This weekend I read a book called Encounter with Hell by Alexis McQuinllan. It's a supposedly true account of a woman with some psychic ability and her encounter with a demon. It's a very quick and rather thought-provoking read, though I'm not entirely sure if I liked it or not. The basic gist of it is that Alexis moves to a smallish town and immediately becomes obsessed with a haunted house. She goes there and ignores a bunch of metaphysical red flags that would have had me out of there in a heartbeat. She goes blundering about and eventually really pisses off the demon that happened to be living in the basement. She then fails to get proper help in dealing with the situation she's created for herself and her life becomes a living hell for a while - as it would. This book is a worthwhile read as a cautionary tale of what never to do. The author seems to realize this and repeatedly points out the mistakes she made, which I respect. I certainly didn't do everything (or if I'm honest even most things) right the first time I came up against a demon, but at least I had a better idea of what I was dealing with. If you're interested in how demons tend to actually behave this is a worthwhile read, just do not emulate the author. If you think you've encountered a demon get help, serious help, wherever you can find it.
Reading this book really got me thinking about demons and demonology. What most people think of as demonology is based in Ceremonial Magick (see The Lesser Key of Solomon and other Goetic grimoires for more info) and Ceremonial Magick is based on Abrahamic lore. There are lots of books and websites (like Demonicpedia) that list out all of the Goetic demons, their descriptions, habits, dominions, and places in hell. That's all well and good if you believe in the Abrahamic cosmology - heave, hell, purgatory, and all that. However, I don't. Therefore, the classical view of demonology just doesn't work for me. Yes, yes, I know that all of these cosmologies are just frameworks through which people learn to relate to things we don't understand rather than how things actually are; and yes this framework is so pervasive that it's gotten enough energy put into it to make it "real" even if things weren't that way originally. However, I just can't work with this. Further, it just doesn't fit with my experiences.
I've had the misfortune of dealing with a couple of demons in my time (and I sincerely hope that I won't again). In my experience demons are essentially distilled malevolence with independent thought and a lot of power. Now, that picture probably has a lot to do with how I experience energy; I feel it intuitively and sometimes "see" it. I didn't learn about energy from within an existing framework with ideas of how things should be, so I didn't immediately label particular energies (e.g. oh that energy is a pixy, that energy is an imp, that energy is Amon the seventh lord of hell). Rather, I'd feel the energy and look at the behavior it exhibited and try to fit it with the best label I could find (this is the method behind all the identifications in my book Defense Against the Dark). Using this method of feeling out what things are, nothing I've encountered and labelled as a demon makes me think they were any of the Goetic demons.
In my experience demons seem to evaluate people as either prey or a threat. If you have the misfortune of being identified as prey, well you're going to have a very bad day. Demons are insidious bastards and will do everything they can to sour every good thing in your life without you realizing what's happening until it's too late. They threaten, cajole, and generally manipulate the shit out of you. If you are identified as a threat you are probably going to be attacked - hardcore. I'm talking scratching, biting, pushing, screaming, nightmares, visions, and anything else it can think of to get you to run far, far away and never come back. They are horrible miasmas of malevolence. There is nothing good about them and they need to be banished back to wherever they came from or completely dispelled. There are no other ethical options in my opinion.
Goetic demons are an entirely different thing. They seem to be intelligent, non-human, amoral entities that can be worked with as long as the practitioner understands their natures and is cautious. I personally believe that Goetic demons are just thought forms and that calling them demons at all is a misnomer, which is why a lot of practitioners call them daemons (after the greek intermediaries) rather than demons - totally different connotation.
It's for this reason that I don't think traditional demonology is terribly useful in defensive situations, except psychologically. If you encounter something horrible and decide it's a particular Goetic demon then you have a psychological advantage. Something with a name that other people have dealt with is a lot less scary than dealing with an unnamed, unseen malevolence (think of the difference between scary movies that show you the monster verses the ones that just suggest it and leave your imagination to fill in the blanks). In the human mind if you can name something you can have power over it. So, using traditional demonology as a tool can be helpful, but it's just not quite accurate.
The entities I call demons are not the same as Goetic demons and require a very different method of approach. In my encounters with demons the best defense you can possibly have is a strong sense of self, extreme confidence, and either massive shields or a totally uncracked aura (easier said than done). Demons can taste weakness and will exploit it to the Nth degree. All the circles, incense, and prayer in the world won't help unless you KNOW that they will keep you safe. All it takes is one seed of doubt for your fortifications to crack and let it in. Demons are not to be messed with by the inexperienced - they are scary, scary bastards and can take down even the most skilled and experienced if they get caught on the wrong day.
If you think you might encounter a demon one day be diligent in your shadow work and heal those cracks in your aura. Every internal demon you vanquish is one less thing for an external one to prey on. And, for the love of all that is good, get help IMMEDIATELY!