(Greek daimon and daimonion, Lat. daemonium).

                     In Scripture and in Catholic theology this word has come to mean much the
                     same as devil and denotes one of the evil spirits or fallen angels. And in fact in
                     some places in the New Testament where the Vulgate, in agreement with the
                     Greek, has daemonium, our vernacular versions read devil. The precise
                     distinction between the two terms in ecclesiastical usage may be seen in the
                     phrase used in the decree of the Fourth Lateran Council: "Diabolus enim et alii
                     daemones" (The devil and the other demons), i.e. all are demons, and the chief of
                     the demons is called the devil. This distinction is observed in the Vulgate New
                     Testament, where diabolus represents the Greek diabolos and in almost every
                     instance refers to Satan himself, while his subordinate angels are described, in
                     accordance with the Greek, as daemones or daemonia This must not be taken,
                     however, to indicate a difference of nature; for Satan is clearly included among
                     the daemones in James 2:19 and in Luke 11:15-18. But though the word demon
                     is now practically restricted to this sinister sense, it was otherwise with the
                     earlier usage of the Greek writers. The word, which is apparently derived from
                     daio "to divide" or "apportion", originally meant a divine being; it was occasionally
                     applied to the higher gods and goddesses, but was more generally used to
                     denote spiritual beings of a lower order coming between gods and men. For the
                     most part these were beneficent beings, and their office was somewhat
                     analogous to that of the angels in Christian theology. Thus the adjective
                     eydaimon "happy", properly meant one who was guided and guarded by a good
                     demon. Some of these Greek demons, however, were evil and malignant. Hence
                     we have the counterpart to eudamonia "happiness", in kakodaimonia which
                     denoted misfortune, or in its more original meaning, being under the possession
                     of an evil demon. In the Greek of the New Testament and in the language of the
                     early Fathers, the word was already restricted to the sinister sense, which was
                     natural enough, now that even the higher gods of the Greeks had come to be
                     regarded as devils.

                     We have a curious instance of the confusion caused by the ambiguity and
                     variations in the meaning of the word, in the case of the celebrated "Daemon" of
                     Socrates. This has been understood in a bad sense by some Christian writers
                     who have made it a matter of reproach that the great Greek philosopher was
                     accompanied and prompted by a demon. But, as Cardinal Manning clearly
                     shows in his paper on the subject, the word here has a very different meaning.
                     He points to the fact that both Plato and Xenophon use the form daimonion,
                     which Cicero rightly renders as divinum aliguid, "something divine". And after a
                     close examination of the account of the matter given by Socrates himself in the
                     reports transmitted by his disciples, he concludes that the promptings of the
                     "Daemon" were the dictates of conscience, which is the voice of God.

                     It may be observed that a similar change and deterioration of meaning has taken
                     place in the Iranian languages in the case of the word daeva. Etymologically this
                     is identical with the Sanskrit deva, by which it is rendered in Neriosengh's version
                     of the Avesta. But whereas the devas of Indian theology are good and beneficent
                     gods, the daevas of the Avesta are hateful spirits of evil. (See also

                     W. H. Kent
                     Transcribed by Tomas Hancil

                                       The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IV
                                    Copyright © 1908 by Robert Appleton Company
                                    Online Edition Copyright © 1999 by Kevin Knight
                                         Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor
                                   Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York

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