Hans Peter Duerr

This Side of Eden - On the Origin of Religion

(German title: Diesseits von Eden)
ca. 751 pages
Hans Peter Duerr
Foto: Hans Peter Duerr
© Jürgen Bauer

Hans Peter Duerr, born in Mannheim in 1943, was Professor of Ethnology and Cultural History in Bremen until 1999. He lives in Mannheim and Heidelberg.

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Romania (Lebada Neagra)


Some people experience the presence of something divine when they listen to a piece of music. Others feel like they are possessed by a strange power when speaking in tongues or they feel a connection to the other side when they find themselves in deep trance and ecstasy. The mysterious, unfathomable can cause dread and fear but at the same time it fascinates us.

People imagine ghosts, demons, gods or beings from another world as the cause behind those inexplainable phenomena. This experience of the inaccessible is what characterises the beginning of religion, according to Hans Peter Duerr. In his new book, the renowned ethnologist explores the question of what religious experiences are. To do so, he consults numerous ethnological studies and modern neuroscientific findings.

From the beginnings of human culture in the Stone Age to New Age, Hans Peter Duerr explores how inexplainable phenomena have been interpreted through the scope of religion. He talks about near death experiences, Marian apparitions, about people who communicate with the dead and have romantic relationships with ghosts. Powerfully eloquent and visually stunning, his study creates an opulent panorama of the history of humankind.


»Everything that we call culture begins with religious sensation, independent of denomination. A vivid recollection.« Tilman Krause, Die literarische Welt

»[...] the stories about states of exception presented by Duerr in an easily understandable way are a constant thrill.« Thomas Hauschild, DIE ZEIT

»Duerr‘s richly illustrated expedition through the cultural history of religious experiences is impressive and informative.« Martin Hubert, WDR