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The Great Wheel is a planar cosmology which defines how the planes, worlds, and realms of the multiverse are connected to one another. Throughout this multiverse, there are various gods that exist which have their own cult of worshippers and regularly interfere with humanity. Powerful barriers separate the higher realms from the mortal world, preventing these gods from controlling world events. This forces gods to enter a realm through more creative methods if it seeks to influence humanity and the flow of history. Daeva is an umbrella term used to represent a collection of divine entities that have since entered the mortal realm and have become human. There are three specific ways in which a deity can accomplish this:

  1. A god can construct an avatar, an artificially created human body built to the specific instructions and needs to contain it's soul. A god can then possess this body and use it to navigate the human world in order to use its power. It can also place pieces of its soul into numerous avatars, potentially dividing its power among thousands of bodies, depending on its power level and might.

  2. A god can use its own cult as a way to enter the world through a method known as Theosis, a transformation proces whoose aim is likeness to or union with a god. Through this ritual, a worshipper who has proven its faith and devotion can offer up its body as a landing pad for that god's soul to enter, becoming one with its deity. The resulting individual becomes a perfect union between god and human, becoming intertwined in mind, body, and soul down to its very DNA.

  3. A god is born into the mortal realm as a human through a virgin birth, done through a millennia long eugenics program to create a physical body with the perfect set of genes to contain the god's soul. This entity is considered simultaneously divine and mortal, possessing two complete and distinct natures at once. This is referred to as a Hypostatic union, in which a deity contains the essence of both a god and a human, having both natures but being one individual.

The three forms of Daeva basically come down to a god in the body of a human, an entity resulting from the blending of a god and a human, and an entity that is both god and human. Nevertheless, they are all hybrid forms of the same two creatures, with the divinity becoming one with the mortal. The third type is hardest to justify, as it is modeled off the story of Jesus. In a world where multiple gods exist and are running around as human mortals, this method becomes redundant, requiring much more time and effort. It's also the hardest to explain, as its basically a mismatch of the other two with little in the way of separating it that makes it unique.

What would make the hypostatic union a more preferable method for a deity to enter the mortal realm as opposed to the others?

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    $\begingroup$ The word apotheosis already has a meaning thousands of years old. Re-using the word for a completely new meaning is misleading in the extreme. (The fundamental difference is that in the established meaning of apotheosis the former mortal keeps their original individual spirit.) You may want to explore the Orthodox Christian concept of theosis "engodment" for something sort-of like your 2nd option. (Except of course that Orthodox doctrine has no concept of DNA, and really no concept at all of how this happens physically.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Mar 6 at 20:37
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    $\begingroup$ How about option 4: God causes a suitable body to be born, but doesn't join with it until later, when it is adult, kind of like a combination of 2 and 3. Also, why a virgin birth? $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Mar 6 at 21:01
  • $\begingroup$ @MontyWild I interpret "virgin" in the sense that no seed is required, not that the 'host' has to be a virgin. $\endgroup$
    – Joachim
    Mar 7 at 7:01
  • $\begingroup$ What's wrong with a non-virgin birth? There might be advantages to having a non-divine father. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Mar 7 at 8:50
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    $\begingroup$ I assume you realise that #3 is the orthodox (little-o) view of Jesus? There are thousands of years of philosophy about why God chose to do it that way - to actually be human as well as actually being god. $\endgroup$
    – OrangeDog
    Mar 7 at 16:33

3 Answers 3

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Let's compare-and-contrast the three modes by which a god may inhabit the mortal realm:

  1. Avatar

    Allows the god to manifest physically in the mortal realm, and gives the god direct control over the avatar. However, there is no real mortal component in the avatar, i.e. a mortal soul; it's just the physical construction materials plus the god's own soul. And the quality of the body depends on the god's ability to source the right materials and actually craft the thing.

  2. Apotheosis

    Allows the god to manifest physically in the mortal realm, and gives the god direct control over the body which may or may not be unconstested. Unlike the first method, apotheosis does combine both a mortal soul and a god's soul (which you imply is a useful thing). A significant drawback is that this option is only available to gods who (1) have a cult in the mortal realm, (2) have a cultist who is actually willing to surrender the rest of their existence to their god, and (3) that cultist is actually able to perform the ritual (which may require help from others, hard-to-get materials, and/or travel to hard-to-reach or denied areas). Also, the quality of the body and the mortal soul are outside the god's control: the god can elect to be choosy, but is ultimately constrained by the options that are presented to it. "You go to war in the mortal body of the zealot you have, not the mortal body of the zealot you want."

  3. Hypostatic union

    Allows the god to manifest physically in the mortal realm, and gives the god direct control over the body. Unlike apotheosis, there is no independent human personality that might compete with the god for control over the body. But like apotheosis, the union does contain both a mortal and godly soul. You don't specify what it takes for a god to seize upon a pregnancy, but presumably the mortal parents don't have to dedicate their lives to the pursuit of this goal the way a hopeful cultist must for apotheosis, and this method only requires a single mortal (i.e. no team of cultists, no ritual materials or prep). In some fiction, a god can just pick any woman, often without her knowledge or consent. Maybe the god can influence the development of the child in utero, but definitely controls the child's life from birth, and so can guarantee that the human body is ideally prepared for whatever work lies ahead.


There's at least one more criterion that I'd think is relevant, but which you don't comment on: how does a god extricate themselves from one of these unions?

This could be a really important consideration. If one of these options effectively traps the god inside the body until the proper exit conditions are satisfied, and another option does not trap the god, that will matter. Imagine that apotheosis is such a deep intertwining that the god can't leave the body until the body dies and is destroyed according to some ritual. If that were the case, a god might find themselves trapped in a mortal body that's not in a good position to pursue the god's goals, and then stay trapped in the corpse for an arbitrarily long period of time until future cultists can find the body and perform the ritual. That could take a god out of the game for centuries. (But might make for a really neat story arc.) IIRC, the movie Dogma does something like this.

On that topic, I think this makes the most sense:

  • gods can put "eject buttons" into their avatars that allow them to leave at a moment's notice
  • apotheosis can be ended in reasonably short order with the help of the rest of the cult (e.g. with a few days' or week's notice -- however long it takes them to prepare for the separation ritual)
  • hypostatic union ends when the body dies, which definitely trashes the body, but does not require any other special steps, i.e. suicide is the eject button

Thus:

  • the avatar is the most convenient & flexible but also gives the worst results
  • apotheosis is the least convenient & flexible but can give truly excellent results
  • hypostatic union has a mixed score as far as convenience, but guarantees truly excellent results

For visual learners like myself:

Very scientific data on human/deity mergers

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The Hypostatic Union is the closest to the Condition Humaine a deity can get.

It is difficult to grasp human nature and its petty ways. Suffering through 'conception' (immaculate though it might be), gestation, and birth, will allow the deity to come closest to experiencing life as a human being — temporary and temporal, vulnerable, emotional, mortal, lethal.

Why would a deity want this in the first place? It is certainly not for all deities, but some

  • are genuinely fascinated by humans and desire the extra edge only the Hypostatic Union can give them (e.g. a deity doing research on their anthropological thesis ['theosis'? Oh, right.]);
  • want to hone how or why they are being worshipped (in order to become more powerful, perhaps?), and an understanding of what truly drives humans to revere their specific idols can dramatically improve the deity's results.
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Hypostatic Union Strikes The Best Balance Between Mortality and Divinity

If I am understanding this correctly, an Avatar is having the god take a blank vessel and fill it with their power. In this situation, they are essentially purely a god but disguising themselves in a human meat puppet.

Even if this is easy to create, I feel like this would be rather uncomfortable for a god. Though the body might be set to all their specifications, it is not truly their body, but rather a skin suit that must be far more limiting than their true godly form (whatever that might look like).

You have to remember that humans and mortals are effectively ants compared to a god. This is more than simply a size difference, they are two vastly different creatures with vastly different brains. Imagine a person shoving a human brain inside of an insect's body. Even if they managed to get control over themselves, the sensation would be rather unpleasant. In the same way, a god suddenly jamming their consciousness into a fully formed human body is incredibly uncomfortable.

They are hit with a flood of emotions they would otherwise never be able to feel, including unpleasant ones such as pain or fear. Even sensations as simple as breathing would be utterly foreign to them and downright horrifying. All the vastly unpleasant aspects of the human body come rushing at the god at the same time, making them feel weak and powerless, much what would happen if a human suddenly woke up one day as an insignificant ant, seeing the entire world towering over them.

Apotheosis, on the other hand, is taking a fully developed human and shoving a godly consciousness and power into them. Even if the union is "perfect", the simple fact that a person's whole consciousness is being overwritten is horrifying to consider.

Some gods might object to apotheosis from an ethical standpoint, seeing it as taking over their follower's free will. A good god might find such a practice immoral, even if it is the follower's choice to undergo this transformation.

The biggest problem is that the follower is still in there somewhere. Unlike the Avatar, you can't even really pick and choose the exact characteristics that you want, the best you can do is find someone that is as close to you as physically and mentally possible.

What if even the follower you like the most, the one who seems perfect, has traits you do not like? One flaw that you cannot get over? Blending together your consciousnesses means that flaw is now your flaw as well, thus making you imperfect in that regard.

Asking a god to share headspace with a mortal is a lot like asking a person to share a brain with a rat. Even if the union works out nicely, these are two fundamentally different beings getting squished into one.

Hypostatic Union is the best of both worlds. It's not a meat suit like an Avatar, a puppet that you have to pilot around. The body that you've made is ultimately your body. I suppose the downside is that you cannot control what you look like unless there is a method of controlling it, but simply having a body that you can say is purely your own would be nice. It eliminates the problem of discomfort that I was talking about earlier. If you get an entire childhood to get used to the new body, you'll probably be so used to it that you'll forget ever wanting another.

That's another advantage. You get to have an actual childhood. If you make a fully-grown Avatar, you're skipping many stages of human development and going straight into adulthood, unless the form itself is starting as a child and can grow up. Even if there are no mental effects to skipping those stages, it gives the god more chance to feel like they are actually a human, making the experience more authentic.

You get to have parents, a family, and perhaps a job or a spouse. You get to experience all the pleasures of a mortal life from scratch. Where's the fun in that?

Avatars are best if you simply need a way to communicate with humans for a bit. For example, short-term interactions such as giving your followers a message. You're not there to be a human, you're there to be a god in a mortal shell.

Apotheosis is for when a follower has done a particularly good job. It is the ultimate reward for their loyalty. Results vary with the person.

The hypostatic union is for gods that don't just want to pretend they are human but ones that want to BE human.

Also, what if there are some places only gods are allowed to go to and only mortals are allowed to go to? Perhaps Avatars are still considered "Gods" and recipients of Apotheosis are still considered "Mortals", at least in certain places.

Dimension X is a place where only gods are allowed, but Apotheosis recipients can't visit because it still considers them human.

Dimension Y is a place where only humans can go (for example, some sort of afterlife) Avatars cannot visit because they are not human.

Gods who went through Hypostatic union would be a loophole to both of these rules because they are both god and human at the same time. If there are any rules like this in this universe, it is the perfect way to get around them.

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