18 June 2020

DEVILS AND DEMONS

Marie D. Jones and Larry Flaxman. Demons, the Devil, and Fallen Angels. Visible Ink Press, 2018.

"The devil goes by many names, and his tribe is legion. Throughout human history, we have been obsessed with the dark opposites of God and angels, light and mercy. Whether it is our religious and sacred texts, folklore, and myths of old; legends, fairy tales, and novels; or the movies and television shows of today, the dark entities enthrall us, terrify us, and remind us of the the duality of good and evil."
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The above quote from this book's back cover blurb, fairly expresses the broad scope of its source material and the attraction of gaining knowledge of the 'dark side' of life. There are some people who actually want to contact demons for information or assistance in some matter, and have not yet found out how to do it For them there is a section towards the end of the book entitled 'Contacting and Worshipping Satan: Rituals and Rites'. I hasten to add that this is not a grimoire but an illustrated encyclopedic compendium containing a vast amount of information that can be read through or used for reference. There is an excellent index of subjects and names, an appendix with an alphabetical list of demons' names and roles, and a substantial bibliography for further reading.

Those who want everything in life to be sweetness and light are probably living in the wrong world. No matter what spiritual safeguards or protection we put in place, harsh reality intrudes sooner or later. Indeed, it often seems that striving for love and light brings all kind of obstacles on our path, as if we are being tested somehow. Human experience itself tells us that this is a world of duality. If there are angels, there are also demons. Whatever the hidden influences are, we are not complete until we have faced and reconciled our own shadow, the internalised counterpart of whatever we perceive as 'bad'. This is as much a psychological principle as a spiritual one. So, from any standpoint, it is important to gain knowledge of the dark side of life.

Several religious traditions and teachings are examined here for such knowledge. In the section on Buddhism there is an insight, possibly not so well known, about an attack by demons on the one we now know as the Buddha just before he reached enlightenment while sitting in deep meditation under a Bodhi tree. He had stayed still for six days until he attained the permanent state of enlightenment, bliss, and pure awareness. Evidently there was some kind of final temptation or test.

In the original story, a personification of the forces antagonistic to enlightenment is presented: "The main demon deity is Mara, Sanskrit for 'killer' or 'death', and often called 'the evil one', a male deity that appears in early Sanskrit writings about the Buddha. Mara's daughters are named Lust, Discontent, and Craving, and their job is to try to distract the bodhisattva, Siddhartha Gautama, during his final meditation under the Bodhi Tree before he is enlightened and becomes the 'Buddha'. This is similar to the last temptation of Christ in the desert, when the Devil tried to offer him worldly powers and fortunes."

The Buddha and Christ both stand as iconic messengers of a spiritual path, a way out of bondage to the traps and illusions of this world. The Buddha's main message was that each of us can do as he did, not to be followers but to find the light within. Of course, human nature being what it is, and with a lot of darkness to contend with, it is not easy to attain. If the Buddha was actually assailed by "a legion of demons", in the form of visions of beautiful young women sent by Mara to tempt him with fleshly delights, it only shows that you don't have to summon demons to get their attention.




The section on Taoism contains universal wisdom which makes it more of a philosophical way of life than a religion. "The reality of the Tao holds that good and evil are an aspect of each other, shown in the popular and well-known yin/yang symbol. . . There is no concept of salvation in Taoism because there is no belief that anything needs to be saved. Thus, there are no devils or demons in Taoism", because, as the authors explain, there is no need for them in the belief system that posits good and evil as conceptual abstractions.

It is, of course, very different in the Abrahamic or Judeo-Christian religions and culture that most of us here in the UK grew up with. Anyone who has spent time in a Christian religion is familiar with the concept that 'God' created the earth and all life on it, that the first humans were somehow misled by an evil entity and that is why we have had so much suffering in this world. Enter 'the Devil' - but who is he? Some might think he is Lucifer, but Satan is the prime candidate. Beelzebub, a god of the Philistines, is also mentioned. And, to make the riddle even more interesting:

"There are even those who suggest that the God of the Old Testament was the Devil himself, due to his proclivity for violence, incest, bloodshed, rape and warfare. Perhaps the idea of a devil as the opposite side of God makes sense in a dualistic belief system. Humans are capable of both good and evil. Why not our deity?" A similar belief arose in Gnosticism, in which the demiurge, or creator god, somehow got linked with the Devil, or Satan, or Yahweh. The main point is that they considered these gods as inferior to the divine totality, or Source, which they referred to as 'Pleroma'.

Clearly, the early chapters of the Book of Genesis are referring to an extremely ancient history of the establishment and seeding of life on planet Earth. It naturally therefore reads like myth. In the famous 'Garden of Eden' scenario, who was the serpent character, often portrayed as the Devil? Evidently he was one of the Elohim, or 'the Divine Council', the cast of minor gods. In Genesis 6:1 they are referred to as 'Sons of God', and in the Book of Enoch as 'the Watchers'. It was evidently one of these who appears as the character in Genesis 3. "In that passage, the serpent is called Nachash [the Hebrew word for serpent], whose name is defined as 'the bringer of knowledge and chaos, illuminator, bright shining one.'

It is an interesting fact that the names Satan, Devil, and Lucifer do not appear anywhere in the Genesis text. The first biblical references to those names were over a thousand years later, but there is enough material here to ponder deeply what the Genesis narrative really signifies. We have already seen that the Old Testament God seems to be a bit of a tyrant, even if he meant well, in which case the 'serpent' or 'bright shining one' sounds like a liberator, encouraging humans to think for themselves and not be blindly obedient. Lucifer seems to fit the bill for that role, in which case good and evil are again seen to be relative and not absolute, as mentioned above. In simple terms, the issue is freedom and free will, a vital component of human happiness, but that does not mean absence of rules. Free will needs to be informed of universal laws, which may indeed be why we humans go through so much trial and error.

The Watchers had evidently been sent to watch over humans but found the women particularly appealing and broke the rules by impregnating them.'The rules' here means the universal principle that higher beings do not have the right to interfere directly in the evolution of another, possibly less developed, race of beings. These 'Sons of God', considered as 'fallen angels' in some traditional Jewish interpretations, appear as nothing less than advanced extra-terrestrials who had the ability to travel through dimensions and to manifest physical bodies to copulate with women.

The resultant hybrid offspring, known as 'Nephilim' or giants, were thoroughly evil, causing all kinds of violence and trouble on the Earth. Their fate was to be swept away in the great flood of Noah. After that, they could no longer take physical bodies, but were bound to the earth as spirits, or demons, to continue tormenting humanity from their invisible realm. They may still be around today. An important point is that demons are never human in origin, but because they seek physicality they may strive to 'possess' or control a susceptible human.

As well as sometimes possessing humans, demons can also possess physical objects, typically dolls or items of furniture. One noteworthy case examined here is the 'dybbuk box' supposedly purchased at an estate sale in 2003 by a man named Kevin Mannis, living in Portland, Oregon. The cabinet was said to have belonged to a 103-year old Holocaust survivor and was a family heirloom. A 'dybbuk', related to the Hebrew word dabaq, meaning to cling or adhere, was a malicious spirit in Jewish mythology. Mr Mannis decided to look inside the box, and got a lot more than he bargained for. Suffice it to say that some nasty paranormal events occurred in his home. When he gave the box to his mother for her birthday, she suffered a stroke on the same day, and encountered terrible nightmares in hospital.

Another class of spirit entities are the Jinn, or 'genies', of Arabic and Islamic tradition. The Koran speaks of them as made of 'smokeless and scorching fire', and one of the three sapient creations of God, along with humans and angels. It is said that they have free will, so can be good or evil, or a mixture, and can be very tricky to deal with. They may grant a wish, or even three wishes, as in the well-known Aladdin folk story, but there is a danger in getting their attention. Sometimes they attach themselves to a person and harass him, driving him crazy, even to the point of death.

When it comes to considering the paranormal entities that interact with humans, there is quite a list, and they are certainly not all demons. They might indeed be what we call 'aliens' from another solar system or galaxy, and it could be difficult to tell the difference. "Ufologists, who like to keep any religious beliefs out of their research, cannot prove that aliens, if they exist, are angels or demons, and vice versa". Likewise, a devout Christian encountering an alien might think they are meeting an angel or a demon. It would be difficult to question an alien about his belief in Jesus Christ. As the authors helpfully say, with some understatement, "perhaps it is our perception of them, and our ability to describe them, that matters most. One man's angel is another man's Nordic from Pleiades!"

Apart from aliens, there is a whole host of IDEs, or Interdimensional Entities. The Hindus have a story called 'The Churning of the Cosmic Ocean'. This is about a cosmic battle going on between vast armies of devas and asuras, equivalent to angels and demons, competing for the minds and souls of humans in the end times. As 'The Ocean of Milk' is the setting, this means the Milky Way galaxy. We find this repeating theme in many forms throughout world religions and folklore. IDEs of many descriptions and characters are presented as frequently appearing to humans, including Black-eyed Children, Men in Black, Mothman, Skinwalkers, Elves, Fairies, Elementals, Slender Man, and so on.


While some accounts are amusing and may be explained as misperception, hoaxes or practical jokes, others are more convincing of seriously malevolent entities at work. 'Men in Black' is a case in point. They first appeared in the early 1950s, thanks to the late Albert Bender. Based in Bridgeport, Connecticut, he had set up the International Flying Saucer Bureau. This attracted not only worldwide attention but also a sinister and disturbing visit by three men dressed in black suits and fedoras. "They literally materialised in his attic - amid nothing less than an overpowering odor of brimstone and sulphur - and were shadowy entities with bright, shining eyes."

A vital piece of information helping to explain the terrifying visitation is that Bender had, about a year or so previously, turned his attic into a 'Chamber of Horrors' [right]. He himself explained in a book he wrote about his experience that he had painted "grotesque scenes and faces upon the walls of the room", and even created a "paranormal altar" as a means to contact occult entities on "the other side". "Bender was plunged into a state of paranoia and ill health. The upshot was that he closed down the IFSB, and after writing his book Flying Saucers and the Three Men he walked away from ufology, never to return."

One other case that deserves mention is that of Dr Herbert Hopkins at his home in Orchard Beach, Maine, on 11 September 1976. Hopkins had been consulting with a local man, David Stephens, about his alleged abduction by aliens. While alone in the house that evening, he had a visitor, in a black suit and fedora, who evidently knew about the case. Inviting the man in for conversation, it quickly became clear that he had some very odd features and strange powers. After questioning Hopkins and warning him off further research into the abduction case, the visitor asked Hopkins to take out one of the two coins in his right trouser pocket and hold it in his open palm. Hopkins didn't stop to wonder how the visitor knew the coins were there: he just did as he was told.

"To Hopkins' amazement and horror, something terrifying happened: the coin transmuted. It turned blue, it shimmered slightly - as if in a mini heat-haze - and then, in a second or so, turned into vapor. After a few moments, the vapor was gone. The MIB [Man in Black] implied that he could do exactly the same thing to Hopkins' heart. Hopkins got the message. The MIB shuffled his curious way to the door and vanished - as in literally - into the chilled night."

Not mentioned in the book, there is a postscript to this story that can be found online. Hopkins' nephew, a writer, stated in a blog on 13 January 2008 that his uncle had been a heavy drinker and a "fantasy-prone individual" with a "sad need for attention". He described the report as "alas, a simple lie, one that needs to be corrected for those into serious research into this area." Magonia covered this aspect here: https://pelicanist.blogspot.com/2009/02/sad-truth-behind-mib-story.html

So, which version is true: the doctor's or his nephew's? Either way, it is a good mystery with which to conclude this review. In the words of the Gershwins' famous song, 'it ain't necessarily so', including things you're liable to read in the Bible. Is that libel? No, it's discernment, and we always have the freedom to change our beliefs as we grow or acquire more knowledge and wisdom.

One thing that we can say about Magonia Review writers, as well as our esteemed readers, is that we are certainly into serious research into this and other areas of mysterious phenomena, but with a sense of humour. It is the dark side that gets too serious and seems to be temporarily in the ascendant. In this time of 'fake news', internet censorship and social unrest, there are all kinds of disinformation and misdirection going on. We all need to lighten up, seriously. -- Kevin Murphy

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