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Friday, 7 January 2011

Cellar deep inside the earth...

I'm totally fascinated by so called 'satanic rumour panic'!

Once upon a time demons were a way of dealing with the randomness of events: of disease, floods and earthquakes. A demon was a local thing, and a name for a cause; and their function -sociologically speaking-was to make the meaningless, meaningful. A demon rarely represented pure evil, its actions could be malevolent, but the entity blamed for the events was rarely totally intractable or overwhelming.

Sometimes demons could be persuaded to become protectors, oath bound to help rather than hinder; most of the time the appearance of some guy in special robes, burning special herbs and chanting special words would be enough to deal with the situation.

It is possible that the nature of the job (of exorcist and priest) changed when writing became a common skill. Once demons were named in books, it was no longer necessary for the demon to be named via a more cooperative process: conversation and actions based on nothing more substantial than guesswork and empathy. The priest or shaman working before there were written lists of demons and their natures, had to use intuition alone to give the afflicted what ever they needed to hear.

Books created 'experts' and standard ways of dealing with.

The contemporary vision of demons and the demonic has its roots in a specific myth: the end-of-the-world myth. The Great Battle. Good Vs Bad. Armageddon and Ragnarok. But this does not explain why demons stopped being imagined as a kind of paranormal 'antisocial behaviour' and became instead a symptom of catastrophic disorder about to overwhelm the earth; all humanity swept away by a tide of chaos...until god steps in and divides the sheep from the goats.

I see it as a commodification process; religions had a product to sell and demons are interesting: control, promised by official books, seems useful. Fear sells.

In the 21st century the myth of the great-battle functions as an organising principal in two main ways. In the world of fundamentalist Christianity anything a bit odd is a sign of end-times; and secondly in the world of 'social work' thought crime, gateway experiences and algorithms predict and forewarn of dangerous behaviour. A myth drags in and organises random events. A myth appears to explain the inner core of what is going on..

In both systems there is a fear of if the forces of chaos exert an attraction that will inevitably subvert the normal into the pathological.

The best example of this myth is the dystopian zombie hoard; god is a very long way away and may sound like a distant helicopter.

Freud took the energy of the Great-Battle/End-Of-The-World myth and re-visioned the demons as forces of the mind, the repressed selfish and un-socialised primal mind. These unconscious desires he called the id. In Freudian myth, the id is always looking for ways to overwhelming the conscious mind and to operate in the real-world. Freud really had seen the gates of hell swing open -a totally man made event known as world war one- But Freud didn't see any myth, only confirmation that his basic theory was correct. Thus the demons of of the id, like the local 'demons' of the past became -via books something considerably worse than a way to name and handle random madness.

The myth of the great battle predicts that demons are a symptom of the devil. Therefore, like the good Christian the social worker needs to be on the look out for gateway crimes and signs..that indicate a potential for something worse.

The essential difference between the demonolgy of the past and of today (psychology and Christianity) is how demons fit in. In the past demons had a location, as Gods had locations. There was a link between place and 'ghost'. Now demons are a class of 'alien' being. They 'intrude' from elsewhere.

When demons were considered a 'local phenomenon they were more likely seen as a part of a functional system; a part of the 'natural order' of things. Unusual events were a sign of something, but not necessarily of catastrophe.

This idea of demons as a part of this world, either as bound to a place or psychologically as messengers of inner tensions, corresponds to the Jungian view. For Jung 'demonic' symptoms of inner tension are to be read as a message aiding integration and growth...I'm thinking now of the the exploding table and the shattered bread knife...

What has all this to do with The Book Of Persephone?
Not much, I have to admit.

The Demeter/Persephone myth was linked to Eleusis; no where else was quite so much The Place of  Persephone's return. That emphasis on real-world-place is an archaic way of thinking, or pre-literate. Eleusis isn't a symbol of Persephone's return.

It is the place where it happens...