Saturday, January 12, 2013

Galipeau on Approaching the World of Demons


by Steven A. Galipeau

As we try to understand the gospel stories in which Jesus casts out demons, it is helpful to remember the resemblance between Jesus and healing shamans. To Jesus, illness is often the work of demons. The healing process unfolds when a particular demon, or sometimes more than one, is driven out of a person. This may be perplexing to modern ears, but it is unfair to the gospel record and to other healing traditions to merely write it off as primitive thinking. Depth psychology in particular helps us see that early people did not have an inferior way of evaluating human nature, health, and illness. Rather, western culture has lost its ability to see a spiritual world consisting of both helpful and not-so-helpful spirits and demons.

Let us put it another way. Today children are closer to inner reality than most adults. When the sun goes down and darkness sets in, the world of demons and monsters comes alive for children. They peer from outside windows, they hide in the closets, under the bed, up in the attic, and down in the cellar. During the day these places contain the usual paraphernalia as any adult will gladly point out. Yet conversations with many adults indicate that when night falls even they experience fears and imaginative wanderings that normally do not arise during the day.

We can distinguish between daytime thinking and nighttime thinking. Ours is primarily a daytime-thinking culture. We like to see life as we know it when the sun is shining and the world can be seen objectively. If we, or our children run across the inhabitants of the night, we like to say it is “only” our imagination. We turn on a light to show our children (and ourselves) that there are only shoes and clothes in the closet, nothing else. We rely on daytime thinking. When it fails us, which is often the case, we lock our outside doors, clothes closets, attics, and cellars, and keep our feet from touching the floor around the bed until dawn the next day. It is in the daylight world that we excel, that we are productive and at home.

We are not at home in the nighttime world. Our attempts to contact the world of spirits compare feebly to those of shamans and religious figures of earlier cultures. Their myths and rituals describe nighttime reality at length. They are so at home in this world that they have even named its inhabitants. The figures of ancient Greek mythology and the Kachinas of the Zuni Pueblo Indians of New Mexico and Arizona are good examples; helpful spirits aid healing and enhance human life, while unclean spirits bring illness and restrict life. Our “night life” is inferior, and as long as we tell ourselves and our children that our demons are not really there, or that they are “only in our imaginations,” it will remain so.

The idea of an inner world is very helpful in this regard. For in nighttime thinking it is this inner world that we experience. The characters that come from within us at night have their own life and their own stories. If we know their stories as depicted in myth and ritual, we are better able to know where our own lives are unfolding, and whether it is in a healing direction. The creative imagination can help enormously in bringing these inner realities into focus. We can become much more conscious of our inner dynamics and of how God might be moving within us.

The psychology of C.G. Jung goes a long way in explaining our nighttime world. In his life, as well as his psychological work, Jung spoke of how important it is to find the images behind our feelings and emotions. In these images Jung perceived common patterns and motifs that he called archetypal patterns. They are found not only in the inner life of modern people, but in ancient myths and rituals. The characters are gods, spirits, and demons of earlier times. More ancient people, including Jesus, believed it possible for individuals to be possessed by demons. The goal of the healer was to free the person from such influence and put him in touch with the spirit of healing.

In Jung’s psychology, a person comes under the influence of a particular complex that prevents the full unfolding of the personality. A man or woman may suffer from a mother complex, for example. Such a person lives by the values of his mother, and his feeling life resides in her psychology. He becomes ill, physically or psychologically, when this influence becomes so strong that other parts of the personality suffer. For healing to take place, the mother complex must be integrated, a process in which the psychotherapist can help. When at length a balance begins to come forth, the strain on the body is lessened.

Discernment in this inner world comes only with experience. Often inner figures that seem threatening at first are bringing healing, while those that seem good can be opposed both to healing and to God.

An example is the angel Lucifer, or “lightbearer,” who thought he could do a better job than God. Someone can be said to be possessed by Lucifer when, in the name of light, he claims to know the divine order of things in the face of solid evidence to the contrary. This demon plays on our human tendency to want to have life our own way. The stronger it becomes, the less likely it is that a person will hear God’s voice. Similarly, such a demon preys on the part of a person that likes to be cared for, stroked, and to be the center of attention. Very likely, such a person would carry on an “if” relationship with God—something like, “If things go my way and life is comfortable for me, I will believe in you.” Ironically, such a person invites discomfort and even illness: as we shall see, this is often the only way God can get our attention and help us see that we might have a demon.

Jung’s work bridges shamanism and western thought by taking shamanism seriously and demonstrating that a relationship to the vast inner world—the collective unconscious, in his phrase—is crucial to one’s health. Jung describes this inner world and its archetypal patterns in clear, modern language. For him experience is the key to understanding the inner life. He invites those in search of healing, or of God, to encounter this world through their personal experience.

Jesus was at home in the realm of demons, in nighttime reality. It was natural for him to talk about them in the course of his healing work. This is one reason why he taught that unless we are like little children, we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven (Mt 18:1-5). Children are close to the nighttime world; unless adults can maintain this same relationship, they will lose touch with the inner kingdom of heaven.

One reason Jesus was so at home in the night world had to do with the Judaism of his day. In the Jewish cycle of life, each day began at sunset, the time of darkness, and ended with the time of daylight. One lived first in night life and then in day life. The creation story in the book of Genesis begins in darkness. From darkness comes light. The Jewish calendar and all its feast days were based on the moon and determined by its cycles. Generally the moon can only be seen at night. Thus the ancient Hebrews, like most primitive peoples, were especially adept at looking into life at night.

From very early in its history, Christianity adopted the Roman calendar and began to base its year on the sun rather than the moon. The old lunar calendar was traded in for a solar one. This change symbolized the transition in consciousness that has permeated western culture. Modern science has benefited, but the type of healing ministry found in the gospels has suffered greatly. At times the Christian mystical tradition has pointed back toward the inner world and the mysterious ways of darkness: John of the Cross is noted for his sixteenth century work The Dark Night of the Soul. But such mystics are the exception.

Most modern Christians practice their religion along the lines of daytime consciousness. Whereas the Jews held their family meals and religious services beginning with dusk and the coming of night, most of today’s Christian services are daytime events. Those in the evening are held then for the practical reason of attendance rather than for any spiritual purpose. There are two exceptions. One is the Christmas Eve service, which, for a number of denominations, is the principal service of Christmas. Here is a great Christian service centered in the time of darkness. Its timing, though, is rooted in the ancient non-Christian winter solstice ceremonies rather than in early Christian practice. Still, it affords Christians an opportunity to come into some general contact with the spiritual mysteries of darkness and the night.

More recently here in the west there has been a movement to restore the great vigil of Easter on Easter eve. This does not call forth the popular response of Christmas, but there does appear to be growing interest in many churches. In very early Christianity the Easter vigil was the central service of the year. Following Jewish practice, it actually began with the setting of the sun on Saturday, lasting through the night until dawn the next day. For the early church the full mystery of Easter, the central event of Christian belief, was experienced as the time of darkness finally moved into the time of light. During this great service all baptisms were performed, and those baptized received the eucharist for the first time. The resurrection took place at night! At dawn the tomb was empty; Jesus was already risen.

This celebration of the great vigil of Easter continues in eastern Christianity. Westerners often have trouble becoming accustomed to an Easter service at night; many who attend a vigil service feel they have not been to church on Easter and return the following day for a daytime service. Certainly this inclination is largely due to custom. However, it is also due to our having become almost exclusively a daytime culture, out of touch with the side of spiritual reality that lies within nature’s cycle of darkness. Consequently we lack access to an important area of spiritual wisdom.

Nighttime thinking allows us to approach the world of demons. In his healing, Jesus used the same approach. Transforming Body & Soul: Therapeutic Wisdom in the Gospel Healing Stories examines his healing work more closely.


Steven Galipeau is a Jungian analyst in private practice in Calabasas, California and President and Executive Director of Coldwater Counseling Center in Studio City. A member of the C.G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles, he teaches in the analyst training program and lectures regularly in public programs on a wide variety of topics related to Jungian psychology. Steve is also the author of The Journey of Luke Skywalker: An Analysis of Modern Myth and Symbol.
Fisher King Press publishes an eclectic mix of worthy books including  Jungian Psychological Perspectives, Cutting-Edge Fiction, Poetry,  and a growing list of alternative titles.  www.fisherkingpress.com

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