An especially challenging feature of the angelic group is its moral ambivalence. The angels of light who are the messengers of God's will are well delineated, but what about the powers of darkness that may lead us to hatred, chaos, and ultimate destruction? These are the demonic spirits that also work in the vast cosmic realm. In biblical times, the existence and power of these elements was largely taken for granted. In the Gospels, Jesus is frequently portrayed in the role of casting out devils, so that people with physical and mental ailments might be healed. It must be frankly admitted, however, that the precise nature of the individual's complaint often eludes diagnosis. Yet Jesus himself had no doubt that in some instances the person's illness was directly related to a demonic attack - so much so that he commissioned his disciples to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and drive out demons (Matthew 10.8). We now believe that the leprosy of biblical times was a congeries of different skin diseases, while "the dead" were much more often in a state of spiritual darkness than at the end of their bodily life - there were only three resurrection miracles attributed to Jesus himself, those of Jairus' daughter, the widow of Nain's son, and Lazarus, a small collection when compared with his healing work among the living.
Nowadays, demonic spirits - no less than their shining angelic counterparts - have fallen under severe prohibition, and not without good reason. We now acknowledge that physical disease follows a basic disturbance of function consequent on such clear cut factors as infection, malnutrition, impaired blood supply, nervous dysfunction or malignancy, to name only a few common causes. Once these conditions are properly treated (a situation becoming increasingly more possible year by year as medical knowledge advances), there may be a return to a previous state of health.
In the record of Jesus' healing practice, there are only three references to demonic affliction causing a frankly bodily disorder: the dumb man of Matthew 9.32-3, the dumb and blind man of Matthew 12.22, and the epileptic boy of Mark 9.14-29, with parallel accounts in Matthew and Luke. While one should avoid being dogmatic, I personally suspect that any demonic influence in the first two cases was merely a coincidental factor affecting a person who already had a physical disorder. Epilepsy is known to be a result of a periodic disturbance of function of part of the brain, and can usually be controlled with anticonvulsant drugs. These may put an end to the fits without necessarily abolishing the fundamental disturbance; indeed, a patient is often advised to continue taking medication indefinitely lest the fits recur. I have little difficulty in accepting that a demonic attack may precipitate a fit in a predisposed person, but if Jesus did in fact effect a complete cure, he did something more that merely deliver a demonic spirit to God's care.
The bulk of Jesus' copious healing miracles were the result of an enormous energy, or power, that seemed to pour out from his person. This is in fact the Holy Spirit, which is the medium of all healing, and works in those with a special gift - irrespective of their belief system. However, whereas a person who is purely psychically based is very liable to fall victim to an egotistical or gnostic domination (believing that occult knowledge can lead to salvation from the world's ills), the truly spiritual person, one who offers their gift to God as a sacrifice for the sake of all creation, will rise ever more gloriously in the knowledge of the Most High and his angels. When one studies Jesus remarkable healing power, one can hardly fail to see that he was the source of an enormous emission of the Holy Spirit; and I believe that the angels of light are closely involved in such profoundly transforming remedial work. If the demonic spirits have a typical manifestation, and this is especially obvious to psychically sensitive people, it lies in the production of an unaccountably unpleasant atmosphere. This may infest a particular locality, or be present around an unfortunate victim. Yet all this can easily be put down to coincidence, or even a simple misreading of the situation. Did not Job himself remind his wife, right at the beginning of his own agony, that if we accept the good things of God, we must also be prepared to face evil from him also (Job 2.9-1O)! Admittedly, the patience of that noble man began to run out as the pain increased in magnitude and showed no signs of remitting; but in the end he grasped something about the wonder of the creation and organization of the world that he had previously taken for granted. Its wonder had almost entirely escaped him - a situation that we too confront when our pleasant little world is harshly cut away from under our feet by misfortune, and we are obliged to inspect our existence with the realism of an aware adult. In the Job story, misfortune was indeed produced by Satan, the adversary, but under the aegis of God, the creator of Job and Satan alike. In fact, Satan, or the devil (the accuser in the context of law-court procedure), does not figure very often in the Old Testament canon, and although he is a figure of malice and hatred, he still works as one of God's servants, as part of the heavenly court - so well portrayed in Job 1.6-12 and 2.1-7.
In addition, Satan occurs in three other places in the Old Testament: Psalm 109.6 ("Put up some rogue to denounce him, an accuser to confront him"), 1 Chronicles 21.1 ("Now Satan, setting himself up against Israel, incited David to make a census of the people"), and Zechariah 3.1-2 ("Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, with Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. The angel said to Satan, "The Lord silence you, Satan! May the Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, silence you! Is not this man a brand snatched from the fire?""). It is interesting that the corresponding passage to the one in 1 Chronicles - namely 2 Samuel 24.1 - blames God directly for inciting David to make the census. At that stage of Israelite history, all phenomena were attributed to God, since "secondary causes" were not recognized. The Books of Samuel and Kings reached their final form just before the time of the Babylonian exile, at the beginning of the sixth century before Christ, whereas the Books of Chronicles were probably written, with Ezra and Nehemiah, during the third century before Christ. By this time, Satan the Accuser was clearly a much more malicious figure.
Another passage of interest in our investigation into the origin and properties of the dark angels is found in Isaiah 14.12-17:
Bright morning star, how you have fallen from heaven, thrown to earth, prostrate among the nations! You thought to yourself: "I shall scale the heavens to set my throne high above the mighty stars; I shall take my seat on the mountain where the gods assemble in the far recesses of the north. I shall ascend beyond the towering clouds and make myself like the Most High!" Instead you are brought down to Sheol into the depths of the abyss. Those who see you stare at you, reflecting as they gaze: "Is this the man who shook the earth, who made kingdoms quake, who turned the world into a desert and laid its cities in ruins, who never set his prisoners free?"
The morning star, also called Lucifer, was identified by the Fathers of the Church as the prince of the demons. In this passage he was symbolized and represented by a pagan tyrant, probably as Assyrians such as Sargon II or Sennacherib, and supplemented in the period of the exile by a king of Babylon, who would have been Nebuchadnezzar or Nabonidus. This passage is the farthest we may stretch for a biblical allusion to the myth of the fall of the angels under the self-centred arrogance of a very powerful archangel whom we call Lucifer - possibly Satan and the devil are aspects of this perverse creature. A rather similar passage, but less explicit, is spoken against the King of Tyre in Ezekiel 28.11-19. In each of these instances, the fall of a vicious tyrant is compared with the fall of the angels, but here the comparison ends: the tyrants disappear except in the annals of history, while the fallen angels remain extremely powerful in producing havoc.
Demons, which are usually synonymous with the devil, or devils, assume the form of a serpent in the story of the Fall in Genesis 3. This is also the case in Isaiah 27.1: "On that day the Lord with his cruel sword, his mighty and powerful sword, will punish Leviathan, that twisting sea serpent, that writhing serpent Leviathan; he will slay the monster of the deep." The Book of Leviticus contains interesting references to demons; in Leviticus 7.17 we read that the people are no longer to offer their slaughtered beasts to the demons whom they wantonly follow, a commandment blatantly disregarded by the renegade King of Israel, Jeroboam, who appointed "his own priests for the shrines, for the demons, and for the calves which he had made" (2 Chronicles 11.15). These last two were of course merely idols. Of decidedly greater interest is a reference to Azazel in Leviticus 16.8-10 with regard to a primitive atonement ritual. The priest had to cast lots over two chosen he-goats, one to be for God and the other for Azazel; the goat on which the lot for the Lord had fallen was to be dealt with as a purification-offering, but the goat on which the lot for Azazel had fallen was to be made to stand alive before the Lord, for expiation to be made over it, before it was driven away into the wilderness to Azazel - who appears, according to ancient Hebrew and Canaanite belief, to have been a demon who lived in the desert. This is the barren region where God does not exert his life-giving activity The goat is dedicated to Azazel, not sacrificed to him, and it then bears away the sins of the people to his desert haunts.
The demonic element is clearly not a common feature of the Old Testament, and often gives the impression of being a theological artifice rather than a living being. By contrast, the demons plays a considerable part in the New Testament. They appear thirty-five times in the New Testament, of which fifteen are Gospel entries. They are much less theological hypotheses, and much more active entities. The probable reason for this different approach and emphasis is a general growth of understanding, and the extreme psychic sensitivity of Jesus and his brilliance as an exorcist. In other words, the demonic spirits were as prevalent in the time of the Old Testament as subsequently, but the general run of the people and their ministers were oblivious of their baneful influence on the history of the people before the great exile to Babylon. Perhaps even the notable prophets were impervious to demonic activity. My own experience in the field has shown me that while many people may be demonically assailed, they have only a very blurred idea that all is not well. Fully aware ministers of deliverance are rare individuals; their value cannot be over-emphasized, but their sufferings can be quite terrible, for their sensitivity puts them in the front-line of demonic assault - especially when they are actively involved in their specialized work. The general incredulity of their peers does not lessen their burden - though when things in life go seriously wrong, an increasing number of people gravitate to such ministers for assistance.
As I have already indicated, the demonic spirit shows itself by its capacity to assail the mental and emotional equilibrium of its victim. This it does in two ways: first, by affecting the psyche directly - perhaps by producing a state bordering on clinical depression in a previously stable person, or by accentuating and complicating the symptoms of one who is already mentally ill; and secondly, by precipitating a never ending sequence of misfortunes. Such misfortunes tend to aggravate the emotional affliction, which in turn exposes the individual to more misfortune. In the great majority of instances, the spirit does not actually possess, or take over, the personality of its victim, but it either infests it at close contact, or else attacks it from a distance (as far as one can use the language of space in a relationship that is psychic, and therefore beyond time and space as we understand these terms on an earthly level). The more intense the infestation, the more severe are the mental and emotional effects, whereas demonic attacks somewhat removed from the person lead to variable mental and emotional distress and the tendency for things to go wrong on an unprecedented scale. I have yet to encounter a frankly possessed person, but what is described by those who have had this experience is a complete intolerance to Christian conversation or the presence of Christian religious symbols, and a tendency to fall into a trance-like state when blessed or prayed for. In this state, the voice may be abnormal and the language may be one unknown to the person in their normal state (this is called xenoglossia). When confronted by the minister, there may be a show of supernatural strength, and there may also be extraordinary powers of clairvoyance - such that the person is able to recount accurately events happening at a distance in time or space completely unknown to them.
In the more usual work with infested or attacked people, the physical response to ministry is usually minimal, but occasionally there may be a dramatic outburst or a falling to the ground with a rapid restoration of equilibrium. However, the lack of a severe physical reaction may be psychically transferred to the minister, who is attacked not so much at the time of deliverance (except in particularly vicious cases), but later on. Bedtime is a period of great vulnerability to demonic activity; when the minister of deliverance is asleep, the unconscious lies enticingly open to invasions of all kinds. Freud called dreams the "royal road to the unconscious", but this process can also be assailed by extraneous material that Freud may not have been prepared to acknowledge as psychic invasion from a demonic source. The more open-minded Jung would probably have been more sympathetic to this possibility. When one is demonically attacked in this way, one awakens as from a nightmare that exposes a dread with which the conscious mind would normally be able to cope quite easily. At this point, one's world shakes under a stark feeling of the futility of all things and the awful awareness of extinction of everything when one dies; normally there would at least be a little hope, but now all is enveloped in darkness. In a completely unprotected person, the state could progress rapidly to panic attacks or even a mounting depression.
The minister of deliverance must know how to cut short this assault at once by commanding the demonic spirit to leave the individual and the whole earthbound plane. The spirit is not simply allowed to drift around aimlessly, but is sent directly to God's care for protection and healing. When one is awakened in the early hours of the morning in this state of terror, a personal deliverance effects a speedy relief, and then one can eventually return to sleep. Yet the attack may occur later on; if one is about to awaken for the day's work, it is still necessary to perform a personal deliverance, and then rest even for a brief spell; if not, a most unpleasant aura of unease may permeate one's daily work, which could do quite a measure of harm.
In all that I have written, I speak from strictly personal experience. It is a rule that if one is attempting to do good work, one is sure to be especially assailed by demonic forces. It is essential for the minister of deliverance to be supported by the prayers of many concerned people; and if he or she can work in close collaboration with someone else, so much the better. Such a person should, in my experience, have a strong Christian faith and be acutely sensitive psychically. A combination like this is not as common as it ought to be, largely because of the prejudice many Christians still harbour against anything that goes by the name "psychic".
How, though, does one know that there is a demonic spirit causing trouble The answer is that one senses it by the reaction it produces in one emotionally. Discernment of spirits is among St Paul's list of gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12.10), though the context here is the ability to distinguish true spirits from false, rather than knowing that a demonic spirit is present in a locality. Discernment is seen in the context of Old Testament prophecy - for instance, Elijah and the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18.21-40); Micaiah discerning the lying spirit in the mouths of the prophets counselling the wicked King Ahab to fight against the Aramaeans (1 Kings 22.13-28); and especially the dramatic encounter between Jeremiah and Hananiah, the false prophet, that occupies the twenty-eighth chapter of the Book of Jeremiah. If one has this gift of discernment, one simply knows that things are not what they appear; on the whole, women are more acute psychically than are men, and this applies to the discernment of demonic spirits also. I was fortunate enough to work in close collaboration with such a gifted woman until her death at a very advanced age; I now have to do the work on my own, but I strongly believe her spirit helps me both in discernment and in dangerous deliverance situations. In the end, it is God alone who is one's guardian and help, so that a dedicated prayer life is mandatory both for one's own protection and for the success of the work. I have no doubt that a clear conscience is a great asset in the deliverance ministry, for then one's mind is not distracted by any feeling of inadequacy. No one, however, is morally perfect; furthermore we are all subject to prejudice against certain types of people, no matter how vigorously we may deny this on a conscious level.
For this reason, some impersonal means of confirming one's suspicions of demonic attack is in my opinion essential. I personally use the tossing of a previously blessed coin as my means of confirming both my inner spiritual diagnosis, and for ascertaining whether my deliverance ministry has been successfully completed. The head of the coin I take as positive and the tail as negative. I need hardly add that one should do this work of discernment only in a condition of rapt prayer; the Lord's Prayer is always the focus of my attention, since I cannot imagine any more perfect prayer than this. But one must be able to address God as directly as one would one's most intimate friend, and the mind should not wander. All this takes years of assiduous practice, simple as it may sound in print. Some readers may argue that the use of a physical object smacks of divination; yet it must be remembered that the use of lots is mentioned throughout the Bible - a good New Testament example is the choice of Matthias to replace Judas Iscariot, so that he might be elected an apostle with the other eleven (Acts 1.23-6). It is not the means that are important, but the motivation behind their use. If they are used selfishly, they will reap a harvest of destruction; but if used altruistically, there is no reason why they too cannot be incorporated into the divine purpose. God is, after all, the master of all creation.
In any such test as I have described, there is always the danger of interference, such that a false answer is given. If what is shown goes counter to one's deeper intuition, one must challenge in the name of Jesus Christ. Sometimes a number of tests have to be made before one is relatively sure of the truth of the answer provided. As in all work on a psychic level, mischievous incursion is inevitably a problem; but if there is a truly spiritual oversight, the correct directive will be provided. In my own experience, I have been gratified how often the answer has been clearly right in terms of the healing produced by the deliverance work. Yet as in all other activities in our mysterious universe, there is no one final infallible answer, and errors are part of our way of growth into deeper knowledge and truth. If anything can be relied on, it is the spirit of love, for this is closest to God, whom we may only know through his uncreated, outflowing energies, of which the angels are an important part if we accept more mystical view of their genesis.
Secondly, what predisposes an individual to demonic attack? This again can be answered only on a relatively superficial external level. Those who meddle thoughtlessly with psychic things, such as an impious incursion into the occult dimension, are obvious candidates for attack. The interdictions against sorcery and necromancy found in the Bible (Leviticus 19.31 and Deuteronomy 18.10-11 are standard texts) are a sensible precaution against this danger; in addition, they prevent an intermediate entity usurping the function and very person of God in the eyes of an ignorant person. In a rather similar way, the same kind of misgiving applies to the practitioners of magic, which may be defined as the invocation of angelic or demonic spirits for essentially self-determined ends: "black" magic, which invokes the demonic group, is clearly evil, but even "white" magic, which invokes angels or personal spirits, is not without its adverse side. Though many white magicians are well intentioned (believing that they are working for the good of nature as well as their fellow humans, and not in an attitude of ruthless domination), their individualistic interference in the workings of nature brings them into contact with demonic spirits as part of the price they pay for their arrogance. By contrast, the world's higher religions are more closely linked to God, however he may be conceived (remembering that whatever one says about God is untrue, as Meister Eckhart exclaimed), and so there is at least some humility and a tendency to pray contemplatively rather than to command; to listen rather that to assert oneself. In all this, we can see the great difference between the psychic dimension and the spiritual one.
People with some types of mental illness are also in my experience liable to demonic attack. Sufferers of schizophrenia appear to be especially prone to attack, but sometimes it is an intractable depression that makes one vulnerable. Not infrequently, an efficient deliverance ministry has a rapidly impressive effect in ameliorating suffering without curing the fundamental disorder of the brain, probably a chemical disturbance. Therefore the fundamental condition is not a result of demonic attack, but rather some dysfunction of the brain. This must be stressed, because some enthusiastic exorcists believe that their ministrations can totally cure mental illness, so that further medical treatment is unnecessary. When there is a recurrence of the illness, the patient may then feel guilty that they have "let in" another demonic spirit - even to the extent of delaying a consultation with their doctor until they are seriously ill. It is evident that a close collaboration between psychiatrists on the one hand and ministers of deliverance on the other would be distinctly helpful to a number of mentally ill people; but there would have to be humility and a willingness to learn on the part of both practitioners. Those people who believe that they are spiritually "advanced" can be just as intolerant as some members of the scientific fraternity!
The manifestation of demonic spirits can vary from a severe mental and emotional attack to something that is quite subtle and subjective; people around the afflicted individual are aware that all is not well, but cannot understand what is wrong. Unlike a mentally deranged person, both the personality and the cognitive (knowing) and affective (feeling) functions of the mind are intact. There is no delusion of persecution, such as is found in paranoid individuals (apart of the schizophrenic illness in some cases). The demonically attacked person simply cannot bear the atmosphere both within and around them, with many being quite articulate about the cause of the trouble. If they are dismissed as mentally ill, they can indeed proceed to a depressive state that will not remit until a deliverance ministry is performed.
Unquiet spirits of the dead, also called earthbound spirits, may produce physical phenomena in the environment that can terrify the person who experiences them. Quite often these phenomena, such as audible footsteps, interference with the electricity supply, and mischievous turning on of taps to name but a few, are essentially SOS signals by the unquiet spirit who is seeking release into the greater world of God's love, but is held back by feelings of guilt or fear. A typical instance of this came to my attention some twenty years ago when I started work in my present parish. A young woman was experiencing physical phenomena in her newly purchased flat, and she called on my help as her parish priest. Both of us were acutely psychic, and it became clear that the spirit was that of a notorious murderer who had been executed some thirty years earlier and who had worked in the neighbourhood. He could not accept God's unconditional forgiveness, after having paid the supreme penalty for his crime, and was immobilized by guilt. I gave in a solution at once, something I do routinely to unquiet spirits if I am shown that they require it, and the spirit was immediately released. At once, the flat became quiet an orderly. I mention the effects of the unquiet "dead" simply to contrast their presence with those of demonic spirits. The effects of unquiet spirits are sometimes not unlike the common poltergeist that arises from misdirected sexual energy, usually emanating from adolescent boys and girls, which is converted into psychic energy. Sometimes unquiet spirits can also produce an atmosphere of unhappiness both in the local environment and in the person directly involved, but there is little of the more profound mental and emotional distress so often found with demonic infestation or attack.
Another factor to be noted here is that demonic spirits do not seem to possess the idioplastic qualities of the bright angels. They do not appear in a visible form such as the winged figures or the indistinguishable human agents often encountered as angelic apparitions. However, as we noted in the last chapter, it is conceivable that the encounters with spacefolk who supposedly abduct their victims (and even cohabit with them to give birth to children - who have not as yet been produced for general scrutiny!), may be an aspect of demonic materialization. In Chapter 3, the Letter of Jude was mentioned in respect of angels who were not content to maintain the dominion assigned to them, but abandoned their proper dwelling-place (verse 6). According to Genesis 6.1-4, the angels lusted after women of the earth, and children were born to them. It was this sin that precipitated the story of Noah and the Flood. Is this contemporary belief a realization of an ancient myth, or is it pure psychopathology in emotionally disturbed people with a strong imagination and a degree of psychic Sensitivity? Certainly, one would need much more concrete evidence before the abduction accounts could be taken seriously. Whatever we may think of this matter, we should never lose sight of the fact of God's providence for all his creatures, dark as well as light. As St Thomas Aquinas writes in his Summa Theologia, "God loves all existing things".
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