Leadership, Authority, and Religious Roles

Is there such a thing as a Shinto saint?

Many exemplary human beings have been identified and revered as kami after their deaths. Since the category of kami is an all-inclusive grouping of forces and persons considered “above” the merely human, Shinto tradition has no need of an intermediary category such as that of “saint.” Most traditions that discuss sainthood in one form or another do so out of one of two convictions. In some traditions the deity is so exalted and transcendent that ordinary human beings can scarcely imagine approaching it directly. Saints function as intermediaries because they share the humanity of devotees and are thus more approachable. Other traditions, however, elevate certain persons not as intermediaries or intercessors, but as examples of lofty yet attainable perfection. Shinto stands alone here in the sense that the kami are everywhere and thus perfectly accessible, and that certain human beings are themselves kami.


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