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The Idea of the Holy

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  1,043 Ratings  ·  53 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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Jah Two minds thinking alike. I had thought the same, if sampling the books was an option.

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Aug 19, 2009 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
Jul 25, 2013 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
Chungsoo J. Lee
Jan 31, 2011 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
Erik Graff
Feb 04, 2009 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.
♥ Ibrahim ♥
Aug 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
God is a reality that exists beyond my personal nature, and I experience Him, I experience something numinous by taking part of the nature of an autonomous spiritual reality. Numinous here means a presiding spirit, that is because God is transcending and His ways are above my ways. Yes, God's holiness consists of his numinosity. In the presence of the Holy One of Israel, I as a human being experience feelings of awe, dread, wonder, awe and am fully are of my creatureliness, and that is how I rea ...more
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
Katelis Viglas
Mar 13, 2009 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
Anthony Buckley
Dec 27, 2008 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
Noé Ajo caamaño
Nov 14, 2013 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.
May 26, 2014 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
John Lucy
Jan 01, 2015 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
David Withun
Oct 14, 2014 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
Oct 08, 2014 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.
M. Matheson
Feb 23, 2013 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.
Jun 16, 2011 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.
Jan 03, 2008 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.
Jun 24, 2014 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.
Charles Bell
Apr 30, 2010 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.
Douglas Wilson
Jun 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology
Vastly learned. Seriously off, with brilliant passages.
Joe Ward
Aug 26, 2018 rated it liked it
The trouble with guys like German theologian Rudolf Otto and "Beat Friar" William Everson is that they've been indoctrinated with the tenets of the Semitic (Judeo-Christian-Muslim) religious mythos. These tenets and foundational concepts include transcendence, a gendered deity, unworthiness and the need for atonement, etc. Hence, all their contentions take these ideas as given. This skews their arguments and renders them rather irrelevant to those whose views differ from the Western parochial ma ...more
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
Where does Rudolf Otto's genius lie in this magnificent response to the rationalizing tendency of 19th and early 20th century philosophy and theology? I believe it is the capacity to delve into the subjective religious experience without disregard for its objective basis.
Mickey Hernandez
One of the most difficult, but enlightening, books I've ever read. I recommend this work in systematic theology / religious philosophy to everyone who wants to study religion and it's psychological significance.
David Hurley
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Essential study in understanding the mystical experience and encountering the divine.
Jan 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
i dont know
Mike Carpenter
Jan 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
A truly seminal work. A classic.
Nov 13, 2015 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 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
Jan 15, 2015 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
Jan 03, 2016 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
J. Alfred
Aug 31, 2012 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
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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.
“And 'the holy' will be, in Dr. Otto's language, a complex category of the 'numinous' and the 'moral', or, in one of his favourite metaphors, a fabric in which we have the non-rational numinous experience as the woof and the rational and ethical as the warp.” 0 likes
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