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By Richard Shaw Brown, 1971

The word Theomania may be traced to the Greek root. Theo which denotes God. Mania means a particular form of madness, in this case an insane belief that one is God. The sister of theomania is apotheosis or deification, i.e., ascribing the position of Divinity to a mortal being. The ascription of Godship to oneself and/or worship of a human being as
God is not new. The existence of various forms of such views and beliefs can be found in the most ancient annals of history; and references may even be traced to the Puranic and Epic literature's of India, which were compiled 5000 years ago.

In the Srimad Bhaagavat (Canto X, Chap. 66, Sloka 1-24) there is an instance given of a King named Paundrak, the ruler of Karoosh, who under the delusion that he was the God sent a message to the bona fide incarnation, Lord Shre Krishn, which read as follows: "I am the one and only Lord of the Universe descended on the earth, and there is no other. You have falsely appropriated my name and position which you must immediately renounce". Hearing the absurd proclamation on the part of the theomaniac, King Paundrak, the Lord and His associates were moved to laughter.

Then Lord Sri Krishn, Who appeared like an ordinary man to the ignorant, proceeded to Kaashee (where the King was visiting) and did away with his delusion by relieving him of his mortal frame. The causes of such insane beliefs are manifold. In the case of the aforesaid king of Karoosh, theomania was planted in his mind by foolish people, who, regarding him as the supreme deity, worshipped him as such.

In other instances such as the case of King Hiranyakashyap, the madness was nurtured by the intoxication of excessive power obtained as result of sever austerities. In most cases, the intoxication of power is the cause of such irrational ideas in the minds of limited creatures.

In the Bhagvad Geetaa the Lord Himself tells Arjun: "All (worldly) actions are performed by the triple qualities of the material nature (Satwa or the quality of goodness, Rajas the quality of passion and Tamas or the quality of ignorance), ie, by the physico-mental organism of embodied souls and not by the conscious self (Aatmaa); but deluded by Ahankaar or the perverted ego, the fallen soul thinks: "I am the doer" (Geetaa, 3/27). Deluded in this way by Mayaa, ie the deluding potency of Godhead, the foolish beings forgetful of their real selves as the eternal servants of the Lord, regard the world as the only reality. Then running after the enjoyment of the senses and ever striving to conquer the world and gain sovereignty over others, the lost souls, who have embraced the evil nature begin to think: "I have conquered the enemy and I shall conquer others also. I am the Lord, I will enjoy, I am the perfect and all powerful being" (Geetaa, 16/14). In this way the ridiculous idea that one is God develops in the mind of fallen souls, and thus deluded by their own folly and thinking: "Who is equal to me? I shall enjoy", the fool, merged in the lust for pleasures of the senses, falls into the depths of hell (Geetaa, 16/15-16).

In the Srimad Bhaagvat (12/2/1-9) it is stated that in the Kali Age genuine truth will be replaced by external appearance in every way; and this truth can be seen clearly in the present condition of the society.

Religion has been replaced by hearsay and pretext, and any mortal being displaying some form of super-natural power or ability is taken to be God-Almighty. This phenomenon is also prevalent in the sacred land of Bharat (India) where a blessed and glorious history of Divine Descents of the Godhead ranging from the Supreme Lord Himself to His numerous partial and empowered Manifestations have graced the earth from time to time whenever irreligion is in the ascendance (Geetaa, 4/7-8).

The fact that the Supreme Lord Himself has been pleased to descend to the mortal world in manifold Forms is an absolute reality accepted by the faithful of all the different theistic religious denominations of India. But in view of this history, the miracle thirsty society, urged by an insatiable desire to be relieved of the three-fold material sufferings (Aadi-bhautik or sufferings inflicted by other beings; Adhyaatmik or sufferings caused by one's body and mind; and Aadi-daivik, Natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, etc), and to experience the mundane sense enjoyments to the extreme, are ever on the look-out for the super-man who may be able to satisfy their selfish desires.

In this condition it has been seen that any person who has attained to or boasts of some uncommon or magic ability is raised to the position of the Godhead, and in many cases the miracle man is found to be a self-proclaimed deity. This is the disease called "theomania", and those suffering from this malady as well as those who follow them are both deluded from the path of the real eternal religion of all sentient beings (Jeevaatmaa's), viz., Bhakti (Bhaagvat, 1/27/6), as the blind leading the blind, both fall into the endless ocean of Sansaar.

For the guidance of the genuine seekers of spiritual truth the sacred revealed scriptures have described the signs of the Godhead and His various Avataar or Divine Descents. The Sanskrit word Avataar means to descend or the coming down of the Absolute to the relative plane of the mortal world. This is the process of descending where the initiative rests solely with the Divine Will of the Supreme Lord. Avataar must be entirely differentiated from the concept conveyed by the term incarnation. When the Godhead makes His Descent into the mundane world He has not to take the help of matter as is the case with the idea of incarnation.

The Avataar of the Absolute Godhead is equally Absolute as His Divine Plenary Portion; and being both the material and spiritual Cause and Origin as well as Inner Soul of all elements, the divinity is possessed of the inconceivable ability to appear in the world before the vision of embodied souls in His Own Form, which is apparently similar to but essentially different from any gross form of material body to by found in the mortal plane. In this regard when the Supreme Lord Sri Krishn was manifest in the world He told His own friend Arjun : "My appearance and Activities are Divine. He who has understood this Truth has not to be reborn after death, but realizes Me in Reality." (Geetaa, 4/9).

Some of the divine signs by which one may be able to recognize the Personality of the Godhead when He is manifest in the material world are described in the Chaitanya Charitaamrit as follows:

Panch-deerghah panch-sookshmah sapt-raktah shad-unnatah,
Tri-hriswa-prithu-gambheero dwatrinsh-lakshano Mahaan.

There are 32 specific signs which distinguish the Supreme Being, viz., 5 long, 5 thin, 7 reddish, 6 raised, 3 short, 3 broad, and 3 deep. The Panch-Deergh are: long nose, long arms, long collar-bone long eyes, and long thighs. The Panch-Sookshm are: thin skin, fine hair, slender fingers and teeth, and fine body hairs. The Sapt-rakt are: reddish eyes, pink feet and palms, reddish throat, rosy face and pink lips and nails. The shad-unnat are: bulging chest, raised shoulders, and prominent nails, nose, waist and mouth. The tri-hriswa are: close neck, short hips and ankles. The tri-gambheer are: deep navel, deep voice and deep (incomprehensible) behavior. All these 32 divine qualities or signs found existing simultaneously in all their supra-mundane and eternal perfection signify the blessed person of the Supreme Lord.

The past decade bares witness to numerous persons, who, on the basis of some extra-ordinary power or ability, have claimed to be the Lord God. In other cases they have been raised to that position by others.

The prevalence of theomania has never been confined to any particular area or land. Very recently there has been an up-surge of such self-made gods, whose main qualification is the possession of various forms of Siddhi.

These Siddhi or 18-fold super-natural powers acquired by the practice of various method of Yog have been depicted in the Srimad Bhaagvat as: (1) Animaa or the ability to shrink one's material body to atomic size as desired; (2) Mahimaa or to expand one's body to a gigantic size; (3) Laghimaa or to become light and invisible as air; 4) Praapti or the ability to gain all sense enjoyments at will; (5) Praakaamya to witness or enjoy all pleasures in the Three-worlds; (6) Ishitaa or the power to gain control over others; (7) Vashitaa or non-attachment to enjoyments; (8) Kaam Vasaayitaa or to attain freedom from all desires, which is the fulfillment of all desires; (9) Anurmimatwam or freedom from all sufferings and pairs of opposites such as heat and cold, disease, old age and death etc.; (10) Door-shravan or power to hear from great distances; (11) Door-darshan or power of distant vision; (12) Manojav or ability to move as quickly as thought; (13) Kaam Roop or power to assume any from at will; (14) Para Kaayaa Pravesh or uncanny ability to enter into bodies of others; (15) Swachchhand Mrityu or power of death at will; (16) Dev Kriyaa Darshan or ability to see the activities of the minor gods; (17) Sankalpit Padaarth Praapti or to be able to attain objects of one's desire; and (18) Apritihat Aadesh or the power of undeniable authority over others.

Besides these 18 there are also five minor Siddhis, viz., (i) Trikaalagyatwa or to know the past, present and future; (ii) Sheetoshn didandwa - Sahishnutaa or ability to transcend all pairs of opposites, e.g., heat and cold, pleasure and pain, etc.; (iii) Paraachittaadi Abhigyaataa or the power of mind-reading; (iv) Agni Soorya Jal Vish Prabhaav Stambhan or ability to neutralize the power of fire, sun, water, poison etc.; and (v) Aparaajaya or to be invincible.

These various forms of super-natural physico-mental attainments are referred to in western terminology by such expressions as ESP (extra-sensory- perception) , M/M (mind over matter), mysticism, etc., which are acquired by birth as well as by mystic practices and austerities.

On the basis of any of these abilities many mortals are believed by the ignorant to be the God almighty, and in the case of those not suffering under the delusion that they are the deity, that status is ascribed to them by others. On other occasions those who possess a super-natural intelligence are often placed upon the pedestal of God hood, although the grosser attraction of mystic powers is a more successful trick.

If one where to base his or her judgment and power of discrimination upon the authoritative testimony of the revealed scriptures there would be little chance of mis-appropriating God ship to oneself or others; and those who are really spiritually advanced souls will surely deny such blasphemy, as was the case with J. Krishna Murthi, who flatly refused the role of Avatar-ship imposed upon him by his numerous followers.

It is a spiritual truth that the Lord does manifest Himself in the world from time to time and that He eternally co-exists in five different forms which are all one and identical. These five-forms of Lord Shree Krishn are: (1) Swayam-Roop, i.e. the original Supreme Godhead, as He eternally is, the Cause of all cause ; (2) Swayam-Prakaash, i.e. the same Swayam-Roop Krishn Self-projected out into manifold Plenary Forms, all identical with the original. This is also called Tadekaatm-Roop, the glory of which was displayed by the Lord to Naarad; (3) Vaibhav, i.e. the innumerable Avataar of the original Swayam-Roop Bhagavaan, which have been delineated in detail in the Bhaagvat; (4) Antaryaamee, ie the Paramaatmaa or manifest aspect of the original Godhead indwelling every finite soul; and (5) Archaa-Vigraha or the divine Image of the Supreme Lord, graciously manifest to the view of fallen souls by the inconceivable spiritual power of the Lord (Yogmaayaa), though the medium of the Self-realized Guru.

Among the five-fold manifestations of the Godhead, the Vaibhav aspect is the most misconstrued. It is from an unauthorized approach to the subject of Avataar that the theomania concept has come into being.

In order to overcome this gross short-coming we must submit to accept the guidance of scriptural testimony. This will solve the problem of committing the grave offense of theomania or apotheosis in any form.

Interested readers are requested to refer to the Srimad Bhaagvat, wherein a clear and detailed description of both past as well as future Avataar are listed for the guidance of the genuine seekers of Truth.

The main Vaibhav Leelaa Avataar to be manifest in this present age of Kali are Lord Buddha (already appeared), and Lord Kalki, who will appear at the end of the Kali Yug to remove the burden of irreligious rulers from the earth and re-establish the almost lost Vedic religion.

The Supreme Lord also manifests Himself as Yug Avataar in all the four ages, viz. Satya, Tretaa, Dwaapar and Kali, and assuming different Colors, Names and Forms He establishes His Own worship (suitable to each age). Concerning the Yug Avataar and mode of worship for this present Yug, it is stated in the Bhaagvat : (In the Kali age) those possessed of true wisdom surely worship by Sankeertan or congregational chanting of His Names and Glories, the Godhead, Who is of fair complexion (Gauraang), along with His Own Plenary Portions (viz. Prabhu Nityananda, Sri Advaita), Plenary Part-portions (viz. Srivasadi), Eternal Associates (viz. Gadadhar Swaroop, Rai Ramananda, etc.) and Weapons (in the form of the Divine Name, etc.), and Who is ever engaged in singing the Krishn Naam."

In 1486 AD this revealed truth became a manifest Reality; the Supreme Lord Krishn appeared on this earth as Sri Krishn Chaitanya, effulgent with the hue of molten gold, and as the most munificent Benefactor He gave the Supreme Gift of Krishn Prem. By Him was also established the Yug Dharma of Sankeertan. That which was attainable in the Satya Yug, Tretaa Yug and Dwaapar Yug by meditation on the Godhead (Vishnu), performance of Vaidik sacrifices and through formal worship respectively, is attained in the age of Kali by chanting the Name and Glories of the supreme Lord Hari.

One should never commit the grave offense of looking upon the genuine Avataar or manifestation of the Supreme Lord as an example of theomania, any more than one must not consider oneself or another to be the Godhead. By the authority of the revealed scriptures and the guidance of the genuine spiritual Preceptor one should strive to realize the absolute and unalloyed Nature of the Supreme Lord in order to offer one's entire being to Him for His eternal pleasures on His divine Terms.


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Created by Sushma Gupta on 5/9/09
Updated on 11/05/11