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Friday, December 16, 2005

PERSONAL/RANT LIFE: Demons Gathered Around My Bed

One night in the tenth grade, I lay in my bed, listening to hip-hop music. All the lights were out. I stared at the stereo, looking at the lights on the face. I thought they were a little too bright, so I tried to turn over. Much to my surprise, my body did not move. The music seemed to be getting louder, and I reached for my remote. My hand, my arm, nothing would move. I started to panic, but panicking is strange when your body is involuntarily frozen. The music got louder and louder. I noticed the sound of a violin I had not heard before. The violin grew louder and louder, but I had heard this song before, and there was NO violin. The glass around me began to shriek. A beautiful girl appeared before my bed. She began to sing, harmonizing with the violins. The music kept getting higher and higher. I could not breathe. Air began to rush out my lungs. The violins grew unbelievably shrill, and the girl's voice went high along with them. Suddenly, the flesh of her face began to peel back to reveal a black shadowed outline of a skull. I tried to scream, but I couldn't hear myself over the screaming of the girl and the violins, now sounding like a million bees. The girl reached my bed, bent over, put her hands on my chest. I couldn't breathe. She held her face inches from mine and screamed. Her head exploded into a thousand shards of glass, and the shards tore threw my face, ripped my body to shreds.
Suddenly, I gasped in air. As the glass exploded, the room went back to normal, the shrieks died.
"Oh, God," I gasped, terrified. "Thank you that I'm alive."
I had no idea what had just happened. All I knew was that it was real. I was not sleeping.
Two weeks ago, I woke up early in the morning. The sun had just begun to rise, and faint light spread under my curtains. I tried to yawn, but for some reason, I could not move. I felt a slight pressure on my chest. The room began to darken. A man in a black cloak, hunched over, began to crouch toward me. He moved unbearably slow, and from behind him, a sound like bees buzzing-alien, terrifying-rose. I tried to call for help, but my mouth was sealed shut. The figure got closer and closer, and suddenly his hand dropped down, his fingers inexorably unfurled, and he beckoned my breath from my lungs. I couldn't breathe, move, or scream. Without warming, the figure faded away, and the light came back into the room.
This time, I laughed out loud, but to be honest, I was still very afraid.
Incidents like this have happened throughout my life. The details are usually different-the appearance of the dark figure, his actions. Sometimes, he is not there. Every now and then, the experience is almost beautiful, transcendent. As I child, I once had a minor surgery. In the middle, I awoke on the table, but could not move. I heard beautiful, strange, high-pitched music. I couldn't move, but I could see everything going on. This time, there was no dark figure. Strangely, I realized I had begun to hover above the bed. Before I knew it, I was looking down on myself. I can only think of a handful of these experiences that were pleasant like this-many were not-but all were very real.
I grew up in very conservative evangelical churches that taught there was a huge spiritual battle going on all around us. I was scared to talk about these incidents then. I was sure that demonic presences were visiting me during these 'episodes'. As I've grown, I've left my more superstitious tendencies behind. I no longer attend a conservative evangelical church. But these experiences are still frightening.
Last summer, I bought a CD by a band called Dredg. This album was called "Catch Without Arms." I liked it but didn't love it. I had seen the band before, and thought that the material they had played then was better. Last week, on a whim, I picked up one of their older albums, entitled "El Cielo". This bands music is hard to describe. I guess art rock would be the best description of the band, but the best way to describe the sound would be "pretty". The guitars sound like brushes painting clouds, if that makes any sense. On first listen, I was a little detached, and was not able to get into the music.
I put the CD on later and was struck by the beauty of the music. It sounded strangely familiar, beautiful and dreamlike. Near the end of the album, I caught the lyric:

I too once thought that the radio played
We act like children as we sleep paralyzed

Why does that seem so famiiar? I thought. I listened to the song again Then I caught the line:

The sound of a hundred bees...
Your body is asleep, but your mind is awake

I pulled out the CD booklet to read the lyrics. Unfortunately, there were no lyrics. Instead, there were photos of handwritten letters. I can't tell if the letters are real or fabricated, but I think they are a mix of both. At the heading of all the letters was the phrase "Sleep Paralysis". Apparently, El Cielo is a concept album revolving around sleep paralysis.
Huh, I thought. I decided to wikipedia the term. Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia. Here is what I found:

During these incidences, I was indeed experiencing sleep paralysis, a medical condition (from here out, this condition will be called SP). During SP, one's body is asleep, but one's mind is somewhere in between wake and sleep. SP can happen as one goes to sleep-in this case, the body falls asleep first-or when one is waking-in this case the body wakes up last. During SP, one wildly hallucinates, but strangely, the hallucinations of those experiencing SP are very similar. One often feels a malevolent being in the room, hears a high noise like bees buzzing, and cannot breathe. In every culture, there is a similar story about demons that wake people, freeze their body, and takes away the victim's breath until they suddenly awake. Many experts think that 'demons' such as the Incubus and Succubus are only continuations of interpretations of SP. Many experts feel the same way about the reports of alien abductions.
Apparently, scientists have just begun to dig into SP and don't have the whole thing figured out yet, but they are discovering more and more everyday.
I feel strange about all this. I am glad to know that, as I expected, these incidents are just a natural, scientifically explainable event. At the same time, I'm a little sad. In many of us, there is a desire to believe. Personally, I still believe in the Christian faith, but I certainly fall on the more liberal side. The night after I read the Wikipedia article (and did other research as well), I couldn't stop thinking, but not in a bad way. I was reflecting on my favorite show, The X-Files, a show that's been my favorite for more than ten years. Something I love about the show is the dynamic between believer and skeptic. Scully is obviously the skeptic and Mulder the believer, but on certain issues (religion for example) their roles are reversed. Personally, I want to have both qualities. I want to believe in something higher, but I do not want to believe in something that is false. My religion's sacred text asks believers to test everything, and I think that is a great way to go.
But back to topic:
The final song on Dredg's El Cielo begins with the line:

Does anybody feel this way?
Does anybody feel like I do?

I am curious to see if anyone else suffers from SP. Ever experience this and not know what was going on? Ever been too afraid to talk about it before? Did you ready know all this, and did you say, "He's suffering from sleep paralysis!" before finishing the first paragraph? Did you make it through this gargantuan post? I'm interested in talking to you.

NOTE: I hope I did not give the impression that I suffer from SP on a regular basis. I have SP maybe once a month at the most, but I sometimes go through very long periods where I do not have it at all.


-E said...

I've never had it myself, but I knew thats what you were talking about. I think God made me a skeptic, so when I hear stories like that I would always look up an explination behind it (as in I don't believe in demons and so I wanted to know why people saw them or whatever).

The only weird sleep things I get are insomnia (hence me posting this at 330am) or sometimes I'll talk in my sleep. I've never really moved much in my sleep, but I'll have funky dreams. If you want to pretend I suffer.....nah.


Nicholas said...

I don't think I believe in demons, either, at least not in the normal capacity people think of them. They may exist, but I don't think they have any power or effect on us.

Weird coincidence I meant to put in the main post:

About a week before finding out about sleep paralysis, I saw this special on the National Geographic channel on "demonic possession". The program was basically a scientific study on the minds of those who claim possession.
Having been in churches that do "demon" removal during the service, I had always been skeptical, so I was glad to see this program dissecting the topic.
To me, many times it seems like people just don't want to take responsibility for their actions, so they blame things on "demons", etc. On the other hand, you have the poor people who actually just have mental disorders (Tourette's, and such) who appear to be "possessed" and who've endured persecution through the years for it.
And then you have the people who have "demonic" visions that are actually just SP.
So 99% of the time, I think the whole demon thing is a load of crap, but at the same time, I leave 1% for doubt. My view on the paranormal is weird. For instance, I don't believe in ghosts, but I believe I have seen one.
So I'll admit that there are some things that can't be explained, but there is a lot that can be, and we should embrace that instead of carrying on superstitions that have already been proven false.
BTW, I thought you would probably know what was going on off the bat!
On a more beautiful note, last year I had a few months worth of lucid dreams, which are basically dreams where you realize you are dreaming, and have complete or near-complete control over what is happening. By the second of these dreams, I had learned how to fly-which was fun! I haven't had any of these dreams in about a year, but they sure were nice.
I like to think there is a spiritual aspect there-but I guess this is one of the main things I see in life-you know, that it's a gift and all that hallmark crap :)

-E said...

I've never doen any lucid dreaming, but I have friends who have taught themselves how. I am generally just stoked to sleep at all that I won't try to learn any special way to sleep. But I do have a certain pillow that every time I use it I dream I am flying.

When I was having a bad bout with nightmares when I was little, my mom bought me a new down pillow. She told me it would help me have great dreams where I would fly and have fun. I know its just a psychological trick, but I'm not going to stop having that connection with the pillow :)

Jordan said...

Man, when I was reading this at first I was like, "hip hop?" and then I was like, "holy shit! did this really happen?" (I know a real laughable gullible part on my behalf. I think it was the hip hop though. jk!)
I had no idea this kind of thing happened to you, and regularly. This was like reading a science fiction novel, yet I was more concerned and interested than taken back. I'm glad you're sharing this is all. That's bold stuff.

I hadn't ever heard of SP or experienced a frozen body hallucination like that. I have at times of prayer felt like I couldn't move, like God was too heavy. There's been times too when I've prayed what felt like an hour was only a few minutes on a clock. I've seen visions before too, which usually accompany something God's trying to show me. Metaphors usually. Trees growing up and bearing fruit for growth and what not. Makes sense, since I'm a visual person for the most part.

Lucid dreams are cool. Everytime I dream it feels like a lucid dream. If I can't control myself's action, I always control my mind and what I think. Sometimes you try and force something to happen or not to happen, because you'll feel guilty perhaps if it does or doesn't, but you got to realise its a dream.

Though there was this one time I had a dream. I was walking down my driveway facing my friends driveway who lived across the street. He was walking down his driveway, except his arm was all slung over to his chest as if in a sling, and it was burnt looking and all messed up. The next day, honest to God, I was walking down my driveway, and from the same perspective, he came down his driveway with his arm in a blue sling. He had fractured his arm riding a bike. Weird huh?

I do believe in demons. I think if you are a saved christian with the Holy Spirit, that they can't effect you like you said. I think the only way they can really hurt you is to attack your mind with thoughts, and influence you to make you a less effective christian. I believe in demons because there is a spiritual world and there is a battle for your mind and your soul. Spiritual warfare and mentions of demons are in the Bible as well. Daniel prayed for twenty one days and it says his prayer was heard the very first time but that angels had to fight a demonic force called the Prince of Persia to reach him and have his prayers answered. It was also because of his prayers that the angels were empowered and his relentlessness that the spirit was broken. There is also mention of demonic spirits and princapalities in Ephisians 6, saying "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." I only say all that and know all that because I had a group night session with some people from church that had studied a video series on Spiritual Warfare back before the hurricanes.

I think alot of things people chop up to be demons when they really aren't, but that also the Bible tells us to pray at all times in the Spirit, to keep alert with all preseverance, praying for everyone (paraphrase of Eph 6:18) and that we should pray against spirits of darkness, but be strong in faith we're not under any attack or power.
"The devil only has so much power over you as you let him have" is something I remember hearing in that video series.

I can be a pretty superstious guy as well, but I'm kinda giving all that up. A good friend of ours, you know, Adam Hebert, struck me suprised with a great deal of knowledge a few weeks back. We were talking about sensing God's will and what not and how I can be too superstious and connect unrelated happenings. He said, "I find that most of the time when I think I know God's will and that I think it out logically how what I'm doing is right, I'm usually dead wrong." Something like that. He went on to mention thats its always usually in hindsight that you realise you did God's will or that He was working through you, and that with us knowing mindfully, we generally screw it up. I agree lol.

Sorry for the mini-rant within your own blog lol. Take care Nic,


Anonymous said...

After doing a bit more looking into this myself, I see that this is what used to be termed "nightmare." I myself have oddly vivid nightmares but don't have the sensation of being awake during them. I do, however, wake up, feeling instensely what I was feeling in the dream, often times curled in a ball and extremely emotional. I've awakened irrationally full of rage about something or at someone or crying hysterically about whatever was in my dream. I've woken, yelling aloud for help or at what was in my dream. I've come awake, thrashing at whatever was near me in the dream. I'm not paralyzed, obviously, but they are so intensely emotional for me that I often feel unsettled for at least the rest of the day, if not longer. And, if I were dreaming about a particular person, those feelings emanate until I can fully make my mind rationalize that this person didn't do or say whatever and my brain was just taking over my emotions with images that are untrue. I have been enraged with someone for no reason other than a nightmare and had to stay away from them all day due to the intensity of feeling I still had...and for no reason. I've even felt guilt for something I've done in dreams when I obviously wasn't really doing them. (And, yes, I've actually been killed twice in dreams, so the idea that you can't die in a dream is untrue.)

Of course, I also have dreams that eventually come true. These dreams are usually very normal and mundane and I don't realize them for what they are until I'm in the middle of a deja vu moment and I realize that the reason I've been in this exact moment was that I dreamt it. *shrugs* In high school I dreamt a calculus test and it was one I eventually had that year. Small, daily stuff like that: something someone says to me, a conversation, a look, an IM exchange, whatever. Quite odd but...*shrugs* Normal for me and I don't think too much about it anymore. (I still remember the first time I felt this was on a field trip in early grade school: We went somewhere I'd never been...but I knew I had been there before in a dream. It was the oddest sensation a kid could ever have.)

As a Christian, too, I think that part of this has to do with being hyper-aware of things around me in an emotional way. I sometimes feel the deep urge to call a friend and will do it just because I am so compelled. Often, they need to talk to me about something or are upset about something. Sometimes I feel prayer burdens and have to stop what I'm doing to pray for a particular person. I sometimes never find out why but I have been told by a few that that day, at that time, they were having issues with something or the other and were having a hard time dealing with it or fighting temptation.

This does not happen all the time, any of these things. I can go months without dealing with any of them until something happens and one crops up in a way I'm not expecting. Even though I tried to give an explanation above, I don't have any rational explanation for any of them or why they make me feel so acutely each time. I haven't really questioned it too much and just have learned to take the time I need to deal with the feelings as they arise.

Sorry, Nicholas, that this bounced around and didn't even really pertain to what you go through so much, I guess...

Jon said...

So that's just about the coolest/craziest post I've ever read. Jordan sure had a lot to say, I didn't read nearly all of it, but I think he said enogh for about five people, hahaha. Anyways, i don't like trying to communicate complex idea via the internet so I'll just comment on your first reply to 'e's comment. I think demons are somewhere between what you believe they are and what AFC says they are. Jesus cast out "demons" from a few crazy people in the new testament, so I think that while some things are medical there could be some spiritual influences on them. A large part of me does agree with you that people just blame their crap on demons and spiritual things cuz they can't face the music (no pun intended). Anyways, I'm tired. I've been shredding up this mountain all day. Tomorrow's the last day of tearing it up. My body hurts.


Nicholas said...

I am not going to lie. Those were some GREAT comments! The selfish part of me was sad that none of you have ever had SP, but the kind, good part of me was happy for you.
I can't even begin to respond to your comments, though. I will try, but I know I won't say everything I mean:
E: I want that pillow! I wish I could figure out how to lucid dream again.
E, Jordan, Jess, and Jon: I liked all that you had to say, even if I didn't agree with all of it. I think these are strange matters, and I definately feel and experience strange things I can't explain, too. I think it's good to do some analyzation of things like this (i.e. 'coincidences'), but I also agree that becoming obsessed with it (especially when you have OCD like I do) is the worst thing you can do.
I can't really define my view on demonology because it is not fully formed. I have personal interpretations of scriptures dealing with demons-I may be right, and/but I may be wrong.
The absolutely incredible thing is that you guys are so awesome, you know how to present your opinions without being insulting.
I can't tell you how happy these comments made me-to be disagreed with in a pleasant, intelligent, non-condescending fashion is one of the best things I can think of.
This post and your comments reminded me of why I blog in the first place.
You guys made my day.