Thursday, July 22, 2010

Daemonic Versus Demonic Realities

The word 'daemon' comes from an ancient Greek belief that certain nature spirits and demigods (called 'daemons') served as intermediaries between the Gods and men.

Daemons were originally neither good nor evil. They often possessed both positive and negative traits, but they did tend to be tricksters with a darker than average sense of humor. They could become corporeal fleshy creatures or incorporeal spirits and phantasms at will.

People were most likely to encounter daemons when they themselves were faced with major life changes or transformative events. Such encounters were rarely without danger, but they gave life a depth and a degree of meaning that is utterly lacking when all is calm and under perfect control.

Change is rarely all-good or all-bad, but it is almost always frightening. Encountering a daemon almost was a sign that deep and major change was on the way, either personally, culturally, or both.

Christianity Demonizes Daemons

The Christian Church was the first to divide and separate the daemonic realm into a struggle between evil supernatural creatures versus good supernatural creatures with humans in the middle. This was a substantial departure from the original Greek concept of varied and naturally ambivalent creatures that mediated between people and the Gods.

Now, instead of the daemons standing between people and the divine, between the natural and the supernatural, people stood between good and evil daemonic forces that were themselves supernatural. Humans moved to center stage, the demons to either wing, and the Gods of antiquity were kicked out of the drama entirely.

The evil intermediaries came to be known as demons; the good ones were called angels. Angels supposedly carried messages from (the one True) God and did God's work when God was in the loo or at the grocery store or whatever.

Demons, by contrast, did the Devil's work and either tried to seduce human beings into evil by stealing their souls, or else tormented the good and the holy out of sheer resentment of their relentless goodness and holiness.

Discernment suddenly became a hot topic. Good demon or bad demon? How to decide, what to do, what to do?

Clergy stepped up to 'help', and thousands of people were burned alive and tortured to death to save their souls and cleanse them of unholy daemonic associations.

With the dawn of the Age of Reason, demons also came to be associated with ignorance, while angels were trivialized as fluffy tokens of a kind of naive trust in a benevolent higher power. This trivialization further exacerbated the Christian divide between good and bad demons that was already well underway, and also tended to discredit and belittle the daemonic realm in general.

Weirdly enough, during the transitional period between the Middle Ages and the Age of Enlightenment, many learned men of the Church practiced alchemy, science, and angelic/demonic magic side by side without feeling any conflict of interest whatsoever--but this eclecticism did not last.

By the end of the 17th century, magic, daemons, and even most forms of religious belief were pushed aside by science, which declared itself the one and only true way to know anything about anything.

Daemons and Demons

Over the course of modern history, the term 'daemonic' has been significantly altered and transformed into the term 'demonic'.

The complex, mercurial nature of the daemonic realm has been successfully reworked in the popular imagination into something terrifying and wholly bad.

This re-imagining of the daemonic is a serious perversion of its original and true nature.

The main difference between the daemonic and the demonic then is the pejorative taint attached to the latter term. Daemons have literally been demonized: first by the Church, and then by science.

Depth psychology (Carl Jung, James Hillman) preserved something of the original daemonic realm in the form of the Jungian archetypes and the concept of personal inner daemons that drive creativity (kind of like a muse, only more relentless).

Depth psychology instead made the polarization of the daemonic an inner/outer affair. Demons were neither good nor bad but they resided inside the personality: they were defined as psychological phenomena without physical substance. This too is a significant departure from the original meaning.

Are Daemons/Demons Real?

Yes. Yes they are. But you have to expand your understanding of reality in order to accommodate them, and you also have to let go of the need for total personal control, and embrace instead the notion that personal transformation is a major part of life, that tranformation is ongoing and unavoidable, and a that it is a worthy goal and one of the great joys and adventures of being a creature.

Until that happens on a grand cultural scale, the daemons/demons are likely to haunt and scare us, and scientists are likely to keep turning up their noses at them and laughing.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Who Says God Doesn't Have a Sense of Humor?

I've been frazzled and frustrated lately over several intractable 'problems' that I think I'm going to just let go as I seem to have no clue how to fix them. The other night I asked the Univerise, God, the ghost of Elvis, anyone really who might have some bright ideas... for a sign.

The next day, even though I hadn't told him I did this, my BF showed me the photo above online.

He thought it was funny.

I do too.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Can Intelligent Entities Move In and Out of the Dreams of Others?

Lucid dreaming is usually defined as the ability to maintain waking consciousness during a dream or to be able to control and direct one's own dreams.

In Carlos Castaneda's Don Juan series, the Mexican shaman Don Juan is always trying to teach the narrator to dream lucidly by reminding him to look at his hands.

Night after night Castaneda goes to bed intent on remembering to look at his hands in his dreams, and night after night forgets to look at his hands until he wakes up the next morning and realizes he hasn't done it.

The whole point of Don Juan teaching Castaneda to remember to look at his hands while dreaming is so Castaneda can then learn to move between dreaming and waking states freely, and so he can understand that the two realities are not that rigidly separate. Moving from one state to another at will is an important part of shamanic practice.

Learn to look at your hands in your dreams today, fly around in the body of a raven tomorrow.

It's all connected.

That's the idea anyway.

Every so often I have an experience with dreams that is lucid-like but is not exactly the same as what Don Juan was teaching Carlos. It's more passive and a bit unnerving.

What happens is that people and objects seem to move between my dreams and waking reality without any problem, blurring the line that might tell me where they are really from.

I know this sounds weird. But it happens with some regularity, if not all the time or even every week. Jung called this phenomenon 'synchronicity', but sometimes it gets way weirder than synchronicity. I promise to post an example later to illustrate what I'm talking about.

Recently I've been thinking about this a lot, about how our culture is one of the few on earth that insists dreams are 'imaginary' (as in 'not real'), and then goes on to rigidly separate dreams from waking life, discounting the importance of these (often incredibly vivid) experiences.

Some psychologists do interpret dreams, but interpretation is a very different thing from believing in a matter of fact way that the dream reality is as real in its own way as the material reality we all imagine we share while awake.

Psychology lays down a fairly rigid barrier between inner and outer, personal and cultural, material and symbolic. It's a dualistic system of thought. The Ego versus the Dynamic Ground. The personal versus the Archetypes. "Psychological states' versus bodily illnesses. Blah, blah, blah.

What if that whole way of framing it is wrong?

I think maybe it is.

In truth, we don't really have a clue what reality is. If you think I'm overstating that, then you've never taken a single philosophy class--or at least you've never stayed awake all the way through one, which is completely understandable.

What if there are intelligences, alien or earthly, that can move enter dreams and reality at will? Why should this be an impossibility? Shamans claim to do it. Freddy Krueger does it. Maybe all sorts of other being do it.

Maybe we even do it.

I also think some people have thinner boundaries than others in general, and that people with very permeable personal boundaries may well notice more wanderers between states than people who are more rigidly defined.

I think this could explain quite a lot of paranormal perceptions without making any value judgments about thin or thick boundaried people. Some people may just be born this way, just like some people are born good at math, and others have perfect pitch, and others are color blind.

We know some people claim to learn to be this way.

I think that truly "there are more things in heaven and earth" than we know.

I wish we could study them more seriously, without all the ridicule.