Do unseen forces control the world? If so, how would we even know? After-all, such forces, if they exist, cannot be seen. It would be like attempting to reconstruct an object simply from its shadow. How much would be missed out? How much would be wrong? Some people, (according to one study, a whopping 45% of Americans!) believe in the literal existence of ‘daemons’ – more commonly spelt as ‘demons’. Belief, of course, is accompanied by ‘fear’, as the two go hand in hand. Do any demons exist that are benevolent? Well, it all depends upon belief system, but from the perspective of the Judeo-Christian religion, the answer has to be ‘no’. Demons are said to be in league with the devil and to be older than Christianity itself. Indeed, demonology might well signify a pagan inheritance by the Christian faith. What is clear is that those who believe in demons almost always fear their presence or influence. Many would prefer that they never encounter them and take action to keep them away, whilst others believe that their lives are blighted by the presence of demons, and believe that demons are directly (negatively) influencing their lives.
Science categorically states that there are no such things as demons, or indeed the religions that spawn them. Psychology and Psychiatry both agree that exposure to religious teachings at an early age often leads to problems regarding mental health, and the literal belief that demons a) exist, and b) can effect change in the physical world. This situation is caused by a young and inexperienced brain still attempting to cognise the physical world whilst processing the inner world of often intensifying thought, feeling and imagination. Herein lies the origination of demons, even though religion ascribes a very different origin. Demons appear to be small, deformed and malignant in character. They are aggressive, sneaky, devious, violent, elusive and compulsive liars. Physically, they appear to resemble babies born with deformities and birth defects, but possess an adult thought process and adult aspirations. Perhaps demons have their origins not in hells, dark caves or cupboards, but are the products of the intense emotional and psychological experiences surrounding children that are ‘still-born’, or born with various disabilities.
As demons are viewed as an enemy of humanity, such attitudes could have led to the justification of various practices involving euthanasia. If a deformed baby was considered to be born ‘of the devil’, then the termination of its short life could be theologically justified. There is also, of course, the plight of people born with dwarfism and those considered midgets, etc, often believed to be already ‘old’ at the time of birth. People with disabilities who survived into adulthood were often considered ‘demonic’ or touched by the devil in Medieval Europe. If a physical origination in the world is sort for demon, then I would suggest physical ‘deformity’ (and disability) to be key factors, as expressed through human procreation. What is also interesting, but obviously of a fictious character, is the common idea that humans bred with animals and created bizarre off-spring! Again, there is the idea of ‘deformity’ moving away from a common ideal of ‘perfection’, which appears to be how a demonic presence is defined.
Science rejects the existence of demons, and history, sociology, anthropology, psychology, physiatry and philology, etc, offer explanations that these ‘imagined’ beings have their physical roots in human deformity of child and adult. Religion, however, disagrees with this ‘materialist’ analysis and suggests that demons ‘materialise’ within the physical plane when certain inner and outer conditions prevail, and justify such an appearance. The theological and philosophical literature that covers this subject, within its own boundaries, represents a very complex body of knowledge, with different conditions generating very different demons (that visit this plane for varying reasons). Making mischief is common, as is altering life-paths and taking lives. Inner psychological and emotional conditions that deviate away from correct observing and worshipping god, inevitably take the individual into the danger-area of possible demonic possession, and closer to the devil than it is generally thought healthy to be! In other words, demons appear when genuine religiosity fails. Religion then, offers the idea that a spiritual world exists behind, above and below this material plane, with demons usually residing below in the hellish realms. Demons can only manifest on this level if the inner and outer conditions are right, and their function is to eventually drag the soul of the targeted back down to hell when they return.
Religion assumes that it knows all this, and does not require science to validate these assumptions. Science tends to view religious thinking as the product of flawed analysis, and ignores it. In the meantime, ideas such as demons have proven to be very resilient to modernity and contemporary trends in education. I suspect human fear of the unknown and of dark places combines with the experience of the unexpected, the bizarre and the painful. A demon seems to be a bundle psychological and emotional thought patterns that are ingrained with certain avoidance or embracing behaviours, and then ‘objectified’ into the environment – as if it were something separate and distinct from the mind and personality that created.