Rudolf Otto (1869-1937)

Using Jakob Fries's epistemological scheme of Wissen, Glaube, and Ahndung, "Understanding, Belief, and Aesthetic Sense," (to use Kent Richter's translation), Ruldolf Otto expands the meaning of Ahndung beyond the merely aesthetic by introducing the category of numinosity, which is the quality of sacred or holy objects, persons, or experiences in religion.

Otto's word derives from Latin numen, "the divine will, divine command; the might of a deity, majesty, divinity." On analogy with omen, which we retain in English, Otto coined "numinous" (numinosus, like the existing ominosus, "ominous") and "numinosity" (numinositas). I have not found a corresponding term in Greek, and the original meaning of numen itself was "a nodding with the head, a nod," which seems to have indicated how the statue of a god, carried by attendants, might nod in oracular answer to a question. This is a common phenomenon, through which the will of the god, and then his power, came to be indicated. Although perhaps lacking in Greek, there are comparable terms in other languages [note].

Although Otto is often classified as a theoretician of mysticism, "numinosity" is not fundamentally a theory of mystical experiences, because every practitioner of any religion regards certain things as sacred to that religion. The "sacred" and the "holy," and the "unclean" or "polluted," are categories that apply (non-metaphorically) to peculiarly religious objects in an entirely universal and cross-cultural manner.

Otto's greatest limitation is in fact the residual rationalism of Kant and Fries. This is expressed best by Otto himself, in the foreward to his famous The Idea of the Holy [Das Heilige, 1917]:

Before I ventured upon this field of inquiry I spent many years of study upon the rational aspect of that supreme Reality we call "God," and the results of my work are contained in my books, Naturalistische und religiöse Weltansicht (Eng. Tr. "Naturalism and Religion", London, 1907), and Die Kant-Friesische Religions-Philosophie [The Philosophy of Religion based on Kant and Fries, London, 1931]. And I feel that no one ought to concern himself with the "Numen ineffabile" who has not already devoted assiduous and serious study to the "Ratio aeterna".

What Otto inherited from Kant and Fries was the theory that reason itself unavoidably and necessarily produces the "Ideas" of God, freedom, and immortality. Otto therefore regarded religions as more developed, not just in the sense that they embodied refined moral conceptions, but in so far as they were associated with the concept of God and the retributions or rewards of an afterlife. Since religions like Buddhism did not have a God, and religions like Islâm did not have a sufficiently, for Otto, moralized God, they were developmentally inferior to Christianity.

Thus, ironically, while Otto is often dismissed as a mystic, the real barrier to the generalization of his system was the rationalistic theology of Kant and Fries. If reason is not regarded as naturally and necessarily productive of Christian theological concepts, then nothing prevents Otto from properly recognizing the common elements of all world religions. There is no doubt, indeed, that the Buddha, as the "Blessed One," is a supremely numinous person, whatever his ontological status with respect to ultimate reality. The tendency to personalize the object of religion can thus be acknowledged, without requiring the metaphysics of a Supreme Being. Similarly, the element of arbitrariness in the Will of God in Islâm is no more than a reflection of the polynomic independence of numinosity and morality. This has recently been nicely expressed by Jacques Barzun:

The truth that religion and morality are at odds with each other is rarely acknowledged, probably because the two desires are equally strong in the human breast, reflecting there the respective demands of society and of the self. [From Dawn to Decadence, 1500 to the Present, HarperCollins, 2000, p.55]

The Friesian would only correct this to say that the "respective demands" are, not "of society and of the self," but of reason and of Ahndung.

Otto's point cannot be appreciated until religion is understood as addressing more than what is right and wrong or good and beautiful. The final mysteries of life and reality cannot be answered by science, ethics, politics, or art; for none of them can even begin to address the issue of the meaning or purpose of the whole, or of the sufferings of an individual human life, which inevitably comes to a more or less arbitrary and unsatisfactory end. Nevertheless, most human beings have lived their lives and reached their ends with some sense of ultimate meaning, however irrational or inexplicable, whether through an overtly religious approach, philosophical resignation, or some obviously fraudulent religion substitute (Marxism, etc.). Otto's Friesian theory, only a footnote to philosophy and religion in the 20th century, nevertheless has offered the best chance for conceding to each its due for philosophy, science, religion, and the plurality of world religions.

Otto's falling out with Leonard Nelson, by whom he was introduced to Friesian theory, was due in part to Otto's greater political conservatism and to the rationalism that led Nelson to make vaguely positive statements about religion but not specifically positive statements about any actual religions. Even Otto's preference for Christianity did not prevent him from exhibiting great interest in all world religions.

On Miracles

The Mystery of Miracles

On the Sublime and the Numinous

The Kant-Friesian Theory of Religion and Religious Value

The New Friesian Theory of Religious Value

Rudolf Otto in Lenn E. Goodman's Judaism, A Contemporary Philosophical Investigation

Rudolf Otto in Rem B. Edwards' Reason and Religion

Rudolf Otto Biography at "Religionsgeschichtliche Schule"

History of Philosophy

Philosophy of Religion

Otto on Home Page

Home Page

Copyright (c) 1996, 2000, 2009, 2017 Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved

Rudolf Otto (1869-1937); Note

While I have not yet seen a term in Greek comprable to numen in Latin, I am intrigued by , orgé, and its derivatives, like , órgia. There are two basic meanings to : (1) "natural impulse, temper, temperament, disposition, nature"; and (2) "passion, anger, wrath." If this is attributed to the gods, as it can be, it will not be the will or power of the god, but the god's anger -- probably because of the god's will being violated and in preparation for the god's wrathful power being manifest.

With , we seem to get something rather different, but more overtly related to the divine nature, in two forms again: (1) "secret rites, secret worship," of initiates, particularly of Dionysius, but, as we see of Demeter; and (2) "any worship, rites, sacrifices." This is where we get the word "orgy," which is a practice, secret or not, involving general debauchery and particularly promiscuous group sex. This is the implication of the rites of Dionysius in The Bacchae by Euripides, but it has not been imputed to the rites of Demeter at Eleusis. The modern orgy rarely has anything to do with religion, while the "fall" of Rome is popularly attributed to debauches that no longer would have existed after Constantine instituted Christianity, and would already have been uncommon among the soldier emperors of the Third Century. It is clear that even to the most sober of historians -- or perhaps particularly to them -- paganism was just more fun.

But how in the world do we get from the meaning of to that of ? This is what intrigues me. If were itself the numen, the connection would be easy enough, as the divine power can be summoned and felt in the divine rites, perhaps to an orgiastic extent. The divine wrath may already be divine power. But I don't think I can go further than that. "Anger" in Latin, ira, doesn't have these other associations.

Return to Text

Fear and Tremendum: Rudolf Otto
in Lenn Goodman's
Judaism, A Contemporary
Philosophical Investigation

How could any ancient or primitive soul
have higher thoughts than savagery permits?

Lenn E. Goodman, Judaism, A Contemporary Philosophical Investigation,
Routledge, 2017, p.73


Karman.y evâdhikâras te mâ phales.u kadâcana /
mâ karmaphalahetur bhûr mâ te sango 'stv akarman.i
,

Set thy heart upon thy work, but never on its reward.
Work not for a reward; but never cease to do thy work.

The Bhagavad Gita, 2:47, Juan Mascaró translation, Penguin Books, 1962, p.52;
being some "higher thoughts" from an "ancient soul"




Numquid homo Dei conparatione iustificabitur?
aut factore suo purior erit vir
?

Can a mortal be more righteous than God?
Can a man be more pure than his Maker?

Job 4:17

The purpose here is not a general review of Lenn Goodman's Judaism, A Contemporary Philosophical Investigation. Instead, Goodman's book is taken as an example of how Rudolf Otto and his theory of numinosity are treated in some contemporary philosophical literature involving religion. Goodman's presentation or interpretation of Judaism or Jewish philosophy, whatever its merits, is of incidental concern. His treatment of Otto, however, is noteworthy as being markedly different from that of Rem B. Edwards, reviewed elsewhere. Where Edwards gives us a neutral, if mistaken, description of Otto's theory in a general philosophy of religion book, in Goodman's chapter on "Holiness" we find what can only be described as a polemic against Otto, with what seems to be real hostility [pp.71-73]. I'm not sure I can explain this, but for the better part of three pages we get a treatment where hardly a sentence does not contain, with a tone of animosity, some misunderstanding or misrepresentation of Otto's theory. This certainly builds on problems such as we see in Edwards, which are current in academic philosophy of religion. And as with Edwards, Goodman displays no familiarity with the Friesian background of Otto's treatment, despite Otto's own plea for consideration of his earlier, foundational work, and its Friesian context. Nor does Goodman show any critical evaluation of the familiar mistaken constructions of Otto's theory. At this point, "due diligence" would have suggested some improvement in those terms. But we don't see it.

These circumstances may require some more than incidental reflection on the nature of Goodman's book. His reaction to Otto is as though monotheistic religion in general, and Judaism in particular, has been personally insulted, with other kinds of religion, unworthy of our attention, inappropriately, perhaps "romantically," promoted. And "romantic" is a term that Goodman actually uses for Otto, without any real explanation what he means by it -- I take it to mean a vague, foolish, and dangerous nostalgia for an idealized past or exotic outliers. Such a reaction might be suitable with, for instance, the popular and celebrated Joseph Campbell, whose hostility to monotheistic religion and, as it happens, to Judaism in particular is often palpable, and disturbing. His preference was for Indian religion, or for the mythological corpus in general. But Goodman has targeted Rudolf Otto, not Campbell. And Otto has no such preference. And if Otto has any bias against Judaism, it is simply, without rancor or animus, in favor of Christianity -- a bias Otto shares with Kant (who, unfortunately, does not seem free of the rancor or animus). But while Goodman accuses Otto of "historical chauvinism" for such bias, as we will see, Goodman is not free from something of the same sort, since he assumes that the proper focus of Otto's work, and its sins, occur only in relation to Judaism -- or at least Judaism as interpreted and constructed by Lenn Goodman.

Yet, as philosophy of religion, Otto's concern is properly with all the varieties of religion. Goodman's is not. This is not surprising, perhaps, in a book about Judaism, but it constitutes a focus that cannot be externally and prescriptively imposed on Otto. And I am left with the impression that noticing other religions, especially ancient or, in monotheistic terms, anomalous ones, constitutes for Goodman the "romantic" preference and morally debased promotion of such religions, rather than the conscientious attention required for a historian and philosopher of religion, whose duty is faithful description and understanding. Instead, Goodman says that his project is to "restore the Hebrew idea of the holy to its moral roots" [p.xiv]. It may be much more difficult, as we will see, to suppose that there are "moral roots" of the holy in many other religions -- which compromises the generality of Goodman's project and vindicates Otto's. Goodman, as is understandable, is a advocate of Judaism, or at least his philosophical take on Judaism. As such, he is without much interest in a general philosophy of religion or what that would require. But then he doesn't acknowledge or perhaps even understand the different focus and perspective in Otto, or the parochialism of his own project.

Furthermore, it is hard to come away from Goodman's treatment of Judaism without the feeling that he has given Leibniz a strong run for his money in terms of apologetics and "just so" stories of rationalistic theodicy. The terror imposed by God on Abraham, by demanding the sacrifice [sacrificium -- "make," facere, "sacred," sacer] of his son; the disasters and massacre inflicted by God on the Egyptians, because God has "hardened the heart of Pharaoh" to resist releasing Israel (from, as some politicians might put it now, their "fair share" of "public service" in the building of new cities -- perhaps "urban renewal" -- the traditional Egyptian corvée); and the terror, suffering, and murder inflicted on Job and his family, merely to test Job's faith -- aptly described by C.G. Jung as, "the unvarnished spectacle of divine savagery" [Answer to Job, Bollingen, Princeton, 1958, 1973, p.4]:  All these are dismissed by Goodman with clever but strained interpretations, or, particularly in the case of the Egyptians, overlooked.

Whatever the merits of such theology and theodicy, it is irrelevant to Otto's work, except perhaps in so far as we can see how, as part of the moralization of Mosaic religion, it softens or deflects the fear, terror, or dread (, , ) involved in dealings with God. Otto might well say, indeed, that Goodman does simply what we expect to be done in the moral tradition of religious Israel, rendering God increasingly comforting, reasonable, and just. Yet the holy, as something rather different, continues to peek out.

The disinterested person reading the Hebrew Bible is more likely to be struck by the elements of fear than with the righteousness or compassion of God, such as it is. In this, we should recollect that the apparently morally deficient character of the Old Testament God was the reason why the Gnostics rejected the proposition that he was the genuine Godhead. Instead, he was to them a kind of imposter, an arrogant, confused "Demiurge." This involved a rejection of the Jewish basis of Christianity that has, in effect, been disturbingly promoted by those who regard Gnosticism as preferable to the orthodox Christianity of the Church Councils (now seen, in best Protestant terms, as a conspiracy of the priesthood), which affirmed the continuity and identity of God between the Old and New Testaments. The relevant interest of Otto in the frightening nature of God was already famously shared by Søren Kierkegaard, who in turn draws no attention or mention from Goodman. Instead, we find Goodman celebrating the text that says "Do not scorn [or abhor] the Egyptians" [Deuteronomy 23:7/8], when an Egyptian (like Manethô) might think that it is a little late for that, and the damage has been done, both in the great number of dead and even in the "plundering" of the Egyptians of gold and silver [Exodus 12:35-36], which added insult to injury. Ignoring this aspect of the issue, for the sake of affirming the magnanimity and love of God for all, after he leaves a large part of the population of Egypt dead, does not reassure us of Goodman's objectivity, even as his blindness to the deficiencies others see in the God of the Old Testament does not reassure us of the honesty of his theodicy.

Indeed, one cannot help but notice that the classic movie version of The Ten Commandments [1956] ends with the stirring exhortation, as Israel is about to cross the Jordan River:


.
Et vocabis remissionem cunctis habitatoribus terrae tuae.
Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.
[Leviticus 25:10]

Although inscribed (in English) on the Liberty Bell, this is gravely out of context here, meant only for those bound for service until the Jubilee, and the actual exhortation on the occasion was:

[Deuteronomy 7:1] When the LORD your God brings you into the land which you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations -- the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you -- [7:2] and when the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. [boldface added]

Cecil B. DeMille (1881-1959) evidently thought that proclaiming liberty sounded better than mass murder without mercy. As it does. However, altering the instructions of God in terms of modern anti-colonialist sensibilities is deceptive and dishonest. And anyone who knew their Bible would detect the distortion. For our purposes here, the point is the revealing response in this case of Hollywood, out of embarrassment, to what is a morally ugly feature of the Old Testament and its deity. No obvious "moral roots" there. It is not clear that Goodman's theodicy suffers the least embarrassment or inconvenience from this kind of thing. Instead, Goodman wants to accuse Otto of not understanding the uncompromised righteousness of the Mosaic God. In fact, Otto may have understood better than Goodman; and it is possible that God himself feels more embarrassment than Goodman [note].

Let me start with the first sentence in Goodman's treatment of Otto [p.71]:

In search of the primitive essence of the spiritual, Rudolf Otto sought to break apart the unity of holiness with goodness, peace, wholeness, love, justice, and beauty that God discovered to Abraham. [boldface added]

Whatever it may be that God discovered to Abraham, and Goodman's interpretation raises a few questions (as we shall see), if the "unity" of all these characteristics means that they all mean the same thing, then it is puzzling that all languages that I know of have different words for them.  And if there are different words because they have different meanings, then whether they all form a "unity" or not, a philosopher, like Otto, or a lexicographer can investigate what those meanings are and how they are different.  The unity that they may then have or not have is another question, and actually irrelevant to the primary search.

The phrase, "the primitive essence of the spiritual," raises particular questions -- especially about "primitive," which will be addressed below. Otherwise, this misstates the issue. Otto wants to discern the distinctive, characteristic, and perhaps "essential" meaning of terms like "holy" and "sacred," with their equivalents in other languages. What this would have to do with "the spiritual" is a further question, depending heavily on what a word like "spiritual" is supposed to mean. Socrates got Meletus to admit that if there were "spiritual," , things, then there are "spirits," ; and if there are spirits, then there are gods, . But these words don't mean the same things now, and "spiritual" seems to get used to mean almost anything.

So what Goodman says doesn't tell us much, and certainly nothing about what Otto was doing. Perhaps that was the point. If Otto's goal was vaguely "spiritual," then perhaps his mind was just as vaporous as those who speak confusedly about "spiritual" things, often because they don't believe in "institutionalized religion" and have no inclination to profess any identifiable faith. This is very far from what we are dealing with in Rudolf Otto, whose objects are the faith and practice of actual religions. The more familiar we are with them, the better.

So, for a first sentence, this seems like a bad start.

The irony, perhaps, of Goodman's remark here, is that in the theory presented in these pages, following Kant, Fries, and Otto, there is a unity of the holy with all other forms of value. But this unity only occurs among things in themselves, while in phenomenal reality value splinters into separate categories, like the magnetic substates in quantum mechanics (illustrated in the diagram), which vary independently -- with the primary evidence for this being the occurrence of dilemmas. This is allowed by a Kantian theory, in which a consistent metaphysics of transcendent objects is not possible, while my understanding of Goodman's system is that it involves some adherence to Neoplatonic metaphysics, which is substantially continued in a Jewish philosopher like Maimonides, but which leads to the "metaphysical horror" examined by Leszek Kolakowski (cf. Metaphysical Horror).

Neoplatonism, Maimonides, and even Kolakowski, with his attempted fixes, according to Kantian philosophy, all partake of "Dialectical Illusion," with speculative theories that generate their own contradictions. Thus, Otto's claim that the holy is not a matter of reason, but that it involves unique predicates like what is "uncanny," may just offend Goodman's rationalism -- with the added irony that "rationalism" is probably not what comes to mind when most people would think of the ins and outs of Jewish ritual observance and law -- or any law, for that matter, where, as Robert Heinlein says, swallowing camels and straining at gnats are required courses in every law school.

The complications that can arise are well illustrated by Roger Horowitz, who begins his book on kosher food with the confrontation that occurred the first time that his father's (Orthodox) family dined with his mother's (Conservative) family at the conclusion of Yom Kippur. The former were offered a plate of sturgeon, which they did not regard as . As it happens, this had long been a matter of dispute in rabbinical circles, since sturgeon does not possess the kind of scales otherwise canonically required for kosher fish. However, since sturgeon are obviously fish in every other way, some authorities have long allowed that the anomalous scales are nevertheless, in essence, scales. Something like this is not easily resolved to everyone's satisfaction ["My Family's Sturgeon," Kosher America, How Coke Become Kosher and Other Tales of Modern Food, Columbia University Press, 2016, p.7]. More about how well Jewish law (or, for that matter, Islâmic, with its own dietary laws) is rationalistic, or fits Otto's theory better, we will see below.

Were we to know things in themselves the way we know phenomenal objects, then rational predicates of unconditioned realities would form a seamless whole with the contents of Ahndung, the Friesian "intimation" of the transcendent that provides the epistemic category for Otto's sense of numinosity. Thus, in empirical knowledge, Kant posits a synthesis of the categories of the understanding with sensation, Empfindung (or, as he often says, "intuition," Anschauung, although this implies conscious knowledge, as "sensation" may not), which produces perception [note].

Yet, with respect to things in themselves, Kant does not allow anything corresponding to feeling or sensation, leaving our representation, not only unsynthesized, but lacking half of the equation necessary for it. Jakob Fries makes up for that by restoring a realism of aesthetic sense -- although the synthesis still cannot be completed, except phenomenally. So religion does not constitute knowledge the way science does. Since Goodman doesn't have this particular complaint against Kant, and seems unaware of the move by Fries, he has no background or sympathy for the subsequent development by Otto, as we will see below.

Something that stands out in the first quote above is the word "primitive."  If this means "primary" as in prima principia ("first principles"), then it is no more than what we should be doing, which is to discern the essence, as a natural kind or conventional artifact, of the meaning(s) of the words.  "Holy" is not exempt from this, however much we may want it to encompass all the other forms of value.

On the other hand, if "primitive" means people with spears dancing in the jungle, then we have gotten off to a bad start, since "holy" means something in all religions, ancient or modern, that I am aware of.  Ancient religions, or those isolated in the jungles, may have something to say about the origin or early nature of religion, but this is not the focus of Otto’s examination in the passages that Goodman cites at this point (running from page 2 to page 5 of The Idea of the Holy of the Oxford edition). But Goodman's use of "primitive" seems to indicate that Otto is somehow only concerned with "primitive" religion. Some indication of this comes next on the page.

Coining the term "numinous" to designate the holy as experienced, Otto muffled the tones of love and longing that steady the monotheistic message. His quest was for a "profounder religion" than rationalism knows, deeper than mysticism too, he explained, if mystics must curtain their epiphanies in talk of the ineffable (). [ibid., following, boldface added]

Of course, Otto has no interest in muffling "the tones of love and longing that steady the monotheistic message," and says nothing about it on the page that Goodman cites. Love and longing may or may not be particularly to be associated with monotheistic religions, but the description of them is a different question from the meaning of "holy," which is what Otto addresses.

Next, we get the serious confusion that somehow Otto has a "quest" for a "profounder religion," when his project is descriptive and phenomenological and may even amount to little more than the pursuit by Socrates of definitions. By saying this, Goodman reveals a complete misunderstanding of Otto's project and goals.

Otto is not looking to create or reform any religions. He is just looking at the ones that exist and have existed, to see what they are like. This is just what we might expect a historian and philosopher of religion to do, although, to be sure, most philosophers of religion have difficulty, sometimes astonishing difficulty, focusing on actual religions in their own terms. Could Rudolf Otto simply be the first philosopher who does not reject the phenomena of actual religions as being, in some sense, not just unworthy, but some kind of fraud or mistake? I wonder.

As for a religion beyond what "rationalism knows," Goodman might find himself at odds with St. Thomas Aquinas long before Rudolf Otto, since anyone who believes that religion contains an irreducible element of faith will find no satisfaction with a religion that is no more than what "rationalism knows." Since his project begins with Immanuel Kant, for whom religion is morality, morality is reason, and "faith" (Glaube, fides, ) in fact has little to do with what that means to anyone else, it would not be so extraordinary for Otto to add anything to the nature of religion to get it beyond the merely rational. One wonders if Goodman would have similar objections if Otto were really no more than a Thomist in contending that faith contributes an element to religion more than "rationalism knows." My suspicion of Goodman's rationalism, as a reflex of Neoplatonic metaphysics, is substantially confirmed in this one remark [note].

Instead, Otto's actual "quest" is to discern features of religious experience and phenomena, not unlike the studies of William James (whom he cites in a note on page 10 of The Idea of the Holy), where the "holy" cannot be dismissed with a reductionistic rationalism -- certainly not Kant's. Thus, the "quest" is to identify what is already in religion -- the religion of believers rather than reductionistic philosophers -- not how it is to be made more profound than what "rationalism knows." That has already been done. In every religion. Including, pace Goodman, Judaism.

As we have seen in the treatment of Rem B. Edwards, Otto is commonly misunderstood as basically talking about mysticism. And here we see Goodman introducing mysticism where Otto says nothing about it in the cited text. I don't think Otto gets to anything about mysticism until page 21 of The Idea of the Holy, which is well beyond the passages that Goodman references. There is certainly nothing on page 5 of Idea about Otto's "quest" being for something "deeper than mysticism," whatever that would be, especially when Otto himself uses "the ineffable ()" to mean what he himself is talking about -- something that he compares, not to mystical experience, but nota bene to "the category of the beautiful."

But this comparison upends Goodman's entire complaint, and it should remind us of the accusation by other philosophers that Otto's theory adds nothing to the analysis of the "sublime" ( , hýpsos) by Edmund Burke and Kant himself. Yet neither of them discerned a sense of the "uncanny" or supernatural in the sublime; and somehow, I might add, concerns about religious pollution never trouble aesthetics. Otto, as it happens, does not pay sufficient attention to pollution; but he does mention it, while I don't think Goodman pays it any attention, or mention, despite extensive concern with pollution in Jewish law -- for instance, that a woman who gives birth to a girl is unclean twice as long as a woman who gives birth to a boy [Leviticus 12:2-5].

Also, we might be reminded of the thesis of G.E. Moore that the "primitive" meaning of the word "good," or at least the meaning of an intrinsic rather than an instrumental good, cannot be unpacked in a conceptual definition. Moore famously asserted that "good" can be definined no more than "yellow" can be to a blind person. This did not make Moore a mystic, and "primitive" in this sense does not conjure people with spears dancing in the jungle. Instead, it is an example of the same kind of caution that we now encounter in Otto, or in aesthetics, where there are elements of meaning that are primary and irreducible, perhaps in all value terms, so that "good," "beautiful," and the numinous all share an element that cannot be eliminated in favor of some child or artifact of reason.

Goodness and other "rational attributes" may be "essential" to God, but they are (in Kantian terms), "synthetic" -- not intrinsic to the experience of the divine as such. Kant's "holy will" misses the openings to ecstatic violence: "We generally take 'holy' as meaning 'competely good.'... Kant calls the will which remains unwaveringly obedient to the moral law from the motive of duty a 'holy' will... But this common usage of the terms is inaccurate" -- an overglaze masking the frenzy of antic piety: "if the ethical element was present at all, at any rate it was not original."

This is referenced by Goodman to page 5 of Idea, but terms like "ecstatic violence" and "frenzy of antic piety" do not occur in the text there -- although eventually Otto will note manifestations of "intoxicating frenzy" and "wild and demonic forms," which, of course, occur in historical religions [pp.12-13]. At this point, as fundamental to numinosity, they are irrelevantly supplied by Goodman's fevered imagination and betray a considerable misconstruction and bias in his interpretation.

Indeed, perhaps I should take a moment to consider a historical religion for which terms like "ecstatic violence" or "frenzy of antic piety" might be appropriate. Did the Aztecs practice a "primitive" religion? No more primitive, perhaps, than those of Egypt or Babylon, except for a salient feature that to the Conquistadors could only be explained by the direct presence of Satan.
Templo Mayor of Tenochtitlan,
pyramids of war god Huitzilopochtli and rain god Tlaloc;
foreground spire of Quetzalcoatl as wind god Ehecatl
The Aztecs had developed what might even be called an industrial level of human sacrifice, and they had refined their techniques of war so that it was mainly for the purpose of capturing sacrificial victims. Cutting the beating heart from the chest of a sacrifice and then flaying his skin so that a priest might dance while wearing it sounds like something for which we could use the words "violence," "frenzy," "antic," "wild," and "demonic" -- or "horror." The priests, identified by their distinctive tattoos, were systematically exterminated by the Spanish.

Does it mean that this will then be Otto's "primitive" and "profounder religion"? Probably not. Otto does say that religious practices "can sink to an almost grisly horror and shuddering" [op.cit., p.13]. With the Aztecs, the "almost" there can be eliminated. If Aztec practices were "holy," as they certainly were to them, there might seem to be nothing that we could unify with the "goodness, peace, wholeness, love, justice, and beauty" identified by Goodman. As good cultural relativists, perhaps we would need to say that Aztec religion is just as good and beautiful as any other; but, at the very least, their bloody altars and refuse of flayed and mutilated bodies might take some getting used to.

But Rudolf Otto, to be sure, is no cultural relativist; and, primitive or sophisticated, Aztec religion, and the comparable practices of the often more admired Mayans, are not going to measure up to the levels of moral observance that Otto sees in more evolved, and truly more profound, religion. Indeed, far from Aztec or Mayan religion being morally "schematized" to any extent, we might want to say that their practices involve positive evil and wrong. Nor are those judgments only to be imposed by imperialistic and ethnocentric Spanish invaders:  the Spanish obtained valuable Indian allies among the communities that had long been terrorized by the Aztecs for sacrificial victims. The Aztecs were destroyed in great measure by the revenge of their traditional Mexican enemies. The final assault on Tenochtitlán was by thousands of men, most of them Indians.

What can Goodman say about this? Should he deny, as Kant did with Judaism, that this is religion at all? After all, what have we to go on to "restore the Aztec idea of the holy to its moral roots"? Scholars would seem to have discerned no such "roots." When we see the Mayan glyph for "sacred," , must Goodman say that this is a lie, illegitimate, or means something else? It cannot possibly mean "holy" the way we, the bien pensants, mean "holy." Or does Goodman's approach fail to save the phenomenon? Is this not now prescribing the nature of religion (as philosophers prefer), based on the paradigm of Mosaic faith, rather than describing (as historians and philosophers of religion ought) what are undoubtedly religious phenomena? Does Goodman want to accuse Otto of the principle that "to understand all is to forgive all"? Is Otto going to forgive Aztec human sacrifice, because in its "primitive" savagery it is a "profounder religion"? I hardly think so.

But we cannot credit Goodman with a generally applicable philosophy of religion unless his principles can apply to Aztec practices as well as to Jewish. He makes no effort to produce such a philosophy; and, all things considered, in a book about Judaism, there is no reason why he should. But he then has no ground of complaint against Rudolf Otto and should not dispute a theory whose general terms and purpose he does not and will not consider. To the extent that Otto deviates from evenhandedness, with a preference for Mosaic religion, Goodman can hardly object, since this is the preference that he demands. While the two of them can have their little argument about whether Christianity is or is not morally advanced beyond Judaism, the rest of us can appreciate that Otto's theory provides a descriptive power that will work beyond monotheism.

Since the practice of Aztec religion appears to be innocent of moral doctrine, to say the least, we have half of what is requisite for a test of the independence of the sacred from the moral. Thus, if there are religions without morality, as with the Aztecs, Maya, or, as it happens, Shintô, and morality without religion, as with atheists and self-described "humanists," this demonstrates that the two categories of value vary independently and so are, in fact, independent. This is the modest minimum of the thesis advocated by Rudolf Otto. In a book about Judaism, there is no particular reason why Lenn Goodman need worry about any of this; but if he was going to pick an unnecessary fight with Rudolf Otto, he then did have an obligation to consider the data set of world religions and the larger focus of Otto's project, without falling into the very "chauvinism" of which he accuses Otto, by taking his own interpretation of Judaism as religiously paradigmatic and authoritative and ignoring the falsifying evidence of other religions, or even of Judaism itself.

Goodman's expressions, "ecstatic violence" or "frenzy of antic piety," feed my suspicion that what Goodman is thinking of are the people with spears dancing in the jungle (certainly cases of "wild and demonic forms"), that this is the "more profound" religion that Goodman thinks Otto is promoting, and that this is what Goodman's introduction of the term "primitive" is all about. Unfortunately, as I have noted, we can use "primitive" to mean something that is logically far more modest and focused,
Marc Chagall (1887–1985)
"The Praying Jew," 1923
as we see David Gelernter use the term himself, in his own book about Judaism:

In the prescriptive legislation of the Torah, yoking together or crossbreeding different animal species is forbidden. Sowing different types of seed together is forbidden, and so are certain types of grafting. Mixing wool and linen in clothing is forbidden. These laws are collectively called kil'ayim [] and are classified by the rabbis among the Lord's inexplicable decrees (hukkim []). Observant Jews take them for granted, but others find them (along with kashrut itself) mysterious, opaque, and primitive [sic], which is understandable. [Judaism, A Way of Being, Yale University Press, 2009, p.29]

One does not ordinarily think of mixing wool and linen, or not mixing them, as examples of "ecstatic violence" or a "frenzy of antic piety." Or of mysticism. Similarly, the weekly ritual of lighting the Sabbath candles, which Gelernter discusses at length [ibid. pp.112-116], is a sacred practice that displays nothing of ecstasy, violence, frenzy, or anyting "antic." But it also is not an example of moral righteousness and is usually going to be irrelevant to moral issues. It may be beautiful and other things (perhaps even mystical), but there are other beautiful things, and the Sabbath ritual must have something about it that distinguishes it from them. If Goodman misses the curiosity of Otto in the sacred and numinous feature of the ritual, then he has entirely missed (again) the point of Otto's investigation.

To broaden our scope a bit again, we might go back to features of Greek and Roman religion that may have vanished in the Mediterranean world and Middle East but where comparable practices are alive and well in India and the Far East. Where on street corners in Athens or Rome there were Hermae, in Tokyo we find similarly placed shrines to the Bodhisattva Jizô (Sanskrit, Kshitigarbha), who, among other things, protects children. That was not generally the job of the Hermae, but in Rome that is where unwanted babies could be abandoned, to be rescued by passersby -- in Rome, desperate childless women did not need to steal children from hospitals, as sometimes happens today. I grew up without such divine protection on my street in California -- Father Serra could at least have left a shrine to a Saint -- I think that would be St. Pancras or St. Nicholas, both protectors of children. But there is not a lot of "ecstatic violence" or "frenzy of antic piety" in the cult of Jizô, or St. Pancras. Quite the contrary [note].

So, between a reference about mysticism and the "ecstatic violence" business, Goodman seems to be introducing matters that are extraneous to the cited text, irrelevant to the main analysis, and deceptive as to the tone and nature of the whole theory. Indeed, a suspicion I have about Goodman's use of the term "primitive" is that it goes back to a notion floating around that both Otto and Mircea Eliade were in the business of revalorizing pagan religion as contributions to a Nietzschean delegitimization of Judaism and Christianity and the Nazi revival of German paganism -- the "profounder religion" just because it is "primitive" and more authentically German, or Aryan. Since Otto published in 1917, the Nazis, of course, didn’t even exist; and since both Otto and Eliade were serious Christians, it is preposterous that they would be part of such a project [note]. A sound complaint against Otto, on the other hand, would be his quaint belief, that we still find among many people, that their own religion is the best one -- which in Otto goes along with his belief, common to Kant, that Christianity is morally superior to all other religions. Kant, of course, denied that Judaism was even a religion -- for reasons idiosyncratic and incoherent enough to raise suspicions of simple anti-Semitism. But Goodman seems to think that, unless moral goodness is the exclusive meaning of "holy," then Otto is devalorizing monotheistic religion, or rational morality, in favor of the "primitive." This is a confusion, at least [note].

Otherwise, in the last passage quoted above from Goodman, Otto merely points out the reductionistic nature of Kant's use of "holy," which is applied, for instance, to the "holy will" of angels, whose actions are entirely in conformity with the (rational) dictates of morality, and are "holy" for that reason alone. In turn, Goodman has misused Kant's term "synthetic." The Kantian Moral Law itself is a synthetic a priori proposition, which means it is not true by logic or definition, but can be denied without contradiction. This happens to be what Hume also says about morality, which is a "matter of fact," of sentiment (a common view in the Scottish Enlightenment), found in human nature. Goodman, however, uses "synthetic" to mean that "Goodness and other 'rational attributes'" are "not intrinsic to the experience of the divine as such." This is quite false, since Otto's point is only that goodness is not intrinsic to the basic meaning of the "sacred" -- while the propositional principles of all these matters of value are going to be logically synthetic. The "experience of the divine" is going to be unique to the forms of each religion, and the God of Abraham and Isaac is distinguished for his claims, at least, of righteousness.

Thus, goodness and "other 'rational attributes'" can easily be intrinsic "to the experience of the divine"; we often find them as part of such experiences; and Otto himself had previously written an entire book, Die Kant-Friesische Religions-Philosophie, as we have seen above, about the rational (very Kantian) features of religion. At the same time, as a historian of religion, Otto suspects that the "ethical element" was not "original" in religion -- for instance as when we see Euthyphro telling Socrates that "the pollution is the same," , whether a murder is committed by a stranger or by his father. His concern, and the reason why he is approaching the King Archon's Court in Athens, is first of all the religious scruple about pollution, , rather than the moral concern about justice or righteousness.

Goodman is free to argue that an "ethical element" is present in the Bible right from the beginning, and so is there intrinsic to holiness. At the same time, we are also free to question this, and doubt the thesis as an artifact of a strained and tendentious theodicy, or suspect that even early Judaism has already experienced moral development, as Otto himself holds; but, unless we also want to claim that Biblical religion is the only true and original religion (which many Jews and Christians may actually want to argue), we cannot ignore the absence of an "ethical element" altogether in many ancient and a few modern (cf. Shintô) religions. The Iliad may be the "Will of Zeus" being brought into fulfillment, but it is very hard to make it out as morally edifying. Euthyphro cites the belief of people that , "Zeus as the best and most just of the gods" [6a], but Socrates cannot accept the righteousness of the principle that Euthyphro wishes to prove with his mythological examples. Hesiod is not morally paradigmatic.

While conceding that Otto thinks that "goodness and other 'rational attributes' may be 'essential' to God," Goodman at the same time continually finds reasons why he can say, on some reading of Otto (or Kant), not only that they are not, but that religion is more real and "profound" without them. So they are "not intrinsic to the experience of the divine as such." But this is quite false. If goodness is not part of the original meaning of "holy," that is irrelevant to whether both may not be part, not only of the essence, but of the experience of the divine. Goodman has committed a sophism by substituting "divine" where the sentence he states might even be true, but only for the narrower term "numinous."

With our Aztec friends, the experience of the divine may not have involved much in the way of goodness, compassion, or surgical antisepsis, but to infer that Otto viewed Mosaic religion in something like the same way (as Goodman, without reference to the Aztecs, seems to imply) is absurd, and is directly contradicted by what Otto says. If, in Mosaic religion, the unity of goodness and divinity is "essential," as Goodman allows, then his misuse of the Kantian term "synthetic" cannot make this mean something else, i.e. that goodness has been "muffled," an "afterthought," "sluiced off," "varied colorations... are lost," or similarly rendered trivial, superficial, or secondary, a "carapace." As I demonstrate, Goodman's analysis is troubled and discredited by multiple points of misunderstanding, not only of Otto, but of the Kantian philosophy that underlies him. Reason and the rational are, in fact, "essential," precisely because, in parallel to numinosity, they reach to the roots of the transcendent. As religion evolves, the parallels combine, or at least asymptotically approach.

Otto shunts aside the stream of rational mysticism from Parmenides and Plato, Philo, Plotinus, Maimonides, Spinoza, and beyond. The language of stolid obedience in which he caricatures Kantian ethics mocks a reasoned ethical stance, slighting Kant's Enlightenment ideal of autonomy and ignoring the harmony of spontaneity with thoughtful committed action and intent that lay at the heart of the ethics of character from Aristotle and the Stoics to Maimonides and Spinoza, and down to our own time. Restive and romantic, Otto parodies reason as calculative, even calculating, rather than deliberative, halting rather than natural. Thought is stripped of feeling, in denial of the Platonic axiom and biblical presumption that value is what draws reason, whether it manifests itself as truth, beauty, or goodness -- and oblivious of Spinoza's recognition (and the Pragmatists' insistence) that every judgment is value-laden. Romantics often fail to recognize that if the heart hath reasons that reason knoweth not, it's typically because reason has been penned and pilloried by a false epistemology, and the intellectual penchant of the heart as been ignored. [op. cit., p.71]

This remarkable paragraph -- and it is a single paragraph in Goodman's book -- has almost nothing to do either with what Otto happens to say in the cited passages or with what we can otherwise construe as his project in The Idea of the Holy. Goodman gives us to understand that Otto features some sort of critique or criticism of Kantian ethics, with disparagements of reason, when he actually does nothing of the sort, or even hints at anything of the sort, either in this passage, in The Idea of the Holy overall, or anywhere. Yet most of what I have just quoted is an indignant, if not furious, response to this non-existent criticism. The misreading and misunderstanding of Otto has gone far indeed if it all comes to this, which is almost entirely nonsense. As Socrates said, "yet when it comes to truth, so to speak, they said nothing," [Apology 17a].

If "value draws reason," this would be why Rudolf Otto has written Das Heilige, to give a reasonable examination of the value of the sacred. And if Goodman accepts that "every judgment is value-laden," then of course he would be interested in judgments that embody the value of the sacred or the holy. But his complaint then would seem to be that the holy is not a value, and, indeed, he lists values as only "truth, beauty, or goodness." Perhaps he does not mean this to be an exclusive or exhaustive list. Yet, if he denies that the sacred has any meaning beyond moral goodness, that would be what he does really mean. The denial that the sacred is a distinct value means that it does not draw his reason, and that his judgments are not "laden" with any such value. "Holy, holy, holy," [Isaiah 6:3] is simply an expression where we can do a logical substitution, "good, good, good," , without any loss or change of meaning. Why Judaism, or any religion, would then have a distinct word for "holy" is puzzling. In fact, the proposition is absurd; and Goodman's complaint here only serves to condemn and refute his own argument. Where Otto simply wants to distinguish what is unique and distinctive about sacred value, Goodman, from his own principles, inadvertently and paradoxically proves that the sacred, in its own right, is no value at all.

Goodman says that "Otto shunts aside the stream of rational mysticism," when, as noted, the passage that seems to be addressed has nothing in it about mysticism at all, and most people would probably be surprised and perplexed at the idea that there has ever been a "stream of rational mysticism" in the first place. The expression sounds like an oxymoron. Indeed, William James says, "The opinion opposed to mysticism in philosophy is sometimes spoken of as rationalism" [The Varieties of Religious Experience, The Library of America, Simon & Schuster, 1987, p.72, boldface added]. James explains these terms in more detail than Goodman, with definitions of rationalism and an extended examination of mysticism.

This calls for some reflection. Goodman accuses Otto of rejecting something that he may well have never heard of, and that is contrary to the conventional understanding of the history of philosophy and religion -- where rationalism and mysticism are opposites. Of course, the conventional wisdom can be wrong; but in that case the burden of proof or at least explanation is on Goodman, who has an obligation not to make accusations about obscure matters that are not, properly speaking, in evidence. And since Goodman apparently has a complaint against "irrational" mysticism, we might expect him to address his critique to Existentialist Jewish philosophers, like Martin Buber (1878-1965), who are part of a larger tradition (both religious and atheistic) founded on a critique or rejection of rationalism. But Buber isn't even mentioned in Goodman's book, which seems like an astonishing oversight in a "philosophical investigation" of Judaism.

Of the philosophers cited by Goodman, it is not clear to me how Parmenides, the man who introduced logical argumention into Greek philosophy, would ever qualify as a mystic; and, while Plato is sometimes so characterized, I don't think there is really any foundation for calling him one either. As for the Neoplatonic tradition of genuine mysticism that begins with Plotinus -- whose influence we may be seeing in Goodman grouping Parmenides and Plato as mystics -- the problem is that this does not match up very well with Mosaic religion. The God of philosophers, mystics or otherwise, is usually an impersonal being who bears little comparison to the God of actual theistic, let alone polytheistic, religions. The paradoxes of this have been examined in the discussion of the intriguing Metaphysical Horror by Leszek Kolakowski -- while Goodman has already told us that "divinity does not mean horror" -- referring to the actual horror through which God put Abraham in demanding the sacrifice of Isaac [p.70].

This impersonal characteristic of the philosophical God is the most clearly evident, not only in the absence, in Goodman's treatment, of Martin Buber, where the popular I and Thou [Ich und Du, 1923] is all about the intuitive personal relation to God and others, but also where Goodman's own list ends, with Baruch Spinoza, whose God was so little like that of Abraham and Isaac that the philosopher was expelled and anathematized by his own Dutch Jewish community. It is hard to see how Goodman's own "tones of love and longing" have anything to do with so impersonal and indifferent a Being as Spinoza's God, for whom we are mere transient wrinkles in his own eternal Attributes, with no claim on his care or attention for anything so unworthy and ephemeral as our own personal interests or existence. If Goodman thinks that religion is properly founded on the "rational mysticism" of Spinoza, it is hard to see how he can then justify observing the practices of a religion like Judaism, the very practices that were abandoned by Spinoza himself as irrational, superstitious, and, shall we say, "primitive"? Miracles? Forget about it. Spinoza's God, in his "perfection," offers nothing for us to fear or hope. No prayer, no supplication, will mean anything to him. Events, including our own actions, are ground out by the necessities of his own nature. Spinoza's Christian friends kept hoping that, abandoning and abandoned by Judaism, and as he began to use the Christian name "Benedict" instead of the Jewish "Baruch" [], he would convert to Christianity. However, nothing about that religion was any more rational than the other.

Goodman's idea that Otto has some sort of complaint here with Kant’s ethics -- "typecasting virtue as obedience," he says -- is based on no more than Otto's accurate description of Kant's theory of the "holy" will of angels, which is not tempted by human self-interest or sensible pleasures to violate the Moral Law. Angels have the same consciousness of rational duty as human beings. It is just that they are without the temptations to which we are vulnerable and consequently never deviate from their duty. How we can then say that they have free will, if they can never act otherwise than they do, raises a good question -- but it applies to Leibniz as well as to Kant, since Leibniz also believed in a free will that nevertheless was always determined by the knowledge presented in the "preestablished harmony" of representation to each soul. In Spinoza, of course, there is no free will, even for God (who has no will and does not deliberate).

But this is also irrelevant to what Otto is doing, or to whatever Goodman thinks Otto is doing. Yet Goodman takes Otto's accurate description of the Kantian angelic will and uses it to upbraid Otto in several wholly irrelevant and gratuitous sentences, with bizarre observations such as that "thought is stripped of feeling," which really makes one wonder what sort of phantom is provoking him -- although perhaps, as feeling is indeed different from thought, he is offended that fundamental religious feeling is theoretically isolated in numinous experience. The whole passage is unsupported in the cited text, irrelevant to the issue, and improbable to impossible for Otto as a Kantian philosopher.  It is religions adopting a good rational Kantian system of morals that elevates ("schematizes") them in Otto’s system.  Without that, Kant would have thought, they are not religions at all.

Furthermore, we get Goodman saying that "Otto parodies reason" and is "restive and romantic." I really can't say what he is talking about or where he gets this. If G.E. Moore says that "good" cannot be defined, does this make for a "parody" of reason? Is Moore "restive and romantic"? Lighting the Sabbath candles may indeed be "romantic," but I don't get the "restive" part, unless we are getting more, again, in the way of "ecstatic violence" or a "frenzy of antic piety" -- perhaps if Stephen King's Carrie White happens to be attending [Carrie, book 1974, movie 1976]. On the other hand, if we are going to worry about parodies of reason, are not the "Lord's inexplicable decrees" in Jewish law vulnerable to such complaints? But there is no parody of reason in Otto, who accepts Kant's system with only the complaint that rational morality cannot describe all the phenomena of the sacred, just as Jewish law accepts the mandatory practices of kashrut (, the terms and practice of kosher, , "fitness, purity, legitimacy"), or St. Thomas accepts that propositions of dogmatic theology are known only by faith.

The final statement of the paragraph is particularly curious:

Romantics often fail to recognize that if the heart hath reasons that reason knoweth not, it's typically because reason has been penned and pilloried by a false epistemology, and the intellectual penchant of the heart as been ignored.

Goodman is here referring to the famous saying by Blaise Pascal, about the heart having reasons; but he then turns it around to the opposite of what Pascal, who himself experienced profound mystical episodes, meant by it. Goodman is saying that, free from a "false epistemology," reason will provide the "intellectual penchant of the heart" with sufficient rationality after all. I am curious how many people who have read Pascal would actually come away with this interpretation. Otherwise, Pascal appears to say no more than St. Thomas, that there are things of faith that wholly escape the reach of reason. And if we do not mix wool and linen, or we light the Sabbath candles, these are sacred acts by which we feel the holy Will of God, regardless of rational justification or moral purpose. David Gelernter compares the light of the candles on the woman's face, the wife and mother of the family, to the glow that the face of Moses is supposed to have acquired while visiting with God [op.cit. p.115; Exodus 34:33]. This is religion with, not just numinous, but miraculous, overtones.

But what we have seen is not the end of Goodman continuing to irrelevantly excoriate Rudolf Otto:

By typecasting virtue as obedience Otto perpetuates the stereotype of the ethical as hidebound and elides moral virtues like tact, warmth, generosity, cheerfulness, and caring. [ibid.]

To remind the reader, however tedious it may become, this entire elaborate reproach is based on nothing more than Otto's reference to Kant's theory of angelic will. The theory certainly raises questions, but about Kant, not about Otto. It has nothing to do with the nature of "virtue as obedience," or otherwise. All Otto is doing is to accuse Kant, indeed, of reductionism, that the "holy" is not just the perfectly moral will, but something more and different. Goodman has built a Straw Man, imagining some sort of ethical dispute that doesn't exist and is irrelevant to the topic.

At Exodus 3:5, God tells Moses, "Take off your sandals," for he is standing on "holy ground." Now, the ground is not holy because it has a perfectly rational, angelic will. Instead, in being sacred, the ground excludes certain things, like pollution, and requires certain ritual acts, like entering barefoot. Perhaps this is something that indeed "elides moral virtues like tact, warmth, generosity, cheerfulness, and caring," because they are irrelevant to the treatment of a sacred space -- unless possessing such virtues is part of the purification necessary to be free of pollution. But God only demands that Moses take off his sandals, not that he reform his character. That really doesn't come up [note].

Similarly, the mysterious mirror in the sanctum of a Shintô shrine represents the deity,
Small shrine with foxes, Fushimi Inari Taisha, Kyoto
in a religion where we generally do not have images of the gods, the , kami, as objects of worship. Without question it is a sacred object, even as a mirror is also one of the three sacred treasures of the Japanese Throne (with a jewel and a sword -- since 1185 AD the original sacred sword has lain on the sea floor at the site of the fateful Battle of Dan-no-Ura). Its holiness is not because of its goodness, and its beauty is only incidental to its status -- although what is enshrined is often closed and unknown, whether it is even a mirror or not, to the public. But we know it by where it is, and by how we are expected to approach and treat it. It is owed the reverence that Moses owes to the ground upon which the bush burns. Indeed, the whole shrine, within its torii gateway, is "sacred ground," and the mirror (or fetish, etc.) is itself the equivalent of the burning bush.

Goodman continues:

Biblical hesed and jen, its Confucian counterpart, do not loom large here. Nor does the independent-mindedness and resolve figured in the Torah's recurrent vision of the exiled shepherd who becomes a faithful spiritual and moral guide, often sharply contrasted with the dutiful if successful agrarian. Otto's analysis siphons off intellectual virtues like insight and creativity -- not to mention Aristotelian phronesis, leaving the heart of religious experience a dark precipitate of feeling assayed as morally opaque: [ibid.]

The irrelevance of this, since Otto denies or excludes no such virtues, becomes painful. Of interest is the comparison of Hebrew , "goodness, kindness, mercy" to the similar Confucian virtue of . But the latter is not a religious term in Confucius -- any more than phronesis, , is in Aristotle. What is such a term in Greek would be hosios, , "pious, devout, religious," or in Chinese , "propriety, manners, rites, ritual." The latter is what was rejected by Taoism precisely for the emptiness of "mere ritual" and insincere manners. Yet mere ritual, especially making offerings to the family dead and tending their graves, is a very large part of the practice of religion by Confucians. Confucian scholars might not in fact believe in the afterlife, but they would never dream of courting the public humiliation and censure that would go along with neglecting the family cult. And the sort of people who are indignant at the idea that Confucianism was ever a religion, would dismiss the ritual requirements of as irrational superstition. And, of course, "hesed and jen" may not "loom large" in Otto's treatment because he is not talking about morality or virtues, which are presupposed, but about something else. The idea that he is dismissing or belittling morality or virtue, or "intellectual virtues like insight and creativity," is without foundation in Otto's theory. But I don't see what is so hard to understand about the observation on religion that, "there is something else going on there."

Goodman continues with a long quote from Otto, which I now give in the full paragraph used by Otto, without the deletions in Goodman's treatment. This is about, indeed, the "something else" I have just referenced:

It will be our endeavour to suggest this unnamed Something to the reader as far as we may, so that he may himself feel it. There is no religion in which it does not live as the real innermost core, and without it no religion would be worthy of the name. It is pre-emintently a living force in the Semitic religions, and of these again in none has it such vigour as in that of the Bible. Here, too it has a name of its own, viz. the Hebrew qâdôsh [], to which the Greek and the Latin sanctus, and, more accurately still, sacer, are the corresponding terms. It is not, of course, disputed that these terms in all three languages connote, as part of their meaning, good, absolute goodness, when, that is, the notion has ripened and reached the highest stage in its development. And we then use the word 'holy' to translate them. But this 'holy' then represents the gradual shaping and filling in with ethical meaning, or what we shall call the 'schematization', of what was a unique original feeling-response, which can be in itself ethically neutral and claims consideration in its own right. And when this moment or element first emerges and begins its long development, all those expressions (qâdôsh, , sacer, &c.) mean beyond all question something quite other than 'the good'. This is universally agreed by contemporary criticism, which rightly explains the rendering of qadosh by 'good' as a mistranslation and unwarranted 'rationalization' or 'moralization' of the term. [Otto p.6; Goodman pp.71-72, boldface added, deleted parts of paragraph in red]

If Otto wants to direct us to the "something" that the reader "may himself feel it," Goodman obviously isn't feeling it. Before we see Goodman's response here, let me pause again with David Gelernter:

"Be holy." The standard English lexicon of biblical Hebrew (Brown, Driver, and Briggs, or BDB, 1907), gives the following derivation for the Hebrew kadosh, holy: "possibly the original idea is separation, withdrawl." Why? Holiness is a spiritual idea, separation a mere physical gesture. Holiness is ordinarily defined in abstract, theological terms. The word holiness "indicates the highest value or -- more precisely -- what can be said by men (or angels) when God comes immediately to mind, as in Isaiah 6:3: 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts'." Why should "be holy" mean (as the rabbis suggest), "be separate"?

Holy things are of course set apart from daily life -- from rough handling, dirt, and indignity. But it is also true that if you start with chaos, you must separate to create. Creation means separation, and the Creator is holy. So it is only natural that holiness and the act of separation (of defying chaos) are connected. [op.cit., pp.27-28]

With Gelernter we have a different perspective than what we find in either Otto or Goodman. Otto, however, would have no objection to "holy" as meaning "separate," since sacred things, indeed, must be kept separate, especially from pollution. Thus, the term "profane," profanus, as the opposite of all that is holy, simply means "before the temple," i.e. outside the sacred precinct. The separation of the holy from both the polluted and the worldly has been examined in these pages elsewhere. On the other hand, the separation of the holy from the polluted or worldly is a sense of the matter entirely different from the moral content that, contra Otto, Goodman is so vigorously promoting. Also in this passage, with Gelernter's reference to the Brown, Driver, and Briggs dictionary, we may have some notion of what Otto meant by "contemporary criticism."

It is the triconsonant root, , that Brown, Driver, and Briggs gloss as "poss. orig. idea of separation, withdrawl" [The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, Hendrickson Publishers, 2000, reprinted from the 1906 edition by Houghton, Mifflin and Company, p.871]. The noun, , they then define as "apartness, sacredness," and the adjective, , as "sacred, holy...of God, as separate, apart, and so sacred, holy" [pp.871-872]. While we may wonder whether, with , "possibly the original idea is separation, withdrawl," there is no doubt, as Gelernter examines in his entire chapter of "Separation," that this is a feature of the meaning, one that is strongly related to the non-moral meaning of "holy." We want righteousess in the face of evil, to defeat it, not protected in its own sanctum. But on the three dense pages where Brown, Driver, and Briggs examine the meanings associated with the root , none of them seems to be "good, absolute goodness," as Otto allows and Goodman demands.

Goodman continues in response to the quoted passage:

To assign moral content to the idea of the holy in ancient biblical texts, Otto argues, is "a mistranslation," an anachronism, "unwarranted 'rationalization' or 'moralization.'" Hebrew ideals are primitive -- not least, in Genesis. But the primitive is real. Thought and morals are an afterthought awaiting Christian and philosophical reconstruction. How could anyone so lost to time as Abraham or the biblical prophets have thought moral thoughts as fine and refined as Kant's?

Note that the quotation that Goodman glosses as "Otto argues" is what Otto himself attributed to "contemporary criticism," about whose origin we may have had some clue.

Otherwise, here we have what seems to be a bizarre reversal. Where before Otto is upbraided for abandoning the rational morality favored by Kant, in exchange for "obedience," now suddenly Otto is too Kantian, disparaging the moral ideals of the Hebrew Bible as falling short of the "moral thoughts as fine and refined as Kant's." Now, this is actually what Kant says, holding that the Old Testament is really just political legislation -- something unheard of in the ancient world -- and not really morality at all. The falseness and incoherence of this has been examined elsewhere. Otto clearly goes nowhere near that far; and he holds the Bible as exemplary and paradigmatic of religion, morally as well as otherwise, as we have seen, not its absence.

Yet if we gather from elsewhere that Otto does think that Christianity advances morally beyond Judaism, how is that relevant to the quoted passage, which in fact says nothing of the sort? Indeed, Goodman says that the Old Testament must be entirely innocent of moral development, since, "Thought and morals are an afterthought awaiting Christian and philosophical reconstruction." I would be astonished if Otto thought anything of the sort, especially when Otto has just said, about "holy" in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin (the three languages of the Titulus, the plaque nailed to the Cross that identified Jesus as the "King of the Jews"), that "these terms in all three languages connote, as part of their meaning, good, absolute goodness, when, that is, the notion has ripened and reached the highest stage in its development." Since Hebrew is one of those languages, Otto encompasses good, absolute goodness in the usage of the Hebrew Bible -- which Goodman is saying must await the "afterthought" of "Christian and philosophical reconstruction." Goodman, indeed, seems to know a lot about "philosophical reconstruction."

To paraphrase Goodman's question:  How could anyone so lost to reading comprehension have thought that Otto did not perceive, and honor, the moral teachings of the Old Testament? Yet Otto also honors the Bible as embodying a numinosity that, while "a living force in the Semitic religions," stands out from other religions, such that "of these again in none has it such vigour as in that of the Bible." Indeed, as religions are founded on some episode, in whatever manner, of religious intuition, its power is manifestly remarkable in the survival of Judaism, as in its daughter religions, Christianity and Islâm.

Goodman having accepted that Otto is disparaging Judaism, we have the paradoxical accusation of "chauvinism" that I have already noted above:

Otto is not alone in his historical chauvinism. His brand finds a ready market in romantic appetites for religious warmth, where crabbed reason is deemed wanting -- or in discontent with the tales and strictures of familial and communal piety that have come to seem oppressive and demanding of credence or obedience. [op.cit., p.72]

One might think that "tales and strictures of familial and communal piety" would involve "religious warmth" with little reference to reason, crabbed or otherwise. Again, lighting the Sabbath candles in the weekly ritual, to the major ritual of the Passover Seder, it all sounds like something that Goodman, not Otto, would be disparaging. And what is it that will "seem oppressive and demanding of credence or obedience"? Would this not be things like the ritual demands of Jewish law? Things that dwell happily and beautifully in Otto's theory, but that, as it happens, were abandoned and rejected by Baruch Spinoza, who would have no "credence or obedience" in irrational superstitions? Spinoza who, after all, is generally taken in popular culture to have simply been a materialist and an atheist? Not much romance there, to be sure, not like the warmth of the Sabbath candles in the midst of one's family -- the family that Spinoza, for his heresies, sadly and tragically lost.

Having found the highest morality in Kant's marmoreal spires, where duty ventures to fly free of the metaphysical inhibitions of the Critique of Pure Reason, Otto draws no moral distillate from the Patriarchal histories he sees swirling far below. [ibid.]

Here it is not clear who earns more of a rebuke from Goodman, Kant or Otto. Indeed, it is hard to tell whether we are mainly getting scorn directed at Kant, and not Otto, for the idea that "duty ventures to fly free of the metaphysical inhibitions of the Critique of Pure Reason." This is what Kant believes, since the Moral Law makes an unconditional command, to do what is right regardless of consequences, such as would not be justified by the forms of conditioned, phenomenal existence in experience. If Goodman has some problem with this -- and I expect he does, not being a Kantian -- he might want to digress with some explanation how that is wrong, before returning to scorn for Otto.

But if there is some kind of complaint here against Kant, in whose theory the contents of morality can be investigated and constructed independent of the Biblical text, Goodman would find an opponent long before Kant and Otto in the person again of St. Thomas Aquinas, who also believed that morality was a matter of reason independent of Revelation -- otherwise it would not have been possible for there to be "virtuous pagans" or morally cogent teachings from pagan philosophers. So perhaps Goodman must decide what he is saying. Is his customary coupling of morality and rationality to mean that morality can be derived from reason alone, in which case this rebuke of Kant is vacuous? Or are St. Thomas, Kant, and Otto entirely dependent on "Patriarchal histories" for morality, in which case morality is only a matter of Revelation and not of reason? It is a tough spot. And he is in danger of affirming something deeper "than rationalism knows" just to get in a swipe at Kant and Otto. That would be a high price.

But scorn for Otto seems irresistable, in that evidently Otto derives "no moral distillate from the Patriarchal histories." But, of course, there is no reason for Otto not to, except that as a Kantian, if not a Thomist, he does think that morality is a matter of reason independent of Revelation. And also, as it happens, morality is not the subject matter of The Idea of the Holy. Yet from what Otto does say, we might begin to wonder if Goodman, after the passages he cites, has actually read the rest of Otto's book; for Otto says:

The venerable religion of Moses marks the beginning of a process which from that point onward proceeds with ever increasing momentum, by which the numinous is throughout rationalized and moralized, i.e. charged with ethical import, until it becomes the 'holy' in the fullest [Goodman's?] sense of the word. The culmination of the process is found in the Prophets and in the Gospels. And it is in this that the special nobility of the religion revealed to us by the Bible is to be found, which, when the stage represented by the 'deutero-Isaiah' is reached, justifies its claim to be a universal world-religion. Here is to be found its manifest superiority over, e.g., Islam, in which Allah is mere 'numen', and is in fact precisely Yahweh in His pre-Mosaic form and upon a larger scale. But this moralizing and rationalizing process does not mean that the numinous itself has been overcome, but merely that its preponderance has been overcome. The numinous is at once the basis upon which and the setting within which the ethical and rational meaning is consummated.

The capital instance of the intimate mutual interpenetration of the numinous with the rational and moral is Isaiah. [op.cit. p.75, boldface added]

So I would wonder how Otto managed to derive "no moral distillate" from Isaiah, when he cites that prophet precisely for his moral sophistication. Goodman seems to have skipped, ignored, or forgotten passages like this, which also contradicts his assertion that Otto regards reason or morality as an "afterthought awaiting Christian and philosophical reconstruction." The "religion of Moses" seems a little early to be an "afterthought." It is Muslims, on the other hand, who could be taking umbrage [note].

The expression "swirling far below," perhaps with scatological overtones, has therefore been supplied by Goodman for a contemptuous attitude that Otto does not have and is the opposite of what he explicitly asserts; and it would, after all, be inconsistent with the Kantian theory that Goodman also seems to be disparaging, since Kant believes that morality connects us directly to the rational essence of things-in-themselves.

Otto's theory does not depart from this. Otto, following Jakob Fries, merely posits an alternative modality for our access to the transcendent, equal and parallel to morality. What Fries did, as it happens, was simply to do the same thing with aesthetic sense (as Kent Richter translates it), restoring the aesthetic realism that Kant had abandoned after Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime. This is why, as we have already seen, Otto compares the status of the holy to "the category of the beautiful." In the big picture, Otto has simply added an extra term to the epistemology of Fries, which corrected the aesthetic subjectivism of the mature Kant (as in the Critique of Judgment).

Goodman, confusing us with whether he dislikes Kant or Otto more, betrays no familiarity with Friesian epistemology, little sympathy with Kantian epistemology and metaphysics, and so has ignored Otto's own exhortation to read the Naturalistische und religiöse Weltansicht and Die Kant-Friesische Religions-Philosophie before venturing into Das Heilige. Of course, nobody reads them; but a sustained polemic against Otto, such as we have here, does owe the reader some kind of familiarity with where Otto is coming from. Goodman's implication that Otto regards morality as the content of a toilet means that he has a deficient understanding of the Kantian status of Otto's morality, or perhaps even of Kantian morality itself.

In the middle of the paragraph I have been quoting, Goodman turns to the chapter in Otto on the mysterium tremendum, where, much like William James, Otto begins to lay out a description of elements of religious experience. In this, Goodman might have compared Otto to Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling, which uses terms that also occur in Otto. But perhaps Goodman doesn't think that Kierkegaard is interested in religion. In any case, I will begin with the sense we can get from some Biblical quotes, and from a song by Bob Dylan.




Terrorem meum mittam in praecursum tuum,
et occidam omnem populum ad quem ingredieris.

I will send my terror before you, and will throw into confusion
all the people against whom you shall come.

Exodus 23:27; color added




Ecce timor Domini ipsa est sapientia
et recedere a malo intellegentia.

Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom;
and to shun evil understanding.

Job 28:28, cf. wisdom; color added


Oh God said to Abraham, "Kill me a son"
Abe says, "Man you must be puttin' me on"
God say, "No." Abe say, "What?"
God say, "You can do what you want Abe, but
The next time you see me comin' you better run"
Well Abe says, "Where do you want this killin' done?"
God says, "Out on Highway 61"

"Highway 61 Revisited," Bob Dylan, The Lyrics 1961-2012, Simon & Schuster, 2004, 2014, p.178

Now, Goodman continues in the paragraph I was last quoting above:

Trawling, as he thinks, beneath their surface, he hauls in the mysterium tremendum and lands a seine-full of the species, some strangely still, once yanked from their dark element, others thrashing violently. [ibid.]

Of course, we don't need to do any "trawling" (note the contemptuous and dismissive use of this word) or go beneath any surfaces to recognize the feelings in religious experience. It's all on the surface. But we should note how this works for the tone here. Religious feeling comes from a "dark element" and perhaps is landed on our deck "thrashing violently." This is the picture of Otto that Goodman has been promoting from the beginning with terms like "primitive." Since religious manifestations can indeed be violent and thrashing, Goodman looks forward to displaying this as though it is the heart and soul of numinosity. Having thrown back all the other fish, he catches a shark and displays that as characteristic of all ocean life. But the awkward thing here is that, indeed, there are religious phenomena that are violent and thrashing -- like the Aztecs tossing sacrificial victims, suddenly without their hearts, down the steps of the Templo Mayor. Does Goodman want to deny that this is religion? Or just not his religion? But then isn't that "historical chauvinism"?

But by opposing thought to authenticity he loses the rich diversity of the catch, sluicing off any that seem too wholesome.

Otto does not oppose "thought to authenticity," certainly not by using a term from Existentialism -- "authenticity" -- whose implication is antinomian morality. As for what is "sluiced" off, the idea that this is how morality or thought, or anything "too wholesome," is treated is a misconception and distortion, since Otto is merely focusing on one feature of religious experience, not dismissing all the rest of it, let alone anything "wholesome" from it. But Goodman perhaps is determined, acting for Otto, to reduce everything to those people with spears dancing in the jungle, or perhaps, as I have helpfully suggested, Aztec priests displaying a freshly excised, still beating, bloody heart. Enjoy.

Religious feeling, stripped of all accretions, he urges, appears "in sudden strong ebullitions of personal piety... in the fixed and ordered solemnities of rites and liturgies, and again in the atmosphere that clings to hold religious monuments and buildings, to temples and churches..." The varied colorations of the catch are lost: Religious feeling is free because it is irrational --

Religious feeling, without any stripping or chipping, as we focus on certain features, reveals particular characteristics. But if Goodman is saying that "the varied colorations" are "lost," perhaps he should not do so with a list of things that are precisely "varied colorations." Rites, liturgies, monuments, temples, churches, etc. -- this extends across very different categories, and what is more, are external objects and not just the subjective states that otherwise seem mainly to be Otto's concern (as they were for William James), but that are consistent with his theory (not to mention how that is applied by Mircea Eliade, particularly to "sacred spaces"). "Rites and liturgies" are regarded by many (like Spinoza) as irrational and empty ritual. If so, it is actually hard to see how Goodman would not agree with them.

In Goodman's "rational mysticism," what does baptism accomplish? Or, for that matter, circumcision? Isn't this just, as James Frazer would say, some kind of absurd magical thinking? The City of San Francisco recently almost banned circumcision, as the mutilation of children, until accusations of actual anti-Semitism sobered up the good politically-correct (though often trendily anti-Semitic) citizens of the City. In turn, we are free, of course, just because we are free, not because the "irrational" is free. That, again, would be more like Existentialism, not like good Kantianism. If Goodman wants to accuse Otto of being an Existential irrationalist, he should both say so and then explain what that would mean in proper Existentialism -- where, as Sartre says, "all is permitted."

Goodman now gives us a quote from Otto again; and I have again filled out the passage with what Goodman leaves out:

If we do so we shall find we are dealing with something for which there is only one appropriate expression, 'mysterium tremendum'. The feeling of it may at times come sweeping like a gentle tide, pervading the mind with a tranquil mood of deepest worship. It may pass over into a more set and lasting attitude of the soul, continuing, as it were, thrillingly vibrant and resonant, until at least it dies away and the soul resumes its 'profane', non-religious mood of everyday experience. It may burst in sudden eruption up from the depths of the soul with spasms and convulsions, or lead to the strangest excitements, to intoxicating frenzy, to transport and ecstasy. It has wild and demonic forms and can sink to an almost grisly horror and shuddering. It has crude, barbaric antecedents and early manifestations, and again it may be developed into something beautiful and pure and glorious. It may become the hushed, trembling, and speechless humility of the creature in the presence of -- whom or what? In the presence of that which is a mystery inexpressible and above all creatures. [Otto, p.12-13; Goodman, p.72, deleted parts in red]

We might note that Goodman has edited the passage so as to place emphasis on the part with "spasms and convulsions," although, to be sure, he gives us a little bit of the "gentle tide" and "tranquil mood." But those, with what he has deleted, are now ignored:

All true. There are religious frenzies and spasms of fanaticism. We witness them daily in the horrors wrought by al-Qa'ida and Daesh [i.e. ISIS, ISIL, or the "Islamic State"]. [ibid., p.73, boldface added]

Suddenly, it is all fanaticism. And the detailed raptures of St. Teresa of Ávila -- certainly not part of Goodman's tradition of "rational mysticism" -- now perhaps make her the equivalent of Islamic Terrorism. Imagine that, St. Teresa the suicide bomber.

I am not unfair to Goodman here. He picks out one extreme of religious frenzy, and moral debasement, and clearly wants to smear Otto with somehow endorsing it, or of valorizing it beyond the other forms of experience that he details. This is sophistry, and it is unworthy of Goodman. But, again, what does he think he is saying? Are not even the Jihadists part of religious phenomena, which the historian or philosopher of religion is bound to address? Or are we supposed to disqualify them from the study of religion? He admits "there are religious frenzies and spasms of fanaticism," so clearly he cannot exclude them from study. But do we address Aztec religion as a "frenzy" or a "spasm of fanaticism"? It does not seem in quite the same category, since it was practiced routinely for centuries, although just as challenging to what seem to be Goodman's principles of philosophy of religion.

But how did thought and moral regard become an outer carapace? [ibid.]

Because they didn't. Reason in Kantian philosophy is not a "carapace," but Goodman says so to imply that Otto's theory can be used to endorse religious fanaticism and terrorism. Instead, according to Kant, reason is our window, in the form of the Moral Law, to the innermost nature of things. Empirical reason is confined to phenomena, but moral reason goes all the way. But it does so, as critics of Kant often note, only abstractly and formally. Kant can generate some real feeling in his narrow frame over "the Moral Law within me" -- das moralische Gesetz in mir -- but feeling itself has no objective epistemological or metaphysical status in Kant's philosophy (before we even begin to consider the defects in Kant's version of the Moral Law). Fries added a realism of aesthetic feeling to that; and Otto noticed that in the variety of actual religions, which are resolutely ignored by Kant and Fries (and Leonard Nelson -- and Lenn Goodman), there is a bit more to it. But at this point, Goodman is nowhere through with his Straw Man:

The argument grows paper thin: Concepts become schematizations (Kant's term). Experience, at bottom, is unconceptual. [ibid.]

Here the complaint again seems to drift from Otto to Kant, and we have the problem, not just that Goodman misunderstands Otto, but that he also misunderstands Kant. Experience is not "at bottom unconceptual" because, to be admitted to consciousness, sensations must be synthesized according to the categories of the understanding. This requires an affinity between concepts and sensations, and it produces conceptualized conscious experience -- something, to be sure, not always appreciated by Kant commentators, but discerned and sharply affirmed, long ago, by Schopenhauer.

The "schematization" in Kant is the form that categories like causality must take when applied through the "pure intuitions" of space and time. Similarly, while numinous sensations are directly connected to the transcendent, the phenomena of religion are also in space and time, where all the features of religion, including morality, are not just constructed and embedded together, but obviously are expressed differently in different religions, and also evolve over time. Christians, Jews, and Muslims may like the idea of eternal and unchanging Revelation; but the historian of religion, and so the philosopher, cannot see and credit the data in quite that way.

Goodman saying that "Concepts become schematizations" seems to be a way of saying that they are superficial, inessential, and perhaps even trivial. But a Kantian schemzatization takes something from transcendent reason, like causality or morality, and embodies it in visible phenomena and experience. But Goodman presents it as the opposite, so that the visible is either free of the transcendent or the transcendent is now free of reason and morality. If we are not dancing in the jungle, as Goodman sees Otto, it isn't religion. Anything else must just be the hot air of Hebrew prophets -- or maybe just Christians and philosophers.

Perhaps I am unfair. But if I am too harsh, I feel provoked. Rudolf Otto does not deserve to be associated with "al-Qa'ida and Daesh." It is a smear -- unless Goodman wants to commend him for having a theory of religion than can address fanaticism, or human sacrifice, as well as the "goodness, peace, wholeness, love, justice, and beauty that God discovered to Abraham" (by demanding, of course, that he kill his son). But that is not the sense I am getting off this.

The tremendum, at its base, is fear, or something very like it, the kind of dread or terror that "first begins to stir in the feeling of 'something uncanny,' 'eerie', or 'weird.'" [ibid.]

While the tremendum is not, "at its base," fear, there is no doubt that fear is part of the phenomenon, as it often is in the face of experiences of no more than the sublime, which, in nature, can be pretty frightening. But if Goodman has read his bible, fear -- , , , all "fear, terror," or "dread"; or in the Septuagint -- is not hard to find, as in the epigraphs above.

But tremendum "at its base" means "trembling" (the future passive participle from tremô, to tremble) not fear, which gets us the English word "tremendous" (Latin tremendus, "such as to cause dread, awe-inspring, terrible," Oxford Latin Dictionary, 2015, p.2170), and rather closely describes the phenomenon of worship that earned both the Quakers and the Shakers their names. Perhaps the Quakers represent the same kind of fanaticism as al-Qa'ida. William Penn the suicide bomber. Or not [note].

Otto himself directly contradicts Goodman's statement here about fear. We might think that Job is beaten down by the fear of God, and his overwhelming power [Job 38-41]; but Otto has a different take on it:

The mysterium, simply as such, would merely... be a part of the 'absolute inconceivability' of the numen, and that, though it might strike Job utterly dumb, could not convict [sic, convince?] him inwardly. That of which we are conscious is rather an intrinsic value in the incomprehensible -- a value inexpressible, positive, and 'fascinating'. This is incommensurable with thoughts of rational human teleology and is not assimilated to them; it remains in all its mystery. But it is as it becomes felt in consciousness that Elohim is justified and at the same time Job's soul brought to peace. [op.cit., p.80]

The natural response of fear is to induce flight. That's not what happens with Job. The natural response of mystery is to hesitate in perplexity. That's not exactly what happens with Job. But the natural response of fascination is to be attracted and drawn in. This is what satisfies and pacifies Job. Quite the opposite of fear and, in this case, overriding it. Exactly the same thing happened to Moses, who saw the burning bush and said, "I will turn aside and see this great sight" [Exodus 3:3]. He was drawn in, and fascinated. What could be so fascinating? Beauty, yes. As the movie star fascinates. The sublime, yes. As Niagara Falls fascinates and awes. But if there is a truly supernatural character there, it will be something more. Numinosity. As the presence of a god, if not the God, fascinates.

To be sure, there is little in the text to suggest Otto's interpretation. Job's own responses to God's display "out of the whirlwind" are muted and submissive [Job 40:4-5, 42:2-6]. Considering that God does nothing but detail and display his might and power, without the slightest attention to the righteousness of Job's case, or the justice of God's own actions, Job's response is simply of one cowed, beaten, and terrified. Yet God continues his boasts and triumphs, even after, as Jung says, "Job has long since been knocked out" [op.cit. p.18].

So Otto's reading here may be generous and charitable. His reasoning must be read into the text. The best we can do is perhaps what Job says at 42:3, "Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful [] for me, which I did not know," and 42:5-6, "I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee; therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes." We get a distinction, that hearing and words were not enough (meaning that the discourse of Elihu, son of Barachel, let alone the three other speakers, was ineffective), but now that Job has seen, it makes a difference. And the difference may come down to one word, , "[things] being wonderful" -- in the Septuagint, , "great and wonderful [things]."

With the Hebrew verb, the adjective is , pil'i, "wonderful." This is not much, but it may be enough on which to hang Otto's reading. The wonder, , pele', of it can be more than force, power, fear, or threat. Wonder can be Otto's fascinans numinosity; and I am reminded of Howard Carter's reaction when first looking into the tomb of Tutankhamon, and he answered Lord Caevarvon's question about what he saw, saying, "Wonderful things" []. The Book of Job remains morally incomplete, which the text itself seems to acknowledge, as Job's family and friends, "comforted him for all the evil [, 'evil, misery, distress, injury'] that the LORD had brought upon him" [42:11]. But is it incomplete for Job? Does what he has seen, the [ ], overwhelm and compensate for what is otherwise the cruel injustice of it all? Otto says yes, although, we should note, Jung may not have agreed.

Curiously, I don't see a word for "wonderful" in the Latin text. The Vulgate says et quae ultra modum excederent scientiam meam, "and which exceeds beyond the measure of my knowledge," leaving out what has done this exceeding.

In any case, the undoubted presence of fear in one's experience of the Almighty Supreme Being, a person erratic, touchy, and suspicious -- who says:

,
,
Quia Dominus Deus tuus ignis consumens, est Deus aemulator
For the LORD your God is a devouring fire; he is a jealous God
[Deuteronomy 4:24, color added]

-- is not so surprising. Perhaps the Quakers (and Job) were just afraid. But Goodman seems to think that the fearful phenomena of the uncanny, eerie, or weird is something that refutes or embarrasses Otto's theory. It doesn't. When we see that Neanderthals tied up their dead before burial, we not only wonder what they were worried about (the dead returning?), but we realize that religious beliefs are now involved with them, both that the dead are to be buried, with grave goods, and that they may even represent a threat.

Does this draw any curiosity from Goodman? Perhaps not in a book about Judaism, but then he goes far beyond that to engage in a general polemic against Rudolf Otto. Doesn't it bother him just a little to walk by a cemetery after dark? But perhaps such feelings, so infantile, so superstitious, are beneath the notice of the rational philosopher. The dead there are just rotting meat, as any proper Neoplatonist knows.

Romanaticism mans the door: Emotions that look raw enough may pass, but thoughtful devotion stands outside. How could any ancient or primitive soul have higher thoughts than savagery permits?

Since Otto himself mentions the equivalent of "thoughtful devotion" ("a gentle tide, pervading the mind with a tranquil mood of deepest worship") in a passage that Goodman himself has just quoted, acting as though this stands "outside" religious experience requires some effort. Obviously, Goodman is obsessed with the "ancient or primitive soul" and "savagery," but if he thinks that this is all that Otto is talking about, he really has not been paying attention. It looks like emotions only count for Otto if they "look raw enough." This is nonsense.

So I must take Goodman's use of "romanticism" to mean the valorization of people with spears dancing in the jungle as religiously superior to Mosaic religion, when Otto happens to say exactly the opposite, precisely because of the moral maturity of the latter. Goodman had said earlier in his book, "To romantics the holy becomes the tremendum that may ultimately demand suspension of the ethical" [p.31]. The "romantics" here must mean Otto, who, again, says nothing of the sort, but just the opposite. Yet, when Goodman seems to realize this, he must fall back on the complaint that Otto does not esteem Judaism as much as (his own) Christianity [note].

Yet the insight dramatized in the narrative of Isaac's binding and Abraham's choice, warned by a mere angel not to accept what had seemed God's command, was, at bottom, a rational insight at the heart of holiness: Greatness crumbles when split apart from goodness... [ibid.]

This is not the best moment for Goodman to cite his own rationalizing theodicy of the terror that God inflicted on Abraham and Isaac. And even in this statement there are odd features. What does it mean that Abraham was stopped by a "mere angel"? Does this mean that the angel is independently countermanding the order of God, or urging disobedience? Is this an "intervention"?
Caravaggio (1571-1610), "The Sacrifice of
Isaac," Sacrificio d'Isaaco, 1603,
detail; hand of angel restraining
Abraham; ram provided for sacrifice at right
That is hardly possible, especially when the angel reports the first person speech of God, including "declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son..." [Genesis 22:16].

So whatever Goodman wants to infer from the intervention of an angel, rather than God, it is not really going to work. Yet it is what he says in the first place, that Abraham is "Forced to choose, with no guidance but his conscience, between heeding the voice demanding Isaac's sacrifice or listening to the angel who pleads urgently to stay his hand..." [ibid., p.6]. The angel "pleads"? Not likely, especially when the , "angel of the LORD" [Genesis 22:11], says, "declares the LORD," as angels generally do. An angel is just a messenger, , of God. So Goodman acts like Abraham is faced with a choice, when he is not. He is ordered to sacrifice Isaac, until he is ordered not to. The angel is not telling him, "My boss is a little out of control. You better ignore him; and perhaps he'll forget all about this." There are people like that, but not here.

Morally, the problem with this, which is generally appreciated, is that God wants Abraham to be willing to sacrifice Isaac. Goodman wants to argue that God was never going to make him go through with it. He says that Abraham "may not have known" this when he tells the servants that he and Isaac will be right back [Genesis 22:5] or, presumably, when he tells Isaac that God will provide the lamb for the burnt offering [22:8]. However, what is more reasonable is that Abraham is lying to the servants and to Isaac because he cannot admit the horrible truth. Otherwise, when he actually binds and lays Isaac on the altar and the wood, and "reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son" [22:10], he might have said something further to comfort Isaac, who now is clearly put in place of the lamb, for the burnt offering, despite what Abraham just told him. It is too late to dissimulate or lie about what is happening. So Abraham is just silent, as Kierkegaard notices.

But we must not miss the most important point. It doesn't matter that God stops Abraham. The damage has already been done. The angel tells Abraham that God will honor him because he was willing to sacrifice his son. What kind of righteousness is that? We want people who are willing to commit murder when told to? [note] As Socrates asks, "Whatever does the god mean?" ; [Apology 21b].

What it looks like is that God changes his mind. If he never wanted child sacrifices, as the Phoenician gods did, he wouldn't have asked for one in the first place. He would not have put Abraham through three days of terror. Instead, we see a moment of divine evolution, in which God becomes more righteous.

This, as it happens, is the theme of Answer to Job by C.G. Jung, some of whose observations I have already noted -- and it would not surprise a Rudolf Otto who thinks of the moralization of religion as a historical process. It is just hard to wrap our minds around the idea that God might not have always been perfect, and needed to get better. Jung sees God as losing the moral contest with Job, and it is not hard to see why. Goodman needs a theodicy where the evils that befall Job are due to natural events, not to God, baited by Satan, inflicting gratuitous tests on him, which incidentally happen to wipe out all his children, even his livestock, and leaving him with some sort of skin disease [Goodman, pp.23-24].

But consequently we may have an explanation why an angel rather than God himself stops Abraham. God is embarrassed. We see something similar in the play Ion by Euripides, where Mary Lefkowitz points out that Apollo sends Athena to speak for him "because he was afraid that Ion would reproach him" [Euripides & the Gods, Oxford, 2016, p.105]. Apollo had not been acting well, begetting an illegitimate child and then abandoning child and mother, but now he wants to make amends. Good for him.

If God stops the sacrifice of Isaac, good for him. If he wants to make amends to Job for killing all his children and livestock and ruining his life, good for him -- although I don't see how God ever made it up to the Egyptians, after he afflicted and killed so many of them. But all of this, as with the Greek gods, makes the God of Abraham and Isaac more human -- and, oddly enough, more real and appealing than the impersonal deities of people like Plotinus and Spinoza. This is also the charm of a lot of Jewish lore about God, as examined by David Gelernter, for instance that God grants the prayer of the rich man, because he doesn't hear from him much, but not the poor man, because he hears from him all the time. It may be hard to work that up into a reasonable theology, or theodicy; but if God was indeed the "friend" of Abraham, it is the kind of thing we might expect to happen. Because of its humanity. The "friend" just gets a little crazy, occasionally. We know people like that; and, suitably domesticated (i.e. without the fear part), it meant that George Burns could make God an appealing if eccentric character. Spinoza's "perfect" God has the humanity crushed right out of him. No religion can live with it.

But wait a minute. We can't compare God, from a real religion, in the Bible, to a bunch of silly Greek mythology. Apollo, Athena, and Ion, and whatever they do, are not real persons or actions from actual religion; and nobody takes that stuff seriously unless they are divorced from reality and have some kind of poetic or romantic longing for a debunked and debased, virtually a comic book, past. I don't know if Goodman would actually come out and say this, but it is the sense that I get. And it would, of course, be precisely, if anything, the "historical chauvinism" with which he wants to upbraid Otto -- where, of course, such a sin can only be practiced against a real religion, like Judaism. But if Greek religion was indeed real religion, then Apollo's treatment of Ion, in the sacred Theater of Dionysus at Athens, interpreted by the poet Euripides (whom Socrates says will speak, as the poets do, "by some inborn talent and by inspiration []" [Apology 22c]), is precisely what we can compare to God's treatment of Abraham.

Yet in this we certainly must contend with the remains of Enlightenment attitudes that the Greeks were far too rational to believe in the ridiculous stories of their own religion -- Socrates himself says so. Indeed, rationalistic Greek philosophers did undermine Greek religion and prepared for its replacement. The extent to which they did that, and the extent to which modern philosophers do not understand the values of Socrates himself, I have examined in relation to the question of the "impiety" of Socrates, where we find the irony of modern writers attacking Socrates for not honoring the gods, without the slightest intention of honoring the ancient gods themselves. So this is a matter dense with tendentious ideology, bias, and muddle -- problems of which Goodman is not in the least bit free. After all, we know that the Japanese who buy new amulets and talismans every year for their cars, homes, and workplaces say that they are not religious. This means that they don't take that silly stuff seriously, doesn't it?

Lenn Goodman, whose own moral sense enables him to see right through the contemptible and shameful popularity of Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger, must accept both that the God of the Bible is, shall I say, a "colorful" person, of a difficult and fallible, but corrigible, nature, and that Rudolf Otto is the wrong person to attack, in the midst of a Leibnizian theodicy and theological whitewash, over some sort of moral deficiency or perversion, of which he is innocent.

Bernard Mandeville (1670-1733), The False Friend of Freedom

Rudolf Otto (1869-1937)

Rudolf Otto in Rem B. Edwards' Reason and Religion

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Rudolf Otto in Lenn E. Goodman's
Judaism, A Contemporary Philosophical Investigation; Note 1

To make sure that Moses gets the message, God repeats his instructions, for instance at Deuteronomy 7:16:

And you shall destroy all the peoples that the LORD your God will give over to you, your eye shall not pity them; neither shall you serve their gods, for that would be a snare to you.

They will find out that the LORD is "a great and terrible God" [Deuteronomy 7:21]. In Hebrew this phrase is , in the Greek of the Septuagint, , and in the Latin of the Vulgate, Deus magnus et terribilis. Hebrew , nôrâ', can also be translated "awesome," which isn't quite the same tone as "terrible," which obviously comes directly from the Latin. Ben Yehuda says that means "awe-inspiring, fearful, revered," which covers a lot of territory. But in Greek, is actually just "strong, mighty, resistless," according to Liddell and Scott. So the meaning there is a little bit of a puzzle, whether God means to terrify or just overpower the peoples of Canaan. See discussion of , 'Êl, here.

But God also warns what will happen should Israel not wipe out or drive out the previous people of Canaan:

[Numbers 33:55] But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as pricks in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell. [33:56] And I will do to you as I thought to do to them.

This is ominous, to say the least. But however we look at these statements and instructions, God is not out to give a fair shake or a square deal to the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Jebusites, etc.

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Rudolf Otto in Lenn E. Goodman's
Judaism, A Contemporary Philosophical Investigation; Note 2

While the meaning of Kant's terminology can shift around a bit, given the revisions in his thought, the "Transcendental Aesthetic" begins with definitions that hold with some firmness (colored coded to easily match the German with English words):

Die Wirkung eines Gegenstandes auf die Vorstellungsfähigkeit, so fern wir von demselben affiziert werden, ist Empfindung. Diejenige Anschauung, welche sich auf den Gegegstand durch Empfindung bezieht, heißt empirisch. Der unbestimmte Gegenstand einer empirischen Anschauung heißt Erscheinung.

The effect of an object upon the faculty of representation, so far as we are affected by it, is sensation. That intuition which is in relation to the object through sensation, is entitled empirical. The undetermined object of an empirical intuition is entitled appearance.

[German, Immanuel Kant, Kritik der reinen Vernunft, 1, Die Werke Immanuel Kants in der Ausgabe von Wilhelm Weischedel, Band III, Suhrkamp Taschenbuch Wissenschaft, 1956, 1974, 1995, §1, A20, p.69; English, Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, Translated by Norman Kemp Smith, Macmillan, 1929, St. Martin's Press, 1965, p.65; color added]

What we can retain from this with some clarity is that sensation, as a causal product, mediates the relation between the (external) object and intuition. This construction can be maintained through the rest of Kant's philosophy. Some complications involving these concepts, especially with "appearance," are discussed in response to Roger Scruton's confused idea of "Kant's 'Attack on the Noumenon'."

Kant Index

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Rudolf Otto in Lenn E. Goodman's
Judaism, A Contemporary Philosophical Investigation; Note 3

Otto devotes an entire appendix, "Chrysostom on the Inconceivable in God" [Appendix I, pp.179-186], to a detailed critique by St. John Chysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople (398-404, d.407), of the rationalistic theology that was already familiar in his day. Chrysostom was "against the theoretical 'Aristotelian' God of the schools." Since it would be many centuries before the appearance of the Aristotelian theology familiar to us, from St. Thomas Aquinas, Chrysostom clearly had something else in mind; and the only place where much in the way of an Aristotelian theology had been developed was in Neoplatonism. This would influence Christianity, Judaism, and Islâm for a very long time, and arouse intense controversy along the way, especially in Islâm, where the philosophers adopted it without much modification. If Maimonides did the same thing, then Chrystostom's complaint, seconded by Otto, may well apply to Lenn Goodman's "rationalism" also.

But Chrysostom himself did have specific Christian heresies in mind. Thus, Otto tells us that the , De Incomprehensibili, was directed first of all at the , who were the "disciples of the Arian Aëtios, with their doctrine of ('I know God as He is known to Himself')," which seems like an extraordinary claim to make:

For his opponents had maintained that a conceptual knowledge of God is possible, definitive, and exhaustive, by means of notions, in fact by a single notion (viz. of , unbegottenness), in a word, that it is possible 'to know God exactly'
(). [p.180]

This could well apply to Neoplatonic theology, as we even see discussed by Leszek Kolakowski, who sees all meaning and content drain out of such theology. However, it is not clear that we would know God as he knows himself, definitively and exhaustively, unless we know what God knows. Since Neoplatonic theology denies that God knows individuals, which got it in serious trouble in Islâm, that eliminates a lot of what a theistic God should know. But then an Aristotelian God apparently does know universals; and if he knows all of them, then, finite or infinite, this would go well beyond what we can know as human beings.

So there is a lot of wiggle room there. And with Goodman, we can't forget Spinoza, for whom God possesses an infinite number of attributes that we don't know about. Nevertheless, the God of all the philosophers, from Plotinus to Spinoza, is impersonal to a degree that cannot be tolerated by theistic religion. If Goodman accepts the personal God necessary to Judaism, he is not going to be able to derive it from the philosophical tradition. With St. Thomas, at least we could admit that the personal nature of God cannot be confirmed by reason alone.

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Rudolf Otto in Lenn E. Goodman's
Judaism, A Contemporary Philosophical Investigation; Note 4

In relation to the Roman practice of unwanted babies being left at the Hermae, there is a striking parallel in the modern cult of Jizô. In Jizô temples, women who have had abortions often leave notes to the children they have aborted. As at Rome, these were, of course, unwanted children. Where in the modern West, abortion involves either mere insignificant "tissue," to the secular, or the sinful murder of the unborn, to the religious, in Japanese Buddhism some guilt can follow the procedure, without the act itself preventing the children from being born again in more favorable circumstances. The notes can thus be apologetic, with explanations for the woman's circumstances, together with best wishes for a better future.

For Christians, the fate of the aborted baby is not always clear. Traditionally, an unbaptized child goes to Limbo, where actual salvation will not be available. But in traditional theology, there was some question about when the soul entered the body; and the modern view that "life begins at conception," which would need to mean that the soul is present in a ferilized egg, is really a recent innovation. But Christians may no longer believe in Limbo at all, and it is possible many think that aborted babies will go to Heaven. Nevertheless, whether Limbo or Heaven, the baby will have been permanently deprived of a normal life, and the sin of the mother would be considerable. In Buddhism, the evils of the business can be remedied, and Jizô himself can be enlisted to ensure a better future birth and circumstances for the child.

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Rudolf Otto in Lenn E. Goodman's
Judaism, A Contemporary Philosophical Investigation; Note 5

Besides the Gnostics, mostly in the past, other varieties of Christianity involve the rejection of the Jewish origin and basis of Christianity. Some of the Modern Assyrians, namely the most extreme nationalists whose commitment to Christianity itself may be suspect (or explicitly denounced), promote the idea that Christianity derives, not from Judaism, but from the religion of the Ancient Assyrians. I don't think that the Assyrian Patriarch, the head of the Church of the East, accepts this sort of thing. But it's there, and part of it seems to involve overt anti-Semitism.

This serves to exalt the Ancient Assyrians (responsible for the deportation of the Ten Tribes of Israel), and it also coincidentally serves to align the anti-Semitism of these Assyrian nationalists with the anti-Semitism of militant Islâm and to curry favor with the present Jihadists. This hasn't done much good for any Assyrians. Jihadists now, like ISIS, no longer accept the Qur'ânic injunction to tolerate Christians and Jews. Even Christians who are anti-Semites, with a twisted "me-too-ism," get no special consideration. And, indeed, when ISIS conquered about half of Iraq in 2014, they began raping and enslaving Christian women and murdering and expelling all Christians from the areas under their control.

Despite this, the Obama Administration gave no special consideration to Christian refugees -- which included Chaldean Catholics and Syriac Orthodox Christians as well as the Nestorian Assyrians -- (1) because it wasn't the government of Iraq persecuting them and (2) because it would be a "religious test" to favor Christian over Muslim refugees. The latter principle, of course, would have excluded Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany -- as indeed Franklin Roosevelt in fact did provide no consideration for such refugees, who sometimes were returned to Germany, and eventually to their deaths. Indifference to Christians now is a matter of no interest to the mainstream Press in America -- which generally ignores Middle Eastern Christians, whatever is happening to them. What is likely, however, is that "liberal" and "progressive" opinion in the American Press sees only Muslims as victims (victims of us, of course, and of "Islamophobia"), regardless of what they are doing to anyone else, including Christians, Jews, or even other Muslims. This is part of the deeply anti-American ideology of the Left. Middle Eastern Christians just get lost in the shuffle, or they are dismissed with the thought that Christians are always oppressors. This makes the anti-Semitism of the Assyrian nationalists no more ironic but also no less ugly.

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Rudolf Otto in Lenn E. Goodman's
Judaism, A Contemporary Philosophical Investigation; Note 6

Having noted Otto's preferences for Christianity, we might want to see how this is expressed. Otto says:

In the Gospel of Jesus we see the consummation of that process tending to rationalize, moralize, and humanize the idea of God, which began with the earliest period of the old Hebrew tradition and became specially prominent as a living factor in the Prophets and the Psalms, continually bringing the apprehension of the numinous to a richer fulfilment by recognizing in it attributes of clear and profound value for the reason [sic?]. The result was the faith in 'the fatherhood of God' and in that unsurpassable form in which it is peculiar to Christianity. [op.cit., p.82]

Now, we can understand how Christianity would "humanize the idea of God" by the Incarnation of God as an actual human. The rationality of this, however, has perplexed many, and attempts to produce a coherent account resulted in centuries of Christological controversies and Schisms that have never been reconciled. So the jury, to say the least, is still out.

On the other hand, the moral superiority of Christianity is questionable on two fronts:  First, that the moral teachings of Jesus generally consist of him quoting the Old Testament, which leaves us with the impression that the morality of the Prophets is quite sufficient for him; and second, that what are perhaps uniquely Christian maxims, such as , Vobis non resistere malo, "Not to resist one who is evil" [Matthew 5:39], are open to question both for their wisdom and for their righteousness. I have detailed some of these problems in "Why I am not a Christian."

Thus, in each of the areas cited by Otto, there may be a question made. The humanity of Jesus perhaps is beyond question, but the rationality of this is a problem, muddling both the "rationalize" and "humanize" aspects of Otto's "process." Similarly, if the ethics of the "moralize" part rely on a world-denying practice, metaphysic, or eschatology, we worry again about the rationality of it, or at least the extent to which it can be generalized as a morality for ordinary life. "Resist not one who is evil," may be an excellent principle for a monk or a saint, but it seems to rule out self-defense, the police, and the criminal justice system. It also contradicts the practice of warfare from the Emperor Constantine to 20th Century Christian governments fighting Nazi Germany. Such Christians, naturally, often took more comfort from the Old Testament than from the New, without feeling that they had ceased to be Christians. There is something a little paradoxical there, which we might recommend to Otto's consideration.

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Rudolf Otto in Lenn E. Goodman's
Judaism, A Contemporary Philosophical Investigation; Note 7

The shrine of the Japanese sun goddess, Amaterasu-Ô-Mikami, the progenitor the Japanese Imperial House, at Ise, perhaps the most sacred place in Japan, is guarded with the most stringent pollution taboos. Sickness and death cannot be allowed within, or even mentioned. Since Buddhism had come to be associated with the rites of death ("Born Shintô, Die Buddhist"), nothing Buddhist could be allowed, or even mentioned. Even Buddhist terminology was prohibited; and where references were unavoidable, special euphemisms were substituted, e.g. "long-hairs" for monks, who, of course, shaved their heads.

In one famous incident in 1279, a local clerk, Kunihide, entered the precincts of Ise during the "rites of renewal," which occur every twenty years, when the central shrine, entirely of wood, is completely rebuilt. Kunhide had recently sat with a Buddhist monk, who had previously sat in the house of a lay monk, Kawata Nyûdô, who had just died. The Shrine priests learned of all this and ruled that Kunihide had entered the Shrine in a state of pollution, which had been transmitted through the intermediary monk. It is not clear what rites were required to remedy this violation.

The matter was a subject of discussion because Kawata Nyûdô was reputed to have become an ôjônin, one reborn in the Pure Land of the Buddha Amitâbha; and many believed that such a person could not be a source of death pollution -- "an ôjônin is without pollution." Ise, and perhaps Amaterasu, disagreed. [Jacqueline Stone, Right Thoughts at the Last Moment, Kuroda Institute, U. of Hawaii Press, 2016, p.206]

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Rudolf Otto in Lenn E. Goodman's
Judaism, A Contemporary Philosophical Investigation; Note 8

This observation about Islâm by Otto, which we might dismiss as "historical chauvinism" or perhaps even "Islamophobia," finds an echo in Zoroastrianism, the original national religion of Iran, which fought back as well as it could in the long, losing, twilight struggle by which it was overwhelmed by Islâm. Most Zoroastrians long ago fled Iran for India, where they became the large and prosperous community of the Parsis, i.e. "Persians." The few who remained in Iran, no more than 20,000 in recent times, have been subject to further persecution in the days of the so-called Islâmic Republic.

For our purposes here, Zoroastrianism is a strikingly apt case. A characteristic accusation made by Zoroastrian sources, in the polemic generated after the Islâmic Conquest, was that, while Islâm attributes "99 Names" to God, not a single one of them is "the Good." Zoroastrianism itself is the "Good Religion," built around the idea that the cause of God requires a choice between good and evil. Good for God, called Ahura Mazda, the "Wise Lord"; evil for "Evil Mind," the equivalent of the Devil. With God goes life. With the Devil goes death.

The thesis of Otto that religions undergo a historic evolution of increasing moralization is dramatically evident in Zoroastrianism, when the Prophet Zoroaster (c.628-551 BC) took what was apparently a conventional polytheistic religion, comparable to the Vedic religion of India, and abrupted transformed it into an intensely moralized, monotheistic faith. Rarely has a single figure so thoroughly transformed a religion, although a comparison to Muhammad is unavoidable.

Where the history of the development of Mosaic religion, both theologically as a genuine monotheism and morally as a vehicle of hightened ethics, is a matter of great uncertainty and dispute, and while Zoroaster himself remains a shadowy figure, the effect of his advent is sudden and shocking. In the language of the sacred Avesta -- conventionally and not too imaginatively called "Avestan" -- the very word for "god," daeva, the cognate of deva, , in Sanskrit, has been transformed into the equivalent of "demon" -- just as the Greek word for "spirit," , daimôn, written daemon in Latin, actually now is the word "demon." Meanwhile, what had been the demon in India, the , the asura, becomes the name of God himself, Ahura, in the Avesta.

Thus, in one catastrophic strike, all the gods of ancient Iran became evil. The revolution, however, did not succeed all at once. Under the Achaemenids, where Darius apparently is the first King influenced, if not named, by Zoroastrianism, the cults of some of the old gods, like Mithra and Anahita, nevertheless continued. Mithra even migrated into the Roman world and took on the form of a mystery religion. A monotheistic rigor in Iran is not really evident until the Sassanids, who then took up their religion with evangelistic fervor.

Thus, as a critic of Islâm in exactly the way Rudolf Otto would see the matter, Zoroastrianism is also a paradigm of a nearly instantaneous moralization process.

Other things about Zoroastrianism are such as to perhaps discomfit Goodman's apologetics for Judaism. Thus, the "Bounteous Immortals" of the religion, personified powers or attributes of God, look a whole lot like what angels would seem to be in later Judaism. The suspicion has therefore arisen that Judaism derived this idea from Zoroastrianism by way of the Jewish community in Babylon, where the Bible was apparently first written down and where part of the Jewish community remained, for centuries, after the Persian Conquest and after most of the Jews had returned to Palestine. And if not angels, why not the conflict of good and evil itself? The moralization of Judaism, in these terms, itself may have been the result of Persian influence. The moral emphasis of Mosaic religion thus may have been, to an extent, retrospective.

However, there is little beyond speculation in these associations of Judaism with Zoroastrianism, and most of the morally furious Prophets seem to antedate the Babylonian Captivity. But if there is not a connection, there certainly are parallels. Where the religions look rather different, however, is where what would have been an evolution of some centuries, perhaps, in Judaism, was something accomplished abruptly, with a single Prophet, in Iran.

We should not leave Zoroastrianism here without noting something else. Nietzsche credits Zoroaster with initiating the conflict between good and evil, and thus he brings him back in Also Sprach Zarathustra to end it, launching Nietzsche's own "beyond good and evil" ethics. This is a little inconsistent of him, since Nietzsche otherwise wants to credit (or blame) the Jews for introducing the very idea of "evil" as part of the "slave revolt in ethics," many centuries after Zoroaster. I am not clear to what sort of slave revolt Zoroaster was a party, but then Nietzsche often seems to treat his own arguments as rhetorical devices rather than the logical demonstrations of a serious theory.

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Rudolf Otto in Lenn E. Goodman's
Judaism, A Contemporary Philosophical Investigation; Note 9

With the Quakers, we get an exceedingly revealing comment from William James:

The Quaker religion which he [George Fox] founded is something which it is impossible to overpraise. In a day of shams, it was a religion of veracity rooted in spiritual inwardness, and a return to something more like the original gospel truth than men had ever known in England. So far as our Christian sects to-day are evolving into liberality, they are simply reverting in essence to the position which Fox and the early Quakers so long ago assumed. [The Varieties of Religious Experience, The Library of America, Simon & Schuster, 1987, pp.15-16]

This is an extraordinary thing for someone to say if their business is the description and phenomenology of world religion, and right after James has just distinguished between statements of fact, "existential judgments," and those of value, "propositions of value," German Werthurtheil (Werturteil in modern spelling -- see Wert), or "spiritual judgments," with the warning that his observations about religion will be confined to the former category. Instead, James offers an endorsement of this particular anomalous sect, against which any other form of Christianity, or perhaps of any religion, is all but disqualified. Instead, not only is it possible to "overpraise" the Quaker religion, absurdly so, but James has suddenly forgotten his own project and principles, that it is not his job as a psychologist to "praise" a religion at all. If he wants to take on a judgmental role, then his book should have been The Varieties of Religious Experience, with a Guide to their Worth and Veracity. If he actually does that, without warning, his project is not honest or conscientious.

The founder of Quakerism, George Fox, does seem to have been an extraordinary individual. And when the Spirit descended upon him, his behavior could seem quite mad. But founding an entire religious practice on the expectation of such inspirations, and regarding this as "more like the original gospel" than other Christian traditions and practices, are both views that are eccentric and extraordinary. Indeed, an outsider now inspecting a Quaker meeting might have some difficulty identifying it as part of the Christian religion at all. The congregation, which sits around on benches or chairs arranged in a square, without altar, cross, or pulpit, simply looks at each other until someone is moved to speak, whether by the descent of the Spirit or by the recollection of some contemporay political or social outrage or fad. The "Friends" are without clergy, and one wonders to what extent the Bible or any religious learning, let alone exclusively Christian, is regarded as necessary.

If William James esteems that above other forms of religion, then as both a historian and philosopher of religion, his value is going to be minimal. Of course, we need harbor no illusions that he was in any sense a historian or philosopher of religion. He was a psychologist, after the manner of his day; and his book, of course, is about "religious experience," where it is not at all surprising that "spiritual inwardness" would rank high on his scale of value. "Empty ritual," however dominant in the history of religion, will provide neither the centrality of "experience" nor the "spiritual inwardness" that would catch his attention, engage his interest, or earn his praise. Indeed, James makes this explicit, with the provision that he is not going to deal with the "institutional" side of religion, saying:

Worship and sacrifice, procedures for working on the dispositions of the deity, theology and ceremony and ecclesiastical organization, are the essentials of religion in the institutional branch. [p.34]

But James's statement about Quakerism reveals that this provision is not simply due to what are the appropriate objects of psychology, but it is due to his own "spiritual judgment" that these outward forms of religion are inessential, perhaps even the "sham" that he mentions. Part of the "liberality" of Christian sects evolving towards Quakerism must mean shedding these artifacts of the "institutional branch."

However, an empty room with people just looking at each other seems, not only lacking in the necessities of any historical religious practice, but really to hold the strong potential of being quite boring, rootless, directionless, self-referential, and nihilistic. It is an open invitation, not for the mad transports of George Fox, or for the "quaking" of possession that gave the Quakers their name, but for the relentless social indignation and political activism of modern "liberal" and trendy religion.

Otto, of course, follows in the footsteps of James to an extent, beginning the inspection of numinosity in terms of religious "feeling," and so as a matter of psychology. But this also reflects earlier concerns, from the age of Schleiermacher (1768-1834), Kierkegaard, and Jakob Fries himself, with Fries placing his own emphasis on Kantian critique as a form of psychology. But it is hard to imagine Otto being so dismissive of ritual and practice as to identify Quakerism as uniquely representative of the "original gospel truth" of Christianity, in terms of which the original Jewish background of the religion perhaps entirely vanishes. Then Eliade brings us further down to earth with the description of phenomena closely tied to historical religions, with vivid theories of sacred space and time. But at least no one would ever mistake George Fox for a rationalist.

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Rudolf Otto in Lenn E. Goodman's
Judaism, A Contemporary Philosophical Investigation; Note 10

Could Goodman be thinking of Kierkegaard rather than Otto? There is a chapter in Fear and Trembling entitled "Is there a teleological suspension of the ethical?"; and we find Kierkegaard saying:

Then why does Abraham do it? For God's sake, and what is exactly the same, for his own. He does it for the sake of God because God demands this proof of his faith; he does it for his own sake in order to be able to produce the proof. The unity here is quite properly expressed in the saying in which this relationship has always been described: it is a trial, a temptation. A temptation, but what does that mean? What we usually call a temptation is something that keeps a person from carrying out a duty, but here the temptation is the ethical itself which would keep him from doing God's will. But then what is the duty? For the duty is precisely the expression of God's will. [Penguin, 1985, 2003, p.88, boldface added]

Thus, where Goodman says, "To romantics the holy becomes the tremendum that may ultimately demand suspension of the ethical," Kierkegaard has appreciated that to obey God's command to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham must do wrong, violate ethics, and murder Isaac. It is not clear that Goodman discerns this problem, since he doesn't seem to admit that Abraham is being asked to commit murder. And he seems to think that because the sacrifice is stopped, therefore a moral problem never existed. But Kierkegaard is not so easily deceived or molified.

Now, perhaps Kierkegaard is a "romantic" because he lives in the era of Romanticism. Perhaps he does "demand suspension of the ethical," when he understands that God has demanded this himself, by ordering the murder of Isaac. I think Goodman wants to evade the direct harshness and wrongness of this. Kierkegaard does not, and he understands that God's command can be accepted only because of faith and because of the (Existentialist) absurdity and irrationality of God's actions and Abraham's situation. God avoids the commission of the wrong, but only after forcing Abraham to reveal his willingness to do it. This is a terrible thing to do to someone, and we wonder about a God who derives some satisfaction from breaking a person in this way. One of Kierkegaard's sketches gives us a possible aftermath:

From that day on, Abraham became old, he could not forget that God had demanded this of him. Isaac throve as before; but Abraham's eye was darkened, he saw joy no more. [p.46]

Goodman's analysis does not give us anything like the emotional versimilitude of this.







In horrore visionis nocturnae, quando solet sopor occupare homines,
pavor tenuit me et tremor et omnia ossa mea perterrita sunt,
et cum spiritus me praesente transiret, inhorruerunt pili carnis meae.

Amid disquieting dreams in the night, when deep sleep falls on men,
fear and trembling seized me and made all my bones shake.
A spirit glided past my face, and the hair on my body stood on end.

Amid thoughts from visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on men,
dread came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones shake.
A spirit glided past my face; the hair of my flesh stood up.

Job, 4:13-15

In the epigraph we have the origin of the title of Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling -- and in Hebrew. The first English translation is that given in The Interlinear NV Hebrew-English Old Testament [John R. Kohlenberger III, Zondervan Publishing House, 1979, 1987], whence also the Hebrew text, while the second is that from the Revised Standard Version [Cokesbury, 1946, 1952]. The Greek, of course, is the Septuagint, and the Latin from the Vulgate.

Curiously, this expression is not from the episode of Isaac and Abraham in Genesis, but from the book of Job. Also, the word here is not , which we have seen already. The former is "dread" in Brown, Driver, and Briggs, "fear, awe, dread" in Ben Yehuda, while is "terror, dread" in the former and in the latter. Both the King James and The Interlinear NV Hebrew-English Old Testament use "fear," while the Revised Standard Version uses "dread."

What we get in Greek and Latin in the first place preserve more of the word order from Hebrew, breaking up the "fear and trembling" phrase. Otherwise, what we see is a little mysterious. Both and seem to mean "trembling." First, is "shuddering, shivering," and is "trembling, quaking, quivering, esp. from fear" [Intermediate Liddell & Scott, Oxford, 1964, pp.872, 820, respectively]. Thus, since we expect there to be a nuance, the "fear" association is more with the second word, rather than the first, as in Hebrew. This seems odd. However, comes from the verb , which seems to have a little more going on, such as "of the effect of fear, to shiver, shudder." But then this just adds up to both words being associated with suddering from fear. But then can also mean shivering from a chill, with goose flesh, which fits the final line of the quote.

In Latin, we get pavor and tremor, which both again mean "trembling," just as in Greek. Pavor is "trembling, quaking, produced by fear or exitement"; and tremor, "trembling, quaking, tremor... an object which causes fear and trembling" [Cassell's New Latin Dictionary, Funk & Wagnalls, 1959, 1960, pp.428, 613]. So in both Greek and Latin we seem to have insufficient differentiation between the words, where in Hebrew clearly handles the fear part and takes the trembling. What we expect to see in Greek is , but this had already been used in the text and translated "sleep," which seems anomalous. In Latin we might expect timor or, indeed, terror. So we have several curious features to these translations.

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