04 Februari 2009

The Idea of the Holy

It is interesting to discuss religious experiences as elaborated by Rudolf Otto in The Idea of the Holy. Up to now the discussion appeals attention of many scholars in most parts of the world because religion as subject matter is unlimited, comprehensible, and multidimensional. Preliminary idea of Otto is to try to explain phenomenology of The holy in terms of numinous, that is an idea of mysterium tremendum et fascinosum.

According to Otto, religion has a reality of sui generis comprehensible but it is unexplainable (beyond conception or understanding). This religious experience, that has two ideas of rational experience and non-rational experience, takes someone (human) into an unthinkable and unthought area directly or indirectly. Otto uses the concept of the holy in elaborating the non-rational religious experience. The holy or the Sacred, in Otto’s view, is unique category of religion. It is different from the holy that have meaning “the completely good.” It is not moral term and Otto mention it numinous.

The experience of numinous then allows mysterium tremendum that consists of human and numinous. This experience, borrows Otto ‘s term, is sudden, overpowering, and dies away. The Feeling of it may at times come sweeping like a gentle tide, pervading the mind with a tranquil mood of deepest worship.

Misterium tremendem of Otto is starting point to understand concept of religious experience of people, in which someone –in tremendem– finds three elements of experience; awefulness, overpoweringness (majesty), and Energy or Urgency. These third elements will be related to experience in islamic tradition.

Awefulness or religious experience that is based on astonishment and fear ness. it is a feeling beyond the fear. In primitive tradition, this element could be expressed by “daemonic dread” or in Bible by “the wrath of God”. In Islam, this concept is called as Judgment day (yaumul khiamah). All human beings will be judged accordance with their/his deeds. The concept of judgement day makes man fear or scare and it motivates them to do well and avoid the wrongdoing (amal ma’ruf nahi mungkar) and obey the commands of God.

Experience of overpoweringness (majesty) is a religious experience that someone receives something absolutely untouchable. And it concerns with feelings as a creature that has –borrows Scheleiermacher’s term—feeling of dependence outside its self. It can be found in mysticism. Like experience of Abraham in looking for his God, that Otto describes as the consciousness of createdness and the consciousness of creaturehood. Or Moses ‘ experience of meeting his God in Mountain Sinai.

The least experience of tremendum is urgency and energy. This experience is expressed by using some symbols like vitality, emotional temper, will, force, movement, excitement, activity, and impetus and so on. It is contradictive to the ‘rational’ concepts of philospohers. And it also makes the prophets great in the eyes of his followers. Therefore in Islam, every prophet is given revelation or miracle (this miracle or mukjizah can also be mentioned by energy or urgency) to underpin or support him in preaching religious teachings (truth).

In the other hand, Otto also explain mysterium. This concept has two main ideas, that is, Mysterium of the wholly other and mysterium of fascination. The first refers to mystery believed by religion’s followers or they still believe on the primitive belief as fertility of the ground, of their animal, and of themselves. The wholly other try to explain these irrational sides or these pre-scientific thoughts with another analysis, like scientific views. By using scientific explanations of the natural phenomenon, the religious belief and religion must be reinterpreted or reformulated. That the irrational dimensions of religious areas as mentioned above, in fact, have its rationality in scientific areas. The second mystery is fascination. This concept arises from experience of tremendum that full of fear ness. Experience of fear ness of the religious followers doesn’t make them far away from religion but even make them approached it (read: God).

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