As we prepare for Holy Week with its horror and its cleansing properties, this is a good time to begin working on a chapter on demons. We all have them. Only those who believe they do not have them are the dangerous ones.
Imagine your chapter on demons. What would it look like? Of what would it remind you? Do not be tempted to make this chapter into a whip for your own self-abuse. Do not list your sins. Simply name your awareness of living an imperfect life and write about what it means to be mindful about your inner fears and wants – those things which drive you to be unkind or grabbing or addictive. Here is one as an example, but write your own.
Facing our demons – A chapter of a Rule of LIfe
Facing your inner demons will be your greatest strength in life, your most powerful tool for ministry, and your greatest struggle with the greatest reward. Many humans do not bother with such hard work. You have met them, and you know enough from seeing them live that you do not want to choose that life, to bear so many evils into the world unchecked. And yet to face demons is such warfare. But also not. Since to face a demon, all you really need to do is sit down with it, look it in its face, take its paw and tell it that it has been seen, that you will sit and listen so that it feels heard. And then it will sleep, because getting your attention takes a lot out of the demon.
To turn away from demons in your life would be to let a leopard loose in the schoolyard of your life – it will simply do what it does. But to face the leopard with its beauty, power, hunger and speed is to remember that it is protecting something; its own den, its own family. And what family is that which the leopard protects? Some demons protect beauty: pride with its muscles, brains and wealth. Envy with her longing eyes. Insecurity with its small feet and wounded softness. Anger and sloth, two faces on the exploding and collapsing stars in our lives. Greed and lust with their wanting and wanting and wanting.
Knowing yourself will help you to meet, greet and quiet your demons, while recognizing those in others. By knowing your enneagram type (https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/how-the-enneagram-system-works/) and paying attention to what happens to you when you are tired or afraid, you will be better able to sit with your demons and listen to them. They have a lot of power if you ignore them. Because, Charles, you are a six on the enneagram, you will find that you tend to be engaging, responsible, anxious, and suspicious. The more healthy a life you live the more engaging and responsible. The more tired you become, you will devolve into anxiety and suspicion. It’s ok. Just know that is what you tend to be. Others will have to face other strengths and devolutions but these are yours and so you need to pay attention to them when they appear, celebrating with yourself when you see courage, engagement and capacity while sitting down and listening to yourself when you see yourself filling with fear, anxiety and suspicion – reminding yourself that “all manner of thing shall be well” which, as a six on the enneagram, must be your life’s motto. Return to it over and over for comfort.
In Pslam 139, scripture refers to our “golem,” our גלמי -that inner-formed part of us in which God makes us with the raw material of clay – the way Adam was made in the myth of Genesis. Jewish folklore would imagine a clay being called Golem which, in Prague and Grimm’ fairy tales would become animated and cause havoc. In modern Hebrew the word will mean “helpless.” Gollum, was a character in J. R. R. Tolkien’s legendarium and Sméagol was his original name when he lived with his grandmother. But the finding of a ring, which he called “precious” changed him. All of us have our “precious ring” be it beauty, brains, money, status, power, titles, esteem or some person or thing without which we think we cannot live. It’s the human condition. The important thing is to know your inner-Sméagol, with its slimy, bent, pale outward appearance. We must do the hard work of bucketing out the cess-pool of our lives to find the ugly being at the bottom. Greet them, get to know them. All they seek is to be met and spoken with, listened to, heard.
Likewise, our inner life of prayer, mindfulness and love – if we really do that inner work – will be like putting on magic eye-glasses, making it possible, sometimes, to see other people’s demons. You will find yourself speaking with a person who is charming, engaging, seemingly generous while, at the same time, you can hear, faintly behind the smile, the revving of a chain saw.
Making peace with your demons, will so quiet them, that you will be better able to see them and hear them in others. Seeing what you see is what defends you. Remember your training in discernment – that Ignatius of Loyola calls us, when we think we see a lamb, to notice the claws and the snout with whiskers poking out from underneath the lambs-wool costume.