From Academic Kids
Born in Peine near Hanover, Otto attended the Gymnasium Adreanum in Hildesheim and studied at the universities of Erlangen and Göttingen, from where he received both his doctorate (with a dissertation on Luther) and habilitation on Kant. In 1906, he became extraordinary professor (see professor), and in 1910 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Giessen. In 1915, he became ordinary professor at the University of Breslau, and in 1917, at the University of Marburg's Divinity School, then one of the most famous Protestant seminaries in the world. Although he received several other calls, he remained in Marburg for the rest of his life. He retired in 1929 and died eight years later, probably as a consequence from a malaria infection he had caught on one of his many expeditions. He is buried on Marburg cemetery.
Otto's most famous work, The Idea of the Holy (published first in 1917 as Das Heilige), is one of the most successful German theological books of the 20th century. It has never been out of print and is now available in about 20 languages. The book defines the concept of the holy as that which is numinous. Otto explained the numinous as a "non-rational, non-sensory experience or feeling whose primary and immediate object is outside the self". It is a mystery (Latin: mysterium tremendum) that is both fascinating (fascinans) and terrifying at the same time. It also sets a paradigm for the study of religion that focuses on the need to realize the religious as a non-reducible, original category in its own right. This paradigm was under much attack between approximately 1950 and 1990 but has made a strong comeback since then.
German-American theologian Paul Tillich acknowledged Otto's influence on him, as did Romanian-American anthropologist Mircea Eliade. Eliade used the concepts from The Idea of the Holy as the starting point for his own 1957 book, The Sacred and the Profane (ISBN 015679201X).
Books available in English
- Naturalism and religion, London 1907
- The life and ministry of Jesus, Chicago 1908
- The Idea of the Holy, Oxford 1923, ISBN 0195002105
- Christianity and the Indian Religion of Grace, Madras 1928
- India's Religion of Grace and Christianity Compared and Contrasted, New York 1930
- The philosophy of religion based on Kant and Fries, London 1931
- Religious essays: A supplement to The Idea of the Holy, London 1931
- Mysticism east and west: A comparative analysis of the nature of mysticism, New York 1932
- The original Gita: The song of the Supreme Exalted One, London 1939
- The Kingdom of God and the Son of Man: A Study in the History of Religion, Boston 1943
- Autobiographical and Social Essays, Berlin 1996
- Otto homepage (http://www.netrax.net/~galles/)
- brief page on Otto (http://www.friesian.com/otto.htm)de:Rudolf Otto