Demons in the Wild, Part 1
The world only makes sense if you understand how demons operate and why God allows it
Until last week, the scariest book I ever read was The Amityville Horror.
Someone gave it to me as a Christmas present in 1977. I was in seventh grade. My sister married just before Christmas, and the post-nuptials drew all the drinking-age people from our house almost every night between Christmas and New Years. That left me alone in our big, 100-year-old frame home every evening. So, I read The Amityville Horror.
Two nights I cried. Tears of fright. I turned on all the lights and sat where I could see every possible entrance to the room. I sat in the living room with the curtains open so neighbors might witness my attack from evil spirits and call the police—or Monsignor Sullivan. And I kept our trusty German Shepherd, Holly, close by. When she tried to find a cool spot in the foyer to sleep, I roused her to come play the rough-house games my mom forbade.
That entire week, and for many weeks after, I could not sit in a chair for fear that icy fingers were working their way up the back to seize my throat. Terrifying stuff.
But I’m reading a book, now, that’s far more terrifying. And for completely different reasons.
Dominion: The Nature of Diabolic Warfare
Dominion is the latest work by Father Chad Ripperger, a renowned exorcist, psychologist, and demonologist. The book is scarier than The Amityville Horror or any other “scary” book or movie.
You might think Dominion scares me because I’m afraid of demons, but I’m not. I’m afraid of myself. Dominion is terrifying because Fr. Ripperger’s exacting explanations of diabolic nature remind me of my own nature. I have more in common with demons than with angels or saints. And that is terrifying.
I take solace in the fact that I do not want to be like a demon, and I beg God to save me from my devilish tendencies. I pray, not that I might be stronger, but that I might be weaker so that His strength might work through me. I know there’s nothing I can do to save myself except to shrink so He might grow inside me. Still, I know myself well enough to know I will substitute my judgment for His on a whim. Like a fallen angel.
What’s even more concerning when reading Dominion is the clear influence demons have on our society. From Black Lives Matter to Antifa to pro-abortion fanatics to everyone with Trump derangement syndrome, the face of America is demonic.
Let’s look at some of aspects of demonic nature as described by Fr. Ripperger.
Spirit vs. Material
First, demons are pure spirit. They never had a body and never will, though they can act upon material objects, including human bodies. Their spirit-nature means they have no physical appetites or senses like humans. And, because human emotions are actually mental approximations of physical experiences, demons (and angels) lack human emotions. (When observed in fMRI, the brain of someone depressed over a romantic break-up is indistinguishable from the brain of someone who just had scalding coffee poured on them.1)
But angels and demons do experience what we would call pain. They do suffer. They suffer when their will conflicts with their intellect. They suffer more intensely than we do precisely because they lack bodies. When corporeal beings (you and me) experience conflict between our will and our intellect, it almost always has to do with physical will. We will to have sex with someone. We will to eat everything that looks appealing. We will to turn off the alarm and stay in bed.
Few people learn enough or think hard enough to experience a spiritual conflict between the will and the intellect. This occurs when we recognize reality but wish it were otherwise, especially about the nature of things or the future.
We know intellectually that if we don’t pay the gas bill, the gas company will shut off the gas. We know we have enough money to pay the bill. But we don’t feel like paying it. We wish gas were free.
We don’t demand free gas. We’re not communists. Our reason says that gas is a commodity that I can use only by the sweat of someone else’s brow and the risk of someone else’s money. Therefore, to enjoy the benefits of gas, I must compensate those who invested in the drill, dug the hole, capture the gas, laid the pipes, and pushed the gas to my house.
And, yet, we still wish it were otherwise. We wish gas were just magic. We wish we could wish the water hot or the food cooked or the room warm and it would be so. “Why should I have to write a check to the gas company?” Again, we accept the reality but we wish it were otherwise. Our gripe is not with the gas company, but with reality itself.
Perhaps a more common example is the loss of a child. A rational person who loses a child knows intellectually that the child cannot be restored to life. But that knowledge does not stop the parent from wishing things were otherwise. We still wish the laws of nature were different. We would not take a dead child’s remains to a shaman who promised to restore the child’s life. We know the result would be, at best, a demon-infused corpse. But we suffer for the conflict between our will (restore the child’s life) and our intellect (dead children cannot be reanimated).
Speaking first hand, I can tell you that the conflict over a dead child does not elicit physical symptoms the way grief does. The suffering is far deeper and has no physical manifestation aside from, perhaps, a furrowed brow as one concentrates on the perfection of the conflict. I perfectly want my daughter back, and I perfectly know my desire will not be satisfied. I am perfectly injured by the reality that my will does not conform to my intellect.
Pain and Suffering Are a Demon’s Reality
Reading Dominion, I come to the conclusion that the pain demons suffer is like that of the reluctant gas customer or the grieving parent, but on an infinitely larger scale. Because I have a body, my will is imperfect in that it has no effect unless I act. By “act” I mean thinking or doing, acting either mentally or physically. But angels and demons have no bodies, so their will and their “acts” are synomyous. They have no neurons or limbs to move, so their will is perfect. Their will is their act. And, because the act causes the effect, their will is the effect. This is why demons, having once chosen to disobey God, can never change their minds. They have no minds to change. Their will (to disobey) is perfect, and once willed the act is already done. And done forever.
That’s the first thing one must understand about demons (and angels): their will is their act. The second thing is equally important and leads me to the conclusion that the world, especially in the United States, is becoming more demonic.