The work of Rudolf Otto and its relevance to religious education in Britain at the present time
Rudolf Otto (1869-1937) was brought up in circles of Lutheran piety, and looked for the meeting point of academic theology and religious experience. Deeply influenced by mystics like Eckhart, he sought a solution with the help of the philosopher Kant, the theologian Schleiermacher, and the psychologist William James. He found the locus of encounter with the numinous within the human heart (Gemut) . thus proposing humanity as the starting point for the study of religion without reducing it to psychology or denying its reality as transcendent. More recent studies of children's transcendent experiences make it impossible to draw a line between those that are religious and secular ones, a state of affairs implied by the call in the Education Act for 'spiritual development.' A neutral stance is needed for the study of religion in a secular context, e.g. religious education in Britain, yet without denying its validity as religion. A new understanding of Otto's 'schematisation' discloses the relation between rational and non-rational, as well as that between the numinous in essence and its manifestations. Recent interest in Experiential R.E. makes the application of Otto's approach timely, but schematisation rightly applied also offers a dialogical wholeness to all aspects of R.E.