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The Idea of the Holy [Paperback]

By R. Otto (Author) & John W. Harvey (Translator)
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Item description for The Idea of the Holy by R. Otto & John W. Harvey...

Before religion became "morality touched with emotion" it was the emotion itself, or a group of emotions, and it still is. Those emotions are, in the translator's summary, "the feeling of the uncanny, the thrill of awe or reverence, the sense of dependence, or impotence, or of nothingness, or again, the feelings of religious rapture and exaltation." The author of the present book calls them the non-rational feelings, the sense of the tremendous, the awful, the mysterious, or, in a word of his own choosing, the "numinous". Both Author and translator make it clear that religion must accommodate both the numinous and the ethical.

Publishers Description
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.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Oxford University Press, USA
Pages   256
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.22" Width: 5.07" Height: 0.49"
Weight:   0.5 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Dec 31, 1958
Publisher   Oxford University Press
ISBN  0195002105  
ISBN13  9780195002102  

Availability  2 units.
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More About R. Otto & John W. Harvey

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Product Categories

2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > Metaphysics
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality

Reviews - What do customers think about The Idea of the Holy?

Probably the Book to Rehabilitate the Mystery in Religiosity  Jan 25, 2008
The first time I ever stumbled on the word "numinous" was in a doctorate that proposed to analyse vampires as "numinous entities". Then, reading CS Lewis, I again crossed that word's path, and eventually, I decided to read the real thing.

In very short, the numen (from which the word "numinous" is based) is the mysterious, overpowering, and terrifying aspect of the Deity. It is "non-rational" in the sense that it is not to be grasped by concept and ideas, but something to be felt in one's flesh and soul, like actual fear, awe, and majesty.

Otto focuses on that aspect too often neglected by some religious people themselves: the mysterious and unknowable. Fanatics have a tendency to consider only that, to the expense of the rational side of the Deity. But both similarly denature It.

While this book is a classic, and a worthy reading for anyone interested in the subject of God and the studies of religions, I will say that, personally, I seem to have missed out on some of the things mentioned in the book. Maybe I badly read certain parts, or maybe the book is complicated and dense enough that a second reading is required to clearly understand it all. Or both.

In a way, Rudolf Otto gives mysticism the kind of analysis it deserves, and re-establishes those more obscure areas of religiosity as something worthy of our consideration, and undeserving of our scorn.
Divine Surreality  Sep 24, 2007
The best way to read this book is to HAVE READ IT in a state of obsession years ago and find that its general mood and the texture of its ideas exert a subliminal and subconcious influence on one's concious thought. Taken in parts it contains many assumptions or assertions that are actually quite disputable but in general, as an aesthetic device, it is necessary reading for any spiritual seeker. It is certainly a welcome anti-dote to those spiritual guides that make God out to be a divine butler waiting on his chosen humans beck and call. It also suggests a wilder and more flamoboyant spiritual universe than the one portrayed in so many lesser works. God, if he or she exists, is a wild, ecstatic, and uncontrollable force that transcends the vulgar, petty humanizations we force upon him or her.
Kant's fourth critique?  Jun 20, 2007
Like Schleiermacher, Otto wants to theorize a religious faculty completely distinct from the rational, moral, and aesthetic faculties. The object of this faculty is the "holy," which is fearsome, mysterious, and fascinating. Most importantly, it remains essentially distinct from the rational, moral, and aesthetic, which means that any language we use to talk about "numinous" reality will always be analogical. This is important because "the religious" as a distinct category has been under threat since the 18th century (or since Spinoza) by other discourses that effectively explain it away. Otto's contemporary, Freud, was about to deal the religious yet another heavy blow by reducing it to a vestigial remain of infantile narcissism. By only allowing an analogical relation to other discourses, Otto wants to preserve the religious from this encroaching secularization. Of course, it is not certain that his own theory is not a secularization. He does not, after all, make room for miracles (in the strong sense).

I'll admit I was a little surprised at the heavy Christian turn at the end, only because Christianity seems to tame the wildness of the "tremendum" and the "mysterium." All in all, a fascinating and useful read.
A classic and vital work for the philosophy of religion  Nov 15, 2006
The student of human religion is generally confronted with a serious problem; unlike say, science or philosophy, religion is much more strongly dependent on the subject and the social and cultural beliefs in terms of knowledge, practice and belief. It is harder as a historian of religion to divorce any 'essence' of religion or religious knowledge from its context and practice, especially given many of the leading lights of the world's religions seem to emphasize ineffable and unrepeatable subjective experience. Yet it is vital to try and understand religion and what role (if any) it plays in the human quest to understand the universe, and also ourselves.

Otto, a Protestant theologian, offered a concept he called the 'holy.' Also often called the numinious, this was a sense of something being sacred. Holiness gave Being a special set of qualities which set it apart from the universe and its furniture as we 'ordinarily' experience it. This experience is often one of terror and fear in the prophets of monotheistic religions (Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Moses, Abraham, Jesus and Mohammed) while in native and Eastern religions, it can be a sense of power or awe. In this work Otto applies the idea of the Holy to Christianity and other religions, and would later form a critical tool in the phenomenology of religion and religious experience.

This book is essential reading for any scholar of religion or philosopher interested in religion and questions relating to religion and religious experience.
An Interesting Idea to Ponder  Jul 25, 2006
Rudolf Otto(1869-1937) presents the idea of the Holy as that profound, overwhelming feeling of awe that can sometimes strike you regardless of your particular culture and/or religious affiliation, a feeling that's been a part of us since pre-historic times. He calls this feeling the "mysterium tremendum" or the "numinous" and proceeds to describe it in great detail, with examples. I liked the way the idea is first developed in a more general sense before emphasis is made of its Christian aspect, making it accessible to all people interested in the idea of the Holy and God.

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