First, let me say that I have never had any instruction in demonology, the study of demons or demonic belief, but I am intrigued by it. Holy Scripture mentions demons frequently and it was one of the many signs Jesus performed during his three years of public ministry. His disciples also worked the miracles of healing, resurrection, and exorcism through his authority.
Exorcist was a respected trade at the time of Christ. Exorcists attempted to cast out demons by fear. They kept lists of demons names; a guarded trade secret. An exorcist would try to scare the demon away by invoking the name of a greater demon. Jesus cast out demons through his authority over all creation. The priests of the temple did not understand this and believed he cast out demons because he was the greatest of all demons.
“Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw. All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, “This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?” But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”
And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. “If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? “If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges. “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. “Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.” – Matthew 12, 22 - 29
We read in the Book of Revelation that Satan, through his disobedience, fell to earth. When he fell from heaven he took a third of the heavenly host with him. Catholic tradition holds that there are three hierarchies of angels each with three separate orders or choirs: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels, and Angels.
“Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.” – Revelation 12, 3 - 4
Let’s think about this for a moment. When Satan fell from heaven he took a third of the other angels with him. If we take this at its word what could be possible? Another Catholic tradition holds that each person is assigned a guardian angel to help him or her get to heaven. These guardian angels come from the general angel choir. It is unknown if a guardian angel only has one person to watch over or has multiple. If we make the assumption that being a created person an angel cannot be omnipresent, that is in all places at all times. If a guardian angel is present with each human who is living there would have to be at least six billion guardian angels in existence at this time. Guardian angel is only a segment of the angel choir and if you consider the other choirs is would be reasonable to believe there to be billions of angels in existence at any moment in time. For argument sake let’s put that number at a firm ten billion.
If this number is anywhere close to accurate and it is true that Satan took a third of the heavenly host with him in his fall there would have to be at least five billion demons present at any point in time. Let that number sink in for a moment.
Demonic influence seemed to be very prevalent throughout Holy Scripture. Today it seems to be thought of as nothing more than a gimmick for television, movies, or to sell costumes. Society doesn’t take it as a reality. Even the possessions written about in the bible are explained away as what we now know as mental disorders. All Jesus really did was cure someone of a mental sickness, not free them from demonic influence.
Jesus sure believed in them. He commanded them out by his ultimate authority. He forbad them to speak or utter his name. The demons we compelled to comply. They had no choice. It is too bad Jesus didn’t have a PhD in psychiatry. Think of the good he could have done had he understood the human mind a bit better.
The Catholic Church still believes in demons, even if some priests and laity do not. They hold a conference every year to help train priests and lay people in the art of spiritual warfare. Exorcism is a ministry of mercy. What good does it do to make sure a person has food, clothing, and drink when the temple of their body is host to the unclean? We must care for all parts of a person, both physical and spiritual.
I believe demons roam freely among us. Because of our disbelief they no longer have need to hide. As the prayer to St Michael says, "who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls."