Doctor of Philosophy in History of Religions, University Göttingen, Germany, 1969. Habilitation in history of religions, University Berlin, 1975.
Assistant in history of religions University Göttingen, 1963-1969. Assistant professor Free University, Berlin, 1969-1977. Professor comparative religion and history of religions University Groningen, The Netherlands, 1977-1989.
Professor theory and history of religions University Bremen, since 1989. Fellow Max-Weber-Kolleg Erfurt, since 1998.
Member German Association Historians of Religions (president).
Married Karola Schwarz, May 2, 1975. Children: Juliane, Tobias, Colin.