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Heiler, Friedrich

Heiler, Friedrich (1892–1967). Christian theologian and phenomenologist of religion. He was originally a Roman Catholic, but became a Lutheran under the influence of Nathan Söderblom. From 1922 until his retirement in 1960, he was professor of the comparative history of religions at Marburg. Pulled back in a more Catholic direction by the writings of von Hügel, he founded an evangelical order of Franciscan tertiaries. His major work was Das Gebet (1918; Prayer: A Study in the History and Psychology of Religion, 1932). In this he put into practice his understanding of phenomenology as a way to discovering common truths at the heart of different religions, beneath the surface. He saw the study of religion in this way as a path that could lead to reconciliation between religions. At the outset of Erscheinungs-formen und Wesen der Religion (1961), he summarized his understanding of the phenomenological method: it could not be ‘value-free’, since every science has its presuppositions; thus the historian of religion must be inductive, but the phenomenologist must be deductive, building on the foundations of history, philology, etc., working always with empathy.

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