Demons within

Why do we not see the banal evils of society and culture (and of our own mundane selves) as the norm, and view creative breakthroughs and inspiration as the product of “daemons”? Instead of the historical view of demonic infestation as the source of evil in ourselves and the world, we can view the affairs of the mass of humanity as a pool of ignorance, and the leap of faith and love as something beyond ourselves, beyond that pool. Perhaps we should claim no more merit to ourselves for successful works of art, music, literature, charisma, love, or other creative feats than we want to take credit for the mundane sins, shortcomings, and ignorance that mark our lives. Brilliant insights are as much the work of harmonic wonder, grace, and “good karma” as sins and evil were viewed in the past as the work of disharmonic demons.

The desert fathers knew that a practiced hermit could make their infestuous demons disappear with a snap of the fingers. But reversing the metaphor also means that our cumulative individual progress can disappear in a moment, too, leaving the shell of a common person, nobody special, just another person trying to cope with their particular bundle of psychological and experiential baggage. Or worse.

The solitary has the opportunity to realize that he or she is not the source of what is good in them nor what is bad. The solitary can avoid the occasions of bad “infestation” by avoiding their source: society and culture. Only then can the good “daemons” begin to operate in one’s being, gently, with simple insights and quiet revelations.