Religion for a Secular Age : Max Müller, Swami Vivekananda and Vedānta book cover
1st Edition

Religion for a Secular Age
Max Müller, Swami Vivekananda and Vedānta

ISBN 9780367596859
Published June 30, 2020 by Routledge
200 Pages

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Book Description

Religion for a Secular Age provides a transnational history of modern Vedānta through a comparative study of two of its most important exponents, Friedrich Max Muller (1823–1900) and Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902). This book explains why Vedānta's appeal spanned the ostensibly very different contexts of colonial India and Victorian Britain and America, and how this ancient form of thought was translated by Muller and Vivekananda into a modern form of philosophy or religion. These religiously-committed men attempted to reconcile religion with modernity by appealing to Advaita (literally, 'non-dualistic') Vedānta's monistic interpretation of reality. The 'scientific' study of religion allegedly demonstrated the evolutionary superiority of Vedānta and the possibility of religion's survival in 'the light of modern science'. They believed Vedānta could also provide the religious basis for moral engagement in this world, even as the hold of orthodox Christianity and traditional Hinduism appeared to be weakening. Vedānta thus served as a way of articulating a form of religion suitable for a secular age – religion which has embraced modern forms of thought while breaking away from creeds, scriptures and institutions to thrive in the spheres of public debate of London, Calcutta and New York.

Table of Contents

Preface; Introduction; Foundations; The Science of Religion and Religion as Science; Vedānta in Defence of religion; Vedānta and the Religious Foundation of Ethics; Ramakrishna, Vedānta and the Essence of Hinduism; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.

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Thomas J. Green was awarded a PhD from the University of Cambridge for his doctoral research on Swami Vivekananda and Max Muller. He has also conducted research on the New Dispensation movement in nineteenth-century Calcutta.


’This is a fascinating book that illuminates how Friedrich Max Müller and Swami Vivekananda, two extraordinary intellectuals of the late nineteenth century, have interacted to shape both Western and Indian understandings of religion. Thomas Green’s close reading of their exchanges and further writings is a major contribution to the intellectual history of the imperial encounter. This is necessary and enjoyable reading for anyone interested in Hinduism and Christianity, as well as religion more generally.’ Peter van der Veer, Director, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Germany 'This is an engaging and well-written book that places Max Müller and Vivekananda in a world of shared concern about religion and science at the close of the nineteenth century. This is an important contribution to our understanding of religion and the rise of secularism.' Gavin Flood, Oxford University, UK