Rudolf Otto and Mystical Experience

Religious Studies 27 (3):389-398 (1991)

Rudolf Otto has often been criticized for not showing enough interest in mystical experience. In this article I want to demonstrate how misplaced this criticism is and to show that it is based on an erroneous interpretation of the relationship between numinous and mystical experience in his work by most of his students. I shall argue that, particularly in The Idea of the Holy, Otto offers an account of the nature of mystical experience which should be of considerable interest to students of mysticism today, not least because it calls into question many of the assumptions that are presently made about mysticism by phenomenologists and philosophers of religion. Most of this article will be devoted to an examination of references to mysticism in The Idea of the Holy and to an evaluation of Otto 's observations about the nature of mystical experience, and I shall conclude that Otto 's account of the relation-ship between mystical and devotional forms of religion provides a significant, but frequently overlooked, insight into the nature of mystical experience.
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DOI 10.1017/S0034412500021065
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