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(1,540 words)

Author(s): Ahn, Gregor
1. Monotheistic conceptions of God, whose point of departure is the existence and activity of one God, have dominated the religious understanding of Christian and post-Christian Europe for long centuries. In view of the multiplicity of other, especially polytheistic, religions, however, which premise a plurality of deities, monotheistic forms present a special case in religious history. They are not actually what seems from the Western standpoint to be the obviously ‘normal’ one. The current sit…


(1,859 words)

Author(s): Ahn, Gregor
Conceptualizations Unforeseeable events that radically alter persons' lives can be seen as their ‘destiny’ (Lat. de-stanare, ‘stand down,’ solidly ‘stand’) or their ‘fate’ (Lat., fatum, ‘oracle,’ from far-, ‘speak’). Since such events differentiate what happens to one person from what happens to another, in most cultures they call for an explanation. In Europe, the emergence of conceptualizations of destiny that would become traditional is first and especially inspired by Greco-Hellenistic religions. In these religions, r…


(1,254 words)

Author(s): Ahn, Gregor
Rush of Angels Today 1. Despite the extensive loss of importance and meaning that marks the overall situation of Christian piety in post-war Europe, angels have anything but fallen out of fashion. In secular and neo-religious contexts, representations of angels have been the subject of an extraordinary renaissance. Independently of church traditions, and to some extent in direct competition with them, a significant ‘reception’ has occurred of the notion of the angel as a benign, efficacious manifest…


(1,366 words)

Author(s): Ahn, Gregor
Emergence of the World 1. Cosmogonies (Gk., kosmogonía, ‘world-origin’) are explanatory models, developed by persons of nearly all times and cultures, describing the origin of the world around them, and of the conditions of life that they find there. Inasmuch, then, as cosmogonies not only refer to the genesis of specific, individual circumstances of life, but reflect a world-encompassing linkage of functions, structures, or orders, they form an integral component of cosmologies (Gk., kosmología, ‘doctrine of the world-whole’)—that is, of concepts serving to help exp…


(657 words)

Author(s): Ahn, Gregor
Daimon with the Greeks 1. The word daemon is the Latinized form of the ancient Greek daímon. In English, it has become ‘demon.’ In the Greek tradition, daímones referred to supernatural beings who intervened in the destiny of human beings, partly as bringers of luck and happiness, partly as messengers of the insalubrious. Even Plato still interprets Eros, messenger of love, as a ‘great daímon,’ in correspondence with this interpretation, and thus as a being ‘between a god and a mortal’ ( Symposium, 202d-e). In the later Plato, in the Apology, an extension of the concept sees Socrates's daímo…

Composite Beings

(225 words)

Author(s): Ahn, Gregor
Supernatural beings in composite form, whose outward appearance—in varying proportion—is partly animal and partly human, are a hardy component of the iconography of a great number of religions. Although gods are extensively encountered in human form (‘anthropomorphism’), deviations from the norm are suited to certain purposes. A multiplication of bodily parts (heads, arms), a merging of the sexes (‘androgyny’), or a combination of animal and human forms, has been a preferred stylistic means of d…