Rudolph Ottos concept of "The Numinous" in
The Idea of The Holy
Otto says that religions have three primary components:i The Ratio Aeterna (the attempt to articulate a world view based on reason)
ii The Ethical (the articulation of standards of moral right and wrong)
iii The Numinous
Otto's book focuses on only the third of those, the experience of the Numinous, since it has been given so little attention in the history of thought about religion and religious experience. Otto's book is an attempt to describe the experience of the Numinous. So a more accurate title for his book may have been "The Experience of the Holy," instead of "The Idea of the Holy," since it is in fact describing a characteristic of religious experience.
The Numinous, for Otto, is both a category of feeling and a category of Being, but it will be easier to understand if you first think of it as primarily a feeling that he is describing, i.e.,the feeling of the Numinous.
The Numinous is characterized by two main elements, I. the sense of creatureliness, and II. the sense of tremendous mystery.
Otto then focuses on trying to articulate what is meant by that sense of tremendous mystery, or "Mysterium Tremendum." He sees it as having three main elements: A. the element of tremendousness ("tremendum"), B. the element of mysteriousness ("mysterium"), and C. the element of fascination ("fascinans"). His book then describes each of these elements in more detail.
The outline below summarizes what Otto's book says in its first 40 pages, which is the main part you are reading for this class. You will probably want to have the outline right there with you while you are reading to help you keep clear where he is in his discussion.
You may also need to read through those first 40 pages a second time to appreciate more fully the ideas he is trying to express.
I. Creature Feeling (pp 10-11)
II. Mysterium Tremendum (tremendous mystery)
A. Tremendum (12-24)1. Awefulness (13-19)2. Overpoweringness (Majestas) (19-23)3. Energy/Urgency (orge, urgos) (23-24)
B. Mysterium (25-30)1. Wholly Other (ganz anders) (25-30)C. Fascination (fascinans) (31-39)
The six following chapters are then intended to explore various places in which the Numinous is expressed and articulated.
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