Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" "Legion," he replied, because many demons had gone into him. And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss. A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned. When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus' feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left. The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, "Return home and tell how much God has done for you." So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him. (Luke 8:30-39)
What is demon possession?
So we must ask - what is transpiring here? What is "demon possession" anyway? How do demons possess a person and how are they removed?
We must understand first who we are. Each of us is an individual spirit-person temporarily occupying a physical body. We can see that we are occupying a temporary physical body when we look at a picture of our childhood body, and then compare it with the one we have now. The body is completely different, yet we feel that we are the same person. We are still the same person but our body has changed. In five years, every atom and molecule within our body has been replaced. Yet we are the same person. This means that we cannot be these bodies.
We also know this from clinical death research, where a revived person describes rising up over their body and looking down at it. Who is rising over the body? This is the spirit-person.
What this all means is that we are each "possessing" our physical body. It is under our control for a period of time and then we have to leave it at the time of death. After the time of death we have no control over it because we have left it. At the time of death we are effectively exorcised from that body - by nature, we can only "possess" this body for so long.
This said, in ancient times, people assumed that every bad habit or addiction was the result of a demon. In this way, one's demons may simply be one's bad habits or addictions. Each habit or addiction would be relegated to a different demon.
For such persons, through purification principles, these habits or addictions could be cleansed from a person immediately. Basically what would happen is the person would have a change of heart, which would immediately purge those habits or addictions.
At the same time, these habits or addictions could well be influenced by those within the ghost or spirit world - unembodied spirit-persons. Such influence may be sporadic, but the influence would be enough to encourage the bad habits or addictions.
Where do unembodied spirit-persons come from?
A person can become unembodied when they have mishandled a physical body in their past. For example, a person who commits suicide will be unembodied for the duration of time that the person was ordained to have remained inside that physical body. Killing one's own physical body is breaking the law of nature as established by the Supreme Being. Should we do that, we will likely be unembodied for at least that remaining period of time.
This might be compared to a prisoner who breaks out of prison. Once they are caught they will be put back into a harsher prison for the duration of their sentence. Their sentence may also be extended for them breaking the rules.
A person may also be unembodied if they spent a considerable amount of their physical lifetime intoxicated. During intoxication, the spirit-person becomes partially released from their connection with their physical body.
Over time the spirit-person may become attached to this release - called addiction. Such a person has developed a consciousness where they want to be released from their physical constraints. This is combined with the fact that the spirit-person has effectively shortened their physical occupation of the body through the release of drugs and alcohol.
As a result of these two dynamics - shortening the duration of occupation and developing a consciousness of release - the spirit-person sets up their unembodiment after the death of this physical body.
Because we are active by nature, such an unembodied spirit-person may still pine to participate in the activities of the physical world. They want to participate with others, so they attempt to occupy another physical body.
Since they have lost their own physical body, they may look for a physical body occupied by a someone with a weakened connection with that body.
One of the easiest facilities for an unembodied spirit-person to occupy another's body is when that 'target" becomes intoxicated. Again, a drunk or drugged person will become partially detached from their body while they are intoxicated. This partial detachment can in some cases allow an unembodied spirit-person to enter the body and take some control over the body during that period of intoxication.
This is why some people seem to have significant personality changes when they become intoxicated. Many become violent, when they are not violent during their non-intoxicated state. This has also bee called a Jekyll-and-Hyde complex.
The issue is not that the person has changed personalities. The body has changed personalities.
Or, in other cases, the intoxication may simply allow the person's inhibitions to drop, allowing the spirit-person within to act out its otherwise hidden agenda.
The issue is that we are confusing the physical body with the spirit-person within. A spirit-person doesn't change personalities: We are eternally this personality. But the physical body may become occupied by more than one spirit-person. Or the person within may itself be a demon in hiding.
What makes the spirit-person a demon then?
Strictly speaking, a "demon" is someone who disregards the Supreme Being - this also means someone who is focused on their own welfare and does not care about the welfare of others.
This said, some demons are more demoniac than others. In comparison with the residents of the spiritual realm - who are pure in their love of the Supreme Being, simple and humble in their approach to others, and always caring about the welfare of others - practically everyone who has fallen into the physical world is a demon.
This definition of "demon" may seem quite harsh, as this is basically saying that practically all of us are demons.
But again, there are more demoniac demons if you will. Some of those who have fallen away from the spiritual realm have become so demoniac that they have little regard for others and are prepared to hurt practically anyone in order to get what they want. They will murder, steal and hurt anyone who may be in their way of achieving their self-centered goals.
And most of us do not feel that we are like this. Most of us will look at our own loving nature through rose-colored lenses. A casual study done famously a number of years ago interviewed jail prisoners. The study found that practically every prisoner did not think they had done anything wrong. Practically every prisoner said they were compelled to do their crime and it wasn't their fault.
Most of us feel that 'I care about my family' and 'I care about my kids' and 'I care about my dog' and even 'I care about others.' And this is a good thing, as we are caring about those outside of ourselves, and this care for others makes us better people.
But how far does our care go?
Do we care about these people more than we care about ourselves? What happens when there is a choice - them or us?
And will we care for someone outside our family? Will we care for animals that are not our pets? And what happens when someone threatens us with violence? Will we care for them or us? Will we care for someone who is after our job? Do we care for those who threaten our country or our homes or families?
In other words, while we feel that we care so much, really our care for others is often conditional upon whether their body is related to our body, or whether they care for us in return, or whether our body is not threatened. Our care is not pure, in others words. We still have ourselves as the center of our care.
And let's consider what we don't care about, as individuals and a society.
What about hunger? Why are there so many people in the world going hungry while others are throwing away food if it has a small brown spot?
And what about animals? Have you ever seen a slaughterhouse? Yes, in a slaughterhouse, and those factory farms that house chickens and pigs and other animals - animals are being horrifically beaten, tortured and murdered. They cry out in pain. Blood is flying and the animals are screaming. And until their murder, they are penned up in little boxes.
Even those who care for their pets and reject the mistreatment of other pets will regularly go to the store and pay the slaughterhouses to torture and murder innocent animals, when there is plenty of other food we can eat.
And what about the massive destruction of our environment - resulting in the killing off of entire species of creatures and the very environment that maintains humanity?
Most of us do not take responsibility for these things. We say that others are responsible. But most in our society will still drive around in our SUVs and buy meat at the grocery store and throw away food that has a little brown spot.
We say that others are responsible for the suffering of others. Who is responsible? Everyone else?
The fact is, we are living in hell. Hell is a place of suffering and we are each involved to one degree or another in the suffering of other humans or living organisms.
The question is how deep in hell are we.
Our demoniac level is thus measured by how much or how little pain we inflict upon others. A person who is a vegetarian is not involved in the slaughter of innocent animals, for example. A person who gives in charity to hunger programs is trying to help prevent starvation for others, for example. A person who tries to conserve gas or buys a hybrid is trying to help the environment, for example.
These are all signs of a person who is learning to care for others. This contrasts greatly with those who could care less about hungry children, or innocent animal slaughter, or the environment or other issues that promote suffering.
As we learn to care more about others, we begin to grow spiritually.
A person who becomes so self-centered that they could care less about others to the point where they will murder or steal from others has achieved the status of demon. Falling to this level is a spiraling that starts with the contemplation of sense objects, then lust - self-centered desire.
When a person desires something they cannot obtain, this leads to frustration, then anger, which can then lead to violence for someone who doesn't care about others. This spirals a person further into the category of demon.
Should these characteristics be combined with a shortening of their physical lifetime through drunkenness, drugs or suicide - that demoniac person may become unembodied for a period of time after the death of their physical body.
Being self-centered and unembodied is an awful state to be in. In this state a person cannot get what they want from the physical world. They are still attached to the physical world in a self-centered way but they have little contact with those things and people of the physical world due to their unembodied state.
This might be compared to a person who has become paralyzed - and cannot speak or move. They look around and want to connect with others but cannot. These people will go to great lengths to operate a computer or other facility that allows them to connect with others and the things of this world.
An unembodied person is in a similar state. They will look for vulnerable people who become detached from their physical bodies - through drugs or drunkenness or otherwise - and will try to occupy that body for a while so they can connect with the things and people of the physical world.
Note that there are also various grades of unembodied persons - some more demoniac than others. Some will become super-violent when they gain access to a body. They will hurt others. This is an expression of their personalities. They might try to connect with others sexually or through communications but will get frustrated easily and hurt others if they don't get what they want.
This is precisely the situation that Jesus was dealing with. Wine was a big part of that society and some people were subjected to drunkenness - leading to the unleashing of bad habits. While there is no specific evidence that the man in this verse was an alcoholic, there is other evidence in some of the other possession exorcisms by Jesus.
A demoniac person wants nothing to do with the Supreme Being. They run from contact with the Supreme Being because they want to be God. They see themselves as the greatest person in the universe and therefore God threatens their perceived authority.
Jesus, in fact, did invoke the Supreme Being as he exorcised demons. This is evidenced clearly by Jesus' statement to the man:
"Return home and tell how much God has done for you."Jesus' loving relationship with the Supreme Being, and his invoking of God empowered Jesus to chase away demoniac spirit-persons because they wanted nothing to do with God, and a loving relationship with God.
So the best medicine to protect ourselves from unembodied demons is to repeat and sing God's Holy Names. This is why Jesus was described as:
"Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the LORD." (Matt. 21:9, Matt. 23:39, Mark 11:9, Luke 13:35, John 12:13)And this is why Jesus requested that his students pray, saying:
Hallowed be Your Name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven. (Luke 11:2)
Jesus taught his students to praise and honor ("hallow") God's Holy Name.
The Holy Names of God ward off unembodied demoniac spirit-persons, while they attract others - such as angels - who enjoy hearing God's Holy Names being praised. Here is a non-sectarian list of God's Holy Names a person can choose from to repeat. These can be used in meditation, congregational sing-alongs and just repeating through the day at any time or during times of stress. God has many Holy Names - He is limitless. And any of these Holy Names maintain God's power to protect us, purify us and elevate our consciousness - enabling us to return to our home with Him in the spiritual realm.
"Sing the praises of the LORD, you His faithful people; praise His Holy Name." (Psalm 30:4)