Question: are evil spirits the ghosts of dead God-haters?

[Date: Dec/2005]

Two parts:

First, someone asked a great question about the origin of evil spirts:

The Scriptures speak of evil spirits provoking people in various ways; sickness, fortune telling, etc. What/who do you believe these evil spirits are?

I replied with:

"now, concerning that which you wrote about..." (1 Cor 7.1, smile)

At the biblical data level, we know practically nothing about these spirits. [The most succinct, textbook-tone, account is the old textbook "Angels: Elect and Evil" by C. Fred Dickason. Conservative, anti-speculative, but at least comprehensive of the biblical data]

1. They have the same 'reporting relationship' to Satan as do the evil angels ('commands demons by the Prince of demons').

2. They have some kind of supernatural information-network, but they are not omniscient ("Jesus I know, and Paul I have HEARD OF...")

3. They have the ability to produce extreme energy for their host, somewhat beyond what NORMAL 'supra-human' capabilities are known to have reached (e.g., the mom lifting the car to save the baby kinda thing-- beyond 'normal', but less than 'demonic'). They have the same kind of downward-causation that OUR spirits have on OUR bodies.

4. Their symptoms can range from the bizarre-looking (traditional image) Exorcist-type possession, to simple ordinary religiosity (c.f. the man in the Jewish synagogue who had a demon).

5. They only are 'at rest' when indwelling a living mammal(?)...this MIGHT contrast with fallen angels (the only one of which we encounter--other than Satan--in the scripture is only described vaguely in the conflict of Gabriel in Daniel). All good angels do not 'indwell' others, but the evil prince who fought with Gab COULD HAVE BEEN a demon-in-a-king, but we don't know. if not--if the evil angel in this case has its own 'angelic body' like the GOOD ones seem to do, then this is the only biblical distinction I can find between bad angels and demons--the absence or presence of an 'angelic body' to host in.

6. It is unclear how 'intelligent' they are in the NT. They need a host, but they try to kill people (via drowning, etc)?? [This matches a couple of extra-biblical data points in which some demons seem to be really stupid, see below] They follow Paul and tell those observing that they explain the way of salvation???

7. They are under the belief that Jesus will eventually cast them into the Abyss and actually are sane and self-centered enough to humble themselves to the point of asking Him for postponement of that fate---?

8. Apart from this NT data, we only have the 'different' references to sacrifices to demons (Paul, the idols; The OT--the 'goat demons' in the wilderness, etc), but these seem to be false-gods (presumably, fallen angels manipulating local religious beliefs toward themselves and away from the Life-giver).

Now, theologically, we can speculate upon this basis, but we don't get very far.

1. All attempts to account for their origins as dead humans, pre-flood giants, animal spirits or pan-psychic forces of nature just don't get anywhere

2. They end up looking like 'angels without bodies'

Psychologically, they end up looking like beyond-the-edge cases of alternate personalities. (I have an article on this, obviously, on the Existence of Spirits on the Tank--goes into SOME of the detail), but they are differentiated by the presence of knowledge presumably unattainable by the host otherwise.)

Extra-biblically, there are a couple of data points:

1. All religions of the world are aware of these entities!!!!

2. In most of these religions the entities are evil, but in a good number of them they are morally ambivalent. They need feeding/caring and leave you alone if you meet their needs (they are often associated with spirits of the 'needy dead' in these situations). Sometimes they offer 'benefits' in exchange for loyalty (e.g., knowledge of herbs, chaos on enemies).

3. They seem to speak in poetry (from some cases in China and the UK)

4. But they are sometimes seemingly very stupid (e.g. pretending to be Satan, and alternating between the 1st and 3rd persons???--but perhaps that is a mode of angelic discourse anyway, a la the Angel of YHWH in the trinitarian data of the OT)? they MAY be so smart as to trying to 'decoy us' or getting us to drop our guard.

5. It is not clear if they have ANY fortune-telling ability (I the slave girl in Acts) or merely can CREATE those predicted futures.

My own take on these creatures is this (mixture of theology/speculation, tending toward the rabid...):

1. They were originally angels-with-angel-'bodies' but fell in the rebellion of the past (Genesis 6--the demon possessed Kings, and the violence in the earth).

2. They 'left their habitation' or 'abandoned their sphere of authority' (in heaven, a la Jude/2Pet) and came to earth to possess human bodies--in a Satan-led power grab, perhaps to experience OUR kind of sensory 'escape'(?). This would entail that they gave up their 'angelic bodies' to indwell humans.

3. The ring-leaders of the rebellion (except Satan) were cast into the abyss (Jude/2Pet again)

4. All the other spirits lost their hosts in the Flood, but were not consigned to the abyss yet--so they continue to need hosts (now that they cannot get their old 'angelic' bodies back).

5. The reference Jesus makes to them 'going through arid places, seeking rest' I personally associate (speculatively) as being a reference to the liquid-character of spirit. In their original state, their bodies would have been REPLETE with the presence of the God the Spirit. And, indwelling a human with a spirit made in God's image, perhaps there is some 'effect' of that spirit on them. I have reflected on Jesus' remarks (and OT images too) about the Spirit of God as 'living water' and 'water that quenches thirst forever', and I interpret this as possibly being the reason for the reference to 'aridness' when the spirit is NOT in a body. The only 'glimmer of moisture' available to them is the 'natural spirit' present in air-breathing, warm-blooded animals. They cannot stand in the presence of God anymore--it would vaporize them from the intensity of holiness--even ASSUMING they could make themselves approach. For the same reason, I don't personally believe that they can 'indwell' (in the NT sense) a believer with the Holy Spirit--the closeness to the 'liquid' would be appealing, but not when it is scalding hot from holiness! So, their only shot at SOME RELIEF from deep thirst would be in the faint (and morally un-challenging) spirits of 'normal' humans/beasts. [This might also be the point of Jesus' description of the morally-reformed guy (natural spirit 'cleaned up a bit', and therefore more 'liquid' to the touch?) who the demon finds 'cleaned and swept' and who then takes 7 more demons with him.,..]

6. They are STILL destined to end up at the Abyss with the 'ring leaders' (who possessed the pre-flood kings), as is clear from the interaction with Jesus, but--as is His nature--He is delaying the judgment on them as long as He can. He does, however, invoke priorities of care over THEIR condition--in freeing SOME human sufferers who were under their authority. No demons are homeless--especially if you can fit many, many into one soul.

7. There are still 'regular' EVIL ANGELS (IMO) in some version of their original bodies, since they seem to have authority over some aspects of the nations (powers and principalities kinda thing). Perhaps they rebelled as did Satan and the pre-demons, but --like Satan--were not interested in indwelling little humans... perhaps their arrogance and elitism was more 'attractive' to them than wallowing with humans in orgies, politics, and beer-busts. Evil has many faces: sensory hedonism and vandal/violence , seem so different from self-satisfied anti-God elitism, but they are equally malignant.

8. They are still operative against believers, and under the authority of Satan (Paul's 'thorn in the flesh', 'messenger of Satan'), but i don't personally believe evil can be consistent enough to be PERFECTLY obedient to Satan--I expect there is rebellion within the rebellion, too... evil is recursive, dissipative, and schismatic.

So, that's the best I can come up with-- we aren't given much data, because I suspect we are not supposed to think too much about them with so little data-- we just deal with them as they come up, and focus on Jesus and people in the meantime...

[The interaction between human spirits-as-personalities, human spirits-as-impulses ('spirit of jealously'), and these spirits is VERY complex, and with even less data to work with. Ezekiel said Israel had 'a spirit of harlotry', and the line between a natural evil of the human heart and a demon heart who 'specializes' in exaggerating this jealousy or hatred is blurry indeed. Fun to puzzle over, but not much confidence arises from it, at least not in my mind. We simply run out of categories and precision too early in such discussions about the 'nature' of spirits...similarly with the relationship of individual spirits and 'group spirits', the individual-social poles of our ontology]

[There is an outstanding work I refer to from the Church of England in my article on Spirits. I made a copy of it from interlibrary loan. [X:TH:DPDOI] Deliverance: Psychic Disturbances and Occult Involvement. Michael Perry (ed). SPCK:1987. . It has a WEALTH of hard extra-biblical data on poltergeists, place-memories, etc. Awesome---[wow, I just checked and they sell it at Amazon---there are more reference materials in my Existence of Spirit piece, and you can see the quotes I use as to which might give more useful data.]

Well, it's terse, filled with typos, but that's my two-cents worth, friend-- hope it is of SOME value to you/yours,

still in His hands, by His grace, awaiting His face--gm


They asked a follow-on question:

thank you so much for so much work. I really appreciate it, I know how busy you are.

i wonder, however, about the possibility of evil spirits being fallen angels, because 2 Peter 2:4 says "...God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment;..."

and just my own speculative thoughts I wondered (because of this verse) if evil spirits could be dead humans who chose to hate Jesus...thinking about the heinous, horrible, even unspeakable crimes humans have committed against each other... I think they would be seriously, even supernaturally furious to learn they were wrong and all the Christians they made fun of were right...they would definitely want revenge...

what do you think?

I replied:

The short answer is a theological one:

(a) One of the purposes of human death to eliminate the power of the evil oppressor over the (less-evil) 'innocents'. We DEPEND on God to isolate these treacherous, good-haters from hurting the living any more, and death-as-judgment was SUPPOSED to remove them from the assembly, to remove them from the possibility of hurting us ANY MORE. This principle would be seriously overturned, and God's 'excision' of the wicked seriously negated, if the WORST among them were allowed to possess/harass/torment us FURTHER!

(b) All pictures of death for the wicked in the bible have them either isolated from the living and from the good (a la Luke 16) or powerless in Hades--as the cruel Babylonian warlords are so taunted by those they vanquished in life [Is 14.3ff] The picture is one of the LOSS of power to do damage. The old "on that very day his thoughts come to nothing" (Ps 146.4).

This is NOT to say that some souls might leave behind residues, in the forms of 'place memories' , apparitions, etc [see that book i referenced], but this would not be their actual SPIRITS there.

[And the passage in 2 peter is generally understood to be in reference only to those angels involved in Genesis 6, but this can only be shown by looking at the extra-biblical traditions he/Jude are referring to in that/those passage(s). For all the little we know, angels might be becoming demons every day, as evil finally obliterates their metaphysical 'structure'?]

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