Note: this post was written in 2006, and it’s fine as far as it goes. For my more recent thinking on the existence of evil spirits, see Powers of Darkness.
Do Evil Spirits Exist?
A month ago, if you’d asked me this question, I would’ve said “Definitely not.” Two weeks ago, I would’ve answered “Definitely.” Today, I’m pretty sure that both answers are true.
How can that be?
First off, what is an evil spirit? When I think of an evil spirit, I think of a ghostly being with a nasty disposition and dishonorable intentions. They may appear only in dreams, or they may wander around people’s houses going “bump” in the night, or possess little children in blockbuster movies. The common denominator is their noncorporeality and the fact that they enjoy hurting people.
Now, I have never met one of these things myself. But, of course, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I do know a number of people who claim to have seen them. But interestingly, the only people who see them are the ones who somehow “expect” to see them — that is, people who already believe in supernatural entities. Evil spirits leave secular humanists alone. (That by itself might be a good reason to become a secular humanist.) So maybe evil spirits exist only in the minds of those who “want” to believe them (perhaps “subconsciously”, whatever that really means).
So, for a long time I did not believe in evil spirits at all. But I should make clear that the primary reason I did not believe in them was not that I had never seen them, or that the only people who had might be loony tunes. No, I had other reasons.
First, evil things do not appear in nature. A Druid looks first to the natural world for spiritual insight. Certainly there are predators, and encountering a predator might be unpleasant, but predators aren’t evil. They act the way nature intended, and the pain they may cause is healthy for the ecosystem. It seems unlikely that the spiritual world could be so different from the natural world.
Second, evil sprits made no logical sense to me. I didn’t believe in them for the same reason that I didn’t believe in Satan. I felt, quite firmly, that any being possessed of the knowledge, experience, and power that Satan was supposed to have simply could not be evil. Evil arises out of fear; but with enough knowledge, experience, and power, fear disappears. So the very idea of “Satan” is simply a logical contradiction.
And I felt the same way about evil spirits. I thought, well, maybe there are some spirits that are evil, but they must be young, inexperienced, and not very powerful.
So my thinking stood until recently. Then, as I began reading more about ceremonial magic, I was struck by the prevalence of protective charms, rituals, and so forth. Clearly, there are a lot of people in the magical community who believe in evil spirits. Then I stumbled on erinpavlina.com. Erin Pavlina is a well-known medium who is also a great blogger. On her site, you can read all about her experiences with vindictive ghosts and skeletons with glowing eyes. It is hard not to believe her first-hand accounts. Luckily, she knows several techniques to protect herself, so she doesn’t have much trouble with them. But she warns anyone wishing to follow in her footsteps that the path she followed was a wild and woolly one.
I also read somewhere that the only reason that evil spirits don’t go around possessing people all over the world is that most people believe so strongly that evil spirits don’t exist, and that their bodies are inviolable, that the spirits can’t get in. Effectively, the disbelief itself is a powerful protective spell.
I began to wonder if evil spirits might exist after all. I wasn’t prepared to go out looking for them, but I needed more data.
I decided to call my mother. This might not be what most people would do in this situation. But over the past 30 years, she has had any number of out of body experiences, astral projections, premonitions, precognitive dreams, and the like. She’s a bona fide expert.
I asked her if she had ever encountered any evil spirits in her journeys outside our reality. She said, unequivocally, no. She had never, not once, met any malevolent being.
But, she said, she was always careful to maintain positive intentions and not to bring negative energy into the spiritual world with her.
Honestly, if I were an evil spirit, I would stay away from my mother as well. She doesn’t put up with nonsense from anybody, corporeal or not.
And notably, she never met any positive spirits either. She never saw any guides or helpers of any sort. There was one time when she met someone, or something, that she thought might have offered her some help; but she wasn’t sure, and it never happened again.
She doesn’t do much astral traveling these days. Her outlook is much more Zen in character, and in Zen, all this mucking about in astral spaces is beside the point. It’s just another distraction on the path to peace. You can get wrapped up in the illusions of the material world, or wrapped up in the illusions of the spiritual world; they’re all just illusions. Reality is — well, not that.
“You have to remember that you are creating all of it,” said my mother. “If you create evil spirits, you will see evil spirits. If you don’t, you won’t. The same goes for everything else. Cars, trucks, the sky, whatever. You’re making all of that.”
So, if you believe in evil spirits, then they exist. They really do. You will meet them, interact with them, and learn from them, just like you do with trees, rocks, and cars. If you don’t believe in them, you won’t see them; and they really won’t exist. You will learn your lessons in other ways.
I suggest, therefore, that you try very hard not to believe in evil spirits. That’s what I’m doing. But, if you meet people who say they’ve seen them, they’re not necessarily lying…
UPDATE July 14:
Make of this what you will:
The same night I posted this, I had a terrible nightmare. I was leading my youngest daughter, who is almost two, back to the car after visiting some friends. The car was parked (for some reason) at the top of a long rickety wooden staircase. In the dream, my daughter slipped and fell from the stairs. I quickly grabbed her and held her close, but she died in my arms.
I woke up immediately and tried to shake the image and the fear. But for whatever reason, it wouldn’t shake. It didn’t disappear immediately, as most nightmares do. In fact, my daughter’s dead face twisted into more horrible images, and my fear grew stronger. I will say that the images themselves weren’t so terrible objectively — nothing worse than you might see when getting ready to cook a chicken — but I was still in that nightmare-fear state, and the emotion was overpowering.
Inevitably, since I had been thinking so much about evil spirits the previous couple of days, I wondered if this might be one. I tried visualizing white light and protective spirits, as Erin Pavlina suggests, but that didn’t work at all. Then I tried mentally turning my back on it, another technique Erin has used, but that didn’t work either.
Finally I remembered my mother’s advice: you are creating this. I said to myself, “I know I’m creating these images. But now I’m done with it. Go away.”
And it was gone, like a nightmare in morning sunlight.
I have no idea if it really was an evil spirit. But at the very least, I’ve found a good way to get rid of nightmares.