2 8 S p i r i t ua l i t y S t u d i e s 7 - 2 Fa l l 2 0 2 1 3 Phenomenology of Rudolf Otto and Its Limits Although there has been a renewed interest in mysticism and spirituality in the conditions of postmodern society (Heelas, Martin and Morris 1998; Wright 2004) in the era of realization of Nietzsche’s prophecy of the “death of God”, the effort to grasp this phenomenon theoretically can be observed in Europe already since antiquity. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio (1217/1221–1274) defined mysticism as “cognitio Dei experimentalis”, i.e. , experiential knowledge of God. For Henri Bergson (1859–1941), the mystical experience is not just a subject of reflection, but it is a revealing experience that plays a key role in his entire philosophical thinking. In his Tractatus logico-philosophicus (1921), Ludwig Wittgenstein concludes by summoning the “mystical” (Ger. Das Mystische), which refers to the “in-expressible” that is a condition for the expressible. The religious and mystical experience presupposes an attentive attitude of “listening to” something that goes beyond the possibilities of utterance and cognition and that encourages the very utterance through symbolic forms. The German philosopher, theologian, and religious scholar Rudolf Otto (1869–1937) belongs to the greatest representatives of the philosophy of religion of the twentieth century. Phenomenology is a philosophical method that uses a descriptive examination of sets of phenomena that are differentiated from simple appearance, but also from the spiritually viewed nature of things. The task of phenomenology is to study the structures of the lifeworld (Ger. Lebenswelt) and the laws that govern it. The founder of phenomenology and its main representative was Edmund Husserl (1859–1938). The main motive of philosophical phenomenology is to arrive “zu den Sachen selbst” (Ger. to the things themselves) through analysis of phenomena. Otto’s phenomenology of religion looks upon the Sacred from the point of view of human experience, that is, as it appears to us. In his most important work The Idea of the Holy (Das Heilige, 1917; the first English translation in 1923), Otto copes with the experience with the Sacred. The subtitle of the books is “An Inquiry into the Non-rational Factor in the Idea of the Divine and Its Relation to the Rational” and it is an expression of certain polarity in the idea of the divine. According to Otto, scholastic theological systems using a rational conceptual apparatus are not the only and complete expression of this idea. According to him, it also has its rationally ungraspable side, which cannot be conceptually captured, it is only possible to refer to it by the so-called references of the supramundane (Ger. Begriffe des Überweltlichen). Otto called this non-rational moment of the sacred the Numinous (Lat. numinosum) as essentially scientifically indescribable “basis of being” (from Lat. numen –“acting deity”, “effecting divine power”). Sacrum, a deep transcendent dimension of being, manifests itself as mysterium tremendum et fascinosum (Lat. awe-arousing and fascinating mystery ), as a mystery that attracts, enchants, and captivates, which manifests itself as love, mercy, nobility, which, on the other hand, evokes fear and horror (Lat. trémens means “shiver”, “awe”). Therefore, these are two different moments of the same thing: mysterium fascinans and mysterium tremendum. Deity appears as a mystery, as something “completely different” (Ger. Ganz Andere, Lat. totaliter aliter), which evokes in man fear and awe, but at the same time, it attracts them, and it is the primeval source of all religious and mystical experiences with the Sacred. It is only possible to indicate what mysterium tremendum is, it is impossible to define or describe it to someone who has no direct experience with it. “The feeling of [Note: mysterious dread] may at times come sweeping like a gentle tide, pervading the mind with a tranquil mood of deepest worship… It may burst in sudden eruption up from the depths of the soul with spasms and convulsions, or lead to the strangest excitements, to intoxicated frenzy, to transport, and to ecstasy. It has its wild and demonic forms… It has its crude, barbaric antecedents and early manifestations, and again it may be developed into something beautiful and pure and glorious.” (Otto 1969, 12–13). Otto mentions here God’s wrath in the Old Testament, in which a superficial reader sees only self-willed irritability. However, it is a “natural expression, an element of holiness” (Otto 1969, 18, 92). They who personally experience tremendum can hardly rationalistically or insurgently condemn God for his cruelty. Rather, they are imbued with a sense of immense power and the complete, overwhelming superiority of God over man, to which a sense of their own insignificance, exposure, and extreme dependence is attached. According to Otto’s analysis, the Numinous mystery is usually scary, but it does not always need to be so. The essential religious experience may include astonishment at the complete otherness of what appears to us as the deepest mystery (the nothingness of St. John of the Cross, or the emptiness of Buddhist mystics; Otto 1969, 30).