The “Shining Ones”

One of the interesting things about being a pastor and Christian speaker, especially one involved with an organization like Shepherd Project, is that I get asked all kinds of fascinating questions.  Here’s an answer I sent off this morning to a woman asking for information about “The Shining Ones” that a friend has recently gotten interested in:

As I understand it, the “shining ones” are beings/persons thought to appear in many ancient cultures, often associated with mystical knowledge or key historical developments in culture.  As the story goes – mostly in New Age books and websites –  these beings have been guiding human development for millenia…and maybe even are the ancestors of the first human beings.

One of the first questions we need to ask is:  are these “shining ones” really common in the materials we have from ancient cultures.  Answer:  no, not really.  At least not unless you follow the rather weak logic of “discovery” followed by those who advance these bizarre ideas.

The first stage of “shining ones” discovery depends on the fact that some ancient religious texts – mostly Near Eastern Ones to the best of my knowledge – speak of “shining ones”.  The most popular references are in the Egyptian Book of the Dead where you apparently get lines like:  “behold oh ye shining ones, ye men and ye gods.”  I’m no expert in ancient Egyptian theology, but based on the context my guess is that these are references to Egyptian nobility who were thought to be both human and divine.  Other direct references of which I am aware involve statements like “Follow then the shining ones, the wise, the awakened, the loving, for they know how to work and forbear” attributed to Buddha. Here the reference to “shining ones” is clearly a euphemism for human beings who have attained “enlightenment” (no pun intended…but it’s pretty funny anway!).

Most other references are not direct but involve depictions of persons or beings who “shine” or “glow”.  This is the second stage of “shining ones” discovery.  Using the reasoning that any depiction or description of light associated with someone is actually a reference to the “shining ones”, they are “found” in religious texts and ancient art which depict rays of light surrounding or emanating from a figure.  Since this is a nearly universal means of depicting power, purity and divine blessing, such pictures are common in religious texts and visual art from most cultures throughout history.  Thus the “shining ones” are now “found” in nearly every human culture in history.

 The third stage of “shining ones” discovery involves reading this kind of thing back into other texts even where the depictions are less “obvious.”  For instance, some people try to make the term Elohim from the Hebrew Scriptures into references to these “shining ones” rather than to God.  Similarly, angels are re-interpreted as references to “shining ones.”

 The human connection to the “shining ones” is not really clear to me.  It seems that some people think they are aliens who guided human development.  Others think they are the ancestors of humans, either pointing to our alien origins or, in the case of those who believe the “shining ones” are supernatural creatures, to our inherent divinity.  In the end, the whole thing depends on two things 1)  Man’s need to be connected to something greater than ourselves and 2) Our fondness for conspiracy theories…in this case, the conspiracy is that all the religions of the world have tricked us into misunderstanding our true origins:  either we are descended from divine beings or we are descended from extraterrestrials.