ZAEHNER, Robert Charles. Sevenoaks, Kent 8.4.1913 — Oxford 24.11.1974. British Scholar of Comparative Religion, especially Iranian and Indian. Professor in Oxford. Son of Swiss-German immigrants to England. Educated at Tonbridge School. From 1932 studied at Christ Church College, Oxford, i.al. classics, Persian and Iranian, also Sanskrit and Arabic, 1936-37 Middle Persian under Bailey at Cambridge. Senior Scholarship at Christ Church. During the war and until 1947 Assistant Press Attaché (in fact intelligence officer) in British Embassy in Iran, now became converted to Roman Catholic faith in 1946. From 1950 University Lecturer in Persian at Oxford, 1951-52 again in Iran in diplomatic service as Acting-Counsellor. From 1952 Spalding Professor of Eastern Religions and Ethics at Oxford and Fellow of All Souls. Taught also Persian and Sanskrit. Member of British Acdemy 1966.
Zaehner is mainly known as a specialist of Zoroastrian religion (especially with the famous Zurvan book), who later also became interested in Hinduism. Bilingual from childhood (English and French), he mastered many Oriental languages.
Publications: Zurvan. A Zoroastrian Dilemma. 16+495 p. Oxford 1952.
– The Teachings of the Magi. A Compendium of Zoroastrian Beliefs. 156 p. L. 1956,, repr. 1975, Italian transl. 1956.
– Mysticism, sacred and profane: an inquiry into some varieties of praeternatural experience. 18+256 p. Oxford 1957, German, Dutch and French translations.
– At sundry times: an essay in the comparison of religions. 230 p. L. 1958.
– Hindu and Muslim Mysticism. 8+234 p. L. 1960.
– The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism. 371 p. ill. L. 1961, Zoroastro e la fantasia religiosa. Transl. by G. Scarcia. 529 p. Milano 1961.
– Hinduism. 272 p. L. 1962, tr. into German 1964, Italian 1972 and French 1974.
– The Convergent Spirit. Towards a dialectics of Religion. L. 1963, U.S. ed. as Matter and spirit: their convergence in Eastern religions, Marx, and Teilhard de Chardin. 11+210 p. N.Y. 1963.
– The Catholic Church and World Religions. L. 1964, U.S. ed. as Christianity & other Religions. N.Y. 1964, Spanish tr. 1967.
– Translated: Hindu Scriptures. Ed. by N. Macnicol. 23+328 p. L. 1966.
– The Bhagavadgita with a Commentary based on the original sources. 11+480 p. Oxford 1969.
– Concordant Discord. The interdependence of faiths. 9+464 p. Oxford 1970.
– Evolution in Religion. A Study in Sri Aurobindo and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. 121 p. L. 1971.
– Dialectical Christianity and Christian Materialism. L. 1971.
– Drugs, Mysticism and Make-Believe. 223 p. L. 1972, U.S. ed. as Zen, drugs, and mysticism. N.Y. 1973.
– Our Savage God. The Perverse use of Eastern Thought. 319 p. N.Y. 1974.
– Edited: The Concise Encyclopedia of Living Faiths. 1959. 4th rev. and enl. ed. 456 p. L. 1988.
– City within the Heart. 153 p. L. 1981.
– Articles on Zoroastrianism in BSOAS, from 1938 on.
Sources: *G. Beckerlegge, “R.C. Zaehner and the sacred book”, Religion 12, 1982, 215-231; C. Cerati Encyclop. Iranica online 2015; A.K.S. Lambton, BSOAS 38, 1975, 623f.; G.M[orrison], Iran 13, 1975, iv with photo; *G. Parrinder, Hist. of Rel. 16, 1976-77, 66-74; Wikipedia, long article with photo and further references.
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