Demons & Spirits

When encountering the topic of demons and spirits, a multiplicity of sources can be brought to the tableone of the more well known being the Ars Goetia (a book of seventy two demons, included in the Lesser Key of Solomon). However, contrary to what is noted in the Lesser Key itself (i.e. "The spirits of the Goetia are portions of the human brain"), some seem to be under the impression that the demons spoken of are actual existing beings⁠—ones that can be summoned. Yet, such a perspective is not only at odds with ancient ideology, but also holds no solidity as far as the literature itself goes.

The underlying text (The Testament of Solomon) shows itself to be coated in astro-theological content, the demons being connected to the stars and constellations (e.g. TSol 4:6; 5:4, 8; 6:7; 7:6). In chapter 14 you even have the mention of the esoteric dragon (similar to Revelation 12 in the Bible), the context of "the heavens" being quite conspicuous. But this is no surprise of course, given the ancient Hebrew culture (one of star-tales, e.g. Genesis 37:9-10; Job 38:7; Isaiah 14:12). In fact, the Tanakh does not even speak of demons as "spiritual beings" at any point. Aside from the Hebrew term שֵׁד, the Septuagint utilizes the Greek δαιμόνιον, a word in reference to graven images⁠ and insentient idols (e.g. Psalm 105:36-37 LXX).1 Where the Masoretic text says "all the gods of the peoples are idols" (Psalm 96:5), the Septuagint has "all the gods of the nations are demons [δαιμόνια]." And so, this was "demons" in the ancient perspective⁠—inanimate objects of silver and gold (Psalm 135:15-17).2

This also comes down to canonization, as the apocryphal Book of Tobit (not included in the Masoretic tradition) does indeed speak of a "demon" (δαιμονιον) as an evil spirit (πνευμα πονηρον). However, it is in the context of clear solar eclipse mythology. Notice, the angel instructs Tobias to open up a fish, take out its heart and liver (Tobit 6:4), and burn them in order to create smoke which drives the demon away (Tobit 6:16; 8:2-3). This burning of what came out of the fish fits "the sun" which chases away "the darkness" (the demon). Notice, this same story is told in the Gospel of Matthew (17:27), as Jesus instructs the apostle Peter to open the mouth of a fish, take out a coin, and "chase away" the tax receiver (resolve the matter by paying him). These solar tales clearly fit the motif of Jonah and the fish,3 Jonah being the sun of course (Christ/God, Psalm 84:11; Matthew 12:39-41; 16:4; Luke 11:29-32; see Ecliptic Lore). So, you do have the concept of the demon as an evil spirit in the Book of the Tobit, but, it's a solar eclipse.

More than this, Christians may attempt to read demonic beings into the Old Testament term mentioned above. Actually, certain Christian Bible translations of Leviticus 17:7 mention sacrifices to "demons" (e.g. NKJV), but in the Hebrew, this passage is actually referring to goat worship.4 The same Hebrew word (שָׂעִיר) is in the prior chapter, used in reference to the sacrificial goat (Leviticus 16:8, 10). Interestingly enough, the "scapegoat" in these passages is specifically the word for "Azazel" (עֲזָאזֵל), one of the fallen angels in the Book of Enoch (e.g. ch. 8-10, 13). Azazel is also mentioned in the Apocalypse of Abraham (e.g. ch. 13), appearing as a talking bird who tells Abraham of the destruction which would come upon him if he "ascends to the height." Later on in the story, Azazel is seen as one who is likened to a dragon with 12 wings (23:7-12), the esoteric signification being quite emphatic.

Further, the New Testament has its usage of δαιμονιον, likewise referring to idols as demons (e.g. 1 Corinthians 10:19-21; Revelation 9:20), but for the most part, "demons" are seen as the embodiments of sicknesses and diseases (e.g. Matthew 4:24; 8:16; Mark 1:32-34; 6:13; Luke 9:1), things like blindness (Matthew 12:22) and epilepsy (Matthew 17:15-18). Indeed, they are found speaking as characters, but it is in an enigmatic context.Basically, when the evil spirits left people, it was the sickness leaving them (e.g. Acts 19:12). And keep in mind, the Greek word for "spirit" is πνεῦμα, and it literally means "breath" (e.g. 2 Thess 2:8 "breath of his mouth").This term is repeatedly used in reference to ones "context." For instance, if the "spirit [breath] of deep sleep" was to come upon someone, it meant they were tired (Isaiah 29:10). Or, the girl who was possessed with a spirit [breath] of divination" (Acts 16:16), she was a fortune-teller in other words, for once the apostle Paul commands the spirit out of her, her fortune telling ceased.7 

So, this is "demons" in ancient culture. Essentially, today there remains a very common misunderstanding regarding these sorts of topics, as many confuse esoteric symbolism with "the supernatural." The problem? It makes a butchering out of the texts, removing the initial setting and placing things into an abyss of disorientation.

[Also see the accompanying video: Demons & Spirits]


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Footnotes:

1. Also used in Deuteronomy 32:17, "They sacrificed to demons, not to God . . ." Compare this to Exodus 32:8. Also, Isaiah 65:3 has "they offer sacrifices in gardens, and burn incense on bricks to demons, which exist not." Exist not? Such fits the perspective of graven images, as 2 Kings 19:18 says: "for they [were] not gods, but the work of men’s hands–wood and stone." Also, in Isaiah 65:11 there is "they . . . prepare a table for the demon."

2. There is also the usage of Isaiah 13:21 which states:
But wild beasts shall rest there; and the houses shall be filled with howling; and monsters shall rest there, and demons [δαιμόνια] shall dance there, (LXX)
The context of demons here is wild beasts, actual living animals (unlike idols, e.g. Psalm 115:4-7). Such a usage appears to fit "evil animals" (Genesis 37:20, 33; Leviticus 26:6; Ezekiel 5:17; 34:25) or something similar (as idols [the normative usage of the term] are evil). This also may be the intention of Psalms 90:6 LXX, "nor of an evil thing that walks in darkness; nor of calamity, and a demon at noon-day." There is also Isaiah 34:14 which says:
And demons shall meet with satyrs, and they shall cry one to the other: there shall satyrs rest, having found for themselves [a place of] rest. (LXX)
Yet again, the context is living animals (Isaiah 34:13, 15). This "satyrs" translation is from Brenton, but the Greek term is ὀνίνημι, and its usage in Philemon 1:20 shows that it has to do with profiting. The Greek word for satyr is actually σάτυρος. Moreover, the Hebrew text of Isaiah 34:14 mentions "the night creature" using the term lilith (לִּילִית). However, nothing in this particular setting suggests the demoness character as the meaning. Although, you do have the Dead Sea Scrolls mention of Lilith:
"And I, the Instructor, proclaim His glorious splendor so as to frighten and to te[rrify] all the spirits of the destroying angels, spirits of the bastards, demons, Lilith, howlers . . ." (Songs of the Sage, Lines 4–5)
Left to the Tanakh however, you have no such theme given.

3. Notice Tobit 6:2, "a fish leaped out of the river, and would have devoured him."

4. You also have the 2 Chronicles 11:15 usage: "for goats, and for calves, that he made." In this case, it is a handcrafted goat idol. In the Leviticus 17:7 case, you have no such specific mention, and the Hebrew term is used for actual goats throughout Leviticus (e.g. Leviticus 4:23-24; 9:3, 15; 10:16; 23:19).

5. This is simply how Hebraic mythology works. Notice, the evil spirit who speaks in Acts 19:15 is identified as a disease in the context (Acts 19:12). Thus, it is a talking disease in the passage, and this brings the point across; Paul and Jesus held power over the sickness, while the traveling exorcists had no such power (Acts 19:16). This is a good example of an ancient medical perspective—it was spiritually related (like a witch doctor). In Leviticus 14, the leper was to be taken to a specific priest (regarding the healing). As for Jesus and the herd of swine tale (e.g. Matthew 8:28-32), it is the same motif as the scapegoat in Leviticus 16:21-22; the animal bears their iniquities into the wilderness, and likewise the pigs carry the "sickness" (demons) into the sea (iniquity and sickness are likened, Mark 2:17). Yet, the story is told in the form of talking demons (as in Acts 19:15). Inanimate concepts "talking" is simply part of the ancient form of literature. Notice in Judges 9:8-15, it describes trees as talking, having a conversation. 

6. Notice in Revelation 16:14, "breaths of demons" coming out of the mouths of the dragon and the two beasts ("unclean breaths" 16:13). 

7. Additionally, in 1 Timothy 4:1 Paul mentions some "giving heed to deceiving breaths and doctrines of demons." Doctrines of demons? Notice Habakkuk 2:18, it calls the molded image "a teacher of lies" yet says "mute idols" (also see Jeremiah 10:8; Isaiah 19:3 "consult the idols"). How is a mute idol a teacher of lies? By means of depiction of course, as the earth itself can even teach (see Job 12:8; Isaiah 19:3 LXX). A field even teaches in Proverbs 24:30-32.

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