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(C) 1995 by Richard S. Brown
All rights reserved.


By Richard Shaw Brown
Vrindavan ©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 Bhagavatam (Canto X, Chap. 66, Sloka 1-24) there is an instance given of a King named Paundraka, the ruler of Karusa, who under the delusion that he was the God sent a message to the bona fide incarnation, Lord Sri Krsna, 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" (1). Hearing the absurd proclamation on the part of the theomanic, King Paundraka, the Lord and His associates were moved to laughter. Then Lord Sri Krsna, Who appeared like a ordinary man to the ignorant, proceeded to Kasi (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 Karusa, theomania was planted in his mind by foolish people, who, regarding him as the supreme deity, worshipped his as such (2). In other instances such as the case of King Hiranyakasipu, the madness was nurtured by the intoxication of excessive power obtained as result of sever austerities (3). In most cases the intoxication of power is the cause of such irrational ideas in the minds of limited creatures.

In the Bhagavad-gita the Lord Himself tells Arjuna: "All (worldly) actions are performed by the triple qualities of the material nature (4), i.e., by the physico-mental organism of embodied souls and not by the conscious self (atma); but deluded by ahamkara or the perverted ego, the fallen soul thinks: "I am the doer" (5). Deluded in this way by Maya, i.e., 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" (6). 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 (7).

In the Srimad Bhagavatam (8) 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 Bharata (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 (9).

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 (10), 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 (jivatma's), viz., Bhakti (11), as the blind leading the blind, both fall into the endless ocean of Samsara (12).

For the guidance of the genuine seekers of spiritual truth the sacred revealed scriptures have described the signs of the Godhead and His various Avataras or Divine Descents. The Sanskrit word Avatara 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.

Avatara must be entirely differentiated from the psilanthropic 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 Avatara 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 (13), 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 Krsna was manifest in the world He told His own friend Arjuna: "My appearance and Activities are Divine. He who has understood this Truth has not to be reborn after death, but realizes Me in Reality." (14)

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 Caritamrta as follows:

Panca-dirghah panca-suksmah sapta-raktah sadunatah,
Trihrasva-prthu-gambhiro dvatrimsa-llaksano Mahan.

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 panca-dirgha are: long nose, long arms, long collar-bone long eyes, and long thighs. The panca-suksma are: thin skin, fine hair, slender fingers and teeth, and fine body hairs. The sapta-rakta are: reddish eyes, pink feet and palms, reddish throat, rosy face and pink lips and nails. The sadunnata are: bulging chest, raised shoulders, and prominent nails, nose, waist and mouth. The tri-hrasva are: close neck, short hips and ankles. The tri-gambira 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 siddhis or 18-fold super-natural powers acquired by the practice of various method of yoga have been depicted in the Srimad Bhagavatam as: 1. anima or the ability to shrink one's material body to atomic size as desired; 2. mahima or to expand one's body to a gigantic size; 3. laghima or to become light and invisible as air; 4. prapti or the ability to gain all sense enjoyments at will; 5. prakamya to witness or enjoy all pleasures in the Three-worlds; 6. isita or the power to gain control over others; 7. vaista or non-attachment to enjoyments; 8. kamavasayita or to attain freedom from all desires, which is the fulfillment of all desires; 9. anurmimatvam or freedom from all sufferings and pairs of opposites such as heat and cold, disease, old age and death etc.; 10. durasravana or power to hear from great distances; 11. duradarsana or power of distant vision; 12. manojava or ability to move quick as thought; 13. kamarupa or power to assume any from at will; 14. parakaya-pravesa or uncanny ability to enter into bodies of others; 15. svacchanda-mrtyu or power of death at will; 16. deva-krida-darsana or ability to see the activities of the minor gods; 17. sankalpita-padartha-prapti or to be able to attain objects of one's desire; and 18. apritihata-adesa or the power of undeniable authority over others. Besides these 18 there are also five minor siddhis, viz., (i) trikalajnatva or to know the past, present and future; (ii) sitosnadidandva-sahisnuta or ability to transcend all pairs of opposites, e.g., heat and cold, pleasure and pain, etc.; (iii) paracittadi-abhijnata or the power of mind-reading; (iv) agni-surya-jala-visa-prabhava-stambhana or ability to neutralize the power of fire, sun, water, poison etc.; and (v) aparajaya or to be invincible.

These various forms of super-natural physico-mental attainments are referred to in western terminology by such expressions as E.S.P. (extra-sensuary-preception), 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 Sri Krsna are: l. Svayam-rupa, i.e. the original Supreme Godhead, as He eternally is, the Cause of all cause ; 2. Syayam-prakasa, i.e.

the same Svayam-rupa Krsna Self-projected out into manifold Plenary Forms, all identical with the original. This is also called Tadekatma-rupa, the glory of which was displayed by the Lord to Sri Narada; 3. Vaibhava, i.e. the innumerable Avataras of the original Svayam-rupa Bhagavan, which have been delineated in detail in the Bhagavatam; 4. Antaryami, i.e. the Paramatma or manifest aspect of the original Godhead indwelling every finite soul; and 5. arca-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 (Yogamaya), though the medium of the Self-realized Guru.

Among the five-fold manifestations of the Godhead, the Vaibhava aspect is the most misconstrued. It is from an unauthorized approach to the subject of avatara 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 Bhagavatam, wherein a clear and detailed description of both past as well as future Avataras are listed for the guidance of the genuine seekers of Truth.

The main Vaibhava Lila-avataras 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 Yuga 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 Yuga-Avatara in all the four ages, viz. Satya, Treta, Dvapara and Kali, and assuming different Colors, Names and Forms He establishes His Own worship (suitable to each age. Concerning the Yuga Avatara and mode of worship for this present Yuga, it is stated in the Bhagavatam: (In the Kali age) those possessed of true wisdom surely worship by Sankirtana or congregational chanting of His Names and Glories, the Godhead, Who is of fair complexion (Gauranga), along with His Own Plenary Portions (viz. Prabhu Nityananda, Sri advaita), Plenary Part-portions (viz. Srivasadi), Eternal Associates (viz. Gadadhar Svarupa, Rai Ramananda, etc.) and Weapons (in the form of the Divine Name, etc.), and Who is ever engaged in singing the Krsna-nama."

In 1486 A.D. this revealed truth became a manifest Reality; the Supreme Lord Krsna appeared on this earth as Sri Krsna-caitanya, effulgent with the hue of molten gold, and as the most munificent Benefactor He gave the Supreme Gift of Krsna-prema. By Him was also established the Yuga Dharma of Sankirtana. That which was attainable in the Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga and Dvapara Yuga by meditation on the Godhead (Visnu), performance of Vedic 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 Avatara 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.

1. Srimad Bhagavatam, Canto X, Chap. 66, Sloka 5.
2. Ibid., Canto X Chap. 66, Sloka 1-2
3. Ibid., Canto VII
4. satva or the Quality of goodness, rajas the quality of passion and tamas or the quality of ignorance.
5. Gita., Chap. III, Sloka 27.
6. Ibid., Chap XVI. Sloka 14
7. Ibid., Chap. XVI Sloka 15-16
8. Bhagavatam, Canto XII, chap. 2, Sloka 1-9
9. Gita, Chap. IV, Sloka 7-8
10. Tri-Tapa: the three-fold sufferings of material existence:
(i) Adibhautika or sufferings inflicted by other beings;
(ii) Adhyatmika or sufferings caused by one's body and mind; and
(iii) Adidaivika Natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, etc.
11. CF. Bhagavatam, canto I, Chap. 27, Sloka 6.
12. The never ending cycle of birth and death, i.e. worldly existence.
13. Vide. Bhagavatam, canto X, Chap. 64 sloka 29, also X, 37, 11.
14. Gita, Chap. IV, Sloka 9.