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Friedrich Max Müller and the Sacred Books of the East$
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Arie L. Molendijk

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198784234

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198784234.001.0001

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(p.187) Afterthoughts
Friedrich Max Müller and the Sacred Books of the East

Arie L. Molendijk

Oxford University Press

The Afterthoughts focus on the tension between antiquity and modernity in Max Müller’s thinking. According to him we need to know the ancient oriental roots of the West to understand our own modern culture and religion. To penetrate into these depths, however, we cannot and must not take ancient statements at their face value. Only a ‘charitable’ interpretation will lead to an understanding of the ‘true and original purport’ of Eastern texts. Under the aegis of modern historical and philological scholarship a new idea of ‘religion’ is developed and promoted. Thus, a programme of spiritualization of ‘religion’ is legitimized by projecting a modern ideal onto the ancient past. In this process the authority of oriental religious specialists is transferred to Western scholars.

Keywords:   interpretation, ancient versus modern, religion as text (textualization), lieu de mémoire, text and authority

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