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The conclusion sums up the work, indicating the core elements shared by (Hellenic) theories of daimonification along with (Jewish and Christian) theories of angelification. One common element is the link of virtue (ethical transformation) with physical and cognitive transformation. It is this persistent link that allows ancient theories of posthuman transformation to serve as correctives for current Transhumanist visions of posthuman enhancement. Transhumanists often speak of cognitive and physical improvements with no robust reflection on ethical or moral improvement. Posthuman enhancement must never be defined apart from morality, but in terms of it. Morality cannot simply be programmed from without, nor can it be governed by the overall value of personal autonomy.
Philo of Alexandria (about 20 BCE–50 CE) applied the logic of Platonic daimonification to the Jewish lawgiver Moses. Philo is important for three reasons: he did theoretical work identifying angels, daimones, and pure human souls. He also discussed why an angelic soul such as the pre-incarnate Moses would arrive on earth in flesh. Finally, Philo’s depiction of Moses as a living law in complete control of his emotions reinforced the ethical emphasis of the tradition. Philo's portrayal of Moses as a king descended from heaven best resembles the thought of the Hermetic Kore Kosmou.
One of Plato’s successors, Xenocrates (395–314 BCE), envisioned the human soul as daimonic after death but still subject to fluctuating emotions. He proposed a kind of purgatory in the region below the moon. Daimones who became pure from negative affections traveled from moon to sun to become daimonic minds, ideas more fully developed by Plutarch, Apuleius of Madauros (about 124–190 CE), and Maximus of Tyre (about 180 CE).
Chapter 8 presents angelification in the Christian apocalypse Zostrianos. Zostrianos is the mysterious reputed author of the longest tractate in the Nag Hammadi library (NHC VIII,8.1). The first known reception of this text was by Christians, one-time friends of Plotinus who tried to fit into his philosophical circle at Rome. Zostrianos ascends into four extra-cosmic dimensions in which he experiences successively higher forms of angelification. The text of Zostrianos is designed to lead its readers into contemplative ascent prefaced by a life of purifying virtues. These virtues completely cut one off from the structures of civic society in an effort to generate an angelic subjectivity on earth.
Chapter 1 treats Hesiod (early seventh century BCE), who envisioned the daimonification of the primal (golden) generation of humans. The golden generation was already close to the gods, the “model A” type of human. For Hesiod, it was important that the golden generation was righteous and good. After death, they became guardian daimones that granted gifts to humans. Hesiod also presented the daimonification of an individual, Phaethon. Phaethon represents a type of figure who obtained daimonic status owing to his beauty. Later, however, daimonification was linked with moral forms of excellence. Alcestis, a maiden from Thessaly, became a daimon by her supreme sacrifice, and Pythagoras was venerated as a daimon for his wisdom.
Chapter 7 turns to daimonification in the founder of Neoplatonism, Plotinus (205–270 CE). Porphyry presented Plotinus as already a daimon while on earth. This presentation partially depends on Plotinus’s own teachings: the one who becomes a daimon in heaven already was one on earth. This presentist focus was shaped by a reading of Empedocles and Plato – the daimon is one’s higher consciousness into which one lives. In his theory of daimonification, Plotinus emphasized ethical and contemplative practices. Purifying virtues disengaged the higher consciousness from the “conglomerate” of the body and the lower mind. When one’s higher mind is free from bodily images, one can live at the level of the daimon.
Adapting certain features of Empedoclean daimonology, Plato formulated a more rigorous theory of daimonification through virtue. He daimonified the soldiers of his ideal republic for their courage, and daimonified rulers (“guardians”) for their wisdom. In his Cratylus, Plato vouched for the daimonification of all people who were noble and wise. Plato’s Timaeus introduced the ultimate democratic principle of daimonification by identifying one’s guardian daimon with humanity’s higher consciousness (or nous).
Empedocles (about 492–430 BCE) promoted himself as a daimon in flesh. He told a cosmic story about how daimones fell from their blessed state and the mode of their return. The pure daimon is a spherical being made up of the energy of Love. Owing to a moral fault, the individual daimon falls into flesh and enters a drawn-out cycle of moral and physical purification. The fallen daimon purifies itself by living the lives of different animals and plants and by not eating substances that contain the daimonic essence. Empedocles is historically significant for his focus on individual and present daimonification, and for his cosmic story of daimonic fall and redemption, a story moralized by Plato and his intellectual heirs.
Origen here represents Christian notions of angelification, although brief consideration is given to antecedents, namely Clement of Alexandria and the Valentinians. Origen, like Empedocles, offered a cosmic story of fall and redemption. According to Origen, humans are “cooled” intellects whose natural state is to burn with love for God. A species upgrade is part of humanity’s evolutionary design, but it takes intense moral labor. Origen offers the most speculation on the nature of angels, the original consubstantiality of angels and souls, how angels and souls fell from divine Love, and the moral means of their return.
This introduction distinguishes angelification (becoming an angel) from angelomorphism (becoming like an angel), although it acknowledges ambiguity. After briefly discussing angelification in modern literature and film, it defines both angels and daimones in the ancient sense, discusses the analogous concept of a hero, and distinguishes angelification and daimonification from the broader concept of deification in the ancient world.
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.