Monday, October 24, 2011

Devils and Demons

     Throughout religion, good and evil are 'at war'. 'Fallen angel', Satan, demon - these terms all stand in as the metaphor for the worst characteristics that each one of us, as human beings, possesses. The devil and demons (evil) are the enemy of God (good) and humankind.
St. Anthony Plagued by Demons

     The presentation of the 'devil' can take different forms. In Zoroastrianism,  Angra Mainyu is the destructive, evil counterforce of  the force of 'good', Ahura Mazda. 'Mara', the devil-personification in Buddhism, tempts Gautama Buddha with beautiful women. In Hinduism,there are the 'asuras' that cause evil to occur. 
     Christianity's devil is a single entity, a 'fallen angel', named Satan, LuciferBeelzebub (the name of a Philistine god) along with a troupe of other fallen, the 'demons'.
     In Islam, the devil is called 'Iblis', created by God out of smokeless fire along with his lessers, the 'jinn'. Surprisingly different from the other Abrahamic religions, Judaism does not have a specific 'devil' character such as Satan or Iblis, just as there is no 'hell' in Judaism but rather a place of (temporary) purgatory (Gehenna).
Lucifer Expelled from Heaven

     In ancient Egypt, Set(h) was the evil 'stand-in' for the devil (see blog: A Story of Brothers).
     Demons were recognized in Mesopotamia, called 'shedu' (storm demons); in pre-Islamic Arabia 'jinn' (adopted by Islam).
     In ancient Israel there were 2 types of demon, the 'se irim' and the 'shedi' (which could cause 'demonic possession').
     In popular Islamic culture, "Shaytan" is often translated as "the Devil," but the term can refer to any of the jinn who disobeyed God and followed IblÄ«sShaytan and his minions are "whisperers," who whisper into the chests of men and women, urging them to commit sin.

     Some Christian theology claims that demons are the evil spirit product of sexual relations between fallen angels and human women. 
     But not all devils are bad. For the Yazidi of Northern Iraq,  'Malek Taus' is Satan, known as the 'peacock angel' the fallen angel who is worshipped and will, one day, be redeemed.
     All these are surely metaphorical stories that play well with many people but mean to say that 'good' and 'evil' reside in each one of us.
Malek Taus
The Peacock Angel


     *Religious belief: subject of research for the novel  The Tao of the Thirteenth God - Amazon Kindle.

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