My God and My Daemons
The devil is the difference between us:
the devil is the secret everybody knows about himself.
God is what we have in common:
God is what we don’t know.
Both God and the daemons are something entirely human. They don’t live
in the skies or under the ground, but inside us. The daemons are tempters who appear to us in wonderful shapes and forms.
With the years I realized that my most dangerous daemon has been my
desire to feel that people like me. Succumbing to this desire, I actually was living not
the way I wanted to, but the way the others wanted me to live. I grew up in a communist
country. My father was a famous intellectual and a communist. He was deeply
hated by some, and deeply loved by others. And I (possessed by my daemon)
dedicated my whole energy to trying to convince people how independent I was from my
father. All my actions were aimed at proving to everyone how different were my
political views from those of my father’s and how I had refused to use my family
Exactly this is the tactics of the daemons. They urge you to toil at
achieving something — recognition, respect, love, success — and the more you
try, the more you strain your muscles and wave your arms in the air, the more you sink in
the bog. It was like a bad dream: I was sinking deeper and deeper in the swamp
of envy and hatred, and, eventually — solitude. People see what they want to
see and not what really is. In my case, people in Bulgaria at that time would
say: “Of course, it is easy to be a dissident when your father is part of the
establishment — this is their family game.” Or even worse: “What cynicism!
He is both privileged and a dissident.” The fact that I was fired from my job, fined and threatened with jail didn’t matter much for those who wanted to see me only as my father’s son. So my daemon made me leave Bulgaria for good. I became an American. But things didn’t change much. My departure also fit into the image my detractors had of me. So, instead of finding love and recognition among my compatriots, I found oblivion and solitude.
It is very easy to fit the others, or your own self, into generally accepted archetypes or stereotypes. Politicians know this well: if you don’t have good political arguments against your adversary’s position, you can easily defeat him or her by publicly smearing their image on a personal basis. Spread the rumor, plant the seed of suspicion, and let the victims defend
themselves. The more they defend themselves, the more suspicious they become.
In politics, Bill Clinton gave an excellent example of the destructive power of this daemon: the desire to feel that people like you ( all people: in the office, at home, in bed, on television). President Clinton was a charming and extremely intelligent, extremely gifted politician, who was destroyed by cunning enemies using against him his own daemon: his desire to be liked by everyone. And, of course, in this kind of mean personal warfare, politicians use the prejudices of the people too. This tactic wouldn’t work if people didn’t have prejudices.
The most common human daemon is Fear of Death. When this daemon possesses us at a “conscious” level, not just at the level of the instincts, he appears to us under the beautiful name of “will to survive” or even “courage.” He can push us to do terrible things. Especially in politics. Adolph Hitler was concerned about the “survival of his brave and great nation”. . . Both personal egoism and nationalism (which is the egoism of a nation) are children of Fear of Death.
Other mighty human daemons are Jealousy, Taking Offence, Envy. They also drive us to do mean things, to indulge in cruelty while calling our vanity and vengeance “struggle for justice”.
The common self-conceit, our natural desire to boast to friends, is the most infantile and harmless daemon. This is a baby daemon. . . . But all daemons are children of the Ego and Death. The more we pay attention to the parents, the more we multiply the children in our own souls.
God is also something entirely human. In the words of Jesus, according to the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas:” If those who lead you say to you, ‘See, the Kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘The Kingdom is in the sea, “then the fish of the sea will
precede you. But the Kingdom is inside of you.. . . When you come to know yourself, then you will become known, and you will realize that you are the children of the living Father. . .”
Only if we manage to open our eyes, out inner eyes, beyond that dream caused by Death and the Ego, we could really see the Light of God. In very difficult moments, when
we have lost everything, even hope, if we still have strength, if we still have a desire for prayer, or meditation on the world, or conversation with God, then we can see the Light.
This is the same Light, which people in love can see: people who have entirely forgotten their own selves, who have dedicated themselves to someone else. Great happiness and great suffering could be equally good windows to Light. In our everyday lives, dominated by Death and the Ego, closed in our own dark selves, we can never see the Light. We could probably see its reflection in some dreams, or in art.
The most damaging daemons, those who really want to destroy the world, are the
daemons of religious fanaticism. The moment we say: “My God is the True God, your
god is fake — follow my God!” we actually become servants of Satan. God is beyond all religions, beyond all differences between us. Atheist who love people and the world, are much closer to God, than religious fanatics who hate the world.
This I believe…
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