As is so for passion, Hebrew has a family of terms to express a spiritual reality.
‘Holiness, terribleness, fieriness, dread warrior [Jeremiah], awe, glory’, and many others, all are Hebrew descriptions of God that converge toward the Greek term ‘DAEMONIC.’
Karen Armstrong quotes a Jewish religious song in one of her books; it captures some of this complexity.
“A quality of holiness, a quality of power, a fearful quality, a dreaded
quality, a quality of awe, a quality of dismay, a quality of terror—
such is the quality of the garment of the Creator, Master of the Universe, God of Israel, who, crowned, comes to the throne of his glory;
His garment is engraved inside and outside and entirely covered
with YHWH, YHWH.
No eyes are able to behold it, neither the eyes of flesh and blood,
Nor the eyes of his servants [spirits].”
The Eastern Orthodox Christian church sings in its Liturgy, “Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy and Immortal, have mercy on us.”
Daniel’s vision of God as enthroned on fire is radically Daemonic. The rivers of fire flowing from the kingship of God reveals the Daemonic as the supreme love of God for humanity, and the entire creation.
Though Holiness is overwhelming — a Jewish friend pointed to this when he refused to describe God in any manner but finally said, to close any further discussion, ‘God is the Undeniable’ — and we must first experience Holiness as overwhelming, Karen Armstrong betrays her Western bias, or perhaps just the limit of her own experience, when she says this about the God of Holiness= “There is absolutely nothing tender, loving, or personal about this God; indeed his Holiness seems alienating” [p 216].
Armstrong could not be more wrong in this statement. The Holiness of God precludes sentimental, cosy notions of the Santa Claus daddy, fat and cuddly, who plays such a role in much, especially liberal, Christianity. The Unknown God who is the Unknown Father can be tough, harsh, injurious, yet his paradox is precisely that no other God is so tender, so gentle, so long suffering. Yes, the Daemonic God is William Blake’s ‘Tyger, Tyger, burning bright in the forests of the night’, but he is also ‘the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.’
There is a paradox in our experience of God as both the joy of Eros and the suffering of the Daemonic, but there is a far more profound paradox in the Daemonic than there is in Eros. Each has its own paradox, but the many koans of Eros have a solution in mystical enlightenment, whilst the single koan of the Daemonic has no solution. The Daemonic God is the God of the Heartbreak, the God who breaks our heart to enlarge it, to make it the human heart carrying the weight carried by the divine heart; thus the God who breaks our heart is also the God who redeems the hearts of all humans and of all creatures and things.
This is the God who suffers for humanity and this is the God who fights for humanity. Without the terrible God, there is no redemption.
The koan of the Daemonic includes good and evil, as well as other contradictions.
Lamentations of Jeremiah, 3, 37-38=
“Who has only to speak to make things exist?
Who commands, if not Yahweh?
From where, if not from the mouth of the Most High, do evil and good come?”
Judges, 9, 23=
“God then sent a spirit of discord between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem.”
In the Revised English Bible [which is a robust scholarly translation], it says=
“God sent an evil spirit to create a breach between Abimelech and the inhabitants of Shechem.”
1 Samuel, 16, 14-16=
“But the Spirit of Yahweh [the Ruach] departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from Yahweh troubled him. And Saul’s servants said to him, ‘Behold now, an evil spirit from God troubles him. ..it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from Yahweh is upon you, that [a man who is skilled with the harp] will play for you, and you will be well’.”
David is described to Saul in Daemonic terms [1 Samuel, 16, 18]; ‘he comes from Bethlehem, is an accomplished musician, he is a powerful and valiant man, a man of war [a warrior, not a soldier or thug], wise in many matters, a comely person, and Yahweh is with him.’
1 Samuel, 16, 23=
“And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took a harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.”
It is with the music of Eros that the evil spirit sent by Yahweh is driven out of Saul. But it should be noted, it is the Daemonic that both decrees the necessity of the sickness and finds the remedy..
Psalms, 50, 3=
“Our God will come and will not keep silence: a fire will devour before him,
and it will be very tempestuous round about him.”
Aleph= ox, strength.
Shin= to consume, to devour.
Psalms, 64, 7=
“But God will shoot at them with an arrow; suddenly shall they be wounded.”
Jeremiah, 4, 4=
“Take away the foreskins of your heart, you men of Jerusalem. Let my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.”
‘Circumcision of the heart’= weaned off the degenerate, fantasy-based, loves of Eros that block, and impede, the Daemonic love which is roused in defending the widow and orphan, and is strong in loving the stranger — the outcast, the outsider, the eccentric maverick, the numinously ‘other’ beyond both family and tribal identity — giving him food and raiment [Deuteronomy, 10, 16, 18].
Psalms, 18, 7-15=
“Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of the hills moved and were shaken, because of the wrath of Yahweh.
There went up smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth.
He bowed the heavens, and came down; and darkness was under his feet.
He flew on the wings of the wind..
He made darkness his secret place; ..round about him were dark waters and thick clouds..
Before him ..hail stones and coals of fire.
He sent out his arrows; ..he shot out lightnings..
Then the ..foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O Yahweh.”
Isaiah, 45, 7=
“I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe, I am Yahweh who do all these things.”
Here, light is related to weal= abundance, joy, and darkness to woe= poverty, suffering.
Eros= Light, abundance, joy. Height and Breadth of Inclusion= Space.
Daemonic= Dark, poverty, suffering. Depth and Intensity of Focus= Time.
‘Olam’= Time, the World, the Everlasting.
Deuteronomy, 33, 27=
“The everlasting God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.
And he drove out the enemy before you, and said, destroy them!”
Job, 13, 15-27=
“Though he slay me, yet
will I trust in him
I will surely defend my ways
to his face
Indeed, this might turn
out for my deliverance,
for no Godless man would dare come before him.
Only grant me these two things,
And then I will not hide from you.
Withdraw your hand far from me
and stop frightening me with your terrors
then summon me and I will answer..
How many wrongs and sins have
Show me my offence and my sin.
Why do you hide your face
and consider me your enemy?
Will you torment a
Will you chase after dry
For you write down bitter
things against me
and make me inherit the
sins of my youth.
You fasten my feet
You keep close watch
on all my paths
by putting marks on the soles of my
Job, 12, 13-25=
“To God belong wisdom and power;
Counsel and understanding are his.
What he tears down cannot be rebuilt;
the man he imprisons cannot be released,
if he holds back the waters, there is drought;
if he lets them loose, they devastate
To him belong strength and victory;
both deceived and deceiver are his.
He leads counsellors away stripped
and makes fools of judges.
He takes off the shackles put on by
and ties the shackles of kings around their waist.
He leads priests away stripped
and overthrows men long established.
He silences the lips of trusted advisors
and takes away the discernment of elders.
He pours contempt on nobles
and disarms the mighty.
He reveals the deep things of darkness
and brings profound shadows into the
He makes nations great, and destroys them.
He enlarges nations, and disperses them.
He deprives the leaders of the earth
of their reason;
He sends them wandering through a
They grope in darkness with no light.
He makes them stagger like
People who cannot comprehend the Daemonic try to ‘see it from the outside.’ This is not possible. You will understand the Daemonic only when you, yourself, in your whole existence, have fallen into the ‘fearful’ left hand of God, and you, yourself, in your whole existence, have been shaken down, broken, and finally burned to ashes, by the Daemonic; your identity in ruins, your worldly confidence shattered, your ‘hope in life’ springing eternal destroyed, your belief in yourself brought to nothing — brought to the Nothing, as if you had never existed. Only those upended by the Daemonic can speak of it from the inside, from experience, from going through it, from its exquisitely precise undoing of everything — everything that we treasured, whether really rubbish, or really of value, no different.
Once you have been in the room of no exit, you will always thereafter recognise your fellow wounded ones, the brotherhood and sisterhood of the Path of God’s Left Hand. This is the Way of Fire, but Fire subject to Grief, and the Suffering which, alone, reveals what is Deep.