I have spent the last two posts clarifying some thoughts on demons and, hopefully, knocking off some of the obscuration on this topic. Succinctly, demons are what occultists call sub-lunar spirits, that is, rather than being heavenly beings (i.e. angels) they are ‘closer’ to the earth and its denizens, including human beings. There are a number of categories of sub-lunar spirits; demons seems to fall into the class of spirits that are involved with processes of destruction and dissolution. As such, they get a “bad rap” from a society that fears the process of decay and seeks to hide from and ignore it. This “bad rap” is also the result of the incursion of Abrahamic religions, most specifically Christianity, and their insistence on categorizing anything outside their narrow pantheon as ‘evil’.
Make no mistake though, there is nothing la-dee-da about a demon. This class of spirit is powerful (as many a magician can readily attest) and not to be trifled with. What the demon is not, is innately ‘evil’. As I have pointed out, human beings would be in a fix if they could not tear down the structures that they create and start over. If the forces of destruction and dissolution did not exist, this planet would become uninhabitable at a rapid rate.
Still, the church and popular media continue to promote the idea of demons oppressing and/or possessing people. On the far right wing of the Christian church, I have heard claims that simply being exposed to the ‘wrong’ sort of music can lead to demonic interference in a human life while more conservative elements of the church seem to view demonic interference as a rare but very real phenomenon. Popular media have used the phenomenon to scare people for years, most notably with films like The Exorcist and The Exorcism of Emily Rose as well as the antics of TV ghost hunters looking for better ratings.
Can a demon possess a human being? Absolutely. Magicians of the Left Hand Path are actually known to perform demonic invocation (i.e. calling the spirit into themselves) so that the spirit can impart some of its power to them. Such possessions are every bit as real as the Vodoun practice of being ridden by the Lwa and they yield very powerful results. They are also, I will note, the result of years of magical practice and discipline and not something that any mage would undertake lightly.
Do demons attempt to possess people as they are walking down the street minding their own business? No. Here’s a simple way to look at this. The demon is one of the 900 pound gorillas of the Otherworld. It pretty much goes where it wants, when it wants and it does its job with efficiency. Human beings are only of tangential concern to it since they are the source of some of its work. The demon has no real reason to deal with people unless they intrude themselves into its world.
Which leads to the next question. Do demons ever engage in hostile possession? Yes. The average person driving to work in the morning, doing their daily tasks and coming home to dinner and some TV has nothing to fear from the demonic realms (barring natural disasters and the like). It is people who walk into the Otherworld at times – mages, shaman, high level psychics – who may attract the attention of demons. Even then there is no guarantee. It all depends on what ‘neighborhoods’ you frequent on the Otherside and, even if you do attract demonic attention, 99% of the time they will ignore you. They have work to do, after all.
1% of the time, however, the world walker may draw their attention. In most cases, one would deal with a demon as one would deal with any powerful dignitary one encountered in this world – respectfully. Good manners go a long way wherever one happens to walk and polite acknowledgment of a demon and a respectful query as to why they happen to be in a certain place will usually yield an equally polite rejoinder and the two beings will go their separate ways, none the worse for wear, unless the human is involved with something that happens to be in opposition to the demonic purpose. In that case, negotiations need to ensue but, most likely, the human is going to need to back away from the 900 pound gorilla and re-think whatever they are involved in. It is those rare cases where a human, usually through some religious hubris, thinks that they can command a demon or work at cross purposes to it, that result in scattered cases of real demonic oppression/possession.
Most so-called cases of demonic interference have absolutely nothing to do with the demonic. As I have said, there are many different ‘species’ of sub-lunar spirits and not all of them are friendly or neutral toward humans. I’ve nicknamed this class of spirit the Intruders. Since these beings live close to the earth plane, they are very aware of human beings’ religious peccadillos and use those beliefs against them. The one thing that all these so-called possession cases have in common, is that somewhere along the line the victim opened a door to the Otherworld or attracted the wrong sort of spiritual attention in some way. This can be something as simple as being an uncontrolled natural medium or dabbling in the ‘Black Arts’ as a rebellious teen.
Once the Intruders decide that someone might make a tasty snack (remember these beings tend to feed on fear and associated emotions), they set about creating a scenario that will evoke that emotion in the person. If the victim happened to grow up in the church (or has seen too much popular horror media), then the Intruders are likely to use that imagery to provoke maximum terror. The fear, of course, tears up the human’s natural psychic defenses and makes them available for spiritual incursion – something an Intruder will do to create terror in the people around the victim and, if the spirit is hostile enough, to eventually kill the victim.
Thankfully, despite the work of the modern media to persuade us otherwise, these instances are also rare and can be dealt with using magical banishing and protection techniques.