On Demonology

On an unintentionally related note, the way I did my makeup for the video is reminiscent of how Chinese demons get depicted in film. It was totally unintentional. Hence, interesting. Hmm. Anyway.

Figure I’d expand more on the juicier bits of the subject here in writing rather than in the video because guess how many people are going to watch the video but not read this post. Hidden in plain sight, yada yada. Right?

Demonology and the nearly universal cultural tendency to peg all ills of humanity on the work of demons is fascinating to me. Sick with disease? Acting out of the ordinary? Getting a bit too emotional for people’s comfort? Commit a crime? Oh. Demon possession. Of course. What else could it be?

I intuit that the conversation taking place about the pathology of psychopathy intersects with the conversation about demon possession. Is exorcism just a form of psychotherapy? Maybe.

My opinion on exorcisms and belief in demonic possession? In certain instances, it may be more helpful to project an issue outward and identify it as a demon entity separate from the individual in question, one that has somehow attached itself to the individual, and the present behavior is attributed to that malefic attachment. When we project, give that issue a defined form and its own character, we can better hold a conversation about it and then detach or let go from that name and form.

Part of that process is to have a sophisticated and structured body of mythology on the subject of demonology. And nearly all major religions have an esoteric subset within that religious institution that focuses on demonology. And in nearly all these religious institutions, demonology is treated as not for the faint of heart. A strict, immersive training and education in the craft is thought to be required before one can go around performing exorcisms. That sort of universally recognized sense of demonology is interesting to me.

I myself don’t deep-dive (like at all) into the topic in this Bell Chimes In episode. I mean, how far can I go in 20 minutes? I covered some of my own beliefs on different expressions of demon entities, but didn’t get into the variations of purported demonic possession and certainly not how to treat a purported demon possession.

Expanding a bit on what I skated across in the video, Asura (阿修羅, Āxiūluó) is what I equated with fallen angels. Not actually a good equivalent, but I think it works for the purposes of preliminary understanding. Now let me explain why it’s not a good equivalent. In Western mysticism, we associate angels with divine beings, which in a sense, the asura are. However, humans can become asura. Per Eastern occultism, occult practitioners who advance their craft to impressive levels but do not also attain wisdom and humility can become reborn into asura. Also per Eastern occultism, routine recitations of the Great Compassion Mantra can shield the occultist and keep you from such a fate. Hence, me going through the trouble of putting together the book and urging you to print out a copy for yourself. Free download here.

Preta (餓鬼, Èguǐ) are hungry ghosts. Most Chinese and Taiwanese people, and most people familiar with East Asian mysticism are going to be familiar with the concept of hungry ghosts. We have ghosts and then we have hungry ghosts. Here in demonology we are talking about the hungry variety.

I like the metaphor. It expresses a fundamental need to feed the soul, and when that soul is not fed, it’s hungry, and hunger is a most terrible form of suffering. When you’re hungry, you’re stagnant, lifeless, unable to move on, and so you’re stuck in this spiritual limbo. Also, when you’re hungry, all decorum goes out the window and you’ll pretty much do anything to get fed. You become obsessed with immediate gratification. Heck, I know I do when I haven’t had lunch. So that’s the metaphor of the hungry ghost.

Knowing that, it’s relatively easy for occultists to take advantage of hungry ghosts. As a spirit, hungry ghosts possess some modicum of power, and an occultist can bargain with one to achieve an objective. Hence, summoning and conjuring of hungry ghosts are popular. Okay, by “popular” I don’t mean like everybody in Asia is doing it in their rec rooms on Friday evening. I just mean it’s a more commonly found ritual practice among Taoist magicians.

However, in the video, I also added that the compassionate occultist is going to go out of his or her way to alleviate the suffering of hungry ghosts. For free. And by “free” I mean not trying to broker a bargained-for exchange with the entity. While an exorcism may be an advanced, exclusive realm for the initiated and trained, I don’t think this is so for helping out hungry ghosts. Again, assuming you buy into the rather specific religious principles here. Recitations of the Great Compassion Mantra (it’s not the only way; it’s one way; when you get into the belief system, there’s a whole list of ways), petitioning Kuan Yin to come and help out, all with a heart open to bestowing kindness on this entity can be a total game changer for a hungry ghost. You doing so can transform that fate and bring that hungry ghost back into the cycle of rebirth.

Then we have Hell (地獄, Dìyù). I mentioned in the video how surprised I was when I first learned how similar the Christian belief in Hell was to the Chinese folk religious belief. We might be more Dante’s Inferno, with the different circles of hell, whereas Christian Hell seems a bit more one-dimensional, but for all intents and purposes, similar. Crazy similar.

The three levels of the demonic realm mirror the three levels of the celestial, and there are, again according to Chinese folk mythos, three levels of the physical world. This video covered the three levels of the demonic plane. Hence, demonology.

So why chime in on demonology? To me, it’s a fascinating subject, both in terms of pondering the question what really is going on when people say they’ve encountered demons and demon possession, and also in terms of the personal ideation or process we each go through to arrive at our conclusions on the matter.

You willing to chime in on this one? What are your thoughts and beliefs when it comes to demonology?

6 thoughts on “On Demonology

  1. As a paranormal investigator I deal with people all of the time who tell me they have demons in their house or they are possessed. Neither of which is true. I have seen someone who was one person one minute and then a few minutes later become a different person, was it because of a demon, no. I have found many people that I have spoke with say a demon because they grew up going to church and that is what they are taught. I went to churches growing up and know this is something that they teach. I am not going to say it doesn’t exist but what I will say is it’s rare. Our friend Chip Coffey I know has seen and experienced things that he wasn’t allowed to talk about when he was filming shows and the shows wouldn’t even put in the story. I think some people will say things like this to a group hoping they will do their investigation. Sadly there are some people who want to be experience what it’s like to be part of an investigation and they will say or do whatever they need to make it happen.

    Great topic and blog post as always =)

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  2. Interesting post, thanks!

    I see the topic as a projection of our darkest fears and desires, as a sort of way of trying to impose a rationality on the non-rational world. When we don’t understand, we strive to understand through the mirror of ourselves. There’s always a part of the human experience that fears itself even while being attracted to those impulses, and if we can ascribe them to outside forces then we can tame them.

    That doesn’t make these forces any less powerful, though. If anything, I see our fears of the dark mirror of ourselves to be one of the most driving forces imaginable, because they speak to the heart of who we are. Even if they are only projections, they have exactly as much power as we give them… which can often be quite a lot.

    At the same time, by directly facing these fears, we really do tame them by diminishing them by naming and limiting them. Look at our cultural fascination of horror movies, for example. We’ve applied a strict set of rules onto how our fears are supposed to behave, and made art forms out of those rules. And in that we take power over them.

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  3. Thank you so much for your clarity and compassion. Reiki models are similar in form (to your compassionate models of Free and Honorable Removal) and your concise comparison of belief systems and psychological realities is totally going to be part of my advanced course curriculum. Because it’s well stated and fun to watch!

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  4. It’s very interesting that you mentioned “Preta” here. I though this is something which only appears in Thai demonology. As far as I know there are many types of Pretas, depends on what the human has done in his life. They are, from what I know, quite big creatures, but they are suffering all the time.

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