Sunday, February 3, 2013

Follow up to "On the Nature of Demons": Answer to a Reader

(1) The original article -- "On the Nature of Demons" -- was a preliminary proposal. Its intention was not to deny the existence of what the New Testament describes as demonic, but rather to suggest that the demonic derives from and is dependent upon the noetic (the mind) rather than originating in the genus of angels. Hence rather than asserting that demons do not exist, the article simply proposes that demons do not exist apart from the mind.

(2) Neither does the article in any way deny the reality of spiritual warfare. Spiritual warfare exists and demonic activity is a very real (and universal) human experience. However, spiritual warfare is rooted in consciousness, both individually and collectively considered.

(3) The underlying assumption of the article is that what religionists describe as "demon possession" and what scientists identify as "psychopathology" are essentially identical phenomena (particularly in cases of severe psychosis, such as dissociative identity disorder). Did the ancients know or make a distinction between "mental illness" and "demon possession"? Is such a difference recognizable or distinguishable today? The author suggests not.

(4) The proposal that demons and the demonic have no independent existence apart from the mind seems eminently reasonable in an age when science is entertaining the possibility of computer-generated Artificial Intelligence and Artificial Consciousness. There is nothing shocking in the idea that the human brain might be able to give rise to and support not only its own inherent consciousness but perhaps also one or more "quasi-consciousnesses," which in severe cases could appear to "take over" and "possess" the very minds from which they emerge.

(5) Whether or not the "the world of the universe that is" also contains an independent realm where actual demons exist and operate apart from the human mind, one must admit that the article's proposal may otherwise help to explain the pathological consequences of sin (e.g. addictive behavior, which acts like a quasi-consciousness on some level -- in the suppression of the will and the power of unwanted desires, etc.).

(6) Consequently "spiritual warfare" (what the article alludes to as the virulence of the demonic) could easily be explained in terms of memetics. Indeed, the epiphenomenon of quasi-consciousness might not be something that only inflicts the minds of individuals, but could also affect and operate within the collective, cultural consciousness of societies at large. This could very well explain what is seen in primitive societies where superstitions prevail (i.e. contexts where "spells," "magic" and "sorcery" possess real tangible power over the lives of people).

(7) The need or desire of human beings, particularly religionists, to locate the root cause of evil in the world and universe in something else -- "something other" -- is understandable. This desire is as old as blaming the serpent in the garden.

(8) Demons are not the counterparts of angels. While the Old Testament certainly refers to angels, i.e. "sons of God" (even fallen ones! -- cf. Gen. 6), it never addresses either demons or demon-possession. Even Job's Satan (who looks quite different than the "Satan" that Jesus refers to) is a member of the Almighty's heavenly court.

(9) The evidence points to Zoroastrianism as the source for post-exilic Jewish (and hence New Testament) Demonology, at least more so than to the stories of the Old Testament.

(10) The author of "On the Nature of Demons" is not troubled in the least by Jesus' belief (or assumed belief) in the notions or causes of demonology current in his day any more than he is troubled by the fact that Jesus would not have been able to solve a quadratic equation had we the ability to send one back to him in a time machine.

Read "On the Nature of Demons" here.

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