"Whensoever the impure spirit goeth out from the
"I will return unto my house whence I came out;
"And coming, findeth it empty, swept and adorned.
THE POWERS OF DARKNESS
BEING A RECORD OF SOME OBSERVATIONS IN DEMONOLOGY
THE Chinaman, though perhaps the most materialistic of Easterners, is no exception to his neighbours in the large place which the occult takes in his outlook. For him, the physical world is peopled with spirits good and evil, capable of exercising the most far-reaching influences on the fortunes of men. These spiritual beings are bound up in the forces of nature, and combine to constitute that geomantic system known by the Chinese as Feng-shui (wind and water), by reference to which, matters of human life, inasmuch as they are designed to court the good influences and avoid those which are inauspicious to the man, the time, and the place, are decided.
The Chinaman can never experience the feeling of complete solitude which the Westerner knows in wild and lonely places; for him the hillside, the ravine, and the mountain gorge are peopled with presences best described as fairies, though in nothing resembling the light-hearted beings which this description generally conveys to the Western mind. To him they present the appearance of aged, venerable beings, short of stature, with white beards. Country, town, and human habitations are alike haunted by psychic beings whose condition cannot be exactly expressed by the word spirit, neither form of Chinese belief admitting of the conception of a pure spirit without matter.
These beings may be grouped into three classes. Gwei is the term most constantly used by the common people to indicate the being whose influence is feared by all, and who receives from every family some measure of propitiatory sacrifice. We read in the li chao chuan, or Divine Panorama, that "every living being, no matter whether it be a man or an animal, a bird or a quadruped, a gnat or a midge, a worm or an insect, having legs or not, few or many, all are called gwei after death."
Apart from these are the shen, which have been defined as emanations de la nature personnifiees, not, as the gwei, spirits of the dead, but an emanation of nature clothed with a personality. They possess varying degrees of intelligence and power. Their interest is not only in the affairs of men, to the knowledge of which they have access, but also in the secret springs of human action. They reside in man as well as amongst men, and witness to his good or evil works before the tribunal of heaven. The classics of Chinese literature, recognising this, urge upon readers the duty of decorum, purity, and care even when unseen by human eyes and according to the teachings of Confucius; one of the characteristics of the Princely Man is the discipline he will exercise upon himself when alone.
Other spiritual beings are those who, by their ascetic practices, have attained to a life higher than that of humanity; it will endure through many centuries, and they are free to live in the pleasant places of the earth with considerable licence to enjoy good things, yet free from the material claims which govern human life. These are known by the term hsien, and are referred to above as fairies. Each and all of these beings touch the destinies of man at various points.
It is, however, in the important events of life -- birth, marriage, and death -- that the interference of the spirits is strongest, and such occasions are used by the sorcerer as a means of extorting money from his unfortunate victim. In the Divine Panorama, we read that: "It is not uncommon at the time of reincarnation to see women asking to be allowed to avenge themselves in the form of gwei before being changed into men. On their case being examined, it is found as young women they have been seduced or have been betrayed in other ways, such as the husband refusing after marriage to fulfil his promise to support the girl's parents, and in consequence of her disgrace the woman has committed suicide." From that moment terror has dogged the steps of her husband, and he has gone in hourly fear of sickness, accident, or sudden death. If he be a student, the day of examination presents terrors calculated to ensure failure, for he knows that the gwei has power to hold his mind in subjection so that he cannot write his competitive essay. The only hope he has of release is the taking of a vow, whereby he undertakes to study and make known The Divine Panorama or precious record transmitted to men to move them, being a record of examples published by the mercy of Yu Di, that men and women living in this world may repent them of their faults, and make atonement for their sins. The punishments described include all the most painful tortures of which Chinese ingenuity can conceive. Truly, idols are the work of man's hands, and they that make them are like unto them!
Sculptural art also has left nothing undone to represent the god as animated by the worst passions of man, but skill and ingenuity must inevitably stop short of the final act necessary to convince man that communication is possible between him and the spirit world. In order to bridge this chasm a class of men and women called sorcerers (mo-han and sheng-po) has come into being, whose work it is to be the spokesmen of the gods. With deliberate intent and elaborate ritual they develop the mediumistic gift, and learn how to attain conditions of frenzy and of trance during which period the body is controlled by a spiritualistic force. Not only as the medium of the gods, but also as a resting-place for longer or shorter periods to the homeless, unclean spirit, do these sorcerers serve. At tremendous physical cost -- for the medium is never long-lived -- they accumulate great wealth, exorbitant sums being demanded in recognition of services rendered when freeing a family or village from the visitations of a tormenting gwei. When sickness enters his home, the Chinaman's instinct is to attribute it to any cause rather than a natural one; his appeal on such occasions is to the sorcerer whose time is largely occupied in giving what is called medical advice, but is in reality the practising of the rites of exorcism. Sometimes he will declare that the spirit of a sick person has strayed from the body, and means will be set on foot to secure its return. A woman I know, whose boy had apparently died from typhoid fever, was told that his spirit had been enticed away by a god whose shrine was built on the mountain side near the city where she lived. She took the child's coat and walked to the temple; here, standing before the idol, she burned incense and begged that the boy's spirit might be restored to her. Holding the child's coat open to receive it, she swayed to and fro, and with heart-rending cries besought it to return. She waited until she felt her request had been granted, and with a movement as though to enfold the little wandering ghost, she clasped the coat in her arms and swiftly returning home, laid it upon the lifeless body. The child revived, and is alive to this day.
Frequently, after supplication to the gods, the clothes of the patient are carefully weighed; a procession is then formed in which one of the sorcerers holds a mirror directed backwards, others, wearing scarlet aprons, carry brooms and with slow and mystic movements sweep widely on either side with the intent of gathering up the wandering soul. Meanwhile crackers are fired to the weird sound of a minor, falsetto lilting. After a considerable journey over the countryside they return to prove the success of their venture. For this the clothes of the sick man must be reweighed to see whether the weight of the spirit has been added to that of the patient's garments. Should the smallest discrepancy be detected all is well, and after feasting and opium the mo-han pockets his fee and departs, frequently leaving a prescription behind him, the results of which may be more or less harmful. Whatever the result, nothing will shake the faith of the people in these degraded villains, for they can, by threatening to call in the intervention of the gods on their behalf strike terror to the heart of any man, and once having sought aid of the sorcerer, the family is pitiable indeed.
In a case which came under my personal observation, the spirit of a young woman from a village at some distance from the one in which I was staying, who had recently died in childbirth, was said to have returned, having found herself in difficulties in the spirit world for lack of means to defray the necessary expenses. Illness became so prevalent that necromancers were called in and agreed that a medium must be employed. The spirit made its requirements known, and by promising the sacrifices ordained, the family passed under a bondage from which none dared to emancipate himself by omitting the prescribed rites. Night after night, at the medium's command a table was spread at the cross-roads, on which were laid the fantastic foods suitable to the requirements of the departed spirit. Gold and silver paper money was plentifully burned, crackers were fired, and following the medium, a party of men left to place earthen bowls containing grains at various corners of the roads.
Nothing but the deliverance of Christianity, or a daring known to few, can set free those who have been entangled in such practices.
I saw this medium whilst under spirit control. Before a table elaborately decorated on which incense burned, she threw herself into extraordinary contortions, quivering and shaking, her finger and thumb forming a circle, whilst the little finger vibrated continuously. She sustained a perpetual chant in the peculiar spirit voice, the minor strains of which I find it impossible to describe. A relative of the deceased acted as questioner, and she dictated the terms by the fulfilment of which the spirit consented to a reconciliation.
Another manifestation of mediumship may be found in the more or less conscious yielding of the personality to a controlling spiritualistic influence, known as demon possession. Remarkable cases have come under my own personal observation, and all incidents which I quote have been witnessed by foreign missionaries who are prepared to vouch for their accuracy. Those brought to my notice by reliable Chinese are too numerous to include in this book, but the fact that men and women who lay themselves open to demoniacal influences become possessed, is beyond dispute. In many cases the possession follows upon a fit of uncontrolled temper, such as is not uncommon amongst the Chinese; in others it is connected with the taking of a vow on the occasion of illness in the home, when service was promised to some particular god; or again, it has been undoubtedly connected with the neglect to completely remove idols from the home of a Christian.
In yet other cases, a spirit may take temporary possession of a human body in order to find a means of expression for some important communication, and after delivering its message leave the person unconscious of that which has taken place. An instance of this occurred in a family with which I am intimate. The eldest daughter was married into a home where she received ill-treatment from her mother-in-law. For several years she was systematically underfed and overworked, and when at last she gave birth to a son we all expected she would receive more consideration. The hatred of her mother-in-law was, however, in no degree abated, and when the child was a month old she brought her daughter a meal of hot bread in which the girl detected an unusual flavour which made her suspicious. She threw the remainder to the dog, and before many hours had passed both the unfortunate girl and the dog were dead.
Her father was away from home at the time, the young men of the family meanwhile carrying on the work of the farm. A few days later her brothers and first cousins, strong, vigorous young farmers, being together in the fields, her cousin, aged twenty-two, suddenly exhibited symptoms of distress. He trembled and wept violently. Those with him becoming alarmed at so unusual a sight went to his assistance, intending to take him home. He wept, however, the more violently, saying: "I am Lotus-bud; I was cruelly done to death. Why is there no redress?" Others of the family were by this time at hand, and recognising the effort made by the girl's spirit to communicate with her own people whom she had had no opportunity of seeing in the hour of her death, spoke directly to her, as though present. Telling her the facts of the case, they explained that all demands must remain in abeyance until her father's return, when the guilty party would be dealt with by her family whose feeling was in no sense one of indifference. In about an hour's time the attack passed, leaving the young man exhausted and unconscious of what had taken place.
The criminal law of China can only be put in action under such circumstances by the girl's own family undertaking a long and expensive lawsuit, the result of which may end in the punishment of the criminal, or may terminate in quite a different way. In this case the demands took the form of a requirement, the granting of which constituted a tacit acknowledgment of guilt. The demand in fact was that a funereal monument should be erected in memory of the dead girl. This constituted so uncalled-for an honour paid to one in her position, as to be a public recognition that redress was due to her, and a law case was avoided.
It may be remembered that in the first chapter of this book an incident is recorded of Mrs. Hsi herself being tormented by a demon which had gained its power over her, by reason of neglect to completely destroy all idols at the time when they were removed from the home. Such a case is not singular.
Our first woman patient in the Hwochow Opium Refuge became interested in the Gospel, and on her return home destroyed her idols, reserving however the beautifully carved idol shrines which she placed in her son's room. Her daughter-in-law who occupied this room, a comely young woman, desired to become a Christian and gave us a warm welcome whenever we could go to the house. About six months later we were fetched by special messenger from a village where we were staying, to see this girl who was said to be demon possessed. We found crowds of men and women gathered to see and to hear. The girl was chanting the weird minor chant of the possessed, the voice, as in every case I have seen, clearly distinguishing it from madness. This can perhaps best be described as a voice distinct from the personality of the one under possession. It seems as though the demon used the organs of speech of the victim for the conveyance of its own voice. She refused to wear clothes or to take food, and by her violence terrorised the community. Immediately upon our entering the room with the Chinese woman evangelist she ceased her chanting, and slowly pointed the finger at us, remaining in this posture for some time. As we knelt upon the kang to pray, she trembled and said: "The room is full of gwei; as soon as one goes another comes." We endeavoured to calm her, and to make her join us in repeating the sentence, "Lord Jesus, save me."
After considerable effort she succeeded in pronouncing these words, and when she had done so we commanded the demon to leave her, whereupon her body trembled and she sneezed some fifty or sixty times, then suddenly came to herself, asked for her clothes and some food, and seemingly perfectly well resumed her work. So persistently did she reiterate the statement that the demons were using the idol shrines for a refuge, that during the proceedings just mentioned her parents willingly handed over to the Christians present these valuable carvings, and joined with them in their destruction. From this time onwards she was perfectly well, a normal, healthy young woman.
Upon recovery from illness a woman I knew yielded herself to the lord of hell for a certain period, during which time she was under a vow to wear black garments, to perform certain rites as required by the devil, and to chant instead of speaking. She told me once that she knew all I could tell her of the Lord of Heaven and of the death upon the cross of His Son, but that she served the lord of hell, and his servant she remained, only giving up her peculiar dress and manner when the time of her vow had expired.
The yielding of personality to the possession of a spirit no doubt seriously weakens the will power. Many cases are on record of those who once delivered, like the man in the Gospel from whom the evil spirit had been cast out, unconsciously again prepare the empty house to receive the evil guest, and whose latter state is worse than the former.
It was to a woman, terror of the district in which she lived, that a Chinese evangelist was called. After prayer in which he and some inquirers took part, the evil spirit in obedience to their command departed. A few weeks later on yielding to violent temper, she fell into a worse state than before. The missionary of the district was this time begged to go himself. As soon as he entered the room the woman threw herself upon the kang, rolling about in seemingly great agony. The Chinese helper, Mr. Li, rebuked the spirit, saying: "We ordered you to leave. Why have you returned?" "I could find no dwelling-place," was the answer, given with extraordinary rapidity, in the curious spirit voice. "Find me a place to rest, and I will leave at once." "We have come," said Li, "to command you to leave, not to find you a place." Upon this the woman laughed and clapped her hands, and in the struggle it seemed as if the powers of evil were in the ascendancy. As she still chuckled with amusement, Li said: "Let us sing a hymn," and immediately the voice replied: "I too can sing," and forthwith shouted some theatrical songs. Mr. Li then prayed, but there was seemingly no power and the voice also mockingly prayed. The missionary then interposed, saying: "I have not come here to hold intercourse with demons," and forthwith authoritatively commanded the demon to leave her. There was a struggle, and she fell down unconscious on the kang.
She came to herself in a normal condition and apologised to the missionary for her state of deshabille. Faithfully and sternly he rebuked her for sin and for giving place to the devil. She recognised her fault, and was from that time a changed woman.
An evil spirit has been known to claim a young girl as its possession, forbidding her marriage under severe threats. It was in such a case that a demon, driven from a man who had become a Christian, went to a village eight miles distant and possessed a young woman. Speaking through her, it forbade her marriage and manifested itself in the same manner as it had done in the man from whom it came, compelling him to perpetually rub one side of his face and head until there was no hair left there. When questioned as to whence it came the demon replied by giving the name of this man, and to the question: "Why have you left him?" replied: "I have been turned out, for that man has become a Christian."
Two methods of exorcism are used by the sorcerers -- defiance and bribery. The Christian method is that of commanding the evil spirit in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ to release the victim.
Some have been set free from the power of a tormenting spirit who have not been subsequently kept free, through refusing to yield to the control of the great Spirit of Liberty. Pastor Hsi, than whom none better understood the conflict in the Heavenly Places, in earlier days would cast out demons from all the possessed who were brought to him, but in later years as experience grew, he refused to do so unless idols were destroyed, and he had reason to believe there was a sincere desire to obey the commands of God. He doubtless saw, as others have done, the futility of temporary relief during which, in that mysterious way so graphically described in the Scriptures, the demon wanders in waterless places, joining himself to others more evil than he.
Pastor Hsi learned to distinguish between the greater and the lesser demons. With the latter he would deal summarily, but not so with the former. "This kind," he would say, "goeth not out but by prayer and fasting;" and thus he would prepare himself for an encounter with the powers of evil.
Young believers, doubtless impressed by the Pastor's command over unclean spirits and perhaps sometimes eager for a similar power, were, as in the instances recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, in serious danger. Pastor Hsi urged them not lightly to undertake the casting out of demons. He had been faced by the awful realities of the spirit world, and on one occasion at least, by reason of a thoughtless word, had been troubled by the very demon he had cast out and which attached itself to his person.
The experiences recorded here may be unfamiliar to many readers, and some will doubtless think that madness, hysteria, or epilepsy may account for them. To such I would suggest the following points for consideration: Firstly, the striking, detailed resemblance between the cases seen now in heathen lands and those recorded in the Scriptures; secondly, the complete and lasting restoration resulting from prayer and from the command in the Name of the Lord Jesus that the demon should depart; thirdly, the appalling sense of the reality of the conflict with the evil one at the moment of supreme test, as the missionary is called upon to prove his personal faith, and to give the command which shall decide whether God or demon remains conqueror on the field.
When the promise was given by Christ that His witnesses should cast out demons, it was with the foreknowledge that such equipment was essential to those who obeyed His command to disciple the nations. Let the signs following be a reminder to weary warriors that the Captain of our salvation is actively leading His hosts; and to the indifferent and half-hearted who profess and call themselves Christians, let it be a matter for serious reflection that there exist churches in many heathen lands, the members of which have not lost their first love and faith, and against whom the enemy has come with his whole strength.
A feeble conflict may provoke a feeble resistance, but it behoves the aggressive warrior to prepare for the fight of his life when he invades the enemy's territory, where the conflict is not with "mere flesh and blood, but with the despotisms, the empires, the forces, that control and govern this dark world."
 The Precious Regulations, a book written under the Sung Dynasty. Its main tenets are derived from Buddhism, though some writers inscribe the book among the Taoist documents. Its sub-title explains its contents: "A precious record of examples published by the mercy of Yu Di (the Jade Emperor to whom is entrusted the superintendence of the world, the Jupiter of the Taoists), that men and women may repent them of their faults and make atonement for their sins." It includes a description of the Ten Courts of Hell and the judgments pronounced therein.