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Book: The Holy in a Pluralistic World

Chapter: 11. Devotional Poetry's Mysterium Tremendum

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.30394


In his desire to preserve religion’s transformative potential, Rudolf Otto consistently privileged God’s ‘otherness’ over familiarity, decrying social and personal representations of God. And yet Otto vacillates on this point, at times insisting on the importance of human-divine connection. In this essay, I follow Otto’s lead by considering something he himself does not fully develop: a conflation of the personal and the impersonal, of self and other in relation. To help understand Otto’s view, I examine how Martin Luther envisioned the duality of divine otherness and intimacy. I then consider devotional poetry, showing how it similarly combines an awareness of alterity with the solace of proximity, enabling intimacy that is something other than “merely” personal—thereby offering what Otto suggests he was seeking.

Chapter Contributors

  • Constance Furey ( - cfurey) 'Indiana University'