Cornelis Petrus Tiele

Professor of the History and Philosophy of Religion, University of Leiden

Elements of the Science of Religion

In his two series of lectures, Tiele establishes a philosophical framework for the study of religion as a scientific discipline. The first series charts the progression of religion and argues that is always multiplying in its diversities while simultaneously experiencing constant simplification. The second series focuses on permanent elements present in all religions, asserting that religion is the result of an inherent belief in the infinite and the outward expression of the emotional experience elicited in that encounter.


Cornelis Petrus Tiele was born on 16 December 1830 in Leiden, the Netherlands. Recognised as one of the founders of the science of religion and a leading architect of its development, he greatly influenced Dutch academia. He trained in the Seminary of the Remonstrant Brotherhood and served the Dutch Remonstrant Church in several congregations. When the Remonstrant Seminary relocated from Amsterdam to Leiden in 1873, Tiele was appointed Professor. In 1877, he became the Chair of History of Religions.

Awarded the degree of D.D. honoris causa by the University of Edinburgh, Trinity College Dublin, and the University of Bologna, Tiele was a fellow of more than fifteen learned societies. Having written widely on Assyrian, Zoroastrian, Indian, Egyptian, and Semitic religions, Tiele left a significant corpus. Among his most important works translated into English are The Religion of Zarathustra (1864), Comparative History of the Egyptian and Mesopotamian (Hamitic and Semitic) Religions (1882), and History of Religion in Ancient Times (1893–1901).