Demons in our Midst: Facing the Tyrant Inside and Out
by Suzanne Duarte
When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall - think of it, ALWAYS. — Gandhi
All that evil needs to succeed is for good men to do nothing. — Edmund Burke
Hell is empty, all the devils are here. — William Shakespeare
It cannot be an accident, or mere "coincidence," that the movie trilogy of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings became box office hits during the George W. Bush’s first four years as the U.S. president. We needed those images of leathery-winged monsters with huge teeth and claws, of the pathetic Gollum with the vicious shadow, of the goodness of fellowship and the evil of greed for absolute power over the world. Why did we need them? I think we needed those visual images to remind us of the nature of evil and the existence of demons because, in our secularlized, mechanistic world, we had forgotten about them. We thought we were safe.
It took me a long time to recognize that truly demonic energies are operating in our world right now. I was as unwilling to acknowledge the demonic as the next person. "Demonic" was not a word in my vocabulary, nor was "evil." I thought that people who used those words were projecting and ought to look at their own behavior. However, personal as well as global circumstances have compelled me to try to understand these energies and how to combat them.
We live in a world where deceit, duplicity, and mass delusion seem nearly all-pervasive. We cannot rely on the mainstream media to tell us what we most need to know, the truth; we cannot believe the politicians; we can't trust our electoral process; and half the United States seems to be under a hypnotic spell induced by sub-rational mesmerism. Our lives are increasingly being corralled by a maniacal, irresponsible administration that uses lies and fear to rationalize its assaults on our rights and freedoms, our economy and environment, and those of other countries. While a great deal of the rest of humanity is concerned about environmental crises, Bush & Co. remain in stubborn denial of the multitudinous ecological problems that threaten human survival. They protect ecologically destructive corporations, while encouraging Americans to spend and consume.
How do we keep our sanity in the midst of the bewilderment, paranoia and anxiety that seem to be intentionally generated by Bush & Co.? How do we continue to work for the good of the whole when grief and despair over all that is being lost threaten to overwhelm us?
Perhaps it is time for humanity to learn to deal consciously with the demonic within ourselves and in the world at large. And that begins with acknowledging that demonic energies do exist and do threaten all we hold dear, and life itself.
Modern Day Demonology
In Women Who Run with the Wolves*, depth psychologist Clarissa Pinkola Estés calls the demonic "the natural predator of the psyche."* I have found her explication of the meaning of this phenomenon most helpful in my demonological research. She says the natural predator is "the most deceitful and most powerful fugitive in the psyche," and it "requires our immediate consciousness and containment." This "inner being" is "quite mad" and carries out "destruction without thought." (p. 39)
Of all the inner beings of our psyches, the predator is the most devious and most determined to escape notice and apprehension by consciousness. He is a dark force that is contrary to Nature and instinct, a formidable enemy of the light of consciousness and all that is good, wild, and feminine. The sole purpose of this "derisive and murderous antagonist" (p.40) is to subvert cooperation, harmony, and the potential for creativity and conscious evolution.
According to Estés, the natural predator is an innate element in the psyche of all human beings. She speculates that this archetype developed in the preconscious human mind as the desire to overcome the laws and limitations of Nature, and gain power over the forces of life and death. This desire arises from an inflated sense of superiority, delusions of power, and the determination to dominate.
In myth and fairy tales, the natural predator is always portrayed as a dark man and/or a failed magician. He appears normal but is immeasurably destructive. His hatred and rage emanate from his failure to achieve the spiritual or magical power that he sought, a power equal to that of Nature or God. Black magicians have their power taken away and/or are exiled from the realm of the gods. As outcasts they suffer deep loneliness and continuous exile from redemption. They cannot generate their own light. The sun never rises in their consciousness; thus their jealousy of, and desire to capture and possess, those who have the light of consciousness and are able to redeem themselves through creativity.
Although I appreciate why Estés uses the term predator and find it accurate, I still prefer the seemingly archaic and mythological term "demon" because it connotes dark archetypal power that can take over the human psyche. "Predator" is associated with predation by animals, but animals are not demonic in the way this human archetype is. Animals don't presume to challenge Nature like humans do, so I use the term “predator demon” to connote a dangerous psychic phenomenon that can become contagious, as C.G. Jung, observed and wrote about in his studies of evil.
When a person—or a group of people, or a culture—has been taken over by the predator demon, its destructiveness is always cloaked. This demon is ruthlessly, unscrupulously deceitful. The best disguise for the demonically possessed is a respectable social position along with the accoutrements of wealth. Whether intra-psychically or in the form of another person, predator demons are typically very seductive, cunningly masking their true intentions. Once the gullible and naive are captured, they are prey to be abused and used up, sucked dry.
In their "magician" aspect, predator demons have a manipulative power that can cast a spell, hypnotize, cause confusion, paralysis, and terror. In fact, they take pleasure in causing confusion, paralysis, and terror. It’s the only power they really have! They are cruel—and exploiting human vulnerability increases their sense of power.
Predator demons will do anything to fulfill their insatiable lust for power, and are implacably merciless and malicious towards any who oppose them. Subterfuge and projection is their game; scapegoating and blaming the victim for their own wrongdoing is a favorite ploy. They are too arrogant to ever admit their own mistakes and wrongdoing, for they deny responsibility for the consequences of their actions. The predator demon is ego in its most primitive and pernicious form. Addiction and denial are sure signs of his presence.
Dick © Mark Bryan
To identify as demonic a persistent or recurring delusional mindset in a person is to acknowledge its danger. The predator demon can't be reached through reason and cannot be negotiated with. Typically, he can't tolerate a point of view contrary to his own, and his destructive intentions cannot be mitigated through rational means. Challenges are met with vengeful, scornful retaliation. (Think: Karl Rove or Dick Cheney.)
Neither compassion nor mercy is an appropriate response to the predator demon until he has been defeated and contained. He has no respect for compassion. He will only use it against you. If you give him an inch, he'll take a mile. Our first actions must be to recognize him, protect ourselves from his devastation, and ultimately deprive him of his murderous energy.
Estés says that "Each group and culture has its own natural psychic predator. There are eras in cultures during which the predator is identified with and allowed absolute sovereignty until the people who believe otherwise become a tide. . . . In a culture where the predator rules, all new life needing to be born, all old life needing to be gone, is unable to move and the soul-lives of its citizenry are frozen with both fear and spiritual famine." (p. 68)
I believe we are living through such an era, and this is why progressives have been able to gain so little traction. However, I have watched the savvy, conviction, and numbers of progressives grow and gain strength during the Bush administration. There is far less naïveté and paralysis now, in January 2008, than there was in 2000, when a sleeping country accepted the spurious election of Bush & Co. Since then the predator culture has thrown off its cloak, taken off its velvet gloves, and revealed itself to be as malicious and criminal as it really is. Acknowledging the existence and dangers of the predator culture—the demons in our midst—is the first step toward reclaiming and reasserting our collective soul power.
An Evolutionary Leap?
I view the presence of predator demons as a natural phenomenon at a time when our species is on the brink of an evolutionary change, a profound paradigm or consciousness change. The evil in the world has become stronger and more threatening because the light of consciousness in our species has increased and is getting ready to evolve to the next level. The insanity in the world is both a catalyst for and a response to the paradigm change we are in the midst of: from authoritarian power to collective power. (See Power and the Collective for an astrological interpretation of this shift.)
Since the United States is imposing its predator demon upon the rest of the world, this turbulent, dangerous era can also be regarded as a collective initiation rite for our species. (Reportedly, about 85% of humanity regards Bush & Co. as a menace to the world. All eyes are warily on the U.S.) The predator demon resides in the deepest, darkest recesses of the human unconscious, and initiation into this darkness is necessary in order to develop the wisdom to protect the good and creative human soul within ourselves and our species. (p. 49) We must learn to recognize the predator.
Throughout the millennia of our patriarchal civilization, there has been a taboo against knowing what is in the darkness of our own depths. We have been warned off of exploring this darkness and commanded not to become conscious of what lies beneath appearances, and especially not to look behind the curtain of authoritarian power. Women especially have internalized the message to blindfold and muzzle ourselves, and keep our hands tied -- or else! So there is a psychic barrier against looking into the dark. It was erected by the natural predator himself!
However, humans (especially women) are naturally equipped with the curiosity and insight to see into the dark and discover what's hidden behind the visible. If we will but give ourselves permission to look at the effects of the predator demon in our own lives, we might discover how he has frustrated the achievement of our most meaningful, soulful projects; debased our most cherished hopes, dreams, truths and values; sapped us of our creative energy; and rendered us ineffectual. If we pry deeper into the dark secrets of our civilization, we will discover what the predator demon hath wrought on our planet: the mindless degradation and waste of human potential; the thoughtless devastation of countless innocent lives of all species, including our own; and the savage destruction of the glorious harmonies and beauties of our Mother Earth.
We are an adolescent species that's become a planetary power. Our nation, the United States, is the most powerful and destructive of all -- and perhaps the most adolescent of all. If we Americans don't achieve the wisdom of self-knowledge and the consciousness to keep our predator demon contained, we might not survive -- as a country or a species.
So it seems that we now must look into the dark in order to protect our sanity and any hope at all for a future worth living in. But we need not be afraid, for investigating the dark side and doing battle with it will return to us the soul power that the predator has stolen. It will yield the spiritual and psychic riches that are our birthright and that we need in order to create a soulful and sustainable future for all life.
The only devils in the world are those running around
in our own hearts—that is where the battle should be fought.
— Mahatma Gandhi
Estés says that consciousness is the way out of the predator's torture chamber. Those who wish to evolve consciously, for their own sakes and for the sake of our collective evolutionary leap, must disobey the demon. We must investigate the mysteries of all that is secret, "classified," forbidden and in shadow. (The Bush administration has provided us with an abundance of such mysteries.) What we will find is horrific -- in fact, demonic. We must be able to bear what we see and fully register the carnage within our psyches and in the world, without looking away. Only then can we act.
Sometimes it takes a deadly threat from the predator demon to provoke a person (or a culture) into the life-changing shift from compliance to warrior-like resistance. When we realize we have been prey to the predator, have been subconsciously manipulated and deceived, and that he plans to do us in, then something deep within us rallies. Our injured instincts—long suppressed, disused and deadened in our consumer culture—begin to reawaken.
It is important to realize that wherever the predator is doing his dirty business in the outer world, the inner predator of the psyche concurs. You can be sure that whenever you feel victimized, deceived, exploited, threatened or traumatized by some petty tyrant—whether in the family, the office, on the job, in community life, or national life—your inner predator demon is collaborating to keep you from defending yourself or opposing the tyrant without. The inner demon's job is to deprive you of freedom of thought and action, keep you in a fog, and make you feel powerless and defeated.
This is why it is necessary for each of us to confront our own inner predator demon, and our own fears of fully apprehending what we have been complying with, and why. This is the reason that learning to recognize the predator demon within ourselves is an indispensable dimension of doing battle with the predator demons embodied by the tyrants of the world; for our own predator demon will prevent us from acting to right the wrongs. He will subvert our efforts, leave us feeling depleted, depressed and despairing, because that is what feeds him.
This is our psychic initiation rite: to bring our own predator demon to light and dismantle his power over us, so that we can recover the soul power and sovereignty that will enable us to create a future that embodies our highest values and aspirations. This is the key to our evolutionary leap. I can't imagine it will occur in any other way than to shine the light of consciousness into our own depths and achieve the integration, responsibility and maturity that will keep the predator demon confined. Perhaps the second term of the Bush administration is the crisis, the emergency, that we have needed to collectively call forth the consciousness that can defeat the predator demons that are consuming the world. As always, our enemies are the allies of our consciousness and creativity.
So how to we defeat them?
Dr. Estés gives clear instructions.
1. Acknowledge and recognize the predator demon in our lives and world.
2. Protect ourselves from victimization by the inner predator.
3. Deprive it of its murderous energy.
1. The key to recognizing the predator is disobedience to the command ‘Thou shalt not know.’ Begin asking questions: What is behind the visible? What is not as it appears? What is covert and hidden, and why? What truths are crying to be revealed? What has been destroyed or is dying? Finding the key questions begins the germination of consciousness.
2. To protect ourselves from victimization, we have to listen to our instincts and intuition, resist the seductions of the predator, and stand up for ourselves. We must dismantle the logic of the predator demon and defend our own soulful insights and truths. To protect ourselves from assault by the inner predator, we have to take ourselves, our gifts, and our strengths seriously. We are, after all, protecting our human dignity and our sovereignty over ourselves and our purpose in life.
3. To deprive the predator demon of his murderous energy, we dismember him. We consciously pick him apart with analytical critique from every angle. We expose his every lie, subterfuge, and ruse, and his every crime. We show him we have seen through him, mock and ridicule him, and then we turn our backs and withdraw from him. When we cease to fear him and refuse to engage with him, we deprive him of his energy and strength, for he cannot act without our compliance. This is what he does not want us to know, and the reason he is so opposed to consciousness.
Intra-psychically, when we deprive the predator of our energy he shrinks back into the far recesses of the unconscious. Dr. Estés puts it this way: "We, in essence, drive [the predator] down into the layer of the psyche where all creation is as yet unformed, and let it bubble in that etheric soup till we can find a form, a better form for it to fill. When the predator's psychic energum is rendered, it is formable to some other purpose. We are creators then; the raw substance reduced down, it becomes then the stuff of our own creation." (p.64)
She further observes that when we vanquish the inner predator, we are "filled with intensity, vitality and drive"; for we have taken back from him what he stole from us: "vigor and substance." She suggests that we can then transform the predator's rage into "a soul-fire" for accomplishing visionary projects in the world. We can transform his cunning craftiness into insight and assessment of things from a distance, which gives us a choice about whether or how to get involved. His killing nature can be transformed into discrimination about what to let go of and leave behind. And the predator demon's stubborn refusal to give in can become our own refusal to give in to him! (p.65)
The next question is, 'But what about Bush & Co. and the capitalist elites they represent? How do we deprive them of their murderous energy?' Obviously we have to dismember them in consciousness, and expose them in whatever ways we can. There is much work of this kind being conducted collectively right now, such as efforts to prevent and counter election fraud, to charge Bush and Rumsfeld with war crimes, to impeach Bush and Cheney, and to reopen the 9/11 investigation. Efforts on internet news sites and blogs to expose the truth about the state of the United States and the world have exploded in recent years, thanks to Bush & Co. A great deal of creative work has emerged through books, websites, radio programs and documentary films. All of this is raising consciousness and changing minds, despite appearances. To me this is evidence that the consciousness revolution is in progress.
But even if Bush & Co. hadn't managed to steal the last election, the predator demon that has been acting through global elites for a long, long time would still need to be exposed and dismantled. Bush & Co. are merely the most virulent and flagrant representatives of Western Civilization's predator demon and the collective delusion that it has fomented, like a miasmal fog, over human consciousness. Efforts to vanquish the pathology of the global economic system still have a long way to go.
The mind of a bigot is like the pupil of the eye;
the more light you pour upon it the more it will contract.
— Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Naomi Wolf’s The End of America and Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, both published in 2007, are exactly the kind of work that needs to be done to expose America’s predator demon. Likewise, John Perkins’ earlier Confessions of an Economic Hitman exposes the way the entire enterprise of American imperialism has been conducted over previous decades. It was the first time a former insider disclosed the covert operations of the predator demon within the global economy. As with many other former government insiders who have written exposés in the last few years, Perkins was stricken with conscience. All of this work of exposing and dismembering is essential and healthy and will eventually yield results. It is central to humanity’s collective initiation rite and must continue until the current predator culture is completely vanquished. Until that time, the world will never be at peace.
How do we refuse to comply with the predator demon in global capitalism and economic globalization? The global economy depends ultimately on two things: ‘consumer confidence’ and fear of not playing the consumer game. Since we comply with this system as long as we believe in it and give it our attention, time and dollars, we must withdraw our attention, time, money and energy from the corporate-driven consumer society as much as possible. This means turning off the damned TV with its constant barrage of commercials that colonize our minds. It means refusing to shop and eat at chain stores, and giving our business to independent progressive enterprises instead. It means kicking the shopping addiction altogether. It means going organic wherever possible. Voluntary simplicity doesn't give the predator demon much to chew on, and it frees up time and energy for collective efforts to create sustainable alternatives. Of course, resistance through organized boycotts of major corporations is effective and can become even more so.
As Estés notes, as soon as we become determined to escape from the predator demon, his rage and aggression become murderous. Interestingly, consciousness and the predator reach the boiling point at the same time. At this point, right now, when a police state becomes more and more likely in the U.S., We the People have to become more clever, more cunning. By remaining inconspicuous, we can buy time to organize further.
As individuals we must fiercely cleave to truth, integrity and sanity, and continue to work creatively for the good of all, whatever happens. That keeps the inner predator from re-arising within. But work for the common good must now be carried out in partnership with others to create networks of support. The age of authoritarianism is ending. It is time to collectivize and share the power of the human spirit. If we want to create the conditions for a sustainable future for all life, we need a tsunami of warriors with strong backbones and open hearts, fearless intelligence, creativity, a vision of the greater good, and a robust sense of humor. Remember: predator demons are vulnerable to ridicule. Ridicule is an important weapon for psychic self-defense. Keep the jokes and cartoons in your toolkit and keep them circulating.
The opening weeks of the second Bush administration were a signal that it was time to collectivize sanity and create a sane society with each other. That hasn’t happen yet. Paralysis and depression overcame a lot of people in the U.S. and a lot of people still feel alone and isolated and scared. Now the danger of the American predator demon instituting a police state in the U.S., or a Third World War by attacking Iran, or both, is even greater. Anyone working for the good of the whole and the future may soon have to operate under the radar of Big Brother. We may have to go underground for awhile; but creating a sane alternative culture, as was done in Czechoslovakia by Vaclav Havel and others before the fall of the Soviet Union, may be the most effective resistance we can mount. We can be sure that our beneficial intentions and efforts will matter to beings of the future.
You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change things build a new model that makes
the existing model obsolete.
— Buckminster Fuller
* Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype (Ballantine Books, NY, 1992); Chapter 2 on the Bluebeard teaching tale.
An earlier version of this essay was first published in Awakened Woman e-Magazine, December 22, 2004.
© 2009 Suzanne Duarte