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Attaining Divine Perfection through Different Forms of Imitation

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Abstract This article examines the relationship between notions of imitation of the gods and divinisation. I argue that a close historical connection exists between the two sets of ideas. Although some notion of imitation may be found in most forms of religion, it is intrinsic to utopian types of religion to lay stress on a narrow relationship between ideas about imitation of the gods and the concept of divinisation. Contrary to archaic forms of religion that place emphasis on the ontological difference conceived to separate man from the gods, utopian types of religion emphasise the need for man to overcome the ontological difference in order to attain a higher level of existence. Based on a number of examples from the early Christ-movement, I argue that with respect to the basic structure of its world-view it may — in line with an observation by Nietzsche — be conceived of as a bombastic form of Platonism, that is to say, that the central cognitive structure of Platonism has in the early Christ-movement been projected onto a spatial axis dividing heaven from earth. Man’s true home is no longer on earth but is the heavenly abode to which man, that is, the righteous man shall return subsequent to his death. In all forms of utopian types of religion, there exists an inherent relationship between concepts of imitation of the gods and notions of divinisation.

Affiliations: 1: University of Aarhus, Faculty of Arts, Department for the Study of Religion Jens Kristian Skousvej 3, 8000 Aarhus C Denmark


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