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In religion, folklore, and mythology a demon (or daemon, daimon from Greek: δαίμων daimōn) is a supernatural being that is generally described as a malevolent spirit. A demon is frequently depicted as a force that may be conjured and insecurely controlled. The "good" demon in recent use is largely a literary device (e.g., Maxwell's demon), though references to good demons can be found in the work of Plato as well as Hesiod and Shakespeare. In common language, to "demonize" a person means to characterize or portray them as evil, or as a source of evil. The mythical Sweeney Todd was accorded the title Demon Barber of Fleet Street in a 1936 film. The 19th-century Australian cricketer Fred Spofforth was nicknamed "the Demon (Bowler)", partly because of his tactic of inspiring fear in batsmen. In modern usage, "personal demons" refer to an individual's tormenting fears.

History

The Greek conception of a daemon ( δαίμων daimōn) appears in the works of Plato and many other ancient authors, but without the evil connotations apparent in the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible and in the Greek originals of the New Testament. The medieval and neo-medieval conception of a "demon" in Western civilization (see the Medieval grimoire called the Ars Goetia) derives seamlessly from the ambient popular culture of Late (Roman) Antiquity. Greco-Roman concepts of daemons that passed into Christian culture are discussed in the entry daemon, though it should be duly noted that the term referred only to a spiritual force, not a malevolent supernatural being. The Hellenistic "daemon" eventually came to include many Semitic and Near Eastern gods as evaluated by Christianity.

The supposed existence of demons is an important concept in many modern religions and occultist traditions. In some present-day cultures, demons are still feared in popular superstition, largely due to their alleged power to possess living creatures.

In the contemporary Western occultist tradition (perhaps epitomized by the work of Aleister Crowley), a demon, such as Choronzon, the "Demon of the Abyss", is a useful metaphor for certain inner psychological processes, though some may also regard it as an objectively real phenomenon.

Some scholars believe that large portions of the demonology (see Asmodai) of Judaism, a key influence on Christianity and Islam, originated in Zoroastrianism, and were transferred to Judaism during the Persian era.

The word demon derives from the Greek word "Daimon" which means "higher being"

Etymology

The idea of demons is as old as religion itself, and the word demon seems to have ancient origins. The Merriam-Webster dictionary gives the etymology of the word as Greek daimon, probably from the verb daiesthai meaning "to divide, distribute." The Proto-Indo-European root *deiwos for god, originally an adjective meaning "celestial" or "bright, shining" has retained this meaning in many related Indo-European languages and cultures (Sanskrit deva, Latin deus, German Tiw, Welsh [Duw],]), but also provided another other common word for demon in Avestan daeva.

In modern Greek, daimon ( ) has the same meaning as the modern English demon. But in Ancient Greek, δαίμων meant "spirit" or "higher self", much like the Latin genius. This should not, however, be confused with the word genie, which is a false friend or false cognate of genius.

Psychological history

Psychologist Wilhelm Wundt remarks that "among the activities attributed by myths all over the world to demons, the harmful predominate, so that in popular belief bad demons are clearly older than good ones." Sigmund Freud develops on this idea and claims that the concept of demons was derived from the important relation of the living to the dead: "The fact that demons are always regarded as the spirits of those who have died recently shows better than anything the influence of mourning on the origin of the belief in demons."

Hinduism

Hindu mythology include numerous varieties of anthropomorphic beings that might be classified as demons, including Rakshasas (belligerent, shapechanging terrestrial demons), Asuras (demigods), Vetalas (bat-like spirits), and Pishachas (cannibalistic demons).

Asuras

Originally, Asura, in the earliest hymns of the Rig Veda, meant any supernatural spirit—good or bad. Hence even some of the devas (demigods), especially Varuna, have the epithet of Asura. In fact, since the /s/ of the Indic linguistic branch is cognate with the /h/ of the Early Iranian languages, the word Asura, representing a category of celestial beings, became the word Ahura (Mazda), the Supreme God of the monotheistic Zoroastrians. But very soon, among the Indo-Aryans, Asura came to exclusively mean any of a race of anthropomorphic but hideous demons. All words such as Asura, Daitya (lit., sons of the demon-mother "Diti"), Rakshasa (lit. from "harm to be guarded against") are translated into English as demon. These demons are inherently evil and are in a constant battle against the demigods. Hence in Hindu iconography, the gods and demigods are shown to carry weapons to kill the asuras. Unlike Christianity, the demons are not the cause of the evil and unhappiness in present mankind (which occurs on the account of ignorance from recognizing one's true self). In later Puranic mythology, exceptions do occur in the demonic race to produce god-fearing Asuras like Prahalada. Also, many Asuras are said to have been granted boons from one of the members of the Hindu trinity, viz., Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva when the latter had been appeased from penances. All Asuras, unlike the devas, are said to be mortals (though they vehemently wish to become immortal). Many people metaphorically interpret these demons as manifestations of the ignoble passions in human mind.

Evil spirits

On the account of the Hindu theory of reincarnation and transmigration of souls according to one's Karma, other kinds of demons can also be enlisted. If a human does extremely horrible and sinful karmas in his life, his soul (Atman) will, upon his death, directly turn into an evil ghostly spirit, many kinds of which are recognized in the later Hindu texts. These demons could be Grimnex Vetalas, Pishachas, Bhūtas etc.

Hebrew Bible

Those in the Hebrew Bible are of two classes, the se'irim and the shedim. The se'irim ("hairy beings"), to which some Israelites offered sacrifices in the open fields, are satyr-like creatures, described as dancing in the wilderness , and which are identical with the jinn, such as Dantalion, the 71st spirit of Solomon. (But compare the completely European woodwose.) Possibly to the same class belongs Azazel, the goat-like demons of the wilderness, probably the chief of the se'irim, and Lilith . Possibly "the roes and hinds of the field", by which Shulamit conjures the daughters of Jerusalem to bring her back to her lover , are faunlike spirits similar to the se'irim, though of a harmless nature.

The evil spirit that troubled Saul (I Samuel 16:14 et seq.) may have been a demon , though the Masoretic text tells us that the spirit was sent by God.

Some benevolent shedim were used in kabbalistic ceremonies (as with the golem of Rabbi Yehuda Loevy), and malevolent shedim (mazikin, from the root meaning to damage) are often responsible in instances of possession. Instances of idol worship were often the result of a shed inhabiting an otherwise worthless statue; the shed would pretend to be a God with the power to send pestilence, although such events were not actually under his control.

Influences from Chaldean mythology

In Chaldean mythology the seven evil deities were known as shedu, meaning storm-demons. They were represented in winged bull form, derived from the colossal bulls used as protective genii of royal palaces, the name "shed" assumed also the meaning of a propitious genius in Babylonianmarker magic literature.

It was from Chaldea that the name "shedu" came to the Israelites, and so the writers of the Tanach applied the word as a dylogism to the Canaanite deities in the two passages quoted. But they also spoke of "the destroyer" (Exodus xii. 23) as a demon whose malignant effect upon the houses of the Israelites was to be warded off by the blood of the paschal sacrifice sprinkled upon the lintel and the door-post (a corresponding pagan talisman is mentioned in Isaiah lvii. 8). In II Samuel xxiv; 16 and II Chronicles xxi. 15 the pestilence-dealing demon is called "the destroying angel" (compare "the angel of the Lord" in II Kings xix. 35; Isaiah xxxvii. 36), because, although they are demons, these "evil messengers" (Psalms lxxviii. 49; A. V. "evil angels") do only the bidding of God; they are the agents of His divine wrath.

There are indications that popular Hebrew mythology ascribed to the demons a certain independence, a malevolent character of their own, because they are believed to come forth, not from the heavenly abode of God, but from the nether world .

Hebrew demons were workers of harm. To them were ascribed the various diseases, particularly such as affect the brain and the inner parts. Hence there was a fear of "Shabriri" (lit. "dazzling glare"), the demon of blindness, who rests on uncovered water at night and strikes those with blindness who drink of it; also mentioned were the spirit of catalepsy and the spirit of headache, the demon of epilepsy, and the spirit of nightmare.

These demons were supposed to enter the body and cause the disease while overwhelming or "seizing" the victim (hence "seizure"). To cure such diseases it was necessary to draw out the evil demons by certain incantations and talismanic performances, in which the Essenes excelled. Josephus, who speaks of demons as "spirits of the wicked which enter into men that are alive and kill them", but which can be driven out by a certain root, witnessed such a performance in the presence of the Emperor Vespasian, and ascribed its origin to King Solomon.

King and queen

In some rabbinic sources, the demons were believed to be under the dominion of a king or chief, either Asmodai or, in the older Haggadah, Samael ("the angel of death"), who kills by his deadly poison, and is called "chief of the devils". Occasionally a demon is called "satan": "Stand not in the way of an ox when coming from the pasture, for Satan dances between his horns" .

According to some texts, the queen of demons is Lilith, pictured with wings and long flowing hair, and called the "mother of Ahriman" . "When Adam, doing penance for his sin, separated from Eve for 130 years, he, by impure desire, caused the earth to be filled with demons, or shedim, lilin, and evil spirits."

Demonology never became an essential feature of Jewish theology. The reality of demons was never questioned by the Talmudists and late rabbis; most accepted their existence as a fact. Nor did most of the medieval thinkers question their reality. Only rationalists like Maimonides and Abraham ibn Ezra, clearly denied their existence. Their point of view eventually became the mainstream Jewish understanding.

Jewish rabbinic literature

Rabbinical demonology has three classes of demons, though they are scarcely separable one from another. There were the shedim, the ("harmers"), and the ("spirits"). Besides these there were lilin ("night spirits"), ("shade", or "evening spirits"), ("midday spirits"), and ("morning spirits"), as well as the "demons that bring famine" and "such as cause storm and earthquake" (Targ. Yer. to Deuteronomy xxxii. 24 and Numbers vi. 24; Targ. to Cant. iii. 8, iv. 6; Eccl. ii. 5; Ps. xci. 5, 6.)

New Testament and Christianity

"Demon" has a number of meanings, all related to the idea of a spirit that inhabited a place, or that accompanied a person. Whether such a daemon was benevolent or malevolent, the Greek word meant something different from the later medieval notions of 'demon', and scholars debate the time in which first century usage by Jews and Christian in its original Greek sense became transformed to the later medieval sense. It should be noted that some denominations asserting Christian faith also include, exclusively or otherwise, fallen angels as de facto demons; this definition also covers the "sons of God" described in Genesis who abandoned their posts in heaven to mate with human women on Earth before the Deluge .

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus casts out many demons, or evil spirits, from those who are afflicted with various ailments. Jesus is far superior to the power of demons over the beings that they inhabit, and he is able to free these victims by commanding and casting out the demons, by binding them, and forbidding them to return. Jesus also apparently lends this power to some of his disciples, who rejoice at their new found ability to cast out all demons.

By way of contrast, in the book of Acts a group of Judaistic exorcists known as the sons of Sceva try to cast out a very powerful spirit without believing in or knowing Jesus, but fail with disastrous consequences. However Jesus himself never fails to vanquish a demon, no matter how powerful (see the account of the demon-possessed man at Gerasim), and even defeats Satan in the wilderness (see Gospel of Matthew).

There is a description in the Book of Revelation 12:7-17 of a battle between God's army and Satan's followers, and their subsequent expulsion from Heaven to earth to persecute humans — although this event is related as being foretold and taking place in the future. In Luke 10:18 it is mentioned that a power granted by Jesus to control demons made Satan "fall like lightning from heaven."

Augustine of Hippo's reading of Plotinus, in City of God (ch.11) is ambiguous as to whether daemons had become 'demonized' by the early 5th century:

"He [Plotinus] also states that the blessed are called in Greek eudaimones, because they are good souls, that is to say, good demons, confirming his opinion that the souls of men are demons.


The contemporary Roman Catholic Church unequivocally teaches that angels and demons are real personal beings, not just symbolic devices. The Catholic Church has a cadre of officially sanctioned exorcists which perform many exorcisms each year. The exorcists of the Catholic Church teach that demons attack humans continually but that afflicted persons can be effectively healed and protected either by the formal rite of exorcism, authorized to be performed only by bishops and those they designate, or by prayers of deliverance which any Christian can offer for themselves or others.

Christianity

Building upon the few references to daemons in the New Testament, especially the visionary poetry of the Apocalypse of John, Christian writers of apocrypha from the 2nd century onwards created a more complicated tapestry of beliefs about "demons" that was largely independent of Christian scripture.

Demonologies

At various times in Christian history, attempts have been made to classify these beings according to various proposed demonic hierarchies.

According to most Christian demonology demons will be eternally punished and never reconciled with God. Other theories postulate a Universal reconciliation, in which Satan, the fallen angels, and the souls of the dead that were condemned to Hell are reconciled with God. This doctrine is today often associated with the Unification Church. Origen, Jerome and Gregory of Nyssa also mentioned this possibility.

In contemporary Christianity, demons are generally considered to be angels who fell from grace by rebelling against God. However, this is not consistent with historical Christianity or Judaism which teaches that demons, or evil spirits, are a result of the sexual relationships between fallen angels and human women. When these hybrids (Nephilim) died they left behind disembodied spirits that "roam the earth in search of rest" (Luke 11:24). Many non-canonical historical texts describe in detail these unions and the consequences thereof. This belief is repeated both in the Koran and other major ancient religions and mythologies. Present day Christians who reject this historic view do so by ascribing the description of "Sons of God" in Genesis 6 to be the sons of Seth (one of Adam's sons). For this to be the case, one must believe that Moses, who is believed to be the author of Genesis, chose to use a phrase that is only ever used to describe angelic beings in the whole Old Testament to refer to man. The first time man was ever referred to as "sons of God" was by the prophet Hosea who spoke of a time yet to come and Jesus repeated this in John 1 where he said that those who believe in him will have the power to become sons of God. Further more, an in-depth word study of the original Hebrew and Greek reveals that the words for "angel" and "demon/unclean spirit/evil spirit" are completely different and not interchangeable. One can read in 1 Kings 22:19-23 an account that describes God speaking to and interacting with angels and evil spirits at the same time and that these are distinct and separate beings (also in Acts 23:9).

There are still others who say that the sin of the angels was pride and disobedience. It seems quite certain that these were the sins that caused Satan's downfall (Ezek. 28). If this be the true view then we are to understand the words, "estate" or "principality" in Deuteronomy 32:8 and Jude 6 ("And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.") as indicating that instead of being satisfied with the dignity once for all assigned to them under the Son of God, they aspired higher.

Pre-Islamic Arab culture

Pre-Islamic mythology does not discriminate between gods and demons. The jinn are considered as divinities of inferior rank, having many human attributes: they eat, drink, and procreate their kind, sometimes in conjunction with human beings. The jinn smell and lick things, and have a liking for remnants of food. In eating they use the left hand. Usually they haunt waste and deserted places, especially the thickets where wild beasts gather. Cemeteries and dirty places are also favorite abodes. When appearing to man, jinn sometimes assume the forms of beasts and sometimes those of men.

Generally, jinn are peaceable and well disposed toward men. Many a pre-Islamic poet was believed to have been inspired by good jinn, but there are also evil jinn, who contrive to injure men.

Islam

Islam recognizes the existence of the jinn. Jinns are not the "genies" of modern lore, and they are not all evil, as demons are described in Christianity, but as creatures that co-exist with humans. In Islam the evil jinns are referred to as the shayātīn, or devils, and Iblis (Satan) is their chief. Iblis was the first Jinn who disobeyed Allah. According to Islam, the jinn are made from the light of flame of fire (ناَر [nɛ:r] deviation of نور [nu:r] "light") (and mankind is made of clay).

According to the Qur'an, Iblis was once a pious servant of Allah, but when Allah created Adam from clay, Iblis became very jealous, and arrogant and disobeyed Allah.

Adam was the first man, and man was the greatest creation of Allah. Iblis could not stand this, and refused to acknowledge a creature made of "dirt" (man). Allah condemned Iblis to be punished after death eternally in the hellfire. Allah had created hell.

Iblis asked Allah if he may live to the last day and have the ability to mislead mankind and jinns, Allah said that Iblis may only mislead those whom have forsaken Allah. Allah then turned Iblis's countenance into horridness and condemned him to only have powers of trickery.

Adam and Eve (Hawwa in Arabic) were both together misled by Iblis into eating the forbidden fruit, and consequently fell from the garden of Eden to Earth.

The word "genie" comes from the Arabic jinn. This is not surprising considering the story of `Alā' ad-Dīn, (anglicized as Aladdin), passed through Arabian merchants en route to Europe.

New Age / Shamanism

Carlos Castaneda referred to demonic predators called "flyers" which have the appearance of frightening dark shadows and which vampirize human energy. According to this view ancient humans were complete, with much greater energetic resources than effete, decadent, modern humans possess. At the time when agriculture was invented the flyers gave human beings their mind (constant internal dialogue of beliefs, ideas, social mores, expectations, and dreams of success or failure). By playing on this self-reflection, sucking the angry and worried energy it generates, the flyers began to farm human beings for energy, just as humans began farming animals. Modern humans are the hypnotized slaves of these flyers; and the pseudoconcerns of modern society are a flyer mechanism of mind control.

Philosophy

In thought experiments philosophers occasionally imagine entities with special abilities in order to pose tough intellectual challenges or to highlight apparent paradoxes. Examples include:
  • Descartes’ malicious demon - Cartesian skepticism (also called methodological skepticism) advocates the doubting of all things which cannot be justified through logic. Descartes uses three arguments to cast doubt on our ability to objectively know: The dream argument, the deceiving God argument, and the malicious demon argument. Since our senses cannot put us in contact with external objects themselves, but only with our mental images of such objects, we can have no absolute certainty that anything exists in the external world. In the evil demon argument Descartes proposes an entity who is capable of deceiving us to such a degree that we have reason to doubt the totality of what our senses tell us.

Science

  • Laplace's demon - A hypothetical all-knowing entity (later called "Laplace's Demon") who knows the precise location and momentum of every atom in the universe, and therefore could use Newton's laws to reveal the entire course of cosmic events, past and future. Based upon the philosophical proposition of causal determinism. (See also causality).
  • Maxwell's demon - A demon able to distinguish between fast and slow moving molecules. If this demon only let fast moving molecules through a trapdoor to a container, the temperature inside the container would increase without any work being applied. Such a scenario would violate the second law of thermodynamics.


  • Morton's demon - A demon who stands at the gateway of a person's senses and lets in facts that agree with that person's beliefs while deflecting those which do not. Used to explain the phenomenon of confirmation bias.


Psychiatry

M. Scott Peck, an American psychiatrist, wrote two books on the subject, People of the Lie: The Hope For Healing Human Evil and Glimpses of the Devil: A Psychiatrist's Personal Accounts of Possession, Exorcism, and Redemption

Peck describes in some detail several cases involving his patients. In People of the Lie: The Hope For Healing Human Evil he gives some identifying characteristics for evil persons whom he classifies as having a character disorder. In Glimpses of the Devil, A Psychiatrist's Personal Accounts of Possession, Exorcism, and Redemption Peck goes into significant detail describing how he became interested in exorcism in order to debunk the "myth" of possession by evil spirits – only to be convinced otherwise after encountering two cases which did not fit into any category known to psychology or psychiatry. Peck came to the conclusion that possession was a rare phenomenon related to evil. Possessed people are not actually evil; they are doing battle with the forces of evil. His observations on these cases are listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (IV) of the American Psychiatric Association.

Although Peck's earlier work was met with widespread popular acceptance, his work on the topics of evil and possession has generated significant debate and derision. Much was made of his association with (and admiration for) the controversial Malachi Martin, a Roman Catholic priest and a former Jesuit, despite the fact that Peck consistently called Martin a liar and manipulator. Other criticisms leveled against Peck include misdiagnoses based upon a lack of knowledge regarding dissociative identity disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder), and a claim that he had transgressed the boundaries of professional ethics by attempting to persuade his patients into accepting Christianity.

See also







Notes

  1. But see Daemon
  2. Google.com; Antony and Cleopatra Act II, Scene 3
  3. Boyce, 1987; Black and Rowley, 1987; Duchesne-Guillemin, 1988.
  4. Freud (1950, 65), quoting Wundt (1906, 129).
  5. VEDA - Vedas and Vedic Knowledge Online - Vedic Encyclopedia, Bhakti-yoga in vedas, Library
  6. Isaiah 13:21, 34:14
  7. Leviticus 16:10ff
  8. Isaiah 34:14 - where the KJV Bible translates the Hebrew word 'lilith' as "screech owl"
  9. Canticles 2:7, 3:5
  10. See Delitzsch, Assyrisches Handwörterbuch. pp. 60, 253, 261, 646; Jensen, Assyr.-Babyl. Mythen und Epen, 1900, p. 453; Archibald Sayce, l.c. pp. 441, 450, 463; Lenormant, l.c. pp. 48-51.
  11. compare Isaiah xxxviii. 11 with Job xiv. 13; Psalms xvi. 10, xlix. 16, cxxxix. 8
  12. Pesachim 112a; Avodah Zarah 12b
  13. Bellum Judaeorum vii. 6, § 3
  14. "Antiquities" viii. 2, § 5
  15. Targ. to Eccl. i. 13; Pes. 110a; Yer. Shek. 49b
  16. Pes. 112b; compare B. Ḳ. 21a
  17. B. B. 73b; 'Er. 100b; Nid. 24b
  18. Gen. R. xx.; 'Er. 18b
  19. Genesis 6:2, 4, also see Nephilim
  20. Augustine of Hippo, City of God, ch. 11: Of the Opinion of the Platonists, that the Souls of Men Become Demons When Disembodied.
  21. [1]
  22. Important Arguments from Descartes' Meditations by David Banach Department of Philosophy, St. Anselm College (retrieved 8-24-2007)
  23. People of the Lie: The Hope For Healing Human Evil (1983)
  24. Glimpses of the Devil: A Psychiatrist's Personal Accounts of Possession, Exorcism, and Redemption (2005).
  25. The exorcist, an interview with M. Scott Peck by Rebecca Traister published in Salon
  26. The Patient Is the Exorcist, an interview with M. Scott Peck by Laura Sheahen
  27. The devil you know, a commentary on Glimpses of the Devil by Richard Woods


References

  • Wundt, W. (1906). Mythus und Religion, Teil II (Völkerpsychologie, Band II). Leipzig.
  • Castaneda, Carlos (1998). The Active Side of Infinity. HarperCollins NY ISBN 0-06-019220-8


Further reading



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