Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Spiritual Deception - Do Demons exist?

There are many Christians who think demons are just old fashioned myths.  For a long time, I was one of them. To many, demons are just vehicles to explain things like suffering, illness and evil––not considered to be real beings that have their own wills and who are intent on keeping us separated from God.  This is a spiritual deception of a grand scale.  When we deny the existence of these invisible beings, we also deny all invisible beings, and this would include God the Creator of all that is both visible and invisible.  Frequently, we only allow ourselves to acknowledge as real what we can sense with our senses or measure scientifically.  We in effect block out of consideration the entire invisible or spiritual realm, including both angels and demons.

The consequences of this deception are important.  When we deny their existence we deny the spiritual struggle we must engage in, or the spiritual war that Saint Paul says Christians are engaged it.  If there is no war, no struggle, then all that is necessary to be Christian is to mentally embrace Christ by saying, “I believe,”  attend church on Sunday, be nice to others, and support social activities of the church and community. There is no need for ascetic practices to overcome forces that lead us astray. No need for prayer and fasting.

This view that denies the existence of demons is one that is promoted by the Devil himself.  It is his greatest deception, making us believe that he does not exist.  It makes us passive in our spiritual life.  Here is what St. Irenaeus of Lyons of the second century says of the work of the devil, “He had indeed been already accustomed to lie against God, for the purpose of leading men astray.” (Against Heresies, 5.23.1) “To lead men astray,” he says! This is the danger.

Scripture very clearly teaches that demons are real (In the Gospels alone, the word “demon” is used thirty-two times, “devil” and “Satan” both appear fourteen times, and the phrase “the evil one” appears five times.).*   Also, in the sacrament of Baptism, from the early days of the Church, we have the prayers of exorcism which are read to this day. After these prayers are read the Priest asks the Catechumen, “Do you renounce Satan, and all his works, and all his worship, and all his angels, and all his pomp?”  Also in the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer, we pray for God to protect us, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.” The Apostle Peter calls to each Christian: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walketh about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8).

If the Gospel writers did not believe that demons exist, why would they use the term "demon" so often! There are excellent Greek words for disease and madness (which appear in the New Testament). Without any doubt we find a clear reference to demons throughout the Scripture.  It was not written there by mistake or to allude to some kind of physical illness. The facts of the gospel records clearly show that Jesus believed in personal demons. He addressed them and they addressed Him. Today, we can find people who can recount similar personal encounters with demons. Even though they are invisible beings, they are no less real than any other person to whom our Lord Jesus Christ spoke.

To avoid spiritual deception we need to develop a keen awareness of these demonic forces, because they are our enemy on our spiritual path.  If we are to follow Christ, we, like Him, have to recognize the power of the evil forces we face.  We of necessity need to properly prepare ourselves to fight against them, knowing they are actively attacking us.  Without such a recognition, our efforts will be weak and ineffective.  This is the nature of the authentic Christian struggle.

There was a time not so long ago that I used to worry about what would others say of me if I begin to talk about the demons who attack me?  I feared the possibility ridicule and being rejected as some kind of religious kook, a Neanderthal thinker.  I worried that they would  say I am naive, old fashioned, ignorant of modern scientific views, one babbling superstitious and archaic views.  This is the challenge we face in todays world.  Generally, a minority (34% for Orthodox and 40% for all Americans according to PEW Survey of Religious Landscape) of the population believes in demons with certainty. In our spiritual struggle we must go against the prevailing thought patterns that do not reflect the spiritual truth of the created world.  We must be prepared to be mocked and ridiculed for our views.  We cannot be deceived and ignore these forces that are woking against us.  We cannot be luke warm on this belief.  It is not enough to think there is the possibility of such beings.  We must in fact see them with certainty, as the enemy worthy of combating in intense spiritual warfare. This is the key to our eventual union with God.  These forces are trying to prevent us from joining with Christ and growing in a way where we become part of Him and part of His Kingdom.

The way we recognize these evil forces is through what the Church Fathers call “Passions.” I will continue this discussion on the passions in the next posting.

* New Testament references to demons: The freeing of people from the devil was the first work that our Lord Jesus Christ took on (Matt. 4:24, 8:16, 9:32-34; Mark 1:32-34; Luke 4:41, 8:2, 11:4) Specifically, we have the following accounts: the healing of the possessed youth (Matt. 17:14-21), the daughter of the Canaanite woman (Mark 7:24-29), and the two possessed Gadarenes (Matt. 8:28-34, Mark 5:1-19). In the last incident it is worth noting that not one but a whole legion of demons (i.e., a great number of them) became established in a man.  Jesus prepared his disciples to drive out demons. He sent them in pairs into the cities and villages with the power to drive out the unclean spirits (Matt. 10:1, Mark 6:7, Luke 9:1). When they returned they reported. "Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through Thy name" (Luke 10:17). The Lord foretold before His Ascension into Heaven that the breaking of diabolic power would be a clear sign of the Church: "And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils …" (Mark 16:17). In the book of Acts we find many examples of the holy Apostles dealing with demons, including the healing of the possessed by the Apostle Peter (Acts 5:16), by the Apostle Philip when "unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed with them" (Acts 8:7), and later by the Apostle Paul, who expelled a spirit of divination from a young woman (Acts 16:16-18). Moreover, the blessing of God acted so abundantly in those times that when, for example, personal things that belong to the Apostle Paul were laid on the possessed, the demons went out of them (Acts 19:12).

Photo: Lucifer,  a Gustave Doré's illustration forParadise Lost by John Milton.


  1. Thank you for this post.

    Spiritual warfare can be likened to real war in so many ways. One of the ways an army is successful in war is to have good intelligence. Intelligence is gained passively (when the enemy attacks, making themselves and their techniques known), and actively, when special units are sent in to recover information behind the front lines, whether on the ground or through the use of remote viewing (via satellites, drones, etc.).

    Having good intelligence is no guarantee that it will be used - for whatever reason. Fear and political (i.e. social) motives may paralyze us.

    We have the best intelligence from those who have been in the thick of the battle - and of no little value is it that our Lord Himself encountered demonic activity among men. He instructs us, even, on the types of tactics required to take out specific types of adversaries ("This kind can only be driven out by prayer and fasting").

    It certainly behooves us to pay attention to the intelligence gathered thusfar by the Church, to believe it, and to act accordingly. Imagine having intelligence that a hostile state was stockpiling nuclear weapons and had aimed them all at our own country. Then imagine they simply camoflaged these stockpiles, so as to make it harder for us to see them. Knowing this, would we simply sit idly by, saying that because we can't see the missiles, there is no threat? Of course not. But this is exactly what we face in spiritual warfare, and yet we act like there is no threat.

  2. I do believe in demons because I have experienced demonic "abilities" granted to me. you see, I am able to see auras and see the future in my dreams.
    with the auras, I was able to predict my Grammie's death and I have also seen my daily encounters with life in my dreams. also, in my dreams, I have predicted my neighbor's relative's death, a baby, ... but I was too late for both my grandma and the baby. These daily experiences have led me to believe that God had granted me these abilities, until I read "the word" an orthodox magazine my parents order by mail every month. It said something that i can't quite remember, but it was a section about demons; that they are able, and often do target Christians and grant them abilities.

    1. I have demonic powers too. I was laying in bed and I couldn't fall asleep. I started to feel something in my head like a force. Then I wondered if my dog or my little brother, in the same room, were being tormented as well. So the second I thought of my dog it started twitching and making whimpering noises. I then thought of my brother and he started crying but I could tell that he was asleep by the sound of his cry. Kind of hard to explain.

  3. Thank you both for sharing. Your comments are helpful.

  4. Thank you both for sharing. Your comments are helpful.

  5. I have observed that many smart and highly spiritual Orthodox Christians is battling what they look at as biblical demons. I think that what some of them is trying to fight is not demons in biblical terms but their own fears and urges that is natural for mankind. The harder you try to fight these urges and fears the harder it fights back as you are actually fighting yourself in a never ending battle that drains your energy. There is better ways to fight your own fears and urges than imagining that they are biblical demons.

    If you inner fears and urges really are the Biblical demons then they have found the perfect way to wear a person down and keep them for being productive by tricking them into fighting themselves. Either way there is better ways of resisting your own urges and fears (also called demons by many) than using brute force. To some people trying to fight themselves in this way might bring them closer to God but I feel that for most people that way is harmful, their energy would have been better used to help other people instead.

    In other ancient cultures philosophy and modern psychology this fight with yourself against "inner demons" is well known and I feel deep in my heart that their methods is better and serves God purpose better. One way is http://victoriaims.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Feeding-Your-Demons-article-Feb-12-2012-Study-Group-Notes.pdf

  6. Thank you for sharing this approach.
    It seems the main aspect of your approach is to acknowledge the existence of demons active in your being. Once you are aware of its existence then you can begin to seek help to address the effects of this energy in you. For Christians the main approach begin with this awareness and then we seek to attack it with the help of the Holy Spirit. This is a cooperative effort without will and the grace of God. We recognize our weakness, our limitations, trust in a loving and all merciful God, repent, pray and in some cases fast as we struggle to over come this force that leads us to actions that are not in accord with the Commandments of our Lord. It is the Sacraments of the Church which one participates in out of faith that allows us to overcome these negative forces that attack us. Usually we are week in a particular area. Once we identify this, accept our weakness, we can also gain help from our spiritual father who will guide us in ways to deal with the attacks. In the end it is not our own effort alone that allows us to over come these forces, but our efforts in combination with the Holy Spirit. This is quite different that the self-help approach you suggest. Self- effort is only one aspect of the real and permanent solution.

  7. After an alcoholic drinking bout I had one come and visit me. I got halucinations and various tricks played. He could access my electical appliances and play his music and send messages. i had had enough after three days and packed a bag in order to escape but he was watching and sent a strong message in his music that I shouldn't do that again or he would chain me up. He changed from being demonic and appeared caring saying i shouldn't get the recycling boxes in but let my son do it. That was the only time he spoke to me with his voice. He decided he loved me and wanted to live with me. My son told him I wanted him out of the house because i had guests coming and all has been quiet since.