January 01, 2003

Am I Numinous Or Not?

My blogging was cut short over the Christmas season, not for want of subject matter, but because I had a cold. Just having clear sinuses feels like the lifting of an impenetrable veil, and even the most mundane things seem marvellous.
Which reminds me. When I started Snail Musings I chose a template which prompted for a brief description. Without thinking overly hard rattled out 'seeking the numinous in a trail of slime'.
Numinous. A slippery word for a slippery concept. Coined by Rudolf Otto in "Idea of the Holy", wherein he examines the nature of religious experience and characterises it in terms a particular experiential state. Often designated in terms of three components mysterium tremendum et fascinans, reflecting otherness, awefullness and grace. There's plenty of explanation on the web, but if you don't feel like googling then you could look here.
So far so good. I certainly had no intention of limiting my blogging to phenomena that strictly satisfy these criteria. My scrappy and undocumented notions of what I want to blog are as likely to be manifested in chaotic economic flows or descriptions of quantum electrodynamics as within a religious or mystical context. "Sense of wonder" is part of it, and there's plenty to be found in thoughtful science fiction, much of which provokes philosophical wonder, although there's a more straightforward marvellousness in some of the convincing and elaborate world-building and other imaginative constructions.
Whatever. I thought I had a reasonable handle on 'numinous', but perhaps I've been in the position of Vizzini in The Princess Bride ("You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.") I've thought of the blessed word as closely associated with mystical experiences. But googling finds people explicitly contrasting the mystical and the numinous: here is a Mormon example. At first I thought they were simply wrong, but whether objectively correct or not there is a legitimate distinction between 'holy terror' and 'direct perceptions echoing the transcendent'.
Whatever, I found it interesting, but don't depend on finding either of the above in the pages of this blog.

Posted at January 1, 2003 11:49 PM