Demonology: Or, How to Summon Demons in your Mom’s Basement

            I’ve been studying magick and witchcraft for more than a few years now, and just graduated with my BA in Religious Studies, so I tend to muck about in the spiritual realm with some frequency. As a not too surprising result of this, I tend to bump shoulders with folks on the darker parts of the astral plane more often than most. I figure if we’re going to talk about Angels from the context of magickal work, as I have in videos on Banishing, I would be remiss to leave out our friends from the infernal realms as well!  And so we find ourselves studying demons.
            It should be noted that demonology is not “The study of summoning demons in your moms basement.” What demonology is is simply the study of the aspects of demons. And just like in my past post, if we hold the thesis of Crowley as true, that spirits correspond to an act of the brain, demonology is really about studying ourselves and our psyches.
            If we look at A Greek-English Lexicon, originally published in 1843 and now on its ninth revised edition, we find that the word Demon actually comes from the Greek word first used by Plato, Daimon, which means something similar to “Fate” or Destiny”.[1] As time went on it got morphed to mean a “Deity” a “Genius,” or a “tutelary spirit”. One might think of a Daimon as one’s highest, truest potential. It’s easy to see how it could be used as a word for a God.
            This is far cry from the modern understanding of the word as something nefarious, evil, and out to destroy the light from the world. Never the less, the word evolved at the advent of Christianity to mean something more sinister.
            This actually probably transpired as a result of the Greek Bible. Take for instance Deuteronomy 32:17, a passage that talks about why the heathen Gods were inferior to the OG God Yahweh.  It reads, “They sacrificed to demons [the word used is δαιμονίοις referring to the definition of the demon as a “God”] and not to God- to gods in whom they did not known: new and newly made gods have come, in whom knew not their fathers.”[2]
            There are also about 74 other uses of the word throughout the New Testament, depending on what edition you’re reading.[3] Thus, all Gods who were not God, became demons (which is later sometimes translated as Devils, as in the King James Bible), and the word Daimon, which had meant spiritual teachers, ones higher genius, or Gods themselves, became restricted to some evil, lesser thing. But the advent of the word is certainly not the first time we interact with these sorts of entities considered evil.
            In fact, demons were causing mischief long before the advent of Christianity. There are tons of pre-Christian texts that detail incantations, spells and amulet construction recipes for warding off negative spirits. In Jewish folklore alone there is a pantheon of modern-day demon-like beings that run amok all the time. We can look to the well known Lilith the first wife of Adam, as well as her children the Lillin, who apparently kill babies in their cribs by draining their life force and doing other unpleasant things. The Dybbuk as well, who in traditional Jewish folklore are not technically demons in the sense that they are a God or from some plane other than our own; rather, they are the dislocated souls of the dead who as sinners cling to life afraid of the Truth. This being said, they can still stick to you (the word Dybbuk has been translated as, “stick” or”cling”) and possess your body which can result in strange and unpleasant experiences like bouts of hysteria, and symptoms that look like psychosis.[4]
            Curiously in the Babylonian Talmud noted in a section attributed to Abba Benjamin, “If the eye would be granted permission to see, no creature would be able to stand in the face of the demons that surround it.” There are tons of other references to demons, as well as references to potions and things one could take by which to see demons incarnate. So clearly the early Jewish folks put some serious stock into the proposition of Demons.[5]
            Weirdly though, there’s actually not a lot in the Old Testament or in the Babylonian Talmud about what to do with these beings or where they come from. There’s some mention about how God is actually in charge of all spirits in the book of Job (Job 1-2) so even if a “lying spirit” goes out and screws everything up, it’s only with divine consent, but other than that, things are surprisingly sparse.
            But I digress. The point I’m trying to make is that demons have been around in some form or another for quite a while, but demonology doesn’t get hot on the scene until we skip forward a few hundred years to the 15th and 16th centuries which heralded a massive occult revival based on Hellenistic pagan, cabbalistic Jewish and Christian thought. Folks like Marsilio Ficino and Cornelius Agrippa began to publish their works on magic throughout Europe and the study of demons. 300 or so years after Aquinas had published the Summa Theologiae and outlined how he understood the celestial hierarchy, so naturally, there had to come onto the scene a boatload of writings detailing the infernal hierarchies.
            The reason this took so long seems to be that this time facillitated a growth in the view that pagan Gods and spirits, as well as Christian demons, could impact the world outside of the purview of God. If, like previous Christian theologians had thoughtm it was all God’s creation, there was no room for such entities to be mucking about. But by the time Aquinas had introduced the concept of natural law and the study of it through natural philosophy, the doors had come open for a study of phenomena including, types of spiritual energy, levels of the soul and, drum roll please….The pagan Gods; the same Gods which the Christian theologians had hitherto denied the validity of.
            Hierarchies then became a really big thing.
            One of particular note in these infernal hierarchies is The Testament of Solomon, a pseudepigraphical work purportedly penned by King Solomon himself.[6] The text describes how there are these 72 demons but King Solomons incredible magical knowledge and a Holy ring he acquired by building a wicked awesome temple; employed the powers of the heavens to routinely route demons and force them into servitude to more holy aims. This text, and the later Keys of Solomon, which details how to summon and control those same spirits, heavily factored into the magical revival of the time and demons were back on the scene in a big way.[7] We’ll actually come back to this later, but I want to give a bit of a fuller history first.
            All the sudden, the 16th century was here and the world came alive with demons. Classification systems and other publications were found all throughout Europe
            Henry Cornelius Agrippa, arguably one of the most important folks in the occult revival, published his De occulta Philosophia in 1509, which detailed quite a few systems of demonic classification, but they would take too long to list here.
            G.F. Pico Published Examen Vaniotatis Doctrinae Gentium in 1573 where he attacked all forms of magic and superstition as demonic because they recalled the pagan Gods. The Gods that were not God. The demons. He particularly focuses on the works of the prisci theologia (The Ancient Theology), which asserted more less that one current could express itself in different forms, ie God could be expressing through other Gods. Pico disagreed vehemently and saw consorting with these energies the Prisca magi saw as expressions of God, as expressly evil.
            Peter Binsfelds published The Princes of Hell in 1589 and gave a classification of demonic hierarchies based on the 7 Deadly sins.
            King James published Daemonologie in 1591, (Bet you didn’t see that coming!) which actually classified demons not based on their rank or names but rather based on the method by which that particular demon caused you harm.[8]
            Sometime around 1609 The Book of Abramelin was published in German which gave extensive lists of spirits, Angels and Demons by means of merging Hellenistic thought with the Jewish cabala.
            In 1613, Sebastien Michaels, a vice-inquisitor in more than one witch trial, wrote a book, Admirable History in which he classifies demons on a Pseudo-Dionysian Hierarchy.[9] Remember Pseudo Dionysius the Areopagite from my Angelology post? He’s back! Sorta, but this time, Demon edition! The Hierarchies are the same, the first including Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones with delightful names like Beelzebub being a prince of the Seraphim just beneath Lucifer, Berith being a prince of the Cherubim, and Astaroth being a prince of the Thrones.
            Then there’s the second hierarchy of the Powers, which included names like Carreau the tempter of men with a hardness of heart and Carnival, the tempter of men with shamelessness. The dominions have Rosier, who tempts you to be promiscuous, and others. Then there were folks like Belias, the prince of Virtues, who tempts men with arrogance.
            Then the last hierarchy of principalities, Archangels, and Angels with other just fantastic names and attributes I’ll leave to you to look up. (You can see why summoning these things in magickal practice to stand against them and understand how their functions play through the mind might be useful work.)
            And so on and so on. Magick began to fade out again in the 18th and 19th centuries as the enlightenment and rational, materialistic empiricism began to take its toll.
            It’s also important to take a second here to remember that at the time we’re talking about, from roughly 1500 to 1630 there was a serious case of witch phobia; similar to the witch hunts in the United States that would come a bit later, but much more widespread. It is estimated that some estimated 50,000 to 60,000 people were burned at the stake for practicing witchcraft.[10] To add even more fuel to the fire, this was all going down during the period of the counter-reformation right after the Christian Church had just shaken itself apart, roughly taking place from the Council of Trent in 1545 to the close of the Thirty Years war in 1648 as well as the multitude of other religious and territorial wars that had broken out all over Europe. The knight’s revolt in the Holy Roman Empire, the Nine years war the German peasant’s war, the Kildare rebellion, the Wars of Kappel in the Old Swiss Confederacy, the Tudors conquest of Ireland, and many, many others.
            So Europe is at war with itself. The great religions of the day were split and were also at war, magical writers were reviving the pagan Gods whom the Christians of all sects called Demons (Though Catholics were more likely to be Magi, as in the case of Agrippa and Giovanni Pico) and basically Europe is going through major changes.
            You’ve got to understand that all of this stuff is coming out of an atmosphere where a lot of these writers can’t even say what they’re talking about for fear of persecution by The Church or the state. I mean it was absolute madness what was going on.
            People like Ficcino and Pomponazzi (another mage at the time) saw this coming and were incredibly hesitant to include any mention of actual practicing magick with the aid angels or demons in their major publications based on the correct assumption that this would lead to a headache down the road, but others didn’t and were unfortunately killed or imprisoned as a result.[11]
            Ficcino is actually strange in this regard and in a way that is worth mentioning. He clearly believed in demons. Or at least he said he did, having professed to two exorcisms in his lifetime as well as writing lesser works about the entities of the celestial realms. Also expressed in his earlier writings are notions that Angels and Demons were planetary beings that could, in fact, impact the soul, even above the spirit. This was an affront to Catholic Orthodoxy. He clearly practiced a form of Neoplatonic Magick by invoking the power of the planets, and the magick he performed, as described by his disciple Diacetto was clearly demonic.[11]
            This attitude stands in contrast to his major published piece, De Triplici Vita during this time where he makes no mention of Angels or Demons, preferring to reference a sort of spiritus mundi, a world spirit, that flows through all things. He argued a fascinating notion that got around the censures of the time where he understood that the planets, the Gods they represented, and their associations could be called up to access that particular part of the spiritus mundi and affect the individuals spirit, (as distinct from the anima mundi, the world soul, and the soul of the individual, which he argued that nothing could control but the one God.) Of course, his detractors thought he was just doing demonic stuff anyway, that his explanation was just a veil for resurrecting old world pagan Theurgy and unifying with energies that were not of God, consorting with demons, etc. Maybe it was, maybe not.
            With all this fun stuff out of the way and understood as the genesis of modern Demonology, we fast-forward a few more centuries to now. Now, after the age of enlightenment, the understanding of the mind brought on by Freud and Jung and Wilson and Wilbur, the innovations of modern magickal practitioners, like Pete Carol, and those in the past 150 or so years, like Crowley and Mathers we are brought back to our understanding of correspondence and how each spirit, Daimon, Demon, or anything else, is reflected in a part of the brain. Thus, working with these spirits can facilitate functionality in that area of the brain. If we work with a demon who’s thing happens to be poetry, we’re going to stimulate that part of the brian. If we work with a demon who’s thing is lusty bedroom time, we’re going to work with that part of the brain. etc. I won’t rehash the whole idea here but if you want to jump back and read the first part of my angelology post to get an idea of what I’m on about.
           This, curiously enough, brings us back to The Testament of Solomon and as a result, the Keys of Solomon sometimes called the Legemeton. The section of import to us is entitled The Goetia.
            Translated into English for the first time by Mathers, founder of the Golden Dawn and Occult scholar, the text deals with the rituals and methods by which Demons may be summoned for particular workings. All in all there are 72 Demons, the number of which seems to be inspired as a reflection of the Sefer Raziels system of Angels.
            It’s worth mentioning that in Crowley’s introduction to the Key of Solomon, in the section, the initiated interpretation of ceremonial Magick, he notes,
“Our ceremonial Magick fines down, then, to a series of minute though of course empirical, physiological experiments, and whoso will carry them through intelligently need not fear the result. I have all the health, and treasure, and logic that I need; I have no time to waste. ‘There is a lion in the way.’ For me, these practices are useless; but for the benefit of others less fortunate I give them to the world…”
            What he’s saying, on a concrete level, that if you follow the rules, you’re just playing small games with your physiology and need not worry about becoming possessed by parts of the spiritus mundi or any Demon or creature or any other thing. But that’s if you follow the rules.  So if you want to start working with these archetypes, to understand what makes them tick, and by virtue what makes you tick, or just want to fully understand what you’re capable of, I highly advocate picking up a copy of The Goetia by M.M. and A.C. It’s one of the finest handbooks on the conjuration of Demons available and an invaluable tool for the armchair magician and the practitioner alike. if you want to stay consistent between Angels and Demons, you could mash the demons of the Goetia with the Angels of the Sefer Raziel and reveal an ENORMOUS mental map of what the human being is capable of experiencing.
            An alternative option is to study the work of Sebastian Michaels and how it relates to the Celestial Hierarchy of Pseudo-Dyonisis and the Summa Theologiae of Aquinas.
            Or you could go light candles and worship Satan in your mom’s basement. Up to you.
Works Referenced:

[2] Deut 32:17
[7] Crowley, Aleister. The Book of the Goetia of Solomon the King. Boleskin, Foyers, Inverness: Society for the Propagation of Religious Truth, 1904.
[8] King James. Daemonologie. A Critical Edition. In Modern English. 2016. pp. 59–90.
[11]Walker, D.P. Spiritual & Demonic Magic from Ficino to Campanella. University Park, Pa: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2003.

Published by Nick

After spending several years studying economics in Washington D.C. Nick, who at the time was a militant atheist, experienced a vision of God. As atheists don't generally cavort with Gods, he figured that he should probably try to understand what the hell had happened to him. He has since spent the majority of his adult life studying religion. After the better part of a decade engaged in self-study, Nick graduated with a degree in Religious Studies from Naropa University in 2017. He's spends most of his free time involved with the great traditions of our time, doing his best to peel back layers of religious symbolism in order to get at the practical psychological teachings beneath the surface. Nick writes on matters of magick, spirituality and the occult from his home in Boulder, Colorado. He lives with his wonderful partner, several fish and an overweight but lovable feline.

%d bloggers like this: