Homer's Iliad, too, there was no historical core that was embellished with non-real material. Rather, a non-real material by Homer was retrospectively associated with a historical place.

When Müller and Heinrich Schliemann met in London, Schliemann had already read his lectures on the science of language . Step by step, Schliemann succeeded in reducing Müller's aversion to the historicity of Homer's Troy , even if final reservations remained. In return, Müller made Schliemann socially acceptable in the scientific world of England.


Müller around 1898
  • Das Mahâbhâshya , in: Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländische Gesellschaft 7 (1853), pp. 162–171. ( Digitized version )
  • Letter to Chevalier Bunsen on the classification of the Turanian languages . London 1854
  • German love. From the papers of a stranger . Brockhaus, Leipzig 1857
  • Essay on comparative mythology . London 1858
  • History of ancient Sanskrit literature . London 1859
  • Lectures on the science of language , 2 series. London 1861-64
    • German edition: Lectures on the science of language . 2 volumes. Mayer, Leipzig 1863/66; 3. A. Klinkhardt, Leipzig 1870/75
  • Chips from a German workshop , 4 volumes. London 1868-1875
  • Introduction to the science of Religion: Four Lectures. London 1873
    • German edition: Introduction to Comparative Religious Studies . Trübner, Strasbourg 1874
  • Lectures on the origin and growth of religions as illustrated by the religions of India . London 1878
    • German edition: Lectures on the origin and development of religion . Trübner, Strasbourg 1880
  • Selected essays , 2 volumes. London 1881
  • India what can it teach us? London 1883
    • German edition: India in its world-historical significance . Engelmann, Leipzig 1884
    • Partial edition: What can India teach us . Lotos, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-86176-005-3
  • Science of Thought . London 1887
    • German edition: Thinking in the light of language . Engelmann, Leipzig 1888; Reprint: Minerva, Frankfurt am Main 1983, ISBN 3-86598-299-9
  • Natural religion . London 1889
    • German edition: Natural Religion . Engelmann, Leipzig 1890
  • Physical religion . London 1891
    • German edition: Physical religion . Engelmann, Leipzig 1892
  • Anthropological Religion . London & New York 1892
    • German edition: Anthropological Religion . Engelmann, Leipzig 1894; Reprint: VDM, Saarbrücken 2007, ISBN 978-3-8364-2417-2
  • Theosophy, or psychological religion . London 1893; Reprint: VDM, Saarbrücken 2007, ISBN 978-3-8364-2418-9
    • German edition: Theosophy or Psychological Religion . Engelmann, Leipzig 1895
  • Contributions to the science of mythology . 2 vols. London 1897
  • The six systems of Indian Philosophy . London 1899
  • My autobiography. A fragment . New York 1901
    • German edition: From my life. Fragments of an autobiography . Perthes, Gotha 1902


Web links

Commons : Friedrich Max Müller  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Friedrich Max Müller  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Helge Dvorak: Biographical Lexicon of the German Burschenschaft. Volume II: Artists. Winter, Heidelberg 2018, ISBN 978-3-8253-6813-5 , pp. 506–509.
  2. Hans-Joachim Klimkeit: Friedrich Max Müller (1823 - 1900) , in: Axel Michaels (ed.): Klassiker der Religionswissenschaft , Munich 1997, 3rd edition 2010, Verlag CH Beck, p. 30
  3. ^ Theodor Fontane : From twenty to thirty .
  4. Hans-Joachim Klimkeit: Friedrich Max Müller (1823 - 1900) , in: Axel Michaels (ed.): Klassiker der Religionswissenschaft , Munich 1997, 3rd edition 2010, Verlag CH Beck, p. 31
  5. Hans-Joachim Klimkeit: Friedrich Max Müller (1823 - 1900) , in: Axel Michaels (ed.): Klassiker der Religionswissenschaft , Munich 1997, 3rd edition 2010, Verlag CH Beck, p. 30
  6. ^ Andreas Künzli: LL Zamenhof (1859-1917) . Esperanto, Hillelism (Homaranism) and the “Jewish question” in Eastern and Western Europe. 1st edition. Harrassowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden 2010, ISBN 978-3-447-06232-9 , p. 343 : "... and the linguist Max Müller declares that Esperanto is the best project for an international planned language ."
  8. Alexander Bein : Modern anti-Semitism and its significance for the Jewish question. In: Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte. Issue No. 4/1958. P. 342 ( PDF )
  9. a b Flügge 2001. p. 237 ff.