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Exorcisms: Catholic and Tibetan

Disclaimer: This work has been completed as an educational tool for students of history, religious and paranormal studies. The author wishes to discourage any use of this work in conjunction with paranormal field investigations of demons.

Presented by Kyle T. Cobb, Jr. to the audience of Dragon-Con 2014

Nos tibi credere.

A  Literary History

Eastern Demons

In contrast to the Western experiences with demons, in the eastern world, Demons frequently hold a more physical form.

While the Hindi religion, like the western concepts, has the idea of Nirakara (nir-A-KAY-ra) which is the Sanskrit word for "formless, incorporeal". Fundamentally this is the idea that the "godhead" is beyond the realm of physical existence. As it applies to demons, it is the assertion that some kinds of demons are without bodies or physical form. The Nirakara can influence that which has form (sakara) and can be forced out but cannot be destroyed.

However, the vast majority of demons in the Hindi world hold physical form. This precedent is established in the story of Mahishasura.

According to the Hindu religions, the buffalo Demon Mahishasura was granted the gift from the god Brahma that no male could kill him. Using his new power, Mahisha led an army against the gods and defeated them. Upset at their defeat, the gods' anger created the goddess Durga. Using all the different gods weapons Durga was sent to kill Mahisha. After a long battle, Durga eventually cut off the head of Mahisha and as a result Durga became the gods' protector.

In the Mahabharata, it is the hero Bhima that fights the Rakshasa. Living in the jungle and dining on travelers, these demons make the mistake of letting one of their females scout the traveling party of Bhima. The demoness falls in love with Bhima and warns him of the Rakshasa. The demons attack but the forwarned humans are prepared and defeat them.

As an illustration of how demonic concepts have been transferred across religions, Rakshasa eventually are found in the Theravada Buddhist literature where they harass and threaten Buddha. Eventually they debate Buddha and decide to follow him. Even in Japan, the Rakshasa demons turn up in the form of the Rasetsu.

In Tibet, the bdud are the demons that that cause personal and historic decay. They may arrive in a village as an invisible rider on the back over a traveler as a Grul-dzul.  They may be an invisible Sri demons that has escaped the Gurung underworld. No matter the case, these invisible creatures have a physical body and can be trapped or destroyed.

Even in Japanese legend, the demons have physical presence as Oni.

So that leaves a demonologist with a problem in defining a demon.

The Christian definition and the Eastern definition of demons have a fundamental difference: corporeal bodies.

Ignoring that fact for a moment, what clear parallels are there?

 A demon has not previously been a human.

 A demon must have outward manifestation beyond the explainable abilities of an associated host.

 A demon is assumed to be of limited power and therefore at a lower level than a primary deity.

Both Eastern and Western demonic traditions attribute mental and physical illness to demons. This has been the case at least as long as Sumerian times. As medicine has progressed, many of these formerly demonic maladies can now be attributed to bacteria, germs, viruses and genetics.

So for now, in addition to ignoring the corporeal question, we will assume that:

 A demon (or subject under the influence of a demon) is not exhibiting normal symptoms of a scientifically definable physical or mental disease.

So based on these defining points, what is the test to determine if a demon is present?

There are 5 generally accepted characteristics that must be met for a demon to be present:

 Will

o The demon must express a distinct will outside of its host and exercise that will.

 Promise of a demon to return or harm the host.

 Emotion

o A demon will react to emotional stimuli or threats to itself that would not ordinarily harm the host.

 For example reaction to the threat of exorcism or banishment

 Intellect

o Display of knowledge beyond a natural source of the host

 Self-Awareness

o The claim that the personality is unique and distinct from the host’s personality.

 Speech

o Literature is filled with cases of the supposed demon speaking through its host and having a distinctly different personality or vocal pattern. This includes speaking languages unknown to the host.

So moving forward, we are going to loosely assume these criteria work to form a definition.

Christian Charge

From the Christian perspective, the followers of Christ have been charged with the removal of demons.

In Mark 6:7 followers of Jesus are specifically granted power over unclean spirits.

Mark 6:7

Aramaic Bible in Plain English

And he called his twelve and he began to send them two by two and he gave them authority over vile spirits to cast them out.


The one key element that is infused into the ritual by followers of Jesus is that they do it in his name.

Mark 9:38-41

Aramaic Bible in Plain English

Yohannan said to him, “Rabbi, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him because he did not go out with us.” Yeshua said to them, “Do not forbid him, for there is no man who does a powerful work in my name and can soon speak badly about me.” “Whoever therefore is not against you is for you.” But everyone who will give you only a cup of water to drink in the name that you are one who belongs to The Messiah, amen, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”


This replicates the Sumerian and Quabbalic formulas of invoking a superior power to command a weaker one.

The Christian New Testament has a number of references to demons. One of the great confusions, however, is the number of divergent translations. If we assume that the early Greek versions of the New Testament are the closest to the original text, then there are 3 distinct terms used to describe spirits:

 Demon

 Unclean spirit

 Evil spirit

The term demon is derived from the Greek “daimonion” (δαιμόνιον). This is the neuter singular form of the adjective “daimonius”. Though it is an adjective, in the early versions of Greek Biblical text it is used as a noun.

While the word daimonius is clearly related to the word Daimon (δαίμων), the usage in Biblical text clearly defines a difference. When compared to traditional Greek text, the distinction becomes a little clearer.

In the classic Greek organization of religions, the divine universe was divided into 3 hierarchies:

Therefore if the classical application of the terminology is applied to the biblical use, a Daimon would be some form of devil/earth-bound angel and a Daimonions is distinctly something different.

The word Daimon only appears once in the bible in Matthew 8:31 while the term Daimonion is found at least 60 times.

The term unclean spirit πνεῦμα ἀκάθαρτον (pneuma akathartos ) is used about 20 times in Luke , Acts and Revelations.

The third term, Evil Spirits πνευμάτων πονηρῶν (pneumatōn ponērōn), is used 6 times in Luke and Acts.

While generally speaking the three terms for demons are used interchangeably, curiously there is one use of two of these terms combined in Luke 4:33 where there is mention of a “spirit of an unclean demon.”  πνεῦμα  δαιμονίου ἀκαθάρτου (pneuma daimoniou akathartou). The subtle inference here could be that all demons are not unclean.

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Exorcisms 3