Phenomenology of Religion

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Phenomenology of religion is an approach in systematic religious studies . It describes and classifies religious phenomena (including objects and files) as individual ones and shows essential, structural and meaningful elements of religious phenomena by means of a specific diagnostic method. Until the 1960s, religious phenomenology and religious systematics were identical for many scholars. Only then did it develop into an independent approach to systematic comparative research alongside the typology of religion .


The approach is strongly influenced by Edmund Husserl's concept of phenomenology . It is about seeing phenomena, i.e. what is revealed to the unbiased researcher. This approach intends to reveal the essence of religion (s) independently of cultural and historical contexts. That is why religious historians accused him of being ahistorical. Taking this point of criticism into account and thus distancing itself from the classical phenomenology of religion, the modern, problem-oriented phenomenology of religion tries to research the changes in the phenomena in the history of religion. In contrast to the purely cultural studies of religion, the phenomenology of religion emphasizes the importance of openness to transcendence , i. In other words, she does not necessarily regard religious phenomena as products of human culture, but would like to consciously consider the possibility of encounters between people and a transcendent entity that is often referred to as “the sacred”, but without turning to a theology to become.

The raw material of the phenomenology of religion is the entire history of religion as well as ethnographic records . The phenomenology of religion, which works among other things for the psychology of religion , the sociology of religion and the psychopathology of religion , but from the results of which the criticism of religion also draws, abstracts from the historicity and the culture-specific determination of its objects of knowledge.

The concern of the phenomenology of religion is to make visible in the abundance of the many religions 'the religious', the existential relation of man to a transcendent 'highest knowledge'. The group of authors includes:

  • Mircea Eliade , a classic in the phenomenology of religion, organized his research results in phenomenology of religion according to the criteria of space and time and described religious phenomena in a partly geographical, partly chronological order. It is controversial because of its involvement in Romanian fascism.
  • For Gustav Mensching the phenomenology of religion, which he promoted with important works on holy silence, the holy word, the idea of ​​sin, etc., was only a part of his work.
  • Adel Theodor Khoury , a Melkite Catholic professor and Georg Girschek, speaker in the Archdiocese of Cologne ('The religious knowledge of humanity', 2 vols., 360 p., Bound, KNO-NR: 07 65 07 41, Freiburg: Herder 1999) In contrast, choose a systematic structure based on topics such as creation , experience of God , revelation , prophecy , salvation and cult .
  • Geo Widengren , a Swedish orientalist and religious scholar who primarily devoted himself to research into the ancient oriental and Iranian religions, also studied Judaism and Islam . His works enjoy great philological accuracy and carried out in the field of Iranian religions using all Iranian dialects and other languages from the environment of Iran , such as Sanskrit , Akkadian , Arabic or Syriac .

Well-known religious phenomenologists


  • Pierre Daniel Chantepie de la Saussaye : Textbook of the history of religion . Mohr Siebeck Verlag, Tübingen 1924.
  • Geo Widengren : Religious Phenomenology . Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 1969, ISBN 978-3-11-002653-5 .
  • Gerardus van der Leeuw : Introduction to the Phenomenology of Religion . Gütersloh publishing house Gerd Mohn, Gütersloh 1961.
  • Gerardus van der Leeuw: Phenomenology of Religion . Mohr Siebeck Verlag, Tübingen 1977, ISBN 3-16-139942-0 .
  • Andreas Becke: The structure of religion or: Is phenomenology a method that can be used in religious studies? In: Journal for Mission Studies and Religious Studies, Volume 83, 1999, Issue 1, pp. 3–28, ISSN  0044-3123 .
  • Wolfgang Gantke: The controversial concept of the sacred. A problem-oriented religious studies investigation. Marburg 1998.
  • Fritz Stolz : Fundamentals of Religious Studies. Goettingen 1988.
  • Hartmut Zinser (ed.): Religious Studies. An introduction . Berlin 1988.
  • Religiopolis. Experience world religions. CD-ROM with accompanying book, Leipzig 2004.
  • Günter Lanczkowski : Introduction to the phenomenology of religion. Darmstadt 1978.
  • Udo Tworuschka: Religious Studies. Trailblazers and classics. Böhlau, Cologne a. a. 2011.
  • Udo Tworuschka: Introduction to the History of Religious Studies. WBG, Darmstadt 2014.

See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Johann Figl (Author): Introduction to Religious Studies - Historical Aspects, Today's Expertise and Concept of Religion, in Johann Figl (Ed.): Handbook of Religious Studies: Religions and their central themes. Tyrolia, Innsbruck / Vienna 2003, ISBN 3-7022-2508-0 . Pp. 41-42.