Explanation for how the world tricks, preys on, and blesses a human huddling before a tiny, enslaved flame has always been abundant, whether accurate or not, from each age's magicians, astrologers, and scientists. Explanation for why has been just as abundant, flowing forth in an intermingling miasma of homilies from shamans, priests, and poets - and more than often, delivered at complete and total odds with the arguments of the first cabal. The rational have constantly bitten at the reins held on them by the faithful, as many times as the faithful have jerked them backwards from the brink of revelation uncomfortable with the doctrine of the age. This conflict extends through the written history of humankind, and perhaps is the best understanding of its struggle for self-definition.
But what of the age before writing, before scribes, before the philosophers and the priests were at odds? From the Ibo of Central Africa to the Khanty of the frozen and savage Siberian wastes to the Norsemen of the Peninsula, every culture which had not yet learned how to write, how to record and thus validate dissident voices by giving them history, has left both the how and why to the spirits that haunt each and every dark corner of the world, the pullers of the world-string, whose methods and origins are unknown means to mysterious and alien ends. The shamans of these tribes and clans, given perhaps something of a poor review by many in the league of historians who wish to serve conquerors the heritage that their conquests have stripped, had nothing but their words to receive and transmit the assuaging comforts of control over a system, by surrender of their bodies and their minds to these spirits, the possessing demons of the Church. To channel the energy and identity of the spirit is to know it completely to these primitive scientist-priests, to utter the words of a god - words that may heal the wounds of ages or burn the victim in violent holocaust, but words that carry ultimate and pressing weight. It is no mystery that these tribes often called themselves in their own tongue "the people" - and their science-religion "the way". These strains of life at nature's mercy were ones of submission, where tortured man played little part in the cosmos. Is it any wonder that human sacrifice was often seen then as unassumingly as Christians see the communion today?
The split between civilization and culture happened long ago, in some ageless time, when a primeval Voltaire set in his thick clay tablet the day in history when the powerful priest (by now quite the opposite of his submissive beginnings) ordered a sick chief to eat a certain plant, and the protesting skeptic's words of experience were not heeded: as the man writhed and foamed and left his life in blood and horror, the scientist's mission and the priest's vendetta split off. They parted from the shaman's singular growth of ignorant but outwardly humble reverence to the demons as the arbiters of method and madness.These new breeds needed support for their side of the dispute, and so both placed man, his cities, and his planet at the very center of the map, the key to unlocking the universe itself. Man was made to feel important, his potency coming from his connection - and his alone - to the gods. And why not? Few animals have yet mastered our complex forms of communication, and those that have are hardly indicative of any rival to the mouths, ears, and minds of man. None but man alone should talk to God and meet his commands, or listen to nature and follow its paths.
So the demons have fallen by the wayside, it seems - the invisible but powerful entities who need no explanation for their beginnings, who need no human reasons for their ends. We fear them no longer; our way in the darkness is marked by electric lights and the light of Christ, no devils daring to touch our holy and well-understood bodies. Modern man has only as his fear the homely terror of. . .the other modern man. And, lest we forget in our pride, even our horrific manmade disasters can be demonstrated by flow charts and experiments. No atom shall decide, we have found and ruled, to decay at a different rate from that listed on page 26 of our textbooks.
Yet we forget so easily. The demons of the ages before us lurked in just those very places: the systems of the world, the explanations laid on top of observation. There was no capricious demon - its actions were just as rational and ordered as man inventing his machines, and as caring towards its tools as man is to his hammer and nails. When one breaks, another will do just as well, and only a madman or fool would assign motive or feel sympathy for the one ripped out, bent, broken, and discarded. Who are we to claim that the nets of fire which streak across our planet are less haunted, less likely to respond - and indeed, to create - some horrible and inscrutable whim that has no ambition, no ties to human intelligence, and no understanding of us as peers or even threats? The monsters that authors create, in their hubris, from these unspoken fears are always human in motive: robots or computers or networks that attempt to seize control and displace humanity like one nation does another.
But demons have no need to kill or conquer. They already own; they are already there; one can but lie in mere terror as his throat is slit and blood is spilt in righteous sacrifice - as he is bent and broken and replaced as another cog in a machine. Demons do not kill because they want. They kill because, on the most basic sense, they are always right. Humans do not see them because they cannot - they lack the eyes, the senses, the very nature to realize that the winged and fanged and slavering beast curls hidden in the darkness at the edge of the ceiling, where the light of that flickering, enslaved lamp betrays nothing. Have you forgotten how it is to be? When you feel the weight that grips your shoulders and the first tearing pain, it is far too late to scream. Weep, then, instead.