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Mysterium Horrendum: Mysticism & the Negative Numinous

Interdisciplinary Seminar in the Study of Religions/Mysticism Seminar
OCHS Library
Dr Simon Podmore
Friday, 28 January 2011 - 2:00pm

According to Rudolf Otto’s ‘Idea of the Holy’, while elements of a so-called ‘mysticism of horror’ are well-acknowledged in Hindu traditions, this remains an under-recognised, yet undeniably present, strain in Western Christian mysticism. This paper explores Otto’s account of the ‘negative numinous’ with specific reference to the under-examined notion of the mysterium horrendum: a variant of the mysterium tremendum et fascinans in which the element of dread is ‘cut loose’ and ‘intensified’ to the point of ‘the demonic’. Drawing particular attention to accounts of the darkness, absence, and wrath of God in Western Christian mysticism, the lecture questions the essential relation between the demonic and the divine elements encountered in the numinous.

Dr Simon D. Podmore is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the Faculty of Theology and Gordon Milburn Junior Research Fellow at Trinity College. He is author of Kierkegaard & the Self Before God: Anatomy of the Abyss (Indiana University Press, 2011). His current research explores notions of ‘spiritual struggle’ in Western Christian mysticism.