When we hear the term ‘demonology’ we tend to cringe … The term demon (or daemon) you will find will literally translate as such: an evil spirit or devil, especially one thought to possess a person or act as a tormenter in hell. What most people may not know about demonology is that it was considered a field in science in early modern Europe which is in part quite responsible in forming a rigorous and rational investigation into the natural world. Some of these contributions include contributions to nature, medicine and religion.
To understand in large; we must first distinguish demonology from witchcraft. In the middle ages; demonology was generally practiced by an intellectual elite. Charges of witchcraft were usually leveled at people further down the social hierarchy. These ideas of demons were grounded within Aristotelian ideas such as hot-cold and wet-dry and of course the four elements—earth, air, water and fire. Humoral medicine would have mapped easily onto this scheme. The study of demons was, in other words, a completely natural project.
Now that we are discovering some of the differences between the two as established in the middle ages, let’s fast forward to the 21st century.
In modern medicine we know a lot about various ‘would-be’ symptoms of a possible demonic case. For example; we can use modern knowledge of the medical field to know when we are seeing a seizure, or even a case of mental disorders. Back in the ancient times the Neolithic society and most people believed that mental illness and abnormality were due in large to demons. If for example a man has continual seizures, he would have been viewed as under a possession where then trephination or other religion ceremonies would have been used to treat the mental illness. There were some societies such as ancient Rome where many believed that mental illness was a punishment from the gods. If you angered the gods, this would therefore lead to you or a family member to suffer from mental disorders.
Now that we have the bricks set, and we kind of have an idea of what demonology is about I would like to approach beliefs (the whys and why-nots!)
Although the bible often references demons, there are those who simply don’t believe at all, or even those who will accept the existence of a demon before they would any religion. In all of my years of study on this particular subject, I have found that it is widely believed that demons lurk nearby and are waiting for you to fall into that solitary weakness or oppression. In some circles, it is easier for people to accept the existence of a demon than it is to accept any religion.
It is of this author’s opinion (and certainly the opinion of various scholars) that a demon presence can be easily accepted o’er a religious belief because we see a lot of human suffering, mental illness, and oppression all around us on a daily basis. We don’t often see reminders of a Promised Land or even Jesus Christ as often. This is not the result of it not being there, or because it doesn’t exist, but more so because we tend to focus more on the darker shades of life as opposed to the other. Popular media can as well become a culprit in this cycle of beliefs. Demons have become quite popular in recent media such as television shows, video games, blockbuster movies, books and even music. Because of these various levels of information coming at all angles, it opens doors for the non-believers to accept and believe that demons can and do exist even if they don’t have belief in religion.
So, why do others believe?
Mark 5:1-13 (new King James Version)
5 Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes. 2 And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, 3 who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, 4 because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him. 5 And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones.
6 When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him. 7 And he cried out with a loud voice and said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.”
8 For He said to him, “Come out of the man, unclean spirit!” 9 Then He asked him, “What is your name?”
And he answered, saying, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” 10 Also he begged Him earnestly that He would not send them out of the country.
11 Now a large herd of swine was feeding there near the mountains. 12 So all the demons begged Him, saying, “Send us to the swine, that we may enter them.” 13 And at once Jesus gave them permission. Then the unclean spirits went out and entered the swine (there were about two thousand); and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and drowned in the sea.
In some cases, the New Testament had talked with them about demons and what Jesus has spoken to them. However. These passages may also make a believer of Jesus not believe in demons at all. A Christian for instance has been taught that Jesus Christ has power over demons and this could lead some to believe that maybe all of the demons have since disappeared through time. Certainly the Old Testament talks a little more about demons and modern believers tend to feel that demons don’t exist at all even though they are well aware of the devil and his presence.
The teeter totter seems to never quite get a balance as we delve into demonology in a whole and there is no true equilibrium. In the 21st century we are more aware of medical reasons that can outweigh signs of a demonic presence. These facts alone begin to lay brick for those who don’t believe in demons at all and then we can sit back and observe that the belief of demons has been around since the first ever documented word of mankind.
Can it boil down to individual perception? Absolutely!
No two people are ever going to agree on every belief and religions view (or a lack thereof.) We can peel back the layers on anything presented and point out the why-nots and then continue to add opinion or theorize based solely on the perceived view we had obtained with the initial observation. It’s very easy to assume that if someone has reported a demonic case that perhaps it’s simply a mental illness. For some it’s very easy to assume that demons are floating in the air unseen just waiting for their way in. Not everyone who believes in demonic possession believes in religion even though it is believed in large the two go together. In any case, the best approach would be to research and study. Many argue that demonic possession doesn’t afflict people today. Some theorize them as having relation to alien civilizations and the list goes on.
I will leave you with this:
(1)Demonology is a real field of study, frequently misunderstood by those on the outside looking in. To be a demonologist involves a thorough and detailed approach, often working with the faith of the Demonologist. Demonology was originally simply the study of demons and nothing more, however as time has gone on demonology has changed to become a spiritual field in which people feel called to work in. The evolution of demonologists has left us with a field of spiritual warriors and such notable people as the Warrens who brought it to modern attention.