University of Chicago Library

Guide to the Joachim Wach Papers 1888-1988

© 2014 University of Chicago Library

Descriptive Summary


Wach, Joachim. Papers




5.5 linear feet (12 boxes0


Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center
University of Chicago Library
1100 East 57th Street
Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.


Joachim Wach (1898-1958) taught at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago. The papers contain correspondence, manuscripts of published and unpublished works, notes and research files, course materials, and manuscripts and correspondence relating to posthumous publications.

Information on Use


Series VIII contains student evaluative material is restricted for 80 years, until 2034. The remainder of the collection is open for research.


When quoting material from this collection, the preferred citation is: Wach, Joachim. Papers, [Box #, Folder #], Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library

Biographical Note

An authority on the history of religions, Joachim Wach (1898-1958) taught in the Divinity School from 1945 until his death.

Wach was born in Chemnitz, Germany, descended on both sides from the Mendelssohn-Bartoldy family. After serving in the German army during World War I, he studied at the Universities of Berlin and Munich, taking his doctorate in philosophy from Leipzig in 1922. He was awarded a Th.D. from Heidelberg in 1930. Although Wach had taught at Leipzig since 1924, pressure from the Nazis forced the Saxon government to terminate his appointment in 1935, with Wach immigrating to the United States. After teaching at Brown University, Wach came to Chicago in 1945 where he served as chairman of the History of Religions Field of the Federated Theological Faculty.

Wach was brought up in a Neo-Kantian Protestant tradition, though his work matured in other directions. While he was trained in philosophy and Oriental studies, his principal grounding was in Religionswissenschaft. He devoted the bulk of his career to studying the nature, subject, and method of this science of religion. Wach's early publications, particularly the formidable three volume Das Verstehen (1926-1933), were heavily influenced by hermeneutics, whose method and aims he had assimilated from one of his mentors, Wilhelm Dilthey. The heavily historically oriented character of Wach's German training gave him a lifelong interest in the history of religions as a major task of Religionswissenschaft. This interest led him to a broad mastery of the major world religions -- Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Judaism -- as well as of primitive religions. His openness to new methods for the science of religions made him receptive to Weber, Troeltsch, and the use of social science concepts in understanding religious thought and action. Wach was enthusiastic about interdisciplinary approaches to the history of religions and looked especially to sociology and anthropology for important contributions. Although much of Wach's reputation in America stemmed largely from his Sociology of Religion (1944), Wach himself believed that sociology was but one of many disciplines which could illuminate the history of religions and the nature of religious experience.

Scope Note

Contains correspondence, manuscripts, lectures, articles, notes and research files, course materials, student notes, examinations, student recommendations, reviews of Wach's work, bibliographical and biographical materials, reports and memoranda relating to the University of Chicago and the University's Divinity School, and correspondence and manuscripts relating to the posthumously published work in Wach's honor, The History of Religions: Essays on Methodology. Also includes an essay written and others collected by Joseph Kitagawa. Correspondents include Reinhold Niebuhr, H. Richard Niebuhr, Rufus Jones, Roland Bainton, and others.

The collection has been organized into six series according to type of material. Since most of the pre-1935 German material is undated, it is difficult to establish the earliest date of the collection. A group of notes on Buddhism and other Oriental religions, however, help date that potion of the collection from the early 1920's, a period when Wach was actively engaged in teaching and research on that subject.


Divided into incoming and outgoing correspondence and arranged alphabetically within each category, this small body of letters dates mainly from the 1940's and `50's. It consists of both personal and professional correspondence and includes brief letters from Reinhold Niebuhr, H. Richard Neibuhr, Rufus Jones, Roland Bainton, and others. The bulk of the correspondence is incoming.


This series consists of drafts of, notes for, and other materials relating to published and unpublished books, articles, reviews, and lectures. Manuscripts relating to Wach's published books appear first. They have been arranged chronologically by date of publication and include: Das Verstehen, vol. I (1926), Sociology of Religion (1944); Types of Religious Experience (1951), The Comparative Study of Religion (1958), and Understanding and Believing (1968). Many of these books were compilations of previously published or publicly delivered materials; in these cases, all such material has been grouped together into the chapters which they eventually became. Among Wach's unpublished works is a full-length holograph manuscript in German titled “Freud” (1930) and a group of essays collected by Joseph Kitagawa.


Consisting principally of notes, drafts of miscellaneous essays, and work by others, these files have been maintained as Wach created them and according to his categories.


This series is comprised mainly of holograph lecture notes prepared by Wach himself, though occasionally there are student notes as well. With the exception of bracketed titles, these files also reflect Wach's categories and organization of material. Some class lists and examinations from Brown University as well as from Chicago will also be found in this series.


M.A. and Ph. D. examinations, student recommendations, dissertation abstracts, and miscellaneous memoranda and reports relating to the University and the Divinity School have been included here.


This series consists mainly of correspondence and manuscripts relating to the post-humously published volume in Wach's honor, The History of Religions: Essays on Methodology, ed. Joseph Kitagawa and Mircea Eliade (1959). It also contains reviews of Wach's work, and bibliographical and biographical, materials. Of special note is the essay by Joseph Kitagawa, “Verstehen and Erlösung: Some Remarks on Joachim Wach's Work.”


This series contains material that was later added to the collection. It contains correspondence, newspapers clippings, research and personal notes, departmental information, manuscripts, articles, and books.


This is series contains restricted files regarding student recommendations and assessment.

Related Resources

The following related resources are located in the Department of Special Collections:


Subject Headings


Series I: Correspondence

Box 1   Folder 1

Adams, Charles-Bush, Jr., Richard C.

Box 1   Folder 2

Cameron, George M.-Evans, John

Box 1   Folder 3

Frick, Heinrich-Jones, Rufus M.

Box 1   Folder 4

Kahl, William-Mohf, J. C. B.

Box 1   Folder 5

Nef, Jr., John U.-Spinka, Matthew

Box 1   Folder 6

Tolbert, Charles M.-Wulluer, Wilhelm

Box 1   Folder 7


Box 1   Folder 8


Series II: Writings

Box 1   Folder 9

Das Verstehen (1926-1933)

  • Manuscript of vol. I (1926)
  • Readers' reports re: proposed English translation
Box 1   Folder 10

Sociology of Religion (1944)

  • Preface, bibliography, corrigenda, and addenda
Box 1   Folder 11

Types of Religious Experience (1951)

  • Acknowledgments, introduction, dedication, table of contents
Box 1   Folder 12

Types of Religious Experience (1951)

  • Chapter I. Offprints from the Journal of Religion
  • Chapter II
Box 1   Folder 13

Types of Religious Experience (1951)

  • Chapter III, manuscripts and offprints in German and English
  • Chapter IV
Box 1   Folder 14

Types of Religious Experience (1951)

  • Chapter V. Offprint from the Journal of Religion
  • Chapter VI, including notes and corrections
Box 2   Folder 1

Types of Religious Experience (1951)

  • Chapter VII. Offprint from the Journal of Religion
  • Chapter IX, including notes
Box 2   Folder 2

Types of Religious Experience (1951)

  • Chapter X (German version)
  • Conclusion
Box 2   Folder 3

Sociology of Religion with notes and annotations by Wach

Box 2   Folder 4

The Comparative Study of Religion (1958)

  • Forward, Preface, Introduction
  • Chapter I
Box 2   Folder 5

The Comparative Study of Religion (1958)

  • Chapter II, including notes
Box 2   Folder 6

The Comparative Study of Religion (1958)

  • Chapter III
  • Chapter IV
Box 2   Folder 7

The Comparative Study of Religion (1958)

  • Chapter V
  • Notes and bibliography
Box 2   Folder 8

The Comparative Study of Religion (1958), Revisions by Wach

Box 2   Folder 9

The Comparative Study of Religion (1958), Revisions by Kitagawa

Box 2   Folder 10

Understanding and Believing (1968)

  • Outlines
  • Chapter IV. Offprints from the Journal of Religion
  • Chapter V.
  • Chapter VI. Offprint from Divinity School News
Box 2   Folder 11

Understanding and Believing (1968)

  • Chapter VII
  • Chapter VIII
Box 3   Folder 1

Understanding and Believing (1968)

  • Chapter XII
  • Chapter XIV, including notes. Offprint from the Anglican Theological Review
  • Chapter XV
  • Chapter XVI. Offprint from the Journal of Religion
Box 3   Folder 2

“Freud” (1930): unpublished holograph in German

Box 3   Folder 3

Essays, Lectures, Sermons, Poems

  • “Gegenart und Bedeutung der American Episcopal Church”
  • “Typische Formen des Selbstverstandnis beim heutigen Menschen”
  • “Eine neue Katholische Philosophie der Religionsgeschichte”
  • Miscellaneous poems of John Donne translated into German
Box 3   Folder 4

“The Expansion of Buddhism in the Far East” (1952)

Box 3   Folder 5

Essays, Lectures, Sermons, Poems

  • “The Christian Sacrifica”
  • Sermon for Worldwide Communion Sunday
  • Miscellaneous poems
Box 3   Folder 6

Essays collected by Joseph Kitagawa (copies only)

  • Friedrich Heiler, “Introduction”
  • “The Interpretation of Sacred Books”
  • “On Understanding”
  • “On Teaching the History of Religions”
  • “Master and Disciple: Two Religio-Sociological Studies”
Box 3   Folder 7

Essays collected by Joseph Kitagawa (copies only)

  • “Research in the History of Religions”
  • “Sociology of Religion”
  • “Religion in America
Box 3   Folder 8

Book Reviews

Box 3   Folder 9


  • Table of Contents and Translator's Note to English translation of “Religionswissenschaft” (1924)
  • Translation and condensation of Das Verstehen, vol. I, by Herbert Sullivan

Series III: Research Files

Box 3   Folder 10

“Buddhism I”

Box 3   Folder 11

“Buddhism III, Mahayana, Tibet, China, Japan”

Box 4   Folder 1

“Living Japanese Religions”

Box 4   Folder 2

“History of Religions, East Asia, China”

Box 4   Folder 3

“India I. Ancient India”

Box 4   Folder 4

“India II. Hinduism”

Box 4   Folder 5


Box 4   Folder 6


Box 4   Folder 7

(African religions)

Box 4   Folder 8


Box 4   Folder 9

Research files

  • “Ethik”
  • “History of the Jews”
  • “Soldier Religions”
Box 4   Folder 10

Miscellaneous reading notes

Box 4   Folder 11

Miscellaneous bibliographical references

Box 5   Folder 1-4

Miscellaneous bibliographical references

Box 5   Folder 5

Research files

  • Amos Wilder, “Biblical Hermeneutics and American Scholarship”
  • Joseph L. Mihelic, “A Survey of Hermeneutical Literature”
  • Graham Waring, “Philosophical Aspects of Recent Anglo-Catholic Thought”
Box 5   Folder 6

English summary of Nathan Soderblom, “Om Studiet av Religionen”

Box 5   Folder 7-9

Miscellaneous offprints

Box 5   Folder 10

Miscellaneous clippings

Box 6   Folder 1

Miscellaneous clippings

Series IV: Course materials

Box 6   Folder 2

“I. Introduction to the History of Religions”

Box 6   Folder 3

“II. Methods and History of the History of Religions”

Box 6   Folder 4

“The Sociological Expression: Religious Group”

Box 6   Folder 5

“Religious Experience”

Box 6   Folder 6


Box 6   Folder 7

Course materials

  • “Hellenism”
  • “Early Church (Lectures in College)”
  • “Symposium: Div. School”
Box 6   Folder 8

Lecture notes

  • Ernst Troeltsch
  • Max Weber
Box 6   Folder 9

Lecture notes, Islam

Box 6   Folder 10

Lecture notes, Comparative study of religions

Box 6   Folder 11

Lecture notes, Christianity and the non-Christian world

Box 6   Folder 12

Lecture notes, Primitive religions

Box 7   Folder 1

Lecture notes

  • The individual and the Christian society
  • Hermeneutics
Box 7   Folder 2-3

Lecture notes, miscellaneous topics

Box 7   Folder 4

Reading lists, course bibliographies

Box 7   Folder 5

Reading lists, course bibliographies

Box 7   Folder 6

Class lists, Brown University

Box 7   Folder 7

Class lists, University of Chicago

Box 7   Folder 8

Course examinations

Series V: University materials

Box 7   Folder 9

M.A. and Ph.D. qualifying examinations

Box 7   Folder 10

History of Religions field examinations

Box 7   Folder 11

Oral statements of Ph.D. candidates-

  • Adams, Charles
  • Altizer, Thomas
  • Cain, Seymour
  • Fussell, Jay
  • Lusby, Stanley
  • Mallory, Leonard
  • Scheimann, Richard
  • Singh, Herbert Jai
Box 8   Folder 1

Dissertation abstracts

Box 8   Folder 2

History of Religions field materials

Box 8   Folder 3

Miscellaneous reports and memoranda relating to the Divinity School

Box 8   Folder 4

Correspondence, reports, proposals

Series VI: Miscellaneous

Box 8   Folder 5

Correspondence relating to posthumous publications

Box 8   Folder 6

Essays for posthumous publications

Box 8   Folder 7

Reviews of Wach's works

Box 8   Folder 8-9

Biographical and bibliographical materials

Series VII: Addenda Materials

Box 9   Folder 1

Letters to Wach, 1946-1955

Box 9   Folder 2

Correspondence, Marie Busch, 1956

Box 9   Folder 3

Correspondence, Pfarrer Hugo Wach, 1955

Box 9   Folder 4

Correspondence, J.M. Kitagawa, 1954-1955

Box 9   Folder 5

Correspondence, Susi Seigl-Wach, 1956-1958

Box 9   Folder 6

Correspondence, Miscellaneous, 1926

Box 9   Folder 7

Correspondence, Miscellaneous, 1954-1956

Box 9   Folder 8

Correspondence, Miscellaneous, 1955-1956

Box 9   Folder 9

Correspondence, Miscellaneous, 1955-1957

Box 9   Folder 10

Photographs of Wach’s Tombstone, 1956-1988

Box 9   Folder 11

News Clipping from Providence Star Tribune, 1937

Box 9   Folder 12

Names Lists, Friends, Family, Contacts, undated

Box 9   Folder 13

Ph.D. Examiniation Questions, 1950-1955

Box 9   Folder 14

Notes, Chart, undated

Box 9   Folder 15

Typed Notes, undated

Box 9   Folder 16

Articles for Proposed Festschrift, undated

Box 9   Folder 17

Articles on Wilhelm von Humboldt, Manuscript, undated

Box 9   Folder 18

Book Reviews by Wach, Manuscript, undated

Box 9   Folder 19

“Haupttypen Religiöser Anthropologie,” Typescript, undated

Box 9   Folder 20

Typen Religiöser Anthropologie, English Translation by Miller, 1936

Box 9   Folder 21

Offprints, 1925-1957

Box 9   Folder 22

Reprints signed by Mircea and G. van der Leeuw, 1948-1949

Box 9   Folder 23

Reprints of Articles by Wach, 1937-1974

Box 10   Folder 1

The Comparative Study of Religions, Chapter 1, Edited Typed Manuscript, undated

Box 10   Folder 2

The Comparative Study of Religions, Chapter 2, Edited Typed Manuscript, undated

Box 10   Folder 3

The Comparative Study of Religions, Chapter 3, Edited Typed Manuscript, undated

Box 10   Folder 4

The Comparative Study of Religions, Chapters 4-5, Edited Typed Manuscript, undated

Box 10   Folder 5

The Comparative Study of Religions, Chapter 5, Edited Typed Manuscript, undated

Box 10   Folder 6

The Comparative Study of Religions, Chapter 6, Edited Typed Manuscript, Undated

Box 10   Folder 7

The Comparative Study of Religions, Typed Manuscript, 1945

Box 10   Folder 8

S. Hansel, Die Familie Mendelssohn, Vol. 1, 1888

Box 10   Folder 9

S. Hansel, Die Familie Mendelssohn, Vol. 2, 1888

Box 10   Folder 10

C.P. Tiele, Einleitung in die Religionswissenschafts, 1899

Box 11   Folder 1

Der Erlösungsgedanke und Seine Deutung, 1922

Box 11   Folder 2

Religionwissenschaft, 1924

Box 11   Folder 3

Einführung in die Religionssoziologie, 1931

Box 11   Folder 4

Typen Religiöser Anthropologie, 1932

Box 11   Folder 5

Gerhard Loose, Die Religionssoziologie George Simmels, 1933

Box 11   Folder 6

Das Problem des Todes in der Philosophie Unserer Zeit, 1934

Box 11   Folder 7

Sociology of Religion, 1944

Box 11   Folder 8

Miscellaneous Reports and Memoranda, 1946-1954

Box 11   Folder 9

PhD Applications and Letters of Recommendation, 1948-1953

Series VIII: Restricted

Box 12   Folder 1

Recommendations for and biographical statements of students, 1947-1954