2383 The Kabbalistic View of Demons


Demons are ubiquitous, but are not cited in the literature as often as angels. The head of the demons is Satan, who is also named Samael and Beelzebub; while the king of demons is called Asmodeus. Asmodeus married Agrath, the queen of the demons, and they are attended by tens of thousands of other demons. 

Just as there are many types of angels, there are various types of demons, which include shedim (devils), se'irim (hairy demons, satyrs), mavet (death), dever (pestilence), and azazel (the demon to whom the scapegoat is sent on Yom Kippur).

Demons are viewed as between angels and humans. They have "wings" like angels and can move quickly, assume any form, and have the ability to read the future. But they eat, drink, propagate and die.

They can have sexual relations with humans, and this is a source of new demons. But demons do not have real bodies that cast shadows, so propagation with humans occurs in dreams or other non-physical contact. Humans give birth to demons through the imagination.

Demons can be overpowered by humans. Agrath, the queen of demons once met Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa. She revealed to him that the only reason she did not cause him harm was because heaven had given him immunity for his extensive learning. This was a mistake on her part. Once Hanina ben Dosa knew that Agrath could not harm him, he put a hex on her. He said, "If heaven takes an accounting of me, I order you never to pass through populated areas."

This, in essence, put her out of business. She immediately began to plead with him, so he relented and gave her freedom to do her demon work on two nights of the week: Wednesday and Saturday. 

The Talmud reports a similar incident between Agrath and the sage Abaye. (Apparently she did not learn from her other experience.) This time Abaye did not yield, but we learn that demons still frequent narrow places where few people go, like dark alleyways.

 In addition, if one knows how to capture their power, demons can be put into service. The archangel Michael provided King Solomon with a magic ring which gave him power over all the demons. King Solomon discovered the names of angels that influenced the demons he wanted to control. Through the use of his magic ring, King Solomon captured Asmodeus, the king of demons.

Asmodeus taught Solomon the secret of the shamir. Some say that this was a worm that could split rock. The building of the Temple of Solomon depended upon the ability to split rocks without iron tools, for the use of metal had been forbidden by God.

 Once King Solomon had the shamir under his control, he could build the altar to God. This information gave him sufficient mastery over the demons so that he used them in the building of the first Temple. Thus, the first Temple, the holiest site in Jewish history, had a team of demonic builders--suggesting that demons are not necessarily evil. The point of this story is that when we have power over demonic forces, they can be put to good use. On the other hand, when demonic forces have power over us, our lives can be miserable. We see this theme emphasized in the continuation of the story.

At one point, Asmodeus tricked the king. When Solomon chided Asmodeus, saying he was not much of a demon if he could be captured by a mortal and put into chains, Asmodeus replied that he would be happy to demonstrate his greatness if the king would loan him the magic ring. Solomon was foolish enough to do so (giving away his power) and Asmodeus instantly threw him a thousand miles away from Jerusalem. Then Asmodeus cast the magic ring into the middle of the ocean so that it could never again be used against him, and he assumed Solomon's appearance, pretending that he was the king.

Solomon wandered as a beggar for three years and took a job as a cook in the royal household of Ammon. He was a great cook and soon became the chief of cooks. This is how the king's daughter, Naamah, came to notice him. She soon fell in love and would not be swayed by the king to give up Solomon. So the Ammonite king sent the lovers to a barren desert where it was presumed that they would die by starvation. 

The lovers wandered to a city by the shore of a sea. They begged for enough money to purchase a fish to eat. Naamah found a ring in the belly of the fish. Sure enough, it was Solomon's magic ring and the couple was instantly transported to Jerusalem, where they dethroned Asmodeus who had been posing as King Solomon for three years. 

This tale contains the secret of the use of power, and is a teaching story about raising sparks to attain messianic consciousness. One of the hidden features of the story is that the mother of Asmodeus, in essence the queen of demons, was also named Naamah. Thus the story related a circle of events, in which Naamah, the wife of Solomon, makes a tikkun, a fixing, to raise the sparks of Naamah, mother of the demons. In this process. Naamah, the wife of Solomon, becomes a matriarch in the lineage of the Messiah that comes from King David, the father of Solomon.

Just as demons are not always used to produce disagreeable results, angels are not always pleasant to be around. It is true that many are desirable, such as angels of grace, healing, justice, love, mercy, moon, mountains, paradise, peace, praise, stars, trees, truth and water. But there are also angels of confusion, destruction, fear, fire, hail, insomnia, reptiles, storms, terror, and thunder.

Actually there are angels for every atom in the universe. Each snowflake has a multitude of angels around it; each blade of grass has an angel over it saying "Grow, grow." Every characteristic, emotion, thought or phenomenon has angels identified with it.

All the descriptions of angels and demons are attempts to approximate qualities we find within us. When we are feeling caressed, loved, comforted, or pampered our angels are described as soft, gentle, refined, careful, and considerate. When we are anxious, frustrated, worried, or nervous our angels are pushy, critical, demanding, accusing and relentless. When we are having serious troubles and our lives seem to be falling apart, we have demons who are cruel, malevolent, hateful, odious and fiendish.

This should not be interpreted to mean that the mystics believe that angels and demons are imaginary. Just the opposite. They are quite real, and they manifest in an infinite number of ways. If the results of something are viewed as "good," we generally call it an angelic influence. However, if something draws someone away from God, even if the initial motivation were well intended, we say that there was a demonic influence.

It is important to understand that an intention behind an act does not ensure its results. Intention must be balanced by awareness. The greater the awareness, the greater the probability that something good will come out. The denser the awareness, even though one's intentions are good, the greater the risk that things will not turn out so well. We could do something kind hearted for someone without realizing that this could bring enormous grief into his or her life.

We may ask, "If our intentions do not assure that things will turn out for the good, what do we do?" The answer is that we must attune ourselves to the constant ebb and flow of ongoing creation through our contemplative practices and through spiritual work that builds awareness as described in various sections of this book. And, we must make every effort to attain the highest level of consciousness so that our actions may be inspired by the ingredients of judgment and wisdom, spiced with a large dose of faith.