In The Wizard of Oz (1939), Dorothy and her friends journey to the Emerald City in seek of Oz – the great and powerful wizard. Upon finally reaching him, Dorothy’s dog opens a curtain to reveal that the Wizard is merely an ordinary man speaking into a microphone while using various knobs and levers to create a smoke-and-mirrors effect. In many ways this story is similar to the creation and interpretation of religion by individuals within society.
In the following pages I will discuss this metaphor, as well as Rudolf Otto and his theories on the creation of religion, Peter L. Berger’s theory of “the sacred canopy,” and finally the intermingling of these two theories in the evolution of religion.
RUDOLF OTTO AND RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE
In The Idea of the Holy, Rudolf Otto begins by explaining the difference between the terms “rational,” and “non-rational.” He states quite simply, “An object that can thus be thought conceptually may be termed rational. The nature of deity described in the attributes above mentioned is, then, a rational nature; and a religion which recognizes and maintains such a view of God is in so far a ‘rational’ religion,” (Otto 1). Otto begins this work by arguing that the non-rational aspect of religion is, in itself, a very important part of religion; however, ideally religion should include both rational and non-rational experiences.
Otto describes non-rational experiences as mysteries, which are a fundamental aspect of all religions. To these mysteries he gives the name “numinous,” and explains that “the nature of the numinous can only be suggested by means of the special way in which it is reflected in the mind in terms of feeling,” (Otto 12). Otto argues that our feelings of the numin...
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...rom the excellent theories of both Otto and Berger: humans create biblical interpretations… they even created the bible. If religion could speak, I believe it would mimic the Wizard of Oz by saying, “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain,” when in truth, without the help of the man behind the curtain, there would simply be no religion at all.
Chance, Bradley J. "A Pedagogy of Dealienation: A Case Study in the Application of Peter Berger's The Sacred Canopy." Teaching Theology & Religion 7.2 (2004): 101-07. Print.
Berger, Peter L. The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion. New York: Anchor, 1967. Print.
MacKenna, Christopher. "From the Numinous to the Sacred." Journal of Analytical Psychology 54.2 (2009). Print.
Otto, Rudolf. The Idea of the Holy. Trans. John W. Harvey. New York: Oxford UP, 1958. Print.
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