Frits Staal

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Johan Frederik "Frits" Staal (3 November 1930 – 19 February 2012) was the department founder and Emeritus Professor of Philosophy and South/Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Staal specialized in the study of Vedic ritual and mantras, and the scientific exploration of ritual and mysticism. He was also a scholar of Greek and Indian logic and philosophy and Sanskrit grammar.


  • [A Hindu] may be a theist, pantheist, atheist, communist and believe whatever he likes, but what makes him into a Hindu are the ritual practices he performs and the rules to which he adheres, in short, what he does.
  • As Frits Staal wrote in 1982 in “What is happening in Classical Indology?”, “Some chocolates can only be sold if they are wrapped up in gold- speckled papers. Books about the Rigveda will only be read through the medium of some fashionable theory”.
    • quoted in Thomson, Karen. 2016. “Speak for itself: How the Long History of Guesswork and Commentary on a Unique Corpus of Poetry has Rendered it Incomprehensible.” Times Literary Supplement, 8 January: 3–4.

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