Heinrich Robert Zimmer (6 December 1890 – 20 March 1943) was an
Indologist and historian of South Asian art, most known for his works,
Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization and Philosophies of
India. He was the most important German scholar in Indian Philology
Max Müller (1823-1900). In 2010, a "
Heinrich Zimmer Chair
Philosophy and Intellectual History" was inaugurated at
1 Early life and education
4 Personal life
8 Further reading
9 External links
Early life and education
He was born in Greifswald, Germany. Zimmer began studying
linguistics at the
University of Berlin
University of Berlin in 1909. He earned his
doctorate in 1914 with a thesis entitled Studien zur Geschichte der
Gotras and directed by Heinrich Lüders.
Between 1920-24 he lectured at the University of Greifswald, moving to
Heidelberg University to fill the Chair of Indian Philology
In 1938 he was dismissed by the Nazis, and he emigrated to England
where between 1939-40 he taught at Balliol College, Oxford. In 1940 he
New Rochelle, New York
New Rochelle, New York where he eventually accepted a
Visiting Lecturer position in
Philosophy at Columbia University. Here,
Joseph Campbell, who was then working on his first book, A Skeleton
Key to Finnegans Wake (1944) attended his lectures. The two men became
Zimmer died unexpectedly of pneumonia in 1943, two years after his
arrival in the United States. According to Joseph Campbell, "Zimmer
was at the opening of what would have been the most productive period
of his career. . . hardly had he begun to find his stride, however,
when, suddenly stricken, he passed from full career to his death
within seven days." After Zimmer's death, Campbell was given the
task of editing and posthumously publishing Zimmer's papers, which he
did over the next 12 years, turning Zimmer’s lecture notes into four
books, in the Bollingen Series: Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and
Civilization, Philosophies of India, The Art of Indian Asia, and The
King and the Corpse, which in turn became Zimmer's lasting legacy.
Zimmer's method was to examine religious images using their sacred
significance as a key to their psychic transformation. His use of
(Indian) philosophy and religious history to interpret art was at odds
with traditional scholarship. His vast knowledge of Hindu mythology
and philosophy (particularly
Puranic and Tantric works) gave him
insights into the art, insights that were appreciated by Joseph
Campbell among others. Campbell edited many of Zimmer's writings after
his death. In the foreword to Zimmer’s book, Artistic Form and Yoga
in the Sacred Images of India, Campbell makes reference to a memorial
to Heinrich Zimmer, which was read at the New York Oriental Club
meeting in the spring of 1949: “Dr. Zimmer stood alone, forming a
class by himself, not only for the wide range of subjects he was
proficient in, but also for his unique genius of interpretation. . .
Zimmer strove to understand both Eastern and Western ideas from
Universal conceptions lying at the root of spiritual and psychological
developments everywhere."  The psychiatrist
Carl Jung also
developed a long-standing relationship with Zimmer, and incidentally
edited a volume of Zimmer's entitled Der Weg zum Selbst (The Way to
the Self). The two men first met in 1932, after which Zimmer, along
with Richard Wilhelm, became one of the few male friends of Jung.
Zimmer is credited by many for the popularizing of South Asian art in
the West, as he was the first to identify the radical difference
between Western classical and Indian art.
In 1929 he married Christiane, daughter of Austrian novelist Hugo von
Hofmannsthal. Zimmer died of pneumonia in New Rochelle, New York, on
March 20, 1943.
On all levels there are rituals capable of transforming man. But it is
everywhere the tradition and trend to rank the spiritual, sublime
practices above the sensual and magical ones, since the general course
of cultural development has favored the spiritual element over the
material and feminine. This development has taken place under the
predominance of the male principle. But with the cult of the Great
Goddess in late Hinduism, the archaic heritage of sensual earth-bound
rites rises once again overwhelmingly to the zenith."
Kunstform und Yoga im Indischen Kultbild (Artistic Form and Yoga in
the Sacred Images of
India ;Translated and edited by Gerald
Chapple, James B. Lawson and J. Michael McKnight )
Maya: Der Indische Mythos. (1936)
Der Weg zum Selbst (The Way to the Self) (1944)
Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization. Edited by Joseph
Hindu Medicine.Edited by Ludwig Edelstein.(1948)
The King and the Corpse: Tales of the Soul's Conquest of Evil. Edited
by Joseph Campbell. (1948)
Philosophies of India. Edited by Joseph Campbell. (1953).
The Art of Indian Asia, its Mythology and Transformations. Completed
and edited by Joseph Campbell. (1955)
Heinrich Zimmer : Coming Into His Own. Edited by Margaret H Case.
^ a b
Heinrich Zimmer Chair for
Philosophy and Intellectual History
^ "India's Ambassador inaugurates
Heinrich Zimmer Chair". Heidelberg
University website. Jun 25, 2010. Archived from the original on
^ Zimmer, Heinrich (1973). Campbell, Joseph, ed. Myths and Symbols in
Indian Art and Civilization. USA: Princeton University Press.
p. v Editor's Foreword. ISBN 9788120807518.
^ "Heinrich Zimmer". Britannica.com.
^ Zimmer, Heinrich (1990). Artistic form and yoga in the sacred images
India (First Princeton paperback printing ed.). new Jersey:
Princeton University Press. p. foreword.
^ "Works by Heinrich Zimmer, Completed and Edited by Joseph Campbell".
Princeton University Press. Archived from the original on
^ Zimmer, Heinrich. The Indian World Mother,  pp. 91–92;
from The Mystic Vision: Papers from The Eranos Yearbooks, Bollingen
Series XXX, 6. Princeton University Press, 1968, Edited by Joseph
Campbell and translated by Ralph Manheim.
Case, Margaret H. (1994). Heinrich Zimmer: coming into his own.
Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-03337-4.
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