Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cool New Word

I'm reading a book set in Venice. Writing about the city at night, the author says, "A boat, that during the day, was making a delivery of soap powder or cabbages, at night became a numinous form, floating toward some mysterious destination." Now I have to figure out a way to get it into normal conversation today. Stay tuned.

The dictionary: Numinous - adjective
1. of, pertaining to, or like a numen; spiritual or supernatural.
2. surpassing comprehension or understanding, mysterious.
3. arousing one's elevated feelings of duty, honor, loyalty, etc.


Numinous is an English adjective describing the power or presence of a divinity. The word was popularised in the early twentieth century by the German theologian Rudolf Otto in his influential book Das Heilige (1917; translated into English as The Idea of the Holy, 1923). According to Otto the numinous experience has two aspects: mysterium tremendum, which is the tendency to invoke fear and trembling; and mysterium fascinas, the tendency to attract, fascinate and compel. The numinous experience also has a personal quality to it, in that the person feels to be in communion with a wholly other. The numinous experience can lead in different cases to belief in deities, the supernatural, the sacred, the holy, and the transcendent.

No comments: