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The Idea of the Holy

4.05  ·  Rating Details  ·  839 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
Since the English translation first appeared in 1923, Rudolf Otto's volume has established itself as a classic in the field of religious philosophy. It offers an in-depth inquiry into the non-rational factor in the idea of the divine and its relation to the rational.
Paperback, 232 pages
Published December 31st 1958 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1917)
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Aug 31, 2010 Bruce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The thesis of this book is that a sense of God's presence, with its attendant emotions of sacredness, wonderment and awe, is the fundamental starting point of genuine religion. Everything else -- doctrine, ritual and theological speculation -- are reliant upon, and derived from this experience. Otto coined the word numinous (from the Latin numen, meaning sacred presence) to describe it. This does not mean that chronologically in a person's life other experiences, such as intellectual curiosity, ...more
Chungsoo Lee
Jan 31, 2011 Chungsoo Lee rated it it was amazing
Otto's use of Kant's notion of the sublime to designate the Holy is very appealing at first. However, the sublime in Kant remains in the subjective category. What is sublime in the final analysis in Kant is human rationality (the power of reason) that overcomes and surpasses the uncontainable: the infinite scope of reason overcoming the finite capacity of imagination/sensibility. Given Kant's analysis of the sublime, then, the Holy would have to exceed the sublime. Another major flaw in Otto is ...more
Stephen J.
Jul 25, 2013 Stephen J. rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: To everyone
Recommended to Stephen by: C.S Lewis...
For one who is more than tired of Systematic Theology which forces God into a box made by man and that you have to be either Calvinist or Armenian when I guess I could be just a Christian who knows there is a third category... This book looks into the transcendent reality of Father, His Only Son and their Holy Spirit.
C.S. Lewis once wrote, "I believe that many who find that 'nothing happens' when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while
Katelis Viglas
May 19, 2009 Katelis Viglas rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy, theology
Old school theology book. One more famous study trying to proove that there is an a priori religious impulsion. Of course it cann't be based on reason. A renewal of irrationalistic stream inside theology, in the time of Bergson, Dada, Charles Fort, Freud, First World War. An effort to establish a bridge with the wholly other. What is nouminous? The sixth chapter of Isaiah, Bach, Medelson, or silence itself? Of course it is the miracle. But what is greater miracle than the life, the spirit, the s ...more
Erik Graff
Sep 26, 2015 Erik Graff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: theologians
Recommended to Erik by: Paul Schaick
Shelves: religion
This was assigned reading for Paul Schaick's Philosophy of Religion course at Grinnell College in Iowa. Given the very little attention paid to it in class, I've always presumed he was required to include the text in the syllabus. In any case, I read it very quickly and wasn't impressed. The class itself was primarily devoted to the close analysis on Anselm's ontological arguments.
Mary Overton
Fear of the Shadow, the daemon, is the beginning of subjective religious experience according to Rudolf Otto in The Idea of the Holy. Our utterly deferential fright is encapsulated in that hoary Old Testament expression, “the Wrath of Yahweh.” (18) Otto calls it the numinous experience, when our “blood runs cold” and our “flesh creeps.” We recognize the sacred, the hallowed, the holy when it triggers an acute and overwhelming emotion, all out of proportion to the event – wonder, awe, astonishmen ...more
David Withun
Oct 19, 2014 David Withun rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
Otto here examines the nature and origins of the feelings of awe, eeriness, exultation -- what he calls the Mysterium Tremendum -- felt when one steps into the presence of the numinous, the "wholly other," a thing which is much larger and of a different order from ourselves or those things with which we are familiar. This feeling of standing in the presence of holiness is a feeling which is nearly universal, yet which it is difficult to understand and explain. Otto takes up the task and does a g ...more
Jun 02, 2014 Bob rated it liked it
Rudolf Otto's book deserves pride of place for his articulation of "the idea of the holy" and his usage of the term "numinous" to describe "the otherness of God." Otto particularly develops the idea of the non-rational element in our encounter with God. He elaborates various aspects of these encounters, "creature feeling", "awefulness", "overpoweringness", and "energy" or "urgency". One of the things I appreciated in this work is that Otto distinguishes "non-rational" from irrational and sees a ...more
Noé Ajo caamaño
Nov 22, 2013 Noé Ajo caamaño rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A pesar de su etnocentrismo, y del evidente sesgo que su mirada de teólogo condiciona, es una gran obra. Sin llegar a un total irracionalismo examina consecuentemente y con perspectiva fenomenica la categoría de LO SANTO como núcleo mismo de la religión, y de la religión cristiana en particular.
John Lucy
Jan 05, 2015 John Lucy rated it liked it
Otto's work is a fairly fun and interesting read, as far as these things go, for the first fifty pages. In those fifty pages Otto lays out his ideas on the numinous and the mysterious tremendum that most readers would enjoy delving into. After that, some of the fun is spoiled because there aren't really any new insights. Not that every page needs to have something new and insightful, but the fireworks in the first part of the book almost set you up for that expectation. With that said, the last ...more
Anthony Buckley
Dec 27, 2008 Anthony Buckley rated it it was amazing
The classic work on religious experience. Otto takes the idea that there is a raw, "numinous" experience (which he elaborates at some length. He says that religion rationalises this numinous experience to create the Holy. When they lose touch with the numinous, rational religious forms - rites, theologies, myths etc - are dead and lifeless.

Though he never mentions his name, Otto is in effect taking to task Feuerbach's Essence of Christianity. To study religion, however, one must come to terms w
M. Matheson
May 06, 2013 M. Matheson rated it really liked it
Lots of incredible scholarship and deep soulful thinking went into this book. Person like me needs a dictionary every other page or so. This book definitely added to the depth of my mystic outlook on my Christian faith and expanded my closeness to Christ Himself.
It is not a fast read but needs to be read and chewed slowly for the greatest benefits.
Feb 09, 2015 Scott rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The basic concepts of Otto's book I learned in college, probably as part of our philosophy of religion classes, though it is likely that the concepts may have also been discussed in our Bible classes. Otto argues for a basic form of human experience, a religious awe, that cannot be reduced to anything else. He then discusses how this awe arises psychologically and is developed by various cultures and religions. Then, at the end, he argues for Christianity as the most developed religion.

That pre
Sep 25, 2012 stew rated it really liked it
Otto Parts utilises a sort of "circumscription of the topic" technique to get closer to an understanding of the divine. Which means itsa dryhump for religious zealots.
Charles Bell
Apr 30, 2010 Charles Bell rated it really liked it
Explores 'awe' the 'numinous' and other subjective aspects of encountering the holy. Well written and interesting. A translation from german.
Jul 18, 2014 Mike rated it really liked it
Strasznie tęga rozkminka, miejscami aż przerażająca. Ale w końcu to w tej książce napisano, że to co przerażające jest czasem najlepsze.
Douglas Wilson
Jun 23, 2013 Douglas Wilson rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology
Vastly learned. Seriously off, with brilliant passages.
Feb 12, 2016 Fredösphere rated it it was amazing
I can see this book will become one of those few books that shape my thinking. I'm still absorbing its message. I took extensive notes and I will compile them and organize the ideas so as to make them my own.

This is not an easy book, partly due to it being a translation, and partly (I suspect) because of German academia's reputation for opaque prose. Still, the read was worth it.

Otto central idea is not really "the idea of the holy", but rather the holy stripped of its ethical and rational aspec
Wilhelm Weber
May 25, 2015 Wilhelm Weber rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tolle lege. Some books are required reading for theologians and highly recommended for others too. This is one of them. Sounds like a preliminary to Werner Elerts first chapters of the "Morphologie" and does not only give excellent evidence of the authors wide learning and scope of understanding the profound religious landscape with Mystik, Philosophy and Metaphysics at the beginning of the 20th century, but even quotes a reference to Olive Schriners "Thoughts on South Africa" (London 1923): "Yo ...more
Feb 14, 2016 Lance rated it it was amazing
Though certainly outmoded in many ways in the field of comparative religion, Otto makes an interesting case for a specific and unique faculty of the mind that senses, perceives, and responds to what he calls the numinous or the holy. Otto's goal here is to show that religion is a necessary and useful category for analyzing specific kinds of experiences and discourses. Skeptics will be wary of Otto's clear bias for Judeo-Christian manifestations of the Holy, which, at times, becomes a kind of apo ...more
Oct 08, 2014 Brad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the unfolding of Jungian analysis, the concepts of holy terror and awe, and above all, the feeling of absolute sincerity. This wasn't a book of flowery nonsense, nor was it remotely a self-help book. I believe I'll be thinking about it for years down the line and appreciate a few of the nuances. We shall see.
J. Alfred
Sep 08, 2012 J. Alfred rated it liked it
I once heard a guy say (of somebody else) "no wonder he's got no hair on his head, the way things keep flying over it." I bring this up because it's possible that this book has contributed significantly to my widow's peak: it is a kind of philosophical inquiry into the non-rational feelings that contribute to any religious experience, and very difficult to understand for more than a few pages at a time.
Where I could understand it, however, the book is excellent; it lays out some of the differen
John Buchanan
May 14, 2015 John Buchanan rated it it was amazing
Not an easy read. But some absolute gems scattered through the book as Otto tackles seriously a difficult subject.
Garrett Cash
Jan 30, 2015 Garrett Cash marked it as to-read
One of C.S. Lewis's favorites.
Sep 10, 2015 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If I counted the best books I have ever read on one hand, this one would be on the list. Not an easy read, but profound and relevant.
Jun 21, 2008 Jon rated it it was amazing
A book I looked into a little when I was in college, but just re-read in the past ten days. Amazing analysis and explication of the non-rational in religion, the "mysterium tremendum et fascinans" experience, which is basic to all other religious feeling. A reaction to what Otto (correctly) thought was Christianity's over-rationalization in German theology in the early 20th century.
Virgilio Barros
Rudolf Otto termina o seu livro com esta frase: "Jacob sentiu o Infinito, que é tanto melhor experimentado quanto menos nomeado for". Para o autor, o "sagrado" é algo que experimentamos no nosso dia a dia e não algo que possamos descrever ou definir. Assim, a existência de Deus não é algo que possamos provar com argumentos lógicos.
Richard Houchin
Apr 23, 2008 Richard Houchin rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
I give Otto credit for taking his odious beliefs to their repulsive conclusions, and sticking with them. Otto does not shy away from the terrifying and anti-human conclusions of Christian theology. It is interesting how many contemporary Christians would reject this great thinker nearly unparalleled in theological honesty and precision.
Aug 17, 2007 Nicole rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in spiritual experiences outside of religion
At the risk of scaring people, this book was the only perfect non-religious--arguably--description of a real life spiritual experience. It totally validated this experience I had in my car once, which involved a Joanna Newsome song and a ton of really tall trees. I'm sure no one else will like this book.
May 31, 2015 Paul rated it really liked it
Absorbing and unusual examination of the experience and manifestations of "the holy" from a psychological standpoint. This author introduces the idea and the term numinous to the lexicon. He goes further than any author I've found at elucidating and analyzing the ineffable.
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German theologian, philosopher, and historian of religion, who exerted worldwide influence through his investigation of man’s experience of the holy. Das Heilige (1917; The Idea of the Holy, 1923) is his most important work.
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