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Book Title: The Idea of the Holy|
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Reader ratings: 3.5
The author of the book: Rudolf Otto
Edition: Oxford University Press, USA
Date of issue: December 31st 1958
ISBN 13: 9780195002102
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 23.70 MB
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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, may not occur first; merely that the numinous apprehension of God is, ultimately, the one thing needful.
My objection to Otto's thesis is his assertion that the numinous experience is a priori in character, "not to be derived from 'experience' or 'history.'" Put another way, the raw data from which we derive conceptual knowledge can be attained by non-empirical, non-sensory means. He also denies this process is in any way supernatural.
This position is derived from the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, and is what, more than any other idea, makes possible the antagonism between science and religion. What is needed is an epistemology which expands a rational empiricism to include experiences of such impalbables as religious awe and the apprehension of beauty.
Apart from this disagreement, Otto's explication of the numinous experience, philosophically, psychologically and historically is fascinating and illuminating. I especially appreciated his examples from art, music and literature. The fact that his explication brings out so clearly the philosophical issue with which I disagree is of great value. This is a valuable and seminal work of theology.
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Read information about the authorGerman 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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