In his book The Idea of the Holy, the German theologian Rudolf Otto, argued that there was one common factor to all religious experience, the numinous. It is independent of the cultural background and is about a feeling. In particular, it is about the experience of the holy. However, the word ‘holy’ has many associations, so he used the word ‘numen’ (Latin for ‘divine presence’). It is something that is ‘wholly other’ than the natural world, and beyond comprehension.
He analysed this type of experience in terms of the Latin phrase mysterium tremendum et fascinans. The tremendum component of the numinous experience comprises of three elements:
Awefulness – inspiring awe
Overpoweringness – inspires feeling of humility
Energy – impression of vigour and compelling.
The mysterium component has two elements:
Wholly Other – totally outside our normal experience
Fascination – the person is caught up in the experience.