“It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.”
Knight, Death and the Devil – Albrecht Dürer
I have more often experienced angels and demons as entities which possess or embody me, than as external forces or entities that one can see or feel. Part of my upbringing wants me to classify them as states of consciousness and states of unconsciousness, something I would agree with more easily in terms of my own battles with the inner demons. Some of these negative entities are easily recognizable through manifestations like addiction, jealousy, envy and other similar behaviors. I discover them, usually after some gross “misconduct” on my own part – this could be self-betrayal or the destruction of that which I loved most dearly or sought to protect. Consciousness here tends to be what has helped me first recognize, then challenge these demons.
My addiction to cigarettes took me years to manage and was only brought within my control after a very in depth study of my state of being with each cigarette I smoked – until I reached a point of choice. This worked for about 12 years but when life took me through some rough terrain the compulsion reappeared and I smoked again. What was interesting with this relapse and the devil in question – is that I knew it and had conquered it in the past, so letting go was less of a study and more a question of choosing to stop.
My experience of inner demons is quite different from my encounters with the not necessarily human outer entities that have confronted me. Two of these experiences occurred at night when I was alone in a family vacation home near the ocean.
The first time, I was sleeping in an end room of the house facing a grove of trees. This room was strange in that it’s the only room I’ve ever been in with black curtains. They were black with tiny colored flowers, but black, and somehow disturbing. The curtains to one of the windows was partially open, with a gap of about a foot. At some point in the night I awoke and looked over at the window and saw the most ghastly face staring in at me. A face which had been mutilated violently; gashed, bloody and angry. I was horrified! I turned on the lights and closed the curtains, for the first time, relieved that they were black. Was it the ghost of the young man apparently murdered by his father and rumored to be buried in the back woods behind my family’s home? I don’t know, but I never slept in that room again.
The second time took place in the fall about two years later. I was alone at the opposite end of the house in the master bedroom. I could hear the ocean waves crashing on the beach and the fog horns calling to each other in the dark shrouded night. I slept. Not long after midnight, I awoke in absolute terror, pinned to the bed and completely unable to move. A terrible presence surrounded me and held me down without hands. I dreaded what was to come, feeling that “it” was deciding what to do with me. The terror and paralysis violently gripped me tighter and tighter.
Time stopped. Flooded with fear, aware of nothing else, I gasped for breath, though tried not to make a sound.
Time resumed – I was held, could not move. I was prisoner of this unseen thing, with a growing awareness of my current situation. But, I was neither dead nor destroyed.
I don’t know if I prayed or if the second force came of its own accord, but eventually I felt the very clear and distinct presence of another energy. It was angelic. Almost immediately, it began to give me the distinct impression of my Great Aunt, a woman who had crossed to the other side only a month or so earlier; after a series of seizures followed by two months in a coma. She had been buried on the island weeks’ earlier, a few miles from the house. My Great Aunt was the antithesis of physical strength yet a powerhouse of inner vitality, spiritual, intelligent and playful. We had become close in the last two years of her life, as I’d become one of her caregivers.
I sensed her presence come in and wash over me and the force which held me like a warm wave of light that enveloped all and everything in its path. It was irresistible, soothing and calming. My muscles relaxed, I was able to move my arms, my legs and turn my head. The demon was gone. The angel lingered. Not moving from the bed, I gave thanks with all that I had and fell into a deep restful sleep. Was the spirit of my Great Aunt a guardian angel come to help me at a time of need?
What was it that had me shift my right leg and body just out of harm’s way as I wiped-out on my motorcycle at 60mph on the Westside Highway in New York? Wearing only shorts, a helmet and flip-flops this accident could have been my last, yet I walked away with only a skinned elbow. Most recently something had me step off the road onto the sidewalk with my partner one second before a London bus would have run us into the pavement. And what about all the inexplicable coincidences which led to her and I meeting in the first place?
Whether these subtle directives both good and evil came from a force outside myself or from a greater inner awareness remains a mystery. I believe that angels and demons manifest in me and through me. Personifying them through my own inner battles, a deceased family member, biblical or mythical figures; though interesting, is not essential. They are both inside and out.