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Demons and Gremlins

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May 2010
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I have spent the past three hours trying to sync my daughter’s iPod.  The iTunes software seems to be attractive to gremlins.  These are the little imps that get into your electronics.  They can mess with mechanical machines too, but they particularly seem to thrive on electricity.  Computers must be the ultimate chocolate shop for gremlins.  As I understand it, gremlins were first identified as a species of imp by flyers in WWII.  They liked to mess with radar and other aeronautical instruments.

Many people ask me, in my capacity as an Advocatus Diaboli, what gremlins look like.  The answer is, it depends.  (That’s always the answer with demons and imps, isn’t it?)  Unlike your grand demons with noble titles, legions of spirits at their command, and huge tracts of prime real estate in Pandemonia, gremlins are humble little creatures.  They most commonly appear as a blink or flash, but can also appear as inexplicable spots of light or sparks.  Today, as so many of them have moved into our personal computers, the gremlin likes to take on the shape of the Endless Spinning Pinwheel of Doom.   Gremlins delight in making progress bars cease to move.

What, you may ask, do gremlins eat?  That is, what do they thrive upon.  Demons of the greater sort thrive on our emotions — the more out of control, the more filling and delicious.  Gremlins thrive on frustration, also an emotion, but one that is of a lower intensity than say, lust, hate, anger, or greed.  Yes, you are right, these are among the Catholic church’s Seven Deadly Sins.  Needless to say, they are accompanied by actions, and these actions are the bit that are usually against social mores.  But the church fathers will have you confessing and doing pennance for even the emotions that emerge before the act. There is  good sense in this.  Because, if you, for example, have a flare up of lust looking at a beautiful and sexy person of whatever gender or genders may appeal to your nature, that flare is food for the demons in your head. And if you yeild to the emotions and let them grow stronger, you can bet that the demon who is eating them will egg you on.  Moreover, acting on emotions brings them to a climax of power, and very often produces the added benefit of a delightful dessert of regret and pain.

Gremlins are not quite as bad as that.  They don’t want to drive you to ruin your marriage or your reputation, or get you in jail, or drive you to murder.  No, they just want you to pull your hear out and swear.  They get a kick out of confusing you too.  If you say, “What the hell is going on?”  or “Damn this machine!”  that is just what the gremlin wants.  You have invoked Hell and kindly given them a new computer.  As a matter of fact, the denizens of Pandemonia never ever have to buy a computer. There are so many of them that have been damned to Hell, that you can just pick them up off the streets.  The streets of Heaven may be paved with gold, but the streets of Pandemonia are paved with personal computers (mostly running Windows).

Indeed, it is ironic that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation  is trying to spread computer access and the Internet throughout the mundane sphere of human societies.  Microsoft has already provided universal access to Pandemonia, which, is a lot larger in terms of sheer acreage than planet Earth.

But I digress.

I am not certain, but I think that PC’s seldom have more than one gremlin at a time. Unless, they have settled in a particular software application. Then you can get several, sharing the electronic space in a symbiotic relationship.  You get mad, anxious about work slowdowns or files that have vanished, and they share in the emotional bounty of your glow.  If you have ever wondered what it is that is using up all those megabytes on your hard drive, take it from me, its the gremlin nests.  In fact, one thaumatologist with whom I am in regular correspondence, Dr. Rubin L. Milani, is conducting experiments on a hypothesis that Dark Matter is really gremlins and demons.  And their nests.

So, is the gremlin in the machine or in your head?  The perennial question that frames the whole thing wrong.  You might as well say, neither, or both, or in Hell.  The gremlin’s effects exist in the energetic matrix of your electronic apparatus, but to say “in the computer” is a little misleading.  It isn’t as if you could open the case and shake out all the gremlins.  They are not insects, even if they are called “bugs.”  From the viewpoint of a programmer who can delve down into the code and troubleshoot (like in Tron), the gremlin is manifest as a conflicting bit of logic or syntax.

Precisely the same thing is true of the greater demons.  We speak of our inner demons or when we do socially unacceptable things we say “the Devil made me do it.”  But are the demons inside or outside?  If they are inside, can they make us do things against our will?  No, not worth the effort.  It is much easier to just tantalize our egos with images of our deepest desires and pull the plug on the old frontal cortex so that we forget about the consequences of our actions and instead get swept up in the sort of immediate gratification and excitement our lizard and monkey brains like.  If you look at what the Goetia says about the powers of its 72 demon kings, princes, and dukes, you will find that they very often can bestow scholarly ability in the liberal arts.  That is hardly a bad thing, surely?  But, you see it can be.  The reason that one is even more popular than making a woman fall in love with you or finding hidden treasure is that the chappies doing this sort of magick were monks, students at the University of Paris and like seats of Scholastic learning.

If you spent all your time running after skirts and drinking beer and wine, you might very well wake up one day and find that you were doing so bad in Geometry and Astronomy that the dour doctors of theology and philosophy were about to expell you from the university.  And then where would you be?  Well, you would probably be living just as you are, but without the excuse of going to the university.  And Dad might cut off the allowance.  So, desperate and frantic, you turn to one of the Goetic demons to try to help you learn your liberal arts and pass your exams.  The name of the demon most often invoked in this situation is named Cram.

However, the demon who promises learning is really one of your inner demons.  Wherever it is he calls home, he also lies within your soul as a potential.  A potential for learning — the latent power of your intellect. The demon is all of those grey cells that you have not been using.  Such fellows do not feed off of your baser emotions — lust, gluttony, greed, anger.  No, they feed off of higher emotions like passion and pride.  If you end up a learned doctor puffed up with self-importance and looking down on everyone else, that’s rich fare for the table of your demon, and you sustain him.  However, passion for knowledge, can become pridefulness and pride grows all by itself.  You might stop learning altogether and just rest on your laurels taking grant money to go on research vacations to California or Italy.  The book never quite gets written, but the scholarly activity feeds your pride, and that is food for your demon.

I am not saying that college professors draw magic circles and triangles and evoke Goetic demons to physical form to demand favors.  If only it were so externalized!  But the circle and the triangle can happen entirely inside your unconscious mind, in the depths of your soul.  Dante understood the inside of our heads quite well.  Our normal consciousness is a dark tangled forest full of fearful things.  We feel lost there and often doubtful of our pathway or what lies at the end of the path.  But that dark forest has a doorway that leads to the underworld of the Unconscious.  There we find all the demons and sinners we carry in our depths.  They are parts of us.  Or at least potentials within us.  But we can do more than repress them or be afraid of them.  We can engage them in conversation.  And the method of the Goetia teaches us how to do this without foolishly giving in to the temptations demons offer — especially the temptation to pride or doubt.

If you let demons feed on your emotions, it is the same as saying, as the Jungian psychologists do, that you are giving away your psychic energy to that power, locking it in your Unconscious where it is not available to be used by your conscious ego.  You feel self-doubt. You feel tired.  Weak.  Confused.  Because all that energy has been given to feed the demons.  That is why Dante had his poetic alter-ego descend into the Inferno before he could rise up through Purgatorio to Paradiso. You have to deal with the demons first, and reclaim your energy, your power from where they are locked up in the dark, emotions that are tortured and exiled because you don’t acknowledge them as part of you.

Embrace your demons — and your gremlins.  You are better than the are, stronger, and they will serve you not master you if you apply your reason to them rather than your emotions.

Next time, the Seven Deadly Sins.

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