When the Catholic exorcist Father Amorth confronted a demon (An Exorcist Tells His Story), he occasionally found one in a forthcoming mood. When asked what hell was like, their response was along the lines of “Hell is being absolutely alone.”
Now that may sound better than burning in a pit of eternal fire, but the preference tells us something about what it means to be a demon. Demons are demented, and they know it. Being alone means that they’re stuck with their insanity. It eats at them. They become their own torment.
The reason a demon longs to turn a person to their control is because it either provides validation of their sickness (“See: people like it, too!”) or it allows them to work towards healing. What’s interesting is that demons can’t take control of a person unless they are invited. It seems that the soul of a person fills their body so completely that they have to consciously make room for the demon to enter.
This may make demons sound pretty pathetic, and ultimately, they are. However, they really don’t have much choice in the matter. They can’t be born like the rest of us, because their energy is too twisted. They tend to distort the forms they occupy, and infants are particularly vulnerable. Furthermore, they’re greedy. If a part of their personality doesn’t fit, they’d rather beat it into submission than let it go to a better home. And they are proud. They’d rather be alone than adapt themselves to a form that would allow them to live their own life.
What purpose is served by this description of demons? Well, I could have gone back and tried to explain the soul and its existence in terms of dark energy and field lines and the like, as a physicist might be expected to do so. That would be interesting, perhaps, but would leave us asking “What does it really mean?” What’s important in a practical sense is how a soul exists, and how our actions affect it.
You see, we need to figure out which is more important: the soul or the body. When we’ve gotten a sense of that, we can start thinking in a mature way about morality.
So what does the description of demons suggest?
- A soul can’t change itself unless it controls a body.
- The soul lasts longer than the body.
- The body is affected by the soul.
- The body can be a haven for the soul.
- The soul can think, reason and plan even though it doesn’t have a brain.
Now let’s look at this from a joyous perspective. What does this suggest about living?
While a demon seeks a perverted form of life, I think that it is true form of life. Life exists when a soul occupies a body. Where there is no soul, there is no life. This is true as much of a body on life support as it is about a rock. (Although some rocks are more alive than some bodies on life support.)
How do most bodies get souls? Well, that occurs in the sacred organ of the womb. When a man loves a woman, their love-making attracts a soul that will find joy in their company. Otherwise, well, they tend to attract souls that seek frustration or pain. In most cases, of course, the soul will be well suited to integration with a human body. That means that creating strength and deep-seated joy in the body (joy that lasts beyond the moment of pleasure) will help the soul grow into health. Creating weakness and fear, conversely, forms diseases in the soul.
What about our brains? Well, they are not the source of our intelligence, which exists in the soul. The brain is, however, a very effective interface to intelligence. This means that intelligent souls want to participate in a human life, over other forms of life on earth, so that they can find joy and strength.
What this suggests is that, as the forms of life have evolved on earth, our souls have evolved. Souls looking for joy and healing have attached themselves to animal and plant forms in the ways that enable them to best acquire strength. The human brain makes that process more flexible than any other organ, and so we have grown remarkably during our short time here on earth. Good and selfless people provide a home to lots of angels.
The problem has been that the more sophisticated we are about living, the more of a threat we pose to demons. They have a lot of useful parts locked up in their pain, parts that are really attracted to the idea of working with humans. The reason that demons harm us is, in part, to try to prove to those parts that being human really isn’t such an attractive option.
Obviously, demons consider themselves to be at war with us, but Father Amorth reports that they don’t necessarily believe that is inevitable. When the exorcist asked them why they hate Christ, they said “We don’t hate him. We test him.” When faced with compassion such as existed in Father Amorth’s, demons realize that healing is possible. The questions is: are we strong enough to deliver it?
The proof of Christ is that, as long as we prefer strength and joy to pleasure, we will be.
At my high-school reunion this summer, I had a long talk with the mother of a schizophrenic. Her son draws detailed pictures of terrifying demons. What is interesting is that they don’t seem to be hostile. It’s more like they’re posing for him.
Maybe they’re hoping for a diagnosis?