Feb 3, 2009

Who Are The Demons?

J. A. Seiss wrote:

"What demons are, is to some extent an unsettled question. Justin Martyr, and some other Christian fathers, regarded them as the spirits of those giants who were born of the sons of God and the daughters of men, in the days preceding the flood. John of Damascus, considered them the fallen angels. According to Plutarch, Hesiod, as he himself, held demons to be "the spirits of mortals when separated from their earthly bodies." Zoraster, Thales, Pythagoras, Plato, and the heathen generally, viewed them as spiritual beings, intermediate between supreme Deity and mortals, and mostly the souls of heroes and distinguished persons who had departed this life. Lucian makes his dialogist ask: What is man? Answer: A mortal god. And what is a god? Answer: An immortal man. This gives the common heathen doctrine on the subject. Philo says: "The souls of dead men are called demons." The account which demons themselves mostly give of themselves, according to those who have most to do with them, is the same. Josephus gives it as the orthodox Jewish opinion, that demons are none other than the spirits of the wicked dead. With very few exceptions, the Christian fathers were of like opinion. Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Augustine, and the vast majority of early Christian writers, regarded demons as the souls or spirits of the unsanctified dead. And the burden of evidence and authority is to the effect that demons are the souls of dead men, particularly the spirits of those who bore a bad character n this life." ("The Apocalypse by J. A. Seiss, Page 213)

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Alexander Campbell gave a series of lectures on "Demonology" and I give these excerpts from that work.

"That a class of beings of some sort, designated demons, has been an element of the faith, an object of the dread and veneration of all ages and nations, as far back as all memory reaches, no one who believes in a spiritual system--no one who regards the volumes of divine inspiration, or who is only partially acquainted with Pagan and Jewish antiquity, can reasonably doubt. But concerning these demons, of what order of intelligences, of what character and destiny; of what powers intellectual and moral, or immoral, there has been much debate, and still there is need of farther and more satisfactory examination.

Before entering either philosophically or practically into this investigation, it is necessary that we define the true and proper meaning of the term demon. This word, it is said, is of Grecian origin and character--of which, however, we have not full assurance. In that language it is written and pronounced daimoon; and, according to some etymologists, is legitimately descended from a very ancient verb pronounced daioo, which means to discriminate, to know. Daimoon, or demon, therefore, simply indicates a person of intelligence--a knowing one. Thus before the age of philosophy, or the invention of the name, those were called demons, as a title of honor, who afterwards assumed the more modest title of philosophers. Aristotle, for his great learning was called demon, as was the celebrated Thucydides: hence among the Platonists it was for some time a title of honor. But this, it must be observed, was a special appropriation, like our use of the words divine and reverend. When we apply these titles to sinful men, who, because of their calling, ought to be not only intelligent, but of a divine and celestial temper and morality, we use them by a special indulgence from that sovereign pontiff with whom is the jus et norma loquendi.

But as some of the Platonists elevated the spirits of departed heroes, [458] public benefactors, and distinguished men, into a species of demigods or mediators between them and the Supreme Divinity, as some of our forefathers were accustomed to regard the souls of departed saints, this term began to be used in a more general sense. Among some philosophers it became the title of an object of worship; while, on the other hand, it degenerated into the genii of poetry and imagination."

"...the term demon, from simply indicating a knowing one, became the title of a human spirit when divested of the appendages of its clay tenement, because of its supposed initiation into the secrets of another world. Thus a separated spirit became a genius, a demigod, a mediator, a divinity of the ancient superstition according to its acquirements in this state of probation.

But we shall better understand the force and import of this mysterious word from its earliest acceptation among the elder Pagans, Jews, and Christians, than from the speculations of etymologists and lexicographers. Historical facts, then, and not etymological speculations, shall decide not only its meaning, but the character and rank of those beings on whom, by common consent, this significant title was conferred.

To whom, then, among Pagan writers shall we make our first appeal? Shall we not at once carry up the question to the most venerable Hesiod, the oldest of Grecian bards, whose antique style even antedates that of Homer himself almost one hundred years? Shall we not appeal to the genealogist of all the gods, the great theogonist of Grecian mythology? Who than he more likely to be acquainted with the ancient traditions of demons? And what is the sum of his testimony in the case? Hear him speak in the words of Plutarch:--"The spirits of mortals become demons when separated from their earthly bodies." The Grecian biographist not only quotes with approbation the views of Hesiod, but corroborates them with the result of his own researches, avowing his conviction that "the demons of the Greeks were the ghosts and genii of departed men; and that they go up and down the earth as observers, and even rewarders of men; and although not actors themselves, they encourage others to act in harmony with their views and characters." Zenocrates, too, as found in Aristotle, extends the [459] term to the souls of men before death, and calls them demons while in the body. To the good demons and the spirits of deceased heroes they allotted the office of mediators between gods and men. In this character Zoroaster, Thales, Pythagoras, Plato, Plutarch, Celsus, Apuleius, and many others contemplated The demons of their times.

Whoever, indeed, will be at pains to examine the Pagan mythologies, one and all, will discover that some doctrine of demons, as respects their nature, abodes, characters, or employments, is the ultimate foundation of the whole superstructure; and that the radical idea of all the dogmata of their priests, and the fancies and fables of their poets, are found in that most ancient and veritable tradition--that the spirits of men survive their fallen tabernacles, and live in a disembodied state from death to the dissolution of material nature. To these spirits in the character of genii, gods, or demigods, they assigned the fates and fortunes of men and countries. With them a hero on earth became a demon in hades; and a demigod, a numen, a divinity in the skies. It is not without some reason that the witty and ingenious Lucian makes his dialogist, in the orthodoxy of his age, thus ask and answer the following questions:--What is man? A mortal god! And what is God? An immortal man. In one sentence, all Pagan antiquity affirms that from Titan and Saturn, the poetic progeny of Coelus and Terra, down to Esculapius, Proteus, and Minos, all their divinities, were the ghosts of dead men, and were so regarded by the most erudite of the Pagans themselves.

In the times of the Patriarchs, in the infancy of the Abrahamic family, long before the time of their own Moses, we learn that in the land of Canaan, almost coeval with the promise of it to Abraham, demons were recognized and worshipped. The consultation of the spirits of the dead, the art and mystery of necromancy, the species of familiar spirits, and wizzards, are older than Moses, and spoken of by him as matters of ancient faith and veneration. Statutes, indeed, are ordained, and laws are promulged from Mount Sinai in Arabia, [460] from the voice of the Eternal King, against the worship of demons, the consultation of familiar spirits, the practice of necromancy, and all the arts of divination; of which we may speak more particularly in the sequel. Hence we affirm that the doctrine of a separate state--of disembodied ghosts, or demons--of necromancy and divination, is a thousand years older than Homer or Hesiod, than any Pagan historian, philosopher, or poet whatsoever. And so deeply rooted in the land of Canaan, so early and so long cherished and taught by the seven nations was this doctrine in all its branches, that, notwithstanding the severe statutes against it, traces of it are found among the Jews for almost a thousand years after Moses. Of the wicked Jeroboam it is said, "He ordained priests for the high places, and for the demons. Even David admits that his nation "learned the works of the heathen, served their idols, and sacrificed their sons and daughters to demons;" and he adds, "they ate the sacrifices of the dead;" a clear intimation that worshipping demons was worshipping the dead. Isaiah, too, lamenting their idolatry, asks the mortifying question, "Shall a people seek the living to the dead?"

But there is a peculiarity in the acceptation of this term among Jews and Pagans which demands special attention. Amongst them the term demon generally, if not universally, denoted an unclean, malign, or wicked spirit: whereas amongst the Pagans it as often represented a good as an evil spirit. Who has not heard of the good demon of Socrates, and of the evil genius of Brutus? While among Jews and Christians so commonly are found the akatharta pneumata, or the ponera pneumata--the unclean and malign spirits, that our translators have almost uniformly translated them devils."

"...we shall proceed at once to sum up the evidence in proof of the proposition which we shall state as the peculiar theme of this great literary adventure.--That proposition is--The demons of Paganism, Judaism, and Christianity were the ghosts of dead men.

But some of you may say, You have proposed to dismiss this work of definition too soon: for here is the horrible word ghost! Of what is that term the sign in your style? Well, we must explain ourselves.

Our Saxon forefathers, of whom we have no good reason to be ashamed, were wont to call the spirits of men, especially when separated from their bodies, ghosts. This, however, they did, not with the terrible associations which arise in our minds on every pronunciation of that startling term. Guest and ghost, with them, if not synonyms, were, at least, cousins-german. They regarded the body as the house, and therefore called the spirit the guest; for guest and ghost are two branches from the same root. William Tyndale, the martyr, of excellent memory, in his version of the New Testament, the prototype of that of king James, very judiciously makes the Holy Spirit of the Old Testament the Holy Ghost of the New; because, in his judgment, it was the promised guest of the Christian temple."

"We have, from a careful survey of the history of the term demon, concluded that the demons of Paganism, Judaism, and Christianity were the ghosts of dead men. But we build not only upon the definition of the term, nor on its philological history; but upon the following seven pillars:--

1. All the Pagan authors of note, whose works have survived the wreck of ages, affirm the opinion that demons were the spirits or ghosts of dead men. From Hesiod down to the more polished Celsus, their historians, poets, and philosophers occasionally express this opinion.

2. The Jewish historians, Josephus and Philo, also avow this conviction. Josephus says, "Demons are the spirits of wicked men, who enter into living men and destroy them, unless they are so happy as to meet with speedy relief." Philo says, "The souls of dead men are called demons."

3. The Christian Fathers, Justin Martyr, Ireneus, Origen, &c. depose to the same effect. Justin, when arguing for a future state, alleges, "Those who are seized and tormented by the souls of the dead, whom all call demons, and madmen." Lardner, after examining with the most laborious care the works of these, and all the Fathers of the first two centuries, says, "The notion of demons, or the souls of dead men, having power over living men, was universally prevalent among the heathen of these times, and believed by many Christians."

4. The Evangelists and Apostles of Jesus Christ so understood the matter. As this is a very important, and of itself a sufficient pillar on which to rest our edifice, we shall be at more pains to illustrate and enforce it. We shall first state the philological law or canon of criticism, on the generality and truth of which all our dictionaries, grammars, and translations are formed. Every word not specially explained [463] or defined in a particular sense, by any standard writer of any particular age and country, is to be taken and applied in the current or commonly received signification of that country and age in which the writer lived and wrote. If this canon of translation and of criticism be denied, then we affirm there is no value in dictionaries, nor in the acquisition of ancient languages in which any book may be written; nor is there any confidence in any translation of any ancient work, sacred or profane: for they are all made upon the assumption of the truth of this law.

5. But as a distinct evidence of the historic kind, and rather as confirmatory of our views than of the authority of the inspired authors, I adduce as a separate and independent witness a very explicit and decisive passage from the epistle to the Smyrneans, written by the celebrated Ignatius, the disciple of the Apostle John. He quotes the words of the Lord to Peter when Peter supposed he saw a spirit or a ghost. But he quotes him thus--"Handle me and see, for I am not a daimoon asomaton--a disembodied demon;"--a spirit without a body. This places the matter above all doubt that with them of that day a demon and a ghost were equivalent terms.

6. But we also deduce an argument from the word angel. This [464] word is of Bible origin, and confined to those countries in which that volume is found. It is not found in all the Greek poets, orators, or historians, so far as known to me. Of that rank of beings to whom Jews and Christians have applied this official title, the Pagan nations seem never to have had the first conception. It is therefore certain that they could not use the term demon as a substitute interchangeable with the word angel--as indicative of an intermediate order of intelligent beings above men, and between them and the Divinity. They had neither the name nor the idea of an angel in their mythology. Philo the Jew has, indeed, said that amongst the Jews the word demon and the word angel were sometimes used interchangeably; and some have thence inferred lapsed angels were called demons. But this is not a logical inference: for the Jews called the winds, the pestilence, the lightnings of heaven, &c., angels, as indicative of their agency in accomplishing the will of God. In this sense, indeed, a demon might be officially called an angel. But in this sense demon is to angel as the species to the genus: we can call a demon an angel, but we cannot call an angel a demon--just as we can call every man an animal, but we cannot call every animal a man."

"From which facts we argue, as well as from the fact that the Pagans had neither Devil, nor angel nor Satan, in their heads before the Christian times, that when they, or the Christians, or the Jews spoke of demons, they could not mean any intermediate rank of spirits, other than the spirits of dead men. Hence in no instance in holy writ can we find demon and angel used as convertible terms. Is it not certain, then, that they are the ghosts of dead men?--But there yet remains another pillar."

7. Among the evidences of the papal defection intimated by Paul, he associates the doctrine concerning demons with celibacy and abstinence from certain meats, as chief among the signs of that fearful apostacy. He warrants the conclusion that the purgatorial prisons for ghosts and the ghostly mediators of departed saints, which, equally with commanding to abstain from lawful meats, and forbidding to marry, characterize the times of which he spoke, are attributes of the same system, and indicative of the fact that demons and ghosts are two names for the same beings. To this we add the testimony of James, who says the demons believe and tremble for their doom. Now all eminent critics concur that the spirits of wicked men are here intended; and need I add that oft-repeated affirmation of the demoniacs, "We know thee, Jesus of Nazareth; art thou come to torment us before the time?" Thus all the scriptural allusions to this subject authorize the conclusion that demons are ghosts, and especially wicked and unclean spirits of dead men. A single saying in the Apocalypse makes this most obvious. When Babylon is razed to its foundation it is said to be made the habitation of demons--of the ghosts of its sepulchred inhabitants. From these seven sources of evidence, viz.--the Pagan authors, the Jewish historians, the Christian fathers, the four Evangelists, the epistle of Ignatius, the acceptation of the term angel in its contrast with demon, and the internal evidences of the whole New Testament, we conclude that the demons of the New Testament were the ghosts of wicked men. May we not henceforth reason from this point with all assurance as a fixed and fundamental principle?"

"In one sentence, then, we conclude that there is neither reason nor fact--there is no canon of criticism, no law of interpretation--there is nothing in human experience or observation--there is nothing in all antiquity, sacred or profane, that, in our judgment, weighs against the evidence already adduced in support of the position, that the demons of Pagans, Jews, and Christians were the ghosts of dead men; and, as such, have taken possession of men's living bodies, and have moved, influenced, and impelled them to certain courses of action."

"May I be permitted farther to observe on this mysterious subject, that necromancy was the principal parent of all the arts of divination ever practised in the world, and was directly and avowedly founded on the fact, not only of demoniacal influence, but that demons are the spirits of dead men, with whom living men could, and did form intimacies. This the very word necromancy intimates. The necromancer predicted the future by means of demoniacal inspiration. He was a prophet inspired by the dead. His art lay in making or finding a familiar spirit, in evoking a demon from whom he obtained superhuman knowledge. So the Greek term imports and all antiquity confirms."

As to the abodes of the demons, we are taught in the Bible what the most ancient dogmatists have said concerning their residence in the air: I say we are taught that they dwell pro tempore in the ethereal regions. Satan, their Prince, is called "the Prince of the power of the air." The great Apostle to the Gentiles taught them to wrestle against "wicked spirits that reside in the air;" for, says he, "you fight not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world; against spiritual wickedness in high places"--properly rendered, 'Against wicked spirits in the regions of the air.' Paul's shipwreck at Malta by the Euroclydon, and Job's misfortunes by an Arabian tempest, demonstrate the aerial power of this great antagonist when permitted to exert it against those he envies and calumniates.

Evident it is, then, from such testimonies, facts, and allusions, that the atmosphere, or rather the regions above it, the ethereal or empyreal, and not heaven, nor earth, nor hell, is the proper residence of the ghosts of wicked men. They have repeatedly declared their perfect punishment or torment as yet future, and after the coming of the Lord, when he shall send the Devil and his emissaries into an eternal fire. How often did they say to Jesus, "Art thou come to torment us before the time?" That they are miserable, wretchedly miserable, is inferrible from the abhorrence of the nudity and awful forebodings of their present position. They vehemently desire to be embodied again. They seek rest, but find none; and would rather possess any bodies, even the swine, than continue naked and dispossessed. Their prison is called by the Messiah, "outer darkness;" by Paul it is called epourania, high places, aerial regions. This is the, Hebrew-Greek name of that region where there is neither atmosphere nor light; for, strange though it may appear to uneducated minds, the limits of our atmosphere are the limits of all terrestrial light. These intervals between the atmospheres of the planets is what we would call "outer darkness." Could a person ascend only some fifty miles above this earth, he would find himself surrounded with everlasting night--no ray from sun, or moon, or stars could find him where there is no medium of reflection." [475]

(AN ADDRESS delivered to the Popular Lecture Club, Nashville, Tennessee,

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