Possession by Evil Spirits

In discussing the arcanum of the Empress, Tomberg brings up the idea of possession by evil spirits. Unlike what you see in Hollywood movies, this is not the result of an invasion by evil spirits; to the contrary, these spirits must be invited in. Once entrenched in consciousness, the can come to dominate the mind to their own ends. He writes:

The objective of scared Magic is more than healing, pure and simple. It is the restoration of freedom, including freedom from the stranglehold of doubt, fear, hate, apathy and despair. The “evil spirits” that deprive man of his freedom are not at all those of the so-called hierarchies of evil or fallen hierarchies. Neither Satan, nor Belial, nor Lucifer, nor Mephistopheles has ever deprived anyone of his freedom. Temptation is their only weapon and it presupposes the free will of the one tempted. But possession by an “evil spirit” has nothing to do with temptation. It is the same thing as with Frankenstein’s monster. A man engenders an elemental and becomes thereby the slave of his own creation. The demons or evil spirits of the New Testament are today called in psychotherapy obsessive compulsive disorders, phobias, fixed ideas, and so on. They were discovered by contemporary psychiatrists and recognized as real, that is to say, parasitic psychic organisms independent of conscious human will and tending to control it.

But the Devil is not involved with that, at least as far as direct participation goes. He observes and never violates the law which safeguards human freedom and is the convention of both the hierarchies of the left and right. May you not fear the devil, but rather the perverse inclinations in yourself! For these perverse human inclinations can deprive us of our freedom and control us. Even worse, they can make use of our imagination and inventive capabilities and lead us to creations that can become the scourge of mankind.

Hence, possession is the consequence of engendering elemental beings and then being enslaved by one’s own creations. In our day, we would explain possession in psychological terms: obsessive/compulsive disorders, phobias, fixed ideas, for example. In a sense these neuroses become real and have an independent existence from the person who engendered them.

The elemental beings correspond to air, water, earth, fire, so each one would have a different effect on the mind. The elementals do not have independent conscious existence. They are more like a virus and only get “life” by taking over the soul or mind, actually by being “engendered”. Being possessed by elementals is not a sign of spirituality; on the contrary, it is a serious impediment.

The way to overcome the elementals is to never yield to their characteristic defects. Instead, adopt their corresponding strengths. E.g., be prompt and active like the Sylphs, energetic and strong like the Salamanders, and so on.

The elementals are spirits in bondage to the elements. As such, they are not free and cannot have the use of reason; the can only manifest in subhuman forms as animals. Nevertheless, as Tomberg points out, they can become invited into a human consciousness, thus effectively dominating it, creating “vicious and imperfect men” (Eliphas Levi). Levi writes:

Elementary spirits are like children: they torment chiefly whose who trouble about them … [they] frequently occasion our bizarre or disturbing dreams and produce [psychic phenomena]. They can manifest no thought other than our own and when we are not thinking they speak to us with the incoherence of dreams. They reproduce good and evil indifferently, for they are without free will and are hence irresponsible… Such creatures are neither damned nor guilty; they are curious and innocent.

That is what makes them so tempting: they are innocent and can appear to be beautiful as do the sylphs and undines. Their child-like and animal-like qualities make them endearing. The myths and legends of these spirits typically use trickery or enticement to invade one’s consciousness.

The following chart, adapted from Transcendental Magic, lists the qualities of the four elemental spirits.

Element Elemental Temperament Defect Strength
Fire Salamander Sanguine Passionate Energetic and strong
Air Sylph Bilious Shallow and capricious Prompt and active
Water Undine Phlegmatic Irresolute, cold and fickle Pliant and attentive to images
Earth Gnome Melancholy Avaricious and greedy Laborious and patient

7 Replies to “Possession by Evil Spirits”

  1. I happen to have a few of Allen Kardec’s maxims copied out on a card in front of me.

    549. “Pacts” with evil spirits are figurative representations of mutual sympathies.
    513. A man is always surrounded by spirits who are in sympathy with … his character.

    So the spirits are details (at least in many cases). Most of the time, the issue is character. You are already aware of the proper attitude: “Be thou therefore prompt and active as the Sylphs, but avoid frivolity and caprice; be energetic and strong like the Salamanders, but avoid irritability and ferocity; be flexible and attentive to images like the Undines, but avoid idleness and changeability; be laborious and patient like the Gnomes, but avoid grossness and avarice.”

  2. Is it really accurate to say that mental illness or giving in to vices equals demonic possession? While demonic possession can occur it isn’t automatically the case. Vice is something internal arising from the lower passions not external or from an evil spirit. We would be careful not to create a new superstition.

    1. First of all, this is not about mental illness per se, that is, something with an organic cause. And I don’t believe the word “vice” was used. Tomberg is referring to the specific types of disorders of a purely psychic nature, some of which he listed.

      Now Tomberg puts the phrase “evil spirits” in quotes, since they are not really capable of evil in themselves, although their effects may be. So the deeper question is where do thoughts come from in the first place? Internal? If so, internal to what? The current superstition is that they are random results of electrochemical reactions. But if not that, then what exactly is a thought? It also seems clear that we have limited control over thoughts. So how do they arise? Why are obsessions and phobias so difficult to eradicate?
      We are not being supersitions, but trying to describe generic patterns in a qualitative and symbolic way.

  3. Firstly, I don’t believe the theory that mental illness has an organic or physical cause, but that is beyond the point.

    Tomberg states, “The demons or evil spirits of the New Testament are today called in psychotherapy obsessive compulsive disorders, phobias, fixed ideas, and so on. They were discovered by contemporary psychiatrists and recognized as real, that is to say, parasitic psychic organisms independent of conscious human will and tending to control it.” I would have to completely disagree as these mental disorders are not due to some imagined psychic organism independent of human will, but are wholly the result of vices of which ignorance and fear are. Even the Church Fathers confirm that one cannot sin independently of the will and therefore one has no excuse for doing wrong. Even where it seems there is no control over thoughts it still arises from the internal will which can be directed to either good or bad things.

    Bad habits are difficult to eradicate because neurons travel in the path of least resistance which through repetition creates bridges which are more accessible than as to create new paths.

  4. Suggesting that possession by evil spirits are internally generated psychological phenomenon reflects a lack of experience in this area…sadly, possession is by real entities who have an independent existence from us–demons in short, who do nothing but desire our harm. One needs only one encounter with them to be sure of that. That being said pre-existing internal conditions can invite demonic attack or worse, possession. Those same internal conditions can co-exist with possession.

    The subject of elementals may be a separate subject from that of demonic possession but I don’t know enough about it to venture any comments.

Comments are closed.