The demons in Journey to the West, the journey to the state of the presence of one`s Higher Self, represent thoughts and emotions and sensations that try to interrupt the effort to be present.

Ladder of Divine Ascent, St. Catherine's monastery,
Egytp, Mt. Sinai, 14th C. AD.
It is by means of distractions that devils try to make our prayers useless. -- John of the Ladder, The Philokalia (Greek Orthodox Christian text)
The inner meaning of the word prayer in Arabic is remembrance of God. -- Hujwiri (11th c. Persian Sufi and scholar)

Remembrance of God means remembrance of the God within, one`s Higher Self. In this image the figure in the top right corner (see also insert) God the Father, symbolizes the Higher Self. The demons, representing the many thoughts and emotions going around in our mind, are pulling off people who are ascending a ladder. The people ascending the ladder are thoughts and efforts to stay focused on the present moment.

We can make this effort to stay focused on the present moment only for a period of time. After a while, the effort will stop. If we make a persistent enough effort to be present, then, hopefully not too long afterward, we will notice that we are back in the state of listening to internal chatter called imagination. But - and this is important - we will not have noticed the moment that we passed from presence back into imagination. Why didn`t we not notice this? We didn`t notice this because the lower self lured us away from presence with some distraction. The lower self, at some inconspicuous moment, made one interested in listening to a thought that entered one`s mind, or interested in looking at something that caught one`s eye, and so one stopped being aware of the present moment and went back into imagination. If one listens to any thought that comes up when trying to be present, one will forgot to stay focused on the present moment, and one will forgot to remember the God within, one`s HIgher Self.

The mind that debates with such an intrusive thought will be distracted from remembrance of God, which is exactly what the demons are after. -- Silouan the Athonite, The Philokalia
When the intellect attains prayer that is pure and free from passion, the demons attack no longer with sinister thoughts, but with thoughts of what is good. -- Silouan the Athonite, The Philokalia

The lower self will bring thoughts that seem useful and important to the heart. Sanzang represents the heart, which cannot recognize the demons, it cannot recognize that by listening to these thoughts one will lose the presence of one`s Higher Self.

Then the demon Ravana came disguised as an old holy man, like a treacherous deep well covered and hidden by tall grass. -- The Ramayana (Hindu text)

Only Monkey, the mind that is educated with the tools and skill to reach prolonged presence can recognize this.

If our mind is experienced and sees clearly, as by the light of day, the seductive fantasies of the demons, then, by resistance, it immediately repels the red-hot arrows of the devil. -- Hesychius of Jerusalem, The Philokalia

The demons diguise themselves as a lovely young girl, which could signify a beautiful or noble thought, an old woman in need, representing for instance thoughts about important or urgent matters, or a hurt or tied up young boy, refering to thoughts or emotions related to being treated unfairly. Being treated unfairly happens to everyone and is part of life. There is no justice on the level of humanity. The only justice there is, is that by making effort to empty oneself of all thoughts and emotions, one can experience the miracle of the presence of one`s Higher Self.

Return to Chapter 27