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An imperial cult is a form of state religion in which an emperor, or a dynasty of emperors (or rulers of another title), are worshipped as messiahs, demigods or deities. "Cult" here is used to mean "worship", not in the modern pejorative sense. The cult may be one of personality in the case of a newly arisen Euhemerus figure or one of national identity (e.g., Egyptian Pharaoh, Ethiopian Empire or Empire of Japan) or supranational identity in the case of a multi-ethnic state (e.g., Imperial Era China, Roman Empire). A divine king is a monarch who is held in a special religious significance by his subjects, and serves as both head of state and a deity or head religious figure. This system of government combines theocracy with an absolute monarchy.
- Further information: List of imperial cults
- Main article: Pharaoh
- Main article: Chinese sovereign
- Main article: Imperial cult (ancient Rome)
Even before the rise of the Caesars, there are traces of a "regal spirituality" in Roman society. In earliest Roman times the king was a spiritual and patrician figure and ranked higher than the flamines (priestly order), while later on in history only a shadow of the primordial condition was left with the sacrificial rex sacrorum linked closely to the plebeian orders.
King Numitor corresponds to the regal-sacred principle in early Roman history. The "founder of Rome" Romulus was heroized into "Quirinus", the "undefeated god", of whom the later Caesars identified with and considered themselves incarnations.
Varro spoke of the initiatory mystery and power of Roman regality (adytum et initia regis), inacessible to the exoteric communality.
In Plutarch's Phyrro, 19.5, the Greek ambassador declared amid the Roman Senate he felt instead like being in the midst of "a whole assembly of Kings".
As the Roman Empire developed as the dictator-prince Julius Caesar left his crucial mark Roman history, the Imperial cult gradually developed more formally and constituted the worship of the Roman emperor as a god. This practice began at the start of the Empire under Augustus, and became a prominent element of Roman religion.
The cult spread over the whole Empire within a few decades, more strongly in the east than in the west. Emperor Diocletian further reinforced it when he demanded the proskynesis and adopted the adjective sacrum for all things pertaining to the imperial person.
The deification of emperors was gradually abandoned after the emperor Constantine I started supporting Christianity. However, the concept of the imperial person as "sacred" carried over, in a Christianized form, into the Byzantine Empire.
In ancient Japan, it was customary for every clan to claim descendancy from gods (ujigami), and the royal family or clan tended to define their ancestor as the dominant, or most important kami of the time. Later in history, this was considered common practice by noble families, and the head members of the family, including that of the imperial family, were not seen to be divine. It was not until the Meiji period, that the Japanese Emperor began to be venerated under a system of State Shinto, along with a growing sense of nationalism.
- Arahitogami - the concept of a god who is a human being applied to Emperor Hirohito, up until the end of World War II.
- Ningen-sengen, the declaration with which Emperor Hirohito, on New Year's Day 1946, (formally) declined claims of divinity, keeping with traditional family values as expressed in the Shinto religion.
Tibetan Buddhism use the tulku system, an ancient way of finding the reincarnation of a previous deceased lama: they are usually young boys, sometimes of wealthy and influential families and sometimes of peasant families like the current 14th Dalai Lama, that are found and enthroned as the reincarnation of an enlightened person that has already deceased. Every tulku are still called on the title of Rinpoche and is given as much respect as his previous reincarnation. Complying with each and every wish of a child- or adult tulku is not unusual. Tulkus lead responsible lives because of their status as a bodhisattva. While many tulkus are monks, some tulkus choose to lead lay lives with families of their own.
Examples of divine kings in historyEdit
- See also: sacred king
Some examples of historic leaders who are often considered divine kings are:
- Chinese pseudo-Christian leader Hong Xiuquan, leader of the Taiping Rebellion, claimed to be Christ's younger brother, and attempted to establish rule as a divine king.
- Korean Buddhist monk Gung-ye, King of Taebong.
- The Japanese emperor Hirohito up to the end of World War II.
- Javanese Kings during Hindu-Buddhist era (4th century – 15th century AD) such as Sailendra dynasty, Kediri, Singhasari, and Majapahit empire.
- Kings of Khmer Empire, Cambodia.
- Srivijaya emperors.
- The Dalai Lamas of Tibet.
See also Edit
- ↑ Sharer & Traxler 2006, p.183.
- Sharer, Robert J.; with Loa P. Traxler (2006). The Ancient Maya, 6th (fully revised), Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Further reading Edit
- includeonly>Dean Nelson. "Nepal humbles its god-king", The Sunday Times, 23 June 2006.
- Maria Baptist. The Rastafari. Buried Cities and Lost Tribes.
- Rick Effland. Definition of Divine kingship. Buried Cities and Lost Tribes.
- The World of God Kings. Buried Cities and Lost Tribes.
- H.E. Ameresekere (July 1931). The Kataragama God: Shrines and Legends. Ceylon Literary Register 1 (7): 289–292.
- F. A. Marglin (1989). Wives of the God-King. The RituaLs of the Devadasis of Puri, New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
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