The Dynamis of Evil


In Ephesians 6:12, Paul writes:

…we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities (archas), against the powers (exousias), against the world rulers (kosmokratoras), of this present darkness, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places.

In line with this verse, Satan is known as the ‘prince and power of the air’, ‘ruler of demons’, the ‘ruler of the world’, and the ‘god of this age.’ The prince and power of the air suggests that Satan’s dominion resides in ‘invisible realms’, yet these realms are conjunctionally intertwined with this present world-system. Although invisible, his influences clearly become manifested in an endless array of vile-forms. Origen delineates this ‘power of the air’ as not some form of physical location, but rather the nature and influences of these invisible evil forces:

…the outer darkness, in my judgment, is to be understood not so much some dark atmosphere without any light, as of those persons who, being plunged in the darkness of profound ignorance, have been placed beyond the reach of any light of understanding. (Boyd’s reference, pg. 41)

Origen’s understanding is in keeping with Buddaic-notions of avidya—or the root of darkness being the nature of ignorance; thus Satan and his dark legions can gain a foothold over those who are incessantly plunged into the darkness of ignorance.

The Spawn of Satan 

Satan is also pegged as the ruler of demons and is frequently mentioned as such in the synoptic gospels (Mt. 9:34, 12:24; Mk. 3:22; Lk.11.15) Even though the name Beelzeboul appears in Matthew and Luke, the name is synonymous with Satan or one of his demonic adjunct princes. Concerning the origins of these spawns of the evil one, the most explicit is found in the Church Fathers, Justin and Origen. Justin Martyr postulates the following on their origins:

God…committed the care of men and of all things under heaven to angels whom He appointed over them. But the angels transgressed this appointment, and were captivated by love of women, and begat children who are those that are called demons (daimones)… (Referenced by Boyd, pg.45)

This illicit union between the “fallen angels and the daughters of men” is similar in tone to an apocalyptic-theory concerning ‘giants’:

The Book of Enoch narrates how the two hundred watchers (angels) descended on Mt. Hermon, lusted after the daughters of men, fell and were punished. From the women were born giants who suppressed men, and fought amongst themselves. The souls of the giants became the evil spirits who dwell on the earth. (Boyd, pg.45)

Origen provides a fine nuance on Justin’s assertion:

In my opinion…it is certain wicked demons (daimones), and, so to speak, the race of Titans and Giants, who have been guilty of impiety toward the true God, and towards the angels in heaven, and who have fallen from it, and who haunt (the denser) parts of bodies, and frequent unclean places upon the earth…desire to lead the human race away from the true God… (Referenced by Boyd, pg.47)

Here Origen posits the notion of having “fallen from grace”—a willful choice on the part of fallen angels, and hence the demons were not “born evil”, as Justin states, but rather were truly deposed in spirit resulting from their insolent free-will. Hence, the origins of demons reside in vying concepts formed in the apocryphal literature:

The conceptions of Demons which appear in the Apocryphal literature are of four distinct types…[one type] regards the arch demons as fallen angels, but with varying emphasis on angelic genesis; the second type speaks of angels in union with the wives of men and having offspring; a third type refers to the demon Asmodaeus and reflects Persian influence; finally, the fourth type speaks of evil spirits which are simply the personification of the evil propensities of man. (Boyd, referencing G.A. Barton, “Origins of Names”. pg.47)

Satan shares a particularly vile metaphysical association with these evil spirits. Both Justin and Origen depicted their common nature. Origen further states that demons are “naturally fine and thin as if formed in air” yet at the same time they “haunt the denser parts of bodies (both human and animal) and their grossness makes them unable “to rise to the purer and diviner regions.” (Boyd, pg.49)

Satan is an independent spiritual being who occupies a position somewhere between the human and divine, who for the most part is to be distinguished from demons both in his origin and his role in the implied hierarchy of evil spirits. He is a fallen angel who is the ruler of a lower class of evil spirits, i.e., demons. As “ruler of demons” Satan directs demonic activities to the accomplishment of the Satanic goal of leading the “human race away from the true God.” His close association with “evil spirits” implies that he shares with them a common spiritual (pneuma) nature, which has not flesh and bones and is considered incorporeal. Thus it could be said that the very existence of demons, as well as their activities, is an elaboration and extension of the pervasive and threatening spiritual power which is identified as Satanic. (Boyd, pg.51)

Satan as ruler of the world and the god of this age 

Both John and Paul in the New Testament refer to Satan as the “ruler of this world” (archōn tou kosmu toutou), (Jn.12:31) and “the god of this age” (ho theos tou aiōnos toutou), (II Cor 4:4). In particular the term “archōn” as applied with Satan denotes rule and authority. (Boyd) In this regard he exercises Absolute Dynamis (Power).

The domain over which Satan reigns encompasses, as we have seen, the power of the air and the demons. Also included in his domain are this world (kosmos) and this age (aiōn). The term kosmos has not only spatial connotations of the earth or universe in this context, thus encompassing the powers of the air, but also refers to the whole “complex of inter-related human individuals and institutions… 

The term aiōn (age) designates the temporal duration of his reign. Satan’s reign of evil characterizes this age as well as this world. This age, in contrast to the age to come (Mt. 12:32) is ruled by Satan (II Cor. 4:4). The wisdom of this age is undesirable. Paul says “Do not be conformed to this world (tō aiōni toutō)” (Rom. 12:2) and asserts that through Christ man has been delivered “from this present evil age (ek tou aiōnos tou enestōtos ponērou), (Gal. 1:4)… 

The dynamis of Satan is the spiritual force operative in his rule and authority over this world and age; it is also the source of power behind the lawless one, the Anti-Christ (II Thess. 2:9)… 

Thus the power of Satan, his authority over this world and age, allows him to be called the “god of this age”. Satan is not, however, a god on equal but opposing status to the God of creation, as Irenaeus points out, for in origin and nature Satan remains a fallen-angel, a creature of God. Yet the Devil wields great power and authority, and is like a god in that he is understood to be the spiritual-source of all evil that pervades the entire world (kosmos) and age (aiōn). [Boyd, pgs.,51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56)]

One doesn’t have to look far and long to see the activity of Satanic-strands in our present weary-world; yet, Satan’s dominion only extends to the “end” of this world, whereas as the scripture states, Christ and His Kingdom of Peace will prevail.

It needs to be stressed at this junction that the ongoing activity of the Evil One (in reference here, Satan), indeed a form of warped “homoousios” in which this present age is symptomatic of the same Satanic-Substance, is by and large the creation of a Theo-based reality. The root cause is Monotheistically based—almost as it were, a matter of self-fulfilled prophecies. This entails the realization that “Satan” has influence over those who adhere to Monotheistic principles, whereas Māra’s dynamis extends to those who are on the Quest for the Unborn—the liberation and self-realization (through heightened undivided awareness power—Bodhi) of Noble Wisdom. Of course, if the Buddhist adept were to invoke and engage the demons that are in sync with Satan, then they will most surely be affronted by their frightening specters.

The pluralities of Māra

As portrayed in our most recent blog, Towards a Psychology of the Māras—Part I, the nature and power (dynamis) of Māra is as it were extended unto a pluralistic-frame:

The Aṣṭa speaks of the great affliction that Māra the Evil One feels when a bodhisattva courses in perfect wisdom, to which Subhūti inquires: “Is this affliction confined to one Māra, or does it extend to all the Māras in the great tri-chiliocosm? The reply is “all the Māras in the great tri-chiliocosm feel struck with the dart of great sorrow” when bodhisattvas dwell in perfect wisdom. The Mahāvastu refers to “kotis of Māras” (māraṇa kōṭī) and the Buddha Caritarefers to the Lord as the conqueror of “the kleśas and the Māras (mārāśca) together with the ignorance of the Āsravas.” (Boyd, pg.102)

Yet it cannot be underscored enough that there is “one dominant” Māra whose power extends over this “present Kāmadhātu”…

The composite legend surrounding the Māra figure refers to one Māra deva ruling the Kāmadhātu (realm of Kāma) at a time. If the formula reference is to a plurality of Māras it is possible to interpret this as a reference to the succession of devas who hold a title Māra, a title held by a single deva at a time. Dūsī Māra is a predecessor of the present Māra, and his relation to the present Evil One is clearly established in the Pali texts, the implication definitely being that there is only one Māra Pāpimā at a time. Likewise, the Pali commentary tradition as well as the Sanskrit tradition’s references to the four Māras specifically designate only one “devaputremāra,” the other names reflecting a different terminology and context. These reasons, together with the accepted traditional Buddhist view (i.e., one Māra, living in the Paranimmitavasavatti heaven—like a rebellious prince in a frontier province), lead us to conclude that when the context is this small universe (emphasis mine), the reference is to one Māra-deva. (Boyd, pgs. 103-104)

Māra, Lord of the Desire Realms 

Māra is the quintessential Lord of the Desire Realms. His influence includes sentient beings to the various heavens in the Kāmaloka…

The Three and thirty Gods,
And gods who govern in the realms of shades
They of the Blissful Heav’ns, they who rejoice
In fresh creations, they who hold control
Over what others have created:
All they come evermore ‘neath Māra’s sway
For all are bound by bonds of sense-desire. (SN, I, 133)

Māra is thus the “Lord of the world of desire” (māraḥ kāmadḥātviśaraḥ) which comprises six classes of devas as well as “the world below with its recluses and brahmins, its princes and peoples…Together these realms are variously called “Kāmadhātu (realm of Kāma), “Kāmaloka (world of Kāma), or the “Kāmāvacara” worlds (sphere of Kāma). And the king Māra is the chief of the highest class of the gods in the Kāmāvacara worlds, the Paranirmitavaśavartin devas, (Boyd, pgs, 112, 113)

Unlike Satan who is Lord of the Demons, Māra is Chief-Lord of the devas, whose realms (unlike the sulfuric-pits of hell) reside in bejeweled mansions (vimāna) and continuously take delight in sensual-pleasures and also in carrying out deeds of mischief.

Māra’s manomayakaya-body 

Māra is not a creature created out of form, but rather a Mind-Made-Body (manomayakaya); this incorporeal-frame was covered extensively in an earlier series, as well as many others but is worth repeating:

Māra says to Gotama with disdain: You are a mere human being, Recluse, while I am a deva; you will never escape from me…a recluse’s body is born of a father and mother, is a heap of boiled rice and sour milk, is subject to rubbing, massaging, sleep, dissolution, disintegration and destruction; while my body, Recluse, is made of mind (manomayakaya). (Mv, II, 269

As manomayakaya, Māra resides in sambhogakayic-like realms, yet can descend and influence more densely-constricted demesnes.  So, like Satan, Māra’s rule extends far and wide—he is the Lord of Samsara (realms of birth and death), yet also like Satan, his singular-reign is set to expire; but his future is not a bleak-one like the Devil:

Yet the future of Māra and his hosts is not eternally bleak no more than their glory as devas is permanently secure. The Mahāvastu notes that “the bodhisattva saw in Māra’s host many who had roots of virtue…” (MV, II, 315)

Two of Māra’s own sons, Sārthavāha and Vidyupratiṣṭha, are well disposed toward the Bodhisattva. The former seeks to dissuade Māra from attacking the bodhisattva (MV, II, 327, 330) and the other, “moved by noble impulse,” gives the Lord garments and extols him. (Mv, II, 337-338) As for the future possibilities of Māra himself, Dūsī Māra provides an excellent illustration. Dūsī Mars, the previous Māra who went to Avici Hell, became a great disciple of the Buddha. In the Majjhima Nikāya, Moggallāna, a great disciple of the Buddha, identifies himself as being one and the same Dūsi Māra in a former existence. Mogallāna says to Māra that at one time he was the Māra called Dūsin; he says that his sister’s name was Kālḷī—“your mother; hence you are my nephew.” (MN, I, 333)

Māras own dynamis is continually seeking the permanency of his sensate realm (Samsara); hence unlike Satan—who desires nothing more than others sharing his own nefarious fate—Māra’s thrust is to keep one pinned to the spinning karmic-wheel—thus experiencing diurnal patterns of dukkha.

…it is said of Māra’s army that they can hunt and seek “in every sphere of life” (sabbaṭṭhānesu). (SN, I, 112) The entire “triple world is assailed by Māra, the Evil One.” (SP, XIII, 247) The whole substrata of rebirth and death, in other words, are within Māra’s domain and only “when every base of rebirth is abolished utterly,” (SN, I, 107) then one is freed from becoming again (punabbhavo), then is Māra beaten (abhibhūto Māro). (Ud, 33) (Boyd, pg.120)

Considering the great extent of Māra’s power, it is understandable why the Blessed One said, “I consider no power, brethren, so hard to subdue as the power of Māra (Māra-balaṃ). (DN, III, 78)

Yet, in the final analysis, “Māra is powerless to cause really effective obstacles to a bodhisattva who gives undivided attention to his task (AP, X, 222) [emphasis mine]. Indeed, for one who stays recollectively-centered in undivided awareness power, it is then that one is sustained by the Tathagatas’ own Dynamis.  Perhaps the Dhammapada states this best:

“He who lives without looking for pleasures, his senses well controlled, moderate in his food, faithful and strong, him Māra will certainly not overthrow.” (Dh, 7, 8) 

“Those who enter the path and practice meditation are released from the bondage of Māra.” (Dh, 276)…

Also, those who cultivate advanced stages of contemplation put on “a darkness round Mara”, empowering one to proceed ‘unseen by him’. (MN, I, 159-160) John of the Cross’, “in darkness and secure, my house (senses) being now all stilled.”

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