Sunday, September 08, 2019


Demons at the Dinner Table

Peter Brown, The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), p. 182:
The ingestion of animal meat summed up for Porphyry far more appropriately than did the hot passions of the bed the vulnerability of the human spirit to the cloying materiality that weighed in upon it on every side. Like Origen, Porphyry believed that a world of invisible spirits pressed up against the person. But they did so in their most sinister manner at the dinner table, hovering over the quivering red meat. Their presence was sensed less (as with Origen) in the disturbing, partly sexual, fantasies that rose into the "heart" of the believer, than in the raucous hiccups and unruly farts of those whose very bodies had been made permeable to matter at its most disorderly, through their lax diet.16

16. Porphyry, On Philosophy from Oracles in Eusebius, Preparation for the Gospel 4.23: Patrologia Graeca 21: 305B.
Eusebius, Preparation for the Gospel 4.23, quoting Porphyry (tr. E.H. Gifford):
Our bodies also are full of them, for they especially delight in certain kinds of food. So when we are eating they approach and sit close to our body; and this is the reason of the purifications, not chiefly on account of the gods, but in order that these evil daemons may depart. But most of all they delight in blood and in impure meats, and enjoy these by entering into those who use them.

For universally the vehemence of the desire towards anything, and the impulse of the lust of the spirit, is intensified from no other cause than their presence: and they also force men to fall into inarticulate noises and flatulence by sharing the same enjoyment with them.

For where there is a drawing in of much breath, either because the stomach has been inflated by indulgence, or because eagerness from the intensity of pleasure breathes much out and draws in much of the outer air, let this be a clear proof to you of the presence of such spirits there.


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