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Author Topic: Spirits/entities evolving into Gods?  (Read 3654 times)

kc450

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Spirits/entities evolving into Gods?
« on: July 08, 2011, 09:51:47 pm »
Hi all. I've had this question running through my mind and am having a hard time pinning down any information on it. I suppose it's a problem of not knowing where/how to find it, so I figured I would ask if anyone knew any stories or myths that I could maybe start with. I'm looking for examples of Gods/Goddesses who began as something else, a lesser entity or spirit, etc. Thanks much for reading!

victoreia

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Re: Spirits/entities evolving into Gods?
« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2011, 10:43:07 pm »
Quote from: kc450;3142
Hi all. I've had this question running through my mind and am having a hard time pinning down any information on it. I suppose it's a problem of not knowing where/how to find it, so I figured I would ask if anyone knew any stories or myths that I could maybe start with. I'm looking for examples of Gods/Goddesses who began as something else, a lesser entity or spirit, etc. Thanks much for reading!

 
Interesting thought..... I'd have to do some research, but I think maybe some Asian cultures might have some examples.
Do. Or do not. There is no try.  --Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back

We are star stuff. We are the universe, made manifest. --Ambassador Delenn, Babylon 5

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Malkin

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Re: Spirits/entities evolving into Gods?
« Reply #2 on: July 09, 2011, 02:44:17 am »
Quote from: victoreia;3177
Interesting thought..... I'd have to do some research, but I think maybe some Asian cultures might have some examples.

 
There are many examples in Asia. All of the Taoist Immortals began as simple mortals. Same goes for all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. (Even animals are capable of enlightenment.) There is a Chinese rabbit god who began life as a soldier, and became a god of love after his death. In Japanese Shinto, it's said that heroes and remarkable individuals are sometimes reborn as gods. The kamikaze pilots held this belief - they hoped to become wind gods as a result of their self-sacrifice in war. ("Kamikaze" means "wind god.")

Malkin

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Re: Spirits/entities evolving into Gods?
« Reply #3 on: July 09, 2011, 02:55:18 am »
Quote from: kc450;3142
Hi all. I've had this question running through my mind and am having a hard time pinning down any information on it. I suppose it's a problem of not knowing where/how to find it, so I figured I would ask if anyone knew any stories or myths that I could maybe start with. I'm looking for examples of Gods/Goddesses who began as something else, a lesser entity or spirit, etc. Thanks much for reading!

 
There are examples of demi-gods and heroes in Greece and Rome who achieved apotheosis, such as Dionysus and Hercules. Emperor Hadrian declared his lover Antinous a god after the young man's death by drowning in the Nile river. (If I recall correctly, people who drowned or were sacrificed in the Nile were considered holy if not divine - if anyone can correct me on this, feel free.)

As far as anything below the level of a demi-god...the creatures of the zodiac were all rewarded with immortality because of their helpful or heroic deeds. We don't typically see the constellations as being representative of gods, but it was the discovery of a new star in the sky that lead Hadrian to believe that his lover's soul had reached the firmament.

I'm not sure if I can think of any other Western examples. But it's an interesting subject.

Nyktipolos

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Re: Spirits/entities evolving into Gods?
« Reply #4 on: July 09, 2011, 06:25:56 am »
Quote from: Malkin;3242
There are examples of demi-gods and heroes in Greece and Rome who achieved apotheosis, such as Dionysus and Hercules. Emperor Hadrian declared his lover Antinous a god after the young man's death by drowning in the Nile river. (If I recall correctly, people who drowned or were sacrificed in the Nile were considered holy if not divine - if anyone can correct me on this, feel free.)


Slight nitpick: Dionysos is/was not a demi-god. While there are numerous myths of god/human couplings producing demi-gods, His (partial -- He was essentially a pre-mature baby) birth by Semele is only one part of His birth. He is always interpreted as a god, though (and the myths that say otherwise, the offenders are always punished). :)

And you're right on Antinous: those who drowned in the Nile were given small cults that were probably very local. However, Antinous was Hadrian's lover, and when your boyfriend is the Emperor of Rome... that probably helps in the spread of your cult. :D
"Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night." - Sarah Williams
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Re: Spirits/entities evolving into Gods?
« Reply #5 on: July 09, 2011, 12:16:13 pm »
Quote from: kc450;3142
I would ask if anyone knew any stories or myths that I could maybe start with. I'm looking for examples of Gods/Goddesses who began as something else, a lesser entity or spirit, etc. Thanks much for reading!

 
Imhotep in Egypt.  A doctor and architect when alive, as well as attributed writer of a number of wisdom writings, deified as the son of Sekhmet and Ptah.

It's my understanding that in Vodou (not sure about other ADR or ATR) there are processes by which spirits, including spirits of the dead, may eventually become loa.  (Not gods, precisely, but these things are complicated.)

Personally, I tend towards the opinion that "god" is a continuum trait, not an on/off thing where you got it or you don't.  An entity can have more or less godliness, can accrue or, I suppose, lose godliness over time, and at some point the scales tip far enough that that entity is recognised as "a god", though the line is fuzzy and depends heavily on frame of reference.
as the water grinds the stone
we rise and fall
as our ashes turn to dust
we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

kc450

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Re: Spirits/entities evolving into Gods?
« Reply #6 on: July 09, 2011, 08:17:44 pm »
Quote from: Nyktipolos;3267
Slight nitpick: Dionysos is/was not a demi-god.

 
Just wanted to thank everyone for their input. This was exactly the kind of stuff I was hoping to find and will definitely help me hone my research. Thanks again!

Starglade

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Re: Spirits/entities evolving into Gods?
« Reply #7 on: July 09, 2011, 08:32:35 pm »
Quote from: kc450;3430
Just wanted to thank everyone for their input. This was exactly the kind of stuff I was hoping to find and will definitely help me hone my research. Thanks again!


A slight correction to a previous answer: Buddhas and bodhisattvas are not gods. The historical Buddha was a mortal man (an Indian prince, actually), who became enlightened and proceeded to share the path to this with others. Bodhisattvas are not gods either, but they seem to be to Western mindsets. They are better understood as manifestations (sometimes the term is "emanations") of various virtues; Avalokitesvara (Kwan Yin/Guan Yin in Chinese, and Chenrezig in Tibetan) is an emanation of compassion. (Muddying that pool more: Kwan Yin's legend is of a princess who attained goddesslike status through her selflessness.)

If you want more information I would direct you to buddhanet.net, and/or the forums at http://www.dharmawheel.net and http://www.dhammawheel.com. (Dharmawheel is for Mahayana Buddhism; Dhammawheel is for Theraveda.)

What's more: In Tibetan Buddhism, the pre-Buddhist animistic religion's divine beings have been subsumed and repurposed, one might say, to better fit into the Buddhist view. This gives Tibetan Buddhism a very different flavor from the other forms. I would suggest finding a copy of John Powers's Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism from Snow Lion Press, for information on this.

We now return you to the thread in progress. :-)
« Last Edit: July 09, 2011, 08:34:01 pm by Starglade »
"The Eightfold Path is sometimes called the pathless path. Each step brings a growing awareness that enlightenment is in the here and now--in the world and in our relationships as we read these words . . . now." -- Jonathan White
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Malkin

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Re: Spirits/entities evolving into Gods?
« Reply #8 on: July 09, 2011, 09:35:50 pm »
Quote from: Starglade;3437
A slight correction to a previous answer: Buddhas and bodhisattvas are not gods.

 
I didn't want to split hairs, but it's a good distinction to make.

Malkin

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Re: Spirits/entities evolving into Gods?
« Reply #9 on: July 09, 2011, 09:44:03 pm »
Quote from: Nyktipolos;3267
Slight nitpick: Dionysos is/was not a demi-god. While there are numerous myths of god/human couplings producing demi-gods, His (partial -- He was essentially a pre-mature baby) birth by Semele is only one part of His birth. He is always interpreted as a god, though (and the myths that say otherwise, the offenders are always punished). :)


Haha, probably worth remembering then!

Quote
And you're right on Antinous: those who drowned in the Nile were given small cults that were probably very local. However, Antinous was Hadrian's lover, and when your boyfriend is the Emperor of Rome... that probably helps in the spread of your cult. :D

 
It's all about your connections.

Starglade

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Re: Spirits/entities evolving into Gods?
« Reply #10 on: July 10, 2011, 10:04:27 am »
Quote from: Malkin;3447
I didn't want to split hairs, but it's a good distinction to make.

 
Hee. To you it may be splitting hairs. To me, it's a pretty important (read: vital) difference and distinction. It's the difference between a deity who can affect a human's existence in some way, and a "divine being" who is a representation of something to which a) a human can aspire, like compassion, wisdom, strength, etc., and b) prayers for help are not made--but gratitude for gifts given (e.g. the dharma, from Buddha) is reverently offered.
"The Eightfold Path is sometimes called the pathless path. Each step brings a growing awareness that enlightenment is in the here and now--in the world and in our relationships as we read these words . . . now." -- Jonathan White
http://grammargeddon.com

Malkin

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Re: Spirits/entities evolving into Gods?
« Reply #11 on: July 13, 2011, 05:56:14 am »
Quote from: Starglade;3554
Hee. To you it may be splitting hairs. To me, it's a pretty important (read: vital) difference and distinction. It's the difference between a deity who can affect a human's existence in some way, and a "divine being" who is a representation of something to which a) a human can aspire, like compassion, wisdom, strength, etc., and b) prayers for help are not made--but gratitude for gifts given (e.g. the dharma, from Buddha) is reverently offered.

 
Am I wrong in thinking that Bodhisattvas can intervene in human events and answer prayers?

Starglade

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Re: Spirits/entities evolving into Gods?
« Reply #12 on: July 13, 2011, 07:59:52 am »
Quote from: Malkin;4497
Am I wrong in thinking that Bodhisattvas can intervene in human events and answer prayers?

 
As with so many questions about Buddhism, the answer is "It depends." Seriously. It depends on who you ask, and what they were taught.

For me: No, they cannot. They represent things to which we as humans can aspire. If I do a Green Tara prayer (which is really more of a . . . meditation, not asking for help per se), I'm seeking to align myself with the things she represents, bringing those energies into my own life for my benefit and that of other sentient beings (that's a Tibetan Buddhist phrase, I can't say if it's also used in other types of Buddhism as I've not studied them). I don't "pray to Tara for help." I make a decision that I need to bring some Green (or White, or Red, or Rainbow, or whatever--there are 21 Taras) Tara energy into my life, and I do a ritual meditation to effect that.

that's not to say there aren't Buddhists out there who DO think the Buddhas and bodhisattvas can intervene directly--but it's not what I'm being taught, and it's not a belief to which I ascribe.

The kernel of it for me is: There are no gods in Buddhism. There just aren't. Westerners have that concept, but it's not present in Buddhism. (It seems to be a translation issue, as well as a conceptual one.) Even those gods that WERE gods elsewhere (I'm thinking of the Tibetan Bon deities here) aren't, once they've been absorbed and repurposed. There's no Great Creator, no God of Mercy, none of that. Buddhism is about the mind, one's own mind--not about beings "out there" or "down there" or "over there" who can smack us or hold our hand.
"The Eightfold Path is sometimes called the pathless path. Each step brings a growing awareness that enlightenment is in the here and now--in the world and in our relationships as we read these words . . . now." -- Jonathan White
http://grammargeddon.com

Malkin

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Re: Spirits/entities evolving into Gods?
« Reply #13 on: July 14, 2011, 06:06:42 am »
Quote from: Starglade;4516
As with so many questions about Buddhism, the answer is "It depends." Seriously. It depends on who you ask, and what they were taught.

 
Thanks for sharing your perspective. :)

Starglade

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Re: Spirits/entities evolving into Gods?
« Reply #14 on: July 14, 2011, 08:06:12 am »
Quote from: Malkin;4767
Thanks for sharing your perspective. :)

 
Joseph Goldstein's One Dharma: The Emerging Western Buddhism contains a wonderfully-written bit about prayers in Buddhism. Part of it reads:

"Prayer works in different ways. It can be a practice of gratitude that we cultivate. It can be the spontaneous expression of great devotion. For some people this may be devotion to the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and great teachers. Prayer can also be a request for blessings from these beings for our continued growth in the Dharma. . . . Most deeply, prayer becomes a way of realizing that our own mind is inseparable from those to whom we're praying."

and farther on . . .

"Prayer begins on the relative level of duality--thinking of beings outside of ourselves--but it can also connect us with the ultimate nature of mind. Who is it that is praying? And to whom?"

Just more grist for the mental mill. Namaste. :)
"The Eightfold Path is sometimes called the pathless path. Each step brings a growing awareness that enlightenment is in the here and now--in the world and in our relationships as we read these words . . . now." -- Jonathan White
http://grammargeddon.com

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