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The Idea of the Holy

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  600 ratings  ·  32 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, 256 pages
Published December 31st 1958 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1917)
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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
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 5 of 5 stars
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
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
David Withun
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
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
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.
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
Anthony D Buckley
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
Erik Graff
Oct 07, 2014 Erik Graff rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: theologians
Recommended to Erik by: Paul Schreck
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.
Charles Bell
Explores 'awe' the 'numinous' and other subjective aspects of encountering the holy. Well written and interesting. A translation from german.
Strasznie tęga rozkminka, miejscami aż przerażająca. Ale w końcu to w tej książce napisano, że to co przerażające jest czasem najlepsze.
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
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
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.
M. Matheson
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.
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
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 4 of 5 stars
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.
Another one of those books I read out of a sense of obligation to understand the religious perspective in general, and simultaneously to develop my own ideas of religious atheism. For an atheist I sure do read a lot of books of this type. Few more to come.
This is a very important text in the study of religion. It was highly influential in attempting to define what religion is from a phenomenal perspective and mysticism in particular. This book and James' Varieties of Religious Experience are must reads.
Hossein faqihy(faghihi)
کتاب خوبی است البته کمی هم جانبدارانه عرفان مسیحی را به خواننده می تپنمایاند ولی مفاهیم روشنی از امر قدسی و مختصات ان ارایه می دهد
ترجمه همایون همتی از انتشارات نقش جهان
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.
An amazing book. The idea of the holy is that part of religion that is left when aesthetics and ethics have been removed.
Michael Brady
A challenging read. Otto is not someone you recommend. If you need him you read him. Otherwise, he's a very dense thinker.
Jules Evans
Really good short book. Love the idea of religion balancing the rational and non-rational.
Harmony Courtney
A heavy read but worth the time... Not for those without a strong faith in God already.
outdated, but important in history of religious ideas
Douglas Wilson
Vastly learned. Seriously off, with brilliant passages.
Andy Baker
Sublime and numinous; and totally "a priori."
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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.
More about Rudolf Otto...
Mysticism: East and West Naturalism and Religion Autobiographical & Social Essays (History of Religions in Translation 2) Verbesserung Der Verarbeitungseigenschaften Von Bastfasergarnen Durch Beigabe Einer Chemiefaserkomponente Die Urgestalt der Bhagavad-Gita

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