World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology Of Sacred Texts

Editor, Andrew Wilson


The Lord Of Spirits

The natural world also includes the spiritual realm. Often enough, benevolent spiritual beings, angels, and devas are the objects of worship and supplication; see Spiritual Benefactors, pp. 366-75. Yet with deeper religious insight, it has been revealed that the human being is, in reality, lord of spirits. Human beings who have received salvation, who are enlightened, or who have achieved the highest goal of life, easily outshine the angels in glory and surpass them in wisdom. Saints and sages, and even ordinary believers who have strong faith, can command the heavenly hosts to assist them in a righteous cause. They can also rebuke and cast out evil spirits in the name of God.

Furthermore, according to the doctrine of reincarnation, even unreconstructed human beings have more opportunity for spiritual advancement than do angels. Only when incarnated as human beings may souls have an opportunity progress to the point of their final liberation.

Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, matters pertaining to this life!

Christianity. Bible, 1 Corinthians 6.3

When a man walks on the highway, a company of angels goes before him, proclaiming, "Make way for the Image of the Holy One!"

Judaism. Midrash, Psalm 17.8

For a person in concord with Unity, everything prospers; to one who has no personal interest, even the spirits are in obeisance.

Taoism. Chuang Tzu 12

1 Corinthians 6.3: This refers not to humans generally, but only to saved Christians. Cf. Hebrews 1.14, p. 368; Qur'an 14.22, p. 443. Chuang Tzu 12: Cf. Chuang Tzu 13, p. 311.

The wise ones who are intent on meditation, who delight in the peace of renunciation, such mindful, perfect Buddhas even the gods hold most dear.

Buddhism. Dhammapada 181

Behold, your Lord said to the angels, "I will create a vicegerent on earth." They said, "Wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood?--while we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy name?" He said, "I know what you know not."

And He taught Adam the names of all things; then He placed them before the angels, and said, "Tell Me the nature of these, if you are right."

They said, "Glory to Thee! of knowledge we have none, save what Thou hast taught us: in truth it is Thou who art perfect in knowledge and wisdom."

He said, "O Adam, tell them their natures." When he had told them, God said, "Did I not tell you that I know the secrets of heaven and earth, and I know what you reveal, and what you conceal."

Islam. Qur'an 2.30-33

God created all things with forms, but the invisible God does not have any form.... However, without form, God could not have dominion over the world of form. Therefore, in the created world of material things, God created man, who [was to be given divine] personality and spirit, to be the master. God must have dominion not only over all earthly things, but also over the infinite spiritual world. Archangels and all other spiritual beings are invisible substantial beings [having form]. A certain central form is also necessary in order to have dominion over the invisible substantial world. Then where was that form available? It was only through Adam that God could have such a form. Accordingly, through Adam's form, God planned to have dominion over both the spiritual world and the physical world, with Adam as the center. That was the purpose of creation. God had to have a substantial relationship with the substantial being, Adam, in order to have dominion over all things.

Unification Church. Sun Myung Moon, 10-13-70

When Moses ascended on high, the ministering angels spoke before the Holy One, blessed be He, "Sovereign of the Universe! What business has one born of woman among us?" "He has come to receive the Torah," He answered them. They replied, "That secret treasure, which has been hidden by You for nine hundred and seventy-four generations before the world was created, You desire to give to flesh and blood! 'What is man, that Thou art mindful of him, And the son of man, that thou visitest him? O Lord our God, How excellent is thy name in all the earth! Who hast set thy glory [the Torah] upon the heavens!'" (Psalm 8.5, 2).

"Reply to them," said the Holy One to Moses....

Moses then spoke before Him, "Sovereign of the Universe! The Torah which You give me, what is written in it?" "I am the Lord your God, which brought you out of the Land of Egypt" (Exodus 20.2). He said to the angels, "Did you go down to Egypt; were you enslaved to Pharaoh; why then should the Torah be yours? Again, what is written in it? 'You shall have no other gods' (Exodus 20.3); do you dwell among peoples that engage in idol worship? Again, what is written in it? 'Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy' (Exodus 20.8); do you perform work, that you need to rest?... Again, what is written in it? 'You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal' (Exodus 20.13-15); is there any jealousy among you; is the evil Tempter among you?" Straightaway the angels conceded to the Holy One, blessed be He, for it is said, "O Lord our Lord, How excellent is Thy name in all the earth," whereas "Who hast set Thy glory upon the heavens" is not written (Psalm 8.10).

Judaism. Talmud, Shabbat 88b-89a

Dhammapada 181: Cf. Anguttara Nikaya i.279, p. 355; Digha Nikaya xi.67-83, pp. 378f. For a Jain expression of this idea, see Upadesamala 448-49, p. 551. Qur'an 2.30-33: Cf. Qur'an 17.61-64, p. 440; Genesis 2.15-3.24, pp. 424ff.; Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.10, p. 405. Sun Myung Moon, 10-13-70: Cf. Sun Myung Moon, 9-30-79, p. 307. This original blessing of dominion, and God's purpose in creating men to dwell on earth, was spoiled by the Fall. Fallen mankind has come under the false dominion of the archangel Satan. And God does not dwell in the personality of fallen man. Cf. 10-20-73, p. 467; Divine Principle I., p. 253. Shabbat 88b-89a: This argument between God and the angels, with Moses acting as God's spokesman, is a midrash on Psalm 8 (p. 310), which proclaims the dominion of humankind. The angels quote verse 2 of the psalm to argue that God's glory belongs in the heavens, but after Moses' arguments, they concede that the psalm concludes in verse 10 with God's name found only in the earth. The point seems to be responsibility, which humans alone possess. Cf. Qur'an 33.72, p. 311.

Thus I have heard, on a certain occasion the Exalted One was staying near Uruvela, on the bank of the river Neranjara, at the root of the mucalinda tree, having just won the highest wisdom. Now on that occasion the Exalted One was seated for seven days in one posture and experienced the bliss of release. Then arose a great storm of rain out of due season, and for seven days there was rainy weather, cold winds, and overcast skies. So Mucalinda, King of the snakes, coming forth from his haunt, encircled the body of the Exalted One seven times with his coils and stood rearing his great hood above the Exalted One's head, thinking, "Let not heat or cold or the touch of flies, mosquitoes, wind, or creeping things annoy the Exalted One."

Now after the lapse of those seven days the Exalted One roused himself from that concentration of mind. Then Mucalinda, King of the snakes, seeing that the sky was clear and free of clouds, unwrapped his folds from the Exalted One's body, and, withdrawing his own form and creating the form of a youth, stood before the Exalted One, holding up his clasped hands and doing reverence to him.

Buddhism. Udana 10, Mucalinda

Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.

Christianity. Bible, Luke 10.19-20

The Kesin (long-haired sage) bears fire, he bears water, the Kesin upholds earth and heaven, the Kesin sees all visions of luster, the Kesin is called the Light.

Munis with the wind for their girdle wear the soiled yellow robe; they go along the course of the wind where the gods have gone before.

"In the ecstasy of Munihood we have ascended on the wind, and only these bodies of ours are what you mortals ever see."

The Muni flies through mid-air while he looks at varied forms, and he is of every deva a comrade in doing good.

Hinduism. Rig Veda 10.136.1-4

Udana 10: Mucalinda is not a demon, but a heavenly serpent who represents good spiritual forces. His homage to the Buddha expresses the Buddha's lordship over the angelic world. The scene is well-known in Buddhist iconography. Compare Srimad Bhagavatam 10.16, pp. 626f. Luke 10.19-20: Cf. Psalm 91.11-13, pp. 561f.

Blessed is human birth; even the dwellers in heaven desire this birth: for true wisdom and pure love may be attained only by man.

Hinduism. Srimad Bhagavatam 11.13

The universe is peopled by manifold creatures who are, in this round of rebirth, born in different families and castes for having done various actions.

Sometimes they go to the world of the gods, sometimes to the hells, sometimes they become demons in accordance with their actions. Sometimes they become soldiers, or outcastes and untouchables, or worms or moths....

Thus, living beings of sinful actions, who are born again and again in ever-recurring births, are not disgusted with the round of rebirth, but they are like warriors, never tired of the battle of life. Bewildered through the influence of their actions, distressed and suffering pains, they undergo misery in non-human births.

But by the cessation of karma, perchance, living beings will reach in due time a pure state and be born as men.

Jainism. Uttaradhyayana Sutra 3.1-7


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