We've all heard people use phrases like:
"What possessed you to do that?"
and / or
"The devil made me do it."
These phrases bring us to a basic yes or no question:
Do demons really exist?
The answer is not simple, and before we can even begin to answer it, we must understand the definition of the word demon.
Dictionary definitions of demon:
1. A demon is a supposed evil spirit
2. A demon is a personal fear or anxiety that torments someone
So … which is it? Do you believe that a demon is a supposed evil spirit? Do you think a demon is a personal anxiety that torments someone? Or do you think it’s both?
By choosing the definition you agree with, you acknowledge that demons do in fact exist.
Yes, demons do exist.
Now, we might disagree on the precise definition, but we agree on the existence.
Stereotypically, there are two schools of thought regarding demons. Religious and secular.
If you’re religious or spiritual to some extent, you probably believe demons are evil spirits that whisper in your ear, toy with your emotions, or to an extreme, possess your mind.
According to psychiatrist and born-again Christian, M. Scott Peck, “the distinction between ‘human evil’ and ‘demonic evil’ is crucial” (1)
And according to an article in Psychology Today, “The Roman Catholic Church’s official diagnostic criteria for discerning genuine demonic possession … includes speaking in tongues … supernatural physical strength, and visibly negative reactions of the victim to prayers.” (1)
However, secular psychiatrists will argue that many of these symptoms can be “seen in the most severely [mentally] disturbed patients.” (1)
For example, some of you might remember the Andrea Yates case from 2001. She claimed that she was possessed by Satan himself and he compelled her to drown her five children. “In her second trial, Yates was found not guilty by reason of insanity…” (2) Was her demon a personal anxiety that tormented her? Did she suffer from a mental illness such as postpartum depression? Schizophrenia? Or was she possessed by an evil spirit?
If you lean more to the secular side, one that’s not as concerned with religious aspects, then you probably agree more with the psychiatrists who explain that these so called demons are actually your own inner fears and anxieties that have not been dealt with properly.
Dr. Leon Seltzer wrote, “If you’re tightly ‘in the grip’ of something, it’s really a recessive part of your own being that’s ensnared you and it’s probably a part so foreign to how you’d prefer to see yourself that you can hardly withstand the temptation to see it as not really you at all.” (3) Dr. Seltzer continued, “The consensus of mental health professionals today is that the source of most—though certainly not all—so-called ‘evil’ thoughts and behaviors is linked to growing up in a seriously dysfunctional family.” (4)
Either way – religious or secular – an evil spirit or an unresolved personal anxiety – a demon can torment and endanger your sanity.
And the bottom line is: Yes, demons do exist.
[This post is part of a series leading up to the release of my novel, UNLOCKED, which will be published later this year by Merit Press. I extensively researched mental illness and demons for the plot. Feel free to join the conversation in the comments, because I find this topic highly fascinating!]
1) https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evil-deeds/201201/the-devil-inside-psychotherapy-exorcism-and-demonic-possession (page 7)
2) https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evil-deeds/201201/the-devil-inside-psychotherapy-exorcism-and-demonic-possession (page 8)
3) https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolution-the-self/201506/enough-about-inner-demons-already (page 2)
4) https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolution-the-self/201506/enough-about-inner-demons-already (page 3)
5) Credit for bottom photo: http://www.uv.es/cultura/c/docs/exppinacotecapsiquiatrica09cast.htm