You know as much as most people about the prosaic side of being human, since in all probability you are one, or have had a good long look at them. But there's more.
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
Everything God has made has some likeness to Himself. Space is like Him in its hugeness: not that the greatness of space is the same kind of greatness as God's, but it is a sort of symbol of it, or a translation of it into non-spiritual terms. Matter is like God in having energy: though, again, of course, physical energy is a different kind of thing from the power of God. [...] When we come to man, the highest of the animals, we get the completest resemblance to God which we know of. (There may be creatures in other worlds who are more like God than man is, but we do not know about them.)
—Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis
Let there be
Wander over My flaxen plains
Wonder up at My granite mountains,
Count the stars, and wish for wings,
And hold a tool, and think of things,
And look for answers they cannot see,
And dream of glory, and worship Me!
— "Let There Be," Children of Eden, Stephen Schwartz
Bearing the image, the tzelem, our specific image, is what makes us human. The image in us lets us think in abstract concepts like good and evil, and lets us use language. Those are the big, general features. But there's an element of divine style unique in each creation and so one unique in us, too detailed and subtle to put down in words. Think of a wise and loving dog you grew up with. Think of a hostile human stranger. In so many important ways, you are closer to the dog and understand it better, but there are other important ways that you and that stranger understand each other, little as you like each other, little as you know each other. That human-to-human understanding is not always the nicest or holiest (the dog is going to Heaven) or most important, but it is the result of the shared image.
The image is not:
God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground."
We are the species in charge of this planet. For ages, that looked like a laughable claim, when we were tiny in numbers and threatened on every side. Now, the claim looks undisputable but nightmarish. God has not yet let us put down our Stewardship, not that we've tried. The day He removes our Stewardship, things will change. There are times and places where we cannot be denied or expelled, and circumstances in which we have some advantage, usually slight, because we are the rightful holders of this world … for now.
Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.
As Stewards, we have special authority to name things. This affects nymic magic. The True Name of a thing is whatever most speakers call it, but this rule is overridden by the rule that the True Name is whatever most Adamite speakers call it.
In turn, this is overruled by the True Name being the name that an Adamite gives with the most spiritual authority (e.g. a baptismal name—and, in truth, we do not often put much spiritual authority behind any names except those of other humans).
And the Lord God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die."
— Genesis 2:16-17
There is nothing humans can't know. On the other hand, there are Things Man Was Not Meant To Know. The one sounds wonderful, exhilerating, too good to be true; the other sounds repressive, tyrannical. But think about it. You can know what it's like to:
Betray your deepest love.
Ruin your own life and the lives of your loved ones.
Drive yourself insane with malice.
You can know these things, even if the knowledge kills or damns or destroys you. You have no metaphysical protection against this, only a temporary lack of motive and opportunity to pursue these disastrous paths. (You can acquire the protection, though. It's called redemption.)
It is true that you are also able to know all manner of wonderful things—any wonderful things, in fact—and this has lured many non-humans into taking Adam's Mark, signing on to be adoptive children of Adam and theologically human, but it is a two-edge sword, and it's the sword barring the gate back to Eden.
To be theologically human is to bear "Adam's Mark," which is the combination of the imago dei—the tzelem—plus our ability to know anything, good or bad, and the fallen state that this entails. It doesn't mean you are necessarily a member of the biological species Homo sapiens. Contrariwise, you can be a member of Homo sapiens and not bear Adam's Mark. Bearing Adam's Mark (being "Adamite") and being biologically human are only loosely related.
Shapeshifters such as fays and djinn can be biologically human when it suits them, but may still not be Adamite. Fays can, however, receive the Mark and become Adamite. They can receive the Mark even without being of our species.
If a human Adamite is physically transformed, as in the famous cases of frog, bear, or swan, they do not cease to be Adamite just because they have been taken out of the biological species.
Things that were transparently never human, biologically, may yet be Adamite, bear Adam's Mark and be theologically human, if their capacity for awareness, reason, and conscience derives from us. Examples include animated objects (such as golems and tulpas), artificial intelligences, and uplifted animals.
Therefore, since you are neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm, I will vomit you out of my mouth.
—Christ to the Church in Laodicea, Revelation 3:16
And he to me: "These are the nearly soulless
whose lives concluded neither blame nor praise.
They are mixed here with that despicable corps
of angels who were neither for God nor Satan,
but only for themselves. The High Creator
scourged them from Heaven for its perfect beauty,
and Hell will not receive them since the wicked
might feel some glory over them."
I had not thought death had undone so many
as passed before me in that mournful train.
—The Divine Comedy, Inferno, Canto III, Dante Alighieri, John Ciardi trans.
… they would very possibly have qualified for Limbo, as creatures suitable neither for Heaven nor for Hell; things that, having failed to make the grade, are allowed to sink into a more or less contented subhumanity forever.
—"Screwtape Proposes a Toast," C. S. Lewis
There's becoming ex-human by ceasing to be a member of the species Homo sapiens. That is not necessarily very significant, metaphysically. You can be dead or undead or transformed and still be metaphysically human, as long as you hold onto your tzelem, your imago dei. Even if you are so damaged, you can no longer talk or think straight, if you didn't let go of the image, you still have it.
The significant way to cease being human is to be damned. You have then cast aside your divine image. You may not change immediately, but you have become changeable and will, eventually, change—crumble, burn, be devoured, etc.
The damned have cut themselves off from grace and mercy, but not justice; nothing gets cut off from that. So some of them, though technically damned, do not deserve to be taken off to Hell as prey of demons. They are left alone, unpalatable, unusable. These are the Trimmers, the folk Dante saw in the third canto. Neither Heaven nor Hell has any use for them. That leaves them available to others.
The most significant others to make use of the Trimmers are the fays, who may recruit them. May. After all, these are not usually outstanding candidates for anything. But they're still headcount. Eh. Sometimes, something can be made of them.
Pagan elysia may take them in, if they need cannon fodder or warm bod– if they need headcount.
Necromancers sometimes take an interest, too, and people (or "people") with a need for minions, test subjects, etc.
It is hard to give historical examples of Trimmers because these people are generally unworthy of attention and often shun it. But fictional examples are another matter. Consider the main characters of the sit-com Jerry Seinfeld. The humor of the show derives centrally from how venial they are. They never do any major wickedness (intentionally) because they are afraid to, and because they have some conscience. They are often "tempted" to do something good or decent, but they never let this get in the way of pursuing their vanity, avarice, or lust, or sometimes gluttony.
What happens when they die? It is easy to believe Heaven doesn't want them. (Maybe Cosmo sneaks in.) But it is also possible to believe that Hell doesn't want to waste coal on them or that Heaven would shield them from Hell in bare justice.
What's to become of them? Why, nothing in particular. Should they prove capable of continued moral development, one way or the other, they might even wind up saved or damned eventually. But not as children of Adam. They threw that away.
In short, they have lost their "Adamicity." If they get turned into fays, they have no Adam's Mark and cannot take Adam's Mark. They will retain their powers of language and abstraction by inertia, but will not have Adamic stewardship authority, meaning, for instance, they can no longer Name as authoritatively as they could. And they will no longer have the Adamic power of all knowledge, good and evil. Meaning that, somewhere out there, there are things they can't know that an Adam-marked fay can, though this might be a very abstract and theoretical kind of limitation.
The upshot is that a Trimmer is not quite as good a recruit for the fays as an intact Adamite, but nearly. Except they're, well, Trimmers. Meh. The bright side, for some purposes, is that Heaven and Hell won't care very much what you do with them.
Humans can know anything, but they can't necessarily imagine it for themselves. Thus, you cannot imagine different senses, or even different colors or smells, until you actually encounter them, or know what it is like to have a radically different body until you are actually transformed.
And humans have certainly never been able to do just anything, even magically. Generally, human magic cannot rise to true teleportation or true shapeshifting, or to actual creation of palpable matter, or any significant sculpture of space and time. You need help for that kind of thing.
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Copyright © Earl Wajenberg, 2019