What is Demonology?
When we think of demons, we think of evil supernatural beings acting with free will to cause harm, suffering, disease, and death to humans. They can do so by tempting the person through vice, sex, greed, envy, or entering the person's body and taking possession of it to cause physical or mental illness. We often assume that these evil spirits are associated with or under the command of the devil, Satan, lucifer or whatever you want to call him. Many do not believe in such a literal concept of demons in our modern world but use the term as a useful metaphor to explain why we sometimes fall into temptation, act with impaired judgment, or feel depressed. In older cultures, people believed that demons possessed people and caused disease, blindness, epilepsy, and mental things. Nowadays, we already have modern science and medicine to explain many of these anomalies; we do not call an exorcist or recite a "magic spell" to eliminate the fever or a toothache that we could suffer. However, we still recognize that much of our lives are out of control. Bad things happen it could be a cancer diagnosis, the sudden death of a loved one, a lost job, a catastrophic natural disaster, and so on. Maybe we gave up or made a wrong decision without thinking things through or, perhaps, it was just bad luck, a nasty streak, we were in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong person. Still, many believe that the system is fair that good people get rewards while evil people get punished. That if we follow the rules, we will be fine. However, we cannot go to that persistent anxiety that haunts us in our unawareness that sometimes bad things happen to good people. And if things go wrong, we could be one step short of ruin.
The responsibility for these events is often giving to supernatural beings who live by doing evil. These beliefs gave way to various stories or myths throughout history and which, depending on their gender, are cataloged within multiple theologies. In this blog, we want to investigate what is known as demonology.
The way people think about evil changes as cultures develop. However, most cultures have some "personification of evil", be it real or imagined; beings and ideas like the devil and his army of demons fit into this category perfectly. The term demonology is a general term used to study how cultures try to explain the malicious forces that actively seem to try to harm them and try to protect themselves from those influences. This term is almost entirely based on cultural influences. Let's see some components of what demonology studies:
A personification of evil (or Satanology): we think of the personification of evil as the devil or Satan, but this has numerous names in different cultures that create the idea that corruption or chaos in this world has an identity; you could call this Satanology, Although if we talk about the devil, it is better to do it taking it for what it is, as a component within the Hebrew mythology that plays an essential role in a type of Judaism, the apocalyptic Judaism that evolved around the year 200 BC and that It influenced the primitive Christian movement, the development of art, culture and literature in the Middle Ages and that shape a significant point of reference in the cultural evolution of humanity. We could also talk about the witch trials in cycles 14 to cycle 17.
Folklore and Magic: Virtually every culture has stories of unexplained events like haunted houses, vengeful spirits, spooky places, ghosts, and other legends about demons and monsters. Many have developed local beliefs about how to protect or get rid of these entities. We call magic charms, amulets and rituals that are used to protect against these nefarious entities. Although this may not be related to demons today at first glance, it was one of the most significant pillars that helped build the demonology as such.
Cultural Studies (Influences): Without an adversary or opponent, a story is devoid of tension and drama. The devil, demons and monsters have played that role in many of our modern stories. Dante wrote the nine circles of Hell in his epic poem Hell. Milton vividly reimagined the fall of Lucifer and the Rebel Angels in his epic poem Paradise Lost. The Faust legend's popular myths, including the tragedy The Faust by the German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, published in two parts, in 1808 and 1832. Goethe describe how a man can make a pact with the devil for worldly gains in exchange for his soul. All three are works of fiction, but arguably they have influenced modern ideas about Hell and the devil more than the bible. This kind of influence for the more modern cultures makes the beliefs in these myths continue, in some way, alive in the cultures of the present.
Theological rhetorical analysis: Satanic and demonic terminology is rooted in all Christian theologies and is the most popular; we can say that it is already part of widespread knowledge. Rhetoric is a language that someone uses to, among other things, persuade people to believe him more than others. When we analyze a theological argument, we look at what claims someone is making, what evidence they are using to support their claims, and how convincing their overall statement is. Since the first century when the protagonist of Christian history and the first followers of him lived, we find stark rhetoric that makes us believe that different people work for Satan, especially those who wanted to differentiate their teachings from others satanic rhetoric used against other groups. For example, Revelation 13 speaks about Roman emperor Nero in terms of the "beasts" that Satan has given power. This type of rhetoric is compelling and has been used to wage holy wars, put suspected witches to death, drive scientific thinkers out of the church, and perpetuate fear of strangers or others who hold beliefs different from those of predominantly Christian communities.
Medieval demonology and witchcraft: the origin of demonology dates to the 13th and 14th centuries. During the witch persecutions, several books on witchcraft and demonology were published, including the Malus Maleficarum (the hammer of the witches) of the inquisitor Henry Institor (Heinrich Kramer) in 1486. Reginald Scot's the Discovery of Witchcraft in 1584 and Deamonologie (demonology) of King James the Sixth of Scotland in 1597. Satanic theological rhetoric was accentuated when Martin Luther published his 95 theses in 1517 and began the Protestant Reformation. Now we have various internal Christian groups like Orthodox Catholics versus Protestants, referring to those they disagree with as "satanic." Thus, the Christians were made to persecute those outsiders who they believed were practicing witchcraft, who were also labelled as Satan followers. In this period of history, the term and all that it represents is modernized to reach all those who differed from the divine philosophy of the time.
Occultism and Western Esoteric Traditions: This is the academic term for studying the different groups of esoteric traditions that developed alongside the Enlightenment Renaissance. It is a rediscovery of ancient and medieval sources of natural magic and Hermetic philosophy, usually from Greek, Egyptian and Eastern sources, which created a different spiritualism sense. These views were not at odds with the Western Christian mainstream, and they were considered demonic, which is why they tended to flourish in underground movements. Here are Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa's hidden philosophies, John's divine magic, and the Solomonic traditions of the golden dawn. The practice was known as "Solomon" because they believed that King Solomon could order demons to help him build the first temple in Jerusalem, among many others. These differences in the definition of spirituality that arose in different cultures were also rooted in demonology.
So, the term "Demonology" means different things depending on the time and the culture, but the underlying issues tend to do the same. People want to protect themselves from evil or get rid of it, or perhaps gain some control over it in the case of magic. As such, demonology is an interdisciplinary study of these diverse groups of people throughout history and the history and culture of these various groups. Currently, demonology is the branch of theology responsible for classifying, explaining and trying to know different entities that obtain the title of demons only, leaving old interpretations that were related to magic, occultism and mythologies outside of Hebrew, Jewish or Christian. True or not, demonology is part of current popular culture and is not something recent.