The Idea of the Holy





The Turin Horse; When Nietzsche Wept by KaterinaRss 

Excerpts from Daniel McCoy’s Óðr (concept):

Óðr is a power that overwhelms and infuses one’s being to its core, which ousts one’s mundane consciousness and turns one into a frenzied, ecstatic vessel for some mysterious, divine agency that is palpably present in the act. This could certainly happen in the realms of life with which we associate the relatively neutered modern English world “inspiration,” such as the arts and acts of clairvoyance, but it could also happen in cases where we wouldn’t typically use “inspiration,” such as scholarly writing, the fury of the warrior in the heat of battle, or insanity (and here we must bear in mind that “’madness,’ to earlier peoples, did not mean loss of control; it meant control by Someone Else: inspiration or possession”).

Of course, if we were to use the word “inspiration” in its original sense – “to be under the immediate influence of God or a god” – then “inspiration” and óðr would effectively be synonymous.

For the ancient Germanic peoples, inspiration, ecstasy, and states of heightened awareness and/or passion were divine gifts that always entailed the presence of the numinous.

And isn’t this truer to our immediate experience of inspiration than the comparatively banal and trivialized view of inspiration that we tend to hold today? Virtually all great artists and thinkers have often, during their moments of greatest inspiration, felt themselves to be vessels for some mysterious power working through them, and over which they have little, if any, conscious control. In addition to recognizing this common felt experience in a very wide array of phenomena, the concept of óðr was a way of making this connection explicit rather than something one has to grope for words to express.

Furthermore, this meant that all inspired activities had an inherent sacredness, an inherent spiritual nature and importance. For someone who has ample experience of both inspiration and the presence of the divine, and has paid close attention to the character of these experiences, it should be evident that there is an immense degree of overlap between the two. Both involve a sense of being “seized” by something grand, fascinating, and often troubling, from the outside; they both partake of some degree of what the German philosopher of religion Rudolf Otto called the mysterium fascinans and mysterium tremendum in his classic 1917 work The Idea of the Holy.


  1. Perhaps that is why I can’t sleep right now (and for the last few days), since I’ve been working on this paper regarding Dionysian matters…a paper that I had a dream about back in ’05 and have been waiting for the right time to write ever since…and now it is here, and I’m waiting to travel, and I can’t sleep a wink despite being stupid tired.

    But, with a whole bunch of Gods in here, who could sleep? ;)


  2. and those artists and thinkers, et al who are siezed by this inspiration would be ever so much more effective if they acknowledged the Gods behind it.


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