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Rudolph Otto's theory of religious experience in The Idea of the Holy : A study in the phenomenology and philosophy of religion

Schlamm, L. P (1988) Rudolph Otto's theory of religious experience in The Idea of the Holy : A study in the phenomenology and philosophy of religion. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.85949) (KAR id:85949)


This essay seeks to chart a largely unexplored psychology of religious experience in The Idea of the Holy, which is directly related to Otto's claim that one of the most important functions of discourse about religious experience is to evoke numinous feelings in a religiously sensitive audience. It will be demonstrated that Otto's concepts of schematization of the numinous, the numinous and the rational a priori, and divination cannot be understood by phenomenologists and philosophers of religion except in the light of this claim, and that Otto intends that his concept of schematization (profoundly influenced by Fries's transcendental idealism) be identified with his law of association of analogous feelings which explains how the excitation of numinous experience is produced. Moreover, this theory of religious experience rests upon an assumption about the relationship between religious language and experience which requires elucidation and evaluation. Otto's claims about numinous experience being inexpressible and yet, paradoxically, made intelligible through the use of analogy will be critically examined in the light of recent philosophical discussion concerning the relationship between all language and experience, and it will be shown not only that Otto's ineffability language is not unintelligible, but also that he offers a sophisticated theory of analogical language which may do much to extend the boundaries of our understanding of religious experience.

Furthermore, an assessment will be made of the cognitive status of numinous experience; and it will be argued that, in spite of Otto's failure to establish its cognitive certainty by appealing to his account of the numinous a priori, he successfully demonstrates that, whatever its cognitive status-may be, it is a distinctive experience which cannot be confused with any other and is easily identifiable as unmistakably religious. Finally, an attempt will be made to clarify Otto's standing within the history of phenomenology of religion.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.85949
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Otto, R, religious theory
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > Department of Philosophy
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:22 UTC
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2022 12:23 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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