Popularly understood as a supernatural entity, a demon is known to be contextualized with the presence of evil. The demon as a character has existed in a broad range of history and its subjects such as religion, occultism, literature, fiction, mythology, and folklore. Other evidence of its existence has been registered in media and popular cultures like comics, video games, movies, anime, and television series.
In most religions, especially the eastern religions and the Abrahamic conventions, a demon or spirit is a harmful spiritual establishment. This entity has been responsible for causing demonic possessions that usually need an exorcism. Ancient Jewish demonology, and medieval Christian demonology, have understood demonic possessions in great detail. It has been comprehended as a critical influence on Christianity and Islam. This essence of demonic spirits originated from a later form of Zoroastrianism, which was later transformed into Judaism during the Persian era.
Especially in Western occultism and Renaissance magic, they have developed out of a mixture of Greco-Roman magic, Jewish Aggadah, and Christian demonology. Understood to be a spiritual entity, a demon can be controlled if the correct process is used.
Researchers have found the existence of demons to be a vital concept for many modern religions and occultist traditions. Still feared primarily because of their alleged power of possession, they are known as a valuable metaphor for specific inner psychological processes popularly known as inner demons. One such example of this is Choronzon, which is Crowley’s interpretation of the so-called “Demon of the Abyss.” This has been regarded as an objectively natural phenomenon by many field theorists.
In the historical text, the original Greek word daimon did not connote any negative influences to be attached to this word. It actually denoted a spirit or divine power. The earliest evidence of the same has been found in Plato’s work, where this entity is described as Socrates’ divine inspiration or muse. Over the course of time, these morally ambivalent daimons were replaced by demons in Christianity. They now came to be known as evil forces ascending in the direction of corruption and negative energy. However, as described now, these demons are not the Greek spirits as understood earlier, but their malicious extensions that stand for the negative counterpart of their ambivalence and nothing else.
Demons in Judaism
Judaism has entertained a spectrum of differing opinions on the existence of demons. This existence or non-existence, so to say, has been debated by various religious philosophers and experts. For example, there is no place for a demon in Hebrew Bible. With no roles assigned to this particular entity, a demon’s existence is conflicted from the very beginning.
It has been said that most Jews have never believed in the existence of demons in order to eliminate the negative qualities they denote. Famous authors, such as Maimonides, have outrightly denied their reality because of their subjective points of view. These demons have been regarded as mere images to which people ascribe divinity. Posek Rabbi David Bar-Hayim has pointed out that even according to their religious text, Jews are not forced to have faith in the existence of shedim. The choice of believing or not believing in them is theirs alone. This choice, however, is based on various social, individual, and emotional factors.
Demons in Hinduism
The Hindu belief system has included various material and nonmaterial forms of evil creatures. Famous examples of such inclusions are Vetalas, Bhutas, and Pishachas. In the literal sense of the word, Rakshasas and Asuras are known as demons in Hindu Mythological studies.
In the earliest known hymns of the Rigveda, Asura was known to be any supernatural spirit that can be good or bad. It has been said that ancient Hinduism believed that Devas (also called suras) and Asuras were half-brothers. Sons of the same father, Kashyapa, Asuras, and suras, were not distinguished based on their negative or positive attributes. It was, in fact, later, during the Puranic age, that Asura and Rakshasa came to be known as a different category depicting anthropomorphic, powerful, and possibly evil beings.
Additionally, there has been an existence of pious and highly enlightened Asuras post-Vedic Hindu scriptures. These Asuras include names such as Prahlada and Vibhishana, both known to have betrayed their respective clans for the greater good.
It is essential to understand that theoretically, Asura is not foundationally against the gods or something they denote. Even though many people have metaphorically interpreted the Asura as manifestations of ignoble passions in the human mind, this is not all that they signify. Historically, there have also been cases of power-hungry Asuras who have challenged numerous gods in order to gain position. Notably, these asuras were always eventually defeated by Gods and were made to seek forgiveness for their sins.
Demons in Christianity
Traditionally considered both potentially benevolent or malevolent, daimons are now understood as exclusively evil entities because Origen argued against Celsus. Origen postulated that most evil demons are situated underground and are known for increasing corruption and evil in one’s soul.
Other than the fallen angels from Christian scriptures, there has been said to be a presence of Greek daemons, like nature spirits and giants. These spirits inhabit nature and nourish from pagan sacrifices. There is no foundational difference between the underworld spirits and the earth since they have both fallen from perfection into the material world.
The most powerful of all demons are known to attack the mind of people using their supernatural skills of “imaginative action” that produce mind illusions. At the same time, the lowest demons are almost mindless and gross. The lowest rung of demons is said to cause diseases, fatal accidents, and animalistic behavior or even give out false oracles.
Demons in Islam
The usual term for demons in Islamic belief is Shaitan. Shaitans are meant to try and lead humans astray from God by tempting them to sin or cause mischief. Islam has a solid tradition of conjuring demons from unlawful Occult practices that require acts against God’s laws. Demons consist of both devils (shaytan) and the fiends (div), who work as slaves for Solomon (who is widely believed to be the ruler of demons). While devils represent a Judeo-Christian background, the div originates from Persian and Indian beliefs. However, in Islam, both angels and demons are considered God’s creatures, and thus God has the ultimate power over them.