Meaning of DEMON in English

also spelled daemon in religions worldwide, any of numerous malevolent spiritual beings, powers, or principles that mediate between the transcendent and temporal realms. In ancient Greece a demon (Greek daimon) was a supernatural power, and the term was employed almost interchangeably by Homer with theos, for a god. The distinction was that theos emphasized the personality of the god, and demon his activity. Hence, demon was regularly applied to sudden or unexpected supernatural interventions not attributable to any particular deity. It became commonly the power determining a person's fate, and an individual could have a personal demon. As early as Hesiod, the dead of the Golden Age became demons; and later philosophical speculation envisaged these beings as lower than the gods (possibly mortal) but as superior to humanity. The Christians, therefore, attributed the actions of the pagan gods to demons identified as fallen angels. In Zoroastrianism, a religion founded by the 6th-century-BC Persian prophet Zoroaster, the hierarchy of demons (daevas) is headed by Angra Mainyu (later called Ahriman), the Evil, or Destructive, Spirit. The demons are in constant battle with Ahura Mazda (later called Ormazd), the Good Lord. The hierarchy of demons in Judaism, which is rooted in ancient Middle Eastern and Zoroastrian demonology after the postexilic period (after 538 BC), is quite varied. The prince of the forces of evil (Hebrew shedim, meaning demons and applied to foreign gods, or se'irim, meaning hairy demons), who often were believed to inhabit desert wastes, ruins, and graves and to inflict humanity with various physical, psychological, and spiritual disorders, was called by different names: Satan (the Antagonist), Belial (the spirit of perversion, darkness, and destruction), Mastema (Enmity, or Opposition), and other names. Though the Old Testament refers to Satan as the prosecutor of God's celestial court (Zech. 3; Job 12), a hierarchy of demons under Satan or other princes of evil was developed in intertestamental literature and later Judaism. The hierarchy of demons in Christianity is based on various sources: Jewish, Zoroastrian, Gnostic (a syncretistic religious dualistic-belief system in which matter is viewed as evil, the spirit good, and salvation as being attainable through esoteric knowledge, or gnosis), and the indigenous religions that succumbed to Christian missionizing. In the New Testament, Jesus speaks of Beelzebub as the chief of demons and equates him with Satan. In the European Middle Ages and the Reformation period, various hierarchies of demons were developed, such as that associated with the seven deadly sins: Lucifer (pride), Mammon (avarice), Asmodeus (lechery), Satan (anger), Beelzebub (gluttony), Leviathan (envy), and Belphegor (sloth). The Islamic hierarchy of demons is headed by Iblis (the devil), who also is called Shaytan (Satan) or 'aduw Allah (Enemy of God). Based to a great extent on Jewish and Christian demonology, Iblis became the leader of a host of jinn, spiritual beings that generally bode evil. In Hinduism, the asuras (the Zoroastrian ahuras) are the demons who oppose the devas (the gods). Among the various classes of asuras are nagas (serpent demons), Ahi (the demon of drought), and Kamsa (an archdemon). Demons that afflict humans include the raksasas (grotesque beings who haunt cemeteries, impel the performance of foolish acts, and attack sadhus (saintly men) and pisacas (beings who haunt places where violent deaths have occurred). Buddhists often view their demons as forces that inhibit the achievement of Nirvana (bliss, or the extinction of desire); an important example is Mara, an arch tempter, who, with his daughters, Rati (Desire), Raga (Pleasure), and Tanha (Restlessness), attempted to dissuade Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, from achieving his enlightenment. As Mahayana (Greater Vehicle) Buddhism spread to Tibet, China, and Japan, many of the demons of the folk religions of these areas (e.g., the Chinese kuei-shen; the Japanese oni) were incorporated into Buddhist beliefs.

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