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Mysticism Defined by Rudolf Otto

  In his, The Idea of the Holy, Rudolf Otto coins the word "numinous" define the mystical experience (p.6-7). Numinous comes from a Latin word numen. Although he gives no further explanation on the choice of this word, he does comment extensively upon the numinous experience.

" [The experience is] inexpressible, ineffabile...." (p.5)

" grips or stirs the human mind..The feeling of it may at times come sweeping like a gentle tide, pervading the mind with a tranquil mood of deepest worship. It may pass over into a more set and lasting attitude of the soul, continuing, as it were, thrillingly vibrant and resonant, until at last it dies away and the soul resumes its "profane," non-religious mood of everyday experience. It may burst in sudden eruption up from the depths of the soul with spasms and convulsions, or lead to the strongest excitments, to intoxicated frenzy, to transport, and to ecstasy. It has its wild and demonic forms and can sink to an almost grisly horror and shuddering." (p.12-13)

The numinous experience tends to have these attributes:

The element of "awe"fullness (p.13)

The element of overpoweringness (p. 19)

The element of energy or urgency (p.23)

The element of the "Wholly Other" (p.25)

The element of fascination (p.31)

Source: Otto, Rudolf. The Idea of the Holy, (London: Oxford University Press, 1977).


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