Totaliter aliter

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The Latin phrase “totaliter aliter” (completely different, completely different) has its origins in a medieval story of two monks who imagined paradise in the most glowing colors and then promised each other that whoever would die first to appear to the other in a dream and only say one word to him. Either “taliter” - it is how we imagined it, or “aliter” - it is different from what we imagined. After the first one died, he appeared to the other in a dream, but he even says two words: "Totaliter aliter!" - It is completely different from our imagination!

In this sense, the religious philosopher Rudolf Otto writes in his well-known book “Das Heilige” (1917): The forgotten kingdom of heaven was TOTALITER ALITER, very different from our earth.

As a phrase, "totaliter aliter" stands for the futility of speculation and is an old shibboleth of theology. The Protestant theologian Rudolf Bultmann also saw the shortest and most apt characteristic of God in this form when he spoke of it: “Deus totaliter aliter!” - “God is completely different!” In this sense, it also became the “battle cry” of the young Swiss dialectical theologian Karl Barth .


  • Karl Barth, Die Kirchliche Dogmatik , Munich 1935, p. 361.
  • Rudolf Bultmann, Faith and Understanding: Collected Essays , Tübingen 1933.