DEMON (Greek daimon), a name given the ancients to a spirit or genius supposed to by hold an intermediate place between men and the celestial deities. In Homer we find the term daimon sometimes applied to one or other of the gods, but it is commonly used by him in a general sense, as when we speak of °the Deity* or °Providence?) Daimon is probably derived from daid, to divide or distribute, though some look upon it as equivalent to daemon, intelligent or wise. Hesiod uses daimon in a different sense from Homer. He admitted four classes of rational beings — gods, demons, heroes and men. A strict classification was not made until the popular belief had been introduced into the schools of the philosophers. Aristotle divides the immortals into gods and demons: the mor tals into heroes and men. In the Greek philos ophy these demons early played an important part. Thales and Pythagoras, Socrates and Xenophon, Empedocles and the Stoics, invented many fictions concerning them, each in his own way. The poetic Plato, however, goes further than any of the others. In 'The Banquet Dia logue' the character of the demons is thus ex plained: °Demons are intermediate between God and mortals; their function is to interpret and convey to the gods what comes from men, and to men what comes from the gods; the prayers and offerings of the one and the com mands of the others. These demons are the source of all prophecy and of the art of the priests, in relation to sacrifices, consecrations, conjurations; for God has no immediate inter course with men, but all the intercourse and conversation between the gods and mortals is carried on by means of the demons, both in waking and in sleeping. There are many kinds of such demons or spirits? In other places he says of them, they are clothed with air, wander over heaven, hover over the stars and abide on the earth; they behold unveiled the secrets of the time to come, and regulate events accord ing to their pleasure; every mortal receives at birth a particular demon, who accompanies him until his end, and conducts his soul to the place of purification and punishment. Later writers divided them, in reference to the effects ascribed to them, into good and bad spirits— Agatho demons and Cacodemons. The Romans still further developed the Greek demonology; with less, however, of a poetical character and mixed with Etruscan notions.
A full and systematic development of demon ism is found in Buddhism, which recognizes six classes of beings in the universe, two only of which, those of men and angels, are good; the other four—the Asuras, irrational animals, Pretas or goblins and the denizens of hell—are evil. The Asuras are the most powerful of the
wicked spirits, and are at constant war with the They dwell beneath the three pronged root of the world-mountain, occupying the nadir; while their great enemy, Indra, the • highest Buddhist god, sits upon the pinnacle of the mountain in the zenith. With the are associated numerous groups, as the Raks hasas, gigantic opponents of the gods, terrible ogres with bloody tongues and long tusks eager to devour human beings, and lurking in fields and forests; the Nagas, snakes with human faces; the Mahoragas, great dragons; the Pis hatshas or Vampires, etc. According to their nature and office, the different species of de mons dwell in the air, the water or the earth, in holes, dens or clefts. See EGYPT, Religion; and also HEBREWS ; ZOROASTER.
In the New Testament we find demons, clevil0 or °unclean spirits° occupying a prom inent place, the Greek word used being gener ally daimonion (a neuter adjective noun from daimon). These spirits are represented as en tering into and °possessing° human beings, in juriously affecting them in some strange manner, and as being °cast out° by Christ and his dis ciples, and even by some among the Jews them selves (Luke ii, 19). Very different views are held regarding these accounts of demoniacal possession. Some regard them as slain state ments of fact, believing that °nothing can be more plainly declared than that demons ob tained possession of man's soul and body, so as to assert their mastery, and that by our Lord and his agents they were miraculously driven out.° °There is every reason to suppose that as the world has become Christian, the powers of evil have been controlled and rendered unable to gain such possession of men as they did in Judaea and neighboring places in the time of our Lord and the apostles, and as they are said to do in some parts of the world now. It is be lieved, moreover, that when Christ was on earth the Devil put forth his utmost power, knowing that his time was short and that he was then suffered to put forth a stronger hand than be fore or since in order that the triumph of Christ might be more conspicuous .° These sentences, from Blunt's 'Dictionary of Doctrinal and His torical Theology,' represent what may be called a highly orthodox view of the subject of pos session. The same writer admits that °the symptoms of possession, as described in the Gos pels, are those of some ordinary diseases, and we have one case which might be put down as confirmed epilepsy with suicidal mania.* The Roman Catholic Church teaches that there can be no doubt of the actuality of demoniacal pos session. See EXORCISM.