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Müller, Max

Müller, Max (1823–1900). Historian of religions and pioneer of the comparative study of religions. His main interest was in Indian religions, and after translations of Hitopadeśa (see PAÑCATANTRA) and Kalidasa's Meghaduta, he moved to Oxford where he became professor of comparative philology, and where he remained for the rest of his life. He was a prolific author, with interests ranging from the production of both editions and translations of Eastern religious texts (he edited the series Sacred Books of the East, 1879–94, and began the series Sacred Books of the Buddhists in 1895) to arguments about the origins of religion and mythology. In his view, mythology began in the human sense of the overpowering might of natural phenomena (hence the name for those who followed his views, ‘nature mythology’), with these powers early being personified and deified. He held that religion is the human capacity to perceive the infinite, and that all religions consequently contain to some degree the eternal truths of belief in God, in the immortality of the soul, and in a future retribution.

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Müller, Max

Max Müller (Friedrich Maximilian Müller, Friedrich Max Müller, or Friedrich Max-Müller) (mäks mül´ər;frē´drĬkh mäk´sēmēl´yän), 1823–1900, German philologist and Orientalist, b. Dessau; son of the poet Wilhelm Müller. After specializing in Sanskrit in Germany, he went to Oxford, where he lived for the remainder of his life. Müller did more than any other scholar to popularize philology and mythology, particularly in his lectures Science of Language (1861, 1863). He advanced the theory that myths originated from metaphors describing natural pnenomena. Greatly interested in comparative religion, he wrote works on Indian religion and philosophy, including the standard edition of the Rig-Veda with Commentary (6 vol., 1849–73). From c.1875 until his death Müller was engaged in his greatest work, the editing of Sacred Books of the East (51 vol.), being translations of important Asian religious writings.

See his memoirs (tr. 1906); studies by J. H. Voigt (1967) and R. Neufeldt (1980).

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