Who can forget the movie The Exorcist? I wish I could forget it! In a very real sense, I already have—allow me to explain.

A Christian pastor recently read my previous BahaiTeachings.org article, Satan’s Epitaph. He took issue with it, and here’s a summary of how I responded:

Dear Reverend:

Thank you for your post on this important topic.

I agree that exorcism is effective only if there is a belief in demon possession.

Generally, the study of religion demonstrates, time and again, that religious experience is conditioned by religious belief.

Take near-death experiences, for instance. Or, for that matter, mystical experiences.

A Christian’s experience will be defined in alignment with Christian expectations and beliefs, which condition the experience itself, whether it be a near-death experience or mystical experience, such as beatific vision or divine audition.

That said, a belief in evil as a reality can exist without an ontological commitment to a belief in Satan, demons, etc.

The Baha’i perspective on demons and exorcism is as follows:

O servants! This nether world is the abode of demons: Guard yourselves from approaching them. By demons is meant those wayward souls who, with the burden of their evil deeds, slumber in the chambers of oblivion. Their sleep is preferable to their wakefulness, and their death is better than their life. – Baha’u’llah, The Tabernacle of Unity, p. 69.

The reality underlying this question is that the evil spirit, Satan or whatever is interpreted as evil, refers to the lower nature in man. This baser nature is symbolized in various ways. In man there are two expressions: One is the expression of nature; the other, the expression of the spiritual realm. The world of nature is defective. Look at it clearly, casting aside all superstition and imagination. If you should leave a man uneducated and barbarous in the wilds of Africa, would there be any doubt about his remaining ignorant? God has never created an evil spirit; all such ideas and nomenclature are symbols expressing the mere human or earthly nature of man. It is an essential condition of the soil of earth that thorns, weeds and fruitless trees may grow from it. Relatively speaking, this is evil; it is simply the lower state and baser product of nature. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 97.

This would be contrary to the will of God and according to the will of Satan, by which we mean the natural inclinations of the lower nature. This lower nature in man is symbolized as Satan—the evil ego within us, not an evil personality outside. – Ibid., p. 96.

Therefore, there is no satanic tree whatever—Satan being a product of human minds and of instinctive human tendencies toward error. – Ibid., p. 82.

Endeavor to guide thy mother and confirm her in faith; when the heart becometh confident, the imagination of Satan and evil vanisheth away. If the heart becometh absolutely tranquil, suspicion and imagination will entirely pass away. – Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha, Volume 1, p. 123.

In sum, religious experience is directly influenced by religious beliefs.

Speaking for myself, I firmly believed in Satan throughout my childhood and teenage years. Many experiences appear to confirm the reality of Satan.

Later, after I became a Baha’i, I came to the realization that this was a superstition. More than that, it tended to deflect attention away from the primary responsibility for evil, which is the actions of human beings. That’s why I was so struck by this quote from Baha’u’llah:

All that which ye potentially possess can, however, be manifested only as a result of your own volition. Your own acts testify to this truth. … Men, however, have wittingly broken His law. Is such a behavior to be attributed to God, or to their proper selves? Be fair in your judgment. Every good thing is of God, and every evil thing is from yourselves. Will ye not comprehend? – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings From the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 149-150.

I cannot adequately express how liberating and sobering it was for me to realize that Satan was a personification of human evil, not a distinct and separate principality.

Respectfully yours,

Chris

True exorcism means banishing Satan from our beliefs. True exorcism means becoming free from superstition. True exorcism means liberation from the imagined influence, control and possession by demons. True exorcism means seeing where the source of evil actually lives. True exorcism means combatting evil directly, rather than to perform exorcisms, or wear an amulet around one’s neck to ward off the “Evil Eye.”

True exorcism means recognizing and forever banishing the “Evil I.”

True exorcism means being “possessed” by the spirit of faith, reason, empathy, and a burning desire to do one’s part to lessen the real evil and suffering that continues to afflict this mortal world.

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BahaiTeachings.org or any institution of the Baha’i Faith.

7 Comments

characters remaining
  • Oct 14, 2017
    Very well written. 💙 Do you think it possible for a being who was at one time maliciously evil, and passed from this reality suddenly/violently and subsequently was unaware of their transition, (limbo if you will) could be drawn to this reality by someone who also chose the path of "evil", thereby amplifying the lack of goodness and hellish state around those who have already created one for themselves? Any thoughts you have on this matter are most welcome.
  • Jun 11, 2017
    Agree, the "Evil I" of self has been much more destructive than any kind of Evil Eye. and perhaps that is its real source.
  • Robert Green
    Jun 07, 2017
    "this nether world is the abode of demons" we are the demons, and "we are the angels, if..."
    • Robert Green
      Jun 07, 2017
      oh yeah, something troubled me about this article. it took some reflection to put my finger on it. I am drawn to say while "Satan" gets all the attention, we often overlook the relationship between Satan/satan, Lucifer and the Anti-Christ. :) because while Satan is not evil personified, and I am not evil personified, the anti-Christ is real, and each dispensation has one. I was the one for Jesus, Baha'u'llah has finally redeemed me. there is hope for us all :)
    • Robert Green
      Jun 07, 2017
      oh lol I forgot about the movie the exorcist. when the omen came out hahahahaha self-centered as ever. :P
  • Rosslyn and Steven Osborne
    Jun 07, 2017
    Christopher, I am gob smacked! This article is awesome and really spells it all out in plain English for once and for all.... Thank you.
    PS: I was always too scared to watch the movie in case I believed it to be true.....LOL
  • Jun 06, 2017
    Allah u Abha. This post is verily awesome. So precise! Allah u Abha