Posthuman Transformation in Ancient Mediterranean Thought: Becoming Angels and Demons by M. David Litwa 2021
About the Author
Dr. Litwa has broad interests in the fields of early Christianity, Hellenistic Judaism, ruler cult, classical mythology, and Greco-Roman religions. His career began with a monograph on deification (becoming god) as seen through the lens of the Pauline writings (We Are Being Transformed 2012). In 2013, he offered a general introduction to deification in Western culture from the Pharaohs to modern Transhumanists. Then in 2016, he focused on the politics and literature of self-deification (Desiring Divinity). He has twice engaged gospel literature as a witness to Jesus’s literary deification (Iesus Deus, 2014) and to a particular historiographical genre (How the Gospels Became History, 2019). A fascination with alternative Christian movements inspired him to edit and translate the anonymous Refutation of All Heresies (2016). After that came the annotated translation of important Hermetic testimonia and fragments (Hermetica II, 2018). Litwa has recently finished a project on angelification traditions in Hellenic and Christian literature (Posthuman Transformation, forthcoming 2021). He has just published history of alternative Christian movements in the second-century CE (Found Christianities). A full book on one of these movements, the Carpocratians, came out in 2022. Check it out for the first ever fully commentary on “Secret Mark.”
About the Book
There is not just a desire but a profound human need for enhancement – the irrepressible yearning to become better than ourselves. Today, enhancement is often conceived of in terms of biotechnical intervention: genetic modification, prostheses, implants, drug therapy – even mind uploading. The theme of this book is an ancient form of enhancement: a physical upgrade that involves ethical practices of self-realization. It has been called ‘angelification’ – a transformation by which people become angels. The parallel process is ‘daimonification’, or becoming daimones. Ranging in time from Hesiod and Empedocles through Plato and Origen to Plotinus and Christian gnostics, this book explores not only how these two forms of posthuman transformation are related, but also how they connect and chasten modern visions of transhumanist enhancement which generally lack a robust account of moral improvement.
‘In this pioneering and wide-ranging work, Posthuman Transformation in Ancient Mediterranean Thought, M. David Litwa connects contemporary conversations in transhumanist thought with ancient philosophical traditions of angelification (alternatively, ‘daimonification’). Chief among this book’s virtues is its impressive range: Litwa provides comparative analyses of authors from Greco-Roman, Jewish, Christian, and Hermetic traditions, ranging from the 8th century BCE to the 3rd century CE. Litwa’s work is inclusive even of traditions too often treated as marginal (e.g., ‘Gnostic’ texts), providing a basis for fresh comparative insights.’ Travis W. Proctor, Reading Religion
‘This is an enjoyable, erudite, and informative book … This book should be read with interest and pleasure by scholars from a range of disciplines but is also accessible to undergraduates and general readers.’ Tom Mackenzie, Bryn Mawr Classical Review
Summary of Introduction (partial)
This book is about people transforming into angels (angelifica- tion) and their spiritual cousins called daimones (daimonification). Angelomorphism Angelification is not the same as what some scholars have called angelomorphism. Angelomorphism suggests that human beings can share angelic qualities without actually becoming angels.
For example, a wise woman addresses king David in the Hebrew Bible: “My lord the king is like an angel of God” – but only with respect to “his discernment of good and evil.” In the Ascension of Isaiah, an early second- century CE Christian text, the prophet sees righteous saints clothed in celestial garments “like the angels.” In the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Essenes hoped to “inherit the lot of the holy ones” – meaning angels – and take their stand with them in the service of the heavenly temple. But being like the angels in terms of form and function is not angelification.
These comparative particles, like the English “as,” could in fact mean anything from “resembling” to “having the nature of.” Different readers took the language in different ways. To give but one important example: according to the gospel of Mark, Jesus said that resurrected believers will be “like” (hōs) angels. The author of Luke, who adapted Mark, strengthened the statement by having Jesus say that believers are “equal to angels (isangeloi).” They are equal to angels for three reasons: because () they do not marry, () because they are or will be deathless, and () because they are God’s children. Given these shared traits, I take the Lukan Jesus to be hinting at angelification, and we shall have opportunity to return to this passage in Chapter .
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