Philosophy of Religion Weeklies

In my Philosophy of Religion seminar, we are required to write “weeklies”. These weeklies are weekly response to the readings. I will be posting mine on here. I will try to give a link to the article I’m responding to as well.  This is the first one in response to an excerpt of Rudolf Otto’s “The Idea of the Holy”.

In Rudolf Otto’s article, he distinguishes between the rational and the holy.  The part of the mind that is holiness (or religiously) receptive (the numinous part) is completely distinct from the rational part of our minds. The, for lack of a better word, insights we receive from the divine are those that are not able to be conceptualized rationally. He says, “In other words our X [the insights] cannot, strictly speaking, be taught, it can only be evoked, awakened in the mind; as everything that comes ‘of the spirit’ must be awakened” (82).

            Later in the article he states that there are degrees of loftiness one may have in the religious life. There are loftier a priori cognitions that can be “activated” in a person. He likens this to the art judge and the artist. The art judge understands and appreciates art, whereas the artist not only understands and appreciates but can also create art. So, too there are those that are “endowed” with these loftier a priori cognitions of the divine. Some have the ability to not only to receive the divine, but also to create. Otto calls these kinds of people prophets.

            My problem is with the relationship between the rational and the numinous parts of our cognition. The prophet, when he speaks, does not speak from the numinous part of himself. He cannot, since Otto claims that divine insights cannot be spoken of. The process from receptivity to delivery is not clearly explained. Perhaps the insights of the divine have to “watered down” in someway through the words of the prophet. The prophet may give commands, tell of theology, give warnings, etc, and these are certainly products of the rational side of the mind, but they couldn’t be content of his numinous cognitions. The artist, however, can both have a vision of what he wants to create and then paint according to that vision. The prophet, however, only has words and concepts at his disposal to express this numinous side of himself. However, concepts are foreign to the numinous. What then is the relationship between the numinous and the rational? How can the prophet communicate his knowledge of the divine? How can he create when the materials of his creation are not applicable in the numinous?

~ by Barky on August 31, 2012.

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