"The point, of course, is that if we all lived exclusively with good angels, only under the influence of truth and clarity, we would have achieved the highest level of consciousness long ago. Yet the ever-unfolding universe is dependent upon a vast series of variables and unknowable factors that affect the shape of each moment. The tensions of opposing forces that have fairly equal strength are crucial in the give and take of how the universe manifests. If one side were to win dominance, the universe would accelerate in that direction; and without a counterforce, the universe would disappear. The essential structure of this universe is built upon polarities.

"So part of life is to recognize those habitual forces that pull us deeper into confusion and ignorance, and to understand how to counter them. It is important to realize that the demonic forces are servants, not opponents, of Oneness. This means that we must respect that they are highly skilled in what they do — being tricky, devious, and persuasive. Each time we make a resolution, and then find ourselves breaking our resolve, we can recognize the power of these opponents. We need patience, wisdom, tenacity, self-discipline, self-compassion, and strong conviction to contend with these powers in a loving way, without rancor, anger, or hatred. Just as some angels can be destructive, avenging, and not-so-pleasant, so too can some 'demons' be useful, kind, generous, and helpful.

"You may have your own names for these tricksters. Some of the names that come up in the Western spiritual literature are mazikim (harmful spirits), shaydim (devils), ruchot (spirits), kesilim (spirits who fool, misguide, and poke fun), lezim (jesters who throw and move things like poltergeists), shomer dafim (guardians of holy books who injure those who leave books open, drop them, or who place them upside down on the shelf), seirim (hairy creatures who inhabit ruins), maveytot (demons associated with death), deverim (pestilence who accompanies YHWH on the warpath), reshephim (the plagues that follow after deverim), Aza'el (who lives in the wilderness, connected with Aza'zel, the scapegoat that gets thrown over a cliff onto rocks), alukot (vampires, leeches), belial (streams of destruction; no benefit; also 'the spirit of perversion, the angel of darkness, the angel of destruction'), masteymah (enemy, opponent), asmodeus (evil demon, also a name of the king of demons), Beelzebub (sometime referred to as Lord of the Flies), and ruach tezazit (demon of madness).

"This is a short list of hundreds of references that appear in the literature of demonology. The Talmud devotes a significant number of passages to caution readers on where demons lurk and how to avoid them. This subject is not treated lightly, and my personal experience is that one should be circumspect in playing with these energies. The more sensitive we are to the positive uses of invoking angelic energies, the more we must be attentive to the so-called dark forces. We must also keep in mind that these energies still bear the spark of the Divine, and we need not fear them. Simply know that there is much more happening in these spirit realms than we normally perceive or understand.

"I am not offering techniques in this section for invoking this kind of energy. Rather, I am bringing your attention how to recognize them and how to realize their role in our thoughts and emotions. Every distracting or obscuring thought that arises in our minds can be viewed as a messenger of confusion. Every disturbing emotion is the same. When people begin to meditate, they quickly realize how little control they have over their own minds. The mind and feelings run here and there like a wild monkey swinging through branches at random, going nowhere.

"We do not need to personify these dark or confusing energies, but it is important to know that they are not easily brought under control. We can, however, learn ways to calm our own thoughts, relax our own bodies, and balance our own emotions. There are many practices in many traditions that offer us basic instructions for finding peace of mind. Indeed, most spiritual paths ultimately have this as a primary goal.

"In the end, we all discover that life is our main teacher. Daily life brings with it clarity and confusion, ease and difficulty, harmony and trouble; the list is endless. We do not have to characterize our experiences in terms of good and evil; we simply need to recognize what is happening, how it is unfolding, and how we are dealing with each situation, thought, or feeling that arises. The greater our realization, the more we are able to understand the nature of things, the more we are able to bring a skillful response and reaction. So life constantly provides new challenges and new opportunities to make wise choices. Characterizing things in terms of good and evil, or angels and demons, simply gives us tools for recognition, and through this recognition we gain greater wisdom and compassion to each event that arises."