Wayne Holland: The Irrational Universe

Demonic Possession

... September 29, 2006 ...


For many years I actually believed in demons and the possibility of being possessed by one. I now regard the whole concept as total bullshit.

I am not so much embarrassed that I believed in such nonsense as pissed off. Why should I be embarrassed? I was taught to believe it by my family.

A kid naturally trusts his family. As a kid, he/she doesn't know any better than to believe whatever crap comes from it. Just look at the religious wackos all over the over the world today.

Right now the Muslims are showing their proverbial asses. Why do you think they're Muslims? You think they just made the shit up all by themselves? Hell, no. They got it from their families. Is it any coincidence that the Pope is Catholic? Why do you think he's Catholic? You think he made it up? No. Somebody (his family) handed him a bag of horseshit and he kept it. He's still got it in a box in his closet at the Vatican.

The same is true of anybody who practices a religion. It doesn't matter which one, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim. The name doesn't matter, because the name is bullshit too.

Part of the bullshit that I was handed maintained that there were these impish invisible creatures who were in league with a really big and powerful creature called the Devil (with a capital "D"). And these little devils, usually referred to as demons, could somehow get inside your body and control you, make you do stuff you wouldn't normally do. The comedian Flip Wilson used to have some great fun with this crap. "The devil made me do it."

I regard it as absolutey pathetic that there are people who still believe this foolishness. Hell fire! Hollywood still makes movies based on it, and from what I can tell, they're pretty popular.

I gotta be totally honest with you. As long as people keep believing in this kind of bullshit, I don't see a whole lot of hope for the human condition. If you have even a high-school education and can't see through the utter nonsense of the religious package that your family handed you, then you are truly lost.

Yes, it's just the opposite of what they're telling you. The people who do not believe in God are not the ones who are lost. They are the ones who are saved. Those who are lost are the believers, in Jesus or whoever. It doesn't matter. You are a slave to whatever you believe in, especially if it's religious or has anything to do with a religion. The Jesus freaks are lost, not the ones they're trying to convert.

Excuse me. I got off track. I started to talk about demons and just sort of went off. It's one of those subjects that has the power to irritate the living shit out of me. Like I said, I'm a little pissed off by the bullshit package my family handed me. To return to what I started talking about, below is some stuff I got off the internet on the subject, presented a little more rationally than my own approach. It's kind of a hodgepodge, but then again, isn't the whole internet?

An evil supernatural being; a devil.

A persistently tormenting person, force, or passion: the demon of drug addiction.

One who is extremely zealous, skillful, or diligent: worked away like a demon; a real demon at math.

Variant of “daimon”

ETYMOLOGY: Middle English, from Late Latin daemon, from Latin, spirit, from Greek daimon, divine power; see da- in Indo-European roots

Daemon - "God, Goddess, Deity, Divine Power." From the Greek word of the same meaning through the Late Latin "daemon." At one time both Latin forms, "demon" and "daemon" refered to "minions of the Devil," but "daemon" has been gaining back its original origin.1387, from L. dæmon "spirit," from Gk. daimon (gen. daimonos) "lesser god, guiding spirit, tutelary deity," (sometimes including souls of the dead), used (with daimonion) in Christian Gk. translations and Vulgate for "god of the heathen" and "unclean spirit." Jewish authors earlier had employed the Gk. word in this sense, using it to render shedim "lords, idols" in the Septuagint, and Matt. viii.31 has daimones, translated as deofol in O.E., feend or deuil in M.E. The original mythological sense is sometimes written dæmon for purposes of distinction. The Demon of Socrates (1387) was a daimonion, a "divine principle or inward oracle." His accusers, and later the Church Fathers, however, represented this otherwise. The Demon Star (1895) is Beta Persei (in Ar. Algol "the Demon") so called because it visibly varies in brightness every three days. Fem. form demoness first attested 1638. Demonic is from 1662; demonize is from 1821.

Professor Corbato:

I write a trivia column for a newspaper called The Austin Chronicle. Someone has asked me the origin of the word daemon as it applies to computing. Best I can tell based on my research, the word was first used by people on your team at Project MAC using the IBM 7094 in 1963. The first daemon (an abbreviation for Disk And Executive MONitor) was a program that automatically made tape backups of the file system. Does this sound about right? Any corrections or additions? Thank you for your time!

Your explanation of the origin of the word daemon is correct in that my group began using the term around that time frame. However the acronym explanation is a new one on me. Our use of the word daemon was inspired by the Maxwell's daemon of physics and thermodynamics. (My background is Physics.) Maxwell's daemon was an imaginary agent which helped sort molecules of different speeds and worked tirelessly in the background. We fancifully began to use the word daemon to describe background processes which worked tirelessly to perform system chores. I found a very good explanation of all this online at:

From Jan Danilo:

I am interested in the origin of the word daemon. I work in information technology and I have always heard of system processes referred to as daemons. I assumed that it is an older spelling of demon. Can you shed some light on this point?

Why certainly. Someone give us some of those phosphorescent genes that have recently been spliced to mice DNA and we'll shed light like mad. Demon and daemon were once used interchangeably. The former came to English from medieval Latin, while the latter was from classical Latin. The earliest use appears to have been in the phrase daemon of Socrates, which was his "attendant, ministering, or indwelling spirit; genius". That was in the late 14th century. It was a short time later that the term demon came to refer to "an evil spirit" by influence of its usage in various versions of the Bible. The Greek form was used to translate Hebrew words for "lords, idols" and "hairy ones (satyrs)". Wyclif translated it from Greek to English fiend or devil. This is how the evil connotation arose. By the late 16th century, the general supernatural meaning was being distinguished with the spelling daemon, while the evil meaning remained with demon. Today daemon can mean "a supernatural being of a nature intermediate between that of gods and men" or "a guiding spirit".

[Warning: This paragraph is about science so, if this topic causes you undue alarm, please close your eyes until you've finished reading it.] The 19th century scientist James Maxwell once daydreamed (the polite term is "thought experiment") about a problem in physics. He imagined a closed container which was divided in half. In the middle of the divider was a tiny gate, just large enough to admit one molecule of gas. This gate, in Maxwell's imagination, was operated by a tiny daemon. This daemon observed the speed (i.e. temperature) of the molecules heading for the gate and, depending on the speed, let them through. If he let only slow molecules pass from side A to side B and only fast molecules pass from side B to side A, then A would get hot while B cooled. Maxwell's daemon was only imaginary, of course, but as it seemed to evade the laws of thermodynamics it caused quite a stir. Eventually, though, the theory of quantum mechanics showed why it wouldn't work. [OK, you may open your eyes, now.]

As you probably know, the "system processes" called daemons monitor other tasks and perform predetermined actions depending on their behavior. This is so reminiscent of Maxwell's daemon watching his molecules that we can only assume that whoever dubbed these "system processes" had Maxwell's daemon in mind. Unfortunately, we have found no hard evidence to support this. [Now, of course, we have!]

We also assume that this is the meaning behind the daemon.co.uk, host to many United Kingdom web sites.

Professor Jerome H. Saltzer, who also worked on Project MAC, confirms the Maxwell's demon explanation. He is currently working on pinpointing the origin of the erroneous acronym etymology for daemon in this sense. [We have edited Issue 129 to reflect this confirmation of our original assumption. Isn't it wonderful to be able to trace a word to its source so cleanly?

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